A network is an interesting pattern in nature. Nodes that lay dormant can become ignited at anytime and spark a revival and reunion. This just happened to me as a recent email from an old friend back in New
Zealand in 2008 propelled me to the beautiful and mountainous country of Slovakia in Eastern Europe. A cook on a course that i assisted on at the intentional community on the northern reaches of the south island, Tui, Hanna recently wrote about teaching a PDC at the land she stewards of 18 HA within a larger project. Its an interesting landscape so to speak, a community within a mountain village in Central Slovakia. Hanna is from the Czech Republic and has been living at this community shortly after she left New Zealand. In need of a PDC teacher, she reached out to me and voila i did a prep trip there to do consulting and organize the course.
The land, Sekier, is an extension of the communities educational endeavors with her and her partner running a program where four people from the European Voluntary Service (EVS) come and become immersed in rural Slovakian life on a farm. The site has a beautiful physical landscape as it is at the very top of the watershed with the dividing ridge being the property line. The site is a mix of forest and meadow with the meadow landscape being cherished by the government so much that it puts subsidies towards leaving it at this level of succession. Whether its hay or grazing animals, if you keep the fast growing and encroaching forest at bay the government sees this as an asset. It’s interesting when doing a permaculture design because of invisible structures such as these meadow subsidies as you push more towards forest gardens and orchards, tree belts and windbreaks and also developing a savanna like landscape to bring the diversity to the landscape to make it more resilient.
The landscape is fairly gentle for its tall hill look with the site being over 800 m (2700ft) . The hills rarely drop with a steepness making it unworkable and the land feels fairly open. At first look the soils seem extremely productive but the black color is deciving, the silts of the base rock andesite rather than from hummus. Moreover, the whole 18 HA seems to roll and fold in a gentle way that makes water harvesting, tree planting, and grazing all doable. These are some of the goals sites and it is what i was there to help with; land design. The climate and overall landscape is similar to back in the states where I grew up (Southern Ohio) but with gentler summers since this site is so elevated. Winters are harsh and long and I even got to touch snow again this winter which i didn’t think was going to happen until Hanna called me. It was melting which is why it was a quick decision to come so that the observation of this stored precipitation and its subsequent late winter melting could be seen to help with decisions on water harvesting. It was nice to be back in the dirty brown, grey landscape during March as it is what i am used to from my Ohio heritage. Portugal is green as can be right now but a bit of the edge of wanting to visit my stateside life was alleviated.
Along the way i got to know the rhythm of the place which was nice. I was well hosted by Hanna and her partner Arvid in their lovely strawbale tiny house. It was always warm and the insulation was definitely working as the wood stove was on but mostly for only cooking purposes. Furthermore, we ate lots of good eastern european local and fusion healthy food along the way. i even had sauerkraut soup for the first time which was absolutely delicious! They both are big fermenters and the kitchen was very alive with things soaking, sourdough bread working and baking, and kefir drinking being copious. My favorite breakfast was the oats dish with a fresh geese egg that was fried sunny side up to perfection and showed its double yoke. What a treat and in tradition I had beer with it for breakfast!
We also had the chance to plan our 2 week PDC that will be run in late August early September. I really feel like this a good destination for the course and we will enjoy plenty of local foods and the like. we have some nice excursions planned and i look forward to exploring more the area. Most importantly i can see that with more education the local ecovillage can benefit for sure. I did some sprout up consulting at another location in the village and those few permaculture tricks that are needed were quite obvious. I hope to impart them on this community and the larger community that will form for those two weeks. It was nice being back in the east, a different language, a different culture, and well a different rhythm. For now its back to work in the west, West Coast of Europe- Sintra, Portugal, Terra Alta.
possible Field Excursions pictures below and click here for the course page!