Friday, November 13, 2015

We are the ancestors...

We are the ancestors, the builders of the new era of this land....

Cue theme for this blog. We are the instigators of the new cycle.  The previous cycle came to an end roughly half a century ago, when, for a variety of reasons, the young generation of the time left the land, and their parents had little option than to abandon their ancestral land.

That time was characterised, here in Portugal, by misconceived directives from the then totalitarian , government, which made life on the land difficult, as well as a new exciting option of city life in the heady days of the sixties..... 


The changes have been brewing for a while, a few years or so, most dramatically demonstrated by the amazing emergence of a whole new generation in the 9 short years since we arrived here at the Várzea: from no children under 10 in this valley, to 20 this year, with more on the way..!  

In practical terms, the realisation has only just manifested itself - some important events happened at the time of  this year's spring equinox, which was marked by an eclipse of the sun. On that day arrived here at Várzea da Gonçala, not only Alex and Nicky and their boys, from England, but, crucially, Chaym and Petra, with their 2 girls, emigrating from Israel, looking for a place to bring up their young daughters free of the threats of war.  Chaym shares my visions of a productive food forest, as well as being a hugely experienced gardener. 

We want to create an environment which not only provides good natural food, but one which provides a diverse and beautiful space for living - and a place where children can grow up, learning the life-skills not always provided by school.

The future of this land lies in fully embracing the long term intent of a continuously developing food forest, in a place of beauty, a rich wild-life, and an ecosystem which will resist the scourge of fire. Nothing particularly new here from the point of view of our long-term vision, but now it is more sharply in focus.

Here's a nice picture of the future food-forest area in the foreground, with a section of the hillside re-forestation project behind...



Yes, we are also continuing the re-forestation of the hillsides.  Harder to find acorns this year, but enough, and so far we've planted about 500, on the hillside swales again, the ones created last year, and on the two-year-old swales where animals got to most acorns last year - and plantes with leguminous lupines for nitrogen-fixation. Another 300 acorns or so on the medronho-bush eastern hillside, on the shade-side of all bushes, where last winter we dug shallow holes and fertilised with horse-manure.  Medronho bushes (Arbitus unido) and cork oaks make great companions, inseparable in the ancient native ecosystem here.

The food forest...


                                                                                                                                                                                                            ...here is Cornelia, our resident polar bear, pacing out the places for the compost holes and tree and legume-planting sites. We are installing three feeder ponds to hydrate the soil over a wide area by channels distributing the water - supplied by gravity and a 50mm tube, from the upstream river which flows throughout the summer.    Here is one of the pond-sites, with its channels emerging down-slope....


There are already a good number of trees - almonds, olives, figs, walnuts, chestnuts and plums in this section - here, but this is the start of a much bigger and more pro-active approach to the whole lowland area.

Like most things here, this is a long-term project.  A tree-based agriculture is pretty quick to establish if you already have the trees, but the land here has never, in living memory at least, been part of such a scheme.  Big changes in the soil, as well as the visible, with the transition over many years to a fungal-mycorhizal ecosystem as the shade-canopy develops.          
                                          
I shall be keeping the blog posted on the food-forest project through this autumn, winter and beyond, so this is just a little taster!        

Before I publish this, as usual overdue, blog, a picture in the garden, with Chaym and, here from Konstanz on the German-Swiss border for a few weeks, Finn, a great guy and fantastic digger!...


And autumn green has come on thick after some beautiful rain and now warm sun.  The geese are out in the green green grass again.....


Thanks for reading!  The next blog will be out in early December - promise...






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