nutcracker : field visit to Jardin de la Sierra

Last March, I met Héléna during the learning activity for the ECORASMUS project, in which Les Graphistes de l’Ombre is a partner.

She explained to me how, ten months ago, the Blankenstein family (Katia, Alex and her) courageously decided to align their lifestyle with their convictions by moving from their posh villa on the hill opposite to a disused orange grove and cottage, that they decided to name “Jardin de la SIerra”.

I had the opportunity to visit their project during our COOPCOM CARE Transnational Preparatory Meeting and felt that it was useful to report it as very good practice of the “NUTRACKER – Learning by doing and helping” one.

No electricity, drinkable water or heating there. 

Spartan choices that correspond to a need for militant simplicity and a connection with nature.

The orange grove had ceased trading due to changes in the market. Its trees were cut down and nature reclaimed its rights over the two-hectare plot of terraced land.

In a methodical first stage, the Blankensteins, their two dogs and their cat took up residence in the garden shed and two canvas tents.

They opted for slow time, to take the measure of the rhythm of the seasons, the sunshine, the possibilities for links with the local inhabitants and more, with a view to developing an educational project on a human scale, useful to the community.

This last aspect was the focus of the family’s attention: how can we involve the neighbours without offending them with practices that might seem strange or shocking? How do you gently encourage people to gradually change their behaviour and adopt a socio and eco friendly approach? How do you encourage human relationships to flourish?

That’s why, instead of immediately embarking on the technical part of the project (planting trees and creating the structure of their educational centre), the Blankensteins chose first to very gradually inform their neighbours, offer some cultural activities and involve them in the design process.

It is this vital part of the project that is currently underway.

It’s wonderful to see how, with courage, method, perseverance and creativity, these people are gradually weaving together their ideas, and starting to invite volunteers, in different formats (informal, woofing, work away, and soon through the Erasmus programme).

A visit to this fledgling micro-project based near Valencia in Spain is a must.

To find out more, get involved, support them :


  • March 25 2023 Esparto Basket-making Workshop 
  • April 18, 20, 25, 27, 2023 Pleinair Landscape Painting Course
  • April 30 2023 Asthanga Mysore and brunch 


  • September 7, 8, 9 2023 Drum-making Retreat
  • September 15, 22, 29 2023 Ikebana Flower Arrangement Course
  • January 31 2024 Tree Planting Day