Read below this introductory article on the project for some background context and for more detailed articles on different facets of the project please click the following links:

Food Forests

Climate and Wateryellow plum terra alta

Appropriate Technology

Building Soil Fertility

Earthworks- Sculpting for fertility and access

Natural Building

Project Background

With wind swept hills surrounding, the valley that is Terra Alta offers a stellar example of a small-scale intensive Permaculture. The site has had several years of Permaculture development through which you can see the principles of design in action, strategies of implementation, and techniques of management matched with a small community of people. In just a few years we have made great progress as past students who have revisited have marvelled all of the transformation that has happened on the one and half hectares of land.  

Terra Alta is located in the bio-region of Sintra, Portugal close to a little village called Almoçageme, perched near the cliffs of the Atlantic Ocean.  It is positioned in between two amazing beaches called Praia da Adraga and Praia da Ursa. The land itself is surrounded by the remnants of the past: Cork Oak trees of an unknown antiquity, abandoned farm fields and orchards that dried up with the exhaustion of organic material through the use of chemicals, and also proliferating canes and blackberries. Terra Alta used to be one of those places but has been re-enlivened. Cork Oaks, apples, pears, stone fruit and English Oak are dispersed throughout the land from this yesteryear. These trees form the framework of our food forest that we have been planting more broadly every year since 2011.

The landscape is harsh at times with rain being empty for months in summer, while the winter brings the monsoon that is just as difficult. However, with our focus on regenerative techniques such as water harvesting earthworks, soil biology stimulation, and plantings for bio-diversity, we are augmenting these factors and turning it into abundance. It doesn’t happen over night but “slow and steady wins the race”. Plus we make leaps and bounds every year through our own passion for the project and the giant pulses of energy that come from the manifestations known as Permaculture courses.

Over the years we have been developing the site with the use of intuition, direct observation and interpretation, application of patterns and permaculture principles. For example our large 2012 food forest planting was a direct mixture of all of these techniques as we approach a higher connection with the land. We have slowly but steadily shaped the land for water retention and gardening space in a great part of the land. Furthermore we love building with earthen materials as it gives us great pleasure. In essence our aim is space creation for transformation, a biological classroom full of sub-conscious lessons only to be understood later. Our intention is to continue to make connections on the land to bring our goals of off the grid living as much as possible. To make this happen we promote biodiversity through the ecosystem which helps with one of our main missions. We work diligently to give a refuge to the Honey Bees. We feel connected to their energetic pathways and feel excited to have them with us as one part of the overall system.  


Terra Alta base map, 2012

Terra Alta base map, 2012

Like many other places in Sintra, we are blessed with water and must thank those who planted all of those trees 170 years ago. Sintra itself is a great tale of reforestation showing that it does work, that climates can stabilize and water can pour from springs once more. Our source, believed to be Moorish in its origins, is a horizontal well in which a spring emerges replenishing our tank through a never ending process. The architecture on this well is amazing and the water in the tank ever so refreshing on our summer days. The vegetables and fruits are quite happy we have this source, as we are fortunate to be able to grow food all year around!!!!!