Mulching 101

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On a wet September weekend, we arrived in Nelson, B.C. at Aurora Gardens, an organic market garden. It was home of Bren and Bear, a couple of gardeners we found on www.workaway.info They were practicing what seemed to be an organised version of permaculture, and an interesting system of mulching.

Firstly, they would double dig a section of ground and place about a foot of clear plastic around this space. After weeding, they’d cover both the turned soil and plastic cover in straw. The plastic would get an extra layer of straw and the soil inside it would be planted intensively.

It would be weeded heavily over the first couple of years and the straw on the plastic would now be decomposed and make excellent mulch on the soil section. Years went by where the decomposed straw on the plastic would be turned onto the soil and more straw was introduced on the plastic. This boundary restricted the entry of new weeds and after a while weeding became practically unnecessary. Not just that but the soil was being mulched with highly fertile rotted straw.

This mulching business seems to be a real fine art, with each gardener suggesting completely different methods. Hopefully, we’ll try to document as many as we come across so that you can make an informed decision.

Happy Gardening!

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Making Paneer Cheese

http://youtu.be/QZ1Vfi2Bypg

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I’m not sure which I enjoy    ed most, a simple rec ipe resulting in great cheese for Indian food, or watching the bizarrely hypnotic dynamics between the two women in this video. Also, take their advice and use the whey as a soup stock. I froze bags of it and used as I needed.

I’m not one for advocating the over-consumption of dairy but this cheese is as healthy as dairy gets… particularly if you find the nearest farmer willing to break the law and sell you UNPASTURISED milk – scandalous, but with a lot more healthy enzymes.

PS: I’m not one for advocating the over-breaking of laws either, just one’s that don’t make sense.

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Kenora’s Spirit Tree

DSC00251Well after a month and a half of taking in as much of the diverse Canadian landscape and being on the receiving end of the extreme generosity of the friendly folk north of the 49th parallel, we’re ready to devote some time to blogging again. Today,  we find ourselves in the town of Kenora,  Ontario, 4,500km from where we started. Yet another kind Canadian (this time by the name of Gail) has brought us on a wonderful tour. We visited Tunnel Island, home of the Manitou (or Spirit) Tree. As we came upon it, I was struck by the powerful closing chapter in a text posted there adding context to the spectacle.

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“The life of the tree is the life of the people – If they destroy it or turn away from it, they will lose their power and become sick, they will cease to dream and see visions, they will be unable to tell the truth and deal with each other honestly, they will forget how to survive on their own land… these things would come to pass but the tree would never die because a day would come when people would awaken and again would seek the tree.”
 
 

DSC00254The Ojibwa nations who were caretakers of this land believed in the inter-relationship between humanity and nature, spirit and matter, the individual and the cosmos. I thought about my own adolescent abandoning of nature to the ecstatic thrill of other peoples approval of me, and my gradual return to a relationship with the land and the elements. Being in Canada, with it’s mass of forest, rocks, prairies, lakes and wildlife has helped with this transition greatly. The presence of snakes and bears have served as a bolt of life in me, making me feel like I belong in a food chain, not on top of it. The threat of extremes in weather and distances from one town to the next requires a greater awareness and respect for nature. I have a feeling that these sensations that have been rekindled will make it difficult to leave and only hope they are feelings I can bring with me.

Martin

CLICK MAP:  http://goo.gl/maps/9CjrJ

 
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WWOOFing in Lithuania: Something to Bark About.

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I peeled my eyes open and looked around. The floor ran down the side of my face and a strange lady was staring at me with her ponytail sticking out the side of her head. As the background came into focus I realised that I, and not everything else, was horizontal. Another lady appeared and looked quite familiar. Yes. It was coming back to me a little. She was Lena, my WWOOFing host in Lithuania. They helped me to my feet and as I continued to adjust to being conscious it dawned on me that I had fainted. I had came to the clinic after an insect bit my leg and I had spent two days watching it swelling up. After receiving a swift injection to the ass I had collapsed – a common occurrence as a child but not in recent years. They gave me some cream and I was on my way. Within a few hours the pressure had eased and I was able to help out on the farm again.

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Lena and Mantas had just begun their new life on their eco-village after having left good jobs in the capital, Vilnius. They had packed in the corporate life and bought a plot of land in Rokiskis. It was quite an adventure and I felt privileged to be their first WWOOFer at this pivotal point in their life’s journey. They taught me so much about permaculture. Mantas had just finished his training and was eager to get started on his own land. I soaked up his knowledge like a sponge.

Permaculture utilises ecological design and engineering along with lessons learned through microbiology to develop environmental landscape design, sustainable architecture and self-maintained agriculture. The three principles of permaculture are:

  • Care of the earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, nothing can flourish.
  • Care of the people: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
  • Return of Surplus: Reinvesting surpluses back into the system to provide for the first two ethics. This includes returning waste back into the system to recycle into usefulness.

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Permaculture focuses on patterns in the landscape, the relationships between species of plants and animals and how such relationships can work together offering high yields, less labour and increased quality of life for all concerned – the whole becoming greater than the sum of individual parts. It seeks to minimize waste, human labour, and energy input by building systems with maximal benefits between design elements to achieve a high level of synergy.

