We found the farm (quinta) and land/garden in a run down condition but instantly felt the natural oasis it had once been and could be again. In essence everything was already there;
- the land with its 5 terraces, retaining water and reducing erosion
- the native vegetation such as olive, almond, fig, carob, loquat, pomegranate and orange trees
- the old house, situated on the slope in the middle of the plot, built of thick taipa blocks some 250 years ago
- the old well and water basin, providing water for irrigation and hopefully in the future the primary source of water for the house
During the renovation of the house we inhabited the safari tent we set up at the back of the land. With our outdoor shower, solar cooker and the starlit sky we experienced how little one needs to be happy. Meanwhile we brought the land back to life. We started with the old orange orchard. The 52 orange trees needed tending to so we provided them with a bed of mulch and created drip irrigation. To create a forest garden we planted new fruit trees, which provide shade and create a diverse ecosystem.
With the renovations near to completion we moved into the house at the end of 2013 and are now living in Portugal permanently. It has become a comfortable, spacious house, with use of local/natural materials. Solar panels provide warm water and electricity. The fireplace heats the whole house during those chilly and damp winter evenings and the thick taipa walls with clay render ensure there is a constant climate inside.
We are now focussing our attention on the annual vegetables, experimenting with the soil and seeds, creating a herb and vegetable garden. Meanwhile the chickens lay their eggs, three Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs help us dig up the soil and take care of the kitchen scraps, and the dogs guard the land and keep us company.
And this is only the beginning, we have plenty of plans and projects for the future:
creating more abundance by planting trees and shrubs, wind breaker bamboo shields, creating life in the recently dug pond with swales for water retention, making an earth cellar that keeps fruits and veggies at a perfect temperature to store, and more…. All for the purpose of creating a closed ecosystem in the end.