Food Food Food…. and team dynamics – June 2010

Well its been a while – but then a lot of steel has been moved and concrete has been poured since our last blog posting.

First we want to thank everyone for putting comments on the blog – they do so help shore us up in the difficult moments!  Be assured everyone, while we have difficult times we are enjoying ourselves – it is a great retirement project and is drawing heavily on all our years of experience and knowledge which definitely have not gone to waste!  Hearing from you from all over the world brings you nearer and gives us that lovely warm feeling that every one needs from time to time!

We also have some balance to the challenges of the finca – food, of course. We do have fun with that!  We have been busy during June which culminated in the beautifully arranged and very professional Art Exhibition on the 3rd July at our friends’ Ann and Glynn Snelling’s beautiful home overlooking the Lecrin Valley. Work by professional artists James Connell, Caroline Cary, James Park, Paul and Sylvia Kopacek was very cleverly hung and the inauguration of the first of what we hope will be many of these events went with a swing – and a lot of wine and Casa Amelia tapas – check out our website for the recipes – they are coming soon!


The month of June was both horrendous and fantastic at once. Anyone who has done a management or team building course will know the classic theory developed by Bruce Tuckman relating to the stages of team building. We have hopefully seen the end of stage two!

Stage One – Forming – bringing a group of people together who may or may not know each other to create a team to execute a specific task or project.  In this stage everyone tends to be polite and helpful to each other while individually they are sizing each other up and forming judgements about their colleagues.  Everyone is driven by a desire to be accepted which means that serious issues are avoided and people focus on who does what, when to meet etc. In short it is the stage where conflict is avoided.

Stage Two – Storming – is the stage where the opposite is true!  This stage is both disturbing and simultaneously potentially productive.  There is no doubt it is necessary. Individuals can only be nice to each other for so long – and the important issues put aside in the Forming Stage need to be addressed. Some people’s patience breaks and conflict over both minor and major issues ensues. This is the time when good manners and good behaviour often leave the room. There is a lot of “throwing the toys out of the pram” and expressions of blame.  This is the stage when individuals behave as  if they are at war – winning or losing battles – and they look for structural clarity and rules to prevent the conflict persisting.

In June we saw two surrenders, stupendous battles and attempts to blame others.  We have not seen such tantrums since our daughters were teenagers – and we counted ourselves lucky we had had that experience – it prepared us well! This situation meant we needed to spend a great deal of time talking to individual team members to find a way forward and being very, very firm about our decisions……. grrrr …. no fun AT ALL!

Stage Three – Norming – Having gone through the battles (with or without casualties) teams usually understand each other better, and structural clarity and “rules of engagement” emerge.  Over time mutual respect for each other’s skills grows and individuals listen to each other and allow opinions to be voiced.  Pre-conceived ideas are changed and individuals begin to work as a mutually supporting team.

Having laid down a few of our own “rules of engagement” …we live in hope!

Stage Four – Performing Not all teams reach this high spot!  It is when individuals work interdependently and flexibly together and sufficient trust exists to empower independent activity.  Group identity and loyalty are the main characteristics of this stage.  The fact that the team are not focussing on inter-group battles means they are able to divert their energy to the project in hand….Halleluya!

Bruce Tuckman revisited his original work some years later and added a final stage:

Stage Five – Adjourning This is about completion of the task and moving on.  Individuals will be proud of their achievements and pleased to have been part of a successful team, the job done they move on.

There is a sense of loss at this stage – and some people describe this phase as “Deforming and Mourning”.  We can’t quite understand that feeling right now – the thought of finishing the project, saying goodbye to the dust and machines (but not all the people) is very appealing!

27 June 2010


The losa (or base floor of the house) is at last finished.

The first task was to put down fine sand, compact it and top it with two layers of plastic.

Then to construct the network or cage of steel rods that reinforce the floor and pillars on which the house is built. This cage is lifted off the plastic with spacers so that water is not conducted through the concrete.  The owner of metal company who laid the steels had a major wobbly when it was pointed out that his men had laid a whole series of hoops directly onto the plastic.  The fact that he has done thousands of houses that way and that he had 40 years of experience probably reinforces the reason that the majority of houses in sunny Spain have damp problems and most houses in wet Northern Europe do not!  The Spanish have actually recognised this and changed the norms – but Jesus Ferralla had not embraced this.  Hi ho, more delays – but it was worth it to know it was done properly.

All the steels for the pillars needed to be lined up and their axils correctly placed – this caused more disagreement and bad humour.  However finally it was done!

Then we had the concrete to mix.  It is not possible for a ready mix concrete lorry to reach the site.  This raises many issues – the key ones being:

  1. Additional labour required and associated costs
  2. Additional equipment required on site, associated costs and the qualification of the men to operate them
  3. Maintenance of consistent quality of the concrete produced by hand as material quantities are more difficult to control

Reg and his great team overcame them all and over a period of 3 days the men worked in soaring temperatures and produced and poured 159 cubic meters of cement to make our foundation – SO exciting!!  We now wait with bated breath for the results of the tests on the concrete.  Probes were taken and they are tested at various intervals up to one month to ensure the mixture was correct and the quality is up to standard for the 10 year building guarantee.

30 June 2010

One little slip….

The men went off for a break on the first day.  Chris was still at the finca and heard a strange rumbling noise – only to see – to his horror – one of the large mobile cement mixers heading downhill towards the barranco (ravine).  The driver had forgotten to put the break on when he left.  BIG discussions about health and safety ensued after that little error!

10 June 2010


Chris has built a compost loo for the garden.  Mmmm we hear you say!  It is brilliant, uses sawdust instead of water and and will over time and through the production of humanure provide us with compost for the garden.  We should emphasise that this takes time and care – see the Humanure link for more information.  Chris has moved seemlessly from dentistry to carpentry – from very small things to much larger things and is showing a real skill and enjoyment in his creations!

13 June 1010


We have a little bantam hen who is getting quite old now.  She is much smaller than the other hens and keeps herself busy by sitting on everyone else’s eggs. However she seems to have a knack of choosing male eggs to sit on and over the past two years has hatched out 5 cockerels.  Needless to say (and the girls among you may agree) a ratio of 1 cockerel to 3 chickens is really too much. With the help and expert guidance of David Edge from Semilla Besada – a wonderful eco home and farm above Lanjaron – Chris was taught how to quickly and humanely despatch two of the cockerels.  These were immediately plucked and pulled and put into the freezer.  Coq au Vin will follow!  Chris has to finish off two more but wants to “buy the right knife for the job” before he does it……..mmmmm!

27 June 2010


No sooner than we despatched the cockerels than the bantam hatched out 5 more chicks.  It is too early to say how many hens or cockerels!!


The tabby kittens born in our patio in Albuñuelas are growing, becoming very domesticated and come with us and the dogs to the Finca.  Last time they came with their friend Purdy who was staying over with us for a few days.  She is 100€ siamese type princess that Chris calls Hiss and Run because that’s what she does – a lot – when she is miffed.  She is the softest, silkiest ball of fluff ever.  The two “camposinos” are in awe!

NEXT…. July – Pillars and walls (we hope)

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