About Us

Amout me

Hello My name is Andrea. I worked as an Environmental Educator developing school gardening programs and curricula for public and private schoolsin America. I moved to Montenegro in 2012 and have had such a blast teaching my own 4 little sons. In Fall 2021, I finally realizing my dream of opening a Community and Kid’s Educational Garden along the Zeta River, near the capital city of Podgorica. Come out and join us! We would love to meet you!

Zdravo, ja sam Andrea. Radila sam kao učitelica ekologije, razvijajući školske baštenske programe, nastavne planove i programe za javne i privatne škole. Želim da osnujem omladinsku edukativnu baštu pored reke Zete, u blizini glavnog grada Podgorice, u Crnoj Gori.

Gradska TV

Volim Danilovgrad Interview

Interview – News portal Volim Danilovgrad 

1.  Tell us about your story. How did come to Montenegro and why you decided to stay in Spuž? 

Hello, I am Andrea, I am 35 years old, I am an American with a husband and 4 boys living in Spuz, Montenegro. We moved here 9 years ago with a christian humanitarian orginazation called OM (Organizacija Milosti). When we came to Montenegro, I had a 1 year-old and 1 month-old baby boys! Our desire was to share the love of God with the people of Montenegro, but for the next 8 years I was very busy having babies! During this time I was learning so much about myself and alot about Montenegrin culture and re-learning about nature and gardening in the new climate! About 6 years ago, I started dreaming of having an educational garden for kids. In America, I had worked for a government organization called 4H where I wrote nature and garden cirriculum and did programs for school gardens, community gardens and nature clubs.

Being mother of four young boys during the rise of technology and screen use in children, I became even more passionate about fostering children’s connection to hands-on experiences in nature. I saw the need here in Montenegro to demonstrate alternative forms of education and free time that foster physical, spiritual, and intellectual growth. I dreamed of a space designed for children to interact with nature and gardening in creative ways that fostered emotional and cognitive intelligence, but for 4-5 years Basta Zeta was nothing but a dream I was embarrassed to say out loud!

Around the time I was dreaming about what this space could look like, we knew we wanted to buy a property near Podgorica. Having a space for an educational garden was a desire but, honestly, it didn’t seem possible with our budget. We looked for 4 years, praying that the right space would open up. In 2019 we saw our current property. It seemed too good to be true. The new road was being built from Podgorica to Danilovgrad, it had enough space for a large garden (1500) spuare meters) and it was on the river and had 1500 square meters of forest for us to enjoy! So rare near the city! Negotiations took 18 months but we bought the property in November of last year. Our prayers were answered and we started to work on the community garden in February, hoping to open in the fall and we have!
 

2. Is permaculture something that you lived with abroad or you started living with it here in Montenegro? 

The youth organization I worked for in America and that trained me as a master gardener did lean towards organic principles especially working with children. But I did not know about the philosophy of permaculture as a way of life until about 5 years ago.

3. Bašta Zeta is not only the family property it is the school of permaculture? What kind of activities you provide for local community? 

Yes. We bought this house specifically to be able to open an education and community garden for kids. Our focus is to connect kids with the natural world through interactive experiences, free play, and creative expression.

Right now Basta Zeta has Saturday garden workshops for kids we call Garden School. The Garden is open from 9-12 on Saturday Mornings. The interactive garden class is 10-11:30hr. Our fall season is 12 weeks September 4th– November 20th. This semester the theme is plant parts we eat. The children learn about where their food comes from with focus on whole foods. We have a short interactive lesson with hands on activities, a snack from the garden, then we do real interactive work in the garden like planting seeds or harvesting apples. This week we talked about how flowers developed into fruits, each child made and designed their own apple pie and we planted 2 apple trees. Our program is free and open to all age groups. But parents need to be present. We encourage a family experience.

We also offer field trips for school groups during the week. These programs are similar to the class on Saturday mornings.

We encourage the kids to try food directly from the garden, they are so much more likely to enjoy fruits and vegetables that way. Most of our produce goes to food shelter programs in Podgorica. (GTS and Novi Nit).

