14 day Social Vegan Permaculture Design Course

Written by Rainer von Leoprechting on . Posted in Archive, Frontpage, Permaculture, workshops and seminars

Join us for an intense learning experience in the Obenaus open workshop room


It is with great pleasure that we announce a social vegan permaculture design course at Obenaus, South Austria.

The course will be for 14 days from 12th to 27th October. This includes 2 free days, which could be used for site visits or hands on activities.

Additional one day courses for those who cannot make the full course:

1 day introduction to sociocracy (12th October)
1 day introduction to permaculture (13th October)
1 day introduction to creating food forests (19th October)
1 day introduction to urban permaculture (20th October)

For people who have done the introduction to permaculture day, you can stay on for some of the core days (14th Water; 15th Soils or 16th Plants). 


This fully certified course (certified by Permaculture Association Britain, and Roots n Permaculture School) will delve deep into how we can use permaculture to create rich beneficial relationships between people, communities and their surroundings. This includes how to grow food, build houses and create economies, while also enriching and taking care of nature.

Special emphasis will be put in creating a temporary community for the duration of the course. We use social permaculture tools to make sure everyone’s needs are met, so we can all enjoy living together in a joyful, supportive learning environment.


Permaculture is a design system for creating abundance in all aspects of our lives. Permaculture teaches us how to build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities, take care of waste and much more.

The word ‘permaculture’ historically comes from ‘permanent agriculture’ and has evolved into ‘permanent culture’. It is about living lightly on the planet, and making sure that we can live in harmony with nature while sustaining human activities for many generations to come.

Permaculture is a rigorous and systematic set of tools, ecological principles and methodologies, underpinned by ethics, which help us to design and create this culture of permanence. A culture that allows us to design how we cater for all our needs, the needs of the planet and all its creatures, without exploiting or depriving other humans or creatures of their needs.

The ultimate goal is to create systems that create abundance for all humans, creatures and mother Earth, without exploitation of humans, animals or Earth’s non renewable resources.

With permaculture insight we can design our inner tranquillity. It can be applied to creating integrated and supportive communities, building or retrofitting houses to be more energy efficient, creating ethical businesses and livelihoods, as well as creating rich abundant low maintenance food growing spaces.

This course will not cover animal husbandry. In Rakesh’s designs, animals are all welcome to come and welcome to leave, but are never tied into the system or exploited. So we will talk about creating habitat, but not about animal husbandry.

Working in groups at Obenaus – world café setting


The course will from day one put into practice social permaculture. We will create a community and practically explore how we ensure everyone’s needs are met, and how everyone can safely express themselves, without conflict. Having found our inner balance and balance within our newly forged community, we then move into exploring the traditional permaculture syllabus, including environmentally friendly food growing; soil generation; water management; house building; alternate economics and livelihood, etc.

Having explored the theory of permaculture ethics, principles and approach to challenges, we will then move on to in-depth design work and practicals (hands-on work), which solidifies the theory.

The emphasis remains on learning the patterns and concepts that are applied in permaculture, so you can apply this to all aspects of your life after the course has finished. Hence the practicals will be a way to reinforce the theory and design work that we cover.

Where and when appropriate we will visit nearby intentional communities and projects that integrate permaculture in their design (subject to consent by the students).

The syllabus will cover the following areas:

– Principles of Natural Systems
– Sustainable Design Methodologies
– Patterns in Nature, Culture and Society
– Reading the Land & Understanding Natural Processes
– Large Scale Land Restoration Techniques
– Water Harvesting Technique
– Design Principles of Sustainable Human Settlements
– Grey Water Recycling
– Natural Building Strategies
– Cultivated & Productive Ecologies
– Food Forests, Plant Guilds, Gardens for Self-Sufficiency
– Energy Conservation Technologies
– Appropriate Technologies and Renewable Energies
– Urban Environment Permaculture
– Wildlife Management and Biological Pest Control
– Community Activism
– Invisible Structures: People, Community, Economics, EcoVillages
– Sociocracy; Dragon dreaming; Six thinking hats
– Community Supported Agriculture
– Action Learning
– Systemic constellation work in design and community life
– At the end of the class, students engage in a group design project.


The course will be in English, and if necessary we are happy to provide simultaneous translations for those who need it. E.g. in German, Swedish, French, Portuguese…


Permaculture teacher / facilitator of learning

Rakesh Rootsman Rak – An experienced Permacultre designer teacher, forest garden specialist, yoga teacher, homeopath and reggae DJ. Rakesh has been designing and teaching permaculture to individuals and communities since 2009, and has taught over 200 permaculture, forest gardening, eco village design and related courses. His design portfolio ranges from large scale forest gardens in eco villages through to many urban community food growing gardens, private farms and back gardens as well as designing collaborative businesses, urban water retention systems and even computer software and documentation systems. Rakesh is also passionate about building communities, and the social side of permaculture, hence using sociocracy, dragon dreaming and other great tools and processes to create strong social bonds with clear ideas of how to creatively meet your needs in a project or community. He is also passionate about sharing his journey of self empowerment (learning how to make all the things you need for yourself rather than relying on the system to provide for you), this includes eco architecture (low impact housing); capturing and storing energy (electricity, heat, lighting, etc); fuel efficient heating systems (rocket heaters and stoves); water capture, purification and recycling systems, natural bee keeping and so on.
He is one of the founders of the Children in Permaculture project (CiP), and is also one of the founders of the Youth in Permaculture (YiP) project. So be prepared to go off on inspirational tangents occasionally.




Sociocratic facilitation

Sven Latzel – Freelancing as an organisational and IT consultant and expert in Sociocracy. Since 2005 he has been actively working to make the world of work more effective, more mindful and more human. First of all with IT, and in recent years with a clear focus on humans and on the processes which connect them.

He worked for many years with a variety of clients, learning about diverse and international cultures, gained a clear insight into the structures and processes which makes an organisation successful.

Clear and efficient Facilitation
Sociocracy (Sociocratic Circle Method and Socioscracy 3.0)
Dragon Dreaming
Art of Hosting
Theory U
Agile Coaching
SCRUM and Kanban
Enterprise Architecture

Art of hosting 

Rainer v. Leoprechting – A master consultant and innovator, Rainer practices and develops next stage organizing methods. In Brussels he introduced participatory and innovative methods like the Art of Hosting or Action Learning into the workings of the European institutions. Rainer’s interventions combine many methods:

Holistic Organization Design
the full palette of Art of Hosting practices
Systemic Constellation Work
Action Learning
Process Consultation 
Pro Action Café
Story-based Recruitment Match for Cultural Fit
Developmental Assessments and Coaching

Lena Maria Jacobsson – Co-Founder of the Obenaus community, Lena practices biodynamic principles and permaculture since many years. She is a steward in Art of Hosting which she co-introduced at the European Commission. At Obenaus she inspires and works with the natural garden, food and kitchen using and preserving nature’s resources. Some practices she leads:

Certified Biodynamic farming practitioner
Art of Hosting
Systemic constellation work
The Work (Byron Katie)
Subtle realm connections

Permaculture practitioners

Catherine Falardeau Marcoux – A permaculture designer and practitioner, Catherine specializes in ecosystem restoration, cartography, flora and fauna conservation, and geomorphology. She spent one year living and working at Obenaus, introducing permaculture aspects onto the farm as well as co-creating a map and basic design for the community

Cisco Armstrong – Fascinated by nature’s inherent capacity to facilitate learning, Cisco specializes in what could be called social permaculture. He also spent one year living and working at Obenaus, introducing permaculture aspects onto the farm as well as co-creating a map and basic design for the community.


