This is an invitation to get involved and to participate in the work of the quinta.

Support is not something I’ve ever found easy to ask for, but in the wake of the fires which swept through this quinta and 2,000 square kilometres around it in October 2017, I had little option but to face the necessity of doing so. It was clear giving up and walking away was not an option. My work here is not finished. There was no choice but to step out of my comfort zone, however awkwardly and clumsily, and put the request ‘out there’.

The response has been deeply humbling. The extent of people’s generosity in the two years since has at times bowled me right over. My heartfelt gratitude and thanks go out to all of you. I couldn’t have got this far since without you.

Many people have contributed to the quinta’s recovery (still ongoing) both financially and with their own hands and energy. In the course of this I’ve come to appreciate the extent to which this project is capable of inspiring and involving people in the transformative process necessary to restore life and health to this beautiful planet and our human communities within it.

It’s also brought right home the fact that human communities are no exception to the profound interconnectedness and interdependency of living systems, and that we all thrive in an environment which brings out our sense of relatedness, natural generosity and capacity for cooperation.

Self-sufficiency – at least as it’s commonly conceptualised – is an illusion. It’s not how life works.

But now I come to update this page at the start of a new decade, the word “support” still feels awkward and clumsy. Something about it seems too passive, too unbalanced, and I realise it’s not support I want to ask for.

I want to invite you to participate. Participation is active involvement. It’s community. It’s relationship. It’s reciprocity. It’s cooperative creativity. It feels much more exciting and full of all manner of potential than “support”.

And yes … this page has ended up quite long. I make no apologies for that. Not everything can be developed and fully explained in 1-minute soundbites. At least not if it’s to be any more than cursory and superficial.

This moving video was generously made for the entire community by a passing Belgian filmmaker to help us raise funds to rise from the ashes. Quinta do Vale features. I’m the one with the cats in front of what was the wee house.

Until the fires, the ambition and scale of this project were still relatively modest, even though it had all grown substantially from how I originally conceived our family-scale initiative a decade ago. All the developments here until the fires were funded from my personal savings. The enormous damages suffered in the fires consumed the last of them.

Nothing was insured as I’d been told I couldn’t get insurance on unfinished buildings. Ironically, several projects, like the wee house and the geodome greenhouse, were so close to being finished that less than a month’s work on each would have seen them completed.

But it is what it is. So now we rebuild.

After 18 months of gruelling paperwork, the wee house qualified for support from the EU disaster relief funding provided to Portugal in the wake of the fires. It is being rebuilt. None of the other structures here were eligible. (Or if they were I had so much conflicting advice about them which I couldn’t make head nor tail of I gave up the pursuit out of sheer exhaustion.) This is also the risk with doing something different to what’s considered ‘normal’. You don’t fit into the designated boxes. No box tick, no benefit. But one way or another we will find a way to restore what was lost.

Participate in the feminine as it rises from the ashes. Participate in the community of Life!
(For details of this photoessay, see the bottom of the page. Image © Mizé Jacinto)

And with the rebuilding, I want to feel my way into all the potential ways this project can be in service to the Earth and become more of a nexus to explore and grow the massive changes needed in all aspects of our lives in order for us to transform, in Clare Dubois of TreeSisters words, from “a consumer species to a restorer species”.

My own work here since the fires has taken on a much larger dimension. It became apparent even while the land was still smouldering that this was being called for. It’s no longer about just the quinta and its immediate community. It’s no longer limited to small-scale permaculture. It’s time to step out of all the comfort zones and take this large because there is a real urgency now.

The fires ignited much more than the surrounding landscape. They have ignited a fire in me that goes far deeper, higher and wider than what was burning before.

