Blogs

Bird care

Hello!

This winter, in Bozevce, we took care of our wild birds, by building some feeders and some houses for them.

Why do we feed them?

Most of the littles birds usually eat insects, or in winter, some seeds. The problem in this period is that because of the snow, the seeds and all the food they usually eat is hard to access. And in this period they need to eat a lot to fight against the cold.

How to feed them?

To feed them we used wheat seeds, because that is what we had now, but sunflowers seeds, different kinds of nuts, and animal fat can also be used, and be good for them.

Our feeders offer a surface large enough for the birds to land and to eat on it, and they are covered, to keep the seeds dry. We hung them on different places (roofs, trees and in our orchard), high enough to be hard for the cats to reach them, and in some places where there are not too many people passing by, so we do not scare them.

Why do we make bird houses?

Winter is the time for birds to find a new place for a nest. Indeed, they have to prepare spring, and the love season. With the growing of artificialised spaces in both urban and rural areas, and the disappearance of old trees, birds have less and less appropriate places for nesting.

How to make bird houses?

Bird houses can be a simple box, to offer a good shelter for the birds. But be careful, if you want your house to be used, you have to respect some dimensions. Depending on the species of the birds, their needs differ. For example a tit (Parus spp.), the entrance needs to be a hole of 32mm of diameter, and it’s 90mm for a hoopoe (Upupa epops). Also depending on the needs of the species, the place and the height where you put the house will change.

There are many good advices here:

And it worked!

During the snowy days through our windows, we could see birds around the feeders by dozens! Thanks to that, we manage to identify some of our land mates, like:

Great tit (Parus major), blue tit (Parus caeruleus), marsh tit (Parus palustris), great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), middle spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius), yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), cirl bunting (Emberiza cirlus) and and Eurasian bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula).

We are going to continue to feed them until the end of March, when most of them become insectivorous again, to avoid them being dependent on us. Like this they will be fed until they are able to find food by themselves in nature.

Joseph, March 2021

A Glimpse of Autumn

Today we lose another minute of sun Max said this morning. So, enjoy every moment of day, Maja added. And, indeed, days are shorter, walnuts are falling, the valley is flaring up with red and yellow leaves, the living room smells like burning wood and tangerines: it’s time to write about Autumn!

Autumn was on time. On the 23rd of September precisely, She settled down in Boževce, bringing with her rain and cold weather. It marked for us the beginning of a slow transition to a new dynamic, with less work outside, more fire in the mass heater, and shorter working days. If Autumn is a time of decline, fall, introspection and slowing down, it is also a time of fullness and strength, of fruiting and harvest. In fact, She got her name from the Latin word augere, which means to expand, to increase.

Living close to nature, in the hills of Boževce, put us in the front line to witness this marvelous expansion, and to enjoy it. Amongst the green leaves that are shaping the garden since May (collard greens, chards, kales, nasturtium), were growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans, potatoes, chickpeas, pumpkins… What a nice feeling to collect all of them, to appreciate the yield of our work and care in the garden during the last months! There is, of course, plants that could have grown better, such as potatoes or cucumbers, but I think we learned a lot thanks to these failures and they’ll help us improving and planning better the garden for the years to come. For now, we’ve had enough vegetables (in addition to eating them directly) to store them for winter, to make salsa (a delicious tomato sauce), kimchi from kale and collard greens and tabasco from our spicy peppers, that came to align with the jars and bottles of hunter salad, ajvar, pickled paprika and cucumbers, we made from vegetables we bought.    

Besides the plants we grew, we also have the great chance to be surrounded by wild trees and bushes that produced fruits and berries in abundance this year; thereby, we collected berries full of vitamins to dry for tea, such as rosehips, hawthorn, and blackthorn (with which we made an exquisite juice and a tasty liquor too). In October, we got a bit obsessed with brekinja (Sorbus torminalis), a little ball, smooshy and a bit sour, growing on a tree from the sorbus genus, that turned out to be delicious as a jam. Wild apples and pears gave us work too: after picking them up from the ground, we cut, grated and put them in small barrels to make vinegar. We kept and stored the healthiest ones, along with apples and walnuts from our orchard, to have fresh fruits to eat during winter. Some of them ended up with peaches from our neighbor in a big barrel where we left them to ferment and make rakija. The peach tree had so much fruits that we even managed to make few jars of compote and jam. Finally, we mixed all of these wild fruits growing around in a closed barrel with water to make a healthy fermented drink.        