The training takes place at the Obenaus Community in southern Austria, near the border with Slovenia. The Obenaus Community is a repository of Social permaculture practice, using Circle and Art of Hosting as operating system for its key conversations, from daily check-ins to major community decisions.

Nested at the rim of a peaceful village, the venue invites the visitors to slow down, hear the soul’s whisper, engage in meaningful conversations and be nourished by lovingly prepared local food as well as the greater container of Nature and Mystery that surround the farm.


To create a deeper sense of community, throughout the course we will create teams who will help cook every day. We will create a system which allows us to express what our dietary needs are, so that we ensure every meal is ideal for everyone. Initially we request the food is vegan, but we will then decide on what is best for the community using the collaborative decision making processes from Sociocracy.


The cost for the training is based on a hybrid gift economy, where participants are invited to contribute what they can afford and are willing to pay. To cover the ideal training costs we need to raise on average €820 per person. However we invite you to propose how much you would like to contribute (ideally between €420 and €1020, but you can also offer less if you write to us to explain your situation). 

We encourage those of you who can contribute more to do so, which should allow us to cover our costs comfortably. If there is a shortfall in the final sum (which by experience is unlikely), we will request the shortfall to be covered anonymously via a magic hat process. This process is part of the permaculture ethos, which allows people to pay according to their capacity, while meeting the needs of the hosts, teachers, etc.


To make the most of the PDC and increase the exchange in-between participants, we invite people to stay on site for the nights as well. We have a mix of sleeping spaces at venue, including beds indoors and camping spots outside. camper vans, or sleeping in your own car is also possible. 

The accommodation costs are 
– €10 per night for camping incl. water, warm showers, WLAN, use of all facilities. So count with €140 to €160 depending on if you stay over the days off.


To ensure we keep the food costs and quality at a level the students require, we are adopting the tried and tested self organising method.

This means we will ask you to either bring enough food ingredients to cover your food needs for the duration of the course or bring a mix of food and cash. The food could include home grown veg, grains, preserves, etc. The cash will go into a pot which will be used to buy food as and when required, which will be managed by an elected group of participants. 

The hosts have a very good network of local producers and food cooperatives so are suggesting if people contribute €30 each by the start of the course, they will buy enough local/organic food for 4 or more days.

This method has proven to be very successful, as it promotes collaborative decision making and collaborative working. It also allows people to contribute in a way that suits their budget. 

Participants from previous courses have taken well to this method and noted how the food budget was significantly less that what they would have expected on any other course.


Euro bank transfer
PayPal (€ £ $)
English bank transfer
Cash (by arrangement)


For registrations and course content contact (English):
Rakesh “Rootsman Rak”
– Rakeshaji@gmail.com
– https://www.facebook.com/rootsmanrak
– https://www.facebook.com/RakeshRootsmanRak

For accommodation write to Obenaus:



Obenaus Permaculture Design

Written by Catherine Falardeau Marcoux on . Posted in Permaculture

Obenaus Permaculture Design – 2017 and Beyond

By Catherine Falardeau Marcoux & Cisco Le Ray Armstrong

Since Cisco and I were first invited to stay at Obenaus as long-term volunteers back in November 2016, we were both excited with the opportunities that it presented in terms of practicing permaculture. We had just came back from a year in India and Nepal, where we completed our Permaculture Design Course (PDC) outside Mumbai and had the chance to practice with our first project in Kathmandu. Arriving in Europe, we had envisioned that it was time to stay in one place for a full year cycle to really experience what it is like to work with nature all through the different seasons. We thought this would help us become better observers and understand the principles of permaculture in a more profound way, which it did, both the natural and social side of it! Thanks to the whole Obenaus Community!

The daily and seasonal tasks were numerous and learning was continuous. I could write a full report/ reflection on our experience. Yet, the purpose of this post is to present our last gift to Obenaus : a permaculture design that represents the visions and ideas of its members. The map/ design above shows the Obenaus land as it was during our stay (from November 2016 to August 2017) as well as the different details that were co-imagined and designed as possibilities for the future. This design is not meant to be permanent or set to a particular plan. Rather it represents a fraction of what is possible and its purpose is to encourage the dreaming to continue and hopefully become reality little by little.

The map is mostly to scale (1cm on the map = 2m on the land) with some distortions to the south. It was created using pacing and triangulation, but the complicated topography of the land made it more challenging than expected. In the legends, one can observe what each symbol represents which help to understand the design. Some additional descriptions are also given for the different areas of the land, such as the orchard and the fruit tree guilds, the forest restoration, the forest edge polyculture and the north edge polyculture. Below are some close-up pictures of the map for the different sections. Yet, because the pictures and texts are not very clear, I strongly recommend a visit to Obenaus to see the design in person and discuss it with Lena. One can also refer to the other posts on this page regarding permaculture.

The Legends

The Gardens

The Capsula area (smaller orchard) and Water Treatment area

The Forest


Thank you Lena & Rainer for hosting us and giving us this opportunity to practice and grow!

With Love,



The North Edge Polyculture Design

Written by Catherine Falardeau Marcoux on . Posted in Permaculture

The North Edge Polyculture Design

As one can see on the final Obenaus Permaculture Design above, a series of shrubs and small
trees were drew along the northern edge of the land. When a mix of different species is
designed and planted together for a purpose, it is called a polyculture. This polyculture design

was created during a course Cisco and I attended in Bulgaria in June 2017 called “Regenerative
Landscape Design Course” at the Balkan Ecology Project (Balkep). The description in the image
below explains the purpose of this design and the general reasons why these particular species
were chosen. If interested in knowing more about each plant, please visit the Balkep website
below, as the plants can be found and purchased at their Bio-nursery.


The Forest Edge Polyculture Design

Written by Catherine Falardeau Marcoux on . Posted in Permaculture

The Forest Edge Polyculture Design

As one can see on the final Obenaus Permaculture Design above, a series of shrubs and small
trees were drew along the edge of the forest from the boundary to the north of the land all the

way to the south of the house. When a mix of different species is designed and planted together
for a purpose, it is called a polyculture. This polyculture design was created during a course
Cisco and I attended in Bulgaria in June 2017 called “Regenerative Landscape Design Course” at
the Balkan Ecology Project (Balkep). The description in the image below explains the purpose of
this design and the general reasons why these particular species were chosen. If interested in
knowing more about each plant, please visit the Balkep website below, as the plants can be
found and purchased at their Bio-nursery.


