We have missed sharing our journey with you more in depth than via Social Media. As we are visiting some friends & family in France & the Netherlands and taking a little break from the farm life we have found some time to reflect back. There is so much to update you on!
Who said living in a caravan was easy?
Since our arrival in November '20 we have been overwhelmed with the possibilities and the amount of work that is necessary to realize a regenerative farm, but most of all to
create a place where we feel home and a place to extract to and recharge. The first months we lived in an apartment 20 minutes driving which made it difficult to really connect with the farm and to make the progress we wanted. In March we decided to move to the farm, spring arrived and so it became less cold and the trees started to blossom beautifully. The cold winter was now behind us, and we took the leap of living in a caravan on the farm.. We could only do this with the knowledge that the old farmhouse on the farm was going to be renovated in order for us to live there eventually. Some of our family & friends in NL often referred to a typical Dutch real-life TV program where people emigrate to start a B&B or little hotel called 'Ik Vertrek' / 'I Leave'. The challenges of settling in a foreign country with a language & culture barrier while trying to find your way through designing & renovating your new home with people you can trust. Let's just say there are plenty of moments where your real motivation and relationship gets tested, to the bone ;)
Living in a caravan was a conscious choice to save some costs as well, but if we even knew that it was going to take at least 5 months.. We are not so sure if we would have made the same decision, but we can see how much energy and head-space the house will give us once we will have solid walls and a roof without feeling like we are in a mini-sauna. This energy and head-space will benefit the project so much, we just need to be a little bit patient.
While going through the design of the house, we had to make a small adjustment to create a little extra room.. As if we did not have enough motivation yet to leave this planet behind more beautiful than how we found it; a little Green Rebel is now on it's way to make it even more worthwhile! We feel extremely grateful that we got this gift of love and are very excited to welcome a little wonder end of December. Coralie is doing really well, especially considering living in a caravan in the Spanish summer. Another motivation to get the house done ASAP ;)
Learning, learning and learning more together
One of the paths to get more clarity on how we were going to regenerate 15 hectares of degraded land was to work with a mentor who has the experience and knowledge to guide us in the right direction. We already talked about how we got in touch with Oliver Goshey from Climate Farmers and who has his own podcast called Regenerative Skills, in our update of November .
Together with Oliver we hosted our very first course on the farm end of May, together with incredible 10 students we learned all about Regenerative Agroforestry & Ecosystem Restoration. An experience that we have spent a lot of time and effort on organizing and preparing the farm to welcome people and to provide a safe and warm space to connect with nature and each other, while
having fun and learning a lot. Rebel Talitha came over to stay as our very first volunteer at the farm for a couple of months, together we renovated our second caravan that will serve as accommodation for future volunteers, planted hundreds of rescue plants (melons, basil, tomato's, peppers and aubergines) and did much more.
We also had the fortune that my parents could come over 3 full weeks to help us out with so much work that had to be done, from as little as preparing lunch or dinner, cleaning out the Community Kitchen a.k.a. 'Rebel Kitchen', but also spending some quality time together exploring the beaches, cute villages and going for nice lunches. A boost that we really needed!
The course went very well, long days where we actually had to facilitate a lot more than we hoped, but still we learned so much. Working together with Oliver is a great pleasure that helps us better understand the ecosystem that we are in and the priorities we should focus on in order to regenerate optimally, but also to be extremely clear on our goals and type of lifestyle we envision. Together we analyzed our soil, learned how to prune, propagate and assess the health of trees, dove into Syntropic Agriculture and planted an experimental patch (see below groups picture), and we had a lot of fun! The students were great consultants who interviewed us and throughout the week developed an incredible holistic design for the farm! An experience we will definitely want to organize again.
Unfortunately the course also had it's down, as quite a big shock and loss we lost our pup Jane, who was only about 9 months old. Probably being intoxicated, but we don't know what the cause is of it. It could be an insect, toad or perhaps pesticides from neighboring farms, we will never know. She passed away in Coralie's arms on our way to the emergency in the car. At that moment we felt very, very far away removed from civilization. We organized a little ceremony the day after, the love & support from the students and our friends helped us through the loss. Jane really helped us feeling safe and home the first months on the farm, but most importantly she gave us a lot of joyful moments and laughter. She will forever be guarding us and the farm, from under a newly planted Carob tree.
Another proof that not a day goes by unplanned, is that the apricots became super ripe during the course. With the help of the students we got to harvest some of them and turned them into dried apricots, jam, ice cream and many other creations by our friends Jack & Jacqueline! We've learned how delicate apricots are, and learned the hard way how difficult they are to sell directly as a fruit within a very short time-frame and how easily they get damaged. A big learning experience for next year:)
Pioneers, Climate Farmers & Richard Perkins
Even though we learned a lot with Oliver during the course, we still felt that we needed more learnings to get to a business plan of what kind of enterprises we want to start, what we want to grow the coming years and how much money we need to really start the farm and being able to operate it with more than just 4 hands. We've joined other European Farmers in the Climate Farmers' Pioneer Group, a 2 month training and support program that combines an online masterclass by Richard Perkins and consultation from and with Climate Farmers. An incredible way to be part of a like-minded community while learning in a more structured way to a very tangible goal. We are struggling a little bit with keeping up fully with the Masterclass, but it is giving us lifetime access to 80+ hours of video's with a lot of insights on how we can regenerate the soil in multiple ways, what kind of animals we should adopt to help us best and what kind of methods to apply.
Some of you've asked, do the values & way of thinking of Richard Perkins really align with The Green Rebel? Even though Richard applies permaculture and regenerative agriculture, he grows and sells a lot of animals for their flesh. This is something we would never do, we do not see animals as products but as living beings that we do not need to kill to survive. We are both plantbased, and are deeply driven to change the way our food is produced, especially focusing on the animal agriculture. But that does not mean we should exclude animals from our ecosystem, especially not in a dry and very degraded soil where animals such as bizons used to roam around fertilizing the soil. Seeing the difference that animals can make on regenerating the soil is incredible, combining that with the amount of animals that are suffering in (industrial) farms & slaughterhouses; there is a big potential for positive change. We just need to show farmers that they can be hosted without needing to sell their meat to cover the costs. And for that we are learning from someone who has done an incredible job making a small regenerative farm efficient & profitable, sharing tools to make a clear and tangible business case and low cost designs of necessary items.
What's next for The Green Rebel?
Our almonds are as good as ready to be harvested! We are exploring options on how to transform them into almond paste or roasted almonds. Early November we are hoping to harvest our 2nd batch of olives, now that we have a little bit of experience we hope to harvest more than last year. The profits will go directly to starting up some of the regenerative practices that we've learnt with the course & masterclass. The trees are looking very good and healthy, we are super excited to taste the oil!
Your love, support and likes on social media and email are giving us a big boost in motivation and helps us through the tough moments. Thank you so much!!
Feel free to share with us what you would like see more in our next update or Social Media.
We promise that our next update won't take this much time again ;) Thank you for reading and for being part of our big adventure!
Carlo & Coralie