David Vidal

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since Sep 29, 2013
Catalonia (Europe), Zone 9
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Recent posts by David Vidal

Hi Bauluo, welcome here then, we are in need of initiatives like that here to start turning the tide to a more sustainable living!

Well, the EU has been constructed from pure ad hoc cases throughout its short history, so regardless of the international status Catalonia finally reaches, nobody at any side pro or anti seriously believes that an already European region with the highest economic productivity and output in the Iberian peninsula can be kicked out of the EU. On the other hand, I think the most serious "risk" of an EU unraveling is not because of a single region but of the whole of Southern European countries, and one can easily notice this feeling starting to catch into the population whether Catalan or Spanish. Greece is a great advanced example to follow closely for that process.

If/when that happens, it will certainly affect all the countries in the region, and then I would rather live in a place like Catalonia, for its Mediterranean geography, Euro-North/South mingled culture, industrial back-up economy and proximity to the Central-Western European Pyrenean-Alpine hub. Currencies and political alliances come and go through history, but the land (and ecologists/permaculturists know best) stay. Just my two cents, though.
4 years ago
Yes, in Spain there are very strict sanitary laws regarding dairy milk or any other farm produce, and the requirements are probably just as tight as those in the US. About any earthworks, buildings and the like, before you start doing anything on your plot of land you must have a project signed and endorsed by an Architect/Engineer, and any waterworks scheme or whatever you do must be in the project and must fit into the municipal urbanist plan. Otherwise, you'll never get the permits to build anything. If you decide to present a passable project and later make unauthorized changes, there are very high chances your neighbors are going to report the authorities and apart from receiving a fine, you'll need to undo what you did.

Spain is divided in autonomous communities, who in some areas have exclusive competences, so some things may vary from region to region. So in addition to nation-wide and municipal laws, you must accomplish the regional ones, who may be stricter. A common saying here in Spain is that "we pay Swedish taxes and receive African services", and even if the African part it's an exaggeration, the Swedish part regarding taxes and regulations is not.

I'm Spanish, and I wouldn't buy land in Spain. As far as I could compare, land in a decent location (not in a heavily-depressed area, I mean) it's pretty expensive, at least compared to land in the US. I think with a bit of effort and savings I could definitely buy some decent piece of land in the US; in Spain, I should win the lottery to get one. Sorry to be that harsh, I'd hope I was wrong. Anyway, welcome here, have a good time!
4 years ago
Employment and Spain seem to be non-compatible words nowadays, and many young people here find ourselves forced to look abroad for work, so it really takes a lot of courage to come here to make a living. Jokes aside, welcome to the place! I'm involved and also know a few permaculture (or "eco" which seems to be the adjective we use more around here"-related initiatives) around here, and unfortunately as of now they are quite timid to provide a way of living for their participants, and most of them are done in a volunteer basis.

In your specific career, for example, I can recall a group of architects and related people around here I recently met who are attempting to perform small constructions with local-found reed, which is an ancient technique nearly gone. They seem to be quite serious about their efforts, and they are even trying to develop and propose to the authorities a legal building code for it. They also cut the reeds (on February) and build them for the people and collectives interested at the time, at least for now. I found that very interesting and worth following. Their website is this one (in Catalan and Spanish, but translatable via google translate).

In other areas, like food and such... well, not so much, really. In Catalonia there's the Cooperativa Integral Catalana, who has plenty of projects, but I'm still to see the success of many of them, and I'm quite skeptic at the moment. Then, during this past years, there are some people who has been trying to do, mostly as individual or familiar, small-scale agriculture like community supported agriculture, selling eco veggies, eggs and a few other things, but they are scattered around the country and often as purely individual enterprises who can't afford to get bigger and hire people.

Well, good luck in your search then, really hope you can find your way here.
4 years ago
Keep up the good work! I stumbled across your project in r/permaculture, so I'll paste here the suggestions I made:

- A user-friendly way [for the user] to interact with the elevation model, to be able to place hypothetic swales and raise or lower the terrain at will.
- A kind of colored layer that records the amount of "drops" in an area right after the simulation has played, to be able to get a single quick image of the areas where water flows are more present.
4 years ago
Well, since I'm also an introvert I have not much more to add to the topic but agree and sympathize with all of you. Anyway, I think it's worth mentioning that during my permie-gardening adventures around my place I've usually noticed a higher percentage than average of shy/introvert people getting involved in permaculture-related activities.
4 years ago
Hey Nick, so that was the piece of land you told me about. I'm really impressed, that seems like a great opportunity indeed! The comments from the other permies have been very helpful indeed.

Summing it up, the climate and conditions in the area may be quite suitable for growing stuff, and since permaculture techniques can offer a bit more versatility than the conventional-industrial ones in correcting soil imbalances, the sandiness of the land can just be a minor setback. Plus, there are some crops who are resistant to high salinity levels (link, link and link, but locals and permies surely can be a main source of ideas and experience), so both approaches could be combined - a raised beds scheme for usual veggies, and a cash crop scheme for salt resistant ones.

And as mentioned above, there's also the potential of some type of livestock or specially aquaculture scheme, so that would be a nice way to take advantage instead of fighting a potentially high salty water table.

