Sometimes in life an opportunity comes along that unless the flow of life directed you to this particular spot, this particular space and time, the germination simply would never happen. Is that how a seed realizes its birth and how do we recognize unique opportunities that spring forth through tough ground? I ask because it was an unique opportunity to be able to take on the unique task of retrofitting two different existing raised bed systems that had been implemented by other permaculture designers and land stewards and Quinta dos 7 Nomes over the last years.
Thus myself, and Food forest partner, Karsten Hinrichs, took rolled with this opportunity and we were luckily joined by a group of 28 students and several assistants. With that many people involved, we were able to get heaps done in terms of tree planting and the accompanying earthworks, putting in biodiverse guilds, and repairing and feeding soil biology. Like other short courses, the group quickly came together and we were able to form lots of small interconnections including for myself finding others who live in the area and those who are interested in similar facets of sustainability like the work of Victor Schauberger.
Thus the pattern was the same as the other two food forest courses I have taught in the last few months, one down the road at Terra Alta and one across the Atlantic in Madeira at Quinta Natureza. It started with the Friday night talk where I shared the introductory slideshow which frames the bigger picture of food forests and also a small introduction to permaculture since its principles are so influential towards this topic. As we moved through the intro and into the four phases that further frame the course, we started with the design aspects which spilled over to Saturday morning as well.
After our morning theory in the earthship built by the folks of thepoosh.org, we went into the field for land analysis and assessment. We focused on zones and sectors with Karsten leading this dialogue with Susana,
the farm manager at the Quinta. This lead to more of a discussion of the savanna like planting we were to do on Saturday to augment the raised bed area closer to the shop on the east side mainly. After slowly showing tree planting before lunch and guild planting and compost extract after lunch, we broke out into chaos and order to facilitate planting the ten stone fruits that gave this open canopy, savanna density. The area dries out quite a bit during the summer so we added in some trees to cast shade in different directions and focused around the central element of the garden which was a lined garden pond. To also help with this drying out we beefed up the northern windbreak with more citrus to slow the north wind. We also added a hedge along the western side to protect from the swirling winds and also protect from the heat of the setting summer sun. Not only did we plant trees but again we addressed adding resilience through guilds and also compost extract and mulching with both green and brown materials. We finished the day with a nice sharing and review that focused on what did you learn and how did it make you feel? For some it was their first tree ever planted which is always a nice moment to share with others. Even if you have been doing it your whole life, this process is quite holistic and offers a different aspect to the developing food production with integrated systems.
Furthermore, on Sunday we started again in the classroom going deeper with the layered approach to food forests and the giant pallet of plants that is available in this unique microclimate of west coast Iberia. It brings up some interesting conversations about plants that could thrive there but that are seldom used like Feijoa or White Sapote. After that we extended the already existing beginnings of a food forest in the back of the property and focused on bringing more of the layers in. More canopy and sub canopy trees like apples, pears and peaches went in but also lower layers like gooseberry, strawberry tree, Eugenia, and blackberry. We also played with microclimates with figs and Persimmon kaki. It was remarkable to see how much quicker the planting went as the people themselves seemed to form guilds with people helping each other out. Not only did they plant like the day before they also laid thick layers of mulch around the existing trees and added guilds, earthworks and compost where needed. We also demonstrated banana circles on a micro scale and sunken beds in actual place. To protect the currants we planted them on the north side of the extremely raised beds towards the swale depression side. this gives the hydration factor but since the northern winds suck so much moisture out, to fully protect them we added jerusalaem artichoke in to give a quick shelter break in the sunken bed. they desire lots of water so giving them a sunken bed is a great way to turn a problem into the solution as the earthworks full potential had yet to be expressed.
i suppose that is what these courses are about, giving students a quick explosion of information and experience to give them more tools to live up to full potential as earth stewards. I thank all who came and participated, all who helped out from the coop and my teaching squad with Karsten Hinrichs and assistant Eric… It was nice to form a trio again, after all it is TreeYo Permaculture.