The inaugural Paros Seed Festival, the first seeding effort in the Cyclades using the clay seedball broadcasting suggested by the Natural Farming Method, took place at the end of October and was an uncontested success. It brought together people from all over the island, from Naxos, Syros, Antiparos, Athens and even the Peloponnese. They were all eager to learn about alternative methods of land management, to share knowledge and experience, to meet and connect with other people and to have fun. I have many reasons to believe that all these people left with something precious, whether it was useful information, know-how, hope, inspiration, a few emails and phone numbers of potential friends or a new perspective on how a local community can function.
The words of Panayiotis Manikis, the director of the Natural Farming Center who led the workshop, had a profound effect on me and many others. He spoke from the heart, from experience, from the unwavering position of somebody who has been working with rather than against nature and has witnessed the undeniable benefits.
I thank him most sincerely, and also his team, Eleni and Dimitris, for their eager contribution and their good energy. I also thank each and every person who passed by Tao's Center or the Paros Park during those four days and got their hands dirty. I hope we will have many opportunities to meet again in the future.
The seeding with clayballs broadcasting as it comes to us from Masanobu Fukuoka, the ‘father’ of Natural Farming, has a huge potential in rehabilitating degraded land, in enriching the soil of orchards, groves and vineyards, and in creating vegetable gardens. Many visitors to the festival took the message and have already tried the method on their own land, and new seedings are being organized on Paros and on Naxos for next year.
We are now looking forward to seeing the results, and although the weather has not been on our side, as it has rained very little since the beginning of November, many of the clayballs have sprouted happily. We will keep experimenting with the method, we will keep listening to and observing nature so as to understand what species are more favourable to our climate and what else to do in order to see our corner of the world become more green. This was just the beginning...
HUGELBEDS: Are you pruning your trees and bushes these days and wondering what to do with the cuttings? Are you tempted to burn them? Please don't! There are other ways to use this wonderful, much needed, organic material. An easy way to use them is to bury them in the ground and let them rot there. This is one of the methods Masanobu Fukuoka used to create and enrich top soil in his natural farming systems. Another productive use is in the creation of raised beds, called ‘hugelbeds’. Use bigger branches at the bottom and continue with smaller branches and twigs as you go up. Then loosely fill in the gaps with leaves, grass cuttings, paper, a bit of animal manure, cover with soil and mulch. You can use your bed straight away to plant your tubers and winter vegetables, or you can let it rest during winter and plant in spring, in which case thick mulching is essential. See the hugelbed at Tao's at
WHAT’S WITH OXALIS? Oxalis pes-caprae (xin'ithra in Greek) is a common plant that looks like clover (but unfortunately is not), has bright yellow flowers and is currently seen in abundance in many parts of Paros, and probably Naxos too. Native to South Africa, it propagates through its small bulbs and, once spread and settled in an area, is very difficult to supress. You would need to supress it if it is competing for sun and water with your vegetable sprouts or other plants in your garden. Our friends from the Natural Farming team advised us for next year to plant white clover (using seedballs, of course!) well in advance and irrigate it so that it is well established before oxalis starts sprouting. Since we didn’t make it in time this year, we’ll stick to our good old permaculture principles: the plants we call weeds are symptoms of the damage the land has suffered and they actually repair the landscape. They keep the soil covered from the scorching sun, retain moisture, provide shelter for countless organisms living in the soil, in many cases return nutrients and minerals to the ground, and provide the biomass that is so badly needed in our land. So, you can keep cutting your oxalis where it may be suffocating your plants in the garden and mulch it on the spot or use it in the compost or hugelbed.