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:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-12/gcfi-bde120420.php

This beautiful bird photo comes from here.