Permaculturing in Portugal

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


Water coming out of a tap into a kitchen sink. A very ordinary photo of a very ordinary process. But it’s had me shrieking with delight for the best part of the last hour, standing at the sink turning the tap on and off, and and filling all manner of receptacles with water just for the hell of it, all the while giggling insanely. Who would have believed so much fun could be had with a tap and a kitchen sink? If me 5 years ago had seen me now, I would have immediately taken out life insurance and given up the wine.

Water from a tap!

For the last year we have been living in this yurt, our water supply has been fetched by the bucketful from the nearby waterfall and scooped from there to first a plastic washing up bowl, then a kitchen sink (which I got through Freecycle in the UK before we moved with an outside kitchen in mind). The sink had been sitting around for a good 6 months before it occurred to me that it would be so much better than the bowl and I could easily rig up a waste pipe to the vegetable garden. Today I took that one stage further, and as part of sorting out a better irrigation system, I ran a supply to the yurt as well.

It’s all done with garden hoses, a combination of ½” and ¾”, and the other end of the system is just a hose end stuck in the stream and weighted down with a stone, so every time there’s a big rainstorm, the hose will get washed out of position, but it’s a vast improvement on the bucket.

It’s also a vast improvement on the funnel-in-the-waterfall irrigation method for the yurt terrace, and an even greater improvement on the funnel-in-the-stream method for the top terrace since that never had enough head for a decent flow and the funnel was always moving out of place.

I redid the plumbing for the washing machine at the same time. That should work better now too.

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  1. Trumbuctu May 13, 2011

    “Water coming out of a tap into a kitchen sink.” That’s a mirage for us “:)
    We’ve been living with a plastic washing up bowl for the last year too. In fact, the sink was bought and installed just a few week ago. Cant´t wait to see the water running trough the sink and the flowers growing with it. Do you make vegetables irrigation with that water or just flowers?

  2. Quinta do Vale May 14, 2011

    It’s mostly all vegetables. Some fruit. The only flowers we’ve planted are those planted as companions to the vegetables and fruit. Lots of wild flowers. But we don’t have any sort of flower or formal ‘garden’.

  3. Trumbuctu May 14, 2011

    I was asking about the sinking water not the waterfall…

  4. sophie May 14, 2011

    Yippee!! I still marvel at water coming out of an indoor tap and we’ve had it 18 months now – ours even comes out hot in winter and you saw how excited I was about that, wouldn’t let anyone wash up it was so much fun! ;)

  5. Quinta do Vale May 15, 2011

    @Paula – Just as I said … applies to anywhere on the quinta :-) Having seen people growing vegetables very happily with their grey water in Earthships, I’m not overly worried about watering the veg garden this way. Everything we use is natural and biodegradable.

  6. Trumbuctu May 15, 2011

    Oh, ok Wendy “:). I´ve seen that and it´s ok for me too. Just wondering what kind of washing soap to use… one that isn´t too expensive. I´m trying to make my own but didn´t get the right formula yet.

    Thanks for sharing “;)


  7. sophie May 15, 2011

    You can use wood ash for washing up, works very well. Just keep a pot of it next to your sink and dip your cloth or brush into it :)

  8. Trumbuctu May 15, 2011

    That’s what I use for general cleaning. For clothes I use a washing ball in a borrowed washing machine, for now. What I´m trying to make is for dishes “;)
    I´ve already made deodorant and man/woman shaving cream and it works really well. Thank’s Sophie!


  9. sophie May 15, 2011

    Yes, it works for dishes too! x

  10. Quinta do Vale May 15, 2011

    I’m still working my way through the bulk packs of Ecover I got through our local healthfood coop in preparation for our move last year. There was no way I was going to have time to make soaps in the first couple of years here with so much else to do, so it’s one of the many things on the list that follows “Once the house is built and the garden growing and shower built and the soapwort planted and established …”

    Hadn’t heard of using just pure wood ash for dishwashing. That’s ace! Will be trying that out straight away. Thanks Sophie!

    Paula, how do you find the washing balls? I got some before we moved but they’re in a box somewhere with all the rest of our stuff that’s in storage and I haven’t managed to find them yet. Have you published your recipes on your blog?

  11. Trumbuctu May 15, 2011

    I bought the washing ball in Biocoop, Lisbon (they don´t have on line service). Mine is like this one but I don´t know the store, Wendy.

    Yes, I did “:). Here You can pic the Google translator on the blog, although some posts have the link to the source recipe, which are in English. Mine just have slight changes.

    If you get the time try the dishwashing one with Ecover, instead of Castille soap. It works really well and make you save lots of Ecover.


  12. Quinta do Vale May 16, 2011

    Sorry – I should have phrased my question better … do the eco balls work well?

    Thanks for the link! I love how these old recipes are still very much alive in the Portuguese collective memory and can be brought back with such ease! Have you tried the dishwashing one with Ecover already?

  13. Trumbuctu May 16, 2011

    Reading again it was I that misunderstood “:) Yes, they work really well. You don´t get that fragrant smell of common washing powder but clothes get a clean smell. With very dirty clothes I use 20% of detergent.

    Yes, I did try and it worked. I have tried other liquid soaps with no success. Can´t find any castille soap in Portugal, just online, so it´s cheaper with Ecover.

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