Dawn

Latest news from the quinta

January 26th, 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

Quinta do Vale on Facebook


Earthworks for one of the fruit terraces continue ... The top swale is complete and a new pathway dug to meet it (the top swale will be filled with mulch and become part of the main pathway along the terrace). The second smaller swale is also dug. Here it's being tested for level by filling with water ... See MoreSee Less

3 weeks ago

View on Facebook

Natalia Semenova, John von Nuding and 23 others like this

Emma McDonaldYou grew a nellish!!3 weeks ago   ·  1
Toni MeredithLooks good. Have a look Brendan Meredith3 weeks ago
Frank AntonsonYou do beautiful work, and your soil looks so rich! When I dig "bisses" or "swales" or "levadas" or "acequias", or "suonen" or "wasserleitungen" by hand, I like to keep the water in them while I dig. I find that I can come within about a half inch of a perfect contour. But, of course, I can only do that when there is enough water coming out of the mountain.3 weeks ago   ·  1

Comment on Facebook

Another winter salad favourite - Wall pennywort (Umbilicus rupestris). ... See MoreSee Less

3 weeks ago

View on Facebook

Natalia Semenova, Somesh De Swardt and 23 others like this

View previous comments

Kate HolmesWill have to try, thanks for tip!3 weeks ago   ·  1
Lovisa Luise MagnúsdóttirOooh! That's what it is! A friend of mine told me that she had heard it was edible, but wasn't sure, and I never managed to find out its name. I finally took a plant back to Germany from Portugal, but never dared try it - but now I will! Muito obrigada!!3 weeks ago   ·  1
Ana TorradinhasDefinitely something to try! :) How do you use it? Raw?3 weeks ago   ·  1
Andrea At CasalinhoExcellent goat walking nibble.3 weeks ago   ·  1
Jean Jaques EmileI have a lot on the terrace wall where the stream runs and my hens love it, in fact they almost appear to be "farming" it. :) I will try it for breakfast. Thank you for the posts and great information. Can you recommend a good Portuguese book on mushrooms?3 weeks ago
Daisy Pintowe use these to heal cracks in the hands (frieiras) :) love them3 weeks ago   ·  2
Ricardo Wragg FreitasI didn't know these are edible. I see them growing everywhere. I will try one.3 weeks ago   ·  2
吳麗蘭We have this in Taiwan too.3 weeks ago   ·  2
Angel MeloI use them for skin and wounds and cuts, but now will try eating them. it's good, 'cause there is not a lot of salad about right now :)3 weeks ago   ·  1
Amanda GainsfordNever realised you could eat it! We have a lot....can it be confused with anything else???3 weeks ago   ·  1

Comment on Facebook

What a find! For January too ... slightly the worse for the frosts but this is the delicious Hedgehog mushroom (Hydnum repandum) or Wood hedgehog, Hedgehog fungus, Pied de mouton (French) or Pé de carneiro in Portuguese (also Língua de gato). Found in the quinta's woodland in association with sweet chestnut. There are so many advantages to restoring these woodlands! ... See MoreSee Less

3 weeks ago

View on Facebook

Natalia Semenova, Jacqueline Miller and 1 other like this

Frank AntonsonCool! Wendy, here is a link to a poor-quality video I took from the train in Minho. We spoke about this. I was quite take by surprise. The first three minutes show the quintais as well as I could. Soon I will give you another link from the next year, when I took a closer look. www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezTqJZYR0wo3 weeks ago   ·  1
Frank AntonsonOkay. One more time. This was coming down from a mountain side north east of Braga. A very unsatisfactory video, but it still might give you an idea of the quintais in that area. Start at about the 13th minute www.youtube.com/watch?v=17QYFtKWI_A3 weeks ago

Comment on Facebook

What a find! For January too ... slightly the worse for the frosts but this is the delicious Hedgehog mushroom (Hydnum repandum) or Wood hedgehog, Hedgehog fungus, Pied de mouton (French) or Pé de carneiro in Portuguese (also Língua de gato). Found in the quinta's woodland in association with sweet chestnut. There are so many advantages to restoring these woodlands! ... See MoreSee Less

3 weeks ago

View on Facebook

Wishing everyone a very happy New Year - bom ano novo - feliz año nuevo - bonne année - gelukkig nieuw jaar - glückliches neues jahr - bliadhna mhath ùr - and all the very best for 2015. ... See MoreSee Less

3 weeks ago

View on Facebook

Natalia Semenova, Liliana Posso and 23 others like this

Mark RobertsonHappy new year from wintry Scotland3 weeks ago   ·  1
Karina SzilagyiBoas Festas, Wendy Howard! Have a wonderful year! xxx3 weeks ago   ·  1
Frank AntonsonYou too!3 weeks ago   ·  1
Nadine ZdanovichBom Ano Novo!3 weeks ago   ·  1

Comment on Facebook

You know it's cold when ...
... you can't stretch your legs out in bed for all the animals piled up on top of it
... you wake up in the morning with leggings on your head after randomly grabbing something to keep out the cold in the night
... putting the kettle on becomes a major drama because the gas stove has turned into a flame thrower
... See MoreSee Less

4 weeks ago

View on Facebook

Natalia Semenova, Sol Nicolajsen and 23 others like this

View previous comments

Anne Hugh-whiteOur gas wouldn't turn on frozen regulator !4 weeks ago   ·  1
Kate MacLeanHope you work up a heat!4 weeks ago
Cyril WilsonNothing like... My pond was frozen over first thing!4 weeks ago
Sarah Retherfordyou know it's cold when you bring a pee pot into the bedroom because it's the only room getting heated, AT ALL! Meanwhile, the dogs, cat, 3 layers of clothes and 6 layers of blanket make a nice cocoon.4 weeks ago   ·  1
Quinta do ValeOh yeah! With you on the pee pot! Who else is up for turning this thread into a "You know it's cold when ..." ...?4 weeks ago   ·  1
Ron Hustlerwow sounds a little chilly in Portugal at the moment.............In south west rocks Australia today 35 degrees c is expected............ so a swim in the ocean is on the cards.............happy new year to you all, You know it's cold when.............. you can't feel your feet when getting out of the surf at Ribeira d'llhas4 weeks ago   ·  2
Veronica Balfour PaulYes, you know it's cold when the dog tries to get under the covers!4 weeks ago   ·  1
Kate MacLeanWhen the Caledonian Canal at Inverness freezes over!4 weeks ago   ·  1
Matt HewWe've just splashed out on an electric heated under blanket for the bed in our yurt. It's made all the difference! It's very low power with three settings and a maximum of 90 watts. I'm sure with your hydro you could stretch to this.4 weeks ago

Comment on Facebook

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Read the rest of this entry »