One day, I was at home with my family, wife and two daughters, watching TV, when there is a report on the sustainability of consumption on our planet and the urgency of making new purchasing decisions, more environmentally friendly, choosing products that do not destroy our fauna or our flora. We have little time to save our planet.
My cork came to mind and I questioned in my mind how we used cork on cork stoppers, bags, chocolates packed in Dulicy cork, on the flooring of houses and not to spoil cork oaks in any way? Would the use of cork really be environmentally friendly?
I decided to share this thought with my family at that moment. Everyone got a little thoughtful, and i quickly said to my daughter:
Oh, Dad! How is cork produced?
– It’s not produced, it’s taken from the tree!
I mean, really? – questioned quickly with an air of astonishment.
You’ve never seen a daughter? You asked my wife.
– No, Mom, they never showed me…!
The little one was right. My wife and I looked at each other and it was decided at that moment that we would have to show her…
Oh, Mom, we have to show you! You answered the older one.
Let’s go, let’s go Come on, Mom?
– yes, dad and I are going to take care of it…
I arranged with my wife for the weekend that was already approaching we will get to know a little more our cork oaks and breathe fresh Alentejo air. We communicated that same night to the girls and the enthusiasm was immediate for both of us. They both began to combine what they wanted to see and experience.
I was very happy that the little ones had enthusiasm for nature and wanted to experience this magnificent planet. And we only have this one, and we have to preserve it.
The day came long for everyone, with the bags ready the day before, we took off towards Évora, where we would spend the night. It was quick the trip from the municipality of Peniche to our destination, but we saw with the passing kilometers the diversity of landscape that this country has to offer to those who are willing to visit and to insole all the paths so unique and unique that run through it.
We took care of all the logistics, like the bags and we went to fill the void in our stomachs, which were already signaling. After lunch, we made our way and headed towards Alcáçovas and explore the landscapes.
We’ve walked a few miles and at one point my youngest daughter says quite loudly:
Look, Dad! Look, Dad! Are those cows on the right?
– Yes, there are many, a huge herd. – I answered quickly to confirm what she had seen.
Let’s see, let’s see! – almost the little one ordered it.
I looked at my wife and she with the look confirmed the request. I parked the car on the side of the road and we got the four of them out safely. We head to where the cows were so that we could have a closer contact and feel their grandeur. As we approached we were feeling the size and grandeur of these magnificent animals.
I noticed the eyes of the elder who was amazed at everything she was seeing and experiencing, how nature stirs all our senses and the richness it gives us in spiritual and emotional terms.
One of the cows came near us, but almost as if by reflection, we all took a step back. It seemed like she was curious about what she was seeing and wanted us to see better to get an exact picture of what she was seeing. He had a sweet, cuddly air, looking like he wanted a little party. Although it seems tame and we have a fence to protect ourselves, we didn’t want to risk it right away without having more confidence in the animal’s reaction.
Suddenly you hear a thick voice, it was certainly from a man, who said:
– Don’t be afraid, the cow won’t hurt you.
We were surprised by the appearance of this gentleman, who appeared without realizing it. We looked around and spotted a man in a black hat with a brim, with a mustache, white shirt, black vest, black pants and a staff in his right hand, faithful companion in the walks through the fields. A typical Alentejo man.
Added the man who appeared suddenly:
– They’re very curious, like visitors and being close to us. You can throw a party on your head, it won’t hurt you.
My little daughter realized you were talking to her.
Without allowing any comment, asked us:
Are they lost around here?
No, my wife replied, we came to know this part of the country better and see the cork and cork in particular. We want to show the girls why consuming cork is being environmentally friendly and we don’t need to shoot down the cork oaks to get it.
But what a beautiful idea you had, man replied.
– You just happened to come at the right time, because I have men right now doing the decor. You want to see it?
Can we? – He asked the older one.
That would be spectacular.
Yes, yes… almost ordered the little one.
We all agreed, obviously, since that was the purpose of this trip.
