Course by Helder Valente and
the New School Permaculture Team
On the PFC you will learn about forest gardening and how to create a stable diverse abundant forest that produces food.
The subjects covered during the PFC include:
September- October, 2020
One thing was clear for me from the beginning- if among all this world pandemic chaos, all these people are still coming for the internship, across the middle of the Atlantic- it’s going to be a special one! I felt inspired, supported, understood, challenged, encouraged. As they say, every conflict is an opportunity, and if we see this pandemic as a global conflict, then it could indeed be a great opportunity- for change, for slowing down, for going deeper not further, for (inner) gardening, for Permaculture!
I’m grateful for all the amazing people I met during the courses, so many laughs, hugs, spontaneous dancing, building and burning our first fireplace. Our Perma-tribe was led by our eco-shaman Helder, the most unusual, non-conformist teacher I ever had, with his great sense of humor & observation skills, he knows how to bring out the best in people. Lots of cool (horror) stories from his many experiences around the world. Bring popcorn.
And so, brave people from 10 different countries, so different from each other, yet we got together for the same reason or cause- we want to shift from an outdated broken society model to a conscious, harmonious co-existing with Nature, where we can all be involved, from growing a pepper on your urban balcony (and maybe some guerrilla planting shhh) to regenerating soils, forest, and rivers. It’s a change of mindset where you realize (or more like you are being reminded) that ANYONE can make a change. Anyone can grow food, in any conditions. Each of us plays an important role, wherever we are, and whoever we are- a farmer with many lands, or the weirdo of the family, backpacking around the world- we are all connected in this web of transformation and we are the influence in our community or family, and nowadays, influence is power. So this Permaculture internship was for me, among other things, about Empowerment.
Empowerment and understanding the Essence- whatever the question is, the answer can be found in Nature, by observing, interacting and experimenting. We humans, as Observers, can change the world around us, thus we are creators of our own worlds (inspiration from quantum physics). When we slow down and observe Nature, we see problems as solutions, we understand the natural succession of things, where each part plays a role in the cycle of life, where there are no invasive species, just pioneer soldiers doing their job to balance something our or to regenerate damaged soils or ecosystems. By understanding the Patterns in Nature, we understand ourselves, and by understanding ourselves we move upward in the spiral of Life.
I’ve learned that Permaculture is about compassion, for all life forms- it’s empathizing with the Earth, with Nature, with the plants, with the animals, the insects, the rivers, the soils, but also with ourselves and the other humans beings across the globe. It’s a holistic approach on Life.
I’ve learned that techniques and recipes are useful but once you understand The Essence of a process, you don’t need the recipe anymore. You can make your own fertilizer, you can make your own vinegar!
I’ve learned that when working with Nature, as with people, being gentle is more important than having a lot of knowledge and experience. Mindset and attitude are more important than any material resources.
With every course of the internship it felt like I’m putting a puzzle together to finally see “the
Food forest course: finally, all our questions answered, because everything goes down to 1 thing basically- and obviously I won't say it here!
Starting with the basics- how to plant something (you gotta start somewhere); companion planting (what goes where and who likes what); tips on trees (excuse the pun), from planting to mulching, pruning, grafting, and harvest processing; importance of bio-diversity (F* monocultures!); soil quality and funky fertilizers (one rule- use what you have in abundance); natural pest control; to more fancy stuff like creating Mandala Gardens (or any other poetic shape), following natural Patterns to incorporate efficiency with beauty, because that’s how Nature likes it (if you didn’t know now you know).
Special class with our sweet Pablo from Tenerife- he talked about his passion for seeds, being part of a local seed bank association, he had much to share on the importance of seed network, selecting, processing and storing seeds of different species, to preserve, maintain but also encourage local bio-diversity as part of our cultural heritage.
Fascinating to see how all the layers interconnect and interact with each other to create a healthy garden or eco-system, for the body and soul.
Speaking of body and soul, we took a few days off to enjoy the island of Sao Miguel and its magical beauty.
The old forest at Lagoa do Congro welcomed us with an abundance of mushrooms, moss and ferns that made me feel like Alice in Wonderland (look for the mythical “portal” above the lake).
Terra Nostra botanical garden enchanted us with its ancient trees and rare plants, blue lotuses and monkey puzzles (you can eat the nut). Bonus- there’s a thermal lake in the middle of the park and we soaked our bones there for a well-deserved happy end.
We also visited local permaculture warriors and their beautiful farms: Ricardo’s amazing veggie gardens and orchards, plus tips and tricks about commercial gardening; our dear Peer’s land (one of the students), on the top of the hills where you can see the endless ocean and glimpses of the other island, and where we learned about swales and their importance in land regeneration and water use efficiency; last but not the least, Ana’s orchards, our brave host that had us camping between her fruit trees during the internship, sharing her knowledge and inspiring visions. Side note- her cuddly cats were also a personal inspiration to me.
And here we are, 1 month completed, we all made it alive, more or less, tired but super “inspiraled”. Some intense study, some feet in the mud, some funny road trips, some staring at trees, some seeds smuggling….but what happens in Azores, stays in Azores. Ok people, moving on. Time to save the world!