Judit Castillo

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since Apr 16, 2014
Catalonia, Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate,
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Recent posts by Judit Castillo

Hello there!

A couple of weeks ago I transplanted a bunch of seedlings: 2 local varieties of tomato, peppers, cucumbers and courgette. I last saw them 4 days ago (don't live in the property) and they were fine, but today I found they had either disappeared amongst the mulch or looking like the images attached.

I was worried there was a problem with the manure bed in which the tomatoes are planted, but the peppers have the same symptoms and are planted in a different bed.

My guess is this is the result of a drop in temperatures, it'a been getting colder at night.

I would love any input anybody can give, I am looking forward to learn from these events.

Thank you!
Thank you for your responses!

Nikos, your plan sounds really good and I am glad you mentioned seabuckthorn, I love its many uses. In terms of price though, the privet wins (a quick search gave me privet foor 1.75eur as opposed to seabuckthron for 7.50eur.) And I'm guessing it grows faster too. What distance apart did you plant your privets?
We have pistacia lentiscus growing wild here and I have always thought it would be ideal for a windbreak, but have had no luck with my cuttings so far. Also, have to research its growth rate. Do you have it in Greece as well?

Troy, that's a great idea! It's always useful to have a quick technique, it could also work well as a short term break while the more permanent one is growing.
The problems the wind causes are many, from drying out the soil, stressing the plants and vegetables, carrying away mulch or anything you leave laying around and also, it makes it very, very uncomfortable to work.
I just feel like I can't be developing the land and leaving it to the mercy of this destructive power! (It's definately in my cards to harness this power and turn it into something useful in the future).

3 years ago
Hello everyone, I don't have any experience with windbreaks so I would like to know what you all think:

I'm in the NE of Spain, in Catalonia and even though my region is known for the northern wind (tramuntana), it's the Southern wind that we experience the most.
That is because there's approximately 1.5km of open fields to the south, with no windbreak whatsoever between the property and the fields.

Facing south, we've got 230m open, that need to have a windbreak. From those, 50m already have a low stone wall, as you can see in these photos:

this is the wall from inside the property

and this is from the outside of the property.
As you can see it is elevated from the road, and there are a few young leyland cypress that were planted in 2012. I would like to keep them just because right now, something is better than nothing.

The rest of the property is like this:
open field, again a couple of cypress are left there and I'm hoping to just be able to add them to the new windbreak.

For a bit of extra info this is the wind we had yesterday as an example:

And this is the yearly average:

On top of that, I'm not the main decision-maker on the property and it might be sold in the future, so I don't want to spend thousands on trees.
I might already have some useful trees from which I could take some cuttings of, like mulberry. I have also thought of willows since it is also a fast growing tree, but was wondering if their water needs would be too high in this context (we get really dry hot summers).

I would like to know your inputs, what would you do?

Thank you so much!
3 years ago
Hi guys, how are your projects in Catalunya/Aragón going? I am from the Girona region and would love to know about other projects going on nearby, so we can share ideas, problems, solutions...

3 years ago
Thank you so much for your thoughts. The borax/sugar solution on a food tub sounds like a great solution to try.

Cristo, I think you are right in saying that they are looking for a water source, we have noticed they look for it, but the problem is there are many water sources; for example, they are in the bathroom and always around the kitchen sink and running up and down the water tap.
That's also why I think they have chosen to set camp in the pots were trees are growing and by the roots of the vegetables, as they get watered and retain moisture.
I dumped the soil out from one of the pots where a carob had died and found a big nest, with lots of white larvae. They go from pot to pot to inside the garage, inside the house...I think they have a big metropolis set up, it's not easy to tell where they come from as there seem to be many, many entry points, and when you cover one up, they make a new one.

I feel that maybe once I succeed in building more topsoil, a hummus rich top soil that replaces the dry hard clay, their presence won't be so noticeable. I don't notice them in the forest just a few meters away from where I live. Also, that will mean plants won't be stressed which in turn won't be attractive to them or the aphids. That is what I'm hoping for!

In the meantime I will try the borax and hope for some rain...

Thank you again for all your useful information!!

4 years ago
Hello! I have an "ant problem" and I am trying to understand the cause of it.

These ants are very small, (here's a picture with my thumb in it for reference), they are quick, and don't follow lines, they seem to have a scattered trajectory pattern.

We have high clay soil with quite a bit of compaction, I remember reading somewhere that ants are the worms of the drylands and decompact the soil, and even though we are Mediterranean Temperate, the summers are dry and we have quite a lot of wind, so I suspect the root cause of this overwhelming ant presence is the state of the soil, something is unbalanced. The land hasn't been cultivated for a couple of years.

Some places where we find the ants are to be expected:
They climb up and down fruit trees where they are usually farming aphids or eating rotting fruit. Also, they are inside the cob oven. I had all my young artichokes die because of the ants and their massive aphids farms, but since I'm not able to be on the property a lot, I just kind of accepted it and realized I need to fix the root cause of the problem, and that is where I need your ideas!

They are also inside the house and have been for a few years, even if there is no food whatsoever. They even get into the light fittings and make the lights flicker. We can see the house insulation (perlite and cork) coming out some gaps amongst the stones on the exterior wall.

But there are other places where I don't get their presence:
They go into my potted trees, for example. I have some carob seedlings and some avocados. I don't think they have root rot, I understand ants would go there if they had it, but they seem to be healthy, although I must say the sight of all this ants in the soil and the death of a couple of the carobs make me worry about what the ants are actually doing in there...

Also, they are on the vegetables. Attached is a picture of a chard and a carrot we let go to seed, you can see how they are piling up the crumbly soil on the surface.

What I want to know is:

1-What are they doing, why is their presence so important?
2- What can I do to help the situation, re-balance the ecosystem so their numbers decrease and don't cause problems??

4 years ago
Timothy, thank you so much for your feedback, it was really helpful!
Your post arrived as I am about to start the oven construction...a daunting but exciting experience!

Your oven looks great Good luck with any modifications you undertake.

5 years ago
I see..., that's a good video, thanks! A cleaner burn is definately desirable...I will look at those plans!!
5 years ago
Hello! I am going to build my first cob oven in a couple of months and I would like to start planning exactly what I want. However, I have a few questions, so I decided to post here as I am sure many of you are cob oven masters

So my main question is: chimney or no chimney? I thought there was no need for a chimney, as you light the fire, let it get hot, remove the fire, and the oven is ready to use.
But I have seen many models of cob ovens with a chimney in it. What would be the reason to have/not have a chimney in it?

My other question is concerning the door, I have also seen cob ovens without a door... Is it always needed?

Also I would like to know if you have any main tips concerning the building of a cob oven, what did you learn building yours? Would you do anything differently?

Thank you so much, I appreciate your knowledge!
5 years ago
Hello, this is my first post but I've visited permies on previous ocasions and I'm always very happy with all the things I learn.

I read this story on the news this morning and I thought somebody might find it very useful. You just need a great idea


Basically the town is given away to somebody that can restore it and create some employment, at the moment I think they are thinking more about a rural tourism kind of development, but I think that is only because it's the easy thing to think of.

In my opinion, this would make an amazing permaculture farm/community and would serve as an example for other places and it would provide education while at the same time providing jobs and produce and still keeping the old look of the village.

I just don't have enough experience, so I hope somebody brave will undertake the project!
5 years ago