Conversations with Homesteaders: Building a Bitcoin Community in Southern Portugal and feeding your family

Julia joined me in conversation about her homestead, local community, and Bitcoin during the writing of this article. There are many similarities between Julia’s talk about Bitcoin and homesteading and what I heard from many farmers and homesteaders in the U.S. this summer. The effort required to understand and work with Bitcoin or a farm requires a large upfront investment and very little time preference. Julia’s backstory as a German immigrant to Portugal and her experience in running a homestead that provides food for her family were the topics of our conversation. Julia’s BackstorySidd : Let’s start by sharing some of your background. Let me know how you got to Portugal. Julia: Why did you choose to move to Portugal? When I was 19, I first set foot on Portuguese territory. I wanted to travel so I searched for jobs. I was offered a job in Portugal for three month and thought I would go on to another country. Then, life happens and I was offered a full-time position. I said yes to the offer and decided to settle in Portugal. “A view looking out from the land in Portugal where Julia eventually settled. Julia provided all images for this article. My parents and my brothers moved to Portugal shortly after me. Although I have been to Germany several times to visit family, my closest family members are still here. It was probably 15 years ago that I last visited Germany. I don’t go back regularly. Sidd, tell me about the community you’ve created there. Your friend mentioned that a local market was being started in 2020 when we spoke earlier. Julia: Although our community has always been on an alternative side of things it was COVID-19 that really got this community and networking thing moving. Everyone thought that it was now or never to build strong local communities and economies. The alternative markets began to emerge. People began to search for their tribe because it was obvious that there is one: you can either be on this side or the other. COVID-19 has been a blessing in this community building because it helped us grow into strong, small, tight-knit communities. What is being sold there? Who is selling and who’s buying? Julia: The market group has over 1,000 members and is based in private land. It is expected to attract several hundred people from Algarve. The Algarve region of South Portugal is only 200 km by 50 (kilometers) wide. It also includes the wider community that goes to the market. The market is within a half hour of the local community that produces and sells most of the goods. The market is open for business! All handmade items. Because it’s private land, there are fewer regulations that govern what can be sold. Sidd: How many bitcoiners are there in the community. Is there a Bitcoin Meetup? Julia: I only started to understand Bitcoin at the beginning last year. Since then, there has been one person in the community (I’ll call him Rick) who started teaching people about Bitcoin. His girlfriend is also passionate about creating networks and running events so she hosts regular meetups. Before these events, I didn’t know anyone who was interested in Bitcoin. Because I am part of the group, I now see Bitcoiners everywhere. The same thing happened with homeschooling. Before I started homeschooling I didn’t know there was a community. It was everywhere I went from the moment I started to do it myself. Portugal is a magnet for Bitcoiners in general, because it has a relaxed approach to government. You don’t currently have to pay capital gains taxes. The government is currently discussing a capital gains tax but it would only apply to those who sell within 12 months of purchasing. It all started years ago. I was familiar with Bitcoin since childhood, but I only discovered it after watching a video (which I don’t remember now). I became interested in the topic after seeing a video about it. Rick was the one who answered all my questions and encouraged my curiosity. It was very difficult before I had someone to talk to and ask questions to. Rick was the key to my entry into the Bitcoin rabbit hole. I had questions about energy consumption and how bitcoins can resist being copied with a click. Rick and I also had a conversation about decentralization and why it is important. When the philosophical stuff started to kick in, like what does this all mean for humanity? I was hooked. This was a new way to see the future of humanity. Sidd: Let’s return to homesteading. What are the similarities between Bitcoin and homesteading? Julia: There will be ups and downs. You must just let go of the downs and enjoy the successes. Then it will all go back downhill. That’s okay. It’s almost like losing your entire flock of chickens to a predator in one night. You can either decide to sell or give up, or just keep going. I believe that Bitcoin-only users are generally a friendly bunch. The same applies to farmers. They are very down-to earth people, which I love. A view from Julia’s land. There is also a shared long-term approach to success between these two communities. It takes a long time to build a successful farm. It’s almost generational. It takes many years before the soil changes and responds. It takes years of hard work every day. No quick-fix solutions. Overview of The HomesteadSidd : Tell me more about your homestead. What are you producing?Julia : It’s a small property, probably only a few acres. It’s a family home. It was a ruin when I bought it in 2000. We’ve lived here for over 20 years. I began by planting a few trees. I had both successes and failures. It sounds easy to plant trees, but it is difficult with the hot, dry summers in Portugal. I was immediately confronted by the realities of nature. I persevered because I have always been interested in the