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Mountain Steep Permaculture - Permacultura em Declive de Montanha
Mountain Steep Permaculture - Permacultura em Declive de Montanha
Last updated:
Chão Sobral, Aldeia das Dez - OHP - Coimbra, PT
Climate zone:
Warm Temperate

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Mountain Steep Permaculture - Permacultura em Declive de Montanha

Project Type

Rural, Residential, Community, Demonstration, Educational

Project Summary

This project context: - Indigenous/traditional/native hamlet community; - Whole families (about 100 people total, about 27 couples, 9 widowed elders); - On-going, for more than 500 hundred years; - Family and community reliance & organic cooperation; - Mountain based livelihood dynamics, strategies, impact, and resilience; - Agriculture, forestry, cultural, recreational and social initiatives; - Based on steep, rocky (Xist) and ridge mountain slopes ecosystems; - In between 400 and 1200 meters altitude; - Most mountain area (zones 4 and 5) suffered and is recovering from September of 1987 and July of 2005 dry season big fires; - In central (green heart of) Portugal, Goshawk mountains range, south-west Europe.

Project Description

This "permanent steep rocky ridge mountain culture" project was founded + 500 years ago by our community ancestors, probably 1 family or clan of goat shepperds and chestnut lovers (Castanea sativa).

Our land is located on ridge steep mountain convex slopes in the  Goshawk Mountain range in central Portugal. Zones 1, 2, 3 and 4 mostly facing West, Southwest and South. Zone 5 faces North, North-east and West.

The name of our hamlet-land "Chão Sobral" means: "chão"/"ground", "sobral"/"cork tree grove" = "The Ground of the Cork Trees". Strangely today there are no cork trees, Quercus suber, around! ... Maybe there's another, more accurate, explanation for the name of the hamlet...

The ongoing mountain living project was started by hamlets people who were at the same time peasants, hunters and goat shepperds, ox tamers and builders, that used to build their homes with dry stone (xist) and wood  only (mostly chestnut) .



Warm temperate to mediterranean. Wet and cool to cold season usually from October to April (in our grandparents days snow used to stay for weeks). Warm season from May until September. Wet and Dry seasons length is variable, and can last for 5 to 7 months.




Two main seasonal creeks run down the 2 main steep valleys.

The rains absorbed by the wild vegetation on the north and west facing slopes feed the mountain watertables that feed springs that usually spring water year around, but that decreases noticeably by the end of the Dry season.

This means that water only runs chrystal clear a few months after the rainy season.Then creeks run dry because creek bed springs water is captured in tiny dams and used for irrigating terraces (vegetables and staple foods) according to old tradition of sharing water.

Through the dry season we rely on spring water from the many small springs scattered on creek beds in valleys and on secondary ridges, most of them above 500 mts altitude. All water arrives in plastic pipes to the hamlet by gravity.

In the last 20-30 years many families got water boreholes, and use this water at home and to irrigate their vegetable gardens increasing yields during the dry season.



From centuries old local regenerative, resilient and sustainable mountain livelihoods we have become more interdependent in the global planetary village as dirt roads became available in the last 60 years.

Compared to 500 years ago, nowadays our skills, beliefs and resources are more diverse, probably...

Despite the change of culture, migrations and depopulation along the industrial and digital revolution, official schooling courses, we maintain and practice, in our daily life, old and innovative strategies that are key for a resilient, abundant and regenerative mountain "edge/marginal/extreme" resource finite eco-culture.

We still harvest shrubs-biomass daily from the mountain, carried on our backs through walking trails only, to regenerate the soil, to build fertile terraced growing beds.

This project is about blending "permaculture research and design" with local traditions and centuries old resilient "stuborn" mountain livelihood research to meet the needs of present and future living beings and ecosystem communities. 

The steepness of our land, and the way we synergize with it, is life changing and life giving ... 

Thank you to our "extreme permaculture" pioneers forefathers, who started this "brave and crazy project" hundreds of years ago, as they came to live self-reliant lives where no one else dared and had to, before them!


Below: Looking towards South-east - Chão Sobral and its watershed.


Below: contour lines map (the contours are spaced at 10 metre altitude intervals) with blue line marking the border of the Chao Sobral water shed. Red line marks the border of the "Commons Land" - community owned property. Light blue line marks the 2 main creek beds. Land inside the blue line is owned by hamlet people. Some of the land outside and bordering with the blue line (outside the watershed) is also owned by hamlet people.


Below: Looking towards the East - The Serra da Estrela Mountain range. The slope we see faces west. Water springs and zones are identified.


Below: Looking towards south-west, most of the hamlet houses stand on a rocky ridge crest.


Below: July 2005 - Chão Sobral and its water shed, after the big fire, that started in another mountain hamlet and lasted for a few days - more photos at http://chaosobral.org/incendio.htm




steepness by google earth

Posted over 6 years ago (0 comments)

agroecology, foodforest and avocado trees in Portugal workshop

workshop that provides the basic design tools to create a garden of eden, starting with avocado ...

Posted over 9 years ago (0 comments)

Introduction to Permaculture Course in Chão Sobral

With Chao Sobral village in the backgound we are going to provide the basic concept tools to create a regenerative design.

Posted over 9 years ago (0 comments)

Casuarina cones - the first seed harvest

Casuarina are multifunctional trees and we are creating a local/Chão Sobral Casuarina seed bank.