4. What are the things you like the most in Spuž and what are the downsides? 

We love the pace of life and hospitality in Montenegro. But we love our move to Spuz even more. The community is so friendly. We needed to dig up some grape vines to make room for the community garden and we thought the neighbors would hate and judge us, the next day our neighbor came over and helped teach us the best way to dig them up! We love the community here in Spuz. We were so pleasantly surprised that Danilovgrad has so much passion for citizenship and a lot of people who are passionate about the natural world.

The downsides are totally natural to the culture here in Montenegro. They are not so much bad as different. In America we have a lot of value in recycling and keeping shared common spaces clean. Here people keep their houses immaculately clean, but don’t pay much attention to keeping shared spaces like parks and rivers clean. I think Montenegrins are growing in an awareness that the natural world is our playground and gift, not a dumping ground for waste to be taken advantage of. But it’s hard to change these practices when the government doesn’t have the resources to provide infrastructure for this type of living- like better trash and recycling systems and a higher budget for developing shared space. That’s one reason we wanted to help by opening Basta Zeta as a shared space for kids.

5. How did the local community accepted Bašta Zeta? Where can people get familiar with the concept of Bašta Zeta? (offline and online) 

I have been so pleased with the reactions of people in person and online. It seems to me there is a growing awareness of the beauty of the natural world and the benefits of encouraging our kids to connect with nature. You can come visit us anytime on Saturdays from 9-12. To learn more about us or just follow our journey you can follow us or visit our website.
We have: A website http://www.bastazeta.me/
Follow us on Instagram @bastazeta https://www.instagram.com/bastazeta/
Like us on Facebook Page  Bašta Zeta  https://www.facebook.com/bastazeta

6. What are the next steps in development of Bašta Zeta? Is there an open network of people/properties? 

This is such a fun question! We are really looking forward to our Spring Season (We will reopen in march 2022 after a break for winter). The Spring semester will be so much fun as we install a pizza garden and so much more! In the Spring we would like to have a few garden beds that operate as a traditional community garden where families from our neighborhood can come and maintain their own garden plot.

Our other dream is to have a forest school called Suma Zeta that is more based out of the wooded riverside part of our property. Those programs would be more focused on nature, ecology and conservation.

We are such a young program and have so much to learn. We have just started to get acquainted the community of nature lovers here in Danilovgrad and Podgorica that already existed and we would like to continue to network with those people and organizations and connect those programs to youth education.

People are doing such amazing things; Basta Ecologia in Mareza, my friend Brit Boone is working with developing a community garden in Toloska Suma, the native garden on Gorica and there are so many more I don’t even know about yet! I think there is an open network of people who have the same passions and want to help each other and I am excited about the future of these initiatives.

7. Permaculture is not only the sustainable way of gardening. It is also a way of living. Can you tell us what personally permaculture brings to you and your family? What are the benefits? 

Yes! Permaculture is definitely a philosophy of life. What is most exciting to me about permaculture in this season is a new paradigm that is not about sustainability but regeneration. Sustainability is great, but it lends itself to an environment of fear and uses rules to protect nature from humans. Permaculture is about regeneration.  It is a reverence and enjoyment of God’s abundance through nature and a reclaiming of our role in nature as co-creators and designers.
In our family this means we try and design the rhythms of our family based on abundance and love and not fear. This means things as simple as loving literature and creative expression, to taking weekly family days, but it also applies to our garden practices. We don’t spray pesticide on our rastan because we believe there will be enough, even if the bugs eat some! We love feeding our ducks grapes because we trust in the abundance and provision of God and nature.

8. Did you maybe noticed that people in local community use some of the principles of permaculture not even knowing that they use it?  

Absolutely. A lot of people say permaculture is just going back to indigenous agriculture and I see what they mean. Industrial agriculture has definitely changed the way people do agriculture all over the world, but if you dig deeper you can find that every culture has a way of interacting with nature that is based on design and regeneration. We haven’t even scratched the surface of this, we still have so much to learn from Montenegrin about gardening here.

9. What would be the message for our followers. 

You have a beautiful country with amazing natural resources. Enjoy it, allow your kids to enjoy it too, and if you need some ideas on how you can start fostering your kid’s connection to nature, come visit Basta Zeta!

