La Gran Utilitat de la Palla d’Arròs / Rice Straw Mulch

[English at the very bottom. Valencià a mitj.]
No es la primera vez que alabo los usos múltiples de la paja de arroz, pero antes teníamos a lo mejor una docena de balas para probar. El otoño pasado compramos unas 300 para una posible edificación (todavía estamos a la espera del permiso), pero mientras tanto, con tanta lluvia, fue imposible mantenerlas secas y la foto muestra ahora lo que tenemos: un acolchado tremendo que ya se está descomponiendo a una materia orgánica riquísima para el suelo.

No és la primera vegada que alabe els usos múltiples de la palla d’arròs de L’Albufera, però abans teníem com a molt una dotzena de bales per a provar. El tardor passat, vam comprar unes 300 per a una possible edificació (encara esperem el permís de construir), però mentres tant, amb tanta pluja, va ser impossible mantindre’ls seques i la foto mostra ara ho que tenim: un ‘alcochado’ tremend que ja s’està descomponent a una matèria orgànica riquíssima pel sòl.
Decomposing straw 2

This is the bottom layer of rice straw after having been left out in the elements for about 8 months. We had covered it for a future straw bale building, but with such a tremendous quantity of rain, it was impossible to keep it dry and these bales are ending up serving as a pretty nice mulch. Nice to see such rich dark organic material, and they also help to conserve soil moisture!

Actualment Mengem / What We’re Eating

[Languages mixed below, una mezclas de idiomas sigue…]
With so much rain this year, the blackberries are coming out nicely. We let them grow wild, in this case using citrus rootstock from a failed graft as a trellis.

Amb tant de pluja, les mores enguany ixen boniques. Les deixem créixer silvestres, utilitzant un cítric fallit per a enredar-les.

Con tanta lluvia este año, las moras están saliendo bonitas. Las dejamos crecer silvestres, empleando un cítrico fallido para enredarlas.

Blackberries handful

The photo below is one of our nectarines, from early June, which was the most delicious nectarine I have ever eaten in my life! The tree was battling Taphrina deformans the entire spring, and I was removing leaves and removing more leaves, probably a total of five times, in total perhaps a third of its leaves. At that point it got aphids and looked quite unhappy with all the humidity. I fertilized well to give it strength and with the change in weather, it is happy and healthy and reaching for the sky. All accomplished without chemicals, just the right dose of love.

photo_2020-06-25_15-08-39Os dejo con una foto de la nectarina más deliciosa que he comido en toda mi vida, al inicio de junio. Ese árbol pasó toda la primavera batallando la abolladura (Taphrina deformans) y luego algo de pulgón (ácaros). Fui quitando hojas infectadas selectivamente hasta que ya me pareció ser el momento de dejarle al pobre árbol las suficientes para fotosintetizar. Y parece haber ganada la batalla, cuando finalmente en junio dejó de llover tanto. Está enorme con las hojas sanas. Y nada de tratamientos, solamente un poco de amor.

Animal(e)s de la Quarentena

Although I can’t say there has been an explosion, I certainly have seen more wildlife than usual in the last 3 months.  I’m trying a different schedule this year as the heat has risen, mainly working in the late afternoon till 11 PM or 12 midnight, using a headlamp. Since the insects have been on the whole less of a plague so far this year and the afternoon breezes off the ocean have been fairly regular, this has been a good way to deal with the heat.

leaky_fenceWading through the wilderness of the farthest completely undeveloped corner of the farm, S. found this section of fence that hadn’t been properly tightened, pushed out from the base cement wall by about half a foot (15 cm); look carefully at the photo to see the bottom wire twisted up and out. It seems most likely the work of a fox, which may explain the matted down grass that we’ve been seeing on the farm for several months since we finished the fence.sleeping_area

We have to wonder, though, if it was more than one fox as the area of matted grass, maybe 4 or 6 sq. meters, was larger than a single animal would have caused. The final photo shows what happened after S. tightened the fence back down, with the disturbed dirt a bit ambiguous with respect to tracks, but most in line with a fox. Animal lovers do not despair, whatever they were, animals the size of a fox or a small dog are able to slip out the slats in the front gate.let-me-out

Animals seen during the last month: countless lizards, countless bees including normal bumblebees as well as a particularly elongated one (note to self: figure out what this is called), iguanas, snakes, rabbits and rodents (mainly heard but not seen). During pruning in the last spring/early summer we found 3 bird’s nests, roughly robin- or sparrow-sized.  But no larger birds, as far as I could tell, made their nests at the farm this year. Then there were the frogs, singing out the whole day long their happiness at so much rain.

