Solar Powered!

We are having solar panels installed today! Right now our solar guy is in my room hooking up the entire system to the house – and once he is done, we have power. Well actually that just happened! Which is super crazy – the truck was here yesterday, and now we have electricity without the noise from the generator, for the first time in over 3 years! No more generator – unless it is cloudy for more than 3 days in a row. I don’t know how many of those streaks we’ve had of those in these last 3 years… We’ve had one cloudy week this winter (we’ve had plenty of cloudy days, but seldom more than a couple in a row) – but I think that is the only time I remember… Maybe that is a little optimistic – but if that stat holds we will need the generator once every 3 years. Nah – I don’t think that will hold, but let’s see. This is a big milestone – a really really big milestone. 

Panels arriving yesterday


It will save us a lot of money – since Marcus has needed electricity for his job 8-9 hours pr. day…  Those savings will then enable us to move forward on a lot of other projects around here. Which will hopefully make us self-sufficient in food at some point. We should have done it from the beginning – but hindsight is 20-20, and we didn’t and now we have and that is good 🙂

The inverter??? (gosh and I pretend to be an engineer…)

I am super tired – stayed up way too late last night, and woke up at 5:30 (as I do now with this new diet), did yoga, meditated, made breakfast – woke up my son and had breakfast with him, went to Granada to the dentist (have found a wonderful holistic dentist that make the drive worth my while), back to pick up my daughter who was on a sleepover so she didn’t have to tag along. She was super tired and grumpy too – too little sleep on sleep overs… So I think I will lay down on the couch and enjoy the luxury of electricity 🙂

And the panels were up!

Oh – I just wanted to add this little picture: The fig-tree that died last year has sprouted from the root. To me it represents everything that we were struggeling with last year, which comes to fruition this year.

A little fig-tree sprouting from the root of a dead tree
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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.

 

Homeschooling and Permaculuture

In a recent thread in the Cider Press on http://www.permies.com there was a question as to whether Homeschooling was a part of Permaculture. At the time I had not earned enough apples to answer with my thoughts and by the time I had I couldn’t find it. I have been giving it a lot of thought though, and thought I would write an blog post about it.

First of all – homeschooling is not mentioned in the Permaculture Designers Manual, not even in connection to Social Capital and People Care, so technically homeschooling is not part of permaculture per se.

Yet I feel very deeply that maybe it should be – for several reasons. This doesn’t mean that people who don’t agree with this or who doesn’t want to homeschool shouldn’t use permaculture in many other areas of life, I am as always open to everyone finding the way that works best for their family – even if I don’t agree, it is not really any of my business.

First of all growing up in the care of your parents and learning from their work is the natural way of learning for children. Relationship matters, attachment matters – which is why Homeschooled children of even poorly educated parents do better than their schooled peers (cf. Gordon Neufeld TEDx – Relationship Matters). It is the way children have grown up all through history, it is what they are hardwired to do. In Permaculture we work with nature not against it – and taking children and putting them into class rooms away from the real world and teaching them about the real world is in my view akin to monocropping (esp. if those schools maintain the custom of the industrial age of age segregation). Children learn by doing (don’t we all?) and there is very little doing in a school, and when ever there is doing it is artificially set up to meet the learning goal of the teacher – there is very little room for detours into other areas, when those glorious moments happen, the teacher is often forced to bring the kids “back to subject” because they have a curriculum to cover. The organic learning situations where you talk about one subject and bounce of to the next have very little space – and in todays test oriented schools there is less and less time for these ventures. The way we learn when we have those organical talks, shows us that everything is interconnected, and that indeed is also what permaculture teaches us.

My second objection to schools in relation to Permaculture is that it teaches children to fit in, which also teaches the children to be far more materialistic than they necessarily need to be. In my opinion the whole sickness of “keeping up with the Joneses” is founded in school – it comes mainly from peer pressure, which stems with children spending a disproportionate amount of time with other children and not with parents, grandparents etc. Peer orientation is described in the excellent book “Hold On to Your Kids” by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté. I have many friends who have struggles with their children around which stuff is OK to buy or not – struggles that I don’t have… my children have very short wish lists for christmas and birthdays and they have always worn second hand clothes, and not once have they complained about it. We learn in school that we need to learn things that we find boring because that is the only way to get a “good education” which is the only way to get a “good job” (which usually means something that isn’t manual labour, which also means something that makes more money than manual labor, even if it is never explicitly said that way). So we suffer through drudgery, to someday be able to make more money than the next guy… more or less. And in our jobs we then again we suffer through drudgery. The better we are at accepting the suffering, and the better we are at parroting the teacher, the better grades we get and the better grades we get the better schools/universities we can get into later on in life. This is exactly the circle we are trying to break in permaculture. Many many people in permaculture have stopped the race to the top, stepped off the corporate ladder to only God knows where, to take their own life in their own hands. I think it would be wonderful to raise children who do not see that as the only possible future for them.

