Latest news from the quinta

June 27th, 2017. 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

We're just learning that the fires around Pedrógão Grande and Góis which started at the weekend and are still burning have been classed as Europe's first natural firestorm. A local ex fire chief said he's seen nothing like it in 30 years of fire fighting. The proximate cause being given for the fire was a lightning strike during a thunderstorm without rain, but the real cause is no natural disaster. This was a 100% man-made accident waiting to happen.

The forests covering this area are plantations of pine and eucalyptus. Both species have a fire ecology. In other words, they've evolved with fire and use fire to reproduce. You can't grow these trees and NOT expect fires! During drought conditions and high temperatures, these forests give off volatile oils which form an explosive mixture which only takes a spark to ignite.

Even in less incendiary conditions, these species foster a dry sclerophyllous forest ecology with equally flammable understorey. Such forests transpire much less water than broadleaved deciduous woodland. This in turn means less rain. Which in turn means a drier environment. It's a vicious circle.

As Ernst Götsch so succinctly said, "A chuva, é preciso plantá-la!" Rain must be planted.

This photo graphically shows the difference between what happens in a forest fire to trees which have evolved to burn fast and furious and those which haven't. Study it closely. Even allowing for the possible intervention of the bombeiros to save the house, it still tells a very clear story. No further comment is really needed.
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Were just learning that the fires around Pedrógão Grande and Góis which started at the weekend and are still burning have been classed as Europes first natural firestorm. A local ex fire chief said hes seen nothing like it in 30 years of fire fighting. The proximate cause being given for the fire was a lightning strike during a thunderstorm without rain, but the real cause is no natural disaster. This was a 100% man-made accident waiting to happen.

The forests covering this area are plantations of pine and eucalyptus. Both species have a fire ecology. In other words, theyve evolved with fire and use fire to reproduce. You cant grow these trees and NOT expect fires! During drought conditions and high temperatures, these forests give off volatile oils which form an explosive mixture which only takes a spark to ignite.

Even in less incendiary conditions, these species foster a dry sclerophyllous forest ecology with equally flammable understorey. Such forests transpire much less water than broadleaved deciduous woodland. This in turn means less rain. Which in turn means a drier environment. Its a vicious circle. 

As Ernst Götsch so succinctly said, A chuva, é preciso plantá-la! Rain must be planted.

This photo graphically shows the difference between what happens in a forest fire to trees which have evolved to burn fast and furious and those which havent. Study it closely. Even allowing for the possible intervention of the bombeiros to save the house, it still tells a very clear story. No further comment is really needed.

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Are the eucalyptus trees introduced from Australia? I live in Australia and this is a sad, common sight. I believe that the eucalyptus tree was introduced to Sicily because it fast growing. Was it the same for Portugal? A year ago I was a fleeting visitor to Portugal. These fires have been devastating and such an incredible loss of life. I weep. Methinks we interfere with nature a little too much. :(

Thinking of you and your community - and especially of the wonderful place you've developed in nature.

Grown in Portugal for toilet paper.....

Well written...Tougher fire prevention legislation needs to be implemented on land owners and growers as a matter of urgency

What a great picture to make the point ! Hopefully we will learn !

Najib A Daghistani

I agree that pine and eucalyptus are very flamable, especialy eucalyptus, but that spot is clearly farmland, not forest, its has defenses. Oaktrees also burn if in abandoned forest...

In this petition we are trying to stop eucaliptus plantation. I guess only portuguese citizens can sign, as it needs an ID number. Please consider signing and sharing: peticaopublica.com/pview.aspx?pi=revogaeucalipo

Sepp Holzer would agree. Portugal needs to rethink its nature.

This just posted by someone in one of the evacuated villages ... "A minha família está bem, todos os animais e as casas estão a salvo dos incêndios como por milagre. Infelizmente outros não tiveram a mesma sorte que nós. Obrigado a todos pelas carinhosas mensagens de apoio. Foram dias terriveis com o coração nas mãos. Espero sinceramente que esta tragédia traga grandes mudanças no nosso país para que não se repita no futuro. As vidas humanas e não-humanas não voltam mas a floresta original de carvalhos e castanheiros pode voltar a crescer. Não aos eucaliptos."

Prakash Filippo Basso - something for PCAP and PROUT to seriously consider!

Sulekha Baba - here is a good explanation :-(

Žmergo Udruga - i ovo je jako, jako lose :-(

YES! Rain has to be planted!!

Lá está o ordenamento florestal do país adiado durante décadas pelos nossos maravilhosos políticos...

Posso partilhar?

Great picture mainly because of its meaning

There is a house on it so it is waterbombed which also leaves that area untouched. My friends house looks the same: little green oasis in the midst of ashes but it's just because their house and land around it was watered extensively. Also these trees would have burnt in a fire like this as they do here in spain where we don't have eucalyptus. Though it is absolutely true it burns slower it would be a lie to tell ppl this green oasis is just because these type of trees don't burn.

O adiamento nunca foi em vão, digamos, por esquecimento. A real causa do adiamento é o que lhes é pago para que se 'esqueçam'.

