In December, I had the chance to spend a week as a guest of the 8th Life Eco Village in La Palma. Through this experience I decided to join the PeDreTea team as off-site support.
I am not the best at following driving directions, so – after missing the little cement road 5 times over – I have to be rescued by Jose and Stu and guided back to the finca. It’s already getting dark so the grand tour of the estate is postponed to the next day.
Instead I am having a little evening chat with Mattis who moved here – straight from Berlin – into the ‘Domo’ which is a dome made out of plastic waste. Bollie, the dog, stays there with him to keep the rats away… in the light of this info I am thankful for my slightly chilly, north facing bedroom, although the red mood lighting makes it impossible to do any reading. Enough blankets, though, to keep me warm through a night of vivid dreams of happy cats and dogs.
1st day (7/12)
Morning coffee from the espresso machine I brought with me (just in case…) and this view:
I sign up for a morning gardening session (which are voluntary for guests). Today’s consists of helping 7 month pregnant Samadhi by shovelling soil into fresh Swales (an arrangement of stakes and branches to keep the terraced garden beds from eroding).
Just before our 11am breakfast/brunch I answer an email from a client from the UK which popped up after I logged into the community WIFI. It becomes clear that I could do a lot of work from here – nice!
Breakfast is a ultra-staunch mix of fried potato and greens, with added fresh avocados.
As a special protein treat we get pig bones to scrape the meat off. The picked bones go straight back into the pot to make bone-broth. Incidentally, Samadhi and Stu, as well as many previous guests stopped being vegetarians shortly after arriving here.
Personally, I love the breakfast and upgrade to half-board for the remainder of my stay.
After breakfast and the following community meeting,
I volunteer help out with odd jobs:
broken latches on doors,
helping Mathis building raised beds,
checking a new watering system with Samadhi.
Everybody is in a good mood and it is fun to get stuck in!
I was scheduled for a solar shower at 2.30,
but all I get is some gurgling sounds and three drops of cold water. Turns out some taps had been turned off due to a leak and never been turned on again.
Sod sustainability, I am gonna put the kettle on to wash my hair!
Last team effort of the day is making sausages – another first for me.
Jose is in control of the meat mix recipe and we end up with five yummy looking mixtures to funnel into pig-guts. One hour and many German sausage jokes later we have barely 3-4 filled sausages. Better equipment and a new strategy is needed.
Our evening meeting starts with everyone being asked to say a few appreciative words about the person sitting to their left. I am expecting a lot of hippy hogwash, but people come up with very varied and heartfelt observations. People-care is a main aspect of 8th Life philosophy and here it shows. Stu and Jose perform a song each before the meeting is finished and everybody runs off to do their thing. (My thing being dinner)
2nd day (8/12)
Starts with an hour of gardening, this time we are building an arch to hold up the heavy branches of a plum tree. This is a fabulous team effort with Samadhi and Stu and we are all very pleased with ourselves and the finished product:
A new task I have taken on is to help bringing the sheep from their pen to the grazing area every morning, so today I am playing shepherds dog for Jose.
Sheep are friendly, a bit stupid and easily frightened – I can relate to that.
Jose has come up with a rope-guiding system which reminds me of a water-skiing rig.
The sheep are hooked into this and can move around with some freedom but without hurting each other or getting entangled.
And today I finally get my solar shower to wash-off the sheep smell!
Maybe its because the last few days have been quite basic, but the shower feels like the most luxurious moment ever. It is just the right temperature and delightfully zero-emissions.
We postpone our shopping trip to Puntagorda as it is a public holiday today.
Instead I have a bit of Berlin computer work time in the hammock.
Mattis invites me to share his dinner of fried greens and potatoes – thanks mate!
3rd day (9/12)
Wake-up – Espresso – Gardening
Samadhi’s morning hour of gardening is getting very popular, there are now three boys lined up to lend a helping hand.
Turns out four people is three too many when it comes to deciding if a raised bed is sitting level or not.
In the end it’s the three of us pontificating while a frustrated (and 7 months pregnant) Samadhi is swinging the pick-axe. Our strategy might need looking into…
Next up are the sheep, this involves re-rigging the system as other patches need to be grazed on next.
Breakfast us usual at 11am followed by a meeting.
Consisting today of fried greens, banana curry and omelette, it’s more of a brunch really – and huge:
I am doing a little bit more computer work for Berlin, this time making sure I give my colleagues a 360° view of the farm via Skype. Don’t much fancy sitting in a Berlin office under grey skies with them right now!
At four o’clock the Spanish siesta is over and we can drive into Puntagorda to get some gardening supplies and a few grocery items we can’t yet produce ourselves, like milk.
But we are also bringing some used plastic bags from the garden centre for the domo.
This puts into practice another philosophy of 8th life: not just ‘going back to nature’ but being aware of (and trying to reverse) some of humanities environmental sins.
Since dinner is everyone’s own responsibility, Samadhi has offered to cook a paid dinner for me.
My first reaction is not wanting to spend anything on special treatment and feeling a bit awkward about this tourist-guest position. Samadhi explains to me that guests at the finca are also an important source of income for the project and its residents and I find it easy to agree with this, I am already spending much less than I would on any other holiday. Her cooking is amazing and it’s well worth the few quid she is asking, so I am happy to be a tourist on this occasion: upgrade to full-board ensues.
4th day (10/12)
Gardening today: Weeding… File under ‘boring but necessary’.
At least it’s a sweet potato patch – one of my fav vegetables – that I am liberating from the weeds, and I am pretty sure I will never be asked to do this in Berlin.
