Quinta do Vale
Quinta do Vale
Details
Commenced:
01/01/2010
Submitted:
02/02/2011
Last updated:
10/12/2015
Location:
Quinta do Vale, Benfeita, Arganil, PT
Website:
www.permaculturinginportugal.net/
Climate zone:
Warm Temperate





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Quinta do Vale

Project Type

Rural, Residential, Demonstration, Educational

Project Summary

Quinta do Vale is a family-run permaculture smallholding of around 2.5 hectares in the mountains of Central Portugal. It's in the early stages of transformation from a somewhat neglected traditionally-cultivated farm to a permaculture demonstration and education site to include water-retention landscaping, forest gardens, no-till raised beds, medicinal gardens, off-grid renewable power generation, waste recycling, indigenous forest restoration, natural buildings, passive solar greenhouses and various land-based crafts.

Project Description

Quinta do Vale

Our steeply-terraced mountainside land presents some challenging constraints to permaculture landscaping and design so our particular emphasis is on designing to the existing microclimatic variations across the site. The site has a range of different aspects and habitats to work with, natural springs and, generally, year-round running water. Many fruit and nut trees/shrubs are already established and these plantings will form the basis of forest garden-style cultivation designed to improve soil health, water retention and fire resistance as well as provide eventual self-sufficiency in food.

Quinta do Vale

We are close to the reserva biogenética Mata da Margaraça, an indigenous forest reserve of various oaks, sweet chestnut, wild cherry, hazel, holly and their associated shrubs and understorey, and will be using this as the basic model for the gradual replacement of what is presently flammable, dry and impoverished pine and eucalyptus plantations above the cultivation terraces. We have enough forest land to be self-sufficient in sustainably-managed timber for building and firewood.

Quinta do Vale

Various natural and traditional techniques are being used in building restoration and new construction, sourcing many of our materials on-site. Work is sympathetic to the unique traditions of the region.

In new construction we will be using a wide range of natural building techniques: roundwood timber framing, cob, straw-bale and lime and earthen plasters.

Quinta do Vale

We're exploring a more distributed, decentralised concept of 'house' here. The communal/social functions of a home are grouped together in one building, but the more private spaces like bedrooms, bathrooms, studios, etc, are/will be dotted all over the land in the form of small natural buildings and more temporary/seasonal structures. Essentially the whole farm becomes part of the 'house'. The aim here is to introduce greater flexibility in our accommodation, to create synergistic relationships between rooms - like a bathroom-greenhouse combination - and to blur the conceptual separation between 'home' and 'out there' until eventually it ceases to exist. This arrangement also allows us to accommodate volunteers, interns, course and workshop participants as the quinta moves into its planned demonstration and education phase.

Quinta do Vale

We are off-grid with hydro and solar power generation. The hydro component, an overshot water-wheel, is a locally designed and built system which provides our winter power.

We use composting toilets, both dry and flush (using vermicomposting for the latter), and integrate grey water treatment into cultivation.

We will also be exploring and developing the use of homeopathy in agriculture as well as cultivating a medicinal garden.

Quinta do Vale

We plan to move into demonstration and education as it becomes realistic to do so. Right now, our efforts are going into getting ourselves established on the land, clearing and remedial work on existing plantings, extending plantings and increasing species diversity, implementing various water retention strategies including digging ponds and swales, assembling our basic infrastructure, building renovation and construction, and building raised beds for food cultivation.

We're now in a position to accommodate a limited number of volunteers.

Quinta do Vale

Updates

Swales

The development of a chinampa-style system of pond-fed mini swales on the lower main terrace of our mountainside land.

Posted about 2 years ago (0 comments)

Yurt makeover

The yurt has been my home for 5 years now. It’s stood up to the extremes of Portuguese weather reasonably well, but the straps securing the covers rotted. It was time to replace them and come up with a better idea.

Posted about 2 years ago (0 comments)

Sourdough bread

After accidentally discovering natural sodas, I’ve been keen to explore natural fermentation more. Sourdough bread was an obvious development. I already bake most of the bread eaten here and like to have a variety.

Posted about 2 years ago (0 comments)

Refrigeration

Various solutions to efficient, low or zero-energy refrigeration on the quinta.

Posted about 2 years ago (0 comments)

A portable rocket stove

How to construct a small portable rocket stove out of some junk.

