Saturday, 6 February 2010

Week in the life of Casa Felix

January has been as busy as any other, though we still don't have planning permission so can't actually start work on the house. So we have spent way more time working the soil, which is mostly a gritty, sandy affair, high in acid and not very productive. So this is has become one of our tasks here, one of my obsessions even.

Arguably one of the most important things we have to do globally: figure out how to make soils productive without importing
fertiliser, using herbicides or pesticides
(all of which are made from fossil fuels) .
Here Kira's on our new raised beds, made in the chicken's former home, so we thought it must be fairly well fertilised. More on this design later.

This month Aljo visited. Former skateboarding conquestor, skate pad inventor, mountain bike builder and traveller. It's been a long time since last we connected, and in fact Alj represents the the first of my board-riding mates to visit.

Loads happened. First: moving dirt (see left). Their had to be a better way to move a few tonnes of this stuff from "up" to lower down the land where I want to build a new terrace for planting bamboo.

So we build a ramp to cross three terraces. With chipboard kindly flowed by Maria Fuentes (Galician sawmill).

OK this took a day or so of labour, but I swear it will save time later. Anyway it was quite surfable...

Here the chickens decided they had to give design advice, but just ended up getting in the way.

Next we decided to build a wall to stop catch the falling earth, creating the next terrace at the same time.

Then we went down to our river / watermills area to cut some chestnut and alder trees - for building projects later in the year. We are following local advice on felling trees at the "minguente" or the waning moon of January - when the sap is at rest, it means the wood will be better for all kinds of uses, be less vulnerable to bugs and diseases, will warp less, etc.

These chestnuts were first spotted by Hywel, who is big on coppicing. Cut them, he urged, and they'll grow back. In fact they had proabably emerged from the stump of an old chestut, cut about 15 years ago. I climbed up to tie a rope way up each tree, so Aljo could put tension on the rope, to help the tree fall the right way. The bark comes off easily, newly felled. Aljo's paw showing the girth of this one, only 10 years old. We'll probably use it as a post for a new outdoor kitchen outside the main house.

Then it rained. So we took refuge in this local river-cave.

Back up for air (to the terraces on the hill) we transplanted an olive:

Mulched trees to prevent weed growth (robbing nutrients from their second year of growth. Under the cardboard we chucked in some composted chicken and sawdust manure. Above it, we've now added forest leaves, straw and anything else we find lying around that's organic and soft (no more spiky things, like I foolishy laid around them last year).

Back at the camp, we revisited the slowest-to-build solar heating system in history. We need to build a frame around this panel now to enclose the 4m2 glazed double-doors we were given. More on this sytem later - when we get it finished...

Meanwhile, under strict instructions from Charlie and Lyra (the cats) the chickens are tractoring away on the lower terrace. See how much they have "ploughed" in just over a week. We move the cage every couple of days or so. Potatoes and peas following shortly behind in Feb.

Just as Aljo thought he could take a break, we whisked him away for weekend labours: clearing the local community youth club's tennis court. Yes: a tennis court! (OMG). And yes we can use it, and yes they definitely want people who are any good at the game to come and teach local kids how to play. In fact this local youth club is just kicking off again after a few years absence. I've been asked to be part of it in some way, so hopefully we'll have lots of opportunities to share ideas, games and projects with them, local kids and families soon.

Of course clearing this abandoned court /football pitch meant we had a source of oak and pine leaf litter, from year. Perfect for that tree mulch job:)

Finally we have all become servants to the cats, who need to be moved from house to land every day (we still live off site).
Here Charlie, clearly irritated by our delays growled "Are we leaving yet or What?"


Rupert Wolfe Murray said...

Hey Moona, it must be a hassle writing these reports but I can tell you they are really appreciated (by me, at least). I find them inspiring as this is the lifestyle I would like to lead one day.

Magnus said...

Good. then i'll post more. 'course you should get a garden, even in the city. Do it.