scorched earth

back to Extremadura for a short week, via Stanstead airport and Ryanair . landing at Seville airport, at 9pm, thirty six degrees and a stiff breeze, like a fan oven blasting out. the hire car’s temperature display gradually dropped to twenty seven by the time I arrived at the finca, just before midnight, but the house was hot and stuffy, so I opened all windows and doors – it’s a good thing I have four external doors including the three metre folding door onto the porch – and let the breeze blow through.


so I slept downstairs in the studio bedroom, where it was more comfortable with the big sliding window and the door, and the inner door all open, and just the shutter across the folding porch door.  next morning it was deliciously cool as the sun started to climb over the sierra, and the light in the shade of the hill was blue and hazy.

I had promised myself a swim in the pool on arrival, but chickened out, too tired and it was too dark … in the early morning sun it reflected the sky, a circle of blue, and the first shock of chilly water  on warm skin was a refreshing wake-up.


control of the heat in full summer consists of managing the house’s insulation. all night and until about midday, throw all apertures wide open, allow the house to take in the cool. except the east facing doors and windows, which need to be shut and shaded as the sun hits them, after nine thirty or so. then as the sun and heat build up, first the shutter on the big porch door needs to be pulled across, and if its not too hot the doors themselves can be open, until there is a feeling of heat there. the studio bedroom can be kept open until four or five in the afternoon, as the breeze blows through and feels pleasant. after that the windows and door need shutting and the big curtains need to be pulled across the windows. I do keep the kitchen windows and the bathroom windows, upstairs and downstairs, open to allow a draught. then as it cools down start to open up again. we did have some slightly cooler weather last week, but the house is perfectly comfortable during the hot part of the day if this regime is followed, and even the upstairs bedroom will cool down quickly at night if the windows and doors are opened up and the air is allowed to pass around the house properly.


the finca is really dessicated now, scratchy dried grasses and wild flowers with sharp tack like seed pods which stick into the soles of your sandals, and winding ant highways, made as they take seeds to their nests. there are still a few green shrubs with yellow pea like flowers, vaguely similar to broom but more rangey and scraggy. all the rock roses have rusty brown foliage. wild carrot remains green and flowering; I love its graphic umbilifer flower heads, random variations dotted along the roadsides and around the damper parts of the finca.


this is in direct contrast to the pool, an artificial  bowl of water filled to the brim and naked to the sky, unlike the ancient stone-lined pozos and charcas which hold water naturally seeping from the rocks of the sierra, and which are usually covered with a layer of duckweed, their water levels low in the heat of summer. between 1400 and 2400 litres are pumped into my pond daily to make up for evaporation in full summer – a huge extravagance . swallows sip from it during the day, and sometimes only just manage to avoid collision with my head as I swim; bats at night.


I have found a place for the hammock, between two olives; there is not a more shady place with trees close enough together.


but here is a shady natural stone seat against the dry stone wall behind the house; it just needs a sweep and a cushion.


the waterlilies are the first plants in the pool to really take off, and they are lovely, even if a trifle exotic and colourful amongst the drab olives and browns of the sierra. the frogs like to sit on the lilypads, and they define the swimming part of the pool as opposed to the planted parts around two thirds of it.


iridescent damselflies flit around the reeds and rushes at the margins, and I hope I will have some dragon flies soon. the damsels are just the miniature version.


the water was a little green and the algae has been growing on the steps and the bench; due to the plants having been treated to some fertiliser, but it had already started to clear before I left. the carbonisation of the water through this fizzing jet is a pleasant sensation to swim through, like being in someone’s gin and tonic.


lazy days between the shuttered house and the cool pond. frogs chatter, even during the day. by the late afternoon there is shade on the pool as the sun swings round behind the knot of ilex and rocks.


one floats in clean soft water with the five peaks of the sierra hanging above, in perfect serene isolation, away from the real world.



  1. ((((((((((PJ)))))))))) Lovely as always. That must be such a relaxing place – once all the ‘mishaps’ get taken care of. I really like the way you use the openings to cool the house – reminds me of what we used to do growing up, before home air conditioning! 🙂

  2. it is! I am jealous of the renters ….
    the last lot wouldn’t swim because they saw the Natrix Maura (sort of harmless grass snake)

  3. Love the pool but not for me, sorry, but I am a coward when it comes to water and don’t like things touching me. How big is it as it looks huge?

    So wanting to go out again. Think it will be September now if Pippa has space. God knows what has happened to our licence. Did you see Dane when you were there?

Leave a Reply to Penny Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.