Amor Prohibida

Ahir quan ja estava jo acabant en el camp, la gossa que passa cada vegada més temps amb mi, va fer-me senyals perquè li òbriga la porta i es va anar del meu camp primerenc, cosa que no fa mai, a no ser que escolte a la seua gent (veïns meus). Bé, em vaig dir (ja que la soledat et lleva a parlar-te més del normal o saludable), hauran vingut sense haver-ho detectat jo. Però no anava cap a la seua casa. Bé, em vaig dir, haurà escoltat alguna altra cosa interessant.

No ho vaig pensar més, vaig acabar i eixir cap al camí d’alt. I allí dalt, a uns 200 metres del meu camp, uns 15 o 20 minuts després, ja prou de nit, va estar ella, interceptant-me, cosa que mai havia fet. Uuuf, em vaig dir, està pràcticament invisible, i si ve un cotxe, què passarà?, que allí no és el seu lloc. Ella és del barranc, no del camí d’alt, terre inconnue, la gent d’allí no la coneix. Li vaig indicar que torne a casa, ‘a casa’, li vaig dir, però clar, assenyalant la direcció contrària a la normal.

I ella es va posar al costat de la bici a córrer amb mi, exactament com feia Xakti, cosa què és per a trencar-me el cor. A més, 5,5 km definitivament no pot córrer. Vaig parar una 2a vegada a dir-li, ‘adeu, bonica, tu vas a casa‘. I vaig pedalejar a tota velocitat cap al poble, amb una sensació terrible d’abandonament mutu, a la meua casa tan buida com la seua.

Aiiii, perdre el cor a un labrador és un martiri total.

Continuat: El Tema dels Murs Antics / Walls, Continued

[English below.]
En el vídeo els dos senyors B., veïns meus, demostren com es treballa les pedres realment grans, que són el triple de tamany de les de la base que vam fer nosaltres. El senyor amb la palanca, és de la família que va fer totes les obres de canalització i murs de contenció dels nivells d’una bona part de la nostra vall. El seu pare ens va fer la nostra canalització i a més el nostre aljub. Admire molt aquestes antigues tècniques. La narració està feta pel seu nebot, nostre regador, A.

The video shows two of my neighbors working the really big rocks by leveraging along with gravity. The narrator is the man who runs the irrigation pump for our part of the valley. The man with the pole is his uncle, my neighbor. And their respective father/grandfather is the person who constructed the irrigation canals and the cistern at our farm. With the torrential rains we lately seem to be getting once every month or two, there’s not a time after the rains that one rides out to the farm without seeing at least one old wall that has crumbled. We are currently designing an erosion control permaculture guild to try to hold our own hillside in place. More on that in the future.

Landscape of Fear

[Castellano abajo.]
This title was so amazing that I had to plagiarize it, but I want to link to the report anyway, here, about the importance of apex predators in nature. Our farm is some 200 meters away from the Pas del Llop (Wolf Pass) in a valley completely free of wolves, undoubtedly for decades (note to self: check with some of the old-timers on this). The consequence is, as I’ve written before, that the wild boars are completely out of control and we’ve had to fence in about 7800 of our total 10600 square meters. It was a Herculean task, pretty much self-taught, on which we spent the better part of three years (since there’s no electricity, I, the chemist of the team and with the better back, mixed all the cement by hand). I hate the environmental implications of cement but I have to admit that it’s been really nice as the month tick by since the boars rooted out the last seedling in the early part of this year.

The area where I grew up was rocky agriculture land, and the country roads were lined with walls from the stones that the land continuously belched out. I learned the dry-stack technique together with my father, as soon as I was old enough to heft rocks. I say together with, not from, because he was a city boy transplant to the country. It would seem that having the skill hardwired from childhood is worth something; the rock wall that I completed earlier this year has stood the test of several torrential rains, most recently last month, when 445 mm fell in 24 hours, of that nearly 200 mm in only two hours. Which is more than I can say for the roof of the 111-year-old house in which I am living in town, where the rainfall measured less than half that. It leaked like a sieve.

But I digress… Back to the fence which has three parts: stretches where a retaining wall was necessary (the most effort of all), stretches where a foundation had to be built (into which it could be cemented directly), and stretches where it could be cemented against an existing wall. The entire length of the fence is some 315 meters; roughly 90 meters needed foundation and nearly 24 meters required earthworks. The picture gallery below shows a continuous length with a mix of the styles. First is an existing cement block wall that we extended in the same style, then a dry stack wall of stones that came from this source, then a natural cement wall that consists of our own rocks and dirt, plus a small amount of gravel and natural cement that were purchased to make the proper mix. The last part of the wall, dark from moss due to the moisture on this north-facing wall, is an existing retaining wall in the older style that was built when the terraces were leveled.

