Jan 2, 2013

Looking back and looking forward...

6 years have already passed since I (Barbara) first came to this piece of land at the Mount of Oaks. 

We (Emma and Barbara) are now entering our Winter rest…it’s time to contemplate the year that has passed, it’s time to rest from receiving visitors/helpers and the responsibility that it entails….it’s time to dream and plan the next steps…it’s time to retreat into our own soul space…it´s time to reflect and give thanks for all those who have passed by, for all the work of our hands, for the way this land has been carrying us and caring for us.

Here are some flash-backs of the past year and what has already been accomplished.

As we arrived at the end of October, our first project was to put a new roof in front of the kitchen - the one that was there before for years - a tarp salvaged from the 'boom festival' was leaking all the time!

we moved the library from the kitchen to the new compost toilet

In November we improved the walls of the common shelter and workshop class room again


Here is Ilt, Amy and Joseph helping us with the olive picking

The final product !!! Thanks to all who helped .

January we started the year improving the irrigation system and preparing the raised beds in one of the gardens making a new area for potatos and beans around the olive tree

 In the meantime we built a temporary green house for the many seedlings

And a compost toilet near the bus for us to "poo in the woods" and fertilise the trees around

And for more compost, next to the kitchen we built a 2 chamber compost bin with "canas"

making a roof in front of the bus

Experimental forest garden within an existing Mimosa forest. Here trying to brake the Mimosa roots which seems to take oxygen from the soil  

the beginning of the spring garden next to the kitchen
And gardening on the roof of the bus 

Spring in bloom

"kitchen garden"

"Winter garden" in summer

New cob steps from the common place to the orange grove

Finally fixing our road... We needed a big machine to make drains...it was done in a couple of hours.
   Clearing one of our springs / pond with the help of James from "Duruxa"

Finally re-starting the work on the Strawbale house, after 2 years...
Here is the first step, treating the wood which already had "little inhabitants" . Second step was Kev helping to prepare the walls for plastering. This is going to be a pantry for storing all our produce and other food 

Ine offering a massage to Rosemary, Emma's mum .

Watering the gardens was a full time summer job. Here's Julie in action.

Sun drying tomatoes

some of our summer harvest

Sara and Tabea helping out with sieving our clay

Plastering the Pantry House... 2 coats with clay, sand and fine straw that we took from our own site, and the last coat with lime and sand. This process took about 5 weeks, with helpers at different times. Sara and Tabea, Ine and Mathais, Sebastien and Sarah, Monique, Jo and Kathrin, Ulli , Juran and even little Fiona. Thank you all

getting our common space ready for colder days. A wood stove with chimney underneath the table to warm our legs. A brilliant idea from Gildo, Barbara´s dad.

We were given as a gift by Sr. Manuel and Sra. Maria this lovely donkey, Xico, who quickly became part of our daily lives

We love Xico! 

It´s been also fun to use the cart for recreational rides and  helpful to work. Like here, carrying fire wood with Eric and Marcia

Paulo, a friend who came to stay for few months, brought his solar panel to the kitchen. It  revolutionised the cooking of evening meals

And a simple bed revolutionised Huck´s life

How the gardens looked in Autumn

Mid October we began picking olives

Our dear neighbour "Tia Adelina" of 74 years happily on her olive tree

One more olive harvest done! Let us know if you would like to come next year and join the fun in the trees!

Now here are a few ideas, still raw, of what we would like to attempt in the year ahead….

We have a vision for improving our soil by transforming our waste woodland resources…..

…for this we would like to purchase a shredder. 

As many of our friends already told us, this will be a radical change for the land. Basically this machine could transform all our waste Mimosa cuttings (of which we have a lot) and other shrubs and brambles into lovely, ready to use organic matter for the gardens and trees. 

The cost of the machine is no joke, to get a good one, it ranges between 3,000 – 4,000 euros. We would like to buy the shredder in partnership with a neighbouring community – even so we are aware that this requires a huge investment.

·   We have a vision for creating financial income to sustain this community


We have been thinking about many ways to generate income for this land in the near future so that this emerging community can find sustainable income streams. We are SOOO grateful for all the many generous donations that we’ve been receiving over the past 6 years.

