Marisa Dipaola, USA / Portugal

Residency Period: August 1, 2016 - July 31, 2017


Bio

Marisa Dipaola was born barefoot on December 12th, 1977, and grew up in the cedar swamps and coastal Atlantic of southern New Jersey. She graduated with honors from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2000 where she majored in painting and began experimenting with site-specific sculptural installations. Upon graduation, Marisa received a travel grant to study la Mezquita, in Cordoba, Spain, which began a collection of travels to eighteen countries, studying the sacred architecture and natural wonders, producing site-specific artworks in Japan and Iceland as well as entire series of artwork while on residence in Spain, India, Italy, Egypt, Austria, and Bahrain.

She has exhibited her works internationally at museums, galleries, universities, cultural institutions, community gathering places, outdoors within natural sculptural parks and urban revitalization projects.

URL: dropr.com/marisadipaola


On-hiatus Proposal Summary

In the course of being a nomadic artist, Marisa Dipaola has wandered throughout the landscape in diverse surroundings, constantly inspired by the natural world that embraces us all. After residing in the southern Austrian Alps for three years, she and her family are ready for a road trip to move to southern Portugal, in order to buy and renovate an old farm as a sustainable, permaculture project: moonfarmers. Raising her three-year old daughter while this major project is on the go, she is unable to foresee any free-time to take part in the artworld, at least for a year or so. Instead, she will dedicate her time and artistic effort to turning an abandoned property into a sustainable small farm and retreat, and quite possibly a future artist residency.

Her time will be spent with rebuilding a sustainable habitation, sourcing and planting fruit and nut trees, native edibles, sacred seeds, establishing berry patches, grape vines, mushroom patches, a chicken coop, a small fish pond, a huge vegetable patch. She will use sculptural elements to create terraced farming areas, enhance microclimates and enable year-round cultivation courtesy of cold frames fashioned from old windows as well as illuminating indoor growing areas, a few wind-chimes, alternative-energy-generating works, and the interior redesign & redecoration of their living space. On a more scientific front, she hopes to incorporate the skills she learns during this time to create various sculptural projects that encourage growth, combining illuminated works with fungal works and garden projects to create sustainable, living artworks. Any additional free time she finds will be spent mending clothes from the pile she’s had gathering for years and to complete more butterfly carpets -- and there is that quilt she has wanted to make for her bedroom.

She hopes that the time working and reflecting while on-hiatus from the artworld, but proceeding with her moonfarmers project will guide the future, whichever way it grows.


Final Report


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recent comments

On May 25 2017, co-director (m) commented on new growth: Those are some snackable looking beet chips. It's so great to see your pictures now with our new se[...]

On May 3 2017, co-director (m) commented on creatures great & small: Uh-oh, Kittens![...]

On Apr 20 2017, marisa commented on Good Friday: yeah, we were all a bit bummed out about Nut, but Marmalade seems to be handling it best. (probably [...]

On Apr 16 2017, co-director (s) commented on Good Friday: It's the hardest to lose your animal family. We've lost many too but you're right, the memories of a[...]

On Apr 15 2017, co-director (m) commented on Good Friday: So sorry to hear about Nutella Marisa. Sending you Mohamed and Marmalade our love and condolences. [...]


new life

Our yard is abuzz with activity,
and each day new life is emerging.
And lots more flowers blooming.

The rose we planted in early Spring has blossomed.

And a whole lot of new maracuja blossoms, too!

And our second pomegranate tree has bloomed!

The first sunflower has opened!

The tomatoes and tomatillos are flowering,


as is one of the watermelons.


We have one baby watermelon!

We also have bunches of “green-berries”:

loads of green blueberries on about half of the blueberry bushes

and a scattering of green raspberries on the two golden raspberries
and a few more on a couple of the red raspberry bushes.

And as promised, a ton of blossoms on the blue ballet winter squash vines,
though most are males, so they’re great for eating now,
(stuff each blossom with a spoon of fresh cheese, close & dip in beaten egg,
then roll in seasoned breadcrumbs & panfry in olive oil. Yum!)

but so far only one female, indicated by a mini-squash behind the blossom,
which has been growing larger, and is now the size of a golf ball.

So far all the three sisters plantings show great promise:


over two dozen strawberry popcorn seedlings have emerged,


and all but one of the Hokkaido squash and some of the beans.
Also, nine Käferbohnen have sprouted, and are now potted up.

And nine chickpeas have emerged, and are growing quickly and will soon by ready to transplant.

In other news, our solicitors finally heard back from the immigration office
of our next needed steps. We will be meeting again soon to learn of our fate.
We were a bit nervous, and went in yesterday to find out if it was good news or not:
our process has gotten easier, as apparently the laws have changed in our favor.
(Yet I’m still much happier in my isolated dreamworld where humans are just humans,
judged by our deeds and not our countries-of-origin, as all passports were not created equal.
And in my dreamworld we are all allowed to just live where we want to live,
no questions asked. Freedom, I guess.)

But all this bureaucratic paperwork seems like a distraction,
and instead we’ve been working to make this our dreamland anyway.
Hoping that whoever decides our fate can see our dedication,
that our hearts are here, setting up a home, and let us continue.
A positive decision on our fate would be such a relief.

