2) What (& News)‎ > ‎News/Blog‎ > ‎

Spring Starting...

posted 30 Apr 2012, 15:49 by Stella Ne   [ updated 13 Jan 2013, 09:23 by Jose Lorenzo Zamora ]

One Cycle Ends, Another Begins

At the end of March all our last remaining gang of volunteers took flight (on the same plane in fact) back home.   

From the left: Zaza, Berry, Julio, Sara & Taco (Stella taking the picture)

We enjoyed their stay, & we hope you all keep in touch!  We really appreciate all the labors of love they left around in the place.     THANKYOU.    We'll be putting Gaias in your accounts ... watch out :)

We featured Berry & Dixon in the last newsletter, here is the turn of Zaza & Taco (see below right)

Lots of Veggies

These are some before & after pics (the first picture taken in February & the rest from April)  - the new hugel-bed that Berry & friends built, with a buried layer of cactus under about 15-20cm of soil (worm-food for years) is now in full production & looking very beautiful ...


We are going to just let the cardboard rot away slowly (worms love the stuff) because it's a bit of a bother to take out & we'd have nothing better to do with it.   


So bits will look a little messy for a while, but we're really looking forward to planting even more there & then seeing what happens when the chickens pass again through this garden.
There are quite a few varieties of 'volunteers' that grow here which we eat or give to the chickens when we weed (mustards, nettle, fat hen, chick-weed, poppies, wild calendula, fennel, etc.) 


& lots that we sowed direct or transplanted from our nursery (chicories, two types of rocket, parsley, cilantro, beans, zucchini, lettuces, radishes, carrots, onion, leeks, garlic, beetroots)


These to the left, are fava beans that will provide shade for the lettuces whilst they are small, and to the right, above is a big nettle patch that we put in the shadiest spot, which has already been cropped three times for soups (Stella is addicted to nettle soup...).  Rigth below one of the young zucchini plants.

(you can click to enlarge all pictures)

A New Interview Video by Taco

Taco, who stayed here a few months just edited this, after recording a few hours of interview on his last day with us.

The people on the 8thLife Facebook group seemed to really like it, so we're sharing it here too, & hope you find it inspiring.

Radio/TV 't Eigen-wijsje presents:

An interview with Stella Strega about Integral Permaculture, the new EcoVillage project they are setting up and why it is crucial we design for a creative, energy descent. We talk about the end of cheap oil, how our privileged lives in the west are connected to wars & the destruction of ecosystems, why the high rate of (western) ecovillage-project failures & what we can do about it. Also we discuss how we need to unlearn much of what we have been indoctrinated with in our industrialized societies, in order to make these transition initiatives work.

See video in YouTube for additional information: 

Grandmothers Meet

We had a very special & magical family "Semana Santa" holiday (Easter) with the visit of Maria, Jose's grandmother, originally from Cuba (currently living with Jose in Tenerife), meeting Ambrosia, Julio's grandmother who celebrated her 82nd birthday these days.    

Here are the grandmothers posing with their respective first grandsons in front of the little house that might become our EcoVillage EcoResidencia (old people's residence) in the future.

We're still trying to get together the money to finance this, as we've decided to try to buy the whole house, which has three rooms in total & needs quite a lot of repair, so we're looking for some more investors to finance this project. 

Remember that each 2,000€ that you invest in the EcoVillage gives you a holiday share of one month per year, for life! (or until someone else buys back your share) ... and buying this particular building means we'll have 1 extra accommodation for holiday sharers, as well as two grandmothers.   A bargain :)

It was also Ambrosia's birthday during the holidays, she's now 82!   It was great to celebrate this with her, and in the end she had two birthday parties & two cakes, one in the country & one in the city, with different parts of the family.

Cheerful, loving & funny as ever ... if most of us get to her age with her grace & attitude, we'll be really blessed.

The 82 on the cake, marked with almonds, looked like 28 around the table, which is more like her attitude age ... and as she wouldn't wait & started eating some of the almonds, it soon went down to 26 ...


Also we had a lovely afternoon with our neighbor Fortuna, who is selling her farm next door, & came over, on a rare trip from the city, as Jose's family was thinking whether to buy her property.     

In the end decided it would be wiser to wait for more investors in order to take on this bigger expense, & Jose & Lidia want to live in a Domo anyway...

The Owl we Run Over one Night

One of the wonderful things about living here is that there are quite a few prey birds around, including various types of owls that we sometimes see very silently swooping around the finca at night.

One night in March, just after a wonderful dinner with a group of very dear friends,  we were driving  back home at night when we heard a loud bang on top of the car.   

