Posts Tagged ‘quinta’

Stumbling across a bit of quinta history

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

While idly Googling around, as you do (or at least as I do), for interesting snippets of online information about the Serra do Açor, I somehow stumbled on a photograph of Quinta do Vale as it was 5 years ago on April 17 2004, snapped during a weekend hike by a member of the Associação para a Defesa do Vale do Bestança on their way along the track towards the path up to Pai das Donas.

The quinta in April 2004

Vegetables growing on the fruit terraces and lots of equipment in the house.

It underlines how fortunate we’ve been to find somewhere that hasn’t been badly neglected for a number of years (though I’m guessing it probably also means a fair few chemical residues in the soil).

A snake in the grass

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Yesterday I met my first Portuguese snake. Nearly tripped over it as I walked past the tent. It was just sitting there (if snakes can be said to sit), I guess investigating this strange new thing in its territory. When I appeared it lifted its head and tasted the air and I circled around it to get a good look. Plainly it seemed to feel that moving away wasn’t its best strategy for that moment because it wasn’t showing any signs of heading off anywhere. So we had a stalemate because I wasn’t going to move either until I made sure it had cleared off without going into the tent.

By the time this had lasted a good five minutes, I was beginning to think of going back to the car for the camera, but didn’t quite trust it not to move into the tent in the meantime. Rattling the car keys got its attention but it didn’t like them too much — hissed and raised its head ready to strike — but I found after a while that walking off while rattling the car keys would induce it to follow so off we went, me rattling car keys, snake following, until it got suddenly bored with the whole game and took a detour into a ditch.

It was only afterwards as I continued walking back up to the house that I realised I’d had my mobile phone + camera in my pocket the whole time. D’oh …

Here’s what it was — a Ladder snake, Elaphe (Rhinechis) scalaris. According to this site, they average about 4 feet long. This one was only half of that.

Ladder snake, Elaphe scalaris

Getting civilised

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

If there’s one thing I’m quickly learning about life here, it’s that you just have to go with the flow. Looking around the quinta at everything that needs doing I scarcely even know where to start — some brambles here, some bracken there … but aching muscles too accustomed to shoving no more than a mouse around all day are forcing me to slow down, just be with the land, settle in, inch a few root hairs into the soil. The soil smells delicious. The taste of the water is wonderful and has an energy and vitality to it that only water that hasn’t been killed by chemicals has.

After 3 days of trying to cram an ever increasing number of bits and pieces into the tent, I woke up this morning and moved up to the house, cleaned the dust, maize stalks, olive pits and eucalyptus leaves off the old table and set up a kitchen. With coffee on the brew, fresh orange juice to hand, and this for my morning view, I’m seriously wondering what else I need.

Morning view


Back again!

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

This is the second post coming from Quinta do Vale! To be precise, the middle terrace next to the waterfall from inside a £28.99 (Halfords sale) 2-person tent with one person (and a laptop) in it. (The children have gone to their paternal grandparents for a week, so I took this opportunity to come out and take delivery of our yurt plus all manner of tools and gardening equipment shipped out from the UK by the intrepid and very excellent Fred and Nancy Morris.)

Yesterday it rained quite a lot, which is when I discovered that you get what you pay for in terms of tents. Still, the leak wasn’t too bad. My sleeping bag only got a bit wet. The fact that I’d bought myself a bottle of vinho tinto to toast my first night on the quinta and failed to also buy a corkscrew didn’t really seem to matter. I had enough thermals, etc, to keep me warm enough through the night, so all is well and this morning I woke up to this.

Kind of says it all really.


Our virtual escritura

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

I guess for anyone well accustomed to video conferencing this sort of thing is a yawn, but for us, and probably a fair proportion of those present, completing the purchase of a property via the internet is an odd sort of event. To be simultaneously ‘present’ in two places over 1,000 miles apart was a bizarre experience.


Winter do Vale

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

One of the images from our recent visit which captures the quinta pretty much in its entirety.

The quinta in winter

Pruning the vines

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

To prune or not to prune …?

Having missed the autumn/early winter vine pruning window, which generally seems to be considered the best time for the job, I’ve been scouring Google, watching locals on their land, asking every fellow grower and permaculturist I’ve come across, and come to the resounding conclusion that, like just about everything else in Portugal, there are as many different opinions as there are possibilities and it’s ultimately down to you to make up your own mind and follow your own instincts for your own land.


1 2 3 testing, testing …

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

This post is the first from Quinta do Vale itself, courtesy of TMN banda larga pré-paga (PAYG 3G mobile broadband) which I’ve brought up here to test. It’s lightning fast. Yeay hey!! Almost as good as our wired service in Scotland. Things are looking better and better.

The terraces were cleaned yesterday. We have terraces we didn’t even know were there! The place looks twice the size and wonderful, even if covered in frost and in shade.