Permaculturing in Portugal

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

Strimmers at 6am

No longer just the dulcet and idiosyncratically erratic tones of Benfeita’s church bells to wake us in the morning. It’s crazy buzzing 2 strokes revving around the valleys from first light. Some unseasonal downpours have meant that everything is growing with amazing vigour and terraces that were cleaned only a few weeks ago are having to be done again already. As for terraces that were last cleaned in April, well …


So much for fond imaginings that a sickle or two would be sufficient! (Though once we’re here all the time, it may be a different matter.) I caved in and visited the agricultural implement shop in Coja and am now the owner of a suitably efficient machine. So it’ll be 6am risings and weird vibrating hands for me for the next few days to get the terraces clear enough to be able to start work on the yurt platform.

There’s something unpleasantly brutal about strimmers though, aside from their dependence on fossil fuels. We have such a beautiful and wide selection of wildflowers on the quinta that it seems almost criminal to hack them to shreds in this way. But they’ll grow again, and for now we have building work to do. Wildflower meadows can come later.

The wood is arriving today and we’re away to collect some used tyres tomorrow which will, when packed with earth, form the pillars on which we’ll build the yurt platform.

But for now it’s too hot to do anything except mosey on down the hill to the village where the café is in full swing, complete with rap soundtrack and power for computers plus wireless broadband laid on, and the river beach is just over the road.

Benfeita café

How about this for a workstation to do your daily stuff on the internet while the kids cool off in the river? The computer’s not quite so keen though and probably wishes it could join them, but the fans seem to be coping.

Benfeita café wireless internet

10am is about the limit for physical work in this heat, at least until I get a bit more accustomed to it. I was really pleased to discover that the site I picked for the yurt is still in shade at that time. Our tent though — a big old family-sized ‘cottage’ frame tent — is among the olive trees facing east overlooking the village and by 8.00am is already getting too warm for comfort. We might have to do some serious measuring to see if there’s anywhere else level enough to pitch it that isn’t so warm, but the size of the thing means we’re a bit limited to the terraces that are wide enough. More incentive to get cracking on with the yurt platform.

We’ve arrived too late for most of our cherries and the birds have had most of them, but we were able to find a few which, together with some strawberries from our patch, made for a brilliant breakfast.

Cherries and strawberries

Yesterday we got to witness how easy it is for fires to start in this forested region. By mid afternoon, some thunderclouds had built up and by 3pm the lightning was forking its way spectacularly down into the valley. As we drove to Coja to buy the strimmer, we saw smoke coming from the nearby hills and it wasn’t long before a helicopter flew over carrying a pod of water and the bombeiros from as far away as Oliveira do Hospital raced past hot on its heels.

All this talk of fires … time for the river.

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  1. sophie June 19, 2009

    i hate strimmers, much prefer scythes. but seeing as i don’t have the energy to use either … i get to listen to the horrid buzzing. at least most of our land can be cleaned with only the gentle sound of horses munching!

  2. michelle June 19, 2009

    thanks for more pics-strawberries are my favorite fruit so wish I was helping you eat them!Its amazing how much the land has regrown again in so short a time.Say hi to the twosome ,hot they manage to keep cool

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