… A seventeen day work camp of pure enrichment.

Take a moment and picture yourself in a peaceful place up in the mountains surrounded by rolling green hills and tree filled valleys where the sun rises and sets in the warmest gradient of colors. Now, lets make this image in your mind even better by adding a great purpose to bring knowledge, connect people, and engulf yourself in the surroundings and you’ve landed in Boževce, Kosovo on GAIAs permaculture estate.

I joined this workcamp to be productive with my summer time, with no expectations and ready to build; and I received so much more out of it. The workcamp was dedicated to permaculture education and focused on natural building and sustainable living.

I arrived there on the 1st of August with great excitement along with several other volunteers from diverse countries such as France, Austria, Spain, Belgium, Jordan, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, the USA and a native from Kosovo. From the nearest town we took an adventurous rocky road climbing higher and higher away from amenities until we reach this quaint, small village of Boževce with less than 100 habitants. The atmosphere was so humbling and collective from the start. All volunteers would sleep in shared tents during these 16 days and we would use a compost toilet, an outdoor shower functioning by mostly rain water and have no cell service; and we were all ready to dive right into it!

The coordinators did such an exceptional job with organizing the camp. Our schedules were clear and feasible with our days starting at 7:30-8:30 with breakfast and then followed with a briefing where our duties and roles were assigned in teams and any questions or suggestions were welcomed.

The first few days were dedicated to getting to know each other, becoming familiar with the property and learning about the principles and ethics of permaculture along with natural building. We learned so much in such a short amount of time; it was exhilariting to take it all in. The staff was so informative and welcomed all questions with no hesitation. I feel one successful aspect during camp, for me, was being taught something in such a condensed way and then putting it right into practice afterwards. We learned about reed beds and it’s function of filtering grey water; then proceeded with making one at site. We also learned about the making of a compost and why we have them and then created one too. The trust in the volunteers to get things done from the staff was so encouraging for the work. We watched a film on the building of a straw bale house and was given some books for further references on the subject of this project we were about to endeavor on. One activity that really stuck out to me during one of the educational sessions was when we were given the task to design a house plan with the new knowledge we had just ingested on building with natural materials. I thought this was extremely fun and even helpful for us, as volunteers, to get creative and really understand how GAIAs permaculture project is impactful.

As the days got hotter, given that it’s the middle of summer, the team agreed upon waking up earlier to get work done without heat exhaustion and dehydration getting the best of our bodies. The high energy and diligence of the volunteers to continue working on the house continued strongly. We worked long days and very hard on getting the straw bale walls up and plaster them with a mud clay mix as a sealant. One unanimous feeling we all shared was the immense gratification of seeing physical progress being done by the end of each work day.

I always considered myself to be a city kid growing up north of Boston, in the US, and before this camp I had no previous experience with real camping and being part of this project truly taught me a lot. I joined feeling eager and curious and left feeling completely empowered and equipped to take the lessons I learned there and to integrate it into my daily life. Living so minimally for the past couple of weeks really showed me how small changes can make big impacts. I’m grateful to have been a part of this experience with such a successful organization. I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge with others I encounter and mimicking the sustainable lifestyle that this camp has set as an example for me.

Celina, August 2019

Building with nature in mind – international workcamp in Bozevce

Almost two weeks ago, 12 volunteers from 10 countries flocked together in Bozevce for a 16-day workcamp in Kosovo.

Being the first out of two workcamps in Bozevce, these weeks are dedicated to finalizing the second floor of a building on GAIA’s Permaculture estate through the means of natural materials and building techniques. This entails customizing straw bales to form solid walls, securing them with rebars and adding a layer of a cob mix (straw, sand, clay) to protect the straw walls with human power.

GAIA’s estate functions primarily on permaculture principles and ethics, one of the ethics is integral to this month’s workcamp: Fair Share – this means that you share goods and knowledge with another to improve both the collective and individual wealth of knowledge, well-being, but also that of our planet earth.

