We have moved our blog to http://www.canmandala.com

Hi all,

we have moved our blog to http://www.canmandala.com

for some unknown reason I am not able to take my subscribers with me so if you would like to keep up to date with our adventures please subscibe again on our new domain:

http://www.canmandala.com

thanks!

Luke & Tracy

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The Mandala Garden Keeps Growing

It was spring when we planted and wrote about our first mandala (read the post here). We wrote of our plans to plant 6 mandalas, 2 weeks apart… This didn’t quite happen! Life and building took over and in reality the 6th mandala has yet to be planted. But our huerto has given us a lot of food ever since the beginning of summer and we are growing ever more fond if it!

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For me it has been and continues to be quite a learning experience, but the main lesson I have learned is that with a bit of effort and commitment, you can grow your own food with very little knowledge. I remember at first feeling very inexperienced and inadequate, and quite overwhelmed when we came back from the seedling place with what seemed like hundreds of little plants needing planted and nurtured… we had kind of agreed that the huerto would be my thing while Luke got on with the build itself but I didn’t feel at all ready to be left alone with it! Luke gave me a few basic instructions and left me to get on with it – I spent ages wondering whether each plant should be planted deeper into the earth, whether it would be better here or there, whether I had pressed the soil in enough or too much… I laugh now when I look back at my uncertainty as I plant away these days, quickly moving round each bed.

So we made it to 3 summer mandalas, which have kept us well fed on varying amounts of tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, chillis, beetroot, aubergine, onions and leeks at different times throughout.

October Aubergines in Mandala 3

October Aubergines in Mandala 3

We also had other fruit and veg planted outside the mandalas, as they needed more space to grow: melons, pumpkins, cucumber, butternut squash, courgettes, artichokes and okra. We enjoyed a lot of delicious artichokes, simply sliced and then fried in grass-fed butter…

Artichoke feast!

Artichoke feast!

 

Artichokes fried in grass-fed butter. Mmmmm!

Artichokes fried in grass-fed butter. Mmmmm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and this at a time when apparently nobody else’s artichokes were growing! Everyone was so surprised to hear that our plants were bearing fruit out of season – we were none the wiser and have now learned that this plant does not usually require a lot of water and we were watering it along with everything else and they obviously liked it! Let’s see what happens for the rest of the year when the “normal” artichoke season comes round! In the meantime they are providing some beautiful purple flowers that rather remind us of the thistles of Scotland.

Artichoke flowers masquerading as thistles

Artichoke flowers masquerading as thistles

It does make sense for me to be in charge of the huerto since I am also in charge of putting nutritious food on our table. As many of you know Luke and I are very selective about what we put in our bodies and what better way to control this than to grow our own food. It has been quite a challenge at times but also in a good way, encouraging me to look for recipes to create with the ripening food in our garden. One of my fave discoveries of the year was my tomato soup, invented on a strangely cold and rainy day in August when salad was on the menu but we needed something to warm us up. Luckily I could get my nephew-in-law the superchef Stewie on whats’app to check my progress and ask for tips and I was amazed how well this improvised soup turned out (I was brought up on tinned tomato soup and this is like a natural home made version of the Heinz classic). See the recipe here.

Ca'n Mandala tomato soup

Ca’n Mandala tomato soup

Anyhoo… we planted Mandala 4 in mid July, with our first winter veg and some black cherry tomatoes. We are very much still learning about what to plant when, how long the season lasts for certain veg, when to expect things to be ready… at first I felt a bit stressed by the not knowing, but now I have learnt to relax into the mystery! We are still eating from M4’s cherries and have just eaten our first broccoli, steamed, smothered in grassfed butter and sprinkled with sea salt – Mmmmmmmm!!!! However the cauliflowers and cabbages seem to take a little longer and they will also take a bit more prep I guess… happy to receive any suggestions for recipes for these as I have never cooked a cabbage in my life and feel like I’ve got hundreds on the way!

Before I sign off I must tell you about our latest salad. We have planted some straight beds to make the most of the areas where we had the melons and cucumbers in summer and they are looking just splendid. And since we have been having such amazing weather for October, and having had a bit of a break from salad since a bit of an overdose in summer, we are really enjoying the tender young lettuces along with the black cherry tomatoes, some feta cheese, walnuts and pomegranate seeds, both from our generous neighbour Pepe. We then dress the salad with a spritz of balsamic and a drizzle of our other neighbour Rafa’s olive oil, fruit of the olive grove we can see on the west side of our house.

