we are living in central Portugal on a small farm - quinta in portuguese (5ha), which has an orchard (oranges, lemons, etc), and a large olive- and a vineyard. About half of the area is wilderness. We try to live as beings who are part of nature and not masters of it.
We are looking for a similar-minded couple (m/f, m/m or f/f), age and nationality no importance, who would be interested in sharing our land, our work and our life here in Portugal. Children are welcome. Pets have to be discussed.
We are a mixed couple (m 51 yrs / f 37 yrs), living together since 2004. Among ourselves, we speak English, but our mother tongues are Russian and Flemish. We speak French, Dutch, some German, and we are learning Portuguese. We have no children.
It is not easy to sketch our ideas and our life philosophy in a few sentences, but we will give it a try:
* We came to Portugal, not to escape anything, but because we were (and are) convinced that our lifestyle (work, earning a lot of money, big house, big expenses, lots of travel, lots of supermarket food etc) was not sustainable at all. We lost our connection with nature. Moreover we believe people are destined to live outside, and living outside is most comfortable in a warm climate (cfr our African origin). We came to Portugal to become a part again of nature's great web of life.
* Who and what influenced us? Difficult to say in a couple of sentences. One of us lived and worked as an anthropologist for a couple of years among tribal and/or nomadic people. We like Walden/Thoreau and the novels of Daniel Quinn. We are interested in permaculture and forest gardens, not as way to control nature, but as a way to restore as best as possible the damage we did to nature. If there is one philosophy that interests us, it has to be anarcho-primitivism, and some of the ideas of John Zerzan, Derrick Jensen etc...
* We are not extremists. We are not following rigidly the principles of whatever system, not even of the systems we believe in, like permaculture. For instance, next to growing a forest garden, we are also growing annual vegetables for food. Maybe one day our perennials and forest garden will supply us with enough food, but that day has not come yet. We don't believe in agricultural systems but still we are raising chicken, ducks, geese and goats, and we are not planning to cut down our olive trees, our orchard or our vineyard.
* We are not religious, not new-age spiritual. We are quite down-to-earth people, but we enjoy staring at the stars at night, and playing the guitar
* We are not vegetarians , but omnivores. We try to give our animals a good life and in the end some will be killed for food. We like a good glass of wine, preferably our own wine. We love finding our own wild foods, plants, mushrooms, animals,...
* We are not workaholics, there should be a lot of free time for walking, playing music, cycling, or just enjoying life. The work load should be shared by everyone, and everyone should work according to her or his physical capabilities.
* We live mostly outside, we sleep in a tiny caravan and that suits us very well. Maybe one day we even sleep outside. On the property we also have a little 20m2 house, we use it mostly for storage. We are not planning to build a big house. Just for the contrast, before we came to Portugal we lived in a 300m2 house with 3 bathrooms, we don't miss one square meter of it...
* We own a car (4x4), but we try to use it as less as possible, at most once or twice a month. One day we want to live without a car. We try to use our bicycles as much as possibe, but remember, roads are not flat here...
* We live off grid: we have a small solar system which powers a fridge/freezer and pumps in the summer. We have a windmill, but we didn't install it yet. Our water is supplied by two big wells, but we get our drinking water from local springs in the region. We cook when it is sunny on a parabolic dish, when it is not sunny we have our wood stove. We have 3G/4G internet, we use it to talk to our parents (Skype) and to check our mail (but all of this very irregular, maybe on average 2 hours per month). Compare that with an average internet time of about 25 hours per week p.p. before we came here We have a portable phone, for emergencies, but we never carry it with us...
* We have a very enthousiastic dog, sometimes too enthousiastic, but we hope she keeps the foxes away from our poultry...
* What about earning money? It is certainly not our priority, we have enough money for several years of frugal living. As much as we would like to, in the current situation it is not possible to live without money. We will probably sell or exchange some animals, honey, milk products, vegetables, olive oil, etc. We are also thinking about giving workshops and on the long term, about writing a book.
A couple of facts about this area:
- it gets very hot and dry here during the summer 35C-44C (june-sept). Almost everything you grow needs to be given water. The autum and spring are very agreeable, warm and a little bit more wet. The winters can be a bit fresh especially at night. A couple of degrees of frost is possible. On average there are more than 300 sunny days and more than 3000 sun hours per year.
