Maja from Poland
I started my EVS with Gaia Tasiri about a month ago, although I have gotten to know & love their EcoVillage since february (6 months ago) whilst volunteering at a neighbouring project, and was hoping to be able to do an EVS placement here in the future. Very luckily for me, I was invited to start earlier than I had anticipated due to one of their EVS placements leaving in May.
I really enjoy my time in here.
Just living so close to nature, in constant contact with the soil, plants and animals and being a part of natural cycles that are going on around makes me feel more alive than ever.
We have a lot of work, as it is a farm and we not only maintain it but also work for its development, but it is a very satisfactory work.
Every day we work in the gardens, tend to the animals and to relationships between ourselves and besides that, I am doing my Integral Permaculture Course which I was kindly provided.
All of these activities teach me a lot in many different fields. Besides the scientific knowledge of permaculture from the course, I acquire a lot of practical skills like milking, handling sheep, working with cement, wood, soldering and many others.
At the present time the most important focus for me is working on my leadership skills and emotional development. I have an amazing opportunity to live in a community that is constantly developing in commitment to evolutionary relationships.
I have a great emotional and mental support from people around me who are not only more than eager to always discuss some important and interesting issues on basically any given topic but also are always available for me when I need their help in any way.
The amount of work (physical and intellectual) is sometimes overwhelming, but I gladly immerse in this intensity to take as much as I can from this opportunity - to learn and to give back.
And to be honest, seeing how much there is to learn and how many fascinating projects I could start in this place, how I could benefit not only to this land but also to the people, makes me think that one year is just not enough!
Nicola from England
I started here, at 8th Life eco-village project in February, shortly after the birth of my son. I have always wanted my family to be an extended one- a community, where blood is not the only bond and with this placement, I am lucky enough to be able to begin that dream.
Of course, living and working on a busy eco-village project, with an infant son is a challenge. I am torn in wanting to put all of my energy into the gardens, the infrastructure, the people care and yet, I find that my energy is one fifteenth of what it used to be. No longer can I pass whole days in the garden, breeze into a circle and be undistractedly present (as I did in the community I lived with previously)... adjusting to motherhood in such busy and exciting conditions is hard. I have a tendency to be hard on myself and to either chastise myself for my lack of attention to Luka or to the project. Sometimes, I fear that with my “special” circumstances, others will resent me. Fundamentally, in our society many people are valued only for their productivity, being fundamentally human is not enough. Living here, I get to challenge this conditioning of mine and hopefully, offer Luka freedom from it.
In the first months, I was mostly just mother but now that Luka is older and I can share him with the residents, I am finding a whole new world of life opening up. This is a privilege that most mothers do not have. I leave my bedroom and there are people with the same vision and interests as me, right outside. They enjoy relating with me as a young mother who is doing something totally different for my son- they seem to even find me inspiring. They help me to accomplish my tasks during the day and enjoy relating with us, especially Luka.
The vision here at 8th Life puts an emphasis on creating a better world for the future generations, serving the environment, refining our culture, refining our relationship with the self and with each other. I am so lucky that my home and my family want to go beyond dogma and conditioning to provide the best possible life for my son. This, to me is winning the lottery.
Here at 8th Life, there is a radical feminist agenda and so, my work as a mother is recognised as “work”. Here, raising the next generation is a hugely valuable contribution and my 6 hours of work a day can include time with Luka - and so it is achievable. (Though, as I previously stated, my internalised sexism- in perceiving myself as a mother as a burden needs work- at least here, I have the contradiction provided. Even if, I do need a little reminder.)
If I compare my life to the life of many others in England (my home country), who live in neighbourhoods where in reality, there neighbours are strangers who distrust one another. Who live in streets with tiny gardens, the sound of cars continuous, their food bought in the supermarket, isolated in a vast population where we feel that most of those that we encounter in daily life, in reality do not care about us at all… I have to consider myself priviledged.
I live in a beautiful place with large forest gardens, vegetable gardens, a family of animals as well as humans who are enchanting, my food is largely sourced here- it is of the highest quality, the people who I live with are hugely interesting and engaged, the air and the water are clean- the stars at night are second to none I have ever seen, I listen mostly to the sound of Pigs, birds, chickens, sheep… Incredible. Amazing. Thank you!
Luka is blessed to meet so many people- I believe that his exposure to many different faces in such a special environment will serve to create a more balanced being. He certainly is not shy and his inquisitive nature is totally nourished here. Given the breadth of things that he sees us doing and the way he sees us going about doing them- he is learning a lot.
I hope to live in a place like this long term, using this financed year to establish an eco-business which will sustain us. So, I truly am immersing myself and Luka
The Big Chicken Tractor
This is a project that the PeDreTea team took on as their central food-growing goal.
it is a design for a big 'green machine'
which will take some time to complete, but then produce enormous amounts of veggies with minimum effort, because the chickens will do most of the soil preparation work for us.
It consist of six big gardens (the moon-shapes in the diagram) in a terraced valley in the middle of the first finca.
The locals call these 'nateras' (cream-makers) because they naturally collect the fertility that flows down-hill with the water - which is possible thanks to the wonderful terracing work that was done by the ancestors here.
Previously, they brought in all the animal compost that they produced in the goat & cow stables, but we opted for a chicken tractor system because it fulfills the same function of adding lots of compost, but with many additional benefits.
The chickens will spend one or two months in each garden and then move on to the next one. In this way we would have constantly at least one garden producing food, and the chickens always being in a nice, big, semi-open (with fencing) space where they can find plenty of tasty insects and greens as well as enjoy the nature.
In the same time they fertilize our gardens and reduce the weeds and any of the insects that might eat our veggies, and we also get more & nicer eggs, as well as our 'chicken TV' - a great place to go meditate by watching the chickens enjoy their natural environment.
A few weeks before the PeDreTeans arrived, in the middle of February, Stefania explained what is already in place and what else needs to be done, in this video, above, as the project summary.
||At the end of April, after the camping kitchen was refurbished, the work in these gardens started, beginning with the Flora Garden, because it is the closest one the chicken house and the easiest one to connect to it.
The first step was building a door system to easily close and open a corridor for the chickens to go into the garden,
||but that ended up requiring the re-positioning of the fencing poles, with extra reinforcement, to make the whole structure stronger and more stable, so the new doors could be better held.
The next step was re-attaching the fencing with reinforecements to that the plants won't pull it down as they climb on it, and also making it higher so the chickens couldn't easily jump out, and focus on preparing this garden instead of roaming around the whole finca.
And on the 13th of May, finally, the chickens could come out into the garden!
And the PeDreTeans were so enthusiastic about getting their own food supply that, although at least one month of waiting for the chickens to do their job was needed, they decided to start building the garden beds immediately.
They also wanted to experiment with hugelkultur, so on the bottom of the beds are cut branches, and on top of that soil and compost, and later they want to make them into towers for vertical growing (for ex. strawberries)
|They decided to make three raised beds with metal scraps as walls, and in the middle, where there used to be ponds, they experimented with putting in compost towers.
They reused the old watering system that was already in place, so after deciding where the rest of the beds were going to be built, they slightly redesigned the old piping to fit it into them.
And this is a video of the work in progress:
Here is a walkabout of some of the gardens by Nicola >>
Nicola took over the designing &
organizing of the gardens as soon as she arrived here - so Luka, who was
born shortly before the beginning of her EVS volunteering here, has
participated in every
"Garden Hour" that his mum has organized since ... so he's been learning
about gardening literally all of his life. Very lucky baby, and very blessed all of us :)
The vision for these gardens is to be an aesthetic, accessible space, which can be low maintenance and highly productive.
As it is in full view of the neighbours and is part of the hostel, we have invested some time in building new "swanky" raised beds with recycled pallets to complement the original ones with logs and stones.
<< This is how the garden was last summer, with the 'old style' beds. There's still lots growing there, and Nicola & her "Garden Hour Gang" have finally added drip-watering systems in each one, so we won't have to spend many hours watering by hand.
May 2016 - Five new raised beds with life exploding out of them!
And these are the newer pallet-wood raised beds >>
We want these to also serve as a quail & guinea-pig tractor, so the next step is to make a movable home that fits on top of the beds.
These raised beds are more comfortable to work with, they save water and leave plenty of space for the roots of the many trees we need to keep the gardens shaded in the summer, and they are also very fertile, as we filled them with our lovely soil, combined with super-sheep compost, sand and picón.
Picón is a volcanic rock which is very mineral rich and filled with little holes full of air, and microbes and bugs that live in them.
It serves to add some of the advantages that other materials, like terra preta, are famous for, as one of the characteristics of charcoal is a very similar porous structure, with the added advantage of lots of minerals which the microbes will make available to the plants over time.
