Land Doctors in Carmona, Seville
The next time you face towards the Roman Bridge from the left hand corner of the balcony of the bar of Parador Hotel of Carmona, you may find it hard to believe that just before the bridge you will see “El Arrecife Viejo”. It is an agricultural property dedicated to natural and environmental experiments run by a young couple I call the “Land Doctors”.
It was first thought that Arrecife Viejo referred to the old reef –which can’t be seen from the balcony – was formed a long time ago when this region was covered by the sea. –
We now know that it has an Arab origin (Al-rasif) meaning THE ROYAL TRACK. It refers to the Roman road called the Via Augusta which was always heading eastwards towards Rome and descending towards the Roman Bridge.
From this balcony one can also see that the Arcor (highlands) change direction to become the so-called “Terraces of the Guadalquivir” because they gently descend to the river. They are also referred to as “La Campiña” of Carmona.
During our conversation with our student guidePablo Ojeda Delia (see the post: http://livingincarmonaseville.com/blog/2015/04/05/a-perfect-day-in-the-sierra-norte-of-seville/), I was intrigued by his comments about how trees give so much information and about bees. He promised to show me where people practiced permaculture and perma-beekeeping.
The Arrecife Viejo is operated by Paco Rodriguez who was born in Carmona and Ines M. Otero who was born nearby. Paco is an Agronomic Engineer working with other engineers. According to his web page http://ecuorum.es/ they are dedicated to “clean production practices to optimize sectors such as agricultural production; livestock production and environmental regeneration” Ines is graduated in Environmental Sciences and is in charge of spreading the word of the actions taken by the Arrecife Viejo https://www.facebook.com/ElArrecifeViejo.
Paco says “For three years this land has been recovering from the damage caused by a flock of 400 goats belonging to my family.” To look at the smiling face and to listen to Paco’s explanations is special. He has a natural gift to simplify complicated things and make them meaningful.
“The rare but violent rainfalls were damaging everything and stopping anything growing on this land. Our first action has been to build environmental terraces with organic matter. This enriches the soil, improves and restores the balance of the damaged ecosystem.
“We monitor what kind of plants grow. We observe these indicators to see behavioural patterns of plants. We’ll then be able to grow edible plants of a similar family. It will optimize both taste and production. It is a clean, natural and efficient long term process”.
“Nature is guiding us. However to heal by itself, Nature takes time”. Paco interrupted our talk as he had to collect his small flock. “It is less than one percent than our former flock but our three nanny goats and three kids are a great opportunity to test how one can naturally improve the quality of goat milk.
Is it possible to accelerate the healing process of the soil?
“Of course, this is our very purpose. We achieve that inoculating healthy elements which will contaminate in a positive way our target environment and their damaged soil will regenerate faster.”
On this photo you can see the reef. Paco comments,
“Here is one of the many small artificial ponds we have built to store rain water. This is enriching the eco-system with its retained minerals and it also provides drinking water for our animals, including our five dogs.
“All the R&D experiments we carry out here are geared to eficiency. Did you know that in our region, including Portugal there are millions of affected green oaks and cork trees?
While Paco releases the small flock to graze freely, Pablo leads me to the end of the property to show me where they had located the beehives. They are in the middle of the reef and in which grows a huge fig tree.
“Why are the beehives located here?” Pablo replied:
“For four reasons. The first is obvious, it is to stop the bees annoying those living or visiting the property. Bees feel very happy in ‘powerful’ places and the fig tree trunks grows in a telluric fault. The fig tree also indicates there is water nearby and the fourth reason relates to their excellent orientation towards the rising sun that makes them warm and happy and thus vigorous at their wake-up time.
“There are four beehives: two from last year and two new ones that must endure and survive to the extreme summer heat until next spring. We did not collect honey last spring. This was to give the opportunity to the two first beehives to get stronger and to inoculate their health to the new hives to survite to the hot summer. The frames from which you collect the honey – usually metallic meshes – will be replaced by natural material such as cork. Last but not least, we’ll let the form of the beehive grow through the bottom to look like a wild huge honeycomb. This will strengthen the colony and the honey will taste much much better with more properties.
“Perma-apiculture or permanent beekeeping hopes to cause a positive change to endangered apiculture that – in turn – will contribute to changes in the environment. You only have to observe, be patient and, above all, accept that it is not “the yield or quantity but quality that matters.”Paco and Ines areinspiring, given my passion for bees and my own honey production.”
Paco joined us and ponited to the snails. I asked why did they seem to gather high above the fennel stem.
“Maybe snails appreciate the morning breeze. But to be honest, I don’t know.”
“Have you heard anything about permaculture?”?
Beside what Pablo taught me: nothing I replied. I had only learned about Grey Owl (or Wa-sha-quon-asin…), actually an Englishman named Archibald Delaney who lived like Native Canadian Indians during the Great Depression and learnt their ancestral farming and environmental preservation techniques. His writing skills made him famous. He is now considered as the precursor of the ecologic movement.
Paco: “I’ll have a look to know who Grey Owl is.
“Darwin invented “competition”. Enough to read the title of his master work: “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.We think that positive contamination also exists with healthy animals, plants and persons. We believe, observe and work with symbiosis in nature, searching to find or create a balanced ecosystem. Soil can be healed.