Intervju Andrea McCcourtney, Bašta Zeta: “Imate prelijepu zemlju sa nevjerovatnim prirodnim resursima. Uživajte, dopustite i svojoj deci da uživaju..”

U Spužu je kreirano pravo malo baštovansko carstvo u kojem zasigurno caruje drugarstvo.

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Permakultura kao način života traži da se angažujemo u zajednici, budemo kreatori i dizajneri prostora koji nas okružuje poštujući resurse i izobilje koje nam priroda daje. Konkretnije kazano misli se na vođenje gazdinstva u skladu sa prirodom odnosno njenim prirodnim poredcima, principima, ciklusima i ekosistemom. Andrea Mekurtni je Amerikanka koja je, sa svojom porodicom, odbrala opštinu Danilovgrad, tačnije Spuž, kao mjesto za život i ako možemo reći i životni poziv. 

Sa Andreom smo razgovarali o konceptu “Bašta Zeta” svojevrsne baštenske zajednice i škole u prirodi za djecu, odluci da se skrase u Spužu ali i njenoj percepciji lokalne zajednice i Crne Gore.

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Foto privatna arhiva, Bašta Zeta

Ispričajte nam Vašu priču. Kako ste došli u Crnu Goru i zašto ste odlučili da ostanete u Spužu?

Zdravo, ja sam Andrea, imam 35 godina, Amerikanka sam sa mužem i 4 dječaka koji žive u Spužu u Crnoj Gori. Doselili smo se ovdje pre 9 godina sa hrišćanskom humanitarnom organizacijom pod nazivom OM (Organizacija Milosti). Kad smo došli u Crnu Goru, ja sam imala jednogodišnju i jednomjesečnu bebu. Naša želja je bila da podijelimo ljubav Božiju sa ljudima u Crnoj Gori, ali narednih 8 godina bila sam veoma zaposlena rađanjem djece!

Za to vrijeme učila sam toliko o sebi i mnogo o crnogorskoj kulturi a takođe i ponovno učenje o prirodi i vrtlarstvu u ovoj novoj klimi! Pre oko 6 godina počela sam da sanjam o obrazovnom vrtu za djecu. U Americi sam radila za državnu organizaciju pod nazivom 4H, gde sam pisala obrazovni program o prirodi i bašti i radila programe za školske vrtove, bašte u zajednici i klubove prirode.

Budući da sam bila majka četiri dečaka tokom uspona tehnologije i upotrebe ekrana kod djece, postala sam još strastvenija u njegovanju povezivanja djece sa praktičnim iskustvima u prirodi. Vidjela sam potrebu da ovdje u Crnoj Gori da demonstriram alternativne oblike obrazovanja i slobodnog vremena koji pospješuju fizički, duhovni i intelektualni rast.

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Foto privatna arhiva, Bašta Zeta

Sanjala sam o prostoru koji je namijenjen djeci za interakciju sa prirodom i baštovanstvom na kreativan način koji je podsticao emocionalnu i kognitivnu inteligenciju međutim četiri ili pet godina godina Bašta Zeta nije bila ništa drugo do san koji me je bilo sramota da naglas izgovorim!

Otprilike u vrijeme kada sam sanjala o tome kako bi ovaj prostor mogao izgledati, znali smo da želimo kupiti nekretninu u blizini Podgorice. Imati prostor za obrazovni vrt bila je želja, ali iskreno, to se nije poklapalo sa našim budžetom. Tražili smo 4 godine, moleći se da se otvori pravi prostor. U 2019. smo kupili našu trenutnu imovinu. Izgledalo je previše dobro da bi bilo istinito. Novi put se gradio od Podgorice do Danilovgrada, imao je dovoljno prostora za veliku baštu (1500 kvadratnih metara), a bio je na rijeci i imao je 1500 kvadratnih metara šume za uživanje! Tako rijetko u blizini grada!

Pregovori su trajali 18 meseci, ali smo kupili imovinu novembra prošle godine. Naše molitve su uslišene i počeli smo da radimo na baštenskoj zajednici u februaru nadajući se da ćemo je otvoriti na jesen. U tome smo i uspjeli.

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Foto privatna arhiva, Bašta Zeta

Da li je permakultura nešto sa čime ste živjeli u inostranstvu ili ste s njom počeli živjeti ovdje u Crnoj Gori?

