Mountain Steep Permaculture - Permacultura em Declive de Montanha
- Commenced: 01/07/2012
- Submitted: 09/08/2012
- Last updated: 20/05/2013
- Location: Chão Sobral, Aldeia das Dez - OHP - Coimbra, Portugal
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Mountain Steep Permaculture - Permacultura em Declive de Montanha
Project TypeRural, Residential, Community, Demonstration, Educational
This project context: - whole families (about 100 people total, about 27 couples, 9 widowed elders) - traditional-native hamlet community; - on-going, for hundreds of years; - family and community-reliance & organic cooperation; - mountain based livelihood dynamics, strategies, impact, and resilience; - agriculture, forestry, cultural and social initiatives; - based on steep, rocky (Xist) and ridge mountain slopes ecosystems; - in between 400 and 1200 meters altitude; - most mountain area (zones 4 and 5) suffered and recovering from September of 1987 and July of 2005 dry season big fires; - in central (green heart of) Portugal, Goshawk mountains range, south-west Europe.
This "permanent steep rocky ridge mountain culture" project was founded + 500 years ago by our community ancestors, probably 1 family or clan of goat shepperds and chestnut lovers (Castanea sativa).
Our land is located on ridge steep mountain convex slopes in the Goshawk Mountain range in central Portugal. Zones 1, 2, 3 and 4 mostly facing West, Southwest and South. Zone 5 faces North, North-east and West.
The name of our hamlet-land "Chão Sobral" means: "chão"/"ground", "sobral"/"cork tree grove" = "The Ground of the Cork Trees". Strangely today there are no cork trees, Quercus suber, around! ... Maybe there's another, more accurate, explanation for the name of the hamlet...
The ongoing mountain living project was started by hamlets people who were at the same time peasants, hunters and goat shepperds, ox tamers and builders, that used to build their homes with dry stone (xist) and wood only (mostly chestnut) .
Warm temperate to mediterranean. Wet and cool to cold season usually from October to April (in our grandparents days snow used to stay for weeks). Warm season from May until September. Wet and Dry seasons length is variable, and can last for 5 to 7 months.
Two main seasonal creeks run down the 2 main steep valleys.
The rains absorbed by the wild vegetation on the north and west facing slopes feed the mountain watertables that feed springs that usually spring water year around, but that decreases noticeably by the end of the Dry season.
This means that water only runs chrystal clear a few months after the rainy season.Then creeks run dry because creek bed springs water is captured in tiny dams and used for irrigating terraces (vegetables and staple foods) according to old tradition of sharing water.
Through the dry season we rely on spring water from the many small springs scattered on creek beds in valleys and on secondary ridges, most of them above 500 mts altitude. All water arrives in plastic pipes to the hamlet by gravity.
In the last 20-30 years many families got water boreholes, and use this water at home and to irrigate their vegetable gardens increasing yields during the dry season.
From centuries old local regenerative, resilient and sustainable mountain livelihoods we have become more interdependent in the global planetary village as dirt roads became available in the last 60 years.
Compared to 500 years ago, nowadays our skills, beliefs and resources are more diverse, probably...
Despite the change of culture, migrations and depopulation along the industrial and digital revolution, official schooling courses, we maintain and practice, in our daily life, old and innovative strategies that are key for a resilient, abundant and regenerative mountain "edge/marginal/extreme" resource finite eco-culture.
We still harvest shrubs-biomass daily from the mountain, carried on our backs through walking trails only, to regenerate the soil, to build fertile terraced growing beds.
This project is about blending "permaculture research and design" with local traditions and centuries old resilient "stuborn" mountain livelihood research to meet the needs of present and future living beings and ecosystem communities.
The steepness of our land, and the way we synergize with it, is life changing and life giving ...
Thank you to our "extreme permaculture" pioneers forefathers, who started this "brave and crazy project" hundreds of years ago, as they came to live self-reliant lives where no one else dared and had to, before them!
Below: Looking towards South-east - Chão Sobral and its watershed.
Below: contour lines map (the contours are spaced at 10 metre altitude intervals) with blue line marking the border of the Chao Sobral water shed. Red line marks the border of the "Commons Land" - community owned property. Light blue line marks the 2 main creek beds. Land inside the blue line is owned by hamlet people. Some of the land outside and bordering with the blue line (outside the watershed) is also owned by hamlet people.
Below: Looking towards the East - The Serra da Estrela Mountain range. The slope we see faces west. Water springs and zones are identified.
Below: Looking towards south-west, most of the hamlet houses stand on a rocky ridge crest.
Below: July 2005 - Chão Sobral and its water shed, after the big fire, that started in another mountain hamlet and lasted for a few days - more photos at http://chaosobral.org/incendio.htm