Our farm is designed around Permaculture principles. Tom took Geoff Lawtons online PDC in 2019 and has applied many of the ideas to the continued design of Fazenda Tomati. Being in the dry, hot Mediterranean, our focus so far has been on water retention and management. Over the coming years, using Regenerative Agriculture techniques we will be focusing on building topsoil and vegetative cover in our vineyard and olive orchards.
Below are some of the ways we limit our negative impact, and create positive impacts on our farm using Permaculture ideas.
We heat our home during the colder months using a 7KW wood burner. All our wood is from our, or our friends farms.
Our camping shower is heated using a back pipe in the sun. Our home water heating uses a compost pile to generate 60C+ temperatures. We are currently in the experimentation phase with this and have had some early successes using horse stable bedding as the composting substrate. Not all of our substrate experiments go to planned and we still have the occasional few weeks of cold showers! Once we have a reliable substrate source that creates heat over an acceptable period of time we will publish all our results. We have been experimenting since August 2019.
Worm compost is one of the highest quality fertilisers around. We have two bathtubs making worm compost 24/7. We use our humanure as a food base for the worms, and add green material when we have a surplus (after vegetable harvests and weeding for example)
At the moment we keep chickens for eggs and ducks for meat.
From Spring 2020 we will have a 40 strong layer flock which will sleep in portable housing. We use a portable electric fence to move them all around our farm. Using this method our birds are always on clean pasture and are kept mentally and physically stimulated. The meat and eggs they produce are of a standard which cannot be matched by large commercial producers.
Our Muscovy ducks are free range during the humid months, finding all their food from the farm. During the summer when vegetation is dry and dormant we keep the birds in a fixed run in order for them not to damage the land in its most vulnerable state. During this time we can make a lot of high quality manure by deep mulching their run with carbon material and clearing it out each month.
Importing Organic Matter
In order to make compost on a small farm scale we need large amounts of organic matter. We import horse manure/stable bedding from a local stables, wood chip and sawdust, straw and olive leaves from the local olive press. Many of these are waste products at other establishments, which we turn in to resources at our farm.
Our toilets have a single bucket with no separation of liquid and solid. Fine sawdust is added as a carbon material. We collect our sawdust from a local sawmill. Generally we add our toilet compost to a long term fungal pile, and when we are starting a new worm bin we use the humanure as a base for the worms.
We heat our food with a gas hob. In the future we hope to produce our own biogas. We also have an earthen oven which is used on occasion.
We collect our drinking water every week or two from a local spring. We will soon be building a large rainwater tank to collect water from the roof of our house for drinking and possibly home use. Our first aim is to stop taking well water for home use and a future goal is to stop taking it for irrigation too. Irrigation however will be a challenge as we need hundreds of thousands of litres a year if we are to irrigate a commercial market garden.
Our market garden is currently irrigated using our pond water only. We believe this is more sustainable than taking ground water from our well. The pond is large, and when full can irrigate our market garden for the year, but this does require at least one large storm during winter, which doesn´t always happen. When the pond does not have sufficient water we switch back to our well.
The water for our showers is from our well. We currently treat it with chlorine as the water contains E-coli. As mentioned above we may be able to use rainwater collected from various roofs to use for drinking water as well as general home water.
Grey Water Treatment
Our shower grey water runs straight in to a mulch pit growing mint and various other plants. Mint grows incredibly well in the grey water systems. Our home grey water runs through a compost/worm filter first and then on to a wicking bed containing mint and other plants. The remaining water is drained to productive trees and plants.
No electricity source is perfect. That is something we have come to understand especially with all the environmental movements and the scrutiny they invite. From analysis of all electric sources I do not think that there is currently a way to produce electricity without creating some sort of environmental damage so for now we stick with our solar as it is a reliable way of powering our farm separated from the national grid.
All our home electricity is supplied by a 1200W 24v solar system. For moving water we have a 150W solar pump.