Sara & Julio had seen an owl above just before so we suspected the worst & drove back to see if the bird was, by some miracle, still alive.     

& it was: obviously with a broken wing but it was there in the middle of the road trying to get up as another car drove right by it.


Here above you can see it in the car the next morning, with its twisted broken wing.

So Julio picked it up off the road, Stella held it on the way back (& got pecked at first, but rather gently), & we called the Island Council's wildlife protection people first thing in the morning.

They were wonderfully efficient and arrived a few hours later, telling us (such lovely news!) that they had just dropped off an owl & a turtle back into the wild, on the way, then expertly packed the bird into a box, ready to be taken to their vet.

The wildlife officer told us of the probabilities of the owl getting cured (rather difficult with birds' bones as they are hollow, apparently) & that if it did, they would take it back where we had found it, so took notes of everything.    

We called a few days later & were told that it was a curable injury - so we were very relieved and hope s/he will be back with its family & familiar hunting grounds as soon as possible.

Great service for wildlife we have here, brilliant!

Opening up the Water

The Fish Palace gets a new ceiling!
Jose brought some little carp when he came, as he was keen to start the fish growing on the finca.    Our little tank was covered with wooden slats & it was time to let it out in the sun ... so we started the tank renovation works with a fish-viewing ...


These ancient water tanks, like ours, typically come with a clothes washing sink, animal drinking trough & a 'well' box in the middle that opens at the top for collecting the water, with a bucket.

We put some floating water plants (tying together several different species so as to make some interesting new pond furniture)  & immediately 2 frogs & a toad (whom we hadn't heard from for ages..) started enjoying basking in the sun on their new green floating islands. 

What is great now, apart from the new relaxing entertainment (the fish & frog-watching meditation), is that we can hear the water falling in the tank so much louder, right up to the little house, which is is a wonderful sound.

Pure spring water constantly falling into our big fish-pond, which will soon also be a cool dipping-pool for summer ... yum! :)

Making Marmalade

With the great excess of oranges (see previous newsletter photos), after juicing every morning for a while, and eating entire bowls of orange quarters for breakfast & snacks ... we still had loads left, so we finally decided to make orange marmalade.   Not our first choice for using excess oranges, as it uses quite a bit of sugar, but it's really yummy, so ...

We followed this recipe because it was so simple...

& it involves cutting the oranges in thin circles the night before cooking, as they benefit from being left soaking over-night (probably to let more of the pectin come out), which is why these pictures are so dark ok ... we filled a big pot full of sliced oranges, after washing each one thoroughly (because the peel goes in with it all, making a particularly delicious part of the final marmalade). 


In the morning we put it on a slow heat & went out to do our habitual chores, coming back to the pot to stir occasionally & then to add cloves & sugar.

An over-enthusiastic volunteer that visited in the winter threw out the bags of lids for the many jars we carefully store for these canning feasts ... so our limiting factor now is jars rather than oranges.     Which is just one of many examples of how our city-bred mania for 'cleaning' & having everything look orderly & neat is just another consumerist & ultimately very wasteful fad.

So the hardest part of all this was actually just finding the jars... & then sterilizing them is what takes the most time of the jam process (just because it's long-winded, as we couldn't fit another big pot on the small cooker we used for this).    

But over-all it's an incredibly easy & very pleasant job ... so by lunch-time we had some 20 big jars of delicious preserve.   

And it's really delicious ... so it probably won't last all that long.     Which is fine, as we have plenty of oranges and can easily make a big pot of this every week.  

So we're busy hunting for more jars...

Pen-Improvements for the Sheep

It's great extra exercise having sheep.. as we go out and get them bunches of flowers like this a few times per day, as well as take them for walks.

Then, if we put too much in their 'comedor' (the eating trough), they throw it around & make much of it into bedding, 
and the big one tends to bully the little ones out of the way, as well.

Also, giving them their sprouted grain & chopped green banana treat in buckets was too stressful & messy, so, applying the good permaculture principle of continuous observation & tweaking of designs ... we made some new sheep eatery improvements.

We set out to make this big comedero one day, with spare wood Julio had in his workshop.


And the little long trough you can see to the right by the wall is an ancient water-collection channel sculpted out of tea (the pine heart-wood) which proved perfect for putting out their treats in.

Very happy sheep ... :)

Grandma - who has kept goats all her life - also taught us just how much & how often to put in their trough so that they don't waste any.

It's really great to have her around, especially as she constantly tells us stories of the old times, teaches us how they did things, so she's full of tips & great information!