Fruit Trees planted in the spring 2017

Written by Catherine Falardeau Marcoux on . Posted in Permaculture

APPLES – 7 Species – 10 Trees

Tafeläpfel / Table Apples:
Kernraffler (1)
Kanada Renette (1)
Cox Orange (1)
Schafnase (3)
Ananas Renette (1)

Mostäpfel / Juice-Cooking Apples:
Steirischer Maschanzker (2)
Wintergoldparmäne (1)

Map Location
The image below represents a fraction of the full permaculture design of Obenaus including mostly the
apple orchard at present and recommendations for the future. The red circle shows where the new
apple trees were planted in the spring of 2017, along the north edge of the orchard. The two varieties of
apple trees on the east side that are not in the circle unfortunately did not survive. We believe it was
caused by a lack of good soil or a water drainage issue, as the ground around there still covers old
fragments of cement structures.

Recommendations on growing Apple Trees:
Growing apple trees on higher ground away from frost pockets protects the blossoms from early death,
thus increasing the chances of a good harvest. It is also advised not to plant the trees near dense forests
or streams to prevent against rot and too much shade. Apples grow best in full sun away from constant
wind. An apple tree that fall in partial sunlight is not likely to fully yield. Apples also prefer well-drained
loamy soil (mix of sand and clay), although they will grow in more sandy soil or in soil with some clay. It
is best to plant bare root trees in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked and before the trees
begins to significantly leaf out. When planting apple trees, it is important to pay attention to how the
root ball goes into the ground. It is recommended to dig the hole double the diameter of the root ball
and at least two feet deep. Apples can grow from 10 to 30 feet tall (3 to 10m) and nearly as wide. They
are moderately fast growing trees, but the growth slows with age. An apple tree should be planted
within 40 to 50 feet (12-15 m) of another apple tree that blooms at the same time for optimal
pollination. A standard tree will require 20 to 30 feet (6-9 m) of growing space; a semi-dwarf will require
15 to 20 feet (4.5-6 m). It is very beneficial to feed the apple trees with a mulch of aged compost applied
around the base of the tree (but without touching the trunk) once or twice a year, in spring or in late fall

after the leaves have dropped. Some sources say to allow the apple trees to become well-established
before fruiting. Therefore, during the first two years, that means handpicking the flowers off as well as
the young fruits not allowing them to develop; this will supposedly give the tree increased energy to
establish its roots. In the third year, allow the tree to bear a small crop. Do not allow a limb to become
so burdened with fruit that it will bend or break.

PEARS – 4 Species – 5 Trees

Tafelbirnen / Table Pears:
Nagowitzer (1)
Gute Luise (2)

Mostbirnen / Juice-Cooking Pears:
Grüne Sommermagdalene (1)
Gelbmöster (1) – smaller variety

Map Location
The image below also represents a fraction of the full permaculture design of Obenaus but this time
including the northern part of the land. The red circle in this map shows where the new pear trees were
planted in the spring of 2017. Again, the two varieties of pear trees on the east side, north of the walnut
tree, unfortunately did not survive. It is possible that they did not receive enough sunshine or that they
were affected by the toxins of the walnut tree.

Recommendations on growing Pear Trees:
It is recommended to plant at least two varieties of pear trees because they need to be cross-pollinated to produce fruit. It is best to plant pear trees in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun to light shade, and in a place with good air circulation in the winter or early spring. Pears can grow in loamy, sandy or clay soils, though they do best in rich, loamy soil. The planting space recommended between standard-size trees is 20 to 30 feet apart (about 6-9 m) since they can get to about 12m high. Pears should be staked with a sturdy post driven into the ground to help the tree grow straight and withstand wind damage. As with any fruit trees, it is very beneficial to apply a good layer of mulch at a depth of 2-3 inches in a three foot circle around the trees (without touching the trunk to avoid rot).

Weiteres Streuobst / Other kinds of Orchard trees

Weingartenpfirsich /Wine garden Peach (1) – the small one: does not grow very high so need to be planted in a sunny location where not easily accessible by sheep or deer.
Edelkastanie / Chesnut (4)

Map Location
The peach tree was planted near the capsula, on the east side of the orchard, with the other pear and peach trees that were planted around this location a few years ago.The chesnut trees were inter-planted between the already existing cherry trees along the north side of the driveway.


***Recommendations about Planting Bare-Root Fruit Trees:

It is strongly recommended to soak bare-rooted trees or shrubs for about 30 minutes prior to planting. The fine root hairs of small bare-root seedlings are very fragile, and die quickly if they dry out (and drown if kept flooded). Plant as quickly as possible, and keep stock in a moist, cool, shaded storage in the meantime. Heel them in under some dirt in the garden if there will be any delay in the planting. Most planting is done in early spring, while trees are still dormant.

Dig a hole that is a few inches deeper and wider (2 to 3 times the size of the root ball) than the spread of the roots. Set the tree on top of a small mound of soil in the middle of the hole. If the sides or base of the planting hole are really hard, break the soil up with a fork before planting. Be sure to spread the roots away from the trunk without excessively bending them. Mix in some compost with the earth. On poor soils, one can sprinkle inoculants of mycorrhizal fungi (e.g. Rootgrow) over the roots, this may help the trees and shrubs to establish themselves better. Yet, it is also possible to put a layer of sawdust to encourage mycorrhizal fungi. When covering the roots with soil, it is good to tamp it down as you go so one can ensure that the roots are completely touching the dirt. This makes certain that the tree is going to get all the nutrients necessary from the soil because most of the air pockets were removed. Water well and continue to water regularly but moderately — once or twice a week — until the roots are well established. It is best to allow the water to seep into the soil before watering again, so that the roots are encouraged to grow deep and wide (in search of water) which will help them to become well established.


Recommendations From the Permaculture Design:

Forest Restoration Project

Written by Catherine Falardeau Marcoux on . Posted in Permaculture

The Native Forest Restoration Design

Obenaus Community, Austria

By Catherine Falardeau Marcoux


The native forest restoration project began even before Cisco Armstrong and I arrived at Obenaus, as this was one of the very purposes of Lena & Rainer’s desire to have one or two long-term volunteers. The forest on Obenaus’ land held an important place in the community since it provided firewood for heating the house and for cooking, timber for construction, resin for smudging and for making natural balm, but also it provided a sense of protection and of being warmly embraced during the winter months as the mature spruce trees danced through the wind and seemed to envelop us in a cocoon. Therefore, it was not an easy decision for the members of the community to cut down the forest.

Yet, we all agreed that this action was needed. The spruce trees had been planted in the last century, probably 40-50 years ago, in a monoculture way as it seemed to be what was economically viable to do back then with a piece of land. A few decades later and most of the trees were sick and plagued by the European Spruce Bark Beetle that is causing ravages across Europe. Indeed, because of the high demand for timber since the industrial times, European Spruce or Picea abies plantations – as well as pine plantations – have been planted in mass ever since and have unfortunately replaced many of the natural forests; thus creating monocultures prone to diseases and pests.

At Obenaus, there were already a few dead and very sick trees that were cut down the previous winter but the bug seemed to have spread since and made new victims. Before losing more of these valuable trees, Rainer and Lena thought that it would be wise to cut them down earlier rather than later. As they shared with us their concern and as we observed the state of the trees compared to the surrounding forest, we agreed with them and thought it would create an opportunity to replant a natural and diverse native forest as it once was.

