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QUINTA DAS ABELHAS

Our Journey 

In January 2017, we purchased 25 acres 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. 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. We began by gently removing the dying pine monoculture (caused by the the nematode disease) to allow light to return to the forest floor. We then 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 are witnessing the land slowly reforesting itself

Land Regeneration

We composted, green manured, mulched, applied water retention strategies such as swales, planted fruit, nut, native and non native trees. 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 the trees. 

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 approximately 450 apple trees, of four different species, that was once maintained by pesticides. The aim is to move from a pesticide monoculture orchard to a thriving biodiverse area, retaining the majority presence of the apple trees. We are allowing the new species that are coming through naturally, such as the oak, to remain and bringing in new species to support diversity and food. Through creating additional abundance for humans and pollinators, the orchard can become a collective space for a team to work together, to share the harvest and produce products such as juice, dehydrated apples, sauce, chutneys, cakes, cider and apple cider vinegar. 

Organic Food 
Each year the food 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.