And there we went, guided by the Alentejo man to the cork oaks where we already worked to do the decoring (art of removing cork from the cork oak). After a few minutes we reached the cork oaks, where we saw several men scattered around the field. As we approached one of the workers, with an axe in his hands and making a cut on the cork oak, he asked the little one:
– Oh staff man, is this gentleman cutting down the tree?
We all laughed at the way the little girl called the Alentejo man “lord of the staff.”
Smiling, the man on the staff replied:
– No, my dear, you’re not cutting the cork oak, don’t worry. Rodrigues (the worker who was making the small cut on the cork oak) is doing the first step of the process of removing the cork from the tree, with a vertical cut. This phase is called “Open.” I don’t know if you know, but removing the cork in the right way has six steps. Do you know what they are? You asked the man on the staff.
-No!- my daughters replied in unison.
So stay with me on this tour and you’re going to see with your eyes what they are. Follow me.
And there we went, another 7 trees ahead we saw another worker, dressed in a blue monkey suit, was putting the blade of the axe between the cork and the cork oak and pushing it to take off from the tree. When we arrived, the staff lord said:
Good afternoon, Antonio.
Good afternoon, Sir. Manuel. Mr. Antonio.
We learned at that moment the name of the man on the staff. There had not yet been an opportunity to ask him his name.
– Antonio is separating cork from cork oak, it is called this stage “separate”. You cleared up Mr. Manuel explaining what we were seeing.
But my daughter went on and called by the same name she had in her head. I was even a little embarrassed when his name came out again.
-Oh staff man, after you open and separate, what do you do next?
I’m sorry, mr. Manuel smiled again and made a tender facial expression, apologizing the expression of the little one and replied:
– Look, next comes the plotting phase.
– And what’s the trace?
Mr. Manuel answered promptly, as if he were already waiting for the question. -It is delimit with a cut on the tree horizontally the size of the cork plank that is being extracted from the cork oak. In fact, the bigger the board, the more value it has. We have to be careful when taking the board out so as not to break, calling itself at this stage, to extract. Isidoro, right there in the tree to your left, is what he’s doing. Look at the care and delicacy with which he is performing the task. He has a lot of experience and continues to do very carefully.
Let’s wait a little longer, and we’ll see Isidoro take the next step.
We walked to mr. Isidoro while he was extracting the board. When we got close to him, we greeted him.
Good morning Isidoro, said Mr. Manuel.
Good morning, mr. Manuel, greeted back Mr. Isidoro.
– I’m here to show this family how we extract cork. I see you’re going to the fifth stage, right? Yes, sir. Manuel. I’m going to start right now. I’m going to take the axe and with the eye (back of the blade) I’m going to hit the cork oak shims.
As soon as my youngest daughter sees this move, she asks:
-Oh Lord of the Staff, why is Mr. Isidoro hitting the tree? He asked the little one with a sad air.
I’m sorry, mr. Manuel smiled and clarified my daughter’s worried mind.
-Look princess, Mr. Isidoro is just giving a few slight blows to the cork oak shims to scare away some pets that may be there. And you know what this new phase is called? Mr. Manuel asked the little one.
No, she said.
It’s called the take-off phase.
– As you have seen, to have cork not fall the trees, but rather, we preserve and take care of them. It’s one of the most environmentally friendly raw materials. If you buy cork, you’re helping nature and our planet.
Meanwhile the older one turns her head to her right and sees numbers written on some trees and asks?
– Mr. Manuel, why do they put numbers in the trees?
“You’re very attentive, girl,” Mr. Manuel replied. And he kept explaining. Look, the marking with the numbers is the last phase. In each cork oak is marked with the numbering of the last digit of the year in which the cork was extracted.
So if you have 9, that means it was 2019, right? You asked my eldest daughter.
– Exactly, I see you’re very good at math. Mr Manuel replied with a smile.
– I am too, answered promptly the little one, also wanting some compliments for her.
It was the general laugh.
I’m sure you did, mr. Manuel, laughing with laughter. So if math is good, here’s a challenge for both of you. Do girls know how many times the cork oak can be uncorbed during their long life?
My little one put her right hand on her chin, a sign that she was thinking hard about an answer.
All of a sudden. You hear a female voice, which says:
– Oh Manuel that….