26 Poems for Nature. Poem 2. The Woodmouse Mother.

The poem of William Carlos Williams that begins with ‘ So much depends’ comes sadly to my mind this week. I  discovered it first in a wonderful book called ‘ Love That Dog’ by Sharon Creech. A beautifully simple book for young and old about poetry and loss with the young boy finally being able to express happier feelings and memories of a loved dog. I have also just finished listening to Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible, a long but well worth the listen or read. ‘So much depends.’..is quoted and used by one of the characters who also becomes a poet and doctor studying disease outbreaks after growing up in the Congo. She bears witness to the struggle of ordinary people there to survive in a country being exploited by outside interests and also suffers her own tragic loss.

So much has happened within a few months that is life changing for so many and for a close friend. We will have to learn to live within an uncertain world as many already do in parts of Africa, give support to each other and ensure we look after the natural world on whose healthy state we depend.

This  poem was written about the same time as the blackbird poem and for my charity challenge of 26 poems. Each verse is 26 words! Please don’t count them. I have several times. The illustration is by another good friend and neighbour who is a a botanist, naturalist and was a conservation specialist in a previous life in Africa and many other parts of the world. Thank you to Nick Clarke for allowing me to use your drawing. Here in the Sierra there are many wood mice, with slightly larger ears than the house mouse. But similar enough if they come in the house or as some of my close friends and followers know even take a car ride.

A Wood Mouse Mother; so much depends on where you make your nest.

By Nick Clarke

You come so close to us.
You leave your trail of our
Chestnuts, quickly nibbled,
But really, yours.
As these are from your woods
Not ours.

You make your nest within our car,
Well  under the bonnet.
You leave your naked new born
Deep within the engine fold
For just a minute.

 

While you forage
Your nurtured nest has gone.
Just a space under the tree.
Will you know to wait
Within the bramble bush
For our return?

If you would like to help me sponsor the restoration of nature through the RSPB here is the link and on the previous post on the blackbird.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/georginas-26-challenge-i-am-going-to-write-26-poems-about-the-wild-flora-and-fauna-here-on-our-woodland-finca-in-spain-i-will-post-these-on-my-blog

 

26 poems for Nature. Poem 1. Blackbird Painted in the Light of Spring

Here is the first poem of my challenge of 26 poems about the nature we see in our Navasola valley. It is about the common blackbird, Turdus merula, or Mirlo, in Spanish. A bird which sometimes perhaps we take for granted. And certainly the female is taken for granted with her duller but mottled brown plumage, but she is the one who makes the nests. Turdus, too, doesn’t seem the right word but means the family of thrushes and merle is harder to trace, meaning the blackbird but also merle can mean mottled and gives the names for Merle and Muriel.

However, to listen to their song and see them getting their daily ‘bread’ reminds me of the hymn sung as a child ‘Blackbird has spoken’, the Beatles ‘Blackbird’ and Wallace Stevens 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. Trevor’s idea was for me to do poems of 26 lines. I am also going to include poems of 26 words as I feel some brevity and levity might help too.

This poem was begun on the 26 th April when so many should have been running the London Marathon and raising money for many charities, and hence the 2.6 charity challenge. On the same day my friend the artist Ruth Koenigsberger was finishing her painting, Japanese style, of a blackbird among the blossom of a tree in her orchard. I am grateful to her for allowing me to show it with the poem.

I hope this makes a good start to my own poetry marathon. Details of the fundraising links are at the end of the post. For me I feel that although as a human species we need to nurture each other now more than ever, I am also concerned that we must have the nurturing of a much damaged natural world at the heart of our recovery. So I am supporting the conservation work of the RSPB and the International Bird Life.

Blackbird Painted in the Light of Spring

As I look out from locked down listening

To varied voices in a ‘Poisonwood’ mission,

A blackbird struts, brightening my being,

Familiar feathers focus my attention.

Once they came to our London family home

Finding fallen apples, with fieldfares too.

To find them there with so much ground to roam

Relieved despair: I ask do they still visit there?

Here, under the shade of the cork tree leaves

Among wild red peas, where grass and clover clash,

Blackbirds group together search for grubs and seeds.

Disturbed by watching eyes, to trees they dash.

