Sept 2012: Weekend Food Forest at Terra Alta, Portugal

Coming off the thrill and excitement of the summer PDC at Terra Alta, we decided to host a two-day workshop on food forests to keep the energy going and cycle some of the profits from that course back into the site.  It is an example of the fair share ethic and taking care of both people and earth through planting the resilient and harmonizing system that is known as a food forest.  Thus we embarked in a quick sharing in comparison to the marathon that is the two-week PDC.

Karsten watering in the avocado guild w

This course featured a new set of teachers with Karsten Hinrichs, a former student contributing lots of pre-course and course support.  His expertise on food forests, plant propagation, and worm-bin recycling came through during and before the course.  His enthusiasm and Tree Peter’s wisdom added quite a lot to myself and Pedro’s already well-developed relationship.  Having the many hands allowed us to have such success with the planting of many of the top layers of the food forest and the lower layers that fill out the guilds.  It was really amazing to see the power of a team, the teaching team working together to find the rhythm to lead the participants in real action to make this planet a better place.

Thus the course was a great way to accelerate the succession and evolution of the site as we inserted tremendous amounts of biodiversity. It still has quite some time to go with developing the guilds further but because we choose to propagate many plants for the upcoming rainy season, then we save money and energy because we did it ourselves and we have not as much to water until the beginning of the rain.  This will really increase the resiliency of the site as the bees will have more fodder, the ground will have more shade, the trees will have mini-wind breaks and most importantly entropy through the lack of photosynthetic energy being accomplished at a multitude of levels will be negated.  This is one of the Mediterranean’s true problems with the lack of proper healing of forests with destruction of ecosystems and fish and wildlife populations through overgrazing, clear cutting forest, stream channelizations, use of agro-chemicals, and on and on.  Food forests are a great way to regenerative this negative spiral and when we use all the inherent layers of the forest we maximize energy conversion on planet earth.

Feijoa going in near a water way with keyhole access, great sub-tropical winter fruit, hardy wind break, great bee fodder, hardy tree, permaculture all-star

Furthermore, some might say it was a bit early in the year for a forest garden course, but i feel it was an appropriate time based on past experience.  I know it was early but a great forest garden just a few minutes away from Terra Alta was planted out in mid-summer a few years back and I have a hypothesis that if you plant while soil temps are still up, the new roots can become established even more thoroughly before the next dry season some months later.  That forest garden preformed very well this year with no supplemental irrigation.  And since the source is still pumping out water, why not, eh?

Plant List

  • Avocado
  • White Sapote
  • Anona (Cherimoya)
  • Feijoa
  • Citrus: Lime, Tangerine, and Orange
  • Diospyrus Kaki (Asian Persimmon)
  • Peach
  • Apricot
  • Almond
  • Eleagnus
  • Hazel
  • Tamarillo
  • Berries- Goji, raspberries- red, golden, trailing, and blueberries
  • Pepino Dulce
  • Passion fruit
  • Alder
  • Lower layers such as oregano, sage, comfrey, cana lily, lemongrass, agapanthus, new zealand spinach, nasturtiums,Rue, rosemary, lavender, and mints

WHAT’S NEXT, Well lets look to the past

So we will be adding in the posts and trellis for the kiwi’s at the very entrance of the camino das fadasto create a portal for that

Us recapping the mediterranean area where we are using Goji berry to fill that trailing and vining habitat to fill in time and space and provide food and habitat

area.  Having had the ability to see how the forest is regenerating with vines and brambles of all sorts in the surrounding lands, i think having vines clambering the corks and trailing raspberries festooning is a great option. So much work needs to be done on inserting that layer back in as when Terra Alta was settled once again by Pedro and Rita a couple of years ago the blackberries and vines had invaded to protect the land and build soil.  We must use that lesson as a way forward, only a few fruit trees here and there died from that, but not the corks so we must work to re-create the orderly, but at first glance chaotic, stream of energy that this patch of forest used to build soil.  We will continue to add some dwarf fruit trees in the raised bed area and keep trying to source rare trees and bushes like Chilean guava or Chilean Hazel.  The other big addition over the next six months before the dry starts again is the nitrogen fixers.  Karsten has been commissioned to begin raising hundreds of them so filling in the large gaps of space so that we can stack with time and space is well on its way.   Of course we will be adding the aforementioned dry-hardy guild plants.  We have more earthworks to do on the Camino das Fadas so the last elements of the design can go in such as more anonas and Tamarillo’s but also creating more access and bed space for perennial or annual vegetables.  We hope the whole place is overflowing with food in the years to come both short and long-term though using the layers.

the bare root holding pond that is attached to the herb spiral

Overall, the course was a great way to unite with the wider Permaculture movement in Portugal and reconnect with some past students as there was students from 5 of our 6 PDC’s in Portugal.  Permaculture is mostly about people and if it were not for people none of these trees would have been planted.  75 years from now, some traveller will stumble upon the patch and be very thankful for the group they will never know, but I do, and I can only simply say Thanks.  

2 Comments on “Sept 2012: Weekend Food Forest at Terra Alta, Portugal

  1. Entropy, yes! Energy lost in matter while loosing it’s order. True? I remember that conversation at the pond. Thank you, my friend 🙂

    One thing that Doug is wanting to show us, without saying it directly is that the Forest and of course all that is Nature, is the teacher. When you are in a Forest, you are inside the teacher.
    So maybe, as homework my dear children you can spend some time in nature or forest and just try to get a feel of it. What is it doing? What has it looked before? What will it look in a few years from now? Train you “Pattern Eye”. You will be amazed on how much Mother Nature has to show to you!

    What is being implemented in Terra Alta is almost an exact copy of what nature would do in the next 30 years to reach Climax again, just with all our functional plants (more like an All-You-Need-Forest). Permaculture designers would try it in 3 years. If all permaculture principles are applied and all the energy is flowing to the site, it is possible.

    Just one more thing I would love to share from a conversation I had with Pedro and Doug, before yesterday.
    The 15th of this month, a massive protest took place in Portugal.1 million people went to the streets of to show their unhappiness. Very nice!
    What were we doing? Planting trees?
    Imagine all these people planting trees! How long does it take to plant a tree? 5 minutes, maybe a little more? How many trees and plants could there be planted in one day by all these people? What if they would have spent their money that they needed to go to that protest in buying and planting trees?

    There is “Contra War” and “Pro Peace”. What is better?
    If they don’t give a damn about Troika like they say, why do they have to tell “them”????
    Just do what you have to do! Replant Portugal with food! If there is food, there is wealth!
    So please, go to Health and Fruit yourself.


    Peace, Love and Fruit,

  2. Permaculture in Portugal! My wife and I live in Cascais and would love to be invited to the next Food Forest Workshop in Almocageme. Is there a mailing list that we can sign up to be alerted to the next event?
    To Karsten: I agree with what you say about the protests. Its easier for people to complain than to do something productive. Too many people want instant results, with out putting in any effort, so they protest. Real and positive change takes time and lots of effort.

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