Many natural construction workshops and many dear friends were involved in making this wall a reality. Many crushed fingers later, I am really happy with how it looks. And the nicest thing of all was my friend P., who later told me, ‘I look at walls completely differently now, it’s really made me appreciate my own heritage.’ One final note: when hiking in the mountains which are full of limestone rock, one is prone to stumble upon one of hte historic limestone kilns that dot the area. But that is another story, and a whole different level of skills (producing my own natural cement) to which, yes, I admit, I do aspire. In the meantime, I would like to cover the cement block wall with a thin layer of plaster made from our soil and natural cement, to impart our natural soil color. And I will await the return of the wolves, who are slowly spreading back through Spain.

En la galería de fotos, expongo las 3 diferentes maneras que hemos utilizado para vallar nuestro campo. El más complicado del todo ha sido construir muros de rentención, donde no había nada para apoyar la valla. Allí habremos hecho aprox. 24 metros de largo, con una altura media de tal vez un metro. También bastante difícil ha sido la necesidad de obrar una cimentación de 40 cm en zonas donde no había nada pero sin necesidad de retener la tierra de un nivel. Allí hicimos unos 90 metros. Lo más fácil, y así hemos intentado aprovechar al máximo, ha sido apoyar la valla en muros ya existentes. En total son aprox. 315 metros lineales de valla.

Las fotos muestran como hemos extendido un trozo de estos muros más feos de bloques de cemento (espero pronto revocarlo con cemento natural y nuestra tierra). Luego hemos pasado a la técnica de piedra seca. Finalmente se aprecia un trozo de muro rústico con cimentación natural (una mescla de nuestras piedras y nuestra tierra con un poco de planché y cemento natural comprados). Al final del todo se ve un muro ya existente, totalmente negro por el musgo, indicación de la alta humedad en este costado norte).

Voldria agrair a totes les amigues i tots els amics qui haveu, juntes i junts amb mi, esclafat els dits per a què tinga murs rústics tan bonics. Però el moment més emocionant de tota l’experiència ha sigut el comentari subseqüent de la meua amiga P., qui ha dit, ‘ara circulant pel meu país, m’és impossible no parar a mirar els murs antics, gràcies per haver-nos ajudat a valorar el nostre patrimoni.’ Un verdaderament plaer, que són una meravella!

Concluyo con la observación de que este muro, como expuse anteriormente, ha sido necesario debido a la falta de lobos en nuestro valle. De hecho, estamos a 3 entradas del Pas del Llop, que llevará ya décadas sin haber visto lobo alguno. Y el desequilibro de los jabalíes, consecuencia de su ausencia, es severo. Ahora espero la vuelta de los lobos con tranquilidad.

Biological Diversity Evokes Happiness

The proverb “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” has recently been quantified in a new and interesting manner:

According to the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, 14 bird species in the bush are worth 124 euros, or each species in the bush is worth 8.85€.

“Europeans are particularly satisfied with their lives if their immediate surroundings host a high species diversity,” explains the study’s lead author, Joel Methorst, a doctoral researcher at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, the iDiv, and the Goethe University in Frankfurt. “According to our findings, the happiest Europeans are those who can experience numerous different bird species in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species.”

“Fourteen additional bird species in the vicinity raise the level of life satisfaction at least as much as an extra 124 Euros per month in the household account, based on an average income of 1,237 Euro per month in Europe.”

According to the study, a diverse nature therefore plays an important role for human well-being across Europe – even beyond its material services. At the same time, the researchers draw attention to impending health-related problems. “The Global Assessment 2019 by the World Biodiversity Council IPBES and studies of avian species in agricultural landscapes in Europe clearly show that the biological diversity is currently undergoing a dramatic decline. This poses the risk that human well-being will also suffer from an impoverished nature. Nature conservation therefore not only ensures our material basis of life, but it also constitutes an investment in the well-being of us all,” adds Methorst in conclusion.

Read the full article here:

This beautiful bird photo comes from here.

The Mozart Effect of the Plant World

A recent Neuroimaging study provides new details on the link between stress reduction and green urban landscapes.

This is in line with the Biophilia hypothesis put forth by Edward O. Wilson in his book Biophilia (1984), a term coined by the philosopher Erich Fromm.

