I love living somewhere with abundant wildlife. I cherish the fact that Asturias has healthy populations of animals and birds that are in danger of extinction elsewhere. But it’s not all Disney, it does have its downside.
This week an industrious jabalí (wild boar) obliterated my potato patch overnight. 50m2 of potato plants completely disappeared. Several days worth of back-aching digging and manuring, of weeding and mounding and watering – all for nothing.
Now, I have to admit it was partially my own stupid fault. The threat of jabalí invasion was known but, unlike my neighbours, I never got round to erecting an electric fence. What can I say? I guess you never think it’ll happen to you. I certainly didn’t think that they would destroy the whole lot in one incursion.
Having said that, despite their well-placed electric fence my neighbours have been steadily losing their potatoes to a smaller invader who can shimmy underneath the wires – the badger. The damage is less dramatic but is insidious. He returns night after night to nibble on the tubers, leaving them gnawed and unusable.
To add to their woes, their employment of the battery and fence in their potato patch meant that they left their orchard unguarded and yesterday escaped horses got in and broke off a load of branches from the apple trees.
If it’s not one thing it’s another. ‘No puedes tener nada,’ as my neighbours mutter wearily (you can’t have anything.) They’ve spent all their lives scratching a living from the soil – the sometimes harshness of mother nature is not news to them.
Eagles swoop down from the sky to snatch baby chicks from their runs, stoats squeeze through the tiniest of gaps to penetrate chicken coops and perpetrate massacre, mould blights entire crops. These are just some of the natural dramas I have witnessed here in the past few years.
On the other hand, as Aurelio said to me the other morning ‘antes había mucho más crisis. Esto no ye crisis.’ He was referring to the current economic situation in which Spain finds itself, making the point that times were much harder in years gone by.
At 78 years old Aurelio can say this with some authority. He has worked the land since he was 8, when his father died. His family had dairy cows and he also spent his days, in between milking and other farm tasks handcarving madreñas (Asturian clogs) to earn a little cash. He has lived through the civil war and the subsequent dictatorship.
For someone who has grafted at the mercy of nature season in and season out for seventy years the media uproar over the recession and austerity seems a little melodramatic. There are cycles in everything and sometimes, too, there is a little suffering.