Permaculturing in Portugal

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


We’d been on at Andy & Sophie to come and see our quinta since the day we shook hands on the deal last November. Somehow they were either always too busy, or we were.

But this time it looked like it finally might happen. I’d texted to say there was a possibility I might have the platform ready for the yurt the day they were coming, but I wasn’t putting 2 and 2 together when I got a text from Andy to say 9 of them were arriving with lunch. Expecting only a social occasion, I was even thinking to myself “Damn, well I’ll not get much work done on the platform today then …”

I’d already realised I hadn’t made a big enough wastage allowance in my calculations, so had ordered up a dozen more lengths of flooring in the morning to collect from the woodyard in Coja at 4pm. This was going to eat into my construction time too.

Imagine my surprise when a full yurt-raising team plus dog and children arrived! I felt terrible to disappoint them all, but utterly blown away when everyone just pitched in and helped work on the platform, and even clear terrace walls and strim some of the overgrown terraces, while the children and dog enjoyed the waterfall.

Then Sarah and Blossom joined us bearing cake and camera, so there are even pictures of the event.

I drill, Sophie hammers

I drill. Sophie hammers.

>Teamwork. Amber (hands on hips) directing operations

Teamwork. Amber (hands on hips) directing operations. (And before anyone asks, that’s a doll in the foreground …)

Andy already regretting his comment

Andy already regretting his comment “If only you had a strimmer …”

>Another piece of flooring to be laid

Another piece of flooring to be laid.

Aonghas and I left at 4pm to fetch the extra wood in the hired Renault Clio we’ve been driving this trip. Of course it had to be the case that the lengths of flooring were just that wee bit too long for the car. The guys in the woodyard didn’t seem to foresee a problem and just tied the tailgate down, but the road to Benfeita is not a particularly smooth or straight one and it wasn’t too many jolts and corners before the whole lot started sliding gracefully out from underneath the tailgate, threatening to litter the road behind us.

We came to a halt to reassess. There wasn’t much in the car but assorted children’s clothes (mostly damp), a couple of sturdy Intermarch√© eco-shopping bags and the baling twine the woodyard guys had used to tie down the tailgate, but with the shopping bags and baling twine we managed to create a container to stop the wood sliding out the back and arrived back home exultant (and even in time for a beer with everyone down at the caf√©).

Although I’d already seen community (permaculture and otherwise) in action here in Portugal, it’s been something else again to be on the receiving end of it. The way everyone just comes together and helps out with a happy good humour and heaps of great advice just bowls me sideways again and again. So many thanks again to everyone — that’s to the Quinta das Abelhas crew, their neighbours Anita and Amber, and the travelling family Smudge; Scott, Alice, Isabella, not forgetting Milla the dog.

To come back later to fetch water and find two bottles of fizz lying cooling in the waterfall’s plunge pool is just the icing on an already deliciously rich cake. We’re saving them for when we can really put the yurt up, and hope we’ll have many of the same people around then to share them with.

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