This is the first in a new series of posts where we ask one of our volunteers or visitors to say a few words.
A Visitor’s Perspective: Laura
I have just returned from my third trip to Casalinho, I planned this visit after finishing my Masters degree and feeling that I was expending much too much effort on something that, actually, doesn’t matter very much at all. The work at Casalinho, by contrast, yields both tangible (and often edible!) results, alongside the knowledge that you are helping to contribute to a worthwhile and necessary long term project. And with the sun, the mountains and the fresh air, even a day of shovelling compost doesn’t seem very much like work at all!
Some of the best bits of the work I did included a daily negotiation – or battle of wills – with four very headstrong goats who need to be tethered in a nearby field before the ducks and chickens are fed each morning.
Left: Horny the goat. Right: breakfast?!
I also particularly enjoyed helping with the grape harvest in September; the grapes taste like sherbet, and taste testing for sweetness is all part of the job! It was also great to see the full process behind the wine we were drinking with dinner, and inspiring to know that it has been wholly produced on the farm and through the efforts of the family and their volunteers. This is also the case with the dam I helped to build as part of the project to store more water in the land. To see it take shape and begin to hold rain water simply through the efforts of volunteers with shovels was very inspiring.
One of the most impressive things about this project is Andrea and Jeroen’s commitment to share their knowledge, both through the work they set their volunteers and through hosting courses. I participated in the most recent Permaculture Design Course held at the farm. Having very little knowledge or experience of Permaculture or environmental studies before enrolling on the course, I was a little bit worried that it would be either too complex or too divorced from my own daily life to be very useful, but this was far from the case. Rather than being divorced from my experience, the course offered a fresh perspective and approach that can be incorporated into life anywhere. The teachers, Rosie and Josh, spent a short time outlining the problems and pitfalls of current practices and systems, but much more time focusing on the changes and solutions that can be made by groups or individuals to begin to remedy this situation. Holding the course at Casalinho served as proof of both the effectiveness and the achievability of such solutions.
As important and inspiring as both the work and the course are, this is to say little of the friendly atmosphere created by the hosts. The open, cheerful and accepting attitude of the whole family quickly makes even the most reserved person feel comfortable and useful. My time at Casalinho this year allowed me to feel better than I have in a while; six hours of work a day in return for this looks like a pretty good deal to me!
Above and left: Laura’s PDC group in action.