The garden, one year on!

19055657_1865513100435479_5471137978631549677_oSo we have prioritised making a garden before building a house to live in…..makes total sense right?

Last summer we managed to get some veg in the ground having not long arrived, but this year we have really gone to town! We have a mix of flowers, plants and vegetables as well as our established fruit trees.19093045_1865514447102011_5616438970873155913_o

Digging what seemed like a million veg beds in the hard, dry, stony Spanish soil seemed never ending! And the amount of seeds I had growing (as well as buying plug plants from the garden centre – oops!) didn’t help relieve the pressure of digging beds.

We have a variety of vegetables growing, and in different situations around the garden….a little experiment if you will…..

Herb garden
Herb garden

We have three different varieties of corn (glass gem, black and standard yellow maize) some planted in full sun as a wind break and some in a shadier more sheltered spot. As it turns out the more exposed corn is doing so much better than the protected corn and so as the black corn is now wanting to go into the ground, we are planting it in an exposed sunny spot.

We are growing three different types of pepper; a standard large pepper, padron peppers and jalepeno (we also have some chillies on the go, chilli lombardo and another variety from the local seed bank). Although our neighbours told us ‘mucho sol’ for the peppers, we have found that they are doing much much better in a slightly shadier spot….bare in mind that nowhere is really that shady here!IMG_20170509_115631580_HDR

We have been harvesting tomatoes for a few weeks now, and they are super delicious! They are growing in full sun and are loving it (although our shady tomatoes aren’t doing too badly either). We are growing cherry tomatoes and corni de cabra, as well as some small yellow tomatoes but the name escapes me). We have grown tomatoes for quite a few years but they’ve always ended up in a jungle-type situation and we end up with bad tomatoes. This year, we have followed Antonio’s advice that’s been hollered over the fence and sure enough we have some awesome tomatoes growing and there’s plenty of air getting through, the tomatoes are sweet and juicy and we are revelling in the lack of  jungle this year!

Some other veg we are growing/have been growing this year are….IMG_20170607_184028971

We planted garlic in December and we harvested yesterday (planted it on the shortest day, and harvested on the longest day). We’ve never grown garlic before, the bulbs are a decent size and smell pretty stinky. A successful harvest!

Habas!
Habas!

Alongside the garlic we had planted spinach and broad beans. The broad beans were a roaring success but the spinach bolted soon into growing (lesson learnt, need a shadier spot) the leaves were tough too due to the amount of sun they had had.

Our lettuce and peas have come to an end now as we don’t have a shady enough spot for them, its just too damn hot! But they were yummy while they lasted. Next year we will know to plant them much earlier as they will have a longer season before it gets too hot.IMG_20170501_192235384

We have courgettes just coming in now, corn, sweet potatoes, artichoke, potatoes, celery, aubergine, strawberries, cucumber, onions, chard, watermelon, leeks and a bed full of herbs (chives, black basil, dwarf basil, rosemary, lemon balm, mint, and oregano) as well as our fig trees, pomegranate trees, nispero, grape vines, almonds and olives.Basically we have our hands full! But its so much fun! Everything just grows here like magic….just add water!

We are hoping to create a food forest eventually and I’m pretty excited to report that the citrus tress we planted last year (orange, lemon, mandarin) all have fruit on them this year, and our avocado trees tried really hard to flower this year but we heartbreakingly picked them off to concentrate on getting a good root system! Although I am pretty desperate for our own avocados.

And so this is our vegetable garden! Productive, satisfying and it keeps our bellies full.

I have also been growing flowers this year; my plan is to grow our wedding flowers for later in the year, but that’s another tale for another time!

Adios!

Hot water you say?

By the power of the sun….we have hot water!

Hot water that comes out with excellent pressure to wash ones manky, dusty self! Oh it is wonderful. It´s not posh.
It´s not stylish. But it sure is the best shower I have ever had.  IMG_20160528_150342594_HDR[1]

We bought 100M of black water tubing and coiled the tube on the roof of our outhouse. The water tube then drops down to our lower terrace and is connected to a tap and a shower head. There is an old shower tray at the bottom with green tarp around four posts for a little modesty.
The water heats up in the sun and gives you a great pressure, hot water shower for about 7 minutes.
While showering amongst the olive and almond trees (and adjacent rubble pile) you can see the hill opposite, the Sierra Nevada and the Sierra Lujar. I´d exchange our little solar shower over the poshest bathroom any day! Apart from maybe in winter when I won´t be so enthusiastic and the water, not so hot.
For now, this is a more than adequate way of keeping clean. It’s luxurious in fact. And the best part is that the water heats up again in about twenty minutes.
Winner!IMG_20160528_150410210[1]

Compost toilet

I’ve explained the mechanics behind the toilet in a previous post. But just wanted to show IMG_20160528_150418359[1]you our makeshift toilet. Its pretty sweet. In you pop. Do your business. Cover with sawdust. close the lid and off you go.

Bucket full? No problem. We have a four bucket system. One bucket is full. Place the lid and clips on. Place a new bucket with sawdust in the bottom. And away to go.
Once all four buckets are full, we follow the steps to compost our humanure. Click here for full post.

Humanure compost toilet

You do WHAT with your poo?

We made the decision to have humanure compost toilets inside and out! We like them; it means we are dealing with our own waste, you get compost out of it at the end (returning veggie scraps and food waste back to the earth). We´re also not wasting gallons of drinking water every time we flush and also we haven´t got to worry about plumbing for black water. Sounds like a winning decision if you ask me!!!!

