the seed potatoes of leningrad

while i was thinking about the previous post, i listened to this episode of anthropocene reviewed (a quirky podcast by john green that reviews stuff on a 5 star scale) and it stuck because it was just so much on topic.

each episode always has 2 parts, and the one about the potatoes starts at about 11:32… although, if you like tetris, you might want to start at the beginning and just hear both parts.

“Humans are often criticized for being short-term thinkers, unable to see past their own lives. And yes, in desperate situations we can become desperate animals. But it is also human to die for want of potatoes you are saving for people you do not know. Every seed contains a possibility of life yet to come, and when given the choice between themselves today or everyone tomorrow, the seedbank workers of Leningrad chose us. Let us remember their example. I give the seed potatoes of Leningrad four and a half stars.”


the fruit tree collection

so tavira has an “experimental agrarian center” (CEAT), which is a very low-key place with an important mission: it helps local farmers get started and learn more about all kinds of things related with agriculture. like many places in algarve, tavira is a town that lives mostly off tourism, but the more you move away from the coast and into hills, the more you see a kind of dryland subsistence farming that is hard but so important to people’s lives in these villages.

so as part of its mission, the center started a gigantic project to research and collect specimens from the local varieties of fruit trees, which they maintain in a specific area — a seed bank of sorts, but with actual living trees. in the last decade, they have collected hundreds of cultivars of citrus trees (the main crop around here), as well as carob, almond or figs, but also things that you might not expect like specific southern portuguese grapevines, loquats, pomegranate or “pêro de monchique”. researching these species in the region involved talking to a lot of farmers and then doing genetic analysis to identify the differences between certain plants, to make sure they are actually unique cultivars (and not just the same tree with a different name).

so after specimens are collected, they’re brought to tavira where they are further studied and serve as a reference for the future, in case something happens or someone is interested in the local species of these trees. want to know which plants are best for your land, or how much production you can expect from a certain cultivar? they can tell you! want to produce a special wine that is labeled as being from algarve’s region? you’ll need to make sure you’re using the right grapes… guess who you can ask about that?

walking the grounds and looking at all these trees in their neat rows, you get the sense that this is not only an invaluable genetic repository for the future, but also a huge work of love, spread out over many square meters. unlike a static museum collection, this one is alive and needs constant care and attention if it is to fulfill its purpose, and i’m really glad for the humans doing this work.


eggs and other collections

being a fan of eggs, i really enjoyed this brainscoop episode on the field museum‘s egg collection. lately i’ve been thinking about museums (it’s even the writing prompt of the month on Postcrossing’s blog) and specifically about the importance of natural collections to the understanding and preservation of the species’ biodiversity.

unlike typical collections of random or futile objects, natural collections are much more than a number to aim for — they are often a genetic repository of invaluable information. who knows what the technology of the future will be able to tell us about the past through the specimens we’ve preserved? or when we’ll need that information to start again? but in order to study, understand or start again, stuff needs to be collected and kept, sometimes for centuries.

we were surprised to discover recently that this is something our local town hall has been doing for the past few years… can you guess what they’ve been collecting?

i’ll tell you about it in the next post. :)


analogue wednesday #195

R4R-50 (shot with thibaud thomas) was the last roll i did with the lca+ before the shutter stopped doing its thing. only a few frames were exposed on my side, and this was one of them. neons always look great in double-exposures!


running the eurovelo

i mentioned on the last couple of monthly videos that the boy has been running the whole algarve coast on the weekends — an epic adventure split into 10 half-marathons. today was the last one, so he finally ran the whole region: from the margins of the guadiana river in vila real de santo antónio all the way to the lighthouse in sagres! hurray!

the eurovelo 1 (aka the atlantic coast route) is the bike path that he used to map his races since it stretches the whole algarve, but this turned out to be a poorly marked and maintained route, with many stretches coinciding with the N125 which is one of the most dangerous roads in the country. most of the time, the boy was looking at his watch and hoping that he was still on the right track. i wonder how the tourists (likely more used to the well-paved, well-marked paths of northern europe) fare on these southern paths.

despite that, it was a such a treat — what a way to get to know the region! my participation in this whole endeavor was limited to driving around and supplying water at regular intervals, but even so, it was great to have an excuse to go and see all these places we hadn’t yet visited. i’ve bookmarked many beautiful stretches in my head, and noticed that we definitely love the corners of the country the most: both our own east side with the lagoon sceneries, as well as the soft rolling hills of the west, cut short by their massive cliffs. we shall return soon, to properly explore them.

more than the running itself though, this was a feat of the boy’s tenacity. he never does a 101 list — he just sets up one big goal at a time and works consistently on it, preparing and getting it done without even bragging about it on social media. i can’t wait to see what the next adventure will bring! :)