Latest news from the quinta

April 17th, 2014. Post by Wendy

This blog tends to feature often lengthy and mostly fairly detailed descriptions of the work here. Shorter updates, anecdotes, comments, photos, links and more get posted to Facebook. Keep up with us directly on Facebook or via the feed below.

Quinta do Vale

Quinta do Vale on Facebook

One of our favourite wild swimming spots further into the mountains. It may only be April and the river much higher than in summer (not to mention freezing cold straight off the mountains), but daughter and boyfriend were not to be deterred. ... See MoreSee Less

2 days ago

Karina Szilagyi, Karen Redpath and 19 others like this

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Michelle Sheridanvery brave!Must be icy cold...do you join them Wendy Howard?1 day ago

Sarah Whiteheadgood god they are brave!!1 day ago

Andrea At CasalinhoAh, to be young! I don't think I'd survive a dunking like that at the moment.1 day ago

Donna RenwickWow looks like a glimpse of heaven2 days ago

Kate MacLeanLooks like my kind of waterhole!2 days ago

Comment on Facebook

The wee house kitchen gets the first serious run through its paces. The new cast iron cooktop on the stove is the man for the job. And roast chicken cooked in the bread/pizza oven has to be tasted to be believed! Moist and smokey with a beautifully browned skin, perfectly accompanied by roast potatoes and sublime buttered asparagus fresh from the garden. Totally stuffed! ... See MoreSee Less

4 days ago

Lovisa Luise Magnúsdóttir, Teresa Carrington and 14 others like this

Bacon Lettuce N WasabiLUSH!!! so the tile didn't cut it eh? looks beautiful!1   ·  3 days ago

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Youngest daughter and boyfriend are visiting. Pizza time!! ... See MoreSee Less

5 days ago

Chille Art, Carlos Bento and 23 others like this

Sarah Whiteheadand photos of the pizza?4 days ago

Ileana BickerLove pizzas!!!4 days ago

Ileana BickerThe best kind of ovens for pizza!!!!4 days ago

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New use for a billhook - the perfect tool for cutting roof rock! ... See MoreSee Less

7 days ago

Paulo Alves, Maria Isa Pereira and 14 others like this

Sarah Whiteheada billhook is a hedging tool, here it's being used as a Zax (slating axe) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billhook1   ·  6 days ago

Rui Amaralem português por favor... :)7 days ago

Christina ToftRui - Novo uso para um billhook - a ferramenta perfeita para cortar pedra de telhado! mais or minus :-)7 days ago

Kit AcottBest thing ever a bill 'ook.x1   ·  7 days ago

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Hmmm ... don't use vine prunings as the chop-and-drop organic material in your swales ... ... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago

Marleen Vanstaen, Sophie Hill and 2 others like this

Sarah Whiteheadi wouldn't use them for anything anyway but what are we looking at exactly wendy?2 weeks ago

Karina SzilagyiOops, duly noted :)1   ·  2 weeks ago

Sarah Whiteheadright o, now i can see that2 weeks ago

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Sigh ... what to do when it's blowing a gale outside? ... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago

Andrea At Casalinho, Sophie Hill and 19 others like this

Clare MonsonThis looks so cosy and welcoming, I'm jealous!! :)1   ·  2 weeks ago

Emma McDonaldOh that meccish <3 home is where the meccish is!2 weeks ago

Kate MacLeancosy!2 weeks ago

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Timber-framed grey water-processing greenhouse – part 2

February 14th, 2014. Post by Wendy

The last post on this build finished with the laying of the chestnut ring beam which forms the base of this sweet chestnut timber frame construction. The next part was to raise the main supporting structure.

Splitting out braces with a small axe

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Fermented citrus enzyme cleaner

January 30th, 2014. Post by Wendy

A few months ago I was talking to a friend at a local market about making my own washing up liquid and the difficulty in getting the balance just right between cleaning power and general user-friendliness. She mentioned a fermented citrus cleaner she makes and sent me the recipe. It sat in my email inbox for months until I caught a cold in early December and got tore into serious quantities of hot lemon and honey drinks. As the lemon rinds began to pile up in the compost bin, I suddenly remembered the cleaner recipe.

Fermented citrus cleaner in various stages of fermentation

Fermented citrus cleaner in various stages. From left to right, lemon citrus after 6 weeks’ fermentation, orange citrus after one week’s fermentation, and a new bottle being filled with orange peel

The fruit I’ve used is all grown here on the quinta, so is about as natural, organic and fresh as it gets. I made two bottles with the lemon peel from the cold remedies, then after Christmas the oranges started coming ripe so the 5th bottle is now on the go.