What we could not grow or find around, we bought from neighbors and local farmers. Thus, we spent some nice evenings taking care of the 300kg of cabbage we got, cleaning them, cutting them into thin slices, mixing them with salt, pepper and bay leaves, before smashing them a bit and to cover them with water. We will let them lacto-ferment for few weeks to obtain sour cabbage, a meal that is not only delicious but also full of vitamins and can be kept all winter.

Autumn, with Her profusion, makes us think about the less prolific and tougher days Winter will bring in His frost coat. Preparing food for winter is then an important task to do during this period, but not the only one. Indeed, we worked a lot on the house and its surroundings too, to respond to the Autumn and Winter promises of a cold and humid weather. We worked on solutions to the muddy problems we are facing each time there is rain or snow falling or melting on the property; we started by making a tire wall around the Red House to prevent landslides. The principle is to pile and stagger tires filled with really well compacted soil, so that it becomes a rammed earth brick encased in rubber. This technique is used to build Earthship, self-sufficient houses made out of both natural and upcycled materials, and it is a way to give a purpose to the numerous broken tires abandoned in the forest. After many weeks of work, hundreds of tires carefully chosen, positioned and filled, a few puzzling designing challenges, two mass handles and one spade broken, we finally put, with a tremendous joy, the last tire. After removing the excess soil remaining, flattening and putting pebbles, we now have a nice, mud-free path and space behind the Red House.    

Then, we worked on drainages around the houses, using broken tiles and gravels, and we made a brick path between the two houses. The entrance is now very welcoming and nice looking, and it should help us keep our shoes and houses cleaner!
Moreover, those colder days to come led us to have big Cut wood – Chop wood – Move wood action days to prepare and store all the wood we will need before warmer days to feed our two rocket mass heaters, the šporet of the kitchen and the two small stoves of the bedrooms. Heating a house with wood is something quite uplifting: it requires physical work to prepare the material, time to light the fire, care and attention to keep it alive and controlled, but you can value differently the warmth you obtain when you know what energy produced it.        
To be even more efficient in keeping a stable and comfortable temperature in the house, we are also currently working on the insulation of the Red House roof, with OSB planks to hold compacted straw. Humans are not the only ones to get cold in winter, so we built a shelter for our four young geese. With the days getting shorter and colder, we will work much more inside, so Alex, Max and Joseph built new shelves for the workshop. The room is now well organized and we will have a lot of space to continue working and building, even during the dark and freezing winter.

This passage to a new season and the end of the year coming brought some changes in our garden too. Indeed, after removing all the old plants that were not giving fruits anymore, we aerated the garden beds with a broadfork, added humus where it was needed and mulched everything with straw to keep the soil humid and prevent it from freezing. We could then plant, both outside in the garden and in the greenhouses, salads, rockets, chards, parsley, onions, leeks, garlics, holy beetroots, to have them ready in winter and in early spring.    
This year was really encouraging for us: during summer, we were able to cook mostly with our own vegetables, without having to buy them abroad. Some of our meals were even completely Made in Boževce, with vegetables from our garden, eggs from our chicken, cheese and milk from the neighbors’ cow, wild plants and mushrooms from the forest around… What a beautiful joy it is, when the food you eat is related to so many good moments: planting seeds, with love and a bit of apprehension, watching, day after day, the little cotyledons growing and getting stronger; waking up at 6am to go in the forest with a basket and a knife to hunt mushrooms and finding hundreds of them; going to the neighbors to buy cheese and milk and drink a coffee and a rakija with them; spending a full day, all around the table, speaking and joking and listening to music, to clean, cut, peel, bake, dry, pickle, smash (…), mushrooms, paprikas, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbages, mušmula (Mespilus Germanica), plums, peaches…      

Therefore, to reach more food autonomy, and bring more life and happiness in our plates/stomachs, we expanded the garden by building new beds in the Forest Garden:           
      step 1 – define and design where to put the new beds    
      step 2 – aerate the soil  
      step 3 – put wet cardboard on it (to prevent grass to grow)           
      step 4 – add cow manure (for yummy nitrogen elements)              
   step 5 – mulch with straw (for plant-building carbon elements and to protect the soil from drying, freezing, or being invaded by grass)             

We will be able to plant and grow things there in spring, largely from our own seeds, that we kept, organized and stored preciously. And to be sure that our seedlings will have all the nutrients they need, we started a new hot compost pile, that should be turned by billions of astonishing micro-organisms into magnificent humus within a month.           
Otherwise, the fruiting season being over and the soil being not frozen yet, it was a good moment to replant on the South edge of the Forest Garden wild little trees and bushes growing around to make a windbreaker and thus protect the garden beds. Some of them were also replanted in the chicken area, for our beloved birds to have more shelters against wind, rain or sun.             