The Green Gym

Abuela adores the sheep, so she comes to walk with us whenever she can.

Here you can see her watching over the flock & over-seeing Stella's mini-swaling efforts.

Mini-swaling is a great meditation practice: whenever you can, lay down branches at 90 degrees to a slope so as to trap small bits of soil & moisture in the landscape, for future fertility.

It's fun to do this with the plentiful long fennel stems, as we pick sacks of varied herbs to feed the sheep in their pens.   It's sculpting with the landscape which keeps you with your nose to the ground, observing all the creatures that live there whilst you make them a richer habitat.

Much of the daily rhythm of the farm work is just about collecting & moving fertility around, which is also the gentle regular exercise that's always recommended.  

We often joke about making a more explicit 'green gym' circuit of the farm work, for visiting city-folk, as it seems totally absurd to us that millions of people in the - very crazy & spoiled west - are spending massive amounts of time & money going to gyms, when there is so much (much more pleasant, productive & meaningful!) farm work to be done in the world ... which the earth desperately needs us to do, as well.

Having animals is a great incentive to do that daily, as they have to eat, and are also such pleasant, relaxing & fun company to be around.

We also periodically take a an energetic walk in the woods nearby & do some fire-prevention work + collecting biomass for the finca ... like brezo y falla (just the lower branches of those trees) for the sheep, sacks of pine-needles for their bedding & also of pine-cones for the cooker.


It's really lovely to all go out to enjoy the woods in this way, knowing we're also helping the woods get looked after and the dogs have a great time too.


Plus of course it's very satisfying to get back home with the van filled up with this great 'shopping'.

This has been an ancient practice of all small farmers on the island, who traditionally kept the paths & woodlands cleared in order to tend to their animals & make the compost they needed for their crops.     This kept the forests around here from accumulating too high a layer of pine-needles and this in turn lowered considerably the risk of fire.

The First Compost Heap

 courtesy of the sheep!

This is where the fertility eventually gets concentrated: a lovely big pile of straw, sheep-manures, twigs, pine-needles ... now being worked at by millions of bacteria & fungus into the best possible soil-food for our gardens & forest-gardens.

& all we need to do to get one of these every month or so is to rake out the sheep-pen, pile up the seasoned straw, 


keep it at the right temperature & moisture for a few weeks, then fork it to another pile to aerate it, & repeat until we get the beautiful consistency of ripe compost.


We chose a nice long terrace for the sheep-pen for this reason: in order to give plenty of comfortable room for the great art of composting.   (en español acá)

A (see diagram below) is all the sacks of straw & weeds / grasses we bring in every day to feed the sheep & keep them comfortable.   It's ideal to have at least two bags of dry matter to one of green fodder coming in every day.  The sheep also eat some of the dry straw but they usually prefer the green stuff.

So we try to go out in pairs to walk the sheep, so that whilst they run around & fill their bellies, one person fills up one bag of green food for them, & the other person can fill up two bags with the plentiful dry grass that's all over the fields here.   

B is the sheep-pen where all this biomass is 'treated' & then we periodically clean out the pen & replace the enriched bedding with fresh straw, pine-needles & other dry biomass.  The darker pink part is the covered shelter where they sleep.

1 is the first pile, which is kept damp enough until it gets very hot but then it has to be aerated to ensure it doesn't go un-aerobic.
The easiest way to do that is to just make another pile, 2, which is one step closer to becoming good compost

We left enough space to make various steps or piles of compost, so there can be a fresh one coming out every month or so, to take the place of 1, as this is a continuous cycle.   

3 is a mature pile of compost, now conveniently arrived by the exit of the terrace so it can be taken to wherever it's needed, or packed in bags ready to go.

We put the sheep-pen nearly in the middle of the terrace because this leaves us space to extend to a second pen in the future, C, which has enough space to the right of it to do the same thing (& another convenient exit to the other side), if we want to double production in the future.


After the old compost has been taken out, fresh straw is put out to start the new cycle.    As the ground gets damp we keep adding straw & pine-needles..

Nispero Feast

There are two big & very beautiful loquat trees right in front of the Casita, which have not given much fruit these last few years because we've had very wet winters. 

        But this year they are full of delicious fruit as we've had a much more dry season, and the best thing is that they ripen very early, in march-april. 

This is after treating us to the daily concert of buzzing clouds of bees high up in the canopy, busily pollinating the flowers throughout the winter ... which is an  equally lovely experience.

