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.
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.
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.
On Aug 23 2017, Lee commented on From RFAOH Co-directors: Marissa, I would love to follow anything you place online! Please let me know hwen you get going![...]
On Jul 31 2017, mathieu commented on revival: part IV: thank you for the reports and for the gorgeous photographs, your adventure is very inspiring![...]
On Jul 31 2017, co-director (s) commented on revival: part IV: I'm all choked up... July 31 happened to be my birthday too; what a last day! Thank you to you all!![...]
On Jul 31 2017, co-director (m) commented on revival: part IV: Thank you so much for your generous contribution to this project Marisa - and everyone (we know it's[...]
reorientation: part one
New visitors are always disorienting,
partly because the trip here is disorienting for them,
(since we live off-the-map as much as off-the-grid)
and partly because I’ve always been a creature of habit,
and my habits shift to accommodate others’ schedules.
Yet our visitors provide a chance to step back,
and to explore new places in Portugal.
(& eat cheesecake! Let’s not forget the cheesecake!)
Through this I find my way from disoriented to reoriented;
as seeing our situation through these fresh eyes
brings a renewed sense of the endless possibilities.
And nothing brings me renewal like a swim in the ocean;
as floating adrift clears my head and refreshes my soul.
And the waves are incredible…
as in this video of the inside of a wave
from Praia Vale dos Homnes last weekend.
Like much of the Northern hemisphere,
we’ve recently had an atypical heat wave,
which forced most of our garden plants
to reorient as well, if they are to survive.
And most things did.
Horta Nova is coming along great.
All the plants are alive and doing well:
the sunflowers are all abloom,
and so are the first of the beans.
The strawberry popcorn are knee-high,
and the hokkaido squashes are all lush.
And in the rest of the yard, things are blooming incredibly:
especially the squashes and sunflowers,
and the morning glories from my own seeds;
and others are growing exponentially:
especially all the watermelons;
while others are ripening swiftly:
such as the first of the lemon cucumbers,
and the insane number of plums from our two trees,
and the yellow bush beans, and the first few tomatoes.
So I made a small bean, parsnip, and tomato salad,
adding lots of the orange basil to the garden salad.
And falling into Root time, I also made a potato salad,
with some garden potatoes, green onion, and dill.
Harvesting out some of the Spring crops has made room in the garden,
so there is room for new life, with new plant neighbors,
and a reorienting of their relationships.
I’ve already planted some violet bush beans in with the wild thyme,
and a few dozen pink-eyed cowpeas in between the seeding spinach.
And I’ve started twenty-two honey and cream bicolor sweet corn seeds,
and some heirloom eggplants and cantaloupes in yogurt cups,
hoping to transplant them soon after their sprouting
to take advantage of the space and the weather.
(Thanks to my mom for bringing a new selection of warm-season seeds!)
Before we depart Root time,
I picked more parsnips and carrots for soups.
And hulled the French breakfast radish seeds,
as they’ve dried and are ready for storage.
And now I’m brainstorming what to make with all the plums,
besides plum sauce, plum chutney, and Pflaumenküchen.
Unfortunately they aren’t freestone;
so pitting them all will be challenging,
and I can only eat two dozen a day out of hand.
During Fruit time we harvested five big bowls of them,
and the trees are still loaded with fruit.
So, anyone interested in coming over to eat plums?
The silk worm butterflies emerged from their cocoons;
and apparently set to work laying their little yellow eggs.
We really like their cool, wispy antennas,
which resemble their mulberry leaves .
There are a ton of butterflies flittering around our yard,
which makes my morning watering routine very colorful.
I’ve also enjoyed watching our tadpoles grow large,
as our population of frogs steadily increases.
Most of the tadpoles are in the white plastic tub,
(fitting, since it was once Marmalade’s bathtub);
occasionally they get sucked into the watering can during refilling,
and those have been relocated to the pond.
I wonder if they consider it some kind of alien abduction.
We have dozens of junior frogs that hang all around the pond,
probably some of the tadpoles we moved over in the late winter.
We have more frogs’ eggs on both the pond and the plastic tub,
so this cycle will be continuing for awhile.
Speaking of the circle of life,
we’ve had a bunch of cool-looking beetles doing their thing.
Odd that each species has its chosen plant to mate on,
and throughout the yard, they tend to stick to that one plant.
Here’s some cool mask-like beetles on the mustard,
and these orange and black ones near the pond,
up on a wildflower stalk that overhangs the water lily,
which has begun blooming again. Woo-hoo!
Here’s Tuna hanging out next to the pond, too.
He follows me around in the mornings when I’m doing my watering rounds.
In other news, we got the the blueberry bush planted with its friends
(in the hole that was used for our bbq last week)
and the three cranberries transplanted near the pond.
Also, on a whim, we bought a dark olive tree,
so that joins the other olives up on the hillside.