Indeed, spruce trees are not native or at least not in their natural habitat in this part of southern Austria – Styria region – where deciduous beech and oak forests reign with magnificence. Spruce trees are usually found higher in altitude or in latitude. A simple gaze into the neighbouring forest patches along the creek or a walk into larger nearby forests suffices to observe the beauty and quality of the beech forests at climax (at full maturity). These forests are much more diverse and therefore more resilient than the conifer plantations (trees with needles all through the year). The native forests are composed mostly of deciduous trees that shed their leaves over the winter which help build a rich humus soil that will in turn encourage biodiversity in all the different forest layers – from the earth to the canopy tops – in addition to create a variety of micro-ecosystems and habitats for wildlife. Oak and beech trees are the main species found in these forests but one can also observe a whole range of other species.

Given the importance of such a project, it was decided that this winter (2017) would be the time to act, especially considering the time it takes to grow a forest!

During the restoration design process, Cisco and I aimed to mimic the natural regeneration of a forest. Therefore, from the list of trees offered to us by the Regional Management team, we chose species that would play different roles while striving to eventually create a healthy mixed oak and beech mature forest. Another goal was to help rebuild diversity within the forest ecosystem, so we chose as many species as we could that was appropriate for a native forest in this region. We ended up with ten different tree species. Following this section, one can find the list of all the species that were planted, their needs, the functions their serve, their different uses as well as other interesting information about them.

However, before going into more details about each species, I would like to give you a quick overview of some of the functions and characteristics we were looking for when choosing the species of trees and the locations they would be planted on the land.

Pioneer species: Pioneer tree species are species that are fast-growing and that would usually be the first ones to grow after a devastating event like a forest fire or deforestation clear-cut, etc. They are therefore somewhat resilient since they do not require a very rich or fertile soil and can grow in full sun most of the time. Yet, they are not particularly long-lived trees. But another benefit of planting pioneer species is that they quickly create shade for other tree species that are more sensitive to the sun and to dry environments. They will also help rebuild the rich humus layer required by other species to be able to grow. The pioneer species are best to be planted in most of the restoration area in order to accelerate the restoration effort.

Nitrogen-fixing species: Nitrogen-fixing tree species are another very important group to take into consideration when choosing species for restoration. Indeed, they have the extremely valuable ability to fix nitrogen from the air and make it available in the ground for other species to be able to absorb. Nitrogen is one of the major nutrients necessary for plants to grow along with potassium and phosphorus, and many others. Unfortunately, nitrogen is not naturally found in the ground as the other two nutrients, which is why these nitrogen-fixing plants play a crucial role in the biodiversity of the earth, especially in modern times where we find vast areas of land that are bare and where erosion wash away this precious nitrogen. Nitrogen-fixing plants include most legumes and other pod-like bearing plants and trees. They are good to plant across the restoration area but mostly in higher grounds or at the top of slopes – like in the case of Obenaus –  to make sure the nitrogen reaches as much of the restoration land as possible instead of leaching away.

Medicinal properties*: Ancient traditions in many cultures around the world recognize the value of the multiple services gifted to us by the realm of plants, especially in terms of medicinal services. This traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) has been what allowed us to survive through thousands of years, yet nowadays this knowledge is being lost at an exceptionally fast pace. When one starts to pay attention and seek out this knowledge, it is amazing the natural abundance that one discovers is available. Plants and herbs are well-known for their numerous health properties but trees are often overlooked. However, trees also have incredible properties that offer an infinite amount of remedies and health benefits that can support one’s family over many generations.

Wildlife and pollinator attractors: Many species of deciduous forest trees – not only commercially-known fruit trees – do also bear fruits and have flowers that attracts beneficial insects and pollinators in addition to provide habitat for all kind of wildlife. Some important examples include nectar and pollen for butterfly and bees, which are both critical pollinators for the plants that grow our food. Therefore, it is a good idea to plant these species of trees that attract pollinators along the forest edge, closer to our gardens.

Added-value benefits*: In addition to the natural characteristics mentioned above, most of the tree species can provide one or more valuable by-products, such as timber, firewood, carving wood, sap for sugar, edible seeds, etc.

* For all medicinal properties and other uses mentioned in the list below, please refer to the website “Plants For A Future” for further information and proven research.



List of Selected Tree Species

The map below shows an overview of Obenaus’ land and the two main planting sites of the reforestation / restoration project. In the list and description of the selected tree species that follows, one can read the specific role that each species plays and the reasons for their location on the design. The map provides a visual reminder of the approximate location where the species were planted, but do not represent each individual tree.


European Alder – Schwarzerle – Alnus glutinosa

Description: Medium-size deciduous tree (~ up to 25m). Short-lived. Native to Europe. Flowers from March to April. Pollinated by wind. Seeds ripen from September to November.

Environment: Thrives in wet or very moist locations. Can grow in semi-shade or no shade, and on poor quality soils such as heavy clay. Any pH is suitable. Natural habitats include forest edges, swamps, river corridors.

Functions: Pioneer species and fast-growing. Nitrogen-fixer. Attracts wildlife (important food for caterpillars of butterfly and for small birds in winter). Pest-tolerant. Excellent source of biomass (leaf production) for building the humus layer of the forest floor. Very tolerant of coppicing which means that if branches or trees are cut back for firewood, they will re-grow easily.

Medicinal Properties: A decoction of the dried bark is used to bathe swellings and inflammations, especially of the mouth and throat. Boiling the inner bark in vinegar produces a useful wash to treat lice and a range of skin problems such as scabies and scabs. The liquid can also be used as a tooth wash. Sticks of the bark can be chewed as tooth cleaners. A decoction of the leaves is used in folk remedies for treating cancer of the breast, duodenum, oesophagus, face, pylorus, pancreas, rectum, throat, tongue, and uterus. The leaves are harvested in the summer and used fresh.

Other Uses: Underwater foundations, paper and fibreboards, joinery, turnery, carving. The wood easily splits (good for firewood) and makes a good charcoal. Different parts of the tree are used to make natural dyes. The leaves are sticky and, if spread in a room, are said to catch fleas and flies on their glutinous surface.

Role at Obenaus: This species was planted along the path at the bottom of the slope, not too far from the creek. Unfortunately, it could not be planted at the top of the slope as recommended for nitrogen-fixing trees because of its water requirements. Its nitrogen-fixing properties and fast-growth will support the other species growing nearby.


Sycamore Maple – Bergahorn – Acer pseudoplatanus

Description: Large size deciduous tree (~up to 20-35 m). Broad, rounded and dense crown. Native to Central and Eastern Europe. Flowers from April to June. Pollinated by bees. Seeds ripen from September to October.

Environment: Naturally found among birch, beech and fir forests. Needs at least partial sun, so can grow in semi-shade or no shade. Can grow well on disturbed habitats, such as roadside, hedgerows, forest plantations, semi-natural woodland. Tolerant of a variety of soil types and pH and can grow in nutritionally poor soils, but prefers moist and well-drained soils.

