A Fistful of Rubbish. A modern-day environmental Western set in the Tabernas Desert in Spain

Europe’s iconic desert has a new villain…

A Fistful of Rubbish is a short documentary film about a clean-up campaign happening in the Tabernas Desert in Spain. Europe’s only desert – an area famous for being the backdrop of many famous Western films – is sadly being trashed.

Many people do not care about this unique environment, and instead choose to dump household refuse, building materials and all types of rubbish wherever they like. The local and regional governments have yet to do much to address the problem.

But now, with the help of some locals, a new cowboy in town is trying to change the situation.

With a mix of interviews and western stylised cinematography/music, this documentary will show the power of activism and dealing with problems the old-fashioned way; by taking things into your own hands.


Once completed the film will be submitted to film festivals around the world, and also used as an educational (and entertaining) tool to take to schools to change the consciousness around littering and the environment.

It will also be made available for people to watch online. Learn more about this project, click here


Something for Everyone at Marina De La Torre

Last Sunday morning as I headed for Macenas I drove over the barranca that runs between Marina De La Torre and El Palmoral.

I have walked over that bridge hundreds of times since I have lived here, but the recent rains had brought it ‘to life’ and I was seeing it with fresh eyes.

I turned the car around and drove to the single-track road I had seen so many mountain-bikers gathering at in the past. After a few hundred metres I pulled off the track and ‘released the hounds.’
I looked up and realised I was alongside Marina De La Torre Golf Resort.

There are three golf courses in the immediate area of Mojacar/Vera/Cuevas Del Almanzora.
The first thing you need to remember living in Almeria is that it is a desert. In fact, the only true desert in Europe. So, a golf courses is an oasis, created and maintained for enthusiasts to enjoy.

One of the hidden attractions of these courses is the urbanisations and resorts that subtly emerge within the course itself, providing both accommodation and investment opportunities alike.

They also provide employment all year around at the facilities – for both locals and ex-pats.

Marina De La Torre is an excellent example of a resort that is ‘self-supporting’. It has a selection of hotels with Restaurants that are bustling in the summer but cosy and inviting in the winter.

The Marina has something for everyone. Even if you are not a golfer, it also supports other sports – such as cycling and tennis, and of course there is the well-known Paseo de Mediterraneo: a paved promenade running for 20 km right outside your front door. It is suitable to walking, running and leisure cycling, and has plenty of ‘watering holes’ along the way.

Because of our climate – it is possible to play/pursue outdoor activities all year around – making a two-bedroomed apartment an excellent investment for you, your family and friends.

At Marina De La Torre, you have the luxury of living alongside the beach and the mountains. You are conveniently placed for accessing Garrucha – a thriving fishing town with a truly Spanish culture (and a Lidl!); but you are the ‘right’ side of Mojacar not to be bothered by the Summer holiday makers.

There is a good mix of properties on the resort – some are first line, some are green-side and now, new phases are being released; all of which have a panoramic sea and mountain view from their elevated position.

Click here if you want to learn more about living in Marina De La Torre…


Do You Remember Home Economics?

Do You Remember ‘Home Economics’?

My Essential Kitchen Equipment

In around three weeks, I am moving house for the 14th time in ten years! I suppose that is the hazard of working on construction projects.
I have adopted a system of packing up one room at a time, cleaning it and closing the door on it as I go. Then I put a post-it note on the door to remind me it is cleared. That way I spread the effort and stress of moving day.

Today, it is the turn of the kitchen.

In the Republic of Ireland and here in Southern Spain all the houses I have rented have been fully furnished – including kitchen equipment.
I love cooking, baking, juicing etc so I now have a range of domestic electrical devices that move with me. I also keep a UK extension lead so I can power them up anywhere in the world!

As a rule, when I move into a rental house, I pack up all the landlord’s kitchen equipment and substitute my own, so today – I will reverse the process – and manage for the next three weeks.

This morning I opened the larder and realised I don’t want to be moving all this food from one place to the next. In fact, there is money tied up in this food – and this is where the practice of ’home economics’ will come in.
It was called ‘Home Economics’ when I was at school, but I just thought it was another term for ‘cooking’. Now, I understand that it goes much further – and it is actually an art-form; a set of skills.