Within the ivy wrangled oak, shaded in with bark black hues

Away from all those human folk, a blackbird calls

So each now knows.

Be safe, beware, find a better place,

Like deep within the thicket or the bramble bush,

Where fears are easier to face, where there is not such need to rush.

The blackbird beckons us to look anew, consider too, they have a view.

A poem and a piece of art, a valley and a hill apart

Take shape with feathery fine lines and painted plumes.

The hope of Spring within a blossoming heart.

A song, new words reach out to friends in far off rooms.

Here’s to one way of looking,

At a blackbird in pear blossom.

Beauty will be born.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/georginas-26-challenge-i-am-going-to-write-26-poems-about-the-wild-flora-and-fauna-here-on-our-woodland-finca-in-spain-i-will-post-these-on-my-blog

 

April Showers and Walks around Navasola West

Our splendid isolation has included not having any internet connections for long sessions throughout April. It now seems a bit better so  am hoping this is an opportunity to post and also catch up with you all across the world in these strange and difficult times. I hope and pray all is well and will be well  but know that we all may be affected in some way at some point by knowing someone whose life is deeply affected and changed by this pandemic. Much support and care is going to be needed for each other and the natural world we do depend on.

The rain here is blessing us with water if not wifi. The mobile phone company call the problems ‘atmospheric’ meaning I guess, it is again those powers beyond human control.

Here are some photos of our walks around Navasola.

We have taken this time as an opportunity to rediscover some of the wilder parts of the finca. It has often seemed like an adventure and I have been to areas I have never seen before. We tried to follow some of the boundary stone walls too and found ourself clambering over some of the stones the wild boar have knocked down. Boars know no borders too. Last week we saw a small group, yearlings probably, going about like a teenage gang, from my sanctuary window. At first it was interesting to watch them, scratching backs against the rocks, snouting around by the path. Then one crossed the patch by some of my roses and some wild gum cistus and lupins I have been nurturing. I opened the window and hollered before even thinking of picking up the camera! They shot off so I hope they know to steer clear of ‘my’ rock garden. To be fair till now this area has always been left unploughed by the boar. Too much human smell.

Walking anywhere at the moment there are some lovely wild peonies. These are not bothered by boar activitity and as we do not plough or clean the fields intensively there are more and more peonies each year. They are known as the queen of herbs and do make a fantastic and natural display. The insects also love them. Another of my favourites is the yellow palmate Anenome and again there are often pollinators within and other insects that seem to half eat the petals into ragged shapes. I have never seen one completely destroyed and they are very delicate looking flowers. It is hard to get    a good photo of all the flowers in a patch. The yellows are winning out at the moment with the yellow rock rose or cistus,halimium trifolium, the Spanish broom, gorse and another yellow plant that likes the drier ground by the studio hill.

 

Palmate Anenome

 

The studio is an old container that the previous owner installed for her sculpture work. It is on the south west side of the valley and is a warm and light place to work in in the winter. The old house used to be very dark and gloomy. However, the studio, as it is metal, is a hot box for when the temperatures rise. This area has lots of different wild flowers, some tiny white ones, tall asphodels and there is always a lot of bramble, sarsaparilla and some stunted fig trees.  Last year we discovered the orebanche and a very tall but pale type of orchid.

 

 

 

Along this stretch of the valley side are lots of rocks and tall pines. It is not an easy to cultivate area and is now how we like it. Quite wild. There is a badgers den within the rocks and a dangerous drop and caves here where possibly other creatures live too. Above this rocky recess are the pines that have grown very tall but there is also a lot of madroño, viburnum and the tough wiry and thorny sarsaparilla. Some of it is like a jungle with hanging vines of vicious thorny strands. There are also some stands of oak. At Navasola there are several types of oak; mirbeck, faginea, and pyreneus. There are also cork oak and holm oak. This stand is the quercus faginea or lusitania, Portuguese oak.

I have also been clearing some paths on the other side of the valley, Navasola East. Here I can now walk above the old era, the place for threshing grain, and through a very rocky olive grove. Here the olives have been planted many years ago but are very majestic and mossy, with amazing trunks. And hiding holes. We have just discovered a wild bee hive at the base of one. It is all very green and mossy on the rocks and the stone walls have lots of different ferns.

