Feed the World with small scale farming: Cultivando Biodiversidad: Red Andaluza de Semillas: Seed biodiversity .

We spent some interesting hours at this Seed Network Fair in one of the nearby towns in the Sierra Aracena. There was an exchange of seeds by various people or collectives that are trying to cultivate organically or here in Spain ‘ ecologica’ or ‘ bio’. We were able to visit  a plot of land that had been an abandoned ‘huerta’ outside the smaller village of Las Chinas. The aim of this collective was to cultivate organically and to be able to use abandoned land. The collective was called ‘sin tierra’ without land. It was great to see the young people involved in horticulture and we saw the most amazing sized tomato too! We have now bought some very tasty veg from them. Am not sure how my own attempt at self sufficiency will go and maybe it is better to support other projects and help people make a living out of growing on a small scale.

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The seed exchange stall at the Andalucia seed network Fair
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The stall of the collective Sin Tierra

There was also a stall about permaculture in the Sierra Aracena and some very tasty apple juice was being shared from a wooden press.  image I struggled with my Spanish but attended some talks on how to conserve seeds and preservation of fruit and vegetable. Speaking to Trini who was giving some of these talks and who runs a very successful Eco Finca it was clear she also meant the biodiversity of flowers and all kinds of cultivating. She felt that monoculture can damage the environment. Is there hope for more small scale farming and the ability to support the natural world along with feeding the billions of human mouths. One of the food myths on the BBC web site from the UN was that large agribusiness was the way forward for the future. The suggestion was that small scale farmers are major producers of food to feed the world already and that biodiversity of the natural world can be supported by this type of farming.

Summer sun and sand in September. Conservation of Spanish sand dune coastline

Umbrella pines on the sand dunes.
Umbrella pines on the sand dunes.

Now that the summer seems to be really over and cool Autumn mornings have settled in here are a few photos of our short break at the beginning of September in Punta Umbria, Huelva in Spain. We were lucky to stay near the restored sand dunes and the natural beauty before getting onto the beach was an inspiration. There are many ways to have a beach holiday but the best must be when the beaches and habitats nearby are  full of natural beauty and not Costa Concreto. Along this stretch of  long sandy beach the sand dunes, flora and habitats are being restored.  Los Enebrales is the name of the type of Juniper found on the dunes.  This area of Spain is well known by the locals but this year did not have such a good turn out of  other tourists. It is near some very important conservation on sites such as the Marismas del Odiel and The Parque Donana.  Well worth combining the birds and the beaches! The future of habitats such as this is in our hands if we demand really responsible and sustainable tourism.

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Equinox flowers on Finca Navasola

Here we are back at the Finca in the Sierra Aracena. At first I thought there were no more flowers but on a short walk up to our era ( where the grain used to be threshed) we came across all these tiny flowers. In the bible of Mediterranean flowers it states they like rocky places and the stones are still in place on the era and it is on a rocky hillside. In the Latin names both the snowflake and squill are down as autumnal and with no leaves. These come after the flowering. And then there was this one extraordinary lily and again with no leaves and just a long stem. I’m hoping the Ohio blogger might cast some light on this variety. It is out now in the public gardens in the town of Aracena. An autumnal lily?

Having just passed the equinox at least all around the world we share the same amount of daytime for a while! And I really enjoy sharing blogs with everyone all around this most amazing world of nature and the humans that love and care for it!

Tiny flowers and one lily on the era this September.
Tiny flowers and one lily on the era this September.
Latin names Scilla Autumnalis  for Autumn squill Leucojum autumn ale for Autumn snowflake.
Latin names
Scilla Autumnalis for Autumn squill
Leucojum autumn ale for Autumn snowflake.
Snowflakes and Autumn Squill....very tiny.
Snowflakes and Autumn Squill….very tiny.
One lily.....seeded by birds as can be found in public gardens in the nearby town of Aracena.
One lily…..seeded by birds as can be found in public gardens in the nearby town of Aracena.

Gannets- a very British responsibility or a very Scottish responsibility. Over 50 % of gannets in the world use the British Isles and Ireland for their nesting colonies

Conservation and cooperation across human borders?  Marine reserves, Seabird reserves. Wildlife knows no boundaries.