Posted over 2 years ago (0 comments)

We are crowdfunding!

Crowd sourcing financing to finish the main building which will become the education facility on the quinta, and supporting the local off-grid community in the process.

Posted over 2 years ago (0 comments)

Completion of vermicomposting flush toilet

The completion and commissioning of this system which uses tiger worms to process sewerage.

Posted over 2 years ago (0 comments)

Waterworks completed

The completion of the main 18,000-litre water storage and distribution system for the quinta.

Posted over 2 years ago (2 comments)

Wood-burning masonry cookstove

The construction of a small masonry cookstove from adapted open source designs.

Posted over 2 years ago (0 comments)

Grey water processing greenhouse continued

The next phase of building on the timber-framed greenhouse extension on the main building.

Posted over 2 years ago (0 comments)

Grey water processing greenhouse

The start of a timber-framed greenhouse extension on the main building which will process grey water through a growing bed.

Posted over 2 years ago (0 comments)

Earthen floor for the bathroom

The completion of the cob bathroom on the site with the installation of the earthen floor

Posted over 2 years ago (0 comments)

Waterworks

The beginnings of the water storage and distribution system for water supply to the buildings and irrigation to the entire farm.

Posted over 2 years ago (0 comments)

A flushing compost toilet

Creating a composting system for a flush toilet based on vermicomposting.

Posted about 3 years ago (0 comments)

Catch the rain

The creation of storage tanks out of recycled IBCs for rainwater collected off the roof of one of our buildings.

Posted about 3 years ago (0 comments)

Clay plastering

There has been so much going on – and ongoing – this summer, I’ve fallen way behind in recording it all. But having written about our earthen plaster recipes in July, it’s about time I posted what we’ve done with them so far.

Posted about 3 years ago (0 comments)

Solar water heater

A simple, cheap and effective solar water heater for the cob bathroom on the quinta.

Posted about 3 years ago (0 comments)

Cob and earthen plaster recipes

Recipes for the cob and earthen plasters we've used in natural building construction and renovations.

Posted about 3 years ago (0 comments)

Crook chook

Natural remedies for a sick hen

Posted about 3 years ago (0 comments)

Cob bread/pizza oven

The creation of a cob oven as part of the construction of an outdoor kitchen attached to one of our buildings.

Posted about 3 years ago (0 comments)

Building renovation - another roof

Part of our evolving strategy to keep rainwater runoff out of our buildings naturally which, as they are cut into solid bedrock, presents some challenges.

Posted about 3 years ago (0 comments)

Finally the new log store

Having set out to replace the log store last year - and ending up building a cob bathroom in the process - we finally completed the job.

Posted about 3 years ago (0 comments)

On rocket stoves …

It seems rocket stoves are as much part of the natural building vernacular as glass bottles in cob walls, but theory is one thing, practice another. With a big push on the main building planned for this year, it was time to start experimenting.

Posted about 3 years ago (0 comments)

Cob bathroom – finally the cob!

The bathroom has a post and beam construction so the cob walls are actually the last thing to be built. With winter fast approaching, we completed them inside a month.

Posted almost 4 years ago (0 comments)

Cob bathroom build - the plumbing and electrics

Details of the heating and lighting in our cob bathroom construction.

Posted almost 4 years ago (0 comments)

Alambique

Construction of a variation on a cob oven to run a pot still.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Vindima

Grape harvest and winemaking from old traditional varieties of grape on the quinta.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Cob bathroom

The construction of a cob bathroom on the quinta.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Tomatoes at the edge

Leaving tomatoes to grow naturally off the edges of terrace walls instead of stringing them up on supports proves very successful.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Growing ponds

A small expansion of about 1,000 litres’ capacity gives us a much deeper section to the top pond, as well as increasing the amount of bank in contact with water and allowing us to extend the growing area.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Rainwater harvesting

Work starts on excavating the site for a ferrocement water tank which will store rainwater harvested from the roof of the main building.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Evaporative refridgeration

An experiment to see if clay bricks or 'tijolos' with sand-filled cells could work in the same way as pot-within-a-pot coolers. They don't!

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Making lime putty

We will be using lime putty to make mortar and plaster for various uses in building renovation, but the longer it matures, the better it gets so I made some well in advance of being needed.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Mega mulching

The initial applications of straw/hay mulch on the raised beds were very successful, so I am now incorporating layers of comfrey leaves beneath the surface straw/hay.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Installation of a living roof

The rear roof extension to the main building, constructed to prevent water running into the building, is turned into an extensive living roof.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Let there be light!

