Senda Verde Permaculture Eco Center

Saturday, 26 June 2010

'Striato d'Napoli' the first courgette of the season

'Striato d'Napoli' Courgette from the real seed company

A good early courgette from Italy. Big bushy plants giving lots of long, pretty fruit with alternating light and dark green stripes. Perfectly smooth and round in cross-section, and the flesh doesn't go as 'soft' when cooked as other courgettes do.

Thanks to the real seed company for this years excellent range of heritage hierloom seeds.

The first courgette of the season wont be turned into soup, but with many more to follow a freezer full of soup seems like a good idea.

Courgette Soup Serves 4 or fill the freezer.

* 1 kg courgettes - any size and colour
* 250g potatoes (suitable for mashing), peeled or scrubbed
* 2 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
* 1 medium onion, peeled & chopped
* 30ml olive oil
* 150g soft cheese (see note below for alternatives
* Handful fresh chives, chopped
* Handful fresh summer herbs of your choice, chopped
* 1 ½ pints water (or mild-flavoured stock

The method
1. Wash the courgettes and chop them into chunks. Cut the potatoes into cubes (smaller than 1 inch).
2. Heat the oil gently in a large pan. Add the onion and garlic.
3. Gently cook for about 5 minutes, to soften.
4. Add the potatoes. Stirr. Cook gently, covered, for about 15 minutes, until about half-cooked.
5. Add the courgettes and stir. Cook for about 5 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally.
6. Add 1 1/2 pints of water - just enough to cover the contents of the pan. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.
7. Remove from the heat and liquidise the soup.
8. Add the Cheese & herbs.
9. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

About 40 minutes. (Most of this is waiting, so actual preparation time is about 15 minutes

Thanks to veg Box recipes

Friday, 25 June 2010

The Milk Thistle guild

Milk Thistle... a candidate for "food from the gods" going to try and make friends

With a date fixed for the arrival of Liliput, the first Cabrita at Senda Verde I have been reading a couple of books on goat keeping and mentally sizing up the job of repairing her sleeping and living quarters and securing an area on the main terrace where she can graze freely but not get at the veggies.

I intend to get into the habbit of a morning walk with Lilliput, the goat, Joe and Carmela the two dogs, Itsy the kitten but its wishful thinking that she will ever make the break from the mezzanine floor of the barn.
Perhaps, rod over shoulder and a can of worms from the worm farm I can make the most of early morning fishing opportunities whilst Liliput grazes on river bank lushness.

I met my friend Maggie last weekend at the monthly farmers market in Baril de Alva. Maggie is a veteran small holder of five years, self sufficient, off grid and an expert on goats. Maggie kept a small herd and made cash from the sale of goats cheese and various other homesteading craft spin offs, from carpets to purses. In the permaculture tradition Maggie expertly manages an input, her goats, and maximises their uses right through her sustainable system, from manure for the permaculture garden, to milk, cheese, skins and meat, Maggie also tells me they make great companions.

Animals are an integral part of self sufficiency and are essential to a sustainable permaculture design. After three months on the land I realise Im still making big decisions way to quickly but the luxury of waiting is not mine at present. Phase two of the project, Animals, is being forced by the impending over production from phase one, the raised bed veggie gardens. The plan is working even if it feels a little racy at present. You can imagine it was with great pleasure that I set up my stall next to Maggie and we got down to some serious goat talk.

Liliput is due mid July but Maggie advised that I start collecting Cardamon thistle or Milk thistle, as the crushed seed heads are used to turn the curds and whey, a natural process rather than using rennet. Im currently on the solar dryer project at the moment so was hunting the finca for wild fennel to dry with one eye out for milk thisle and I think I discovered some.

I also discovered a mountain of very interesting information on the health benifits of milk thisle,

Milk thistle seed extract protects the liver from a variety of common toxins, including alcohol, pesticides, heavy metal poisoning, pollution, and medications of all kinds. It has been used for more than two thousand years for medicinal purposes, and its use as a detoxifying agent and treatment for liver disease is well validated by research.

In the permaculture tradition im going to collect seeds and grow this as a cash crop. I can sell the plants, prepare a tincture and use it as a natural rennet replacment for making goat cheese. Maggie told me she got a premium for her cheese that was prepared using crushed milk thistle pods. An excelent guild, milk thistle, goat cheese and a tincture of silymarin, all from a wild growing plant.

Ive also been looking for something to detoxify heavy metals, recent water analysis research on the effects that chemtrails have on the water table show high, off the scale concentrations of barium and aluminium, both heavy metals.

