Latest news from the quinta

February 13th, 2016. 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 added 3 new photos to the album Water!

What we have and how we use it
... See MoreSee Less

11 hours ago

What we have and how we use it

Eva Brans, Telma Grant and 22 others like this

View previous comments

Brett McBirnieBegs catchments and ponds.

11 hours ago   ·  1
Avatar

Quinta do ValeThere are lots of catchments and ponds. This particular river begs cutting the willow roots out of the underground channel it's supposed to be running through :-) Again ...

11 hours ago   ·  3
Avatar

Jo GedrychI have a water feature which used to be steps down the side of the house.

11 hours ago   ·  1
Avatar

Jo GedrychI guess around Easter we will be complaining about having to water crops.

11 hours ago   ·  1
Avatar

Quinta do ValeI've just heard Pisão is flooded. Hate to think what's happening further down the Alva and Mondego ...

11 hours ago

6 Replies

Avatar

Michelle Sheridanyou could almost be in Yorkshire with that volume of rain...we have had SUN on and off for 2 days ...most unusual L)

10 hours ago   ·  1
Avatar

Karina SzilagyiDear God! How is your yurt holding on?

10 hours ago
Avatar

Quinta do ValeYurt's just grand. It's up on stilts ... well, rammed earth-filled tyres actually. Just means moving my wellies up a step before venturing out. Have you got this much your side of the mountains Karina?

10 hours ago

1 Reply

Avatar

Jacqueline Monique JacquiotIt's -21 degrees in Boston! I'll take your river!

9 hours ago   ·  1

1 Reply

Avatar

Nikola Orpennot good too much rain and too fast.... keep dry nx

9 hours ago
Avatar

Silver SpacecraftWater just runs off dry land... :-)

6 hours ago
Avatar

Comment on Facebook

Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale.

Every year at this time the north-facing slopes and walls of the quinta are carpeted in primroses. I've never seen so many in one place. And every year I wonder about changing the name of this place to Quinta de Pão-e-Queijo (pão-e-queijo is one of the common names for primroses in Portugal). There would certainly be far less confusion with all the other Quinta do Vales out there, but I kind of feel I should at least have a couple of goats and a terrace full of rye first ...
... See MoreSee Less

1 day ago

View on Facebook

Maria Tainha, Cyril Wilson and 23 others like this

Lionel de NobregaSounds awesome. Just do it Wendy.

1 day ago
Avatar

Lionel de NobregaAlternatively, plant some sunflowers and then go with Quinta Girasol.

1 day ago

1 Reply

Avatar

Lorna EstridgeBeautiful

1 day ago
Avatar

Sol Nicolajsenhehe!...love that name! <3

13 hours ago
Avatar

Comment on Facebook

Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale.

Number 2 in what may well become a series of strange natural phenomena. This is tobacco. I grew it a couple of years ago and it's self-seeded. It's about to flower. Tobacco doesn't start flowering until early Summer. Normally.
... See MoreSee Less

1 week ago

View on Facebook

Ricardo Pê, Grace Salac Hollingsworth and 20 others like this

Irene TabordaMudanças climatérias ....

1 week ago   ·  2
Avatar

Mark HerbstLovely. Do you know what genus? Is it per chance nicotania rustica?

1 week ago

1 Reply

Avatar

Veronica Balfour PaulOurs have been flowering all winter!

1 week ago

1 Reply

Avatar

Comment on Facebook

Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale.

It's the second of February and this nectarine, along with another one, have been in flower for at least a week already. One of them is on a north-facing slope. They were even ahead of the almond blossom which is now out too. They're supposed to be just before the cherries and apples - late March, early April. Nature is getting confused ...
... See MoreSee Less

1 week ago

View on Facebook

Stephen Hendry, Andrea Casalinho and 23 others like this

View previous comments

Michelle SheridanConfused but pretty .. But here it's the same despite the constant rain

1 week ago
Avatar

Emma McDonaldYup I've had flowers in the garden all winter! 😳 it's snowed, been hurricane force winds, flooded and been 12 degrees in the space of a week 😂🙈

1 week ago   ·  1
Avatar

Quinta do ValeSome mornings I've been getting up and finding it's 20°C in the yurt! And we haven't had nearly enough rain yet. Worrying ...

1 week ago   ·  1

2 Replies

Avatar

Emma McDonaldNot to worry you can catch some rain while you're here and take it back with you 👍

1 week ago   ·  1
Avatar

Astrid SchipperIt seems nice to have such a mild winter and lots of flowers but it does scare me a bit thinking about coming summer...remembering the scarce water resources of last year...Climate chaos is here to stay

1 week ago
Avatar

Christine Grace OlanioHappening here in Southern California too!

