Burra Maluca

Mother Tree
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since Apr 03, 2010
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Recent posts by Burra Maluca

Bumping this up because I need to make some sort of planting tube/stick so I can put acorns and chestnuts and things down in my bit of burned out forest.

Will update as we start to experiment...
5 days ago
Sounds like you need to learn about the Skills to Inherit Property (SKIP) program offered here on permies.

I think there are around 22 people looking for people to inherit their land and are using the program to find suitable candidates.

Check out the link  - All about SKIP
I've been collecting haws from hawthorn, Crateagus monogyna to throw into the forest to see if any grow.

They seem to do well here and give plenty of fruit for the wildlife. The leaves are edible too - known as 'bread-and-cheese' in the UK. And gorgeous white blossoms known as May in the UK, giving its name to the mayflower, though they flower in late March to April here in Portugal. They seem to like growing down the front of the terrace walls. I'm not sure if that's their preference or just that they tend to get removed on the main terraces so that's where they get pushed to, but I think maybe I'll put seeds along the top of the terrace at the front of the forest, and then in a few other patches around the place.

This bit is growing down the terrace wall at the back of my veggie garden.  We decided it was far easier to cut a few branches off and take them indoors for me to strip sitting down. The lore in Wales was that you should never cut hawthorn without specific permission from the tree, but in the circumstances I'm going to assume the tree will understand my motives and be in full support.

Then we found some more growing down a terrace wall at my son's place so I cut some more.

We were careful to take only around 20% of the available fruit so as to leave plenty for the birds, who are going to be short of food anyway with so much forest burned.

And I ended up with two nice bowls of haws to seed the forest with.

Interesting how much bigger the fruit off one of the plants was compared to the other. I intend to mix them up in case the genetics of one tree is better suited to wherever I happen to throw the seed.

Does anyone have any experience with direct sowing hawthorn? I know that I will never be able to give the care transplants are likely to need, and I thought that if I throw these around now, ideally just before rain, they should sink down through the ash where they will hopefully be out of sight of hungry critters and the rains will encourage the flesh to rot away, and hopefully the winter chills will encourage them to germinate in the spring. These things grow wild around here so I guess the genetics is adapted to the climate.

And then, as it's the solstice in a few hours, I think this is a very appropriate image to share. From one of my favourite artists Wendy Andrew

1 week ago
I spent a lot of time thinking last night, when I should have been sleeping, and remembered an exercise I was given in a course on Celtic spirituality.

I was supposed to take some bird seed and scatter in in a place in nature that felt special to me. Being a stubborn sort of creature, I refused. it just felt so wrong to me to spend money to bring commercially grown seeds and grains to my land and scatter them for no good purpose other than to help me bond to the land. I actually felt that it would alienate me from the land more than bond me to it. So I told my tutor that I would not be doing that part of the exercise but that I would grow appropriate shrubs to plant there that would give berries to feed the birds in a more sustainable, long term manner.

My tutor tried to argue with me, so I just completed the course without her input as I no longer had any respect for her.

My values, my land, my decision.

Today I feel as burned out as my land, so I took some time to just rest. Yesterday I went hunting chestnuts, which aren't quite ready yet, and acorns, of which I found precisely two.

I think the recent heavy rains have knocked them all down and the wildlife has already eaten them all. So tomorrow I'm going walking lower down, below the house, where the boar rarely visit. I may find acorns, I may find chestnuts, I know I will find hawthorn berries, and I will gather whatever I can find. If I find grasses with seed heads I will gather those. We will go for a trip up to the neighbouring mountain range soon to gather rowan berries if there are any left. I have young almond and chestnut and walnut trees that can be planted out, and a few young rowan and elder. I do have some young oak that can be moved later in the year, but they aren't a species that is likely to do well on the mountain so they will probably be planted lower down. And will take what seed I can find from pretty much anything native and local and scatter it as best I can. I will walk where I want the paths to be and just continue walking the same paths as often as I have the energy to get up there, which should keep them relatively free of the cistus that will inevitably attempt to take over. And I will read and re-read the suggestions here, and everything that seems relevant in the Social Forestry book, and do what I can that feels right. Facilitate recovery, not shape and manipulate. Help, not control.

I'll keep sharing updates and photos!
1 week ago

Bronwyn Olsen wrote:I am very interested in your progress. I have property in Northern California where fire is always a concern. I hesitate in spending limited funds on desired plants and trees because of this.

I'll be updating with photos of things that survive!

As for funds, I'm fully with you on that. Someone recommended vetiver grass, but I just saw the price of it and there's no way I could afford enough to make any appreciable difference, plus the work of planting it all when I'm so very low on energy. I really need the biggest bang per buck possible.

