Marisa Dipaola, USA / Portugal

Residency Period: 1 August 2016 - 31 July 2017


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.


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

After taking a little hiatus from being "on hiatus"
I have had a chance to reflect upon this past year:
how far we've come as moonfarmers,
and how wide open our future can be.

Or perhaps I haven't really been "on hiatus" at all.
Years ago, I did an oil painting of a little wooden cottage,
set amongst a flowering garden, aptly named "storybook cottage"
for its allusions to an imaginary, out-of-a-storybook world.
I eventually used the painting as a proposal sketch
for "storybook cottage" a knitted inhabitable playhouse sculpture
I (& Mohamed) made for an exhibition title "There's No Place Like Home"
at the Paul Robeson Gallery of Rutgers Newark, New Jersey, in 2013.

Coming together in the final moments, the sculpture was visually satisfying:
and at the opening, a hit with the toddlers (& their parents) visiting the exhibition.
But under its intricate surface, this knitted world was only an illusion,
and an indication of my desire for a real storybook cottage to inhabit.

So here we are.
This ongoing project,
or series of projects,
has only just begun.

And yes, I intend to keep some sort of online account
of how we are progressing, with all our various activities
(something I wouldn't have thought of doing without
the encouragement of the RFAOH community).

But this year being on hiatus has given me time to reflect on what else I can be,
how much further, and farther, my life can take me than simply being an artist.

And funny, everything I thought I'd be doing once I was "off" hiatus
(like keeping up with other correspondences & re-entering the art-world)
I hadn't really thought of lately.

Instead, I've been sitting in the shade watching our garden grow,
watching flower petals unfold and bees buzzing from blossom to blossom.
And watching the stars shine, and finally seeing the owl I'd been hearing lately.

Mohamed had recently told a lady,
who had asked if I had been painting,
that "yes, marisa has been painting with water..."
meaning that I had scattered seeds throughout our yard
and as I spray water across the land,
vibrant colors and forms come to life.

But now that it's August, I have really been "on hiatus" from technology,
including emails and taking photos (& apologies to my parents for that);
and instead, focused more on Marmalade's story-time and creative play
(which reminded me of the years ago I spent teaching arts to children
& the years before when I was Marmalade's age, in my own imaginary world),
and reading (especially as a new book on companion planting just arrived from my Dad),
and materials-collecting for our home and gardening projects.

We dug out all the collected glass bottles, driftwood,
seashells, colored stones, and the tangles of gathered fishing ropes,
to prepare our materials for newly repaired outdoor furnishings,
Marmalade's playhouse, our front porch, and bathroom remodeling projects.
And found another nearby trail within Bamboo Parque littered with fallen bamboo,
perfect to complete the outdoor kitchen area and the pergola over our front porch,
which now has three upright posts with three crossbeams.

And, for some time now, I've wanted to make a collection of wind chimes,
and with all the collected random materials, I can finally begin creating them.

And I dug out my oil paints and stash of brushes,
and began repainting a nasturtium painted on a found metal sign in Austria,
as its trailer trip out west last summer left it dirty, scraped, and stained.
Perhaps an apt metaphor for our journey to arrive here;
but I'm ready to move on, move forward,
and so repainting it with our garden's new blossoms.
Once finished, it will become decoration for our fence,
as another friendly welcome to the moonfarm.

And Marmalade and I begun our largest collaborative project yet,
repainting the back wall of our house, which, hopefully,
will soon become the inner wall of Marmalade's own bedroom.
Painting this mural reminds me that I truly love painting on walls;
and that although I am not just a painter, I do love painting.

(& I've wondered how I can share that love here;
& painting our house seems the first logical step.
Yet Marmalade's school, most of Zambujeira do Mar,
& the Casa Viva teahouse in Odemira all seem possibilities
to spread my colors further & to reach a wider audience;
something I imagine would unfold over the next few years.
& speaking of Casa Viva, we'll be there more often,
since Mohamed will be leading a weekly capoeira class there.
So painting their walls seems a very real possibility, too.)

