|The location of the project 42°06’29.1″N 26°40’07.3″E|
Here at Balkep we’ve known two of the members, Kosio and Sophie, for some years now, our paths crossing at various forest garden/permaculture events and occasionally during environmental festivals within Bulgaria. Kosio, Alex and their two children and Sophie & Krasi were inspired by the books in the series “The Ringing Cedars of Russia” by Vladimir Megre, and live close to nature and completely off-grid with their families in the community in Southeastern Bulgaria, in a remote and beautiful spot.
|Kosio, Alex, Indi and Lybo|
|Sophie & Krasi|
The land surrounding the eco-community is dry, deforested terrain which is pretty much how it was when this community discovered it. I was expecting the gardens to still be in early stages of establishment due to heavy clay soils and the hot, dry climate presenting challenges. What a joy it was to arrive at a biodiverse forest, healthy and productive – much like the human inhabitants there!
The community is growing, and now has 2 – 4 families that are committed to developing and supporting healthy ecosystems on the land that encourage biodiversity. A wide variety of plants are growing to provide a significant amount of food needs for humans and other organisms, as well as supplying resources for infrastructure, construction, and for crafting. Natural beekeeping is practiced on site with the honey being among one of the best I’ve tasted, and let me assure you that I am a well established honey monster :)
Sophie and Krasi’s garden layout had many islands of different polycultures. In the below photo you can see an example of one of these, the diversity of plant architecture being very pleasing on the eye and forming a dense cover protecting the soil from the relentless sun. From top left – clockwise: Tansy – Tanecetum vulgare, Apple – Malus spp, Cornelian Cherry – Cornus mas, Jerusalem Artichoke – Helianthus tuberosus and Yucca – Yucca filamentosa.
|Setting up the garden|
|Corn developing well in the spring|
|A greenhouse with a view :)|
With such a lot to do and a team of six volunteers, we started creating a rhythm and flow to the days and week to make sure we were organized with the tasks we were to help with, but also to create a balance, sprinkling creative non-formal workshops into the mix. With hot temperatures we rose at 06.00 to take advantage of the cooler mornings, helped out until 09.30 when we had a watermelon party together. Around 11.00 a creative workshop was held, with lunch around 13.00, rest until 17.00 and then help out again until sundown. The community members have many skills and talents, and offer a variety of workshops from an introduction to herbs and making healing remedies to clothes making, and also plan soon to start hosting retreats on site.
|ESC volunteers left – right Rushar, Tara, Fanny & Hekim|