Latest news from the quinta

March 29th, 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

Right mice, it's war! 240 peas sowed in trays (so the mice wouldn't get them). Not one pea remains. Every last one dug up and eaten. ... See MoreSee Less

2 hours ago

Ester Siroky, Annette Daly and 5 others like this

View previous comments

吳麗蘭OMG2 hours ago
Michelle Sheridanbuggers ..2 hours ago
Annette DalyJust saw a Victorian tip on grand estates utv programme where they cut holly branch's and laid them at the base of the pea rows to keep mice away?! Worth a try1 hour ago   ·  2
Lionel de NobregaThose are very resourceful mice you have. Let's hope they never develop opposable thumbs. ;)1 hour ago
Jo BruceLittle tinkers !! You need a cat !1 hour ago   ·  1
Quinta do ValeAccording to Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), the mice are the ones in charge. I think he's probably right. I'm going to try the holly, though the tree I have isn't particularly spikey. Maybe last year's sweet chestnut cases and some gorse thrown in for good measure would help. And some peppermint. And putting the cats and dog on starvation rations ...32 minutes ago   ·  2
Eluzabeth Jane Rosson NewtonPeppermint oil in a spray can work .26 minutes ago

Comment on Facebook

It may still be a building site, but it's all looking pretty fine in the spring sunshine. ... See MoreSee Less

2 days ago

View on Facebook

The proposed EU Seed Regulation HAS BEEN WITHDRAWN. It doesn't mean they won't try again, but great news for now! ... See MoreSee Less

We've learned that the proposed EU Seed Regulation has been withdrawn by the European Union. Steve Thomson, Operations Director at Garden Organic, says: “On Friday we learned that the current EU Se...

3 days ago

View on Facebook

Veronica Balfour Paul, Atchoum Despentes and 23 others like this

Linda BeckmanThat's good news, we'd all become criminals otherwise.3 days ago   ·  1
Kate MacLeanHurray!3 days ago

Comment on Facebook

Scorzonera tops, planted 3 weeks ago after a very nice risotto, starting to show above ground. An experiment to see if they will regrow the roots after reading a blog on perennial vegetables - annisveggies.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/reviewing-2012/ ... See MoreSee Less

6 days ago

View on Facebook

Yes! Much more of this needed ...
... See MoreSee Less

6 days ago

Joao Luis Canelhas Chaves, Edward Alexander Hendry and 1 other like this

Sandrine Ferwerda CoosemansA true modern day hero. It's amazing how much can be done by empowering local communities (in the case of third world communities) or just by getting the right information to people in dryer areas.6 days ago   ·  2
Quinta do ValeYes! It's really encouraging. Reading this together with watching John D Liu's video (below) you begin to see just what can be done when people get out of their own way and work together to restore degraded ecosystems. We really could turn the whole thing around in just 1-2 decades. And NOW is the time to do it!6 days ago   ·  1

Comment on Facebook

Another inspirational video from John D Liu ... ... See MoreSee Less

This new short film by John D, Liu was commissioned by the UNCCD and World Bank to look at DRYLAND ISSUES. In this episode of the What if We Change series, J...

7 days ago

Three strippers. ... See MoreSee Less

1 week ago

View on Facebook

Claire Donnelly, Nuno Filipe Matos Costa and 23 others like this

View previous comments

Clare Monson'You can leeeeave your hat awwwwnn' :)1 week ago   ·  2
Karina Szilagyivery sexy! :))))1 week ago
Karina Szilagyican't help it, I have to say it... Look at all that wood! :)1 week ago   ·  2
Carlos RodriguesAnd a lot of poles :)1 week ago   ·  3
Amy LynnLol ;)1 week ago
Jo BruceKarina ! Lol1 week ago
Veronica Balfour PaulAt their poles!1 week ago   ·  1
Frank AntonsonLove those terraces in the background! Actually I always found terraces even more beautiful than strippers. :)1 week ago   ·  2
Renate KappelmaierYes! !!!!!!1 week ago   ·  1
Heather RobertsWithout my glasses...read, 'these strippers' Calendar Girls v The Full Monty v Women and Their Tools.1 day ago   ·  1

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 »