Solomon’s seal around the chestnut trees

Further down towards a Navasola East there is the pond we worked hard on restoring last year. The wild boar had managed to wallow too hard in it and put their tusks into the lining. Now they aren’t allowed in! There are plenty of other places for them to find water and wallow. Our prize animals at the moment are the two Iberian water frogs we have spotted. More on these in a later post as I will devote a poem to them. It’s there in the picture, camouflaged with its thin green,reed like stripe down its back.

I am going to try and complete a challenge for one of the wildlife charities. In the U.K. This is called the 2.6 challenge instead of the London Marathon which usually raises a lot of money for many different charities.It was supposed to take place on April 26th and of course couldn’t. Charities are suffering from lack of funding now and not able to undertake some of the work needed. 26 or 2.6 is the magic number. So instead of running round our finca, which is difficult anyway I am going to try and write 26 poems on the different species that live around Navasola. There will be a Just Giving link to sponsor me if anyone wishes for the RSPB and Birdlife International. So hopefully my internet will work well as I will post 26 lines or words for each poem!
Just setting myself up so I have to get this done!

What’s That Bird? Photography and Wild Birds. Donana Wetlands in Southern Spain.

I have few words this month and although I hope for everyone to be safe and well I know that there is much worry and suffering for so many. Our life here goes on much the same but without the social contact and nature trips like this one from February. We set out on our annual pilgrimage to Donana wetlands where we hope to see great flocks of flamingos. One of our favourite places en route is by the bird sanctuary of Canada de los Pajaros. Many storks gather and nest here. So we stopped to see storks flying high together in a very bright blue sky, nesting in the pines, and making their wonderful bill clapping sounds.

After being quite stork struck I wandered up the path. There was bird poo all over the prickly pear, so I looked up. There were lot of large stork nests. I saw a bird move so got the camera on it. I thought it might have been a young stork or egret. The first photo told me very little but the next few meant that I had got on camera the birds that had eluded me last year.

Yes, indeed, the beak gives it all away and I finally got some good photos of a spoonbill.

Hope this may have made you wonder a little bit about nature and the amazing diversity of birds and beaks. For everyone lisening and looking more at the wonderful birdlife around us. Lets cherish the birds and keep them safe too with good conservation of the habitats they need.

Rushing to update now as this all ran ahead of me and published with a mind of its own. More on Donana and explorations around Finca Navasola next time. Love to all.

Mother Earth: A poem and thoughts for Mother’s Day UK and Coronavirus

yellow marguerites in sunny south facing real rock garden

Today I wake to a brighter morning. A few days of heavy rain have helped stock up our well. For this we are totally dependent on Mother Nature or Mother Earth. Do we have two mothers or are they one? Nature supports life in our home the Earth. The sun coming out means our solar panels may give enough power to run the washing machine. We need sun and rain and usually we are blessed with both here in the Sierra Aracena, but as many of my long standing readers know, we have had our water levels run low last summer.

Tulips in pots

All the news is overwhelming so we have decided to turn the wifi off until breakfast. We may now be stuck here for months. We are in a good place, almost splendid isolation. We are beginning to feel it is not just risky but irresponsible to try and travel back to the UK. In Spain, everyone is confined to their homes and there are strict measures for only going out for essential activity. To stay at home means taking little risk of getting infected with Covid 19 but it also means helping the health services at a time of overwhelming numbers of patients. The health workers know they can save many who need oxygen if the virus does its worst and attacks too much lung tissue. They need time to prepare, patients may need a long time on ventilators. We are told in the U.K. that choices may need to be made as there are so few intensive care beds to maintain life support.

Spring flowering jasmine, very hardy under drought conditions and green all year.

So we will stay here as choice is also limited by the number of cancelled flights. Our planned return flight this coming week was cancelled and we booked another, which was cancelled. We have a home here, a beautiful woodland home. We are fortunate but we are worried about family and friends. Many are in the vulnerable categories, including our grown up children, for various reasons. But even if we got home the new social distancing means we cannot be with them.

I get up to go out for a few jobs, like digging in our green waste. The morning has become shrouded in half mist and light but the drops of rain on the flowers spur me to take some photos.

