Wood and Earth

Winter has finally come around and although it is  our busier time of the year, I took a moment to lay in some garden beds for the next season, at our land in Italy. The weather has been amazingly sunny and warm: we seem to have endless string of sunny days, and the little dusting of snow we had just adds to the beauty of it all. The mountain is majestic and it is so good to be outside all day long in the sun – we are even sweating  most days.

We decided to take a moment break (well I did) and make some raised garden beds. There is an old method that used to be practiced in Eastern Europe and Germany for decades – it is called Hügelkultur, and it calls for burying wood under earth, and layering to create compost, which ensures constant moisture to the bed. It is said that this method can be used in the desert and would not need watering if done right so I thought well we should give it a go, as we sure did water our garden last year in the hot, dry summer.

We have dug a wide long trench. This was quite easy as we used our digger instead of having to do the work by hand and the ground is nice and dry. The commotion drew the neighbouring farmer so we used the opportunity to have him deliver some horse manure.

First step was to fill the dug section with logs and as we have just been clearing the old orchards, there was quite a supply of weeping elms.

Weeping Elm Logs

Filling the trench with logs

 

Horse Manure

Horse Manure

The logs were covered in earth and we piled some straw out of an old straw bale that came from another neighbouring farmer, it seemed it was all just flowing, whenever the next layer was needed someone would happen to be driving along and come and deliver it.

Raised beds covered with straw

Straw covered earth.

The best thing about the straw bales is that they need to be really old or one has to go through a process of maturing them, and the good thing was that the old farmer that came to pick the bales for his horse, was picking up last years bales and some have got in a bad way or might I say, they ended up in a raised bed.

As we were rather rich in horse manure we thought we would lay one layer of that afterwards to help the composting process. The whole Idea of the process except for its compost quality is that once the wood rots, its acts more and more like a sponge collecting water when the earth is wet, and delivering it back slowly once it dries up, or in another sense, as I was telling the local farmers who could not really believe I was burying my wood pile in a nice clear field, it’s a method for having a garden without the need to water it.

Horse Manure being used for gardening

Laying horse manure

As things were in swing and all the local farmers seem to be out and about in our parts, I thought maybe we can kill two birds with one stone, and got one of them to come with us to pick up some of the olive branches of the olives we just pruned. These olives have been neglected for 10 or so years, and there was a surprising amount, and i thought great that would be another nice layer for the raised bed. Back in the day Olive wood was quite sacred, and its amazing smell when burnt made feel like a sacrilege to just throw it in the ground, but somehow we managed.

using olive branches for raised beds

Olive branches delivery

To top it all up we have put the remaining earth, another load of horse manure, and another whole straw bale, seeing that no manual digging was involved I was rather pleased with the speed it all came together, and it was nice education for us and the local farmers, who promised that if my gardening experiments work they would make their own garden the same way.

Abruzzen Shepard

The bed is raised!

It felt funny teaching them how to garden, like selling snow to eskimos, but in a way it is time for new ways to take place, and as the Italian country side is suffering from the lack of governmental reforms more than most and the old day farming methods seems to have been swapped to simply plowing in grain once a year, I guess it is a turn for the good. It sure felt like it was flowing and I hope the abandoned lands and olive groves would flourish again at the foothills of the Magellan. The locals seem to have put a little more effort than usual this year into their fields and I hope we helped in some way to revive the abandoned fields and get the locals to not abandon their plots.

 

The Circle Grows and Anti Terrorism Acts.

The big upheaval of the Paris terror attacks (don’t worry its not one of those political posts) came to us with a twist.  It’s hard to find your head and tails in all the latest war in the middle east drama, the refugees coming into Europe seem to have given a whole lot of people something to concentrate on to make them feel like they are doing good.

The other week a friend of ours came around to visit, it was funny in a way because he works for the Associated press in Italy – ANSA, as a camera man, we were proud of the fact he still chose to stick to the plan and come around and spend the week end although he was due to go to Paris instead, he took some nice photos all over the site, down to the river, and back up.

It was hard on him to drive back to Rome and fly straight to Paris, a little soul churning.

