In the mountains of Taygetos, wedged between Kalamata and Sparta, the home of the best olives in the world, is a small village called Alagonia. It is here that I welcome you to share my home, garden, and traditional Mediterranean village lifestyle.
My name is Melanie (or Melina, in Greek). I am a native New Yorker of Greek heritage and a citizen of the world. I have lived, studied, and worked in several countries (Greece - sociology b.a.; U.S.- culinary arts, holistic nutrition, teaching english; India/Australia - permaculture, natural living) and have traveled and explored many others.
I am in the process of relocating back to Greece, after several years of studying, traveling (mainly through workaway!), skill-building, and funds-collecting through my current job as a vegetarian cook in Manhattan.
Using my training in Permaculture Design and my experiences on many farms and eco-projects, coupled with the help of willing and enthusiastic workers and advisors, I would like to transform my family house and land into a homestead that will minimize input/waste/negative footprint, maximize self-sufficiency, and serve as an integral part of the social/cultural/economic/ecological sustenance of the village community.
My intention is to recreate the homestead that my father and his parents (and so on) were born into and lived off of, before immigrating to NY. Now that my yiayia and pappou (grandmother and grandfather) have passed on, our ancestral house and land has been abandoned, apart from the few summer months when my siblings and parents come to visit. I remember, as a child, I would live with my grandparents in their village home for the entire summer, and every meal was just a harvest basket away. From the balcony overlooking the extensive garden, I would watch my yiayia every day as she irrigated the crops using the water that flowed incessantly in the narrow ditch that lines all the roads and pathways of the village. Between the cherry, apple, quince, fig, and plum trees, beyond the kiwi and grape vines, adjacent to the wild strawberries and creeping blackberry shrubs, she would foster the growth of our abundant vegetable patches.
As I transition into my life on the homestead, there is much preparatory work that needs to be done before any structural changes are initiated. My main focus of work for this spring/summer season is mapping out my land and conducting a thorough site analysis of the properties. Once this is done/underway, we can begin brainstorming a design for the land/resources according to permaculture design principles.
My other priority during this time period is to cultivate my backyard garden for household consumption. This exercise will not only provide me with an output (and allow me to cook you some delicious vegetarian meals), but it will also introduce us to the soil composition, neighborhood critters, weeds and wild edibles, and possible bed designs/companion planting, etc...
We will also be helping my uncle's own homesteading project, particularly with planting trees and helping out with the harvest.
Other projects I am interested in carrying out (although of secondary importance), include constructing a compost toilet and solar dehydrator. Feel free to suggest any other projects, and if it is possible for me to gather the necessary materials, you can carry out your own initiatives.
Oh, and if you speak Hindi, you might help me with language practice, if you don't mind!
Ongoing tasks for the project may include:▪ Vegetable bed Designing (with Intercropping) & Building ▪ Seed saving ▪ Nursery care ▪ Garden Maintenance & Irrigation ▪ General Sowing, Planting, Weeding & Mulching ▪ Natural Building/Upcycled construction ▪ Compost heap Composition & Maintenance ▪ Tree Planting & Reforestation ▪ Compost Tea brewing ▪ Plant & Weed Identification ▪ Straw bale & No-dig Gardening ▪ Garden Structure construction ▪ Earthworks & Swale building ▪ Grass Control through Mowing, Whipper-Snipping, Sickle & setting up Animal Tractors ▪ Basic Tree Pruning ▪ Sheet-mulching ▪ Soil Analysis & Amelioration ▪ Pest Identification & Management ▪ Basic Biodydanamic Farming techniques ▪ Harvesting Fruits & Vegetables ▪ Preserving Fruits/Vegetables through drying, canning, pickling, salting (jams, sauces, cordials, olives, etc) ▪ General House Maintenance
*Please note that the available exchange period for this year is 2nd week of May until 1st week of August AND September until late-November.
