The first week at Toca do Coelho
The dynamic in the group is great, and everyone is working so hard, making such beautiful structures, starting and finishing so many beautiful projects! Every morning we get up around 7 or 8, with a different live song every time, picked especially for the moment. After waking up to these sweet sounds breakfast is being served on our long tables. everyone proposes a project they want to work on or would like to join. This is followed by a small lecture; on the irrigation system, on the bio-toilet, about how our compost heap works… And then we are off! We work a couple of hours until the sun is at its highest point and take a welcome lunch break. Everybody takes a shower and we eat the most amazing meals! Following the local habits we do a siesta after lunch. The first two days we forgot this, but in August it is simply too hot to work, so we rest. Usually after a couple of hours everybody gets anxious to start again; to finish a project, or create something new, and so we work. When the sun is starting to set, dinner is served. After dinner we dance and play guitar on the terraces. After a night of sleep, another day of the same easy going, yet hardworking, pattern follows.
Day one was a bit of a shock: more brambles than we were prepared for, but also a house more beautiful than we had dreamed of. From this moment on our priorities were very clear: first of all ]we needed a proper water facility! Water for the land and even more important: for ourselves. Fortunately the real pioneers of last year had done most of the work there and Lucas, who was part of this small delegation, was able to fix it up in about an hour. The cave in the hill above the house, which is our source of water, was still open. It didn’t collapse again in the past year, so we were able to just connect the hoses and voila: fresh water!
A second priority was the house, we needed a place to cool down, to sleep and to store our tools (man, did we bring a lot!). The house was once built by a German artist called Georg, and it has served as a wonderful home to people for a very long time. But after ten years of dilapidation other life forms started to occupy the space. Plants and animals; all had found some shelter. Even though we want to live together with our plants and animals on the land, we want to keep the house for us humans ;). After a big cleaning operation the house has been transformed into an inhabitable place once again. It is a cosy, lovely little place where we already feel at home. A home, of course, needs a toilet and an eco-farm needs an ecological toilet. Therefore we are working hard to create a bio-toilet through which we can collect poo and urine separately. Within one or two years this will enable us to create our own fertiliser!
Thirdly we had to focus on the land. The people from Team Permaculture needed space to think. To understand the challenges we faced in providing space to think you need to use your imagination:
Start with imagining a bramble bush – you know the one with the thorns and the black coloured little fruits-. Now imagine the kind of bramble bushes you have seen on the side of the road, they’re maybe 1 or 2 meter high. They stretch out for a couple of meters and you can reach many of the fruits. Now imagine a bush like this covering a football field, double the height, imagine the thorns as large as 2 cm and you are halfway on the way to understanding the extent of the overgrow of this land. Even the swimming pool, which has been completely cleared of the brambles last year, was no longer visible, not even from the two meters distance that we had from the terrace of the house. Now you may think brambles are nature too, but where brambles are nothing else exists. It was crucial for us to free the terraces if we would ever want to create a farm full of biodiversity. To do so we had to invest a little of our money to buy a tool we now call ‘De Bramen Beuker’. It has cleared all of our terraces down from the house in about three days of hard work. We can now see what we have and it has such potential! We even freed up two citrus trees which somehow managed to survive the 3 meter high bramble invasion. We have even made our first piece of garden and sowed the first seeds!
Another important goal is to connect with the local communities. We already started contacting the other eco- and permaculture farms when we were still in the Netherlands, but meeting them in person is so much more important. We have already met the ‘Grandma’ of all of the communities: Lenie, an endearing elderly lady who has lived in the area on and off for over thirty years. She knows everybody and when we were drinking coffee we met some other people through her, like the Dutch Monique who has a farm up and running for 3,5 years now in the Monchique. This Saturday 7 of our finest crewmembers went there to have a look, eat lunch and to meet other people who are running similar projects. Meeting with the local Portuguese people has also been a lot of fun and we make it a priority to try and buy locally.
Sunday we will have a break, we want to see the sea! Just 50 minutes away there are some secluded beaches. We’ll buy some food, start a fire and dance and swim.
Monday we start refreshed for the second week of Toca do Coelho!