More expensive fruit trees and such go on the terrace at the front of the house, which is far less likely to burn as it's lower down, away from the forest and is near where any fire fighting efforts will be concentrated. It's also where we can water them more easily. The terrace behind the house is for the trees that require less water, and the fire did take some of those, though the quince is recovering well. Higher up, on the top terrace and the forest itself, gets virtually no care so anything that goes up there tends to be from seed or cuttings that we raise ourselves.

On a more positive note, it's obvious that the olive trees have been there a very long time, and the seller told us that one of the walnut trees in the ravine was 70 years old, planted by his father, and the other one was young at 50 years and that he'd planted it himself. So it's safe to say that fires don't destroy everything very often here.
1 week ago

Bronwyn Olsen wrote:I was wondering if a”water mine” was a flume? That is a ditch to move water?

No, a water mine is a horizontal tunnel (adit) dug into the very soft, porous rock. It's blocked by a low wall at the entrance and it fills up with water. There are three on the property. The top one only works when there is a lot of water around. Though now it's filled up with ash and loose soil it doesn't work at all. There's a lower one down in the ravine which is completely disused and non-functional. And there's one on the terrace just above the house which supplies all our drinking and irrigation water.

When I have the energy I'll try to make a good thread about them, but for now here's a photo.

1 week ago

klara stinders wrote:
I give you a list of trees that are surviving with me in a semi arid iberean climate, and thus may have a chance at yours too:

- Quercus ilex: edible fruit, and you can grow black truffle underneath
- almond: starting from seed, they might turn out bitter, but you can graft sweet almond on them, as wel as other prunus genus like peach
- Quercus rotundifolia: edible fruit, it is an oak tree you find in Extremadura (Spain) where the black pigs walk around (it is the bellota tree)
- Quercus suber: cork oak
- Quercus faginea: a portugese oak
- fig: i have had no success with seed, but propagating with cuttings works great
- apricot
- peach
- walnut
- apple: I'm having a huge succes with apples where I live, they have just beautifully survived their 2nd summer and do great if you give them a little bit of shade, doesnt have to be much! when started from seed, it is the same as almond though (not a yummy apple) so graft another apple on if you like

My main advice is to not be afraid to put seeds directly into the ground. For me it has worked great so far for almonds, quercus ilex, peach and apples. This year I will have a go with walnuts, chestnuts and apricots. Putting them straight into the ground saves you time and gives them a chance to grow their taproot! (As an experiment, I pulled out some almonds when they just started showing the first leaves, turns out an almond's taproot is 30cm long before it starts growing above ground! So cool!)

That's a good list!

From experience peaches tend to need a lot more water during the summer than the other trees and die unless I fuss over them, so not what I want to be putting up in the forest. The others though will be good for either the forest or the top terrace, where things have to fend for themselves! There were two old walnuts growing in the gulley so I know they will work. My neighbours experimented planting young trees up in their bit of forest a few years ago and lost every single one, so I'm more inclined to grow from seed up there, using things with big seed like acorns, chestnuts, walnuts. Then maybe fig, apricot and apple or quince as young plants on the top terrace.

In my last village there were a lot of wild Quercus rotundifolia (bolota) around. Not all of them give very sweet acorns, but the locals used to know which trees gave the best acorns and showed me all the best ones around the village. I'm certain that if I go and ask any of the old ladies nearby that I can persuade them to show me the best trees to gather from. I figure that if I plant the sweetest acorns, I'm more likely to get trees that also give sweet acorns! I also have an offer to go and collect acorns from someone's cork oak patch.

My partner has to go into town this morning, which involves driving up and over the mountain, so I'm going to hitch a ride and go on a bit of a chestnut-and-oak hunt while I'm at it. I figured that harvesting from as close to the top of the mountain as I can will give the genetics that best suited to my land. I have noticed that most of the chestnuts, for instance, grow on the north side of the mountain, but my bit is on the south and catches the sun harder during the summer. So I want the best genetics I can by choosing the most appropriate trees to harvest seed from.  

With luck there will be photos later!
1 week ago

Tomi Hazel wrote:Hello Burra!

First off I would have a lot of questions. Southern Portugal? The mountains? An Eucalyptus plantation?

Can you post a picture? All the best in your endeavors, hazel.

Hi Hazel - good to talk with you!

I made a thread here - click me talking about it all, including a lot of photos I took this morning.

There are also a lot of threads active in the whole woodland forum which you might like to join in on.

1 week ago
I managed to haul my fat ass up to our bit of forest for a bit of an explore earlier, and I want to share the photos and my thoughts while they are still (relatively) fresh in my mind. I'll come back later and address everyone else's thoughts and suggestions.

This is me struggling up the track to the access to our bit of forest.

It's kinda steep!

We don't own this bit, but it's the only way we can access our bit of forest by tractor. More about the tractor later...

This bit is ours, though we aren't quite sure about the boundary. No big trees as it was all cleared out before we bought it and the whole place was overrun with rock-rose. The access track is now visible at this end and it's obvious that it carries on as far as the gully, which is also ours, as is a metre wide access strip along the far side, which we have never even attempted to use!