As a negative side is the very high potential of natural disasters hitting the area, not to mention mid-to-long-term sea-level rise. Hence I think it'd be risky to raise some permanent crops like fruit trees, nuts or wood trees, specially if they are to be the main cash crops, because the loss in infrastructure and crops in case even a much less powerful hurricane than Katrina hits may be insurmountable.
4 years ago
I can understand your points, the situation both bureaucratic and the doubts to be a farmer are quite similar here in Catalonia and in Spain. I guess it's a sort of a Southern European particular dilemma.

First of all, I think it's true what you said that by cultivating and selling vegetables, even with the organic certification, it's very difficult that you can barely make a living. The few people that are having some success over here with this approach are the ones who prepare and sell weekly baskets of fresh veggies to certain interested people. The key is obviously to find that handful and loyal group of local people willing to pay in a regular basis, so this kind of initiatives use to come not from scratch but from previously well-established initiatives. I think in the US the weekly basket and similar assured buying approach is called CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).

About the crowdfunding stuff; I've been actually a crowdfunder of a local olive oil producing cooperative. They basically have 0 money and lots of Hectares of olives, so they do the crowdfunding to get the money before the harvest, and after getting the oil they give it to the crowdfounders and sold the rest at local CSAs. To implicate the people to attend and get in touch, they invited them to help them catch the olives, so it has also this kind of community-building spirit, which is attractive for many of us. So, according to my experience, crowdfunding may be a viable way for some punctual and particular projects like the olive oil harvest (we Mediterraneans have a special crush with it, isn't it?) or other similar seasonal jobs, but less so with entire (permie or not) projects, which would require a much more personal involvement other than paying money and receiving an item in exchange, that is what we are most used to.

I have no land of mine but I've been thinking along similar lines than yours, and I've reached the conclusion that until economic and resource circumstances change for the good, food-prepared stuff is the best way to get a bit of a profit from land products. For example, instead of selling tomatoes in the market, which thousands of "industrial" producers sell it in a much more reliable regularity and low price than you can do, you could learn to prepare and sell "home-made local organic tomato jelly" in a CSA scheme or even in a more open local market. Another example that comes to mind would be instead of selling the chickpeas directly (well, you're probably going to get a lot, so you can do a 50-50% approach to try which is the most profitable way) sell already prepared "home-made local organic Hummus".

Anyway, don't get yourself too stressed, and as you said, try to go one step at a time. (yes, easier said than done, specially with that loan in mind, but having another couple of jobs to rely one for a stable income is quite encouraging). If I had a piece of land of mine to practice permaculture, I'd follow something like a three-year plan, in which I'd spend the first year experimenting, trying to grow as many varied food as possible to see how much can I lower my family reliance on external (i.e., money) food supplies. Once done, I would go the second year into learning all kind of permaculture tricks, like ways to process food (jelly making, recipes, etc), arts and crafts, etc, and sharing this to my local people so they start knowing how good I am in getting that jelly done, while I would also be lowering my food and stuff dependence even more deeply. And finally, in the third year, I'd be confident enough to start telling the government that I want to be a farmer (you know what I mean), so I could begin selling my produce and create or co-join with other similar people a local CSA scheme. Well, I'm a slow-learner and this timing could be definitely reduced depending on one's preexisting skills, and necessities, but it was just an example so I could give you my two-cents on the issue.

So really hope you can have much luck with your project, and just tell us about how's going.
4 years ago
I suppose it's inevitable that sometimes tiny bits of reality get into mainstream media. Better than nothing, for sure.
4 years ago
In Europe we've got a type of mushroom called Bloody Milk Cap (Lactarius Sanguifluus) which lives in symbiosis with pines, and is specially appreciated in Southern Europe.

4 years ago
In Catalonia we've also got plenty of both holm (or evergreen) oak types, and also hybrids of both sub-species (since like other types of oaks, they inter-breed quite easily). Here's the leaf morphological difference between a true Quercus Ilex Ilex (left) and a true Quercus Ilex Ballota/Rotundifolia (right). As wikipedia says, just the acorns of Quercus Ilex Ballota are edible, but since holm oaks in transition areas are usually inter-bred, it's not easy to find a 100% true non-bitter acorn:

Source: http://ichn.iec.cat/bages/alzinar/fulles.htm

Burra Maluca wrote:I have one that grows just outside our gate and gives lovely big, sweet acorns.

According to wikki -

There are two subspecies:
Quercus ilex subsp. ilex. Native in the north and east of the species' range, from northern Iberia and France east to Greece. Leaves narrow; acorns 2 cm long, bitter tasting.
Quercus ilex subsp. rotundifolia (syn. Q. rotundifolia, Q. ballota). Native in the southwest of the species' range, in central and southern Iberia (Portugal and Spain) and northwest Africa. Leaves broader; acorns 2.5 cm long, sweet tasting.

I'm guessing that I live pretty well on the border where the two species overlap, as there are a lot of oak trees around with more holly shaped leaves, but 'my' one is less holly like and has sweet acorns, which would fit with it being Quercus ilex subsp. rotundifolia. The locals call it a ballota.

I think I'm gonna have to collect a load more acorns this year...

Here's a photo, taken last April.

4 years ago