Reforestation

The conventional farming is transforming the typical diverse landscape into a monoculture of stones, while sustainable farming should be the applicable law. The overall guidelines are often neglected, diverse landscapes aren’t reflecting any of the facts that are defined by law implemented by the Natural Park and UNESCO.

Typical signs from suffering land by depletion and erosion:
As we have understood by reading the Sierra Nevada’s master-plan, two main points became clear:

1. Providing scientific knowledge to safeguard geo- and biodiversity values ​​of the mountain. Hence there is need to strengthen its preservation and conservation; further knowledge and research is required in these areas.

2. Draw attention to this protected area continuing to be of use to the neighboring villages, as it has been for centuries, and not a sacred and immutable space. Land uses and economical activities should be conveniently defined and implemented, both traditional and new ones, but ALWAYS in a sustainable way.

Reforestation by fencing the land at Semilla Besada!

Trees are, for the earth the ultimate translators and moderators of incoming energy. At the crown of the forest and within its canopy the vast energy of sunlight, wind, precipitation are being modified for life and growth. Trees not only build but conserve the soils, shielding them from the impact of raindrops and the desiccation of wind and sun.

Bill Molisson

Saffron

Semilla Besada is sharing the sunny pictures of that amazing crocus that is an indispensable item in Spanish cuisine, including their national dish the paella.   Just a few stigmas of fresh saffron is enough to enhance the flavor and color of the entire recipe.

Saffron is one of the highly prized spices known since antiquity for its color, flavor and medicinal properties. It is the dried “stigma” or threads of the flower of the Crocus sativus plant. It is a bulbous perennial plant that belongs to the family of Iridaceae, in the genus, Crocus, and known botanically as Crocus sativus.

The Crocus sativus plant grows to about 15-20cm in height and bears lavender colored flowers during each season which lasts from October until November. Each flower features perianth consisting of a stalk, known as “style,” connecting to three “stigmas” or threads to the rest of the plant. These orange-yellow colored stigmas along with the “style” constitute “saffron” a prized condiment spice.

Good saffron crop production demands cold, dry climate with well-drained rich fertile soil and sufficient amount of rainfall. The flowers are harvested during the early-morning hours.

Saffron has a distinct flavor that comes from chemical compounds in it such as picrocrocin, and safranal. It also contains a natural carotenoid chemical compound, crocin, which gives saffron its golden-yellow hue. These traits along with its medicinal properties make it a valuable ingredient in many cuisines worldwide.

Health Benefits of Saffron

  • Saffron contains several plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have been antioxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.
  • The active components in saffron have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines as antiseptic, antidepressant, antioxidant, digestive, anti-convulsant.
  • This novel spice is an excellent source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium.
  • Additionally, it is also rich in many vital vitamins, including vitamin-A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin-C that is essential for optimum health.

Medicinal uses

  • The active components present in saffron have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines. More info can be found here.

Aquaponics

A quick apology! We sourced the photos in this blog a long time ago and have not noted the sources. If you are the owner of the photographs, please let us know so we can credit you properly and accept our apologies and gratitude for being our inspiration.

On with the blog…

Aquaponics refers to any system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In normal aquaculture, excretions from the animals being raised can accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity. In an aquaponic system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by nitrifying bacteria initially into nitrites and subsequently into nitrates, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients, and the water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system.

As existing hydroponic and aquaculture farming techniques form the basis for all aquaponics systems, the size, complexity, and types of foods grown in an aquaponics system can vary as much as any system found in either distinct farming discipline.

The aquaponics system at Semilla Besada is not build up yet.  We are still in a studying stage.  We are looking for the right set up for our project.  Below you can find the different approaches we are currently looking at.

Swales and Water Harvesting Systems

swale

Harvesting water was once a worldwide technology, but was replaced by tubes, drip-lines, canals, sprinklers; an inefficient and wasteful strategy that results in running dry. The local and global world water situation is becoming urgent. As humans in first world nations our consumption of natural resources is generating sufficient pollution and depletion, to damage and impair the healthy functioning of nearly every natural system on earth.

swale

Reversing the degradation requires a profound transformation of individual and communal perspective and behaviour. It is important to realise that harvesting rainwater is a crucial means of fighting climate change, preparing our homes, families, neighbourhoods, and communities for the coming consequences. Any change you make on your land can become a demonstration and model that others (your neighbours, elected officials, or government agency staff) will be able to study and copy. Forests are natural sustainability infrastructures.

swale

Trees are THE basic earthwork. Trees and forests, and highly porous and mulched soil beneath them, capture, slow, filter, store, and recycle rainwater and thus recharge streams, ground water aquifers, and springs. They provide protection from droughts, floods and pollution. By adding additional rainwater-harvesting technologies that are designed to mimic nature, such as earthworks (infiltration pits, swales, and cisterns) it is possible to replace the watershed and ecosystem-functions that were lost.

Meet the Animals

Our neighbour, Sarah from Caballo Blanco, provided us with five geese back in 2015.  They help to graze (six geese + one gander = grazing of one cow!), fertilise the land, provide eggs and meat!  They love their pond and in the summer heat it’s rare to see them out of it.

Although they don’t live on the water, they will only mate on water. The mating season is between February and April, depending on the weather. They can be aggressive when the females are laying and when the babies are young. This is quite frightening for newcomers but as long as you’re aware and give them space, you’ll be fine; you certainly can see why people keep them as guards to scare away any would-be burglars!

We have a lovely little group of chickens that are ever so good to us and kindly provide fresh eggs. It’s always wonderful to collect the eggs to use in our cooking and share with our community. From time to time, we do lose one to the fox or the genet but one of our dogs, Snoepi, sleeps near them overnight, which has helped reduce that.