Functions: Pioneer species and fast-growing. Promotes phosphorous uptake from the ground. The flowers are very attractive to bees and other beneficial insects. Excellent source of food for honey bees. Good windbreak because of its tolerance to wind.

Important Information: Better to plant away from vegetable garden since the leaves can also attract aphids.

Medicinal Properties: The bark has mild astringent properties and has been used to make a wash for skin problems and an eye wash for sore eyes. The inner bark of the tree, containing the sweet sap, can be used as a dressing for wounds.

Other Uses: Timber (because it is hard-wearing and for its color, it is used for musical instruments, furniture, joinery, wood flooring; and because it is non-staining, it is used for kitchen utensils, wooden spoons, bowls, boards, etc). Good to use as fuel for firewood and it makes a good charcoal. Easy to saw and split. The sap can be tapped and drank, or used as a source of sweetener or to make wine or beer. The leaves can be wrapped around food such as buns when baking, giving them a sweet flavour.

Role at Obenaus: Planted mostly along the edges of the forest for windbreak and as pollinator attractor while ensuring access to sunlight. Its fast-growth and large crown will also provide shade for the more sensitive and slow-growing saplings in the forest.


English Oak – Stieleiche – Quercus robur

Description: Large deciduous tree (~up to 40m) with thick trunk and spreading branches, dense crown once mature. Long-lived but grow slow, so it is a late successional tree in forest regeneration. Native to Europe (from the British Isles to the Caucasus). Flowers from April to May. Pollinated by wind. Seeds ripen from September to October.

Environment: Can be tolerant to different soil conditions including clay, but prefers fertile, well-drained and moist soils. Tolerant to both alkaline and acidic soils. Can grow in semi-shade or no-shade, but some shade is better for seedlings. Tolerant to wind once well-established.

Functions: Very important tree for beneficial insects and wildlife. For example, excellent food source for caterpillars of butterfly. Climax species (long-lived tree that will compose the mature forest).

Important Information: The oak trees are probably one of the species with the slowest growth. Acorns are also only produced after 40 years so will not self-propagate until then.

Medicinal Properties: The bark is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, decongestant, haemostatic and tonic. A decoction of the bark is useful in the treatment of chronic diarrhoea, dysentery, intermittent fevers, haemorrhages, etc. Externally, it is used to bathe wounds, skin eruptions, sweaty feet, piles, etc. It is also used as a vaginal douche for genital inflammations and discharge, and also as a wash for throat and mouth infections. The bark is harvested from branches 5 – 12 years old, and is dried for later use. Any galls produced on the tree are strongly astringent and can be used in the treatment of haemorrhages, chronic diarrhoea, dysentery, etc. It is also used in the treatment of disorders of the spleen and gall bladder.

Other Uses: The dry leaves make good mulch that repels slugs, etc. Long-lasting and durable hardwood used for interior and furniture work, and for wine barrels. Good firewood (if really necessary!). If chopped and roasted, the seed can be used as an almond substitute. The seed can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a thickening in stews or mixed with cereals for making bread. The seed contains bitter tannins; these can be leached out by thoroughly washing the seed in running water, although many minerals will be lost. It can take several days or even weeks to properly leach whole seeds, one traditional method was to wrap them in a cloth bag and place them in a stream. Leaching the powder is quicker. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute.

Role at Obenaus: Planted mostly inside the forest but also around the property. The oaks are a key species in the restoration project since the goal is to grow a native oak and beech mature forest. They will therefore grow slowly under the protection and shade of the pioneer species until it is their turn to care for the forest ecosystem and provide shelter to other species and wildlife.


Sweet Cherry – Vogelkirsche – Prunus avium

Description: Small to medium size deciduous tree (~up to 15-30m). Rounded crown. Can become quite large if left to grow wild but normally smaller. Beautiful white flowers during April and May. Pollinated by bees. Seeds ripen from July to August. Native to Europe.

Environment: Needs full sun or semi-shade and prefers well-drained to moist soils. Therefore grows better on forest edges or open lands. Any pH is suitable. 

Functions: Usually fast-growing. Edible and delicious fruit. Important food source for wildlife. For example, the fruits and leaves are eaten by butterflies and the fruits by birds.

Important Information: Not to be planted near potatoes because it can make them more susceptible to potato blight. Also not a good neighbor to plum trees – will compete heavily.

Medicinal Properties: The fruit stalks are astringent, diuretic and tonic. An aromatic resin can be obtained by making small incisions in the trunk. This has been used as an inhalant in the treatment of persistent coughs.

Other Uses: Edible fruit – sweet once cooked, but can be astringent and bitter if eaten fresh. Nice wood for furniture, turnery and instruments.

Role at Obenaus: Planted as a forest edge species and on the north hedgerow to add diversity, attract butterflies and pollinators and be accessible for fruit harvest.


Silver Birch – Birke – Betula pendula


Description: Small to Medium size deciduous tree (~up to 20m). Open weeping canopy or light crown (not a dense foliage). Flowers in April. Pollinated by wind. Seeds ripen from July to August. Native to Europe.

Environment: Needs full sun. Tolerant to different pH including very acidic. Can grow in most types of soils even in nutritionally poor soil, but prefers well-drained and moist environments.

Functions: One of the major pioneer species. Very fast-growing. Important to wildlife including butterflies. Somewhat resistant to wind. Accelerate the composting fermentation process.

Important Information: Not so good as firewood since it burns very quickly.

Medicinal Properties: The bark is diuretic and laxative. The oil obtained from the inner bark is astringent and is used in the treatment of various skin afflictions, especially eczema and psoriasis, as well as treating intermittent fevers. The bark is usually obtained from trees that have been felled for timber and can be distilled at any time of the year. An infusion of the leaves is used in the treatment of gout, dropsy and rheumatism, and is recommended as a reliable solvent of kidney stones. The young leaves and leaf buds are harvested in the spring and dried for later use. A decoction of the leaves and bark is used for bathing skin eruptions.

Other Uses: This hardwood is used for furniture, kitchen utensils, plywood. The resin is an excellent waterproof glue and is useful for starting fire. The sap is also delicious. It can be drunk raw or can be cooked to become like a syrup, and can also be fermented into wine or beer. Finally, the leaves make a refreshing tea.

Role at Obenaus: Planted everywhere – inside the forest and on the edges to provide shade to slow-growing trees and to ensure their own access to sunlight. Their open canopy will also allow to see the forest behind. Some were planted near the compost station as well where the leaves will help with the fermentation process.


European Hornbeam – Hainbuche – Carpinus betulus

Description: Medium size deciduous tree (~up to 25m) with dense foliage. Similar to the beech tree but grows with a more crooked trunk and prominent veins. Slow to medium growth. Usually retain its dead leaves throughout the winter; therefore making a good hedgerow. Flowers from April to May. Pollinated by wind. Seeds ripen in November. Native to Europe.

Environment: Tolerant to different types of soils and pH and can even grow on very alkaline soils. Prefers moist soils. Can grow both in the shade and in the sun. Grows very well in mixed forest with oak and beech trees – in fact hornbeams can be observed in large numbers in the surrounding forests of Obenaus.