You know that camomile tea is good for our body?. It is also good for the soil. You can give camomile tea to the land that will be grateful for that. But the best tea to regenerate the soil is“worm tea”. We cultivate worms, not to fish but to put them in the soil. Worms’ excavations oxygenate and regenerate the soil.”
To be honest, it was so “new” to me that all that sounded as being pure science fiction.
Ines joined the group to inform us that Jose Enrique, Pablo’s tutor had just arrived to make Ines and Paco sign the end of Pablo’s practice appraisal sheet. Ines invited us to taste their fresh goat cheese for breakfast.
Walking to their house, she shows me one of their latest experiments. Potatoes with roots growing above the soil, protected from the sun by what seems to be a huge straw hat.
As soon as we arrive on the terrace, she shows me the roots and the clean potatoes: “You have to be careful and check that the potato is not green meaning it is inedible because the green colour means that the potato has a sort of heatstroke”.
While filling the evaluation paper, I got close to the flock happily eating nearby. Indeed they looked relaxed.
I went back late afternoon to witness the end of the day of this flock with the milking of one of the three nanny goats (the others feeding their kids).
Passing by, we say hello to “Peñasco” the donkey, a species that was once the number one transport means in Andalusia and is now an endangered species.
Ines explains: “To properly milk the nanny goat, she has to be quiet and relaxed. We achieve this feeding and cuddling her. The whole process of freedom and food tends to optimize the taste of our goat cheese thanks to a milk with enriched properties and of a superior quality.”
“The only food supplements used are lentils. It is healthy and reasonably cheap.
Paco commented “There is enough milk to make one good cheese which we’ll eat tomorrow during our breakfast”.
We return at breakfast time when Ines brings her goat cheese and Pablo Ojeda’ s orange blossom honey with toasted brown bread. A great lover of goat cheese, you can well imagine how delicious this breakfast tasted with the milk of these cared for goats!
In his web page http://ecuorum.es/ Paco explains: “We are backed by an exhaustive experience in the fields of agronomic, chemical and veterinary engineering, environment and ecosystems, micro biology, medicine, farming techniques, genetics, plan health, animal nutrition and other associated disciplines.”
I already knew one of their collaborators: Enrique Peña. I mentioned him in the post of this blog when he spoke about the medicinal plants found in the olive grove belonging to Antonio Gonzales (see: http://livingincarmonaseville.com/blog/2014/10/26/organic-olive-grove-in-carmona/).
Ines offered me a glass of homemade kefir. “Kefir is used to turn milk into a yogurt. It is also used to regulate our intestinal balance. It won’t be a drastic change because it takes time so that nature gets into balance.”
“Right now we are going to experiment with a new type of rennet to turn goat’s milk into cheese: pistils of a species of thistle called wild artichokes.
We are convinced that it will make a great alternative rennet giving more taste, not to say a “unique” taste to our cheese.”
Looking at the berry tree just in front of the terrace, I asked Ines if, by chance, she was raising silkworms. She was!
She enthusiastically shows me the silk threads with which she weaves bracelets. I was delighted because I knew that a lot of youngsters in Carmona dedicated themselves to silkworm raising.
She invited me to touch the worm. It was as ‘soft as silk’. The worm eats the leaf and makes a cocoon made by the chrysalis of which hatches the butterfly that will lay the eggs from which small silkworms form.
You can appreciate the eggs.
Ines ends her explanation saying that once the cocoons are empty, the chrysalis are boiled and it is then easy to pick up a thread and weave it.
Ines makes a group photo with Paco on my right, Pablo’s teacher and Pablo on my left. … But this is not all. I mentioned my attraction for the infusions of “poleo menta” (Pennyroyal Mint or Mentha Pulegium) we could not find in France.
Paco gave me some branches of dried poleo menta. “Plants in Andalusia have strong properties because they have had to resist the heat to survive. An infusion with only 4 inches of a single branch equals 10 bags of the infusion you buy in a super market.”
I had been drinking infusions of ‘poleo menta’ associating two products unaware that it was a shrub. Therefore as an added bonus, I went home with more than two months of daily natural infusions of the shrub called… poleo menta.Two weeks later, I can state I feel far better and more energetic despite the early heat wave.
In 1988 the centennial of Grew Owl’s birth was celebraed. In 1999, Richard Attenborough made a film of his life. This summer 2015, thanks to social networks and Smartphone and tablet’s applications, the world can share this knowledge with great ease. This is exactly what Paco and Ines do together with the workshops they organise throughout Andalusia or the visits of schools or universities.
I feel admirative for the nonstop work, R&D spirit, experiments and data collection of Paco, Ines, their collaborators and their followers.
“The mission of our group is to contribute to the creation of a sustainable society based on co-existence, co-operation, and sharing a reliable information of quality . We are committed to make future generations live in a healthier environment.” (http://ecuorum.es/ ).
It is wonderful and promising to acknowledge the existence of the “Land Doctors” on the hill side of the Parador Hotel in Carmona, using the strength of Mother Nature.
I will go back to “El Arrecife Viejo”.