THE LAND – AFTER RAIN

It is nice to see that after the recent heavy rains on the Maltese islands, the land is showing signs of breathing easier, of coming to life again after the long drought which in some cases made the trees start to show signs of stress and the land of totally drying out. As can be seen on the photos, and these I took around Victoria, there is still a lot of small area farming going on, vegetables and grains are grown small scale by part-time farmers.

According to Philip von Brockdorff, (Department of Economics at the University of Malta), there are several challenges of agriculture on Gozo. Full-time farmers are becoming fewer and fewer, it is the way like it seems to be in other countries too, farmers are becoming older and their children are less and less interested in farming as a means of living. On the other hand part-time farmers have been very much on the increase. To help with the future of agriculture on Gozo, reliance on EU subsidies is unavoidable and useful and should help a lot with rural development.

Dairy and vegetable growing, especially tomatoes which are used for processing, of ketchup and sauces which are exported to many European countries, UK and Ireland being the largest importers.
There is some local wine produced too, and of course lovely local honey. It is lovely to see cottage industries on the rise where foods are produced locally.
One of the problems with food production on Gozo is the lack of regular precipitation. When we arrived here in beginning of October it had not rained for many months and you could see it on the land, the farmers sure were praying for rain! And now they got some of it and the growing can continue. There is a lovely acre of potatoes growing vigorously close by here. The photos I took on one of our walks around the outskirts of Victoria, show lots of small but fertile plots of land being worked on and producing some sort of crop. It is good to see, and to see similar all over Gozo.

I’ve only loosely written down some of my own observations and thoughts about agriculture on Gozo and I read the article which Philip von Brockdorff wrote back in 2013 in the Times of Malta. I’ve a lot more to read and understand about agriculture on the Maltese islands and in particular on Gozo. One of the observations which I made very soon after we arrived is that you see none or very little cattle on the land here, coming from Ireland that is really a big difference. It means that the animals both for consumption and for dairy are never on lovely green grass and I think that would make a large difference in the quality of the end product, this also goes for the eggs and poultry production. I guess we are very spoiled in this regard, but then every country needs to have its own ways of dealing with particular problems, in this case it is the lack of lots of lush grass to feed the cattle, the lack of precipitation and the thin layer of topsoil which plays a role I think.

One development I would like to see on Gozo is more organic farms, but then I don’t know if a lot of pesticide and fertilizer are being used here, I asked a vegetable seller at a stall in Victoria about this and he said that some of the vegetables he sells are produced by what they call the ‘old way’ he indicated that this meant that no or very little chemicals were used in the growing of them. Well, who knows.

You see all the lovely terraced fields around Gozo and you think that in times past the place must have been totally self sufficient when it came to food production. Something for me to read up on I guess.
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MARSALFORN – GOZO

A little journey to visit Marsalforn today, an apparent busy tourist place in the North-East of the island, where the apartment buildings greet you as you get closer to the sea and the promenade.  The narrow little streets of the older village are quant and more interesting.  The sea itself is so blue and transparent, and to the north of the harbour you can still see some fishing boats and nets.  It is only a few minutes bus drive from Victoria, which is the capital of Gozo and lies in the middle of the island.  Every place on Gozo is close by each other, a short bus drive and you are there.

I discovered a few colourful and beautiful sights while there today.  I saw that the reddish fishing nets they had in Marsaxlokk, Malta were being used here too, and baskets to catch octopus, as far as I know.  While walking in among some of the apartment blocks I then came across the little yellow Oxalis Pes-Caprae flowers, and a few of the Sulla flowers which brighten everything with their beautiful shade of red.

On the way to Marsalforn I saw some signs of agricultural practices, this I am very interested in, Gozo has suffered drought for a few months now and everything does look very dry, though the neatly ordered rows of vegetables, I saw lots of onions, looked healthy enough.  The hay had been harvested too in lots of fields.  I want to explore this further, what is being grown, produced and so on.  I did see quite a few vine yards but they were smaller than in Malta.  The grapes are delicious here though.  I know that a lot of wells are being used to water the land, but also that the mains water comes from desalination of seawater, I want to find out more about all this.

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The views out to sea along some of the coast are impressive with the limestone eroded in all sort of shapes.  .

 

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As far as I know it is a basket to catch octopus with

 

One of the stones of which newly built walls were made near the dried out river in the town, in this limestone I could see crystals if that is possible, very beautiful and intriguing.  These type of walls you see all over Gozo and in Malta too, they used to be erected to prevent erosion but also of course to divide the land.  I think they look so lovely, all the white limestone pilled up on each other.  The wall I came across in Marsalforn was a new one, but I believe that the older types are now under the protection of the Heritage rules.

Though I was not that impressed with the touristy area of this town, we are going to go back and explore the older town and beyond, beyond is where the salt pans are and some other villages, I am curious!  More to come on that part of Gozo.