And let us get back to the things that matter:
continuing to revamp our water system,
continuing to plant and transplant our garden,
continuing to repaint our house,
continuing to renovate our bathroom,
and constructing our outdoor kitchen area.
And work on our newest unfinished project: an outdoor shower.
Mohamed found wooden panels from an old quinta farmhouse,
so I’ve been varnishing enough pieces from a wardrobe and dining room set
to fasten together to construct the walls and a hinged door for a shower stall.
I still need to finish varnishing some driftwood planks for the floor,
so that our feet won’t get muddy while showering.

I recently had a dream about the fruit trees that we’ve planted on the hillside…
in the dream, we were working on setting up an irrigation system for them,
but kept being distracted by the need to work on other projects,
so had to keep doing the same things over and over,
like laying out hoses and such. (Our reality it isn’t much different,
as we are a few connectors short of having enough hoses to water the whole yard.)

So the next morning, I did some more research on growing citrus trees.
And then Mohamed and I walked around a bit on the hillside,
assessing what to do next, now that he has dug in a half barrel
so that we have a little pond down by the hazelnut tree
(partly as a reserve to conveniently water the nearby trees,
but mostly to positively affect the microclimate:
as more humidity keeps it from feeling desert-y,
for the hazelnut as well as the nearby peaches and apricots.)

So while walking we were talking about the trees and their neighbors,
especially that some trees grow better with similar trees nearby,
creating whole neighborhoods to spread the microclimate effect.


So we’ve mapped out the whole hillside, labeling all our trees,
in an effort to create routes for the different watering systems,
and ideal identifying spaces where other trees can be planted.
Though since we’re approaching summer,
only citrus trees can be transplanted now. Speaking of citrus,
I’ve been sprouting lemon seeds from organic lemons we’d purchased.
So far one lemon has emerged, with an inch long shoot and three leaflets.

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new growth

So there are a lot of flowers blooming here


(it’s mid-May, there are flowers blooming everywhere, right?)
but since we arrived here while it was dried out and overgrown,
it’s been very interesting to see what actually grows here,


and many of these things are blooming.

And the butterflies have taken notice.
As have the bees, but mostly the bees (& other insects)
have been ecstatic in the hillside of wild sea roses,
rolling themselves in the pollen like some Dionysian fresco.

Before we flipped out of transplanting time,
I finally got the 75 gladiola bulbs planted underneath a giant cork oak.
And more sunflowers transplanted everywhere.
Admittedly, I kinda went nuts with sunflower seeds this year,
planting a dozen of two large yellow varieties
and dozens of seeds from two different assortments
of multicolored, multi-sized blooms.

The flowerheads on the largest of the sunflowers look ready to burst open.

It has been a busy time in the garden.
Now that we’re out of transplanting time,
I’ve been doing a lot of weeding,
focusing on each crop on its specific days,
and realizing that most of the remaining broccoli and spinach,
and lots of the beets and onions,

and a few of the carrots are all ready to harvest.

 

So we’ve been eating them, in soup, as salad, on pasta,
and my new favorite: roasted beet chips:


(slice beets thin on a mandolin, lightly coat with oil,
then lay individually on parchment on a baking tray,
& bake in a medium oven for 15-25 minutes, til crisp)

The first planted tomatoes now have little fruits on them,


and so do the tangerine and lime trees.


The orange and blood orange are in full flower.
And the blue ballet winter squashes have dozens of unopened flower blossoms,
so by the next post there will be some of their golden flowers on display.

Most of the other squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, tomatillos, and watermelon
have all been freed from their plastic-bottle-greenhouses,
and have grown taller and showing off new leaves.

And there’s an on-going experiment in a large planter on our porch,
where I’ve emptied out cups of soil and seeds that hadn’t sprouted in the cold frame,
and now has three bush beans, one tomato and one dill growing lush,
far larger and more vibrant than their sibling seedlings in the garden.

And since I had freed up so many small cups during transplanting time,
I was able to start the seeds for Horta Nova, the organic three sisters garden:
32 strawberry popcorn seeds (a dozen already sprouted!) and seven yellow popcorn seeds,
27 Hokkaido squash plants (an orange winter squash that grows well in Europe),
and the first 10 Feuerbohnen (a large red & cream striped bean from Austria).

I will soak Käferbohnen (literally “beetle bean” an even larger reddish bean from Austria)
for a Käferbohnen salad (these beans with sliced green onions & pumpkin seed oil)
that was my favorite dish from the pasta factory’s cafe when we lived in Villach.
While soaking, I’ll grab two dozen (or maybe three dozen) from the pot for potting up.
(Usually beans, corn & squash are all direct-sown in the garden,
but we have a problem with mice eating the larger, more succulent seeds,
so I’m giving all these seeds a fighting chance in cups on the porch
where our “guard” kitten can keep a good eye on them.

I also potted up a dozen organic chickpeas that I had sprouted.
Chickpeas have very feathery, fern-like foliage on their delicate vines,
so I thought to plant them down by the loofahs to grow on the old compost bin.
And since loofahs and chickpeas both grow in Egypt,
it seemed like they’s get along nicely as neighbors.

Otherwise, we’ve been working to improve our water system.
Mohamed cleaned and then moved the house’s 1000 liter water tank
downhill halfway to our house, and into the shade.
It was originally placed on the top of the hill for good water pressure,
but the full sun site encouraged algae growth in the tank, and we want to avoid
the daily cycle of water heating and cooling in a big plastic tank.
Also, we wanted the tank closer to our well,
as we’ll soon be pumping water uphill to fill the house tank,
and then pipe it back down to our house,
and it was becoming a lot of piping.