Since most of the participants were not familiar with the ethics and principles of permaculture, the first few days served to provide them with a concise, yet short introduction and how these were applied by GAIA in Bozevce. A solid understanding of permaculture is integral to the understanding why GAIA decided to follow natural building strategies and materials found within the close distance of their estate, instead of conventional tools and concrete to fill up the walls with. One way of getting participants familiar with the benefits of natural materials was by instructing them to come up with house building plans that include the new knowledge on building with natural materials. Not only did we learn about alternative heating systems and the use of thermo panels on roofs but also how participants from different cultural backgrounds came up with different solutions.

After the first few days of learning about permaculture, natural building and getting to know each other, we began our serious work on the roof on Monday. A regular day of work would start at 6:00 am when the early birds get up to rise with the sun. Others would gather around the beautifully hand-made wooden table around the tree soon afterwards to take their breakfast until 8:30 am. The work day would start at 9 am after a short briefing about the work schedule of the day. The day would be divided into 4 working sessions with coffee, water and cookie breaks as well as lunch and dinner in between of them. Given the fact, that the temperatures gradually rose to almost unbearable 40 degrees – we adjusted the hours in the second week to begin earlier in order to prevent our bodies from smoldering in the scorching midday sun.

In the first week, work mostly set up the straw walls and fixed them with nets. This entailed a sequence of different tasks ranging from setting up the scaffolding around the facade of the building, cutting straw bales and fitting them into the wall constructions, plugging wholes with extra straw and flattening out the walls with blanks and strong arms. We mostly work in different groups throughout the day’s working shifts so that every person did not feel stuck in a task that they did not enjoy. Overall, this strategy retained the enjoyment of work task but also ensured that each person was able to learn how to conduct the different working tasks. Without labeling the strategy as a way of practicing Fair Share, it also aligned with the permaculture ethics.

On several days, the camp was visited by neighbours and KFOR soldiers who expressed their interest and curiosity in what we are doing in Bozevce. For most locals, building in this manner is not new to them but part of an old traditional way of resource efficient construction work. However, the fact that building this way requires more human power and stretches the duration of the building process, if one does not have enough helping hands, most of them have been opting for concrete as the main building resources in the region. Despite this trend, we all agree that using straw for wall insulation remains the single most resource efficient material in the area that respects environmental boundaries and climate stressors that come along with fossil fuel industries producing conventional house building materials.

For the participants, the workcamp has been a unique opportunity to learn beyond the beaten path of house construction but also to disconnect from their busy everyday lives. Each of them readily adapted to the surroundings of the estate and the specific living conditions of Bozevce. One might conceive of the idea to put down mobile phones and not having the possibility to escape to big city life as uncomfortable restrictions to how they usually spend their time, but actually function as enablers to become more aware of the natural and social environment by living minimally. Reducing one’s possibilities of how to spend their free time such as surfing the internet, going out for drinks or enjoying other forms entertainment has both bounded the group together and enabled each of us to reconnect with the natural environment and bodily senses. Put differently, GAIA’s workcamp teaches us in many ways of how to feel more with less.

The magic power of plants

In late spring and summer is the time when spices and healing plants are growing literally everywhere in Bozevce. Once you go for a walk, you see mint growing on your right, you might see some Arnica on your left and chamomile between your feet.

We took a bit of time to get into the topic – and now we are collecting different plants for different reasons. Some of them are good for health, some of them taste nice and some of them have even both! So we are drying them and conserving them for winter. Here is a list of the herbs we found around here and what they are useful for. Check it out! Maybe you will find one of the plants in front of your doorstep in the next days. And you will know that you have a useful medicine there or a yummy herb to improve the taste of your next meal. Here is our list (which is definitely not complete):

Daisy (Bellis perennis): This little flower is gorgeous. It is white with a red dot in the middle and the leafs are on the ground and small, long and a bit hairy. It smells good! And the whole plant can be eaten in salad. If you make a cream with the flowers, this cream can calm down your skin after sunburn.

