Bodega, bees and bottles of wine: natural farming at La Alondra Infinita

This update is long overdue, and I apologise for the delay. As usual we have been very busy, but at last we are now seeing, and enjoying, the fruits of our labours and investments over the last year: the wine we drink is the wine we make!

Our natural style of farming

[Not a valid template]

When we bought the farm in 2009 it had a small woodland in one corner which had been badly damaged by a fire, and many small trees had been cut down for firewood.  Over the last 4 years we restored this area by cleaning out dead wood, by encouraging the native trees to expand and by adding a few specimen trees to add diversification. The woodland is now spreading along the side of an irrigation ditch and it has almost joined up with a newly planted area of acacia trees by our house 125 yards away! In summer, when temperatures are in the late 30’s Continue reading

What happened in the last year?

For our family and friends, here is a very brief update of what happened since our last blog entry, 13 months ago:

  • House building reached the stage where the roof was (just) on, when our builder decided to up his fee by 25% of the agreed total price. We declined his offer and gave him 2 days to clear all his tools off site. He was very surprised at our reaction but has, hopefully, learnt a lesson that not all foreigners are rich Americans 😉
  • Bored a well 30 feet deep for drinking water.
  • Brought electricity to the farm.
  • We (doing all the work ourselves) have completed the roof construction, wired up the house, connected it to the public supply, put in all the water pipes, the tank on the roof, the automatic control system for the well pump, plastered inside where needed, put in all the bathroom furniture and tiles and have completed laying all the floor tiles in the living/dining/entrance areas. The kitchen will be our next target as we only have a temporary worktop, sink and cupboards.
  • Nearly 600 yards of irrigation ditch hand deepened and widened to improve the water supply to the vineyard.
  • Planted various yearly crops such as sweetcorn, melon, tomatoes, butternut squash, etc.
  • Created a decent sized organic kitchen garden for our own food supply. Lettuce, radishes, melons, squash, cucumbers, peppers, chilli peppers, carrots, French beans, broad beans, chard, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, peas, onions, strawberries, various herbs and flowers.
  • Made and ate lots of quince, apricot and lemon jams and marmalades as well as fig preserve.
  • Planted more quince trees from rooted cuttings taken our existing trees.
  • Harvested quinces, figs and apricots as well as a small harvest of peaches.
  • Fenced off 5 hectares (about 13 acres) with cattle fencing so 2 horses can graze. These are not ours, but we get to ride them.
  • New apricot trees grown from seed from our own trees.
  • Months of work in the vineyard pruning, tying, killing ants, fertilising and pruning again.
  • Replaced some fencing on the border with the public road and repaired lots of internal fencing.
  • Have taken up archery and took part in an archery competition – and we did not come last either!
  • Made a nice circle of friends both in the town and here in the country.
  • Moved into our partially completed house  in early December 2011 without electricity – which was connected on New Year’s Eve.
  • Edward and Naomi came to visit us for Christmas and the New Year – and Edward proposed to Naomi whilst walking high up in the Andes near El Sosneado – a wonderfully romantic location.
  • Adopted a wild cat who is now pregnant and about to give birth to kittens – and now we hope there will be no more holes nibbled by rodents in our melons.
  • Expanded the area covered by our woodland to create a ‘natural’ corner which is filling up with a wide selection of birds and animals.
  • Had fun and enjoyed ourselves on the farm not only working hard, but also taking time off to chill out too.
  • And the latest job completed – getting an antenna up for a wireless internet connection.

 

We all agree then, sting them for more money?

The horses

Digging the well for drinking water

Tiling the bathroom

Deepening the irrigation ditches

Weeding the vineyard

Electricity on the way to the farm

Broad beans and garlic in the organic kitchen garden

Edward and Naomi visit us – and get engaged 🙂

Chilling out

Grey leaf eared tree mouse in the woodland

-11 outside, nice and warm inside

Springtime

November has been a very busy and, at times, exciting month for us. As we pass further into spring time, more birds and insects appear on the farm as well as a surprise visit from a wild cat kitten (Geoffreys Ocelot or Gato Montés).

One of the many insects that appear in spring time

Earlier in the year we had decided to plant a cash crop to provide us with an income for the forthcoming season. So we
ploughed and prepared some ground and hand planted around 2000 melon seeds (honey dew) and butternut squash seeds, plus a couple of rows of sweetcorn and a part row of small, sweet, red peppers. An irrigation system was dug and after a week the first seedlings appeared –  and then some disappeared, thanks to the local hare population! Which means we will soon have to re-sow the ‘missing’ plants.

Watering the melon field before sowing

Late one afternoon we saw smoke above an adjacent farm. As most of the locals burn their fields to remove stubble and dried grass, we were not at all worried. However, as time passed, we could actually see flames quite close by, and spread over a very wide area. On investigating we found that a wild fire had started and was covering most of the 60 acre farm opposite us. Graciela asked if the fire brigade had been called and offered our help. The local policeman told Graciela that the brigade were on standby and would come out if it got serious! Five of us neighbours put out the fire with our shovels and pitchforks. That took us just over two hours of very hot work. Once the fire was out, everyone thanked each other, and went back to their farms, job done. No excitement, no shouting, no orders, just everyone pitching in and quietly getting the problem sorted as a team. A very down to earth approach.

Fighting the fire on the next door farm

The fire was spreading across the farm

Spring not only brings new plants, birds and animals to the farm, it also brings weeds in vast quantities. If we take even a week off weeding, the irrigation ditches soon become choked. Not surprisingly we have spent some time cleaning our 5 kilometers of internal ditches.

Ditch cleaning

Not all the ‘weeds’ are unwelcome though. The irrigation water brings with it a whole host of seeds that self set in its edges. So far we have harvested many handfuls of asparagus (more of that later) and we have mint and fennel growing on the ditch borders as well as some grapes!

Wild asparagus picked on the farm

Our old apricot trees and quince trees have blossomed and it looks as though we might get a good harvest from them this year. The large fig tree is not doing very much at the moment, but the four smaller trees are heavy with green figs which will be picked soon.

Quince tree blossom

Our area once grew asparagus and all the irrigation ditches in the area are covered in asparagus plants, ours included. These plants are wild, but the asparagus spears are of excellent quality which we have tried and thoroughly enjoyed. However many of the public know that wild asparagus grows here too. They come and pick it from the public supply canal, and since our farm was not farmed for many years, they have been picking it from our ditches too. So we have been plagued with people coming onto our farm to collect asparagus (sometimes to sell later in the street). All have left the farm when asked and we have had no problem, but we have decided to put up proper perimeter fences to replace the single strand of barbed wire that currently defines our borders.

Putting in fence posts and cleaning ditches

Our farm entrance has had a face lift too and now sports a set of wooden gates with our farm logo carved onto the top bar of each gate.

The new wooden gates at the farm entrance

And, of course, we take time off to enjoy ourselves too!

Graciela, Nenina and Titan