Latest news from the quinta

May 1st, 2016. 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

Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale.

Spring morning sunshine. The quinta feels like it's finally waking up as warmth returns, yet there are still chilly days and nights. It's been a strange couple of months.
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4 days ago

Spring morning sunshine. The quinta feels like its finally waking up as warmth returns, yet there are still chilly days and nights. Its been a strange couple of months.

Pam van Engelshoven, Caroline Rodger and 11 others like this

Natalie TopaCristiano Marinucci - this is the place in Portugal that I was telling you about :)

4 days ago
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Kate MacLeanhere too, such a lot of hail today the ploughed fields on the Black Isle were white again

4 days ago
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Ernestine BrynartSo charming ! I would like to be there !

4 days ago
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Michelle Sheridansnowing in Yorkshire but I have had to start doing a little watering here in Portugal .Looks lush as always (yours not mine) x

2 days ago

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Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale.

Cast iron casserole seasoning in the sun (which has finally arrived and allowed us to use the solar cooker at last). The solar cooker seems to heat it to the optimum temperature for getting a good coating of oil onto the surfaces, which is ideal, because the pot is mainly for cooking on the solar cooker. Matt black cooking pots make for maximum heat absorption.
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6 days ago

Cast iron casserole seasoning in the sun (which has finally arrived and allowed us to use the solar cooker at last). The solar cooker seems to heat it to the optimum temperature for getting a good coating of oil onto the surfaces, which is ideal, because the pot is mainly for cooking on the solar cooker. Matt black cooking pots make for maximum heat absorption.

Donna Musselman, Stephen Hendry and 23 others like this

Nicky VercauterenVery nice :)

6 days ago
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Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale.

The first of the aquaponics scaffolding towers in position. The grow tanks will run round the greenhouse above head height, which makes better use of space. Extra metal platforms make shelves for seed propagation.

The vertical grey pipe (and the yellow drain pipe behind) are part of the subterranean heating and cooling system (see earlier images in this album). This one runs round the lower perimeter of the dome.
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1 week ago

The first of the aquaponics scaffolding towers in position. The grow tanks will run round the greenhouse above head height, which makes better use of space. Extra metal platforms make shelves for seed propagation. 

The vertical grey pipe (and the yellow drain pipe behind) are part of the subterranean heating and cooling system (see earlier images in this album). This one runs round the lower perimeter of the dome.

Steve Wilkinson, Alan Carey and 21 others like this

Laurence MancheeLooking ace!

1 week ago
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Veronica Balfour Paulwow. You just get on with stuff!

1 week ago   ·  2
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Chris HolmesLooks amazing, great work there you guys, coming on well

1 week ago
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Marta GilletteI am in awe at all you do and accomplish in your little slice of heaven!

5 days ago
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Quinta do Vale with Paul Fowler at Quinta do Vale.

The greenhouse frame passes the big monkey test!
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1 week ago

The greenhouse frame passes the big monkey test!

Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale.

One of two piles of compost-to-be after turning on day 8 of the 18-day Berkeley compost method. I've wanted to try this method for a while to see how it compares to my usual method of just adding to heaps whenever I have material for them. My usual heaps heat up nicely in the topmost layers every time new material is added and turn into good compost over the course of a year, but they lose a lot of volume in the process. This hot composting method apparently results in no loss of volume. It's a fair bit more work over the 3-week period, but if it results in twice as much compost it will be worth it. There's 2-3 cubic metres of material between the two piles.
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1 week ago

One of two piles of compost-to-be after turning on day 8 of the 18-day Berkeley compost method. Ive wanted to try this method for a while to see how it compares to my usual method of just adding to heaps whenever I have material for them. My usual heaps heat up nicely in the topmost layers every time new material is added and turn into good compost over the course of a year, but they lose a lot of volume in the process. This hot composting method apparently results in no loss of volume. Its a fair bit more work over the 3-week period, but if it results in twice as much compost it will be worth it. Theres 2-3 cubic metres of material between the two piles.

Celia Leverton, Nuno Dias and 14 others like this

Kate HolmesNot heard of this method. Will look into it as we have so much chicken poo.

1 week ago
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Andrea CasalinhoOurs end up about 50% smaller, but the loss is volume rather than mass.

1 week ago

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Quinta do Vale with Stone Work Benfeita at Quinta do Vale.

The approach to the greenhouse is pretty much finished now.
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2 weeks ago

The approach to the greenhouse is pretty much finished now.

Steve Wilkinson, Santiago Viru Tridasa Upama and 23 others like this

Clare MonsonBeautiful!!! Xxxx

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Karina SzilagyiIt's looking great! Can't wait to see it finished :-)

2 weeks ago
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Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale.

The javali (wild boar) have been visiting to join the quinta's Spring weeding team. While they can be quite destructive sometimes, they're after one thing and one thing only - the roots of Arum italicum - so I'm quite happy for them to sniff them out of the places where they're overly plentiful.
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4 weeks ago

The javali (wild boar) have been visiting to join the quintas Spring weeding team. While they can be quite destructive sometimes, theyre after one thing and one thing only - the roots of Arum italicum - so Im quite happy for them to sniff them out of the places where theyre overly plentiful.

Miranda St John, Sarah Wilson and 16 others like this

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Vasi LindaHmz, I don't have Arum italicum growing and javali are vising me and dig around olives. I can also see them in fields with just grass digging for something.

4 weeks ago
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Quinta do ValeOh I'm not saying they don't look for other things in other places! When they come to this quinta at this time of year, they come for the arums. I've never known them take anything else.