Our pomegranate tree is blooming again,
while a few more buds await their turn.
Otherwise, all the other trees have finished blossoming,
and some have fruits ripening in the sunshine.
And the gooseberry and golden raspberries
give us a few ripened berries each morning.
Now that I’ve sampled a few of their amber fruits,
I must say that I’m a huge fan of the golden razzies,
and plan to plant more next Spring to fill in the area.
I’m always excited during Flower times;
there is always the glow of growth to inspire us to keep gardening.
In particular, the roses have been splendid.
And the sunflowers…
So full of bees,
We love watching the progression of buds to blossoms to seeds.
And the miniature blossoms
(& miniature cucumbers)
on the Mexican cucumbers.
The first of the garlic and onion bulbs are blooming;
some we’ve eaten unopened as scapes,
some I’ve immersed to flavor sesame oil,
and others I’m allowing to blossom,
to feed the pollinators while I watch their progression,
as I’m very curious to grow out their seeds.
Since it’s now Fruit time,
I picked a bunch of the tart cherries that are ripening
(& getting devoured by birds) on two trees downhill.
I’ve never baked with tart cherries,
so I might explore recipes for ratios and inspiration,
and plan to make a sweetened fruit glaze for a cheesecake
(because I’ve been craving cheesecake for over a month now).
And during this Fruit time, I’ve been weeding Horta Nova, which is growing nicely.
Meanwhile, Marmalade has taken over the artistic efforts of our house,
redecorating our sofa, and walls, and carpet with her unique vision.
often there’s a cool breeze with high clouds floating by.
It’s great for working in the garden.
During the super-favorable Root time
(due to a Root trine during the Root time)
I harvested the French breakfast radish seeds,
and dug up the first third of our potato patch.
That evening I made roasted potato and sweet potato wedges,
to have with a kohlrabi-carrot-apple salad
that I made earlier in the day
and ate by the spoonful
every time I walked by.
I started to root little eyes from the tops of two sweet potatoes,
hoping they sprout leaves and then can join the garden
over where the potatoes were just unearthed.
They are a prolific local crop here,
so here’s hoping they grow roots.
We’ve also been working on the outdoor kitchen area,
adding wooden steps/benches and more stones at the edges.
Day by day this place is getting a little bit nicer.
And a little greener.
I got four more berry bushes from Aldi:
three cranberries and a blueberry.
The cranberries will go down by the pond
next to the elderberry bush.
And the blueberry will join its friends on the hillside,
once we get a stubborn oak root out of its hole,
and Mohamed thought there’s no better way than with a barbecue.
It has been the weekend,
so I have been trying to relax a bit,
by blowing some bubbles
and actually sitting down,
which Tuna encourages by napping on my lap every time I do.
(Though admittedly, his naps don’t last long,
because it has been a super-favorable Root time,
& the carrots, beets & onions all needed weeding.)
As the first Monday of the new month,
we went to the mercado in São Teotónio.
I was hoping to find a guava tree,
since they had them last month
(& after doing some research
found that they grow well here),
but to no avail.
So we got a yellow kiwi vine,
to befriend our three green kiwis.
Since kiwis are not entirely cold-hardy,
I will simply repot it on the next Fruit time,
so that we can bring it and its friends inside on cold winter nights.
Next Spring, when they are all a bit larger and more durable,
we will plant them on the hillside outside the front door
(once we install some bamboo beams over the porch,
so that each may climb up its own support,
& provide shade & life at our entryway).
After school, we all went to the beach,
because it’s a fun way for Marmalade to unwind after school.
And for dinner tonight,
I made a grape and rosemary focaccia,
with the first trimmings of our garden rosemary,
(but not our ruin’s grapes, which won’t be ready for months)
to go with a garlic scape and potato barley soup,
with garden garlic scapes, potatoes, broccoli florets,
and lamb’s quarters, a wild edible I’m propagating in the garden.
So it seems fitting to hit the beach on these days:
collecting seawater for cooking pasta and soups,
collecting seaweed for homemade fertilizer tea,
gathering washed-up fishing ropes for woven carpets,
grabbing driftwood for the playhouse and outdoor shower,
and for swimming, of course.
Lots of swimming.
We love swimming.
And communing with the nautical nature,
including the various mollusks and crustaceans,
and checking in on the storks nesting cliffside.
Their little storklets are really visible when you’re out swimming,
yet less so from the shore where I felt safe using our camera.
Every time we are at the ocean
I think “we should do this more often” and yet, we do.
Since it’s gotten warm, we go about every other day.
Thank goodness. For these mini-vacations.
Because this Fruit time has been a doozy.
We got everything that was ready transplanted
into the Three Sisters Garden in Horta Nova:
29 strawberry popcorn seedlings,
26 hokkaido squash seedlings,
and nine Käferbohnen beans.