 

Dandelion (Taraxacum officiale): Dandelion grows everywhere in spring. The plant is up to 25 cm high, the flowers are yellow and the leafs are green and look a little bit like teeth. That’s where the name comes from; it means “tooth of lion”. These leafs are very tasty in salads when they are young. The roots are eatable as well, and from the flower you can make a delicious dandelion “honey”.

Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria):  This plant covers the ground in shady areas which get some water from time to time. Its leafs are always arranged in a group of three and the flower looks like elder, which means that it is white and it is arranged in a creeping with white umbels.

 

Marjoram (Origanum vulgare): This plant has small leafs which occur more often near the top of the plant on small branches. The flower is pinkish-purple. It gives your food a lovely Mediterranean taste.

 

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica): This is a plant almost everybody knows and most of us hate it: Because it hurts you, as soon as you touch it! The leafs are dark green and in a triangular shape and the plant is up to 1.50 m high. The young leafs which do not sting yet are very good in salads and once the plant gets older, you can use it like spinach. But nettle is not only tasty, you can also make a very good fertilizer for your garden with it: Fermented for two or three weeks in water and then sieved, it becomes a good treat for your tomatoes, beetroots and other plants.

 

Mint (Mentha sp.): There are many different types of mint, but all have long green leafs and all have this typical mint smell. They grow up to 70 cm high and the blossom is slightly violet. A tea from it helps against digestion problems and against a cold.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): If you rub a leaf of this plant between your fingers, your fingers will smell like sweet lemon for a while. You will also feel the tiny little hears on the down face of the leaf and the “edges” which let it look like nettle a little bit. Lemon balm can grow up to 80 cm high and it prefers cool and shady places. The blossom is white-blue, small and not very spectacular. The tea of the leafs is good for treating nervous complaints of stomach, intestine and heart. It is anti-depressant and oil of lemon balm can help to heal wounds.

 

Mallow (Malva sylvestris): This plant has beautiful flowers; they are red-violet and they have darker stripes and five parts. The leafs are parted into five sections. This plant is marvelous as a tea against colds and it strengthens the immune system in general.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): Yarrow grows in abundance in grassy places. So everywhere in Bozevce! It has very small, long leafs with a lot of little “fingers” on them.  That’s where the latin name comes from: “millefolium” means “thousand fingers”. The flowers are creamy white in clusters and it grows up to 1 m high. The plant has a strong smell. The leafs give your salad a slightly bitter addition. But there is something even better about this plant: A tea from the dried flowers and leafs is a pretty good pain killer. And, given to a bath, it helps to heal wounds and muscle pain.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): This plant you probably know from pizza. The Italian kitchen is famous for using it which is not astounding since this plant prefers the hot Mediterranean climate. It often grows on rocky places and dry grassland. Thyme basically has tiny leafs and tiny flowers which can appear in different colors. It can be recognized by its characteristic smell. In tea, it helps against colds and in oil it is antibacterial. So if you plan to make your own toothpaste, thyme gives you a good smell and a good outcome in the same time. And of course, it tastes very good on pizza!

Rue (Ruta graveolens): This perennial plant grows up to 50 cm high. It has yellow flowers in a kind of little “crown” at the top of the plant and it has small and long leafs which are arranged to little “hands”. Rue prefers a rocky and sunny surrounding. It helps against blood pressure and vein problems as well as against epilepsy. Furthermore it is good to have one in your property if you have animals since fleas don’t like its smell and so your animals will be free from them.

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla): This little flower is actually a wonder-healer. The blossom is white with a pretty big and outstanding yellow “ball” in the middle, the leafs look like tiny little feathers. The plant is little itself, it can grow up to 40 cm high, but most of the time it covers the soil on the corner of paths. So watch out, maybe you are stepping on a treasure! The smell is strong and aromatically, and the tea out of the flowers as well. It helps against multiple diseases, first cold, but also womanlike diseases, it brightens up your mood in general and it helps your digestion system. You can also make oil or crèmes for the skin from it and this will calm down irritated skin.