We are also trying to get the place cleaned up a bit,
to feel like we've finally moved in and claimed our home
(& get it ready for a huge visit by Mohamed's family).

And I've been really busy with the bounty from our garden:
jars and jars of blackberry jam, applesauce, and pasta sauce.
With a growing pile of adorable summer and winter squash,
and bush beans, tomatoes, arugula, kale and cauliflower,
and kohlrabis, tomatillos, cucumbers, onions and pears
(which sliced thinly together make a lovely salad!)

And, as our summer harvesting is in full swing;
we are also getting the garden ready for the fall planting season.
We're putting in another few planting beds for an exciting collection of fall favorites: radishes, peas, onions, garlic, broccoli,
rainbow beets and carrots,
and including: fenugreek, red cabbage, celery, shallots, leeks and rutabaga,
that I've never grown before.

We arrived one full year ago,
as our first day in Portugal was Marmalade's third birthday.
This year we have so much to celebrate, so much growth, joy, and surprises.
Marmalade wished for a birthday picnic at the beach,
so we invited the Sebastians to come along,
for lunch and chocolate cupcakes by the sea;
not all that different than a scene from one of her storybooks.

While wandering our land harvesting all the ingredients for the garden salad,
I realized that our home really is out of a storybook:
over a river and through a bamboo forest...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

While our first residents were here in the early summer,
I really saw the potential the moonfarm has as a residency;
not just the location and tranquility and mild weather,
but the abundant found materials and room to experiment.

I've been on enough residencies
(& helped run Townhouse's while there)
to know that I would excel at running a residency,
and hope that the glassbottle construction for the ruin
gives the moonfarm the perfect place to welcome all creatives.

Yet being "off hiatus" hasn't given me any extra free time;
I still spend hours daily watering, cultivating, harvesting, and cooking.
And there's always dirty dishes and laundry piling up.
But the year "on hiatus" has kept me focused on our goals,
and helped me remember that although life is mostly out of our control,
we do have a little time and space to spread happiness
and make our world a little bit brighter.

Thank you for this incredible opportunity.
And please come back to the moonfarm.

With peace and love,
m, M, m (& tuna)




recent comments

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.

Leave a Comment (0)


Spring showers bring lots of flowers

We’ve just had another string of rainy days,
and as usual, they came as passing waves,
with sparkling sunshine peeking in between.
And once, a rainbow…

It started during a few days of Root time,
and I’m sure all the root plants are happy;
as the carrot package specifically said
“keep seedbed and seedlings moist at all times”

Though these passing showers are also great
for the newly transplanted berry bushes,
and all the seeds I’ve sown in the garden.
The magenta leaves of the amaranth
are beginning to push through the soil surface,
and I’m sure the radicchio and quinoa won’t be far behind.

Over the weekend it became a Flower time,
but the rains (& an “Unfavorable time” Saturday afternoon)
kept me from doing much planting and other gardening.
We did buy a sweet cherry tree on Saturday,
so Sunday afternoon, during breaks in the rain,
Mohamed dug it a new home and planted it in.

Some of the sweet peas and nasturtiums have emerged,
and this upcoming weekend’s Flower time I’ll be starting more of each,
as well as seeds for some poppies and purple lupines.

By the way, the wild yellow lupines have transplanted well,
evidenced by the flower buds opening in succession.

I’ve noticed a lot of low-growing sunflower-like wildflowers,
first in the neighbor’s cornfield and now a few clusters roadside.
So next Flower time, I plan to bring some over to our yard.
(It’ll be a Transplanting time again, so a perfect time to move them!)

Saturday afternoon we had a get-together at our place:
the Swiss family we met at class, and Cristina, our Portuguese teacher,
who is actually a botanist; and came over to help us identify
some of the incredible diversity of wild plants growing on our land.
Since our chunk of forest hasn’t been disturbed in generations,
a lot of rare Mediterranean woodland plants are growing there,
and many of them beginning to bloom.