Mattis, the wonderful young carpenter from Berlin who lived with us for four months, did a great job of inventing a way of making each bed out of just 3 palets, so that we could make the bed frames out of very economical wood.
The pallets are stripped down to this, and then the gaps are filled in and it is screwed together.
|When the completed frame is put in place, we add a layer of cardboard at the bottom to discourage the tree roots from entering the beds and also further up, to encourage mycelium growth as well as earthworms, who seem to love damp cardboard.
We dig around the bed area to ensure the bed sits flat and level, and we use the soil from the paths plus lots of compost to fill the beds.
Nicola supervised the whole project, and also dug-in enthusiastically whilst taking care of Luka (who everyone took turns in carrying).
First the bed is positioned so it's level, and then it's filled with layers of soil from the surrounding areas, sheep compost, sand and picon.
And when the desired soil level is reached (leaving some space at the top), we mix together all of the "cake" layers.
This design fits very well into the 80/20 design/maintenance ratio - we say that in permaculture 80% of our time & effort should be spent in designing & installing (well-designed) systems, so that we later we need spend only 20% of our time & effort in maintaining them (which is a kind of reversal of the Pareto principle), and in this garden, we are definitely doing this!
With this work, we completed an one-off job which takes much time & care in order to save lots of time later - and following the same principle, we recently finished installing an automatic watering system which is now in all of the beds.
Thank you to all of the volunteers, guests and interns who have contributed to this!
And more recently, we were very priviliged to obtain lots of sheep's wool to mulch with so the gardens now look like they're covered in snow and will be super-efficient in water saving throughout the summer.
Wool is the perfect mulching material because - although biodegradable (eventually) - it doesn't disintegrate in the sun anywhere as quickly as straw and other organic materials, it is a great insulator against heat & cold (it's a good idea to keep soil temperature as even as possible), and it is also full of nutrients (bits of dirt, sheep compost, lanolin, etc.) that are slowly released into the soil as nutritious compost-tea when we water it from above.
Thank you Jose, Brio & Maja for your sheep shearing efforts! And to Eduardo, our local country vet who always invites us to come help on his yearly sheep-shearing marathons around the island, in exchange for the wool.
Below, May 2016: the old beds, after harvesting lots of food from them all winter & spring, with newly installed watering system, beans, aliums, herbs, brassicas, tomatoes and sunflowers.
November 2015 - The old beds of stone and logs, filled mostly with cabbages and aliums >>
Next in our ambitious design is the creation of a portable quail and guinea pig tractor
- with this movable cage (also called "cute little animal tractor"), both the animals and the guests in the hostel by which these gardens are, will have added entertainment in their lives, and more importantly, the quails & guinea pigs should perform a similar function to the chickens, eating seeds and weeds, scratching the soil and composting in situ, saving us lots of effort.
We have never heard of such an animal tractor, so we'll have to experiment & see (and
report back in future newsletters as to how it works in practice), but apart from our permanent wish to experiment, we want to use quails & guinea pigs for this design because they are much more suited to the size of the bed space available than chickens, who need much larger spaces - like the big gardens we are making into a huge chicken-tractor system in another part of the finca, see above.
The new beds can't be seen as they are right at the end of this terrace & so full of green they just appear as a forest!
Nicola thinks that a garden isn't complete without sunflowers, and she's gradually tucking an increasing variety of plants into the gardens, surrounded by wool, songs and love.
Below this terrace there are two others which we will also be turning into gardens step by step - the lower terraces are not as easily accessible from the house as the first one, so here we're making gardens (not raised, for now) for plants that don't need frequent visits.
<< May 2016- the lower 2 terraces: our tomatoes are all tucked in with lovely wool, the area has been composted, sand has been added, plus an automatic watering system, and invisible to you... there are baby melons, cucumbers and pumpkins rising up to greet us.
This below is a picture of the same 2 lower terraces in November 2015: a wilderness of wild mustard, which grows plentifully here, and we harvest them all winter and spring because they are really delicious and nutritious greens.
One of the features of the salad garden is that the wild cat that Nicola has tamed over the months is now raising her two kittens under the pepino bushes, and part of our harvest is getting to see them playing and purring around the guest house each day, and having them always accompany us in our group meals, and let us stroke them.
Here is a short video
(in our FB group) of these little playful bundles of delight, and you can see another one below.
Do join us in the facebook group where you can comment on the newsletter, ask questions, etc.
am not the best at following driving directions, so - after missing the
driveway 5 times over - I have to be rescued by Jose and Stu and guided
back to the finca.
It’s already getting dark so the grand tour of the estate is postponed to the next day.
Instead I am having a little evening chat with Mattis who moved here -
straight from Berlin - into the ‘Domo’ which is a dome made out of
Boli, the dog, stays there with him to keep the rats away… in the
light of this info I am thankful for my slightly chilly, north facing
bedroom, although the red mood lighting makes it impossible to do any
Enough blankets, though, to keep me warm through a night of vivid dreams of happy cats and dogs.
Morning coffee from the espresso machine I brought with me (just in case…) and this view:
I sign up for a morning gardening session (which are voluntary for guests).
Today’s consists of helping Samadhi by shovelling soil
into fresh Swales (an arrangement of stakes and branches to keep the
terraced garden beds from eroding).
Just before our 11am breakfast/brunch I answer an email from a client
from the UK which popped up after I logged into the community WIFI. It
becomes clear that I could do a lot of work from here - nice!
Breakfast is a ultra-staunch mix of fried potato and greens, with added fresh avocados.
As a special protein treat we get pig bones to scrape the meat off. The
picked bones go straight back into the pot to make bone-broth.
Incidentally, Samadhi and Stu, as well as many previous guests stopped
being vegetarians shortly after arriving here.
Personally, I love the breakfast and upgrade to half-board for the remainder of my stay.
After breakfast and the following community meeting,
I volunteer help out with odd jobs:
broken latches on doors,
helping Mathis building raised beds,
checking a new watering system with Samadhi.
Everybody is in a good mood and it is fun to get stuck in!
I was scheduled for a solar shower at 2.30,
but all I get is some gurgling sounds and three drops of cold water.
Turns out some taps had been turned off due to a leak and never been
turned on again.
Sod sustainability, I am gonna put the kettle on to wash my hair!
Last team effort of the day is making sausages - another first for me.
Jose is in control of the meat mix recipe and we end up with five yummy looking mixtures to funnel into pig-guts.
One hour and many German sausage jokes later we have barely 3-4 filled sausages.
Better equipment and a new strategy is needed.
(left to right: Stella, Jose, Mattis)
Our evening meeting starts with everyone being asked to say a few
appreciative words about the person sitting to their left. I am
expecting a lot of hippy hogwash, but people come up with very varied
and heartfelt observations. People-care is a main aspect of 8th Life
philosophy and here it shows.
Stu and Jose perform a song each before the meeting is finished and
everybody runs off to do their thing. (My thing being dinner)
Starts with an hour of gardening, this time we are building an arch to
hold up the heavy branches of a plum tree. This is a fabulous team
effort with Samadhi and Stu and we are all very pleased with ourselves
and the finished product:
A new task I have taken on is to help bringing the sheep from their pen
to the grazing area every morning, so today I am playing shepherds dog
Sheep are friendly, a bit stupid and easily frightened - I can relate to that.
Jose has devised a rope-guiding system which reminds me of a water-skiing rig.
The sheep are hooked into this and can move around with some freedom but without hurting each other or getting entangled.
And today I finally get my solar shower to wash-off the sheep smell!
Maybe its because the last few days have been quite basic, but the
shower feels like the most luxurious moment ever. It is just the right
temperature and delightfully zero-emissions.
We postpone our shopping trip to Puntagorda as it is a public holiday today.
Instead I have a bit of Berlin computer work time in the hammock.
Mattis invites me to share his dinner of fried greens and potatoes - thanks mate!
Wake-up - Espresso - Gardening
Samadhi’s morning hour of gardening is getting very popular, there are now three boys lined up to lend a helping hand.
Turns out four people is three too many when it comes to deciding if a raised bed is sitting level or not.
In the end it’s the three of us pontificating while a frustrated Samadhi is swinging the pick-axe. Our strategy might
need looking into...
Next up are the sheep, this involves re-rigging the system as other patches need to be grazed on next.
Breakfast us usual at 11am followed by a meeting.
Consisting today of fried greens, banana curry and omelette, it's more of a brunch really - and huge:
I am doing a little bit more computer work for Berlin, this time making
sure I give my colleagues a 360° view of the farm via Skype. Don’t much
fancy sitting in a Berlin office under grey skies with them right now!
At four o’clock the Spanish siesta is over and we can drive into
Puntagorda to get some gardening supplies and a few grocery items we
can’t yet produce ourselves, like milk.
