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In a very intuitive take on a permaculture technique, our guest blogger and close friend, Andrea has shared her experience adopting it and the series of events that followed. This light documentary of her endeavor excites The Mitti Collective and motivates us to share it with our readers.

“Peace in patriarchy is war against women”

-Maria Mies-

It was the beginning of the year 2020, after several years of forced procrastination, when I decided to take a small step and a big leap: To create a hügelhaug, a permaculture technique that I learnt by doing during my years of volunteering at Kneiken Felleshagen in Trondheim, Norway, at my grandfather’s abandoned kitchen garden. I am from a small village in the north of Spain. The Latin culture is very machista or male-dominating, and in the villages, the rate of practices and beliefs aimed at promoting the superiority of men over women, reaches its peak. Specially for rural unmarried women who aim to carry out permacultural peasant practices, the challenge can be draining. Hence, it becomes an informal act of feminist citizenship. Even though I had the know-how, I did not have any tools or resources of my own. I do not know if women in my village are the guardians of biodiversity, what I can assure is that women in my village are genuinely caring, compassionate and they are eager to share the little they have to help each other vs. the wealthy men whose practices are far from life-friendly.

 Hügel bed illustration from the book, “Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture” by Sepp Holzer

So by mid January (already a bit late for my initial plans), I attended the traditional Tuesday farmers market at Pola de Siero where I found (as usual) my ex farmer friends. My neighbor and friend, Laude, guided me through the market to find the best garlics to sow. Indeed, she was also looking for some garlic for her neighbor friends. We bought the garlics from a lady seller who had two types, ones from my friend’s home village and the other ones from a village near Pola de Siero (La Carrera). I decided to buy the “local” ones, since I inferred that they might be more suitable for my garden’s microclimate. Next, I asked my aunt for permission to use her inherited plot. Finally, on a lucky winter day, I went to the village and asked my beloved Ukrainian friend for her assistance. She lent me some soil from her own plot and a scythe for cutting some grass.

Initial state of the land in Moral (Spain) by mid-January 2020

I did all the labor by hand on my own: I fetched some fallen tree branches from the roadsides for the hügelhaug core, I dug some extra soil (with an old shovel) to cover the branches, I placed the selected garlic cloves along the mitti 🙂 and, finally I cut some green grass to cover the haug. In brief, a fossil-free agroecological and self-managing ecosystem before leaving for France… Yes, one week after planting the garlics (by late January 2020) I left for France for an Erasmus mobility exchange of two months that due to the pandemic lasted up to nearly four months. During my absence, no human action was taken: no watering, no weeding, absolutely zero labor. When I arrived back to the village by mid May 2020, I was far from disappointed with the results. I spent around 30 minutes cleaning the area by hand, removing some weeds (so incredibly soft to remove and an absolutely effortless task) from the bed in order to provide light and space to the crops.

 Garlics in early March 2020
Garlics by mid May 2020

It is absolutely astonishing to witness how only two hours of human work (at the right moment) plus four months of Gaia’s work (during the right season) can produce such magnificent results. After some days, I realized the garlics were starting to dry (a sign that they are getting ready to harvest). Before removing all the bulbs, I picked the garlic flowers (deli) and some fresh garlic stems for us to eat in salad, sautéed, and some garlic leaves to use as a condimental dry herb. The harvested garlic bulbs, will be used in three different ways: First, for making garlic oil and garlic confit to self-consumption; Second, for next year’s seeds; Third, to be sold for money which will be, subsequently used to acquire some basic tools for the garden such as a new (own) shovel, a new (own) scythe, a watering can and, a garden cart 🙂

Flor de ajo
Tender garlic stem
Ajollino o Garlic-flavoured chives
Flat garlic leaves
Garlic bulbs will dry naturally over mitti

Moral: Initially, my parents laughed at my way of cultivating. My father, still incredulous about my “atypical” know-how and my impressive results, has totally changed his mind and now he is (for the first time in his whole life) excited to have a garden. So excited that he is insisting in offering his help in my endeavor to carry out the agricultural practices. My mother, who has already understood I practice alternative gardening, cannot help giggling when I tell my father: the only help I need from you is you doing nothing (since, nature is doing all the work). While I write this, Aubergines, French peas and, more veggie delis, are on their way to our humble mitti beds 🙂

Stay happy. Stay healthy.

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