Raquel Proença de Figueiredo

Es una pena que en la cornisa cantábrica se hayan talado bosques de robles y castaños para reemplazarlos por eucalipto o pino, crecen más rápido y por lo tanto dan más dinero. Al final... Todo es negocio!!

Foto bem elucidativa! Obrigada

Vou partilhar, obrigada.

Even if you say some truths about eucaliptos and pine, if the fire was so strong and fast like people have described its not a couple of different tree and species that will stop it. Only a drop of temperature or no trees. This type of fire causes it self wind and dries everything around. I don't believe it was just a couple of trees stoping that house from burning

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This album features images of Quinta do Vale's vermicomposting flush toilet system and other systems which have been modelled on it and built with my help. I teach workshops on the system from time to time so lots of the images are from the workshops. Much more detail about this is on the website created specifically for vermicomposting flush toilets - www.vermicompostingtoilets.net ... See MoreSee Less

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This album features images of Quinta do Vales vermicomposting flush toilet system and other systems which have been modelled on it and built with my help. I teach workshops on the system from time to time so lots of the images are from the workshops. Much more detail about this is on the website created specifically for vermicomposting flush toilets - http://www.vermicompostingtoilets.net

I don't suppose this one really needs a caption ... ... See MoreSee Less

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I dont suppose this one really needs a caption ...

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Yummy

MMM redcurrants, I don't have any of those here

<3

Couldn't identify the 2 larger shiny red berries? Otherwise 'Bon Appetite'. 😋

Loving the difference a greenhouse makes. These were planted as seedlings just 3 weeks ago and already I have cucumbers almost ready to harvest! ... See MoreSee Less

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Loving the difference a greenhouse makes. These were planted as seedlings just 3 weeks ago and already I have cucumbers almost ready to harvest!

Comment on Facebook

Impressive 😊

amazing

Extraordinary, you will need extra hands, just too keep up. 😅

The Catalpa I planted by the upper ponds is in flower for the first time. ... See MoreSee Less

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The Catalpa I planted by the upper ponds is in flower for the first time.

Harvesting redcurrants. By the time the bowl was full it amounted to 5kg. And that's just from one bush which still has more to be picked. This lot is on its way to becoming redcurrant cordial. ... See MoreSee Less

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Harvesting redcurrants. By the time the bowl was full it amounted to 5kg. And thats just from one bush which still has more to be picked. This lot is on its way to becoming redcurrant cordial.

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i want it!!!! ;)

Oh beauty! So full of goodness!

By the way, how far apart do you grow your bushes?

I loooove red currant!!!

Sounds lovely

How beautiful! Plentiful and sooo delicious! Mine are still very green.....Are you growing the white ones too? They are even better....

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A message from Dr Vandana Shiva ...Multi-lingual subtitles available On this 5th of June - World Environment Day – Vandana Shiva reminds us that we are part of the Earth, and that we all have ... ... See MoreSee Less

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Thought for the day ... "A chuva, é preciso plantá-la!" ("The rain must be planted!"} Ernst Götsch. ... See MoreSee Less

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Thought for the day ... A chuva, é preciso plantá-la! (The rain must be planted!} Ernst Götsch.

Comment on Facebook

A Chuva, é preciso plantá-la! ;)

Everything in the greenhouse is growing like it's on steroids! ... See MoreSee Less

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Everything in the greenhouse is growing like its on steroids!

Comment on Facebook

Fantastic

Reminds me of butterfly world x

LOVE IT!!!

Amazing

It's berry breakfast time again. With home made raw goats milk kefir. Bliss! ... See MoreSee Less

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Its berry breakfast time again. With home made raw goats milk kefir. Bliss!

Comment on Facebook

local farmer, Ryefield, Tore, told me at the weekend that this is the earliest he has had strawberries for sale in 30 years

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 vermicomposting 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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Waterworks completed

May 1st, 2014. Post by Quinta do Vale

Among many other projects on the go simultaneously last summer was the installation of some water storage capacity and supply lines to the various buildings on the quinta. The design and layout gives a good head of gravity-fed water to all parts of the quinta, and provides buffering for the vagaries of daily stream flow in late summer. The two tanks constructed from pre-cast concrete rings were fairly quick to construct. Finishing them proved more of a problem.

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A wood-burning masonry cookstove

April 26th, 2014. Post by Quinta do Vale

Ach! Where does the time go? I’m so hopelessly behind with blog posts and there are now so many pending I scarcely know where to start. I just checked the last post I made about the outdoor kitchen for the wee house and it was a year ago!

Alongside the cob bread/pizza oven I built last spring (and which is now producing fabulous food), I also constructed a wood-burning masonry cookstove. I found an open source Sketchup model online and adapted it for Portuguese fire brick dimensions.

Sketchup model for wood burning cook stove

This is the adapted model. Click on the image to download the Sketchup file and open in Sketchup (3D modelling software which is free to download). Firebricks are colour-coded for different lengths. You’ll need to be reasonably proficient with an angle grinder (at the least) to build this stove.

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