Feature Picture by Lesley Martin
24/05/12
‘The population of gannets on the Bass Rock, off the East Lothian coast in Scotland, has reached an all time record. There are now around 150,000 birds which will increase further once this year’s chicks have hatched. The Bass Rock is the largest single gannet colony in the world and was described famously by Sir David Attenborough as ‘one of the wildlife wonders of the world’.’

We hope that on this referendum day for Scotland  whoever wins  the power  will protect the amazing range of wildlife that also has its home in and around Scotland.

On my recent visit back to the UK we  went to visit the RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs. Here we were able to watch at close view gannets flying, soaring by from cliff top viewing points. For me far better than taking a boat out to sea and far off rocks. Still haven’t quite recovered from my 24 hour ferry from Santander!

We learnt some interesting facts about gannets and can now possibly age them as under five years old or over.  The young are quite black and then become more speckled until when mature at 5 and ready to mate their plumage becomes brilliant white with contrasting black wing tips. Around their brain is a kind of jelly that protects against the cold of the sea and their rapid dives in to catch fish.

Another place that we saw gannets a couple of years ago was off the coast of Ireland. We were visiting our friend in Kerry and went on a boat trip to the mystical and wild Skelligs. On Skelligs Michael in May there were also plenty of puffins and other sea birds  such as Razorbills.  Two places well worth a visit for the wildness and the wild inhabitants. Photos below with thanks to Nature Watch and other wiki sources. Last one …. My iPhone…..

 

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Gannets at Bempton cliffs, Yorkshire. An RSPB reserve.

Orchids – Sordid tales of lust, deception & unrequited love 

Successful selective seduction! A really informative piece on orchids and key pollinators.

Sustainability soapbox

orchid Drakaea_glyptodon (Hammer)

Orchids go to great lengths to attract the insects that are vital to their survival.

Like humans, they put on a pretty dress, slap on some lipstick and perfume, flirt and promise sexual favours and gifts (but do not always deliver). Some even resort to trickery and traps via a sort of passive aggressive courtship that leaves their suitors frustrated but unharmed.

Devious or inspired?

Imagine you are one of the 25,000 or so wild orchid species trying to make sure that pollination takes place while your flowers are in bloom. You need the insect to find and choose you over the multitude of competitors in the area.*

Can we blame them for indulging in a bit of sexual deception and manipulation?

Don’t be fooled by appearances

orchid Phaius_tankarvilleaeSome members of the orchid family mimic plants, such as lilies (e.g. Phaius tankarvilleae), that typically trade pollen or nectar but may…

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More seedy thoughts and photographic art

Some follow up photos and thoughts on  waking up the seeds at Wakehurst Place, the  Royal Botanical Millenium Seed Bank. Many of the seeds conserved so far have been UK indigenous and endangered. Some of these seeds collected are being used to restore wild flower meadows in UK.  I am pondering how to maybe use some of the wild flower seeds on the Finca. Should I offer a helping hand?  Or interfere with natures’ ways? Is too much endangered and we need carefully planned conservation of  habitats that support biodiversity. IMG_2509 The view walking down to the Millenium seed bank looks as if you are walking towards greenhouses! However the Southern roofs all have solar panels to give the power needed to conserve the seeds that are in deep freeze way down below in the vaults of the building.

Phaenocoma prolifera Cape Strawflower Banked 2006
Phaenocoma prolifera
Cape Strawflower
Banked 2006

IMG_2498 This seems all very high tech as you can watch the botanical scientists at work in the airy and light atrium.   There are also some photos and beds of seeds from the seed bank. Some of the endangered seeds from hot dry habitats are shown. These have been grown from seeds once frozen.BUT not all seeds can be preserved by deep freezing. This seems to support the case for trying to conserve habitats but in some areas this is difficult due to many human factors and I will include drought in that as it is likely that is due to man made climate change. IMG_2500 IMG_2507 Another thought that occurred to me having read a fascinating blog on orchids and their seductive nature for key pollinators is the need to conserve the pollinators too! Thanks to Pipmarks for that and the comment on previous post should link anyone interested in orchids. I will end with one of the photos that had won the photography competition on display at Wakehurst. Such detail and so complex a beastie!

Paul Harcourt Davies 1st place Wildlife in the Garden
Paul Harcourt Davies
1st place Wildlife in the Garden

Forever Green: Voices for the Wilderness Act

I am trying to remember the words of the Gerald Manley Hopkins poem in the last stanza. ‘What would the world be once bereft of wildness and wet, wildness and wet’

longitudes

50 years

tree silhouette

Fifty years ago Wednesday the Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. The act gave a legal definition to the term “wilderness:”

A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.

