Hello <<First Name>>!
It’s been another marathon month of building up, piece by piece. The forest’s almost clean, the design's going through transformations, and the existing house on the land is slowly coming together in our imagination. But more about that in the months to come. First, here’s a bit about a few things we’ve been up to.
Back in April we signed the first papers in the long process of buying our land in Silverto, Paredes de Coura. Since then, we’ve had the keys to the house, as well as the legal obligation to buy, but it wasn’t quite ours yet. Now, four months later, we’ve finished the process, signed the last few papers, paid, and now we’re the proud stewards of 1½ hectares of land, a small home in fairly decent shape, about 1,100 square meters of construction land, and a gorgeous forest.
To celebrate, we invited some of our friends out. It was a bit chaotic at first with 11 people meeting one another for the first time. As the days went on though, a calm familiarity settled in. People spent the weekend cooking, talking about fire, 3D modeling, flying drones, and just getting to know one another.
I have to admit that sometimes I feel we haven’t yet really accomplished anything real. It’s a small voice in my head that says that after a year and a half we should have more to show. Essentially, this slow forest pace of getting things going can be beautiful, but it can also weigh on me. Looking over our next 15 years our goals can look a bit imposing. Three functioning communities, a forest incubator, research facility, educational institution.... Each individually can look overwhelming. And all together they can look like too much to be done.
But there was a moment the day before people were due to arrive, where all of a sudden it hit me how much we’ve accomplished. That when we manage to keep ourselves in the moment, and simply keep to the tasks at hand, we can do a lot. After all, people were actually coming over to visit land we’ve bought to be managed by our cooperativa ‘Ecoaldeia Silverto’ which will put to ground the first project of Foundation ‘Sol Nascente.’
Now, after so much dreaming, the practical pieces are mostly falling into place so that we can actually begin the real work of designing, planting and managing an astonishingly beautiful forest.
This month we received a visit from some friends who made the journey up from Coimbra. Fernando (a.k.a. Free Nando), his partner Sao, and a friendly neighborhood drone. For the past few years, stimulated by the fire that took their home, they’ve been gathering images and video in a kind of visual anthropology about people who band together around ecological issues. So they joined up with us on their road trip around Portugal to gather up some images and help us tell our story.
In Portugal, drones need permits to be flown and this meant we only had one day to fly it. Obviously, what ensued was that we spent the day like children frantically playing with their new toy.
Expect to see some pretty stunning images over the course of the next few months. For just a small taste of what’s possible, our website (https://silverto.pt) for Silverto has been updated with a video of the drone doing nothing more than rotating around our forest. A seriously cool (3D!) orthographic map of our forest and it's surroundings with very high resolution, and the first steps towards a 3D layout of our forest, which we'll use in the subsequent design phase (I would ignore the names of the terraces for now, they are actually random!). We have also updated Silverto's website (only PT for now) with gorgeous drone footage, circling around our forest.
I actually really like the image of the larger valley. It shows not only the changes we’d like to make, but our realistic sphere of influence over the next few years. While our land (in the center) is mostly a native oak forest, a lot of the neighboring lands (where we want to expand) are pine and eucalyptus monoculture plantations. It’s quite easy to imagine retaking this same flight year after year, and watch as our little bit of healthy forest stretches and grows through the valley. Slowly, we’d see it eat the pine and eucalyptus until, generations from now, when this image is retaken with whatever mind-boggling technology might exist then, we’ll see a single and healthy forest.
After a focused month of researching fire (and a few scattered months of research over the past few years), we’re beginning to bring the airy ideas we’ve gathered from so many different places down into a grounded exploration and plan of the phenomenon of wildfire in Portugal and Spain.
Often, the process of trying to explain something really brings clarity to something, and we definitely see that happening here. As of right now, the idea is to make three documents.
1. An exploration of why things are burning. Here we go into the challenges in designing for wildfire in the region, possible solutions to those challenges, and then we set a few short, long and generational term goals to return wildfire to its healthy ecologic role.
2. A practical guide that takes the challenges from the first document, works them into a series of methods and techniques for use on the ground, and establishes a set of design principles for wildfire.
3. A specific fire plan for our land in Silverto. In it, we’ll take everything we’ve learned from the first two documents and apply it to a real space. We’ll go over the conditions of the real land, connect those to a real implementation, and dream a little about how we’ll manage our Silverto project for the next few generations.
That’s all for today. We’ll be back soon with more updates, as plenty is going on. Até já! (See you already!)