Permaculturing in Portugal

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

Floorless 2

As well as work on the outside of the larger building, we’ve also stripped out the floor in the left half of the building in preparation for reflooring and started cleaning and preserving the chestnut timbers. We stripped the right side of the building last November and it still hasn’t got its new floor yet … ah well … the best laid plans of mice and (wo)men …

In doing so the building revealed more of its life story: something we hadn’t been aware of until letting all this extra light in.

Back wall of larger building

See the line running diagonally up the back wall from right to centre? It marks a line of different quality stone (and stone building if it comes to that). There’s another one running down again from the hole at the midpoint of the wall as well, though it’s not so easy to see with the light coming through the doorway.

It seems this half of the building started life as a 1½-storey building with an east-west axis double-pitched roof, the gable end facing the village. It was then converted into a 2-storey building with a north-south axis single-pitched roof before an extra back and side wall to the right of it were added with the schist slab roof extended over both structures. All in dry-stacked stone at that. (And dry-stone work with no clay infill either. While I can’t help but admire the skill in its construction, it’s going to be a long time and a lot of barrow-loads of clay before the building is windtight …)

Back wall of larger building

This half of the building is cut more deeply into the bedrock, which reaches most of the way up the back wall of the downstairs room and also forms the floor. This room has no windows. It used to house the animals that were kept on the quinta. We are going to make use of this immense thermal mass and use it as a store room for all the produce of the quinta. We’ll be creating an earthen floor to even the surface and for humidity regulation. The underside of the upper floor will also be cork-insulated.

Enclosed half of larger building

Again. we’re able to re-use many of the chestnut timbers that held up the old floor, though there was more water coming in from the roof into the building on this side so roughly 50% of them will have to be replaced.

Looking at the full height of the building with the floors removed, the skill in creating a structure this size purely from stones laid one on top of another with nothing to hold them together never ceases to impress me.

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