‘Neo-rurals’: from the city to the country

It is widely accepted within permaculture and sustainable living communities that living in the countryside allows us to be more self-reliant. It is easier to grow food, to live less dependent on the industrial food system and consumer culture, to build or modify a (small) home that is less reliant on non-renewable energies, to feel connected to nature and grounded in its changing seasons, to feel empowered by doing more manual labor, and to have the freedom to do things that are outside the status quo.

The back-to-the-land movement (popularised in the United States during the 1970s but present in Europe before then) and the Womyn’s Lands movement (also developed in the US during the 70s and present in Australia, New Zealand, and western Europe) are examples of land-based movements that viewed rural environments as potential catalyst spaces for self-sufficiency, autonomy, local community and various forms of counterculture.

For the majority of us, nature also benefits mental health. Scientific studies have shown that spending time in nature reduces fear, anger, stress, and anxiety, while increasing pleasurable feelings and overall well-being. Shinrin-Yoku, translated into English as ‘forest bathing’, is a therapy that was developed in Japan during the 1980s, based on the idea that stays in the forest have a curative effect on various pathologies. In his book Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing, Dr. Qing Li, physician, professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo and president of the Japonese Society for Forest Medicine, demonstrates that ‘spending time around trees, filling your home with house plants and vaporising essential tree oils can reduce blood pressure, lower stress, boost energy levels and strengthen your immune system’.

So many reasons that inspire us to acquire a farm house in the countryside of Lisbon in order to create a safe and sustainable place for creative, cultural and environmental practitioners to engage with ideas of contemporary sustainability and to grow as a community that care for people and planet.

Ways to sustain an ecological living environment

As some of you may know, we have been looking for the perfect farm house to host this project for over a year now. We have visited 13 properties since then — our latest visit was last week and we are very excited about this site (finger crossed).

We are looking for properties that match the budget the bank has allowed us to borrow (as founders we are two full-time, working-class freelance curators and artists), and we are also working with municipalities to help us find vacant buildings to use.

We are looking for a place to host residency participants in studios and accommodations, with enough land to grow food, to build a micro-bakery and outdoor kitchen, to connect with the landscape and to keep chickens (and maybe a goat or two). A place where we can host public events including seasonal garden-to-table diners, workshops, talks, performances and exhibitions. We also want to be close to the beach (for surfing) and to Lisbon (for socialising), ideally both accessible by public transport.

One very important aspect for us is to develop and maintain this site in an ecological way, following an energy descent approach, which is likely to include:

〰️  installation of renewable energy sources (solar panels, solar water heating, installation and regulation of ground water source, reed bed grey water filtration system),

〰️  insulation and glazing (passive house approach),

〰️  solar oven, smoke house and other food preservation (ie. sun drying, salting, pickling etc.)

〰️  eco-toilets (including composting systems).

We have been highly inspired by the principles of permaculture and slow living, finding ideas in the following books:

→  The Half-Acre Homestead: 46 Years of Building & Gardening, Lloyd Kahn and Lesley Creed, Shelter Publications Inc

→  The Humanure Handbook: Shit in a Nutshell, Joseph Jenkins, Jenkins Publishing

→  Roundwood Timber Framing: Building Naturally Using Local Resources, Ben Law, Permanent Publications

→  Small Homes: The Right Size, Lloyd Kahn, Shelter Publications Inc

→  Tiny Homes on the Move, Lloyd Kahn, Shelter Publications Inc

→ Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter, Lloyd Kahn, Shelter Publications Inc

→  Shelter, Lloyd Kahn, Shelter Publications Inc

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