Interview with Nick Vercauteren 2/3

Veronika Bond Interview

Kim and Nick in their vegetable garden before the fire

“My vision of a little garden of eden is coming within reach again.”Nick Vercauteren

This is part two of an interview with Nick Vercauteren. Nick and Kim lost their whole Quinta in the firestorm of October 2017. We wanted to know  how Nick recovered from this loss.

HP — What was the hardest part for you? What did you miss most?

Nick — The hardest part was to see all my hard work from previous years just being wiped away. For me and my wife it was hard to see the olive trees and the beautiful orange trees all black…

We had also planted 2 lemon trees when we first bought the quinta, and before the fires we just had our first few lemons… That was hard.

We hoped to see some signs of life, and one orange tree eventually got some shoots – but they are too fragile to survive in the hot sun without the protection of the leaves. Looking at before pictures was hard too (it still is), since the quinta and the view is completely changed. But I also saw new opportunities to plan our quinta and veggie garden from scratch, with everything that I had learned over the last couple of years. With every bit of green and some trees coming back to life, I could feel hope rising.

The one thing that I missed the most, was the fertile top layer of the soil, the humus that I had started to build with my compost. But, again with the help of our friends, I managed to build new, better and more compost systems to bring my soil back to life. My vision of a little garden of eden full of life, fruit trees and vegetables, came within reach again.

The veg patch after the firestorm

HP — Sometimes people say the soil is better after a fire. Is that your experience? Was that enough? Or what else did you do to nurture the soil?

Nick — To be honest…. The soil was not to bad but it needed more than just the carbon that was left by the fire. As I mentioned before, the top layer got completely incinerated with almost no trace of the previous organic soil.

The first thing I thought was: I will never plow my land again, this soil needs rest. So I left my soil undisturbed for half a year and on top I added the organic matter from the horse manure – which added a valuable source of nitrogen, fungi and bacteria – fallen leaves from oak and olive trees and later on grass cuttings and wild flowers.

Nick’s vegetable patch spring 2018

HP — Now it’s seven months after the fire. It’s still quite early into the new growing season, but you are already harvesting food from your vegetable garden. This is pretty impressive. It seems to me that you have grown a fairly productive food garden from virtually nothing in a very short time. What is growing in your garden now? What are you harvesting?

Nick — I have different kinds of lettuce growing, onions, garlic, radishes, basil, tomatoes, chard, beetroot, strawberries, japanese basil, malabar spinach, regular spinach, kale, parsley, greek oregano, peppers, potatoes, chinese garlic chives, thyme, rosemary, lavender, calendula, beans……..the list goes on and on.

At this moment we are harvesting mainly salad, spinach, beans and radishes. Winter kept going this year, so the planting and harvesting was delayed a bit. But, I am very happy with the result so far.

… to be continued

The humus revolution has begun — you can be part of it