Before I close of today’s rant I want to plug this little video Schooling the World – White Man’s Last Burden which is about how the western cultures have pushed our values on indigenous cultures across the world, among others by schooling them. I saw this and many many pieces of a puzzle I had been working on in my head fell in place. A few years earlier I had read a book by a Danish pedagog  Erik Sigsgaard “Er Opdragelse Nødvendig?” (Is Upbringing Nessesary?) where he questions whether parents really need to teach their children anything, and one of his points in the book was that the Danish nobility were talking about the peasants and their ways of raising children, saying that those peasants were always talking about “what the child wanted”, and off course, when the first schools were introduced by the nobility, they promised the parents to treat the children as well as they would be at home – one letter even promised that off course they wouldn’t hit the children! A few decades later it was of course quite a different song, and even today schools complain that parents spoil the children so that they haven’t learned to bow to the collective in the class. When public daycare was introduced in Denmark in the 60s and 70s the pedagogs there would talk about how the children were “protesting institutionalisation” when they cried while being dropped off by their mothers in the morning, today they claim that the children are simply mirroring the mothers mixed emotions about dropping them off (blame the mother always…). This paired with the John Holt book “Escape from Childhood” and Sugata Mitra’s TED talk about Self-teaching made me realise that school is the experiment, not unschooling. Unschooling is what children have done always, schooling is a new thing. It hasn’t just been shoved down the throats of the indigenous people’s of the world – it has been shoved down the throat of the working peoples of the West too – to serve some very specific purposes to some very specific people. That is not a goal I want to continue to contribute to. And I realised that even if numerous reformers have tried to change schools from within, they have never really achieved the one thing that schools cannot do: Let children learn in their natural environment, which is the family (and the tribe), among people who love them unconditionally. To me homeschooling is the ultimate people care. To do that we need to trust children, and to trust parents, like we trust nature.

Children learn what they live, and if we want them to learn permaculture they need to live permaculture. For my children composting is the most natural thing in the world, finding edibles in nature normal, reducing consumption hardly a thing they think about, they just don’t consume very much, reusing resources and recycling is not something they learn with big posters and flyers – they live it every day. Not perfectly always, but who is? That is why I think unschooling and permaculture go hand in hand – we are trying to create a better planet for our children, but we also want those children to grow up and be responsible stewards of the land – and that we cannot teach them by putting them in buildings of concrete and steel and teaching them about environmentalism.

10 Years of Marriage – How Things Change

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This Friday Marcus and I celebrated our 10 years anniversary. The picture above is our wedding picture.  Looking at it feels like staring into another world… how we have changed! How our values have changed!

Our wedding was a huge deal with all the trimmings, morning suit, silk dress (tailor made), star chef, party in an old manor house an hours drive from Copenhagen. Back then I was working in the medical industry as a statistical programmer/project manager, Lucas was in day-care – way earlier than is the norm in Denmark, because … reasons, don’t really remember them. Marcus had his own business trying to develop some kind of remote control for your home entertainment system (Chrome cast much and a touchpad kind of thing). It never really did fly – and seeing which players he would have competed against, he might not have made it regardless. We were living in a big apartment in Copenhagen, a few weeks after the wedding we bought a big car. Loads of debt, loads of spending. Loads of surface.

We were also really tired: We had a sick kid, two full time careers, we were renovating our apartment. We were arguing a lot… at none of us were getting our needs met. But that one day at our wedding was wonderful. We loved each other and we were going to make it through. This was the dream, we were living it! We had EVERYTHING.

