Latest news from the quinta

December 13th, 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

Broad beans (favas) appearing. ... See MoreSee Less

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Broad beans (favas) appearing.

 

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Fertile ash x

Nature`s work ! ;-)

So beautiful. Congratulations. Such strength the plants have. It gives me comfort.

nice! mine are 20cms high now :))

The new solar panels are installed to replace the ones which burned. THANK YOU so much to everyone who contributed to the crowdfunder! This is part of what you've paid for. Yesterday, with 2 weeks to go to winter solstice, they made enough power with just 2 hours of direct sun to take us through 24. And all 6 together cost less than 2 of the original panels installed in 2010. Some things at least have come down in price! ... See MoreSee Less

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The new solar panels are installed to replace the ones which burned. THANK YOU so much to everyone who contributed to the crowdfunder! This is part of what youve paid for. Yesterday, with 2 weeks to go to winter solstice, they made enough power with just 2 hours of direct sun to take us through 24. And all 6 together cost less than 2 of the original panels installed in 2010. Some things at least have come down in price!

 

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So very glad you have solar back :)

Hurray x

May the sun shine upon you !!!! x☀️x

happy to read this :-)

I bloody love this! Really pleased for you x

brilliant Wendy, so glad to hear this Kxxx

Awesome.

So happy you have your solar back x

❤️🙏Love, Light and the Brightest Future to you Wendy xx

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Sunday viewing ...Walter Jehne, former CSIRO Climate Scientist and Microbiologist, founder of Healthy Soils Australia, explains the role of water in climate change and climate... ... See MoreSee Less

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Video image

 

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A burnt pear tree has burst into blossom. Never mind that it's the first of December ... A sign of returning life? Or a last gasp urge to reproduce? ... See MoreSee Less

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A burnt pear tree has burst into blossom. Never mind that its the first of December ... A sign of returning life? Or a last gasp urge to reproduce?

 

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A gift ❤️

Confused

I wonder which one it'll be. Please update when clear 😍

Sadly possibly a last gasp. Suggest you prune it back a bit (while ensuring you keep in the live wood) and take off the blossoms on what remains - don’t let it expend its energy trying to fruit. Gift it some compost around its roots and cross your fingers

Here, prolific fruiting (of any tree) is a stress response. Agree with Fiona, cut back (aggressively), before it wastes any more precious effort.

We have the same happening here (on a plum and a cherry), and seeing these posts we will now take action. Do you think that the age of the trees (perhaps 15 years +) will have any bearing on their chances of survival?

Oh I do hope they survive for you all 🙏❤️

food for the birds and bees in hard times.x

Wonderful Mother Nature x

my apricot and some cherries did similar 3 days ago. Also a few that did not burn! (were in gardens) Took the flowers off cause it takes too much energy..although the bees probably will love it.

Maybe both! It's incredible!

Happens also at my place, but with the trees that were closest to the fire (they are not burnt). To me it seems the heat just triggered their spring genes. Timeline confusion.

🤞🍐

a natureza surpreende-nos .

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Self-mulching forest. The needles are falling now from the dead and burned pines, just in time to protect the blackened soil from rain. ... See MoreSee Less

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Self-mulching forest. The needles are falling now from the dead and burned pines, just in time to protect the blackened soil from rain.

 

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Question: did your red wood survive?

Today we made a temporary roof structure from singed bamboo for the wee house. This supports a tarpaulin to keep rain off the wall heads. With a storm approaching, we only just got it all lashed down by nightfall, but from the noise of the wind outside, I'm not sure how much will be there by morning ... Many thanks to Annie Hamilton-Gibney who drove all the way from Miranda de Corvo just to lend us a hand, a blow torch and a few beers! ... See MoreSee Less

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Today we made a temporary roof structure from singed bamboo for the wee house. This supports a tarpaulin to keep rain off the wall heads. With a storm approaching, we only just got it all lashed down by nightfall, but from the noise of the wind outside, Im not sure how much will be there by morning ... Many thanks to Annie Hamilton-Gibney who drove all the way from Miranda de Corvo just to lend us a hand, a blow torch and a few beers!

Nature is amazing! Before the fires came, this bed was planted up with couves-portuguesas (Portuguese Christmas cabbages), but the fire took them all. Straight away afterwards, these potatoes started appearing (germinating from ones which escaped harvest earlier in the year) and now look at them! ... See MoreSee Less

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Nature is amazing! Before the fires came, this bed was planted up with couves-portuguesas (Portuguese Christmas cabbages), but the fire took them all. Straight away afterwards, these potatoes started appearing (germinating from ones which escaped harvest earlier in the year) and now look at them!

 

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Wow

Love the tenacity of the plant world

Karina Szilagyi we are ON for the winter potato crop attempt!

These are from the potatoes I harvested?? Amazing!!

Fire potatoes ❤️

love to see this!!!

yes nature is a wonder :)

They seem to love alkaline(d) soil after fire

:O i almost believed that cabbages don't burn!

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Clean-up crew. The resident Aussies getting stuck in. Pete and Becky plus kids have been here a while now since before the fires. They were here during the fires, went away for a couple of weeks, then the mad bastards came back again! They've been beyond brilliant helping around the place. There can't be many crazy enough to camp in a 4-man tent on a burned out quinta in November and there's nothing they don't take in their stride. I'm really looking forward to getting into the intricacies of tree-shaping with them once Spring comes around. Check out their website at www.pooktre.com because tree shaping is coming to Portugal! ... See MoreSee Less

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Clean-up crew. The resident Aussies getting stuck in. Pete and Becky plus kids have been here a while now since before the fires. They were here during the fires, went away for a couple of weeks, then the mad bastards came back again! Theyve been beyond brilliant helping around the place. There cant be many crazy enough to camp in a 4-man tent on a burned out quinta in November and theres nothing they dont take in their stride. Im really looking forward to getting into the intricacies of tree-shaping with them once Spring comes around. Check out their website at www.pooktre.com because tree shaping is coming to Portugal!

 

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Hey Aussies 👋 nice to meet you 😄

Shame good to see you guys xxx

A gift xx

Fantastic family hope all is going well, great photo 😍🤗😇

Yayyy! They are made out of the right wood (dutch expression not sure if that makes sense elsewhere ;) Wonderful to have them in the community.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.