Mar 17, 2016

There's a Spring in our Step......

As the days lengthen, we have noticed how our energy levels have increased - as has the amount we can achieve in a single day!!

You will see from the pictures, and the little text to accompany, that we have been again trying to pack as much into a month as possible.....

This update gives a taste of the variety of things we have been up to - from attending to bureaucracy; to hosting our first Open Day of 2016; images of the building work around the caravan; snaps of the garden and other activities......

Click below to see more photos and our NEW LOGO.......

1st OPEN DAY/ DIA ABERTO of the new year

We were really blessed to have such a beautiful day for the first specifically Portuguese speaking Open Day. There were of course folks for whom Portuguese was not the first language but we ALL managed to communicate, share information and hearts, seeds and yummy food.  

We had over 20 adults and 6 kids with us - and this was a lovely number to have good conversations and get to know one another. Many ideas and potential collaborations were generated. 

The schedule included a tour of the land by Marcia and a group chat hosted by Barbara on natural building. Emma took the kids on a donkey ride and prepared the seed swapping. Eric was his wonderful social self and answered many questions about our style of living. 

The wonderful little girl on Xico in the picture below came to us with a request. She would like help to organise a day workshop for her and her friends to spend at the Mount of Oaks - sowing seeds, more donkey rides, learning about edible plants and then having a big football match at the end! She is such a little leader - she had the whole plan sketched out and just wanted us to host her event!!! We are now in a conversation with her mum about the logistics and a date. It is amazing when the young people propose actions......

We got positive feedback from the day. People seemed to enjoy the 'bring and share' lunch and the aspect of meeting others interested in alternative models of living.  Questions were answered by Barbara about many aspects of natural building. Most indicated they would like to return to volunteer or take part in workshops we proposed which was wonderful.

The date of the next Open Day in Sunday 3rd April. Get in touch via email ( if you would like to come along. 


Construction Work to renovate the Caravan Space 

The renovation of the caravan space is a priority for now - there is a baby due in May and it is necessary to enlarge their living space to accommodate another being!!! Marcia and Eric have been living in the caravan given to us kindly by our friend Miri's mum....and now is the time for it's conversion - using natural materials as much as possible. 

So the story so far in pictures.......

All good projects begin with a good design! Barbara did some detailed designs as she planned the materials needed.

Above - Barbara following the design and marking the area to see where the walls will be. The walls will be made from straw bales.
Then Eric began to dig holes for the posts - reclaimed telegraph posts to hold the structure for the roof.

The posts were cemented into place to create a waterproof layer between the wood and the earth. 

Once all 9 posts were in place, and the wood was delivered - the patient work of measuring, leveling, measuring again, cutting, squaring, and then drilling into place.


Barbara, teamed with Eric and helped at times by emma, took 2 days to get the beams in the correct places. To our surprise, while the main beams to hold the roof were still going up, the delivery of straw bales arrived!!

This is Jorge in the photo below, our friendly straw bale man. He is often keen to come and see what we do with the straw that he delivers - he says he is amazed at Barbara's designs and building skills.

Eric then got busy arranging the bales onto pallets to protect them from the moisture from the ground.

......then back to the roof structure again......

...the roof pieces arrived......and we were all overjoyed at how the process has been going.....

The only real frustration was with the rechargeable batteries for the makita drill and circular saw. We are not sure why, but 2 of these expensive batteries failed. Ba was left having to stop working to wait for the battery - but other than that, all is running smoothly, and thankfully we have been accident free!

SO this is what the structure looks like today - the roof is almost finished, the solar panels are on, and the area is ready for the natural building workshop that starts on Saturday 19th.

When you stand underneath the roof you get the sense that this is a good, stable structure.....

Yesterday Eric made these steps you can see in the picture below. He connected their living space with the terrace above to shorten the distance to the kitchen! Great work - and he is looking pretty happy with all the changes he has been involved with! Observing Barbara share her knowledge with Eric, and then Eric putting into practice what he is learning, is a real joy! Again - the phrase 'learning by doing' is frequently used all over the Mount of Oaks................


Transformation happens at a speed much accelerated when you use BIG machines. It is really exciting to see how the machine of our neighbour Sr Mosquita can do the work in an hour that would take us a day or so to complete. 


Here he is digging out the clay from the land that we will use to fill the earth bags, and the clay to plaster the straw bales. 

At the same time, with the digger, he is creating future ponds! These ponds will be filled with rain water, the rising water table, and drainage from the roofs of the common space and the caravan structure.

Preparing the lime.....

Another preparation for the natural building workshop had Barbara dressing and looking like something out of the crazy series 'Breaking Bad'!

She made various tests of the colour and consistency for the lime plasters that will cover the cob walls.

Other renovations.....

