Everybody joined the Leave a Beautiful Trace Party! This has been a week of great challenges and more inspiring solutions. The last week around 200 people lived on our beautiful piece of land in Portugal. The last Sunday before the festival we were with about 40 people and every next day 5-10 people kept on arriving. The Thursday before the festival we had been working with 50 going to 80 people! We were positive we could accommodate everybody, but not certain. Could we stay focused on finishing our permaculture projects? Would we have enough space? Enough people to cook and to do the dishes? Could we stay productive and keep on building and creating?
Monday was a day of meetings to answer these questions. One of our most central questions was whether we could keep a powerful connection between the new people arriving and still be focused on the land and the permaculture projects. We saw a risk that with the new arrivals we would only be busy with creating structures to accommodate them. Creating space for tents, have a greater cooking team, making benches and tables.. Where in these projects was the worth for the farm and the future? These questions were raised and answered with great enthusiasm and quality!
What we have found is that the people who kept on coming were of the same spirit as many of the people already there and they blended in with great ease. Those that came new adopted the culture that had risen in the weeks before. An easy flowing, hardworking culture, were shared responsibility and individual inspiration and ambitions to create, could go hand in hand.
The structures we created for the projects also kept on working and those that coordinated projects for a longer period became the experts to go to if you needed advice on a new project. It was a form of responsibility based in trust and expertise.
Thus we build, and so we create! The Permaculture Team focused their energy on the farm and made many plans. They did a walk over the entire land, drew maps, thought of the final projects and figured out the amount of people they needed for these. Besides this, they were developing many ideas how to leave the land. The Leave a Beautiful Trace Policy became a central concept in order to think of ways to enhance the participation of those at the festival and create projects that needed to be done after the festival. It has been absolutely incredible to see how many beautiful permaculture projects were finished even before the festival.
All the new people who arrived were asked to first start with the clearing of more land for tents and space to live. Fighting brambles has been an essential part of the building of this farm and newcomers were offered the opportunity to follow this rite of passage as well 🙂 Everybody wore the scars of the brambles with pride!
The Cooking Team, led by Just, also had a great challenge. But an incredible preparation, a lot of expertise and experience helped to make this work. On Wednesday we already switched from dining on tables to a more open setting, the house became accessible only for the cooking team of about 10 persons per meal, and the shifts were filled with enthusiastic people. The food was everyday of excellent quality and extremely tasteful, served for so many happy and hardworking people!
Meanwhile, the festival kept on coming closer. Parallel to our entire farming project we now had enough people to create and make beautiful festival attributes. Excitement started to rise with every project that was finished. The shade structure for the Spa, the extension of the Chill Hill, the Stage, a Dining Area and also a Secret Stage on the top of the hill were created.
And than, on Thursday night, we switched on the lights. Shouts went up from every terrace, suddenly the piece of land turned into a beautiful festival terrain. What an incredible body of work we had finished! We had turned an overgrown piece of the depleted land into an open space of joy, beauty and happiness. And that very morning we also heared somebody shouting: ‘Birds! Birds!’ Because of the new space created, the ponds and the overturned soil, we had already seen butterflies, dragonflies, and now the birds came to feast on these. We hadn’t heard a or seen a single bird in the first 2 weeks, and now we had Robins, four of them even. It really was time to celebrate this!
Festival Saudade was a perfect way of celebration. Three beautiful days of music, art, an incredible amount of workshops and insane nights of dancing! Overall we have had about 200 people on our land and it has been a blast. What happiness we created together and what magical beauty. For those that were already there these days flowed from those that came before, and even on the Friday people were still working on projects. The woodworking workshop by Laurens focused on the needs of the land and the house and people created beautiful things that were also useful. For everybody who wanted to help out we thought about projects to do and even the dancing nights were made into a Perma Party! A dance competition to take out the bramble roots, in order to get your Madronho!
One of the special things of Festival Saudade is that we created the festival together. Everyday there were about six main workshops that were already on the program. But we also created a board for our Open Spaces, a board people could write down either something they would really like to learn, or a skill or superpower they wanted to share. These than turned into workshops as well and superpowers were shared, experienced and taught. We have also had some incredible singer-songwriters, musical theatre and dance performance on our Secret Stage! The diners were an experience in their own right and these were the moments when everybody again had a moment together. After diner an incredible live performance, and than we danced our socks of to some incredible DJs!