This is Tino, short for ‘Valentino’. We got him as a tiny puppy on our 10th wedding anniversary, which is on Valentine’s Day, hence the name! Now, he is a big boy as he is a German shepherd and Belgian groenendaal mix. He is very big but he is also very well-behaved with people.

This is Snoepi. We don’t know what breed she is or anything about her history. She followed us around a car park until we couldn’t leave without her! She’s constantly desperate for belly tickles and loves humans, especially Bastian. She can be a little bit uncomfortable around other dogs so if you’re looking to visit with a dog, let us know and we can work things out together.

We also have a whole bunny colony. We can’t tell you how many we have as they often hide when we try to count them and they realise we are there! The reason behind keeping the rabbits is for meat. The land feeds them and they, in turn, feed us. Their enclosure is very tall and also, more importantly, very deep. This means that the animals can act the way they would in the wild and live their best lives.

Last but not least,

we have five lovely pusscats. We don’t have five photos though as they have the run of the whole mountain and are rarely all home!

Beehives

The last two weeks we have spoken here about our buildings, current and planned. Today, we would like to introduce you to someone else’s homes – the bees!

We are lucky enough to have forty beehives have at Semilla Besada. They belong to our friend, José, and produce chestnut and wildflower honey for his friends and family. Every summer, José brings his hives up to our land to enjoy the bountiful wild flora that surrounds us.

We have been their custodians since 2018 and it’s such a joy to have them visit. Their pollinating makes the world go round!

Eco-building

Following on from our renovations post last week, we wanted to talk to you this time about some future building plans.

Passive house building techniques are an important part of the ongoing efforts to solve the energy crisis. Conventional buildings consume more energy than any other sector, accounting for approximately 75% of energy produced and nearly half of the CO2 emissions.

Passive house building techniques offer a simple and elegant way to reduce our impact on nature. Again, we add instead of taking. Today, different techniques of passive design have already proven their effectiveness all around the world. Implementing permaculture design technology, including high efficiency heating-cooling systems, smart interior design, thermal mass design, water purification devices, natural insulation, perfect orientation, and many other knowledge, is urgent. We can save up to 90% of energy needed to operate the building and create a comfortable, healthy and pleasant lifestyle.

We have plans, in the long-term, for a new project to build two bedrooms with the architect of eco-dome.

Zero carbon houses are reality, it’s just a matter of goodwill from the authorities, whom are currently generating a lot of tax-money from most completely grid-dependent houses. Taxing sustainable solutions, like proposed now by some politicians, will not change the style of contemporary inappropriate building. On the contrary, unsustainable and bad new constructions should be fined.

Luckily the petrol-dollar “economy” is having less and less impact on a complete new (r) evolution of intelligent design, developing a parallel economy based on common sense, care for earth and care for people. Smart constructions for different climates are also one of the basic principles in the permaculture design techniques.

Our renovations

Bastian has been working tirelessly to create something from the original farmhouse that was on the site when we arrived here. It has been, and continues to be, such a labour of love. These are just a few snapshots of the renovations as they continue.

The new terrace with new windows with double glass. Double glass with nanotechnology treated to keep cold outside and let the sun-heat inside.

maison-communautaire

New sewage which split gray water and black water and the harvesting of rainwater, which all runs under the new terrace.

futurebibliotheque

The new design-room and library.

maisoncomunautaire

The new dining-room with bar and kitchen.

maisoncommunautaire

Composting Techniques

We never feed the plant. We feed the soils. Soils are the crucible of health from which all things spring. It’s not the soil itself – it’s the soil life that is the most important element.

Geoff Lawton

Soil is like a banking account, we can add or take. A living and fertile soil makes a good income for the farmer. Taking living structures away and replacing them with heavy plowing, chemical fertilizers, deforestation, overgrazing and on the top of that, water abusing irrigation systems, the farmer is depleting his “bank account”, without anything left for future generations.

Plants also take up soluble nutrients due to a difference in the water pressure between their roots and the water in the soil. If the pressure in the plant is low they automatically drink. It is by this method that chemical fertilizers are taking up by plants. When plants can get free nutrients in this way, fungal and bacterial relationships don’t form. As a consequence the life in the soil dies.

Permaculture composting techniques will increase the soil organic matter and the nutrient pumping effect. Bacteria, fungi and worms create the crumb structure of soils. They produce a sticky carbohydrate that binds the individual humic and mineral particles together.

When land use is diverse with implementation of soil improvement systems that combines different measures to control soil erosion, restore soil fertility and improve soil water holding capacity, humans and nature, will all benefit.

At Semilla Besada, we do 18 day compost, worm compost for worm tea and have normal, annual compost that is turned over when full.

Irrigation

Thanks to the high altitude Sierra Nevada held southern Quaternary glaciers in Europe, as well as it happened during the little ice age. The Arabs implemented the acequia system canals, one of the first devices for artificial recharge of aquifers. A network of irrigation channels distributes water across the agricultural terraces and southern slopes. This redistribution and management of water is responsible for the present day landscape in most of the Alpujarras region.

The Sierra Nevada is characterised by a rich mosaic of landscapes. But they are, more often than not, landscapes with fragile enclaves that require careful attention. This is indeed how it should be.

The challenge lies in knowing how to apply this master-plan for use and management in this fragile area. Balancing the sustainable economic event of the population and the preservation and safeguarding the heritage values ​​of the landscape.

At Semilla Besada we offer students the opportunity to make irrigation channels in an authentic Alpujarra style. This is the official document for the maintenance of these historical channels that we work from as a community.

This is the information we follow to ensure we are maintaining the acequias in the correct way.