So right now (early April), after having picked the low fruit, we have occasional fun times getting to the rest of the treasure, thanks to the very tall fruit-picker & vital safety-net.    The net is important because the fruit just splatters when it falls from 3m to 10m high ... but you have to get the team-work right & the net person has to have a good eye.


Sara & her friend Ainara (here with Abuela & some loquats) both get chosen as goal-keepers when they play football at school (apparently), so you'd think they'd be good at this.   Erm ... and after some practice, & lots of laughter, they are.


Eventually we get a few boxes of bunches + a number of splattered fruit, and we have this for breakfast usually, giving the too-damaged fruit to chickens + we discovered even the sheep appreciate the odd one.


In every season we have some new fruit ready to enjoy, all year round, and nisperos are just the current feast.

Soon will come the first flush of figs (really strange trees... the 'real fruit' ripens in autumn, the first flush is just a 'practice run'), then will be the turn of plums, later peaches, pears, apples, tunos, almonds ...

Drago-trees sun-set, 29 April 2012

Re-Designing GaiaSis!

We've had some intensive dialogues with our PDC+++ students over the last few months & thanks to their great feedback & ideas, 

we've re-designed the permaculture learning options we provide, so as to create even more creative 'edge' - or options for every type of need for permaculture education & experience.

So NodoEspiral of the Permaculture Academy has a new revised scale of options & prices, 

which was announced together with a few other internal & external changes at their First Year Birthday Party (click to see that news item)

This is the new range of GaiaSis (action-learning on site) options.

3 great new hands-on opportunities for Action-Learning 

in designing for the Great Transition

to a new sustainable humanity


Earn the Certificate of Permaculture Design

(the PDC)* in 2 months

whilst working on real-life projects

all over the world


Earn the Certificate of Integral Permaculture Design

(the PDC+++)* in 4 months

whilst designing for Transition projects

wherever you can leverage the most 

change toward a sustainable world.


Jump-start your Permaculture Diploma

by taking on some big real-life challenges

helping to design & build some

important Transition structures

anywhere you are 

called to.

All cost just 162€ per month, for an intensive program of 4 hours practical work on the project & 2 hours study per day, 5 days per week.

Costs include classes & practical demonstrations, food, accommodation (type depends on the place) + internet access. 

We're currently changing the GaiaSis website to reflect these new options, in the mean-time, thanks for your patience!

Email the Permaculture Academy interested at nodoespiral@nodoespiral.net

Thankyou Zaza :)

Zaza stayed with us for the month of March & brought a lovely fresh energy, an amazing, brilliant smile & a touch of efficiency to the organization of the volunteers group.   

Thank you very much Zaza for the great work you did here and sharing with us your lovely presence!!    :))

This is what she wrote after she left about the people:

My working group: Berry, Taco and I.

Since I've known Berry, he has always been in the middle and pro-active on everything he's been doing. 

Farming and building are one of the centers of his activities these years because they build cornerstones of human existence and frame human thinking. 
Easy to work with, self-engaged, and knowledgeable he enables oneself to become active diy*-style. He has been a good communicator (in delegation) to our group. Improvising solutions is his art.  
*do it yourself

Taco has been a great cook to our group, he was engaged with documenting our activities (films) and did great hands-on work. 

I did not work much with him but when working together it went really well. It was awesome to observe Taco become more and more inspired by Permaculture and planning his future life in ecovillages.

* The living group: Julio, Stella and Sara are all open and amazing people. 

Julio was fun to work with and talk to. Even though my Spanish skills are quite limited, we had real good laughs together, gesturing and wording around the jokes of stories. Also working together was productive and in the same time quite self-determinable.

Stella I found to be a very knowledgeable and engaged person who I would have liked to get to know better and hear more from. But well, the time and work didn't permit much. I will follow up on your project work and ebook.

About Sara I want to point out two things. She is a funny girl who is understanding and loves chocolate. 

Thank you for all your input, you letting me come and share your space! Your project is a wonderful example for making a mind shift!

Thank you Taco!  

Taco is a lovely, gentle & thoughtful political activist
 who teaches history in a
secondary school in Holland.

He stayed on the farm during February & March & did a few amazing things whilst he was here with us:

He decided to stop smoking (successfully, hope you keep smoke-free at home!), & he took many videos of the work, the finca & the surroundings, as he's quite a pro at filming & runs his own radio-program on the web.

 On his last day he interviewed Stella for hours, then went home & spent many days editing the interview into a lovely 50min video (you can see it above).   
& it got 200 views within the first week of getting published in YouTube!

