Humans and Nature
Plaça de Sencelles o Plaça de Biniali
Humans and Nature
Looking at the landscape of the municipality from a certain height, one can see how the panorama is not continuous but rather interrupted as if it were a mosaic. When the first humans arrived to the Balearic Islands, they encountered a very different landscape from the one we know today. And it is precisely their arrival that is the cause of the landscape´s transformation, either by tilling the land, growing food or overexploiting its resources by extracting firewood or hunting. In this tour, and through the interpretation of the landscape, we are going to see how throughout the centuries the inhabitants of these lands have subsisted from what nature offered them: earth, water, wind, sun and living beings.
When we leave the town center of Sencelles we immediately find ourselves walking between forage fields and flocks of sheep, this has always been and still is a town of livestock tradition. For a long time, men and women from Sencelles have dedicated themselves to the breeding and trade of livestock, mainly sheep, but also pigs, cattle and poultry. Sheep are raised mainly for their meat, but secondary products such as wool, skin, milk and its derivatives are also obtained. As for cattle, oxen and cows are also raised for their meat and milk, but we must not forget that in the past, these animals played an important role in agriculture. Pigs have also played an important role in farming traditions, since there was rarely a family that did not fatten a pig a year for the traditional matanzas, a gathering and slaughtering of the pig. Chickens, ducks and turkeys have been raised for their meat and eggs.
Humans have always collected wild plants and fruits such as blackberries from the bramble (Rubus ulmifolius), asparagus from the asparagus plant (Asparagus acutifolius) or capers from the caper bush (Capparis spinosa). Common chicory (Cichorium intybus) or wild chard (Beta vulgaris) are also used in culinary recipes. Traditional liqueurs like Hierbas Mallorquinas are made from many of these wild plants, found in the countryside such as fennel (Foeniculum vulgaris) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis).
During autumn, we can go mushroom hunting. The most appreciated ones are the bloody milk cap (Lactarius sanguifluus) they grow on the ground under conifers, as do also the blaves (Russula grisea) and the girolles (Cantharellus cibarius) but prefer underneath holm oaks.
Hunting is an old activity that has evolved over time. In its beginnings, humans went out to hunt for food or to trade with the animal’s eggs, feathers or fur. Currently hunting is a regulated sport activity, with the aim of maintaining the balance of ecosystems.
The most hunted species here is the rabbit, partridge and thrush, but also hares, quail, woodcocks and wood pigeons. Among the cultivated fields and garrigue we can easily find rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and hares (Lepus granatensis), which are distinguishable from each other due to the large ears of the hare, topped with a black spot on the tip of its ears, instead those of the rabbit are smaller, rounded and without spots. The partridge (Alectoris rufa) is a sedentary bird that breeds on land and that we can easily find at the end of spring, walking with its young between vineyards and crops. The song thrush (Turdus philomelos), on the other hand, is a migratory bird that visits us during the fall and winter. All these species are appreciated in our gastronomy and are part of typical dishes such as arroz brut (a rice dish with meat) or rabbit with onion. Another highly appreciated animal in our gastronomy is the snail, which, although is not really part of a hunting activity, is captured by snail hunters on rainy days.
Majestic towers lie in wait for the winds of the Tramuntana, recalling the past time in which wind energy put its machinery in motion. Flour mills, thanks to its clean and renewable energy, made it possible to produce flour, a staple of the people’s diet, from cereals grown in the municipality. Wind was also used to extract water from wells and irrigate crops thanks to water windmills.
Currently, at a time when the overexploitation of resources and globalization is the order of the day, we should look back to take examples of these ancient ways of subsistence and exploitation, based on nature, proximity, sustainability and self-sufficiency.
Agriculture could be considered the art of cultivating the land. In the past, the economy of the town of Sencelles was based on this art, mainly the cultivation of vines, but also cereals, almond and fig trees.
Fig trees (Ficus carica) were cultivated to harvest their fruit, figs could be consumed dry or ripe, traded or given to the pigs to fatten them before the matanzas, traditional slaughter time. For this reason we find large fig trees in the surroundings of our district. It would be rare to find a fig tree in flower, since it is hidden inside the fig itself. What we do enjoy is the flowering of the almond trees (Prunus dulcis), another one of the main cultivated trees that grow in our municipality. It has the particularity to bloom before putting out its leaves, and paints our winter landscapes with its white and pink flowers. It is cultivated for its fruit, the almond, which consists of different parts, the shell called the mesocarp and the endocarp contains the seed inside, which is the edible part. Cereal fields are also part of our landscape, wheat (Triticum spp.), oats (Avena sativa), barley (Hordeum vulgare) or rye (Secale cereale), are currently grown to feed livestock.
In a town with a winemaking tradition like Sencelles, it is not surprising to find ourselves walking amongst vineyards, with views of the Sierra de Tramuntana in the background.
The vine (Vitis vinifera) is a deciduous plant, which can reach 25 m in height, but we usually see it in the form of a bush, since it is pruned annually to facilitate the harvest of its fruit, the grape. The clusters are green or black berries, depending on the variety, which allow us to make a drink that is very present in our culture, wine. The vine is a plant that blooms between the months of May to June, and during the summer the ripening of the fruits takes place up until September, the harvesting known as the vendimia (grape harvest) begins at this time of the year.
Have you ever wondered why rose bushes are planted in vineyards? Well, the rosebush acts as an indicator of the presence of powdery mildew (Oidium tuckeri) in case this fungus appears on the wine grape. This fungus can cause serious diseases in the vineyard, but luckily given the choice, it prefers to infect the rosebush before the grapes!
Water is an essential resource for the survival of all living beings on the planet. It is the source of life, an essential element without which humans could not survive, and a basic element for the development of agriculture.
Within our landscape there still exist testimonial elements of how humans extracted water from the aquifers of our municipality. Between the orchards and cultivated fields we often come across sinies (waterwheels) that were moved by animal traction by initiating the mechanism that would fill the buckets with water. Reservoirs and ponds were responsible for storing water that would later be responsible for watering crops, fruit trees and vegetables. In addition, in the houses the rainwater was collected in water cisterns, which would be used for human consumption.