So the house water now stays cooler, and therefore cleaner,
and we started a compost pile for shrubbery in its old place,
as it is hilltop, in full sun, full year, and relatively frost-free,
so ideal for growing some tropical trees: maybe bananas or guavas.

And lastly, but certainly not least-ly,
we’ve had (& are having) some visitors.
Matt and Shinobu came to visit the moonfarm,
and see that “yes, it is real” and in bloom,
and although nowhere near complete,
a promising project that’s made lots of progress.
Their visit was very inspirational and encouraging.
And Shinobu shared incredible ideas for uses for the bamboo,
as it’s plentiful and easily gathered here, and good for almost everything.
(I only wish I could extend my residency to share some more of what we make.
Or perhaps Shinobu should come have a residency here at the moonfarm,
and help with the experimentation. We want to build a pergola and a treehouse.)

And Mohamed’s brother and fiancé were visiting this weekend,
to spend some time here, barbecuing and exploring the beaches,
and taste-testing my beet chips and pickled beet humus.
(Ahmed is the prime foodie in Mohamed’s family.)
I’ve also made a kohlrabi-apple salad with a buttermilk dressing,
heavily infused with minced cilantro and spinach from our garden.
(& special thanks to the Sebastians for giving us one of their purple kohlrabis,
as our purple kohlrabis are a few weeks behind theirs
and won’t be ready until my mom’s visit next month.

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co-director (m) wrote on May 25:

Those are some snackable looking beet chips. It's so great to see your pictures now with our new sense of moonfarm context. It was lovely to meet you all. Thanks so much for letting us parachute in on you and for being such great hosts.

 


Spring showers brings lots more flowers

The lime tree is blooming!

It’s funny (yet I guess expected) that
all the different citrus blossoms have different flavors.

The jasmine and maracuja (passionfruit) are also blooming again,
after their transition from transplanting into our backyard.

And although there is a forecast for rain later in the week,
right now it feels like summertime out,
and it’s only midmorning.

The frogs are very vocal,
the fish are obviously silent,
yet more frequently visit the visible parts of the pond.
And we see a tadpole or two daily, maybe more.
As well as clusters of frog eggs clinging to the cattails.

The birds are quite vocal.
And the variety of birdsong is impressive,
reminding me of why we live here.
No real roads, and no noise pollution,
meaning that nature can go along its merry way.

And although I haven’t mentioned it yet,
the storks here are absolutely incredible.
This region is known for its abundance of storks;
and since the eggs have hatched recently,
little storklet heads can be seen peeking out of most nests.
And the parents are circling everywhere, even over our property,
seeking out food for their little storklet bellies.

And above the ground, the bees are buzzing,
as the recent rains have brought waves of wildflowers.
And it turns out that some that I never got around to transplanting
from sunnier fields actually grow here, just bloom two months later.

And the butterflies are fluttering.
Also enticed by all these wildflowers.

So we had a Fruit trine two nights ago.
And as it was the last Fruit time
before we switch out of transplanting time,
so we were insanely busy:
transplanting nine more tomato seedlings into the garden,
six more Calabacitas into two mounds near the others,
three more lemon cucumbers over by the pergola,
and the three strawberry plants
that we moved over from Austria,
into the hillside in front of our porch.

Yesterday was a full day of Flower transplanting time,
so I finally got the last two artichokes into the ground,
transplanted four more sunflowers into the front yard,
and sowed nasturtium seeds around the loofahs and Calabacitas,
having read that nasturtiums help repel squash vine borers.
I also potted up a couple more sprouted morning glory seeds,
and three palms gifted from the Sebastians.
And Mohamed dug a hole and planted another lantana root,
also gifted to us from the Sebastians,
who were uprooting a portion of their yard
to put in a barbecue area.

And during this Flower time,
a few things started flowering,
including the nasturtiums we planted.

Oh, and an update.
While driving home from dropping off Marmalade this morning,
Mohamed noticed that the mother cat was out in her yard looking depressed,
so we came and got Zeitona and brought her back home to her mom.
So we have downsized to one kitten.

Marmalade has really bonded with Tuna,
and they play well together.

Zeitona, on the other hand,
hadn’t really liked Marmalade’s rough style of play,
and had bit Marmalade twice on the hand to let her know.
And she kept trying to poop in our shoes,
so we decided that she had to go. Soon.

Tuna happily uses the litter box
and genuinely seems to enjoy living here.
So we are down one kitten and all much happier.

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farming for the moon

During this past Leaf time I harvested 

most of the arugula seed pods from the garden.
This is the largest cache of seeds I’ve ever grown,
and is inspiring me to allow more plants to grow seeds themselves
(& possibly join an online international seed-savers group for sustainable farmers).

The red leaf kale and yellow mustard seeds will be next to harvest,
followed by the French breakfast radishes, and then some coriander.
(& yes, since these are all somewhat related species, they might’ve crossbred;
but since they all have edible leaves, I’m not too worried.
The radishes were the last to bloom, while all the others
had already switched over to seed production,
so those radish seeds should be true.)

Otherwise, the orange, blood orange and tangerine tree have all blossomed.