Last but not least, Autumn, with her ephemeral and misty gown, woven with the shimmering colors of falling leaves and burning skies, of scarlet berries and appetizing fruits, gave us quite some matter to contemplate Nature’s wonders and to appreciate our luck to be able to witness such beauty and to live such moments. The gladness of these moments got even increased when shared: we hosted some GAIAns for a weekend, gathered around a kazan (to bake rakija and potatoes in amber) and around our drugi Tito, who left Boževce after one year of volunteering. We said goodbye to our friend Tito, but we also welcomed a new volunteer, Joseph, whose serenity and building skills are really appreciated, and we had the great joy to see Max, not-so-new in Boževce, coming back amongst us for a new volunteering. Thanks to our workshop on plastering with natural material (mud, straw and sand), we met and worked with fascinating and passionate women, such as Ružica, who is an expert in natural building and a great teacher! 

To put it in a nutshell, Autumn gave us a lot to do and experience, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Full of these enrichments, we are ready to welcome Winter!

Louise, Bozevce, December 2020

Women led workshop on earth plastering

A new action week took place from 19th to 26th of October, when GAIA’s Bozevce program hosted a workshop on plastering with natural materials. The workshop was designed to introduce young women with little or no prior experience to work with earth and natural materials.

The idea was to show that natural materials are easy to work with, but also to promote their benefits. Conventional building in general has a very high carbon footprint, and using natural and locally available materials contributes to keeping the carbon rather than releasing it to the atmosphere. Responsibly acquired natural materials are not damaging for the environment, and are available to all. Working with construction material such as earth and straw can be very meditative and is always fun, especially when many hands are involved in the process. By taking care of our choices, such as building materials (as the conventional ones are often polluting), we also take care of our planet, and thus of ourselves and our communities.

A different aspect of the workshop was the fact that it was intended for women. It is unusual, especially in the Balkans, to see women involved in building activities, so we wanted to use the opportunity to challenge some common stereotypes of such as building being reserved only for men. Gender roles are very present in our society, so it is always good to give different examples that could contribute to positive changes in our communities. An example of young people from different backgrounds (e.g. Albanian, Serbian, Croatian and international, different age, coming from rural and urban areas, different religions) working together, women involved in building, sharing the work but also caring for each other, these are all the little examples that are able to inspire others to make positive changes.

To contribute to the developing of environmentally and socially healthier society, it is necessary not just lower our carbon footprint, but also to treat each other with respect and equity. We are all different, and we don’t come from the same starting point. Women are often not encouraged to take part in building activities, mostly due to tradition, but with artistic natural building aesthetics and the clear environmental, economic and social benefits, women are taking almost 50% in the natural building world. It is a new chapter for a fair future, where people of all gender, younger and older generations, everybody, can work side by side.

Ruzica, an IT expert from Belgrade, who has already been involved in different projects on natural building with Earth&Crafts in Mosorin (Serbia), was teaching and showing the practice of plastering to us. She has several years of experience in building with earth, and earth plastering became her passion. So, this week around 10 young women came to Bozevce and learned how to prepare, test and plaster with clay, sand and straw mix. Most of us were plastering for the first time, and the results are great.

Our task was to put a finishing, outside layer of earth plaster on a house which is used as organizations work and educational space, where we have a workshop, space for seminars and gatherings. The goal is to make Bozevce program an eco-village and educational centre, where people from Kosovo, region and broader could come to learn about permaculture, and also experience it in practice, by living together and with nature.

As we started to work, our plaster mix consisted of 1 bucket of soil, 2,5 buckets of sand and 1,5 buckets of cut straw (1:2,5:1,5). The recipe changes very much depending on the soil type you have. That’s why before starting we made few soil tests, to see approximately how much clay our soil has (e.g. making different shapes with it and checking how it cracks). So we got to know the materials we will work with and filtered them, prepared the plastering mix and then we started to plaster. After the first few movements with earth plaster in our hands, we got more relaxed and continued our work even better. We also painted the walls with earth-water mix, which is another technique to make the natural plaster look more even.