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A grey water processing greenhouse for the main building

December 7th, 2013. Post by Wendy

Another of this last summer’s principal projects has been restarting work on the main building. After the salutary lesson of the badly-built balcony and trellis, this time there would be no short cuts. We started taking apart the roof of the balcony back in spring to reuse the roof tiles on the wee house roof extension, and as work continued there on the toilet and battery house, we frequently raided the balcony for pieces of chestnut timber for floor and roof joists and for pine planking. So when it was finally time to demolish the balcony at the end of May, there wasn’t a whole lot left to take down.

Demolishing the remainder of the balcony

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Earthen floor for the bathroom

November 24th, 2013. Post by Wendy

The last major job outstanding on the cob bathroom is now complete. The floor. It’s been a slow process, finishing it off between major renovation works on the other two buildings, but slow progress is still progress.

Cob bathroom with its green roof

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October 12th, 2013. Post by Wendy

It took a year, but finally the copper pot-still or alambique I rescued from the scrap man last year and built a cob ‘stoven’ for is all fired up and producing aguardente.

Alambique or pot still

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September 30th, 2013. Post by Wendy

Our water supply on the quinta comes from a stream that runs through it, plus a couple of small springs. When we first moved onto the land we collected buckets from the waterfall, then graduated to hose-piping our water direct from the stream for household use and irrigation.

But 2012 changed all that. We had a very dry summer following 2 years of failure of the winter rains. After diminishing to a mere trickle in February, the water in the stream stopped altogether in late August (the village above us used it all), only starting again when the rains did. I installed a 1,000-litre plastic drinking water tank for our household needs, fed mostly by spring water, leaving the stream for limited irrigation. The vegetable garden coped surprisingly well thanks to a lot of mulch, but we lost all our water-hungry plants like squashes. It really focused my attention on how vulnerable we are to drought. Since then I’ve been planning to build in as much water storage as practicable, and collect water both from the stream and from roof rainwater catchment.

Surveying the quinta for the water distribution network

Surveying the quinta for the water distribution network

This summer, along with all the other projects under way, we’ve been putting in some water tanks. Work has been progressing on a small rainwater catchment system for the smaller of the two buildings here, and also on two much larger tanks which will form the main hubs of our water distribution network, supporting both domestic use and irrigation.

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A flush toilet

September 17th, 2013. Post by Wendy

When I first started planning the infrastructure here, I intended throughout to use Joe Jenkins‘ dry composting toilet system. Beautifully simple and easy to construct and maintain, convenient and portable, no requirement to separate urine from fæces, and an efficient composting system designed for optimum thermophilic decomposition. It’s no wonder Jenkins’ toilets have been dubbed ‘Loveable Loos’. What’s not to like?

Outhouse toilet for the wee house

Many people though are surprisingly squeamish about dry toilets. When I came across Anna Edey’s experiments with vermicomposting in Massachusetts 18 years ago for processing sewerage out of a conventional flush toilet, documented reasonably comprehensively on her website, I was intrigued. The fact that it coincided with us beginning renovations on an outhouse toilet for the wee house (designed to be guest accommodation) seemed fortuitous. The situation of the outhouse was ideal. When we then discovered a nice old ceramic flush toilet bowl still in one piece at the local dump, it seemed to be signalling the perfect opportunity to give this method a try.

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Catch the rain

September 15th, 2013. Post by Wendy

With the addition of guttering to the roofs of the buildings we’re renovating, it’s always been the intention to catch and store the rainwater runoff. It’s at this time of year, when the land is parched and the stream down to its bare minimum, that a few thousand litres can make all the difference. The east side of the quinta furthest from the stream suffers the most. Here it’s so dry it’s been pointless trying to establish new plantings or even dream of growing annuals without installing some sort of irrigation to support them. Long-term, the aim is to grow ground cover plants and shrubs that, over time, will increase the moisture holding capacity of the soil by adding organic material to it, and shading the soil from the harshest effects of the sun, but until we get to that point – and even when we do – water in the summer will be important.

Offloading IBC tanks - or at least attempting to

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Clay plastering

August 30th, 2013. Post by Wendy

There has been so much going on – and ongoing – this summer, I’ve fallen way behind in blogging 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.

Earthen plastering

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Fizz pop

July 28th, 2013. Post by Wendy

Quite by accident, I discovered last year how to make fizzy drinks using natural wild yeasts and have been making them since. The bubbles are small and soft, not large and sharp like those in artificially carbonated drinks. The flavours are wonderful and the drinks incredibly thirst quenching on a hot summer’s day. And they’re ridiculously easy to make.

Elderflower champagne in the making

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