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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Spring action

The frogs are croaking in pond and the tree-frogs are beeping, and it's about time I got this latest blog posted!  Yes, they indeed beep, a kind of electronic-type sound, very musical.  I was a wee bit skeptical, until our friend and neighbour Dan really saw and heard a tree frog, on a tree, not so long ago. Small and green. Here's one....


Due to delays in publication, I need to backtrack to late March, when Varzea da Goncala was in PDC fever...  18 participants are here for 12 days for what is our 12th Permaculture Design Course. It's always a great occasion with shiny happy people everywhere with permaculture dreams in their heads.  Cue group-photo....



Permaculture is often laid claim to as being something new, whereas you only have to go back a couple of generations, in Portugal at least, or to traditional agriculture anywhere, to find that then everything was permaculture.  In this context, I understand the criticism of those who talk of it as a novel concept.

Sustainability simply means living without external energy input, and in the days before cheap oil or solar cells, there was no other way. Period, to use US parlance.

But the transformation of agriculture, fueled by cheap oil, leading to general abandonment of old ways and wise, sustainable practices, justifies a new way of thinking, and permaculture represents an approach based on choice rather than absolute necessity. This is what makes it interesting.     Since it is often asked, what is permaculture, I will give my best shot...

The term was coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Australia in the 1980's as an amalgamation of the words permanent and agriculture.


The philosophy is based on following nature's ways, where systems are self-sustaining in the long term.  By interacting judiciously with natural systems, and intervening in ways based on observation and awareness, permaculture aims to bring out the best of nature's inherent power and productive potential.  


Permaculture can also be seen as a respecting of ways which were well-known and practiced throughout human history, simply because where external inputs were not available, the maximum output by necessity had to be made of the local natural system, in order to grow food to survive, as well as to allow interactive community relationships to flourish.  Humans used to be an integral part of nature, and permaculture is an expression of the fact that we need to recognise this as our future salvation..

We can see permaculture as a philosophy, and a call to understanding, as opposed to a set of instructions to be followed. This philosophy is thankfully grounded in the connection with the earth, so that ideas that are flawed simply don't work.  And the lasting success of permaculture is based on the fact that it works.


Its power is in how it can act as a focus for practical creativity, based on ancient wisdom and modern science, putting ideas together, to be tried and tested in our very real world.

As the late, great, Bill Mollison said, "it can get as simple or as complicated as you like".

Straight after the PDC, we had Chaym's Holistic Gardening course, with 7 students for 6 days in a very practice-based workshop.  Here are the most of the gang, on my session with them, planting in the future food forest on the irrigation channels (still then, awaiting the spring-cutting)....



A completely different type of event, with people getting their hands dirty and a few sore muscles and blisters from hefting enxadas!  To me, this is critical to learning - it can't be only mental. No connection is made without action.  

To quote Bruce Lee, a philosopher as well as legendary exponent of martial arts....  “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough: we must do.”  And a favourite Bruce Lee contribution, his concise interpretation of "right action" from the Toaist noble eightfold path - "You must Act!"    


The issue of action, or lack of it...   It is my contention that the only real learning comes from action, and, further, that this learning tends to take place when you don't realise it's happening. All the stuff that people think they are learning, because they are filling their heads with conceptualisations and imagining possible enactments, is just brain-blah, ready to be returned to nothing it came from (then usually replaced by some other mental version of shangri-la-la). 


We have a steady stream of dreamers here (all good people, don't get me wrong) who just love to talk, and talk.... Doing, is quite something else, which, for most would-be world-changers, is a step too far.



Meanwhile, our Bridge came down - that was a great bit of action!  It had been slowly rotting away underneath, and leaning ever more, then supported by ropes. But the week before the pdc I took a good look under, and decided it had to come down to avoid this happening with people on it.  A great spectacle for all the valley kids, as a pre-friday-film-night show. Ben cut the ropes, it teetered, and then had to be pulled lightly to bring her down, after 20 years.  Over the next couple of days, Ben knocked up this replacement out of the remains....