Leave a Comment (4)

codirector (s) wrote on Mar 31:

This is really interesting; I tried to look up an "unfavourable time" associated with some lunar cycle farming calendar but did not find much so thought it must be very specific. I don't know if you've noticed it but our ex-resident Milena Kosec, whose 2-year on-hiatus project was organic gardening, is from Slovenia. She might be interested in knowing about this farmer! When we visited her last year, she told us that organic gardening was becoming so popular there, and also, in the past, the government used to give small allotments to encourage people to do organic gardening. We learn so many different things in our "hiatus community" (:

marisa wrote on Mar 31:

Yes, I guess it can seem complicated.
We use the Maria Thun Biodynamic Calendar.
Unlike most calendars, this studies not just the lunar cycle,
but also all planets movement through the cosmos,
tested through trials for over fifty years,
to generate their specific planting/ cultivation days.
(We discovered Maria Thun's research while Mohamed was pursuing his Masters Degree in Biomimetics. Once we saw she published a calendar, we got it.
Though a farmer we visited in Slovenia convinced us of its effectiveness;
he had used the Thun calendar for over twenty years & had such lush orchards & happy animals; so wonderful was his property that a stray peacock moved in to call it home!)

From all that I've read,
they believe the cosmos is directly affecting the microorganisms in the soil,
as much as the plants you are cultivating.
So there should be no soil work, nor planting/transplanting done during an Unfavorable time,
typically because of contradictory forces from an unfavorable cosmic alignment.

"Unfavorable" refers to it not being a good time to touch the soil & anything you are growing.
You may still harvest, for that day's meals, as freshest is best;
but nothing will keep fresh for long when picked during an Unfavorable time.

For us, it's usually a day to catch up on housework.
Or go to the beach.

co-director (s) wrote on Mar 28:

So what really happens (or not happens) during an "unfavourable time"? you are not supposed to do any agricultural moves? It is a very specific almanac you follow?

Lee Churchill wrote on Mar 27:

So lovely!


celebrating Spring

This past Friday,
Marmalade went on a school trip to Lisbon,
to go the the children’s theater.
She had a great time.
We were kinda nervous about signing her up,
since she’d be gone for twelve hours away from us,
half of them on a bus, and she’s only three and a half.
But we thought it’d be an adventure,
and be a great opportunity to connect with her peers.
Luckily, she had a great time.

While she was away,
we were extremely busy;
as it was a Flower transplanting time,
so we were transplanting,
for nearly all of the twelve hours.

We got the eight berry bushes planted on the hillsides,
some of the purple artichokes transplanted into larger pots,
and five organic sunflowers transplanted into the garden
(& covered with water bottle tops, to make miniature greenhouses;
a novel reuse for plastic bottles that I have seen a few locals doing
I plan to use these bottles a lot this Spring, for tomatoes, cucumbers & eggplants,
& again this fall & winter, to help some plants get an advantage over winter frosts.)

This past weekend was mostly “unfavorable time”
(when planetary alignments aren’t conducive to growth),
but the weather was warm and sunny,
so we did some cleaning & went to the beach again.
This time the water was cooler, so only Mohamed went swimming,
but we all enjoyed splashing in the waves and playing on the beach.
I also did some beach-combing, finding two nice pieces of driftwood
and more scraps of fishing rope (to be woven into a rug someday).

During Monday’s Leaf time, I weeded out the leafy parts of the garden,
especially around the twenty purple kohlrabi seedlings,
making a space to plant more seeds:
this time radicchio and lambsquarters
(radicchio I fell in love with while in Florence,
having it braised in a balsamic vinaigrette,
& lambsquarters is a wild edible I first found in Vermont,
& actually had some growing here last fall in between my onions,
but it didn’t survive the frosts, so I’ve planted more to replenish).

a few of the romanesco broccoli have begun to form their flower buds

During Norooz, I got up early
and was out in the garden before everyone else awoke.
The flowers were covered in dew and just beginning to open,
and the birds and frogs were singing in the new day,
welcoming Spring, and so I was out there with them.

