Introducing Wolf House / Presentació Casa Llop


[ENGLISH BELOW.]

Esta primavera mis ocas han producido 29 huevos (15 por parte de las que tienen apenas un año y 14 de la madura, que ya tendrá unos 3 o 4 años). De estos comemos 5 de las jóvenes y solamente uno de la gorda, estando este último claramente fertilizado). Tenía tanta ilusión. Pero el macho parece que no ha podido hacer su parte y sufrí más de un mes con huevos que no hacían nada más que explotar, con la excepción de una oquita que salió bien para luego apenas vivir un par de horas y otra que exclosionó bien pero por alguna razón la encontré muerta una mañana). Al punto de darme por vencida, bastante triste después de haber esperado dos meses (entre las 3 hembras), sin nada, la mañana del 13 de mayo me estuvo esperando una viva. Es la única que tengo, una entre 23, y he esperado 7 semanas para anunciarlo, por si pasara algo (todavía es posible pero cada día está más grande, más ágil y, por supuesto, más preciosa).

Y ahora una buena novedad. Aunque ya habían hecho más que claro las autoridades que nunca me iban a dejar edificar en mi granja, tuve la suerte de preguntar, justamente en el momento indicado, por una caseta de campo que está a unos 300 cientos metros. Y no solamente es que se ponía a la venta, sino que la pude comprar. Qué alegria (ha sido una primavera emocional).

Como está en la entrada al Pas del Llop, y dada mi gran admiración hacia los lobos y los servicios ecosistémicos que proporcionan, nos pareció totalmente obvio bautizarla la Casa del Llop. La foto es de una parra muy bonita, una adición bienvenida al conjunto de frutales que ya habíamos plantado. Hay un limonero también, árbol que hemos intentado pero que no prospera en Senda Silvestre.

It’s been quite some time since I posted, as I had visions of a dozen goslings dancing in my head the entire spring. But sadly, it was not to be, despite the fact that, the two surviving babies from last year ended up being female, meaning Banda Blanca (the male), with these 2 added to his previous partner, had a harem of 3. He seems to have been not up to the task, though the two yearlings produced 15 eggs and shared (or fought over) a joint nest, and Goosey Lucy, the mature female, produced 14. We ate 6 of these 29 eggs, one of which was hers and was definitely fertilized. But of the remainders, only three eggs hatched: one chick, that I heard peeping during emergence but didn’t properly absorb its yolk and died a couple of hours after I found it; one that I found fully hatched but dead outside the nest; and finally a survivor). The second one, so perfect but inexplicably dead, had me, for some reason, in tears, something I, as someone who grew up on a farm and witnessed so much death, a natural part of, well, nature, cannot fully explain.

It’s now 17 days and Bandida, offspring of Banda Blanca, is as personality-packed as my favorite of last year, Intrepid, who sadly is no longer with us, due to natural causes. And I have a positive development to report, which is the addition of a dwelling to the project. The zoning has become more restrictive in the area and it was quite clear it was never going to be possible to build the planned natural construction tiny house. So when one came up for sale about a third of a kilometer away, I mustered all possible resources and bought it in February. This increases by about a quarter the amount of land we have, which is already too much, so we’ll see how that pans out.

It’s on a small connector lane that runs from the road to our farm up toward a pass through the hills, known as the
Pas del Llop, llop being Valencian for wolf. As someone so enamored of the ecosystem services wolves provide, I think the name Casa Llop matches perfectly with the valley and its history and also the sense of the main project, Granja Senda Silvestre (roughly translated as Wild Way Farm). It even has some complementary fruit trees, an enormous, beautiful fig and a persimmon, plus a few that we already have but are not regular producers yet: apricot, plum, peach, cherry and nectarine (sadly moribund). The main production crop (citrus, of course) is a late navel, very late, actually, as it has survived another insanely wet winter (by early May, the precipitation totals exceeded 1000 mm in an area that typically sees half that in an entire year). As I write, it is still on the tree, having only been partially harvested.

RIP Intrepid EPD

[Pronto viene el castellano.]
My favorite goose has met a violent end. Of the three goslings we raised last spring, he was always special. But as he got older, his special-ness became more problematic. If there are any fans out there of All Creatures Great and Small, in the early summer, he essentially went flop-bot, just like Mrs. Pumphrey’s Tricky-Woo. After I cured him with belly massages and warm baths, when he got back to the farm, he would come up to me and expect to be carried everywhere. SO CUTE!

