Andrea, Jeroen, and their children moved to Casalinho 7 years ago from their original smallholding, with the aim of having more space to make a living whilst living their dream. Casalinho is about 10 hectares and when the family moved there much of it had been abandoned for many years. The property consisted of a lower section made up of the house, needing renovating, and agricultural land which had at one stage been a market garden complete with numerous fruit trees but had more recently been used to grow animal feed crops, and a higher, larger section made up of pine forest and scrub. The agricultural land was in poor condition as many of the fruit trees had been mechanically ripped out of the ground, hugely disturbing the soil layers, and the soil in the main fields had suffered from years of compaction with tractors and the use of agrichemicals.
Life and work at Casalinho uses a Permaculture Design approach and in order to learn more, Andrea undertook the Sustainable Land Course including a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) with Patrick Whitefield in 2011. She was so inspired that she came back insisting Jeroen also attended a PDC. It was decided to host the first PDC at Casalinho, and the tradition of hosting annual summer courses was begun! At the time of writing, Andrea and Jeroen have hosted nine PDCs at Casalinho, and both are currently Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design apprentices.
* The majority of vegetables, dairy and meat used on site are home produced. Most are used fresh to feed the ever present community of volunteers and course participants.
* All surpluses are preserved for later use - jams, chutneys, dried produce. Together with the extensive vegetable garden and fruit and nut trees, the ever changing community living at Casalinho is almost self-sufficient in its food needs.
* Goats are kept for their milk and meat. Cheese is made from the milk.
* Rabbits and guinea pigs are also reared for meat
* All the farmed animals also contribute greatly to the increased fertility and general health of the land.
* All food is cooked on wood. The farm is self-sufficient in wood for cooking and heating, using an outdoor kitchen in summer and a heating stove with integral oven in the winter
* Composting toilets and a solar shower have been built. The humanure, after composting, is used on the fruit trees. The greywater from the shower is used for irrigation.
* Casalinho is fortunate to have a small stream running along the bottom of the property which can be used for irrigation. Ram pumps move this water to tanks where gravity can supply it to where it is required, and to the animal sheds. Drinking water is provided via a water mine.
* Casalinho hosts regular international Scout camps, which is something that the family really enjoy. Andrea and Jeroen organise for the Scouts to help out with local community projects as well as work farm projects, strengthening a web of positive connections within the local community.
* As well as certificated Permaculture Design Courses, Casalinho hosts other related workshops and demonstrations. Jeroen particularly enjoys showing people how they can build their own ram pumps cheaply and easily.
Another really important yield for Andrea is knowing how much life and work at Casalinho positively influences and educates the constant flow of volunteers. Although she works incredibly long hours each day on the farm caring for visitors in addition to the daily tasks, and finds herself sometimes challenged by difficult conditions, Andrea would not want to go back to the life and work she had before. The family really values and respects the satisfaction of shaping and living the life they choose.
Future plans at Casalinho include: -
* Strengthening connections with the local community.
* Continuing to plant more diverse mixed woodland, perhaps including pigs in the design.
* Getting the renovations to the house finished, and working on some improved visitor accommodation.
* Balancing time spent supporting volunteers with working on other aspects of the project and family. Taking time to appreciate!
All photos by Casalinho e Escabelado's volunteers.
One of Casalinho's volunteers, Marjolein, has produced a short and beautiful film about the farm