In addition to work, we prepared and shared meals, talked and enjoyed our time together, went for walks, watched some short movies on natural building and a longer one about soil, we crocheted and tried to make dorodango (Japanese polished mud balls). It was a dynamic week in Bozevce, and it was nice to host people from all around Kosovo and share muddy work with them.

Maja

Bozevce, October 2020

P.S.

This workshop was part of my ESC volunteering project Building Resilience. Spending a year in Bozevce and experimenting living with nature and in a community, building with natural materials and producing organic food offers a lot of inspiration and knowledge. It is a chance to challenge ourselves and to grow, but more importantly to experiment in our context, where we are trying a different way of living, that is not harming to nature nor people.

Spring in Bozevce…

Time to spring, time to spring! It is finally here, after a few months of cold weather, some snow and calmness, now the whole nature is setting its pace on maximum. Every day, trees crowns are bigger, meadows are greener, flowers blossom, bushes grow… Our whole surroundings is changing so fast and so beautifully.

Currently we are eight people in Bozevce, where we are living and working with seasons, and respecting the course of natural cycles. There are many things to learn and to try out in practice, and together we experiment.

The crisis that hit us now is only showing up to be an opportunity to learn more and plan better for future. Even though the covid-19 is having a big impact on mobility in Kosovo, our lifestyle in Bozevce stayed similar to what it was before. This actually inspired us to buy more locally, which is something we already practiced, but now we try even harder to support our neighbours. We have decided to put our focus to learn and grow together, rather than getting slowed down by the pandemic. It gave us space to reflect on the current situation, and how it could be an opportunity for the society to change its habits and transit to a more fair way of being, both for people and Nature. As one of the outcomes, volunteers from all GAIA programmes started a project ‘Shifting Perspectives’, where small but important messages relevant to our way of life, are being questioned.

With the crisis appearing we adjusted our plan for the year.

Until now, we have built a chicken nursery, plastered the inside of the red house (which is now more brown than red), and are building a material storage and outside workshop. Later in the year we will start with the building of an additional facility, on the place where there used to be an old hayloft. The plan was to focus primarily on building a facility that would serve as a kitchen and a storage place. But due to the pandemic measures, we are not able to organize all the activities with volunteers and professionals, in order to build it.

This is why our focus this year, in addition to natural building, is food production. We have extended our garden, made new planting beds in the orchard and close to the bees’ area. We built another greenhouse from hazel branches, so now we have two. Since beginning of March, we have started to sow seeds in the garden and in pots for seedlings, but only since the middle of April all of the small plants started to grow rapidly. Every day, it is noticeable that they are growing bigger and stronger, and this is something that makes all of us very happy! So, we have put some more efforts into planting, composting and taking care of soil. The soil we have is mostly clay, but the garden beds that are being worked with some of regenerative practices (no-till, aerating with broad fork and adding compost) are having a much better soil which is ready for planting a variety of vegetables. In the garden we are planting annual plants, while in the orchard we plant perennial plants, those which will stay under the trees for a longer period (a couple of years or more). We also decided to use more space around the property to grow more attractive plants for bees, medicinal plants and herbs for cooking.

As spring is showing us its nurturing side and it is providing a large amount of edible and medicinal herbs, our team has started to make daily plant or creature (sometimes it’s mushroom, a bird or an insect, etc.) presentations. As we learn about them, we are also collecting herbs for teas, fresh and cooked meals and ‘jar’ food, such as pickles and pesto made of wild plants. Experimenting in kitchen is a way to direct the creativity spring brings out in us. Our days have become more full and joyful, working outside, taking care of the animals – dogs, cats, chicken, bees, taking care of plants, preparing and building new things, meeting with neighbours and exchanging ideas, a variety of tasks and moments that are happening every week. A special moment happened with the coming of longer days – one evening as the sun was setting, a beautiful wolf ran across the field in front of our house. It was the good spirit of the Wild showing herself to us. Spring has also brought the birds that are singing and flying all around, many small creatures jumping, crawling and flying, the meadows became colourful with flowers which are essential for our bees and many other insects… It is beautiful to see the Nature starting her life all over again. Let her inspire you and bring out your curiosity for life.

Maja, Bozevce, May 2020

PS. If you wondered what is the feature picture about, here is the link to the cartoon To Spring made in 1936: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-RuBfKfPOk

 

Winter in Boževce

When I was a child, I dreamed of a white Christmas

and as I am in Boževce, I realized how much the melted snow could be mud.

