Taking A-Fence

There are good people in this world. Salt-of-the-earth types of people who would do anything for you with a simple phone call. And then, there are other types of people who, with reflection, systematically and purposefully make life more difficult – drip by drip. I removed myself from these types of people long ago.

But, most of us fall between these two extremes. And we are not perfect. An inadvertent comment here. A thoughtless remark said in passing. But these are arrows, too, that can sometimes they can hit the heart.


Get different cultures together and offenses can stack up. In the words of George Bernard Shaw ‘England and America are two countries divided by a common language.’ Things the English find offensive means nothing in the US. And things Americans find offensive are common in the UK. The word ‘fuck’ is just an adverb on tv there. In the US, this is the worst of swear words. You have to have cable or streaming to hear that word on tv. ‘Bloody’ in Britain is a serious adverb. You don’t say it lightly. In America, we never use it unless there is real bloodshed.

I remember crossing my legs sitting on a sofa in the Middle East. The person across from me got up and left the room. Feet are a thing there. You don’t show the soles of your feet to other people. Its extremely rude. And NEVER, EVER touch your feet in front of other people in Damascus or Dubai. You’ll never come back from that, socially.

Since moving to Spain, we have learned many things not to do. The Spanish are a circumspect people. Not overly effusive. And within Spain, regions have their own sub-cultural norms. I’m not sure we will ever learn the subtleties of all of those. But there is another component at work in our lives now. Spanish Farm etiquette.

Taken Out To The Woodshed

Back in November of 2020, when I toured the farm with the daughter of the previous owner, we went through the house and the barn. Then, we walked the fences. There weren’t really any fences. Just this white tape strung between stone fence posts. It has flexible wires woven in it that can be hooked up to a car battery. Instant electric fence!! Our neighbors in the field next door would hook up the battery every time they rotated their cows into the pasture. I would see her lugging it out across the field in her apron and rubber boots. When I was walking with the daughter that day, to decide if we would purchase the place, I mentioned fencing the entire property, but she schooled me on the etiquette of Galician farms.

‘You must leave a gap or a gate, so someone could get through. Hunters, or others who must move livestock if your field is between their fields.’

She is correct. Hunters were in our field just yesterday. But now, Houston, we have a problem.

We are opening a campground and cabins for Pilgrims. And for a campground we must fence the property. No free pass for livestock. No hunters chasing javalies in the back 40. People staying here have to be protected from all that – by law. So, we included it in our project design and are waiting on one of the layers of the bureaucratic lasagna to give us the go ahead. Something our neighbors are not entirely aware of. Yet.

Fergus MacGergus

As readers of this blog are aware, we recently got a dog. And, as you can see, he’s growing like crazy!

Fergus is getting brave and has a penchant to roam. His ‘Fergus’ Apple AirTag on his collar is proof of his adventures in visiting the cow field next door. He can then go through their field and slip out under their ancient barbed wire fence into the road. But they made it even more difficult last week. They started spreading slurry on the field in preparation for planting. It’s a toxic combination of the liquified cow 💩. A truck from a local dairy spent two days with countless tanker trucks spreading it on like a thick layer of chocolate frosting. But it is not sweet. It smells like the odors of hell are on our doorstep. Luckily, they don’t do this very often.

Jeff has begun putting up temporary fencing to keep Fergus out of the road. But its a big job, even with an auger to dig post holes. And Fergus has taken full advantage of the gaps in the temporary fencing, running to the freshly slurried field and rolling around in it. His previously warm showers in the bathroom upstairs have become a very chilly hose off in front of the pump house.

We Mean No Offense

Ironically, its not the shit spreaders who are at fault in this fun new experience. It’s us. Yes, our little temporary fence has caused a grave hullabaloo in our little community. And it has been hotly debated at the bar in the village. Luckily, the cultivation of my neighborhood spy network is paying off. But likely, I would have known something was up before this.

Fergus and I went for a walk to see the progress of the A54 AutoVia (freeway in western American parlance). As though we can will it to be completed quicker. It is two kilometers away, and when it is completed in 2024 it will mean we can get into Santiago in a half hour. No more driving over hill and dale on winding, twisty country roads. Our little section will be done this fall. Meaning we can be in Lugo in 25 minutes by Christmas time. Can you tell we are excited?

On the way I passed our neighbor, Luis, on his tractor. He is always smiley with me. I waved and stopped to say Hola! But he turned away. Then, I saw his mother walking in her rubber boots and apron, carrying a stick and a bucket. She just grunted. Curious. I took my walk, then came home. I had something for a neighbor friend and later I took it over to her. She petted Fergus, then gave me to low down. We have offended people with our little temporary fence. Yes, they know we have a puppy. But, we should do what everyone else does and keep it in a kennel, not free to run so we need a fence between farms. We are seen as strange letting such a big dog in the house.

To say I was shocked doesn’t cover it. ‘But they have some barbed wire fences on their land. We have to keep him out of the road. ‘

She understands. She knows us and she loves Fergus.

‘They are saying that Americans think they own everything.’

I frowned. We do actually own this farm.

‘But we will have to fence it for the new business.’ I reminded her.

She knows and she nodded. ‘I think that is the real problem. Luis and his mom own the cafe in the village. They are not happy about the food truck. When you have everything completed it might get difficult for you here. For awhile. The fence is just a reason to be mad, right now.’ She patted my hand. ‘Do not worry. I know you are not trying to hurt anyone.’

I came home disheartened. Sometimes you wonder why you try so hard to do something. Something different. But then, something different isn’t really done in rural Galicia. Especially by foreigners.


Last night, Jeff and I do what we always do. We went to Ruas Duas in Melide for dinner. We eat there every Saturday night. I have the same gluten free meal. Jeff mixes it up a little more. Finally, last night the owner came to our table after the meal. She brought us flores.

At this time of year, in celebration of Carnival and before the start of Lent, people make fried donuts or these flores. Both are sprinkled with sugar. A decadent treat to indulge in before the deprivation of lent leading up to Easter. It was kind of her. She wanted to learn more about us, personally. She had heard about the Americans.

‘Do you know this one house after the little stone bridge near you?’ She asked – of course, already knowing where we live. ‘That is my grandparents house.’

Jeff smiled. ‘We saw your grandmother giving your grandfather a haircut in the courtyard one day walking to Melide. They are very friendly.’

She smiled, proudly.

‘They have cows and a milk truck in the barn, right?’ I asked.

‘Yes. My mother drives the milk truck.’

Jeff enjoyed the flores, then we paid and turned to go. ‘See you next Saturday.’ She shouted from the bar, waving.

Apparently, the Great American Fence Offense hasn’t yet reached the 7 kms to Melide. Maybe, by the time it does we will be installing a real fence mandated by the Concello and turismo. But something tells me this will not be the last thing we do to offend people around here. And just like a bad Google review – I think we’ll survive.

6 thoughts on “Taking A-Fence

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