(Because of the scale of this project,
and the fact that it is now Ramadan,
we did most of this work under the moonlight,
pulling two very long nights in a row to get it in.
It reminded us of past sculptural projects,
up til stupid-o’clock in the morning
frantically trying to meet a deadline.)
Yet this was more relaxed, more serene,
more of a quiet spiritual time,
as each planting is a prayer, isn’t it?
Asking whoever to please watch over these seedlings.
The Three Sisters planting has always been a sacred planting,
as the Sisters: corn, squash and beans are held as sacred plants,
goddesses, if you will, that provide sustenance and life itself.
I also transplanted the nine chickpeas into the garden,
because I really love chickpeas, as the legume, yes, but also the plant.
The leaves are unique, the pods very sculptural, the peas so cool.
And I put the two watermelon seedlings in the agave hole near the pond,
and the three golden popcorn seedlings in with the tomatillos.
And although I thought I’d run out of time,
I also got the last two Mexican cucumbers
and four orange bell peppers into the garden.
And planted a few more bush beans,
as the first have begun flowering,
(& successive plantings ensure a longer harvest,
without being inundated with ripe produce all at once).
We also transplanted the three new golden raspberries
to fill in between the two we got at the mercado in April.
We ate the first golden raspberry in the morning while transplanting:
as promised, it is a sweeter, less tart, but very flavorful berry.
We’ve also been sampling the gooseberries,
as a few seem ripe each morning.
Delicious. Great flavor.
And their Portuguese name “Uva Crispa” makes sense
because “uva” are grapes and they really do seem like crisp grapes,
though they grow on a low, thorny bush,
that sends out low branches to reroot.
I accidentally unearthed one runner while weeding this Spring,
and potted it up, thinking to grow it and then gift to friends.
Now that I’ve tasted them,
I am eager to propagate more runners,
and establish a whole gooseberry patch.
But in the meantime,
I think we need a few days off from planting.
And as we have four days of Root time,
we will be taking that break from hole digging.
And harvesting the radish seeds.
And rooting sweet potato sprouts.
Yet Aldi has berry bushes on sale tomorrow morning,
so we might be bringing home more than groceries,
and have a few more holes to dig next week.
As usual, the flip into transplanting time brings a whirl of activity.
And also as usual, it began in the midst of Flower time,
so after sowing more lupine and nasturtium seeds
to befriend the lupine seedlings happily growing
(& thank you Marmalade for planting the lupines),
I began transplanting all the remaining flower seedlings:
three calendulas, four sweet peas, forty pink oxalis bulbs that sprouted,
and eleven sunflowers (most of which went to befriend the watermelons).
I also repotted our Christmas cactus, upgrading it to a terra cotta planter;
and we transplanted an agave to make room for the last two watermelons,
as it had been planted down by the pond by the previous owners,
in a place that is too wet, too shady, and too cold for an agave,
especially during the winter months.
The watermelons should do fine there,
and are ready to be transplanted during the upcoming Fruit time,
along with almost everything else:
28 strawberry popcorn seedlings,
26 hokkaido squash seedlings,
and eight beans for Horta Nova;
nine chickpeas, which will now go into the garden,
and three yellow popcorn seedlings, which will go in by the tomatillos.
It will be a Fruit trine during the Leo Fruit time, so perfect for fruits and seeds.
And sowing more amaranth seeds, perhaps around the chickpeas.
I still have four orange bell pepper seedlings,
and two more Mexican cucumber seedlings,
which will all get transplanted into the garden,
but I doubt I’ll have the time during this Fruit time.
Luckily, they still have room in their little flowerpots,
and since they’re not “seed” crops (unlike corn & beans)
they should be fine waiting until the Sagittarius Fruit time next week.
This Fruit trine I’ll also be harvesting the mustard seeds,
which will give more light to the cauliflower and remaining broccoli.
Saturday is a Root trine, on a Root day, so extremely favorable for root crops.
I plan to harvest all the French breakfast radish seed pods,
some of the potatoes, and more beets for baking beet chips.
Overall, it’s kind of a transition time in the garden,
most of the winter crops are coming out
to make way for the summer seedlings.
“How are these other plantings doing?” you ask.
Getting bigger, with two healthy blue ballet squash and tons of flowers
with little Mexican cucumbers on the vine, a little watermelon,
lots of little Stupice tomatoes and some cherry tomatoes, too.
The sugar snap peas are still flowering and pea-ing.
And the yellow bush beans have tons of flower buds.
The red amaranth and quinoa sprouts are getting taller and leafier.
So is the red leaf lettuce.
And the sunflowers are getting huge!
In the backyard, the maracuja is still flowering daily,
dozens of flower buds forming on each vibrant tendril.
And the previous transplanting of nasturtiums have all begun to bloom,
including the one over Nutella’s grave,
which is kind of bittersweet.
She is remembered.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.