Then those seen near the farm, including on the ride home at night, are a partridge in a neighbor’s field, a huge male boar on the road that turned to give me a full look at his enormous size before trotting off down to the ravine, and a finally fox on the road with enormous eyes looking at me before escaping through an iron gate that leads to another farm.

Sowing Seeds of Happiness

The Princeton Environmental Institute has published an interesting and timely article about home gardening which comes to a conclusion many gardening enthusiasts can confirm: Growing your own food at home is a meaningful, highly rewarding and emotionally enriching activity.

The article is entitled:

Sowing seeds of happiness: Emotional well-being while home gardening similar to other popular activities, study finds

This comes from a study published in Landscape and Urban Planning Volume 198, June 2020, 103776, entitled:

Is gardening associated with greater happiness of urban residents? A multi-activity, dynamic assessment in the Twin-Cities region, USA

The researchers found that home gardening was among the top five activities in terms of how meaningful an activity felt to people while engaging in it. Below is a brief synopsis including quotes from the two sources.

“It is noteworthy that gardening is consistently among the top five activities associated with high average net affect, average happiness, and average meaningfulness scores as well as the frequency in experiencing peak meaningfulness.”

And not all home gardening achieved the same results. Food production specifically excelled” “In addition, whether people gardened alone or with others made no difference, and people who kept vegetable gardens reported a higher level of average emotional well-being than people who worked in ornamental gardens.”

“The high levels of meaningfulness that respondents reported while gardening might be associated with producing one’s own food,” Ambrose said. “The boost to emotional well-being is comparable to other leisure activities that currently get the lion’s share of infrastructure investment. These findings suggest that, when choosing future well-being projects to fund, we should pay just as much attention to household gardening.”

“This study thus suggests that cities consider investments supporting household gardening as they consider other ways to enhance urban livability.”

“These results raise interesting equity questions on which activities to invest for creating more livable and equitable cities, because our findings indicate that household gardening was the only activity that disproportionately benefited women and low-income participants.”

“Therefore, household vegetable gardening should be considered amongst other livability investments, such as biking and walking infrastructure, in cities. Additionally, backyard gardening alone may provide EWB benefits similar to the purported EWB benefits of community gardens, thus both should be considered as cities address livability investments.”

“The results suggest that household gardens could be key to providing food security in urban areas and making cities more sustainable and livable.”

According to the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, which some 209 cities worldwide have now joined, “Increasing the amount of urban agriculture is listed as one among several key strategies that can contribute to food security, livelihoods and livability in urban areas.”

In these uncertain times, addressing the issues of food sovereignty and food security, while improving the daily lives of our cities’ inhabitants, particularly the poor and disadvantaged/discriminated sectors of society, is a goal we should put more focus, effort, and resources into.

Let’s get gardening! Let us know in the comments what foods you are growing at home, in your community garden, or, if you are lucky enough to have a nearby plot of land like we do, on your own little farm.

We’d love to have your feedback. Together we can build the community we envision.

 

El Buey Descartado y el Muy Complicado Tema de los Fertilizantes

Últimamente me está gustando el trabajo de un informático que, en estos tiempos de cuarentena, se ha puesto a analizar preguntas muy importantes para un futuro de bajo impacto medioambiental. Su última aportación trata la cuestión de los fertilizantes, tema que me había propuesto hace un par de semanas y al que le había respondido simplemente, como me pasa bastante con todo esto, un ¨pues, es complicado¨. Pero ahora intentaré darle más perspectivas que considero importantes.

Su argumento sobre la necesidad de tener animales va bastante bien, de hecho, es una opinión que comparto, pero allí tocamos la primera dificultad de una explotación verdaderamente permaculturista en España. Para tener animales es muy difícil no vivir con ellos, pero la bureaucracia aquí lo pone bastante complicado para que viva uno en el campo. Tengamos en cuenta que España es un país con una historia plena de invasiones e invasores, donde no hay costumbre de vivir en el campo, a no ser unas pocas semanas de verano cuando el calor en los pueblos se pone insoportable. Conseguir permiso para vivir allí todo el año y cuidar de tus animales y recoger agua limpia pluvial y estar atento de tu invernadero para que no se quemen las plantitas en primeravera, etc., etc. es bastante (ya lo habráis adivinado….) complicado.