But we are also bringing some used plastic bags from the garden centre for the domo.
This puts into practice another philosophy of 8th life: not just ‘going
back to nature’ but being aware of (and trying to reverse) some of
humanities environmental sins.
Since dinner is everyone's own responsibility, Samadhi has offered to cook a paid dinner for me.
My first reaction is not wanting to spend anything on special treatment
and feeling a bit awkward about this tourist-guest position. Samadhi
explains to me that guests at the finca are also an important source of
income for the project and its residents and I find it easy to agree
with this, I am already spending much less than I would on any other
holiday. Her cooking is amazing and it's well worth the few quid she is
asking, so I am happy to be a tourist on this occasion: upgrade to
Gardening today: Weeding… File under ‘boring but necessary’.
At least it’s a sweet potato patch - one of my fav vegetables - that I
am liberating from the weeds, and I am pretty sure I will never be asked
to do this in Berlin.
Stu and me are taking the sheep out today, because Jose has gone off
to the other side of the island to attend a ‘DEMOS’ event. DEMOS is a
canarian LETS scheme (a local currency to be used instead of Euros).
This is the Moneda Demos La Palma web.
Next year, the village will welcome a new Team of 8 people, also known as the Permaculture-Dream-Team (PeDreTea).
They are already organising themselves online, and plan to stay for a year.
To give them an idea of what to expect here, I shoot a little video
with Stella doing a guided tour of the premises. This comes out quite
well, even though there is no editing/rehearsing/or planning involved.
I finish the weeding of the sweet potatos which I started yesterday,
as well as sorting out the beds of the Chinese artichokes.
Taking out the sheep with Stu is followed by some Berlin computer work.
Sausage-making, take three: We're not even halfway through filling pig
guts with pork meat so another shift is scheduled with Mattis. we
finally get the drift of pushing meat through the funnel without
creating loads of air bubbles - can't beat the German team when it comes
During today’s group-time we rebuild the roof on the chicken shed with
corrugated plastic - the chickens have communicated to Stella that they
want 'a proper roof over the head'. Stu is about half my age (and
weight) so he gets to climb on the chicken shed to tie down the plastic
such that any downward movement is arrested. Swell!
Turns out the chickens were right to be nervous about all this human
activity - we spontaneously decide to slaughter one of the cockerels.
he's just become way too cocky.
Hardly any of us have witnessed the slaughter of a life animal and it
is time for each one to decide if today is the day. I am going to go for
it and now Jose - who has done this many times before - talks us
through the process.
Again it becomes clear what a special and thoughtful guy he is.
I completely trust him to do this right - and it seems so does the chicken which is sitting comfortably on his lap.
(IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ ABOUT THE SLAUGHTER SKIP THIS BIT…)
Jose claims that the axe-method of chicken slaughter only seems quicker and is very bloody.
He is also no fan of the ’swinging the chicken over the head’ approach.
Instead he stops the blood supply to the head to numb it and after a few moments twists the head against the body a few times.
The chicken flaps it wings for about 20 seconds - a moment Jose
describes as ‘the soul flying away’ - and then goes completely slack.
It still is a beautiful animal (Jose plans to keep the feathers) and we silently give thanks.
Mattis, Stu and me are quite moved but far from traumatised.
I feel it was a dignified moment and I am glad that I had the chance to witness it.
As a meet eater (albeit reduced amounts) I have always felt very disconnected from the source of my food.
I want to close that gap and plan to kill an animal myself one day. I just hope it will be as gracious as this time.
(SAFE TO READ ON…)
It’s Friday evening, and that’s movie-night at the finca luna.
After the chicken episode we all fancy a quiet, animal friendly movie
and settle in with blankets cushions and snacks to watch ‘The Jungle
Well, you wait ages for a proper jam session and then two come along the same day!
First one is before(!) breakfast, in honour of Victor who is leaving
today (having found a permanent place to live thanks to the contacts he
made whilst on the farm for 3 weeks), we got Mattis on trumpet, Stu and
myself on guitars, Jose and Stella on percussions, Samadhi singing - and
sadly no picture. There is plenty of hugs and appreciations for Victor,
it is a very nice moment.
Because it’s the weekend there are no chores for most of us.
Samadhi and Stu decide to stay at the farm to sort out domestics, but Mattis and I are off to Tazacorte beach.
This involves an hours drive over adventurous roads with great vistas.
(This can be said about pretty much all roads on La Palma).
We return via Puntagorda market which is surprisingly busy for such a
small village, it’s about 50/50 locals and tourists (of which most seem
to be German).
Mattis is on the lookout for a proper Vollkornbrot and manages to get
hold of one. (The food at the finca is mostly carb free and kind of
We take great pictures from the vista platforms.
I have my final ‘tourist dinner’ courtesy of Samadhi which is once again delish.
We are all meeting in the library for a jam session, which has been chosen as the appropriate way to send me off.
The musical flow is somewhat better at this time of the day - maybe
also due to Samadhi’s mood-enhancing incense - and we are jamming for a
good 90 minutes.
Stu is unsuccessfully attempting to present his latest composition to
everyone, but the vibe is more one of group silliness and this has to be
postponed to another time. Time to call it a night.
7th day - departure
I have said my goodbyes to Samadhi, Stu and Mattis yesterday as they are having a well-deserved lie-in.
That doesn’t mean I wake up alone though, piggy-wiggy has come over to great me right outside my room.
This is quite unusual as she keeps to herself most days, but today she is in heat!
I gingerly edge past her into the kitchen to see that the espresso and milk have been cleared away.
Clutching a cup of green-tea I make my way to the dining area, where
piggy-wiggy’s advances get increasingly scary and I receive a little
‘kiss’ on my track-suit clad knee.
No morning coffee and a pig-in-heat is too much to handle, so I call out to Jose who comes to my rescue.
(Fittingly mirroring the events of my arrival here).
Jose - and only he can pull off that sort of spiel - convinces me that
piggy-wiggy’s advances are a compliment to my male virility and sexual
Many hugs and leaving presents later I get into my car and onto the
LP-1, knowing that whatever happens in my life, piggy-wiggy of 8thLife
will always fancy me :)
Interns & Designs
In this newsletter we will be looking at the work of 5 of our Students & Interns who have been with us lately.
We've now been trying out the new EcoEscuelas network project since November, perfecting the monthly iPDC program as we go.
has been very satisfying as having smaller groups means the students
can take real responsbility for actually designing a variety of hands-on
projects whilst they take the classes on site.
Daniele & Fer
Daniele from Italy stayed two months in spring, said...
"I enjoyed the iPDC because it
is amazing taking classes outside - as we can take the classes wherever
and whenever we like, we re-designed these for ourselves to suit our
personal wishes and the day we took this picture of me <<< I was outside with Suzy doing her class in another language,
instead of together inside like previous days.
E-Book is really full of information. I go there to look up whatever I
am most interested in that I learn from the classes."
water pump needed a new shelter so Daniele, after trying out a few
eco-business wild ideas (that were very creative and interesting for us
to follow) took up the challenge and created a pump house as one of his
designs. The idea was to protect the pump from the elements while
being moveable if needed, and we are very happy with the results.
Daniele often entertained us with his excellent guitar playing and singing, and was always cracking jokes, pulling pranks & was lovely to live with.
He is also a great travel writer (see his travelling blog)
and travelled home by hitch hiking on boats. A great proponent of
learning to live simply, he stayed the coldest months of the year in a
small tent, sleeping out even during quite bad rain and wind storms and
said he particularly enjoyed living close to nature like this.
Fer from Spain did the course at the same time as Daniele & said...
"It is really a practical course, it's flexible & the environment is perfect."
Fer delighted us with his cartoons and we laughed a lot in particular looking at
this one (which he showed during his final design
presentation), illustrating his 'client interviewing' (he is the guy to
the right with the notepad & pencil) with Jose telling him about the
importance of the chickens feeling safe.
has exactly that green old jumper, goes around barefoot and plays with
his long sleeves in exactly that manner. The mark of an excellent
his main design project was moving on our big chicken house, to which
he made some important additions (THANK YOU!), for the final part of the
course Fernando found himself inspired to develop his artistic side
and after thinking about several projects to develop - one being a
comic about his adventures transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle
- he started helping with the graphics for a bioregional design we are
participating in (see Basic Income day news, below).
Fer had already several years ago started cartooning online with this blog: Una Ultima Ronda
then left it. Whilst here with us we encouraged him to use his
talents to tell the stories of transition which we think most need
telling, including those of many young people are going through major
life changes trying to better align their values to their life path. So
we dearly hope that he will pursue his idea of a comic about his adventures transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle.
core part of our mission is to improve the soil and one way to do that
is to stop soil erosion. By making mini-swales on the steep banks of the
terraces we create little platforms were we plant things who's roots
will keep the soil in place.
