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Celebrating Winter CoCreation

posted 4 Mar 2012, 09:14 by Stella Ne   [ updated 13 Jan 2013, 09:23 by Jose Lorenzo Zamora ]
We've been very busy building up structures in the embryonic EcoVillage during January & February.    Here is a story with lots of pictures, of what we've been up to these last two months (you can click on the pictures to see them bigger).

Thanks Berry, Dixon & Taco for braving the cold & windy nights - these are the least comfortable months to camp although also possibly the most beautiful to work outdoors, because of all the almonds in flower.

They have also been making excursions around the island, visiting the beautiful beaches, mountains, many walks & friendly locals.  

These have also been Sara's (13, Julio's daughter) first months of living with us so Julio & Stella have been busy enjoying lots more family times & adjusting around this very delightful teenager's life, friends & routines.  

Sara on the beach with two of her best friends.  When they sometimes stay with us,  the farm can turn into a very giggly place ...

Thanks for being such a bundle of joy Sara!

We're Enjoying the Sheep ...

In the last newsletter you could see the building of the sheep-pen, as Margarita & the lambs had just arrived, and now we've been living with them for a whole month, and enjoying their company so much!

What is so very sweet about sheep... is that they are the best walking companions ever.  They love wondering about, they know how to enjoy the place & are such an inspiring example of being totally present & relaxed, that the more time you spend out with them, the more Buddha-like your mental state when you return.  

So we've been enjoying taking them for walks twice per day, in the beautiful surrounding countryside, where neighbours are quite happy for us to help them keep the grass cut. 

The dogs also love the walking routine, & all of them enjoy going out all together, in the morning & the evening, in the surrounding fields, whilst we pick almonds (still lots on the trees!) and an extra bag of food or bedding for them each time.

Stella got so much into the long walks that she caught bronchitis!  

Although it's been sunny all the time (& far dyer than we're used to for this time of year), we've had a very unusual chilly wind that has been making the low temperatures from northern Europe fly all the way down to us.

Sheperdessing is quite addictive, so even when you're out for a while & realize that building up a sweat then stretching up almond trees in the cold breeze in a Tshirt isn't such a great idea ... it's just too much fun to go back home to get a coat.

Stella:  "Being a shepherd is the best job in the world!   

It's just total bliss sharing the peaceful company of these lovely animals whilst picking almonds amongst  the flowers, observing what the sheep like to eat and picking them some extra take-away for later, watching them run & play together, stroking them when they come up to get some attention, exploring the landscape with them & ending up in places I'd never seen, even though they are just within 20minutes walk from the finca".

And of course everyone loves feeding the little one (here with Sara), and she's growing big & strong very fast.

The ChainSaw Workshop 

Or the anti-chainsaw massacre class ...
Dixon wanted to cut some cactus trunks so he could sculpt seats into them, and so needed to learn how to use a chainsaw.

Julio, Dixon, Taco, Berry, 28th Feb 12
Showing the safety basics of chainsaw handling - note everyone is keeping a safe distance from Julio :)

Dixon, Taco, Berry
Berry is a heroic tree-occupying activist who's done a lot of work up trees & eventually learned to use a chainsaw as a kind of 'therapy' - he says - for the 'anti' attitude he developed for them when he was a tree defender.   

They can be very useful tools - although potentially quite dangerous too.

So after Julio showed the workings of our particular chainsaw, Berry took over & helped Dixon cut up the extra trunks.   Dixon & Taco had never used a chainsaw before - and it's quite an experience!

The tunos (cactus) extended to the middle of the picture before, and now it a much narrower (& harvestable) hedge, whilst we've recovered a lot of space from this terrace,for the future JuiceBar area.

Made a Start on the JuiceBar

A huge amount of extra cactus was cleared from the over-grown Arachne terrace, to be chopped & put under the new raised beds in the Flora garden.

Dixon quite got into this chopping work (lots of energetic slashing with the machete), and soon we were left with some very ancient tuno trunks which are quite impressive & so beautiful that we decided to try to incorporate them as seating in the terrace, instead of chopping them all off.

Dixon found this quite inspiring and started seeing all sorts of shapes appear in the tangled trunks, as he started sculpting them to make seating.   This is a comfy corner to lie down in (this only works well if you are as tall as Dixon, we found out).

Although Dixon was very engrossed in sculpting his seat-sculptures, because he just had a few more days to go, we thought why not celebrate his going-away party with getting the very first JuiceBar version operational ... and toasting him with the first juices made there?     

