Garden X is located in Castelo Branco, Portugal, along the river Ocreza. This area is seeing a spike in alternative living projects, both local and expats, after many years of steady population decline. Thus, the district is offering a vast amount of land for affordable prices, supporting local institute, reasonable temperate climate, and a fast ageing community that is welcoming the new faces that are repopulating the villages and fields. We see Garden X as a project with a two way effort, one toward rehabilitating the soil and the other as a medium for people to experience and learn about living in nature. We hope to maintain the slow effort to rebuild the top soil that will allow the natural fauna and flora to come back. Along this work and as a supporting economic model, we have started a small camping area which is the basis for workshops and courses, exposing our guests to the many arts, traditional and modern, that are the backbone of natural living.
Our work on the ground is primarily focused on building topsoil, and that is to increase its biomass. We understand that anything else, biodiversity of plants and animals are all a consequence of a healthy rich soil. To do that we have already started several practices of chop-and-drop the pine and broom, swells and dams creating niches for water to collect, blocking erosion points, digging around trees to open for light and more water collection. These practices are a minimum of intervention to allow for the forest to organically grow, as the land is filled with new trees. We notice a pronounced increase is weed variety and animal activity. Our next step is to introduce grazing animals (goats, donkeys, chickens) to freely roam the garden. Our goal is to show that after a preliminary set up of the ground for water collection and ground cover, an almost passive intervention with grazing animals is sufficient for the garden to be turned into a natural forest, not designed nor planted. We expect this to be demonstrable within five to ten years, afterwards we can fine tune for scaling the project.
Our garden by the river Ocreza is placed with a section that is close to a natural wetland. This gives us a unique advantage to encourage a proper versatile topography that is renowned for its rich biodiversity. As a first measure, raising a small dam of about 40 cm we raise the water level to inundate a larger portion of the flat land (aproximatly one hectare), allowing to mimic the natural cycle
Along with our passion for the forest we look to our own habitat as a most valuable asset in nature. For this reason we plan to invest in a variety of buildings, from traditional to modern, all ecological methods and resources. These techniques will be the foundation for our workshops, and a stepping stone for a wider audience that will engage and utilise eco structures.
Our educational aims are made out of the primary demand for practical knowledge for alternative life. We view this subculture to be a gateway avantgard to a more sustainable and ecological lifestyle for our society in general. Therefore a combination of traditional crafts along with the more advanced technologies will be sought for our workshops, making the garden a showcase for the various arts. So, for example, we will build with cob, lime, and clay, using age-old techniques, while also building with rammed earth and hempcrete to further spread new innovative building methods.
Our aim is to be involved with both the local Portogues farmer - to learn from them and to introduce them to new techniques - and to cooperate with the growing expat community. Our local network is to be our primary source of activity. Already, we are in collaboration with two close neighbors, sharing tools, garden resources, and work.
Our goal is for the garden to be supporting a few families, those neighbours living close by and guest teachers that are part of our program. A fully functional garden will include a few workshops during each month, for which a maintenance team will be needed. In addition, as the natural building workshop takes shape, we hope to be able to assemble a crow that will answer the local demand for affordable ecological structures.
We aim to remain independent from government funding, thus ensuring our garden is not subjected to changes in protocol and strategies that are socio-political in essence. The project is to build a financial infrastructure that will be supported by local local building projects and education - together allowing for the forest and river life to expand to neighbouring lands.
The project budget is made up of the following areas:
To be implemented in stages-
First stage 1+2 = 40,000€
Second stage 3 = 10,000€
Stage three 4+5 = 60,000€
Stage four 6+7 = 102,000€
List of buildings for the garden
Welcome centre + study hall
Student cubes /shelter
River beach stone bay
After funds are located we will begin with the following steps.
Waterways and ground work for dams, wetlands, and ponds.
Submit architectural plans for municipal approval.
Acquire neighbouring land for animal foresting projects.
Invite more teachers for workshops.
Eco buildings for dwelling and services.
Biana & Dan: project founders and management.
Moti Shaffir- founder, neighbour, and sponsor.
Yaron Freidland- head architect and teacher.