Omladinska organizacija za koju sam radila u Americi i koja me je obučila za majstora baštovana, naginjala je organskim principima, posebno radu sa dejcom. Ali do prije 5 godina nisam znala za filozofiju permakulture kao načina života.

Bašta Zeta nije samo porodično vlasništvo, već i škola permakulture? Koje aktivnosti pružate lokalnoj zajednici?

Da. Ovu kuću smo kupili posebno da bismo mogli otvoriti obrazovni i društveni vrt za djecu. Naš fokus je povezivanje djece sa prirodnim svijetom kroz interaktivna iskustva, besplatnu igru i kreativno izražavanje.

Trenutno Bašta Zeta ima subotnje vrtne radionice za djecu koje zovemo Garden School. Vrt je otvoren subotom ujutru od 09-12. Čas interaktivnog vrta je od 10-11: 30h.

Naša jesenja sezona je 12 nedelja, od 4. septembra do 20. novembra. Ovog semestra tema je biljni dio koji jedemo. Djeca uče o tome odakle im hrana, fokusirajući se na integralnu hranu. Imamo kratku interaktivnu lekciju sa aktivnostima, zakusku iz bašte, zatim radimo pravi interaktivni posao u bašti, poput sadnje sjemena ili berbe jabuka. Ove nedelje smo razgovarali o tome kako se cvijeće razvilo u plodove, svako dijete je napravilo svoju pitu od jabuka, a mi smo posadili 2 stabla jabuka.

Naš program je besplatan i otvoren za sve starosne grupe. Ali roditelji moraju biti prisutni. Ohrabrujemo porodično iskustvo. Takođe nudimo izlete za školske grupe tokom nedelje. Ovi programi su slični časovima subotom ujutru. Ohrabrujemo djecu da probaju hranu direktno iz bašte, pa je veća vjerovatnoća da će na taj način uživati u voću i povrću. Većina naših proizvoda ide u programe skloništa za hranu u Podgorici. (GTS i Nova Nit).

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Foto privatna arhiva, Bašta Zeta

Šta vam se najviše sviđa u Spužu a šta vidite kao njegove nedostatke?

Volimo tempo života i gostoprimstvo u Crnoj Gori. Ali još više volimo naš prelazak u Spuž. Zajednica je tako prijateljska. Morali smo da iskopamo vinovu lozu da napravimo mjesto za zajednički vrt i mislili smo da će nas komšije mrzjeti i osuđivati, sledećeg dana naš komšija je došao i pomogao nam da naučimo najbolji način da ih iskopamo! Volimo zajednicu ovdje u Spužu.

Bili smo tako prijatno iznenađeni što Danilovgrad ima toliko strasti, toliko lokal patriotizma kao i građanskog duha i mnogo ljudi koji strastveno vole svet prirode.

Nedostaci su potpuno prirodni za kulturu ovdje u Crnoj Gori. Oni nisu toliko loši koliko različiti. U Americi imamo veliku vrijednost u recikliranju i održavanju zajedničkih zajedničkih prostora čistim. Ovdje ljudi održavaju svoje kuće besprekorno čistima, ali ne obraćaju mnogo pažnje na održavanje čistim zajedničkih prostora poput parkova i rijeka. Mislim da Crnogorci polako rastu u svijesti da je svijet prirode naše igralište i dar, a ne odlagalište otpada koje treba iskoristiti. Ali teško je promijeniti ovu praksu kada vlada nema resurse da obezbijedi infrastrukturu za ovu vrstu života – poput boljih sistema za smeće i reciklažu i većeg budžeta za razvoj zajedničkog prostora. To je jedan od razloga zašto smo želeli da pomognemo otvaranjem “Bašta Zete” kao zajedničkog prostora za djecu.

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Kako je lokalna zajednica prihvatila Baštu Zetu? Gde se ljudi mogu upoznati sa konceptom Bašte Zete?

Bila sam tako zadovoljna reakcijama ljudi lično i na mreži. Čini mi se da raste svijest o ljepoti prirodnog svijeta i prednostima podsticanja naše djece da se povežu sa prirodom. Bašta Zeta se može posjetiti subotom od 9-12h.

