Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Wild carrot jelly

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

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


Floresta Portuguesa Sustentável – Sustainable Forests for Portugal

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

In the wake of the large increase in the number of forest fires in this area this summer – the latest last night around Barril de Alva – a group of us, both foreign and Portuguese, started up a Facebook page and group to discuss how we might go about encouraging landowners to move away from the highly flammable eucalyptus and Maritime pine plantations and start planting a mixed, biodiverse forest based around indigenous species rather than these hugely destructive and unsustainable cash crops.

Eucalyptus flower on forest floor


Growing ponds

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Continuing the water storage theme, the bottom ponds have expanded again. We have yet to fill the top ponds – there hasn’t been enough water coming down the stream to do so without compromising the water supply for our neighbours further downstream. This small expansion of about 1,000 litres’ capacity gives us a much deeper section to the top pond, as well as increasing the amount of bank in contact with water and allowing us to extend the growing area. It also potentially allows us to take water further along the terrace once this dry spell is over and we have an adequate flow of water again.

Digging the new pond section


More ponds … and drought

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Back in October last year, I began an experiment in pond building. As I wrote then, it’s part of a strategy to retain water for longer in its passage through the quinta. Not just for irrigation purposes, but to increase the range of environments we have for growing and to support a greater diversity of wildlife.

But the ponds are rapidly becoming part of a developing long-term drought mitigation strategy as well. There are evidently years of severe drought here once every decade or so and at the moment it looks very much like that cycle is about to deliver another challenging year.

Top terrace irrigation tank


Chicken quarters

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

It’s been the plan from day one to keep chickens, though it’s taken rather more days than that to get around to it. Keeping chickens is one thing. Exactly how to keep them is another. Free range? Tractor? Permanent pen? All have their fans among the chicken-keeping world and all for persuasive reasons. I thought I had it sorted in my head many times, but then I’d come across an advocate of another method or someone’s bad experience with the method I’d decided on and it would send me off back to the drawing board again.


The heart of the matter

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Permaculture, yes, but this is only the beginning. The first baby steps. To truly work with nature, not against it, we need to listen to our elder brothers …


Pond expansion

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

As mentioned at the end of the recent post on the ponds, I wanted to make the top pond larger and deeper to provide more variety in aquatic environment and a larger area of water around and in which to grow. It’s now twice the size it was, with an area twice the depth.




Monday, October 31st, 2011

I have been thinking for a while now about ways to retain water for longer in its passage through the quinta. Not just for irrigation purposes, but to increase the range of environments we have for growing and to support a greater diversity of wildlife. The extent to which we can emulate strategies like Sepp Holzer’s at the Krameterhof and Tamera is constrained by the vastly smaller amount of land we have to work with, not to mention the topography and difficulty of access, but even on a much smaller scale, the principles ought to be similar.

Water flowing into a pond


Pine wilt nematode

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Pine wilt nematode in Maritime pine

This is the view from the top of the track down to the larger building on the quinta. In many ways it encapsulates the nature of the “Green Heart of Portugal” – forested mountain ranges cut deep by meandering river valleys, peppered with tiny white villages perched on mountain ridges, surrounded by land terraced and richly cultivated with olives, vines, fruit trees, vegetables … Idyllic.

But it encapsulates something else about the Green Heart of Portugal too – an ecological disaster-in-the-making presently taking hold in Portugal’s forests. The tree on the left is dying.


October garden

Friday, October 7th, 2011

A month ago we were all nodding our heads sagely and predicting an early autumn as night-time temperatures headed down towards woodstove range and rainclouds gathered. Suddenly the valley was full of the sound of chainsaws and axes as everyone scrambled to get their firewood ready for winter, blocking and chopping the lengths of timber cut earlier in the year and left to dry. We haven’t lit the woodstove yet, but I dug out the winter quilt.

That was a month ago. After a very brief rainy interlude, it was back to summer again. On recent evenings it’s still been 20°C at 10pm with the yurt roof open to clear skies and the garden is showing few signs yet of slowing down for winter. If anything, we have more peppers and tomatoes coming on now than we did in August and September.

The yurt terrace vegetable garden at the beginning of October

The yurt terrace vegetable garden at the beginning of October