We believe that this place has potential to sustain itself and that is one of the main goals for the future – however we have to be realistic and realise that we are still in a very pioneering stage where investment is required, both financially and practically to create the basic infrastructure needed for the  
                                                        vision to come forth.

Renovation project

We would like to renovate the current stone kitchen space into a guest house that we could rent out for those seeking to come here on retreat/holidays.

As we considered the building of a summer kitchen next to the strawbale pantry house, we started to re-imagine the function and potential of the former kitchen – our lovely stone ruin.

here are some photos of the kitchen as it has been transformed over the years.....

So, the kitchen renovation project idea is to raise the walls and make two rooms above. 

The space below would be a nice and comfortable living room and small private kitchen with a warm fire place. This could also function as a room to run workshops (e.g. permaculture) or retreats, with the flexibility to use the house no matter the weather conditions. 
I hope you can have an idea with this rough sketch….

Ideally we would like to begin this project this Spring, funds permitting.


1st finish the inside of the strawbale pantry house.
2nd Build a room next to the pantry for the kitchen.
3rd remove the existing roof on the stone house (awful asbestos) and begin the big building project.

We have in mind that this project would cost at least 4,000 euros, and some good few months of hard work... We plan to start this big project after March. Helpers with specific building skills are more than welcome :-)


    We have a vision for continuing to expand our gardens and fruit forests

The past year for me (Emma) was a steep learning curve as regards growing vegetables in a dry climate. The planning of mixed beds and companion planting over the winter meant that after starting off the seedlings in the makeshift greenhouse we had a lot of fun with combinations of flowers and veg in different patches. 
I viewed the gardens this past year with an attitude of experimentation. Due to almost drought conditions the need of watering was huge and not all the plants thrived. Since the Autumn rains the winter garden looks much more healthy and productive than it was in the previous seasons.

Next year I look forward to further developing the current gardens, having chickens, bees and planting more perennial varieties ...with the endless supply of our donkey’s (Xico) poop the fertility of the soil ought to improve dramatically.
We hope to plant cereals in the terraces for flour needs and as an extra winter food source for Xico.
We have been planting more nut trees and seek to plant more fruit trees in the terraces below.
Here´s a Chestnut we brought from "Duruxa". We used 2 deep pipes for irrigation as it saves effort to water and it´s more efficient in dry climates.

Thanks to all who helped in the gardens, weeding, planting and harvesting – your contributions were really wonderful! Any of you who have access to good varieties of perennial veg seeds or other biological seeds that you would like to swap with us, please let us know as we would like to enlarge our seed  saving and swapping potential over the coming year.

     We have a vision for deepening the spirituality of the land/community.

Over the last year we have created morning and evening rituals of thanksgiving, which those who have passed by have been invited to take part. We found that the feedback from helpers and guests was really positive. In the summer we created a ‘Soul Space’ in the shaded woods for rest and reflection.

We still have an ongoing vision to rebuild the prayer shelter in the woods below. We imagine that this project is still a year off – firstly we need to clear the huge Mimosa trees down there and prepare the space. 

In the meantime we pray and worship in the common areas, as we walk, as we work, as we rest, as we cook, as we hang out and listen to people, as we commune with the ‘first Holy Scripture’ – Creation.

We invite you to pray with us wherever you are.

   We have the vision to develop community

We know that the Divine Creator is the one who builds community. We feel blessed and thankful for the relationships that we have near and far, with the ones that visit us, with our neighbours and the many foreigners who have been moving to this area in the last number of years.  We envision a small permanent community of people living in this land in the future, but we are also very aware of the wider community around us, both local and newcomers.

Recently we were approached by a couple, who we already know well, who are in the process of discerning a move to the Mount of Oaks to take part in the responsibilities of this place. We are excited about this possibility, especially as we have a year to journey together at a geographical distance to develop our relationships and questions before they actually move here. 

Another exciting development was the ‘twinning’ of Mount of Oaks with a community in Asturias, northern Spain called "Duruxa". We seek to encourage one another spiritually, share skills and share our produce – a super exchange of honey, different nuts and trees for our olive oil and herbal plants already has taken place. 

