Plans for the New Year…?


If you haven’t made plans for the New Year yet we would love to see you… contact Simon through here and we can make those plans.

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Seeking an Intern…

intern ad copy

If you should know of anyone (or even yourself), let me know here.

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Blog Action Day / What Your House Can Do For You!

what 500

Well it’s obvious, it gives you shelter. Shelter from the elements, from the wind, the rain, the sun and the snow. A house keeps you warm and safe.

However, reverse the perspective and you see a different picture. Wind supplies copious amounts of kinetic energy which can be harnessed by means of a small wind turbine above or adjacent to your house. This makes electricity. The sun releases infinitesimal quantum’s of light called photons which can be gathered by a photo voltaic panel on your roof. This also produces electricity. The sun also produces heat in the form of radiation which can be converted into conduction with the aid of a solar panel, again on your roof, producing hot water. Couple with these three elements, good insulation and (depending upon your climate) passive solar heating or cooling systems and there you have it. A micro power station!

But wait, what if you could gather all that rain water and snow melt from the roof of your house? You can store this water healthily underground for later use in the house. It’s a simple calculation to estimate a households water consumption multiplied by the average rainfall in your area to judge how big the water storage tank should be. Your home could be self sufficient with water.

And the waste water? Re-use it. Take the grey water from your bath and water the garden with it, grow fruit and vegetables. And as for the toilets? Build a reed bed, treat it yourself organically, and the resultant product can be 98% clean and can be used to irrigate your garden, grow food.

‘Ah, but the cost’ you say. Well the BBC whenever reporting on these stories always say’s ‘and the payback is around twenty years’. Well, if I build a new kitchen or a conservatory or a garage extension to my home I don’t talk about payback, I talk about added value. Imagine living in a house with no utility bills.

The very word utility means to be useful, profitable and beneficial. Is your electricity supplier carbon neutral, are they making genuine efforts to implement renewable energies? Mine is, it’s my own home. How is warm water made in your home, by burning natural gas? My home doesn’t release agents into the atmosphere that will cause global warming and climate change. And where does the water come from that flows so freely from your kitchen taps and where does it go when it leaves your house and what chemical agents go with it? Mine is rain water and when it leaves our home there are no harmful toxins in it. So, is your utility company useful, profitable or beneficial? Mine is, it’s my house.

It could be that we think ‘on the grid’ instead of ‘off’. Our systems of governance think corporate and the results are macroeconomic with all the built in entropic qualities such as those the global economy is suffering right now. If we could only initiate private or micro communal ecology systems to rid ourselves from our reliance of fossil fuels, global market forces and utility companies.

‘Ah, a return to the dark ages’ I hear some folk say. Absolutely not, these communities could operate like pearls on a string connected via the internet creating a giant forum to share skills and clean technologies.

What the world needs is not just a transition from fossil fuels but a transition from society to community. We need to appropriate material want away from the great single entities who put profit before people and put it where it counts, ethically, in the hands of those fellowships who share common goals to rid the world of poverty and disease.

It is estimated that the cost of environmental damage caused by the worlds largest 3000 companies in 2008 at 2.15 trillion dollars. (Trucost) I always thought a trillion was hyperbole but here it is, and in this case it equates to one third of the combined profits of these companies. Companies who we in the affluent west invest our pension funds. Let us not look to invest in any other entity than our own community. Here you have control and responsibility, here you have the opportunity to share.

This isn’t an argument only for environmentalists this is an argument for us all. Our home is our castle and it sits benignly on the earth. It neither despoils finite resources or fouls the land for future generations. What can your house do for you? It can save the planet.

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By complete coincidence I was talking this morning to our friend Vicente about how I had just started reading the story of the Kontiki expedition. To Vicente it’s a book close to his heart as his grandfather read it to him when he was a child back in Argentina. I remember the fantastic romance of science based adventure as I saw it on TV as a child. In fact I was saying to Vicente ‘where is the science based adventure’? And then suddenly today I came across it, I’ll let them speak for themselves via their web-site…



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Cave Painting

cave painting expedition

Yesterday found my brother and niece, Maxine and I exercising a tip given to us by a local shepherd. We made a short expedition to find some pre-historic cave paintings. Leaving mid morning the going was quite tough, climbing as we were up a steep barranco, the heat from the sun trapped in the narrow gorge. The scramble, as it was, gave some immediate rewards with orchids such as this Dactyorhiza elata (please feel free to correct me if my identification is wrong!)…

cave paintng expedition-orchid

The climb was over limestone screeds populated with pine trees and Kermode and Spanish oaks…

cave painting expedition 2

Maintaining a foot hold was a tricky business but as we ascended the barranco nearing the top we could see our goal…

cave painting expedition-cave mouth

Flora changes at this altitude and it’s great to see one of my favourites growing in the wild. Verbascaum bombisiferum

cave painting expedition-verbascum

At last reaching the cave we found some relief from the heat and sat in the cool cave mouth admiring the view. Maxine seemed to have found some primordial dog instinct that allowed her to sit regally in the cave watching her territory…

cave painting expedition-max

But where were the cave paintings? We searched hard, high and low, looking for indistinct marks in the limestone rock face and at last, there it was…

cave paintin expedition-cave painting

At first we thought it was a fish but then we decided that it must be two figures in some acrobatic activity. If this drawing is contemporary with the drawings in the more famous Cueva de los Letreros and Ambrosia, in this region, then it is over 4000 BC or 6010 years old. This is a drawing from Palaeolithic or Neolithic Andalucian ages. This is from a time before what we consider the age of modern humans, who came from southern France and the eastern Mediterranean.