Plantain (Plantago sp.): This is another plant we are often stepping on and we should pay more attention to: Planatain has either big or thin and long leafs, depending on the type of planatain, but they have in common that each leaf has some strong little strings crossing it in a distance of 2-5 mm. The leafs cover the ground, while the blossom grows up on a long steel and looks cylindrical, up to 7 cm long and covered with little pink or white flowers. Tea of the leafs and the flowers helps against cold, chewing the flowers helps against toothache.  If you have a stitch of a bee, you rub a leaf between your fingers until the juice comes out and you put the juice on the stitch. The swelling will disappear.

That’s it for now! But before you now start to collect plants and eat them: Check several times if you really have the plant you want! Some of those plants have brothers or sisters which look very similar, but are not good or even poisonous.

Antonia, July 2019

Urban Permaculture Garden in Mitrovica

When I was looking for a volunteering opportunity, I wanted to do something in relation with nature.

One can say that by getting involved in GAIA, I have found this opportunity. And this is true. But my mission takes place in a city, with its labyrinth of concrete and macadam … so I had to find a way to bring some nature closer to me.

A garden is obviously the best option. As I moved into our new house with my fellow volunteers, we were told that the small patches of grass that bear the name “garden” (“yard” would be more appropriate since we can find concrete paths between the patches of grass) should not be planted with anything. Disappointing! But we were resilient in our requests, and after a bunch of times going to our landlord’s to drink tea, eat pite and advocate our desire for nature, we won our case. Now we can plant the grass!

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Untouched garden of our house

So, I began to think about an intelligent way to set up our small corner of nature. I had just attended some brief lessons about permaculture and I had been watching a substantial number of videos on the subject, so I wanted to apply some of these principles. As our house is not necessarily intended for volunteers to stay on the long run, and also because my permaculture knowledge is still quite limited, I would not dare saying I’m doing permaculture here. Rather, I tried to design the garden in an intelligent fashion, so that it looks nice, gives us a yield, and be, as much as it could, a mini-ecosystem.

I started to observe how the garden is lit by the sun throughout the day, determine the hottest and coldest zones as well as the sunniest and darkest. I ended up with the following sketch.

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Zoning of the permaculture garden

While I was drawing this sketch, we started growing seedlings. Thanks to the cooperation of my grand-parents, we could get non-hybrid organic seeds delivered from France. We built shelves that were put in the house behind the big patio window – this turned out to be a perfect greenhouse. To facilitate the transition of the plants between inside and outside, we built a small greenhouse that was put outside and hosted the seedlings before being transplanted in the garden.

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Greenhouse and seedlings

I priviliged tomatoes in the most sunny area, of course. We also planted pumpkins, zucchini, butternuts, bush beans, leeks and chards. In terms of herbs and flowers, we have parsley, basil, savory, dill, rucola, chamomille, sage, lovage, morning glory, snapdragon, everlasting, scabiosa, marigold, dahlia, cornflower, sweet peas… We did some well-know companion planting: tomatoes with basil and marigold ; pumpkin, butternut and zucchini with beans.

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Sunbathing peppers

Of course we are not using any artificial product to fertilize, fight pests or intempestive weeds… we do everything by hand and we use black soap and nettle manure.
Now we are waiting for the harvest of vegetables, enjoying herbs in our dishes, the view of our flowers and looking eagerly at the ripening tomatoes …

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Morning glory and vertical herbal garden

written by Hugo, a member of GAIA’s Mitrovica Team.

Visit to a local beekeeper

Normally nobody of our group gets up at six o’clock on a Sunday. But today everybody did it – some of us with pleasure, some others needed a bit more effort – because all of us wanted to see actual bees after two days of just talking about them. At eight in the morning we had an appointment with a local bee keeper in Kamenica and we went there by foot which meant to get started at seven.

Bajram Bajrami welcomed us at his place and showed us his bees and his equipment. We saw the hives, the transport boxes and a lot of other stuff. In his place in Kamenica he doesn’t have actual hives, but he is breeding queens there. Since he has a quite big bee business in Kosovo with 800 hives, he needs a lot of them. So he could show us how he especially prepares combs for the breeding, with drones but still some worker bees. We were lucky that the bees were very young – like this they were not aggressive and did not sting a lot. It was very interesting!

