Probably the biggest news to share this month from the Mount of Oaks is that Marcia and Eric are due a baby in May!
Other news.....well, our days were spent in a variety of activities, indoors and outdoors - from pruning fruit trees (like the fig in the photo opposite) and clearing terraces of brambles; working on administration and planning course material; sowing seeds and organising the seed box; renovating existing spaces and making new work spaces; and lighting daily fires!
Click below to catch a glimpse what we have been up to.........
FIXING and RENOVATING
With the arrival of Marcia and Eric's baby in May we have been busy preparing for the needs of parents and baby....
Stage one of the transformation of Marica and Eric's home space began while were in Germany for Christmas. Our delightfully handy neighbours Martin and Tiddy came and helped to dismantle parts of the interior. Along with Barbara they ripped out unnecessary parts and replaced the floor and added a wood burner.
Here Ba and Martin are lighting the fire for the first time and admiring their achievements!
Martin did a DIY job on a gas bottle and came out with a fab design. Now Marcia, Eric and the bump enjoy lovely, easy heat in their space.
The next revolution for the future parents was to bring water to their space. Eric worked on digging a trench and plumbing - then with joy they now enjoy tapped water at their door!
Only those who have lived without electric light, running water or easy ways to keep warm will be able to appreciate just how content Marcia, Eric and probably the bump are feeling at present.
New 'tool shed'....
The previous post showed pictures the van being towed from on terrace to another. Once in place, Barbara transformed what had been a campervan belonging to a friend, Juran, into a viable work space and 'tool shed'.
It is the time of year when it is good to clear, sort and know where things are!
Barbara took the opportunity not only to sort all her tools, including screw and nail boxes, but to also re-organise the wood shed and what we used to call 'treasure island'. There were several trips to the recycling point with what we really have no need of!
The gardening tools, pots and even the seed box have a new home too. Barbara created a little potting area with a table just the right height for preparing trays propagating trays or thinning seedlings.
The first building course for this year will begin on 19th - 27th March. The materials for manual that is accompanying the course is nearly finished! Barbara has been working away on putting together a DIY informative manual - firstly in Portuguese, and then to be translated to English. Get in touch via email@example.com if you wish to subscribe for any of the practical eco-building courses or check for more details here. Dates of the other courses are : 23rd April - 1st May and 4th - 12th June.
Here are a few snaps of how things are looking at the moment - peas have been stacked, broad beans have started to flower (!), fennel looking fantastic and we are enjoying lots of yummy broccoli and cabbage....
Because of all the lovely rain we have had and mild conditions, the growth of unwanted weeds has gone wild! This wheel barrow represents only a tiny fraction of the weeding that has and still needs to be done!!!!!
Seeds of various salad have been sown in the poly tunnel and there are some experiments going on with propagating various medicinal plants. The sweet potato tubers are in water to see if they will gain a shoot that we can plant.....
The worms moved into the poly tunnel and are now going crazy with the extra heat and attention Eric is giving them! I looked up what the collective term for a group of worms are - there are a few options - one is clew, the other I prefer is 'a squirm of worms' . Well, our squirm is growing and Eric divided the group and we are on our way to making multiplications of worm, worm poo and worm pee!
These little guys transform Xico's (the donkey) poo into the most nutritious compost. We have our first order for worms from a local lady, but we will in the coming future have surplus enough to sell a few delicious kilos of worms.
Thanks to our own seed saving techniques and the generosity of seed swapping endeavors we are blessed to have a huge variety of seeds to sow this year. Part of the task is to catalogue the seeds so that we sow at the correct time of year, and ideally in a biodynamic fashion. We also have been preparing our excess seeds to share at the up coming Open Day.
Every year the land needs a tidy up - brambles cut back, fruit trees pruned, trees felled for next year's fire wood......
Barbara took at least a week to prune all the fruit trees that badly needed a prune. The citrus grove got a good clearing, as did the cherries, pears, apples, apricots and fig.
Here is how the lemon tree looked after a prune - and all the lemons that were harvested in the process.....
Eric as well as Barbara were busy doing the annual land maintenance for most of the month. Eric fixed fence posts and was busy following after Barbara and tidying up the branches, burning some and stacking the larger pieces for next winter.
We soon discovered just how much Eric liked fires......he was very responsible and looked after them well.
Below is a snapshot of end result of Barbara and Eric's work on the lower terrace.
FESTA DAS PAPAS
In Mid January every year, Povoa de Alataia, a village within walking distance from us has its celebration know as 'Festa das Papas'. They have a church service in honour of St. Sebastian and remember when the village prayed to him to save their crops from a swarm of locusts several decades ago.
After the service the families of the village who have the responsibility that year for sowing, growing and making the traditional maize porridge dish parade in front of the priest and the band to another chapel.
The 'papas' enter the chapel on the heads of the villagers and are blessed by the priest. Then they are distributed to all the people outside in a regal sort of fashion - it is a beautiful ritual and quite theatrical. The tradition reminds the village about the importance of sharing.
Here is what is looks like.....large squares of a porridge-like consistency. It is difficult to describe - but worth tasting!
Something else that the ladies make and offer as part of the 'festa' is a deep fried sweet - which I prefer more! If you read Portuguese, here is the link to an article about the Festa das Papas. The article is very informative about the history of the tradition.
We have had rain - lots of rain and strong winds......
....there is snow up on the serra de Estrella mountains. We went up for a play on our neighbour's birthday.
....and there has been sun too - here you can see the beautiful blue sky just above the flowering mimosa.
With the winter 'closed season' almost at an end for us, we are grateful for the opportunities for reflection, planning and working on our own spaces in readiness for much more external activity to come.
This weekend is our first Open Day/Dia Aberto of 2016. We are inviting people who would like to come along and join us for a community day, sharing food, sharing seeds, having a tour of the place and offering donkey rides for children.
There are no pictures to show what Marcia has been up to in the background - working in conjunction with solicitors and the accountant in order to get the association that purchased the Mount of Oaks a legally functioning entity again. This has been time consuming, but we feel that there is finally some progress.
We met with our friend Manel who is building our website late January - it is still under construction as we work on the content. Our logo is on it's way too.....Like the apricot about to bloom in this picture all things are progressing at their required pace - like the baby growing in Marcia's womb!!!
Many thanks for taking the time to follow our happenings......
In peace, joy and hope,
all at the Mount of Oaks.