Apr 15, 2016

April Showers

As this blog is being written it is raining outside. In the last days we have had thunder, lightening and HAIL storms! In English there is the phrase, 'it's raining cats and dogs.' In Portugal the equivalent is 'está a chover a potes' - meaning 'it's raining pots' - certainly the rain is FILLING POTS!!  Crazy weather indeed! 

The last weeks have been beautifully full of folk coming to visit the land - participants on the natural building course, volunteers, Marcia's mum, and dear friends......we also have been busy in the garden and have 4 new chicks to show you!!!

read on to see the pictures and following the story..... 

Cherry in Bloom

This is an image of one of our own cherries in blossom last week - we have several on the land and we are glad to say that they are untreated with chemicals! 
The region where we live has in the past several years become 'famous' for the cherry plantations. The conditions here are perfect for cherries - hot summers and cold winters. The largest juice drink manufacturer in Portugal this year started producing a cherry juice - 

The only downside to all this interest in cherries in the region is that there are orchards and orchards next to one another - a veritable monoculture. And where you have a monoculture and expectations of high yields year on year, come with it the constant spraying with non organic chemicals......

Eric, Maxie (a recent volunteer) and I went on a walk locally and saw many, many beautiful blossoms....... we walked through a few hill sides full of white blossoms.....it rained, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the view. We even saw a rainbow very close to us........

However, we were not ignorant of the fact that this amount of trees in one place need a lot of 'treatments' - we witnessed a farmer spraying his trees from a distance, complete with face protection mask. 


We are glad that here at the Mount of Oaks and the farms of many of our friends we can enjoy organic cherries. If you want to be here in time to sample the fresh cherries, best to consider coming in the first weeks of June.


Our yummy olives were harvested in early November and left to 'sweeten' in spring water for several months. In the last two weeks, Marcia, with the help of our two volunteers, Judith and Maxie from Germany transferred them to bottles and added the secret ingredients that make them taste even more delicious!! 
For people who pass by we are selling or exchanging our preserved organic Black (Galega) and Green Olives (Cordovil). This year we have a bumper crop!  


These 4 little ones are now about a week old. Of the 9 eggs 4 hatched. They look incredibly cute and are making a high pitched squeek as they discover the world outside of the shell. 

One interesting point is the chicks have had 2 mama chickens sitting on the eggs. It started with Pedra and ended up with Mathilde. 



Talking of mums.....Marcia's mum came up from Lisboa for a visit on the weekend. Camila and her 2 friends came with lots of baby bits and bobs. Marcia and the baby are doing well - and looking forward to the due date of 30th May. 

Sarah, a long standing friend of the Mount of Oaks came for several weeks at the start of April. As so often, Sarah found things to keep her occupied - helping with cooking, building, chatting and 'refilling her love tank' - ready to go back to Berlin. It was great to see our sister again and you will see more pictures of her during the Natural Building Workshop.

Judith arrived at the end of the Natural Building workshop and she was such a help! No matter what we asked her to do she was enthusiastic and willing to learn. She is back in Lisboa now doing an internship with an architect who has a project in Alpedrinha and Fundao!!! SMALL WORLD!!! We are sure to see her again before she goes back for another term at university in Germany. 

Maxie travelled from Madrid to come and join us - a friend of Eric from the days when he volunteered with EVS in Moldova. Maxie was energetic and very capable. She helped me in the garden and also Eric with the roof. Her dinners were also delicious - and her salad dressing yummy! Who knows she might come back and host an acroyoga camp here in the future!!   


Below are posted pictures to give a flavour of dynamic of the workshop. It was truly a success - the group were wonderful and the feedback insightful and very complementary. 

The main motto of the workshop was 'learning by doing' - Barbara had prepared a manual and sessions of theory that were then practiced with the hands! 

Knowing the Earth

           Making "adobe" bricks

And "light earth" slabs

From Foundations to different types of Walls

The participants could experiment a bit of each technique and get confident to go and do it themselves...

The main design, was for Marcia and Eric's Caravan space, with a combination of Strawbales, Earthbags and "Cordwood" walls (with a stone wall from the original terrace incorporated in it )

Having a go with "Cordwood"

The top section above the stone wall with "Earthbags" 

"Stick Frame" or "Wattle and daub" 

Reforming our bath-house once more 

They tried the first layer of Earth plaster on the strawbale wall, the 2nd layer on the "stick&frame" and here trying different mixes of Earth and Lime plasters for the final layer tests

Finally, Lime "washing" and use of natural pigments....

It was not all about work either......The days would start with some gentle stretching for those who wanted...

and many lovely tea breaks for mid-mornings and afternoons...


and delicious, food, bread and biscuits made by Marcia and Gritt and assisted by Sarah......we ate SO well - veggie and vegan yum yum!!

We had amazing sunrises and a fantastic view of the rising full moon.....

On the Easter weekend Gritt's family joined us....Dado and Caetano...

....and in the evenings, fires with stories and laughter being shared.....


The feedback from the group was really positive and constructive and that made Barbara content with her efforts

 .....and then we celebrated the end of the workshop and the full moon with dancing (led expertly by Manuel), fire and drums.....our neighbours Martine and Paul led the way with the drumming and others joined us to CELEBRATE!!!

  SO if you are interested in coming to the next workshop or would like to share the details - the place to click is

The dates are 4-12th June and the price until the end of April is 275E, and after that it is 350E 
get in touch!!!!


Our next Open Day/Dia Aberto is next Sunday, 24th April. We are really looking forward to welcoming lots of people to the land for a action orientated set of conversations about strengthening the local economy. We have many people bring stalls to sell their crafts and produce. We have interesting people coming to share about their ongoing projects. And there is time set aside for dreaming about future collaborations and making plans for other events......

we will have a kids programme too involving teams games and an adventure with Xico! 

Marica went on the local radio station - Radio Cova de Beira this week to promote the event!! 


 The chickpeas are doing really well - thanks to the careful weeding activities of Maxie! 

In the last weeks the tomatoes in the polytunnel have been coming along. 

With the help of Judith we potted out MANY tomatoe seedings and we look forward to the plants growing into healthy specimens.


The main work in the garden has been the preparation of beds - this required wheeling up loads of yummy worm filled compost and then mulching......


 Many thanks to Judith and Maxie who helped in the garden! We are sure to have yummy beetroot, lettuces, pumpkins, celery and peppers in the beds you kindly prepared! 


Thank you for taking the time to catch up on the happenings at the Mount of Oaks this last month

Many blessings, love and peace on a RAINY day,
emma on behalf of us all!  


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