Fer in the mini-swales workshop where we covered the steepest incline
in the finca with waste branches & compost.
workshops Fer participated in were fermenting foods & making
chocolates + making interesting dishes out of green bananas (which
became a bit of a passion, especially the salty banana chips) and
weaving shades from the plentiful cane we harvest nearby (for the
chicken house roof).
Giselle, Emilio and Jessie
Giselle from Argentina, & Emilio from Spain stayed
for just a month but managed to get 3 infrastructure projects finished,
as their practical design projects, whilst they took the classes for
their Permaculture Design Certificate course, the iPDC. ¡Congratulations!
<< Here they are helping with preparing a new larger potting area behind the library, where new cuttings and transplants start their way to the nurseries (you can see them sifting
the 3 main ingredients we use in varying proportions depending on what
we're transplanting: soil, granzón & compost).
Jessie from Denmark also
helped with designing the vertical greenhouse as well as making some
small beautiful changes around the new potting area, but had to cut her
visit short due to illness in the family. We hope she will be back
thanks to the recent interns, we now have three nurseries: a new one
for vegetable seedlings, as well as an expanded one for other small plants, and another
one for trees.
the basic design is to have the whole ecovillage be a big forest-garden
eventually, we have quite a well stocked tree nursery and we do tree
planting with any visitors who wish to contribute in this way.
Sometimes we do a little ceremony and they dedicate their tree to some
person or some wish they have.
we have a quite extended dry season, we equip all our small trees with
'baby bottles' in order to train their roots to go as deep as possible
so that they can be independent of watering systems when they grow up.
It's also a good way of saving water (especially when hot) and of re-using (much better than re-cycling) the many PET bottles
that can take hundreds of years to decompose.
As well as being important for the farm it is also vital for the planet that we all take part in planting trees. To stop the
climate catastrophes we're facing, apparently each of us would need to
plant 10,000 trees. That may seem a lot but it actually could be done
within 3 months, and is certainly doable over a lifetime.
not only give us oxygen but they also act a 'carbon sink' by absorbing
the CO2 in the air. Over one year a hectar of mature woodland can
absorb the CO2 emission of 100 cars.
also change the weather by reducing temperatures and causing more rain,
and we have several autochthonous species here which 'harvest the mists'
with their fine needle leaves or shiny waxy broad leaves.
the moment we're enjoying (especially the animals) buckets of oranges and plums and waiting
with anticipation for the apples and figs that are getting bigger
everyday. A forest garden gives us perennial food and each year it is easier to manage, slowly reducing the effort we need to put in.
Alex & Clemi
Guests & Friends
During this last period we also enjoyed a delightful visit by Hamza from Turkey (a childhood friend of Stella's) who stayed with his two children, Clemi & Alex.
from the extra fun we had with having two lively youngsters with us
(and the delicious home-made pizza evening they treated us to), Hamza
also gave us two great impromptu workshops on spiral dynamics and profiling,
which is something he uses professionally and that interests us very
much as integral permaculture designers, especially for community
We saw everyone's personality
profiles in terms of the spiral dynamics model and discussed what the
various combinations mean for group work and communication dynamics.
Very interesting, thank you so much Hamza!
And Jose's Cuban grandparents come regularly, and they always bring us many presents and treat us to cooking a big meal for everyone.
Thank you very much for all the support you always give to the project, Maria & Lorenzo!
Basic Income Weekend
well as the ecovillage project, the academy work & several
international integral permaculture projects, whenever we can we try to
work on projects to make our bioregion (the Island of La Palma) more
resilient in times of crisis and more sustainable in general.
combined these organizing workshops with a tour of the finca and
mini-introduction to integral permaculture, as well as walks in the
surrounding area & resting. It
was great to have space for people to stay overnight quite comfortably,
so we could live and eat together whist we got on with the work of
setting up the logistics for the project in a relaxed way. We hope to have more events like this in the future.
creative cartooning work launched the project in a way, as it was the
poster he drew up during his iPDC course that first advertized the event,
then put some nice colour into the online presentation (in spanish) we all contributed to creating.
Thank you for everyone who made this happen! For a lovely event and for a very hopeful eco-economics project for our island. The more people realize how important this kind of wider bioregional connecting projects are, if we are to thrive in the uncertain future, and the more contribute time and energy to the work of creating these essential community infrastructures, the better.
Another Compost Toilet
February-March, under Derek's talents skills and design, a group of
students & volunteers constructed this new compost toilet, of the
twin chamber design type - of which there are manuals you can download
from internet, see the e-book's page on Toilets.
Thank you Derek, Patrick, Allan, Martin, Daniele & Fer
for all your work on this construction - everyone enjoyed learning some extra building skills from doing this, very much.
|The whole point of compost toilets is that we don't waste water and can also turn human wastes (much as we do with animal wastes) into fertilizer - since our main job now on the planet is to restore the fertility of the Earth, and with it the biodiversity to restore ecosystems.
||Mostly we used recycled materials, as we usually do: Derek spent the first few days collecting whatever could be used from around the farm, and we have a big store of materials we've collected over the years, so only a few parts were brought in.
This new toilet was built on the edge of one of the garden terraces (Silva Garden) in order to
make use of the drop for containing two composting chambers: whilst one
is composting the other one is being filled, and when the compost is ready then the toilet bowl is
moved over the other chamber.
It has both sitting and squatting options (squatting
is a much healthier way to poo, if you have the basic fitness to be
able to hold this position comfortably) and we've placed it half-way
between the camping site area and the buildings so that it can be used
by both areas.
de luxe model joins our existing two types of compost toilets: the
chamber pot design (most mini-max of all although ours are a bucket with
sawdust that needs to be emptied only once per week - some of us have
these in our room) and the older compost toilet our very first permaculture students designed from scratch, next to the solar shower, beautifully drawn by Heloise:
The pig's tractoring has been quite impressive, and we're enjoying learning about keeping these beautiful creatures for the first time. It has been challenging at times, especially when they dig under the fence and get out - which they do any time we forget to feed them on time - and they want feeding 3 or 4 times per day - although it's usually so funny to get them back home (teamwork required) that we don't mind the entertainment.
Abora in January before pig tractoring
This is a forest compared to the neighbour's land behind it (paler green, with much shorter grass - they used to look exactly the same) thanks to the sheep and chicken tractoring in previous years.
Abora Garden in June after pig tractoring
This would be a tangle of dried weeds if it weren't for the pigs, who have also fertilized it considerably during their stay. What looks barren land right now (in the summer) will burst into lushness (even more than last year) after the first rains in autumn.
Piggie & Wiggie in February
We could pick them up & carry them when they arrived, they were the same size as our baby goat, and barely reached to our knees.
This is just an experiment for now: we're observing which animals are most effective in cycling nutrients and creating more fertility overall. We might not keep raising them, unless we figure out how to design the whole system to supply their needs and ours in a more mini-max way. But getting to know these delightful creatures is an amazing experience :)
Piggie & Wiggie in July
Now they are much heavier than us & quite impossible to move if they don't want to - so we're quite grateful they are very sweet tempered & calm!
The cardboard in the background protecst from the sun the large quantity of bananas that we get (for free) from the island's cooperatives (many tons are thrown away for not being 'commercializable') - their main food source, together with the abundance of fruit that our trees produce, especially in summer.
At the time of going to press ... we have 9 sheep + 1 goat, 4 of which are lambs which were born around mid-summer (and our Canarina is still pregnant - photos in the next newsletter!).
This spring we took more pictures of the intensive grazing experiments we're doing with them in the surrounding lands (which are noticeably more lush every year, since we've put the sheep on them).
Our main job here (see our Mission
) is to increase the fertility of the soil, to increase biodiversity and so repair the damage done by it having been used as farmland since it was colonized hundreds of years ago (farming being the most destructive activity ever invented by humans).
Originally this area
was a particular kind of forest
: typified by palm-trees and dragos, which we've been re-planting, amongst other endemic & introduced edibles - all part of the forest garden we're creating) and the Awarita used to pass through here on their yearly
migrations with huge herds of goats and sheep.
The Awara, or Benahoaritas, are the original inhabitants of La Palma, who were exterminated and absorbed by the Spanish invasions in the 15th Century, and we remember and honor them on a daily basis with our work here, which builds on their wisdom - as they are the only humans that ever lived here in a truly sustainable way, in harmony with other species.
If you have any questions or comments on our news, we'd love to hear from you!
Do join us in the facebook group where you can comment, ask questions, etc.
