Pictures of Progress

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.

 

Advertisements

The Rabbit Cage

Not the Cage Aux Folles, but it very well could be 🙂

About year ago i bought two rabbit does, more or less on a whim – I have a tendency to do things like that… sometimes it moves things forward, sometimes it becomes yet another project I never finished. This one seemed for a long time to end in the latter category – but fortunately my husband had helped me out this time and we are now almost finished with a colony setting for the rabbits. They are cute though (but now way too big to fit in one cage).

Rabbits – new inhabitants on our homestead

A post shared by Dawn Hoff (@dawn.hoff) on

First I started building a run that they could be in… but that never really got anywhere, so the fence is now lying outside my office windows. Did someone say scatterbrain?

Progress on building a run for the rabbits

A post shared by Dawn Hoff (@dawn.hoff) on

Then Marcus and I started building the colony setting that we had been talking about. But actually Marcus didn’t really have buy-in on the project and wasn’t too keen on it, so progress was slow… And I could not do it on my own since putting the hardware cloth on the roof was really too hard… And I had horrible hay fever in the spring so I was more or less sick all the time. An then July and August came and any thought of doing anything other than bathing outside was… well… just too much…

But then our worldschooler friends came to visit, and I thought: YAY, there will be two grown-ups to help me, one of them a man who is probably taller than me (he would have to suffer from dwarfism if he were to be shorter, because that is ca. how short I am – seriously not exaggerating). It almost didn’t come to fruition since we went for a long walk and suddenly I had to dash off with the kids to art class, and the next day I suddenly had to run of to go to the bank before they closed… But fortunately they were such nice people they almost finished the colony on their own.

Today we worked on the rabbit cage all afternoon (and I totally forgot that I had a date with an English home schooler in the Botanical garden… scatterbrain…). And all the holes you seen in the cage on the picture are now not there any more. All that is missing really is for me to “sew up” the panels of hardware cloth and to check for holes around the stairs on either side. I have said to myself that it is “almost done” and that “now I can order that buck” like a hundred times – but I will wait for myself to have finished it completely before I order the buck. Because otherwise I might end up with 3 rabbits in my office…

I actually dreamt last night that one of the does had kindled… and that it would have been a while ago because the kids where quite big… (not blind and naked, but little fur-balls jumping around), and that I now had not 2 rabbits in my office but 10… I think the origin of the dream was that my daughter was pet-sitting her friend’s guinea pigs, and the last day we had them, we suddenly had an extra – all lively and furry and all (apparently guinea pigs give birth to kids with fur and open eyes and all), this in spite of our friends telling us that it was two females… must have been immaculate conception then – it was very close to Christmas after all. The result of the dream was that I woke up feeling an urge to finish the colony – but then thinking that Marcus probably wouldn’t want to… and the putting it off for another couple off weeks until our next volunteers/worldschoolers arrive… But then as we had our morning coffee on the terrace (yes it is that warm), he said “I don’t know about your, but I would like to try to finish the rabbit cage today”, and that is when I had a slight feeling, that I should be going to the Botanical Garden for some reason, but thought that “no-one in the Home school group is going, so no you don’t have to if you would rather build the rabbit cage”. Poor lady whom I stood up, not a very good first impression (maybe I should send her this blog post to explain…?).

The idea with the rabbits is that they should provide us with food, manure for the garden, furs for me to do creative things with, maybe function as a lawn-mover (in tractors), and something cute and cuddly for the children, which would teach them something about permaculture and responsibility for other living beings etc. (in Permaculture everything should fill in at least 3 functions that support other systems). Having them in cages inside didn’t really cut it for that last part, and we couldn’t really have kids in the cages we have for them now… and cleaning etc. is a actually quite a hassle… so they have provided compost – great compost, but the rest of their functions have been less fulfilled in the last year. Now, hopefully soon,  we will be able to let them be all they can be.

World Schoolers For The Win!

This week on our little finca we have had visitors – a Danish/Norwegian world schooling family who is traveling Europe for a year came by to visit us.