 

Winter in Boževce: How we live…

 

First, we cut wood in order to warm the two houses – the kitchen, the living room, the 1st floor of the ‘red house’ (still in construction) and the volunteer’s rooms. We bought the wood from neighbours and when the weather is good, we can hear the chainsaw, and the sound of cutting, in all the valley.

Sometimes, there are electricity cuts in our village, so we bring our candles and we continue our tasks. The water pump works with electricity, so if we need it during cuts, we take a bucket with a rope and we go to the well. When you are pulling up the full bucket, you can understand how life in the past was and conclude you are in a good situation, as you might not have a well in the property, or you have to do it all the time. And when electricity comes back, you appreciate it more.

design of our food forest

For the purpose of planning the food forest…

What is a food forest?

A food forest is a living system in which you plant multiple levels of plants that are all edible.

We planted trees (plums, cherries, apples, even apricots!) and now we are preparing for planting bushes (raspberries, hazelnuts, gooseberries…), and later we will plant strawberries and comfrey, to cover the ground, some herbs (sage, lavender, rosemary and others), some beans to produce nitrogen, some vegetables also.

It’s just the beginning, we’re still searching what is best for us!

And of course, in order to be as self-sufficient as possible, we are building a new greenhouse for this summer.

 

Beginning – filling the holes with cob

As you know, in Boževce, we do natural construction!

Besides adding ‘mass’ on the Rocket Mass Heater,

we plastered the living room.

We took out all the carpets, table, couch, we filled in the holes with cob – a mix of clay, sand and straw, and we put the plaster. Plaster is made with filtered clay, filtered sand, filtered straw (1.2 of clay – 3 of sand -1 of straw). We started by the ceiling, and we continued with the walls. Now we have a beautiful living room, and we’re waiting for it to get completely dry, to fill it back in!

Finished plastered living room

 

In my point of view, winter is a getting fat season.

 

There are not so many vegetables in the garden, and those sold on the local market consist of potatoes, onions, cabbage, leek, garlic and if we’re lucky, dried paprika, pickles, ajvar and spinach.

So we buy eggs, cheese and milk from the neighbours and we try to diversify meals with the same ingredients.

Thanks to the supermarket, we can also buy pasta, rice, lentils and oats. Interesting, isn’t it?

Fortunately, we have winter food in jars, full of “hunters” salad, ajvar and others pickles, from last summer.

Besides that, we have sour cabbage!

The sour cabbage, it’s one month fermented cabbage. People from Alsace can say it’s choucroute, or sauekraut, but here we say holy sour cabbage.

We ordered 100kg of this beautiful vegetable. We cut it in fine pieces,

then we put one layer in a big CLEAN barrel

and we put coarse salt on it,

we put a new layer of cabbage,

new layer of salt,

sometimes some bay leaf and pepper,

etc…

You also can put full cabbage inside. You have just to make a little hole on the bottom of the cabbage head and fill it with coarse salt. At the end, we add water until the top and we let it ferment at least 1 month.

The sour cabbage is very healthy, rich in vitamin C, the sailor used to take it on the ship to avoid the scurvy (you see this disease who get lost your tooth). It’s also rich in fibre and it’s antioxidant.

What to do with all this sour cabbage ?

Apart from simmering it with dried paprika and red onions, the most famous usage of cabbage is SARMA.

cooking of Sarma

To begin, you have to take a full leaf of sour cabbage (the big one) and you fill it with the stuffing you prepared; traditionally it’s rice and meat, but we did it with rice, lentils and vegetables. You roll this leaf and you put in a big pot. Between each layer, put some cabbage. In the end, cover with water and some tomato sauce and let it bake for 2-3 hours. At the end, you can cover it with some fried garlic and paprika.

We did it for New Year’s Eve, that was delicious.

 

As I said, sometimes we bought milk and cheese from the neighbours. We visit them in the morning – before they milk the cow/the goat – and we have a coffee (and rakija) together. We speak about weather (imate zima?) and people in Boževce. It’s nice to meet other people than European volunteers. And in winter we don’t hang out so much.

learning Serbian

To speak with local people, we need to learn Serbian. So in winter we have more time to study and to go more often to our classes, in Rajanovce, the village closeby.

 

To conclude, winter is mainly a season to take rest just as nature does. The sun goes down around 4 PM, so the outdoor activities also finish earlier.