  • As a woman, my focus is on the need to address our fundamental relationship with this planet, both collectively and individually, and the perspectives that inform it. I want to encourage the strength and power of the feminine in all of us to honour, nurture and care for this magnificent and miraculous living system on which we depend for life.
  • As an ecologist, my focus is on the need for a whole systems approach to solving the systemic crisis in the biosphere which goes far beyond climate change, itself just a symptom of that crisis. I want to encourage the circular systems thinking necessary to restore Earth’s feedback loops and embed the principle of reciprocity and the understanding that, in Janine Benyus‘s words, it’s “Life which creates conditions conducive to life” into all we do.
  • As a designer, my focus is on the need for regenerative strategies based on biomimicry which catalyse real and lasting change by working with natural systems and processes, including the ones governing how we humans function. I want to encourage an awareness of the interconnectedness and interdependency of all living systems and to bring this into every decision we take.
  • As a communicator, my focus is on the need to correct, clarify, distill and potentise the narrative by which we attempt to understand what we’ve done to the biosphere and how we might go about addressing it. I want to encourage a holistic approach to understanding rather than a linear and reductionist one, to embrace the complexity which we all understand to some degree on an intuitive level, and to stimulate discussion and more importantly, effective action.
  • As a cell in the body of the Earth, my focus is on cutting through the cultural illusions which have us behaving like cancer cells, living lives of painful separation from community and purpose, addicted to the endless consumption and self-gratification which is causing so much damage to the planet. I want to encourage the recognition that the solutions to so many of our problems flow from this one foundational principle and that to take our rightful place within the community of Life is to fall deeply in love with the Earth and with Life itself.
This recent article on Medium goes further into the perspective I have on this and how it all fits together.
The need to change our way of thinking to participate in the community of Life

Trying to do all this alone is not only impossible but wholly inappropriate. At the deepest level, this is about letting go of the illusion of the separate self and rejoining the community of Life.

I would like to invite you to join me! To participate in this work in whatever way inspires you. And by whatever way, I mean literally that. Whether it’s coming here to visit, volunteer or learn, sending a donation from afar, or just networking and sharing the work here online, it’s all hugely appreciated. And the possibilities for collaboration are almost endless.

How you can participate

It feels important to clearly state one basic principle right from the start.

This project has never been and will never be run under anything other than a fundamental not-for-profit ethos. There are running expenses to cover, taxes to pay, and volunteers and me to maintain (I’m very low maintenance), but beyond that I have no interest in money. The rewards for me are all in the work and the living itself and almost everything that’s of any real value can’t be bought.

Participate in the synergy rising from the ashes. Participate in the community of Life!
The moment Mizé captured in this image (see bottom of the page for details) was the moment when, amidst the contemplation of all the awful heartbreaking devastation brought by the fires – signified by the black clothes we were wearing – I started to think about what the fires were catalysing within us and the beginnings of a smile are starting to form. This project also took me outside my comfort zone – I don’t much care for being photographed – but it was something I had to do. Image © Mizé Jacinto

Everything I receive over and above these basic expenses will go into developing and improving the facilities here for the quinta to realise its full potential. Courses are – and will be – priced as low as possible in order to make them as accessible as possible. Some events will be run on an expenses-only basis. Wherever possible, opportunities for hands-on involvement in the building of low impact structures and infrastructure will be made available in order to share the knowledge.

As I start feeling my way into what the quinta might become and support, and seeing what materialises out of that vast sea of collaborative potential to guide the process, this section will evolve and change. So please see the following outlines as just the very beginning. Where we are now. More suggestions are very welcome, especially since this area is something I have little experience in or aptitude for!

I anticipate that once the task of seriously redesigning our societies and economies gets underway, better minds than mine will come up with innovative ways we can develop mutuality beyond the scope of our immediate communities under a fundamentally circular principle.

In person

Volunteering, visiting or attending our courses and workshops are some of the simplest and most direct ways of getting involved at the moment.

If you’d like to be kept informed about opportunities at the quinta, whether volunteering or participating in courses, please sign up to our mailing list below. It’s only used once or twice a year at present and that will grow as participation grows, but I promise I will never bombard your inbox!