But he stuck with the gaggle less and less, always off doing his own thing (hence his name) and this, for a goose, is not in the least advisable! The last few weeks before his untimely end, he was sniffling and wheezing. In the end we think he may have contracted aspergilliosis and he went downhill rather quickly the last few days.

We were just at the point of thinking, gulp, the time has come to learn the most humane way to sacrifice barnyard fowl, and I was on the verge of calling my friend M. who has all sorts of experience regarding the old ways of doing things here, when S., who was on duty called and said, «I have sad news. I just found Cuca sitting next to all that remains of Intrepid.» In a way it was a good thing — nature taking care of its own. But it was a double loss, because not only is my cutie-pie gone, but we decided that Cuca can never be trusted inside the fence again, and that represents 80% of the farm. There is a 3rd loss, as well, which is the goose meat, which under the circumstances, yes, we would have consumed.


Time marches on, however, and eventually we let Cuca inside again, under the strictest supervision, and she showed no interest and an appropriate amount of caution with the geese and we started to think, well, how strange, actually, that she didn’t have a bloody mouthful of feathers, that day, standing over Intrepid’s body. Could it have been some other predator? Which is about the time when S. snapped the following photo.

A raptor that hardly seems big enough to have at a goose… Then there are the foxes that seems to never be far away, but this was in broad daylight. We don’t know what to think. So there you have it, just another day on the farm.

Afrontamiento al Cambio Climático / A Hedge Against Climate Change

[English below.]
Por el segundo año seguido, nuestro humilde valle lidera las cifras de precipitación anual de toda la CC.VV., según este informe del Levante-EMC, cuya foto de las inundaciones que resultan aparece a continuación, como constancia de las consecuencias de estas lluvias torrenciales.

El barranco de la Casella, durante una crecida, en la confluencia del aliviadero construido en el sector Vilella de Alzira. | V. M. P.

The box canyon in which our farm is located seems to act like a giant rainshed funneling the rain falling on the mountains down to the river below, and much of this passes directly over our farm. The photo is from the Valencian newspaper that is reporting on the second-year anniversary of the canyon’s weather station, which has recorded the highest rainfall in the entire province for two out of two years!

Ya Cosechamos la Mandarina Regenerativa

Como todos los años, subo una foto de la mandarina regenerativa Senda Silvestre, ahora a la venta. Y expongo que no es solamente regenerativa para el cuerpo y el espíritu, sino que las técnicas de cultivo que empleamos están mejorando el suelo de manera importante, aumentando su materia orgánica (y por lo cual, capturando carbono de la atmósfera). Así es que ponemos nuestro granito de arena mientas os vamos deleitando a vosotrxs, nuestrxs queridxs clientes.

=

What They’re Eating Up / Actualment(e) Nos Comen/ Ens Menjen…

Bad Henny Penny, bad girl! She’s eating a Satsuma mandarin graft from the previous owner that didn-t take properly and which we don’t sell. It’s got a delicate peel that is easy for the geese to breach. Our clemenvilla that we do sell is stronger, so let’s see…

La muy mala Henny Penny, que tiene el cuello casi tan larga como si fuera cisne, come nuestra mandarina primerenca, la Satsuma, que tiene una cáscara delicada y fácil de romper. Esa afortunadamente no la comercializamos, sino que la Clemenvilla, que sí está fuerte. Parece que se madurará un poco temprano este año, ya veremos.

Así comienza:

… y ¡así se acaba!

Tres Hermanas y Cinco Ocas / Three Sisters and Five Geese

[See English below.]

La asociación, también conocido como el compañerismo, de plantas, que establecen como una especia de gremio entre ellas mismas, de estas tres plantas representa el ejemplo más famoso del mundo, la de las Tres Hermanas de la milpa centroamericana. Hemos tenido el placer, con la ayuda del banco de semillas de la Estació Agrària de Carcaixent, de experimentar con su adaptación para esta región, incorporando como Cucurbitaceae la carabasseta Lola, como Fabaceae el fésol d’un metre y como Zea mays la dacsa blanca del Comtat.

