Lillklobb Permaculture’s story begins almost exactly one year ago. At the time, I was working with my friend Jan Liesaho at Stadin Puutarhuri- Helsinki’s most urban certified organic farm- and as the season wound down, we could devote time to finding some space for me to start a farm of my own.
I was looking around Espoo for abandoned properties that measured at least 1 hectare and Jan was putting his good name to work, thinking about previous offers. Like many great ideas, the thought that brought this whole thing together was a recollection of good people surrounded by grand trees.
Before becoming a farmer, Jan had worked with theaters (not onstage, he insists). A few of these had their offices in a stately house upon a hill with a huge stone barn that had been converted to a theater. Recalling the rest of the property as being quite large, but unmanaged, he asked if we should pay the place a visit.
When I got home, I plugged Lillklobb into Google and found it was only a 20 min bike ride away, or three stops and a mile walk by train. It was also right about the size I was looking for, 2 ha. We drove out there a few days later after work so he could harvest some apples and I could have a look around.
What first struck me about the place were the trees: with a canopy of mature oak, elm, ash, linden, and maple the place was unlike nearly any other I’d seen in Finland. There was even a large whitebeam near the summit, clearly planted there by the former inhabitants. Not only was the canopy rich in trees more commonly associated with central Europe, but there were many young ones too.
This is a quite important indicator of an ecosystem. If planted trees grow well, that is one thing. When they start reproducing in large numbers and continue to thrive, then the soil and microclimate must be in a working condition.
As we toured the property, it became clear that the site is something special. Other indicator species showed a well drained soil while the physical geography of the site was varied: the city had delineated the entire hillock as a single property. North, south, east, and west aspects in one place? A central ridgeline populated by mature, rare trees? An earth cellar almost as large as my apartment and a barn right in the middle of it all?
What kind of paradise! Well, almost: Lillklobb’s southerly neighbor happens to be one of, if not the, most trafficked highway in all of Finland. Not to worry though, my parent’s place back in the States backs up to a larger interstate highway so I’m quite used to that situation.
Besides, a primary permaculture directive is to find the places society has overlooked and make them bloom, thereby creating value where no one thought it was possible or worthwhile. Another positive is that these kinds of places are undervalued as well, which makes it easier for cash strapped individuals like myself to gain entry into a economic sector that is burdened by high costs of entry for “real” farmland.
Suffice to say, I took a few more trips (including on my birthday) to Lillklobb to poke around a bit more on my own. It didn’t take long to decide it was best suited to what I wanted to do, so I put together a proposal with my findings and business concept to share with the theater folk and city officials…