And were we able to integrate the farm and the festival? Did they compliment each other as we envisioned? Well, have you ever been to a festival where you find exactly one misplaced cigarette bud? Or where everybody helps out either in the kitchen, with the dishes or even with cleaning the latrine? Every time, at the end of the night, people would do a round of cleaning up and left the dance floor nice and tidy. Many shared the responsibility for the land, and in this way we really managed to create the festival together.
On the last night we had our closing ceremony, everybody had been asked to make a seedbomb during the day and these had dried in the sun. Lucas was our inspiring host for all the Leave a Beautiful Trace Projects and he introduced our final concept of the night. We were all invited to plant one seedbomb in a piece of the garden, and with this he or she was asked to think of their dream for the land. The seedbomb symbolised this wish and in the next years it will grow and if we keep nurturing the land we will also grow towards these dreams.
On Monday the morning crew went around the entire festival terrain again and they sang a beautiful song to wake us up. Some people had already left, but still we were with about 100 people. During breakfast we had a moment together, a moment of thanks and of appreciation. But we were not yet finished! The trace of the festival was still there, and even though we had planted seeds into the ground, on the top of the soil there was still a Stage, a Chill Hill, and a Dining Area. This we wanted to change, and everybody wanted to help to lay the last hand on this land in order to leave it more beautiful than we had found it.
This was the Leave A Beautiful Trace Party! Within 3 hours the Chill Hill was turned into a garden were mulch was decomposing below cardboard and straw. The Stage was deconstructed and the planks were used to create beautiful wooden hatches for the house. We created two large Hugelkultur beds at the dining area and lay our first irrigation lines on these. The music was blasting over our speaker and about 80 beautiful people were building and creating to the sound of the beat.
This festival we met Iuri, a local Permaculture enthusiast with a heart of gold. He had only been with us for 4 days but it felt like he was part of our group since for ever. We now have our very first real Portuguese Konijntje and he stayed on the farm after most of us left. He wishes to maintain what we created until the time comes to start sowing next year in early spring. He is an expert and has fallowed the same courses with the same teacher as one of our main contributors to the Permaculture Team. He shares our enthusiasm and vision for the land and he, in his own words, fell in love with the way we do things and wishes to lead our KONIJN branch in Portugal! He will do this together with Harmke, a girl who came by on our festival and was blown away by the potential of the land.
We have exceeded all of our goals and are so happy about what we have created. When Joey asked KONIJN last December if we wanted to think about creating ‘something beautiful’ in Portugal, none of us could have expected all this. But all the preparations, all the meetings, all the thinking, researching and being together at the Ceuvel have resulted in something that is beyond our collective dreams. We now have a cleared piece of land! We have a working, passive irrigation system. We fixed up a house to live in and left everything you need to have a cosy home in which to cook, to drink and to have a cold shower. We have created this from a perspective of personal and of shared enthusiasm, where everybody can share or find their own super power, in a place were the necessities of the land inform our projects and your personal ambitions guide the projects you wish to work on. It has become a place to rest and to work, a place for music and long nights of games, somewhere you can read a book and have a siesta and a place where you can dance all night long. At Toca do Coelho we have found a balance between all these things and it has made everybody shine.
These three weeks have seen the beginning of something grand. For us it has been an absolute privilege to work with so many incredibly gifted, loving and beautiful people and we are thankful towards each other for every moment.
During the coming year some of us will come back and maintain what has been created. Next year in February we will come back with a larger group and start sowing and preparing the land for the sun to come. Our goal was to have semi-permanent residency from that moment onwards, but it looks like that goal has also already been reached! The people who will live there will coordinate the projects that need to be maintained and will initiate new ones. We will start very soon with setting up the structures necessary for knowledge centralization and for communication.
At Toca do Coelho the soil has been prepared and the seeds have been planted. We will nurture these and are looking forward to what will bloom. If the last week has been any indication of what to expect the flowers will be beautiful, the fruits will be tasty and the vegetables incredible!
Autumn is now on its way, the rains will enrich our soil and wake up our seeds. Then after winter the sun will come again and the land will turn green and lush. We will be there, to overturn the soil and plant even more. We will make Toca do Coelho grow and work with nature to make this land flower and bloom!