Andreas Schäfer

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since Feb 05, 2015
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Recent posts by Andreas Schäfer

Hello Biju,

There is not much I know about permaculture in your climate, but two years ago I visited a permaculture farm in Mandrem Goa, with Vijay, a friend from Kerala. An old Goan man showed us around, he was very friendly and kind, like so many people in your wonderful country. It was a nice experience to walk into that food forest, and be suddenly away from all the people and noise. The forest canopy was mostly coconut palm, there were a lot of casew trees, with pepper plants as climbers, ananas, turmeric and many other things as herb layer. For sure there were many other species, they also have some animals.

After the walk, the man invited us into his house, and offered us some sweet rice. There is a little shop where they sell some of their produce. I bought a kg dried black pepper, nutmeg and turmeric, all for very reasonable prices. I am still enjoying those spices daily in my kitchen.

I really hope permaculture will be discovered by many more people in India. It would make such a difference. The very bad air quality in Delhi recently, according to the newspapers it was the farmers to blame, because they use to burn the fields after harvest. Like that there is no mulch left! Everywhere bare dry soil.. Or well, plastic mulch (rubbish).. I had the impression the awareness about environmental issues is growing in India, but maybe the amount of organic shops is an reflection of the growing middle class, in India, I dont know.

Hi Skandi and Phil, thanks for your posts!

Phil, to be honest I called the Raad van State a scientific organisation, but it isn't really. Its the highest court of the Netherlands, as well as an advisory organ for the government. It was founded in 1531, nowadays some question if its a good idea to have those functions combined in one organisation. While the king is the president of the board, the other members are judges, politicians and scientists.

The Raad van State wants the amount of nitrogen that is released into the atmosphere, being reduced. Therefore farmers should reduce the amount of livestock, but there it becomes very political all over sudden. So how we are going to get that reduction depends on the ruling parties. After the United States, The Netherlands is the second biggest agricultural exporter in the world (can you imagine..) and some would like to keep it that way.

Most news articles I read about this just talk about nitrogen in general in the environment. Skandi, I understand that nitrogen can have an negative inpact on biodiversity, because some plants like the excess nitrogen, and others don't. Is that effect structural, or would the nature over time restore itself, and biodiversity returns?
7 months ago
Hello dear Permies,

I would like to know your opinions on the following:

In The Netherlands the Raad van State (a science thinktank that advises the government on their policies) argued that the amounts of nitrogen in the Dutch atmosphere is far to high, driven by the outputs of nitrogen by the agricultural sector, industry and transport.

The problem with the nitrogen is its bad for nature, so argues the Raad van State, because blackberries and nettles start to grow really well on all that nitrogen. According to the advice organ, these plants are too invasive, and drive out more delicate plants.

It seems that the Dutch idea about preserving nature, is mainly about the idea that The Netherlands nature should consist mostly of heath. Allthough everything was forest in the past, we started to believe that the artificial landscape we created over the centuries, is actually nature that needs preserving.

In my opinion it would be better to leave to nature to decide whats nature? Alltough I think there are good reasons to do something about pollution, isnt a nitrogen surplus a good thing? I mean if we leave nature to shape itself, the heath would become overgrown with pioneers like blackberries, who in turn give protection to small trees, so over time everything would change back into forest.

I know this topic might seem political, for me its just about science, knowledge, what we know about permaculture. Does the point of view of the Raad van State make any sense?
7 months ago
Hello Martin,

You are right, I misunderstood. I see now, you did your homework very well!

I am afraid I dont have too many tips or advise. Buying land in Portugal is quite easy, you just need a fiscal number, which you can obtain at the finanças office, it will cost just a few euros (I forgot, maybe 10 or 15 euros). A solicitor can help you for a reasonable fee, to do the legal work. They will ask the neigbours of the land you want to purchase, if they want to buy it, according to the local laws. Also, they will calculate the taxes and fees you have to pay. Since I bought only once a plot of land 3,5 years ago, I am not an expert on the topic. I made my purchase in cash (I am not a big fan of banks), but I think recently the law changed, so cash transactions above a few grand are illegal now (criminals use cash, so cash is criminal, or maybe its just to make us a bit more dependent on the very solid banking sector, lol).

I agree with you, the location, distance to a bigger town, is important. When I came here, I thought a bicycle would be enough, but I soon found its not that nice to cycle 15 km to the nearest town, to buy groceries. Me being used to the low countries, I found cycling in the hills here is especially in summer not always fun.

Another thing to consider is the climate. There are big differences locally. Personally I think I did a good job buying the plot in this area, since there is enough rainfall here, but not too much like further to the north. Temperatures are not too low in winter, and not too high in summer (this summer is colder than average so far, maximum temperatures averaging below 30 degrees) I am about 380 metre above sea level, in the winter it can get a few degrees below zero, but not too much, so lemon trees survive here. About every 100 metres higher, average temperatures drop by a degree celcius. If you want to live next to a stream, there is a big chance you will end up somewhere in the lowest part of a valley. In winter that means less sun hours, and more fog (some days you might not see the sun at all in the valley, with higher uphill sunny weather). Also, the water from the streams might be polluted, also the wells could be polluted by farming uphill. Many locals here love Monsanto products, they like bare ground around their grapes and olives, and pesticides are so convenient. My plot is almost in the top of a hill, so I think my water is pretty clean, since there is just some forest uphill. So if you want to live close to a stream, I would suggest to stay close to the Serra da Estrela, then you are not too low, the closer to the mountains, the cleaner the water will be.

