Permaculture Projects

Juicing Grapes, Birds in and Around the Gardens and Moth Trapping

The Polyculture Project - Week 23

More harvesting and processing this week as we slip into the Autumn. It’s cooled down but still very sunny and dry here with average day time temperatures in the mid 20 C. This week we’re pleased to welcome Rowan to the project and my brother and his family who have been travelling around Europe over the summer. My brother Peter has been surveying the Moth populations in the gardens and has been continuing his ongoing survey of bird life in the area. You can find Peter’s blogging on the trip here.

So here’s what we’ve been up to this week in the gardens.



Moth Trapping

Peter brought along his moth surveying equipment and has been setting the traps up in three of the project gardens Aponia, Apathia and Ekpyrosis (see garden locations here)


Here’s a photo of the moth trap in the home garden, Apatheia. The trap works by attracting the moths to a box with a lamp during the night. There are openings in the box that the moths crawl into.


Once in the box there are number of empty egg cartoons and the moths settle into the various nooks and crannies!


In the morning you can open the box and look through the cartoons to identify what has settled.

Pete places the species in pots for a closer look, takes a portrait and releases the moths. Here’s a selection of just a few of the moth species recorded in the gardens. For moth names and more photos see Pete’s blog here.


Grape Harvest and Juice Making

Our Vitis vinifera cv. – Grape  vines have done very well this year in all of the gardens. Last week we harvested approx. half of the fruit for juicing. Providing there is not a lot of rainfall, and day time temperature remains above 20 C, the grapes will continue to sweeten. Personally I prefer a slight sourness to the juice but if you are making wine it’s best to leave them on the vines until the end of September to increase the sugar content.


Here is some of the harvest, washed and ready for crushing.


First the grapes are put through the mangle (yellow tool on the right) after which the separated juice is poured into a container as seen here by Martin and Rowan.


The crushed grapes are then put into the press where the rest of the juice is pressed from the crushed fruits. We’ll then sieve the juice as we pour it into bottles and the fruit matter is put on the compost pile.  I would estimate we ended up with at least 40+ L of juice from this first harvest.


Another abundant fruit this time of year are Ficus carica cv. – Fig. There are only so many figs you can eat in a day but fortunately figs are super easy to dry and taste just as good, if not better. Fig cultivar  ‘Michurniska 10’ are excellent for drying being small and sweet and in a dry summer you can dry many of the figs on the tree. Drying figs is really easy, just cut them in half and leave in the oven overnight at 55 C or better still in the window of your car parked in the sun. For much more info all about figs check our previous post here.

You can find a range of hardy fig cultivars from our bionursery available for delivery from November – April


Garden Wildlife

This time of year you are most likely to see European mantis – Mantis religiosa. They are busy mating and laying their egg cases that we often find on the underside of rocks and boulders in the gardens. They are predators of many types of insects, including flies, moths, grasshoppers, crickets and aphids (when very young).  Mantids will also feed on some beneficial insect species but are very welcome in the gardens.


What I think is Argiope bruennichi – Wasp spider is a common resident in the marker garden often spinning up impressive orb webs between the tomato plants. As with most spiders they are generalist predators and will eat whatever happens to find their way into the web. When prey is caught in the web, Argiope bruennichi will immobilise the prey by wrapping it in silk, then it will inject a paralysing venom after which it will proceed to dine.

Our house cat Cynthia unfortunately is a masterful hunter and each week brings us various trophies such as lizards, slow worms and dragonflies. This week she arrived with a juvenile Red Back Shrike. These birds are excellent pest predators and often hunt in our garden. For many years I have observed a mating pair of shrikes in the garden training their young in the art of the hunt but it seems the hunter has become the hunted. The bird was still alive and we attempted to nurse it back to health but it did not make it.



Birds in and Around the Gardens

Some of the technology we have available today to record, monitor and understand wildlife is incredible. eBird is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year by eBirders around the world. My brother has been contributing to a list of the birds in and around the project gardens here in Shipka. So far there have been 104 species recorded.  You can find the list here 

Here are some photos of some birds from our area taken last week by Peter Alfrey

Gray-headed Woodpecker – Picus canus


 Juvenile Montagu’s Harrier – Circus pygargusa, a common bird of prey in our location


A pair of Black Storks – Ciconia nigra


Juvenile Lesser Kestrel – Falco naumanni


Red-backed Shrike – Lanius collurio with Black Field Cricket


Eurasian Nuthatch – Sitta europaea perched on Prunus cerasifera – Cherry Plum


Spotted Flycatcher – Muscicapa striata perched on Cydonia oblonga – Quince



Paul Alfrey

Hi I'm Paul, Originally from the UK I moved over to Bulgaria with my family 12 years ago and set up the Balkan Ecology Project. Prior to that, I worked as a freelance Arborist in the UK for 15 years. Balkan Ecology Project is a family project run by myself, Sophie and our two boys Dylan and Archie, and supported by the amazing volunteers we have hosted here over the years. We aim to develop and promote practices that provide nutritious affordable food while enhancing biodiversity and work to achieve this by: - Researching, designing and implementing systems on the ground - Providing working examples of our designs at our sites open for the public to visit - Providing quality education and training to aspiring growers and landscapers - Providing consultancy and design for landowners and farmers across Europe - Practicing an open source policy, whereby we disseminate our results freely and share all aspects of our work - Growing, selling and promoting the use of plants and plant communities that have high ecological and nutritional value Our activities currently include: Biological Plant Nursery, Educational Courses, Local Land Stewardship, Polyculture Research, Market Gardening​, and Consultancy and Design.

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