The weather!    Warm and sunny for about 3 weeks. Not typical April weather, though "typical" isn't a very relevant word these days.   The cistus flowers are in full display....

At the Várzea, construction in the kids' area is still in progress, and the spring cutting is nearly done and early setting up of irrigation needed by the dry spring.  Every year the biomass to cut is more, and the spring cut, before the end of the rains, has multiple functions...



It blankets the ground with still mostly fleshy green growth, which has a chance to partially rot down before the summer dry, also providing a mulch (that's a term for anything which protects the top layer of the soil, keeping it moist and full of soil life).  Next, it triggers a reaction from the plants to downsize their root network, so creating a huge food recourse for the microbial systems and soil life in general, while opening up pathways for drainage and oxygen infiltration.  Finally, it also means less flammable dry biomass above ground, lowering the summer fire-risk.

Amazingly, this procedure of spring, and then end-of-summer cutting, has, over a period of 9 years, built up at least 10cm of quality topsoil in areas which were severely eroded by floods over the 20 or so years of abandonment.


And Chaym's garden's looking GOOD!...                       




and here are Chaym and Petra in the greenhouse tropical zone...



Alex and Nicky, and their boys Theo and Phoenix, have gone back to UK plc.  Mostly provoked by education choice,  I am sad to see them go, and miss them as good friends. For what it's worth, I see it as a regression, prompted by unnecessary values.

Many people are disillusioned and feel trapped by "the system", but mental escapism is rife. Head-based "solutions" are everywhere, either conjured by well-intenders or money-makers.  I just opened a link to an organisation called the "8 shields" (you may check it out, and maybe it will greatly enhance your life, as I am told it has many). I see 8 varieties of head-stuff, a clichéd mix of words like regenerative, immersive, etc - it fact more buzz-words than you can shake a stick at.  And the glaring absence of any reference to ACTION.  Oops, there I go again...

Only, please spare me the gurus, spiritual-mongers and conspiricists - if you want to connect to your spirit, you could plant a tree, bake a cake, or a bird-box, or make a anything you can relate to positively. I think you may find it works a whole lot better than meditating for an hour (you may also find it helps the meditation work too - see, you get a feedback system working then).

I really must send this blog out into the ether and synapses of the vast world wide web, and give, also, some credit to the assistance at the Várzea at the moment given by Ben and by Kevin, Lili, and Jana, all of whom have been here for both spring courses and are now helping with mulching, irrigation, chicken-husbandry, and such like.

Well, here are Lili and Kevin anyway (the dog's name escapes me)...

Enjoy a creative spring, and thanks for reading and putting up with my rantin.!









Sunday, February 12, 2017

February fun and frolics...

Tempus fugit, as they say, and the merrie month of February is once again upon us - in fact, right on top of us.  It's a wet, wet weekend at Várzea da Gonçala, and also high time to get another Várzea Blog out.

We've had plenty of rain, and we've had a icy (oh yes!) spell, with several nights of minus 4 and 5. Took lots of plants by surprise, and 3 young orange trees are in critical condition, and on the bright side, it blasted the annoying invasive Oxalis, and many other sensitives besides - also on critical are my neem and avocado and guava trees.

Ice on the pond, and a beautiful morning scene....

Life's been active and stable (really, it isn't always!).  My brother John paid a visit. He's thinking of coming here to settle one day - for sure her niece, Megan, would be very happy if that happens.




Daniel is coming to the 
end of his 2 and a half month volunteer stay - he's a theatre technician in Geneva in another part of his life.  The best news is that he plans coming back for next winter again - his quiet energy and care for his work, and relaxed outlook has been great to have around.  Here he is, on the right, working on the trees with Eric (left) and myself...

The focus of activity has changed from the autumn's mostly land-based work to infrastructure.  We are doing lots of work in and outside our houses, and I am having lots of fun working on additions to the childrens' play area.  

First, extending the "tea house" - not to be confused with the Tree House opposite, with re-located little slide, and joining the two with suspended monkey-bars, making an above-ground link from the Tree House, to the newly-extended "tea-house"


The new bars being demonstrated by Megan.





