Wow, its been so busy…… I cant remember when I last got to write a blog entry.
It’s been a really intense year this last one, working a lot on our site and sustainable rural development project in Italy, making yurts, meetings, events, working with people. There has been so much, I felt at times like I was going crazy.
Having spent 3 years working on this Heartland Project, with our main site in Italy I feel its time to start drawing conclusions, the first is that we want to focus more on real situations, and develop sustainability also on the level of relationship with people. ‘What does that even mean?’, you ask.
It means we decided to focus less on events that we host, and little less on working with volunteers like we did, but start finding people that can integrate into the project for longer periods. On the Heartland site in the Abruzzan mountains, I’ve cleared a set of places. It’s a place of outstanding natural beauty so this year instead of pitching the yurts in a circle, I want to try something we use to practice a million years ago when I lived in Tipi Valley (its a community of people in Wales who used to live only in tipis) namely, pitching each yurt in its own dedicated field.
This way the yurt becomes the centre of a small area in Heartland, a place with its own eco system, and this way the yurt and the person living in it can focus on that special area as their own project, clearing the land, planting gardens and herbs, etc.
As part of this project we have started dedicating some of the land plots to people we love, mostly nomads, or people we work with that have no place, so I’ve been giving them a little piece of Heartland, because land with no people, is like people with no land.
Anyway to get to the main subject of this blog post, what we are aiming to do this year is to start a land stewardship program: through this program we want to invite people who can live for a period in a yurt in Italy. The terms of the exchange can be worked out, for example we can do work exchange, but the focus is sustainability, so we are looking for people who can dedicate over a month at a time, live in a yurt, and look after the immediate area as their own little Garden of Eden. This way, I feel, clearing the land integrates with a special opportunity which we can offer, for someone to go back to the land.
The other part of this program is apprenticeship: a part of the exchange could be that we teach people how to make yurts, so signing in for a couple of months or so. Next year can have an element of that too, where we teach a person to make yurts from A-Z: gathering and peeling coppiced poles, steam bending, making wheels – the whole lot. As we are now looking for people to make frames for us, because of increased demand, this can also be an opportunity to establish a small self employed business once the person goes back home.
We will be putting up the yurts in Abruzzo around May time, maybe a little later this year, so this program will open around then.
Another part of program will be working with our volunteers, as these are a big part of our project. We have a constant flow of volunteers, and they need looking after, sometimes needing to be cooked for, and they are usually a lot of fun, and look after themselves, so although the focus is for people who want to go into pure nature and live there by themselves for a long period, having a constant flow of volunteers means that one isn’t really usually alone.
The person we look for needs to be ok with living outside, washing in fire heated baths, or using a heated bucket, because the yurts are going to be set apart. Maybe this year cooking might take place in each yurt (we still need to figure this out). We want to emulate a more nomadic pattern over the site, so it’s possible also we will shift the yurts to new pastures, so to speak. The site is very wild, so it’s not really Glamping: it’s more akin to living in a yurt in Mongolia. One has little furniture, sleeps on a bedroll, and nature isn’t groomed in his or hers immediate surrounds, so all of that is part of the experience, so we are looking for people who can live at that level for a long period of time.
The projects we are looking to focus on are mainly yurt-making as part of the apprenticeship, land clearing (this actually works hand in hand with the yurt making as a lot of the stuff we clear is ash wood for yurt making). There will be some small scale farming, pruning and grafting fruit trees, looking after olives and planting of herbs all over the site, possibly some building work. Through this program we are mainly looking for people who want to go back to the land, as an experience, who aren’t afraid of hard work.
I can’t really describe the Heartland experience, but it’s often our volunteers leave here crying, and although we sometimes make them cry, I don’t mean they cry because of us, they cry because they feel they are leaving the last hold of freedom to go back to their lives, and that’s what we want to start opening: a deeper integration. So we invite you to take part, learn how to be a yurt-maker, live on the land by yourself without having to worry about bills. If the work exchange is clear we can offer you food too, otherwise you will need to support yourself, but we buy most things in Bulk anyway so good organic food is cheap.