connection between food and health. This naturally leads you to grow your own food. There is no other food that is good enough quality to sustain your health. Beautiful sundried tomatoes grown in the garden. When I had my children, it really took off. My daughter is almost ten years old. So, 10 years ago, I decided to get serious: I want my eggs and my milk. That’s when I started homesteading more and more, and also started animal keeping. I am very focused on animal production and not much vegetable growing. The goal is to provide for the family. Finally, after many years, we are there. We have a steady supply of raw milk, eggs, and other dairy products. We have some fruit trees. But, I’m concentrating on my chickens as well as my goats. We recently got pigs, who are prolific producers. A freezer full of your own meat is a great feeling. I am happy to sell eggs and a few liters milk in springtime, when eggs are in high season. We’re making the homestead an educational project. We offer workshops on homesteading every other month, depending on the season. Julia gives a learning twist to homesteading by hosting regular workshops to help the community improve their skills. We did a September workshop on vegetable fermentation to preserve the fall harvest for the winter. These workshops now include Bitcoin education. We also have a small farm shop, which is a shelf in the kitchen that sells seeds and beef jerky. It’s easy if you have your infrastructure in place. You’ll still need to be there twice daily for feeding and moving the goats around in their pen. We believe in a holistic, regenerative approach to animal care. We never keep them in one place. Sometimes I need help moving large structures. I will ask someone in the community for help. I usually work for at least an hour each morning and another hour each evening to do the daily necessities. It’s colder in winter, so there’s more to be done when it comes to fixing fences and shelters. Summer is our dormant time here. It’s too hot to do extra work. Summers are about providing shelter, water, and food for the animals. Sidd: How did your homestead grow? Sidd: What were your initial goals and what did it take to scale up your homestead? Julia: I started with chickens. Then, I quickly grew the number of chickens. Then, I added goats. Scaling is difficult for a single person. You can stack: combine one thing with the other. I could not run 20 goats at once, but I could combine the goats and pigs. This adds a little bit to my daily chores. My husband is still at work, and I homeschool the children. I need to manage the labor on my homestead. Julia’s tough goats. I am now at a point in my life where I can provide the family with the milk and eggs they need, plus a little extra to pay for the animals’ feed. That’s a pretty sweet spot. I don’t think I will be growing much at the moment. I might be able in the future to buy more land and restructure some things. You might consider getting a dairy cow to replace the goats and a beef cow to replace the pigs. We’ll see. Even though the animals are out on pasture, and sometimes getting leftovers from the kitchen, I still have to buy grain. We are very low on costs. Small shelters, such as those for camping, can often be made from whatever materials I have. Electric fencing is the only other major expense. Because I keep my animals clean and healthy, I have very low vet bills. I don’t do all the deworming because I believe that a healthy animal shouldn’t have any worms. This way, we can save a lot of money. Mistakes and AdviceSidd – What were your biggest mistakes on your homesteading journey so far? Julia: I think I wasted a lot energy before I had a real understanding of the land. Geoff Lawton’s online permaculture course helped me gain a true understanding of the land in 2015. Everything was just right after I completed his course. It was like a miracle that I learned how to harvest water and where to place trees to ensure they survive. Anyone who is interested in starting a homestead should take one of the comprehensive training courses with Allan Savory or Geoff. Allan helped me to understand how animals interact with the ground and the vegetation. Sidd: With all the knowledge you now have, where would you start homesteading? Julia: Would you have started the same way as you did or would it have been different? I think I went with a very straightforward approach. There will always be mistakes and losses. It’s a smart idea to start with small animals for someone just starting out. It’s not possible to run a cattle ranch with 100 head overnight. You have to learn how to manage your land and animals. You must be connected to your land, your animals, and the environment. Start small and go with your gut. Do not try to incorporate too many species. Although it may seem romantic to see them all hopping around in one pen, in reality it is not a good idea. They will either eat each others’ food or kill each other. All those mistakes have been made. I thought I could just add some ducks to the chickens, but the ducks ate my chicks. These are things you won’t learn unless you try it. Read books. But make sure you really look at the meaning of what you read. It is easy to get lost in the desire to grow your own food and be self-sufficient, but not knowing what it takes. It is difficult to grow your own vegetables. They are so sensitive that they can die if you make any small mistakes. And everyone wants to eat them. You are so sensitive that they will eat you if you make any mistakes. Julia: People can find you on Terra Robinia’s Facebook page. Here they can get tips and details about our workshops. Sidd: Julia, thank you! This is Captain Sidd’s guest post. These opinions are not necessarily those of Bitcoin Magazine or BTC Inc.


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