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“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

It’s been an unusual spring, weather-wise, and one of the nice surprises in that for me has been a good few days of this sort: mostly clear sky with scattered cumulus, steady moderate breeze coming out of NW, building slowly through the afternoon… And that is my cue to toss paraglider into van and head west for those beach-bluffs just beyond Vila do Bispo.

This used to be my obsession: to log 50 hours of airtime a year -i.e. 4 hours hang-time per month, or 1hr/wk on average.  I tend to be less obsessive about those numbers these days, but more successfully opportunistic.  Being busier down on the farm, i’m much less “head in the clouds” from day-to-day, it’s fair to say.  At the same time: being better attuned to nuances of weather, i’m always ready to fly when conditions turn ripe -as they did yesterday, when i took a flight of some 2.5 hours at Cordoama (as pictured above) and likewise on April 25 (“Liberation Day” here in Portugal, appropriately enough) when i was up for, i dunno, something approaching 4 hours, when the urge to pee finally brought me back to ground.

So what is it about this experience that makes it so compelling?  If i had to put it in a word just now, maybe that word would be PRESENCE.  In his book “The Power of Now” (what #1 son has given me to read), Eckhart Tolle uses this word a lot -saying at one point that this is the experience that draws certain people to adventure sports that compel your attention, because the price of INattention is simply unaffordable.  There is of course this aspect -especially when it comes to takeoffs and landings- tho it’s pretty easy to “space out” during those very long stretches of time when you are quite literally floating in the clouds (something i struggle with maybe more than most, i must admit).

More than this state of mind, though, i think it is the emotions that arise naturally out of this experience that compel me to fly.  In this breathtakingly beautiful landscape, to be struck by the sudden realization:  OMG, i am SITTING IN A CHAIR IN THE SKY! …If such realization does not bring you at some point to tears of wonder and/or gratitude and/or joy, then you must wonder if there is anything in your world that ever will. (And if this is the case, then must urge you to watch this little clip of Lewis CK holding forth to Conan O’Brian on the miracle of flight, which might make you laugh until you cry, in spite of yourself 🙂

Anyway: futile as it obviously is to try and convey this ecstatic experience in static terms, the very last word on this must belong to the late RAF officer John Gillespie Magee Jr, in his poem “High Flight” (whenever i fly so high that i feel very close to God, and also very fond of my life on earth, in the same moment, i think of this one).

PS: Am also thinking of my late great older brother, who trained as a professional pilot, then gave it up entirely.  “Didn’t see the point of burning holes in the sky anymore,” he told me in the end… But then again, it was he who first taught me to play tag with the clouds, back when i was just learning how to fly airplanes.  Hey, bro: This one’s for you.

 

So: Having made ~300L of red wine that is truly excellent in all respects except clarity and mouth-feel (i.e. it is perfectly opaque, and “chewy,” almost in the mouth), i decided to take my friend ZéCarlos’ advice, and try this process of egg-white fining.

Essentially, the steps folllowed were these:

  • 1. Pump the wine from “cuba” (500L stainless steel tank with floating airtight lid) where it has been resting into the “dorna” (500L plastic tub) for temporary holding;
  • 2. Clean the lees out of cuba where the wine has been resting since primary fermentation was completed last autumn (NB: wine was “racked” once since then, in late December of last year);
  • 3. Separate 8-10 egg whites (tho i used a full dozen, being a kitchen klutz, i probably got whites of maybe 9 eggs total into the bowl), whisked (not whipped!) into a pint of water with a pinch of salt;
  • 4. Pump the wine from dorna back into the cuba, swirling it along the site to create a vortex, into which the eggwhite mixture is poured, mixing gently with a stick, to ensure uniform distribution thru the wine, without creating a froth)
  • 5. Once the transfer of wine is complete, give it a final stir, put the lid back on the cuba, and clean house (wash dorna, pump, hoses, etc. -will need all that stuff again at bottling time, which will be soon*).

