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

Introduction to Permaculture – workshop in Bozevce

The first time I heard about permaculture was actually last year during my volunteering with GAIA last year.

When I started to read permaculture books, the main topic that I was interested for was how to set up a garden and mostly how to build an efficient and smart property. Almost one year later I’m back again to Kosovo for a workshop on permaculture, but this time with a real PERMACULTURE TEACHER!

And I was not alone, we were 20 people from different countries with different jobs and different ways of thinking, but with one common goal: learn more about what permaculture is.

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Despite what I was thinking, permaculture is much more than gardening or building smart; it’s kind a way of living.

“It depends“ was the sentence you could hear in every time and in every situation.

Because yes, in permaculture it depends . You need to adapt your strategy to your environment, take into account every advantage or disadvantage you could find in your surrounding and apply different solutions to different problems.

The permaculture can be defined through 3 ethics and  12 principles which we should take in account if we want to improve our daily life.

Observe and interact                            Catch and store energy

     Obtain a yield                       Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

            Use and value renewable resources and services        Produce no waste

Design from patterns to details                         Integrate rather than segregate

                               Use small and slow solutions                   Use and value diversity

  Use edges and value the marginal                 Creatively use and respond to the change

I can’t really define what permaculture is in 3 lines, but the two guys (B. Mollision and D. Holmgren) who created it did it from these two words “permanent & agriculture”, which when mixed give “permaculture”.

Oh, and I forgot to tell you, one of the best and important value I found through those 3 days is  to take care of people not only about your garden!

Earth Care                         People Care                          Fair Share

permaculture ethics

One of the GAIA’s project that I was involved in was 3peas project which was basically bring peace through permaculture. Since almost 2 years, volunteers from the entire world are working in the small village of Bozevce to build a place where it is possible to gather people from different backgroudns around the same table to learn about permaculture.

How permaculture is connected to GAIA’s Project?

In GAIA Kosovo we believe that we can change the world by small and personal actions, so what can be a better example than using permaculture to grow our food, collect water, reduce our waste, save our energy and care about people and future…

Max, May 2019

 

International Permaculture Day 2019

On this day of International Permaculture, we celebrate its diversity and use around the globe.

Permaculture initially emerged as an antidote to short-term agricultural practices and its socio-ecological and economic consequences in Australia in the 70s. Its evolution was significantly driven by the transnational spread of environmental and peace movements as well as the accessibility of scientific reports on the limits of growth on our planet. Be assured, you will have a hard time pinning down the meaning of permaculture. It has attracted the attention of a diversity of minds from across the world and spread with a determinacy found in the streamline of a river. Some like to refer to it as “a revolution disguised as organic gardening.” What is crucial to the self-conscious development of permaculture is its adaptability to any context.

From May 4th-6th GAIA has been gathering its volunteers and friends from across Kosovo, Serbia, Germany, France, Austria and Australia amidst the rolling hills of Bozevce for an introduction to permaculture by Pippa, a permaculture teacher who is originally from Australia.

Applying permaculture design principles to our volunteering work for GAIA means an engagement in an ongoing learning process about the people and the environment. The majority of us work for positive social and environmental change within Kosovo and Serbia, yet we face different challenges and needs. In the past few days, we have been able to expand our personal and group understanding of the different volunteering experiences through the application of Holmgren’s 12 principles and different analysis strategies of permaculture. Together, Pippa’s insights into the practical and ethical richness of Permaculture equipped us with practical tools and inspirations to contribute to permaculture’s pursuit of transforming destructive realities into more regenerative ones.

Starting a community garden in Mitrovica

Nestled on the 6th floor of the public library of Mitrovica, GAIA’s community garden has been sprouting its roots across the grey firmament of the building since the beginning of this month. The idea to create a public gardening stemmed from the desire expressed by our local volunteers, Mev, Mimoze and Genti as well as our cooperating partner 7 Arte, to foster new green spaces within the urbanized landscape of the city.

Mitrovica is facetious to say the least. The city buzzes with events organized by the civil sector and young people filling the public spheres which contributes to an overall vibrant atmosphere. Students are eager to participate in events and volunteering with local organizations is very common. The city is also known for its bridge that reaches across the Ibar as well as across the different communities living in the city. Its socialist legacy, embodied by the Trepca mine, is well anchored in the public memory of different generations – while the traces of the immense human suffering of the Kosovo war remain encapsulated by the continuing presence of foreign peace keeping forces patrolling the streets.

