The way to Finisterre goes through a lot of little villages which still keep their traditional character, where some buildings which have lost their original functionality but which are part of our identity. That is the case of the mills, Galician raised granaries (called ´Hórreos), “eiras de mallar” or ovens associated to bread making, which was the centre of everyday life activities in little villages, since that was the main nourishment in rural areas in Galicia. Many of these constructions and tools used in bread making were made of wood; and even the bread was originally made with the fruits of the trees.

PEFC main goal is to promote and keep the drain effect of forests stands and their wood products in the long term. 

Eiras de mallar
Horreos
The ovens
THE ROLE OF PEFC
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Bread was the main food in Galician society for a long time. Even nowadays, its value as a gastronomic product is internationally recognised.

At the beginning, bread was made of chestnuts or acorns flour which were collected in chestnut groves, oak groves or cork oak groves. Later, they started to make rye bread, and also millet bread (“mijo” in Spanish). In the XVII century a new cereal from America is introduced, corn (“maíz” in Spanish) which finally prevailed. The new cereal substituted the previous ones completely, changing our diet and it was even called the same way: corn (millo) .To differentiate them, the previous cereal was called thin millet (millo miúdo).

In Ozón you can see some of these buildings associated to this process of bread making:

  • In the eiras (plots), the cereal was beaten in order to separate the straws from the ear of corns.
  • In the hórreos (Galician raised granary) the cereal was kept.
  • And, once the cereal tuned into flour, the bread was baked in the ovens.

In your next stop, in the little village of Os Muíños, you can visit the mills where the cereal was grinded to make the bread flour. 

Some of these buildings were for private use, but many of them were managed by a community. In general terms, the rural area in Galicia was built by communities.

Eiras de mallar 

The “eiras de mallar”are circular or rectangular spaces located in a flat plot covered with a soil or stone surface.

Source: Carme Toba Trillo

All the neighbours gathered there to beat the corn, which separated the straws (used as fodder for the cattle) from the grain of the cereal (which was grinded to make the bread flour); but the “eiras” were also used to dry field beans, oat,…or to whiten the beeswax used to candles manufacturing.

The beating started spreading out the grains of the dry cereal on the floor, in lines, with all the ears of the corns in the same direction. This should be done early in the morning, so the cereal was getting warm in the sun (asoleábase) and the ears opened due to the heat. Then, they were beaten with a wood stick (mallo) which had another articulated stick hanging (pértigo), joined by a leather strap. After the first beating, they flipped the grains over and did the same.

It was a communal task which included rites, customs and parties. However, with time the wooden tools were substituted by machines which were going around the villages and charging services per hour, what implied the disappearance of this task.

Horreos

The horreos (Galician raised granaries) were used to store and dry the cereal; but they were also used to keep garlic and onions, and to cure cheese, chorizo, fat and ham. For this reason, they are located in raised and well ventilated places, so the air current could favour the food to dry and cure.  Logically, many of them are found next to the “eiras de mallar”.

There are different types of “hórreos”, the same way as mills, according to their shape, the material used to build them or the structure used to avoid direct contact with the soil (reducing humidity). Depending on the areas, the characteristics are different; and even in the same area, there can be multiple combinations. In the eastern territory of Galicia you can still see circular “hórreos”, but in the west they are mainly rectangular. When you leave Compostela, the hórreos were made of wood, but here you can see they are made of stone; and in the limit between Negreira with Dumbría and Mazaricos where you can appreciate a transition from one type to the other. The reason is the weather, since this area is much more humid, so wood would imply a bigger effort to maintain it in good condition.

Horreo – Ozón

Horreo – Ponte Maceira

In general, the hórreos stand on straight feet, on a celeiro (a closed base), on a cepa (a solid base) or on transverse walls. On this structure, there is the “tornarratos”, which can be one or one piece per foot, and whose purpose is to avoid mice to enter the hórreo and eat the food. The chamber (storage) is always full of cracks so the air current can circulate; it is about 2’5m high and 1’5m wide, but the length depends on the financial situation of the owner: The biggest , the most purchasing power, and the one in the Mosteiro de Ozónis one of the biggest in Galicia. The longest walls are called “costais” and the access door is usually located there, which could be reached with a fixed or movable ladder. The shortest walls are the “penais” and they are usually crowned by “lampións” (pinnacles) or crosses, used as decoration and protection. It has a gabled roof, made of tiles, the same as the houses. 

The ovens

After the grinding of the grain in the mills, the bread dough is made (flour, water and salt). It should settle for a few hours in the “artesa”, a big container made of wood, usually with four legs and a cover, narrower in the bottom than in the top part. After that, the dough goes to the oven, made with some slabs (“lar”) over them, a stone chamber with a vault of about 1’5-2’2m diameter lays down. A 0’5 x 0’5m little opening is left to put the dough in the oven, which was closed with a sealed slab with a mixture of cow excrements and water. Three hours later, the bread is ready, so it can be taken out the oven with a long wooden shovel.

If the oven is private, it is usually a stone enclosure with shed roof which is put against one of the facades of the house or some of the buildings around the house (for example, the shed). You can also find it inside the house. 

If the oven is for the use of the community, it will be an isolated structure with gabled roof (similar to the mill), located in an accessible place for all the neighbours. In this case, every family unity has a specific number of backings assigned, every neighbour need to use their own wood and they must leave it clean after using it.

Applying some modifications, there were ovens for potters and tile makers too, in order to make mud containers and tiles, respectively.

The role of PEFC

Forests stands and their products are characterised by their ability to keep carbon. A forestry management which tends to generate products with an extended life cycle or substitutes of other more polluting products, multiplies this effect.

PEFC main goal is to promote and keep the drain effect of forests stands and their wood products in the long term. 

Wood products can be a huge carbon depot. The CO2 absorbed by a tree stays in the wood; if we use wood we stop using other materials which emit a lot in their manufacturing and don’t keep CO2; moreover, we can reuse and recycle wood goods, increasing their lifetime.

“Hórreos”, utensils, farming tools, furniture… they are carbon depots.

Using wood products we contribute to climate change mitigation. Moreover, we should make sure they have a sustainable origin, so when you see a PEFC label that means that the forestry material of the product comes from a forest managed according environmental, social and economic requirements which are very strict.

One of the simplest ways you can help to protect our forests is choosing products with a PEFC label. 

Household products: From toilet roll to kitchen tools, envelopes and rags. Doing a picnic or a party? Plates, glasses, tablecloths, straws…Getting the kids ready for school? Pencils, notebooks, folders, sheets…

Furniture: Wardrobes, shelves, tables, chairs, photo frames, garden furniture…

DIY: cupboards in your kitchen, a new shed in your garden? 

Fashion: A lot of clothes and textile products are made of fabrics which come from trees. 

Packaging: Even if the product you are buying doesn’t come from the forest…. check the packaging! Cereal and fruit boxes or tea bags, rice.

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Initiative promoted by the program “O teu Xacobeo” of the Xunta de Galicia