4 weeks ago
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Vasi LindaThey like to dig in very dry places (on my land). Around olives usually and around the stream line after it is dry. They dig closer to the top of the property where land is very dry (and acid) with almost no grass all year round. I thought they were looking for shrums (shrums are growing in winter) or larvae or worms. They also dig around oaks, but not that much (acorns probably). But yes around olives is the main target.

4 weeks ago
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First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy"First do no harm"

4 weeks ago
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Di WebsterNo truffles around there? Or is that a myth that like truffles?

3 weeks ago   ·  1
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Quinta do ValeI don't know about truffles, but I know they're after the Arums here because every spot they dig in has the leaves and stalks uprooted and left lying nearby ...

Attachment3 weeks ago   ·  1
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Josh GomezSome of the locals around us, use the Javali to clear their terraces, they spread corn, though not to near the walls so they're not distroyed , then the javeli root about for the corn the and weed and clear the lands for them. Very clever and a low input.

3 weeks ago   ·  4
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Quinta do ValeNice! Good demonstration of Permaculture's "the problem is the solution" way of thinking. Now if only I could figure that out for the voles!

3 weeks ago   ·  1
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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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Yurt makeover

October 5th, 2014. Post by Quinta do Vale

The yurt has been my home for 5 years now. It’s stood up to the extremes of Portuguese weather reasonably well, especially after building a porch to protect the doorway (4 years ago) and covering it with shade netting to stop the canvas disintegrating in the sun (3 years ago). It’s settled nicely into the landscape and as the gardens mature around it, is becoming less and less obtrusive.

The yurt becoming part of the landscape

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Sourdough bread

October 4th, 2014. Post by Quinta do Vale

After accidentally discovering natural sodas, I’ve been keen to explore natural fermentation more. Sourdough bread was an obvious development. I already bake most of the bread eaten here and like to have a variety.

Making sourdough bread is a fascinating, rewarding, exasperating and infuriating process, frequently all at once. It’s never the same from one bake to the next, especially when you live most of your life outside and use a wood-fired oven. It takes a lot longer than making bread with fresh or dried yeast, and the way the starter behaves is very dependent on prevailing ambient temperatures, not to mention changes in the natural yeast population, so with the more unpredictable weather this summer, more than once I was caught out by a cooler-than-expected day which threw all my timings. As I learned more and more with every batch, each time I’d start the process thinking “this time I’ll nail it!” and each time I’d be proved wrong.

For a good while I thought this was down to my inexperience with it, but then I learned from the son of an Australian baker and sourdough specialist that it’s always like this and after 30 years he feels he’s only now properly getting to master it. Yet there is a reward in the process, let alone the taste of the final product, that goes beyond the occasional frustration. It is very definitely worth it.

Sourdough bread baked in the cob oven

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Refrigeration

September 10th, 2014. Post by Quinta do Vale

I had been thinking for some time on how to tackle the issue of refrigeration on the quinta. An early experiment hadn’t been encouraging. It’s all very well using a zeer pot for a few items (I have one in the yurt made from 2 large plant pots), but when there’s volunteers or guests staying, it’s a lot less practical. I found myself torn between the desire the keep it low tech and cool things naturally, and having the convenience of somewhere I could easily store more sensitive foods like meat and even indulge in the occasional ice cream. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I have two cats and a dog who do. With the price of pet food rising while the quality plummets, I’d also been thinking about making my own animal food. This would be a lot more tricky without a fridge.

Zeer pot used for refrigeration in the yurt

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Wild carrot jelly

August 21st, 2014. Post by Quinta do Vale

This summer, the terraces are covered in wild carrot – Daucus carota or Bishop’s Lace, Queen Anne’s Lace. This is the original plant from which our familiar domesticated carrots are descended. Slightly ironic then that it should grow in such profusion here when I’ve yet to harvest a decent crop of carrots, but that’s down to the voles getting in there before me rather than any failure of the plants to grow.

In the process of investigating the properties of wild carrot, I discovered some recipes for a jelly made with it. (I try to learn all I can about the wild plants which appear here – dismissing them as ‘weeds’ just because I didn’t plant them seems little short of wilful disregard of a natural treasury bordering on insanity.) The jelly sounded intriguing. I had to give it a try.

Daucus carota or wild carrot growing on the terraces

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Redcurrant recipes

July 17th, 2014. Post by Quinta do Vale

The trouble with turning fruit gluts into sweet preserves is that I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth and neither, it seems, do most people who stay here. So the store room shelves are usually very well stocked with jams and jellies that are often 2-3 years old because I made such large batches. Recently I’ve taken to making smaller batches, and increasing the variety in both the number of jams and jellies I make and in what I do with the fruit. This has been a lot more successful in actually getting things eaten. So here are the redcurrant recipes used this year …

Redcurrants

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A portable rocket stove

July 2nd, 2014. Post by Quinta do Vale

A year or so ago I salvaged a couple of tin cans from the local dump. From the moment I laid eyes on them they were shouting “portable rocket stove!”. They’ve sat around waiting for me to find the time and inclination to put them together ever since, but a friend moving onto a nearby quinta with no cooking facilities finally spurred me into action. In my head, I’d already worked out exactly how the stove was to be made, so it took very little time to assemble. In fact, it all happened so quickly, I didn’t even get any ‘before’ photos.

Making a portable rocket stove out of junk

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We are crowdfunding!

June 18th, 2014. Post by Quinta do Vale

This video explains …

And the campaign is hosted here.