Water finds a way

The rain has come at last. Water is an unstoppable force here in the land of the tormenta, the flash flood. It finds its own way downhill, regardless of what stands in its way, cascading over the surface of the ground which is so dry that minimal water soaks in. Fields are waterlogged, olive groves are criss-crossed by narrow clefts cut by rain [below], tracks become passable by 4×4 only.

[photo: Andrew Forbes]

[photo: Andrew Forbes]

So one of the first obstacles we faced, our first autumn at the house, was dealing with the rain. And boy did it rain. We’d bought a house in Andalucía; no-one warned us we would need wellington boots. It was a crash course in how to clear drainage ditches in a downpour. One particular time, wet to the skin, we stumbled home, covered in mud, and shed our clothes on the doorstep like snakes shedding unwanted skin, and headed straight for the shower. I think the beans on toast we ate for lunch that day were the tastiest ever!

[photo: Andrew Forbes]

[photo: Andrew Forbes]

It’s all about water-management. The Spanish don’t do elaborate drainage systems. They simply dig a trench [above]. And this works, until the trench is blocked by falling leaves as happened to us. The small spiky leaves of the holm oak trees are notorious for blocking drainage ditches, we dug barrow loads out of the ditch which runs alongside the downhill track as it goes past our house. We vowed not to have to do that again. So once the land was dry, we consulted Pablo and the other neighbouring farmers who know the land, and brought in ‘un hombre con maquina’ [in other words, ‘a man with a digger’].

[photo: Andrew Forbes]

[photo: Andrew Forbes]

He marked out lines showing the natural direction of the rain as it ran down the hill [above] and then dug the trenches. We ignored the advice of our builder who suggested, in the English way, of putting in drainage pipes. Very expensive. So we did it the Spanish way, crude but effective.

[photo: Andrew Forbes]

[photo: Andrew Forbes]

Now the drainage trenches are covered by wildflowers in the spring, and do an excellent job in the winter of diverting rain to the valley floor.

[photo: Andrew Forbes]

[photo: Andrew Forbes]

[photo: Andrew Forbes]

[photo: Andrew Forbes]

5 to remember
la canalización – drainage of rainwater
la acequia – drainage ditch
las botas de goma – wellington boots
un aguacero – a downpour
el umbral – doorstep

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