Here is a good article on the many health benifits of the Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle: Benefits and Side Effects

A short, wide, prickly plant known as milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is the source of a popular herbal remedy that is widely used to detoxify the body and to treat liver disease. Milk thistle seed extract has been shown to have antioxidant properties that help the liver function and stay healthy.

As the name suggests, this herbal remedy is derived from the seeds of the milk thistle plant. Many people take milk thistle seed extract as protection from environmental toxins, such as second hand smoke. People with liver disease, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, jaundice and inflamed liver, use the herb to protect and regenerate that vital organ.

Milk thistle seed extract contains active compound known as flavonolignans, which can protect the cells of the liver from toxins as well as encourage cleansing and detoxification. When damage has already been done to liver cells, milk thistle can stimulate protein synthesis, thereby helping the liver to repair injury and generate new cells.

Milk thistle seed extract protects the liver from a variety of common toxins, including alcohol, pesticides, heavy metal poisoning, pollution, and medications of all kinds. It has been used for more than two thousand years for medicinal purposes, and its use as a detoxifying agent and treatment for liver disease is well validated by research.

Milk thistle seed extract is an excellent tonic for anyone under stress. It is also useful for people who use alcohol, recreational drugs, performance drugs such as anabolic steroids, as well as prescription medications. In addition, anyone living in a heavily polluted environment can benefit from supplements of milk thistle seed extract. The herb has a gentle detoxifying effect, and its ability to increase bile secretion and flow in the intestines makes it effective as a mild laxative. Milk thistle seed extract can regulate bowel function as well, making it useful for people who alternate between diarrhea and constipation.
Special hybrid seeds are usually used to prepare herbal supplements of milk thistle seed extract. Supplements should be standardized to contain 70-80% of a class of flavonolignans known as silymarin. Silymarin is a powerful antioxidant that is ten times as potent as vitamin E. Three compounds in the silymarin class, silybinin, silydianin and silychristin are the specific substances that produce therapeutic effects in preparations of milk thistle seed extract.

The active ingredients can be extracted with alcohol to produce a tincture, or pills can be prepared using the seeds. Milk thistle teas made from bulk seed are also available, but very little of the active ingredient is present in steeped teas. The recommended daily dosage of milk thistle seed extract is 140 to 420 mg in tablet form. This should be divided into two or three smaller doses. Tinctures of milk thistle seed extract should be mixed with water or juice according to instructions on the package. Tinctures can also be taken directly under the tongue.

Few side effects have been reported from the use of milk thistle seed extract, though the tablets sometimes cause stomach irritation. A mild laxative effect has been reported as well, but this is often a desired effect of treatment with milk thistle seed extract. The herb is considered safe for, and has long been used by, pregnant women, though it may still be advisable for them to consult a physician before using it. There are no known drug interactions with milk thistle seed extract.

Thanks to andwelove for the Milk Thisle health info

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Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Peach and Raison Jam Jam

I have two small peach tress that have been bursting with fruit.

I did the main harvest yesterday and got 6 kg of sweet tasty peaches which Ive been enjoying on my muslie in the mornings. I bought a pressure cooker last week with just such a moment as this in mind. It was time to try my hand at jam making and preserving my summer bounties for winter leanties.

I got this receipt from the internet and added the raisons and lemon juice myself. I cooked the fruit and lemon juice slowly before adding the sugar and then brought to the boil and let it boil for 15 mins.
I should have left it longer as the jam didnt set, got to reread that bit on setting points and dropping spoons and saucers again, so ive frozen this lot and it will be used for crumbles or fruit flans.

Im happy with my first attempt and looking at the fruit trees it will be the plums turn next.
Anyone got an easy plum jam receipt?

How its meant to time


2 kg peaches
2 kg sugar
Juice 2 lemons
2 cups of raisons


Bring water to a boil. Put peaches in the boiling water for just 1 minute or under. Take them out with a slotted spoon and place them in cold water. Peel and slice peaches. Discard peach pits. Put peaches into a large (wide-open) heavy bottom pot and add the sugar. Bring to a boil. Continue to boil mixture and stir frequently. Mixture will thicken in approximately 45 minutes to an hour. As mixture thicken, you must stir more frequently to ensure that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot. To test whether the jam is ready, place a cold metal spoon in the mixture and tilt. The jam should form a single stream.

Note: The faster you cook the jam the brighter the color will be.

First wild fire of the summer

Os incêndios, um em Contenças e outro em Póvoa de Cervães, começaram a deflagrar pouco depois de almoço e ficaram um só ao meio da tarde.