We have found that this group of people share much of the same vision for community and spirituality as us here and have been living on the land also for 6 years.

We ask you to pray for these divine relationships in the local area and for our continued relationships with other people/communities seeking to model a simple lifestyle of sharing, interdependence and resilience in these global times of great change.

All the visions outlined above for the coming year might sound like a lot - and it is, because we are growing and we feel the tent, so to speak, is being enlarged. We believe that these hopes and visions are much bigger than us and our own lives and dreams.
Therefore we would like to invite you to participate alongside us.

We (Emma and Barbara) are ourselves devoted to the growing vision of this place. We consider our role as mere nurturers and pioneers, giving of our full time, hearts, and also finances.


Many people (you might be one of them) have lived here for periods of time;




enjoyed the beauty and challenges of living in community with  diverse people

 have given gifts; 

helped to BUY the land; 


worked with your hands;

 attended Permaculture courses; 

the strawbale building course;

planted and watered trees; 

came to rest; 

endured difficult conditions

in the early beginnings :-)

shared vision and dreams; 

picked olives; 


cooked and


 conceived children here; 


almost gave birth here (!); 

                    "Yep, I was one of them !!! "


almost died here, eating hemlock thinking it was a wild carrot;


got baptized here;

gave and received affection to/from our dear animals;

 swam in the pond; 

shared nice times around the bonfire star gazing; 

Connected with our local village Póvoa de Atalaia

prayed and worshiped the Creator; 


followed our blog; 

met our neighbours; 

helped in our prayer/social action weeks….


Looking forward

In this coming year we have a hope for building a greater sense of collective responsibility for this future community by consolidating the relationships with those who feel connected to the Mount of Oaks.

We would like to do this by creating the     
   “Mount of Oaks Friends”  
in a practical way. If, after reading this long post you are interested in joining us, here is what we propose…..

From us....

* We commit to write a monthly newsletter.

* We can offer our morning and evening rituals and other material that we create over the next year.

* We will hold you in our hearts.

We invite you to....

 * Comment on this post with your feedback and your thoughts. And drop us an email if you consider becoming a friend of Mount of Oaks.

* Commit with a monthly donation for 3, 6 or 12 months – it does not need to be a huge amount of money, 5 euros/pounds  a month would be of GREAT value – we believe that little is much!

* Commit to a specific gift for one of the visions mentioned above.

* Be part of our New Facebook page (under construction), which is only for Mount of Oaks friends

* Write on our " Guest Book" We have had HUNDREDS of people passing by here over the last 6 years and we would like to collate memories of your stay here.

·     * Take part in our morning and evening rituals and share any other rituals you find helpful. Click here for a copy.

    Pray for the journey ahead of us, as we embark on a new stage in the development of the Mount of Oaks.

We are so grateful for the journey we have had so far and all those who have been part of it. We are thankful to you for taking the time to read this LONG message – and we apologise for the lack of communication over the past year.

Blessings to you in this year of 2013.

‘We are all – people groups as well as individuals – understandably trapped inside of our own ‘game’, but there are ways out! The ideas and pratices blossoming in small communites can lead us all to a bigger, more inclusive, and surely much better world.’
Richard Rohr


Hannah Carousel said...

It makes me so happy in the new year to read of your progress barbara! I stayed with you three years ago october just gone and thoroughly enjoyed my stay, and it will stay with me forever - your love for the land carries through those that stay with you, and the importance of staying connected with nature. Wishing you all the best for 2013, i would love to come and do a course on mount of oaks in the future or another olive pick. Love + Light from england, Hannah Carousel. xxxx

Baba said...

Hi Hannah, lovely to hear from you and thanks for the lovely words. would you mind posting your impressions on our "Guest Book" ? It´s on the right sidebar. We are collecting impressions or memories of the time people spent here. It would be nice to have your words there. A good 2013 to you too. PEACE

Soko said...

Hello Barbara !
It's so nice to see all the great change since we came to the Land (Christmas 2006) !!! What a beautiful garden!!!
Now we also live in a community of 3 families in France and we also practice permaculture in our garden !!! ;-)
Be blessed, you, your visitors and your neighbours !!
Hope to see you again !!
Alex and Marie (french jesus freaks)

Soko said...

