Mas del Encanto all started with a dream of permaculture, self-sufficiency and living more in tune with our surroundings. It was surprisingly easy to do get our lives more in sync with nature, surprisingly fun to implement permaculture in every new project - and surprisingly hard to get anywhere near self-sufficiency. We've learned now that it's all in the journey, not the destination...
When we bought our finca (farmland), we saw a lot of potential: there were about 150 almond trees, 50 olive trees and a few quinces and figs - and very old grapevines. Everything had been neglected for years; many terraces were crumbling and the little stone stable on one of the terraces was about to lose its roof to gravity. This was May 2013.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2017, and we've not been standing still; the little stable (our Maset) was rebuilt (it got a new roof, new walls, windows, running water and electricity) and we lived in it for about 6-7 months. We built a house on the land, and we've been living in it since May 2016. We also opened our bed & breakfast and Rural Retreat, and we rent out the Maset.
Sandrine got a Permaculture Design Certificate in 2014; permaculture is a set of design principles, set on working with nature (instead of against it) to get a higher yield with less input. It includes elements from soil to climate, from seeds to animals; the art is to design a property in such a way that all elements work together and create abundance - and with that, a high level of self-sufficiency.
After our arrival, the olive trees were pruned, mulched, fertilised and given a bit of TLC. With good results: in 2014 we had an olive harvest of 500kg, which gave us 100 liters of extra virgin olive oil; we sold the almonds to a local cooperativa. Since then, things beyond our power prevented us from getting another good harvest - but we've got our fingers crossed for 2017! Read more about what we do with our olives on the blog - click here.
So far our almond harvest has been steady - we usually sell the (more expensive) Marconas to the local cooperativa, and keep the Llarguetas those for eating / cooking / making Amaretto. In 2017, we are planning an almond farming holiday; with a small group of people, we'd like to go through all steps of almond farming - from planting to pruning, from harvesting to selling, and from making almond milk to amaretto, marzipan and almond flour. Click here to learn more!
We also keep chickens, mainly for the delicious daily fresh eggs. Sanchez & his Sanchitas arrived in September 2015, and gave us many eggs and a few descendants (which we hatch using an incubator, as good layers are often very bad parents). Since then, a few new generations have been added to the mix. Besides providing us with fresh eggs, our chickens also scratch up the gardens in between growing seasons, and get rid of the bugs when we let them free range (under supervision). Read our full chicken story here!
In July 2017, we added our first alpacas to the farm. Their first purpose is to keep the grass in between the olive trees in check - but they'll also have to protect the chickens from foxes, and provide us with fine wool and fertiliser. Click here to read more about our alpacas - Click here to find out what the benefits of alpacas are - and Click here if you think alpacas and llamas are one and the same.
As soon as we got here, we started our vegetable garden. We aim to build a food forest; this combination of fruit & nut trees, bushes and (perennial) vegetables will take a few years to set up, but on the long run it should produce most of our food. For now, our trees are young so we're doing some semi-traditional gardening; we combine local techniques and the advice of our (Spanish farmer) neighbours with the principles of permaculture. With varying levels of success; our soil is getting better every season, we've had some great harvests (and some really poor ones). Our aim is to be able to eat what we grow year-round; so far we're really proud to create some abundance in summer - we eat something from the garden every day, are able to present our guests with food from the garden and even get to preserve the surplus.
We always have several projects on the go; you can read more about them on the "Simple Living in Spain" blog. There's always animal housing that needs fixing, a new fence needs to be put up, trees to be planted,... We're trying to plant certain trees from seed (like almonds and loquats), grafting others and buying the ones we don't have access to. We would love to have more fig, quince, cherry and nectarine trees - they can be found in fields all around us as well, but we'd like to could grow our own without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
In a more distant future, we hope to further develop the food forest and to be able to grow even more of our food ourselves... So many plans, so much time.