In 2003 I made my first attempts to produce one of the best olive oils possible.
The result was so good that a small specialty grocer financed me an oil mill and thus secured my entire production.
I also bought a donkey to carry the freshly harvested olives to the mill.
Unfortunately it turned out that this donkey, she was only 7 years old, was totally worked off. After a short time I was able to buy another donkey.
As a result, the owner of the land, on which I lived happily for 7 years, told me that I had to sell one of the donkeys or look for a new place. He got subsidies for reforestation and because of that he was forbidden to keep tree-eating animals on his land.
Selling was not an option for me, although the first donkey was completely useless. I felt so sorry for her that I decided to change the place and fortunately a good plot of land was found close by and I could continue with the production of the good olive oil too.
People from the surrounding villages became aware of me and first tried to sell me their old and useless donkeys.
Eventually I took them over, with the condition that they provided me with enough land so that I could properly care for the donkeys.
Thus was born my little donkey sanctuary which I named Happy-Donkeys.
The conditions were paradisiacal, we lived in one of the most beautiful cork oak forests in Andalusia.
However, we were also in the catchment area of two oil refineries and the air pollution was generally increasing.
One of the reasons why I emigrated from Germany was air pollution.
I don't need much to be happy, but clean air is important for good health. And good health is more important to me than anything else!
Finally, I had nosebleeds from the air pollution almost every day, saw no other choice and decided to leave everything I builded up and also the area I still love so much.
First I did not know where to go and came up with the idea to look how it is in the other natural parks of Andalusia and already suspected that it will be a long journey, all on foot.
The old donkeys could not do it, in the end we were on the road for 3 years, walking several thousand kilometers in the heat and cold.
Fortunately, I was able to place the dear old donkeys, there were 6 of them, in two good families.
The two youngest, Camaron and Lucia were saddled and carried our luggage.
Lucia was pregnant and a month and a half later, miraculously in the best possible place, Josefina was born. That was so good and wonderful!
All the people loved us and supported us so much that I could write a whole book about it.
Just before winter we arrived in the biggest natural park in Andalusia and were warmly welcomed there as well.
After wintering and a period of exploring the park until just before next winter, which was the best time of my life, we found a place where we could live in peace and with plenty of space.
The best friendship of my life developed with Luis Miguel who coincidentally produces one of the best olive oils in Andalusia in larger quantities and also rescues donkeys. Other very good friendships were also formed.
Although I noticed air pollution there too, I was so hopeful because of the unique beauty of the place and all the help from so many people that I wanted to deal with it and started a new project again.
Also, the place was sold very cheaply and fortunately I had one year to raise the money for the place.
The reason why the place was so cheap was because in the winter you are completely snowed in and cut off from the outside world, I was told by the seller.
Everything looked so good that I allowed Lucia to conceive another child and her young daughter Josefina also took the opportunity without asking at the age of one year.
We had a very nice time there, but in the winter, as the clouds hung on the high mountains, the exhaust fumes from an incinerator 30 kilometers away accumulated and it got so bad that even the donkeys kept breaking out and I got serious pain in my lower lungs.
In the middle of the deep winter, a rescue operation was carried out and we were warmly welcomed by another friend, Lukas, a German who runs an organic vegetable and fruit farm in the nature park.
I did not know how bad the air pollution is in Europe and worldwide, unfortunately many do not know it until today and I decided to leave the nature park. The new plan was to go to the coast, hoping that the air is better by the sea.
I waited for Luisa and Frederico to be born and for them to built up strength and we left at the beginning of June.
The trip went first through the Sierra Nevada and I really wanted to go with the donkeys on the highest peak of Spain. That was a great adventure, with all 5 donkeys at the beginning of summer in the snow with thousands of tourists!
Again we were so well treated and helped. Also many asked what I was doing with the donkeys. I told my story and said that I was looking for a place with forest, clean air, good water and peace.
Many recommended me to go to Portugal to the Algarve and also mentioned the mountain village of Monchique.
A new plan was made and we went to Portugal.
There again we were welcomed very friendly and very good people helped us and still support us after more than 7 years.
At first we found a place to stay near the monastery in Monchique thanks to a Portuguese person.
When there the forest was cut down, what people in Andalusia describe as forest is in reality almost only eucalyptus plantation, we found a new temporary home in a place called Casa Da Paz. Casa Da Paz is one of the most beautiful places in the Algarve.
A little later an elderly Portuguese couple came to me and gave me a complete farm for an indefinite period of time. I should only take care of the land and the buildings. I lived there for almost 4 years and worked almost day and night making the abandoned farm look good again. I also established the Happy-Donkeys donkey walks there which are now known almost worldwide. When I had turned the property into a new paradise after years of intensive work and with the help of many wonderful people, in 2018 the biggest forest fire in Europe to date burned down all the work and my home. I had to leave again.
We then moved several more times, staying among other places in a nature park on the west coast of Portugal, where motocross is practiced and we ultimately ran out of drinking water due to climate change and insufficient rain.
In the end, we were given accommodation again in Casa Da Paz, where we stay in one of the very nice guest houses.
However, this is not a permanent solution for the Happy-Donkeys project and we are currently inquiring for a beautiful and peaceful place close by.