Hello Barbara !
It's so nice to see all the great change since we came to the Land (Christmas 2006) !!! What a beautiful garden!!!
Now we also live in a community of 3 families in France and we also practice permaculture in our garden !!! ;-)
Be blessed, you, your visitors and your neighbours !!
Hope to see you again !!
Alex and Marie (french jesus freaks)

Krish and Mira Bai said...

Miranda and I just sat down with a cup of tea and read through your entire post and looked at the amazing pictures! Here in Toronto, where we are also constructing a place for community, we are so inspired by what you have done already, and what you are BEING. Thank you so much for this. It has blessed us today. We feel a part of you, though we have never been there physically. One day we hope to be able to come and serve.

Baba said...

Thank you Alex and Marie, and Chris and Miranda. We are also blessed by your comments...
Bless you in your communities...
I'm sure, as Richard Rohr said "...The ideas and pratices blossoming in small communites can lead us all to a bigger, more inclusive, and surely much better world."

Marko said...

Hi my friends,
I'm so happy to see you getting along so well!!!
Maybe I'll try to pass by in 2nd part of feb., if you're around --
sending you a mail before anyway...
For the shredder: Its a hell to work with them .... noisy, stinky(engine), agressif dusts of some materials as cana(dangerous!!)
My hartfull advice: Do huge piles of branch material.Get a digging machine once a year and make a didge for next year branch-pile, useing the earth to cover all wodden matter!! You can rent a machine for the next 20 years to make up the purchase-costs of a shredder not too small to worth it(on top -- a shredder has very high and a lot of repair costs). For mulching you are much better of to cut hay, without mature seeds (cut early),why not with a small lamine-cutter(1.20m).....

M said...

Hey, you guys are amazing :o) Would be priviliged to help in any way I can, How do I go about making a donation? Stay Warm loves, plenty of chocolate at this time of year

Miriam x

Baba said...

Hi Marko, thank you very much for your advice... It really make sense all that you mentioned, and we will definitely consider what you said. Have you work directly with shredders? We were thinking to use one that has no engine, and connect to an existing one... And yes, we are aware of noise and maintenance cost... We really like your idea and actually we have been making it in very small scale, but we like the big scale idea to improve the soil of some of our terraces.

About visiting, do get in touch. We are actually in a "closed season" until Easter, unless we start the kitchen project in March and we will be open to receive helpers with building skills.

Anyway, be in touch. Thank you for your useful feed-back and taking the time to read our long post.

Baba said...

Hey M, we know who you are...the reference to chocolate gave it all away :-) About donations, you can either click on the "donation" icon on the sidebar of this blog (we´ll upgrade now with UK bank details), or you can send us an e.mail and we´ll give the details ... Hugs. E & b

Mot said...

Hey baba and emma. Friends of me have a used shredder. It works with up to 8-10 cm thick wood. Is that enough? They whould like to have about 1500€ for it. A bit less than 7000 :-)
Its located in Glauchau.
For more information contact Daniel: rundumgruen@web.de

Much love,
Mot Mot

Mot said...

hey baba and emma. if the shredder is still needed: friends of me are selling a used one for about 1500€. its made for branches up to a caliber of 8-10cm. its located in glauchau. if this sounds intresting for you, just contact daniel: rundumgruen@web.de

they have an organic food shop in their old gardenery, maybe you can also trade a some olives, oil, or oranges with them :-)

Love and Peace,

Baba said...

Thanks Mot :-)
That is really kind of you... you might get in touch with your friends about trading ...
About the shredder I think it will be too expensive to get it here.
Also , after some reflection and tips that other people gave to us, we might not get into such investment. We are looking at other ways to use our immense mimosa wood supply... It will mean more work, but we can bury them and create nice and fertile raised beds which will not need much irrigation. Some people call it "hugelkulture" beds which is a german name...not sure what it means but the concept is great !!!
We´re supper excited about that. Anyway, thanks for thinking of us and trying to help.
We love you, big hug from the Mount of Oaks.