As have the golden raspberries.


And in the garden, the stupice tomatoes have blossoms, too.

And during this most recent Fruit transplant time,
I transplanted ten more tomato seedlings into the garden
(four yellow pears, four ox-hearts, a green zebra & a purple Cherokee),
one organic Mexican mini-cucumber seedling near the garlic,
and five more organic sunflowers, which were planted and transplanted
during the Leo Fruit time to encourage harvestable seeds.

Outside the garden, in individual mounds,
I transplanted six watermelon seedlings,
three Calabacita seedlings (roundish zucchini relatives),
and four loofah squash seedlings
(an Egyptian heirloom that dry to become bathing sponges).

And on the hillside, we transplanted the pomegranate tree,
the hazelnut sapling, and the cutting from the fig tree near Marmalade’s school.
And we transplanted two lemon cucumber seedlings in the outdoor kitchen area
next to a bamboo cutting we “planted” into the ever-growing pergola.
And finally, I planted one of the rooted cuttings from the elderberry
that our Portuguese teacher had given us, in a molehill near the pond.
So thirty-five plantings in twenty-four hours, working until midnight,
with the songs of the nightingale to keep my thoughts company.

Needless to say, I’ve been taking a little break during these Root days,

to hang out with Marmalade (who really likes hanging out),

and work on training the kittens,
to finally get them to reliably use a sand-filled litter box.

And yet, I still found some time to weed the root sections of the garden,
harvest our first beets,

and mound mature compost around the potato plants.

And dig out the old compost bin, recomposting the top layers in the new pile,
while using the bottom mature compost for all these recent plantings.
The old wooden structure is already being reused
as the support for the transplanted loofahs,
with plans to grow chickpeas alongside them.

And Mohamed dug six more holes, to prepare for the upcoming Fruit time,
as I will be transplanting nine tomatillos, three strawberries,
six more Calabacitas, and three more lemon cucumbers,
with only a four hour window of planting time
during a Fruit trine Tuesday night.

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creatures great & small

So this was going to be a post about all the flowers
I planted and transplanted during the Flower time.
(& an update on all the seeds & bulbs that have sprouted,
so in that regard, let’s start off with the hollyhocks
that sprouted in their bottle greenhouses by the bamboo fence.)

But life had other plans…

While I was planting flower bulbs over Nutella’s grave,
our Portuguese farmer neighbor lady came over
with the much anticipated kittens for Marmalade.
(While Mohamed & Marmalade were driving past their house,
she approached & asked Marmalade if she wanted a kitten,
as two were just born at her house in early April.
I’m sure if you ask most kids, they’d say “yes”
& ours was no exception. So a kitten we were getting.
Apparently, the two kittens bonded really well,
so a few weeks later she updated that she was giving us both.)

So Tuna and Zeitona
(Arabic for “olive” & similar to the Portuguese “azeitona”)
joined our clan last weekend.

We’ve had a bumpy start,
since Marmalade is used to dogs (& trained dogs at that)
so it has been a scratchy learning process for her.
And although I’m not really a cat-person, they are cute;
and it’s nice having critters around the house
(especially when they’re playing with each other & the beaded curtain).

But I’m happier with watching our toad and geckos outside;
and the fish and frogs in the pond.

So since my last entry,
the fish have been way more friendly.
I’ve seen all five of them a few times now,
and some I can actually watch for awhile
before they dart under the cover of the cattails.
It’s been really nice to watch them swim about.

And many of the frogs are getting used to us as well,
so instead of hiding we can watch them swim around the pond froggie style.

And at school yesterday,
Marmalade got two silkworms to bring home.
So now we also have two caterpillars in the house.
Lucky us.

Our yard is still full of butterflies,
lots of Painted Ladies and these Yellow Clouds:

And Monday was the Mercado in São Teotónio,
and we got two new trees: a hazelnut and another pomegranate
(this one has a few flower buds on it!)
So we’ll plant them on the Fruit time on Friday.

Also the Sebastians came over one afternoon over the weekend,
and brought us a huge solar panel: 225 watts/40 volts,
so it more than doubles our solar capacity,
probably enough to power our new water pump,
once Mohamed can figure out how to wire everything together.
So today we got another huge battery to capture the charge we’ll be generating,
and 25 meters of plastic tubing to connect the pump to the well,
and to the rest of our water system.

And we bought another irrigation hose,
since we’ve already laid the hoses down by the old orchard
(to water the nine trees for apples, pears, plums, and cherries);
and up on the hill by the eight blueberries,
but still have a lot of trees all over the hillside
that will all need water during the long, rainless summer months.

Mohamed is also in the process of burying halved plastic drums for ponds,
so that we have easy access to water throughout the yard.
And has hooked up a faucet so we now have an outdoor sink
(the actual ceramic sink we found dumpster diving last fall).
So our water system is slowly coming together,
to keep everything happily hydrated.

On a final note,
we finally finished the bamboo fence!


And during the Flower time,
I planted more sweet peas and a nasturtium
to grow in with all the hollyhocks and morning glories.

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co-director (m) wrote on May 3:

Uh-oh, Kittens!

 


whirlwind

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind…

Marmalade has been helping to decorate her playhouse,
which is still under construction, yet now functional.

And we’ve been working on painting the house.

And catching up on laundry, and getting groceries, and spring water.

