slow living in spain

slowtravel spain

New life to the lavender farm

Life took an unexpected turn for two Dutch women. Creativity, collaborative and creative joy are now united in a sustainable and peaceful country house in the mountains of southern Spain, which is both a home, retreat and Bed & Breakfast.

Photography and text by Lene Ostenfeldt

Featured 10 pages in danish magazine BoligLiv

Dansk tekst nederst

It was a bit of a coincidence and the total shutdown of Europe that put Dutch Laura Verschoor and Nina Hoogstraate on the trail of what has now become Las Mecias, in the mountains of the Alpujarra of Granada, the lower part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range . A sensual and sustainable country house where they live and invite guests inside. “Covid-19 came and with that shutdowns and restrictions in our everyday life, from one day to another. We evaluated and decided that the time has come to pursue our shared dream of creating a sustainable and organic agriculture and a future in Spain. With more than 15 years of experience in the kitchen of restaurants around the world, and after having worked with retreats, private events and festivals, we knew exactly how to make guests feel at home,” says Laura and continues, “We both wanted to get away from a hectic kitchen environment and 13-hour long working days, which is required to work professionally in a restaurant as head chef and chef respectively. So we made the final and life-changing decision in March 2021. Nina grew up in Mallorca and Spain’s location in Europe was good, not too far away, there is a lovely climate and we were attracted to the charming and relaxed Spanish lifestyle. “ (…)

You turn right at the mailboxes and drive the very last stretch of the narrow, winding mountain road. The view is literally breathtaking. When the sun has set, the silence descends and only buzzing bees, a dog barking and the bells of the mountain goats, is making sound.

The guest room is furnished for peace and rest. Here you can retreat when the sun is at its peak. Nina and Laura themselves have been responsible for the entire renovation and construction of Las Mecias, which consists of the main house and a guest house in a former stable. However, the concrete floors were cast in collaboration with a few volunteer helpers. In the living room, bundles of firewood are ready in the basket so that the fireplace can be lit on a cool evening. The shower’s water is heated by solar energy, tiles of stone from the mountains. All natural waste and what comes from the moletoilets, is saved. It takes a year to compost, after which the compost returns to the soil again as organic fertilizer for fruit and vegetables.

The two women then spent many hours on real estate websites. At first they wanted to buy land and build themselves, but the Spanish property law is both unmanageable and complicated, so after looking at a lot of dilapidated ruins, they fell for the defunct lavender farm that was in such need of a loving hand, with 8000 square meters of land and lavender that had dried out. However, the ground area, outer walls and potential were in place. A month later, the couple moved in.

“ We started by having a solar system installed to get electricity and hot water. Soon after, the septic tank went on strike and everything that goes up a mountain, has to come down at some point. It is difficult and takes time. That’s why we decided to scrap the tank and switch to a compost toilet and thus compost,” says Laura. A major renovation work began. Everything was emptied, doors were moved, floors torn up, bathroom installed. The pool on the terrace was emptied, renovated and painted. Furniture was designed and from existing recycled materials, kitchen cabinets and beds built for the guest rooms. (…)

The bookshelf in the kitchen shows great interest in the development of vegetables. Inspiration for the cooking comes from kitchens all over the world.

The nature in the mountains is raw, the heights wild and the green valleys lush. Las Mecias is surrounded by 2,6 hectares of land, of which 1 hectare of the surrounding land is cultivated with over 200 varieties of fruit and vegetables; apples, cherries, persimmons, avocados, mangoes, strawberry trees, figs, olives, apricots, mulberries, pomegranates and many, many more. It was not in the cards for the couple to cultivate land and crops, but one’s study in New Zealand in permaculture years ago and the other’s failed world tour on the sea, became the seed and starting point for the whole idea. (…)

In the garden and on the covered terrace, sheltered from the sun by the thatched roof and the fragrant jasmine, workshops are held in e.g. to find wild clay and ceramics.

Las Mecias is a place that invites you to be present with yourself and the surroundings, to see, smell and taste. The table is set for a family-style dinner, in the evening sun on the terrace by the pool. Regenerative farming means restoring soil fertility with minimal tillage. Las Mecias is a natural cycle where life is given back to the earth. The focus is on nature, the environment and human health.

The road winds decoratively through lush hillsides and green valleys.
You are welcome to grab a siesta by the pool. At Las Mecias you can do as much, or as little, as you like.
The pool’s fresh, green water comes from the mountains which is collected in a tank and is the water supply for the farm and the surrounding neighbours. When the couple took over the place, there was a plastic lawn around. The dogs Frida and Tony like to quench their thirst in the cool water and eagerly watch from the edge, when guests take a swim.

