Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Robins!

Robins - they're everywhere!  Ideal breeding conditions for these very un-shy birds, and they keep following us about!

It feels like an in-between phase at the moment. The end of winter coming... The Várzea is pretty quiet, with a lot of good work done these last months, and lots of different sort of work to be done in the next month especially.  For a start, the new yurt (six metres diameter) will be arriving in a couple of weeks, and before that, the earthen floor and drainage has to be prepared.  Rubin and, in red, Selma in action here digging the drainage ditch around the site....



It's been a cold winter, with a good balance of rain and sun, which should mean a good fruit and nut crop. The trees have now been pruned, the olives treated with lime, and all mulched with horse manure and straw from our friends in the neighbouring valley.

We are also preparing the land in some new ways . Swales are done for the winter, and now paths and steps being created along "desire lines", the ways which follow the topography and the questing eye, through hillside scrub and seeking out interesting hollows and microclimates on the slopes which cradle the Várzea.

To be later developed into walks and quiet spaces to sit and observe and listen to birds and wildlife.

Here's a part of one path, to give a general idea...


We are just coming into the early spring sowing and planting time.  Many saved seeds already put into trays....

 ...to be ready to go into the garden beds in March.  Tomatoes, pumpkins, root vegetables, peppers, leeks and chives, celery, and many more.  Helping with the seed-sowing here is my brother John, here for 12 days. He is taking time off from his globe-trotting lecture tour, following the publishing of his 15-years-in-the-making book, a biography of the visionary founder of Osteopathy, Dr Andrew Still (entitled "From the Dry Bone to the Living Man" it is a mix of philosophy and and the story of one man's single-minded pursuit of truth in the face of adversity). See www.atstill.com

Our friend and neighbour Paul brought his funky baby tractor to dig the patch for potatoes...


And Moringa seeds! Chaym from Israel, who with his family are coming to stay in the spring, has sent a large bag of these potential "miracle trees", and we shall be trying them out in many different soils and microclimates at the Várzea, and seeing if they can grow successfully here. The leaves are of super high nutritional value, and they are being used in Africa to re-empower the peoples to feed themselves.

The next week-and-a-half is grafting time. The last growing moon before the sap starts rising in earnest, is the time to join our best apple tree shoots to the suckering shoots of wild pear, whose thick roots spread for tens of metres through the earth from the parent trees.  The result should be good producing apple trees with no need for watering even in the height of summer.  Here is Megan with a message on our kitchen wall...


Top priority this year is food-production. Not to become a farm which sells produce at market, but to make enough to feed all residents through the seasons, and be able to store, exchange and preserve food or products thereof.  It's all in the organisation and timing...

There will be a whole new era starting in late March, starting directly with the solar eclipse on the equinox on the 20th.  I am not an astrologer (though have always loved astronomy and star-gazing) but this cosmic event seems auspicious.  The aforementioned Chaym and 2 girls are coming on the 19th, and more-or-less on the same day, our freinds from their 2-month stay last summer, Alex and Nicky and their 2 boys will arrive for several months.  So Megan will have boys of 6 and 4, and girls of 6 and 3 to play with all summer!

Meanwhile, on the subject of astronomy, here is a picture of the Sombrero galaxy, 28 million light years away in the constellation of Virgo, home of a central super-massive black hole...



Closer to home, or, rather, at home... The geese are doing a grand job of keeping the grass grazed and the earth fertilised...   and laying monstrous eggs!  Here is one 250g double-yolker, modelled by our good friend and winter resident Ani, from Scotland...




George, our pot-bellied pig has a new house and refurbished area among the cork oaks, and is just starting to grow his tusks.  We are looking for a bigger breed of female to mate - all he has at the moment is his faithful bucket!
One big theme for the next seasons will be to develop the Várzea as a place for birders to come and appreciate the very rich bird life that inhabits our undisturbed valley, which has in itself so many habitats, from river to hilltop and woods. The paths I mentioned are being made, as well as hides and viewing platforms.  All good fun. Meanwhile the swallows arrived this week and are moving into and renewing their nests from last year...
All power to our feathered friends!  (they keep the mozzies down as well, in case you didn't know)






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