July might not be the best month to take on a new field here on Gozo. It's always pretty hot and dry during the summer months, but the Maltese Islands are also currently in the grip of a sustained heat wave, named appropriately, Lucifer! This has seen day time (real feel) temperatures soar as high as the mid 40 degrees centigrade. That's one hot rock!
By starting and finishing early - i.e. getting up at 5.30am and stopping work by 8.30am, this has allowed me to make a good start on the plot - and the thought of jumping in the swimming pool afterwards is an additional work incentive.
With a remarkable lack of imagination, we have secured use of a neighbouring field, so it's all of thirty seconds walk with the grey water that we are storing for use with crops. No one can quite remember when the field was last used to grow vegetables, but the best guess seems to be sometime in the mid 1990's? The plot measures (approx) 50 x 45 feet long - imagine a sort of slightly off square if you like, surrounded on all sides with typical limestone rubble walls, and in various states of repair. The East and West walls are covered by some lovely mature olive trees, which provide welcome shade, but also act as a good wind barrier, though not from the strong North Westerly or the destructive hot Southerly winds (straight from the Sahara!)
I've done a fair bit of sitting around at times other than pre-dawn working sessions, just observing and seeing what else the plot has growing on it. There are lots of thistles, fennel, lavender and Medick seeds, a couple of Almond trees, and an overhanging Carob tree. Most of the olive trees have become ensnared by serious wild asparagus and Common Smilax growth - thorny, scratchy and very difficult to remove. The soil has potential for growing good crops, though it also has stones - lots of them, some of which are arranged in a sort of large circle (possibly an area for keeping rabbits?).
Still the space has a lovely vibe, and it's just a great place to sit with a cool beer and watch the moon rise, the sun set or simply to take in distant sea views further down the valley to the North or due South across other seemingly abandoned fields and the nearby restored windmill. Blott, our new kitten also thinks it's a great place to come and chase Cicadas... and then eat them.
I've been busy collecting cardboard and compost, horse manure and soon to arrive goat/sheep manure courtesy of the village shepherd's flock. I've installed a large pallet skip compost bin and sorted any wood I came across into piles to be used for some variant on a HugulKultur raised bed system (though I don't think the soil will be deep enough for a full blown version of this type of growing system).
As for the boots, well I needed something a bit better than my usual open-toed sandals or flip flops to protect my toes when starting repairs on the stone walls!
The field will develop over time, and we'll keep you posted via the SEEOG website as things progress - but for now, I'm off for a swim, some homemade lemonade and several slices of cooling watermelon.
Simon & Mary Wallace : Gozo, August 2017