You can join our email list if you want us
to keep you up to date with how the EcoVillage evolves
by clicking on the image
You can also email us at
Another beautiful image by Heloise
to summarize what this is all about and why we are doing it :)
In March the bees swarmed again and here we're giving them a new home, in a horizontal top-bar beehive Jose built, the second one, with an added peek-window so we could look inside and see how the bees are doing.
||With the coming of the rains the woods all around us filled up with lots of delicious mushrooms again, and we have been enjoying them a lot, learning to identify new ones and figuring out ways of making edible some that are not commonly eaten.
It has been a particularly good time for mushrooms
because we had rains interspersed with sunny warm weather, and we can
get a box full just by stopping off in the woods on our way back from
the nearby village, where we go to visit friends and buy stuff.
We are very lucky to have Cecilia Hosinski as a neighbor, a mushroom expert and
author who lives just at a 10mins walk from us, so apart from going to the
talks she has been giving, Jose has visited her a few times to bring her some presents from our farm and ask for help in identifying new species (Jose has been learning about mushrooms from time, as it's one of his passions, and now can recognize most edible species around here).
|We have mostly been eating the very abundant nacidas (Rhizopogon luteolus), níscalos (Lactarius deliciosus and Lactarius sanguifluus) and tortullos de cabra (Russula delica), and we also have been figuring out how to make edible some other abundant but not commonly eaten mushrooms, like Volvopluteus gloiocephalus, Suillus bellini, Lactarius tesquorum and Lycoperdon perlatum.
We also came up with a particularly fun way of drying the excess mushrooms by
making these organic Christmas decorations.
In the background there are sacred tobacco leaves, a very interesting healing plant we are enjoying learning how to cultivate and cure
has a Cuban background and his grandmother is a traditional Cuban
healer, so he is very interested in exploring medicinal and teacher plants).
It was very beautiful to have mushrooms popping up everywhere, and seeing them appear, grow and develop throughout the days. These are Volvopluteus gloiocephalus, which are delicious if prepared correctly.
Héloïse the Architect
We enjoyed the delightful company of Héloïse at the end of November, an architect who did these beautiful drawings.
just two weeks she made us a 3D sketchup plan of the whole farm (that
we can now tweak by putting more accurate measurements as we go) and
numerous drawings and concept sketches for the projects we are planning
to do next.
|Here is a short bio in her own words:
||Héloïse measuring the Oya terrace
(where the workshop is) to make a scale map.
am joining the project for 2 weeks, i am having now one sabbatical year
from september 2014 to 2015, and plan to travel around the world.
arrived in Canarias to meet a skipper and a sailingboat to cross
atlantic, but he had to many technical problems, so he won't come. It
makes me the opportunity to discover, engage myself here.
know about permaculture design, i like gardening, building with my
hands, i already did some constructions, but each time i realise there a
lot of things to learn more... I am also an activist (passific). In
Lyon, where i used to live, i organised the Transition Town community http://transition-lyon7.over-blog.com/
Translation from her blog about her experience here:
week I'm volunteering, or woofing in the 8thlife farm. This farm has
the particularity to apply a maximum permaculture principles to be
self-sufficient at all levels. http://8thlife.org
is a design approach that ethics is "taking care of the land, taking
care of the human and share equitably." Permaculture design is based on
sustainability, "sustainability", which according to Bill Mollison, the
ability of a system to create more energy or matter in his life that he
needs to run itself, in other words, a higher return 1. ecosystems are
based on this principle, not machines ... in designing such systems, it
is necessary to have a systemic vision, holistic with basic principles
such as: the economy priority of human effort, but also resources
(energy, water, space ...), then looping resources and waste by
maximizing the interdependencies between components and redundancy where
each element many roles and resilience, vital functions are performed
by several elements.
the project, such as its authors, is exciting. Stella, Italian by birth
lived 20 years in England, she has worked since 1995 as coordinator in
an association supporting a permaculture project and urban agriculture, a
transition initiative before its time, it is a pioneer in the field.
She moved there 10 years ago in La Palma, preferring the amenities of
the island (climate, clean air, etc ...) by being "poor" rather than to
make a career in London, paying a flat out price in stress and
pollution. There are 4 years old, she bought the farm to create an
eco-village .. Jose Cuban origin and Canary adoption, it is a "young
man" (22 years), very intelligent, computer, it joined the farm there is
2 years old. They are also trainers permaculture. They are responsible
for creating a permaculture training that differs from the PDC
(Permaculture basic degree), to the extent that the theoretical part is
completely online. The idea is that the internet brings together the
theoretical field of knowledge, it is accessible to all, can be seen and
reviewed by the students, but organized in a training process on the
website. http://www.permaculturescience.org. Then, students can come and
experience the principles on the farm, but the best is to try at home
and share the experiences of each then. Their approach is exciting to
the extent that permaculture is not just to agro-ecology issues but
treats all topics including http://www.integralpermaculture.org
was interested in the project and they were interested in my
architectural skills in green building and my various illustrations. So,
I draw, I make little alternative projects for the farm elements ...
I'm really having a great time! I have my little room in a dependency,
with kitchen, bathroom and living room, it's great, but the problem here
is that it's cold at night (equivalent climate in the fall or spring
Norman ... ) dropoff window
What I do most here is the animal eco-architecture, my main sponsors are animals! Below the different projects.
chicken tractor: A "classic" permaculture, chickens are used to scrape
the soil before planting, hence the name, and it replaced the "tractor"
in addition to eating rubbish, lay eggs and fertilize the ground with
The herd: Every day, their four sheep graze in nearby fields, "clippers" on
legs. I drew a sheep for them and a dome for the shepherd.
GuineaPig Hotel: Another project to rebuild their hutch guinea pig
because, yes ... they eat guinea pigs ... they're "paleo" they eat meat
and fish and plants, no processed food, no wheat, rice, pasta ... like
the caveman, which would be the food suited to our constitution.
Although I do not
share, I understand their food self-sufficiency approach. It is also
found that the guinea pig is generally easy to breed, cute, less
susceptible to disease than rabbits, with an equivalent taste, and South
America, it is a typical dish ...
workshop container: A container and overlaid roofs: the container is
the closed portion which constitutes the workshop with the storage safe
tools, then a portion of external storage (wood toasting etc ..) and a
zone work. The whole project is done with recycled materials.
Kitchen for volunteers and students: collective kitchen, closed with windows of different sizes.
Dry toilets and solar shower: They already exist but for fun I have also illustrated.
How the farm functions
I help once in a while for common tasks, I walk to Palma. There are
also other volunteers from the farm: André (Canadian carpenter),
Cristina (instit 'steiner, Swedish) and an Italian couple (organic
producer in Calabria).
It is still an island
with beautiful scenery, terrain, nature, sky, stars ... I met tourists
by car and went with them in their visits ... Puertito Puntagorda, los
Llanos, Tazacorte Javier (topographer diver) and Sergio (wind repairman)
and el Roque de Muchachos with Oscar (teacher on sabbatical from
Logroño). Beautiful people of great generosity!
The delightful Melita who visited in February, with Bonita (our new goat) in the background munching on flowers.
Biodiversity & Seed Banks
We are very lucky to have some really dedicated people here on the island who
are working on preserving the biodiversity heritage of the region, and we
occasionally visit the two sites where they propagate and distribute the agricultural and autochthonous plants respectively.
Recently we went to collect a few more varieties of sweet potato, from this field where there are some 20 varieties growing, just for distribution to the farmers of the Island.
are the new gardens just starting in Finca Fortuna. The wooden frame
is the base of the chicken tractor we're going to build that will be
moved across each garden - here used as a measuring tool to make sure
the chicken cage will fit inside each garden.
The white-topped box in the background is one of the top-bar horizontal beehives Jose has been making (which has just received a swarm, so it will be full of a thriving bee colony, like a similar one that Jose made last year, very soon).
Making wishing fairies from waste materials (like shiny chocolate wrappers, bits of cloth, etc) with Suzy over the christmas holidays. Thanks to Fortuna's farm we now have an 'art room' (that doubles as a big dining room).
Apart from mushrooms, we also had a big harvest from our forest gardens last year that we preserved in various ways.
||With the heat of the summer, we got to dry part of the abundance of fruits
we had, especially figs in preparation for Derek coming this spring to
help improve some of the structures on site, and also bananas, both
sweet and green (which are very abundant here and work wonderfully as paleo crackers and a
source of resistant starch).