Between the ages of 11 and 15, I learned how to cook, plan meals, make my own dress patterns, sew (though it was my father that taught me originally).
When I lived in The Republic of Ireland, just after the ‘crash’, I noticed small sewing shops popping up everywhere. Some of them even offered sewing classes. Magazines featured articles on ‘make do and mend’ and similar blogs appeared on the internet. It became a trend to become self-sufficient, make use of second-hand clothes – which are now called ‘vintage’.
I guess this is a sign of the times. The materialistic days of the eighties, nineties and noughties gave way to ‘necessity’ being ‘the mother of invention’. People now have to save huge deposits to buy houses, or a share in a house; and this is why practicing home economics is experiencing a revival.

Back to the cupboard.

Firstly; list everything in the cupboard. Everything. The freezer and fridge too. Then on a separate piece of paper write menus for every day – using up the items and ingredients.
This is the fun part!
I have tins and packets of dried legumes: puy, yellow and green lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans. I adore chickpea dahl; so, I am going to make some – using a recipe from the internet.

The fun continues…

As I research recipes, I get the offer of 30 Healthy Recipes Every Woman Should Know (Elizabeth Ryder).
Stuff for free!

This Home Economics thing is really working!

I can also re-learn what to do with dried pulses.
And I get put on a newsletter mailing list that is relevant to me!

If you have any time and money-saving tips for moving house or home economics – just leave me a comment at the bottom of this blog.


Talking Dogs

by J O'Loughlin 2013

Púca and Madra (R.I.P)

Every day that I wake up here in Almeria Province, I look out of my bedroom window and gaze inexorably towards the sea and think ‘I still can’t believe I am here!’ Some mornings I even say it out loud.

This morning, like every morning, I contemplated what new place I might explore with my four-legged companions. I thought back to when I first brought Púca over from Ireland.
If I am brutally honest, at the start of the summer (June) I didn’t know what to do or where to go because of the heat, but then – through talking to ex-pats (of all nationalities) who have lived here for several years – and my Spanish friends – I realised I just needed to approach it differently.
Like many Anglo-Irish making the move to Spain, I imagined that I needed to have a garden for my dog when I came here. That would mean budgeting for a villa, cortijo or a sought-after ground floor flat.

I lived here for six months before I brought Púca over. In that time, I realised gardens here are very different to what I was used to. In fact, they are used differently; because of the heat, intensity of the sun and the need to conserve water. I never saw a dog lazing around in a garden either. They seek out the cool – most likely under a table, but always on the cold tiled floor, and sleep for most of the day.
To start with, I would walk in the campo (countryside) where Hond, the Spanish Mastiff would find water – however limited – and roll in it. Púca – the Swiss Shepherd: a breed used to altitude and the cold, would chase rabbits, and come back panting heavily. One day she even laid down in the middle of the track because she was so hot. I gave her what was left of our two bottles of water and she was able to continue.

The hose became my dogs’ best friend. When I returned from walks, I would take each dog out to the terrace (first floor) and slowly hose them down. Pretty much every balcony or terrace I have seen has a drain. But be careful, water on tiles is very slippy, and you, the dog or both of you could go down hard – causing injury.
At one of the many Merca China shops in this area you will find a non-slip matting on a roll that looks a bit like carpet underlay – but with holes. It is useful for the strip from the poolside if you have children, but also on the terrace when you wash the dog.

Hond – The Spanish Mastiff – Native to Spain

Before I brought Púca out, I asked the vet about any tips for keeping her cool. She suggested a cold, wet towel under the ‘armpits’ (or what ever they are called on a dog!), because this is where the skin is thinnest.

Another friend soaks her dog with the hose before going out; which is a good idea if you don’t have to travel by car to get to the campo.

From October to May – it is a delight to walk the dogs at any time of day. Travelling in the car to new spots is also much more comfortable for them. Last weekend, I discovered the Baranca (dried out river bed) at Marina De La Torre where I was able to walk for two hours.
It’s all about adapting to your surroundings. It isn’t the same for me; why should it be for the dogs?


Food, Glorious food!

Following on from last week’s blog about siestas and tapas, I thought I would share with you some experiences that have helped me adapt to shopping for food here in Almeria.

If you are from a Northern Europe, or a large city elsewhere, you could probably choose any cuisine to cook or dine out on with ease. One of the attractions of of Almeria Province is that it is not commercialised or built up. As a result, the shops tend to reflect the needs of the locals – often including ex-pats.

