Working in Permaculture

Something only wistfully mentioned on PDC’s: getting paid to do permaculture.

In August 2018, when we happily received our Permaculture Design Certificates on an oaky mountain in Catalunya, we did not for one minute imagine that we’d be able to finance our lives with it just over a year later.

Well, maybe I exaggerate. I don’t think our new employers actually know we have the certificates, but still. WE’RE WORKING IN PERMACULTURE!

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So a couple of weeks ago, a lady we know who has a homestead up in the mountains with her husband and family contacted us to say they needed some outdoor help. We thought it might be something one-off, like installing the chicken coop (she knew we’d made our own down in the village not long ago). Anyway, we climbed the steep slope up and had a chat with them about what needed doing.

They used to have a guy who would come up and do odd-jobs for them like building fences, moving hay and cutting the grass, but due to the difficulty in renting well-insulated houses here, he and his family had to move to a flat in the city.

Side note: the lack of rentable properties here is a real social problem. It’s such a shame when local people have to move away, or when new people arrive with lots of hope only to struggle to find anywhere. Especially when there are lots of liveable houses sitting dormant because they’re only available to buy. We were very, very lucky. (Though it took us a year to find our cabin!)

So, because of his unfortunate move, they no longer had anyone to do these jobs. Knowing that we practice permaculture and organic farming on our land, they have asked us to sort out their overgrown garden and help with other little or large tasks around the farm.

An outdoor, land-based job! Only after three weeks of work am I quite sure I’m not dreaming.

The job happened three days into my ‘abundance meditation’ and it is a strange coincidence. Ask and you shall receive and all that..

A few weeks before, we had literally had a conversation about going around asking local farmers if they needed a hand. Even though we’ve set up the market business, we’ve learned quickly that making a good profit and a living wage is not going to happen until summer, which a few weeks ago, was worrying to say the least.

We did a market on Sunday and had fun, but two hours of driving and a whole lot of stress to make thirty euros just doesn’t quite feel sustainable.

So, the plan is that we’ll work here during the low season, amp up the markets in summer and go up less frequently for maintenance, but ideally we’ll put in a lot of hard work now so that less will be needed later.

At the moment, we’re hand-weeding the raspberries. With thick grass roots, it’s taking us about four hours a patch to weed, spread horse manure, apply wet cardboard and cover with soiled straw mulch. It’s slow but steady, and this no-dig method that we tried out on our land is already giving amazing results with very little weeding necessary.

It also helps that the farm has an endless supply of horse poo and used goat bedding available very close to the land. The dream!

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We are aware that four hours per bed is very slow though, so we’re going to experiment with not weeding at all, applying dung, covering and mulching and seeing what happens. Could save a lot of time and back pain!

When we started, our first task was to protect the young fruit trees from potential snow, so we made little individual roofed-houses for each one, covered in garden fleece or plastic, so that the snow and rain can slide off instead of caving in. They’re all made out of coppiced hazel and screws. The shape also gives the trees plenty of room to grow for a couple of years so the structure won’t need replacing so often. The roof can easily be removed and reattached if it needs to be made taller at any point.

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tipi valley

So far working here has given us even more motivation to work on our own garden, too. So we’ve got lots of baby seedlings growing in the greenhouse, and have been making compost with nettles in time for spring.

smart

smart
peas
smart
flowers

smart

Some lovely new neighbours moved in recently, and one of them is going to help on our land. Hooray!

The sun is shining bright and there’s blossom on the trees. I think it’s going to be a good year.

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