Lista Preliminar de Plantas Senda Silvestre

[English below.]
Ya que este curso de permacultura que no se pudo hacer por su mayoría (solamente se hizo el primer día introductorio debido a la cuarentena), se vuelve a programa para este jueves, querría subir esta lista en formato archivo para los alumnos y toda la demás gente a que le pueda interesar. Incluye tanto las plantas que hemos introducido (en el columna Estatus se puede ver el número de las mismas) como las silvestres que ya estaban allí al comienzo del proyecto o que se han ido estableciéndose a lo largo de el, debido a la mejora del suelo. Estas últimas no están enumeradas. Así es que si encuentras un número en el columna de Estatus, la planta se introdujo a propósito. Seguramente la lista la iremos ampliando y mejorando con el tiempo.

Haz clic para acceder a sendasilvestreplantasresumencursillooct2020.pdf

Here’s our first comprehensive list of plants at Senda Silvestre. It includes those that we introduced intentially, which appear either with number planted or a written note in the Status column. The others with no entry under Status were either there growing wild when the project began or have established themselves over the course of the project, as the soil quality began to improve (burdocks and stinging nettles, for example). We’ll continue to expand and improve the list over time.

Cornus Mas

[English below.]
Quiero seguir con la serie Héroes Permaculturistas, que vamos desarrollando en cuanto encontramos plantas aptas, que a veces son bastante difíciles de conseguir en España. Hoy tratamos el cornejo macho (Cornus mas).  No cumple exactamente mis criterios pero añade otro que no tenía contemplado, que es el color a finales de invierno (y por lo cual, da a comer a las abejas antes de los cítricos).


Tolera la sequía y es bastante flexible en cuanto a la iluminación, desde sol bastante hasta media sombra. Produce un fruto ácido y las semillas pueden servir de sustituto al café.  Además, aquellos frutos son pequeños y por esto, atractivos para los aves, el cual puede teóricamente evitar su daño a la fruta más grande que nos interesa a los seres humanos.

Este verano de vacaciones en Berlín, a través de esta página, S. encontró un ejemplar majéstico en el Parque Treptower.  Cogí varios frutos y los traje por aquí y ahora las tengo plantados para que se estratifiquen durante el invierno, a ver si sale algo en la primavera.CornusMasTreptower

Here I’m continuing what I hope will become a regular examination of Permaculture Heroes being planted at Senda Silvestre (you can see more by clicking on the category with this name below).  This is the Cornus mas or Cornellian cherry which doesn’t meet at least three of my permaculture criteria but does add another which I hadn’t contemplated, which is late-winter color.  This helps sustain the bees before the appearance of the citrus flowers.

It’s drought tolerant and adaptable with respect to the amount of direct sun. It produces a small, sour fruit whose seeds can be used as a substitute for coffee.  In addition its fruits are attractive to birds and theoretically can dampen their interest in the surrounding Prunus species which are more interesting to us humans.

On vacation in Berlin this summer, through this cool website, S. found a magnificent example in Treptower Park.  I picked some fruit and brought it back and have planted the seeds directly to over-winter in the ground and we’ll see if anything comes of it in the spring.

Necessity is the mother of invention

The Guardian has a great article of an example of this premise titled

‘Money is worth nothing now’: how Lebanon is finding a future in farming

With food in short supply and prices rocketing, a wave of new farmers are growing produce on roofs, balconies and beyond.

From the article:

Initiatives promoting farming have multiplied. Food banks offer seedlings, volunteers teach sustainable farming and social media groups share advice. Groups of friends or neighbours have taken to farming. All across Lebanon, municipalities hand out seeds and encourage people to plant abandoned land.

Rami Zurayk, a professor of ecosystem management at the American University of Beirut, says developing a relationship with soil has positive effects on people’s wellbeing. “We are waking up now to see that what we thought we had is no longer here. People have money in the bank that they cannot use. Going back to the primordial – land, seeds, food – is cathartic.”

But small initiatives will do little to solve food security, he says.

“Someone planting pots with herbs is not going to make any difference in nutrition. We need to change the nature of the system, to treat food as a human right, not a commodity.”

Lebanon is not alone in facing a food crisis. The World Food Programme warned that Covid-19 could almost double the number of people facing hunger, from 130 million to 265 million. Agriculture has been disrupted all over the world, seasonal workers stuck behind closed borders. Lebanon, home to more refugees per capita than any other country, does not face that issue – the main agricultural workforce here is Syrian refugees.

In Baanoub, the Zahars spent more time than ever this year in the fields. Yasmina carries seedlings to plant near the olives. The trees are not straight, she says, but planted in irregular lines.

“Our generation doesn’t operate along straight lines either. Not like previous generations. For us it is natural to shift focus and start farming in the middle of life.”

Read the full article here:

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!