Latest news from the quinta

July 30th, 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 at Quinta do Vale

Two out of three sisters - haricot beans growing amongst multicoloured flint corn.
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2 days ago

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Gerdy De Pypere, Veronica Balfour Paul and 16 others like this

Suzana Correia da Silvadid you plant the pumpkins as well?

2 days ago
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Astrid SchipperFor some reason unknown to me my three sisters didn't work at all. The climbing beans strangled the corn and the pumpkins only produce lots of foliage and male flowers. Three months down the line and only one pumpkin growing. Maybe the soil is too poor - its first time use of what was dried out compact clay

2 days ago
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Clare MonsonOurs got eaten by the cows.. Instead of three we have one lonely sister

2 days ago
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Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale

Starfish of the garden - courgette flowers.
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6 days ago

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Sylvi Black, Cheryl Keane and 23 others like this

Richard BartonI love courgettes

6 days ago
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Caroline MichelleHave you tried to ferment them? It is one of the best fermented vegetables I know...

6 days ago
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Suzana Correia da Silvacourgette flowers are delicious stuffed with cream cheese and baked.

6 days ago   ·  1
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Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale

Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) and purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia). Cape gooseberries (Physalis peruviana) in the foreground. Drying seedheads of angelica (Angelica archangelica) behind. I'm growing many more herbs this year and the leaves of Anise hyssop are a revelation for their fabulous flavour.
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2 weeks ago

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Lovisa Luise MagnúsdóttirDo you use the Anise hyssop for tea? I remember growing some a few years back, the leaves smelt heavenly, but I never did anything with them...

2 weeks ago
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Quinta do ValeYes, tea from the leaves is wonderful but you can just eat them too (though not too many because they can make your mouth and throat a bit dry). I like them in salads.

2 weeks ago   ·  3
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Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale

The first melons growing up a Black locust tree.
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2 weeks ago

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Manuel Ribeiro, Helene Wehtje and 23 others like this

吳麗蘭Cool!

2 weeks ago
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Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale

The difference that swales make to the hydration of the soil. These mulched swales are filled with water by hosepipe once every 7-10 days or so. It's sufficient to keep the grass downslope of them growing, while elsewhere it's now been baked dry and dead.
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3 weeks ago

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Steve Wilkinson, Manuela Nolasco Lamers and 23 others like this

Pedro Leitãoobrigado

3 weeks ago
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Toni MeredithBrendan Meredith

3 weeks ago   ·  1
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The first apricots from trees I planted.
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1 month ago

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Manuel Ribeiro, Marta Gillette and 23 others like this

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Kit AcottWhat a joy ☺

1 month ago   ·  1
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Karina SzilagyiI bet they taste amazing! :-)

1 month ago
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Oliver SwannHow many years was it before you got fruit Wendy?

1 month ago
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吳麗蘭哇哇哇(wow)!!!

1 month ago
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Suzann MannBeautiful. Our winter was so cold, flowered but never a fruit

1 month ago
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Liz Fraser-HitchLook lovely and not pestered by ant like our I hope!

1 month ago
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Jane Byrdhow long ago did you plant, how big was it when planted? yuuuuumm....

1 month ago
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Chris YoungThey look good. Could you dry some and send them over here :-)

1 month ago   ·  1
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Jane Byrdi self seeded one a month ago...its begun to sprout!!..qunita do vale is that you andrea? my internet must be slow didt get that message,,..

1 month ago
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Eluzabeth Jane Rosson NewtonWe got peaches and apricots nearly ready in Sobral . Still juicing oranges from last year . Newley learning what we have on our terraces , would love to come a say hello soon .

1 month ago
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Manon TetraultWow Ana amazing😊

1 month ago
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Cyril WilsonMe too, although the Jays took a liking to them, likewise cherries although that was the Blackbirds. When I visited a Portuguese friend, he mentioned a foul smelling liquid that he puts into bottles to hang from his trees, which apparently deters the birds, but I cant remember what the liquid was called.

4 weeks ago
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The new duck house.
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1 month ago

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Kate MacLeanwhere's the moat (haha) - it looks cosy!

1 month ago   ·  2
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Oh KayWow belo belo

1 month ago
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Turning problems into opportunities - a terrace wall collapse on its way to becoming a new set of steps.
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1 month ago

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Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale

The first of the heirloom climbing peas. The variety is 'Lord Leicester', a traditional British pea brought back from the verge of extinction. These delicious peas grow to about 2m and keep producing over a long period. They're grown from last year's seed and are better, more vigorous plants this year. The more plants adapt to a place, the better they get.
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2 months ago

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Wendy Veena Freeman, Hugo Berenguilho Madeira and 23 others like this

吳麗蘭So beautiful

2 months ago
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Mara RaraAah we have something really similar. Whar are the white marks on the leaves ? We had it also and was wondering whether its some kind of mildew, or it belongs to the plants ? Cause aswell is really vigourous, weve been eating them since half or evenbeginning of april!

2 months ago   ·  1
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Rene Etz'nabhé i've got a same kind of bean, also with similar white marks on the leaves, but i guess it's whether normal or sunburn.

2 months ago   ·  1
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Mara RaraIts a pea ! I was thinking this aswell, butjean was wondering wether it was mildew, cause the bush where we eat from in april didnt had it but i thought it was the same pea!

2 months 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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