The village eldest watched while I cleaned the wound on her leg. An old injury which needed dressing and bandaging twice a week. She’d been run over by an oxcart many years earlier and the wound on her leg never healed. Sometimes she went to the local health centre for it, but she preferred not to. And the moment I had moved into the house opposite hers a few months earlier, she had more or less claimed me as her bitch, hence I was sitting here in her kitchen.
“Braulia,” she said.
“Barbara,” I corrected her, looking up briefly. “Whatever.” she responded. I continued applying iodine to the wound. She winced for e second.
“I’ve been thinking.”
I gently blew on the wound to get the iodine to dry quicker. She had been thinking but she was hesitant to continue her sentence, I noticed. She inhaled with great exaggeration as if she was about to immerse herself in cold water, I could nearly hear her count one two three …“I have this piece of land which I can barely get to anymore. It’s at the edge of the avileiras.” a pause. “Maybe, if you want, you can use it for potatoes.” She sighed.
I could barely contain my excitement. I’d been thinking since moving here about asking one of the villagers if I could borrow some land but it was a difficult subject to breach. I knew renting a plot was not the done thing either. Up till now I had helped the village eldest in her veggieplot near the house and on occasion I helped other villagers. I was bored with helping. I was bored with being told what to do and how to do it.
I thanked the village eldest profusely for lending me some land. She told me to ask villager C to show me where it was exactly.
I practically skipped over to Villager C’s house, but she pulled a face upon hearing the news. “Why that piece? That’s no good. I’ll show it to you, but seriously, nothing will grow there.” It was small, full of weeds and old kale of which some of them had fallen over, but I liked it. I thought it had potential. And a view.
Other villagers grumbled that this was a typical village eldest action, to lend me a piece of useless land. According to villager J she was anything but the nice lady she portrayed she was to me. She just wanted me to do things for her for free. Another villager confided in me she once had someone helping her out with the vines and paid her with a bag of apples which she had nicked from his tree. “And she has that veggieplot practically next to your house!” villager J said. “All fenced off! It would be perfect if she’d let you use that! You’ve helped her with lots of things!” I pointed out I helped without expecting anything back. “She ought to stop working that land anyway, we’ll find her dead in a ditch one of these days.” someone else commented. In the past she used to be even more of a nightmare, everyone agreed, an utterly stubborn lady. “And for some reason she always used to go out to work on the land while everyone else went inside having their lunch. Loved to suffer that one.” Jesus said.
The next day, in the afternoon, Villager M turned up on my doorstep. She’d had too much wine with her lunch. “That land from Village Eldest is no good. I have another piece which you can use.”
This was awkward. The village eldest had taken the first step in offering me land. Now someone else came forward to offer me a better piece of land. “But I already said yes to the village eldest.”
She ignored my protest. Instead she took me to another villagers house were we discussed the possibilities. Her particular piece of land was at the at the edge of the village and hadn’t been used for years, she only worked the vines on the side. Her mother used to grow onions this big and salad that big and not to even mention the huge tomatoes and it had water which you could divert from the spring.
It felt like I had won two lotteries in the same day. But I also felt odd, because I didn’t want to upset the village eldest, nor villager M. I was constantly worried about what people might think of me stage. (I got over that in the end, otherwise I’d not been able to continue living here maintaining my sanity.) I’d decided I’d work both plots.
My butcher friend spat on the ground when he heard the news. “Paaaa that land? That land is swamp!I graze my cows at the bottom of it. They always get stuck in the mud. And you have to fence the lot of, Chica. You know what it costs to fence it off? You think you could leave it not fenced off? The boar Chica…and a swamp…Just help some others growing their potatoes and they’ll give you a bag in return.”
I groaned and shook my head. I wanted to grown my own. I wanted my own piece to play in. But now the only things that were sowed were seeds of doubt. Oh the irony.
Concerned I mentioned butcherfriend’s comments to Villager C, not to M, because M might feel offended. “Ha Butcher. Take no notice of Butcher. Butcher knows about cows. Do you think he knows anything about land? If he did he’d be growing potatoes. No. we’ll get someone with the tractor to dig it over for you.”
A few days later one of the villagers ploughed the plot over with a tractor and a week or so after, we’d fenced off the plot.
The day I went down to the plot with my hoe in hand, sun beaming down on me, was magical. I finally had my own piece of land. I didn’t have to do things according to villagers when I was helping them nor did I have to listen to the shrieking Village Eldest berating me. I was alone in this agricultural heaven. Finally. Undisturbed. No one would come down here. There was only some grassland at the side.
I sighed a blissful sigh and began to dig.
Until I saw villager J coming down the path with his cow and it dawned on me the grassland on the side was his. I was moments away from being told. “Chica. You don’t know what you are doing. Move.” and get the hoe taken off me to be shown how it was done.
No wonder Village Eldest used to work during lunch hour.
I’d do exactly that next time.