- we are located at 3 km from a little village, and 30 km from a big town. For European standards, it is a bit in the middle of nowhere. To get to our property you have to drive a dirt road for the last 1,5 km. It is possible to drive this dirt road with a normal car but it is a bit bumpy. We have some non-permanent neighbours (gardeners), who come and go. One is using sometimes a generator for power. We hope one day he will switch to solar.
- the village has a beautiful "old centre", a couple of small shops and a primary school. There is almost no tourism in this area. All the villages over here organize a lot of street festivals, concerts, parties and traditional roman catholic events.
- the portuguese people are generally friendly, open-minded and hospitable
- there is almost no big scale agriculture and industry here.
- there is some wildlife here
If someone is really interested, please let us know and tell us about yourselves. If we believe your life philosophy is close enough to ours, we will propose to meet at our place, and spend a week or so together. If necessary, we supply you with a tent and a bed. If you still like us and the place, and we still like you we propose a 6 month trial period. You will have to buy your own small caravan or a small yurt. During these 6 months we share equally all costs of living. To give you an idea, at this moment we spent about 100 euro p.p per month, excluding transport, property taxes and health insurance costs. We have a basic health insurance, costs about 1.000 euro per year for 2 people. The property taxes amount to a couple of hundred euros per year. Our car we will share. Insurance and road tax is 500 euro per year. Costs of petrol are additional. We do most of the car maintenance ourselves.
The amount of money we will spend per month will decrease gradually, because in the end we want to be as self sufficient as possible. Our estimate is that 125 euro p.p. per year should be enough by 2014 + additional costs for health insurance (500 euro p.p. per year, if you are young, it is cheaper), property taxes (50 euro p.p. per year) and transport (around 225 euro p.p. per year). There are not so many places left where can you live a wonderful life for less than 1.000 euro p.p.per year. If after the 6 month trial period you and we feel that we could live together, we go for it. As simple as that.
Looking forward to hear from you. As said, we are not often online, so it can take a while for us to answer...
i read your post and i'm guessing from your permie name that you live somewhere near idanha-a-nova? we are not looking for somewhere to live because we also have a small quinta near idanha but i liked what you wrote about yourselves, and i'm interested to know how life is panning out 3 years after you wrote that post.. are you still here? how is your garden growing? would love to hear from you. best wishes. pina (quinta das cantarinhas near monsanto)
Me and my partner are planning to go to Portugal and try to live as sustainable as possible, in harmony with nature, for the beter of the planet and forward ourselves.
The description of your philosophy is very nice and is very close to ours.
We were wondering how you are doing?
We are planning on buying land in Portugal but since all of this is new to us, it would be nice if we can learn somewhere first. Plus it would be nice to be around people with the same mind set.
I can tell you much more about us if you want but now I just wanted to know if you are still around and reachable
Yes, we are still around. Sorry for the rather late reply.
I could give you a long list of do's and don'ts in Portugal but I believe most of these will be irrelevant to you. Your experiences will be different than mine. What I can share with you are my experiences with establishing a feral forest and planting a food forest or forest garden in a hot and dry environment with poor soils. But bear in mind that if you are going to live in another area of Portugal, some of this information will be wrong. Even if you would choose to live in the Beira interior/sul region where I live, there are microclimates and some differences in the humidity and fertility levels of the soil. The climate here is characterized by long hot dry summers and relatively cool wet winters. Morning frosts occur at the place where I live, down to -6C. Some climate change studies indicate that Iberia will become even drier and hotter in the future, with average winter temperatures raising 4C and summer 6C by the end of this century. Periods of drought will be much more frequent. I think the possible future climate of most of Iberia in 10-20 years will be comparable with southern California now, where they experience severe droughts since 2011 with only around one third of normal rainfall.
My aim has always been to let most of the land rewild, the forest that will result from this I call a feral forest. This is the "do nothing" approach in which I believe very much. It is however not a black and white approach. I am not 100% doing nothing... for instance I cut the Eucalyptus globulus trees that were planted by the previous owner. But I don't cut them all at once, because they provide shadow during the summer for the young new holm oaks and other trees. In general eucalyptus disturbs the ecological balance (in this area), although I realize that balances always change. They consume large amounts of water (they grow very fast), and studies showed that much less birds make their nests in monoculture eucalyptus forests. On a hot day, I can smell their essential oils in the air. The ground under the trees is covered with dead leaves and bark which are high in phenolics, preventing the breakdown by fungi. All this makes a highly flammable mix! I made my compost toilet walls out of eucalyptus branches and leaves, and after 4 years the dead leaves are still on the branches. But of course people make good money with eucalyptus, they grow fast and you can coppice them every 8-10 years for the paper industry (our toilet paper, kitchen paper etc...).