Our bee teacher Yasemin from Turkey used the opportunity to explain us what she is doing differently than him since she does natural beekeeping and he doesn’t. For example, she doesn’t use any pesticides or other chemical treatments for her bees while Bajram is using some. He told us that he needs to exchange his pesticide every year because the vermins are developing an immunity against it. Besides that, he is also harvesting way more honey from the single hive than Yasemin. But all of that is your individual choice – every beekeeper has to find his or her way, what is best for him or her as a person and what is best for the bees.

When we came back, we had some time for reflection and further questions on bees. Yasemin was able to answer to most of them – thank you a lot for sharing your knowledge!

Bozevce team is ready to get started with bees. Next week we will receive three bee hives, let’s see if the future brings more! Because: The more bees we have around us, the more they can support the nature of our permaculture system and around it. Without bees, one third of the crops worldwide cannot be produced anymore. And the number of bees is decreasing in an alarming speed.

THE TIME TO DO SOMETHING IS NOW and the big question of our time is: TO BEE OR NOT TO BEE.

 

Diving deep into natural beekeeping…

As the number of bees is drastically declining every year, we need to become aware of the root causes and, most importantly, on how we can save the bees. The “Living with Bees” workshop organized by GAIA has taught the participants to strive more towards natural beekeeping. Natural beekeeping, sometimes referred to as “biodynamic” or “ecological” beekeeping, involves taking care of the bees with minimum manipulation. Natural beekeeping at its core is about respecting the nature and the bees!

Yasemin, an expert beekeeper from Turkey, has elaborated on how beekeepers should take care of bees in a sustainable way as not to harm the bees and the environment. Yasemin concluded that synthetic chemical treatment is not the right way to save the bees; it is the opposite. It is one of the reasons that is causing the decline in the number of bees throughout the world.

If we start to think about the essential needs of bees more and less about our need to profit from them, the bees will live a more prosperous life.

Did you know that a drone can be considered as important as queen bees?

Drone is the male bee that does not sting and plays an important role on the process of nectar and pollen collection and has a life spam that can be a few days longer than the worker bees.

This and many more interesting things we are learning in this workshop of more than 20 people from different countries with Yasemin from Turkey as our teacher who is feeding us endless information on how the old bee kingdom is and how it functions and the importance it plays in various ways that are connected to or daily life. Not to forget to mention that they are that old that could have been here with the dinosaurs and the circle of what they do is a never-changing one.

We have two more days to continue bee-dancing and learning more interesting things in the stunning green Bozevce with a very nice weather this weekend.

This is one of the first workshops on this topic organized by GAIA who will continue workshops on this and different other topics connected to permaculture.

Environmental Irrationality and its Affective Solution

What keeps us from taking action for a healthy and just environment and intergenerational human well-being?

This is the first blog post of a series on environmental decision-making and why it takes us as individuals so much strength to join the collective struggle for a climate-just and environmentally sustainable future. And why we must do it, nonetheless.

Wellbeing cannot be individually grasped. Instead, it affects the individual within a community in relation to a specific cultural-natural environment. This understanding of wellbeing foregrounds one’s inherent embeddedness in an environmental and social system. Do not be fooled that your unconstrained consumption of food, water and energy does not generate consequences in your closer environment. Often times these consequences hit home delayed and trick your mind in believing that they are not related to your own decision-making behavior. But they will, and they do already.

If science does not convince you then perhaps your grandparents. Why not ask them about the changes of harvest yields, the length of droughts, the frequency of flooding and their impact on farming lands, or how they destroy houses and streets? Climate change and biodiversity loss are manifesting themselves in our neighborhoods, be it in rural or urban areas. But it does so differently across places in the world and is felt by individuals and their communities differently – be it in your city or the world more generally speaking.

