Oct 31, 2014


Permaculture from ethics to practice.......

October has been the month for connecting to the wider world of Permaculture here in Portugal. We hosted our first Permaculture Design Course in Portuguese - with Silvia Floresta, Yassine Benderra, partners and kids. As if that was not enough -- we volunteered with the logistics of supporting the 1st national Permaculture Convergence in Portugal - here in our local market town of Fundao! But more about that in a following post.....now we will re-cap on final days of September.......



click below to keep reading.....

Angelic helpers....

We arrived back from the trip to Germany for Marcia and Eric's wedding with only a few weeks to prepare for the arrival of a gang of folk for the Permaculture Design Course. It was all hands on deck to prepare a comfortable space for the classroom....

An artist friend from Belfast, Heather Wilson - popped over for a few days on her way from Porto home. Her company was really appreciated - it was good that it rained a little when she was here as it allowed us to catch up in a guilt free way!!! Stories and hearts were shared. Hope to see you again here Heather! 

Paula from Donegal/Galway was SUCH a star helper - an 'angel' in fact. In Ireland Paula is involved with the Transition Movement in Galway and already helped out in the Irish Permaculture Convergence. This woman kept us in good spirits no matter what! If anyone is ever looking for help - we can recommend Paula without any hesitation.

In the days before the PDC we were getting signs ready - being creative and skillful at the same time. No matter the task, Paula was cheerfully giving her best. Under Barbara's instructions we gathered material to make our first compost heated shower up by the bus. This was an experiment to see if we could make it on a bigger scale for heating water at the common bathhouse. 

While Paula was still here, Tom from Leipzig in Germany arrived. Tom has visited the Mount of Oaks several times over the last years around the time of the olive harvest. He arrived in time to help out Barbara with some preparation of the new compost toilets next to the common space, the improvements to the bathhouse and the new water heating system. 

In the evenings, after working hard we were able to enjoy the improved common space - complete with curtains from my family home! 

Paula left the day that the teachers and participants arrived for the PDC - it was a real shame, as we think that she would have loved to meet all the great folk who turned up for the course. We really miss Paula, her presence, talents and intuition were gratefully appreciated.  Paula, you will not be forgotten - nor will the gifts you left behind here!!



Since 2009 when Lesley Martin taught the first PDC at the Mount of Oaks, we had many folk pass through the course and go on to do AMAZING projects. This course was extra special for us as it was the first course to be taught in Portuguese......

Other interesting aspects were that we had a team of teachers inputing to the curriculium - 
Sílvia Floresta, accompanied by her partner Orlando Pereira, and child Lara, who live around Sintra.... 

 .....And Yassine Benderra and Joana Costa with their children, Isac and Miriam. 

Together with Marta who came along to help with logistics, babysitting and inspiring us about natural dental care!!! It was quite a team and we benefited from a wide range of interests/specialities. 

The student group themselves were UTTERLY brilliant. A real mix of people, some local and others from other parts of Portugal. We all had in common the desire to learn about permaculture principles and find ways to put them into a cohesive design system. 

We had a mixture of teaching styles - theory and dynamic group work......it was clear to see when each of us came alive when a subject we were passionate about was touched on! 

'Chop and Drop'

The first practical experience was a 'chop and drop' in the woods at the bottom of the land - the sun came out after a few days of rain and we were all happy to be doing something with our hands....mulching, clearing and creating future soil! 

Compost water heating system

The next practical experience was to 'fix' the water heating system - this was a real teaching experience and one we ALL benefited from in the coming days!!

First taking apart the system that failed to heat the water - the problem was that there was not enough of a mix of carbon and nitrogen rich compost. 

Then the process of making sandwiches of green and brown compost - we used a lot of bracken in the process, plus Xico's poo, sawdust and straw - watering every layer well. 

.....more bracken (feto) was needed -  so Rambo (aka Alvaro) and able assistant (Patricia) went to collect more! 

Layer upon layer was added under the mindful eye of Yassine and Orlando. 
Here, Susie was happy to be finished!

Creation of a Hugelkultur bed 


Despite the fact it started to rain - the team seemed to not even notice as they harvested food from the garden and prepared to create a new hugelkultur bed. 

 We have already a few of these type of beds in the garden - but it was really worthwhile to explain to the team why we are using this method beds and their advantages. It was incredible just how FAST we were as a team of about 15 people to collect material and create the bed. 

We sowed garlic and walked away happy and tired at the end of the session in the garden- having shared lots of gardening tips. The garlic have sprounted up and doing well - thank you team!!


It is difficult NOT to enjoy the process of working with clay - it brings us back to childhood memories of playing and touches our artistic tendencies! 

 In order to have clay and sand where it was required - a group was working hard as well.....

The team made several batches of cob - and then began to plaster.

Stories were shared and care was taken to add the next layer to the African style hut that we are constructing by the pond. We look forward to the team coming back and enjoying the shade from the summer with us next year!!


    A big thanks goes out to Barbara primarily and also to Marcia, Eric and Tom for the delicious food! Scrummy! 

 We ate together.....We sat in circle together, sharing highs and lows....We washed dishes and clean-up up together and shared our hearts - these are the things of community building! 

Group dynamic sessions were FUN! 

We worked in groups to implement our learning.......

The family of Vitor who lives in a near by village came and joined us on the final day for the presentations.

Paula, Vitor's wife had been making us cakes daily - so it was great for the participants to meet her and thank her directly. 




After all the teaching and practical sessions it was time to put together maps and propose designs of the Mount of Oaks for the teachers. 2 teams had 2 days to work on the projects. 

There is so much to share about the process - but perhaps it is best for people to experience a PDC for themselves.....or ask some of the participants directly? 



We would like to take this opportunity to thank each by name for attending the course and being such FANTASTIC people....(in no particular order)
Ania, João Neto, João Santos, Manuel, Pedro, Vitor, Álvaro, Gil, Susana, Patricia. 

Thank you for being such a great group - funny and sincere! And thank you too to the teachers! 


That's it for now - there will be a post coming SOON about the 1st National Permaculture Convergence that happened in FUNDAO - our local town....until then......

much love, peace and joy,

from us here at the MOUNT OF OAKS.


Andrea said...

Lovely to read, and made doubly so by the fact that I've now met you and can put a person behind the name :)

Alvaro said...

Great to see the story behind the course :-)
It was one of the most memourable weeks of my life, and as Susana said, it was a life changing event.
Thank you all!

Gil said...

It was not only a PDC but a change in our lives to put into practice at any time and any space. Were undoubtedly a few days that started to run and left strong memories. I will never forget all people.

Gil said...

It was not only a PDC but a change in our lives to put into practice at any time and any space. Were undoubtedly a few days that started to run and left strong memories. I will never forget all people.