Then came the new high circular swing, which is a total instant-hit...


... and a new sand-pit.   Ready to add sand....   

.... and filled...

But that is not all - oh no, that is not all...!  Still on my list are swinging-bars, a trapeze-swing, a tunnel, a den, a water-feature and a sun-dial (nobody ever has a watch around here and it is useful to know the time-of-day sometimes). 

... more in the next Blog!

The geese are doing a great job of making the future food forest look like park-land...

We have moved them to the adjoining land for now to let the grasses grow back.  The 4 (beaky, the male, and 3 females - happily last year's single new arrival was female) lay between them 2 huge eggs daily.

Daniel has pruned our ancient Fig tree - now looking very elegant and breathing easily again after being somewhat bedraggled last year - we look forward to a super fig crop from this queen of our trees as a result.

The swallows just arrived, on 8th February, a week later than last year, and it's great to see them checking out their nest-sites of last year - how they find them??  


Plenty of plausible explanations of magnetic fields etc, but then all done by "instinct" - I love the way people bandy this word about, to describe and "explain" just about everything in the natural world which they can't explain at all!

Its an invented word, useful in efectually dismissng the great mystery of life. While at the same time maintaining our (human) assumption of superiority over the rest of the living world - ie, we can figure things out, while every other creature or plant does things in a kind of programmed (ie, wherein life doesn't play a part) way.

Look at it that way, you see the irony:  The word instinct, when referring to people refers to someone who is in touch with the connectivity of energy all around us. Yet, referring to animal behaviour, the Oxford dictionary has instinct as: An innate, typically fixed pattern of behaviour in animals in response to certain stimuli.  What happened to the magic??

I hope we can gain the humility to accept the enormity of the mystery, of which we and our science understands but a minute fraction, but in which nature dances perpetually.

But I digress.... Robins are another kettle of fish...


At the end of  January (in other years this has happened in mid-Feb) we suddenly had the friendly little birds everywhere, many of them juveniles. They migrate from northern europe,   This year the northerly winds which brought the cold weather seems to have carried them here in great numbers, but with a week of icy conditions. it's been hard for them.

Bird boxes are going up too.  Actually we could use a few dozen to accommodate our pending bird-frenzy in the next couple of months. The hole-dimensions are critical to who comes to reside.

Another great boost to our Várzea group is that Kris (my wife)'s son Ben is back with us after being here a few years back.  He's a great person to have around and also doing some quality work in the houses and in our infrastructure generally. 

We also get out of the Várzea sometimes - though not so far!  A regular is our firewood-missions - here with me, Alex, Ben (blue t-shirt) and Daniel in the chaos left after eucalyptus-harvesting, gleaning dead trees....


We have new Dutch neighbours up the hill, and Dirk there is a very competent mechanic, and in return for fixing up the starter-motor on my pick-up we had a work-day, 4 of us, digging out a half-meter of earth behind his house to stop the water running across his floor...



... these exchanges are what make great friends out of neighbours.


The rain is falling here at the Várzea, and I'm getting chilly sitting here my wifi spot - the cable to my yurt needs a new plug fitted - so I'm launching this blog issue into the infotainment super-highway for your delectation... 


PS   We still have places available on our 2 spring courses here at Várzea da Gonçala - PDC from 24th March and our Chaym's gardening masterclass from 8 to 13 April.   Full info on this website!  Tell your friends!!



Saturday, December 17, 2016

GREEN! Solstice winter 2016

Winter solstice.  It's been, and is, so warm, it's strange to say Winter.   Wet too! I love it, spit in the eye to the smart-alec climate forecasters who told us here in Portugal that we were in for a drought winter.  For sure, the arctic is melting pretty fast and changes are under way, but as for the weather, it's a classic chaotic system and no supercomputers can possibly know what's coming up. 

We've some old friends Jenny and sons Onyx and Charlie, visiting from "dear old Blighty" (that's old-style reference to UK plc) who we have not seen for 4 years here,  Here they are on one of the early blogs, early 2013....