The original "old growth" forest in this area was most probably an evergreen holm oak forest, specifically Quercus ilex subspecies rotundifolia which has sweet edible acorns. In Portugal it is called the azinheira. The other subspecies Quercus ilex subsp. ilex doesn't grow here and has bitter acorns. The sweet acorns of the azinheira can be eaten straight from the tree or you can grind them into a tasty flour. You don't need to remove the tannins as with many other acorns. Pigs also like the acorns, and even my mule is in love with them. When I arrived here in 2012, I counted about 25 holm oaks in total. A couple of months ago I counted again and now there are more than 100 new small holm oaks that have grown naturally from fallen acorns.
The very slow growing holm oak will be the major canopy tree in the feral forest. Another oak that was present in the old growth forest was the cork oak, the sobreiro, the national tree of Portugal. I had about 5 cork oaks when I arrived, now another 5 have sprouted from fallen acorns. The acorns are also sweet and can be eaten or grinded.
Another common native tree, that almost behaves like a pioneer species, is the maritime pine, Pinus pinaster, which grows quite fast, and is not very long living. It can become a bit invasive. The small seeds with wings are ideal for wind dispersal. Some native species are outcompeted by the maritime pine. And just as eucalyptus, the trees are highly flammable.The pine processionary caterpillar overwinters in nests high in maritime pines. In early spring they "process" in nose-to-tail columns, protected by their irritating hairs (if you have a dog, be careful). In fact they will become butterflies (moths) when adult. The caterpillars can destroy a whole tree by consuming all of its needles. I use the resin that I tap from the pine for many things, ranging from glue to repairing my teeth. The pine seeds are really too small to be consumed as "nuts". I have planted a couple of stone pines, Pinus pinea. They are known for their edible "nuts" and are also native to Portugal. They do very well in this climate.
Some other native trees for a feral forest in this region include Ceratonia siliqua* (carob), Fraxinus angustifolia* (narrow-leafed ash), Juniperus oxycedrus* (prickly juniper), Acer monspessulanum (Montpellier maple), Arbutus unedo* (strawberry tree), Crataegus monogyna* (common hawthorn), Erica arborea* (tree heath), Malus sylvestris* (crab apple), Myrtus communis* (common myrtle), Phillyrea angustifolia* (lentisco in Portuguese) and Phillyrea latifolia (aderno in Port.), Pistacia lentiscus* (mastic tree), Pistacia terebinthus (turpentine tree), Prunus avium* (wild cherry), Prunus insititia (damson), Prunus spinosa (blackthorn), Pyrus bourgaeana (the Iberian pear), Quercus coccifera (kermes oak), Quercus faginea (Portuguese oak), Quercus pyrenaica (Pyrenean oak), Rhamnus alaternus (Mediterranean buckthorn) and Sambucus nigra (elderberry).
I have at least one tree of the ones marked * in the feral forest area.
If you have humid parts on your land you can try Salix* (willow), Alnus* (alder) and Populus (aspen and poplar) species.
I would recommend to use mainly native trees in a feral forest area.
The food forest I am planting involves quite a lot of work during the first years and will be totalling around 5000 m2 or less than 10% of the land. It consists of a mix of native and non-native trees, plants and herbs. The following is based upon my personal experiences and I focus on fruit producing plants (although I have experimented with many other species). I look at two factors: are the plants heat resistant (****: very resistant / * not resistant) and do they need a lot of extra water in the summer (**** a lot of water / * can survive without extra watering). The survival rate is based upon trees that were planted 4 years ago. If you want a carefree food forest you need **** heat resistant and * watering needs. Unfortunately there are not that many food plants in that category...
Apple/Malus domestica: heat *** (some cultivars) / water **
Apricot/Prunus armeniaca: heat ** / water *** / likes afternoon shadow / only one of my trees survived.
