New project – The greenhouse
After talking and maybeing about it for a few years, we finally decided to go for a greenhouse. We were not too convinced by the standard rectangular model made out of Eucalyptus poles that you normally see here because we are a bit afraid of the strong winds that we sometimes get and would rather sleep assure that the thing would not be flying past us with the first storm. On the other hand, the polytunel-like ones that are commercially available were huge, so Magnus had to get creative. He ended up building his own custom design model which is coming along really nicely. He got metal at the hardware store, we paid someone to bend them for us (relatively speaking the most expensive part of the project) and then he figured out how to secure the whole thing to the ground and then again to itself. I’m sure he can give the details in his characteristically very much detailed manner but he won’t blog anymore so you’ll have to be happy with my crappy explanation and quite bad pics. Then we got the “profiles”, or the things that run along the tunnel where one attaches either the plastic or the summer shadow mesh, at the company that sells the huge greenhouses. Again Magnus figured out a way to place them so that we can lift the plastic during warm winter days to ventilate but at the same time allows us to attach the shadow mesh so that it will hang all the way down in order to keep out all the tomato-hungry birds and other evils from the animal kingdom.
As hard as it may be to believe, we did not have any good soil to fill the boxes with, so we went for: hay in the bottom, one layer of fresh horse bedding on that, and a final layer of a mixture of rotten straw bale and composted horse bedding. This was then watered with “bostol” (cow manure based homemade fertilizer) and will now be left alone for a month before planting anything. I’ll try to update on this sooner than in the three to six month period we usually operate under.
I previously wrote that I was changing the setup of my beds. Well, I started and then realized I would never manage to do that whole job and change the watering lines as well so I stopped. I will do it in the future though because I still think that the current setup is far from optimal and I do get annoyed by it every time I water and end up with puddles in the end of my beds (everything is sloping down). But for now I continue doing what I have been doing all along which is trying to grow food whilst improving the soil. The access to big amounts of horse bedding is helping big time and I can’t wait to see the full results of it. At the moment I notice a general well being and good growth in onions, garlic, spinach and mustard and I see more and more earthworms every time I dig to plant something or pull out weeds. Also, the weeding is so much easier! Before I would have to pull with all my strength and often ended up landing on my bum when the weed finally gave way. Now its just a bit of pulling and its done. Faster, easier, so much better. And fewer weeds as well.
We had a very nice and very dry winter with a few relatively hard frosts which I think resulted in super blooming from all the trees. Almonds, apricots, peaches, quince, blackberry, citruses, prunes, grape vines, mulberry, acacias… Everything flowered or is flowering and some things even have fruits coming along. It’s just so nice!. I get so exited! It reminds me of Agnes the little girl from “Despicable me” when she hears the story of the unicorn at a bar and she is about to explode the further the man goes into the story. It simply makes my day to see plants growing and flowering and I so hope we some day can get lots of veg and fruits and never again buy from the grocery store.
On the veg side we have beetroots, kale, fava beans, onions, garlic and leeks coming along well and this year I won’t repeat last years mistake (basically no care due to lack of time) and I am really spoiling my onions and garlics. We’ve had quite a good harvest of spinach and chard that lasted for two-three months and they are now starting to flower. I have potatoes in the ground and sweet potatoes too (to harvest shoots that are then transplanted). New batch of chard is going in these days and soon its time to plant peanuts, corn and transplant all the tomatoes and all the Curcurbitaceaes (melon, watermelon, loofa, cucumber, zucchini, round gourd, pumpkin). I am also extremely proud to say that I have hardly bought any seeds this year. I did buy some extra onion plants and garlic heads, but that’s about it.
We keep moving forward slowly. I have to admit that working, even if it is half days, does take away huge amounts of time especially because there is always so much more to do in addition to the actual teaching hours. So again, like during the last winter holidays, I am managing to catch up and blog because I took a week off. It happened to be on the exact time of an outbreak here in Carmelo so its extra ok to be home.
We are also working on the lack of flora knowledge here and for that I decided to go for more walks in the forest and start a herbarium with the kids. Once we started it sufficed to collect 20 meters around the house though. They quickly realized how many different things grow just in front of our noses that we don’t know what they are. The whole process reminded me very much of my own field courses and I felt for my teacher Reidar Elven who had 20 students asking: “what is this?”, “Reidar, Reidar, what is this?”, “what is this?”. Poor man. This meant I could not manage to identify much under such pressure but we got some species names at least and I do feel a little less ignorant. Most importantly, the kids loved it and it was really cool to see how enthusiastic they were. Next time we’ll probably have to collect in the forest.
Well, that’s all for now.