More service infrastructure in the color garden

In 2017 the house of the dragon (CASAdelDRAGON) hosted groups between 10 and 25 members, mostly students form german universities.

In summer 2018 we organize a summer camp with 35 students from a german high school from Halle (Saale) and we will welcome also all teachers and children from the local primary school of our village Cervera del Maestre for some activities in the garden.

The summer camp will take place in the color garden area – also the campus of UNIIE (free university of informal education) – and therefore we are planning modular services, toilets and showers.

This is a typical sample of our way to grow and develop the space. Together with members, helpers and wwoofers we will create this new infrastructure in the first days of june 2018.

Part of this installation will be a solar water heater system (for the shower and hot water also for the open kitchen). Also we will implement a waste water deposit. This deposit is an important part of our general waste water management strategy. To develop a nice and sustainable garden we focus on recycling and reusing of ressources.

Also a urine (pie) deposit will part of this installation. We will mix it (1:8) with rain water to poor the fruit trees in lower levels.

The design is based on 100 x 120 cm pallets – which we get from the industry. Even this material will be used as a basement and for walls and roofs of the installation.

To use as many as possible third parties trash and waste – which is indeed a big ressource for our community – will help to develop a powerful way for sustainable solutions.

abejas de amor – bees of love – new bee hives in Cervera del Maestre

In the early spring 2018 we mounted more than 20 bee hives in various fincas near Cervera del Maestre. We ask for a little piece of land, quiet and abroad from traffic. We assamble between 2 and 6 bee hives in one location and we are looking for a place with sun in the morning and a little bit of shadow in the hottest time of the day.

On the finca of Otto we mounted 2 bee hives. Every box is also linked to a person who was in any way important for my life.


Utz for example was helping a lot since 1987 to develop the artist residence CASAdelDRAGON and supporting a lot of our activities too. Now he is coming sometimes with his family and the next generation “take-over” the mission step by step.

Marta is bee keeper and very important for this project. Most of the boxes are a donation of her and her friend Jesus, also bee keeper in Castellon.

Amalia is a warm friend, artist (paintigs, sculptures), and she helped us a lot in connecting with local people and administration.

Orientation in the color garden

signpost before
the signpost near the fig-lounge before…

In the beginning of the color garden project we managed around 3 ha land and started with cleaning the first stone walls and implementing the first raised beds. After some years we added time by time new installations and “features” in the bio garden, the sculpture garden or even inside the social area near the open kitchen.


signpost after adding some arrows
signpost after adding some arrows

At the same time we had more and more visitors and guests, in october 2017 first time students from the biology department of the MLU Halle (Saale) Germany. Later in spring 2018 we welcomed again students from Halle, first from the “Burg Giebichenstein (art university)” and later new students from the MLU Halle (Saale). They where interested in aquaponics and in management of natural resources. More and more it became usefull to establish a system of sign posts in the garden to route the visitors between all the different locations.


signpost near the aquaponics installation area

In spring 2018 we expanded the area up to more than 8 ha and we placed new signposts in crossings and important places.


second signpost with new arrows

Also we liked to play a little bit with the words and wrapped some of the targets in an artistic linguistic way.

The choice of Hercules pointed out an area where we are able to accommodate horses or donkeys. But the place is also linked to a powerful and important decission of Clara related to the horse project. We liked to underline this powerful decission of her and we will remember it linked to another famous decission in the greec mythology, the choice of Hercules. By the way, we like classical music too.

harvesting biomass

Gonzo testing the mountain of olive leafs

Gonzo, the kid from Jitka and Thomas, is testing the mountain of olive trees. The cooperative of the village clean the harvested olives and collect a very big mountain of soil, leaves and broken olives. Nobody will use this biomass and we decided to test i in some beds in the garden and as a compost starter in some raised beds in the aquaponics area.

covering raised beds with olive leaves

We harvested 8 trailers full of this leaves and soil. Around 2 cubic meter of biomass was donated by the cooperative and will help us to develop the color garden.

mixing the biomass with the soil of the raised beds

Because we are not able to proof the toxic quality of the donated bio mass we used it only in some beds. Also we want to monitor and verify the effect of this exploration.

a wood stove for winter

caravan Christa on the right side in the middle part of the color garden

In summer 2016 we get a donation of an old caravan from a german family (big thanks to Elena and Thomas Plötz). The caravan is called “Christa” remaining the grandmother of one of our community members. One couple from hannover was helpful to transfer the Caravan from Windeck, our first home unit to Spain. The caravan is very useful for us to store tools inside and to use it to rescue sometimes. It is also used to cook.

the wood stove from Rolf Habel (german artist)

In 2017 we get a donation of an old broken wood stove and we moved it from Bad Neuenahr in Germany to the color garden plot. We repaired the fireclay structure inside and placed it in Christa.

End of 2017 Jens and Thomas collected all parts of an old caravan front tend. In two days they repaired and mounted the tend in front of Christa.

Isolation of the pipe passing the caravan wall

Finally in the first weeks of january 2018 we opened a part of the caravan wall and added a pipe and used clay from the garden to close the gap between pipe and wall.

the stove in action…

With this natural isolation we established a heating solution for Christa and we developed a very handy and useful ressource for the color garden (to guard seeds and tools) and for our UNIIE – campus (central counter and information point for groups).

temperature winter jan/feb -2 and +25 degrees…


So-called eco people and their compost

FamiliaFeliz: Hello David! Still working on the compost section in the color garden, how does it go?