Lilac with pearls and house and solar panels in background.

I get a message and some photos through on Whats App from home. It’s a wonderful gallery of photos of me with daughters and granddaughter. The tears flood into my eyes. As I recover, a poem comes to mind as I enjoy the varied flowers I have grown and those that are growing wild.

The wild peonies are out early along the track leading to our finca.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Mother’s Day poem for Mother Nature

I walk out into the garden which you helped me create,

I fear for the flowers bashed down by the storm,

But the tulip stems stand firm.

Their flowers draped with drops.

 

 

 

 

 

The lilac florets fashion freshwater pearls

Even the freesias bent low to the ground

Still perfume the air.

 

 

 

 

 

Your hand in this is always there,

With the roses recovered from drought

But the first bud is bitten.

Something needs food,

And for us thought.

We must learn to share

Our creations with yours.

 

 

 

 

 

I turn to your wild children

And I am sorry.

The ones we have waged

War with, the weeds, the bees.

And we still destroy forests

Lungs for all,

And wild spaces

Of endless diversity.

We have forgotten

Your wise words

Told by our oldest tribes.

 

When we were young you gave us

the bison, the buffalo,

the deer, the boar, and more.

Wild grasses became

Our daily bread

Thankful for food.

But we grew too fast,

We pushed you away.

We knew more than you.

The forest trees you gifted us

We used in foolish ways.

Your wild animals we stole

For our own delights.

And now we begin to blame

Each other

And maybe even you

Mother.

We thought we were kings

To do as we please.

Fly around like the birds

And just enjoy your earth.

Without pause for thought.

We were choking your lungs

You coughed, you spluttered

We ignored your pain.

Your first families we dismissed,

Not as clever as us.

Surely, we were the favourites.

We shoved your wild offspring

Into smaller and smaller spaces,

Reducing their numbers,

Killing the old, sometimes the young.

Felling their forests

Thinking only of our plans,

Our needs, our games.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now we are confined

To small spaces

Wondering who will survive.

We will promise

To honour

You, our Mother Earth

To care for all your children

Lest we forget

So no one dies in vain.

 

I had been thinking about the way it was easy to blame this pandemic on the Chinese and the eating of wild animals from the wet market in Wuhan. I cannot condone this but perhaps we need to understand how many cultures have lived closely to wild places and in the past these habits may not have caused such harm as there may have seemed to be plentiful wildlife. Even the nursery rhyme suggests how much we used to eat wild birds ‘ four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie’.

However, over the last few hundred years our species has removed so much wild forest and habitats for other species from the earth and in doing so has restricted and restricted the movements of wild species, e.g. wolves can roam 100s of miles in a day. We have also contained wild species into more confined habitats as we continue to expand our influence on earth with cities, clearing land, farming, and still logging and mining in some of the remaining forests.

The article I read in the Guardian suggests another way of looking at this pandemic. If wild animals have to live in smaller and smaller spaces it is very likely they will transfer diseases more and across species and if humans continue because of old habits of killing these creatures  it can cause new viruses to which humans may suffer terrible losses.

Will we learn from this or just go back to business as usual? Could we leave the wild forests alone, those that remain, and restore more land back to nature?

Keep well, keep safe and maybe it is time to reflect and share thoughts with others.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/18/tip-of-the-iceberg-is-our-destruction-of-nature-responsible-for-covid-19-aoe?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbour so many species of animals and plants – and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses,” David Quammen, author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Pandemic, recently wrote in the New York Times. “We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.”

 

As in Spain ” Stay at Home”  In the UK Protect our health service and all those that work in it from the stress of dealing with vast numbers of patients needing oxygen and many needlessly dieing.

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February Fun, Fotos, and Short Walks.

It has been a busy February and so I am glad of the extra day in the shortest month when winter can turn to spring here in Andalucia. The photos below are from our short local walk with Lotti the tibetan terrier. This joins the main sendero/footpath from Castano del Robleda to La Pena and Alajar. At the beginning of the month it is very wintry and all those autumn leaves featured in my Autumn walks post have blown onto the red sandy ground. But it is now so much wetter and the green moss is alive and well after its summer’s rest. Nature is resilient and adapts to many changes and with so many problems facing our planet I would like to focus on that determination to keep on trying and surviving.