Mev, Mimoza and Genti our local GAIA volunteers brought forth the challenge; that green spaces are gradually shrinking as construction sites mushroom on all corners of the city. Mitrovica’s urban landscape is growing – which is a positive development overall, but at whose and at which costs? A large share of families is living in apartment nowadays and do not have the possibility to have their own garden to grow their own vegetables and avoid industrially treated fruits and vegetables. This rapid urbanization leads to a trend that food consumption and production are increasingly separated from consumers as well as local food practices. Especially younger generations gradually become desensitized to traditional knowledge concerning gardening, harvesting and cooking held within their families. Finally, urban development through deregulated construction projects heavily bears down on the natural landscape of the city. New buildings hardly ever consider environmental impact assessments and infrastructural needs in their building process. It all boils down to the desire for economic growth at the expense of eco-health and the nature’s ability to regenerate from exploitative development practices. In the context of Kosovo, this debate needs to be thoroughly addressed through the inclusion of a well-informed and critical civil society. Without going into much more detail, the peace garden serves the purpose to sensitize young and old to the underpinning rational of permaculture in an urban and developing context and thereby offers a locale in which the right to development and its wider socio-ecological dimensions can be addressed.

The garden opens twice a week to have young adults and school classes from across Mitrovica participate in ongoing activities. These range from constructing raised beds out of recycled materials, planting seeds and transplanting them into flower beds. Permaculture approaches to gardening inform our ideas and guide our decisions towards using the patterns and resilient features in the natural and urban ecosystem of our garden. This journey began by forging a synergy with 7Arte, a local cultural initiative that has been eager to establish its own garden and share their library and terrace with us. It further translated into using materials that would usually end up on the waste dump for raised beds and decoration, and inventing our own irrigation system to water feed our seedlings. In order to connect our actions with the larger context of climate change and environmental stressors, the open days offer visitors to engage in open discussion formats on environmental challenges faced globally and felt locally. These topics change each day and vary between the use and functions of natural remedies such as herbs, the interrelation between water, energy and food security in Kosovo, eco-health and air pollution in Kosovo, the perils of hydropower in preserved terrains, climate change, and the use of pesticides and its havocking impact on bee stocks and pollination cycles. It is truly encouraging that everyone brings with them valuable knowledge and experiences about their social and environmental livelihoods and seeks to relate their experiences with more regional and globally felt challenges. By redirecting the discussions through a system-thinking perspective we hope to co-create an environment in which we can learn strategies and define tools that support the transition from a dependent consumer to becoming responsible producer within their own arm length.

One of our biggest challenges is to make motivated gardeners from Mitrovica feel comfortable enough to take over one of our open days and make it theirs, teach us about their needs perception and interests to increase the sustainability of the project. The open days will be continued throughout the summer months and hopefully see more flowers laughing in our garden.

Rosa

Neighbours

Not very long ago, people made stools by joining pieces of wood, baskets by weaving branches, bowls by shaping clay, spoons by carving twigs and ropes by tying fibers. Today those very diverse things are all often produced out of the same material: plastic. But in the houses of our neigbours we have found signs of that past that will also become our future, whether we like it or not, when we run out of oil. Sometimes it was an old hand tool or piece of furniture, though more often just a few words thrown carelessly after the phrase “people used to …”, as if they were empty talk. But those memories are worth much more than what their very owners think. They are our only chance to earn back some of the wealth of knowledge and craftmanship lost to industry in the modern age. That is one of the reasons why we have set out on recording our neighbours while they go about their daily business taking care of animals, making cheese, pies, preserves and brandy, working the land and cutting wood. But it is not the only reason, neither it is the most important.

Forest Garden Workcamp

Hello again!

This is Antonia, the German who is spending a year in Bozevce doing weltwaerts. This time I want to tell you something about our last workcamp. We had some people from Kosovo and Macedonia coming here for helping us to create a forest garden.

 

What is a forest garden?

In one sentence: A forest garden is an ecosystem created by humans that gives the best of nature to plants and animals and gives food to humans as well. Humans can create an area where plants and animals have a good life – and we get something for ourselves from it as well. Isn’t that fancy? Yes, it is! And it fits perfect in our permaculture principles of sharing and living with nature. So we want to have it here as well, of course.