A few months ago I joined the Facebook group World Schoolers because friends of mine told me it would be a great way of connecting to other home schoolers across the globe and maybe make connection with expats who home school down here in Spain – make connections with people travelling through the area. After a short while in the group I offered up my place as a possible stop for people on the road. My conditions were: You can “camp in my garden” for free if you clean up after yourself, you can stay in our house for free if you participate in chores, and we will pay for food too if you participate in projects (if we have any projects going on at the moment). The response was overwhelming! I received tons of response to my post and I received numerous PM’s from people asking if they could stop by.  This week our first visitors arrived.

A family of 5: Mom and dad, two boys around my sons age and a girl a little younger than my girl. They had told me in advance that they would love to participate in any projects we had going on. Since they would only be staying a couple of days I decided to ask them to help me finish our rabbit colony, so that we can finally move the rabbits out of our house.

The twos days they were here the kids played and played and played, and we went for a long walk up the mountain, and we talked and talked and talked, and we cooked A LOT – and while I was gone on errands in town they put netting on the rabbit cage – I did not participate at all (Marcus did a little when he wasn’t working).

It is one of those times where the gift of our lifestyle just shines: The kids could play for hours on end, they didn’t have to worry about bedtimes or school (even our 1,5 hour art class on Wednesday felt a little disruptive to the whole flow of their play). The boys played with LEGOs for hours on end, and then video-games, and then outside in the sun, and then back to LEGO, and then some more video-games. The girls would dress up, and put on makeup, and make blanket forts on the terrace, and listen to a grown-up reading Astrid Lingreen stories, and jumping on the trampoline – and really only sit down when they were too tired to play anymore. That we can just do this without having much planning around it, that we can just get this help with the rabbit cage, that the kids can just meet other kids from the other end of Europe and play non-stop except for sleeping and eating for two days straight is such a gift. And once again my children shared their toys and their room with complete strangers and there was no conflict to speak of. It is something that I have become accustomed to, even something I expect when my children meet other children, but that other people point out to me: These kids play for hours on end with practically no conflict, and if there is any they are usually able to solve these conflicts themselves, through negotiation. Mostly the grownups are only needed if someone falls and hits themselves, or when hunger and fatigue hits. This of course also means that we are more needed when the guests have gone home – because the attachment needs of the children don’t go away just because they have friends over for two days – so after they left we spent a few days reading stories and snuggling on the sofa. But the fact that having friends over doesn’t mean more work for us, actually less – we can easily have adult time, and carry adult conversations, is such a gift.

(I finally decided to delete my facebook account – I have long had concerns about privacy but this article finally did it for me: http://www.salimvirani.com/facebook/ – the result though has been that I lost the pictures our hosts took of all our children playing – so you will have to imagine those for the time being. Hopefully she will send them to me on e-mail).

Composting in Dryland areas

Happy New Year – as I have promised for a while now I will post my article on composting – that way I end the year by meeting one of my personal goals.

One of the cornerstones in Permaculture is recycling as much as possible, an cornerstone in recycling is composting.

When we bought the property we were exited to get a compost started – both of us grew up with and “ordinary” compost in our parents gardens in Europe, so we more or less assumed that we could more or less do the same – so we collected our organic trash, and we piled it in something like a keyhole garden and we covered each layer with brown material. After a few weeks we found the first rat in the compost… We got two cats… We later had to move the pile because we needed the space for building materials when we started renovating the house… hardly anything was composted – most of the material had just dried out.

We bought hay-bales and put them in a rectangle with a whole in the middle – hoping they would retain moisture… that did not help. Even though the compost was constantly covered with mulch the composting was painstakingly slow…

So we bought 2 compost bins from compostadores.es. They did help retain the moisture, but the process was still painstakingly slow, and the two bins we had bought were not enough for our use. I found another rat in the bin… (we were not composting milk, meat or other things that might attract rats) the cats were no help…

Last year I got some Californian compost worms from a friend – I didn’t really have much luck with them though… they were slow to reproduce, and when summer came they died 😦 This year I tried again – and I got my hands om some European nightcrawlers. They reproduce even slower than the Californian compost worms, but I figured that if I could only keep them alive long enough, they would not only be good for composting – they could also be a residual income-stream as I would eventually be able to sell the surplus to fishing stores on the coast.

