The morning of January 1st, 2012 we woke up in the remote Northern reaches of Patagonia poised to host an 8 week
permaculture course/internship. Ranquilco was a wild place, way off the beaten track, six hours by horse to the nearest pueblito. It was a place of harsh dryness in our surroundings yet on the shelf above the Trocoman River stood an oasis; lush green with abundant water. This seemed to be the prevailing theme of Ranquilco abundance and scarcity intertwined in a tornado of personal growth and transformation for TreeYo. Drinking the bitter Yerba Mate in the morning from a gourd, eating freshly caught trout caught on the coffee can reel, and an asado con baile (BBQ and dance) with the gauchos. The lessons learned from the horses and gauchos might have been the greatest lesson of all. Learning from those who live in the hills close to the land is a priceless gift. The laugh of Manny and Danny, the lasso skills, and the ability to prepare and grill meat to perfection- what a treat!!!!!!!
Once this view was seen, me and Eva began to travel in a land that we both came to love known to the world as Chile. With its
Avocado plantations like corn fields in the midwest of the states,
Chile had abundant agriculture and some fun sites to see. The port town of Valpairiso boasted great street art and some eclectic culture to match this university town. Once the visa was renewed and some rest taken on the beach in Papudo, we visited Shamballa Permaculture once we crossed the Andes and then flowed into the Central region around Cordoba. Shamballa was a great experience to see Natural Buildings and get some more hands-on experience with this technique and meet new people. It was a unique context as this climatic zone of Sub-tropical with warm, rainy and humid summers followed by cold and dry winters with a few faint frost provided another climate in our repertoire. This spilled over into our North American adventures and became a greater ingrained vision for Eva: to build with the natural materials that abound!!!!!
Thus places to visit and work at for the summer were deliberated greatly as our time in Ranquilco had eliminated the possibility really to line up summer gigs because we were disconnected. There was an original intention to start developing the land at the family land known as Crouch’s Treasure Lake in Northern Kentucky, USA. Thus we built a cob oven to test the waters of camping on the land and really seeing what it would be like to live there in that community and in the context of living in the shadows of a coal fired power plant in one of the most beautiful places in the bio-region. We gave the site a bit of intention though and scouting out since the construction of buildings is the next true phase of implementation.
With the lake being an earthen dam and the receding waters of this
year’s Midwest drought, pure clay was able to be harvested and combined with other natural materials from the lake and the surroundings. It yielded a nice brownish-red earthen color to our mass and plaster with using a local pure slate grey clay pigment to create beautiful accentuations to honor local energies. It was tough conditions with the heat waves but it successfully yielded more insight towards what we did and didn’t know about natural building. That took us on a road trip to Oxford, Michigan, USA to the Strawbale Studio where Eva eventually stayed for some time to be apart of a longer natural building course. It was great to see what others had done in the bio-region and gave us some inspiration for design back out at the lake in Kentucky.
From there the summer of fun really kicked in with returning to Portugal and our longest running host site for PDC’s: Escola Da
Terra and Terra Alta. This year marked our first full PDC at Terra Alta and the switch to a purely rural residential course. We added new camping areas by making terraces in the charming cork forest and a community kitchen and new composting toilet to facilitate the full course on site. It really changed the site and in the course and beyond we were able to alter Terra Alta for the better both physically and socially. Keyholes have modified the earthworks, compost extracts have been spread to accelerate succession, food forest layers inserted, and communal agreements reached. It really stands to be a fantastic host site for the future and brings me to joy to know that i will return soon in 2013. Furthermore in my time in Europe in the fall of 2012 I was able to forge connections with multiple projects in Portugal, in the North of Italy, and conjure new possibilities through my network in Barcelona.
Finally, with a failed course in Borneo yielding a unexpected window of time, a serendipitous new relationship of cooperation sprang up with Taino Farm in the north coastal region of the
Dominican Republic. The end of the year marked another unique format for learning and giving back to the host site with continued implementation work. This time we choose an extended introduction with an informal design period for those who could stay over the holiday period. As we design as a group I am designing individually to fulfill my mission here of site design and development. In just these days that have recently passed, our papaya sponge designs are morphing from not just circles but to canals and figure eights to resonate strongly with the landform. Its good fun digging and working alongside friends and campesino’s- so much to learn and share with others here. I look forward to the coming year of more travels, more courses, more digging and smiling!!!!!!!!