 

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We have also enjoyed more walks around our own little valley but with a caveat to avoid falling into badger holes. We have discovered quite a few and also their very clearly marked latrines, carefully excavated to fit their poo. Sorry, I missed taking a picture of that.

 

Winter is also the time for visitors. Some who want to get in from the cold. Our dear old car is a favourite habitat for wood mice nests. We were waiting for the mother to return to rescue her naked, fairly new born babies before we could go shopping. They may even have been with us on previous trips.

 

Other visitors came and not expecting warmth as we have a much colder climate than their home in Portugal. We went to discover our frontier town which we have only ever driven through on the road to and from Seville. However, our day walking around the town of Higuera was full of welcome sunshine and blue skies. There were also lots of storks nesting too and of course the ones with the highest status on the church steeple. Higuera would have been full of people on the 5th of January for their most famous processions for the Three Kings celebrations. Hence the statues and a lovely avenue of orange trees. Higuera is 200m lower than where we are in Fuenteheridos. It was warmer and the Viburnums tinus and carpenters bees were out and about. See featured image.

Another favourite short walk is by the now closed Aracena campsite and source of the great river Odiel. We went on a Sunday when all the families were out for picnics but the walk by the river and  old cork trees was fairly quiet and full of birds but all quite artful and not easy to identify. The rocks by the stream were quite amazing in the sunlight and the old tree with some life at the top.

We have also visited Donana again and I will devote a whole post to that but it was again a marvellous day full of storks, flamingos, a very large flock of coots and some spoonbills that I finally managed to photograph.

The last day of February, when it is the 28th is a holiday for all in Andalucia. It becomes a long weekend a puente, bridge. Our local town was full of visitors and some posh cars. This seemed to be an attraction for photographs too. So there is one of me with my favourite car, Jud, now 24 years old and still going strong over our rough rocky track.

I think I might have to take the view that the old car has done much better on carbon emissions than these new ones. We didn’t stay too long to check whether these were electric but they were certainly worth a lot of money and on show. We bought our local bread and went back to our quiet woodland.

Near the town of Cortelezor there is a very rough road and we didn’t see many cars along this one. We wanted to find the river valley where we had walked along some years ago.In a very small area just by this picnic place we discovered some botanical wonders.

The tiny wild daffodil tops the bill among the heathers. But the rock formations were astounding in the background. There was a thorny acacia, a narrow leaved ash, the stripy leaves of thistles to be and a flower we have yet to fully identify. PS And now we have! Anchusa undulata.

And below the wild hoop daffodils; Narcissus triandrus and this mediterranean mystery. We have scoured the book but no match yet. Yes, Anchusa undulata, alkanet is Anchusa azurea.

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And for extra measure and for the extra day we have been to the Cheese Festival in Portugal, about an hour or so from the Sierra. We missed the rain here and my vegan attempts were sorely tested. However, there is an important rural economy here based on quality produced cheeses and I do think there needs to be a focus on supporting small farmers, traditional food and farming. Here is a photo of one of the local Alentejo choirs which UNESCO recognise as part of our world heritage. The singing was deep and powerful from the male choirs but there are mixed voice choirs and female ones too.

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Isle De France rare breed.

I hope this post brings you some of the vitality of nature and rural life here in this part of Andalucia and the Alentejo and can help revive and restore us as we go through tough times.

A Biodiversity Birthday. 6 years of Navasolanature! Looking back and Looking Forward.

The New Year is well under way and I can only wish that there will be hope and happiness for us all and wisdom for those in power who can make the changes our struggling world needs. January is  named after the Roman God Janus, a god with two heads. One head looks back at the past year and the other to the future. So I have decided to look back at my photos showing some of the biodiversity at Navasola and close surrounding woodlands. January is also my blogging birthday and I am now celebrating 6 years of celebrating biodiversity! My tag line began as ‘ nature needs nurture’.  And it certainly needs this now more than ever.

Buff the buff tailed bumblebee, a character in my novel.

