Latest news from the quinta

May 25th, 2017. Post by Quinta do Vale

This blog tends to feature often lengthy and mostly fairly detailed descriptions of the work here. Shorter updates, anecdotes, comments, photos, links and more get posted to Facebook. Keep up with us directly on Facebook or via the feed below.

Quinta do Vale

It's berry breakfast time again. With home made raw goats milk kefir. Bliss! ... See MoreSee Less

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Its berry breakfast time again. With home made raw goats milk kefir. Bliss!

Comment on Facebook

local farmer, Ryefield, Tore, told me at the weekend that this is the earliest he has had strawberries for sale in 30 years

Making progress. Another 4,000 litres of water storage comes online. These tanks, behind the greenhouse, will take rainwater runoff from the north side of the roof of the main building (110mm waste pipe leading into first tank) as well as an alternative direct feed from the main water tank (40mm blue connection into first tank). We've now completed the blackout plastic covering, the shade netting over the top of it, as well as the top covering. On top will be a mini lightweight 'green roof', plus the solar water heating coil supplying the shower in the greenhouse. ... See MoreSee Less

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Making progress. Another 4,000 litres of water storage comes online. These tanks, behind the greenhouse, will take rainwater runoff from the north side of the roof of the main building (110mm waste pipe leading into first tank) as well as an alternative direct feed from the main water tank (40mm blue connection into first tank). Weve now completed the blackout plastic covering, the shade netting over the top of it, as well as the top covering. On top will be a mini lightweight green roof, plus the solar water heating coil supplying the shower in the greenhouse.

Comment on Facebook

Best to paint the ibc dark colour to prevent algae growth

how do you connect thems ? can you take a picture and do you use PVC glue

Great work Wendy and team!! Cant wait to visit again some time in the future xx

We are excited about your advancements and your life...we will need to come and visit.

One day when this pair get to be full-grown geese, they will (hopefully) take on a role as predator deterrents on behalf of the hens. Meanwhile, they're super friendly, very fluffy, and quite comic. No names as yet but collectively known as the gooses. ... See MoreSee Less

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One day when this pair get to be full-grown geese, they will (hopefully) take on a role as predator deterrents on behalf of the hens. Meanwhile, theyre super friendly, very fluffy, and quite comic. No names as yet but collectively known as the gooses.

Comment on Facebook

What about calling them Alba and Éire?

I'm a bit nervous of geese, I hope they help with hen protection. We lost another hen to a mongoose type predictor ! We have seen mongoose out during the day recently so being vigilant.

Today, while it rained outside, we stayed dry and wrestled with push-fit plumbing. The aquaponics tanks are now filled with Leca (lightweight expanded clay aggregate) with the bell siphons made and hooked up to the return pipe to the pond. Next, the pump and supply lines. ... See MoreSee Less

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Today, while it rained outside, we stayed dry and wrestled with push-fit plumbing. The aquaponics tanks are now filled with Leca (lightweight expanded clay aggregate) with the bell siphons made and hooked up to the return pipe to the pond. Next, the pump and supply lines.

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So awesome! I need to come back and see :)

Bell Siphons are pure magic i love that science, have you already test the system? Its 1 bell to 4 connected boxes right? Love to see more pictures

More views of the new greenhouse cover ...Work in progress but here's the instillation on Wendy Howard's dome cover. We've been very excited about this project. If your thinking about a greenhouse dome do get in touch for more info. For more info on this project go to permaculturinginportugal.net :) ... See MoreSee Less

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More views of the new greenhouse cover ...

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Is the cover plastic?

I would also like that question to be answered.

Expafol high transparency UV treated PVC. UV resistance estimated 5-10 years. The dome will have shade netting over it in summer. This has prolonged the life of my yurt covers from 2 years to 8 and counting, so I'm hoping to get at least 10 years out of it. www.expafol.com/en/productos/cristal-pvc-flexible/cristal-pvc-alta-transparencia-ht

Looks great. A mini Eden project.

Loving having the greenhouse almost done. Even without the cover complete (opening top still to come) the heat in here has been perfect for germinating summer vegetable seeds and giving the one surviving banana (they had to spend the winter outside) the environment it thrives in. Yet to come: more scaffolding boards for additional seedtray space, more buckets for growing climbers up the frame, more bananas and a mango, the aquaponics tanks to hook up, the bathroom to complete, the worm farm to install, and lots and lots and lots of plants to grow. ... See MoreSee Less

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Loving having the greenhouse almost done. Even without the cover complete (opening top still to come) the heat in here has been perfect for germinating summer vegetable seeds and giving the one surviving banana (they had to spend the winter outside) the environment it thrives in. Yet to come: more scaffolding boards for additional seedtray space, more buckets for growing climbers up the frame, more bananas and a mango, the aquaponics tanks to hook up, the bathroom to complete, the worm farm to install, and lots and lots and lots of plants to grow.