We had, coincidentally, also just found our orange-juicer again, when un-packing all the boxes in the future library ... 

So we got inspired to get at least a prototype bar ready enough to make juices there, which simply meant getting a table, a sink & the electricity organized in the bar-corner.   

"Starting very small" is a very good permaculture principle we are following here all the time.    We have loads of oranges right now ... and soon we will all have a great new place to make breakfast juice, thanks to Dixon!

So we now have some very original seating for the JuiceBar, made with cactus trunks.  

Here Dixon created some seats ready to surround a future table.   

We celebrated Dixon's inspiring lead with developing the JuiceBar site by toasting his leaving day with the first fresh juice from the (for now make-shift) bar.

Sara (here operating our cute little juicer), Berry, Stella & Dixon were all there at the big event, but we totally failed to get a picture of the toast :(  , sorry.

This wheelbarrow of oranges was donated by our neighbour Mimí, who regularly has his garden looking like this, covered with oranges (doesn't like them very much).


We also have 3 big orange trees that give us many, nearly all year round, so we have plenty for juicing!

The idea is to make some beautiful ferro-cement mosaic tables which will multi-function as JuiceBar tables and also ceramic-workshop tables as this is our ideal site for the future Pottery, also.

These are vision-photos, we have yet to make the tables.  But we do happen to have a friend who is a mosaic artist and she's already agreed to come and give a workshop whenever we want ... probably in some future Creativity Festival :)

Progress in the Library-Cinema Room

This is currently our bedroom, living-room, kitchen & office ... all rather messy, so you need quite a lot of imagination to visualize it as the future Library-Cinema-Chillout-Meeting room. 

But every time we add new shelves that is what we're working toward, and in February one little sick cat prompted us to go get lots of new wood for a serious shelving project.    This is Julio in his workshop, design by Stella, built by both.

So now we liberated the books again, and have a whole wall covered with shelves.  This is where we envisage the cinema-screen will go, which will hide the shelves eventually, when the rest of the room will be only shelves, sofas & big comfy cushions on the floor.   

Here are a few vision-pictures...   But this will be in the (hopefully near) future.

For now this is still our little home, until Julio & Stella get the new cave-dwelling ready to be their room (see below)

Here is what it looks like on the 26th of February!   Going to eat some soup now

A New Big Raised Bed Garden

With Berry we started making what turned out to be a very long raised bed, all with chopped cactus some 20cm below ground (a major worm banquet & soil conditioner, hugelkultur style), all along the west side of the Flora garden, inside & outside the fence (some 25m long) and it's been planted up with all sorts of goodies.  

Berry is now designing the rest of the garden.

& Mini-Wall-Making Workshop

And then had Lola over (our local expert cave-maker, neighbor & dear friend) to teach us how to make very good, solid little walls with rocks & cement

This is a large modified hugelkultur bed by the way: we dug down to 30cm, put 15cm of chopped cactus (cleared from the JuiceBar terrace, see above) which will be wonderful worm-food for the whole next year or two, then 15cm of earth on top, removing the bigger stones, which we used in the construction of the little wall.

Cardboard edging was used to hold up the earth & mulch & make a clear edge for the stones to be laid against.  

The idea of this little wall being that it will (finally!) give some very clear markings of where the beds are, so that people won't step on them ever again, and keep the paths clear and also usable as shredders: we can fill them with dry matter we want people to crunch over, & then will add this compost on top of the bed, raising the wall in the future if we wish.

Lola showing Taco & Berry how to lay the stones so they lock into each other and stay put - an essence of the stone-building art.

We're very happy with the end result which is a truly de-luxe bed.  And surprised just how big it is too, as we decided to extend it on either side of the fence, so increasing the growing area of the old garden design many times over.

It is important to wet the stones, before throwing on a special cement-mix that Lola uses in her cave-making bioconstruction, which includes local clay, so making the wall not only very strong but also blend-in with the surrounding landscape.    

This wheel-barrow-full of sand-clay-cement mix gave us some 6-7m of wall.

Just behind Lola in this picture you can see the first hugelkultur bed that Stella made & planted a month before, with a very lovingly-made dry-stone-wall ... that however has already mostly disintegrated.    

It took us 6 years of observation & various experiments to come to the conclusion that the most useful thing would be to make permanent walls & slightly raised beds, for lots of reasons (they are very multi-functional and will raise productivity a lot).

