Saturday, April 14, 2018

Spring 2018, wet, green, perfect!

Rainy and windy here on the west Algarve.  A perfect day to be taking it easy in our yurt and writing the new blog.  Having contemplated a severe drought the coming summer, March finally gave us bountiful rain.  Our depleted river, dry in some places in wid-winter, is now big and shiny!...

Equinox 2018. 11 years since our inaugural equinox party of 2007,  a memorable occasion, because it was the first time really that I properly encountered the denizens of the microcosm of our small valley of the Cerca river.

It left a lasting impression, I guess because the people were so different to those I'd known before, and the atmosphere of  the place I had come to spend the second half of my life was just opening to my senses.  We had a gigantic bonfire, burning mostly huge lumps of soggy burned cork oak, victims of the big bush-fire which had destroyed the woods here 3 years previously.

My wife Kris had just found out she was pregnant (after 2 miscarriages) with our daughter Megan, now 10.  We had only closed the deal on Varzea da Goncala a few weeks before, the land was wild and the houses were awash with water running through the walls.

This Blog will focus on people.  The people here now are a kind of new generation, just 11 years on, from those whom, mostly crazy Germans, who had come to sparsely occupy the valley in the aftermath of the abandonment of the then beautiful lands by the previous generation of Portuguese, some 30 or 40 years previously.


Ravaged by fire and floods in recent years, these lands were a sad shadow of the fertile cultivated meadows and animal-grazed wooded hillsides of a half-century ago. The recovery process is painstaking and very slow, but under way.

It is only people's activity who can and will make the valley beautiful again. As I put in a previous blog, we are the new ancestors.

Allowing time to work for us, not against us, for the long term. Not to enhance next year's crop, but to make the land fertile, productive, and beautiful, for our children and grandchildren, for them to want to make it more so for their grandchildren.  That way of seeing things.

Ecosystems are functional networks, and are prime examples of many self-interested parties getting on to make the whole function.  They are not the embodiment of an idea that nature is a model of altruistic cooperation, neither is it cut-throat competitiveness, each organism for itself.  It is both, intertwined. The "balance of nature" is based on the constant striving of the myriad individual elements giving their all to thrive by being creative. The intricacies and functioning of this great network are astonishing and marvelous.

The change in the modern era is that humans now dominate the global ecosystem, and our activities are compromising the functioning of the network. Our new rational brain is a double-edged sword - it allows true interactive wisdom, and also the power of destruction.

Common responsibility? If you like that concept.  A million times better, go do something.  It is positive action that talks to the world and to the future.

The Varzea.  Our little microcosm nestling amongst the hills....

We do what we can, knowing that nature readily responds to human guidance. Everything we do here contributes to the health, diversity and functionality of the network which is the local ecosystem.  Through the fourth dimension of time, hopelessly neglected in most human thinking.

The fruit trees have had lots of attention and pruning this winter, with enormous help from our neighbour Dan. Having also been a cool winter, we are hoping for a best-ever crop of fruit and nuts.   Here is our old plum tree in blossom after a thorough pruning...          .... and the younger trees looking pretty too.
It has been a busy time cutting and clearing.  I completed my 2-yearly cut of the 3 hectares of land which is my designated Clear Area,  but as well this year we have been clearing crowded groves of willow, and 3 big trees near the houses have had to be cut back to comply with the national directive, being implemented this year after last year's catastrophic fires.  Here Kris and I are in the thick 
of the work...


...finally, all the prunings and cuttings were dragged to the open area, and just this week Hans, with his tractor and industrial-size shredder, came and turned a large area of branches into beautiful wood-chip...     Great help too from Chaym, Damon and Karen, and also Ilf, our Belgian friend and outstanding naturalist, coming with his family for just 2 weeks this spring with wife Lies and 2 daughters.

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... so we ended up with about 7 cubic metres of soil fungi's most favourite food, for mulching, digging in, and fabricating the elixir of soil health.    If you want an inspirational book, get "Mycorrhizal Planet" by Michael Phillips, and you won't ever think of soil as boring again.  Or call it dirt!

Damon and Karen have been a wonderful help this winter, and have now finished their contribution, so many thanks to them both.  Karen is staying on to assist with our forthcoming PDC, while Damon is already planning his return next autumn....   damn, I forgot to get a good pic of them before Damon left.   

And I must mention the garden, in which Petra, deserves overdue praise for her huge contribution in making so much wholesome organic FOOD...

The future belongs to the present, which also contains the past.  We people can't comprehend time - it is one swirling interacting cosmos.

Finally (I really must get this episode off, it's just that it's been so damn busy::) .. we had a minor flood this week, to cap a beautifully wet 6 weeks, with about 35cm (14 inches) of rain - that's 350 litres on every square metre of land, or 3500 cubic metres per hectare!  Cooool...




Revel in the spring...........


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