I thought of writing  a children’s story about all the animals that come to tea near our house or sometimes into it. I was inspired by the huge grasshopper on the old wet teabags in our kitchen, although at the time it gave me quite a shock. However, I have not fully finished it for a January deadline. Of course, the main inspiration is Judith Kerr, who recently died and the ‘The Tiger who came to Tea’. Writing for children is not easy and I admire fellow blogger Annika Perry with her beautifully illustrated story ‘Oscar’s Quest’. (See links at end of this post.) My first two photos are of two of the main characters in my novel. My novel is about the journey of some animals from our woodland to the distant North.  I am still struggling to revise it after advice on point of view and writing for young adults. I now feel it is very timely as so many young people are now so concerned and more aware of the threats to biodiversity and the effects of climate change for us all. However, I have added and updated and divided the novel into two and hope to find some interest in publishing it this year.

Abe Apio the bee eater character in my novel.

 

With our return to Navasola I am pleased to hear so much bird song and calls in the evening. It is also very wet underfoot and such a change from even two months ago. Water levels have risen and there is some water in the well now but we will have to monitor closely.

Hoopoe visiting Navasola in Autumn

My decision for 2020 is to try and cut my own carbon emissions. This is going to be very difficult because of our need to travel between family and our home here. Here, in Spain with our solar power we can almost live carbon free for electricity and hot water. But our first flight has cost me a quarter of a tonne in carbon emissions. I am going to try and write about this as a new journey this year. My desire to do this and inform myself more is because of the tragic loss of wild species and habitats and climate changes makes this life threatening for so many creatures and for our grandchildren’s future.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the acting executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, has implored governments to ensure 2020 is not just another “year of conferences” on the ongoing ecological destruction of the planet, urging countries to take definitive action on deforestation, pollution and the climate crisis.’ ( The Guardian’)

So for January I have also thought about diet and signed up to Veganuary. Over the past 40 years I have been vegetarian and pescatarian. However vegan is difficult for me as I love my cup of tea with milk. I also love yogurt and some cheese. I will try and post more on that and have got a freezer full of my chestnut harvest recipes. Once upon a time the little fellow below was eaten as a delicacy in the province of Extremadura. This species was on the verge  of extinction. This one turned up on our porch for his own tea.

Ocellated or Jewelled lizard

Travelling by car will also be a difficult one for my carbon reduction journey. We really need a car when living in the Spanish countryside so hopefully we will try and keep mileage down. As yet we can’t afford a new car, electric or hybrid. However, hybrids are the top selling cars in Spain at the moment. There is more political will here too as the new government has appointed a Vice President to be in charge of environmental issues and transition to a greener economy. Let’s also hope that the Doñana wetlands can be well looked after.  I posted on this last year and the issues over water management. I also think it is important to visit these areas and to try and encourage ecotourism so habitats can be saved and considered important throughout the world.  Am not sure that eco minded people should cut down on eco minded tourism. There are many difficult calls.

For the sake of all these species and for the future we must ensure a greener and different kind of economy that will secure a world that protects and restores.

Link to Annika Perry’s blog and her new book.

Introducing Oskar!

Autumn Walks in the Sierra Aracena

Autumn in the Sierra Aracena is a must.The autumn colours start with the poplar trees by the rivers, the fruit trees and finally all the chestnut orchards bring those northern forest changes to the southern part of Spain in our mountains. By the end of November the chestnut harvest is over and this year it has been poor due to a longer drought than usual. We have also just managed with our well but only about 100 litres a day coming up from the water table.We took a brief respite in Portugal to use a washing machine. We didn’t dare risk the amount of water our machine takes even though our solar power makes for a carbon neutral wash. Without water it is very difficult to be comfortable. I could have walked a kilometre to the local village where the springs are still flowing in Fuenteheridos as many women in other countries have to walk long distances. The Castano village spring was still dry too.

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Autumn brings a lot of business as local farmers collect their chestnuts, tourists come to visit and enjoy walks and foraging. The foraging for chestnuts and mushrooms often creates disputes because most of the land in the Natural Park of the Sierra Aracena is privately owned and farmers need the income from their chestnuts but key footpaths are open. Some tourists come in coach loads to see the change of leaves against the bright blue skies. But thankfully it has been cloudier and some rain has fallen. Those of us who live there cannot complain as the rain is desperately needed. So for once I have had almost three months of grey skies with my time in the UK and now back at Navasola.