And harvesting armfuls of produce from the garden:

spinach, onions, snow peas, mustard, cilantro, fennel, and purple broccoli!

And I planted an insane number of flower seeds during last Flower time.
Hollyhocks and morning glories over by the bamboo fence.
More morning glories in cork planters around the house.
Calendula in the garden, and in little flowerpots,
as well as lemon balm, Mexican tarragon,
and cinnamon and Genoese basils.
And seeds for more sweet peas and sunflowers,
and over a dozen seeds for purple lupines,
wild-collected and brought over from Austria.

And over by the flooded part of the road,
I scattered seeds for magenta-blossomed “Springkraut”
(which literally translates to “jumping herb”)
an Austrian invasive flower from the Himalayas,
similar and related to the touch-me-knot.

We’ve been seeing the fish more frequently when visiting the pond,
at least the three bright-colored ones.
Most especially the bright orange and silver one,
who seems to seek me out as much as I seek them.
The two dark ones are much harder to find,
though the dark goldfish is often in the shadows near the golden one,
but the dark and yellow speckled koi is so elusive
that it hasn’t been seen since their release.

While over at the pond,
we noticed that one of the wild bulbs
we transplanted has begun to bloom.
Turns out that I was mistaken and they’re not wild irises,
although their leaves are flattened one-dimensionally,
their blossoms are very, very different.


Nonetheless, it is nice to see them bloom!

And while over by the bamboo fence,
we noticed that many of the hollyhocks have sprouted,
and some of the morning glories have come up as well,
so the flowering of the fence is off to a good start.

At the beginning of the week we planted two roots of Lantana,
pollinator-friendly flowering bushes given to us by the Sebastians,
so we got those in the ground into previously neglected areas of our yard.

And then during these past few days of Root day,
we’ve worked a lot on the outdoor kitchen area,
digging holes and adobe cementing in bamboo supports,
that are being interwoven into the support for the pergola.
Aside from the wisteria, and a volunteer honeysuckle,
we plan to plant the area this year with six cucumber plants:
I’ve started trellis-climbing small lemon-yellow organic cucumbers,
that supposedly have so mild flavor that you eat them like apples.
So we’ve been working on their planting holes and climbing poles.

Otherwise, we went nuts at Aldi and bought irrigation hoses, sprayer nozzles,
and a small 1000 watt electric pump that will hopefully work with our artesian well,
once we get a couple more solar panels to run it.

We also started working on our bathroom renovation again,
and then went to a hardware store and got the cement
so I can begin making glass bottle mosaic panels
(within wooden fruit crates) to fill in the area under the tub.

Tomorrow begins Flower time again,
and tomorrow evening begins transplanting time again,
and Monday is the mercado in São Teotónio,
where we most likely will be buying more fruiting bushes and trees,
so another whirlwind awaits us.

But I’ve been leaving something out…

recently our whole world has opened up before us.
We took out our bicycles after all our visitors left,
and started biking along our little river
around the Bamboo Parque trails every day.
We had hiked the loops near our house frequently,
especially when foraging for fungus and firewood,
but never continued further until recently.
The paths remain relatively flat along the river
(unlike the huge steep hills that surround us on our dirt road)
so we can really explore far and wide.
It has been calming, refreshing, rejuvenating even,
and not just the heavy doses of fresh air and exercise,
but the freedom and adventure that exploration bring.

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wild enough

So the wildflowers are incredible.


And it turns out that a lot of the shrubby things in our yard
are all related species of wild flowering shrubs,
the largest (& most exquisite) of these are the sea roses.


But there are also flowering orchid relatives and little wildflowers,
and a whole lot of lavender, flowering profusely.

And although not a wildflower,
the tangerine tree has begun to blossom.

And one of the eight blueberry bushes.

Getting our yard and garden ready for Springtime
has been exhausting, yet rewarding…
(& a good mental break for the mentally broke)

Oddly enough, one of the common “weeds” in our garden are calla lilies.
They are strangely stunted, because I had pulled some of their first leaves
before realizing what they were.
They were my grandmother’s wedding bouquet.
And I’m sure she’d be delighted to see them here.

The pond is flowing nicely, the frogs are less bashful,
and we’ve added five fish (3 goldfish & 2 koi) to our pond;
so now our pond visits have even more searchable creatures.


While we were adding the fish,
we actually got a glimpse of one of the tadpoles.
We had wondered what became of them,
and were kinda worried that one of the larger frogs might’ve eaten them
(if frogs would even do that), but at least a few have survived and are in fine form.

Also, we got a waterlily from our friend’s pond,
that seems to have transplanted nicely,
and showed off its first bloom.

Sapo, our toad, has been making almost nightly appearances.
Last night it was sitting in one of the yogurt cups
that I had planted with orange bell pepper seeds,
so I asked it to move along, which it did obligingly,
probably because I was shining the lantern on it.
After it moved aside, it crept into a crack on the porch,
seemingly to be living in the cavern of a cinderblock.
It is quite large, with very muscular arms and legs,
which it moves with silent precision
(well, except when it scuttles over the wood chips, then it is quite loud).
So cool.

Otherwise, all our lizards are out and about,
scurrying across our walls and chimney,
and just plain sunning themselves.
They are still quite shy,
perhaps because we get excited to see them
and the excitement startles them.
Also, they are getting quite large.
And I’ve been even catching glimpses of one in the garden.
Hooray!