It is also worth remembering that whilst Mexico and Spain share a language, they do not share a spice palate. The Spanish generally do not eat ‘spicy’ food. I have found it difficult to find fresh chilies, or hot paprika in a jar, for example. Fresh basil and coriander are also quite rare.
To solve this issue, when you see fresh chills or coriander – wash, chop into the required size and freeze ready for use in a salsa or chilli. Basil is not so easy to store whole – just enjoy it the day you see it with sliced tomatoes, mozzarella – with a little olive oil.

The Spanish are said to have a Mediterranean diet, and a lot of people look forward to eating this way when they move here. But the Mediterranean is a large sea with Spain at one end and Israel at the other. Italy is somewhere in the Middle; opposite Tunisia, hence the term ‘Mediterranean can be a little misleading.

Make the most of the seasonal fruits and vegetables, and base your cooking around these. Tomatoes will always be available, as will sweet peppers and courgettes. Obviously Spanish Onions are a great staple too. In Almeria there are many date palms – making this a popular snack or dessert base.

You won’t see many cows this far south, though, due to a lack of grass, so dairy produce is generally cured, hard cheeses (Curado) or goats cheese (hard or soft). ‘Beef only’ minced meat is available – but often it is mixed with pork and called ‘hamburger meat’.

Pulses (Pintas) such as kidney beans, brown beans or chick peas come in jars rather than cans here. As you begin to adapt to eating more vegetables, and of course fish, try swapping pulses for meat. For me, a three-been chilli is a great alternative to the traditional meat version.

Start or finish with dates stuffed with goats cheese – and you have a quick, economical meal you can serve serve to friends on any fiesta.


The Truth about Siestas in Almeria.

So you have moved to Spain and you are gradually getting used to the your surroundings and tailoring your shopping and eating habits to the local culture.
Before you moved here, I’m sure you were told “they only eat Tapas” and “they eat at midnight!”

Whilst there is an element of truth in those comments, They are not a rigid requirements.

Firstly, eating habits, like the climate vary all over Spain. If you have moved to Almeria Province, the eating, shopping and sleeping culture is dictated to a large degree by the weather.
Temperatures stay in the mid-thirties (c. 35⁰) for the most part of July and August. So you really won’t feel like standing over a hot stove for an hour in the middle of the day.

In fact in this part of Spain, people still enjoy a siesta. Typically, people stop working or doing activities at 14:00. They then have ‘comer’ or ‘comido’ (eat lunch) and then wind down or even sleep before returning to work for 17:00.

Keeping cool – under cover

Many of the shops and supermarkets with be closed during this time. Larger stores – such as Mercadonna, Consum and Lidl will stay open – though you will need to look or listen out for changes to this when there is an up and coming Fiesta – and ‘bridge’ day – making a party or Saint-Day that falls on a Thursday last for four days over the weekend – a subject for another day!

You will, of course, be able to visit one of the many bars and restaurants and enjoy a leisurely lunch between 14:00 and 18:00 – when the restaurant will shut so the waiting staff can have their own siesta. They will open again after 20:00 and keep serving food up to 23:30 or later.


Now you can see why newcomers to Spain take advantage of a siesta


Did you know that the Tapa (meaning cover) originated in Almeria?
In bars, the locals would cover their drink with a saucer to stop flies getting in.
Over time, small portions of food were then served on the saucer – hence the tradition of a number of tasty snacks with a half-glass of wine or beer.


Learning to Love the Landscape of Almeria

If you come from Northern Europe, the phrase “rolling hills and rugged mountains” will conjure up an image of huge forests – mostly pine – interspaced with jagged rocks and underlined with lush, green valleys.

When you visit Almeria – anywhere in the province, you will soon appreciate a very different landscape. The stark, arid wilderness that is for the best part un-spoiled; has mountains of sandstone and minerals and each one has an undulating surface – reminiscent of the surface of the moon! In the setting sun, dramatic shadows are cast, emphasising their soft shapes.

Here, the surface is not grass, but wild herbs – such as sage, lavender, rosemary and thyme – growing to proportions I have never seen before, but particularly enjoyable and therapeutic to walk through.

Owing to the hot, relatively dry climate of Almeria – I have yet to see many non-succulent wild flowers – but this morning I captured my first.

If you are looking for dramatic scenery, the Cabo de Gata has cliffs of volcanic rock plummeting 100 metres into the sea. In between these awesome giants are secret beaches of sparkling white sand that you stumble upon, and wonder if you will ever find again!