This artist stood here all those years ago watching natural phenomena such as the East Atlantic Flyway (the north south migration of birds from Africa to Northern Europe), he (or she) considered himself as part of this environment, it’s cycle of life and death.

I like the idea that this artist also decorated his/her own body with the same materials he used to paint the walls of this cave. Archeology in Murcia has located sea shells used for pigment extraction and black manganese. What a creature it must have been and what a great discovery for us.

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Los Gázquez and the Alternative Technology Association of Australia


Here at Los Gázquez we are delighted to have been invited to write an article about our ecology systems for ReNew magazine, the publication of the Australian Alternative Technology Association. It came via association member, and friend of Los Gázquez, Lee along with his partner Merryl. (G’day to you fair folk in Brisbane).

If anyone should be interested in reading the article and the magazine in general (which is very good) you can contact them at If  you would like a copy of the transcript you can contact me via a comment at the end of this post.

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Moon Bows

moon halo

Last night we had  a halo around a three quarter waxing gibbous moon and a sight more beautiful than my photo can possibly describe. It appeared to be an enormous hole in a thin layer of alto cirrus cloud, but could the moon generate enough radiation to evaporate this high altitude moisture? We needed the advice of an expert. So I e-mailed Tristan Gooley (see previous post) this morning and asked for advice…

Hi Simon,
Hard to be certain from one photo, but it looks like a similar phenomenon to a ‘moonbow’. Rainbows, fogbows and moonbows are all arcs, often coloured, caused by reflection and refraction of the light from the sun or moon hitting water particles in the atmosphere.
In this case the moisture may be a thin layer of cirrus cloud. The Arctic Innuit and Pacific islanders have been known to use this effect to forecast bad weather, in western terminology, they can herald an approaching front.

I may be completely wrong though!

best, T

Ah, an approaching front. Let’s check the weather forecast…

approaching front

there it is.  We are where I have put a red dot. The front is moving to the north of us on a warm south westerly wind. This is often why the east coast of Spain is dry, weather systems seem to move to the north of us held at bay by some Mediterranean high pressure.

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Natural Navigation

Friend of Cortijada Los Gázquez, Tristan Gooley (The Natural Navigator) has a new book. He…

blends natural science, myth, folklore and the history of travel to introduce you to the rare and ancient art of finding your way using nature’s own sign-posts, from the feel of a rock to a glance at the moon.

natural navigator book cover

With Tristan’s help, you’ll learn why some trees grow the way they do and how they can help you find your way in the countryside.  You’ll discover how it’s possible to find north simply by looking at a puddle and how natural signs can be used to navigate on the open ocean and in the heart of the city. Wonderfully detailed and full of fascinating stories, this is a glorious exploration of a rediscovered art.

Tristan is the only person to have flown and sailed single handedly across the Atlantic. He is also Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation and Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society. But best of all he is coming to Los Gázquez, (at a point we can find in the diary) I shall let you know when.

Tristan’s insight into the landscape will be a fascinating resource for artists. So if you are interested in coming to Los Gázquez at around the same time please let me know in advance.

I wonder if he will need directions?

You can buy Tristan’s book at this shop here.

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Wanted / Volunteer for ‘green build’ studio

studio 2

Cortijada Los Gázquez is looking for a volunteer who (either with experience or is just keen and able) would like to volunteer to help out with a green build. Naturally board and lodging is on the house and all they would have to do is get themselves here.

The construction will be a modification to an existing building in order to convert it into a second studio for the Joya residency. The construction will be cordwood and cob built within a post and beam type of construction. All materials will be taken from our land.

Expect the experience to be rewarding and hard work with lots of sunshine and good company.

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Cold Snaps

la muela 16.12.09

This was the view at 8.45 this morning having crossed the Sierra Larga through the crunching snow. I guess last night was around -8. Not too cold. We have a client coming from Canada who tells me Edmonton was -30 but then I have a cousin in Deluth, Minnesota who tells me -30 is more comfortable than 0 as there is no moisture in the air. Her husband did his national service in the south of England in the fifties and he says he was never so cold as he was at about 2 degrees.

arco iris 16.12.09

The return journey at 2.30 was a little different. A warm front passed by bringing heavy showers and some sun. We caught some wet vultures in this rainbow but they will be too small for you to see. Now, once more the sky is clear, the stars are out and a strong wind is pushing 30 amps from the wind turbine, gusting up to 50 or 60 putting on the brakes. A solar powered house needs winter wind. Days are short at about 7 hours (considering the sun has to get over the mountains) for photo voltaic panels alone. The house is running at about 50% in terms of it’s power consumption and the wind will keep us running comfortably through the night.

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