.... and here they are now, with Megan, and 3 year-old Charlie, who didn't even exist then!...




Yes, the Blog is 4 years old this new year, and though not exactly "viral" it has a good steady audience.  See, blogs come and go, but the Várzea Blog is here to stay!

To give a photo-record of the development in this project was the prime motivation of starting the Blog.  Also a personal feedback, reminding me of what has worked, what didn't, and who contributed to the evolution which continues. A cool example is the "high-beds" area, here in 2008,....



.... and now, from about the same location....


In this small area there are 15 different varieties of trees, and in another 4 years, and they will be producing!

Right here, right now, Erik and Daniel are doing great work on the "final" section of the cleared part of Várzea's hillsides to be swaled, a long project which should be finished this year.


Not just digging, but then hauling up a ton or so of rotting straw and horse manure from our horse-owning friends....







.... then the swales are filled to make life-preserving microclimates for the summer dry...

Regular Blog readers will be familiar with the procedure - we wait until next autumn and plant acorns and seedlings, as well as grasses and field-beans for nitrogen-fixing, in this year's swales, which by then will have some humus developed for water and nutrient summer survival-pack.





So here am I planting on some of last year's diggings....





...only a percentage make it to be oak trees, but each year we put new acorns in the unsuccessful spots, and so on, until we have a nascient forest. As I said once before, just add time - which, by the way, is on our side....


Swales have been a big feature of the winter work for the last 4 years, and by the end of this winter, pretty-much all the 2 hectares or so of cleared hillside land will have been given the treatment - all by hand with trusty enxada.  

This archetypal Portuguese tool, which, is its various shapes, is used for just about everything related to the ground and is a great tool. This is my big favourite style for the heavy clay soils (modelled here by Chaym) (its great for gardening too)....

All this work is not for monetary profit, I assure you.  It is for future generations of humans, birds, and the whole spectrum of life, to thrive. as part of a rich and diverse ecosystem.

You get what you give.  

Have FUN this solstice, christmas, new year, with love from Várzea da Gonçala....

ps  If you like the Blog, please feel free to post a link. Muito Obrigado for reading anyway.....

Saturday, December 3, 2016

It's Raining, it's Pouring....

What happened to my last blog?   The last several entries have attracted averagely 60 page-views in the first 2 days, and this last one, 2 (two!).


Maybe "autumn life" in more northern zones is not really a favourite or evocative time - believe me, I have many memories of returning from a colourful cycling or travelling trip in Europe or beyond, to return in October to grim rainy cold Dover with it's hang-dog train employees, and anticipation of a dour (that's pronounced "dooor" in Scotland) winter in some crappy job....

I totally love autumn here.  It stands for revival, release of energy, trees barking (in a tree-type way - they kind-of bark in their roots, but you can't hear it). And every rain event I sit and revel in the ahh-ness of it, and imagine the water of life seeping deeper into the receptive living earth.
Of course, storms are the best,.... 


Today it is raining all day, a lot!  I guess the rain falling on my yurt roof brings out pensive thoughts...

Sinking into nature is what happens if you are open to it, but we humans are a fickle species,  The previous generation quite obliviously tore away their connection with nature in favour of the more immediate stimulation of the blossoming of different elements of the human psyche, as the next generation will be the ones to fully realise the downside of this loss.  

And the revival may just reveal a gaining of a common wisdom   All is to come, though not necessarily not for us to see.

I think of humanity as immature at this stage.  Not stupid, insensitive, etc as some of us critically label ourselves, but just at the level of a child, without the checks and balances of good parenting.   


Meanwhile,  in this present condition,we put our posts in the sand, and those with sensitivity seek out the posts, as oases, and the oases may provide foci to inspire and give release to the energy of those who reject the rush to destruction.


The autumn continues to be a good productive time, with lots of good stuff to come - not just land-work, but we will be doing a lot of re-designing and adding to the area in front of the houses: on the agenda is a vine-shaded area, water-fountain pond, see-saw and trapeze bar for the kids' area, and sun-dial.  You will see it all here in the months ahead!