Ao que conseguimos apurar houve alturas em que as chamas estiveram bem perto de habitações, mas em momento algum houve perigo de arderem já que os homens da paz tinham a situações controladas. O que não conseguiu ser evitado foi o encerramento da linha da beira alta por algumas horas, já que as chamas deflagravam mesmo junto à via-férrea.

17.20 - Nao Circunscrito

17.28 - Grupo de Reforço para Combate a Incêndios Florestais de Santarém accionado para o local.

17:53 Accionado 1 Helicóptero Bombardeiro Pesado Kamov

18:21 Accionados 2 Aviões Bombardeiros Pesados CANADAIR

18:42 No local Engenheiro do Gabinete Técnico-Florestal da Câmara Municipal de Mangualde.

18:47 Flanco esquerdo extenso, a arder com intensidade, algumas projecções.

21:23 Incêndio circunscrito.

21:43 Incêndio Dominado

23:12 Incêndio em rescaldo

A team of fire fighting helicopters worked furiously filling and refilling the water buckets in the Mondego river infront of Senda Verde.

Apparently the fire started at two points, the two villages closest to Senda Verde.
Senda Verde sits at least 50 meters below the villages in the river valley.

Fire should only move uphill. I did consider the massive downdraft we get each night as the cold air rushes down the valley, but overall felt it safer to sit tight than drive uphill into the smoke.
The water supply from the waterfall was at pressure and the team of helicopters filling up in the river infront, whilst working fast, looked in control.

Boiled frog sends you all a reminder.
Take total responsibility for naked flames.
The summer is only days old and the heat just starting.

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Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Seed Drying & Storage

You need to dry your seed out, or it will not keep.

Seed that is air-dry is not really properly dormant - its just napping; so it is still burning through its stored reserves of energy and will soon run flat - like a mobile phone left on.

Also, you can't put it in a sealed container as it is still breathing - it would suffocate. And without a sealed container, it will soon reabsorb water from the air on the first humid day, and start getting ready to germinate.

How can we dry the seed at home?

We'll use dry rice to suck the water out of the seed & get it really dry. Then it will hibernate completely.

You need to get:

a big jam-jar with a good lid,
an old pair of tights,
a rubber band,
and some rice

You need to use at least twice as much rice as you have seed. It doesn't matter if you have too much rice, but too little won't work.
Bake the rice on a tray in the oven for 45 minutes until it is bone dry. While it is still hot, put it in the jam-jar , about half full, and screw the lid on .

Wait patiently until the rice is cool. (If you rush this you'll cook your seeds.) So you now have a jam jar 1/2 full of very dry, cool rice.

Put your seed in a bag made by cutting off the foot of the tights, and tie it in with a rubber band. Put it in with the cool dry rice. Put the lid on tightly, so damp air can't get in.

Leave your seed sealed in the jar with the dry rice for a fortnight, and the dampness in the seed will be drawn out into the rice.

You now have bone-dry seed that you can safely seal in a plastic bag, and it will keep for several years.

Passing it Round
This is also important. You will have huge amounts of seed. If you are sure you avoided crossing, and that your plants were nice and healthy, then you have a valuable thing there.

You will get about two and a half kilos of seed from a 20-foot-long bed of 30 plants. Now that's actually three-quarters of a million seeds - and if every one of those was given away or swapped, and then grown, you will have created more than 500,000 kilograms of kale! More than enough to feed all your friends and neighbours, and their families.

So you can see that even one person, on a small scale, can make a real contribution to local food security. Take your spare seed to a local seed swap, or even better, organise your own. Get to gether with your friends or family and set up a seed-circle: one person can grow kale seed, another parsnips, another cucumber, etc etc. You'll all have bags of seed - you can all just swap with each other, so no-one has to save seed from more than a couple of things, yet you all get seed of everything.

It will save you a fortune, and you'll get great, locally-adapted varieties. Just remember, all this is only possible because you are growing real, open-pollinated seed. You can't do this with hybrid (F1) varieties. Funny how the seed companies are so keen on selling you hybrid seed, isn't it?

Thanks to Real Seed company for the article and some excellent seeds and great service.

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Monday, 14 June 2010

Experimenting with mulch.

Jungly is fine but useful jungly is what I want. This means stacking useful plants and eliminating with good mulch techniques the not so useful ones.

Over the last three months I have been experimenting with different types of mulch materials and different ways of preparing the raised beds.

My Japanese bed is out of control and this needs sorting with the sheet and river mulch combo when i replant.

