Finally, after multiple thwarted attempts to make it, I arrived in Sardegna, Italy to meet Yvo Zanev and take a look at a 35.2 ha plot he and his brother have recently taken on. It’s a magical spot!
Their plan for the site is to implement a regenerative landscape design with their primary goal being to create a small settlement on the site and grow food and resources to support those living there and run activities and events from the property. Yvo, his brother, and his brother’s girlfriend have already moved onto the site last year and have installed access, water and electricity, started to plant out a forest garden, and set up some very comfortable tents, a kitchen area, sauna and storage.
- Information about any development restrictions there are on the property, specifically; are there protected zones (nature reserves), are there restrictions to pond building, and if so up to what size (in m3)?
- Locations of Electricity, Gas, and Water Pipes/Lines
- Access -rights of way.
- Ownership disputes/issues
- Locations of nearest public transport links, airports, etc.
- A list of the client’s objectives and goals.
- A cadastral of the property on google earth with a topography map of the site or better yet a DTM at 1-2m resolution. This is really helpful to plan the route across the site and locate areas of interest to concentrate observations before arriving.
Yvo (pictured below, with one of his dogs) was a great host and showed me around the site, explaining what they would like to achieve and what they have done so far.
Tracing signs of water erosion to the source, locating water sources, and finding areas where flows and gathers during heavy rains is always a priority when observing a site in a dry climate and the first two days were dedicated to this. The site has great potential for rainwater harvesting and with some relatively simple earthworks, much of the water currently draining off the site and causing erosion could be either, distributed more evenly over the landscape or, stored in reservoirs. There were already a few places on the land where water was naturally accumulating, the most prominent being a wetland area that appeared to be fed with a slight trickle from a natural spring. You can see the wetland pictured below, easily identified by the dark green clumps of rushes (Juncaceae), and in the very low area, the ground was moist with water on the surface in places.
- Create a master plan/ vision for the site. Start to map your plans and make numerous iterations until a clear option presents itself
- Get your water/irrigation sources worked out first and ensure they are reliable throughout the year (especially during the heat waves and droughts) If you have a very wet site, get your drainage and flood relief worked out.
- Establish access around the site that works with the topography e.g. eliminates erosion, harnesses water harvesting potential, or drainage.
- When managing water flows across the site (rainwater runoff or pumped water) have the overflow route planned and implemented.
- The access layout will make apparent subdivisions within the plot that can be assigned to purposes that best suit the locations, i.e orchard, wild area, intensive forest garden, vegetable garden, meadow, etc. Create a broad vision of what you want to do in each subplot.
- Break down your plan into manageable pieces, focus on the most relevant/essential aspect of the plan first and only move on when you are comfortable and confident it is complete.
- Clear only the areas that you intend to immediately work on, otherwise, leave them to grow wild
- Be aware of the maximum width and height of the trees and shrubs you will grow to avoid overcrowding them when they are maturing and just starting to become productive.
- Size your access up to the width of the machinery you will be using and design your corners so that the machinery can comfortably and safely turn corners
- Annual vegetable production for domestic production is best concentrated in a very small area that will get daily attention. Load up this area with the best soil and have a reliable and easy-to-use irrigation system in place for the crops and make it easy and comfortable to walk around and work in.