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Returning to the Land

Our Journey with Quinta Das Abelhas

In January 2017, we purchased 11 hectares of degraded pine monoculture farmland near the Serra da Estrela mountains in Central Portugal. We named the land Quinta Das Abelhas, Bee Farm in English, with the aim to bring back wildlife and create a safe space for pollinators, in particular the honey bees. This alongside with our neighbours, we are bringing back diversity to over 50 hectares of a once human degraded landscape. 

 

With much observation at the start, we slowly began with strategic land interventions guided by nature and witnessed how transformation of human abused ecosystems can occur quickly. A big shift occurred when rapidly the pine monoculture started to die from the nematode disease so we made a big intervention by removing around 3 hectares of dying pine. This allowed the dormant native trees to reawaken and oak, chestnut and alder buckthorn come through at a faster rate. We witnessed the land slowly reforesting itself alongside our own planting with a huge variety of species from gingko to medrona and many fruit and nut trees. 

Land Regeneration and Soil Health

We composted, green manured, mulched and applied water retention strategies such as swales. Over time we began to see an increase in the number and diversity of wild flowers, plants and insects. This has led to many more pollinators, bugs, butterflies, worms and bees and the bird life increasing. Highlights have been seeing the hoopoe rearing their young and bats breeding on the land. 

 

The Honey Bees

Our passion is to find more honey bees living wild in the trees as nature intended. With so many of the old trees cut by humans and replaced by monocultures,  we produced and installed log hives on our land and neighbouring regeneration projects. These bee homes are not honey production centred but simply for the purpose of supporting bee health by mimicking the nests the bees have in nature.  

Regenerative Grazing 

In 2020, our neighbours horses came to the land which, over the next two years, was our exploration into regenerative grazing. This opened up the land to new potential, in particular we have seen the increase of mushroom and bug life, the manure enriching soil and land life. 

The Apple Orchard

We have 400 apple trees, of four different species, that was once maintained by pesticides. We have moved to an organic orchard with natural treatments such as nettle. The apples will retain the majority presence and we are allowing the new species that are coming through, such as the oak, to remain. The orchard is a collective space to work together, share the harvest and produce products such as juice, dehydrated apples, sauce, chutneys and apple cider vinegar. 

Organic Food 
Each year the food and herb growing area has expanded little by little on the land, becoming more local in all our food purchases and from neighbouring producers.

Infrastructure 
From a land abandoned 40 years ago, we are renovating two granite buildings back to life. For us it is like bringing back a little piece of history.