Inspired by YouTube videos of PET bottle lighting, we have installed them in the rear roof of the main building.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Transplanting olive trees

We have very few olive trees. Not enough for self-sufficiency, so it's always been the plan to increase the number. An olive grove being dug up further up the mountain gave us the opportunity to see how well a couple of mature trees would transplant.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Water of life

Finally some Spring rain gives us some relief from the drought. Spring plantings and provisional assessments of the success of the Hügelbeets.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Room at the back

Construction of a living roof at the back of the main building as part of a strategy to stop rainwater runoff running down the bedrock into the back of the building.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

More ponds ... and drought

We have been digging ponds to retain water for longer in its passage through the quinta. Not just for irrigation, but to increase the range of environments we have for growing and to support a range of wildlife.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

New fruit terraces

It’s been the plan this winter to extend the growing areas and to clear them of nettles, brambles, couch grass, bracken, etc, before planting a lot more trees, shrubs and fruit bushes.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Chicken compound

The chicken suite is now complete: coop, permanent compound and tractor.

Posted about 4 years ago (0 comments)

Geodesic dome chicken tractor

The quest for a lightweight chicken tractor for putting the chickens to work on the quinta.

Posted almost 5 years ago (0 comments)

Chicken quarters

It’s been the plan from day one to keep chickens, though it’s taken rather more days than that to get around to it. Keeping chickens is one thing. Exactly how to keep them is another. Free range? Tractor? Permanent pen?

Posted almost 5 years ago (0 comments)

Woodwork

Work has started on woodland clearing and diversification, turning the monoculture of Maritime pines we inherited with the quinta into a more biodiverse, edible and less flammable forest.

Posted almost 5 years ago (0 comments)

Hydropowered

After 2 years of tinkering and a lot of ups and downs, our water wheel is finally able to charge the batteries. And this despite the failure of the winter rains to so far materialise.

Posted almost 5 years ago (0 comments)

Seed saving gets political

Saving seed to plant next year with enough over to share with friends and neighbours could soon be literally illegal. Technically, in Portugal it already is.

Posted almost 5 years ago (0 comments)

Pond expansion

As mentioned at the end of the recent post on the ponds, I wanted to make the top pond larger and deeper to provide more variety in aquatic environment and a larger area of water around and in which to grow.

Posted almost 5 years ago (0 comments)

Making yoghurt

How to make yoghurt with a cool box, some insulation, a hot water bottle and a cat.

Posted almost 5 years ago (0 comments)

Ponds

I have been thinking for a while now about ways to retain water for longer in its passage through the quinta. Not just for irrigation purposes, but to increase the range of environments we have for growing and to support a greater diversity of wildlife.

Posted about 5 years ago (0 comments)

Pine wilt nematode

Pinewood nematode, pine wilt nematode, pine wilt, pine wilt disease … all names given to the disease affecting rapidly growing numbers of the Maritime pines (Pinus pinaster) which form the vast bulk of Portugal’s forests.

Posted about 5 years ago (0 comments)

October garden

On recent evenings it’s still been 20°C at 10pm with the yurt roof open to clear skies and the garden is showing few signs yet of slowing down for winter. If anything, we have more peppers and tomatoes coming on now than we did in August and September.

Posted about 5 years ago (0 comments)

Mangelwurzels

Mystery beet seedlings from the market grow into something surprising ... and surprisingly good.

Posted about 5 years ago (2 comments)

Companion planting update

In a previous post, I described what happened with my inadvertent experiment with lovage (Levisticum officinale) as a companion plant. Now there's a new twist.

Posted about 5 years ago (0 comments)

Vegetable garden update

A good rain and a few cloudy days have completely revitalised the vegetable garden, emphasising again that adequate watering and shading are keys to successful growing here.

Posted about 5 years ago (0 comments)

Stone steps

The terraces on this quinta are well connected by sloping ramps and dozens of schist stone staircases, but the route we use most frequently between yurt and car has, until now, involved a scramble up a slope using damson trees as handrails.

