Practical Ecology

Nature Switched On





in the Pyrenees  the first 10 years

floristic catalogue
faunistic catalogue
gallery 1: 2006-2012
gallery 2: 2012-
>> 2011 Feb 5
<< 2010 Nov 29

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2011 January 15 to 26

With temperatures down to -8C in the early mornings, it is quite cold these days. During our absence last weekend the water supply to the garden house (not to the shower in the greenhouse) froze stuck. As temperatures hardly passed 0 during the day, i elt took several days to unfreeze.
The ponds can now be walked on and there are some interesting things happening in and on the ice.

In the image on the right two different patterns can be seen. The round shapes in the ice correspond clearly to the stones below and will have been formed in some way by the higher temperatures of the stone compared with the water. More enigmatic are the 'writings' in the ice, but I suspect that they are the work of the Backswimmers (Notonecta) which I had seen active in previous weeks. Compare the patterns from this image of 14 January 2010.

Usually leaves which fall on the ice capture the sun rays, warm up and slowly melt and sink down into the ice. But I observed a Portuguese oak leaf, in a shady area, which went the opposite direction. It is being lifted up by the growing of numerous tiny icicles, probably during several days of continuous frost.






The macro-alga (Chara) in the upper pond seems to continue producing quite some oxygen in mid-winter.





Devoid of almost any aquatic plant life, the lower pond is an ideal place to observe the dynamics of the ice layer, here about 5 cm thick.
26 Jan 12:25

A Portuguese oak leaf melting down into the ice of the upper pond.
26 Jan 12:38
A kind of dead oak-centipede, moving upwards.
26 Jan 12:40
The centipede is to the right of the centre.
26 Jan 12:36
Air bubbles produced by Chara in the upper pond.
26 Jan 12:33


The inside climate also gets somewhat severer of course. In the early morning, when the outside temperature gets below -5C, inside the temperature is around 15. We have used about half our fire wood stock and this will probably get us through the winter. In the greenhouse the temperature might drop one or two degrees below zero in the morning and soars to about 15 on a sunny day.


We have burnt one (front) row of the fire wood stock.
21 Jan 11:16

The Hedera helix has its roots outside but its leaves take advantage of the milder indoor climate of the solar greenhouse.
15 Jan 10:05


The food supply from the vegetable garden is almost limited to kale, which is behaving wonderfully. It's a mystery, if not a shame, that this valuable winter vegetable is practically unknown in Spain. Among the seven plants, there are two which are surviving their second winter and are still productive.


We have stopped feeding sunflower seed to the birds: they managed to consume one packet of 'pipas' a day. In stead we make our own mixture of animal fat, seeds and nuts. It lasts a lot longer and attracts tits, chaffinches and the occasional Red robin or Greenfinch.

Some green kale plants in the vegetable plot.
Looking north.
21 Jan 11:19
  Birdfeeder with the fat mixture
21 Jan 13:45


We were in a bad need for good outdoor furniture and I decided to pick up an idea from the recommendable English magazine Permaculture  (summer 2010 issue) and make an Adirondack outdoor chair out of salvaged pallets.
Three pallets, many 35mm screws and some wood glue sufficed to put a chair together in less than two days. It is sturdy and elegant, only the arms are perhaps a bit high, but some cushions might compensate for this. The next chair (and probably a bank) will have some lower arms though.

In stead of giving dimensions and design details, I think three photographs will be sufficient to get the idea and make one yourself.





Adirondack outdoor chair.
Adirondack is the name of the North-American mountain range were the designer Thomas Lee, on holiday, came up with the idea for this chair in 1903.
19 Jan
around 14:00

The chair has not been stained yet.
The table is a partly buried, salvaged reel for electric cable.
19 Jan 14:09


In the rock corner the leaves of the oak trees have covered the area. Also remarkable is the alteration of the soil by the frost. Typical for recently moved and bare soil is this upheaval and granulation of the upper soil layer by the continuous process of freezing and thawing.






Also some rocks suffer this kind of erosion, when some parts of the stone are more poriferous  and absorb water which freezes up and expands.

Moss keeps green and active in winter and draws attention especially on stone.





  Cover of Portuguese oak leaves in the rock corner.
21 Jan 9:59
Outcropping soil with some plantings of Sedum and Sempervivum.
21 Jan 9:54

Crumbling rock.
21 Jan 9:52

Outcropping soil with Sedum and, in the foreground, Anagallis arvensis.
The rock shows the first signs of lichen growth.
21 Jan 9:50


An older part of the rock corner, with Sempervivum tectorum and flowering moss.
Looking north.
21 Jan 9:48








I thought that cement blocks were very unwilling to form a substrate for mosses or lichens but on the 'monument' I built in honour of LeRoys' Ecocathedral (and to house some expelled bats) moss has started to grow on these blocks, in the permanent shade of the north side.


Stone group in the 'front yard' of the garden house.
Looking west.
21 Jan 10:55 
Stone group on the upper terrace, installed in April 2007.
Looking south-west.
21 Jan 10:31
Cement blocks with moss growth in the lower right corner.
The planted Achillea millefolium on the left is also doing well.
21 Jan 10:15



The flora in the zone offered two nice surprises, also surprisingly similar in character: I discovered two new spontaneous species, both evergreen, and both species I had tried to introduce before by sowing and planting with poor success. 

They are Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry) and Viburnum tinus. Both species are not too uncommon in the surrounding region.



Spontaneous  Viburnum tinus in a shady area on the central terrace.
21 Jan 11:22
  Spontaneous Arctostaphylos uva-ursi in a shady area on the highest terrace.
21 Jan 11:35B


Stray cats come and go. Recently we have regular visits of two black cats, the one even more shyer than the other.

Blanca with 'Camarero' (because of his black and white suit).
15 Jan 10:17

floristic catalogue
faunistic catalogue
gallery 1: 2006-2012
gallery 2: 2012-
>> 2011 Feb 5
<< 2010 Nov 29











Latest revision on:  01/08/2018