Speaking of the frogs,
I’ve gotten very much into frog-spotting,
keeping a talley of who’s who, how many we have,
and where we are most likely and often find them.
I’ve always been able to spot at least one,
though twelve is my record: five tree frogs, three stripeys,
two green with spots, the big brown one, and a small grayish one.

playing “spot the frogs”
there are 5 tree frogs on the cattails

While clearing out some overgrowth,
I found a few more succulents growing near the boundary line.
They seem healthy enough, though will need some care to thrive.

As we have entered a few days of Fruit time,
I’ve gone through my seeds and selected some for planting:
a dozen more sugar snap peas and nine bush beans for the garden,
as well as two rows of rainbow quinoa next to the potatoes.
And in cups: six Mexican miniature cucumbers, four purple eggplants,
four orange Turkish eggplants, and fifteen blue ballet squashes
(a nice, smallish, greenish-blue winter squash with deep orange interiors).

As for our other fruits:
the two pears are in full blossom,
the peaches are blossoming and we have little peaches,
the stachelbeeren (gooseberry) bush has leafed out nicely,
as have most of our citrus trees, and the apricot and fig;
and our male kiwi plant is finally leafing out from dormancy,
so all three (with the two females) are now looking really healthy.
Some of the other fruit trees have swollen buds,
and others are still dormant.

And our Portuguese course has become something of a gardening class as well,
as we’ve not only been learning the names of wild and domesticated plants and animals,
but also we have been sharing seeds and gardening tips,
and this afternoon, our teacher brought us elderberry cuttings to root.
I’ve missed elderberries, as we lived near an elderberry orchard in Austria,
and had several wild ones growing amidst our backyard in Vermont,
and love the berries in pancakes.
Perfect way to end a Fruit time.

Leave a Comment (1)

co-director (s) wrote on Mar 22:

Happy Norooz to the moon farm! And way to go Marmalade and the brave parents! We're down with independent kids (:


feet over fire

So I’ve always celebrated the first day of Spring,
as a reawakening from the long dark months of winter.

Upon meeting Mohamed,
I’ve learned of the celebration of Norooz,
the Persian New Year (& their Mothers Day!)
which occurs on the Spring Equinox.

Of all of his family’s holidays,
Norooz is the holiday I feel the most included;
partly because I’ve always celebrated this day,
and as an older tradition, it’s less directly tied to religion.

Newer to me is the Persian tradition of Chaharshanbe Suri,
(which translates to Red Wednesday, relating to the redness of the fire
& is an astrological ritual of ancient Zoroastrian origin)
a fire-jumping ritual performed on the last Wednesday before Norooz,
symbolizing the purification and release of the past year.

As our first Spring with a home of our own,
I felt it necessary to perform the ceremony on our land;
in particular, we’re burning away a stump from a dead old sapling,
(a remnant from the previous owners and their will on the land)
to create a more open garden space to plant our artichokes.

Mohamed and I each jumped while holding Marmalade,
and I did a series of jumps with Nutella,
and a few more holding both Marmalade and Nutella.
Jumping over past troubles,
reminded me of jumping hurdles,
not escaping but moving forward.

Preparing for Spring has always been a time of reflection.

This year I’ve been very conscious of our mild weather;
remembering Springtime snowstorms (& “mud season”s)
in many of the places I have lived.
(My freshman year at RISD, when we had over 4 feet/1.5 meters of snowfall on April 1st,
& cold & slushy Springs in Boston, Vermont & New Hampshire;
& even in Austria, where we had a heavy, wet snowstorm late last April,
dumping slush all over Spring’s flowering bulbs.)
No, I don’t miss it.

I enjoyed the frosty mornings here in January,
but by the end of the month I was ready for
the winter wonderland to melt and Spring to start.

I’ve also been thinking about Springtimes I’ve spent in warmer climates:
in Cordoba, Spain, in Egypt and Bahrain, and in Calabria, Italy,
by far my favorite, (with the wild asparagus, wild fennel, & farmers’ bounty)
until now, having ground to nurture ourselves,
ground to lovingly tend and help it bear fruit.

