The rainy April weather provided an abundance of rhubarb and allowed for many delicious rhubarb cakes to be enjoyed with the whole community. During these rainy days our spirits were lifted with the harvest of our first crops. Alongside rhubarb we were able to harvest a lot of asparagus, radishes and mustard and we enjoyed adding these ingredients to our otherwise wildly foraged vegetables from the garden. Unfortunately the rain wasn’t only good for our vegetables but also for the weeds, so much of this month was spent weed whacking the paths with the machine or on all fours, picking the small weeds out from between the onion and garlic beds.
Another great addition to the Tanquián family are the beehives, which were spread out over the whole property
As the month went on many of the plants that started off as seeds in the greenhouse were big enough to be transplanted into the beds, such as the lettuces and the peas.
Whenever the temperature dropped below freezing we were challenged to protect the flowering fruit trees from the frost. It is vital that the flowers don’t get shocked with frostbite in order for them to grow into fruit throughout the summer. So we put up big tubs of water under the kiwi trees, so that the evaporating water would increase the surrounding temperature. In the greenhouse we covered the seedlings with a fleece every night it got too cold for them. The warm March weather had encouraged the fruit trees to develop flowers too early, before the frost had ended. This is a new phenomenon due to climate change. Ideally the fruit trees would not carry flowers before the frost would end, so that the harvest is protected.
At the beginning of April the first chickens started to brood. We chose one chicken to be separated with her eggs and put her in her own nest to brood in peace. The brooding chicken’s only focus is to keep the eggs warm and will almost stop eating entirely.
In anticipation for our new members we started expanding the space, creating an outdoor area in the old chicken coop. The plan for this space is to turn it into an outdoor kitchen, so that there is an overflow areas, for when the community gets too big. Other indoor activities included the painting of the hallway, which felt like a symbolic taking over of Tanquian and making it our own.
Whenever the weather allowed we continued opening the vegetable beds so they would be ready for when the frost ended mid May. Mid May marks the moment when the frost has ended and all the frost-sensitive seedlings that had been growing in a protected environment in the greenhouse could be transplanted outside. The opening of the beds entails gently weeding the vegetable patch, as not to disturb the underlying soil layer too much. Then evening out the bed with a rake and adding a layer of compost, to improve the soil quality. In order to protect the soil ecosystem from the elements we covered the bed with straw, which had the added benefit of preventing too many weeds from growing as well as keeping the soil moist.
The 15th of April combined two great events. The baby chickens finally hatched, after weeks of brooding of our mother hen. And most importantly Lily finally returned home, May and Manu’s long lost sister arrived back from her travels to join the community. We greeted her with an elaborate game, a sort of treasure hunt. She had to come to all the different locations of Tanquián, meeting people in the woodshed, out by the donkey field, in the school and then fulfill some invented task in order to get the next clue.
Shortly after Lily’s arrival two new community members joined from Germany: Tajana and Amanda. With this new boost of energy we took on big group jobs, such as clearing the entire border of one of the large donkey-meadows, which was bordering on the neighbours property. Here we did extensive weeding and cutting back of the overgrowth. The power of the group now counting 10 members was truly felt when we piled the potatoes. First of all the potato patch had to be weeded and then the earth from the mounds was put on to the potato plants.
When we originally started the potato patch we dug a deep ditch into which we put the sprouting potatoes. This resulted in a field with alternating ditches and mounds. The plant grows more potatoes, the longer the plant stem is, which is why we add more soil to the plant, to encourage the potato growth. As we repeat this process the plant will eventually be growing in the mound. This is quite a large undertaking and the speed and effectiveness of this group work was truly felt and appreciated.
April ended with ongoing and fabulous birthday celebrations. On top of celebrating Becky’s birthday at home with a few friends, we decided to treat ourselves to a lovely visit to the hot springs. This was a welcome group activity with a focus on relaxation and bonding.