1 week ago
Avatar

Quinta do ValeWith 2015 the hottest year on record, it doesn't bode well for the summer to be sure ... :-(

1 week ago
Avatar

Mark HerbstWow! Warmer weather all round. Hmmmmm

1 week ago
Avatar

Mara RaraMy apricot tree is still green and haven't shed it's leafs..Wonder if it's planning to blossom....

1 week ago

4 Replies

Avatar

Cyril WilsonWhat a difference 20 or so kilometres make, I'm a little south of you; apart from catkins and accompanying male flowers on the cob nuts, all I have on any other fruit and nut trees so far is fattening buds.

1 week ago
Avatar

Comment on Facebook

Quinta do Vale shared Kiss The Ground's photo. ... See MoreSee Less

A page out of our Soil Story. “Instead of waiting for some miraculous high-tech solution to bail us out of our climate-change disaster, the real miracle turns out to be simply working with nature i...

2 weeks ago

View on Facebook

Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale.

Too wet to start pruning in earnest today, but a little planting between the rain. This is Tagasaste (Cytisus proliferus or Chamaecytisus palmensis) or Tree lucerne. It's a small evergreen tree indigenous to the Canary Islands and is a member of the Fabaceae, making it a nitrogen fixer. It's also a good fodder tree and can be turned into excellent charcoal. I'm planting it on this dry slope to help support the fruit trees there and build soil fertility.

These saplings are the first trees planted out here that I've grown from seed. That feels a bit special somehow.
... See MoreSee Less

3 weeks ago

View on Facebook

Hugo Berenguilho Madeira, Celia Antunes and 23 others like this

Irene TabordaMais uns dias e vem sol <3

3 weeks ago   ·  1
Avatar

First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacyvery special indeed

3 weeks ago   ·  1
Avatar

Comment on Facebook

Quinta do Vale with Stone Work Benfeita at Quinta do Vale.

The new terrace wall reaches the level of the greenhouse door.
... See MoreSee Less

3 weeks ago

View on Facebook

Quinta do Vale at Quinta do Vale.

First part of the greenhouse subterranean heating and cooling system goes in. The perforated pipes are laid on bedrock and buried in crushed rock at the base of the greenhouse bed. On sunny days, hot air is drawn down into the pipes by fans. It releases its heat to the surrounding mass, the water vapour condenses out of it in the process, and it's blown back into the greenhouse cooler and drier. During cold nights, the reverse happens - cold air is drawn underground, warmed by the surrounding mass, and released back into the greenhouse to keep temperatures above freezing.
... See MoreSee Less

3 weeks ago

View on Facebook

Laurence Manchee, Andrew Ray and 23 others like this

View previous comments

Veronica Balfour Paulwow

3 weeks ago
Avatar

Benjamin Smitsmart

3 weeks ago
Avatar

Ingrid Maria Canothe way forwatd x

3 weeks ago
Avatar

Benjamin Smitwe can learn from it

3 weeks ago
Avatar

Comment on Facebook

Quinta do Vale shared Organic Consumers Association's video.

Organic Consumers Association
Way to go! How to reverse climate change and restore the land to fertility while still producing a yield.
... See MoreSee Less

Brazilian farmer Ernst Gotsch bought 1,200 acres of completely deforested land on the edge of the rainforest in 1984. Check out our video of the week to see how he worked with nature to transform the ...

4 weeks ago

Quinta do Vale with Stone Work Benfeita at Quinta do Vale.

Greenhouse groundworks. The central bed and back terrace are taking shape. There's also a new mini terrace above and behind the greenhouse which will site 4 x 1000-litre IBC tanks capturing some of the rainwater run-off from the main building. Stonework in the greenhouse by Rafael Gonçalves. Mini terrace by me. I'd forgotten how much I liked working with this stone.
... See MoreSee Less

4 weeks ago

View on Facebook

Laurence Manchee, Stone Work Benfeita and 23 others like this

Stone Work BenfeitaThe stones....! Cant get enough. :-)

4 days ago   ·  1
Avatar

Comment on Facebook

Swaleage

August 3rd, 2015. Post by Quinta do Vale

It’s been a long time since this blog was last updated. Those keeping up with us on Facebook will have some inkling of what’s been going on at the quinta in the meantime, but I’ve failed dismally at getting to the more detailed documentation of it all. Mostly a case of too busy doing the doing to be reporting the doing …

Following the successful implementation of a swale system on the bottom terrace last year, this last Spring I put in a similar system on the terrace above it. It’s a narrow terrace with very similar problems to the one below it – soil so dry in summer it barely supported a few fruit trees (which consequently dropped most of their fruit before it got anywhere near ripe) amongst grasses and wildflowers which would be dry and dead by July. In summer, the soil turned to dust in your hand and blew away.

Mid fruit terrace

The terrace when we first saw the quinta in November 2008 – a few neglected fruit trees and a lot of encroaching bracken

Mid fruit terrace

The same terrace in May last year – a few more fruit trees, a lot less bracken, but still a largely barren terrace

Read the rest of this entry »

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.