We also made lots ice cream with very sweet ripe fruits (bananas, plums,
pears, prickly pears...) and cream kefir, and also lots of really
delicious vinegar with pears, plums, passion fruit, local wild berries
And we even made lots of umeboshis
with the green apricots, plums, peaches and almonds that fell off the
trees before they could finish ripening (the trees were so loaded with fruit that the branches couldn't hold
||And with all the grapes that Celi and her partner Jose helped in harvesting (from our own grapevines and also from some neighbors who couldn't pick theirs, so we did it for them and gave them part of the harvest) we made lots of raisins and many jugs of deliciously fizzy fermented must than later became vinegar (which we had fun pressing with our feet and hands).
And as the rains started to come, we finished the dry season by
harvesting almonds with the help of some volunteers (although we didn't
manage to get them all in, mainly because the rains
arrived sooner than we anticipated).
picking them, the almonds need to be shelled (a job we did whilst watching
movies in the library) and then dried, which was easy because it was very hot just before the
There were more flowers than ever during the amazingly beautiful almonds in flower spectacle this year (mid january to mid february), and they all fed the bees so well that in march they decided to start swarming ...
Moving the GreenHouse
We finally took down the old (experimental) greenhouse so we can expand the walnut forest we started on this terrace.
had already moved (and expanded) the tree nursery to under the big
avocado in Fortuna's house, and the seedling nursery to the long thin garden in the
The seedling nursery worked well on the garden wall over the summer, but
we need a more easily sheltered place for the winter, when rain and cold make the seedlings grow more slowly.
Celi had a very good idea to make a greenhouse-wall in the new patio to house the seed trays in a protected place as near to the house as possible, and we can't get any nearer than this.
This will be a great new structure because it
is important to be able to see seedlings several times a day, so greenhouses should be in 'Zone 1', and preferably wherever we pass
daily on our regular journeys around the land.
we also have our 'Multi-function' principle, which reminds us to try to
make each element fulfill at least three functions (by where we place
it, how we build it, etc.), and in this case, apart from making an
attractive 'green wall', this new seedlings greenhouse will shelter the
house from wind, provide more intimacy in this patio, and well as serve
as a greenhouse, thus fulfilling at least 4 functions.
The salad garden in Fortuna's farm from above, with nursery trays full of baby veggies to plant out.
Weather Tourists and Diet
had another interesting episode with a couple arriving with a view
of staying for several months, in theory to help with the project &
'learn more about permaculture', but in practice they were just weather
is an interesting pattern we have noticed over the years, which is that
there seems to be a mass exodus to the sun by vegan or vegetarian
northerners who 'need the heat' or are prone to getting SAD
or winter depression.
Arctic ice has become a lake, displacing and disappearing countless
polar bears (and many other species), who depend on the ice to survive. These creatures can't
afford to shop for their weather, because most ultra-privileged humans
who do have money & time to spare don't choose to invest it in
stopping this crazy system from destroying their homes.
This is very much a health issue, as well a sustainability issue
: these people, instead of connecting deeper with their own land and ancestry (who didn't suffer from such 'diseases of civilization
spend a fortune on airplane tickets (funding the multinationals) to go
shopping around the world for their 'favorite foods & weather'
rather than learn what their bodies are actually adapted to, and so
REPAIR the ecosystems their ancestors lived well-adapted lives on for
met whole groups of these weather tourists over the years, and we can
certainly vouch for the fact (which took us many years to notice, as a
pattern) that it does seem to be that the most (long-term) 'vegan/vegetarian'
people are the most difficult to live with, because they seem to have very little tolerance for discomfort and are especially moody, and so very unrealiable.
now know that lack of animal fats in the diet causes hormonal &
neuronal instability, depression and general unhappiness, as well as a
whole host of other physical symptoms, when a good hormonal balance,
healthy gut flora, and strong immune system can be achieved quite
easily by eating what our ancestors evolved to adapt to, using the template of a paleolithic diet rich in grass-fed animal fats (why we have sheep, guinea pigs, goats and pigs on our farm), always adapted to the local ecosystem and the foods that it wants to grow for us, and incorporating the local micro-biota with fermented foods (we mostly eat
wild veggies in our rich soups and sautés, but also ferment many wild and cultivated produce, which we
make delicious creams out of, adding garlic & virgin olive oil).
When simply existing (and especially in this extremely beautiful place) isn't a
base-line pleasurable experience (how humans with healthy bodies normally
feel, whatever crisis are going on in their lives), then it makes sense
to keep looking outside for possible causes of unhappiness, which sets us up for becoming chronic consumers, and perpetual 'seekers' of
particular things (shopping) or experiences (being a tourist, whether in
places, courses, workshops, etc.).
famously said "there are Seekers, and there are Those who Find" ... and
the main big cultural difference we have with the Seeker-type people
who visit us is that we are very much Finders here, very happy with our
lot, deeply satisfied in our daily life and being fully present in
living our mission, very connected to the spirit of this place and all
the creatures we take care of, and who take care of us.
What was particularly interesting about this pair was that she was studying natural medicine & alternative healing practices, and he had
brought the documentary "Origins", which, although it interviews some
of the best known paleo diet experts, manages to skirt around the
shocking inversion of the 'food pyramid' that we've been sold by the food industry during
the last few decades (basically telling us that a healthy diet is based
on carbohydrates, and processed ones at that: bread, pasta, rice,
But both smoked and had other stimulants, and also drank alcohol daily, which together with a diet poor in animal fats
is just about the worst things you can do if you want your body to stay warm naturally.
And instead of realizing that
they were in a perfect place to learn how to do all this and improve
their own health and life enormously, they left to go shopping for
warmer weather and beaches.
These are our new canarian black pigs (with our baby goat in the foreground).
It was particularly cold (at nights only) when they happened to be here (less than
week), but Jose was still going around in a T-shirt or just shorts most
of the time, whilst everyone
else was wrapped up with woolies, which shows very clearly and graphically the
difference between having a fat-based or a sugar-based metabolism
The pigs are just 3 months old, currently living in one of the overgrown gardens, which they're busy tractoring beautifully.
<< this is how they leave the ground after they've eaten up all the vegetation, roots and bugs in the soil, leaving the earth very soft, ready for planting again.
9th Anniversary Share Price
We got the two piglets as a present for our 9th year anniversary - from getting the keys to the first farm, which was on Valentine's day 2006 - although it's only 4 years since the start of the ecovillage project, which we launched in 2011.
As usual we revised the share values on our anniversary - and this year decided that since we increased considerably the ecovillage area and living space by buying Fortuna's farm, that we should increase the share price again (and there are also now 2 new shares associated to concrete terraces in the new farm, which new permanent members can take care of).
So now a mini-share has gone up to 2,200€, and a full share to 22,000€.
Thank you to all the share-holders to date for making this dream possible by investing your savings into this big land piggy-bank - and congratulations to the first share-holders for the 10% increase on your investment!
Stella bottle-feeding Bonita, the little goat who follows her everywhere, here with Boli (the dog) looking on.
They are enthusiastic playmates and run around together and both go on walks with Stella in the mornings.
From December we have had Suzy here, and we are really grateful for her great intelligence, clarity of thought, firm integrity and passion for justice.
We have also had lots of fun together with her enthusiasm, creativity and artistic skills,
and she is doing a wonderful job as our Volunteer Coordinator, thanks to which we have a big team right now working on improving the infrastructures of the EcoVillage project.
She has also been writing some brilliant articles, partly inspired by her experience here, her discussions with us and what she is learning in the iPDC course
And she treats us to guitar & piano concerts too :)
Living in 8th Life
The mechanisms of industrial society mean that most of us
are indoctrinated into a system that does it’s very best to enslave us; it certainly seems that way at least. It’s a comfortable prison cell, but none the
less our abilities to design our own communities, and our own lives, seem
limited due to our industrialised education, media and culture. Those of us who do escape face a journey into
the unknown and sometimes a complete revaluation of our priorities.
And this is another one she wrote especifically about her experience here:
For escapees like me the 8th Life project is a
Born in London I have grown up with very little contact with
the other aspects of nature and my upbringing meant that I was expected to follow
the job/mortgage/family path. Luckily I
am blessed with parents who, although seemly entrenched in the system, are secret
radicals who want our western culture to change as much as I do.
I’ve discovered however that the comforts of city life are
difficult to let go of. A hot bath and internet
in bed are some of my favourite vices, as well as fresh coffee and tons of
What I think is great about this project is that it’s set up
to take into account the physical and emotional difficulties that come with
transitioning to a more sustainable, community based existence. It seems that in cities, although we are
crammed in together, we are actually very isolated. Conflict doesn’t seem to be an everyday problem
because we simply do our best to avoid each other. Living community, however, means that
managing conflict and personal relationships is one of the most important things
to do. One can learn how to grow the
best tomatoes in the world, but if the personal relationships between people are
poisoned then no one is going to be able to enjoy those tomatoes, or even organise
how to grow them.