David: Hi Juan, and all at FamiliaFeliz .. yes, I´m still passionate about making sure there´s good compost for the garden. Whenever I can, I keep an eye on it and put some work in maintaining its quality. The good thing about making compost is it´s not a daily, or even weekly, task – it goes slowly, according to ´natures laws´ and cycles! I was there this week after a longish winter-break and was disappointed to see how disorganised and poorly understood by visitors and volunteers to FamiliaFeliz, the compost had become over this time.

FamiliaFeliz: What is wrong with the compost?

David: My recent site visit showed two main problems (see photos):

a) a large number of dried ´sticks´ (30cm long, thinnish, old tree-branches) had been placed on top of/covering the ´live´ heap – to me it looked like someone wanted to make a bonfire!b) in amongst the fresh organics waste being added on a regular basis (mostly from the community-house: apple-peel, remnants of carrots, cabbage, lettuce, courgettes, peppers etc – all good!) there was a great deal of citrus-fruit skins, half-lemons etc mixed in (perhaps 10%) – this is not a good thing to have! Three main reasons. Firstly citrus fruits and skins take a long time to decompose and will delay the earliest use of the ´pure´ compost. Secondly, and more importantly, citrus is of course acidic, and will harm all the organisms (worms, beetles, fly-larvae etc) and micro-organisms (basically bacteria) that are essential to efficient and natural composting. Thirdly, being acidic, they will alter/acidify the pH level of the soil being added to the compost – a ´neutral´ pH is ideal as this benefits most plants and vegetables in the garden.

Readers interested in knowing more about this (and about composting more generally) can refer to these two easy-to-read and very interesting articles from the web:

FamiliaFeliz: What kind of problem is it (understanding, communication, handling)?

David: That´s an interesting question and probably the most important aspect here – what´s done is done, but we can always seek to improve and learn from mistakes.
In these two cases, of a) sticks and b) citrus there are different answers but in the end it all comes down to communication.
a) Because I started communicating around the garden about the ´problem´ as soon as I was aware of it, I quickly learned it was a wonderful local volunteer for the garden who had put the sticks on the heap! She explained it was a local/regional method to improve air-circulation within the heap. Ahh ok .. I understand now! It´s true, the composting process benefits from some air-flow, otherwise the compost will be just a wet, sticky mass that won´t attract the most helpful organisms (in the UK we add ´brown´ organics – cardboard, dry-leaves, straw etc to help with this aspect, among other benefits). After some light-hearted conversation (!) about it, as I was working with the compost at the time, I incorporated the ´sticks-method´ into the freshly turned heap (for me, it will be interesting to see how much the sticks decompose making it easier to use the compost!).
Lesson: If ´you´ add something new to a process first check/communicate with others it´s sensible and/or understandable!
b) In reality,the excess citrus additions to the compost have been a regular problem. Apparently all guests to the community house are asked not to put citrus in the organics bin! Lesson: there are two parts to communicating – ´saying´ and listening/doing!


FamiliaFeliz: Thank you for your work and for this interview.

the missing link

In 2016 I started to test the cultivation of mushrooms on used coffee grounds, based on a documentation I saw about a start-up business in Berlin, which was doing this in a big commercial scale.

stages of oyster mushrooms in bottle-culture (Foto: J.Rivera)

During this testing and searching for the right parameters and components for a successfull mushroom cultivation, I read a lot about the biology of mushrooms, the ecology of the fungi kingdom and their key-role in ecosystems.

It became clear, that the greater goal in cultivating mushrooms should be the recycling of waste materials. Refining the waste and by-products of agriculture and our wasteful food-infrastructure, by cultivating gourmet mushrooms on, would improve productivity and help to reach the aim of a sustainable food production. As the famous mushroom pioneer and cultivator Paul Stamets says, mushrooms are „the missing link in the permaculture model“.

pink oyster mushroom (Foto: J. Rivera)

For the start-up business in Berlin, coffee grounds were perfect as a substrate to grow mushrooms on. Its a by-product which is not suitable for composting (because of the caffeine), but still rich in nutritions. And you can basically find it at every corner. But back in 2016 I was not living in a big city, where used coffee grounds were easy to find and gather. I had to drive 20 minutes to the next city where I convinced a bio-cafe to gather and store their used coffee grounds for me, so I could take them with me twice a week. To gain experience in cultivating mushrooms and to statisfy my curiosity about how the idea of growing them on coffee would work out, I spent a lot of time and money on it. But it was neither sustainable nor affordable so I had to stop.


primordial stage of oyster mushrooms in bag culture (Foto: J. Rivera)
(Foto: J.Rivera)

Beeing in this little village now, Cervera del maestre, sourrounded by farmers and having a very close look on their work and the infrastructure they are using, the idea of ‘the missing link’ flashed up in my thoughts again. Could almond-nutshells, carobtree-fruits, and olive leaves be a growing substrate for gourmet mushrooms? Would it be possible to gain a delicous food source while accelerating decomposting of these materials and creating rich soil at the same time?

In the next month I will blog about the process and provide interested readers and visitors of with informations and fotos of the milestones of this project.

Experimental beekeeping on a new plot in Cervera del Maestre

As one of our new working units in spain we develop alternative experimental beekeeping. Our focus is on exploring best environments for bees in the province of Castellon.

We call this project  Abejas de amor.

To maximize tolerance against varroa and other bee deseases we mount specially prepared bee hives based on layens sized boxes and frames.

In early march 2018 we started to mount the first hives on our new plot.

This is only possible with support from family and friends. And therefore we use the project also to say Thank you! to these lovely and social people.

Only with YOU it is possible to develop and maintain such a big project.

Familiafeliz develops a social space for personal happiness.  Abejas de amor explores and develops a social space for happy bees.

Thank you and enjoy!