One family’s attempts to live in a more planet-friendly way
|• Residential courses||• Accommodation|
|• Volunteering||• Travelling to the quinta|
|• Visiting||• Clearing up some confusion|
Course participants (and volunteers when courses aren't running) are accommodated in a tiny cottage suitable for a single person or couple. It's rustic, simple, yet comfortable. All going to plan, which it rarely does in Portugal, the building should be completed in time for courses to start sometime in 2017.
The Wee House is a dry-stone schist building with foundations carved out of bedrock, typical of the farm buildings in this area. It's been renovated using natural materials - lime mortars, clay plasters, natural wood treatments, cork insulation - which have transformed it into a living space that's a qualitatively different experience to a building made with modern materials. The breathable, self-coloured clay plasters produce tactile surfaces which regulate temperature and humidity and produce negative ions which naturally create a much healthier internal environment. It feels cosy and nurturing; refreshingly cool on a hot summer's day, yet snug and warm in winter.
The quinta's gardens and evolving food forest supply plenty of fresh organic fruit and vegetables and fresh eggs from the chickens and ducks. Meals feature fresh baked bread and pizza cooked in the wood-fired cob oven, salads, fresh fruit, our own organic wines and liqueurs, preserves and freshly-made ice cream from the fruits of the quinta, plus regional artisan cheeses and other specialities.
The outside kitchen, which is immediately behind the building and under the same roof, is where meals are prepared using only wood-fired or solar heat. Eating arrangements for course participants are flexible. Breakfast is included, but you can opt for any combination of fully catered evening meals eating with us, join in to experience cooking on wood stoves and ovens, cater for yourself, or eat out. Packed lunches can be provided for expeditions.
The outside dining area on the lower level of the building is under an arbour of grape vines with views across the valley and down to the village. The building also features an innovative vermicomposting flush toilet (featured on Permaculture Magazine's website) in an outhouse converted from an old hen house.
The 12V solar system which powers the building is inverted to a European standard 220V (1200W limit, so no fancy hairdryers). Both European and British plug sockets are available. Phone and internet reception at the quinta is mostly good, but dependent on your network.
The separate bathroom and shower (featured in Natural Homes) is just a minutes' walk away and is built from cob with a living roof. The same earthen plasters are used here as in the Wee House. The back wall of the bathroom is the original terrace wall, complete with mosses and occasional visiting wildlife, and the shower is generous with good water pressure. Alternatively, you can soak in a bath by candlelight. Or if a more invigorating experience is required, there's always the bracing temperatures of one of the waterfalls on the quinta …