vendredi 19 février 2016

Levon's autumn trip through the Artsakh pomegranate orchards (1)

You may remember earlier posts on Armenian pomegranate orchards and cultivars. Here is a set of three posts by Levon Babajanyan, a young member of the very select society of pomegranate orchardist philosophers (the so-called "PomPhil" society). He was the holder of the 2015 Pomegranate Research Fellowship awarded by the Fundaçao das Cebolas. Here is the report (and some pictures) of his October trip to Karabakh.

"Pomegranates have a very special meaning for Armenians. There are numerous historical documents that attest the cultivation of pomegranates by Armenians. For example, there seems to be evidence from the 7th century B.C. in the Kingdom of Urartu, telling us that one of the main Armenian cultivated plants were pomegranate trees. Moreover, there is a legend according to which Armenian king crowns were designed after the crowns of Armenian pomegranate cultivars. Other stories also tell us about mothers feeding their children with pomegranate arils during the Armenian genocide, and saving their lives. The pomegranate is a symbol of fertility, abundance and marriage in Armenia. It plays a prominent role in Armenian history.

Nowadays, the cultivation of Armenian pomegranate cultivars is especially widespread in the north east, east and south regions of Armenia, respectively in Noyemberyan, Meghri, Ghapan, Aghdam, Askeran, Martakert and Madaghis. The best fruits are cultivated in Artsakh (Karabakh) and in Megri. When Armenia was part of the Soviet Union, there were extensive pomegranate orchards. After the collapse of Soviet Union, these plantations collapsed too, mainly because of the Karabakhian conflict. Nowadays, the cultivation of pomegranate in Armenia is on the rise again, especially in Artsakh and in Meghri where new plantations can be found.

It is tricky to differentiate the various pomegranate cultivars and to find out about their names. After the collapse of Soviet Union, some of the knowledge associated with pomegranate cultivation of pomegranate was lost. The contacts between agricultural scientists and gardeners were lost, and now there is a problem for Armenians pomegranate gardeners to differentiate their cultivars. The aim of our research is to find and differentiate the Armenian pomegranate cultivars to contribute to save this historical heritage.

On October 22, 2015, we started our trip at 3 p.m. At 5 p.m., we reached the very nice village of Elpin in the Vayq region.

Then we drove along Lake Spandiaryan, in the Goris region.

We reached the town of Shushi in Artsakh at 10 p.m. The way was very difficult because of the damaged roads and gloomy weather. After a short night, at 6 a.m., we left Stepanakert and its "grand-ma and grand-pa" monument, for the Agdam region and the village of Shaili. It was damaged during the Artsakhian conflict, having been bombed by Azerdbaijan soldiers. There are many pomegranate plantations in Shaili, and there is one of the best cultivars in Artsakh."

Pomegranate orchards in Shaili (2)

"In Shaili, we met with the pomegranate orchardist Armen. He told us that he only cultivates two of the most widespread cultivars which he referred to as Gyulasha 1 and Myursa. They probably correspond respectively with "Gyulasha Armenia" and "Bala-Myursal", the latter meaning "Cherry of Myursal" and being referred to in Ashton's volume on pomegranates. Gyulasha Armenia has large bushes with standing upright branches going up to 5 meters. The fruit is round and flat with a convex base and a wavy peak. It has thin, flexible, smooth and shiny rind. It tastes sweet-tart. Gyulasha Armenian is very abundant and in a season, it produces nearly 20 kg harvest per tree. Here are some Gyulasha Armenia bushes.

Gyulasha Armenia is the longest keeping cultivar in Artsakh. People keep the fruits up to one year and use them for various purposes. Orchardists keep the pomegranates in cellars, but the sellers keep them in fridges. They use this cultivar to produce juice and wine, which is delicious and of high quality.

The second cultivar is Bala-Myursal. It is a very nice and juicy one, maturing at the end of september. However, it is not a long-keeping fruit. The bush has weak thorny branches. The fruit looks round, dark red and bright. It tastes sweet and it is delicious. One bush of Bala-Myursal produces nearly 25 kg in a season.

