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How we developed 3 acres of wasteland into a thriving independent food supply in 2 years (and counting)

Independence is at the heart of what we teach here at Zen Jungle While our transformational retreats cover what inner independence means, our land is becoming a demonstration of outer independence.and what it means to live outside the system.

With the largest private solar supply in the UK and a borehole that provides us with enough fresh water to feed 6 dairy farms daily, we are well on the way to living self sufficiently, independent of the need to rely on the outside world to provide for ourselves. Of course, energy and water are just two aspects of this picture. A third and very primary area is food independence.

When we bought the land, it was neglected and had not been maintained or looked after well. It was a shame to see such a beautiful, natural haven in this state, so we dedicated ourselves to creating something truly magical here and working with the land to help both us and it to thrive.

What jumped out to us most was the 3 acres of wasteland situated at the top of the retreat. A stunning area with unbeatable views that had been swallowed up by overgrown thorns. This was the area we chose to focus on for our initial permaculture set up.

First up was a huge excavation project. We had tonnes (literally) of thorns, dying bushes and overgrown grass to clear, and we decided to dig down a couple of metres to protect the land from the severe winds common in Devon. Then, we split the area into three sections: The Hive, The Eye and The Farm.

Even though it would be a good 2 years before these areas would be complete, this was the start of the vision. In the picture above, you can see the first stages of The Hive, an outdoor perennial fruit and edible flower garden. Consisting of 22 growing beds consisting of 2, 11 bed circles, The Hive is inspired by sacred geometry. Next to The Hive we have a tiered plateau which we are reserving for beehives to provide pollination and honey.

Below, you can see a picture of how we have transformed The Hive into something incredible, a lush green paradise for guests to hang out and learn about sustainable living.

Next came the chickens. Their primary role above all else is for compost as soil health is a top priority for growing produce. That said, they also serve the added function of providing us with an abundance of fresh eggs daily.

To protect them from an endlessly hungry doberman, we built a huge outdoor pen for them to roam free in, allowing them to nest in trees, bathe in dust (they love it), play on swings and ramps and forage for wild treats.

With a little trial and error, we also successfully hatched our first chicks last summer, with 7 healthy and happy new additions to the family growing up at Zen Jungle. This year we held off on hatching more as we came head to head on what happens when you have too many cockerels. Now that's back under control, we're hoping to hatch more next year and enjoy the fluffy cuteness, allowing the family to expand and keeping us self sufficient in terms of compost and eggs for the years to come.

This little chick here was called Charlie. As is sometimes the way when it comes to nature, Charlie was the only chick to survive of our second batch after her siblings and mum passed away. She couldn't be integrated with our other chicks as they were several weeks older and much bigger than her and she would have been bullied.

Fortunately, one of our team volunteered to take her home and raise her with her own chickens. Charlie has now grown up to be a full sized, very happy hen!

Finally, on our mission for food independence, we installed 2 commercial sized polytunnels with an outdoor ground space for growing between them. The picture above shows the tunnels in progress with the beds being hand built by our talented team of carpenters.

We filled them with soil from our land excavation and have been working to improve its health and fertility each year, composting the leftovers from what we pick back into the earth and introducing worms.

Despite starting this with very little experience in gardening and growing our own produce, we've had tremendous success harvesting an abundance of vegetables daily every year throughout the summer. If we have learned anything through this project so far, it's that nature mostly takes care of itself. As long as you plant the seed and offer some love here and there, your plants will thrive.

You don't have to have knowledge or experience to get started. All you need is a small patch of land or even a planter on a windowsill and you'll be amazed with how much you can provide for yourself.

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