And while checking over at Nutella’s grave,
I saw a snake swerve over and into the nearby undergrowth.
The Hopi consider snakes the messengers to the Earth Mother,
as they travel into the underworld.

Last week we had a bunch of Root days,
and Mohamed’s father was in a getting-things-done mood,
so he helped Mohamed begin building Marmalade’s playhouse


(using all the scraps we’d been scavenging these past months)
and a pergola for over the outdoor kitchen area.
Meanwhile I had twisted my ankle and wasn’t very mobile,
but still busy preparing for a short and busy Flower transplanting time.

At first, I had 10 artichokes and a few climbing flowers to transplant,
but then we bought a Lantana flowering bush and two passionflower vines.
Then, while down in Rogil, for lunch at Batata Doce, we stopped by a garden shop
and got a wisteria, a jasmine, and a maracuja (passionfruit vine).


And some more of the blue ballet winter squash seedlings were ready for the ground,


as were a few more organic sunflower seedlings.
So we had a lot of transplanting to do.

We had a really eventful long holiday weekend.
On Saturday was Sebastian’s 5th birthday party,
and Sunday was Easter Sunday, and we had holiday breakfast at home.
And so taking the advice from Lee (“fake it til you make it”)
I helped Marmalade dye Easter eggs and sing bunny songs.

Monday we went to Nova Tero:
a horse (& goat & sheep) farmstead
run by a vegan German couple
who recently relocated from the Canary Islands,
where climate-change induced wildfires burned their forest home.
(Mohamed met them because we bought a solar inverter from them,
& befriended them & was curious to see their land & animals.)
They live an hour and change away, really in the middle of nowhere
(I thought we were kinda in the middle of nowhere,
but we can conveniently get to a market & a town, which they cannot).
The Sebastians came, too, partly so we could help each other find the place.
But mostly because they love horses, were curious to see Nova Tero,
and Marmalade and Sebastian play really well together.
I went because Marmalade asked me to.
Otherwise, I would’ve stayed at home,
as I haven’t been feeling very social.

Now we’re thankfully back home,
and back to our normal, quiet life fixing up the house and the garden.
The garden is getting huge,
and several plants are ready for harvest:


especially the broccoli and spinach,
with mustard greens and onions harvested for most of our meals.
And the peas are getting plump, so soon they’ll be ready too!

After some Fruit time cutting a fig branch to root,
and planting quinoa, yellow wax beans, and Auskernbohnen beans from Austria;
and planting strawberry seeds, Calabacita (round zucchini),
and a few more watermelon, eggplant and tomato seeds,
it has flipped over to Root time.

So we are building a trellis support for the maracuja and passionflower vines.
And since the temperature has dropped back to normal,
I started painting the house trim blue.
It’s nice to be painting again.

Over the next few weeks, we will paint the whole exterior of the house,
before all the planted climbing vines start climbing up the walls.
So I decided to get started.

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Good Friday

This was going to be a post about the wildflowers
which are now beginning to bloom everywhere,
and the wildlife visiting all around our house.

And the fish we got for the pond,
and the things we’ve been building
and the things we’ve been planting.

But I’m not really in the mood tonight
to talk about the things we’ve been doing,
partly to improve our home,
and partly as a distraction.

Nutella’s health had been deteriorating throughout the week.
Her mobility was declining and her infections were festering.
Luckily, her suffering was minimal, and she slept a lot
before falling into the final sleep
on Good Friday.

We buried her this morning, out in our backyard,
on a sunny slope where she had often slept.
I will plant flowers there during the next favorable time,

some flowering bulbs that will bloom during her birthday in September.

She would’ve turned eleven.

My first hamster, Honey, also died on Good Friday.
Perhaps it is just a popular day for dying,
or perhaps there is more significance.

Good Friday always seemed a day of acceptance.
And this year is no different.

I hope for all the creatures I’ve known
that they would rise again,
reborn into new bodies,
to find a new place in the world.

But some I’ve bonded with more,
and Nut is there.

I’ve welcomed her to come back someday,
and we are working to make this home happy for her return.
But I don’t miss her in a possessive kinda way,
and just hope that she’s okay, happy really,
contented with whatever the future brings her.

I’ve been thinking about the expression “farewell”
which we often use for “goodbye”
but really is more like “bon voyage”

I wish her a good journey.

And want to remember all the good times we’ve had.
I’ve been grateful for her companionship.

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marisa wrote on Apr 20:

yeah, we were all a bit bummed out about Nut,
but Marmalade seems to be handling it best.
(probably because during these last few months,
Nut's been less playful & interactive,
so from Marm's perspective, nut's been gone awhile now.)
Also, our neighbor asked her last week if she wanted a kitten.
So she's really excited that in a few weeks, she'll be getting a kitten.

Mohamed misses her every mealtime,
and is sad when she's not wagging to greet us when we get home.

I feel lonely,
as Nut was constantly by my side.
or under my feet.
or next to me on the couch.

But these past few weeks have been draining,
as her wounds were open & oozing & needed daily care.
I was worried for her quality of life,
and thankful that she didn't suffer,
just sorta faded away during last Friday.

But otherwise,
life is good.

