Latest news from the quinta

May 28th, 2015. 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

The sweet cherries are wonderful this year and with some young trees on the quinta producing well for the first time as well as the older ones, there's far more than we can eat fresh. This lot produced 4 litres of juice.There's another bowlful in the fridge awaiting transformation into ice cream and cherry soda. Still more will go into a bottle of bagaço for cherry liqueur (ready for Christmas). Jam? Well I still have most of the jam I made last year (not a big jam eater). Anyone got any favourite cherry recipes they'd like to share? ... See MoreSee Less

4 hours ago

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Gillian Kok, Carlos Bento and 6 others like this

Richard MorganCan you make cherry wine?3 hours ago

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As each year goes by, the yurt terrace gardens mature a little more. The fertility increases in the beds so plants grow strong and vigorous. The yurt becomes increasingly less visible as the surrounding vegetation gets taller and bushier. It's hard to think of anything more rewarding than to be part of this process. ... See MoreSee Less

1 day ago

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Joan Blurton, Lambrini Kates and 23 others like this

Michelle Sheridanspot the doglet :)19 hours ago   ·  2
Lambrini KatesAlex Amaro check this out. From your homeland3 hours ago

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And the same swale from the other end, showing the additional effect of extra shading from the wild plums. The twin aims here from the start have been to increase both the amount of water infiltration and tree cover to moderate the brutal effect of the summer sun. It will be interesting to see what this swale looks like in August. ... See MoreSee Less

3 days ago

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Cyril Wilson, Narelle Jarvis and 19 others like this

Quinta do ValeNo. Not really much rationale for it in this climate. You would only plant IN swales in much more arid or tropical conditions; deserts because depressions collect more moisture and topsoil when there's precious little of either about, the tropics because depressions collect more organic material (hence fertility). Here we have plenty of topsoil and plenty of organic material so the purpose of the swales is to catch, hold and infiltrate water downhill of them - into the swale berms and beyond - so you plant the swale berms, not the swales. The swales get filled with woody mulch and water, the mulch preventing evaporative losses and building up the water-holding capacity of the soil. This swale doubles as the main pathway along the terrace.1 day ago
Ingrid Maria Canolove it! well done !2 days ago
Mark Herbstso you have not planted in the swales at all Wendy?1 day ago
Michelle Sheridanlooks wonderfully lush at the moment :) need to learn much more about swales ...water retention etc..3 days ago

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The middle fruit terrace top swale 2½ months on. A testament to its effectiveness is the amount of chickweed still growing amongst the general lushness in a period when we've had well below the average amount of rain and chickweed elsewhere has long since died back. The area between the swale berm and the grape vines on the right has been cleared and planted with black-eyed beans (cow peas). ... See MoreSee Less

3 days ago

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Time to harvest some Angelica ... ... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago

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Joao Luis Canelhas Chaves, Lynne Smyth and 9 others like this

Quinta do ValeCandy the stems. But the leaves have been used as a substitute for hops in making beer, so I'm also interested in making some sodas using them.1 week ago
Davey Jones-CrockettInteresting! You have inspired me to candy some :-) Would be interested to hear how the sodas go.... Good luck!2 days ago
Davey Jones-CrockettWhat will you do with it? Intrigued!1 week ago

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Water! (3 photos) ... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago

3
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Elaine Mackenziethinking that maybe the rain ain't that bad2 years ago   ·  1
Cyril WilsonWe did get a lot of rain around mid-summers day last year, which just leaves July and August heat and drought to get through?2 weeks ago
Sophie KempinLooking lush :)2 years ago

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While still others of us came to work wearing their 2 year-old daughter's new tutu ... (With Heather Roberts) ... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago

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Sophie KempinAlways makes me laugh that tutu is portuguese for bum ;)2 weeks ago   ·  2
Debbie KirtonI'm going to go to work in a tutu today!2 weeks ago   ·  1
Clare MonsonI have tutu envy2 weeks ago   ·  1
Jo GedrychCute. I should get up to meet you.2 weeks ago   ·  1
Tanya ArtusBrilliant! :)2 weeks ago

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And while some of us did the fence, and the small people worked on the immersive method of improving the water-holding capacity in duck pond number two, others finished off duck pond number one. Great day ladies! Many thanks Caroline Rodger, Claire Donnelly, Heather Roberts and Lucy Kizzy Allen! ... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago

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Quinta do ValeAnd I've just noticed duck pond number one has a Secret Witch!2 weeks ago
Heather RobertsAlways love working on your Quinta Wendy x2 weeks ago   ·  1
Caroline RodgerIt was a pleasure Wendy :)2 weeks ago   ·  1
Heather RobertsAll you need now is a Golden Goose...2 weeks ago

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Another excellent day's work with the 5-strong team of f***ing awesome ladies (AKA FFS), ably assisted by several small people. A new fence for the poultry compound, this time with a gate that hopefully can't be opened by the local canine chicken thieves. Experimenting with charring the ends of the posts sunk in the ground to see how well it stops them from rotting. (With Caroline Rodger, Claire Donnelly, Heather Roberts and Lucy Kizzy Allen.) ... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago

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Veronica Balfour Paul, Joao Luis Canelhas Chaves and 23 others like this

Lynne SmythCan you send those ladies to Northern Ireland please? I need help with a fence :-)2 weeks ago   ·  1
Karina SzilagyiThat's so serious superwomen power, ladies! You are awesome!:-)2 weeks ago   ·  2
Nadine ZdanovichGo Ladies!!2 weeks ago

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After far too many days being distracted with other stuff (like planting vegetables), finally got back to building the duck house today. ... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago

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Emma McDonaldDuck duck duck2 weeks ago   ·  1
Caroline RodgerHUrrah for triangles. Love it!2 weeks ago

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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.

The vermicomposting flush toilet completed

June 8th, 2014. Post by Quinta do Vale

Last year I wrote about our installation of a vermicompositing flush toilet – a worm composting system for a conventional flush toilet – in the outhouse for the wee house. It was all ready and set to go for a good while, minus the worms, but we couldn’t start using it until we had a water supply to the wee house since there would be nothing to flush with until we did.

With the completion of the quinta’s water storage and distribution system in February, I could at last commission the system.

Outhouse toilet featuring a composting flush toilet

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