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Scorpio and Libra

The Zodiac Yurt circle has grown after the Yurt making event we did this autumn, we now have the third yurt in the making and the first two on the ground, so between fixing diggers, picking olives and the never ending amount of yurt orders, I’ve taken a moment to post some of these nice pics he took up here to take your mind off the terrorism.

zodiac tent

View to the Majella

Abruzzen shepherd

Abruzzan Shepherd  with yurts

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Yurts with tree line

by the river

Down by the river

Olive oil

We have had a busy season, the summer ebbed away into Autumn and it was a little hard to keep up with all the activity, always busy sewing and making yurts, balancing building our Italian centre, and now November has come its also olive picking time.

We have the fortune to have landed our site in an area full of wilderness: only the other day one of the locals was telling us to be careful that our dog does not get killed by the wolf they have seen the other morning.

But one of the best things about this area is that a lot of the old cultivation has been abandoned, it means there are scores of fruit trees for us!, this month we have spent a good two week picking olives of old olive groves, that have grown wild.

The Italian mountain weather was at its best, and so we picked some 500kilo of olives, all from wild uncultivated trees, organic and in the fresh mountain wilds, the Oil is simply Amazing.

There are three main olive varieties in our area, the big eating olive called olive grande, the small ones I can never recall, and the middle sized one that mature latest, called in dialect la gentile (the gentle one). traditionally olive groves are planted with some sort of a mix of varieties so to offer one the best of all worlds oil, and eating olives.

 

olivegrande

olivo grande

 

The olive trees we resurrected around Heartland  are of the eating variety around the area we are going to be putting all the yurts, and further up and down are mostly of the la gentile kind.

We use the old method of making green olives, so instead of chemicals we cure ours in water, but we also use ash from the fire,  placed in a sock inside the water with the olives, it makes them go “sweet” so after a week or so they can go into brine.

The black Olives are done under salt, simply put them in a sack with a load of salt and keep turning them.

This was the capping stone over a summer of fruit collection and gardening, having a site to manage travelling to our usual cover and yurt making, is overly demanding but it is rewarding, Sitting now by the oak fire, with a big pot of mushroom and nettle soup, knowing the olive oil in the bottle was picked by our hands from our own local olives is great, and the taste is superior to anything you have ever tasted.

olive press

Olives to oil

The local olive oil press works long hours for those two months, finishing some nights at 12pm, it takes about an hour from arrival to oil. Nice friendly locals all bringing their olives to be pressed its a real good way to get involved with the locals.

olive oil coming out of press

Mountain Olive Oil

Our second olive picking being little latish, got us 35litres out of 200kg, which is an impressive 18%. this is due to the fact that most of the olives we picked was of the la gentile type (they have more oil) and because the olives were little more mature, as we only got 15% a few weeks earlier, the earlier Olive oil is little less acidic which is a good thing too.

On the Other Side of The Yurt Makers’ Heart: The Libra Yurt is born.

The Libra Yurt is Born: the next yurt of The Zodiac Tent.

Having been clearing and flattening the site all summer long, a lot of the ground was bare and the new grass has not caught yet, so we were worried that an increase in rain will turn the site into a mud bath. We spent a few weeks getting the place up and together with the help of some friends and relations: we first made a large workshop area near the Zodiac Tent site.

Workshop space

Next thing we rigged up the tents again: the Scorpio yurt was up all summer long, but we had taken the Sibley tent down (its a type of hanging tipi) so that had to go up again.

Luckily we had some friends to visit just in time, and it was lots of fun putting it all up, and it  felt like the event was already on.

The Sibley tent is a tent we made earlier this year, it is traditionally pitched with a tripod, under which one has an open fire, but we just hang it from a friendly oak.

sibley and yurt

Sibley Tent and Yurt pitched for the event

sibley

Sibley Tent

The last tent to go up was the latest addition to the Baker Tent Family, the ‘Kitchen Tent’, which is a double sized Baker Tent.

kitchen tent

The Kitchen Tent

So, the group  arrived,  a few of the participants had already made a yurt before, and one friend was a professional yurt maker.