Marmalade has been spending a lot of time playing with Sebastian,
especially after all her visitors had come & gone
(first my father, then Mohamed's brother & parents)
Phew.

Thanks for your concerns.

co-director (s) wrote on Apr 16:

It's the hardest to lose your animal family. We've lost many too but you're right, the memories of all the good time and companionship never fade and warm us -- RIP, Nutella

co-director (m) wrote on Apr 15:

So sorry to hear about Nutella Marisa. Sending you Mohamed and Marmalade our love and condolences. Take care.

 


mercado & more

So we went a little overboard at the mercado.

Every month, on the first Monday of the month,
São Teotónio has a huge open-air market,
where vendors are selling everything from
fruits, cheeses, nuts, and honey,
from clothes and housewares to live rabbits and birds
(mostly chickens, but some ducks, geese, quail, turkeys & peacocks),
and garden seedlings, flowering plants, and fruit trees.

And fruit trees are mainly why we went,
aside from the general cultural experience;
and since my father was visiting,
and we had Marmalade home from school,
we all went together.

Though the deep-fried donut strips might have been everyone’s favorite part
(kinda like a Mexican churro, but without the ridges,
kinda like a Spanish churro, but lighter and less dense).

But yes, we went for the trees.
The Swiss family recommended the mercado for a walnut tree,
since we wanted to plant one next to the pond,
and couldn’t find one for sale anywhere else.
And we did find a few for sale, and purchased one fine specimen.

We also found a lime tree,
something else that’s been hard to find,
and on our wish list.
And a few of the u.f.o.-shaped peach trees,
so we got one of those, too.


And since I had only read about golden raspberries,
but never before seen them, I got two of those bushes, too.

I also saw all of the other trees on our list:
a persimmon, several nespera (which turns out to be a loquat),
and a few more apricots, pomegranates, and lemons,
since we hope to plant another of each of these.
But we stopped short of buying them,
since we couldn’t really carry anything else,
and we have a lot of holes to dig just for these.

And a few more holes to dig, too.
Last weekend, I picked up another red raspberry bush
and three more blueberry bushes,
so this upcoming Fruit transplanting time will be a doozy.
This time also coincides with a Fruit trine,
so it should be an especially good time for all the transplanting.

It’s been a Flower transplanting time,
so I repotted some of our flowering houseplants,
and was able to get eight artichoke seedlings into the ground,
so now half of them are now getting established.

Also, we’ve had another wildlife sighting.
While putting out some recycling around twilight,
I heard a scuttling noise so I ran in to grab the lantern:
it was a really large toad, “sapo” in Portuguese,
(green, spotted, and the largest I’ve ever seen)
walking across our porch, slowly, methodically.
Luckily it paused long enough for me get its portrait.

And another wildlife hearing.
While planting the raspberries under the moonlight,
we heard the most beautiful birdsong, unlike any we’ve heard before.
Our Portuguese teacher told us to listen out for nightingales,
saying that unlike other birds, their songs aren’t repeating melodies,
but long, almost improvisational, songs from the heart.
And as it was approaching midnight,
while backfilling around the raspberries,
with the stars and half moon shining bright,
it truly was a magical experience.

We’ve gotten the walnut tree in over by the pond,
the lime high up on the hill above the lemon tree,
the u.f.o. peach on the hillside near the other peaches,
and got the blueberries in during moonlight.

We’ve transplanted the first three blue ballet squash into the ground,
on the top of the hillside behind our bedroom windows.
There are two more seedlings a little behind these,
so they will go in next weekend at the final Fruit time
before the two-week transplanting time ends.

I’ve also transplanted another sunflower,
and the first tomato seedlings into the garden:
five red cherry tomatoes and two Stupice
(a small hardy heirloom from the Czech Republic).


And thanks to my father bringing over 33 new organic seed varieties,
I very excitingly started two dozen more tomato seeds:
four each of Cherokee purple, green zebras,
yellow pears, San Marzano (an Italian heirloom plum tomato),
Cuore di bue (“oxhearts” another Italian heirloom),
and Principe Borghese, the original sun-dried tomato,
as in ideal climates, the tomatoes will dry right on the vine.

I also started sugar baby watermelon seeds and loofah seeds,
for both the loofahs they grow and their young squash,
which are tasty when grilled or pickled.
And orange bell peppers and pineapple tomatillos.
Oh, and three seeds from nespera, the loquat;
which we finally tasted at Mohamed’s parent’s guesthouse,
and since it was a Fruit/Seed time (when the moon is in Leo),
saved the best seeds to hopefully start some new trees.

The garden is just lovely,
with the peas, broccoli, and everything else, really,
taking off with the increased daylight and temperatures.

Now we’re utterly exhausted,
as Spring often brings for gardeners;
and have four Root days to catch up, harvest radishes, and dig holes,
before we have a Flower transplanting time marathon.

Happy Spring everyone!

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finding (our own) Findhorn

After an afternoon spotting of all five of our tree frogs,
I immediately found another one laying in the arugula patch,
when I went to check on why their flowers had flopped over.

(Update: So we have seven tree frogs. At least.
The next morning’s frog spotting yielded six tree frogs on the cattails in the pond.
So I was quite surprised when I went to upright those fallen arugula blossoms,
and the arugula-loving tree frog was still there, albeit a bit over to the left,
from where we had left it hanging out the evening before.)
We are guessing this adventurous frog is the one we found in the onions.