And speaking of fruit,
today we found more berry bushes for sale,
and happily acquired eight (5 blueberries & 3 raspberries),
a no-brainer since each of the bushes are cheaper than a pint of berries.
So we will be busy planting berries while Marmalade is in school tomorrow.

Preparing for our New Year next week.

Leave a Comment (0)


a little bit more

So this week has been unseasonably warm,
almost summer-like, reaching the upper 20’s,
even though it’s not quite Spring yet.

And many of my flowers are in full bloom!
From wild bulbs emerging on the hillside,

to the anemones I planted in the fall,

to the tropical flowers I transplanted earlier this week,

and wildflowers transplanted all around the house,

to the arugula and kale blossoms that are feeding the bees,

and the mustard that is finally in bloom all around the broccoli.

So the cool season garden crops have been thirsty,
as have our newly transplanted trees and flowers,
and our pond has been low yet still full of frogs,
because our from-the-canal water system
is 360 meters of pain-in-the-@ss hoses through the forest
that semi-continuously clog and need weekly maintenance.
The pond was flowing and full again for the weekend,
and so we witnessed seven happily swimming frogs,
and were able again to fill the garden watering can easily.

We are trying to get a manual pump for our well;
the best we found is a huge antique from Northern Portugal.
We have been trying to figure out how to actually get it here,
and unfortunately the sellers haven’t been all that helpful.
We’re also trying to get a rooftop solar hot water system,
and Mohammed spoke to the local supplier,
and so it seems that should happen soon.
(Though right now, our house’s hillside water storage tank
has been getting quite hot just from the late morning sun,
so all our water is becoming “solar” hot water.)

And we’ve been having more problems with our solar system:
not the panels themselves, we think, though we could use a few more,
but the transformer that converts solar to battery to house electric
frizzes out anytime it gets too warm or we start to generate too much power
(which is when we need the power to keep our cooler cool).
So Mohammed found better equipment for sale,
and has arranged to pick it up from the guy at Aldi this week
(the seller is German & although he lives an hour away,
he makes trips to Aldi to pick up groceries he cannot find elsewhere).
So it’s become super convenient to live near Aldi.
And if this new transformer/converter and loader work out,
we’ll actually be able to run our refrigerator!
(Won’t we be getting civilized!)

And I’ve been adding a lot more to the bamboo fence,
completing the longer segment and already about a third done
with the shorter segment that will wrap around the side of the pond.

Next Flower time I will start some climbing nasturtiums and sweet peas
for both the bamboo fence and trellises around the perimeter of our house.
There have been a lot more insects now that the weather has warmed.
Yeah, the mosquitoes are back, as are the mantises and grasshoppers
and a plethora of butterflies. (They never entirely went away, but now we have tons!)
At least a dozen varieties, (Red Admirals, Tortoiseshells, Cleopatras & Clouded Yellows,
Painted Ladies, Common Blues, Large Cabbage Whites, & new to me, Spanish Festoons)
spotting several of each, all fluttering around,
and even one Painted Lady founds its way inside.

And we found some that aren’t quite butterflies yet,

and a few that are just beginning their journeys as caterpillars.

But we also have these huge, I’m-not-sure-what-they-are, maybe a cicada-type relative.
I think we saw one crawling out of the garden last weekend, sorta grasshopper-like,
almost 6 inches/15 cm long, with two earwig-like curved spiky things at its tail.
Huge, when flying they look like small birds, but with two sets of wings.
At twilight they are loud, ear-piercingly so.
Totally bizarre.

Friday was a Stem day, and still during the transplanting time,
so after dropping Marmalade off (earlier, for a class trip to the library)
we went and dug out a really nice wild fennel,
to transplant and add to our wild fennel patch.

After picking up Marmalade from school,
we went over to the beach in Zambujeira do Mar.
The water was incredible! Not quite warm, but not too cold either,
and I probably could’ve stayed in for longer than the twenty minutes I was in,
but wanted to give Mohamed a chance to swim, too.
It was my first time swimming this year (since November really,
& Mohamed’s second time this year, since he went in in January,
when I only braved it up to my knees. It was pretty cold then.)

