Storm Filomena, January 2021

by | Off-Grid Spain, Our Stories

People associate Spain with sunny beaches, sangria and tapas. Which is what a holiday at the coast is probably about – but here in Matarranya (Teruel, Aragon), we get actual seasons. And sometimes, we get weird weather phenomena as well.

You’ll find the story below – scroll down if you just want the pictures!


An olive tree under the snow


Storm Gloria – January 2020

2020 was the first time we were confronted with a natural disaster here in Aragon – Gloria made a dozen human casualties, and was absolutely disastrous for both animals and people. Whole villages without electricity or phone coverage for days; animals getting taken by the slush as rivers rised exponentially in a matter of hours; barn roofs caving in, killing thousands of animals (can you just imagine the roof of an industrial chicken installation giving in?), and of course “regular” roofs crumbling and people becoming homeless overnight.

If you’re in Minnesota, Canada or Russia you might wonder how it’s even possible – Spanish structures are just not built for big amounts of snow (and with Gloria, it came with record rain right after).

The best thing we got out of storm Gloria was our cat. Days after the storm subsided, a tiny skinny young cat started living in the alpaca stable, then moved on to the small chicken coop and started hunting mice there. The chickens weren’t quite sure about him but as he was tiny, they didn’t react too strongly.

It wasn’t long before we started feeding him – and before he grew into the big cuddly tomcat called Tom 🙂

Preparing for Filomena – January 2021

Local Authorities Making a Real Effort

With “Filomena”, the storm being announced for January 2021, Spanish authorities made sure we were ready. I can’t speak for national efforts, but around here the frenzy could almost be compared with the first day of Corona lockdown…

  • Shops in the village were emptying fast – everyone stocking up
  • Conversations in the days before were all about the oncoming storm
  • The app that sends out official announcements, eBando, kept sending – well, announcements. How busses wouldn’t drive tomorrow. And we should stay inside. And roads wouldn’t be accessible tomorrow. Make sure we had enough food. Get in touch with friends living off-grid, making sure they were safe throughout the storm.
  • Some off-grid friends of our even got a visit from the Guardia Civil in the days leading up to Filomena – checking if they’d got enough food and fuel, if the animals would be safe, etc.

This time, authorities wouldn’t be caught by surprise.

How We Prepared for Filomena

Last year with Gloria, our #1 issue was wood for the fire: we had enough of it, but a lot became drenched by the snow. So we ended up spending a couple of days huddled in my office with a little gas heater. Not as bad as it sounds – it was pretty cosy and warm! But still, we weren’t going to get caught unaware this time.

So ahead of time we

  • Stocked up on wood – and made sure big part of it was safe from rain or snow
  • Stocked up on gas bottles – just in case. Our backup heating works on gas.
  • Stocked up on food! For ourselves and for the animals. We even got some dry kibble (our dogs usually eat raw), just in case we’re stuck for more than 5 days.
  • Made sure the generator was working and had enough fuel as well
  • Made sure everything we’d need was within reach. Last year, we left the spades out in the garden – and had to go dig for them before we could start digging out the chickens 🙂
  • Left alpaca food next to the alpaca stable – so we wouldn’t have to plough through the snow with buckets 🙂

And Then It Started to Snow…

On Thursday, January 7th, it snowed a bit. We got some pretty pictures out of it but it wasn’t much… as expected. We even got to Valderrobres in the afternoon for a quick extra shop (forgot beer and chocolate the first time! Essentials!).


Sunrise on Friday morning



View from my office



The falcon or hawk (not sure) who lives on my balcony, enjoying the view from the top


Then It Snowed Some More on Saturday & Sunday

For comparison:


The outside fireplace & chairs on Saturday morning…



and on Sunday morning. Poor little lemon tree!



The backyard and vegetable garden in Saturday…



… still Saturday, after I tried de-snowing the solar panels…



… and on Sunday.


The Dog & Cat are Loving It

Jabba (the big dog) and Tom (the cat) seem to love the snow. Tom spends just as much time outside as other days – and Jabba enjoys going on adventures, with or without us.




Jinx (the small dog) doesn’t stand a chance; she went on a journey on Saturday morning but after that, the snow just got too high for her to get through.

On Sunday, I dug a trench in the snow so the animals would be able to get from one sheltered place to another…




The Alpacas are Made for This

Not sure they’re made for these specific circumstances – but alpacas do great in cold temperatures. They don’t love the snow, but at least their stable is dry inside (better than when it rains!) and then seem to enjoy spending time under an olive tree.


Saturday morning, Ricky’s got a layer of snow on his back (don’t think Paco’s been out yet)



Sunday morning: alpacas taking shelter under an olive tree



When I went to check on them (took me some time just to get there!), they just wanted more food


The Chickens are Staying Safe and Warm…


The chicken run. Can you see George Cookelooney underneath the coop? He’s a huge cockerel – but seems so small in the snow.



Sunday morning. Let’s just stay inside today.









The almond trees are kind of doing ok… (it’s still snowing, so we can’t even see the mountains from here)



The olive trees are really sagging.







Update: The Sun Came Out on Monday




The chickens are still safe and warm





We’re getting solar power again. We only ran the generator once – Sunday afternoon – the batteries weren’t even dangerously low yet. The panels had been collecting a little bit every day throughout all the snow!



Trying to get down to the road, where we parked the car.

And Another Update

After a few more days of wind, cold and no sun – our big round yellow friend finally came out today. That meant finally putting on the dishwasher and a load of laundry – and really hoping it’ll be out again tomorrow (or Saturday, Axel’s birthday).

We’ve now been “stuck” for a week – although technically, we can get out on foot.


This was Tuesday…



It’s thawing fast – scroll up to see how this “pet corridor” looked just a couple of days ago… We can also see more of the fence again.



The alpacas look cute of course – but check out all the broken olive trees behind them! (also, I believe we’ll need a thorough fence check soon)











This is where we buried our firewood…



This is how we drag it up the hill – Ikea for the save, again.








I temporarily moved my office to the living room, and loving the view from my desk!

This was Tuesday…



And finally, blue skies on Thursday.


The best place to hang out these days though?

With Jabba and Tom in front of the fire.



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Hi, I'm Sandrine!

I live off-grid on an olive and almond farm in Spain, with alpacas and chickens and dogs and all the things. We've got solar panels and water from a borehole, we aim to grow our own food and be more self-sufficient, and we also try to make more time for what's really important in life... Come and join the sunny simple living movement!

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