What are we doing this Winter?

After a very busy Fall with site work and building the greenhouses, we are now on Gozo, the little island of Malta, roughly midway between Sicily and the northern coast of Africa in the Mediterranean. It is the growing season here with temperatures 65-70 daily and slightly cooler at night. During this time, November to February, all the rain for the year falls and usually totals about 10″.

Salt pans at Marsalforn
Salt pans at Marsalforn

When the rains are over and Summer heat and dryness arrive, the Gozitans used to produce sea salt by evaporation in these shallow ‘pans’ carved into the soft limestone rock along the coast. There are only a few old-timers still working with them now, but their beauty is spectacular even today.

We are living in an apartment on the ‘Belvedere’ of the village of Nadur, overlooking the Gozo channel to Malta where we can observe the ferries make regular crossings between the islands.

Gozo Channel looking south over Camino towards Malta
Gozo Channel looking south over Camino towards Malta

It’s only 20 minutes to Malta but in so many ways it is a world away. Old traditions are still very much a way of life here in this rural, agricultural society. Many families still work the small plots of land which have been in the family for generations. Often animals are kept in the cellars as was often the case in neighboring Italy.  A very few surnames include much of the island’s population. The fishing boats are painted in traditional multicolored patterns.

Traditional fishing boats at Mgarr harbor
Traditional fishing boats at Mgarr harbor

The history of Gozo is fascinating with temples from 3-5000 BC still in evidence, as well as influences from the many times it was ruled by foreign powers, including the Phoenicians, Moors, Romans, Spanish, Order of St John(‘ Knights of Malta’)and the French. The Maltese language is arabic based but contains many imported words and phrases, plus everyone speaks English since the Brits were the last rulers before Malta became an independent republic in 1964. It is now a member of the E. U. and the euro has replaced the Maltese lira.

Occasionally we relax by the waterside.
Occasionally we relax by the waterside.

The pace of life is pretty slow here so we have plenty of time to work on all the behind the scenes jobs that contribute to a smooth and successful season when we return to Vermont in March 2017. I am setting up new accounts and renewing old acquaintances in the trade.  Organizing the ordering of seeds, plants and supplies from many sources and setting up delivery schedules takes up time everyday now and I still fret a bit about what I’m forgetting! Starting a new business is very exciting and one must have a certain confidence to go forward. See you in Spring.

Chameleon sighted while we were pruning olive trees on Gozo
Chameleon sighted while we were pruning olive trees on Gozo
Ta Cenc cliffs on Gozo
Ta’ Cenc cliffs on Gozo