Da biste saznali više o nama ili samo pratili naše putovanje, možete nas pratiti ili posetiti našu veb stranicu www.bastazeta.me,  Pratite nas na Instagramu @bastazeta, lajkujte nas na Facebook stranici Bašta Zeta 

Koji su sledeći koraci u razvoju Bašte Zete? Postoji li otvorena mreža ljudi?

Ovo je tako zabavno pitanje! Zaista se radujemo našoj proljećnoj sezoni, ponovo ćemo otvoriti u martu 2022. posle pauze za zimu. Proljećni semestar će biti toliko zabavan jer planiramo da instaliramo pizza vrt i još mnogo toga!

Na proleće bismo željeli da imamo nekoliko baštenskih kreveta koji funkcionišu kao tradicionalni vrt zajednice, gdje porodice iz našeg susjedstva mogu doći i održavati svoju baštu. Naš drugi san je da imamo šumsku školu koja se zove “Šuma Zeta” i koja je više zasnovana na šumovitom dijelu našeg imanja. Ti programi bili bi više fokusirani na prirodu, ekologiju i očuvanje. Mi smo tako mlad program i imamo toliko toga da naučimo. Tek smo počeli da se upoznajemo sa zajednicom ljubitelja prirode ovdje u Danilovgradu i Podgorici koja je već postojala i želeli bismo da nastavimo da se povezujemo sa tim ljudima i organizacijama i povezujemo te programe sa obrazovanjem mladih. Ljudi rade tako neverovatne stvari: Bašta Ecologica na Marezi, moj prijatelj Brit Boone radi na razvoju gradske bašte u Tološkoj šumi, Meditarnski vrt na Gorici, a ima ih još mnogo za koje još ne znam! Mislim da postoji otvorena mreža ljudi koji imaju iste strasti i želje da pomažu jedni drugima i uzbuđena sam zbog budućnosti ovih inicijativa.

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Foto privatna arhiva, Bašta Zeta

Permakultura nije samo održiv način poljoprivrede i baštovanstva. To je i način života. Možete li nam reći šta permakultura lično donosi vama i vašoj porodici? Koje su prednosti?

Da! Permakultura je definitivno životna filozofija. Ono što me najviše uzbuđuje u vezi sa permakulturom u ovoj sezoni je nova paradigma koja se ne odnosi na održivost već na regeneraciju. Održivost je sjajna, ali se prilagođava okruženju straha i koristi pravila za zaštitu prirode od ljudi. Permakultura se bavi regeneracijom. To je poštovanje i uživanje  Božjeg obilja kroz prirodu i vraćanje naše uloge u prirodi kao kokreatora i dizajnera. U našoj porodici to znači da pokušavamo da dizajniramo ritmove naše porodice na osnovu obilja i ljubavi, a ne straha. To znači jednostavne stvari poput ljubavi prema književnosti i kreativnog izražavanja, do nedeljnih porodičnih dana, ali sešodnosi i na naše baštenske prakse. Ne prskamo pesticide po našem raštanu jer verujemo da će ih biti dovoljno, čak i ako bube pojedu malo! Volimo hraniti svoje patke grožđem jer se uzdamo u obilje i opskrbu Boga i prirode.

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Jeste li možda primijetili da ljudi u lokalnoj zajednici koriste neka od načela permakulture a da ni ne znaju da ih koriste?

Apsolutno. Mnogi ljudi kažu da se permakultura samo vraća autohtonoj poljoprivredi i vidim šta misle pod time. Ekstenzivna i industrijska poljoprivreda definitivno je promijenila način na koji se ljudi bave poljoprivredom u cijelom svijetu, ali ako dublje istražite, moći ćete otkriti da svaka kultura ima način interakcije s prirodom zasnovan na dizajnu i regeneraciji. Ovo čak nismo ni zagrebali po površini, još uvijek imamo toliko toga da naučimo od Crnogoraca.

Šta bi bila poruka za naše čitaoce?

Imate prelijepu zemlju sa nevjerovatnim prirodnim resursima. Uživajte, dopustite i svojoj deci da uživaju, a ako vam trebaju ideje o tome kako da počnete da njegujete vezu svog deteta sa prirodom, posjetite Bašta Zetu!

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