Two years into the project we have come a long way. Our main focus has been on zones 0 and 1. Zone 0 being a totally off grid ecological living area, with solar panels for power, fresh water from the spring, hot water from a solar heated system and a compost toilet. The ruins have been rebuild to make space for us all to sleep, to have a warm cosy kitchen to cook massive amounts of food and a patio to meet and share. The old ruins are of rammed earth, a traditional way of building in Portugal. Many walls were destroyed, collapsed or broken. The roof was either non existent or half collapsed. The main farm building is almost finished and we are now halfway finishing the large communal building which will be used for workshops, a learning space for the children and gatherings. Cobbing all the walls including artwork and turning it into a beautiful eco building.
Many have contributed in realising an amazing tree house in a majestic old cork oak tree, giving an intense experience of being and sleeping in nature amongst the sounds of the wind, moist drops and a wake up call by early morning birds. As well as the tree house, a round house with a reciprocal roof has been realised on the patio, offering a shady spot on hot summer days.
Zone 1 has been about establishing a permaculture food garden in front of the farm, previously a small meadow. It was lightly plowed, lightly terraced, ecologically fertilised and changed into many beds including a greenhouse. The first year we had an exploding garden with huge amounts of food. The second year was more of a struggle to fight the returning hardy Bermuda grass and the slugs who had discovered the garden. On the other hand there was a huge increase in the worm population and soil life using different permaculture systems. We are now establishing a duck pond to integrate into the garden, using it’s water to feed the beds and the ducks to help with the slugs, along with the amazingly funny Guinea Fowls.
The Fruit orchard had been neglected for over 15 years and was mostly covered in blackberry. The ground of the almost 2 ha Orange orchard with over 80 trees was cleared and has been restored beautifully using sheep and goats in a holistic animal management system of rotational grazing. Much was learned about their preferences and how important it is to have different animal herds moving through the paddocks, each eating different plants. Above the orange orchard, the terraces with fruit trees (apple, peer, walnut, apricot, plums, dyosperos) were also cleared and restored using the rotational grazing system along with the chicken tractor and egg mobile. The many many trees are slowly but surely all getting pruned and receiving much needed tlc to ensure a nice fruit production from this year.
A huge amount of work has been done, many mistakes have been made and lots has been learned. Besides the huge amount of building work, animal systems were put in place, water management systems, a food garden and forest garden are slowly establishing themselves and we are getting ourselves ready to move on to the outer zones where key line and holistic management will be practised on large scale.. Reflecting on these past 2 years gives us warm feelings of memories of all those who have come by to help. Some long term, others short term, but all leaving something behind of themselves which has enriched A Quinta and we hope the project has inspired and enriched them just as much in return. Thanks to all of you for your love and support to the project, and we look forward to those of you still to come!