Latest news from the quinta

September 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

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Up in the mountains which touch the stars - the Serra da Estrela - to find some more slate for the roof. ... See MoreSee Less

6 days ago

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Gwendolyn van der Krieken, Caroline Rodger and 23 others like this

Sol Nicolajsenlooove it! missing Portugal today <36 days ago   ·  2
Teresa M. B. McGrathBeautiful6 days ago

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Schist and metal ... just because. ... See MoreSee Less

3 weeks ago

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Praias Fluviais, Cheryl Saucier-Wilson and 23 others like this

Kate MacLeanlove the colours, and the counterpoint of bent metal v. striated stone.and that interfering frond top left!3 weeks ago   ·  1
Karina SzilagyiGorgeous!3 weeks ago
Sol Nicolajsenmmm! yes, like it very much!3 weeks ago

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Daucus carota, wild carrot or Queen Anne's Lace, is everywhere on the terraces just now. Harvested some of the flowers today to make jelly. ... See MoreSee Less

1 month ago

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Michelle Alicould you share the jelly recipe please :)1 month ago   ·  1
Lovisa Luise MagnúsdóttirAre you sure this is Queen Anne's Lace? I always thought it had a tiny purple flower in the middle (my way of distinguishing it) and here I don't see it.1 month ago
Quinta do ValeOK. Here's a rough recipe for the jelly. I actually bottled it in too much of a hurry the other evening (it was late ...) and it's a bit too runny so I'll reboil it and maybe adjust the sugar upwards a bit. To make the infusion ... A well-packed 500ml of Queen Anne's Lace flowerheads, snipped off at the base of the florets Generous 1 litre boiling water Add water to florets and let stand until cool. Strain. To make jelly base ... 800g quinces, washed, quartered and chopped (with skins and cores intact) 1 tsp pink peppercorns Tie quince pieces and peppercorns in jelly bag. Put in saucepan and add water to cover. Boil until quinces are soft and water has turned a nice pink colour, adding more water as necessary to keep quinces just covered. Remove jelly bag. This left me with 1 litre of juice. Combine quince juice with Queen Anne's Lace infusion ( = 2 litres) and the juice of 1 lemon. Shave the rind off the lemon and tie in a piece of muslin to cook in the jelly. Add sugar - the standard proportion is an equal volume of sugar to the volume of fruit juice but I like to try and get away with as little sugar as possible, so my initial quantity was 1.6l of sugar. I'm going to add another 150ml sugar and see if it will set up well enough with that. It's good! The flowery flavours of the quince and the Queen Anne's Lace meld very well together and neither really dominates the jelly so the flavour is quite hard to describe. If you can imagine a quince jelly with the almost resinous aroma of the wild carrot added to the taste, that's as close as I can get. It's a beautiful colour too!1 month ago
Karen Redpathi thought this was one of Emotos beautiful ice crystals when i first caught site of it......lovely1 month ago   ·  1
La BaltasaraJelly? :) really? How? And .. can we do a seed exchange mayb? ")1 month ago
Emma McDonaldSend some stems way x1 month ago

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And still the plums are coming ... 3 bowls this size turned into a dozen bottles of juice today plus enough over to make plum soda as well. And I've barely made an impression on what's still on the trees ... ... See MoreSee Less

1 month ago

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Andrea At CasalinhoIs that your steam juicer photographed Wendy? My plum source dried up before I managed to relocate mine, but really interested to hear how it worked.1 month ago
Michelle Sheridanmm plum soda :) never tried that1 month ago
Veronica Balfour PaulThe brambles are good this year, too. So sweet.1 month ago   ·  1
Karina SzilagyiYou are taunting me, Wendy! Mine are still green :)))1 month ago

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This has been a challenging growing season with all the unusually cool and damp spells. It had to happen sooner or later, I guess, but the tomatoes are succumbing to late blight (Phytophthora infestans). Not much that can be done to rescue the situation I don't think, but does anyone have any successful strategies for organic treatment? ... See MoreSee Less

1 month ago

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Paulo NunesI heard that "chá de cavalinha", "horsetail tea" is a very effective fungicide... give it a try :-)1 month ago   ·  1
Diane LynchWendy, bicarbonate of soda dissolved in water and spray liberally on both sides of the leaves and the fruit. It changes the ph of the plant surface so that the fungal spores can't reproduce. That's the theory anyway, but not sure how effective it is ( not a problem here in the desert) Worth trying on any fruit you have to pick prematurely.1 month ago   ·  1
Quinta do ValeIt's spreading extremely quickly and getting to the whole plant within a day or two so I think I'm just going to have to uproot and destroy the lot. The fruit is OKish ATM, though not ripe. Ripe ones that were picked a week ago and not eaten yet have just succumbed though. Guess it's going to be a lot of green tomato chutney like Daniel says!!1 month ago
Clare LewtasMy tomatoes have had blight every year since we've been in Portugal, I take any blighted leaves off and often the plant will still be productive and seem to get over it completely if there is plenty of air circulation. It has however been the worst year yet and my tomatoes are pretty small :(1 month ago
Daniel ComerAll else fails, lots of green tomato chutney!1 month ago
Leen En WouterWe have the same problem here in Hungary this year.. To much rain.. More then 100 tomatoplants.. We've cutted all the leaves off and hope that all the tomatoes will get ripe soon.. They all looked so good a week ago.. :( That means not a lot of tomatoes this winter..1 month ago
Kathleen SinclairHow advanced is it? I tried copper sulphate last year when my toms got blight but it was too late. I think blight is systemic (am I right?) so v hard to treat once it starts. Had to destroy all my plants in the end. Have you any unspoiled fruit? You could pick it and try and save it, use it green. But a lot of my toms spoiled after I'd picked them. Good luck!1 month ago
Carlos RodriguesDepends if you consider copper sulphate remotely organic or not it is allowed to a small extent in commercial organics, mine are sucumbing too, but I am unwilling to use it.....1 month ago
Linda BeckmanIf all leaves are affected ,leave the top two.1 month ago
Linda BeckmanCut off the affected leaves and get rid of them. Airflow helps.1 month ago