Déjemos esa complicación mejor para otro día y exploremos el tema de la fertilización de bajo impacto sin animales. Metámosnos en el mundo de las cubiertas vegetales, además de las rotaciones y las asociaciones de cultivos.
Actualmente están funcionando estas dos cubiertas leguminosas en la Granja Senda Silvestre: el Lotus corniculatus y el Onobrychis viciifolia (la esparceta). Aquí (en la segunda mitad) aparece una foto de ellas y más comentarios en inglés al respecto.

Cuando digo que están funcionando, me refiero a que no se mueren inmediatamente dadas las condiciones meterológicas del campo valenciano y reaparecen año tras año. Bien, ha sido un criterio muy fuerte este de perennidad. Otro importante es la cantidad de nitrógeno que aportan. Pero por el momento, no tengo como medirla.

Hay otra cubierta vegetal ¨minera¨ de fósforo, que es la milenrama (Achillea millefolium), que con su enorme raíz teóricamente sube el mineral hasta la superfície donde las demás plantas lo puedan aprovechar. Allí tampoco sé hasta qué punto funciona. Medir la eficacia de estas cubiertas vegetales son experimentos que me gustarían hacer.

¿Cuáles otros ejemplos de la fertilización sostenible son dignos de considerar? La asociación muy clásica es la de las 3 hermanas, de la milpa centroamericana: calabaza, frijol y maíz, cuyo propósito es evitar aportaciones externas. La foto de esta asociación tan famosa es del libro de Toensmeier que abajo citoToensmeierFoto3Hermanas.

El siguiente ejemplo es de los cereales que en las explotaciones más sostenibles se rotan con un cultivo invernal leguminoso, que sirve para que los animales también pasten. Sin embargo, esta manera de cultivar por rotación normalmente implica maquinaria, porque la tierra se suele labrar. Animales de labranza, pues, es un tema serio, porque un buey o incluso un burro ya sería una inversión muy importante en todos sentidos: su compra, su refugio, el veterinario, etc., pero más que todo, la cantidad de campo que se dedicaría solamente a los cultivos necesarios para alimentarlo. Expongo aquí un dibujo del libro muy conocido en el círculo de la auto-suficiencia, La Vida en el Campo de John Seymour (1976), y os dirigo a estas críticas que encuentro válidas.SeymourPhotoVidaEnElCampo

Para mí, descartado el buey y descartado labrar, salvo que sea un trozo a mano para el autoconsumo. Y como a mí, sí que me gustan los cereales tanto como a cualquier vegano puro y duro y los quiero cultivar, este año por primera vez he sembrado maíz, por supuesto dentro de la asociación de las tres hermanas y con semillas autóctonas. ¿Cómo lo hacemos? Un permaculturista diría que hay que dejar todo esto de cultivar anuales y apostar por lo que es perenne. Actualmente se intenta desarrollar cereales perennes, como comenta Eric Toensmeier en su libro, THE CARBON FARMING SOLUTION: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security (aquí aparece una entrevista en castellano). A mi parecer, es un tema muy pertinente al futuro del veganismo. Ahora, si llegarán est nuevos cereales a tiempo, no tengo ni idea.

Vida Fecunda

Hace más de un mes estoy yendo menos al campo, dado que esta primavera ha sido curiosamente lluviosa, el cual me libera de la necesidad de regar, aunque ya viene más necesidad de cegar. Con tanta agua cayendo al suelo, casi me recordaría a Centroamérica si no fuera que esta lluvia de aquí es fría. La hierba está creciendo a tope, seguramente este año el campo efectuará más captura de carbono al incorporar esa ¨mala¨ hierba cegada en los cabellones siempre más anchos y ricos en carbono. El año pasado por primera vez planté tomates y berenjenas al largo de varios cabellones entre los mandarinos y funcionó bastante bien, con necesidad de una ayudita durante el primer mes, que es la fase de preparar infusiones de compost o de algun estiércol.