He also at one point really got into digging the gardens up to bury the tuno (cactus) leaf under the beds - see previous newsletters for details of this - & kept going & going, just like a Duracell rabbit, saying that he liked the physical excercise.

THANKS so much Taco, keep in touch & thanks for all the fertility your exercise added to the soil here!  & for your creativity.

International Permaculture Day

We are taking part in the International PC Day on May 6th, with an exhibition (online) of the work that some of the students of NodoEspiral have been developing during the last year.

As GaiaSis, we're participating with this newsletter, as it gives an idea of what we're doing around here, & on the saturday we are doing a different kind of open-doors event:

we invited two activist groups of the Island who have been wanting to visit for some time, to meet on site for a day of
  • planting trees, 
  • exploring how we can make Transition connections & 
  • have a meal together 

They were keen but the weekend was not a good one, as most of their members had taken advantage of the MayDay holiday (long weekend) to leave town.

So this gave us the idea of doing some more flexible International Permaculture Days ... whenever we could get two or more active groups to come together.

Whilst we give them a fun opportunity to get their hands into the earth planting trees, we'll explore the possibilities of weaving fertile connections between theirs & other groups' political & social-change work.

We'll let you know how it goes in the next newsletter!

A New Web for GaiaTasiri

Our Mother-Ship (organizationally speaking), the GaiaTasiri Association, is currently receiving a re-vamp of her web-sites thanks to Maiemi.

An experienced computer programmer, he got in touch with us a month ago & in true pro-active designer style proposed:  "I notice your websites need some attention, I'd love to help, perhaps in exchange for some of your courses?".

We love when people get in touch with us with a genuine aim to help, so of course said yes.

So a few weeks ago we celebrated by finally getting the GaiaTasiri.com domain & this is the first sketch of a new front-page design.   What do you think?

Thanks so much Maiemi!!

* * *  Camping Area Opens * * * 

& from September to November we propose an  especially creative camping holiday in order to celebrate 

Offering the camping option on site is finally possible now that two new lovely young people, Jose and Lidia, are coming to live here and join the EcoVillage family.

This means we will have people who can take care of guests, an important part of the 8th Life EcoVillage project.

To celebrate we will offer a mini-Creativity & Sustainability Festival this autumn.

The Creativity & Sustainability Festival is a small experimental project that we started with some neighbors back in 2007, & which one particularly dynamic Action-Learning student group helped us organize for that first year.

Here you can see a couple of the old pages, our little archive of memories ...

the 2010 Festival

the 2009 Festival

the 2007 Festival

What we propose for 2012 is a mini-version of this, and just in one place: on the EcoVillage site.

Maybe next year we will be able to organize another, bigger Festival but for this year we prefer to focus on small steps & in welcoming the new EcoVillage members.

A mini-festival will mean you can visit us whilst taking part in something unusual & quite special whilst giving Jose & Lidia their first experience of hosting people here.

The idea is for all of us to have fun doing some unusual crafts workshops while you stay with us & enjoy a relaxing, quiet creative holiday with us.   Families & children very welcome! 

We will be giving more details in the next GaiaSis newsletter!

Donations to the Project

You can also become a co-investor by sending money to support this project, through PayPal, using our email Hola@EcoInversion.net
or directly to the Permaculture Academy account

- doing the PDC+++ Course is also a way of supporting the project directly -

All donations, large or small, are used to create the EcoVillage infrastructure.

Dressing Up of a Sunday

We're currently enjoying a few months of relaxing times with the family ...

Sara & Ainara having breackfast

We have a wonderful 'Free Shop' up in a bus stop on the main road, just before our drive-way, where people leave things they don't want anymore but are good enough to pass on to others.   

And we now call it 'Our Magic Free Shop' because very often we find exactly the right things.      Like these two dresses which fit perfectly the two princesses at home at that moment, which appeared together with a lot of soft-toys which the girls also enjoyed playing with.     

We'll do a story about the Free Shop in a next newsletter!

It is great having visitors & guests - especially our students after we get to know them quite well online, and so look forward to meet in person - but it is also really nice to have a few months in between of more quiet family times.

Sara, Abuela & Julio on the porch

So we decided for now to stay without volunteers for a month or so, especially as Abuela is starting to come to stay more often now & Sara is settling in still, after many years of living all over, & mostly in cities.

But also because we are quite busy making plans & organizing with the people who are getting ready to come join us in the EcoVillage project!!   

More about that in the next newsletter ... :)

Join us in Facebook

... where you can comment on this newsletter, ask questions, etc.

Just ask for entry to the 8thLife Facebook Group (EcoVillage Project):