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Q&As

· searching for an area                      – we did this by living in a van.  In hindsight a caravan/ car would have given us more comfort and flexibility

· gas bottle                                            – this was our first job when we arrived in Spain.  You have to buy one first (refundable) then have it replaced.  You will also need a regulator and length of hose, available in a ferreteria (hardware shop).  They are approximately 65cm high with regulator and hold 12,5 kg of gas (but weighing over 25kg)

· rent first                                              – once you find an area you like then you need to get to know it over a period of time (I would suggest a minimum of a year).  Note that 99% of properties will not be on the internet and that once you have bought it will be almost impossible to re-sell later

· amount of land you’ll need             – to be self-sufficient at least 1.5 hectares per person,  to be sustainable 5 hectares per person

· physical input required                   – a minimum of four hours per person per day, to manage one hectare using only hand tools

· orientation                                          – north facing for annuals/ soft fruit, south for trees, south for passive heating of the house in winter

· best latitude                                         – the further south you go the slower trees and shrubs will grow, and the more water is needed between MAY-OCTOBER for annuals

· flat or sloping?                                   – sloping for clean drinking water/ easy plumbing/ irrigation/ views, and flat for an easier life working the land

· type of land                                         – avoid anywhere with eucalyptus/ pine/ or monoculture plantations.  Choose land where nearby there is already a wide variety of edible trees, if possible growing without irrigation

· renewable energy                             – in Spain solar can only be used if there is no possibility of being grid-tied, otherwise a very large fine, same if you share any

· water                                                    – for drinking you will need a spring or borehole.  Do not rely on a sharing agreement.  For the rest, rainwater harvesting is best.  For this you will need to be in an area with a metre or more of rainfall a year.  And have storagefor 70,000+ litres based on the needs of two people and 6om2 of roof

· access                                                 – make sure you chose a site with good all-year-round access, particularly in the winter, and don’t expect the local authority to maintain any part that is off-road.  This is not just for emergency vehicles but if you want visitors too.  4x4s are not any kind of solution, they simply tear up unmade tracks faster.  Also bear in mind the distance to frequently used facilities, should you be without transport for any reason

· weather                                               – in a word all of Spain and Portugal is EXTREME.  Expect very hot summers (minimum 30C) and very wet/ cold winters (snow and frost even).  Without 24/7 irrigation during JUNE/ JULY/ AUGUST nothing much will grow

· language                                             – one of you has to be able to speak fluently

· healthcare                                          – the state (& private) system in both Spain & Portugal ranges from poor to downright dangerous.  You also need a chipped health card to access this

· education                                           – home-schooling or alternative education is recommended

· residency                                           – in Spain you have to register first with the local town hall where you are living, then be formally interviewed at your regional police headquarters.  This process costs money at both stages, is time-consuming to the point of frustration, and requires a lot of paperwork/ legal documents/ photographs.  You will also be fingerprinted.  If accepted they will issue an identity number, which is required for virtually everything.  In Portugal the process is a lot simpler and only requires a visit to the local town hall to sign a few papers

· bank account                                     – in Spain you can open a savings account without residency, but only for a short period, then it is mandatory.  To have a current account you will need a job.

· work                                                     – to be legally employed (pay NI and gain entitlement to benefits) you need a social security number

· driving                                                   – in Spain the Driving Licence has be changed for a spanish one, at the regional traffic police headquarters.      Vehicles from other countries can only be used for up to three months before requiring re-registration

· benefits                                               – in Spain unemployment benefit is only payable for a short period and only after working a specific number of days.  Other benefits exist but are rarely actually paid out, corruption in the system is rife

· bureaucracy                                        – ENDLESS.  Plan on spending at least several days a year chasing and delivering documents that government departments could easy verify for themselves

· culture                                                    – every country in the world is fundamentally different to the one you have come from, so much so they might as well be on another planet.  To survive and benefit from this unique experience it is best to forget everything you previously knew and start afresh.  And never feel tempted to make comparisons, it just means you aren’t assimilating and it irritates the hell out of your new hosts

· cash income                                      – living off-grid it should be possible to survive on earning just 2,500 euros per person per year

 

 

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