We stay inside, our roots grow, we plan the future sitting on the warm Rocket Mass Heater, we eat good food and drink the good beverages.

A new year is coming,

What we want to do,

what we have to do,

where will we do it,

how…

Winter is a good time to speak and explore the possibilities. We planned the constructions for 2020 (to finish the red house upper floor and down floor, to build a new food production house), planned a garden (to build the new greenhouse, to see which seeds we want to plant), to develop some personal project (Nema Struja Boževce Band).

Nema Struja Bozevce Band
Nema struja B.B.

But now spring is coming and all the houses in the village have a lot to do!

Your new reporter from Boževce,

Agathe Me-v, March 2020

Swales as a method to collect water passively

Our research about the so called “swales” started with a problem: Due to the very dry summer, we had problems with getting water; It did not rain as much as expected and we could not use our wells in the way we were used to. Taking in account that we had to provide a garden made us thinking about ways to collect water in a more efficient way. Besides, on the area between greenhouse and walnut tree, there was a field which we did not use for anything. This field appeared as a slope which was very exposed to sunlight and the soil under the surface of dried grass was full of clay. This means, that water could run down very easily instead of being soaked by the ground. A field, not used, not capable of collecting water and showing nothing more than compacted ground?

At this moment the swales came into play.

A swale is made of the trench – the part which is dug into the earth – and the berm – the part which occurs as a bump made of ground. Usually, swales look like lines non-parallel to a slope in order to collect rainwater, which would run down if not stopped as in our case. If there are swales, the water fills the trench first and after sokes the ground of the downhill sided berm. Since the earth of the berm is not compacted, it can be used as a place for growing trees or other plants and their roots will be provided with water from the trenches.

With this method of collecting water passively, we hoped to firstly make use of rainwater, secondly loosen the compacted ground and finally find some new purpose for the field. On a longer term we planned to introduce a Forest Garden, using the water from the swales.

A very important thing to consider if you want to build swales is the following: At a slope, water will always run down at the steepest point. That means, that water will go where the land is at it´s lowest height. On a naturally field it is not said that the slope is always the same, but it varies, being more or less steep on different spots. If water shall be collected efficiently it is important, that the swales always follow the contour lines of a slope. Contour lines are the lines which follow the spots on the slope, that are all on the same height. Why is this important for swales? If there would be a slope inside of the trench running down to the left or right side of the field, water will not be distributed over the whole swale, but centralized on one spot: the lowest.

This leads to the first step of building swales: finding the contour lines.

An easy way to do this is to use a very simple tool, called the A-Frame (see picture below). This tool consists of three long pieces of wood, which are connected in the shape of an A. On the top of the A a rope is fixed, which is pulled down by a stone. The two feet of the A can be put on the field now. If they are on the same level, the rope will hang down exactly at the middle of the horizontal slat. Then we move the A around, finding the next point. Following this, we can make a mark at every point, that is on the same height. Connected, they show us the contour line. On this line (remember) water will stay and not flow down.

We marked the spots with some wooden sticks and connected them with rope. What was very interesting to see was, that the lines neither always were straight nor did they lead parallel to each other. This showed us, that the slope of our field varied on different spots.

Our swales should follow the contour lines. To make swales out of this lines we had to make some more measurements to define the place of the trench and the berm. We marked two more lines next to every contour line. One 80 cm uphill which would mark the edge of the trench, and one 120 cm downhill, defining the berm. Between the swales should be at least 2 m space to make it possible to grow trees and offer them enough place. So we had to make some arrangements, moving some lines up or down the hill. Finally, all our contour lines were set and the markings for trenches and berms were fixed. Let the digging begin.

But it was not just about making a ditch into the ground and putting the earth on a hill beside it. We had to follow some measurements in order to catch as much water as possible. The shape of the swale is shown in the graphic below.

Following this we had to dig the trench to a deep of 20 cm and to shape it a bit like a quadrant of a circle. The berm had to be 10 cm high.

Using pickaxes, spades and shovels we started to dig out the ground and shape the berm. A method we used was to take off the layer of grass first and put it upside down at the place, where the berm should be. Like this, we ensured a stable base for the berm and avoided to have some grass growing, which would be in competition to our crop plants later.

At the left and right end of every swale we led the berm around the swale to close it and to prevent water from running out. While digging we noticed that the colour of the ground changed. This can be a sign for a higher quantity of clay at some spots and  can influence our decision later, which plants we want to grow where (see picture).