Functions: Attracts wildlife and provide food for butterflies. Pest-tolerant. Encourages natural regeneration because it self-seeds vigorously and sustains cut-backs. Its shallow but wide-spreading root system makes it a good tree to plant on slopes for erosion control.

Medicinal properties: The leaves are used as external compresses to stop bleeding and heal wounds. Distilled water made from the leaves is an effective eye lotion. The leaves are harvested in August and dried for later use. The plant is also used in “Bach flower remedies”.


Other Uses: Hard heavy wood used for tools and construction. Great firewood since it burns hot and slowly.

Role at Obenaus: Planted inside the forest to diversify the native forest once mature. Planted also on the forest edge near the house where the soil is very alkaline because of the ashes from the wood furnace which are emptied there.


European or Red Beech – Rotbuche – Fagus sylvatica

Description: Large deciduous tree (~up to 30m) with a dense canopy. Medium to slow growth. Very dense foliage. The dead leaves also usually stay clipped to the branches until the spring like the hornbeam. Flowers from April to May. Pollinated by wind. Seeds ripen from September to October. Native to Europe.

Environment: Prefers well-drained dry or moist soils, but tolerant to most types of soils. Can grow on very acidic or very alkaline soils, and in partial sun and shade. Tolerant to drought when established.

Functions: Important for wildlife and is a food source for caterpillars. Seeds are edible and delicious. Pest-tolerant. Great for erosion control because of its spreading root system. Will become a climax tree that will compose most of the mature forest (will become dominant).

Important Information: Can be slow-growing especially after transplanting. Very intolerant of coppicing – to use as firewood in moderation or only if necessary.

Medicinal Properties: The tar made by the process of dry distilling beech wood is stimulating and antiseptic. It is used internally as a stimulating expectorant in chronic bronchitis, or externally as an application in various skin diseases. The plant is also used in “Bach flower remedies”.

Other Uses: The very young leaves have a very nice mild flavor when eaten raw and are good to add to salads. The seeds can be eaten raw or cooked and have a pleasant sweet taste. They can also be dried and ground into a powder and used with cereal flours when baking, but should not be eaten in large quantities. The roasted seed is used as a coffee substitute. A semi-dry oil is obtained from the seed, it is used as a fuel for lighting, as a lubricant, for polishing wood, etc. The leaves can be gathered in autumn and used as a stuffing material for mattresses, etc. The wood is very durable and used for furniture, flooring, etc, but is not recommended to be used for outside purposes. Great firewood that burns with a lot of heat and makes a popular charcoal.

Role at Obenaus: The red beech is another key species in the restoration project as it is one of the two species along with the oak that will hopefully dominate the native mature forest.  It was therefore planted across the restoration area on the inside of the forest.


European Aspen or Poplar – Pappel – Populus tremula

Description: Medium to large deciduous tree (depending on the variety of the species). Short-lived. Suckers grow easily and thus can form dense thickets at the base of the tree. Flowers from February to March. Pollinated by wind. Seeds ripen from May to June. Native to Europe.

Environment: Preferred environments are open woodlands or hedgerows. Grows in full sun to partial shade. Can grow on poorer soils and heavy clay soils, but not so much on alkaline soils. Prefers moist or wet soils. Tolerates strong winds and thus make a good shelterbelt.

Functions: Pioneer species and very fast-growing. Windbreak. Great for wildlife and butterflies. Resistant to browsing by deer due to unpleasant taste. Can improve heavy clay soils.

Important Information: Do not self-propagate easily, so no risks to spread around. Important not to plant near drainage system as the roots are very extensive and aggressive.

Medicinal Properties: The bark is anodyne, anti-inflammatory and febrifuge. It is used especially in treating rheumatism and fevers, and also to relieve the pain of menstrual cramps. The plant is also used in “Bach flower remedies”. 

Other Uses: The timber makes a high quality paper and a very good charcoal. The wood is easily split.

Role at Obenaus: Planted around the forest area on the edges as windbreak and to create a natural protection against deer browsing. Because it is fast-growing and tall, it will also provide shelter to the more sensitive trees inside the forest.


Sweet Chesnut – Edelkastanie – Castanea sativa

Description: Medium to large deciduous tree (~up to 30m). Medium growth. Long-lived if not cut down. Flowers in July and pollinated by bees. Seeds ripen in October. Native to the Mediterranean in south-eastern Europe but naturalized throughout southern Europe.

Environment: Can grow on very acidic and neutral pH soils, but not very alkaline. Prefers well-drained soils but can grow on poor soils too. Very drought tolerant. Needs at least partial sun, cannot grow in full shade.

Functions: Attracts wildlife and pollinators, including bees. Enrich acidic soils. Edible and delicious seeds.

Important Information: The trees can re-grow very quickly after being cut down, which can produce usable timber every ten years or so.

Medicinal properties:  Sweet chestnut leaves and bark are a good source of tannins and these have an astringent action useful in the treatment of bleeding, diarrhoea, etc. The leaves and bark are anti-inflammatory, astringent, expectorant and tonic. They are harvested in June or July and can be used fresh or dried. An infusion has been used in the treatment of fevers and ague, but is mainly employed for their efficacy in treating convulsive coughs such as whooping cough and in other irritable conditions of the respiratory system. The leaves can also be used in the treatment of rheumatism, to ease lower back pains and to relieve stiff muscles and joints. A decoction is a useful gargle for treating sore throats. The plant is also used in “Bach flower remedies”.

Other Uses: The seeds have an astringent taste when eaten raw, but are sweet when cooked or roasted. The seed is rich in carbohydrates; it can be dried, then ground and used as flour in breads, puddings and as a thickener in soups. The roasted seed can also be used as a coffee substitute. The meal of the seed has been used as a source of starch and also for whitening linen cloth. A hair shampoo is made from the leaves and the skins of the fruits. It imparts a golden gleam to the hair. The timber is resistant to outdoor use, thus perfect for posts, fencing or stakes. Great wood for furniture, roof beams and barrels to age vinegar. The wood makes a good fuel.

Role at Obenaus: Planted inside the forest for enriching the soil of the old spruce forest and make it less acidic. Planted also on the forest edges for attracting pollinators and to harvest more easily the seeds. Planted mostly near the top of the slope since it is very drought tolerant.


Basswood or European Linden – Linde – Tilia cordata

Description: Large deciduous tree (~up to 30m). Medium growth. Dense foliage. Flowers from June to July. Pollinated by bees. Seeds ripen in October. Native to Europe.

Environment: Prefers moist and well-drained soils, but can grow in most types of soil. Any pH is good, but prefers alkaline soils. Grows in semi-shade or sun. Can tolerate strong winds.

Functions: Attracts wildlife. Very valuable tree for bees, producing an abundance of nectar. A favorite for teas.

Important Information: Can be easily transplanted even when older. Can produce many suckers at the base of the tree, therefore it is best grown in woodland. This tree is becoming increasingly rare and is an indicator of ancient woodlands. It is also recognized as holy or sacred in some cultures.