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Back on the farm, Lena and Mantas were teaching me about how to grow potatoes in straw. The spuds were placed directly on the ground and surrounded with cardboard before a layer of straw was placed on top. The tasty tubers grow by feeding on the gases generated by the decomposing matter as opposed to the matter itself. As the straw rotted, the potatoes grew vigorously. As I later learned in my own garden, the best part was grabbing the stalk and lifting a

IMG_4582group of clean healthy potatoes from the straw. And as for the soil below, it had improved in quality as it had benefited from the natural mulch. Mantas explained that we are only imitating the most productive environment possible – the forest bed. This made sense as if nature was left to it’s own devices, a forest is it’s optimum potential. This gentle manipulation seemed so mutually beneficial, I asked why this approach has not spread like wild-fire. He told me about how traditional farmers follow traditional methods all their lives and tend not to question them. As a result, new knowledge tends not to filter through to the farming community.

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As my time there progressed, I became more focused on the elements around me, prevailing winds, light reflection off water and degrees and direction of slopes. It all seemed so important now. I am about to participate in a Permaculture Design Course in France and cannot wait to heighten my own relationship with nature. I felt frustrated while incapacitated by a swollen leg there. I had been raised to work hard and not be a burden and this had been an awkward couple of days for me. Yet Mantas and Lena took it in their stride. For them, this was a long-term project. Years would be spent developing a forest garden. They were no longer on the corporate clock. Nature guided their days and it allowed for a much slower pace. When I eventually commit to a country and begin my own farm, it will be my greatest challenge to embrace the slower pace. In time I’m sure though, it will be all I know and all I wish to know.

As a means of travelling, I’d highly recommend finding good hosts and discussion in advance about hours work expected and what type of exchange can be offered in return such as food and accommodation. As this was my first time, I consider myself very lucky to have met two wonderful hosts and I hope that their success will inspire many more.IMG_4475          IMG_4468

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Click Map: http://goo.gl/maps/lRnry

Posted in Lithuania, Our Travels So Far, WWOOFing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Banana Oat Biscuits

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Here’s a delicious idea for healthy biscuits. They’re extremely easy to make, full of nutrients and all ingredients can be found organic in most good supermarkets. They can be enjoyed warm or cold and make a tasty snack when on the road and in need of slow-release energy. They’re highly versatile and can be shaped into slender biscuits or nice and thick like buns.

Ingredients (All Organic):

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  • Organic Millet Flakes (X 1 cup)
  • Organic Porridge Oats (X 3 cups)
  • Ripe Bananas (X3)
  • Organic Raw Cocoa Paste (add to taste)
  • Raisins (add to taste and preferably ones without oil)
  • Muscavoda Sugar
  • Cinnamon Powder (add to taste)

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Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C and add greaseproof paper to a baking tray
  2. Add the Oats and Millets Flakes to a mixing bowl
  3. Chop bananas and add to a mixing bowl
  4. Add Raisins, Cinnamon, Sugar and broken up Cocoa chunks
  5. Mix thoroughly with your hands and shape into biscuits (Tip: To avoid burning raisins, submerge them in the mixture in each biscuit)
  6. Place on the baking tray and bake for around 10 minutes
  7. Turn each biscuit and bake for another five minutes (For those of you who are not vegan a drizzle of honey on top before returning them to the oven can serve to sweeten and moisten)

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Serving suggestion: Why not present them with sliced Kiwi

Enjoy! Olga

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Sunrise in Mayo: Winter Solstice 2009

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In what turned out to be one of only two years of heavy snow and temperatures reaching -20°C, I was fortunate enough to be at my home place in the west of Ireland. On top of that, it being the shortest day of the year meant I could enjoy a reasonable lie-in and still catch the sunrise. However, I couldn’t have predicted a scene as magnificent as this that morning.

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The intensity of the sun seemed to blaze through the landscape, and yet I felt no radiant heat pressing against my cheeks. The air was crisp, dry and bloody cold. But what a sight. With all my trips south of Ireland, I’ve rarely ventured too far north but this image has given me a real taste for transcending the arctic circle. I’ve always wondered where I’ll spot Aurora Borealis for the first time. Perhaps in Alberta this winter. Or perhaps the Southern Lights of Argentina or Chile next year. After seeing this sunrise in humble County Mayo however, they’ve certainly got a lot to live up to.

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Click Map: http://goo.gl/maps/TS6Mx

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A Turbulent Time in Tunisia.

56          27At the tender age of 22, myself and my parents visited Tunisia for a week. As I was not accustomed to travelling long distances back then, the first thing that struck me was the shear contrast in behavioural expectations from the prominent mosques to the vibrant beaches. These historical buildings beckoned us to navigate the city with reserve and respect while the sandy strips ushered us into adopting a more liberal and relaxed attitude.

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Back at the hotel, I was blown away by the swan and heart shaped structures sculpted from towels and waiting to welcome me back to the room everyday. This immediately gave me a good sense of the taste and imagination of the Tunisian people.