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It is so beautiful to already be feeding ourselves from our land, before we even live here, and to be cultivating relationships with our neighbours, with whom we intend to share and exchange many more things in the future. We really are tasting the life we are creating for ourselves, getting away from the city and the need for public infrastructure, creating our own reality for the life we want to live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ca’n Mandala Tomato Soup Recipe

INGREDIENTS
Loads of tomatoes (like enough to fill a large pot)
Some leeks and / or onion
2 or 3 garlic cloves
About 3 teaspoons sugar / Xilitol (a healthy sugar alternative made from Birch)
About 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (same amount as sugar / xilitol)
Salt
Water or stock

Score the tomatoes on the bottom with a sharp knife and then plunge into boiling water for about 2 minutes. Remove and plunge into cold water. Remove from the water and peel of the skins which should come away easily. It’s still quite a faff. An alternative to peeling the tomatoes is to make the soup with the skins on and then pass it all through a seive at the end. I have not tried this but am tempted to.

Meanwhile in a large pot, fry off your onions and/or leeks in some grass-fed butter. Contrary to popular belief, olive oil is not ideal for cooking with as it has quite a low smoking point and the oil goes rancid which is then not healthy to consume. I use mostly butter and coconut oil for cooking.

Once the onions/leeks are halfway done, add in your chopped/crushed garlic. Then chuck your tomatoes in, roughly chopped. I would probably throw the salt in about now. Add water or stock until the tomatoes are just covered in liquid (I personally use just water and get a delicious full flavour but if you have a good home-made stock I’m sure it would be even better).

Actually I think I added about a tablespoon of xilitol at this stage although we will add more at the end so I’m not sure how important it is to add now. Up to you.

Let the soup simmer on low for at least an hour – Stewie explained to me that this helps get rid of the bitterness in the tomatoes. Once cooked, blend.

Finally make your balsamic reduction by combining equal quantities of balsamic and sugar until it begins to thicken. Then add this mixture little by little to the soup, tasting as you go to decide how much to add.

DELICIOUS!!

Ca'n Mandala tomato soup

Ca’n Mandala tomato soup

The Making of: Biochar TLUD Kiln for our DIY water filtration system

You can download plans to make the kiln here:
http://www.aqsolutions.org/images/2010/06/gasifier-handbook.pdf

You can learn more and download the plans to make the water filtration system here:
http://www.aqsolutions.org/images/2010/06/portable-WTP-handbook.pdf

for further information about the water filtration and purification system:
http://www.aqsolutions.org/

If you missed our last post on the water purification system you can find that here:
DIY Water Filtration and Purification System

We have started Plastering!

Its been a long time coming, but its finally here!

We have started plastering!

lime plastered larder

Our larder with part of its first coat of lime plaster.

We have done the first layer of plaster on some of the walls.  Our walls are anything but flat so it will take a couple of layers to get it looking…. rustic..

After a lot of research, a couple of courses and lots of umm’ing and ahh’ing we have decide to go with a base layer of lime and very fine gravel known locally as “cero”.

Benefits of Using Lime Instead of Cement

Our walls are made of a very porous sandstone (called “mares”) that acts like a sponge and sucks up water. If you cover this stone with a non breathable material (like cement)it will end up getting saturated, rotting and the result will be large parts of your plaster falling off.

Lime plaster is breathable, meaning that it lets vapour pass through it.  This allows your walls to regulate not only the amount of humidity in the actual wall itself, but also the level of humidity in the room. So, in theory we shouldn’t have the typical humidity problems that plague old houses on the island.

Another great benefit of lime is that its antibacterial and anti-fungal and so its a lot harder for mold and any other unwanted fungus’s and bacteria to grow in rooms that are plastered with it.

Lime is also thought to be more “eco” friendly as it takes less energy to make and emits less CO2 into the atmosphere than cement.  In the long run it actually absorbs more CO2 (from the atmosphere as it “carbonates”, which is the process which makes lime harden) than is used to make it.

Here are a couple more pics:

Master Bedroom
lime plaster wall with window and wooden beams

Kitchen/Front Door

kitchen door lime plaster

 

Its really nice to have some of the walls plastered as you can start to see glimpses of the house emerging from the barn.

If you are interested in learning how to plaster with lime and clay, Miquel Ramis does a 2 day course here on the island which is very good and cheap too!  He also speaks very good English for those of you with Spanish problems.

We saved a lot of money by going on that course as before it we were going to buy all of our plaster “ready made” and now we are making it ourselves at a fraction of the cost.

Construcción bioclimática y tradicional: Morteros de cal y morteros de tierra / Lime and earth mortars

http://www.artifexbalear.org/cursos.htm