Let’s move from abstractions to everyday realities. I am part of the Mitrovica team of GAIA and we have been devoting our energy to the construction of a rooftop garden on top of the library building of the city. Together with children and friends of GAIA and 7 Arte we crafted DIY raised beds, water irrigation systems, raised seedlings with love and care, and organized weekly meetings. These events were mostly visited by high school students from the city and our friends. Although modest in numbers, we were regularly visited by a few children who showed clear interest in what we are doing and to what ends we are taking our time to build a garden on top of a building in an urban environment. We certainly spent lots of time discussing the environmental and climate challenges already affecting the river flows of the local rivers, Ibar which is considered the most polluted river in Kosovo or Sitinica that shares an equal degree of heavy metal and bacterial pollution due to irregular domestic and industrial waste disposal, and how prolonged periods of draughts are damaging the harvest yields of local farmers, but also the health of older generations. These local challenges were then contextualized in global patterns of environmental degradation and climate change – just to make sure that Mitrovica’s case is no anomality and can be understood in relation to much wider environmental and social challenges. Despite passionate talks about climate change and its impact on water resources, often enough I would come across the phrase – but what should we do, we are only students and its mostly big industries and the political elite that does nothing against the consequences of a fossil-fuel reliant economy, deregulated market economy and non-standardized waste-management.

It should come only naturally that you begin to wonder what can you do against these localized global and interrelated consequences of our current way of living, consuming and producing? The possibilities are nearly as overwhelming as the gravity of the issue itself. One can and should do its part according to their own needs and demands. Instead of being exhausted by the mere thought that an individual could mitigate the pollution levels released by an outdated coal power plant, as it is the case in Kosovo – look into your backyard and take some time to consider your own CO2 footprint. If it was only enough to watch “Before the Flood”, be blown off your feet by the cinematic visions of climate change induced environmental and human suffering to make us move our comfortable butt. There is undeniable scientific proof that our unrestrained consumption, shortsighted reliance on fossil fuels and our unsustainable use of nature resources is threatening our future. Perhaps, there is more to it.

Research about environmental decision-making points out to us that we deal with the environment similarly with the way we make decisions to consume and buy things in our daily life. A theory looking at these processes is called “Behavioral decision theory.” It refers to the nature of us being decision makers who are confronted with cognitive limitations, illusions and framing, self-control, updating, confirmation bias, identification with means/methods and heuristics/intuition. At the same time, our social, political and economic context that we live in is highly changing and unpredictive. Together, these dimensions of behavioral decision theory inform us with the different mental process that prevent us from taking action.

Well, this blog article will most likely not make you move as long as it tells you about distant threats that are far from your everyday reality and do not affirm what you believe to be true already. Bear with me because this blog is part of an ongoing series of blog posts that tries to bring afore different explanations on societal, cognitive, economic, political, cultural, religious or environmental factors that enable or disable our concrete contributions in the collective strive for climate just politics and a healthy.

What this means and how it affects your ability to make sustainable decisions that lead to environmentally friendly behavior and reinforces your positive attitudes towards climate and environmental action will be addressed in the next blog post.

It is getting hot in here -you know what to do!

Rosa.

The magic of mushrooms

When I was a kid, I never liked mushrooms, and I never understood what purpose they have in nature. Now I love them!

They actually don’t have the use of sun; they use only the energy of the soil to synthesize their food. For field mushrooms they grow in manure, worked land. In the forest there is the micorrhizal symbiosis principle. To grow a mushroom “connects” its roots to the ones of another tree. They play a determinant role in the biodiversity of forests.

Sounds crazy? Mushrooms have many skills aha: some of them are toxic and dangerous… But some other are simply delicious!!

As mentioned before some mushrooms are delicious, even though identification is always a bit hard when you are not used to it some mushrooms are easy to identify!

But before identification there is the “harvest”: nothing easier than this, take a knife, a basket and a book about mushrooms and you’re off! Choose a day that comes after rain or humid weather in spring or autumn and you have lot of chances to meet with mushrooms.