So now: It is to wait and watch this process proceed to the point of clarifying the wine, stopping it before it “strips” the wine of its body -hard to imagine, this wine has so much body, but we shall see! I am told that initial reaction should begin after 24 hours, and i should start checking the wine after 4 days, “looking for clarity about 1 or two feet above the surface. Then, once you are satisfied the wine has been adequately fined, rack the wine carefully into another barrel, drawing out the whites and remaining sediment (use a candlelight to look for and prevent any solids from making it into the second barrel, if possible). Discard the gunk at the bottom (or use it to make the worst scrambled eggs ever 🙂

* About bottling time: my plan was to do it sooner -usually around Easter time, as is traditional in these parts- but i was overseas at that time, then had a ton of work to do on return, while i was researching and fretting over whether to take a chance on this or not. Am still a bit nervous about it -the wine is so flavorful at this point, i sure would hate for anything to spoil it- but to render a product that others should enjoy (besides myself and some hardcore aficionados of such rustic & robust wine), i figured that this was worth a try. Stay tuned for updates!

Tho modest in size, i guess it’s fair to say that our family home as it sits right now (at 37°04’19.03″ N 8°46’30.86″ W, if you type that into Google Earth, you will see) is not so humble -inasmuch as it is the only private home that fronts onto a very special little beach.

From another perspective, though (image courtesy of GE’s “Street View” feature):

Casa Buzio, street view (new!) via Google Earth

-you can see that it is a house in a rather precarious position, perched atop a field of shifting sands, as it were, with not one cm2 of arable land around it.

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It happened yesterday that i got a chance to tag along on an aerial adventure with my photographer friend Carl, who does this sort of thing occasionally. We flew in a C-182 (the exact make and model of my old plane CGHRN, as it happens!), and as the flight path was westward out of Alvor (right on the E bank of river estuary that is the E boundary of Quinta do Vale da Lama), i got a fantastic birds-eye view of our land. I took a bunch of pictures, some of which i would even call beautiful -expect to see some of those here soon as i get more time for processing- but here is “the money shot” that is worth much more than 1k words right now:

P1060247,cropped

May not look like much to anybody else… But this is the picture that gives me reason to believe that we are on the right track with this Planned Grazing thing that we’ve been experimenting with in this little paddock on the farm, where we’ve got 7 chickens following 1 donkey around in quite a tight formation. If you squint real hard at this pic, you can sorta make out both chicken tractor and donkey… But what you can’t help but notice is the lush green grass, much of it perennial, that is already growing on the parts those animals grazed first, starting at E extreme of pasture along the road, and working W (i.e. left) from there. Of course the land looks worse as you get closer to where the animals were the day before -just look for the barest ground!- but the thing this proves is that, so long as you keep those animals moving and don’t let them go back for a second bite until grass is tall again, you will see the grass come back stronger than ever much quicker than you might believe possible.

If you don’t believe me about that, then check these B&A pics from the land down-under:  that is “BigPinePaddock” in both 2007 & 2008, courtesy of Darren Doherty who shared them on a course we ran with him back in autumn of 2011:

2007.02-bigPinePaddock 2008.12-bigPinePaddock

And if you *still* don’t believe -or even if you do- you must see the TED Talk Allan Savory did back in February if this year, if you haven’t already done; when it comes to Holistic Management and this Planned Grazing aspect of it, he is “the man with the plan,” so listen up! 🙂

Since hosting the Portuguese Permaculture Teachers convergence at Quinta do Vale da Lama some weeks ago (for more info, see http://colectivoeducacaoepermacultura.wordpress.com ), there’s been a stubborn little idea nagging at the back of my mind: that committing myself to this new diploma process could be a Good Thing…

But, then come the doubts: Do i really have time for this? Would i do well to focus on designs already implemented on the farm but not yet properly documented? (of which there are already quite a few!) Or would i do better to focus on new projects that beg for a design? (of which there are many more -as always! 🙂 And, most importantly: can i muster & maintain the motivation required to execute all these designs -10 of em!- given everything that is happening on the ground, calling more-or-less (usually more!) urgently for my attention from day to day?

Well: after consulting master Permaculturist & teacher Lesley Martin, who has graciously agreed to serve as my tutor, i have decided to take it one step at a time, starting at my own back door (actually the front door, as it happens), and see if the solution in this case might not lie right there in the problem itself. If that sounds like some sorta Zen-Bastard mumbo-jumbo, just stay tuned; it should make more sense after the next post or few. Onward!