A foodforest roadtrip

A visit to the Wij-lannd in Keerbergen.

Katrien Zullaert of Avansa Oost-Brabant is a real promoter when it comes to food forests. This time she organized an inspiring session at Ann De Belder in Keerbergen. With mosquito milk in hand, we were given a very warm welcome. Ann’s story and love for that place began thirty years ago. It was going to be a pasture for a horse but after a fall, terror took over. Nothing is required everything is allowed and “let’s go with the flow”. Or how you should always adjust your expectations anyway.

A visit to Diderik of ‘De Woudezel makes everyone dream of a food forest, says Ann. I can only agree. I took an online course with Diderik organized by vzw Bosdroom a few weeks ago, and even the digital highway can’t stop you from just getting even more eager to fly into it. What a passion and knowledge. But that’s for another time.

No wonder she thought of a food forest as an alternative. But the well-intentioned ‘biodiverse oasis’ that Ann had in mind turned out to be bound by quite a few rules in practice. The patch of land was sandwiched between 2 nature reserves and if you don’t want to argue with your neighbors it’s best to consult.

But it just goes to show how difficult it then becomes to find the right information and the necessary advice to apply for and get approved for an ‘environmental permit’. Fortunately, she received a lot of support from Regional Landscape North Hageland. Sometimes it’s about speaking the same language and knowing and understanding the rules. But it was certainly not an easy job and I think many people would have thrown in the towel long ago.

Now certainly don’t expect the idyllic picture you envision of a very densely planted food forest. Because Ann chooses to let the deer have their way, too. You could call it slow food forestry. The ground is very marshy and until April the water can still be up to your lips as it were. So some trees don’t want to come along,…. others will. And no, she can’t secretly just plant whatever she wants. The rules of the game are completely different.

But the frog pools have been constructed. It did. The soil was used to save the fruit trees from wet feet. The willow hedge and berry bushes still need to recover. But it is what it is. Zen…

Nature has so much more to offer than what we plant and sow ourselves. You feel that also that hatch, the passion for “wild picking” that Ann has, continuously rears its head. That’s nice. How to make a tasty smoothie from thistles. You can brew a tasty champagne from elderflower, … Recipes are exchanged. We certainly haven’t run out of things to say.

Appointment to schedule more time with Ann is still to come. After all, the water is getting into our mouths.

The frog pools are coming.

More reading pleasure.

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