Thats my advise I can think of, at the moment.

Take care!

9 months ago
Hello Martin and Maike,

I am a bit surprised to see you are willing to pay up to 50.000 for two hectares. As far I know prices here for forest land are about 50 cents a square metre, double for farmland. Of course those prices are for land without any buildings. Even ruins raise the price of the land substantially, since usually its possible to renovate the ruin into a (legal) house. Myself, I payed a little over 1 euro (4500 including taxes for 4200 m2), but for me that was already a bargain, especcially since there were many mature fruit and olive trees, and a very good well that never runs dry (so far).

Maybe it would be smart not to tell the real estate agent that you would be willing to pay 2,5 times the market value. Also you might want to keep in mind that if you are paying too much, you will help drive prices up and that would make it more hard for locals to buy land (but usually they are the sellers).

I think you could get a nice bargain, if you buy a plot of burned land, two years ago almost the whole centre of Portugal was on fire, and still there are dead trees everywhere. The good thing of buying burned land, is that the risk of a new fire will be lower in the years to come, that gives you the time to plant fire resistant trees. If you buy land that didn't burn, then you should be aware of the risk of the next fire.

See you in september!

Good luck with everything.

9 months ago
What search? I am getting confused now.. Did you read the thread?
1 year ago
Hello Helen,

I didnt have succes in buying land lately, but I didnt try. So I cannot tell you anything about websites, I dont know any more than stated above. I would recommend to look at land for sale on websites, just to get an idea, but keep in mind, most land is for sale, but not online. So good you are planning to visit the peninsula this summer, the best way to find (cheap) land is to ask around in local bars.

You dont need a lot of money to buy some land, some small plots costs just a few hundreds of euros.

Good luck!
1 year ago
Hi, I am in central Portugal, between Coimbra and Viseu. Here the spring and summer was quite cold and with a sufficient amount of rain. The heatwave started just a few days ago, and the forecast is average summer weather (max around 30C is the long term average in july and august). for the coming weeks.

Last year was worse, worst! First a very dry spring and a very hot summer, then the wildfires of 15th october. At you can see a lot of fires at this moment too, but not around my area. I guess I am lucky now because the bad luck last year, alltough I still am a little concerned. A lot of people say after such a big fire it takes about 15 years to build up enough  material to give the next big fire a chance. But because of the great amount of ashes, in spring everything turned green, lots of fast growing weeds, and now those are mostly dead and dry, so maybe I still should be aware..

I started watering daily (yes that was not nescessary until a few days ago!), and I give more. Still some plants and little trees have a difficult time. I guess what I would do different next year, is even more mulch.. I also need a lot more shade, so that means I have to keep planting trees.

But like I said, temperatures are usually always high in summer here, so most plants and trees adapted to it, or are known for liking hot weather. So the mature trees (olive, orange, corkoak, pines, mimosa) that survived the fire still look nice and green, no stress.
1 year ago
Hi Alex,

since I am not looking for land, I am not the best guy to ask. I remember when I was looking for land online, I found a lot of info on websites to be outdated. One of the well known websites for land for sale in central Portugal (not only Coimbra but also a lot in Castelo Branco) is Please note I wouldnt advise to buy something from that website, or expect to pay double price. Maybe you think its that cheap, you dont care to pay too much, but please keep in mind that foreigners buying land here above market prices, affects the local people, who see themselves outbid.

But just to get an idea about whats for sale, looking online can be helpful. It might be a good idea to check also for plots for sale. But since almost everything here is for sale (not everything is on the market, but most people would like to sell), it would make more sense to get to know the area, decide where you want to be, and go investigate in the local bars to find a suited plot in that area.

Good luck, and if you find yourself in my area, feel free to contact me. Maybe you could become my neighbour!
2 years ago
Hi Jen,

Yeah I feel the same, about doing everything alone. Also my family don't really seem to understand what I am doing, and after the fire there was not much support from them. On the other hand, doing so much alone also made me more self confident. But sometimes its lonely, so it would be great to meet someone to do it together.

The fires are scary for sure, but after this fire in the whole area there is nothing left to burn, it will take about 15 years before a fire gets a chance to get big. So for the coming years we will be really save there, and in that time I want to plant all kinds of fire resistant trees. Like that I could save my land from the fire the next time. I also will buy a good waterpump (so far I did everything by hand, with buckets), so I can wet my land when a fire comes close.

And yes, gardening and travelling are difficult to combine, for me the fire made it possible to do some travelling. It was a good choice for me, leaving the mess behind, escaping the winter in Portugal. Now I feel like I have more power to rebuild everything. Today I will continue to look for a cheap way to send jutebags to Portugal. I can buy those bags here for only ten rupies a piece (about €0,13).

So keep me informed about your plans to come to Portugal!
2 years ago