Neither Nina nor Laura has experience with farming and cultivating land, but many hours of self-study and hard work bear fruit. All the lavender on the grounds was removed and replaced with the largest variety of trees and crops that can withstand the climate. “Over time, the composition of plants will find its own balance and require the least possible influence from us, we only prune and harvest,” explains Nina. “ We will be as self-sufficient as possible, for ourselves and our guests. We have created a universe that we would like to share and everything that enters here is part of natural circulation and is re-used. We periodically do workshops in collaboration with the spanish ceramicists Tierra de Arcillas, where we find natural, wild clay in the mountains and process it into ceramics. It is also important to nourish the soul and the work of the hands,” she says. (…)

Nina and Laura, who have worked as chefs all over the world, work passionately with the taste of vegetables and fruit. The essence is that you have to understand that a vegetable is not just a vegetable, but can be experienced very differently, from whether it`s raw, marinated, fermented, baked or whether it’s charred, and which accessories enhance or compliment the taste.Over the years as professional chefs, the couple have spent a lot of time preparing other people’s food, now they enjoy preparing and developing their own ideas, where the taste speaks for itself. Dinner is set, family-style.

By chance, Laura Verschoor and Nina Hoogstraate, head chef and chef, came to work in the same restaurant in Amsterdam and found that they were more than just friends. The couple has made a shared dream of cultivating land in Spain, in a gentle and sustainable way and creating a retreat for creative people, a reality. Wild herbs such as thyme, rosemary, chamomile, oregano, aloe vera, lavender, grow everywhere. Laura and Nina study herbal medicine, the herbs are part of both cooking and the home-pharmacy.

The idea for the land is the concept of dry farming, also called Dryland Farming. Vegetables are grown in areas with limited humidity and rainfall, without irrigation. Plants are also planted between trees and bushes so that moisture is kept in the soil. All fertilizer comes from compost. The method preserves biodiversity, worms and bacteria nourish the soil.

” This lifestyle is possible, without us having to do without modern luxury in everyday life, because we show consideration in everything we do here,” says Nina, ” We would like to inspire others to be a little more conscious and careful with their own lifestyle, especially the food we eat. We share this place, which we are so privileged to be able to call our home, with creative people from all over the world who appreciate presence, authenticity and healthy food made from simple ingredients that speak for themselves. People like us who enjoy being at one with nature and escaping a hectic and digitized world, for a while. And we are by no means, finished developing it. ” /


Laura Verschoor and Nina Hoogstraate

The dogs Tony and Frida.

Las Mecias, sustainable and peaceful country house and retreat on a former lavender farm, in the Alpujarra of Granada in Spain.

90 m2 accommodation, B&B, yurt and restaurant with farm-to-table experience, with 2.6 hectares of land, of which 1 hectare is grown as an organic vegetable and fruit and plantation.

Fly to Malaga and rent a car, approx. 2,5 hours drive.

Alternatively fly to Granada.


Nyt liv på lavendelfarmen

Livet tog en uventet drejning for to hollandske kvinder. Kreativitet, fællesskab og skaberglæde er nu forenet i et bæredygtigt og fredfyldt landsted i det sydlige Spanien, som er både bolig, retreat og Bed & Breakfast. 

Foto og tekst af Lene Ostenfeldt 

Artikel publiceret i magasinet BoligLiv

Det var lidt af et tilfælde og en total nedlukning af Europa, der satte hollandske Laura Verschoor og Nina Hoogstraate på sporet af det, der nu er blevet til Las Mecias, i bjergene i Alpujarra af Granada, der er den nederste del af Sierra Nevada bjergkæden. Et sanseligt og bæredygtigt landsted hvor de bor og inviterer gæster indenfor. “ Covid-19 kom og deraf nedlukninger og begrænsninger i hverdagen, fra den ene dag til den anden. Vi evaluerede og besluttede, at nu var tiden kommet til at forfølge vores fælles drøm om at skabe et bæredygtigt og økologisk jordbrug og en fremtid i Spanien. Med mere end 15 års erfaring i køkkenet på restauranter rundt omkring i verden, og i at have arbejdet med retreats, private events og festivaler, vidste vi nøjagtig, hvordan man får gæster til at føle sig hjemme, “ fortæller Laura og fortsætter, “ Vi ønskede begge at søge væk fra et hektisk køkkenmiljø og 13-timer lange arbejdsdage, som det jo kræver at arbejde professionelt i en restaurant som henholdsvis køkkenchef og kok. Så vi tog den endelige og livsforandrende beslutning i marts 2021. Nina er vokset op på Mallorca og Spaniens beliggenhed i Europa var god, ikke for langt væk, der er et dejligt klima og vi var tiltrukket af den charmerende og afslappede spanske livsstil. “