I put them in a BIG planter, and fed them with rabbit-poop (more on the rabbits in a later post) and straw. I figured that the temperature would be more stable in a big planter – I put the planter under a table on the north side of the house and covered it with cardboard, and watered it once a week. This seemed to work for a while, but the compost bin was sitting on concrete and I had no way of catching the worm-tea when I watered the bin, and the water I used was clean tab-water it seemed like a lot of waste… When the temperatures approached 35C in July, I noticed the worms were trying to get out of the bottom of the bin – and I worried that they would die in their attempt to get to somewhere cooler (they’d have to get across the parking lot in front of our house to get to any kind of dirt… So I moved the bin to a small bed i had made underneath a carob tree in front of the house, I buried the bin, so that the temperature would be as cool as possible in the bottom of the bin, or at least the worms could escape to cooler dirt underneath – I was essentially free-ranging the worms (or operating on a “free to leave” philosophy).

In the beginning I would water the worms with gray water from our bathroom, or brown-water from doing dishes. I fed them as much as I thought they could eat – which was still too much… And even if I overfed them I still wasn’t giving them half the waste we have from our kitchen… So I was still using the compost-bins, and they were still not keeping up, so I had to take other buckets into use… At some point at the end of July the worm-bin had suddenly been invaded by what I thought were maggots… at the same time I noticed some flies around the bin that looked like wasps. I looked it up – and I discovered that I had been so lucky as to have attracted Black Soldier-fly Larva (BSFL)! Actually they had already moved in to the compost bins! The bins were hot – even in the sun on a searing hot Andaluzian summer day I could feel the heat rising from the compost bin! And I was worried about my worms – but I quickly learned that if I just stopped feeding them green material, the BSFLs would move away as they don’t eat brown material.

The BSFLs now live in the compost bins – and they can easily keep up with our production of garbage – actually I think one bin would be plenty for us now. I empty our compost-bin in the kitchen every 3 days or so, and by the time I empty the next bin, there is hardly any trace of what I gave them three days ago. I have been separating the green and the brown material, and giving the brown to the worms and the greens to the larvae, but I find that when I do that, the larvae bin tends to smell – and I am figuring that if it smells I am loosing nutrients – so I went back to giving the larvae all of our compost (including most of the rabbit poop and bedding from the rabbit cages): The browns are only partially broken down by the larvae, and is perfect food and bedding for the worms.

BSFL
The black soldier fly larvae bin is alive and kicking

I actually kind of forgot about the worms in August, so I stopped watering them for a long time. I figured, when I got around to them that they would probably be dead… and the bind completely dried out. But when I opened the bin after the first rain this fall, not only did I find that the worms were alive and well – and had multiplied – several trees had germinated in the box too! From now on all seeds go in the worm-bin – it is by far the easiest way to germinate seeds I have ever tried. Actually – we have decided to move the bin around to where we want to plant trees, and then leave the compost in place – and only bring some worms on to the next when we move the bin.

compost-1

One of our problems with the old compost was that we didn’t want to use too much water to compost – but since the BSFL compost the material so fast, the humidity in the food scraps are usually enough. The BSFL also eat everything – including milk and meat. Yesterday I decided to move some of them to our compost toilet bin, so I gave them a small bowl with pieces meat left-over from lunch – the bowl had holes in the bottom, so they could crawl in. This morning the bowl were full of larvae, and there was no trace of the meat. They out-compete any other flies or other vermin because the eat so fast. They do not eat at their mature stadium, nor as mature flies – which means that they don’t spread disease – and their pupae can be fed to dogs or chickens (actually humans can eat them too – I am not personally ready for that, but it is nice to know in a starvation situation…). We do not have a harvesting system set up yet, but I have noticed an increased activity of birds around the bin lately – this summer there was intense activity of wasps, I am hoping that if we attract more birds they will fend off the wasps.

Mango that grew out of the compost bin
Mango that grew out of the compost bin

The rats didn’t disappear with this, so we have now acquired a rat terrier (a Bodeguerro) – I have heard him hunt at night, and I have found a rat tail on the west terrace: He seems a lot more efficient than the cats ever were. This summer we also found a big snake in our garden-beds – I am hoping that the rats are history now… they have destroyed quite a lot of machines around here – including our washing machine #€%!!!&# I hear the dog fighting the rats at night, and one of the next projects will be to move the shed the nest is in, so lets hope we get rid of them completely this year – otherwise we will get another rat terrier.