On the way home from the beach, Mohamed asked me if we could move here,
joking, of course, but asked because we are in awe of the ocean
so much that we want to be able to return often.

I told him that of course we’re moving here,
because it’s too far a drive from anywhere to just come for a short visit.
Sometimes we do get bogged down in home repairs and yard work,
so it’s really nice to step back a bit and go on an instant vacation.

The weekend was Fruit (& grain) time,
so I’ve planted a few rows of red amaranth in the garden,
and we transplanted our prickly pear cactus
(rooted from a pad taken at our last campsite in southern Spain),
and two rose bushes that we got at Aldi (for 1.49€ each, who could resist?)
hoping that they will produce both massive orange flowers and then rosehips,
which make a healthy and wonderfully tart tea.

Also, while watering all our fruit trees I noticed that two more have blossomed.

(The previous owners said they planted apples, cherries, pears & two kinds of plums,
but didn’t specify which trees were which, though the apples had apples,
so the white blossoms most likely means these are pears.)

And speaking of noticing things,
this afternoon I spotted three wild asparagus emerging from around the ruin,
in an area that used to be covered in blackberries.
So yay! I’m excited aBout wild purple asparagus.
But yeah, three don’t quite make a dinner,
or much of an asparagus patch once transplanted.
So I started clearing more blackberries around these three plants,
hoping that the Spring rains will encourage more to emerge.

Leave a Comment (2)

Toie wrote on Mar 15:

Beautiful! We're having a blizzard here today. 18-20 inches of snow. Maybe more. Nice to see it's spring somewhere. <3

co-director (s) wrote on Mar 14:

Wow, amazing, the first SWIM?? We are expecting 25cm of snow tonight...


pulling through

During the last unfavorable time,
we had a small hailstorm.
It began, as it usually does here,
with waves of weather,
cycles of heavy rain and then relative clearing,
before another wave rolls in off the coast.

In the early afternoon,
two waves brought small hailstones
instead of the drenching rain.
Most of the garden sprouts seemed to take the beating and remain no worse for it.
A few got knocked over, and probably some of those won’t make it.
But most should pull through.

The artichokes and others still in containers got a bit more protection,
as I ran out to retrieve the trays as soon as I heard the first hailstones hit.
All of the sprouted artichokes have grown nicely:
pulling above their soil surface, seed casings off,
first thick leaves open and healthy, lush, verdant green.
I’ve since started soaking another dozen artichoke seeds,
and six have sprouted so far, and been planted into little pots.
I also started soaking organic sunflower seeds,
and as five have sprouted, I potted them up, too.

It’s been five weeks since Nutella’s tumor swelled,
and honestly, things aren’t looking so good.
We try to keep her comfortable and contented,
and so far she’s pulling through,
still very much herself
even though her tumor is huge
and will soon end her life.

I’m trying to be as brave as her;
and although heartbroken that we can’t cure her,
I’m grateful that we are here to comfort her
before she takes her ultimate journey.

Personally, I believe in reincarnation,
and hope she comes back to stay with us again.
Maybe as a duck or a bat?
as I’d often thought that she looked
kinda like a runner duck or a fruit bat.
Or a frog, bird, or butterfly,
as they all seem quite at home in our yard.
Or maybe not come back as an animal at all;
maybe a person we’ll meet again someday.

It’s switched over again to transplanting time,
and, as it usually does, the switch is happening during Flower time.
So, as we usually are, we’ve been busy transplanting, repotting, and such.
We put two century plants out on the boundary of our yard,
since they’re pot-bound and we needed their pots for other flowers.
I’ve repotted the tropical flowers from Casa Víva
(the teahouse with our Portuguese lessons),
and now they really brighten up our home.

And the transplanted roadside wildflowers have pulled through!
After a tough transition and only a few small blossoms,
they’ve rooted and have new growth and full-size blooms.
So we will transplant a few more clusters this afternoon.

Also, while we were in town yesterday (to go to the vets),
we got two more trees to transplant: a fig and an almond.
So we’ll be busy this afternoon.