Medicinal  Properties: The flowers make a popular herb tea that has a sweet and fragrant flavor and have many medicinal properties, including for the treatment of colds and other ailments where sweating is desirable. The tea is also used internally in the treatment of indigestion, hypertension, hardening of the arteries, hysteria, nervous vomiting or palpitation. Linden flowers are said to develop narcotic properties as they age and so they should only be harvested when freshly opened. A charcoal made from the wood is used in the treatment of gastric or dyspeptic disturbances and is also made into a powder then applied to burns or sore places.

Other Uses: The young leaves can be eaten raw, in salad, etc. The sap, harvested in the spring, is sweet and can be used as a drink or concentrated into a syrup. A very nice chocolate substitute can be made from a paste of the ground-up flowers and immature fruits. Good wood for carving domestic items. A charcoal made from the wood is used for drawing.

Role at Obenaus: Considered a sacred tree, Tilia cordata was therefore planted across the restoration site (inside the forest and on the edges) as well as around the property, meeting its needs for sunlight and attracting bees to the garden areas.


Planting Days

Dates: ~ March 30th to April 9th 2017

Planting Site: Approximately one acre of forest and one hedgerow on the north side of Obenaus land, as shown on the map of the previous section.

Number of Trees Planted: 250 (25 x 10 species)

The implementation process of the reforestation / restoration project was completed rather efficiently and professionally given the numbers of trees that needed to be planted and the circumstances. Indeed, despite having received only very short notice from the Regional Management team for the pick-up date, we managed to establish a temporary nursery for the young bare-root saplings to be planted right away upon their arrival on the site. This step was very important in order for the roots to stay moist and covered (in the soil) until they would be planted in their permanent locations.

Moreover, since this sale was an offer for the farmers of the region, one had to buy per bundle. One bundle of each species of trees contained 25 individuals. Therefore, we bought and planted 250 trees in total, with the exception of a few gifts.

As for the team members that participated in the planting days, quite a few people of the immediate community as well as the greater community got involved and gave the time and effort they felt they could contribute. This was very helpful given that Cisco was away during this time. Therefore, I would like to offer my gratitude to Lena, Rainer, Chris, Sam, Youssef, Jeanne-Sophie, Jacob, Nico and Tamino – some of whom are present in the picture below enjoying well-deserved baked goods and a cup of tea!

I would like to say a special thank you to Martin as well; first of all for cutting down the forest. This was quite a task in itself as one can see in the pictures below, and required the full participation of some of us – including our good friends Jasmin and Nico – for nearly a week back in January. Thank you as well Martin for cutting all the 250 and more stakes for the new trees, and for the useful knowledge you shared with me all along.

 In order to be efficient while still ensuring a quality planting, I attributed different tasks to our helpers. First, one would go and place the stakes where trees would be planted across the restoration site keeping at least five meters in between. Although this may seem close for big forest trees, a high density planting is preferred when restoring a forest – compared to planting an orchard – since different tree species will grow at different rates and will require different conditions thus supporting each other in their growth. Also, a high density planting mimics the natural regeneration of a forest as well as encouraging the trees to be resilient.

Then, a team of two would go and do the most physically demanding job which is to dig the holes for the trees where the stakes were. Not only is digging demanding to begin with but doing it in a very steep slope amongst roots and rocks is another challenge altogether. That slowed down the digging process, which was in fact a good thing because it allowed digging only the holes the day of or the day before a tree would be planted in it – ensuring a moist soil. The holes did not need to be very deep and large like usually required when planting trees in an orchard or in a backyard. In the forest, the soil is already quite good, fluffy and loose (not so compacted) – giving the space for the roots to grow and water to flow without drainage issues.

Next task would be done by me most of the time which was to bring the saplings to their respective holes for the next team to plant them. Following our restoration design, I placed each species of trees at the locations that suited their requirements and where they would provide the function or service expected from them.

The saplings would then be carefully planted by another team. We first hammered the stakes properly into the ground. Then, we made sure to give the roots enough space, and filled the holes with the loose top soil that was dug out. Each tree was loosely attached to their stake in a way that allows enough space for the trunk to get larger while still serving the purpose to hold the tree against the wind and to help the tree grow straight and strong. The ground surface around the trees would be covered with some organic material like dry leaves, small sticks, etc, to act as mulch and to keep the soil moist. We also tried to create a little mini-dam at the front of each tree with small strong sticks staked vertically and others placed horizontally behind with some rocks, in order to prevent erosion and to retain as much water as possible.

Another team of one or two people would follow the planters and water around the trees. This task would have also been done before the planting – so watering just the holes first – but given the topography, it did not make sense to do that. Indeed, the watering hose would only get so far as the top of the slope and the rest of the trees needed to be watered with a watering can with water gathered from the creek down below.

Finally, a small rabbit-proof cylindrical fence was placed around most of the trees, especially the oaks, maples, and other favorites of wildlife. These protective guards should deter rabbits and other rodents to eat the bark at the base of the young trees. This action called “girdling” can be very damaging to young saplings and eventually kill the trees. Although, the mesh fences used are not high enough to also protect against deer nibbling on the terminal buds of the saplings, it might reduce the damages by limiting the access.

After the planting effort, the trees were monitored and watered occasionally in the weeks and months that followed, until the summer growth became too wild for the task. Indeed, nettles and elderberry bushes, amongst many other fast-growing and opportunistic plants, took over the freshly cut area of the forest during the summer months.



Often during a reforestation or restoration effort, the focus is placed on the planting action. Yet the maintenance or after-care of the trees is as important as planting them in order to reach the long-term goal of forest regeneration and ecosystem improvement. Fortunately, caring for forest trees is not usually as demanding as caring for fruit trees. One visit of the site per season should be enough to provide for sufficient care during the first few years following the planting, with the most important visits being in the fall and spring.

This fall, at Obenaus, when the overgrowth of vegetation begins to die back and one can more easily access the forest site, it will be important – especially for a first visit – to go to each tree and perform the following (the stakes should help to find the trees that were planted). It could also be a good idea to write down some observations.

Verify and observe the condition of the tree and make the necessary adjustments:

– Does it seem to have survived the summer heat and competition? If so, great! If it looks like maybe not, I suggest writing down the location and give extra-care to these trees during the next few visits. Maybe it will only starts to grow the following year and only needed time to adapt and transition. However, a certain percentage of mortality is to be expected and can be caused by several factors. In the second year, dead trees can be replaced by new saplings. Then, extra care can be given to plant these new neighbours in the best micro-climates / locations around and give them extra love.

– With sharp pruners (or garden scissors), prune (or cut) any broken branches as close to the trunk as possible to allow for potential re-growth. Never rip the branches with your hands. It is also best to make the cut on an angle. After the tree is well-established, so maybe around the second or third year, it is recommended to also prune the leaders or “suckers” – branches that grow from the base of the trunk – in order to encourage the growth energy to focus on the main stem and upper branches. Yet, this is not so necessary in a forest ecosystem.

– Does the tree seem to still be firmly held into the ground? Make sure it is by re-positioning it gently (without uprooting it), adding more soil if needed and attaching it better to the stake. Staking should only be necessary during the first 2-3 years maximum until the tree seems strong enough to hold itself against the elements. Staking a tree too long can result in reducing the resiliency of that tree and damaging the trunk.