Avocado trees
Avocados that grew out of the compost bin

The trees were planted out into their permanent spots the weekend after Bill Mollison died – so I regard them as my #plantedforbill contribution. I find it very fitting that the trees that I have planted for him grew out of a worm-bin, from seeds of fruit that we ate in our house. I think he would like that.

The BSFL have slowed down significantly now because of the cold – so I am splitting the food between them and the worms. The worms are much more active for the very same reason. They supplement each other really well.

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas and After The Rain 3

Merry Christmas! I hope everybody has a lovely time and spend time with loved ones, get some time to rewind and relax.

We are celebrating at a very very low pace and it is becoming us well – Christmas eve we were just the 4 of us here, eating good food and opening a few presents, finishing the evening playing a board game with the kids. Christmas day we were with friends, celebrating an English christmas, crackers included.

This past year we have talked a lot about Christmas, because last year Marcus was stressed about all the things he “had” to do to make Christmas special for the kids – but by virtue of him being stressed it turned out less “hyggeligt” than he imagined, which was the opposite of what he wanted… So we talked about not doing anything this year, except presents, and going out on Christmas eve, and not making homemade cookies etc. etc. But we decided against it, because we actually love all those things – including the big Christmas dinner.

We didn’t really decide to cut anything, but to take it slow. We bought the Christmas tree the second week of December and decorated it the next day – it has been standing there in our living room all beautiful and spreading happiness all month – and will be there until January 7th. Cookies were still baked, but a little at a time, and Marcus decided that he was under no pressure to make any specific number, just to do what he felt like – the kids and he have had a lovely time baking together, and there has been no stress. The kids and I went to see the lights in Malaga with friends,  a lovely evening. We have had a traditional Danish Christmas lunch with friends – another lovely evening, and the same day we went to the Danish Christmas market in Fuengirola. So we have been celebrating a lot. But none of it has been stressful, and if any of us have been overwhelmed, we were ready to cancel. Actually we have had more activity out of the house this year than the past 3 years, and we have had more days of Christmas preperation and hygge at home than usual, but it hasn’t felt stressful at all – it is all about the mindset.

Yesterday we were supposed to go to a birthday party with friends in Antequerra, but Marcus and the kids had a cold, and I was coming down from a cold… so we decided to stay home and relax. Miriam and I have been lying in bed watching girly movies, Marcus has spent some time drawing with Lucas (he got an electronic pen from my mother for Christmas), and the rest of the day he was watching some history lectures on YouTube.

Today I have spent most of the day outside – finishing the swale on our terrace where the water is now flowing from the river. The water has slowed down enough for it to sit on the terrace and filter in which gave me a great opportunity to dig the swale while I could see what my efforts meant for the water flow. I’ve included a small video of what I have done here – it is very raw and unedited, but if I am going to make any videos that is how it needs to be!

In the coming year I want to post a lot more on here, including videos – and I want to spend a lot more time in the garden. I would love if we could become almost self-sufficient with meat in 2017. I want to figure out a way to manage my Facebook time! I don’t want to leave Facebook entirely – since I have met so many wonderful people through it – some of whom are coming to help us with our projects January, February and March. But Facebook really fuels my anger, and it is anger at things I have no influence over, so it is really a waste of time. I need to think about how I can find a healthy balance.

After the Rain

Last week Málaga saw some of the worst rain it has seen since 1989, and large parts of the city was flooded, damages on houses roads etc have not yet been estimated, a woman died and several animals have drowned.

It is a tragedy that is increasing in occurance here in Europe and whether it is climate change or poor watershed management, the solution is more or less the same: Plant more trees, make sure water can seep into the ground, slow the water down. Unfortunately the people in charge at government level seem dead set on not slowing the water down, but quite the contrary getting it away as fast as possible: It  isn’t legal to build gabions or check dams on your land, rainwater collection is illegal, you cannot make terraces where none were etc. etc. In addition the public building projects all add far more hard surfaces, and the water drainage lead the water via concrete drainage canals and drainpipes as fast as possible to the rivers and streams. It is a catastrofe waiting to happen… and last weekend it did.

On top of that, many Spanish houses are poorly built, have leaks in the roof, terraces that lean towards the house etc. etc. And most people here don’t have an understanding of the dangers of mold in their house and will simply paint andy moldy spots over and never report it to their insurance, never get it fixed.

