PERMACULTURE IN PORTUGAL (HELEN’S HOLISTIC HOMESTEAD)
I have way too much time on my hands at the moment hence why I’ve been researching Permaculture. Learning about the basics and the science behind it is fascinating. One of the main reasons we moved here from the UK was to live a happier, healthier lifestyle away from the traffic jams/fumes of a city, 9-5 jobs, to live in a more planet friendly way and to be able to reconnect with nature. As a qualified Holistic Therapist I have always believed in the holistic approach to life so why not apply it to gardening? Working with natural forces such as the wind, sun and rain to provide food, shelter, water, and everything else your garden needs.
The term permaculture combines the words permanent and culture or permanent and agriculture. Permaculture is not just a set of gardening techniques, but a way of knowing and a path towards regeneration. The philosophy behind permaculture was developed about thirty years ago in Australia by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. It teaches us to observe nature, to understand our environment and so become more ecologically aware and responsible.
Permaculture principles allow us to create a culture that can endure and thrive for generations to come. At its heart are three very simple tenets, or ethics:
- Care for the planet.
- Care for people.
- Fair share – which also involves returning surplus to the system.
I viewed a really interesting webinar recently. You don’t have to own acres of land or a farm to start Permaculture, you can start small. You can even introduce the principles and grow edible crops on a balcony! This is great news as we don’t own a lot of land. I did explore houses in Portugal with several acres of land but we decided we needed a manageable sized plot of land as there are only 2 of us, hubby works full time and I have a bad back. I am somewhat jealous when I see friends with huge plots of land as they get the opportunity to raise goats, sheep, pigs and many livestock but I am thankful for our little garden of tranquillity that brings much joy and enables us to tend chickens which we hope to get very soon.
We will never be 100% self sufficient as we don’t have acres of lands with forests and streams so we won’t be exploring food forests or irrigation systems from natural streams on our property. We will never be self-sufficient in firewood and timber for projects as we don’t have the land or space to grow the trees. Also we don’t have the space or desire to build a compost toilet for human waste. Although I did read an interesting article on vermicomposting flushing toilets. The wonders of worms!
The webinar was inspiring and I am very excited to get started. For me Permaculture is connecting with nature and building a sustainable life. Permaculture is not just about gardening so as well as exploring water harvesting techniques and redistributing rainwater beneficially, I want to explore regenerating energy from renewable and sustainable resources – solar water heating and wood burning heaters and stoves (eco efficient fuels for cooking and alternative heating). There are so many possibilities with Permaculture extending beyond the garden. I am looking forward to creating a happy, healthy, sustainable life here in Portugal and transforming our conventional garden which works against nature into a permaculture garden which works in harmony with nature.
I love the fact that I will know where my food is coming from. I will be producing not consuming and using less time, money and energy. I am going to start by focusing on my garden and building an ecological wildlife garden thriving with life which will hopefully result in a low maintenance garden once established with fruit, veg, herbs, flowers and trees. We have so many wonderful creatures here such as bees and butterflies and I am learning every day about the importance of their existence. Here are some of the things I want to implement for sure. There are tons more I want to research in more depth but these are things I definitely want to bring to life at Casa Valhal:
- Regenerating soil – building healthy and fertile soil – encouraging healthy soil by deep sheet mulching using cardboard and organic mulch so no tilling. This is a good starting point as everything starts with the soil.
- Water conservation system – rainwater harvesting. We had so much rain in April so this totally makes sense to me.
- Seed saving – as opposed to purchasing seeds in shops.
- Making connections – chickens = not just eggs but manure, natural pest control and they till the garden. Also reduces carbon footprint. I can’t wait to get chickens!
- Alternative heat/energies and reliant systems: Passive solar/alternative roof panels for heat and hot water and DIY BBQ/pizza/bread oven using recycled stones we have in garden.
- Permaculture guilds – each plant serves a function – multi functional plants (companion planting).
- Grow more organic fruit, veg, herbs and we have space for a couple of trees.
- Hügelkultur raised bed – I would really like to give this a try but I am concerned that with all the hot weather here it might dry out too quickly. Also the only place we could build one is on a slight hill and I’m concerned with extensive rain that the mound might end up at the bottom of the hill. A swale bed may be a more realistic approach.
- Explore bee keeping – this probably won’t happen but it’s a dream – Helen’s holistic honey!!!!!
- MY AIM IS TO START SMALL!
The thrifty side of me is looking forward to saving money by growing my own food, harvesting rainwater, sun and exploring alternative heat. I am also investing in my health as by eating well will hopefully result in weight loss and less trips to the doctors and again saving money. The possibilities with Permaculture are endless and I’m so excited about incorporating it into our lives. I am nervous as hell but confident I will succeed with trial and error.
Enjoy Helen’s Holistic Homestead, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride for sure.