Permaculturing in Portugal

One family's attempts to live in a more planet-friendly way

A step in the right direction

Serendipity continues to play its delightful and ever-surprising part in the building works here. While we were working on the renovations of the smaller of the two buildings, I was contacted by an American stoneworker travelling in Morocco who was looking for a project to get involved in before heading back to California. (Facebook has its uses. I’m a member of a stoneworkers group and this is how the contact came about.) So I found myself at 04:30am one mid-April Wednesday morning waiting at the deserted train station in Santa Comba Dão to collect Michael Eckerman off the night train from Madrid.

Michael Eckerman

Michael is well-known in the world of dry-stone walling for breaking with traditional construction techniques and bringing an artistic sensibility into their application. His walls flow, curve and coil and have inspired many to develop similar styles since. A contemporary of the likes of Lloyd Kahn and Ken Kern (who was a personal friend), some of the figureheads of the back-to-the-land and self-build movements of the 1970s, Michael is an ‘original’ in all senses of the word, so it was a delight to spend a while in his company.

This is what he created.

The blank canvas

The blank canvas. A steep drop from upper to lower levels and not a lot of room for manoeuvre.

Clearing the site

Cutting into the bank to clear space for the steps and allow enough space behind them to anchor them well into the bank.

The steps and the wall either side take shape

The steps and the wall either side take shape

The steps and the wall either side take shape

The steps and the wall either side take shape

The steps and the wall either side take shape

The steps and the wall either side take shape using a combination of schist slabs and schist river stones brought from the Alva valley near Coja.

Man at work

Man at work.

The genius of the steps

The genius of the steps – creating the illusion of size and space when the actual footprint is very small.

Michael working on the broader steps down to the patio-to-be

Michael working on the broader steps down to the patio-to-be. The wall either side of the steps is complete, flowing up and over the top of the steps to unite the two sides.

Patio beginnings

Patio beginnings. Continuing the flowing forms in schist slabs and river stones.

Stripping bark from olive wood to form the arches

Stripping bark from olive wood to form arches over the steps which will support grape vines. This was my creative addition to the project.

The arches taking shape

The arches taking shape

The arches taking shape

The arches taking shape.

The arches taking shape

The arches after a coat of linseed oil and with the grape vine already heading out across the wires to meet them.

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1 Comment

  1. Corazon Cook May 16, 2016

    Awesome beautiful work of art!

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