Slowly the temperatures are creeping up again, onto the plus side of the Celsius scale, the bitter wind has finally blown itself out, the neighbours are poking their noses out of their doors again, with the help of them we have cleared out a ton of rubble from our doorstep which was still lying there since the earthquake, hopefully we have now survived the worst of winter and we'll remain catastrophe free for a while. This has been the longest sub-zero spell we have known here, not so much snow, but a cold wind. Most producing plants look rather sad on my land now. Even the broad beans have suffered damage, I hope they will recover. The only thing quite happy with the temperatures is this Japanese spinach.
Anyway, with the weather finally improving we have ventured out again taking a look at the land. I've used the time being holed up indoors to work on this free permaculture course and as I said before I'm planning to turn our land into a food forest now. So one of the things it tells you is to start your planning by making a map of your plot of land including all outside influences. Now this is easier said then done. I envy those people who have a flat square or rectangular plot of land where they can draw in everything neatly and show there crop rotations and all, neat beds etc.
My land is roughly triangular in shape, but that isn't the real problem it is also on a steep slop. I have now worked it out: along our southeastern border where the landslides of 2010 have actually created a fairly even slope rather than being interupted by terraces, I have a 43% downward gradient. In other words in the parts where I still have terraces I have almost as much vertical areas as I have horizontal ones. Try drawing that onto a flat piece of paper! I need to have some sophisticated computer software to make a 3d map, which needless to say I don't.
Anyway, here's my attempt of a 2d map. I used my original ground survey map which we received when we purchased the plot and then drew around it a bit. The first one shows a lot of the neighbouring land for a general impression of where water and wind come from.
The plot to the north of us is a well tended vineyard facing the same way as us. The plots to the north of that are also vineyards and some woodland facing south. Water runs off in a seasonal gully in an easterly direction. To our west is some woodland on a steep upwards slope, so we are sheltered from all prevailing winds. The little purple circle incidentally represents our caravan. The elevation of the plot is between 100 m (300 feet) at the eastern corner of our land to 130 metres (400 feet) at the western end. For scale, the line representing our southeastern border is about 70 metres in length.
Now we zoom in a bit and show what trees currently grow where:
As you can see there are still plenty of white spots that can be filled in. I am looking for biodiversity, including some species that don't imediately come to mind as edible species. I have already bought a strawberry tree, a classic forest edge variety around here, and an eleagnus ebingii, which is good for stabilising soil, is a nitrogene fixer, attracts wildlife and produces edible and nutritious fruit. All the kind of things I'm looking for.
If any of you out there have any other suggestions I'd be really grateful, especially combinations of plants benefitting each other. Below the caravan we have built some sub-terraces to strengthen that particular terrace. As posts to hold up the boards I have used freshly cut elder wood, some of them have now started sprouting. The most vigorous one I have now named Pliny (the Elder...). This should hopefully strengthen that area even more as well as giving us elderflowers and berries.
And finally a request to anybody likely to visit us anytime soon: instead of bringing us chocolate and wine, bring a tree :) Thank you!