We then continued our explorations and met another orchardist from Shaili: Taron. He came to Shaili from the Armenian town of Vanadzor and planted pomegranate orchards. He cultivates more specifically Bala-Myursal and Gyulasha Red pomegranates.

Here is Tarom's son, Aram, a very cute boy who helps his father in the pomegranate orchards."

Pomegranate orchards in Askeran (3)

"Then, we got to Askeran. There are many pomegranate orchards whose owners sell fresh fruits in Yerevan and elsewhere in Armenia, keep them in fridges to sell them during winter time or make very tasty wine out of them. Artsakh's soil is very good. Actually, its other name, i.e. Karabakh, means in Turkish "black" ("kara") "garden" or "soil" ("bakh"). Water availability, in particular through government programs, contributes further to making it an excellent place to grow pomegranate bushes. We visited one of the largest orchards there.

Various cultivars are grown in Askeran orchards. Many of them seem unnamed. The orchardists said that they simply collect the best types they come across. Here is a very sweet one: Red Sweet. The bush of Red Sweet is large, with dense vegetation. The fruit is red, with slight green color. The juice is very abundant and wine-colored. It is a delicious type and is suitable for conservation purposes too."

dimanche 14 février 2016

Luxuriance de la Horta (Janvier 2016)

Ce mois de janvier a battu des records de pluviosité au Monte. On a sans doute tourné autour des 90 mm. Alors, quand vient un rayon de soleil, c'est l'impression de luxuriance qui domine à la Horta, et ce malgré des petites gelées au sol le matin. Une fois dégagées les bases des arbres, envahies de mauves et de rumex, l'impressionnante croissance des artichauts plantés au printemps et des tagasaste plantés en août n'en devient que plus visible. Les alignements du verger commencent à prendre forme...

Première ruche

Durant la seconde moitié du vingtième siècle, la Horta avait son rucher à l'abri d'un petit toit, du côté extérieur de son mur oriental. Alors, quand j'ai rencontré Marco par hasard chez le serrurier de Reguengos cet été, je me suis dit que le retour des abeilles était peut-être pour bientôt. La première ruche de Marco est arrivée à la fin de l'automne et il semble que les abeilles se plaisent en cette fin janvier. Reste à passer le premier grand test: l'été!

samedi 13 février 2016

Le drone d'Alexandre

Il y a quelques jours, Alexandre, de TerraDrone, est venu avec son drone prendre 257 photos d'une partie du Montado das Cebolas. Il les a assemblées, puis en a tiré une série d'informations, et spécialement une carte topographique reprenant les courbes de niveau mètre par mètre, outil indispensable pour mettre en place une gestion des l'espace inspirée de la méthode australienne keyline. Voici donc quelques-unes de ces photos, où vous découvrirez notamment l'état d'avancement des plantations d'arbres fruitiers paillés à la Horta et autour du Monte.

Alentejano wickets

What is special about alentejano wickets is that they have five or six rather than three stumps. Another specific feature is that their main purpose is not to be part of a cricket game. Alentejano wickets are there to help making the life of wild steppe birds easier, to prevent them from being systematically blocked by sheep fences. Fences are needed to manage grazing pressure. And with this system suggested by the ICNF, we are trying to reach a balance with what steppe birds need. We remove the bottom half of the grid between the stumps, to allow them to cross without having to fly. Now, don't be surprised if, at some point in the future, you cross some Sainte-Marie-La-Mauderne cricket players...

Cacos de vidro (Estremoz)

mercredi 3 février 2016

A rare orchid species for the Alentejo: Himantoglossum robertianum

End of january, on a fresh evening. We had just left Estremoz, on our way to Borba, and there, along the road, an orchid species that was not familiar to me. I was also very surprised to see it in flower so early in the season. So, I decided to send the picture to my friend Daniel Tyteca, THE expert of wild Portuguese orchids. And here it is, a rare species for the Alentejo: Barlia robertiana or Himantoglossum robertianum. Here is a link to a few more observations by Ivo Rodrigues.

Jeropiga et Violeta dans les crucifères jaunes (Jan. 2016)