Posted over 10 years ago (2 comments)

hand cut shrubs for animal bedding composting

collecting woody species like Ericas, Cytisus and Genista, a almost daily task, physical and contemplative practice, part of the proccess that builds soil on the rocky slopes and reduces fuel for fires

Posted over 10 years ago (5 comments)

Zone 4 resources: #1The pine tree forest, pine tree needles

Pine tree needles (Pinus pinaster) are often used, in Chão Sobral, to mulch the soil in between potatoe plants.

Posted almost 11 years ago (0 comments)

sub-tropical green house laboratory - in "Cherry Tree Country"

the early stages of a perenial edible landscape within the green-house microclimate - creating the conditions for the pleasure of co-creation and learning from nature evolutions

Posted about 11 years ago (2 comments)

Mountain wild herbs for sale on-line

local wild plants are available for medicinal purposes and to shop on-line

Posted about 11 years ago (8 comments)

1st Cycle of Meetings "Edible landscapes - Food forests and Agro-forestry in Fire-prone Landscape" in Chão Sobral

"Because we live in a gunpowder barrel ... " and we need to test practices, enacting knowledge and understand the different ways to deal with our ecosystem, reducing the destructive fire hazard and generating economy, ecological services and health.

Posted about 11 years ago (0 comments)

Casuarina trees experiment on the ridge crest

For this Casuarina experiment a ridge crest (at about 600 mts high) with good sunlight and WIND exposure was chosen.

Posted about 11 years ago (0 comments)

Enjoy the magnificent

Enjoy the magnificent - The YellowBroom Mountain-Scape 180º Panorama Photos - Sprintime colors like we have never see them. Plus photos of tilled and seeded terraces.

Posted about 11 years ago (1 comments)

"On the Edge Permaculture"

Introduction to strategies developed through centuries that, and in the present, work towards the permanent culture at Chão Sobral, and on the rocky and steep areas of the Goshawk Mountain range.

Posted over 11 years ago (1 comments)

Grafting - Obtain a yield and Increase diversity with perenial tree crops

To increase the diversity of fruits. Cherries, plums, apples and pears are well adapted. Once the neighbor has one new variety, it is shared and it's easy to propagate using different grafting techniques.

Posted over 11 years ago (0 comments)

Water channels under renovation

after a few centuries of use and minimum maintenance, the traditional community managed summer irrigation water channels undergo renovation to achieve higher efficiency

Posted over 11 years ago (0 comments)

dry stone stacking builders

Two friends reparing the terrace retaining wall, that had collapsed a few months before.

Posted over 11 years ago (0 comments)

On rock cropping - "Garden on the moon"

Everyday we are more and more people on the planet. The planet though is not getting any bigger. Here on the rocky and steep mountain side, the agriculture surface area is being created for the last + 500 years. Here we see some results.

Posted over 11 years ago (1 comments)

Sounds, Skills and Savours Festival - Photos

This initiative took place in the context of the Program Youth Solidarity - With the Support from the Oliveira do Hospital Council. Some photos to remember this beautiful day! The 29th of September 2012.

Posted over 11 years ago (0 comments)

Strawberry-tree - from flower to firewater

Another king of the mountain - Arbutus unedo - a great multi-functional tree in our rocky steep slopes: from its berries is distilled the medicinal alcohol, berries are great autumn meal for wildbirds, its wood keeps us warm throught the winter, and it's

Posted over 11 years ago (4 comments)

after potatoe picking - earthworks for cabbage seedlings

we are in the mid of dry season, potoates were harvested. in the same soil cabbage will follow and get the kickstart of end summer heat and grow and thrive through the frosty wet season

Posted over 11 years ago (0 comments)

3 generations picking potatoes - recalling last summer holidays

for hundreds of years grandparents, parents and children would live together and there was no separation between work and play time!

Posted over 11 years ago (0 comments)

To create soil - biomass harvest, animal bedding, underground composting

In these rocky slopes facing south and west top soil is thin over the bedrock and carbon cycles fast. Intensive soil generation strategy was developed.

Posted over 11 years ago (4 comments)

water - the treasure, terraces, tunnels and stream bed diversion

pictures showing hand built structures, more than 100 years ago, earth works and stacked dry stone, still in use and if maintained to last for 1000's of years

Posted over 11 years ago (0 comments)

Goats + their Photo Album

Our culture would cease to exist if we would stop caring for goats. They are friendly companions in our Cosmic trip, even though they are stubborn and selfish, they are pretty and loved!

Posted almost 12 years ago (2 comments)

October Fruit Harvest - Tree Crops

fruits for every meal

Posted almost 12 years ago (7 comments)

Terraces on convex rocky ridge slopes

there's no where else to go ... there's lots of xist rocks and not much soil. crystal clear water springs from the xist rocky slope - the reason why we are here, after all ...

Posted almost 12 years ago (0 comments)

Festival Sons, Saberes e Sabores - Sounds, Skills and Flavours Festival

This event is going to take place on the 28&29 September in Chao Sobral - mountain hamlet - Oliveira do Hospital municipality - central Portugal. Sounds, films, concert, workshops, farmer´s market, local food.

Posted almost 12 years ago (0 comments)

The food forest on the ridge crest

This plot is located on the ridge crest, next to the old track and water channel. Te area is called "Linhar" meaning linen field. It is now becoming a forest of food and a place to rest during the hot summer afternoon.

Posted almost 12 years ago (4 comments)

Steep slope, terraces, soil, tilling, manure, many hands

The earthworks, composting, fertilization and gardening strategies for this ecosystem conditions

Posted almost 12 years ago (1 comments)
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