De to kvinder brugte derefter rigtig mange timer på ejendomsmæglersider og på at køre rundt i de spanske landskab. Først ville de købe land og bygge selv, men den spanske ejendomsret er både uoverskuelig og kompliceret, så efter at have set på en hel del faldefærdige ruiner, faldt de for den nedlagte lavendelfarm der i den grad trængte til en kærlig hånd, med 8000 kvadrameter jord og lavender der var tørret ud. Grundarealet, ydermure og muligheder var dog på plads. En måned senere flyttede parret ind. 

“ Vi startede med at få installeret solcelleanlæg for at få elektricitet og varmt vand. Kort efter strejkede septiktanken og alt hvad der kommer op på et bjerg, skal på et tidspunkt ned igen. Det er besværligt og tager tid. Derfor besluttede vi at sløjfe tanken og skifte til muldtoilet og dermed kompost, “ siger Laura. Et stort renoveringsarbejde gik igang. Alt blev tømt, døre blev flyttet, gulve revet op, badeværelse installeret. Poolen på terrassen blev tømt, renoveret og malet. Der blev designet og bygget møbler af forhåndværende genbrugsmaterialer, køkkenskabe og senge til gæsteværelserne.

Naturen i bjergene er rå, højderne vilde og de grønne dale frodige. Las Mecias er omgivet af 2,6 hektar land, hvoraf 1 hektar af jorden omkring, dyrkes med over 200 varianter af frugt og grønt; æbler, kirsebær, kakifrugt, avocado, mango, jordbærtræ, figner, oliven, abrikos, morbær, granatæble og mange, mange flere. Det lå ikke i kortene at parret skulle dyrke land og afgrøder, men den enes studie i New Zealand i permakultur år tilbage og den andens mislykkede verdensomsejling, blev frø og startskud til hele idéen. 

Hverken Nina eller Laura har erfaring med landbrug og dyrkning af jord, men mange timers selv-studie og hårdt arbejde, bærer frugt. Alle lavender på grunden blev fjernet og erstattet med den største variation af træer og buske som tåler klimaet. “ Over tid vil sammensætningen af planter finde sin egen balance og kræve mindst mulig indflydelse fra os, vi beskærer og høster kun, “ forklarer Nina. “ Vi bliver så selvforsynende som muligt, til os selv og vores gæster. Vi har skabt et univers som vi gerne vil dele og alt hvad der kommer ind her, indgår i naturlig cirkulation og anvendes igen. Vi laver i perioder workshops i samarbejde med keramikerne Tierra de Arcillas, hvor vi finder naturligt, vild ler i bjergene og bearbejder det til keramik. Det er nemlig også vigtigt at nære sjælen og hændernes arbejde,” siger hun. 

Idéen for jorden er begrebet tørt landbrug, også kaldet Syntropic Farming. Grøntsager dyrkes i harmoni med naturens eget naturlige system, med så lidt kunstvanding som muligt, i områder med begrænset fugtighed og nedbør. Der plantes også mellem træer og buske så fugten holdes i jorden. Alt gødning kommer fra kompost. Metoden bevarer biodiversiteten, orme og bakterier giver næring til jorden.

“ Den her livsstil er mulig for os, uden vi skal undvære moderne luksus i hverdagen, netop fordi vi udviser omtanke i alt hvad vi gør, “ siger Nina, “ Vi vil gerne inspirere andre til at være lidt mere bevidste og omhyggelige med livsstilen hver især og den mad vi spiser. Det her sted, som vi er så priviligerede at kunne kalde vores hjem, deler vi med kreative mennesker fra hele verden der sætter pris på nærvær, autencitet og sund mad af enkle ingredienser der taler for sig selv. Folk som os, der nyder at være i et med naturen og slippe en hektisk og digitaliseret verden, for en stund. Og vi er slet ikke færdige med at udvikle det. “ 


Laura Verschoor og Nina Hoogstraate 

Hundene Tony og Frida. 

Las Mecias, bæredygtigt og fredfyldt landsted og retreat på en tidligere lavendelfarm, i Alpujarra af Granada i Spanien. 

90 m2 bolig, B&B, yurt og restaurant med jord-til-bord oplevelse, med 2,6 hektar land, hvoraf 1 hektar dyrkes som økologisk grønt- og frugt og plantage. 

Flyv til Malaga og lej en bil, ca. 2,5 times kørsel. 

Alternativt flyv til Granada.