I mentioned, that it is very important that the bottom of the trench is always on the same level. So we had to use the A-Frame again and to dig at the places, where the bottom of the trench was too high. During this process we noticed two things: First we figured out, that the A-Frame had some limits, because it could only show us, if two points were at the same level. To bring the whole line on one height, we later used a level. Secondly we had to take care not to dig to much down at some spots, because this forced us to dig the whole bottom of the trench to this level. So we had to be careful and dig slowly. After this, the digging part was finished.

A thing we missed was to build a spillway, which could be useful when heavy rains appear. To prevent the water from over-floating, a so called sill can be dug into the berm to let the water out. This path can be blocked with a sand sack, leading parallel to the slope and which can be opened in case. This security can be imagined like a plug in a bath tub.

After finishing the swales it is important to observe them in a heavy rain to see how they work. In our case, we had some water gathering at several spots. This could mean that this spots were a bit lower or that the soil was more compressed or included more clay than on other spots. To solve this problem, the process of levelling can be repeated. Another observation we did was that the trenches are keeping snow longer then the flat ground around. This can be a sign, that the swales are stopping the airflow above the field and the cold air remains in the trenches.

The last step was to fill the trenches. This did not mean putting soil back from the berm into the trench, but there are several other possibilities. If you want a path following the trench, the trench´s bottom can be covered with fabric and filled up with gravel until the top. In our example, we wanted to use the trenches to put plants. For this, the trenches can be filled with woodchips or with straw and rotten branches. We put first one layer of straw, then one layer of branches and on the top again some straw. Like this, the material will decompose during the next year, providing a good soil for planting and in the same time absorbing water better than the pure ground.

Now the trenches are ready for planting or using them for another purpose.

Bozevce, 01.03.2020

Composting workshop at UBT Camp in Lipjan

What Permaculture is ? And how do we make good compost ? Last week of November, Bozevce team answered to this questions in front of some student of UBT Camp in Lipljan during a workshop about the compost.

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It might look easy to make compost pile, just to put some material and wait, but actually there is some way to decrease the time of composting and this what we explained.

Firstly, if we want to have a quick compost, we have to respect a ratio between the materials. We 30 % of carbonic material wich are :crushed banches, leaves, herbivorus manure, ashes, cardboard and natural tissue. With 70 % of nitrate material which are kitchen waste, vegetables, fruits and gardening waste, needles, weed. We have to make a pile with the different ingredients we have. There is a other things very important for the compost, the oxygen The micro organism inside the compost need oxygen to consume the waste into compost. That’s why we need to turn the compost pile every 2 days. We also need a bit of water, and to put a nylon on the pile to keep the warm inside and avoid evaporation.

During the first days, we can reach between 50-70 degree inside the compost. We can even seen steam of water when we turn it. Then it will decrease to 40-50 degree and will be ready around 1 month.

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Well it was the theory part of the workshop, the objective of this workshop was also to set up this kind of compost in Lipjan campus in order to have good soil for gardening. We didn’t had enough material to make a pile right now, but we built a place where we can put and gather the every day kitchen waste from the cafeteria. It will reduce the amount of trash of the campus. Once they will be a good quantity of material, they will be able to start . For the construction, we used some wood  palette  to make the compost place. Everyone  took part of the construction.  With the help of the student we quickly achieved it.

Thanks you a lot for having hosting us and for made this workshop as fun as it was.

Titouan, Bozevce, December 2019

 

 

Preparing for autumn, enjoying the landscape changing!

In Bozevce, like everywhere in Europe, the autumn is coming.

The colors are changing and the tasks too!

Everyday on the daily meeting there are the daily tasks that are more or less the same during the year, such as: 

– cooking – washing the dishes – watering the green house – fill the barrels with water for the garden– taking care of animals – turning compost – going to buy food and dairy products to us neighbors – taking the daily picture – reporting the weather on data book and taking time for collecting herbs and fruits.

And there are the autumn tasks, which for a lot of them is a lot about preparing for winter. :

Harvesting, Cooking :

The trees give us the mood of autumn and the fruits too.

We collected walnuts from our 6 walnuts trees which give us good nuts for cooking and baking, and lot of leaves that we have to deal with .

We are not the only one to eat those good walnuts, the dogs help us. When you stop by for a little break you can observe the techniques that they have developed to break the shell and eat the nut ! They don’t have hands but they are close to!