Breakfast in front of the Majella

Breakfast in front of the Majella

Everybody where keen to get into it, we started the week by going into the forest and cutting poles.

tammy cutting poles

Tammy cutting ash poles

We than started the peeling and steaming process, every body getting into peeling and shaping rafters, tying trellis poles, and glueing the wheel.

busy bees

Busy Bees

All through we were introducing group work and inner focus, but with little emphasis so not to make it too emotional for the group. However it seemed, at times, that there was so much people were going through because of the ‘open psychic space’ around, and working together out in nature. at one point an Israeli participant even commented, “wow where is all this emotionality coming from I thought we came here to make a yurt”! (He was just joking, trying to keep things light).

The community making process, was taking place and it was interesting to see the group going through the motions, how the first high of coming together was replaced by disillusion and how harder feelings started coming up, it was amazing to witness some of the things people went through. The weather mirrored this process with more rain than we’d had all the summer in a couple of days. The collective mud-bath did bring the group together.

Campsite in rain

Campground in rain

At one point it seemed the whole gathering was falling apart, but that too was part of the community making process, than out of that harder space something amazing started to bloom, a real sense of togetherness. Seeing people pitch in, working until the evening making the yurt parts, sharing the fire-heated bath water, and more than all some real life change was starting to take place in all it was the perfect balance. We were afraid the rain would be too much, or the winds, or that being so far out in nature without comforts, mobile phones or chocolate would prove hard, but it wasn’t. (The food came out more than amazing,  with 3 meals a day cooked on the fire!)

It proved that group process work could be maintained simply by intent, and our job was simply to hold the process and the place together.

in the wheel

Happy Yurt makers, after steaming the yurt wheel

There is simply too much to say and the inner processes that took place are too private to share here, but it was a deep experience seeing a little tribe form and go through it together facing the elements together, at moments even crying together.

Face in the element

Face in the (watery) element

In a way some of the best things to come out were the resolutions people came up with at the end. We got some amazing thank you’s, and were told by one woman that it was a life changing experience and she has decided to up it and go into a new life within the year, that coming back home after all the nature was trying.

At one point in the middle of this gathering we were sitting by the fire, and Lucy said we need to look for an omen to find out which sign this yurt will represent. With the Scorpio Yurt, we had a clear sign when a Scorpion crawled out of one of the door posts whilst it was being made.) Her feeling was that this yurt was the Libra yurt as this gathering started as the Sun moved into Libra on the Autumn Equinox, going until the Super Harvest Moon Eclipse the night before the yurt went up. As she said it, we were all outside looking at the sky for Libra and there was a collective gasp as a shooting star shot through the sky. We knew this one was the Libra yurt.

Libra Yurt next to Scorpio Yurt

Libra Yurt next to Scorpio Yurt

yurt makers

Yurt Makers (with T-shirts)

Here is an article by Dayana Piccoli, who participated in the event,  in ‘Chi si dicie’, the magazine of Torricella Peligna, our local town. Amidst the pages of town history and rural life,  Dayana’s article (page 17) shines through, and says much of what I was gonna share here, and a little more! Better polish your Italian.

Contact us if you are interested in participating in a similar event. We are also starting to look for people that want to get involved on a more regular basis, help with the work while living in nature for longer periods, or even help us run events.

And here is a little Video that shows some nice moments from the gathering.

The Kitchen Tent (Double Baker Tent)

We have been working for a while with Wild Canvas, to bring out a new and bigger, open fire “Baker” style tent.

We finally had some time to create this beauty for the Yurt Makers Heart gathering we had in Abruzzo Italy. We think this would be the best UK-made tent, for stall holders at outdoors events and shows, outdoor kitchens on campsites and general outdoor permanent camps.

This is a Double Baker, meaning it’s two of the Wild Canvas Land Rover tents side by side, so its plenty big enough to have two open firepits, a big counter top and gas rings at the back, plus loads of storage space. Like all the Baker Tents, the side wings are multi-functional: during the day they can be rolled up out of the way or used as protection from the elements by tying them out to the front, and then, at night, they can be used to close off the back section for food storage or for use as a sleeping area.

Here are some photos, showing some of its features, taken at the yurt-making event.

kitchententresizekitchententresize2wild canvaskitchententresize3

 

A little movie of Angelika showing how much fun it is to cook in…