Latest news from the quinta

March 5th, 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

Filling a new swale with mulch. ... See MoreSee Less

4 hours ago

View on Facebook

Marta Gillette, Laura Coviello and 17 others like this

View previous comments

Caroline RodgerIs Nelly really mulch???? uber permaculture!1 hour ago   ·  1
Quinta do ValeCorrection: filling a new swale with mulch and mutt.1 hour ago
Beth WilliamsIf you plant a dog, do you get puppies ? I'll take one !55 minutes ago   ·  1
Quinta do ValeIf a dog took root I guess you'd get dogwood?51 minutes ago   ·  1
Caroline RodgerShe's quite a mulchy mutt at tiimes, right enough...50 minutes ago   ·  1
Quinta do ValeAre you referring to my Portuguese Humping Dog?47 minutes ago   ·  1

Comment on Facebook

A barrow load of beautiful compost for the vegetable garden. Getting the beds ready for a new growing season. ... See MoreSee Less

1 day ago

View on Facebook

Jean Jaques Emile, Anita Sanderson and 23 others like this

Nadine ZdanovichOoooooooo!1 day ago   ·  1
Shirley HocklingGood luck and have a good harvest.1 day ago   ·  1
Veronica Balfour Paulyummy1 day ago

Comment on Facebook

Almond blossom. ... See MoreSee Less

2 days ago

View on Facebook

Maya Schweßinger, Lorna Rennie and 23 others like this

Beth WilliamsSo perfectly beautiful.2 days ago
Suzann MannLove1 day ago
Edward Alexander HendryLovely seeing the almond blossom here on Ibiza.1 day ago

Comment on Facebook

Spring is springing! ... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago

View on Facebook

Quixo Kobayashi, Joaquim Conde and 23 others like this

Jay TaiPrimroses - my favourite! I will always remember seeing them growing wild in Wales. They are only cultivated here in New Zealand.1 week ago
Quinta do ValeOne of its common names in Portuguese is pão-e-queijo - bread and cheese - which is a wonderful name! The quinta is covered in them, normally in January. They're the first flowers of Spring. They're late this year, as are the mimosas.1 week ago
Joaquim CondeI'm jealous. I have to wait another 6 weeks to see them.1 week ago

Comment on Facebook

Ladies who lunch ... and do great work on each other's quintas. Thanks team! Today we repaired a whole section of grape vine trellising by replacing rotten posts with good solid schist ones, cleared a growing area for nut trees, and operated on Caroline. All in a day's work here in the mountains. ... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago

View on Facebook

Ben Moore, Claire Donnelly and 23 others like this

View previous comments

Heather RobertsIs Caroline out of surgery? Is she receiving visitors or only ticks?2 weeks ago   ·  2
Quinta do ValeAye. Everything Is tickety-boo.2 weeks ago   ·  1
Marta GilletteLove it! Soup looks grand too!2 weeks ago   ·  1
Jules CostelloLove it! Wish I was there2 weeks ago   ·  1
Michelle Sheridanwarm enough to sit out for lunch now?Good work ladies :)2 weeks ago
Caroline RodgerLunch followed by open-air surgery - so dramatick!!!!! Thanks ladies :) x2 weeks ago   ·  2
Angel Meloamazing ladies, would love to be part, but think too far away .. love doing lunch and all that :) <3 <3 <32 weeks ago   ·  1
Ingrid Maria CanoI now have a vehicle and return on Monday,will go visit soon as !!!!2 weeks ago
Veronica Balfour PaulLove this. For a while here there were a group of us trying to help each other in groups. we called ourselves the Bramblers! It petered out. Well done you ladies.2 weeks ago   ·  1
Heather RobertsWe call ourselves ffs..... Five Females Strong :)2 weeks ago   ·  2

Comment on Facebook

Coming back from Arganil over the hills today with a real hint of Spring in the air. Little white villages perched on mountain ridges: Luadas in the foreground, Pardieiros behind, and Relva Velha in the distance. ... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago

View on Facebook

Ben Moore, Renate Kappelmaier and 23 others like this

View previous comments

Michelle Sheridanoh yes definitely looks spring like-just lovely...blue sky :)2 weeks ago
Veronica Balfour PaulLooks lovely. One day I will come up and visit!2 weeks ago   ·  1
Bram Algoeten ben je er al uit? pampervulling tussen de wortels of toch maar niet? want hier lijkt dat ook wel een miraculeus idee voor al te droge grond!2 weeks ago
Eluzabeth Jane Rosson NewtonLong to be back in Portugal based close to you . Love Portugal with all my heart xx2 weeks ago   ·  2
Ingrid Maria CanoCant wait to be back!!2 weeks ago   ·  1
Louise GordonWe are working our way to a move to Portugal are there any negatives?1 week 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 »


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 »


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 …


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 »