Above are our present volunteer helpers (aka wwoofers), Daniel on the left, Eric on the right, with me in the middle,  mulching our young trees in the infant food-forest.  Feast your eyes on the new goose-nibble protectors / summer sun-shades around the youngest trees (mostly year-old chestnuts)....



.... and here is one of my babies in its sanctuary...







Looking outside the enclave of Várzea da Gonçala for a change, not far up our steep-sided Cerca valley, there's some good social stuff going down too, and a dynamic spontaneously happening. Thursday evenings there's music in the tipi round the bend in the stream, and not just a few hippies strumming and hitting bongos - some great musicianship and a wide variety of instruments. I don't get to go as I don't play so inevitably am on child-duty.  18 people last week, mostly from the valley, all nationalities, one of the stars being Pedro, who, with his brother and mother run the oldest (30y ago the only) grocery shop in Aljezur - also a keen permaculturist and holder of knowledge of the old ways.  



Wednesday evenings we go playing pool at the local pizzeria - bar,  Friday night is Várzea film night -kids at 6, adults trailer (home-made or special interest) 7 to 9, main film (movie or documentary) at 9,  Then there are fire-gatherings and a surprising number of birthday parties, grownups and kids - last Saturday it's Megan's 9th, here holding the parcel in pass-the-parcel...

For years us fledgling ancestors agonised and discussed how to make the "neighbourhood" more interactive, but these things come about through critical mass, common need for sharing, mutual respect - and absence of television.

Snails and slugs love the autumn weather too....


.... did you know....
snails move about at about 45 metres per hour, which means, in a day they can cover a kilometer.

they can survive for over a year without water, and surface temperatures of 60c,  and generally live about 10 years!

and slugs (don't ask me how they know) (or why) evolved from snails

I'll love you and leave you with these juicy ponderables....

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Autumn Life, and Otter!



It's rained, the grass is growing, and our little river runs again.  Summer turned to autumn, and the land wakes and life shows its hunger and delight.

Strange words to those of northern latitudes, where nature is slowing and preparing for rest and withdrawal, but here on the west Algarve it is a special time.   Happy beneficiaries are our (now 4) geese, here enjoying not just being out in the green green grass, but with new shelter and pond....



... their purpose is to graze the meadow among the trees in the growing season, while also supplying us with amazing eggs, about one a day.  The smallest trees do need to be protected as the spring comes, but for now the geese are only interested in the succulent new grass.

There's a lot going on around these parts recently, land being bought, more being sought, things afoot. Across the valley a Swiss couple last year bought a big plot of land, and just last week had a full clearance of the scrub "mato" vegetation done. Now it looks like this....



The trend is gathering pace, and it is easy to speculate that in a decade the ruins and abandoned land which cover most of our valley will be bought, or, even better, settled by descendants of those who left two generations ago.

This said, this is the west Algarve, and there is a slowness - in the best sense of the word - to the ways of the local government - as well as the pace of life, around here, so don't be speculating about Macdonalds opening up in the Cerca valley anytime soon.

Meanwhile, right here, right now...  in the last few weeks, I've been in my own space and element, putting trees, seedlings, and acorns (planted with leaf-mold from parent (or cousin) trees) into the soft, yielding earth.


For the last 2 weeks I have had the assistance of Chloe and Anouk, from Brittany, and here we are planting the latest of the autumn plantings, this tree being a white Guava....

So far, 70 young trees have been given a home on the varzea (meadow) land,  mostly (40) feijoa (Acca sellowiana - I like that name) and a dozen 1-y old castanhas (sweet chestnut), and different varieties of oaks, 2 guavas, and a selection of nitrogen-fixers.  Dig the hole, mix in some compost, fill and squish down, mulch with anything you can find to cover the bare earth - I use straw/manure, leaving a space around the trunk. And wish good-luck....

The deep-rooting plants which were able to keep growing through the long dry summer have been cut, right in time for the rain.