If you are willing to stay long-term, the month of August is negotiable (I might be away, so you would have the house to yourself in exchange for house-sitting and minding the garden)*
*Those with experience in PERMACULTURE DESIGN (plus map-making) are especially encouraged to reach out to me...please and thank you! This would be a great gig for recent PDC grads who would like to exercise their surveying and design skills.*
LANGUAGES: English (native), Greek (almost fluent), basic introductory Hindi... [I have my TEFL (english teaching) certification, and am skilled at communicating with people with whom I do not share a common language.]
In the village of Alagonia, we have a traditional house, the foundations of which were laid about 100 years ago. As with many of the houses in the area, the original house was small, and as the family expanded, extensions were added on. However, since several families used to live in this one house, many of the rooms have separate entrances from the outside. Two years ago, we had the roof fitted with solar panels, from which we get all of our electricity. We have a propane stovetop in the kitchen, though occasionally cook out in the yard over the fire.
You will have a choice between rooms, though most likely you will choose stay in the largest room with a separate entrance to the front balcony. This room has a single bed and a pull-out couch, as well as a large screen tv. (In the past, when my family was here, we invited our cousins and neighbors over to watch films occasionally.)
If you prefer to sleep under the stars, we have a hammock and a cot that can be moved out to the back balcony. Through the grapevines hanging above you, at night you will be able to see many stars, and on most clear nights you will admire the pink haze of the Milky Way.
If you are like me, and can't get enough of natural living, we have a tent that you can set up anywhere you'd like
(other than the veggie area of course).
* All options are shared bathroom and kitchen.
* We are a vegan/vegetarian household, which means we do not keep meat in the house. Dairy and eggs are okay, and I may be able to get both of them fresh for you, from other family/villagers' own pastured animals. I was professionally trained in plant-based cooking, and have worked in a number of kitchens, so I have confidence that you will not feel the least bit deprived. However, if you do crave animal protein, there is a restaurant located in the village that is open for dinner and serves traditional meat dishes.
* We loosely base our time on the Greek farmer's clock, that is: Wake early in the morning (typically around 6-7 am) in order to beat the sun, and work until the heat of the day really kicks in (around 12). Lunch is around 13.00, and many villagers take a "siesta" rest during the hours of 14-16.00 when it is very hot and very quiet. The day resumes at 17/18.00, when many of the locals meet together at the small cafe, or go for a walk. I am not rigid with schedules, but do prefer to start my day earlier, since it isn't so pleasant to do manual labor in the mid-day heat.
ABOUT THE AREA
Alagonia is located in the Taygetos mountain range, along with several other villages, including Piges, Artemisia, and Machala. They are within walking distance, and are beautifully scenic routes, whether by paved road or footpath (monopati). There are also some longer marked trails that run through the area, including one that makes its way all the way to Kalamata (about 7 hours, at a relaxed pace with included picnic time). In the village, there are two small shops/cafes and a restaurant. We also have a full-size fenced football (soccer) and basketball court. There are usually cultural events that happen even within the village. One of my favorites are the harvest festivals and the panigyria (or church celebrations). If religion is not you're thing, join us after the service for live music, traditional folk dancing and lots of delicious local food and wine.
On your time away from the homestead, if you choose to go to Kalamata city, you may stay at our apartment. It is a large 3-bedroom with wraparound balcony. The beach, port, boardwalk, park, and center are all located within a 15-minute walking radius. You may also use our bicycles to get around if you'd like. Kalamata is famous for their olives, but is truly relished for its gorgeous crystal clear beaches surrounded by green mountains, as well as a pedestrian/bicycle boardwalk that is lined with cafes and tavernas. Kalamata is steadily becoming a progressive cultural hub of Europe: museums, dance school (& annual international dance festival), many cultural events, largest municipal composting program in Greece, environmental school & many municipal initiatives for the environment, street art galore demonstrating social and ecological issues...and much more!
There is a bus that runs between the village and Kalamata (and Sparta) several times per week. If this doesn't work out, I have a car as well. And, it is usually pretty easy to hitch (or find) a ride into the city.
Hi Melanie, I only just came across your post and it is now from several years ago! How are you going there and are you still looking for people to contribute to what you are creating? I hope that it has all been going well!!!
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