Fire and regeneration

Fire   Fire  !


As i write ( its early September ) I am sitting on our veranda overlooking the mountain , a mist of morning fog lifting up from the valley below, the first gentle rains of the year have finally arrived, everybody has been waiting for the fire “season” to stop, time for reflection , and time for action.


On the evening of the 16th of June we were sitting here in the same spot with the same panoramic view only the whole horizon is red. The fire season has begun, well it comes every year (we have the perfect conditions for summer fires ) , the next day we woke to no view at all, just smoke, then the fire came…., it stayed for 11 days , returning to the farm 6 times from different directions ,fuelled by the strong winds, each time taking more buildings, more trees, more structures , in the end we were left with the main house and a small green oasis thanks to the local fire fighters, joined also by fire fighters from Spain, France , Morocco and Italy who managed  16 helicopter and 4 plane drops to  save the house,


Everything else gone and black, 4 buildings and all their contents, various out buildings, animal houses, hundreds of fruit and nut trees, water tanks , piping, tools ,a tractor , ect,,


I spoke to a friend recently who had escaped this fire, but is fearful of the next , she said “ id rather the fire took my house than my garden, the house I can rebuild quick , but to replace trees and plants,, I will not see them back in my life time” I agree with her sentiment, she has been developing her gardens for 30 years and I only 10.


The last time I checked (and fires are still burning) the figure was more than 160,000 hectares burned across Portugal, but fires also burning in France and across Europe, the US and even the arctic tundra of Greenland….its something that is going to get worse .


Fire is a natural event occurring in nature, usually lighting strikes on the ridges start fires with trees that have evolved to use the fire to propagate themselves and extend their range a bit, species like eucalyptus and pine who rely on the heat to release their seeds, unfortunately the statistics say over 90% of fires are manmade, arson, discarded cigarette, insurance claim, etc etc..


In a fire prone area (as we are ) you can expect a catastrophic  fire every 20 -30 years (the one we have just experienced here) ,the worst fire on record with many deaths and loss of property and land) with annual fires increasing  until that event, the more it burns the more it burns.



Also not talked about much is the huge loss of wildlife, mammals, birds, insects, the soil and its lifeforms. Along with the mycelium. Who knows how long and even if we can replace what we have lost, one thing is for sure is that it is a pattern, a cycle that can be broken or changed


“A lot can be done to change that cycle. Advantage can be gained if it can be delayed even one period. The less it burns the less likely it is to burn, because there will be more humus and more moisture incorporated into the site. On the other hand the more it burns ,the more likely  it is to burn again soon. This is because fire removes a lot of moisture –retaining humus and kills a lot more than it consumes, resulting in a fire prone litter build up “  ( Bill Mollison)




So after a period of reflection, observation and decision making, we have realized that to be able to stay here we have to have a seriously implemented design for fire. We have been working on this with the help of Nuno Mamede and Terra crua environmental design. We have a blank canvas now so must look at the problem as the solution, an opportunity….its interesting to see that our aims remain the same before and after the show an example of how we can  …….here is the first map layout for re design —

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At this stage we would like to express our deepest gratitude to all the people who were there for us during the fire , who came to check if we were ok, who donated materials, money, trees, physical help and advice, it was overwhelming and reinstated our faith in humanity and gave us the strength to restart and rebuild again.



Over the years I have learned to accept help, something I was stubborn to do in the past, but have found it is better to give with compassion and receive with joy, in fact as Charles Eisenstein  explains a gift economy was how we once  conducted our selves in times past and will have to in the future.


Key factors are –

  • Erosion

Our immediate concern is the onset of winter rains, which are often very heavy, so we need to do some earth moving, redesigning the tracks with a 2% slope into the hillside to gently collect the rain and take it to swale systems.


We need to –


Create more terraces and swales,


Place burned trees on contour to check erosion from hill sides


Broadcast soil holding seeds and plant fire break trees and shrubs


  • Water storage –


We need to —


Build 40,000 L ferrocement tank with 2” pipework


Install roof collection to another 20,000 L tank


Place stainless steel piping and sprinklers onto all roofs


Create more ponds and wet areas



After first rains plant out fire resistant trees and shrubs.



first life after seeding//




dirty water from the the first rains to fill the swales



Starting of the land moving. fire break around the house


page under construction ……………………