Some people are innovative and adventurous enough to follow their passion and this is a story about two people that did exactly that. In Central Portugal, a woman named Lea lives with her partner Maarten and their toddler Puck. The couple lived in the Netherlands working full time in the field of education. When Lea became pregnant with their daughter, she decided it was time for a move and time for change, so they bought a camper van and started traveling.
In 2019, Lea and Maarten made a decision to leave the rat race lifestyle of working full-time in the Netherlands and exchanged it for a slower, more serene life creating a homestead. They moved south in their camper van, bought a large expanse of land that had been abandoned for many decades and started their new life in Portugal. Slowly, Lea and Maarten are cleaning up the land and building their dream off-grid homestead from the ground up.
Their YouTube channel, Our Portuguese Homestead, documents their journey, which includes everything from their progress on the land to showing footage of the beautiful country that they now call home. They share five small-scale regenerative projects that they are undertaking to restore their land.
The first project that Lea and Maarten had to undertake to restore the land was cutting down the dominating brush. When they bought the land, there was only a small path kept clear by a neighbor, so there was a lot of work to do. They got to work and trimmed down all the overgrown brush which allowed for new growth to begin. This new growth included grass and beautiful wild flowers.
Another important aspect of regenerative agriculture that they decided to involve was water management. This innovative solution placed the leftover brush in lines along various areas of the properties to conserve water. They also plan on creating some ponds and key lines on the property in the future.
Composting is the third regenerative project that Lea and Maarten practice. They do this by simply putting any leftover brush in heaps and letting them slowly compost over time, returning the nutrients to the land. Although the traditional way to deal with vast amounts of brush would be to burn it, this method is more nourishing for the environment. In addition to the brush compost, they choose to compost their scraps and use a composting toilet.
Lea and Maarten have a low-till policy for their land because plowing the soil multiple times each year deteriorates the nutrients on the land. They have instead opted for an alternative method called “chop and drop,” which means that they cut down the grass that grew in the winter and lay it on top of the soil to protect the land in the summer sun. This method also allows for the grass to be fed back into the soil over time as it breaks down.
Lea also discusses a fifth, smaller-scale, regenerative practice called silvopasture. This technique would allow for them to have animals that can graze the land such as goats, sheep and donkeys. They are still waiting to decide what kind of animals they want for their land, but regardless of what animals they choose, there will be fantastic benefits for the land, like nourishing the soil.
Lea and Maarten are turning this abandoned lot of land into a beautiful paradise of a homestead that will work with nature instead of against it. Any of these five practices mentioned are sure to help anyone who is starting out in regenerative agriculture. Lea and Maarten are inspiring others to follow in their footsteps and create a homestead for themselves. If you are interested in learning more and following Lea and Maarten on their journey, you can follow Our Portuguese Homestead: Youtube – Instagram – Facebook.
Thank you to Guerrilla Foundation for funding this video of solutions.
This article was written by Lindsey Morrison.