El Mes del Arbol / Tree-Planting Time

Ahora habiendo nombrado este el mes del arbol, l’Ajuntament d’Alzira tiene programadas muchas actividades, de las cuales algunas se han tenido que suspender por tormentas con vientos de unos 60 o 70 km/hr, inclusive acompañados con lluvia. Desde que comenzó a llover en noviembre, apenas hemos pasado una semana sin lluvia, aunque en enero ya no han sido lluvias de cien milímetros o más, como en noviembre y diciembre. Aún así, el hecho de que sí cae agua durante un período normalmente seco nos alenta a plantar arboles en la nueva parcela.

Al inicio de enero plantamos dos pinos piñoneros, gracias a nuestra amiga M. de Carcaixent.  Ahora seguimos con el triángulo de secano, que es una parte de la parcela que está bordeada por el desagúe al que hago mención en mi último reporte, porque aunque el agua dejó de fluir de la cuevita que se encuentra más arriba de la parcela, donde comienza la montaña, lo normal es que vienen otra vez lluvias importantes en primavera, y luego cuando los agricultores de arriba de nostros riegan, el agua que sobra pasa por allí. Luego el triángulo también linda con el Barranc de la Casella, lo cual es otra fuente de agua para los cultivos que pondremos allí. Representan el clásico secano español: olivos, algarrobos y luego si nos dan permiso para vallar, que el vallado trazará la tercera eje del triángulo, ya lo utilizaremos para atar la viña, y al otro lado pondremos arboles que dan frutos secos, donde estarán a salvo de los jabalíes. Dentro de los algarrobos y olivos, hemos comenzado a plantar madroños, el arbusto tan emblemático de Madrid. Luego pensaremos en otros arbustos que puedan complementar el área, más allá de los cereales tradicionales que suelen alimentar al ganado que antes formaba una parte integral del cultivo en secano de la región.  La foto muestra el primer paso de la transición desde cítricos abandonados a secano. dscf301

It´s tree month in Alzira, though we actually started planting trees at the New Year with a gift of 2 Pinus pinea seedlings, the tree that produces pine nuts, thanks to M. in Carcaixent. Those went along the road in front of the farm, on a stretch of land that may be ours or may be public domain; it’s a bit unclear exactly where the boundary is, but no matter, these trees are indigenous, although typically found at a bit higher altitude, so this will be an experiment to see how they do. At the end of January we bought the majority of the trees we intend to plant this year (until we are able to build our fence), as we don’t want to invest a lot of money in seedlings, only to have the pigs rip through their roots. We’ve concentrated on the dry-land triangle which encompasses a traditional Spanish poly-culture guild of olives and carob. We’re planning to locate the almond trees on the other (in)side the fence where they will be safe from the wild boars and we´ll also train grape vines over the fence itself.

The triangle is separated on one side from the road which is also a flood-way for the mountain rains (in fact, it washed out 3 times during the rains in December and January – when our bikes came in handy). The 2nd side is the spillway from the small grotto we found further up in the mountains, through which water also drains when the farmers above us irrigate. So we expect this triangle to have enough occasional water supplies to do relatively well with dry-land, after we get the trees established. Next year we´ll focus on the creative part of permdscf393aculture, figuring out what to design for the lower vegetative levels below the trees. In Spanish dry-land these typically are simply grains or pasture for goats and sheep., but we´re still not sure if we will have any animals beyond chickens, which are great for improving soil quality. But we have already planted madroños (the famous emblem of Madrid is the statue of a bear eating its berries at the Puerta del Sol). At some point in the future, S. is thinking of trying out something exotic like goji and goumi berries.

Out-Foxed/Más Listos que el Zorro

[ENGLISH BELOW] Mirad estas fotos del zorro que habita la parcela. Los jabelíes muy listos no los hemos podido jamás captar por cámera, eso ya durante seis meses, aunque vemos todas las huellas de su presencia allí no más.  Nos estamos quebrando la cabeza pensando en como puede ser.  Más abajo la fuente que descubrimos al darnos cuenta del agua que sigue chorreando por el desagüe al costado ocidental de la parcela.

This summer, one of us had the brilliant idea to get a night-vision camera.  And here, with beginner´s luck, is what it captured during the first few August nights positioned on the far side of the property, close to where it borders another parcel that is completely overgrown after probably a good 20 years of neglect.06aug2016fox

The fox is a good little digger, mainly looking for mice’s burrows around the numerous dead orange tree trunks, but the damage is nothing compared with the packs of feral pigs that regularly sweep through. Both types of critters can dig down a good 20 or 25 cm with ease, but there’s only one fox, and probably half a dozen or more pigs. We really want to capture them on camera but they have eluded us completely for six months now.  Even when we see the damage right in front of where the camera is mounted, despite trying various motion detector and infrared settings. They are living up to their crafty reputation. Camping out, in May and June then September and October, however, we heard them frequently, sometimes a clear piggy grunt, sometimes a call that sounds chillingly like a human baby crying.

Shakti the dog was invaluable in keeping the pigs at bay while we were camping out.  She seems to have left indelible signs, such that they, while busily digging through nearly everywhere else that we´ve left mulch (which is a food source for grubs and worms, a favored protein source for the pigs), have yet to touch the two areas where she regularly slept, one of which was near the garden.

I have resorted to voodoo in the other areas. S. the human got a haircut and I have been scattering his hair mixed with what I comb off the dog, to test the Valencian idea that hair will scare them off. As the pigs grow hungrier through the winter and the traces (and memory) of our presence dims, the destruction grows. I am attempting to view it as free soil-turning. But we´d rather have more of the little soil-bound critters there working for us, instead of the four-hooved kind.sy_00001

Here’s a clearer picture of the fox on New Year’s. I’m growing rather fond of him (I deduce his gender from his vigorous and accurate marking of as many high-lying stones a possible). It will be a bit sad when/if we ever get permission to build a fence (Spanish bureaucracy works in mysterious ways, at glacial speed). He´ll be excluded from nearly three quarters of the farm. But we intend to leave a significant wildlife corridor leading back to the parcel behind, which also borders our irrigation spillway that in reality is a natural spring that originates up in the mountain behind us that. We discovered this after the torrential rains we have had in December and January (completely uncharacteristic of the area, as those rains nearly always came in October). Here’s a photo of the bricked-in grotto that is the source of the water currently trickling down dscf378the south-western boundary of the farm.