The possibility to participate through longer-term internships and Erasmus+ is already in development. Get in touch for more details.

I’m very open to the idea of hosting and co-teaching courses and events so long as they are in alignment with the project’s broad-based, practical, regenerative, ecoliterate, solutions-oriented focus.

We can accommodate a maximum of 15 participants camping onsite allowing for the volunteer team running the facilities and kitchen. If participants adopt a cooperative self-catering framework and I don’t have a full complement of volunteers at the time, then we can stretch that to 20.

There is also local Airbnb accommodation and possibilities exist to involve other projects and venues in the area if your ideas are bigger than the quinta can accommodate.

Please note that the quinta is still in recovery mode and facilities are quite basic at this stage. It isn’t a venue for yoga retreats and such like as the physical spaces and facilities aren’t suitable. It isn’t and will never be a ‘glamping’ location. Living close to nature in a low impact way is tough at times. I prefer to keep it real enough not to lose sight of that, with the focus on planetary regeneration.

Online

Whether it’s taking the time to read what will become a growing number of articles on the Medium platform, or keeping up with goings on here through social media, you can also participate online. Facebook is by far the most regularly updated platform. When I remember Instagram, then photos get posted there. Twitter I’m useless at. Occasional videos are uploaded to the project’s YouTube channel. Likewise with images to Pinterest.

If you’re really into any of these platforms, especially the ones I’m pretty useless with, I’m happy to consider the possibility of working together in some way.

I’d also like to explore the potential for using video to a greater extent. I can use the equipment and do basic editing but as always it’s finding the time! If this is your area, I’d be delighted to talk about how we could collaborate.

Get in touch

If you have some ideas about how you’d like to participate and skills you’d like to contribute, please contact me! I am open to literally any idea you might have! The synergy of a shared creative process always seems to result in something so much greater than the sum of its parts and that in itself is always inspiring.

Forging links with colleges, universities, organisations, non-profits, potential sponsors and benefactors, etc, is also an important area of development. Many academic links have already been made, but this is an area I see of increasing importance as the work of the community association we’re forming begins.

Some of us here are in the process of forming an association which will act as an umbrella organisation for all regenerative projects within these valleys, whether environmental, social or economic (see the Community page for more details). Aside from specific projects with defined timelines for completion, individual projects like this one will be able to come in under this umbrella and, together with other similar projects, participate in various programs only available to organisations. Watch this space for developments!

Donate

Supporting the project financially with one-off or regular donations, helping sponsor projects, or participating in crowdfunding campaigns for specific projects is help that’s always super welcome and appreciated.

Sponsorship and promotional opportunities for courses and events can also be explored, as can the potential for sponsoring the development of more facilities here to accommodate and host more people.

If you would like to participate in the work here by donating, you can do so directly. I understand only too well that we all lead busy lives and the balance between time vs resource availability is enormously variable.

Funds can be sent through PayPal to wendy@permaculturingingportugal.net or via this button …






Regular donations can also be set up via PayPal. You’re given the option when you use the button above.

Or you can send directly to my bank account:
NAME: Pauline Wendy Howard
IBAN: PT50 0045 3451 4022 4539 3943 1
BIC/SWIFT: CCCMPTPL
BANK: Crédito Agrícola
BRANCH: Coja

If you’d like to donate to the entire community rather than just Quinta do Vale, the community post-fire crowdfunding campaign is still running. Go here –

Support Benfeita valley community: Crowdfunding to rebuild our homes destroyed in Portugal fire

I look forward to welcoming you on board.


The image at the top of the page and others featured on this page are © Mizé Jacinto. They are from “ONE“, a photoessay on the fires of October 2017 involving women from the burned regions of the Serra do Açor and Pinhal de Leiria. The images are of me and 3 friends, Raquel Perdigão Williams, Rita Martins and Laura Williams. Here we are after the session, L to R – Raquel, Mizé, Laura, Rita and me. And not forgetting Leo.


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