When we had friends visiting last weekend,
they were surprised that we aren’t using common machinery for our yardwork,
and even offered to let us borrow from their tool shed:
especially a lawn mower, weed whacker, and chainsaw.
{And I’m sure a tiller will be added to the list,
as we’re breaking up and raking out a whole section
“Horta Nova” (new garden) for our three sisters trials.}

First of all, you can’t hear the birds sing when using machinery;
and without the birdsong, yardwork becomes a lot more “work”
instead of the pleasant experience of interacting in our natural space.

But we decided this path of manual interaction
long before we decided and then moved to Portugal.
The final chapter in one of my favorite books* is called “Findhorn & the Garden of Eden”
about six people who decided to move to an old caravan park
on the inhospitable windswept dunes of Northern Scotland.
Not the ideal place to set up an organic, sustainable farming commune;
yet through their patience, hard work, and perseverance, they did just that:
transforming infertile and unforgiving land into a paradise.
When pressed as to how they were able to accomplish this feat,
they mentioned using whatever they could scavenge
as garden, building, or compostable materials,
seeing a roadside hay-bale as a godsend.
And we have followed their mentality,
with the fallen bamboo and roadside woodchips.
But the thing that struck me the most that
they were putting their positive, loving energy
into their home and the soil through their bare hands;
that direct contact in a purposeful, meaningful way was the key to their success.
“Following the concept of the monks who used to build their monasteries by hand,
putting love and light into the fabric of the building with every stone they laid…”

(This has always been my approach to my artwork.
And really, anyone who really knows me knows that I will always do things by hand,
I’m a painter, after all. Using oil paints, no less; technology from the Renaissance.
Also, I am partly descended from the Pennsylvania Dutch,
a group of immigrant farmers that shied away from modern technology.)

During the Flower and subsequent Leaf time, I’ve been back in the garden,
staking up the peas, which have begun to flower,
and planting new seeds in whatever little bare spaces I can find:
a first trial of martuço, a traditional Portuguese salad green related to carrots
(heirloom seeds given to me by our Portuguese language teacher),
then two varieties of organic lettuces and some more garlic chives,
as the garlic chive seeds I planted last month haven’t seemed to come up yet.
(Update: The martuço seeds have all sprouted already!
Heirloom seeds grown for generations in this climate,
so strong and ready to face the day.)

I’ve also been working some more on the bamboo fence,
and hope to have it completed soon, maybe this weekend,
so that around its base can be planted next month:
with morning glories, sweet peas, and climbing nasturtiums.

After another Unfavorable day, we move on to two Root days,
so I’ll get the last potato sprouts into the garden,
as well as a carrot top that started sprouting.
(After cutting off the sprouting section,
I lay them on a shallow plate of water.
In about a week, they develop dozens of thin white roots,
& are then ready for transplant the next Root time.
I had read that potatoes started this way mature a whole month faster;
great for both cold climates’ short season & warm climates’ beating the summer heat.)

I’m also putting in a row of purple onions,
since I finally found purple onions last weekend at Aldi,
as a kind of divider between the bush beans and the carrots.
(Also I read that the onions will deter the carrot pests.)

Otherwise, we’ll be working on overturning the “Horta Nova”
trying to get it cleared enough to plant with buckwheat during the next Flower time
(as a cover crop for green manure, where we will plant the three sisters this summer).

And setting up a beehive.
We are new to this, and although we’ve read up on placement and such
(facing southeast, mostly sunny, but with midday shade, water & flowers nearby),
we have no experience to draw upon.
We were told from the farmer in Rogil that since
there are so many wild honeybees around,
you can set out a hive and attract tenants.
We have four varieties of bees at the arugula, kale and mustard flowers all day,
in particular, lots of honeybees; so we will put the hive under a cork oak nearby,
with the opening facing the garden.
Yesterday when I was checking the garden,
I watched a honeybee leave the garden flowers
and hover right over where we plan to put our hive.
In fact, I’ve seen many small honeybees seemingly lost,
after a round of flower feeding, they just sorta fly around looking for a place to land.
So we will set out the hive and hope for the best.

* The Secret Life of Plants, by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, 1973.
Also, another favorite of ours is Secrets of the Soil, also by Tompkins and Bird, 1998;
which more closely covers aspects of Biodynamic farming,
pedology/soil microbiology and soil conservation,
including such gems as that plants perform the transmutation of elements,
(in other words “alchemy”) and the role of both weeds and insects in the garden.

I may be the only gardener to puff dandelion seeds into their planting beds;
but their flowers attract beneficial insects and I find them easier to weed than many others, as well as their leaves a healthy and delicious addition to whatever greens I’m harvesting.
Within the soil, their deep taproots break up clods deep below
and retrieve nutrients for all the garden plants to enjoy.

As for insects, I tend to leave most of them alone.
I’ve had people ask specifically about slugs and caterpillars,
and my attitude is that if they are consuming a lot of the leaves of a plant,
I might remove those leaves with their diners and toss them in the compost.
But I have birds peck through the garden for their breakfasts,
and I prefer to keep the ecosystem intact.

I especially love the butterflies that those caterpillars will become,
so losing a few leaves of kale to bring about a butterfly,
who will pollinate those same kale plants a few months later,
to me is a welcome sight, as I enjoy being a part of their circle of life.

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