Posted about 5 years ago (0 comments)

Flower power

One of the most rewarding aspects of starting to explore polyculture and companion planting in the new raised beds have been the effects of growing flowers – both ones we’ve planted and ones that grew themselves – amongst the vegetables.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

New floors

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.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Solar-heated outdoor shower

The solar heating system first put together in May proved workable so all that remained was to construct a shower cubicle. This was done with a stone floor and walls woven from bamboo and acacia.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Stairs

After a break of the best part of 3 months, we’ve been able to start work on building renovations again. The first priority is to complete the roof of the larger building, and to do that, we need to work on the external staircases.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Companion planting

Some sources says Lovage (Levisticum officinale) is the magic bullet of companion planting, others that it's allelopathic. Who's right and who's wrong? Or is there more to it?

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Everything's coming up vegetables

Luciousness and deliciousness as the vegetable gardens start to yield fruit.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Yurt shading

It’s not rain that’s the problem when it comes to living in yurts in this climate, it’s the sun. The sun rots the canvas covers, and under the glare of the Portuguese summer sun, even a heavy 12oz canvas cover like ours will only last 2-3 years ...

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Blighted potatoes

The recent untypical weather patterns have been wonderful for bringing the garden on. Wonderful for bringing on the various fungal diseases that thrive in warm, damp, humid conditions too …

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Solar water heating: part 1

The first part of a solar water heating system to provide hot water for showers and living accommodation is under construction.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Hamish

A very special individual joins our project ...

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Stopping for breath

With daily attention inevitably circling around all that still needs to be done to convert this land into a fully productive, self-sufficient and sustainable source of food and shelter, sometimes it’s good to stop for a breath or two.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Plumbing

Water coming out of a tap into a kitchen sink. A very ordinary photo of a very ordinary process. But when your water supply has been fetched by the bucketful from the nearby waterfall for the last year, it's a little less ordinary.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Strawberries

Discovering patches of ripe strawberries you’d almost forgotten you planted just has to be one of the greatest pleasures of growing your own! Somehow it’s even better than picking them from the beds you’ve carefully sown and nurtured.

Posted over 5 years ago (2 comments)

Grapeleaf blister mite

This is what damage by the grape erineum mite or grapeleaf blister mite, Colomerus vitis, looks like. We're using canopy management to deal with grape diseases rather than spraying.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Roundwood framed outdoor dining table and seats

Making an outdoor table with integral bench seats from roundwood poles and lashing.

Posted over 5 years ago (1 comments)

Polyculture planting schemes

This year’s plantings in our newly-created raised beds and Hügelbeets are the beginnings of a bigger, more diverse, species-rich and permanent scheme with more forethought and long term vision than our temporary military-style vegetable plot of last year.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Housework

Both buildings on the quinta are being worked on at the moment. A while ago we fitted chestnut doors and windows to the smaller building, and today it got a new roof.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Slugging it out

One of the main downsides to using mulch on beds is that it provides an optimum environment for the slugs. With our present duck deficiency, I have been trying a few other natural methods for slug control.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Bamboos

If the potatoes are behaving as if they’re on steroids, you can almost see the bamboo growing.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Potatoes on steroids

Or so it seems. I'm having to add a new layer to the potato box every 4 days. And this even before they had their first dose of nettle liquid plant food that has been fermenting in a barrel for them and the tomatoes …

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Lowering poles

With all this raising, there had to be some lowering. Balance … Specifically, the old electricity pole right by the larger of the two buildings on the quinta.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Still more raised beds

Raised bed building is almost complete now, and planting well under way.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

More raised beds

Having completed the raised beds on the yurt terrace, I’ve moved on to the terrace immediately below the larger of our two buildings.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Potato bin

Ever since first reading about cultivating potatoes vertically rather than horizontally, I’ve been wanting to try this, so in between planting trees and raising beds, I also made a raised potato bed.

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Plant trees ...!

The urge to plant trees has been so strong recently I've even been dreaming about it night after night. So we've been busy getting the transition of part of the farm to forest garden underway. But then something different turned up ...

Posted over 5 years ago (0 comments)

Beds raised, and Springing things

Spring is finally in the air after some welcome rain and our new raised beds are almost ready for their first growing season.

Posted almost 6 years ago (3 comments)

Never count your chickens before they are hatched ...

... or your alternators before they're run in. Another setback for our experimental water wheel power generation project. The new permanent magnet alternator shipped all the way from the US is a big disappointment. But we are not deterred!

Posted almost 6 years ago (2 comments)
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