Avocado/Persea americana: heat * / water **** / all my avocados died / not recommended
Blackberry/Rubus ursinus: heat *** / water ** / many wild growing varieties, but harvest is unpredictable
Blueberry/Vaccinium: heat * / water *** / needs afternoon shade / thick mulch to protect roots from heat / only 2 out of 10 survived (struggling) / not recommended but I like blueberries
Cherry/Prunus avium: heat * / water **** / two out of 6 trees survived. / not recommended in this area but I like cherries. In the mountain areas they grow quite well. Harvesting is competition between you and birds.
Grapefruit/Citrus paradisi: heat *** / water ** / 100% survival rate but slow growing
Lemon/Citrus limon: heat *** / water * / plant next to building or big rock (more humidity and warmth) / not very frost resistant / I have one adult tree next to the house and that's enough. It gives me more than 100kg of lemons per year. I use lemon a lot, but specifically as a raising agent in bread (combined with sodabicarbonate) I also have a sweet lemon tree, the fruits I use in cooking.
Lime/Citrus latifolia: heat *** / water * / same remarks as for lemon
Mandarin/Citrus reticulata: heat *** / water *** / likes afternoon shadow. I have one adult tree that gives me around 150 kg of mandarines per year.
Orange/Citrus sinensis: heat *** / water *** / Recommended but more water = more fruit. I have 4 adult trees that give me around 1000 kg of oranges per year. I also planted 2 blood orange trees, but no fruit yet
Elderberry/Sambucus nigra: heat *** / water *** / Recommended but more water = more fruit
Fig/Ficus carica: heat **** / water * / Highly recommended / Some cultivars have two harvests per year. Dry your surplus harvest in a solar drier.
Goji Berry/Lycium Barbarum: heat * water *** / needs afternoon shade / Fruits very bad in hot weather / Not recommended. I harvested maybe 10 gram of berries from my 10 goji shrubs,
Grape/Vitis vinifera: heat **** (some cultivars) / water * / Highly recommended. Roots very deep / Traditional red grape for wine is Touriga. I also planted Cabernet and Merlot. Red wine is easy to make, but it is too hot to make a tasty white wine without the use of chemicals.
Guava/Psidium guajava: heat ** / water **** / likes afternoon shadow / doesn't like frost
Jujube/Ziziphus jujuba: heat **** /water ** / very heat tolerant / Highly recommended
Kiwifruit/Actinidia deliciosa: heat * water *** / likes afternoon shadow / I am struggling with my kiwis (one male two females)...
Kumquat/Fortunella: heat ** / water *** / likes afternoon shadow
Loquat/Eriobotrya japonica: heat ** / water *** / likes afternoon shadow. I have 2 adult trees but harvest is minimal. Great bee plant - flowers in november
Lychee/Litchi chinensis: heat * water **** / full shadow during hottest months / Not recommended
Mango/Mangifera indica: heat * water **** / needs afternoon shade / doesn't like frost / Not recommended
Olive/Olea europaea: heat **** / water * / Highly recommended
Passion Fruit/Passiflora: heat ** / water *** / Not recommended
Peach / Nectarine/Prunus persica: heat *** water *** / more water = more fruit
Pear/Pyrus pyrifolia: heat *** water * (some cultivars). I have two adult pear trees which produce quite well without watering
Persimmon/Diospyros kaki: heat ** / water *** / more water = more fruit / likes afternoon shade. I love this fruit
Pineapple/Ananas comosus: heat ** water **** / likes acid soils / doesn't like frost / lots of water
Plum/Prunus domestica: heat *** / water ** (some cultivars). Recommended
Pomegranate/Punica granatum: heat **** / water * / Highly recommended / Easy to propagate / A tasty fruit, but a bit of a challenge to eat it in the beginning
Quince/Cydonia oblonga: heat *** /water * / Highly recommended / marmalade originally meant a quince jam, and comes from marmeleiro, the portuguese word for this fruit
Raspberry/Rubus idaeus: heat** / water *** / likes shade / can produce very well with daily watering in summer. On average one big plant gives me 3-5 kg of fruit per season (june-september)
Strawberry/Fragaria x ananassa: heat ** water *** / likes shade / needs daily watering for good fruiting (but less production than raspberries)
I experimented with coffee, tea and cacao during the first year. All died.
Some people in the area have experimented with bananas and have harvested fruit. I didn't. Most banana cultivars are not frost resistant.
