Friday, January 19, 2018

Finally, the autumn Blog....

Raining - the sound and smell of it is so beautiful!  Those in the cool rainy temperate zone to the north just won't understand my feelings for this liquid delight!!  My washing's out on the line, sheets dripping. Yippee!!    I have little doubt that the joy I feel is largely reflected emotion from the relief and joy from the plethora of life until now long-suffering in the dry earth.

Even some robust cork-oaks had been toiling at the end of the long summer, a good few dying from stress-related disease, this late summer. The grasses and weeds are growing a lot slower this year, still without really significant rainfall.  Here is the well-area, while the well was being dug, and now.....


Workforce from the Aljezur camara (council)  installed our new footbridge, whose predecessor rotted away and fell last spring.  A good strong bridge, first the foundations,
then the structure itself....



...pretty, eh?

I love winter here. We can DO things! Whereas in summer the ground is impossible to dig and you can't plant anything anyway, now the earth becomes pliable and seeds and trees can be planted and can grow.    The garden is looking vital, with the winter vegetables well on their way.

My volunteer helpers are here, actually good returning friends. Damon and Karen have been here several times and for quite a while on each occasion, and it's great to have them back. And from Geneva, a returning friend from last winter, Daniel (in the middle), until the end of February.  A great trio, and we get on with the things each of us enjoys doing - perfect!  I will show our works and works in progress in the next blog.


Acorns have been in abundance this year from the "Portuguese oak" (Quercus faginaea) after 3 years of scarcity. This variety of oak are rare in this region now, though a century ago they were an important part of the ecosystem.  So I am actively planting them to accompany the already-numerous cork oaks (Quercus suber).  I believe in diversity, and that one of the reasons the cork oaks seem to be struggling these years is that they miss their cousins.  For sure, oaks in general are the most social of trees, and to be isolated is not something they enjoy.

The acorns go in pots (usually recycled tetra-packs) or (mostly) directly into the ground on the hillside swales.   Long-time blog readers will recognise that this is an annual activity with low individual success rate, but time will work for us always if we use it wisely.  If only 10% succeed one year, and only 10% the next, then after 10 years we have (check my maths if you like), over 65%, or 2 thirds, success.  Time will work for us.

If your head is fixed on immediate results and your temporal horizon is mostly measured in days, you are not really inhabiting  the timescape, and will be at the whim of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. 

I have been having plenty of earfuls in recent times about "living in the moment", "the power of now" and all that.  I do know what is meant, but doubt that many understand.  I believe if we are truly in the moment, we present expands to the past and future. The past is within us as our guide, and the future is intimately connected to every action, or even thought, in which we are participating.   This being so, how can the future not be already part of the moment?   

This is a different thing to speculating, which, as an intellectual activity, can be amusing or scarifying, but it is only fantasy. We make our world through our positive action.

Loads of good projects to do these winter months.  The chickens have move to a new, neighbouring patch, with their old pecking and pooping for 2 years now a fertile ground for root vegetables.

Acutally I have to say, "the chickens" have not really been moved, as all but 2 have been eaten, to be replaced by a new, young, thrusting, egg-pooping hens from a reliable source.   Our hens were getting old and scraggy, and egg-laying diabolical.  Sorry, vegans, but eating half a dozen hens after a good life, and giving another 6 or so also a well-cared for life, is somewhat better than buying eggs to support a gross industry.  

Here is their new house, in construction, and in use - Megan's started the mural, which should be finished soon....


So what else is on the agenda for this productive winter?   The Várzea's at a formative stage in its development, and I see this winter as an important one for shaping the future.

The guiding principles, as always are:   Create Beauty, and  Bring the Land to Life.   It isn't just about production, it is about creating, or allowing nature to create for us, a place to live and enjoy, and for the children to be creative and have fun.

For this winter's meddling with nature, I intend....

Plant another 50 trees on the flood plain, to add to the 320 or so already in place growing.  This will complete the tree-plantings of the future food-forest.  I won't bore you with the make-up, but I'm sure I won't be able to resist elaborating when I actually plant them.   The idea is to make shapes in the projected landscapes, looking at future open apaces, pathways through the trees, trying to project the likely development of the living architecture.   

On the hillsides, I keep planting acorns.  Oaks are in some areas almost an endangered species with the ascendancy of eucalyptus, but they are the custodians of the wisdom of the land.  I also have a couple of new hopes for nitrogen-fixing trees, the quest with which I have not yet met with success.  We have been germinating Ziziphus spina-cristi, or christ-thorn tree, and a non-invasive Acacia, A.salicina.   Nitrogen-fixing Casuarina and Tea-tree are strong and pretty tolerant of clay.  As well as planting on the swales, all 300 or so healthy Medronheiras (Arbutus unino) bushes will be given a chance of a companion on their shady sides.  No more swale-digging this year - after 4 winters of digging, we have already covered most of the 2 hectares of cleared hillsides.

There is always more: with the trees come the birds and animal life, and the diversity of nature that we can be part of and live from and with.

Here's a truth, which is what we, as a species surviving off the earth, which we are presently depleting, need to understand:  Live with trees, and land will flourish.  Without, the earth will not sustain us.

Please accept apologies for the tardiness of this Blog, and expect a more frequent, shorter, format for the future....

Happy 2018, and drown your smart-phone....

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