Dixon commented that he has worked for the largest cement manufacturer in the world for several years, but never before this day had he actually used cement himself.  

So this was quite an interesting experience for him.

Eventually we filled this bed with a mix from the nursery of lettuces, garlic, cabbage, rucula & nettle, adding seeds of fava beans, climbing beans, zucchini & cilantro.    

And we'll add leeks & onions when they are ready, soon.

We've now got an Office

Of sorts ... very primitive, it's quite apparent that this is the ancient straw house, but Berry & Dixon really wanted a warm place to speak with their families & friends & meet of an evening, so they did an amazing clearing-up day, re-allocated the stuff that was stored there and made a new temporary social space for visitors.

In fact this is where we are planning to have the office eventually, when we have the budget for it.   
This is what it looked like before, as a kind of store-house for tools & materials.

This project actually recently received a big set-back with some other visitors who depressed us a lot by sketching the thing for hours with Julio, then going off with the drawings for no reason whatever (& refusing to email them to us despite repeat requests).   Just to show it's not all roses, and we also have to contend with destructive people now & again.

So it's particularly nice we had some extra-constructive, generous & creative people just afterwards to raise the energy again!

Berry & Dixon did a couple of re-designs on the way, starting with this rather claustrophobic arrangement ... (which however they loved, because it was a definite improvement to no cyber-room whatever)

But eventually evolving to this big table in a rather cozy room which in fact is the only place with heater in the whole finca.  Luxuries!    It's still pretty cold at night here in February, so for the guys to be able to work at night somewhere warm was a really good new development.

Sara also makes good use of it, coming here after school to do her homework...

Or rather chat to her zillions of school-friends ... (but who's complaining?   We oldies used to use up lots of phone-bill when we were teenagers, to satisfy the huge hunger to talk to our friends we'd just left at school a few hours ago, when we got home... at least this is free)

Set up the MiniShop

A few weeks ago Julio got inspired by a particularly high number of tourists walking down the Camino Real next to the farm & decided to start something else we've been talking about for a while: a little self-service stall.   

So Stella (in bed with bronchitis at the time) did this cool sign for it, 

we found a suitably consciousness-raising jar for the money (with Mary + BabyJesus) & 

put this out with a few boxes of the fruit we have in abundance right now.

Done: we now have our mini-shop & have another steady if small passive income coming by improving the walking experience of the tourists that come to enjoy our beautiful neighbourhood. 

This is Julio posing at the Grand Opening on the first day, with Salamanca.

And later we improved the shop by rain-&-sun-profing it a little bit. 

Did you know that 'un-manned' shops are quite common in rural areas?  This is an article about this tradition in Japan (thanks Jose :)

Started on the Cave Dwelling

This was actually Lola's idea (see above) who pronounced "of course it's going to be a great home-cave!" as soon as she laid her expert eye on it ... and this is where we started getting the stones needed for the little wall for the raised bed (it's just next door).

Berry was the first brave explorer to go down there, mid Feb 2012

Then Dixon did too ... we used it to store the recycled materials we need to finish Sara's domo, so that Berry could use the domo in Flora to stay, where he can better observe  the garden he is designing.

Taco did lots of (heroic!) digging & sorting stones from earth from end of Feb 2012, taking the path down quite a bit to expand the cave and prevent water going in when it rains.

This big excavation provides lots of material for the Flora garden, of which you can see the entrance just behind Taco in this picture.

Julio took out some of the big cactus trunks of what will eventually be the patio to the cave (where he is standing, picture the floor some meters down.

This is probably going to be his & Stella's room, and as soon as it's habitable they can vacate the Library-Cinema house  so it can be enjoyed as planned, for communal use.

This last picture was taken 2 March 2012

Thanks Lola for encouraging us to start on this, another ambitious project!

The EcoResidencia begins

What is very special about an EcoVillage is that people of all ages live & work together, in what is essentially an extended family setting, which is the most natural & therefore comforting & effective for us humans.

So we've been thinking for some time about how to include elders in our community, and in particular our grandmother, Abuela - who visits often from town - in a more permanent & especially more comfortable way.    

In February this dream started taking form, as we finally agreed to buy this little stone house, which is the one nearest to the driveway, so with easiest access, for this purpose.

We've also been planning with some excitement & from the beginning about how to include here a place for elders whose families cannot care for them, because this is something both Julio & Stella have a vocation for.   

