Latest news from the quinta

August 21st, 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

The quinta's newest family member - Nina the Ninja. ... See MoreSee Less

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The quintas newest family member - Nina the Ninja.

 

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Cats are the best... :-)

Into everything at that age, the vole population will eventually attract him/her as an endless facination... If my feline sisters are any guide? 😋

You went for Nina! 🙂

Awww what a cutie!

Hi Meh 👋

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This year the garden has been stunning. I mean this in the sense of Sheer Total Utter Neglect-ning. I've been concentrating on the greenhouse and building work so decided to let the garden take care of itself. I reckoned it would also be interesting to discover how much drought resilience I've managed to build into the soils. This courgette was discovered in the yurt garden which has received almost zero irrigation for the entire summer. As in I think I've maybe watered it twice. ... See MoreSee Less

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This year the garden has been stunning. I mean this in the sense of Sheer Total Utter Neglect-ning. Ive been concentrating on the greenhouse and building work so decided to let the garden take care of itself. I reckoned it would also be interesting to discover how much drought resilience Ive managed to build into the soils. This courgette was discovered in the yurt garden which has received almost zero irrigation for the entire summer. As in I think Ive maybe watered it twice.

 

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:-)

Kate Brooks

Great! Save the seeds and use them next year! I've seen a guy growing tomatoes with less and less water over time, and now he manages to get tomatoes with basically no water! 😉

Pizza night! And a reluctant farewell and many thanks to Ali Huntley who's been volunteering here the last month and combining it with researching her dissertation on eco-immigration. ... See MoreSee Less

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Pizza night! And a reluctant farewell and many thanks to Ali Huntley whos been volunteering here the last month and combining it with researching her dissertation on eco-immigration.

We've been working through a lot of small jobs recently to get them out of the way before tackling larger ones. The store room in the main building has had a good sorting out, cleaning and limewashing of walls. ... See MoreSee Less

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Weve been working through a lot of small jobs recently to get them out of the way before tackling larger ones. The store room in the main building has had a good sorting out, cleaning and limewashing of walls.

 

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I can't wait to see all done and filled with preserved produce. One day I hope to visit you Wendy :), of course if you don't mined. I can work for my board and food :D

Way up at the top of the pine woodland in this dry and barren forest floor, two chestnut seedlings have sprouted. ... See MoreSee Less

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Way up at the top of the pine woodland in this dry and barren forest floor, two chestnut seedlings have sprouted.

 

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That is wonderful news!

nature is wonderful at bouncing back....

Nature, life will find a way.

And they don't do very well in pinetree woodland, they say...

much safer against forest fires

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It's a good year for apples. These are Braeburns growing on the grey water from the bathroom. ... See MoreSee Less

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Its a good year for apples. These are Braeburns growing on the grey water from the bathroom.

 

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Where did the trees come from?

Are they resistant to Apple-scab (venturia ineaqualis)?

apple year for sure! We so many, in our land there were already some tree, this year we planted some more of royal gala which is my favourite and one of the most appreciated in portugal, but the ones there were already there are regional varieties, camoesa rosa and bravo esmolfe

Our apples (in Matarranya, Aragon, Spain) are doing great as well! We've had more rain than the last few summers too :-)

Lindas beij

Wow!!!

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See what we have done with our love affair with our own cleverness, our straight line thinking, our forgetting how everything is connected and interdependent, our failure in our role as the gardeners of this planet ... Paul Stamets explains the role of decaying natural woodland in the health of bees."Mycodiversity is our biosecurity. Let's celebrate decomposition. Let's let it rot." Paul Stamets, speaker, author, mycologist, medical researcher and entrep... ... See MoreSee Less

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Video image

 

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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.

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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