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For me, this was the perfect place to escape to from rainy Ireland. After a certain amount of time living in Dublin, you forget that the rest of the world are participating in outdoor pursuits such as picnics, barbecues and swimming.

I think these are simple activities that most people take for granted, but when you live in a country that can quite easily rain everyday for over two months of summer, then you learn to really appreciate opportunities to step out and enjoy nature to the fullest.

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This was also a good chance for me to watch and learn as my dad showed off his excellent haggling skills – something that is a necessity in this part of Tunisia to avoid being exploited for the tourist you are. From souvenirs in the boutique little shops to fares on camel rides, there was no end to his bartering talent. A strong stance needed to be adopted in order to penetrate through the crowds of shopkeepers attempting to bundle us into their establishments.

He sure had his work cut out for him on this vacation when while coming back from Hammamet, a taxi driver asked him for his daughter’s hand in marriage. In exchange, he was offered a few cows and sheep. As quick-witted as ever, he asked the driver which one did he think was his daughter – myself or my mother. The driver new better than to reply to that one. Yet, it struck me as curious at the time that he would only talk to my Dad. As the conversation developed, the driver revealed that I would have to become Islamic in order to be his wife. At this point in the conversation the joke was definitely over and I was keen to change the subject. Thank God I was not fighting with dad earlier that day. Who knows – maybe he would have sold me. It was funny and frightening at times how little power I seemed to have there.

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Overall, Tunisia is a culturally rich country. We visited a few interesting places  like El- Jem Colosseum. It is now World Heritage-listed and possibly the most impressive Roman monument in Africa. The country seems well worth the visit but ladies, you need to research a little of what to expect so that you don’t find yourselves disappointed.

That’s it from me for now.

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Happy travelling!!! Olga

Click Map: http://goo.gl/maps/Pmxdo

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Bikes for Sale in Dublin.

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The time has come for us to flog all our stuff and learn how to live out of a backpack. So far it’s been a very therapeutic experience although we’ve left our most sentimental possessions until last as they’re the most difficult to let go of. These include our lovely bicycles and we’re on the look out for some new good owners who’ll take care of them.

The package includes one gents bike (Retro Style) and one ladies bike, one ladies helmet, one gents helmet, two locks and two high-visibility jackets. Lights are already fitted on the bikes. Both bikes are less than one year old and in great condition. This is an ideal offer for a couple arriving in Dublin and trying to avoid not to mention the cost but the inconvenience of bus travel too.

As we’d love to see these bikes get sold together, for the full package we are asking for €250 including all accessories. If you have any of your own equipment then perhaps the price can be negotiated. Bicycle instruction manuals are provided along with info on supplier here in Dublin in case of future repairs.

Please contact us by commenting or calling +353857076099

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Loitering in Latvia.

While WWOOFing in northern Lithuania in 2011, I took the opportunity to stretch my competitive muscles and have a little fun with my partner Olga by making a video of me crossing the border into Latvia. Although, I’ve ended up visiting Estonia since then, I have yet to properly explore Latvia. I think if it’s anything like the Aukstaitija region of Lithuania, then it must be a place of natural beauty, people living a simple life and well worth visiting in the future.

Click Map: http://goo.gl/maps/xqZsr

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English: Locator map of the Baltic region – Es...

English: Locator map of the Baltic region – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the russian Kaliningrad Oblast. Deutsch: Lagekarte des Baltikums – Estland, Lettland, Litauen und Oblast Kaliningrad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Marry Li Rui!!!

8We had the pleasure of hosting a Chinese man with the most incredible story of having the courage to turn a negative life experience into an exhilarating adventure. This alchemy occurred after his girlfriend left him due to him not meeting her family’s standards. In response, he looked for refuge in what he loved – cycling. After cycling parts of Asia, he moved on to a tour of New Zealand and Australia. We caught him on his way from Iran to Panama. He had cycled from extreme east to extreme west of Europe and was about to take an eight day ship from Southampton to New York (which I didn’t know still operated since the Titanic).

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Far from abandoning all faith in the opposite sex, Li has been collecting videos of groups in many cities holding a banner and shouting “Marry Li Rui”. He figures that someday he’ll meet Ms. Right, who will appreciate his interests, be unafraid to detach from their local societal expectations and love him for the ambitious and adventurous man he is. As we stood under the gates of Saint Stephan’s Green in Dublin, I felt privileged to be involved in his video and am extremely optimistic that the more he follows his own heart and dreams, the more he will attract the right people in his life.

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Li Rui was our first guest from the website, www.warmshowers.org As seedy as the site name sounds, this is NOT for doggers or swingers. It’s designed as a tool for people on cycling tours to seek shelter, nourishment and a place to freshen up. I was quite amazed to see how many people are on the network and it seems like a great way for like-minded people to meet, chat and offer support on journeys. With our own trip taking us to middle America this Christmas we may be picking up a couple of bikes and heading South the scenic way. I can see this website coming in very handy along the way.

As for Li Rui, he departed for Rosslare to catch a ferry back to England. We’ve arranged to be in Mexico around the same time and will hopefully meet with him there. I wish him the best on his multifaceted journey in life and love.

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