You can see our burned out olives as the land sweeps down to the terraces below.

Seedlings are bursting up everywhere.

No idea what this one is. Anyone have any clue?

The leaves look rather distinctive.

The view up from the access track.

The neighbour who showed us around and knows the boundaries just waved his hand in that general direction, over the impenetrable undergrowth, and said we owned as far as all the way up there somewhere. But we only actually own an acre or two of forest so I guess it's as far as the next track up, when we can find it, and over as far as the gully.

I think further explorations up there are in order now the undergrowth is gone and the weather is a bit cooler. But not today. I'm near total exhaustion already.

There's a nice big rock over on the right hand side of the photo. I wonder if that is ours?

I knew there were some sort of oak growing in a little patch somewhere around here, and I think those burned out trees with the pale leaves might be them!

I think they are the holm type oaks, that sometimes give the sweet acorns. The sweetness varies from tree to tree, and there are none visible so I can't even test them.

I wonder if they'll survive...

And look! New sprouts of holly-shaped oak leaves sprouting up from the roots of the burned out oak trees.

THIS is the sort of news I wanted to be able to report!

Happy now...

Bracken is showing its fiddle-shaped heads, too.

I'm not generally a huge fan of bracken, but right now anything green is welcome.

More little clumps of sprouting oaks are showing themselves.

Grow little oaks. I'll go find some acorns of various sorts as soon as I can and you can show them the ropes.

This is the view from the lower edge of our bit of forest looking over the back of the water mine (still full of ash and soil...) over our top terrace, which is already starting to green up!

Then we have to pick our way down a narrow path between the ravine and the edge of the cut out terrace wall. I tried to get a photo to show the far wall of the ravine, and with a bit of help from Rock I think I managed it.

The olive grove is already starting to green up.  To the right of the olive trees you can see a rather singed young apricot tree, grown from a seed saved from my favourite three that we grew at our old place. I wonder if it will survive...

It was planted out here about three years ago and hasn't had a drop of care since then.  The bark doesn't look too damaged. I'm hopeful, and will be keeping a close eye on it for signs of life.

There are some fascinating flow patterns left after the floods.

And finally, as we reach the lower terraces by the house, I see that the young quince tree, which was also grown from seed saved from a favourite tree at our old place, is bursting with new leaves. It gave us its first fruit this year and yesterday I was busy taking the seeds out to stratify in the hope that I can keep the line going even if we lost the parent tree. But it looks like the dear little thing is going to pull through.

1 week ago

Timothy Norton wrote:I studied Emergency Management in college and the first bit of advice I can give you is that "It is better to start now with a good plan instead of waiting for a perfect plan."

This is excellent advice! Paul has a saying about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and you're quite right. Getting something done NOW is better than waiting to figure out a perfect solution.

You need to consider immediate issues. You said you own the land by the gully. Are you at risk for run-off/land slides? Could you have washout?

Well we've already had some seriously heavy rain which has caused issues, but not nearly as bad as you might fear. All the land below the forest is terraced, with huge and very secure terraces. I'm going to try to find relevant photos that my partner took, but basically apart from in the gulleys, which got pretty exciting to say the least, ash and debris has washed down the slope through the forest and been dumped on the higher terraces. Which gives me a good base to plant some almonds and things up there!

This is the top terrace, with some burned out olives.

You can see loads of ash dumped in swirls all over the place. We have lost a couple of olives completely, but I'm pretty sure most will survive, even if they have to grow back from new shoots put out near the base.

And this is the water mine between the forest and the top terrace. It's basically an adit cut into the very soft rock, and apparently goes back 100 metres into the hillside. This one dries out a lot and isn't used, but we also have one lower down which works very well.

After the rain came, loads of ash washed down the slope and completely filled the reservoir in front of the mine. At some point I intend to dig this out and use it around any new trees I plant on the top terrace. But it's not a priority at the moment.

Is there anything like an agricultural extension office where you live that might be able to give some land remediation advice or hook you up with nursery for native shrubs/trees? I'd imagine getting something into the ground in the short term to drop roots would be the next logical step.

There are things like this around. Funnily enough I tried to sign up earlier in the year as a volunteer to grow seedlings to donate to landowners effected by fire, but the project fell through. I did, however, buy some of the tree planting trays and experiment growing a few almonds, rowan, chestnuts and walnuts. Nowhere near enough plant all my land, but I do have a few things with roots that could go out somewhere. And I'll start asking around to see what schemes are available. I do worry thought that things tend to be overly bureaucratic and I may end up losing control of what happens to the land if I accept too much assistance. I'll start chasing a few leads though. And gathering acorns and chestnuts, because I know that the feeling locally is that you get a better success rate from seed than from seedlings with the those.
1 week ago