I was looking through pictures of our place from when we bought it and throughout our renovation process, and I thought it would be a good idea to post some of them here to show some of the progress that we have made – even if it doesn’t feel like much has happened, people keep telling us how incredibly much actually has – and looking at the pictures really illustrate that. Even ecologically there has been progress made, that we almost take for granted – the negative bias is strong and reminding ourselves of the positive is an important part of staying happy 😉
First example is the South Terrace – where the first picture is taken after the builders took the roof off and the other is taken today. The beds aren’t as green as they could be because the tomatoes are dying back and the parsley is only just coming back. The terrace is flat enough that the wood deck has rotted (hence the whole in the decking) – which is almost unseen here where most things just dry-out.
Second is the terrace above the house, which was basically clay and sand – the terrace was extremely compacted and practically nothing was growing there – except the bush which I hadn’t noticed have grown considerably since. The left picture is taken while we planted – the mulch is not seedless, but came from our neighbours land where he had fed weeds harvested along the roads around here to his goats – he didn’t want it so we were encouraged to move it to our land (we did leave some, which has improve his land tremendously in the places where it was left). We dug micro-swales and made micro-berms (filled with compost and caña). Picture on the right is from today. Not all the plants we planted there survived – we didn’t water sufficiently in the first years to get them established, but some have survived and the terrace now has a ground cover almost year round (though dry in the summer).
Next is above that terrace – there was some erosion going on, so we made little one rock dams around the trees, so we could stop the biomass from running away during the rains – this meant that in the past years, leaves and carob pods have collected behind the rocks and this has been where seeds of other plants have settled too – and now the whole area is green, you can hardly see the rocks we placed (the fig-tree died though…).
Fourth row is the West terrace – first from october 2013 shortly after we bought the house, the second picture is from now – we can hardly keep the weeds down! The children pick the weeds for the rabbits, but currently it grows faster than our two rabbits can eat it. What we have done is to slant the terrace away from the house, we have covered some of the ground with flat rocks (but no concrete underneath), so water can seep in, and built a small “gabion” midway between the house and the edge (which you can hardly see for weeds), at the edge we have dug a swale (quite deep), covered with pebbles, and made a berm. Last winter we covered the berm with compost and straw from the rabbit-cages. The straw contained some barley seeds because the rabbits spill their food. All through this summer I thought that the mulch was a little wasted as it just lay there and dried out, but now seeing the greenery growing there I am very pleased with myself. In the future we will plant deciduous trees there to provide shade in the summer, but allow the sun in during the winter months (probably white mulberry, as I have a thing for silk worms).
Fifth row is the terrace below the house towards the road (where I shot the movie of the small stream running through a few weeks ago). We have built terraces there – though the second terrace has been destroyed in the rain (because it wasn’t finish and we weren’t aware of the drainpipe). We have covered the side of the slope with some coarse cloth to hold on to the soil which was eroding rapidly. It is not at all as green now as it has been the past two years, because all the seeds have been covered in a deep layer of soil after the rains, yet the difference is still amazing.
Last but not least is our rainwater garden – this is one of the places where we cheated and brought in potting soil (we still didn’t have the compost up and running at that time. Since then we have been adding and adding and adding biologic material to the bed: Mainly straw and rabbit poop – several times the kids have emptied rabbit cages out here. And yet it still is more or less the same level as when we planted it. It is more or less in full production all year round. Tomatoes, parsley, rosemary, basil, Indian cress (right now) – there’s a small lemon tree growing from seed there (I stratified a number of them in the fridge and planted them – 3 germinated, this one survived). We planted kiwis, but they died (not the first time that happened to us), to they were replace by a jasmin, which is thriving and hopefully will provide some shade in a few years.
Granted the “before” images are taken in a dry winter, and the “after” images are taken in a wet winter – but when we moved here my kids called this place “the place with the thistles” and even if we still have thistles they are of a completely different kind, and they are not alone They are competing for space with grasses, nettles, plantain, dandelions etc. etc. It is very very green this time of year, it is a joy to see.