Using what I have to hand is the first priority and I have an abundance of river mulch, small twigs, bark, sticks and leaves washed down the river and left in tide marks on my river beach. Its easy to collect and breaks down fast, perhaps a little too fast as the beds I prepared using just this mulch on top are pretty much out of control with weeds.

A three sisters bed working well using only river mulch and the ground cover given by the pumkins.

My vision of a Permaculture kitchen garden doesnt involve hours and hours of weeding and so a good mulch that stops the weeds is important if Im going to get the project running efficiently and have time to do other things.

Cardboard sheet mulch is added then the bed is planted, finally 4 inches of river mulch is added ontop.

The winner looks like a cardboard sheet mulch followed by a topping of river mulch.
On the beds I prepared like this Ive done no weeding and the soil under this double combo is moist and full of life. I have a good source for cardboard so it the method ive decided on for all new beds and for replanting the other beds as I start to rotate the crops

An alternative or in addition to sheet mulch is to plant ground cover crops, these pumpkin and squash are shading out other plants, ideal for the pathways between raised beds.

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Sunday, 6 June 2010

Getting to know my neighbours II, the Jha-DA’ Body Orb Vehicle

The Silver Seed Awakening, the Jha-DA’ Body Orb Vehicle

The Silver Seed Awakening, the first spark of the Silver Seed of the Mashaya-Hana Hubs of Aquareion Matrix; activation of the Sphere of Destiny, which is a 6-dimensional transharmonic protection sphere that turns into our Jha-DA’ Body Orb Vehicle, giving us the ability to eventually biologically Orb; and activation of the Lotus Bud Vehicle, which is the access code for the 48-Strand DNA imprint that connects us into Higher Earth.

More info
Azurite press
Sliders 6

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Friday, 4 June 2010

Getting to know my neighbours, the Horseshoe Whip Snake

My first close encounter with a Portuguese snake.

I found this one basking on the rocks near to the house

I believe its a Horseshoe Whip snake, this is a photo of one from the internet


English: Horseshoe Whip Snake
Scientific: Coluber hippocrepis (Linnaeus 1758)
Castilian: Culebra herradura
Catalan: Serp de ferradura
Portuguese: cobra-do-ferradura

Family: Colubridae
Distribution: Portugal except north, Spain except north and much of Castilla la Mancha. North west Africa and south west Sardinia

The Horse-shoe whip snake can reach a length of 180cm although they are often less. They are fairly slender, shy and fast moving. Although mostly diurnal they can also be seen out on warm evenings. The pattern is brighter and more obvious on juveniles with the main colour varying between yellow, off white, olive, grey or sometimes brown, this is marked by large black or brown spots uniformly placed along the dorsal line with smaller alternating spots along the flanks. In adults the paler areas within the pattern are much finer giving an overall darker appearance. The belly is pale in shades of peach, yellow, orange or red with dark marks openly dispersed near the head and more dense near the tail. The name stems from a shape on the head which looks like a horse shoe with the points facing back.
Their habitat ranges from coastal plains with low vegetation to dry scrub covered mountains up to 1,800m within the southern part of their range. Most of the population is found below 700m. They also live close to humans in cultivated areas and orchards, hunting around buildings or ruins and making use of dry stone walls. Generally ground dwelling and moving very quickly these snakes are also agile climbers going into bushes or along rough vertical banks and can move along dry stone walls searching the crevices for prey.

Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, the largest being rats, occasionally taking lizards and small birds. The young eat mainly lizards and also invertebrates. They actively seek out their meal, grasping it in their strong jaws and swallowing it head first. Horseshoe whip snakes may occasionally constrict their prey and do not have fangs or venom. This species of snake will always try and avoid detection, fleeing rapidly from human disturbance, but if cornered and handled will defend itself by hissing and biting.

In warmer zones of their range they may be active throughout the year, otherwise taking a short hibernation period during the colder times between November and March. Mating takes place in the spring with the female then laying a clutch of around 5 or 10 eggs (occasionally more than 20) under a rock, in an existing mammal tunnel or in old wood. Around two months later hatchlings will appear at a length between 15 and 35cm. The females are not sexually mature until they are about 8 years old and the males 5 years.

Similar species: none with these markings

Thanks to Wildside holidays for the info

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Albert Bates describes the difference between "organic" and "biodynamic"

Albert Bates describes the difference between "organic" and "biodynamic," and why people might still be drawn to the ideas of Rudolf Steiner in an era when less woo woo but equally effective options exist.

Thanks to KMO

The Truth WareHouse