Well we have done our best to aviod theses problems when we renovated our house, and I and I am happy to say that it has worked, for the most part at least.

It actually rained for two weeks prior to the big rainstorm, and we even had a smaller rainstorm a week before the big one, which took out our Internet  (which is why I haven’t put up my post about composting). During the first week of rain, I noticed that the ceiling in the living room had a damp spot, and I called our builder up and told him to come and fix it. He came immediately and crawled up on the roof and saw that one of the silicone plugs that sit underneath the screws that hold the roof in place (roof in the living room is metal) was missing, he fixed it on the spot and we haven’t had any leaks anywhere since. The house is dry, through and through.

Last year we had the east and west terraces done, so that their inclination was away from the house, because every time we had a major rain event we would have a large puddle of water on either side of the house, right in front of the kitchen door and the door in Marcus’ office – the latter often times threatening with spilling in on his floor.

On the east terrace we have installed a rainwater garden that collects all the water from the entire terrace (and most of the water from the east side of the roof, bc. the rainwater collection system is malfunctioning again…) down hill from the rainwater garden we have placed big boulders, underneath the garden is pebbles for drainage, and the garden itself is filled with compost with lots of biological material, and the last year we have been mulching it with straw and rabbit manure, which has added even more biological material. So the garden in itself can absorb a lot of water. In addition the terrace has been layed out with flat rocks on dirt – our builders thought us crazy when we didn’t want concrete, but we wanted the terrace to be able to absorb as much water as possible, while still being able to drive on it, and reduce the dust around the house in the summertime. At no time were there ever more than 1cm of water anywhere on the terrace, even though some reports say that at it’s worst the storm delivered 30cm/hour.

On the west terrace we have made the inclination away from the house was well. The inclination is stopped by a small gabion half way between the house and the arroyo, which we had to put in because the pipe from the rainwater system had to run over the ground  for a few meters, because it was the only way the give it the inclination needed to transport the water to the other side of the house. Outside the gabion is a swale filled with pebbles, and outside the swale is a small berm. I have been worried that the gabion would prevent the water from flowing away from the house fast enough, but even at its worst the water wasn’t close to the doorstep, and at most there was 1 cm of water on the terrace. The swale filled completely, but the water just lay there and nothing was ruined (and now a week later the grass is growing vigorously).

The other earthworks that we have built also worked according to intention and nowhere is there any sign of erosion.

But that is the extent of what worked… because what didn’t work was the bridge across the riverbed in front of the house – our driveway. We fixed the road when we fixed the east terrace, and we made sure that the water would drain off of the road, we put in a stone setting around the tube going under the road, and we put in a sunnibowl underneath the tube to catch any soil running out of it. That actually did work really well. What we hadn’t anticipated was that the tube would clog up from leaves, branches and gravel being washed down from our neighbor’s  land. The tube already clogged after the first rainstorm, and ran over the road and started eroding it next to the stone steering we had made, another smaller tube the un-clogged and the rest of the water ended in the small terrace we have created underneath the carob tree. But the second,  bigger rainstorm clogged up the smallest tube again, and now the water had nowhere to go but over the road. The water masses were so enormous that the eroded the stone setting and started eating away at the road… The only reason we can get out is that the road is wider on the other side, because of all the gravel that has been deposited there… This is not actually on our land, but on the neighbour’s land, and we will have to work with him to fix it. Fortunately his insurance might cover it. At the end for the driveway, the municipal road is badly damaged and is in need of a serious amount of love and care. We will not be able to get our Berlingo out across that part before it has been fixed (thank God we bought a 4WD), and if we wait for the ayuntamiento that will probably not happen any time soon… But one of the neighbor’s have been driving around fixing his part of the road, so I’m thinking maybe I can persuade him to do the same at our end.

The parts of our land that have been left to complete and utter neglect have before entering holding up OK – the fact that the goats haven’t been grazed here for two years means that a lot of small bushes and grazes have sprung up, and this held on to most of the soil. I haven’t made a complete assessment of the damages tough.

I promised myself that I would post this before the end of this week, so I will post it now, and then when I can get to my pictures I will add them (I don’t have electricity and my computer is out of battery, so I am writing on a tablet, while the pictures are on my computer).