And we think that enabling them to participate actively in a project that is reclaiming the best of the world they know so well from their youth, enjoying the healthy produce & lifestyle of an ecological farm, is a great gift we can give to the people who have given so much to us, as well as to the younger members of the community, who very much need this daily familiar contact with older generations, as we all do.

We believe that integrating all generations in a rational, natural & productive setting like this is essential to our emotional, social & spiritual health, and the most important restoration of human eco-systems that we need to do.

Although for now we're only preparing one part of this ancient house for Abuela (above sneaking a look inside, with Julio, her oldest grandson), a wonderful surprise was to find we've already got another grandmother - of her same age as Abuela - interested in living in the room next door. 

Abuela (here playing the guitar) is Julio's grandmother & Sara's great-grandmother, a delightful, very loving, chirpy woman with a great sense of humor.

She has been a lot more tolerant, good-humored & hardy in living with the discomforts of the farm-in-progress than most of the young people who have visited, so she doesn't need any luxuries, but we are very keen to provide her with the most comfortable home possible here, so this little house will need quite a bit of work before she can move in.

The new young couple whose grandmother is thinking to also join us are in their early twenties, so that means we might have 4 generations this year!   This would be a big dream come true for us.

As the whole house has 3 rooms, we hope eventually that it might become a perfect little EcoResidencia (EcoResidence) & a very nurturing, welcoming place for elders to always feel very welcome here.

We enjoyed the Carnevals

Here in LaPalma there is a famous "everyone wear white + throw talcum powder all night" version called Los Indianos (link to YouTube video here) and here are Julio & Sara on their way there.  

Note all the almonds in flower in the background - an amazing spectacle we are treated to every year here, during this season.

This was the January-February newsletter for GaiaSis!

Thanks Dixon !! 

After 4 weeks with us, from 27th of January to the 27th of February, Dixon is off to new shores & adventures.   He came here from the UK, where he was visiting family, but is going back to his native HongKong.

THANKS for all your wonderful smiles, bringing your lovely self to our lives, thanks for all the amazing tuno-chopping work you did in the Arachne terrace, for the love you gave the embryonic JuiceBar project & how it sparked us to move it forward & for being so honest & courageous in deciding to expand your city-boy limitations whilst here.
We all keep very fond memories of you, please do come back & see us sometime.

Many buckets of chopped cactus like this made their way down to the Flora garden, & Dixon started enjoying this part so did lots of it eventually.

Here are some quotes from a final interview-evaluation we did  with him, just before he left.

What have you experienced here?

This is the first time I've lived outdoor for a whole month, standing tough againste the cold, & I've experienced so many things!

I feel very natural now, I don't think I've ever been this natural in my entire life, including feeling very close to everybody, including the dogs, the plants, the birds who come to wake me up every morning.  

It is difficult to explain but I  feel very close to everything, very connected.   It feels quite different to the way one lives in the city.

Dixon with the machete ... looking kinda Rambo-ish here  
I am very encouraged that there is a way out, especially when I hear you guys talking about how to make things better, how to step out of supporting the current system.

And after those discussions I start to realize maybe there is a way out, not just staying with what society or the government is telling you should be doing, but what we choose to do with our lives.

After this, my thought of being with nature has been strengthened.    I always had that thought, but I didn't think it was possible to achieve it, basically because I grew up in the city, and always there were people telling you, doubting that you can live in nature.   

But i know it's possible, after this month of experience.

One view of the farm from the north-west, with some of our almonds in flower (click on any photo to see it bigger) 

How to Participate

We are creating the team that will start in May for a first authentic GaiaSis adventure > if you're interested in participating (during May, June & July), you need to send us your CV with an introduction letter, & be a member of The Club.  We will get in touch soon.

 These first months we didn't follow the plan to organize the first adventure as predicted, because we already had here various very active people who had arrived at different times.

But we also liked this other way*, so we can keep also welcoming volunteers, if there are other people who meet the minimum criteria.
*(mainly thanks to Berry who coordinated the activities of the Volunteers, making it possible for the family to have their space & intimacy & that we could continue with our own jobs).

You're a great Organizer :) 

Donations to the Project

You can also become a co-investor by sending money to support this project, through PayPal, using our email Hola@EcoInversion.net
or directly to the Permaculture Academy account

- doing the PDC+++ Course is also a way of supporting the project directly -

All donations, large or small, are used to create the EcoVillage infrastructure.

Mimosas in the finca of a neighbour that we visited these past weeks