I am living and working in a very remote part of southern Portugal–in the interior of the country where the residents of an intentional community called TAMERA have created a 100% sustainable garden out of a semi desert They use permaculture, recycle all water, have 27 ponds that comprise the water system for 150 hectares and 160 permanent residents as well as many guests–some of whom work in the kitchen or the garden or the solar village and some take courses like the Love Course and the Horse course where people learn open communication by contact with horses. .
I’m a guest worker paying 25 Euros a day that includes food and a bed in a sweet new cabin with the scent of cedar and a lovely view. We eat rice and beans, raw veggies of all kinds we harvest on the day we eat them and everyone here is into simple living in community and caring for each other and the land. It’s a lot like ZEGG in Berlin but on a much bigger scale
My garden job starts before dawn when I walk to the greenhouse for a group warm up and inspirational reading and then I go where assigned–usually a mile or more down to the South Valley to harvest tomatoes, peppers, basil, chard, potatoes. My first day out was very beautiful because the day before it had rained so every leaf, every corn tassel, every zucchini flower was covered in crystalline raindrops and dew and in the backlight many glittered in rainbows. Between the tomato rows were tall eggplants now fruiting bright red, some brilliant orange pumpkins and big fat green peppers as well. Bordering the mixed vegetable rows was corn °as high as an elephant’s thigh°–really.
Days start cold so I wear layers which get completely soaked and often full of mud as I rout around the tomato plants’ full of sweet smelling heirlooms. Afterwards I pick basil which turns up in the yummy pesto we have for dinner some nights We even have had apfel kucken for desert on rare occasions.
My favorite harvest, bar none, is potatoes. First our resident leader Jorge guides a hand plow behind a big John Deere tractor (one of the very few motor vehicles here as people mostly walk miles around the property or drive little electric carts) He turns up the rich dark earth and then we hand dig into the loosened soil feeling for potatoes Often they are in clusters of 8-10 potatoes and finding them is like finding the colored Easter Eggs my Mom used to help us dye and my Dad used to hide in the yard amidst the flowers and shrubs in my childhood home–a very sweet memory as Easter was a time when we all went to church together and I sang in the choir and the Easter Bunny brought us (my sister and I) big cellophane wrapped baskets full of candy. So here I am in Tamera living a happy memory.
I also plant vegetables which I’ve learned a good deal about. We plant cauliflower next to red cabbage with beets nestled in the middle. Each seedling goes into the earth with a blessing. I have fallen in love with cauliflower shoots–they have magenta heart shaped leaflets at the base and then sprout sage colored leaves with serrated edges and magenta veins–just glorious. And a great experience this afternoon was when four of us composted, mixed the soil with pitchforks and then planted a zigzagged row of lacy leafed fennel bordered by two kinds of lettuce and finally surrounded by fully grown rows of giant leafed brocoli-cauliflower hydrids
My crew consists of mainly young ( 20-35) people in transition:
— Michael from Brussels deeply interested in ancient stone circles and travelling around right now. He took me and an urban design student–Karl from Germany–way out to Evora where we explored the 6000 year old stone oval made of rounded granite stone about 6-7 feet high, and also went to town and saw the 1st century ruins of a Corinthian columned Roman Temple.
–Eden, a beautiful tall Israel girl who returns to her studies in psychotherapy in Tel Aviv in two weeks
–Martino, an Italian literature teacher—now an itinerant knife sharpener, and documentary filmmaker travelling around on his BMW motorbike after having left an 8 year relationship. His recent documentary will be shown at a Film Festival in Trento Italy but what he’ll do next is a mystery at the moment: He’s quite a dramatic looking man with a huge smile, a generous Roman nose and big brown eyes behind his black uber trendy eye glasses
–Dania–a Portuguese girl -19– and so poised and beautiful and loving that half the farm has fallen in love with her. She’s a former model and a beautiful mix of African and Portuguese parents and is from a farm that used to have horses and cows and sheep as well as a garden but whose father died and now the farm has only her mother and brother to care for it while she goes back to school soon
–Andre, from Lisbon, young, sweet–son of a developer interested in starting a green development-communal condominium He’ amazingly generous always lending his car and driving hordes of us to the beach or a river gorge in the afternoons when we’re free. We are very close
–Merle–a beautiful German girl with massive amounts of gorgeous blonde hair nearly to her waist. She’s been a caregiver for a number of years and is a very sweet friend to me. She’s on her way to at least a year’s adventure in Australia and has many boyfriends here at Tamera.
–Marcos–a tanned and handsome professional kick-boxer and bus driver with amazing tatooes that cover both his arms. He’s kind of a wild man always laughing and ready for a party
–Yuri– a serious Israeli who brought the Tamera message of love to a gathering with Palestinians.
And this is just some of my garden-ecology work crew–there is a kitchen crew, a crew doing vegetable canning and drying for the winter; and a whole group of professional experts in alternative energies who work in the Solar Village…And then there are lots of people attending courses like an Art course, another communicating with horses and a Love course ( a 10 day intensive for 900 Euros room and board wherein people are learning to love each other unconditionally). It feels like Living Love Center and so many California programs all rolled into one jolly program with vegan food and a landscape that is being healed as well as the people
They call Tamera a “Peace Biotope” and there’s inspirational concepts all over the place in words, in billboards, and in daily discussions…It all feels very California to me so I feel right at home.Even the weather has been lovely– cool nights warm days, brilliantly clear cobalt blue skies with cumulus clouds and a sparse dry shrubby landscape that resembles Sonoma– filled with tangled cork oak trees amidst gentle golden hills, canyon riverine streams and and a delicious marsh with deep red violet reeds and apple green and lemon yellow daisy-like flowers
We work for 4-5 hours a day and have communal sharing at many times Today for instance after 2 hours in the field we had the most beautiful rainbow of vegetables laid out for our mid morning breakfast beets, squash, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce…as well as watermelon oranges apples and pears plus fresh bread and olive oil We sat in a circle under some trees and said thanks in our many languages before eating There were people from Israel, Portugal, Brussels, England, Spain, Italy, Germany I was the only American. The we shared what we’d like to learn–from water management, to living in community, to trying to articulate what Tamera is all about in a brief way. Then we ate a long and peaceful breakfast in the cool morning sunshine.
My life here is so close to the earth and so basic that I wonder how I can return to the cities of Europe. Right now life here seems perfect, and peaceful, and a model of good living..