Os expongo una foto de septiembre pasado, cuando al deshacer las piedras amontandas para terminar el muro de piedra seca, se reveló donde estaba viviendo esta criatura.
LadderSnakeWall
Este serpiente a lo mejor ha estado acabando con algunos de los conejitos, resultado de dos (que aquí todavía era uno, jeje) conejos que felizmente fecundaron en mi campo este invierno y a la vez comieron todos mis verduras brassicas (curiosamente no los animaron tanto las lechugas).

O no… Después de enterar a dos conejitos perfectitos que habían aparecido muertos en marzo (por lo que leo, los conejos mueren muy fácilimente, incluso de susto), apareció otro medio comedito. Allí no sé si habrá sido otro animal. Con la valla finalmente terminada, ya no pueden entrar perros ni me parece que está entrando tampoco el zorro. Pues, no importa, los conejos ya se han marchado, el melocotonero pequeño que me ‘podaron’ en invierno ha brotado perfectamente, y la vida comienza una fermentación primaveral supercargada por esta gran cantidad de lluvia, unos 650 desde principios del año, a no contar además los 580 mm del otoño de 2019. ¡Verdaderamente asombroso!

Food Sovereignty and Security in times of Global Crisis

Food sovereignty and security are topics often relegated to those with lofty ideals and spare time. As the global pandemic ravages and fragments the entire planet, we see that this topic actually effects all of us right now. As the internationally run global food distribution network slowly grinds to a halt in some countries, even people in large cities with supermarkets all around them are no longer able to buy all the items they are typically accustomed to. Even foods that can and are grown locally become rare or costly when the local means to harvest and distribute them is reliant on externalities such as imported labor coupled to unrealistically low wages.

Local and regional food production and distribution often remain underdeveloped, underfunded, and underappreciated. Production systems have been reduced to a question of price above all other considerations, forced to focus on quantity over quality, and convenience over intentional participation. And this is despite the fact that local alternatives can often provide both quantity and quality at a fair price if enough people stop throwing their money at large corporations and instead invest it in their regional food sources and distribution networks, simply by buying local and participating in locally oriented programs. This change in habit may only require a similar amount of effort and time as that spent searching for a free parking spot at the local chain supermarket, or standing in a long line at the local big box checkout.

The fallacies of the dominant decision making paradigm are easy enough to see when one takes the time to dissect the current return on investment from a consumer perspective.

Industry pressure to lower food prices, while indirectly benefiting the consumer in some cases, are more often than not purely profit driven, at the cost of all other factors. They result in lower quality, higher environmental damage, increased chemical usage and harmful mono-culture practice, and the largely ignored waste production dilemma. They are sustained by higher hidden transport costs and a reliance on a global transport network that is both environmentally devastating and very susceptible to breaking down in times of crisis, leaving even the most profitable large supermarket chains with empty shelves.

Sacrificing quality for quantity has led to foods being produced that have little resemblance to their more natural and healthy counterparts. Tomatoes with no flavor whatsoever, vegetables that can sit in the refrigerator for a month without rotting, but never taste like they used to or still can when one buys an organic or local version that isn’t subject to the same requirements of needing to be shipped or stored for weeks before reaching the consumer.

The cost driven focus results in local farmers being edged out of the market and local consumers losing all control and say in how and where their food is produced, and under what circumstances. Quality is somehow relegated to the status of being a bonus in this larger, profit driven equation.

When a concentrated number of large corporations dominate the market, we are left with both an increasingly poor population facing hunger despite record profits, and an epidemic of obesity and declining health as a direct result of the quality and quantity of foods we are presented with, and lack of participation in those systems at the local level. When a minimum amount of local labor and involvement is required to provide high volumes of food to the population, the potential wealth is simply being vacuumed out of the area entirely rather than reinvested at its most direct point of interaction.

If enough people invested their shopping money in local systems, not only would the local producers be able to grow quality foods at a decent price, but they would have the resources and demand to develop robust yet simple production and distribution methods at much smaller cost to the environment, while also being more resilient to global calamities like those we currently face.

Practically every community or region has the capacity and means to provide a substantial portion of basic food necessities for their immediate populations. Shifting our support to such systems provides economic benefits to the local economy by providing jobs and potentially easier and more secure access to our daily food needs and provides further incentive to invest in and strengthen our commitment to our local communities.  A full circle at the local level is created: A system that works for people. Most localities already have at least some rag-tag framework of systems in place, be it community supported agriculture, food cooperatives, or community gardens.

