July 2009: 1st 2 week PDC at Escola da Terra, Portugal

Escola da Terra 2 Week PDC I- Sintra, Portugal, July 2009

the thriving sustainable school project  of Escola Da Terra, a very successful Permaculture Design Course trained up 23 Europeans. Coming mostly from Portugal but also including students from Belgium, England, and Luxembourg the students and facilitators formed a lively community at the school and at Terra Mae, a new Permaculture Project in the hills near Almoçageme.

Outside classroom learning plant propagation
Outside classroom learning plant propagation

Camp fires and song where a big part of the course outside of the classroom. This was a dynamic group filled with lots of amazing artists in many different fields. The vibe was great as we are all seeing with different eyes after this course.

Spontaneous jam session
Spontaneous jam session

The course helped improve the sustainable school vision that is Escola da Terra. A massive compost pile from the tremendous amounts of organic material that is put alongside the curb for trash removal service to pick up came in very handy. A three meter cubic pile was built and heated up nicely after a slow start. The pile was flipped several times throughout the course and a good amount of high quality soil will enrich the gardens there.

Compost Pile Building with local "trash"
Compost Pile Building with local “trash”
Kiwis crawling
Kiwis crawling

An amazing food forest was only a few doors down so we decided to take a field trip to Quinta Da Magnolias, or Domicilia’s place as it was better known at the course. It was a jungle of food production with kiwis creeping and crawling and producing huge amounts of fruit. Her famous quote was nobody waters the mountain, nobody rakes the leaves in reference to her friends approach to really energy intensive agriculture. In opposition she observed the forest of the Sintra mountain and created abundance through forest gardening. The best part was her amazing harvesting tool and ability to wield it with such precision and speed- at the ripe old age of 81.

Gautier explaining hardware road rainwater catchment system for filling this 64,000 liter tank
Gautier explaining hardware road rainwater catchment system for filling this 64,000 liter tank

Another field trip was taken to Terra Mae which is an emerging food forest. recently earthworks were employed to harvest all the rainwater that flows onto the site. Gautier was the supervisor of the project and here he explains ho to practically use micro climates; Theres a tropical section at the bottom near the pond because of humidity, light reflection, and thermal massof the newly built pond. So here species include Banana, Anona, and mango. Its definitely pushing the limit but as we learned with Sepp Holzer many things are possible once an intimate knowledge of micro climates is obtained. At the top there is a more drylands section with olives, carob, and pistachio. To create and enhance this micro climate large boulders were arranged functionally and aesthetically to help retain heat, reflect light, and provide dry conditions while enhancing lizard habitat. The class was finished off by looking at how to identify trees with a focus on Nitrogen fixing trees. No matter what landscape you are in pattern recognition of the flowers and leaf types of Nitrogen fixing trees is essential.

Swale at the beach and earthworks lesson
Swale at the beach and earthworks lesson

With the height of summer a t this time, we decided an actual swale implementation was not appropriate since its needs for tree planting. So we decided to do the surveying and digging at the amazing beach nearby. Students learned how to use a dumpy level (transit level) to measure contours. This simple technology is a very poweful tool in landscape rehabilitation and development. Because sand is so easy to move it makes for a great medium to teach earthworks using a 3D model. So after the swale digging was done we constructed a mock landscape and Gauiter explained the principles of design concerning earthmoving. This lesson is really brought to life with the model for students to see. Of course it was also a fun day that ended with a quick dip in the cold sea water.

Patterns and Blooming
Patterns and Blooming

I feel this picture sums up the course really well starting with the vibrancy it shows, which is a reflection of the beautiful energy that this group held throughout. The pattern shown here of spirals twisting and creating was a theme of our group as we became closer and often embraced is spiral hugs. These are the classic moments that make a PDC such an amazing experience. And finally a flower blooms and another is to come.

2 Comments on “July 2009: 1st 2 week PDC at Escola da Terra, Portugal

  1. Gostava de receber informações acerca do vosso trabalho.Moro no interior (zona do Fundão) e interesso-me muito por permacultura e tudo o que se relaciona com a natureza.Fátima

    • Ola Fatima, obrigado pela mensagem. Por enquanto, eu so falou inglês, por isso esta aqui minha reposta, espero que entendera:
      So myself, Doug and Gautier, just got done teaching a two week permaculture course in a village near Sintra. Along with a friend, we plan to continue to develop a host site there which have already had earthworks and the beginnings of a food forest there. We are looking to finish the planting in the upcoming rain, do some building work, and continue to improve the soil there for next year’s gardening season. We are new to Portugal but committed to revamping agriculture there. We are looking to start some green businesses surrounding agriculture such as an organic nursery, worm composting, compost tea and keyline planning and consulting before we move into large scale reforestation. Gautier will be back in Portugal in a few days and myself a couple of months most likely. If you would like to visit our host site of Terra Mae please contact me at cdoug_e@hotmail.com and i can arrange that with you. We will be holding more workshops in the future and please continue to look at this page every so often for more updates. Obrigado

      ps if you don’t speak English i can have this translated as i am learning Portuguese

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