There is smoke coming out of our chimney

It might not seem like a big deal, but having smoke coming out of your chimney is important. In rural Spain there is a type of association that affects those living in the area. The Comunidad del Monte is the association that regulates the use of the communal property of the town or village. Those living near these lands typically have rights and privileges to that land. For example, you could be allowed to harvest fire wood, graze your livestock, or go hunting on land that is public. But it has to be YOUR public land, not others. Not just anyone can come and harvest wood or wild game from this area, you have to be part of the “comunidad”.

Which leads us back to why chimney smoke is important. In previous eras, the determining factor of whether you could be part of the comunidad was whether you had smoke coming from your chimney for at least three months of the year.

Don’t ask me how they measured it, or how reliable that is, but when I asked how to become a member of the comunidad del monte, that was one of the answers I was told.

Either way, we have a fireplace installed and pumping out smoke so everyone knows that we live here! (And the extra warmth is nice as well…)

Everyone can do what they want, but…

“In a village, things are different.” In many ways that seems true. In other ways it could be that things are different just because there are fewer people. An apartment building is like a village stacked on top of itself. In a village, no one has to hear the toilet pipes from the person who lives on the floor above them. But in an apartment, no one has to smell the next door neighbor burning leaves…never mind, neighbors smoke all types of things. Either way, villages and apartment buildings in Spain share some commonalities yet also have their differences.

One thing that is common is that neighbors are neighbors no matter where you live. You can have great neighbors who want to be helpful, polite, and bring you over something they just baked or bought (which we have been blessed to have). Or you can have neighbors that just want to avoid you at all costs. While not being as good as the first, there are still some benefits to this arrangement. But then there is a third kind of neighbor. These are the neighbors who seem to believe that they don’t just share the building or village with you, but expect you to share your home with them. They want to know what is happening. They want to make sure you obey all their rules. They want you to make sure to keep your four year old from scampering across the floor because it is too loud, or your children from going outside without a coat on a sunny, 60 degree day.

We are not sure how all our neighborly relationships will turn out in our village. We have had some of our neighbors share their produce with us, teach us how to prune the fruit trees, and bring over freshly baked bread pudding. Then every once in awhile you have a gem of a conversation like this:

“You need an electrical pole.”

I know. It has been ordered.

“Everyone can do what they want, but…you need to get that replaced.”

You are right. It was ordered.

“I just look at it and it is so dangerous. Someone could touch it and it could fall down.”

Yes. I hope they come and replace it soon.

“You can do whatever you want, but I tell my husband that he needs to be careful because it could fall.”

Well, the electrical company knows. The telephone company knows. I just don’t know when they will actually do it.

“Well, it really needs to be fixed.”

I agree. Well, I need to go check on the kids now.

The interesting part is, as I understand it, it was her nephew who installed the dangerous light pole. I wonder if she ever mentioned it to him?

Sometimes the stories that follow, “When I was a kid” make me thankful that I wasn’t a kid at that time

There are times when you realize that life in the good ol’ days was pretty complicated, and I am not just talking about walking uphill to school both ways. One of those illuminating moments came upon us while we were out walking our village one afternoon. We came across a neighbor and stopped to chat about the animals, other homes, and the weather. As in normal conversation, one thing led to another, other neighbors joined the circle, and eventually the conversation shifted to birthdays.

It turns out that one of our children shares a birthday with one of our neighbors. Well…sort of. She was born on the same day, but her birth certificate states she was born two days later.

“There has to be a story there!” You say. You are correct, my dear reader, there is.

Apparently in the good ol’ days there was a law that if you did not register your child on the day they were born, by going to the city hall, you would be fined. So the birthday just shifted to the day when you could actually walk in to the city hall.

But not only is the actual date of her birth wrong on the certificate, but her place of birth is as well. Both our neighbors chimed in to explain to us that the “Municipio” (municipality) (see this post) where she was born, the one adjacent to ours, is oddly shaped. Being very long and pointed, intervening rivers and mountains, and the fact that the city hall was all the way on the coast, made the trip to the city hall rather daunting. And a daunting trip is not one which her very tired parents were willing to make in that moment. So instead they took her to the adjoining municipality where the city hall was conveniently located a few miles away. Then they told the officials she was born in a different village than she was.

But wait, my dear friend. There is more.

Come to find out that the name we know her by is not even her real name. Everyone just knows her by her nickname. Under the regime of Franco a law was established making it illegal to give your child any first name other than a biblical name, Mary and Joseph being preferred. Therefore there are generations of people who all have the same first name, and now go by any number of nicknames in order to not be the same as everyone else.

“Your whole life is a lie! But don’t worry, we won’t be going to tell the authorities about your falsified documents!” I joked.


I don’t know, maybe seventy years is too soon.

A map of our Autonomous Community, Galicia with the red being the very oddly shaped municipio were she was born.

Delivery guys don’t wait around

I stepped outside the gate to meet the delivery guy, and greeted our neighbors. They were out pruning their vineyard and I had some questions I wanted to ask them as we tried to figure out how to prune our own vines and trees.

Those questions had to wait because delivery guys don’t wait around. When packages are supposed to arrive at our house we either get one of two phone calls. 

“Send me your exact location. I can’t find where you house is.”


“Make sure you are there. The doorbell doesn’t work.”

Regarding the first, Google Maps apparently hasn’t made it back to our little part of Spain. It also doesn’t help that we live in a “Lugar” (place) which is part of a “Pueblo” (village) which is part of a “Parroquia” (parish), which is part of a “Municipio” (municipality), which is part of a “Comarca” (maybe a county?), which is part of a “Provincia” (province), which is part of a “Comunidad Autónoma” (Autonomous Community). Also, our address appears in two different languages, depending on who is writing it. It can be in Spanish or it can be in Gallego, different spelling for each.

The second issue for deliveries, that of the doorbell, is a little easier. Our gate has no doorbell. There are just bare wires sticking out of the wall. If someone feels the need to touch those, I suppose that the shock will induce a loud enough noise for their presence to be announced. But barring that, the delivery guy just honks his horn. If no one stirs immediately, he doesn’t wait around.

But as difficult as it might be for some to find our place, deliveries do arrive!