Stu and me are taking the sheep out today, because Jose has gone off to the other side of the island to attend a ‘DEMOS’ event. DEMOS is a canarian LETS scheme (a local currency to be used instead of Euros).
In January, the village will welcome a new Team of 8 people, also known as the Permaculture-Dream-Team (PeDreTea).
They are already organising themselves online, and plan to stay for a year.
To give them an idea of what to expect here, I shoot a little video with Stella doing a guided tour of the premises. This comes out quite well, even though there is no editing/rehearsing/or planning involved. Here is the link.
At 5pm it’s group-time, this is when we have the whole team working on one project, and today that’s the Domo.
It is important to know that the 8th life project is not just about living naturally and sustainable, but also about finding ways to redeem some of societies existing environmental sins.
The domo project is an attempt to build a dome where the insulation consists of recycled plastic-garbage. Today we are re-building plastic bricks from the existing dome. It is pretty disgusting work, re-bagging old plastic-sheets which are infested with spiders and rat excrement.
After that: another trip to the village, more sausage making, evening meeting and ‘guest’ dinner.
5th day (11/12)
I finish the weeding of the sweet potatos which I started yesterday, as well as sorting out the beds of the Chinese artichokes.
Taking out the sheep with Stu is followed by some Berlin computer work.
Sausage-making, take three: We’re not even halfway through filling pig guts with pork meat so another shift is scheduled with Mattis. we finally get the drift of pushing meat through the funnel without creating loads of air bubbles – can’t beat the German team when it comes to sausages!
During today’s group-time we rebuild the roof on the chicken shed with corrugated plastic – the chickens have communicated to Stella that they want ‘a proper roof over the head’. Stu is about half my age (and weight) so he gets to climb on the chicken shed to tie down the plastic such that any downward movement is arrested. Swell!
Turns out the chickens were right to be nervous about all this human activity – we spontaneously decide to slaughter one of the cockerels. he’s just become way too cocky.
Hardly any of us have witnessed the slaughter of a life animal and it is time for each one to decide if today is the day. I am going to go for it and now Jose – who has done this many times before – talks us through the process.
Again it becomes clear what a special and thoughtful guy he is.
I completely trust him to do this right – and it seems so does the chicken which is sitting comfortably on his lap.
(IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ ABOUT THE SLAUGHTER SKIP THIS BIT…)
Jose claims that the axe-method of chicken slaughter only seems quicker and is very bloody.
He is also no fan of the ’swinging the chicken over the head’ approach.
Instead he stops the blood supply to the head to numb it and after a few moments twists the head against the body a few times.
The chicken flaps it wings for about 20 seconds – a moment Jose describes as ‘the soul flying away’ – and then goes completely slack.
It still is a beautiful animal (Jose plans to keep the feathers) and we silently give thanks.
Mattis, Stu and me are quite moved but far from traumatised.
I feel it was a dignified moment and I am glad that I had the chance to witness it.
As a meet eater (albeit reduced amounts) I have always felt very disconnected from the source of my food.
I want to close that gap and plan to kill an animal myself one day. I just hope it will be as gracious as this time.
(SAFE TO READ ON…)
It’s Friday evening, and that’s movie-night at the finca luna.
After the chicken episode we all fancy a quiet, animal friendly movie and settle in with blankets cushions and snacks to watch ‘The Jungle Book’.
6th day (12/12)
Well, you wait ages for a proper jam session and then two come along the same day!
First one is before(!) breakfast, in honour of Victor who is leaving today to live with another community on La Palma, we got Mattis on trumpet, Stu and myself on guitars, Jose and Stella on percussions, Samadhi singing – and sadly no picture. There is plenty of hugs and appreciations for Victor, it is a very nice moment.
Because it’s the weekend there are no chores for most of us.
Samadhi and Stu decide to stay at the farm to sort out domestics, but Mattis and I are off to Tazacorte beach.
This involves an hours drive over adventurous roads with great vistas. (This can be said about pretty much all roads on La Palma).
We return via Puntagorda market which is surprisingly busy for such a small village, it’s about 50/50 locals and tourists (of which most seem to be German).
Mattis is on the lookout for a proper Vollkornbrot and manages to get hold of one. (The food at the finca is mostly carb free and kind of ‘paleo’).
We take great pictures from the vista platforms.
I have my final ‘tourist dinner’ courtesy of Samadhi which is once again delish.
We are all meeting in the library for a jam session, which has been chosen as the appropriate way to send me off.
The musical flow is somewhat better at this time of the day – maybe also due to Samadhi’s mood-enhancing incense – and we are jamming for a good 90 minutes.
Stu is unsuccessfully attempting to present his latest composition to everyone, but the vibe is more one of group silliness and this has to be postponed to another time. Time to call it a night.
7th day (13/12) – departure
I have said my goodbyes to Samadhi, Stu and Mattis yesterday as they are having a well-deserved lie-in.
That doesn’t mean I wake up alone though, piggy-wiggy has come over to great me right outside my room.
This is quite unusual as she keeps to herself most days, but today she is in heat!
I gingerly edge past her into the kitchen to see that the espresso and milk have been cleared away.
Clutching a cup of green-tea I make my way to the dining area, where piggy-wiggy’s advances get increasingly scary and I receive a little ‘kiss’ on my track-suit clad knee.
No morning coffee and a pig-in-heat is too much to handle, so I call out to Jose who comes to my rescue.
(Fittingly mirroring the events of my arrival here).
Jose – and only he can pull off that sort of spiel – convinces me that piggy-wiggy’s advances are a compliment to my male virility and sexual charms.
Many hugs and leaving presents later I get into my car and onto the LP-1, knowing that whatever happens in my life, piggy-wiggy of Las Tricias will always fancy me 🙂