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I completely forgot I'd grown pattypan squashes this year! What a nice surprise! ... See MoreSee Less

1 month ago

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La BaltasaraDo you know when they are ready .. summer squashes or autumn feast .. i have some too, for the first time and dont really know.1 month ago
Quinta do ValeYes, edible! You can cook them pretty much any way you'd use for any other squashes. Lovely roasted. Not tried cakes but I will now Karen recommends them for that!1 month ago
La BaltasaraGreat as its our open garden day today .. maybe people will buy them :)1 month ago
Karen Grimesthey make lovely cakes, peel and use same as in carrot cake etc , almost custard like very yummy !1 month ago
Lorna O'DonoghueEdible? How would you cook it, assuming it is :-)1 month ago
Michelle Sheridanvery interesting plant..1 month ago
Teresa M. B. McGrathNice surprise to find in your veg patch.1 month ago

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It's been one of those months ... First the chicken massacre (at the same time as one of our volunteers took a wee turn requiring 24/7 care until we could get her family here). Then my neighbours cleaned out their poço further up the stream and omitted to think about telling me first so I could divert the sludge and filthy water straight through the quinta and away from my water tanks and ponds. And this morning a team of madeireiros felling another neighbour's pine trees have just dropped one on my bed of Jerusalem artichokes and a newly-planted strawberry guava. Sigh ... ... See MoreSee Less

1 month ago

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Maurice PoulinNeighbours are always a challenge. If only we could all buy enough acreage to create safe buffers zones from each other :)1 month ago   ·  1
Lionel de NobregaOn the brighter side; you could still be living in the UK worrying about all those things that used to plague your life before the move to the Quinta. Sunny side up. What doesn't kill us builds and strengthens character.1 month ago   ·  3
Emma Winfield TubbBlimey. Time to try creating a 'neighbours network'? Not easy, I absolutely know, but the time & effort might pay off if it avoids all the time & effort of not having one? You could do a short slideshow of these recent disasters to simply point out the impact of not communicating / considering each other in things?! How utterly frustrating. I hope over time these things happen less.1 month ago   ·  1
Gaby PendersSounds like Murphy laid down his laws on u guys. But what the peep is a wee turn??1 month ago
Quinta do ValeEvery one of these events involves a boundary issue ... hmmmmm ...1 month ago
Hugo PedrosoBetter days WILL come <31 month ago
Michelle Sheridandefinitely seems like one of those months to me too...shame about the bed :(1 month ago
Iris DingleWhat a horrible month for you :-)1 month ago
Oliver Swann:/1 month ago

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A portable rocket stove

July 2nd, 2014. Post by Wendy

A year or so ago I salvaged a couple of tin cans from the local dump. From the moment I laid eyes on them they were shouting “portable rocket stove!”. They’ve sat around waiting for me to find the time and inclination to put them together ever since, but a friend moving onto a nearby quinta with no cooking facilities finally spurred me into action. In my head, I’d already worked out exactly how the stove was to be made, so it took very little time to assemble. In fact, it all happened so quickly, I didn’t even get any ‘before’ photos.

Making a portable rocket stove out of junk

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We are crowdfunding!

June 18th, 2014. Post by Wendy

This video explains …

And the campaign is hosted here.

The vermicomposting flush toilet completed

June 8th, 2014. Post by Wendy

Last year I wrote about our installation of a vermicompositing flush toilet – a worm composting system for a conventional flush toilet – in the outhouse for the wee house. It was all ready and set to go for a good while, minus the worms, but we couldn’t start using it until we had a water supply to the wee house since there would be nothing to flush with until we did.

With the completion of the quinta’s water storage and distribution system in February, I could at last commission the system.

Outhouse toilet featuring a composting flush toilet

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Waterworks completed

May 1st, 2014. Post by Wendy

Among many other projects on the go simultaneously last summer was the installation of some water storage capacity and supply lines to the various buildings on the quinta. The design and layout gives a good head of gravity-fed water to all parts of the quinta, and provides buffering for the vagaries of daily stream flow in late summer. The two tanks constructed from pre-cast concrete rings were fairly quick to construct. Finishing them proved more of a problem.

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A wood-burning masonry cookstove

April 26th, 2014. Post by Wendy

Ach! Where does the time go? I’m so hopelessly behind with blog posts and there are now so many pending I scarcely know where to start. I just checked the last post I made about the outdoor kitchen for the wee house and it was a year ago!

Alongside the cob bread/pizza oven I built last spring (and which is now producing fabulous food), I also constructed a wood-burning masonry cookstove. I found an open source Sketchup model online and adapted it for Portuguese fire brick dimensions.

Sketchup model for wood burning cook stove

This is the adapted model. Click on the image to download the Sketchup file and open in Sketchup (3D modelling software which is free to download). Firebricks are colour-coded for different lengths. You’ll need to be reasonably proficient with an angle grinder (at the least) to build this stove.

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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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