Los animales de granja pueden interpretar un papel muy importante en la agricultura regenerativa, como anteriormente razoné aquí. Empleé el estiércol de caballo para la mitad del ensayo y fermentaciones del de oca para la otra. El de caballo ganó al inicio, con un crecimiento claramente más rápido del maíz, pero al final no había ninguna diferencia entre ellos. Me alegra porque representará un círculo cerrado de estiércol de oca, un cultivo exitoso autóctono y un suplemento para agradecerlas su aportación (miradlas en la foto de abajo pidiendo sus raciones en agosto cuando el pasto se pone seco y pobre).

Farm animals can play a very important role in regenerative agriculture, but, although geese can theoretically survive on pasture alone, it’s nice to have treats and supplements available, to which end we are experimenting with a local corn variety mixed with Lola zucchinis and meter-long beans. Although not perennial, they are local heritage varieties from the seed bank run by the regional agricultural experiment station and were planted in the 3 sisters guild of Central American milpa tradition. We carried out a small trial on cleared but un-perforated soil, i.e. no-till. On half, I scattered horse manure from a neighbor on top of the soil as we planted corn seeds by injecting into small holes. On the other half, there was no pre-treatment as I had only just got my geese back by planting time, but I applied their dung in the form of a ‘tea’ fermented for several days throughout the first 2 months of growth. To even out the amount of water all plants received, I supplemented the horse manure plants with plain water equal to the amount of water the other plants received from the dung tea.

Both manures were satisfactory, with the horse manure promoting more rapid initial growth, but everything evened out in the end. This corn isn’t exactly sweet corn (my attempt at corn-on-the-cob was unsuccessful), so I need to check with the seed bank — it may be for popcorn, which the Spanish love. For now the smaller ears that didn’t fill out completely has ended up as treats: the geese absolutely love it!!! Here is a picture of them begging for it.



And finally how cute is our little friend S., helping out by herding geese this summer
?!

The Sky Is Falling / Un Primer Cuento de la Granja

[ENGLISH BELOW] Me agrada anunciar que Senda Silvestre finalmente es una granja: cuenta con 5 ocas, a pesar de un trauma muy triste por la entrada de un zorro y la perdida de 2 de los 4 pioneros (una de ellos dejada allí muerta con el oviducto completamente lleno). Después de llorar unos días su muerte y pasar un buen período de autocastigo por mi propia negligencia, pues, me compré 3 oquitas que me llegaron con apenas 7 o 10 días y ya llevo 5 semanas criándolos. La hembra adulta (Goosey Loosey) que se emparejó con el macho (los 2 sobrevivientes), aunque no ha incubado bien sus huevos, pasadas un par de semanas, parece que ahora se cree la madre de los 3 chiquitos y ¡regularmente tengo que extender mis brazos/alas y graznarle aún más fuertemente que me hace a mí para recordarle que son míos!! Mientras tanto el macho, Banda Blanca, de mi amigo J.L., los maltrata sin piedad cada vez que se acercan a ‘su’ agua o a ‘su’ comida. O sea, lo normal de establecer la jerarquía. He aprendido como manejar todas las personalidades y parece que va bien. Disfruto del desarrollo de las chiquitas (mirad las fotos abajo), que ahora me dejan cogerlas y acariciarlas. Como el relato de hoy se basa en un cuento de niños que relaciono con una vivencia de mi infancia, está escrito principalmente en inglés.

I grew up on a 100-acre (40-hectare) farm, in a back-to-the-country sort of way; my parents were city folks who bought a former dairy farm and spent a year or more fixing it up. We moved in when I was eight. There was a full barn with stalls for several dozen cows (though the animals had been sold off), an enormous grain silo that must have been a hundred feet tall, two enormous hay lofts, ample room for tractors and assorted farm implements, and even a root cellar where apples kept for most of the winter. Despite this and despite me being absolutely crazy for horses, the only animals we ever had were an ever-rotating population of farm cats and two lambs, one of which died within two weeks and the other at three years (probably of sheer loneliness). Though the sheep was meant for eating, my mother in a moment of uncharacteristic leniency which to this day I cannot explain, in the end did not send it to slaughter. Of course I had fallen in love with it as an adorable baby (it was an orphan that I fed with a bottle for several weeks). I plotted how I would run away from home the minute the slaughterhouse entered the picture; perhaps my soft-hearted though typically unassertive father intervened. It was my job to feed that sheep every day and change its bedding every week. I was heart-broken when it died and dug its grave myself, in the middle of the apple orchard. I must have been 12 or 13.