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Spencer

We've got to come see you after it's done!!! Already looks spectacular :-)

Here at Quinta do Vale! Taught by the talented Bill Talbot, one of the volunteers here this month.

WildMan: Bushcraft/Survival Crash CourseMay 26, 2017, 10:30amBenfeitaAre you interested in the the Wild life? Do you want to learn the basics of bushcraft/survival? Or perhaps just looking for a place to refresh your knowledge?

Then welcome home!

This will be a crash course in the basics of surviving, and hopefully thriving, in the greater nature. Giving you an educational blueprint on which to found and build upon.


The course will take place at Quinta Do Vale m.facebook.com/QtadoVale at 1030hrs on Friday the 26th of may. See below for placement limits and prices

We will cover:
The philosophy of Bushcraft

Bushcraft vs Survival

Your survival kit and how to prepare it

CampCraft

FireCraft and the accompanying responsibilities

Water collection, filtration and purification

Simple food preservation

Animal tracking and stalking

Natural cordage (plus a few life enhancing knots)

And many other little snippits of information ;)

The course will include practical exercises, structured talks and demonstrations.

Much love,

The WildMan


Only 12 spaces availible!

Adults: €25
Under 18's: €15

Under 14's must be accompanied by an adult

Please bring your own lunch

:)
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WildMan: Bushcraft/Survival Crash Course

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As each year goes by, the gardens get lusher, healthier and more productive. Trees grow fast here, and many of the ones I've planted are now a decent size (like the cherry in the middle of the photo). ... See MoreSee Less

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As each year goes by, the gardens get lusher, healthier and more productive. Trees grow fast here, and many of the ones Ive planted are now a decent size (like the cherry in the middle of the photo).

Comment on Facebook

Spencer - this is the farm we visited in Portugal with Papa. :)

Wow its looks lush, do you have a before and after photo ?

Yurt almost invisible - what changes over time- well done to you , the helpers and nature 😊

Looking lush and edible hopefully

Awesome 😃🌸

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Geodome greenhouse progress

May 22nd, 2017. Post by Quinta do Vale

Projects here seem to have their own timing. What seem like frustrating delays at the time have an uncanny knack of turning out to be necessary pauses: intervals which allow for much better solutions to emerge. The geodome greenhouse has been no exception. With the groundwork complete by the middle of last summer, I was hoping to have it covered in time for winter. This wasn’t to be. My fault mostly. I wasn’t happy with the lack of solid UV resistance data and guarantees on clear PVC and went off to ferret out something more robust. Several lengthy explorations into such materials as ETFE and polycarbonate later, it was clear that robust was beyond budget-busting, so in the end I came full circle back to the PVC.

But during the delay, two things happened. One of the suppliers we were in contact with listed a new high transparency UV-treated PVC film. And Liam acquired a high-frequency PVC welder. I’m sure neither of these facts will mean much to many, but take it from me: the end result is just so much better than it would have been had neither of those two things happened.

The greenhouse cover is now almost complete!

The PVC cover goes onto the geodome greenhouse

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Duck ponds

May 15th, 2016. Post by Quinta do Vale

With the building of a duck house, there had to be a duck pond to go with it. or, as it happened, two duck ponds.

In addition to being ponds for ducks, these ponds also form part of the general water-retention strategy for the quinta. The aim is to slow the passage of water through this steep land and spread it as far as possible from the stream, allowing it to infiltrate and hydrate the soils. This promotes the growth of the vegetation which is so essential in improving the soils here. Vegetation decomposes to provide soil carbon. Without soil carbon, these thin soils haven’t a hope of holding onto moisture (or much of their biota) through the hot dry summer months. Irrigation becomes necessary. But build up soil carbon levels enough and eventually irrigation needs are minimal, even zero. So in order to make irrigation unnecessary, it’s initially necessary (at least if any kind of speed is required).

Back to the duck ponds. Or maybe duck puddles would be more accurate. They’re barely large enough to be worthy of the word pond, though they’re more than adequate to keep a couple of ducks happy.

Inlet for the second duck pond

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Ponds four years on

May 12th, 2016. Post by Quinta do Vale

It’s been quite a saga, this business of creating unlined ponds. I particularly wanted unlined ponds, because their principal purpose is to provide hydration for their surroundings in the course of slowing the passage of water through the quinta. But as I’ve learned, it takes a while for them to stabilise. There are six of them; two sets of two on the top and bottom terraces above and below the yurt terrace, and another pair of very small duck ponds on the bottom terrace. Small ponds – which these all are due to limitations of terrace width and slope – are much more sensitive to small perturbations.

Spillway between the ponds on the bottom terrace

Spillway between the ponds on the bottom terrace

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Subterranean heating & cooling system

May 11th, 2016. Post by Quinta do Vale

The previous post on the geodesic dome greenhouse outlined the logic in choosing a dome for this site and how it was by far the better option for fitting in all the things I wanted to have in this greenhouse. These include an aquaponics system and a bathroom as well as growing space for tropical and frost-tender fruits and vegetables, seed growing areas, a rocket-stove water heater and a worm farm – a fair bit to cram into an area measuring just 7x5m at the outset.

