zondag 25 maart 2018

Bad News

A strong north wind drifted past the hills and the river. It was cold this winter. Non Portuguese cold. With night frost after night frost and during the day thick layers of clouds above the land, from which no rain would fall. Only a very few times. Very welcome, but oh so cold.

The horta:

Finally the beetroot froze also.
A hat over the heads of lettuce, during the night, does wonders...
for preservation but not for a prosperous growth.
Cabbage is strong... but not always under all circumstances.
A complete standstill in the onions... Some have survived so far.
As always, Hendrik has packed his big bags well. This year there are 8.
It came as a shock

When unpacking the big bag, set up in October (last year), almost no transformation has occurred in the hay. After the first heating, an unknown cold took over this land. Despite the fact that Hendrik has protected his big bags well, this was not enough to withstand the winter weather. The bacterial life in the big bags came to a complete standstill... We can not give another explanation of this unexpected result we see.

Now (in February) the temperature in the big bags does not exceed a 10ºC. This was also not to be expected, at this stage of composting, because it should have already happened after more than 4 months. The outside temperature is 9 degrees higher today (in the middle of the day). Fortunately, the sun is starting to gain ground, it is gradually becoming warmer... in the middle of the day... but at night?

The compost site is only lit by the sun in the middle of the day. In a normal winter that is no problem, because the overall daytime temperature is well above 15 degrees. When the heat in the big bags gets going well, that is enough to be able to defy a cold night. But... not as freezing cold as it was this winter.

Checking everything
Depressing .... this after four months!
No... no getting through with the shovel.
Good advice... after a night's sleep... we still have enough manure.
And leachate.
Graft again. A bit makeshift and in moderation.
Cover it up.
And close... not completely, so that the spring sun can do its job.
Only one large cover to catch the heat of the sun and to allow air to come in. 
Hoping for the best...
Look... that's how he's doing well.
We live in a cold place in the Alentejo

It is quite a disappointment. A real failed hay-composting is completely new to us. Could we have foreseen this cold winter? Scientists say that a cold period can be, due to a small amount of radiation from the sun...  At this moment we are in a period with little solar heat.

To speak with historian, novelist, Philipp Blom: "One degree Celsius on average per year, corresponds to 10 days of vegetation. In cold years the plants barely have time to mature, and the continent is starving..."

Our small area in the Alentejo, is in bad shape. There is very little grass for the animals. Even the roadsides do not grow. In the 8 years that we live here, and have experienced the weather here, this has not happened yet. Drought and cold... a bad combination.

And yet around us, it can also be different

10 km. further on, friends have gardens, which have given beautiful results this winter. The broccoli is ready and the cauliflower is flourishing. Also Kashi, who lives 30 km. away from us, has beautiful vegetables in her garden. A matter of location and shelter, everyone says: "Yes, you live near the river... it is cold there."

And they are not completely wrong... Because we have never been able to grow a fruit tree, of any kind, what ever. Our lemon tree freezes every winter and this year it froze definitively. At the same time, at our neighbors, the orange trees are blooming and now give nice fruit.

Well... lemon tree?

And then here... 
Kashi's beautiful winter garden... 
of today 17 February 2018:

Good News

A miracle

"It would require a miracle... that so much rain would fall, that it would be enough for the coming summer"... the minister said, in an interview in the newspaper, in February this year.

February 27: The weather forecast promises rain, but the threatening clouds do not let it fall... February 28: Is it raining? Yes, a little. Too little to cherish hope now.
March 4: It has been raining all week! And not thrifty... Battle rains with storm winds and hail. The river is filling up.
March 7: To the market in Castro Verde. Buying plants for the garden and honey for tea... and a beautiful sunny morning. The first since last week! Specially designed for the market...? Incredible. 
March 8: World Women's Day and again rain. Also not thrifty. Continuously, with strong showers, fine rain streaks through the hills like fog, alternated with rumbling thunderstorms and pouring rain.
March 9: It has been raining since February 28, and the predictions show a low pressure area, which continues circling the Atlantic near the Portuguese coast, promising another week with rain! In any case, this means that we will have enough water for the garden next summer. Because in the rocks under our house there are cavities in which the water is collected and where it is kept for a long time. And not only under our house, but in the whole region. Meanwhile, the lakes are full and the ditches are flowing.
It IS a miracle! A happy circumstance in a turbulent world.

What could be better than a full river with lots of water in a dry country?

Today March 25: Rain the whole weekend... and more or less continuing from the last day of February... 4 weeks of rain in the Alentejo? Since when?


Update April 8, 2018

Meanwhile we already had seen that the composting process was progressing, because the level in the big bags decreased. And yet it remains exciting...

The color is good!
Look, there the shovel goes...
... like butter :)
And it neatly falls apart in layers.
Okay... here it can ripen further. In a trough under a layer of agricultural plastic.
This ripening will take some time, but the most important thing (the heat) is done.
So, patience does the rest and in a month we will see again.


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