There have been several other minor renovations about the place - the roof above our washing dishes area outside the kitchen was falling - and a little dangerous. The roof was jacked up and propped up and now will continue to give us shelter for a while yet!! 

.....and then there was the roof on the little wood store - Eric managed to put in a tiled roof and soon we will fill this up with fire wood for next winter.

In the compost toilet/library Barbara adapted the space to include two wooden bins to store the sawdust. This is great as it looks great and neat.



With the little man growing well in Marcia's belly, we are all getting quite excited about the arrival of new life. So far all the blood tests, iron levels and this sort of thing are pointing towards a healthy baby! This is what Marcia is looking like at present....


...and here is Eric assembling the baby bed..... 

 We must not forget about one of our hens, her name is Clarinha - she has been sitting now on 9 eggs for nearly a week. Let's see how many hatch!!! 

Plants and the garden

Outside temperatures are rising daily - but then we still have frosty nights. The plants are loving the poly tunnel ....

Many seeds have been sown and now it is a case of waiting for them to germinate......tomatoes, peppers, chillis, aubergines, cucumbers, squash, salads - LOTS of variety and all ORGANIC yummy seeds!

Our produce from the garden at present is still salads, leeks, cabbage and endless varieties of herbs for cooking or teas - we look forward to broad beans and early pees in the next weeks. We have lots of beautiful spring flowers which the bees LOVE!

At present there is still a huge amount to do in the garden to prepare beds with compost for the spring and summer veggies. However good news is that we have a modest crop of organic chick peas in the ground - they have germinated and all is looking good! 

Becoming Official!

As mentioned in previous blog posts - Marcia in particular has been focusing on the administration of the association that owns the Mount of Oaks. This association called White Stone was created in Lisboa years before Barbara came to develop the project on the land. After many visits to the solicitor and accountant - we can finally say that the address of the association has been changed and other important administrative things! Well done Marcia are all your perseverance!

Annual General Meeting

10th March we had our first AGM of this new era for White Stone. It was held at our neighbours, Martin and Tiddy's house. Present were Eric, Marcia, Barbara, me, Martin, Tiddy, Sr. Aqulies, Sr. Rodrigues, and Manel. Together we discussed the plans for the incoming year as regards our projects and direction. 

We elected members to the council, ate and drank - it all felt informal and very Portuguese. In the end we signed the official book for meetings and our next step is to go open a bank account in the name of the association. 


Next month we will be announcing what it means to become an associate of the Mount of Oaks for a year - and what are the advantages you receive as a member!! We will be welcoming people to get in touch if you are interested in a sign up form. More details will be provided in the April blog update. For now, we wanted to announce already that we are looking for people from all over the world to join us. You do not have to live in Portugal to become an associate. (Associate is the direct translation to English of the concept of becoming a member of an association on an annual basis)


In Autumn we met with our wonderful Manel and his creative friends to chat about a website and a logo for the land - since then we have slowly been refining our ideas. 

We are happy with the result.

This is our first logo and we would love some feedback from people about the look and feel of it.

The website is still under construction - but the address will be

Upcoming Dates for the Diary

Remember we have 2 more Natural Building Workshops happening on:
23rd April - 1st May
4 - 12th June

Also get in touch if you would like to book a place on either of our 2 Silent Retreats in Nature which will include opportunity for Thai massage, guided meditations and delightful food - the dates are:
18th - 22nd June 
22nd - 25th September

If you wish to come on a camping holiday - again feel free to get in touch and we can check dates and let you know more about our facilities. 

For locals - we have 2 more Open Days planned - Sunday 3rd April and Saturday 7th May 

If you wish to come and volunteer - drop a message via the blog and we will send you our volunteer information. 


Jean Varnier writes in his classic book, "Community and Growth" that 'Community life demands that we constantly go beyond our own resources....' Sometimes we would agree with his statement!!! 

He goes on to remind us that we need spiritual nourishment to sustain ourselves in the midst of everything. For us four here, in the lead up to Easter, we have been really blessed by the help and support of our neighbours; our friends near, and far; our families; and our relationships with one another. 

Yes - life in community is not easy.......
and it is certainly is demanding.........

But we are glad to keep going with the experiment. We have experienced many times that when we think we have come to the end of ourselves, there is more depth discovered. When we are vulnerable and weak, we are often recharged or moved by the beauty of nature or a kind word or smile. Nothing complicated, but sometimes too simple to grasp.

 Thank you all for following our journey and encouraging us and supporting us!

HAPPY EASTER and Blessings of New Life to you all! 
Love from all at the Mount of Oaks.



1 comment:

Padraig Swan said...

Inspiring. Truly inspiring. Many blessings to you all for your passion, creativity and energy for making dreams come true :)