Nine million acres of public land were initially designated as wilderness. The act is one of the most significant pieces of environmental legislation in American history, because it concerns land and water already designated as national park, forest, or wildlife refuge, and forever protects these wild areas from damage due to logging, grazing, mineral extraction, road-building, construction – or any human manipulation, good or bad. The act essentially says “Enjoy these places and life forms, but don’t alter them.”  Keep Them…

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Wake Up call at Wakehurst Place. Home of the Kew Gardens Millennium seed bank.

IMG_2536.JPGWakehurst Place is a large estate with a diverse range of trees from different areas of the globe. It is the country home of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew and there is the space for not only many trees but different botanical areas and the Millennium Seed Bank. Our visit in August gave us a glimpse of many of  the flowering plants showing off the glory of their seeds in the garden areas. This seemed quite fitting as housed  deep under some long glass barn shaped buildings is the Millennium Seed collection. This is part of the conservation work of Kew Gardens and  involves collecting as many of the rare and endangered plant seeds and preserving those that can be kept at very cold temperatures. The aim is to protect the biodiversity of plant life as habitats come more under threat. It will also ensure future research into the amazing range of plants and their properties.  The seeds I have taken photos of are in the lush gardens by streams and ponds.

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Stinking Gladwyn Iris foetidissma, S>W> Europe, N Africa

Adopt a seed and save a species is a campaign set up by Kew. It seems that four plants a day are at risk of disappearing forever. At present Kew has stored 30,000 species. More info on www.kew.org/adoptaseed

The Seed Bank is already helping with conservation and an online seed list makes 900 collections of over 450 species available to organisations. These can then help in the conservation of other species.

IMG_2556.JPGWakehurst Place also has many sculptures and art and photography exhibitions. We also enjoyed the labyrinth set up in the woods. And a finger one on the stump of one of the many trees lost in the 1987 hurricane that hit the south of England.I am determined to try a labyrinth shape in one of my fields in Spain! I must also try some more painting and sculpture. So much to do! Or just enjoy the close ups of the seeds themselves  that provide plenty of sculpture and in many forms.

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Last of the summer flowers: And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Final farewell fotos of flowers  on the finca.  August 2014. Summer is passing…….

In August in Spain the weather is usually too hot and dry in the summer. The flowers start to fade and all seems rather dried out. Some flowers resist the parched conditions but most decide to allow their seeds to finish developing and be ready to disperse. This helps survival of the species  through a long dry summer. Deep roots keep the trees and other bushes in business.

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare and a different interpretation based on the natural world.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate,

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Hoary Mullein
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Candytuft
Knautia  - small blue/ purple
Knautia – small blue/ purple

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;

And sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, ( the very hot sun as in Spain?)

And often is his gold complexion dimmed; ( English weather with clouds in the summer!)

And every fair from fair oft times declines,

By chance or by nature’s unchanging course untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Silene
Silene

Shakespeare’s sonnet reflects the transience of beauty with the beauty of summer. But nature like the focus of his sonnet has an everlasting and ever changing beauty, beyond the flower! This is my  interpretation of a sonnet often thought to be about love. Maybe it can be about the intricate workings of nature that go beyond the transient beauty of a flower or a young man or woman! When we understand the true beauty of a person or of nature we can truly appreciate the deeper aspects of love, life and the natural world. Or was Shakespeare just trying to immortalise himself or his’dark lad..y’ love  with words?  His words offer such richness and are open to interpretation and appreciation through the ages and to different cultures.
I think I have found another angle on this sonnet and an admiration for what goes on beyond our sight within the seeds creating the changing seasons.

CO-CREATING WITH NATURE: HOW WOLVES GAVE NEW LIFE TO YELLOWSTONE PARK, EVEN CHANGING THE RIVERS

I saw this video on another social media site and thought how amazing it was as there is such a physical effect on the landscape by the wolves. When I was teaching we used to do creating writing based on animals and would watch a documentary about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone.So this is doubly amazing to see the true impact of the wolves in helping create more biodiversity.
Thanks to Altzar and Tamara for this.

Nature needs Nurture

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