Benfeita from Quinta do Vale

About us

We're what might be called (strictly tongue-in-cheek) a 'variable quantity family unit' from the UK, where we lived in a rural community in the Scottish Borders before moving to Portugal.

When we first purchased Quinta do Vale, we were Wendy (mother), Emma, Aonghas and Oonagh (the kids), plus Emma's man Chris. Aonghas sadly left us in November 2009. Emma and Chris married in December 2012 and now live back in Scotland with their daughter, Shyla. Ooni is at college in England.


I grew up on the fringes of a small market town in southern England (now a soulless suburban sprawl) at a time when things like growing all our own fruit and vegetables, keeping chickens, wasting nothing, and living in a house without central heating on which we did all our own maintenance was a perfectly 'normal' and natural way to live. Nobody thought twice about it.

I studied ecology as part of a biology degree at university in the 1970s, but didn't finish. Something essential was missing. I had no sense of what it was at the time, only that being directed away from the big picture into ever more narrow academic specialisation felt instintively wrong and the subject had lost its 'juice'. How could something so lifeless successfully model life?

It's a question that's remained current for me ever since: this mismatch between a view of the world born out of an unattainable construct of 'objectivity' and the experience of life as it's lived. As I went on to work in a number of different areas in the UK, Europe and the United States over the next decades, the urge to play with models and analogies that reflect life more faithfully, completely and dynamically than the ones in which science is so heavily invested (in all senses of the word) was always present. While boring the pants off friends and family for most of the time, it eventually brought me round full circle to the imperative to live in a substantially more sustainable way, working with nature rather than against it.

Our move from Scotland in 2010 to take on this quinta full time involves, for me, stripping much of a lifetime's learning, experience and discovery down to an ever more simple and practical conception of life. At the end of the day, even the most comprehensive and grandiose Theory of Everything can only ever hope to sketch the barest outline: not of what's 'out there' but the nature of what it is to be human – simply because all we 'know' is filtered through the subjective experience of life in human form – and that ultimately the greatest thing we can ever learn is just how to get out of our own way.

I love to work with my hands as much as my head. I love to bury my hands deep in the soil and nurture the life in it. I love to work with rocks, stones and wood to realise the forms they want to express themselves in. I love to sit with friends round a table with a good meal and a glass of wine and put the world to rights. I love to sing ...

The kids will, of course, do their own thing. They all made their own decisions to leave the school system well before time and opt for the more self-directed line of life-skills aquisition known as 'home education'.


Wendy and Ema

Wendy and Emma



Ema and Chris

Emma, Chris and Shyla



Aonghas

Aonghas



Oonagh

Oonagh



The cats

And not forgetting the quinta cats ...



The cats

Or the dog


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