We have started a regeneration partnership with Fundación Guayacanal. They are doing amazing work and seem to have a very good approach to regeneration – pragmatic, informed, grounded, and effective. Milagros is part of a larger initiative in the area that involves several properties.
It’s a ten-year project where they will be responsible for the planting and maintenance of the plants. Each tree will need three years of follow-up. As I write this, we are in the design and planning phase and they will do the first plantings in a couple of weeks. This first phase is in the most degraded areas and will consist of nearly one thousand (!) trees. The second phase will be adding diversity to less degraded areas.
The main focus is on planting a native forest, with a couple of additions. We have a main path going through the land – from the big pond along the ridge to the peak and down to Camino Real. That may be made into a kind of food forest corridor, and we will plant flowering bushes along it as well. It may eventually be part of an ecotourism experience, for instance, a self-guided tour along different ecosystems at different levels of regeneration with information and viewpoints along the way.
Receiving this kind of expert help feels like a miracle. It will transform the land over the coming years. As mentioned above, their focus is on naive tree planting, with some food-producing trees and flowering perennials. That will provide an amazing context for us to add plants here and there. I would love to add to the food forest with nut-producing bushes and more, and add more flowering plants.
We obviously won’t recreate the original natural ecosystem here (1). That’s gone. But we will help the land back to a diverse and vibrant state, and it will hopefully become an even better habitat for a large number of insects, birds, and animals. The second phase of plantings will include currently grassy areas, and as the trees grow and create shade, the grass will hopefully mostly go away.
I have used the terms regeneration and rewilding to talk about this before and I’ll probably differentiate a bit more going forward. What we are doing now is regeneration, helping bring the land back to a more vibrant and healthy state. That includes a natural rewilding since it will bring back more insects, birds, and animals. I also love the term rewilding to refer to our own internal rewilding. And, who knows, perhaps we’ll do some actual rewilding in the future and bring back some animals. For now, I’ll probably use regeneration mostly when talking about this project.
I am very aware that this neighborhood will change over the coming years. Already, they are building a large hotel down the hillside and on the other side of the main road. I suspect many more people will move here, gradually displacing the local farmers who have lived here for generations. (This is sad and has its own problems and downsides, and we very much are part of that dynamic – we bought from a family that had owned the land for generations.) Hopefully, we’ll also see more neighbors engaging in regeneration projects.
Images: [1-3] The three first are from a survey of the more degraded areas. The people from FG geolocated the boundaries of these areas and calculated how many trees to plant there in the first phase.  Then a view of Cañon del Chicamocha from one of the viewpoints.  A large tree by the main pond, and  a giant cactus close to the house. [7-8] Two examples of erosion from the more degraded areas.  A hat. And  silvery leaves found on the ground. Nature made these, maybe through some kind of chemical reaction? Click on any image for a larger version.
(1) There are many reasons for that. It would be difficult to know what time period we are trying to recreate, and even how it looked back then. What was is gone, always. It would also be very difficult to try to recreate something from the past and impossible to actually do. So it’s much better to focus on supporting a vibrant ecosystem that includes mostly native plants and some non-natives already here that fit well into the ecosystem.