They could all use our help via increased consumer involvement or even direct assistance and participation. Being involved in such a crucial part of meeting our everyday basic needs can be rewarding and enriching, it builds and strengthens local networks and solidifies community resilience. It empowers people to reclaim the decision making processes currently relegated to profit driven corporations and retool the system to reflect people’s values and needs.

Reach out to those in your community and see of there’s something you can do to bring some sovereignty and stability to your local or regional food chain. If nothing else simply paying attention to where your food comes from and choosing local sources where possible goes a long way.

It really can be that simple to make a big difference, not just for ourselves, but our entire planet. Think globally, act locally!

Estar de Prácticas para el Futuro

[English speakers check out the video embedded below.]
Por primera vez me meto en la política en este blog, pero tal vez hacía falta porque unx no puede practicar la agricultura regenerativa sin considerarse a la vez medioambientalista. Por esto os presento un video que me llena de ternura, que muestra la contaminación atmosférica durante estos tiempos tan difíciles.

En realidad podemos sacar unas conclusiones positivas de esta triste situación en la cual nos encontramos. Saldremos de esta crisis con unas habilidades que los ‘pos-crecentistas’ llevamos ya tiempo diciendo que son necesarias. ¿Cuáles son? Son exactamente lo que se valoraba mucho en este país: el sentido comunitario, la ayuda mutua, el disfrute de la naturaleza y el amor a la tierra.

Imaginad el lujo que será en unas semanas poder salir otra vez a caminar al sol, dar besos a lxs amigxs y vecinxs, abrazar a la gente querida que ha estado en cuarentena, aunque recordemos con muchas lágrimas a los que tristemente no han podido seguir estando con nosotrxs. ¿Por qué no caminamos juntxs a los valles tan bonitos que nos rodean, preparamos un picnic, recolectamos lo que nos ofrece la naturaleza y disfrutamos de ella? Así minimizamos nuestra huella ecológica, evitamos consumir, evitamos contaminar y seguimos practicando lo que esta cuarentena nos ha enseñado, el disfrutar de las cosas realmente importantes de la vida.

Termino compartiendo con vosotrxs una foto de las montañas como han estado durante ya muchos días de lluvia, totalmente atípicos para la región. Parecía que estuvieran llorando para nuestra pobre especie, que tanto exigimos y que tan poco entendemos. Ya paro, que lo que escribo suena muy hippy y hippy no soy, solamente una humilde científica convertida en agricultora por la urgencia que siento de salvar este maravilloso planeta.

DSCF1957

¿Cómo afectará la coronacrisis a la agricultura de proximidad?

[English below.]
En plena crisis sanitaria global, este reportaje nos da un poco de esperanza. Mientras tanto, esperemos que aún más agricultores no caigan en la bancarrota por las grandes perturbaciones que se están experimentando en la cadena local alimentaria (todos los mercados locales llevan dos semanas cerradas).

Mientras tanto, aprovecho la oportunidad de compartir con vostrxs la foto de una criatura vecina que me viene a buscar companía en el campo. Me trae alegría durante estos días tristes y hace que los pasamos mucho menos solas las dos, mientras voy plantando toda la verdura posible, por miedo del duro que podrá ser este año. Es muy parecida de raza y de carácter a nuestra querida Shakti; ya son casi 3 años que nos dejó para siempre, para ir a jugar a pelota en el cielo.
CucaBall

In the middle of weathering the corona virus quarantine all alone, there is one happy side, which is this creature. She belonged to an elderly neighbor who passed away in the fall, and his widow and daughter tell me aat home in the pueblo she would spend the whole day whining and pining for the farm. So even though there is no fence, they have been leaving her out there on her own since the winter (which was quite mild this year). She knows my whistle now and comes running to play ball, eat grass, plop down in the ample ground-cover for a siesta and hunt critters (my over-run, weed-infested jungle is quite a playground for all sorts of animals). She is very similar in race and temperament to our beloved and long-ago departed Shakti. She brings me happiness and purpose in these sad times and I can tell by the major butt-wiggling and jumping around when I open the gate to her that she feels exactly the same.