March 2024

Dear Friends,

the day I wrote this was the 21st of March, the official beginning of spring, and hence also the day I can safely proclaim that the inhabitants of Puyuelo have survived our first winter all together. Numerous were the warnings I had read about the challenges of social isolation in small groups. Winter in the mountains would be the time where you grow so sick of your neighbors that most people end up fighting.

For now, we have proven the contrary. This winter, like last years, we loosened up our structure. Since we all have our own houses, we dropped any overarching organization and lived life as you would in a normal village. Sometimes we eat together, sometimes not. Every now and then we meet for a coffee, a quick chat in the center, the occasional cinema night, the even more occasional group work, yet we mostly all enjoyed our own respective hibernation. On a typical winter evening, smoke rises from three or four chimneys, and from the distant highway I could one night even see several windows lit up in the middle of the dark forest.

This winter, Aly has been planting and grafting a 150 small fruit trees. Since she now finally has her own desk, she also went back to drawing, the result of which she usually carefully hides from our curious eyes. Felix fasted for about ten days straight. I am not sure if it is the fasting or the average of ten reading hours per day that deserves most respect. During those days I would often drop by his place for a coffee, and always find him on the same chair, next to his self-built rocket stove (the one I baptized the Locomotive, see below), drinking gallons of tea. Moritz continued on his elaborate digital plans of every square inch of this hill. If I am not mistaken, the house I built with a couple of sketches by now has a professional digital plan drawn out by him. In case anyone wants to build an exact replica, direct yourself to the off-grid architect. James is busy becoming a group facilitator through an intense course. On the lonely winter nights he worked on his guitar skills. One evening after dinner the two of us and our new friend Iraia started singing in his house. To my surprise (as Aly, he hides his art) their combined repertoire brought us a long way into the night. A beautiful reminder of what winter evenings must have looked like back in the days. I myself have been hammering away at the keyboard as hope remains my literary talent will one day be discovered by anyone else than my grandmother (whom I do thank sincerely for her faithful support). In January I wallowed for a couple of weeks in a wonderful feeling that, although 31, my life still somehow has to begin. An instinctive feeling I could hardly make sense of, but a wonderfully invigorant one indeed.

Another feeling I stuck with this winter is that Puyuelo is slowly entering its adolescence. We have passed the heavy turmoil of puberty: conflicts and confusion, and little by little a certain peace seems to settle in. The last weeks, over a couple of long meetings around the stove, we have managed to work out a vision document. That famous vision document is something that haunted us from the beginning. Weary as we were to define our intentions too much (and hence possibly exclude different roads), we had always pushed it in front of us, leaving the details of what we were doing in the “safer” realm of the unspoken.

Yet human structures quickly become complex. As we moved from an empty village to a functioning mini-society, we could feel how the need for some solid, shared ground became bigger and bigger. What our vision document basically captures, is not only how we organize ourselves here, but also what our shared values are; what we believe in as a group. In times where I believe people suffer from the incapability to choose between many options, where society is so rigidly structured our individual choices don’t seem to matter anyway, and where we are all too busy and well-fed to really fight for

something, I am personally very proud that we managed build up and capture something we all share and stand for. Notwithstanding our differences, we have managed to shape a village in both the practical and mental realm. A home that is an attempt to carry out what we at this point of life believe in. The question where that will lead us remains open as ever, but there is trust among us for now.

A couple of days ago, spring burst through for real. A warm air flows through the valley, the first fruit trees shyly open their flowers, insects come out of their hiding places, frogs wake up and we start dreaming of what the year will bring us. I believe 2024 will be an important year for Puyuelo. First and foremost, we are on the verge of opening up for new people. From the comfort of our own space, out of curiosity and the desire to share our hill, we would like to see our village grow. Exact details on how we will deal with that will follow soon, but hereby it is officially whispered into the wind. If you know somebody who dreams of a life without warm water, washing machine, car access, 9 to 5 working days, bars and all the wonderful benefits society brings, please direct them to us.

Apart from that important step, our village agenda is filling up neatly as well.

As any good adolescent ought to do, Puyuelo feels like experimenting even more this year. The second half of May we organize the first edition of a project called 101 Off-Grid. During a couple of days we invite a group of young people who are curious about life on the countryside to come and live with us. We hope to not only pass on some of the things we learned here but also to set up a format that can be repeated multiple times per year. You can find the invitation included to this Email in English and Spanish. Feel free to pass that on to anyone you think might be interested.

During the second half of July there will be the second edition of Puyuelo Rebelde, our small festival based on activism and practical workshops. This year we aim for 3 days instead of 2, with a slightly more relaxed program than last year. We have finally also found a space that is big and flat enough for a volleyball field on our hill, which might make it easier than before to do some sports after work. More on that will follow.

And last but not least, during the first week of august, four out of five inhabitants, three male cats and one male donkey will march out of Puyuelo and leave Aly in charge, who organizes a working week for women only. That week runs on limited places and they are mostly already filled. On the 9th of august Aly turns 30, and in good old Puyuelian fashion there will be theater, laughter, good company and no maximum amount of visitors.

Apart from that, what else could we have done than to plan the year with a huge workload? Among the things we aim to do this season: James builds a new house, Aly builds her own room, we (finally!) fix the roof of the common house, protect what is left of the Cow Shed, reinvent the water system, fix the pond and build out the common infrastructure. As always, all help is most welcome, we are happy to share our home with you once more.

Glad to hear from all of you in return, With Love,
Pablo, Aly, Moritz, James and Felix

21st of March 2024.

On the 24th of March I walked up the hill with the camera at hand and made the following photo reportage:

Cherry blossoms on a young tree

Ara goes ahead between yellow Aliaga flowers

Aly, still by far the hardest worker in this hippie village, cut and processed all the beams for her room by hand

Aly in the toolshed

The old pear tree in the village center keeps on resisting. This spring Ramón, who was born in Puyuelo, turns 90. Last year he still managed to walk up, we hope he will again this year and plan to name one of our streets after him. On the right you see the ‘cow shed’, the building we want to get the roof off this year to protect it for future reconstruction

San Martin de Solana behind white flowers

In September my brother nicknamed us ‘anarchist hipsters’. Aly and Moritz’s cosy bedroom explains everything

The artist’s atelier, Moritz’s room

A velux in Puyuelo!

The house James aims to build up this year. All help welcome!

Felix’s house and garden. The pear tree in the middle grew out of a pear we ate on this spot during our first weeks in Puyuelo and is thus as old as our project

Felix’s self built rocket stove, aka ‘The Locomotive’

Heavy woodwork, in the invisible foreground are Aly’s 150 baby fruit trees

Some gardeners seem to be inspired by Christo

Ena, my spiritual master, accepting reality as it is, as long as there is green and juicy stuff around

One of those rainy spring days…

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