There are various tools that are used here to add manure to
our personal relationships. One of these
are ‘think and listens’ where we each take turns to say what’s on our minds for
a minimum of 5 minutes, while the other person gives us their full
attention. At first it’s uncomfortable, especially
if you’ve come from a background where listening to each other is a rare, or non-existent,
occurrence. However, after a while it’s
clear that not only does it help to ‘discharge’ negative feelings, often
trapped within our bodies, it also creates instant bonds and feelings of
Another tool use here is
appreciation. Again, it can be extremely
uncomfortable to hear good things about oneself, and even uncomfortable to
express appreciation for another. But
after a session of appreciation everyone glows with positive energy.
To support escapees physically we have Transition House; where
we are presented with options on varying degrees of sustainability. For example, we have a compost toilet alongside
a normal toilet; a boiler powered shower and also a solar shower; we have a saw
dust washing up system as well as washing up liquid.
One of my own transition challenges has centred on my own
waste aka poo. I’ve absorbed a belief
that poo is bad, dirty and to be avoided as much as possible. This means that in the city I used as much toilet paper as I
could to ensure I had no contact with this type of waste at all. So, when I asked to try using water instead
of toilet paper I bulked at the idea and my stress levels went through the
roof. However, the solution came with
redesigning the placement of the toilet.
Although I struggled with using water from plastic bottles (because in
my mind I was still touching poo) when we placed the toilet in bathroom, next
to a bidet, I was happier to use the running water to wash. This means that even though I’m still using water
to clean myself I’m using a fraction of what is used in the manufacturing of
toilet paper, and there’s also no waste; a big transition for a city girl like
me. I’m also coming to realise that my ‘waste’
is actually a valuable resource that the soil is happy to accept.
8th Life is a perfect place for those of us who
are looking for a way out of the destructive culture and seems to draw new
escapees like bears to honey as we take our first steps towards a more empowered and
sustainable existence. It’s like we intuitive
know that here we will be nurtured and supported into our rebirth as humans who
part take in the cycles of life, not just the constant one-sided consuming we experience in
Then, like sick cells converted in to healthy ones, we each
go out and spread our new found knowledge and show the rest of our friends and
family that escape is possible.
I feel very lucky and
grateful to be part of this very special project. Thank you Stella and Jose.
The pine woods near the farm through which we walk on weekends when we go to the local market.
If you have any questions or comments on our news, we'd love to hear from you!
Do join us in the facebook group where you can comment, ask questions, etc.
You can join our email list if you want us
to keep you up to date with how the EcoVillage evolves
by clicking on the image
You can also email us at
Here you can see what our hills and valleys look like during the almond flower season.
All our surroundings are full of these very generous trees,
that provide us with an abundance of beauty in spring,
shade and food for the sheep during the summer (who love eating the leaves that these trees shed during the dry season,
where there are not many other green things for them to eat)
and many, many delicious almonds in autumn,
which were planted by the ancestors of the families that established this village,
who got their income mostly from growing and selling almonds.
We have had a very peaceful, beautiful cool summer, cheered by the visits of family & new guests
with whom we've created new gardens & nurserires and improved some animal structures, between 'little parties' inaugurating the new cinema-library.
We've also worked on the free mini-courses
with a fantastic team of the Academy, with whom we then went on to design
the new mega-adventure of the iPDC & EcoSchools network
, which you can read about below.
Maximising 'Edge' & Fertility
It is interesting to observe that even though we are always grateful for the great fortune of being able to do this work
, it is difficult to appreciate that we are actually advancing quite a lot, until we start to compile one of these newsletters.
Step by step ...Also because there is always so much more ahead that we are excited about wanting to do.
In Permaculture we say that 'maximizing edge' is a way of increasing fertility (if we design well) and here we certainly have lots of edge, with the great variety of projects that we are doing.
If we don't get burned out it's thanks to the many 'survival skills for activists' tools we teach in Integral Permaculture, and we do notice it quickly when we don't use some! They definitely work.
The much awaited autumn rains have started, and with them the arrival of a new & interesting phase for the EcoVillage project, with new residents, new observations, new farms, much more space & new activities
- like a return to doing the PDC courses here (the basic certification for in Permaculture Design, recognized internacionally), after 4 years.
The most exciting thing will probably be however
, once the rains have been absorbed, to see how much the fertility of the land will have increased
after another year of Jose's experiments with intensive grazing
Until now we have seen a noticeable increase in the variety, thickness & size of spontaneous vegetation each spring, wherever our animals had been (sheep or chickens) in an intensive way.
Which means that the soil is creating always more humus, so trapping more carbon, creating more life and also storing more water.
This is truly an 'earth bank' - as soil fertility is the only true wealth, ultimately.
And it's for this reason that our web starts with -
8thLife is an EcoVillage project
starting in the Canary Islands
& a unique opportunity
to invest in a healthy future:
for you, for your family,
for future generations
& for all species.These miracles of Nature
aren't valued as much as they should be as a solution to the grave problems of climate change: easily reproducible in a big scale, with all the abandoned lands we have, this is the most permacultural thing we can do now: repair as much soil as we possibly can but in order to make larger scale cooperation between humans and other species a reality, we must also educate with our example, showing substantial results.
Our sheep only eat the wild and feral plants that grow around them, whilst they prepare and fertilize the soil, with very little effort on our part, when almost all modern farmers still spend a lot of money (petrol) buying imported grains (which are harmful to herbivores), alfalfa, etc. and then have to work to import biomass for bedding & food from outside just to later do more work to take it all away. It could be a lot easier, and much more helpful & healthy - for humans, herbivores & climate.
But, after this 'grounding' ... this newsletter is actually mainly to communicate some other very good news:
thanks to some important changes that we've managed in this super-productive year, starting from November we can offer a very innovative way of taking the Permaculture Design Certificate, the PDC) on the farm.
We will keep offering this each month during 2015 (with some exceptions) in english & spanish, as we want to - and now can - offer this very important basic course to small groups, and in this way preserve the peaceful & homely atmosphere we appreciate so much. Also we will be able to provide much more personal attention than is possible in traditional Permaculture Certificate courses, and this is important because it seems quite difficult to apply what this cutting edge science teaches, and now more than ever we need excellent designers for sustainability.
Monthly PermaCulture Courses starting in November
One result of the decision to focus, with the Integral Permaculture Academy, on the online courses, has been the creation of a lively international community
of permaculture colleagues with very good & close relationships, who enjoy providing each other with mutual support.
This has made it possible now to offer some much cheaper Permaculture Certificate Courses, of a higher quality and for smaller groups
, connecting simultaneously, in a network. We will launch them on the farm in November - if you want to enroll on the first one there is a discount
(200€ instead of 241€ for the basic course) because it is still experimental
- but note that you have until the 5th of November
You can read everything about the courses & innovations that this network has made possible on the www.en.EcoEscuelas.net website. The newsletter for this you can see here & you can send it easily to your contacts, if you know someone to whom this may interest.
Here is a video we did a month ago in order to show the new finca where the guests & students will reside
Celi showing the front part of Transition house here with Jose translating.
Celi takes care of the guests & below you can read about the refurbishing she's been doing since we bought the farm, in May 2014 (and we keep improving things all the time, so it is already more beautiful than when we filmed the video :)
The whole long patio is ideal as a plant nursery, as they stay in the shade here - we've got lots!
Finca Fortuna To add Finca Fortuna for the EcoVillage has been a dream now since 3 or 4 years ago, when it was put up for sale. A very desired dream that, thanks to the affectionate relationship between Fortuna & Stella, we could at last close the sale for, at the perfect moment. Fortuna tells us often how delighted she is that we could buy her ancestral home, because she says "we're just like family" for her - a sentiment we very much share.
Fortuna was the last person left living here, of the interesting family which used to have the large & beautiful farm that was formerly divided in various parts.
Finca Luna was the first part of this ancestral farm that we bought (for the Foundation of the EcoVillage project), on Valentine's Day of 2006, & Finca Fortuna is the second part, May Day of 2014.
We feel very privileged, & quite moved, to be doing this exciting work to repopulate & restore a piece of rural canarian heritage.
Fortuna processing almonds, above, an abundant harvest here,
and below, with the students of one of the annual action-learning courses that we used to have here on the farm (dressed up silly before going to a party).
- clicking on the 2 old pictures above takes you to the old action-learning wiki, in spanish -
Fortuna, who was raised on the farm as a little girl
is now 88, and has gone to live near her daughter for health reasons - we go visit her whenever we go to 'the big city'.
During the 8 years of being very close neighbors this lively elder told us countless precious stories
of the traditional life of this place and its inhabitants: what was farmed and how, how they processed the various harvests, how the village & the family developed ...
Something of which we are extremely grateful because it connects us more deeply with this land, as well as providing us with very useful & interesting practical knowledge, much of which can't be found in any book.