My mother, granddaughter of German immigrants, was a hard woman. She never allowed me any other animals, although a parent could have hardly asked for a most responsible child. In the end, I did extra farm chores, for and with my father, to earn a bit of pocket change to pay for riding lessons, biking miles away to a horse stable. We lived quite high on a hill and I remember clearly the long schlepp pushing the bike uphill back home. The few years, years back, that I lived in Germany, were in part to puzzle out my mother’s approach to life: a sort of joyless soul-crushing fulfillment of one’s duty. From what I saw, she may have out-German’ed the Germans. I remember her mother as being the same, immigrants to the New World being a special breed…

But I digress from the current story, which is about my determination, after five years, to finally make Senda Silvestre a farm, which to me means animals. I did my homework and settled on geese as the perfect mixture of tough, lawn-mowing, fertilizing machines (the fact that I’m sick to death of weed-wacking surely influenced my decision). I got two mature females first, who rewarded me with an egg each, laid during the trip to the farm and another on the first day there. I got them installed in a loosely-fenced inner pen and named the more vocal one Henny Penny. The quieter, submissive one of course, was Goosey Loosey. All went well and three days later, J.L. brought me two excess males from his gaggle of 13 that was suffering a masculinity overload. One of the males had a white stripe across his breast and became Banda Blanca. The other, probably the runt of the litter, had a white spot on his breast, Cor Blanc (Corazón Blanco).

Well Banda Blanca spent the entire afternoon calling out to his missing compañeros and repeatedly escaping from the pen. Eventually I gave up and went home, as I had sadly not thought to bring my camping gear. The next day, all that remained of Cor Blanc were a few tell-tale feathers at a weak spot where the fence joins the neighbor’s, and Henny Penny lay dead in the pen. The two-meter fence that represented the better part of three years on the chain gang was, in my mind, fox-proof. It certainly is wild boar- and dog-proof. But the fox had found a way in through a spot in the fence that said neighbor had compromised, without my knowledge.

My friend M. came out before sunset and helped me get the survivors to safe temporary quarters and also engaged in an unexpected dissection – it turns out she had never before seen a poultry oviduct full of eggs (of course not, no one slaughters a goose who is laying). We skinned Henny Penny together and she enjoyed the biology lesson and I took poor Henny home to freeze for another day. In the meantime, I felt like an assassin, of course, for my negligence, and, despite having seen my share of death in the countryside, spent most of the next couple of days in tears.

In April, I bought 3 new goslings (about 2 weeks old i nthe photo above) to replace the two adults lost. They are unsexed (it’s very difficult to sex poultry, particularly when they’re young) so only time will tell. In the meantime, Goosey Loosey and Banda Blanca formed a tight pair (it must have been the trauma that brought them together) and are slowly accepting the goslings into a gaggle. Here’s Goosey Loosey, who apparently believes she’s become a mother, guarding the babies at about 3 to 4 weeks old.There are goose droppings building up fast and the many small plants we’ve introduced this year to flesh out a number of permaculture guilds are looking extremely happy. It’s also been quite a rainy year and relatively cool, not as extreme as last year, so really perfect planting conditions.

S. has built a palatial pen to protect the animals overnight or on the off day someone can’t make it out to the farm to let them out to graze. Banda Blanca has discovered a weed that is one of my least favorites (Avena fatua, aka wild oats, if I’m not mistaken) and is teaching the rest of the gaggle to strip it of its nasty long, pointed stickers that lodge into socks, boots and laces and are terrible to remove. And we have eaten goose eggs (double the size of chicken eggs) and goose meat (incredibly rich, practically like red meat), in my case for the first time in my life. Cuca the neighbor’s dog is fascinated by the goslings and whines every time she isn’t allowed to play with them. Goosey Loosey has pecked her very hard at least three times that I’ve seen, so Cuca is learning to keep her distance, with certain lapses where she works herself into a bit of a frenzy and has to be put outside the fence. She seems to have an irrestible urge to lick them, which they (and I) don’t understand at all… Despite this, I think the goslings will grow up accepting her. Let’s see if the future doesn’t bring super-cute photos of adolescent goslings and a mangy yellow lab zonked out side-by-side in the summer heat.