A foodforest roadtrip

A visit to the Wij-land 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 repellent in hand we were very warmly welcomed. The story of Ann and the love for that place started thirty years ago. It would become a pasture for a horse, but after a fall the fear took over. Nothing has to be done, everything is allowed and let’s go with the flow. Or how you should always adjust your expectations.

A visit to Diderik from ‘De Woudezel’ makes everyone dream of a food forest, says Ann. I can only confirm that. I took an online course at Diderik a few weeks ago organized by vzw Bosdroom and even the digital highway can’t stop you from getting even more excited to fly in. What 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 a lot of rules in practice. The piece of land was pinched between 2 nature reserves and if you don’t want to argue with your neighbors, it’s best to consult.

But it shows how difficult it then becomes to find the right information and the necessary advice to apply for an ‘environmental permit’ and get it approved. Luckily she got 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 a lot of people would have thrown in the towel long ago.

Now you certainly do not expect the idyllic picture that you have in mind of a very densely planted food forest. Because Ann chooses to let the deer have their way as well. You could call it slow food forestry. The ground is very swampy and until April the water can be up to your lips, as it were. So some trees don’t want to join, others do. And no, she can’t secretly plant whatever she wants. The rules of the game are completely different.

But the frog ponds have been built. That worked. The soil has been used to save the fruit trees from wet feet. The willow hedge and berry bushes still need some time to recover. But it is what it is. Zen…

Nature has so much more to offer than what we plant and sow ourselves. You can also feel that that hatch, Ann’s passion for wild harvesting, is constantly rearing its head. That’s nice. How to make a tasty smoothie from thistles. You can brew a nice champagne from elderflower, … The recipes are exchanged. We are certainly not finished yet.

It is agreed that I will schedule even more time with Ann. It makes our mouths water.

The frog pools are coming.

Even more reading pleasure.

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