Planting Apples from Seed

These days I listen to “The Survival Podcast “ almost every day – Jack has an in-depth knowledge of Permaculture and an “Fear not and Farm on” attitude towards end of the world scenarios that are usually so rampant in the Permaculture and Survivalist world. His explanation of Permaculture on his YouTube Channel is actually also an excellent “non hippie, non socialist” introduction to the world of permaculture, to people who think that permaculture is about hippies bathing in mud-baths and “sharing the surplus”.

Jack interviewed Mark Shepard from New Forest Farm. Mark is one of those Permaculture heroes, who show us that we can grow sustainable food and make a profit. He is showing farmers how to ditch the fertilisers and pesticides and at the same time become more resilient to pressure from big box supermarkets who continuously lower prizes to the point where many farmers are close to bankruptcy.

Well the story of todays blogpost is a result of something Mark said about planting apple seeds – which struck a coord with me: He said that if every child planted a seed from every apple they ate, we would soon have a 100 new varieties of eating apples (or something along those lines). 

So I have started doing that – and since apples are kept on cold storage in the supermarkets, many seeds had already sprouted when I took them out of the apple (those who weren’t have been put in the fridge in water for a few days and sprouted shortly thereafter). 

Since I eat at least an apple a day, and my daughter usually does the same, and one apple contains at least 4 seeds, this amounts to something very quickly. I will actually be running out of space to plant seeds in fast if I don’t think of something to do with it. 

Now some will – and indeed some have – argued that you cannot plant fruit trees from seed. And I will argue back that mother nature has done that for millennia before man invented grafting, root stock propagation etc. I know that the apple that comes out of the seed will not be “true to type”, and that I will not get uniformity by doing so. 

I know all that – but that is not the point of growing apples from seed. The point is biodiversity. I may not get a good eating apple – or maybe I will get one out of the hundreds of little trees that comes out of my daily apple-eating. First of: More biodiversity gives us more disease resistance, which means less need for fighting pests. We may not get a good eating apple, but instead we might get an apple that makes great cider, or an apple that make for good pig food (and porc chops finished on apples should be some of the best meat in the world).

If I can grow 8 apple trees pr day … or even just one – I can grow a hedge in my garden pretty fast, and even if it never gives me any apples that I like, they will bloom and give food for bees in the spring, and they will hold on to the soil, and hold ducks in and produce biomass. I will be able to feed a goat with the leaves and branches that I cut of and use the wood in my pizza-oven or a rocket mass stove, or for smoking fish, and if I have too much of it I can cut it into woodchips and use it for mulch. Or I can graft an apple onto the root, which I do like, and then the root stock will have been free of cost. 

The point is that in Permaculture we don’t grow apple-trees for the fruit alone – function stacking is at the hart of Permaculture, and in that respect, and apple tree has many functions aside of producing apples. 

And if I am lucky – in the course of a lifetime, I might grow an apple that I can name after myself “The Granny Hoff” apple or something kind of like it (and that is actually part of the story behind the famous Granny Smith Apple). 

Permaculture Malaga – Reducing the Need for an Income

One of the basic ideas in Permaculture is to reduce the need for an income. There are many reasons for this; if we don’t have to go to work every day we consume less, we have more free time to spend with our family and friends, to build community. We also don’t contribute as much to unethical tax-spending, we contribute less to an unethical monetary system if we have less need for money, and we have more time to volunteer for community work etc.

When I stopped working we cut away an income that was corresponding to buying a small car every year. Back then we were big time consumers – two engineers with high incomes, big apartment etc. etc. We had a big car, ate take-away many times a week, spend a lot of money on clothes, gadgets, vacations etc. Some of these things simply just had to go if we were to have me stay at home. I was easy to make these cuts – as soon as we made it known that we would accept 2nd hand clothes, the bags of clothes started pouring in through the door, since I was no longer stressed out of my wits cooking from scratch was so much easier, and the amount of take-away days plummeted to almost zero. We took fewer and cheaper vacations etc. etc.

But the BIG expenses were still there – we still had the car (ask my husband about his relationship to public transportation – not very permie there 😉 ), we still had the mortgage, we didn’t grow food, we used immense amounts of money on electricity and heating (we lived in Denmark). But with one income (albeit a big one) we were living very very comfortably.