– With a sharp machete or knife or large garden scissors, cut back some of the competing vegetation around, especially at the base of the tree, and if possible pull the roots of these plants out as well. By breaking down some of that vegetation and turning the roots upside down, all of this organic material can be used as mulch to cover the surface of the soil around the tree and retain moisture. One can also add more dry leaves and other surrounding natural material to provide for a good thick mulch layer. It is important however that the mulch do not touch the base of the tree, at least not with a thick layer to avoid rotting or the spread of disease.

– It would be good to also observe the erosion that occurred around the tree given the steep slope of the site. One can adjust or re-build a more resilient little dam in the front of the tree using sticks and stones. One can also add small tree trunks or other bigger pieces at the front of it to help retain water and soil.

– Are the rabbit-proof fences overgrown by vegetation and are they still serving their purposes? Most likely it will be necessary to clear the vegetation off them and adjust or lift the fences as needed to best protect the tree – as the winter coming up is the season when girdling most occur. After a snowfall, it can also be a good idea to observe evidence of rabbit circulation, like their pea-shape droppings, on the restoration site, which can help to identify their favorite trees and locations that can then be better protected.

– Make notes of any observation that can look like signs of pest or disease, and research the proper follow-up required.

– Watering the trees should not be necessary given that they are growing in a forest ecosystem with a rich soil that has a good composition and enough organic material to retain the necessary moisture that they need. Yet, extra water would definitely be beneficial given the slope, and so during the spring, summer and fall visits – the annual growing season – it is recommended to water the surrounding base of the trees with a watering can that has a sprinkler top or the mist option of the garden hose in order not to wash away the top soil.


Compost Design at Obenaus

Written by Catherine Falardeau Marcoux on . Posted in Permaculture

Guidance: The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins, Biodynamic composting methods.

Ingredients: Manure and urine (pigeon, sheep, human), food scraps, plant material, hay, thin woody sticks, lime, occasionally animal carcass and other organic material.

Structures: Four of the compost bins were made of wood, the other three made by upcycling metal cattle barriers left from the previous farm owners.

Ideal compost environment:

                Our composts followed specific layering of ingredients to hold oxygen, moisture, and a balanced nutrient environment for the billions of microorganisms destined to call the compost home. When using manure, the ideal compost environment is one that reaches high enough temperatures to ensure no pathogens, harmful bacteria or unwanted seeds can emerge from the final compost humus. This is done when the thermophilic activity is enough that, in a sense, natural pasteurization of the compost occurs. Thermophilic microorganisms (thermophiles) thrive at temperatures above 45°C. Here is Joseph Jenkins on the gift of these amazing ancient creatures:

“Just as extraordinary is the concept that thermophiles, despite their need for a hot environment, are found everywhere. They’re lingering in your garbage and in your stool… Researchers insist that thermophiles do not grow at ambient or room temperatures. Yet, like a miracle, when we collect our organic refuse into a tidy pile, the thermophiles seem to be sparked out of their dormant slumber to work furiously toward creating the primordial heat they so desire. And they succeed − if we help them by creating compost piles. They reward us for our help by converting our garbage and other organic discards into life-sustaining earth.” (The Humanure Handbook: A guide to composting human manure, page 40)


Compost design:

                Dig a concave floor for the bins to ensure that no liquids will flow out of the compost, and to establish the connection between the Earth and the compost. Layer some woody sticks in the concave floor to allow aeration from the bottom of the compost. In our composts, we do not build more than 50cm of organic material without adding a layer of sticks to help lock oxygen into the compost.

                Establish a thick layer of hay as absorbent organic material at the bottom of the compost to act as a “biological sponge”, absorbing what may otherwise leach from the compost. Our biological sponges were approximately 50cm high. Overtime, it will compact and decompose. Any other coarse organic material high in carbon can supplement hay, such as straw, leaves, shredded paper, etc. Grass clippings, weeds, and other plant clippings also work. Since our composts include manure – and get to high temperatures – we are not overly worried about seeds from the hay or weeds sprouting from our finished compost. 

       Directly onto the biological sponge layer kitchen scraps/green cuttings, manure, a little bit of soil, lime, and then a hay cover. The layering follows the guidance and advice of biodynamic composting. For example, lime is added to the compost to store information from the cosmos held in the rock (limestone) – it is our cosmic powder! The hay on top of the these layers acts as a cover material and biofilter to keep odors inside the compost. Repeat this layering until the compost is full. Hay is also used around the sides and on top of the final compost to insulate it, keeping heat and odors from seeping out.

                With a compost that gets to high temperatures, virtually any decomposable organic material is fit to go into the compost. For example, as we keep sheep, any sheep carcass that we have is added to the compost rather than being buried – otherwise Malou, the farm dog, enjoys digging up a sheep hoof or skull. Composting is an easy, economic and environmentally sound way of dealing with animal mortalities. It can also benefit the compost. When we added the unused remains of one slaughtered sheep (the head and digestive system) the temperature of that compost jumped from 25°C to 41°C to 62°C in consecutive days. That compost remained above 60°C for three weeks.

Biodynamic inspiration:  Connect the astral and the terrestrial for thriving soil, thriving plants, and thriving humans!

                We received guidance from biodynamic composter, gardener, and cosmic connector, Bernard. After instructing us on the layer technique for the compost, Bernard came for a visit to treat the composts with his composting preparations. Five mixtures were added. Yarrow has an amazing capacity to regenerate the earth. Chamomile encourages the efficient and healthy natural cycle of growth, decomposition, and new growth. Nettle is added to detoxify and adapt the soil to the different plants grown. Oak bark helps the soil by encouraging balance, helping to cycle nutrients, and allowing plants to grow steadily and healthy. Dandelion offers garden soil the ability to provide crops with the liver-like power to filter exactly what they require from the soil. Finally, Bernard added a sixth ingredient to our composts, and he chose to keep that one a secret!

                Each of these mixtures has specific preparation and storage procedures. For our biodynamic advice, when Bernard is not around, we reference the book Biodynamic Gardening: Grow healthy plants and amazing produce with the help of the Moon and Nature’s cycles.

The results:

                We won’t know how life-giving and dynamic our compost is until the next growing season. So to know the results, you will have to continue to follow us here on the Obenaus website or on facebook… or much better, come for a visit! What we can comment on is that every single compost, with one exception, reached over 50°C for two days or longer. The one exception is the first compost we built, using the oldest ingredients and not following any layering technique.

Final thoughts:

                There is no right way to compost – our composting method is just how we chose to experiment.  Nor are the seven composts uniform -we adjusted and made changes throughout the process. Variety is not at all a bad thing. Rather what is important is that we all play our role in returning nutrients to the soil, supporting nutrient cycles that we observe throughout nature. We cannot continuously draw out nutrients without putting anything back. And so there is no better time than now for all of us to invest in the soil. Get composting folks!

Obenaus Community

Ewitsch 2
A-8461 Ehrenhausen

+43 680 3060900 (Lena)
+43 680 132 7177 (Rainer)