6 moths later, and the first stress breakdown in the bag, I just wanted stay home with my kid. I was so tired! And I felt that someone else got the best hours of my kid while all I did was to lie with him at night trying to prevent him from scratching himself to sleep. But Marcus had married a career woman – he could not imagine that I would be happy as a stay at home mom. He could not imagine that I could live without the intellectual stimuli I got from work. But continuing down the road we were on made me sick, like I could only think about sleeping, and I cried most of the time. At some point Marcus read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, I don’t remember when – and it changed everything for us: He decided to listen, he decided to give it a try. I don’t know if we would have still been married had it not been for that… maybe he would have accepted my wish regardless, but I remember that talk, where he said “OK – tell me what it is that you want?” And we put our minds together and figured out how to make it work.

Everything else came later – the consciousness about the value of ecologic food, high nutrition, the consciousness about the economy, environment etc. We moved to Spain, and suddenly we decided to move off grid, to build our own house, to grow our own food, to unschool. But the first step was deciding to listen to each other, to look for win-win situations. It isn’t like we are perfect at non-violent communication yet – but this one step was the first one in a journey of self-development that I could have not imagined possible 10 years ago. Always as partners, always trying to find a better way to be there for each other and our selves, trying to meet all of our needs – including those of our children – without the other party having to sacrifice theirs.

This weekend Marcus invited me for a romantic get-away. We haven’t done that since we had our kids (a few weekends they have stayed with grandma though), for many reasons, but this being our 10 years anniversary we decided to really go to town. He had rented a hotel room, book a table at an amazing fish restaurant in Malaga city, and the children were with friends all weekend (each their own friend, for the first time ever). It was like stepping back into that world again – that world where I had been so comfortable before, but now I was a little out of place – I haven’t had a hair cut at a hair dresser in years, my clothes are a little worn, my shoes a lot! I felt self-conscious, I looked at my husband insecurely and said “I need new shoes before we go to the restaurant!” He looked at me and smiled and said “don’t do it for my sake, I think you look fine! Always!” So we went out to wine and dine, and I forgot my scruffy shoes – and we had excellent local seafood and a lot of cava and enjoyed our little trip back to luxury land. But now we are back on the mountain, after days of walking in Malaga, loads of good food (that hasn’t changed – never will I believe), loads of cava, holding hands and talking. Just enjoying each other’s company – as always, regardless of where we are: He is my best friend, my companion in life, my life-witness.

#thisguy #weekendgetaway #10yearsmarried #feelingspoiled

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The most amazing thing about this journey is that we have been able to travel it together, that we have changed together and moved in the same direction. One of us could have easily have moved in one direction and the other in the direct opposite – but for me the love for my husband has made me willing to listen with intent to understand, to support and help him, and that has made this journey possible for me. I could have not done it without him.

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

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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

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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.

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.

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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 2

Last week when I posted about the rain I promised that once the internet was up and running again I would post the pictures. And then the internet worked again, and my computer broke… and since all the pictures were on it I wasn’t really able to just make do with the tablet as I did last week. Well now it is working again (though it might be temporarily – it is old… but I will get and external screen set up in my office and work there). I’m posting the pictures here instead of in the post from last week – that way I make sure that people who have already read the post will see it.

The first video is right after the first rain: The water had blocked the big tube under the road, but then it had washed away the block from an old tube – much much smaller, which we hadn’t been able to see on the neighbors side of the road so we had actually started building a wall in front of it. That wall is washed away now.

The second video is the east terrace, with the rainwater garden – it doesn’t look like it is raining that hard, but it was seriously raining cats and dogs. and yet nowhere is there more than 1cm of water on the terrace, and the garden just absorbed all of it (and now we have mushrooms growing in the rain water garden).

 

Here the water is seriously starting to run over the road, the small pipe is blocked again and the water has no-where else to run… If we had only used one more truckload of rocks to cover that side of the road, I think it would have been able to handle it.

The last video is basically more of the same thing, just worse.

Quick note: We have had a few leaks in the roof… quite annoying. Compared to many others (a friend of mine had a waterfall down her stairs and had to leave the house with her kids), it is minor, but still… really bugs me. One is where the builders didn’t do as I told them to, two is where we have a metal roof and one of those they didn’t put in the silicone plug under the screw so the water could get in through that hole, don’t know what the reason is the last place which I discovered today. It is really annoying that they don’t seem to know how to prevent water from coming in down here – esp. since they don’t take the health risks wrt. mold in the house seriously.

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).

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