Now we are trying to reduce the need for money even more. The primary reason of this is to build resilience: In Rich Dad/Poor Dad – Robert T. Kiyosaki defines wealth as the period of time you would be able to sustain your current lifestyle if you stopped working tomorrow. And that has at least as much to do with how much you spend as it has with how much you earn and put away. When you get to a place where you make more than you spend, that is when you have a surplus – which in some interpretations is where the third ethic of permaculture comes in “return the surplus”, ie. you can reinvest in people care and earth care.

My in-laws were extremely frugal in their lives – it was the way they were raised. This frugality has enabled us to own the house we now live in 100% in a very short time. This eliminates the mortgage-payment or rent – which were 10.000 dkr/month (ca. €1300) when we lived in Denmark and €750/month when we lived down in the village in our rented house. To most people, that is approximately what they earn after taxes… Not long ago in our culture, having a mortgage wasn’t the norm. One of my friends told me that it used to be the norm in Spain, that when people got married, their wedding present would be their first house. These days parents will say with pride “I will leave nothing for you, I will have spent it all!” The reason they are proud is of course that they know that their kids are strong enough to take care of themselves, but the down side to this thinking is, that most couples need two incomes to pay off a mortgage in their younger years, when they actually need to have time to establish their family, and spend time with their kids. Imagine starting off your life together not owing anyone a dime! This is what my in-laws have given us the opportunity to experience, and we are trying very hard to spend the present in the manner and spirit it was given. It means that should Marcus lose his job tomorrow, we would be able to get by even if he doesn’t receive unemployment benefits, and even if he can’t find a job immediately.

Next up is electricity and heating. Once we have the money we will install solar panels, and when that is done, we will no longer have any expenses for electricity – which right now is one of our big expenses as the house is off-grid and we use a generator to power it up (which has in turn taught us to think about when and why we use electricity).

Heating is too, as there is not heat source in the house, and we are learning that indeed a stone house is cold in the winter in Andalusia – we need heating, even if it is just a little bit of it. Right now we have a gas stove, but since we have some 200 olive trees that need pruning once in a while anyway, we will build one or two rocket mass stoves: One in either end of the house (I know that if the house was smaller, we could make do with one – but that is just not us).

The last really big expense on our budget is food, and since we value high quality food, it is a big expense – we find it very very difficult to cut costs here without feeling deprived. This means that growing our own food is number one on our list for next year – that is the project we will focus on. We will start out with growing the vegetables and fruits we eat most of – potatoes, oranges, peppers etc, then eggs and meat, hopefully rabbits, and a few pigs.

Bit by bit we should be able to sell the surplus, but being able to feed your own family is like printing your own money: It is tax-free, inflation free – and most importantly free of pesticides, penicillin, MRSE-bacteria etc.

What would your life be like if you did not have to pay a mortgage, electricity, heating or food? Can you imagine how much freedom you would have, to design your life just like you wanted it? If someone gave you the opportunity to get that tomorrow, what would you do?

Og en meget dyr hestestald

Vi har været ude og kigge på hus i dag. Lidt nedslående og også lidt opløftende. For vi har set et hus vi kan lide, i et prisleje vi synes er realistisk. Haven er ikke helt stor nok synes vi (3000 m2), men det går (hvis man kan få den ned i pris kan man måske endda købe grunden ved siden af, som der ikke var noget hus på, men til gengæld masser af oliventræer).

De andre… var bare små! 65 m2 uden mulighed for at udvide. Den ene dog med den mest fantastiske have (og den var 4000 m2, mere i retning af hvad vi leder efter). Men altså, vi kan jo for pokker ikke bo på 65 m2…

Men det bedste var det sidste sted vi så: Det var en hestestald! Jeps en fin hestestald, med en vognport og et fint saddelrum (der var tilmed kogeplader!) og toilet. JoJo! Og lidt land var der da også, med to-tre frugttræer på. Altså det meste var asfalteret, resten var grus. Men det var da land, man kunne måske have en hest gående derude… hvis man altså er spanier og ikke bekymrer sig om hvor ens heste går… eller noget. Men så var prisen til gengæld til at forstå: €215.000. Og de var helt uforstående da vi gik igen med det samme – jamen der er toilet! Flot, en stald med toilet, til over 1,5 mill. DKR – har du hørt at det er krisertider? At bunden er gået ud af boligmarkedet?

LOL, men måske hvis vi var desperate?

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