Here in Boževce we try to gather information about what kind of mushrooms we have around. As being aware of what’s around us is part of permaculture logic and principles (Principle 1: Observe & interact/ Principle 3: Obtain a Yield) it is for us important to collect data, and mushrooms for eating around!

We realized that we have mushrooms growing in the garden beds, even though we realized that they might be deadly (Deadly cap, Amanita Phalloides)…

But some we found were edible, and good!! Like the field mushroom (Agaricus campestris) the shaggy ink cap (Coprinus comatus) or the Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus).

But rule number one with mushrooms is: if you are not 100% sure, if you don’t know, you don’t eat. Don’t collect everything you find. It can be dangerous and every time you find a new mushroom, take only one and check it through books, pay attention if there is not look alike specie. Some of them can be toxic, deadly.

I really enjoyed cooking mushrooms we found, it’s great to be able to cook with what grows right beside and does not need human interference at all, and plus it’s delicious!

The chicken of the woods has no look alike specie and is really easy to cook: cut it from the tree, wash it and cut it in slices, fry it in a pan with olive oil until it’s getting golden and then add cream, salt, pepper, garlic and herbs (rosemary, parsley…). You can eat this with pasta or even directly from the pan. Keep also in mind that’s it’s always better to overcook a mushroom! 

However, we still have a lot to learn about them, but for sure we’ll not stop now!

Alex, June 2019

Biology students helped us with observing wildlife

Look, I found a lizard! It must be a Lacerta viridis, with a blue and shiny head!” On normal days, you don’t hear sentences like this in Bozevce. But recently you could hear them a lot. Well, those two days were absolutely not normal when we had some biology scientists here doing research. A group from University of Pristina and University of Konstanz (Germany) spent some days here as part of a research seminar. This is the whole story:

Our property here is surrounded by nature. Now in late spring, everything is growing and blossoming and we sometimes get lost in belly-high green grass when we take a walk with our dogs. And of course, also all the wild animals now are out of their wholes, finished their winter rest and enjoy their life outside where they can find sun, warmth and food now.

For us it is quite important to know which kinds of animals are living at our place or close to it. Of course, on one hand, this is because of our personal interest – we appreciate the diversity here a lot and like to know which bird is singing here and who is digging a hole there. But, on the other hand, those wild animals are an important factor for the design of our permaculture property. Some animals can prevent damage of pests, some others can support growing of plants. Maybe one of the birds nearby likes to eat the caterpillars which are attacking our fruit trees at the moment. Maybe one of the insects we find can support plants in our garden. And maybe some little rodent likes to eat plants of which we have too much at the moment.

These are all little connections of the whole circle of permaculture and life here. If you know about them, you are a lucky person – but finding out about them takes time. “Observe and interact” is one of the twelve core principles of permaculture. We are trying our best to fulfill it, but after two years of working in this place the project is still at its very beginning. Sometimes, “observe and interact” the area outside the property moves a little bit into the background behind more important tasks like renovating the houses, woodwork and giving the garden a structure.

That’s why we were very pleased to host a group of biology students from University of Pristina and three scientists from University of Konstanz (Germany) here in Bozevce. Our friend Liridon Hoxha from the non-governmental organization “KEERC” (which stands for “Kosovo Environmental Education and Research Centre”) asked us if he could send one of his research groups here.

They came here in the beginning of May for two days and explored the reptiles and amphibians around here. We were invited to join their trips and to learn about those animals. Lizards, snails, tortoises, newts and salamanders – we found so many of them around. We learned how to differentiate different types of lizards and how to distinguish the gender.  – and to learn about everything else they knew because Karsten, Lorenz and Gregor from Konstanz could give us information about almost everything that was moving around our feet and flying in the sky. They distinguished 60 different types of birds at our place alone from hearing them singing! In the pictures, you can see that we found a lot of different reptiles and animals:

This visit was a big step forward for us in getting to know our surroundings better. This means that “observe” now is done more, so we will see how we can “interact” based on this new information. Anyway, no hurries, permaculture is a development which goes step by step. We were really happy to have this visit and are looking forward to eventually host similar camps in the future!

Antonia, May 2019