Timing is everything in the cycle of the seasons, and, as the old people around here knew almost instinctively.  It is something one learns by experience, especially in a venture such as this, where you realise after several years that doing the right things at the right time not only works, but saves enormous amounts of energy.

Image result for ungrounded lifeAnd not only energy.  Wherever one lives, having a pattern that works gives balance to our psyche and makes life enjoyable, easier and more fun.

Spend time on distractions, and stuff that really isn't grounded in our lives' true nature, and we never get a chance to be US.

Which is bad.


I tend to mention this "food-forest" quite a lot, and never used the expression until Chaym here started using it.  I much prefer to refer to it as "future food forest" - fff! - as it sure doesn't look much like a forest to me now. This is a fairly "typical" shot of a part of it, as it looks now.....



.... in another 4 years or so it will be very different.

We were privileged to have staying here, sadly only to the end of October. Ilf and Lies and family, from Belgium. I mention this here as Ilf, who has a great knowledge of bird, animal, and insect life, has had a night-vision video-camera set up by the river for a couple of weeks, and recently picked up this footage of an otter, just by our summer bathing-pool....   (ok, this is my first ever attempt to put video content on the blog, so let's hope it works.... and by the way, you only need to see the first 10 seconds)

video

This winter I am going for diversity, inter-planting the present selection of trees on the lowland area with a wide variety, with the 70 new trees among the 200 or so already there, but also, starting to develop the food-forest aspect more, adding herbs and shrubs and bushes on the summer-irrigation canals.  Another feature this winter will be lots of climbing plants to scale the riverside willows.

Rain gives a wake-up to the plant-life in a way that irrigation just doesn't do. Whether this is because of the extra oxygen, or electric charge of the raindrops, It makes an almost instantaneous difference to the land it touches, including the vegetable garden, which is bursting with health.




Cue the work of Chaym..   His passion and energy for all things related to the Várzea horta is true inspiration, and his scope is substantially beyond the usual conception of what running a vegetable garden involves.       I asked Chaym if he would like to put a piece here in the blog to outline his perception of his work, and here it is....

Agro-ecology is based on traditional gardening using many kinds of techniques from around the world to create intensified small scale hortas (vegetable gardens) functioning like a small managed ecosystem. 

In Várzea's horta, my emphasis as an agro-ecologist is integrating Moringa and maintaining humus-pathway-swale based beds, growing seasonal vegetables intensively on home-produced poultry manure, mixed with kitchen waste and bio-char, and anaerobic liquid fertilizer based on comfrey and dry poultry manure ..
 

The 1st plant section of the garden is only 400 square meters, but it provides daily for 3 families, plus volunteers, course attendents, holiday guests, chickens and geese.     Seasonally, there are 2-4 major crops, and 3-5 minor crops, medicinal herbs, fruit trees, and edible weeds..
 


The 2nd section, the poultry, supplies, all year, eggs and manure, which feeds the plant section:   The 3rd section is the staple-crop/green manure section growing winter onions, potatoes, carrots, rye, and  summer pumpkins, amaranth, soy, maize, millet, and sweet potatoes.


Back-tracking a month or so, but not to be forgotten, happened the Women's Natural Building Course, given by my wife Kris, with huge support and top cooking by Ana, from Aroche, Spain.  They made a brilliant dynamic team, and have plans for many such events in far-flung locations in the future.   Here they are - again - excuse repetition from last blog, but it's the only pic of the two I have....

The idea seemed a good one at the outset, and it worked extremely well.  It attracted the inevitable digs at feminism etc, but the truth is, the social dynamic works in a very natural way, and here the group of 6 gained not only knowledge, but great empowerment and positivity,.from their 12 days at the Várzea.

Fly away, new blog, through the squalls of twittering......     By the way, please feel free to send feedback, suggestions, ideas, anything!   And a big welcome to readers in Cambodia!





Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Waiting for the rain....