Geodesic dome greenhouse frame

I also wanted to build in a subterranean heating & cooling system (SHCS) to make even better use of all the thermal mass present in the solid bedrock floor and back wall. This is a proven low-tech solution for maintaining comfortable temperatures and humidity levels in the greenhouse year round. It can minimise or even eliminate the need for supplementary heating or cooling.

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Geodesic dome greenhouse

May 8th, 2016. Post by Quinta do Vale

Back in July 2012 we dug a chunk out of the mountainside in preparation for a ferrocement rainwater harvesting tank. Plans for the tank were later shelved due to budget constraints, but a good use for the site was never in doubt. It’s one of the few parts of the quinta to have sun at winter solstice, so was perfect for a greenhouse.

Geodesic dome greenhouse site

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Extreme weather

April 21st, 2016. Post by Quinta do Vale

People don’t seem very geared up for rain in Portugal, preferring umbrellas to raincoats. It’s not as if the rainfall in Central Portugal isn’t respectable either – the annual average for this area is 1040mm or thereabouts (depending on source). Amazingly, it’s even slightly more than where I used to live in the Scottish Borders. The difference is it falls over an average of 120 days, not 300 or so.

Portuguese wet weather gear

Portuguese wet weather gear

The early part of winter was unusually dry and warm. I had tobacco and freesia in flower in December and nectarines in blossom in January! But with the turn of the year, the rain finally arrived. In early February we had 10% of our annual average rainfall here over the course of one weekend.

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Poultry rethink and a duck house

March 23rd, 2016. Post by Quinta do Vale

As those who’ve followed us on Facebook for a while will know, our 4 hens were massacred in July 2014 by ‘free range’ local dogs. Although the hens were kept in a secure compound which not even the foxes had managed to get into, these dogs succeeded in opening the fastening on the gate, broke it down and got in. I found the bodies of two of the hens. The other two were taken. They were only 2½ years old and at the peak of their laying. It was a sad loss.

Quinta hens

It was all the more upsetting considering the effort put into building a really secure compound for them. I’d catered for large ‘free range’ dogs in building the compound, but not ones with door-opening skills. This forced a major rethink on how I was to keep and protect poultry going forward. It came back again to the initial conundrum I’d faced.

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Swaleage

August 3rd, 2015. Post by Quinta do Vale

It’s been a long time since this blog was last updated. Those keeping up with us on Facebook will have some inkling of what’s been going on at the quinta in the meantime, but I’ve failed dismally at getting to the more detailed documentation of it all. Mostly a case of too busy doing the doing to be reporting the doing …

Following the successful implementation of a swale system on the bottom terrace last year, this last Spring I put in a similar system on the terrace above it. It’s a narrow terrace with very similar problems to the one below it – soil so dry in summer it barely supported a few fruit trees (which consequently dropped most of their fruit before it got anywhere near ripe) amongst grasses and wildflowers which would be dry and dead by July. In summer, the soil turned to dust in your hand and blew away.

Mid fruit terrace

The terrace when we first saw the quinta in November 2008 – a few neglected fruit trees and a lot of encroaching bracken

Mid fruit terrace

The same terrace in May last year – a few more fruit trees, a lot less bracken, but still a largely barren terrace

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A dining area for the wee house

November 12th, 2014. Post by Quinta do Vale

Following on from the completion of the kitchen at the wee house, the next step was to create a dining area. The terrace in front of the house on the lower level was the logical place for this – lovely views through the olive trees down to the village and across the valley, and grapes vines already planted and just asking for a trellis to grow over to create a shaded seating area. Plus it had already been identified as a fine place to sit …

The wee house dining area

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Swales

November 11th, 2014. Post by Quinta do Vale

Swales – level ditches dug to follow the contours of the land – are one of the principal ingredients of permaculture earthworks which are, by and large, recipes for catching and holding rainwater runoff and encouraging it to slowly infiltrate the soil rather than being lost to the nearest river. Because they’re level, swales don’t channel the water away but hold it in situ until it soaks into the soil. They can be dug to any sort of scale and used alone or, as part of an integrated water catchment system over an entire property, in combination with other elements like ponds, infiltration basins and dams.

Bottom ponds

On narrow terraces and steep mountain slopes with thin soils – ie. here – swales are not something you can use on a large scale, but they can still be useful. When I dug the lower ponds, the effect on the ability of the surrounding soil to support abundant growth was immediate and impressive, but it didn’t extend too far along the terrace. Just 2 metres away the soil was so dry in summer it barely supported a few grasses and wildflowers and would turn to dust in your hand and blow away. So after working out the contours of the terrace, I decided to extend the area of hydration much further along by using the ponds to feed small swales.

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