Our Amovens driver Paco picked us up right outside Javier and Emily’s in Seville just as dusk started to fall. We were headed to the pueblo blanco or “white village” named Aracena, but would be spending the next month helping on a farm/B&B in the small neighbouring village of Los Marines.
On the way we had the pleasure of catching the most unbelievable sunset, and soon after arriving were collected by our workaway host father Sam. On the way to the farm he explained that him and his wife Jeannie moved to Spain from the UK over thirty years ago, deciding to build their beautiful home “Finca Buenvino” and open it to guests from all around the world. In that time they also had three children – Jago, Charlie and Grania – all who were raised in Spain but had spent time living and working overseas as well.
When we arrived and met everyone we instantly felt as part of the family, sitting down to a delicious roast chicken dinner and glass of vino tinto. Jeannie worked as a chef for several decades and had an impressive list of culinary experience under her belt. Charlie, who was just starting to take over in the kitchen, had also worked as a chef in London so we knew we were in for some sensational meals in the weeks to come. After dinner we were shown to our cosy room where we went straight to sleep, making sure we were well and truly rested for our first day of work on the farm.
After breakfast the next morning Jago took us out into the farm to show us how to feed the chickens, rabbits and pigs, then got us to help prune, clear and burn the branches from the many chest nut trees that covered the property. As the official end date for burning was fast approaching we did this for most of our first week there, as well as helping Jago care for his family’s cured jamón ibérico, a ham which we’d learnt is not just a food in Spain but a big part of life.
After a hard week’s work we joined the family in Aracena for our first ever Saturday night tapas crawl. It was great to get out and mix it with the locals but also get a taste of the different types of delicious regional dishes. As like most types of crawls we foolishly overindulged at our first stop, so only managed to visit one more before deciding we’d had enough and returned home.
The following day Anita and I decided to walk to nearby Los Marines, wandering the quiet cobblestone streets of the small pueblo blanco as most of it’s residents spent their Sunday morning resting. We had such a nice time exploring the surrounding area that we decided to do the same the following Sunday, only this time walking an hour and a half through the mountains to Linares where we stopped for some delicious tapas and wine on the balcony of a small restaurant in town.
On one of our afternoons off the following week Jago invited us on a tour around the Cinco Jotas bodega where he had recently started working. Cinco Jotas are known for producing some of the world’s best free-range, acorn-fed, 100% ibérico jamón. Their hams wholesale for around €200 each, and after learning of the amount of time, work and care involved and sampling some of their prized jamón, it’s price was instantly justified. The ham is sliced so finely that it almost completely dissolves on the tongue, leaving a subtle sweet yet salty flavour in your mouth. Needless to say it didn’t take long before we were jamón snobs.
The following weeks were spent working hard on the farm, planting vegetables, clearing heavy weed growth and helping out with any odd jobs that needed doing. We also found ourselves in the kitchen at times, learning how to make sourdough with Jeannie or helping Charlie prep dinner, all the while sharing drinks and laughs with the family and their many visiting guests.
One weekend we visited an old family friend of the Chesterton’s – Alfonzo, Maree and her gorgeous mother Marsha. Their farm was unbelievably beautiful, situated down a long dirt road surrounded by nothing but lush green grass, bushy trees and rolling hills. They had all different types of herbs, vegetables and fruits growing on the property, as well as a bunch of pigs, cows and chickens. We had such a fantastic afternoon on the farm, relaxing in the sun, eating great food and visiting all of their friendly animals.
On our last week in Aracena we had another volunteer named Ryan join us from Scotland, so Charlie drove us all across the border to Portugal to visit a monthly local market. The market was full of different types of plants, cheeses, meats and clothes, all being sold from the back of parked vans. It was also where we got to try our first taste of authentic Portugese chicken! After licking our fingers clean we headed back to Los Marines, but not before stopping at a lookout near neighbouring town Fuenteheridos where we spent the remainder of our afternoon drinking beer in the sun. It was such a fantastic way to spend our last weekend.
And so then our month at Finca Buenvino had come to an end. We had made a bunch of new friends, gained a wealth of new farm and food knowledge, and sported some nicely developed calluses. We were going to miss the farm and the beautiful south of Spain dearly, but most of all our finca family.