It's this time of the year.  Ten years ago, to follow last blog's theme, we arrived in late summer, and when the first rain came, on 13th September 2006, I was in Aljezur on my bicycle as a thunderstorm came on, disgruntled shopkeepers putting out their awnings,

I was exhilarated,  and cycled up the 350m hill to Marmelete and back, totally soaked.  In the days following, our river Cerca began flowing and the ground turned from brown to green.  Though this revival of life in the autumn was something I could have logically expected, it was a wonderful surprise to the senses, especially because of the contrast from the "old country", where things go to sleep in the winter.


This is the time of the year that not just us, but the whole land is sitting, waiting.....  also my tree-nursery is full of eager young seedlings and cuttings just itching to get their thrusting roots into mother earth....




.... everything's patient but thirsty and on energy-save.  Over our time here it has rained in September sometime, averaging roughly between the 10th and 25th - apart from 2010, when it didn't rain 'til 26th October.



So what are we doing, apart from WAITING?

Well the place is a-buzz in fact.  In a spectrum of things...  Maybe I should give deference to the vegetable garden, where Chaym and Petra have been planting  and seeding in abundance for the winter food supply.


Roots, and greens, annuals and perennials, all that wholesome stuff - and we are very happy that the Moringa trees "Moringa oleifera"- seen here in the garden (the spindly trees in the foreground)....


....are getting these bonus few sub-tropical weeks to get better established before the winter.  They are the "miracle trees" of Africa and the east, with super-nutritious leaves - and a real means of empowerment for the people, against the attempted monopolisation of the global food production by the likes of Monsanto.  In true subtropical regions they grow into big tress, and it is said that one mature Moringa tree can provide ALL the nutritional needs of a family!


People!  Alex and Nicky and their boys, Theo and Phoenix, now 7 and 5, have come to stay at least for the winter - before moving to their yurt in the spring.  Then a week ago we welcomed Ilf and Lies with Maren, 7, and Rune, 1, for the next 6 weeks.  Finally, have arrived, Florian and Sandy with 3-y-old Tao,  until December.   I guess I could do a group photo, but then some of you will go  thinking Várzea is a "community" - and I don't want to go into THAT again...


But that is not all.  Oh no, that is not all!  In a few days, too few to mention in fact, will see the start of  Kris's (ok, she likes to be "Chrissey" these days (but then women always need to change things...)) natural-building workshop ("by women, fore women!") which promises to be a really great event. Kris is partnered with Ana, from Belgium, via 16 years in Aroche, Spain, an old friend from a PDC hear 6 years ago - and an astonishing diggereedoo-player.  Together they make a great team and promise a super atmosphere for the course.                                         Here they are...

Personally, I'm still watering my thirsty gasping trees.....  And just now building a house for my new TELESCOPE which arrived last month - the final arrival of something I have hankered after since I was at school, spending winter nights in Wales in many jumpers outside with binoculars and star-maps. Well, finally, it has arrived (yes, I know that's already 3 "arrive"s in this paragraph)  Here is my "observatory" at the latest stage of construction....





... the roof must be strong, weather-proof, and light enough to swivel off on hinges.

But today it's way too boiling hot to work outside, in the sun - 34c it says on the shady-spot thermometer,    I've had enough of it - BASTA! as they say round here.  Just want to get planting and digging - the oak trees seem pretty low on acorns again, maybe a few more than last year, but rest assured, trees will be planted in good numbers...     So instead I'm scribbling my blog....


Finally I mention again the kids phenomenon in our neck of the valley , with this photo of the Aljezur school bus, picking up the local bunch....





...on the road at the Várzea.




A year and a half ago I would take our Megan up to the road to get the bus - just us!                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Now there are 8 children off at 8.30am!



Then there are the 4 home-schoolers up the road a little, and several pre-school.... the story is only  beginning to unfold....



Fiction or not, it is interesting to imagine the picture here in a decade's time, when our now-7 and 8's will be 17.s and 18.s....








Anyway, I'm sending this edition into the ethereous superhighway,.... please feel free to give feedback - a slowly growing following read this stuff, but of course most people don't venture beyond the facebook blah and all these brain-drugs....  (oops, there goes my cynicism again...)


Love from Várzea.....