And later this week.
As they had many lovely trees that we want to buy:
including a naspeira (which I believe is a Chinese apple),
and possibly another pomegranate, peach, plum, or citrus tree.
We’ll see their selection on Thursday, after our next visit to the vets.

Leave a Comment (1)

Toie wrote on Mar 11:

Pants! I was thinking about you and found your blog. I'm so sorry to hear about Nutella. I miss you, and hope you're all otherwise doing well. <3 Toie


golden flowers & other great “jungle” finds

During our long holiday weekend,
we decided to take a family expedition into the “jungle”
(Marmalade’s name for the surrounding forests)
to explore the other 85% of our property,
a ravine that hasn’t been tended in generations.
And so, “jungle” seems quite accurate,
as we needed pruning shears simply to clear ourselves a walking path,
and still couldn’t get all the way through to the other side of our land.

We did find a tranquil hidden valley,
one valley past the one with a stream running through it,
so the third valley, counting from our home’s valley, uphill.

One the path home,
we found a few clusters of chanterelles,
including the largest chanterelle I’ve ever seen!

Through a slit in its cap,
a few rosettes of gills were pushing through,
looking very much like flower petals.

Otherwise, we’ve discovered that our “jungle” was really a cultivated valley,
as, aside from all the eucalyptus trees up on top of the first ridge,
it is filled with cork oaks, three giant pine nut trees, and dozens of madrone
(an understory tree with small prickly edible fruits usually distilled into a strong liquor).
With all of these special trees, it seems unlikely that this was a wild forest.

And walking through again a few days later,
it seems like a longterm goal to clear out the thorny vines
that are climbing up the madrone and cork oaks,
shading their leaves, preventing healthy growth,
and making the “jungle” nearly impassable.

We had to go on our most recent “jungle” journey
to try to unblock the water system (again),
so that canal water can flow into the pond.
The water had slowed over the past few days,
so that the pond wasn’t be replenished as quickly as it seeped out,
and although the frogs still seemed okay,
I was getting nervous about their low water levels.

When checking in on them in the early afternoon,
the tree-frogs were clinging to the cattails,
while several frogs were happily floating around.
And finally I was able to get a clear photo
of the (formerly elusive) striped frog.

As you can see, if has an asymmetrical lime green stripe on its back,
and although we knew it was somewhat striped,
we could never before make out its pattern
as it always dove in whenever we got near.

We’ve also discovered that we have two smaller striped frogs
that look related to the frog in the well from Rogil.
And a larger brownish frog with darker brown spots on its back.
And that the tree frogs are quite at home in our yard,
and won’t be limited to the pond,
as I found this one on an onion!

Speaking of elusive neighbors,
three properties uphill from us has an incredible collection of birds:
all kinds of rare chickens, all manner of ducks and geese,
and a pair of green (or Java green) peacocks
(okay, technically peafowl, as there is a peacock & a peahen).
We drive by their property twice almost daily,
(going & coming home, & usually only seeing chickens & geese)
and so far had only seen one or the other of the peafowl a handful of times,
and usually briefly, as they’ll bolt inside their shrubbery
when they noticed their being watched.
Once we were able to watch the peacock for awhile,
as it was strutting and sorta presenting itself the way peacocks do.
We’d never seen this type before and find its coloration absolutely stunning,
jaw-droppingly stunning. Wow.

(Our blurry photo, out our car window & through a fence,
can’t possibly do them justice, so here is a clearer image from the intersphere).

And further afield, about half way to the nearest market,
our Swiss friends have a very friendly donkey.

(They moved here to a really nice house on 11 hectares,
with a pond, gazebo, swimming pool, workshop, and stable,
with the resident donkeys included in the sale.)

Marmalade has been itching to ride a pony again
(ever since she first rode a few ponies during our visit last Spring to Bahrain)
and although the donkey won’t walk around with anyone on his back,
he’ll happily stand still while Marmalade happily sits on his back.
Fortunately, they have a four year old son, Sebastian,
who plays really well with Marmalade.
So I’m sure we’ll be seeing them a lot more over time.

Leave a Comment (0)