Permaculturing in Portugal

One family's attempts to live in a more planet-friendly way

Extreme weather

People don’t seem very geared up for rain in Portugal, preferring umbrellas to raincoats. It’s not as if the rainfall in Central Portugal isn’t respectable either – the annual average for this area is 1040mm or thereabouts (depending on source). Amazingly, it’s even slightly more than where I used to live in the Scottish Borders. The difference is it falls over an average of 120 days, not 300 or so.

The early part of winter was unusually dry and warm. I had tobacco and freesia in flower in December and nectarines in blossom in January! But with the turn of the year, the rain finally arrived. In early February we had 10% of our annual average rainfall here over the course of one weekend.

The amount of water and the force of it coming down the stream was incredible.

Extreme weather

The water wheel was producing well over 350W. We briefly saw 400W register.

Water wheel charge controller

The water wheel charge controller registering 373W

Extreme weather - water wheel chute under large amounts of water

Then the flange at the end of the chute, which forces the water down onto the wheel when there’s a lot of water coming down, was blown right off (in the image above it’s still in place). Not that it really mattered – the wheel was still producing more power than I could use.

This was also when I discovered the underground channels which take water from terrace to terrace had got blocked by the willow tree roots on the yurt terrace again (it last happened 4 years ago) so I had a river running through the yurt porch.

Surface overflow from blocked channels

The channel by the willow tree is about 1m down and almost impossible to access without major earthworks. It was only recently we managed to get the water running through it again. Big thanks to Duncan, who was the man who got it cleared 4 years ago. (Does he realise he’s now got that job for life?!)

Next winter the willow tree will be pollarded. This will cause the roots to die back. It gives wonderful shade in summer but I think there’s little choice if we’re not to have this problem every few years. The quinta’s various systems for dealing with sudden extreme rainfall need to be working if we’re going to be looking forward to more weather events like this.

All this water has also given me the opportunity to get all the ponds and swales cleaned, fine-tuned and working well. A separate post on that to follow …

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