We already have an outside toilet (well, a bucket with a toilet seat on top). We just needed to create our compost bays, gather the materials, and set ourselves up to be able to begin composting our humanure.

We used wombled pallets (x3) to create the bay structure. We placed these on top of a ´bowl´we created in the earth and screwed them together in a u-shape.IMG_20160310_134126268

We filled the bay with a bale of straw (loose).IMG_20160310_141541472_HDR

As an aside, we were massively proud of ourselves for getting the straw. Someone told us there was a man named Paco on the road out of town that sells hay and straw. They were our only directions. Well, we only bloody went and found Paco on his tractor in a field and managed to buy some straw from him! I don´t think I´ve been that proud of myself in some time!

Ahem, anyway, after filling the bay with straw and supporting the front with planks, the bay is ready to receive some caca! Although, of course, this being us, we hadn´t really thought through the position of the compost bay (we thought we had. We were wrong) and decided to move it to a shadier spot before filling!

The compost toilet itself is really simple. There´s a wooden box with a toilet seat on it. Inside there is a bucket. You do your business; toilet paper, urine and solid waste into the bucket and you cover your ´doings´with a good amount of sawdust. When the bucket is full. Put the lid on it and take it to the compost. You also need a good amount of kitchen scraps (veggie peels, egg shells, dinner leftovers etc) as well as green material (weeds pulled from the garden) when adding to the bay.

Down at the bay you make a hole or bowl in your hay (carbon material),  empty your kitchen scraps (broad range of nutrients and micro organisms), then layer your weeds (nitrogen material, plus broader range of nutrients) and on top, empty your humanure from the bucket. Cover the ´bowl´with plenty of hay and water and leave it do its thing. We keep a compost thermometer in the mound to check that the compost is reaching the correct temperatures.

And there you have it, pretty simple.

You collect into this bay for one year or until it is full. And then you simply begin a new bay. I recommend reading the Humanure handbook by Joe Jenkins for the ins and outs of creating a humanure compost system (it´s well written, funny and has all the information you need. you can also read it chapter by chapter online). Recommendations are that you leave your humanure for two years before using it. You can get a sample checked in a lab (there is a place in town here with us) to check for any remaining pathogens. We have decided to work on a three year cycle just to be sure, and to cover ourselves in case anyone is ill during the year that those extra nasty bugs are properly gone.

We currently just have an outside toilet, but eventually we will have additional ones in our indoor bathroom as well as just off the bedroom.

We were a little worried about smell. But we have been surprised by the total lack of smell. Nothing from the toilet, and nothing from the bay. And it has been hot. We are in the south of Spain with very little rain and so we were expecting at least a little whiff. But nope! Nada. Zilch!

Doing my business with a view like this, while recycling waste and not wasting water has made me feel rather smug!IMG_20160310_162905840

Garden

Hmmm…it’s difficult to know where to start with the garden as there’s so much we want to do with it. And so much that has to be done before even starting.  I’ll start by describing what is there now.

Upper terrace
Upper terrace

The land we have with the house is about 1250 square meters, split into 2 roughly equally sized terraces. There is a big differnce in height between the two terraces and there is a pathway down one side to link the two.

Alberca
Alberca

On the upper terrace there is an alberca (water storage) and an outdoor bathroom. I use the term bathroom lightly. It’s a bit of a shack with a shower cubicle and a black hole toilet. I am having nothing to do with lifting the lid on the toilet, I am petrified of what I might find. So Matt has kindly offered to do that one. Phew! We dont know if there’s water connected to the shower but its definitely do uppable!

Outdoor 'bathroom'
Outdoor ‘bathroom’

The land itself has asequia rights (ancient Moorish irrigation system that uses the snow melt from the Sierra Nevada) for water to irrigate the land, but the land hasn’t been watered for about 4 years. This makes us sad, but our neighbours have reassured us that as soon as we start watering, most things will come back! Huzzah! We are really lucky in that we have organic farming neighbours who seem really happy that we’ve come to tend the land, and have offered their help with anything we need; if only our Spanish was good enough to understand them (sigh) but gesticulating seems to be working for now.

When we were over in September we feasted on the fruit from the garden (despite nothing being watered in years). There were pomegranates growing like weeds laden with fruit. There were red and green grapes and loads of ripe figs. We were mega happy and running round like kids in a sweetshop!

Fresh pomegranates anyone?
Fresh pomegranates anyone?

As well as these trees and vines we also have 11 olives. They are ancient, and they’re all split at the base having been copiced years ago. We’ve been told this is because way-back-when, olive farmers used to be paid by the number of olive trees they had, and if a tree was copiced they would be paid per new offshoot. We love our old wonky olive trees and cant wait until next November to do our first harvest (and then probably lose them all due to not really understanding brining or storing, but its all a learning curve).

Oh, and we also have the saddest looking citrus tree. Its so sad we can’t tell if its an orange, lime or lemon, and we’re not holding our breath for it to come back to be honest. We can all but hope and give it love.

Prickly pears
Prickly pears

On the lower terrace there is a row of really healthy looking old cacti. Prickly pears. They bear edible fruit, but their prickles are really prickly so we need to work a way around that one!

I think that’s it in terms of where the land lays. I think it’ll all have to begin by tackling the long dry grass that covers the land. That’ll be fun IMAG3338I’m sure!