As the dogs, we try to eat as much as possible what

the nature gives us. We are still waiting for the mushrooms but we have a lot of tomatoes that remain in the garden, so we took the time to collect all of them before the first frosts, even the green ones. We are making jars of chutney with green tomatoes and also pickles of green tomatoes aromatized with the dill collected and dried from the garden as well!!

The autumn in the garden :

The garden has to be prepared for winter ; like us, it needs a good blanket and food. First of all to prevent erosion and to give it nutriments that it will need for the next spring ! The soil will slowly take the good food from the layers of mulch that we put on the bed. We mulched by altering cow manure and straw, like 5 or 6 layers, as a lasagna ! The garden is ready now, we put a bit of water to give humidity on the mulch that is important if we want that the decomposition to work well. The winter hibernation can start …

We also take care of our piles of composts, we

want to keep them warm, and even hot for the beginning in order to start the decomposition and « burn» the seeds that may be inside. So we made big piles, keep the humidity and turn it sometimes !

And in the middles of those bed you can see some little winter vegetables that begin to grow : beetroots, chard, cabbages, winter salads, carrots, celery, turnips.. !

Building :

The red House :

The special task of this autumn is PLASTERING. There is the « Red House » that has to be finished for winter. With the most energetic team of volunteers, we managed to plaster the outside of the house and the first layer inside ! The first layer inside is a plaster made of 1 measurement of clay, 1.5 sand and lots of straw , called COB.

And some other projects :

The workshop begin to looks like a true one. After building a new structure to support the 3 T of the new Rocket Mass Heater (link article), a table was designed and shaped to fit in between. For structure we RE-USE the power-pole that were replaced by new ones in the forest next to the property. And for the « old-school » look we paint the table with a strong coffee;) ! We try as much as possible to use what is available around us !

To keep us warm during the winter, we will start to distillate some liters of our homemade rakija. The distillation machine is close to be finish, after one evening of good introduction about the science behind it, we are all looking forward to it…

Water versus Iphone

As we all know, water is one of the most important resource in the world. While your Iphone can cost 1000€ water is very cheap, you can survive without your phone but try without water.

2.4 billions of people do not have access to drinkable water nowadays. So yes, water is important although that in some country people use drinkable water for theirs toilets. But the world is changing and we need to change with it, there is more and more drought each years which will impact our life soon if we don’t adapt our self. No water lead to no vegetables and to no meet, no clothes, nothing in fact. We cannot live without water and as you may have seen this year, the weather start to be really really hot each summer.

This spring in Bozevce it didn’t rain for almost 3 month, consequence of it one of our well was already empty beginning of may. What is happening as you can see on the picture beside is if it doesn’t rain for a long time the level of the ground water will be very low because rain has this role to regulate the level of the water localized under the ground.

There is different sources of water, you can collect the rain or have a well and pomp the water from it. The best option is to have wells and water tank to collect and store water from your roof.

Afterthought, we decided to build our summer kitchen with on the top two water tank which can content 1000 Litters each and connected to our roof. And the miracle happened. One afternoon a big storm arrived with a lot of water to share, filling by the way 400 litters of water inside our water tank in not more than 30minutes. Did we expect that? No, we were all surprise by this big amount of water collected in only 40 minutes!


Sometime it’s easy to collect water, sometime it’s not. But instead of collecting water you can save some. How? Nothing easier, we can give you some tips!

  • Re-use the water you use to clean fruits or vegetable by watering your garden or your plants.
  • Take shorter shower.
  • Don’t flush every time you’re peing (except if it’s smelling bad)
  • -Buy second hand clothe, equipments… ( textile industry use a lot of water)
  • Eat less meat (1kg of meat needs more or less 20 000 litters)
  • Drink beers instead of water ( it’s a joke)

Here some example of the crazy amount of water we need to produce stuff that we use every day.

That why some action as buying a second hand jeans can seems not important but think about it now, ten thousands liters of water just for one pair of jeans? Yes it’s not a new one, yes it’s not perfectly clean but again, while the textile’s industry is using billions litter of water you can make a difference.

Yes it’s not a lot if you do it alone, but it doesn’t matter , the other will follow and there is already a lot of people trying everyday to save water, energy, resources..

Despite the challenges, saving water bring you something that over-using water doesn’t. The sensation to do something which make sense, something now you know important.

Max

… 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