Thursday, April 28, 2016

Nature in full flow....

Greetings from an April-showery, green and flowery west Algarve.

A full-on spring.  The transition towards the summer is just beginning, rain is pretty sparse but continuing still in bits and pieces, the whole landscape is lush and green, flowers starting to come out everywhere, and bird-life sounds ever-present, loud, and vibrant, and at night-time I fall asleep in my yurt to the sound of nightingales.  Life is highly expressive in spring, and I don't think it's my imagination, that this time round, it's extra-extra.  Here is a nice contrast in the views from the doorway of my yurt, first when we put it up last summer....


.... to this week...


This spring we have run two great courses, and a very positive and harmonious atmosphere is present here at Várzea da Gonçala.  In the middle of March, our (11th) Permaculture Design Course was full, with 20 students, and similarly with our April Food-forest and Ecological Gardening course, full with the maximum 10 students - 5 of these attended both, making a neat numerical symmetry.  Here is the group photo from the Gardening / Food-forest course...


... and here is one from the pizza-night of the PDC, being entertained here by the beautiful Welsh voice of Louren...

The most uplifting thing of hosting these courses is the people who not only attended but participated in the place, in diverse ways, for the whole duration, giving their positive energy to the Várzea project. All, without exception, aware, open, enthusiastic people, from many different backgrounds and life-experiences, and a whole range of ages,

A common philosophy which united most of them was the desire to exit the mental slavery of mainstream society and seeing it's transparently false ethos. And a big part of the goal is clearly self-empowerment, gained by understanding the ways of natural processes, and how to apply this understanding.

As well as having this creative input from our courses, it is also marvelous to have, in our end of this little valley, a diverse collection of free-thinking, positive (I like that word, you may notice) creative people, from permaculturists to antropologist, knowledgeable gardeners to psychiatrist and martial-art teacher as well as radical-thinking "loonies".

For me and daughter Megan, it has been great having my brother John here for 12 days, and it's good to be able to offer him, as with others coming from a more regimented life-style, different outlooks, in a place to chill out and appreciate a more natural pace and pattern of life.  He's a globetrotting author these days, and his book "From the Dry Bone to the Living Man", a biography of A.T. Still, founder of Osteopathy, is hitting a sensitive nerve in the world of over-prescribing reductionist medicine. Interesting parallels here to big-agriculture vs. permaculture.  He just about makes the picture....




The time of planting and digging is still in full swing in the veg garden, but for the rest of the land, the focus moves to irrigation and cutting, preparations for the 3 or 4 months of total dry.  The usual complete absence of rain from May to mid-September or so is a feature which gives a big challenge to the re-establishment of a tree-based agriculture.  


First priority, to give good care to the 65 little chestnut seedlings, grown in pots from seed and planted out in the last few weeks.  Chestnuts, more than any tree, need shade in their seedling stage, so I have been planting in the shade of lupins, which now have climbing beans to grow up them in summer as surrogate mother-trees. Here's one of the many -see if you can spot it! (summer beans still to sprout)...




I still see this as very-much early days in the Várzea project, and the overall appearance of the place is still not too different to what it was about 5 years ago, but the trees are gradually accelerating in their growth and underground connections, and in another 5 years the changes should be very apparent.  Not just visually, but the feel of the place and the energy of its nature.


Finally, we have a new tipi, this time a "sympatico" shade of light brown, or is it beige?  Anyway, this courtesy of the home-school group who still come to the Várzea twice a week, and this is their teaching space and focus - also for us to use when they are not...


Enjoy the spring!


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