Almeria is the farthest, South Eastern province in Spain. It is also home to the only desert in Europe, and with it some unique flora and fauna.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IxLgIMWpL4&w=560&h=315]

At sunset this evening I left the Playa del Algarrobico, on the Eastern edge of the Cabo de Gata-Nijar As I drove, a large deer stepped from the rocky hills and crossed the road then started chewing on the vegetation on the other side. Amazing!


Mountain Time

Being in a foreign country alone – has been an enabler for me. All the experiences I had in Ireland have prepared me for walking and hiking in the mountains, finding places to pitch a tent and even discover secret places that only locals would have seen.

Last weekend I looked up ‘Skiing in Sierra Nevada’ and found two centres in the Sierra Nevada National Park. One was in Granada Province – and one in The Alpujarras, Almeria Province – on the border with Granada.
In Almeria province where the average temperature is in the low 30’s during July and August – it is great to take a break from the beaches and head into the mountains – particularly with the dogs.

So I pulled up Google Maps and wrote down the names of the villages I would visit on the way: Fondón (home of the last Moorish King of Spain), Laujar de Andarax – built on the Andarax River at the Foot of the Alpujarras and Paterna Del Rio – a village at almost 1200 metres with an inviting town square and three café bars full of people relaxing and catching up on the past week.
Spain has a fantastic ‘Coffee Culture’. Forget about caramel macchiatos and frapacchinos. In Spain you can order ‘cortado con hielo’; you’ll get a strong coffee with a little milk and a glass of icecubes. Some cafés will also give you some small pastries or donuts with it – and like tapas and wine in the evening – its enough to get you through to the next watering hole.

I took my time driving; really enjoying the views and taking pitstops to water the dogs.
Eventually, I arrived at Puerto De La Ragua: a ski resort for cross-country skiing.

Outside of the ski season the piste runs are winding, marked trails of varying difficulty. Night was falling and I set a time-limit for my ‘out and back’. This wasn’t a day for getting lost!

The resort is at 2000 metres altitude and the temparate was 10-15° lower than in the valley. The dogs were excited but as usual, Púca, the Swiss Shepherd walked at my side and Hond, The Spanish Mastiff, scouted 200 metres ahead.
He found water. A babbling stream. They played whilst I listened to the inviting sounds and recorded my visit to share with you.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sZhnqNLJPg&w=560&h=315]

The evening walk was a success – and gave me the confidence to explore more next weekend.
I am really lucky to have stumbled upon this piece of paradise in an unexplored corner of Almeria.


Life in Almeria

Originally from the UK, I moved to Southern Ireland nearly 10 years ago for a change in pace of life and an outdoor lifestyle.

But the best laid plans are always subject to change, and sure enough – my project work finished. Then it occurred to me that I could have this perfect, healthy lifestyle in the sun!
So, I booked a research trip – just a week’s holiday with my two sisters – and we visited properties, towns, areas, beaches and castles – all within 100km of Vera.
It wasn’t long before I fell in love with the place…

I headed home and started to unpack. As I did; I thought “What am I doing here that I couldn’t do in Southern Spain? Nothing!” I realised.
So, I went online and planned my route to Vera through France and Spain – taking in a few sites as I travelled – after all I was in no rush.

I set a date of the 1st September and contacted one of the estate agents (inmobilaria) that I had viewed properties with and asked them to help me secure a rental property.
Almeria Housing was able to find me properties and talk with the owners in Spanish first – then arrange a video call from the property – a process I would highly recommend if you do not have friends already living here to visit on your behalf. I was also able to speak to the landlord to show him I was serious and very keen to move here – which also helps.

I arrived in Vera at lunchtime on 1st September, completed my paperwork, paid my deposit (usually two months in advance) and was handed the keys. I followed the agent to the property in my car, and we pulled up outside a very well maintained urbanizacion, right opposite the sea.

As he raised the shutters on the kitchen window I smiled as I took in the beauty of the wide, un-occupied sandy beach and the deep blue sea beyond.
I felt so lucky to have found such a piece of paradise. I still do.

Now – a year on – I am beginning to explore my landscape and realise my dreams of hiking and walking up mountains with my dogs. Not to mention a stroll along the sea

Come back and read about my adventures into the desert, taking ‘snow days’ in the Sierra Nevada, day-trips to Lorca Castle and Almeria shopping. We have it all here – and you could be enjoying it all too.

See you soon,


Photo from From Wikimedia Commons, Martyn Thompson (Cabo de Gata Photography)


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