Fortuna is a very talented artist & artisan,
here showing a drawing of hers to be enbroidered.
We want to offer our guests this beautiful house full of history, with surroundings & charm, as a place of transition, in order to help with the difficult and much needed path of change, thinking a lot about how to put into action one of the ethics of permaculture, Care for People.
< Under the patio's trees, the plant nursery.
The house that is part of the finca gives us four new rooms, three of them doubles.
We also now have a conventional bathroom and kitchen, something that - some experiences have shown us - seems necessary for people who can't adapt quite so fast to the other much more basic (and also more sustainable) facilities that we still have in the next door farm.
In this way we invite people to take all the time they need to try the other options we have, like the compost toilets, the solar shower in the open air and the rocket cooker, also in the open air.
We also have a large room that may become a café for passing tourists or simply the winter dining room. We've enjoyed it a lot as a perfect place for making the abundant preserves, vinegars and patés that we love making, with the super-harvest that we have throughout the whole year.
We also enjoy the long patio that is connected to the valley and the Camino Real (ancient stone-paved path), surrounded by drago trees, fruit trees and little ancient houses, from which you can see the mountain as well as the ocean in the distance, a cool place that we use as an open air dining area because of its beauty & tranquility.
The first room is the largest, in which up to 4 people can stay, and it can also be divided into two double rooms by moving furniture and letting down a heavy curtain.
In fact the main purpose of this new hostel in Finca Fortuna is to serve as a Transition Home to facilitate the interior and exterior processes of the people who want to change their lives to something more sustainable, rational, and more in tune with their values, ethics and dreams. Celi calls it the Dream Room because it was the first one she redecorated & where, whilst she painted, she dreamed of the new & interesting future that was presenting itself. In the meantime, a tree started flowing out of the brush onto the wall in a very spontaneous way which reminded her of a ritual she had done with Jose & Stella (many months before) by drawing a magical beautiful tree on her leg, with the intention that in this way has become a reality.
Dreams do come true! Especially when you have good traveling companions, who have patience with you, but also push you & remind you of your ideals and values when necessary.
For this reason the restoration work of this last summer was done with all the affection, feeling and love that we feel for this important mission which is part of the work that we're carrying out in this EcoVillage project.
The third room is also a double, but with two individual beds and is further away from the main house, with views to the mountains. It's ideal for sharing & has the privacy that a couple with small children might appreciate. It has a large wardrobe & a sideboard that Celi rejuvenated with a lick of paint and her slightly odd but nice taste.
We gave it the name of our first guest, Ambra, who cheered up the house so much with her visit. This room has a roof covered with a grape vine which keeps it cool in summer.
The third room is a single room, quite a lot smaller than the others, but has a bed that can be used by a couple and a cupboard that is almost a micro-room.
This one is near the bathroom and kitchen, so it can also be ideal for an older person, and it has very nice views.
Here, when we were painting, the seed puffs that are used to ask for wishes came out of the walls
calls Celi our resident fairy
because she spreads beauty and magic wherever she passes through... and she always does it surprisingly quickly).
was very interesting to see the transformation, from a room so full of
clutter that it felt hard to get it all out, to such a clear and
different space, and the best of all was all the fun that Celi had
improving it with her son Eduardo and her partner Jose Javier ('the
The Beach Cabin
There are more beautiful surprises for lucky guests...
This is "The Beach Cabin", a little refuge by the seaside that belongs to Celi's family,
and another place that has been made beautiful and welcoming by the magic that Celi spreads everywhere with her artistic talents.
It's on the opposite side of the island from where we live, so we go there sometimes to enjoy another kind of peace and quiet, when we'd like some vacations - & we take any guests with us when we go.
And there's some amazing caves nearby.
Our first guest
Ambra came from Italy for holidays, and she met here Rosalba and her family,
another group of very nice people who gifted us with their joy and excitement for two weeks.Ambra is a lovely young person
who quickly befriended everyone and surprised us with how she even managed to get close very quickly with Luna, a traumatized dog that Celi had rescued, who tends to be very afraid of people<< here in a foto with her
She wrote this about here experience here with us
(our colors and sizes):
It's my last day in the ecovillage and I feel like I don't want to leave...
I feel that I've found balance here among lovely people in contact with nature and taking care of myself... but I don't want to to write too much about the wonderful places I saw during these two weeks or the most delicious and healthiest food I ate.
What has affected me the most has been what the people in the ecovillage have transmitted to me in a human level.
Finally some "holidays" that have enriched me a lot with new stimuli, new knowledge not just about permaculture, but also life experiences and viewpoints of different people. An exchange of ideas and energies.
I loved to see how life in an ecovillage can be: very difficult and at the same time very stimulating and satisfying.
The people here share a big passion for building a life path that is oriented to sustainability and self-sufficiency.
Luna, Miguel, Cecile, Celi & Ambra in the beautiful caves around the Beach Cabin
They have already done lots of work, but, of course, they still have many projects to be developed. I'd love to come back after some time to see how from an idea, a design, they will reach its fulfillment.
The fact that they believe deeply in what they do has given me lots of hope: a better world is possible.
There's people who don't just dream about this, but who work every day to make sure this doesn't stay a dream.
Utopias might not stay utopias if we fight with all our willpower and we don't stay indifferent or inactive.
I think that, above all, that was the teaching they gave me.
Thank you so much Ambra, we also really enjoyed getting to meet you!
We hope you come back soon... because there's a green roof to finish ... :)
The Green Roof
That is not all that green yet, but it's just a matter of time...
A good nursery also needs a comfortable space to transplant the little trees into bigger pots when they need it.
This place under a big avocado tree that is just under the patio of the new farm (there we can check on our babies very often), looked ideal to us for the tree nursery
that had needed a bigger space for a while, thanks to Stella's love for growing trees, mostly from seed but also from cuttings
(we will be doing some layering soon, also).
This is Ainur, a young man from the village who visits us every now and then to help out and enjoy the place with us.
He helped to flatten a strip of ground and cover it with an anti-rooting cloth
before we moved the little trees from the old greenhouse to their new home.
We have these trees for planting out in the still embryonic 8 food forests of 8thLife. Now that the rains are starting we will be planting more of them in their ideal spots.
Here we have a number of variety of baby trees, like custard apples, loquats, macadamias, pomegranates, walnuts, oranges, avocados, mangos, figs, chestnuts, carob, false cinnamon, laurel, drago, and various kinds of acacias and mimosas...
We also have a big abundance of aloes
, that propagate like crazy. The new cactus nursery is just besides it, more or less in full sun all day. It has mostly opuntias
of different varieties (some quite rare), and also some kinds of cardón
and agave, with whom we will be doing some experiments to reinforce or substitute stone walls that have collapsed.
We'd love to see your comments about this newsletter
Link to this page >> http://en.8thlife.org/what/news/aug2014-fishing
El boletín en español está aquí To mail this newsletter click here (forward button bottom left) In summer we tend to spend a lot more time enjoying the ocean, especially during the hottest days.
On those particulary warm days we spend the morning doing things around the farm, like making sure all the animals & plants are kept cool & well-watered, then get down to the water in the afternoon, returning in the evening after picking up lots of greens for the sheep on the way back up home, whilst enjoying the spectacular sunsets.
We thought we'd share some of our discoveries & current experiments with nutrition in this newsletter, as we are constantly action-researching here.
Not many people know about the Aquatic Hypothesis of Human Evolution. It is a little-known theory that would explain (amongst many other things) what more & more dietary experts are emphasizing nowadays, of the crucial importance of sea food (especially crustaceans & mollusks) to our diet. Jose being very interested in nutritional science, we made sure that we also learn all we can about
how to provide for ourselves from the abundant coastline that we are so beautifully surrounded by.
We've been learning from expert fishermen like this farming neighbor who has been teaching us a lot about where & how to catch valuable sea food.
This is Jose harvesting sea urchins - which are very highly nutritious and in fact are now a "plague"
of our coasts here (due to man-made disasters), so it's especially useful to catch them, as well as quite easy.
We are celebrating increasing our Food Freedom
here in the EcoVillage project considerably this year, not only physically
(we realized recently that our food buying budget has more than halved since the end 2012!),
but also more recently by creating a great free conference for International Permaculture Day this year.
It's wonderfully controversial and a very good example of how 'integral' permaculture takes into account truly ALL facets of any subject, in order for us to be able to do truly holistic design together.
It's also a great way to understand how & why we design our sustainable food systems here in the 8thLife EcoVillage project.
Click here to enroll on the new Free MiniCourse "FoodFreedom" that this conference is now available as.
Collecting lots of food for the sheep on the way back home from the beach, one of our routines.