Organic growers’ market at the Matronal campsite between Fuenteheridos and Castano del Robledo.

Autumn also brings the harvest of other fruits such as quince which must be cooked. I cook it whole and then cut it up and add half sugar to the amount to make the famous membrillo paste. It is delicious with the hard mature cheeses of the Sierra. Below are some other fruit in a friend’s orchard; persimmon or caqui in Spanish. These need to be eaten when very overripe.

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Persimmons in Ruth’s orchard.

I have also spent a lot of time peeling and preparing chestnuts for rissoles and stews.I have a love hate relationship with these amazingly difficult nuts, their harsh husks which spike you, their outer shell which goes quite tough if not knifed into when fresh from the ground, and the awful tannin bitter inner coat which refuses to be removed.

Here are photos from one of our favourite walks above the village of Castano, especially in the evening in order to capture the setting sun. Just before the village of Castano from the road there is a large green structure and a path starts from there. Following along the path from the village you can also reach this track. These are some of the views as the sun came out making it a glorious golden walk.

Lotte my favourite Tibetan terrier at the start of the track
Views of the village of Castano del Robledo

Chestnuts are the planted orchard trees here but robles are the oaks and there are a few different kinds that grow wild here as well as the Cork Oak and Holm Oak. I was delighted to find theresagreen’s post on Chestnut trees. Its very detailed and informative about the whole years cycle. Here is the link but I might try and reblog too. https://theresagreen.me/2019/12/06/sweet-chestnut/

There’s always an old chestnut. In middle of path.
Cork trees
Rocky stone walls typical of the Sierra Aracena
A new oak forest growing.

The walk along this track or sendero from Castano del Robledo finally ends up at La Pena, a rocky outcrop overlooking the Sierra village of Alajar.Here in the renaissance times Arias Montano had a sanctuary and place of learning.Today there is the church hermitage of ‘The Queen of the Angels’ and this is where the romeria in September ends too. All the local villages walk, ride horses, or are pulled in fancy carts by horses or tractors to honour the most important saint of the Sierra. It is a magical place with tremendous views and from there you can walk the path to Castano. There are not many circular walks in the Sierra as the public paths were the old camino reals, or royal paths from village to village for trade. Perhaps the King came that way once.

La Pena, Alajar, Sierra Aracena

I have voted in the British Election, with a heavy heart as I could not vote Green as my party stood down in my northern hill town constituency. There is a weariness of the spirit but there is so much at stake. Even though there was finally a climate leaders debate on TV the ideas of a Green New Deal have not been publicised much by the media or dare I say the Labour Party.

I love that all the political parties are announcing planting tree programmes but my mantra for the New Year will be

‘ We need forests not just trees so keep our forests and make more please.’
‘It takes lots of trees of different ages to make a forest.’

I am struggling without a good wifi connection and also if there are any hints about keeping the blog going without using too many gigabytes as I am running out again on my current plan. I think I need to reduce photo size. However I hope everyone will have a very happy festive time and I am hoping my next post will be more about the animals that have visited Navasola in the past year!

Will also try and link this with Restless Jo and her Monday Walks and encourage her to leave the sea and come to our mountains. We are only about 2 to 3 hours drive from Tavira, Portugal.
Jo’s Monday walk

Green October

October has been another busy month back in the UK. I decided to attend The Green Party Conference and see if politics can be done differently. I enjoyed attending policy making for Food and Farming. This was a learning curve and along with the discussions about the Green Party’s policy group there was an opportunity to listen to a spokesman from the National Farmers Union. The farmers are aware of the challenges they face and not just from Brexit. Some farms are experiencing lack of water while others not far away are in flooded areas and excess rainwater was being pumped into the sea. The NFU have committed to zero carbon by 2040 in their industry and have the means to do so by sequestering carbon with more hedgerows, trees and other methods. They have a plan.

Another interesting speaker on farming was Sue Pritchard, an organic farmer near Hereford and chair of a RSA report on farming today which involved discussions from a wide range of people in different communities.https://www.thersa.org/action-and-research/rsa-projects/public-services-and-communities-folder/food-farming-and-countryside-commission

The conference plenary sessions were well organised but slow in some areas but most of the main changes to policies and new policies were quickly voted on. I felt that evidence based planning was important. All policies are voted on by all Green Party members who attend the two main conferences.

There was discussion on how to address the climate emergency and the need to reduce emissions by earlier dates than 2050. Many young Greens want 2025 but most Green Party planning has looked at how to practically achieve this by 2030. And even with this there are still ‘gaps’ which need to be addressed. At least the Green Party has plans and an understanding of the complexity of this and the need for all levels of government to be leading the way. I think they do try to do politics differently with a lot more democratic involvement of all members and striving for keeping kindness at the heart of debate and differences of opinion.

I was in London, my home town when Extinction Rebellion were protesting and I went to see what was going on. This group has created a major shift in awareness as to the urgency needed to address the climate crisis. In Spring they brought central London to a bemused standstill. David Attenborough , our nonagenarian also was broadcasting about the drastic changes affecting nature because of human activity. This, along with Greta Thunberg and the school climate actions has created a new awareness that these issues must be addressed now.

In a recent poll conducted by clientearth it seems that the environment will be important in how people will vote in a general election. ‘Of those polled (54%) said climate change would affect how they would vote, with the proportion rising to 74% for under-25s. The poll also showed support for fossil fuel divestment, with 60% of people thinking banks and financial institutions should ditch investments in coal, oil and gas.’

Extinction Rebellion want the government to tell the truth about the effects of carbon emissions, declare a climate emergency and create citizens assemblies to find local ways forward to create the actions needed. I went into London on the Tuesday and there were less crowds than the Monday but still a carnival atmosphere with determined intent and roads closed around Westminster. Their methods may at times be criticised but I do wonder who we will finally criticise the most if we just drift on with our ‘same old’ ways of running our lives.

 

  • A creative ploy by Extinction Rebellion. Each tree has an MPs name on it and you could ring them and invite them down to collect their present!

I decided to look more carefully at reducing my own carbon emissions. There are many websites about this and often are carbon offsetting ones. However, I had got the open university free course on this so will try their calculator and look at this more carefully on another post.
It certainly will not be easy. Although I could claim my woodland which is allowed to be rather wild, green and vibrant could offset our flights home. One tree in its lifetime may capture 40 tonnes of carbon. We have over 200 trees and lots of wild growth too and birdsong.

But offsetting is not enough. We have to reduce to below  2 tonnes of carbon each.
The average European according to one source will emit about 8 to 10 tonnes of carbon a year. Flight frequency, mileage covered by vehicles, the kind of food we eat can increase or decrease our emissions.

As a vegetarian with little dairy this may save me almost 2 tonnes of carbon. A flight home of about 1000 km is about 0.5 tonnes. The train would be 0.09 tonnes of carbon. As I think I have said before the trains are so much more expensive. From 300 to 800 euros while a flight can easily be below 100 euros and the aviation industry benefits from fuel subsidies. Another problem area that we have little control over yet is how to heat our homes in a carbon friendly way.

How can this dramatic increase not cause many problems?

Change must happen but there is still so much silence and inaction. There are some things we can and must do ourselves and there are others that governments must work on and achieve global cooperation on.

The Guardian is committed to reporting the climate crisis and has many informative and well researched articles from all around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greta Thunberg says ‘ listen to the scientists’. It may be complex but the scientists, the Green Party and now British farmers know we will face too many difficult consequences if we don’t take the right actions now.

And for our natural world the crisis has been happening slowly but significantly with the combination of loss of habitat and climate change creating unpredictable and extreme weather conditions along with wildfires and flooding.

The State of Nature report 2019: loss of nature since 1970 ‘We need a strong new set of environmental laws to hold our governments and others to account and to set long-term and ambitious targets. Only a robust approach to environmental protections and law making can deliver this for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.’ From The National Trust

The Royal Society for Protection of Birds also comments and calls the 2019 report ‘a wake up call’.

Species and habitat protection, forests, wetlands, all will help as are natural ways of capturing carbon and maintaining a balanced ecosystem .

Who we put in charge will matter as there have been many wake up calls, many broken promises and little well informed and coordinated planning and action. And when in charge of our democracies they must be held to account.

Nature needs Nurture

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