Nut trees: all my wallnuts died even with extensive watering, 2 hazelnuts survived out of 5 and 1 chestnut survived out of 3. I will try Pistacia vera (pistachio) in the future
Most fruit trees have an excellent harvest one year and a poor one the next year.
During the first years, all young plants need watering during the summer, even drought resistant species as olives, figs, pomegranate and grapes.
About community building:
I have only met one person who was willing to live with almost no material stuff, who was not talking about building. creating and making things more comfortable and who was at the same time willing to live in a community. I guess most people like me end up living solitary. I have a tiny house of 20m2. Just four walls and a roof. Everyone who visits me asks when I am going to extend the building. When I answer "never", their eyes tell me they feel sorry for me. I almost never spent time in the house. Two families of dorm-mice sleep under the roof and some snakes keep the dorm-mice population steady... I sleep happily outside...
Primitive has a positive meaning for me. It comes from the latin word primus, meaning first. Primitive in this sense means our first ways of living as humans. I had and still have a dream to start an anarchistic (no leaders) and egalitarian (no hierarchy-no specialization) community based upon the community principles I observed in nomadic hunter gatherers during the 70s and 80s. But I am also realistic. That will never happen...
Many anthropologists that have visited nomadic hunter gatherers describe them as lazy. They built no houses, they had only a few shared tools, they had no sense of possession and they stored almost no food. It seemed most of the time all they did was sit and do nothing. They even don't speak a lot which was one of the things that surprised me at first. I expected them to talk and sing around a fire at night but that was quite rare. They produce almost no material culture. But they were not lazy, just economical and extremely efficient. I would call it the art of being idle. Sitting around doing nothing helps to conserve energy. It's how our ancestors survived for hundreds of thousands of years. And scientists discover it everywhere in the animal kingdom, even the bees and ants that were so important in the fairy tales that promoted hard work, work a lot less than expected.
Some westerners nowadays are fascinated by the hunter gatherer way of life. But in our typical way we get right into it and we start to plan, to manage, to create, to produce and to produce more. If we really want to get in touch with the hunter gatherer way of living we have to learn to do nothing... For me that is the major reason why I don't believe in human management and control of nature. In the end we always end up with unexpected terrible results.
But I want to end with a positive note. The place we call Portugal in our imagination is not a bad place to live. This region looks a little bit like the african savannah where Homo sapiens probably originated. Unfortunately there are no elephants, babboons and baobabs Thirteen million years ago, in the middle of the Miocene, almost all of Iberia was a tropical forest. In the middle of this forest lived Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, an ape, which some paleo-anthropologists consider the common ancestor of humans and great apes (chimps, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans). To me in a sense it feels like coming home.
Thank you so much for the very useful information! We Will definitely use your knowledge on starting a food forest in this climate.
We are going to start this adventure step by step and however self-sufficiency is the goal, this might take a long time ar might never be achieved. We will slowly see how primitive we want to be but it will be a transition that takes time.Next week 22-30 Aug) we will be in the area so if you agree we cwould maybe visit and see how you live?
Marie and William
Thanks for that detailed and thorough information about the trees and feral forests. It is rare to find someone who can give information from their experience and not just theoretical intellectual knowledge. So, thanks for taking the time to share it. Much appreciated and will be using your recommendations in October with our next tree planting mission.
I wondered if this website would be interesting for you. http://www.icnf.pt/portal/florestas/gf/prdflo/resource/doc/arvor-indigen-pt-contin
And if you ever want to buy trees (not fruit), I can recommend the Escola Superior Agraria in CB. It is here:
Sign posted from that big traffic circle with the water feature (Route Europea?)
They have a big range of trees (no fruit), good quality, and very cheap. For example, pine nut (stone pine?) saplings for 50c each.
happy hunting and gathering
ps: we had some communication a long time ago, and inspired by you, i now have three tumeric plants growing.
Pina River wrote:And if you ever want to buy trees (not fruit), I can recommend the Escola Superior Agraria in CB. It is here:
Sign posted from that big traffic circle with the water feature (Route Europea?)
They have a big range of trees (no fruit), good quality, and very cheap. For example, pine nut (stone pine?) saplings for 50c each.
Are they open to the public? Can you just drive in and buy or do you have to arrange with them first?
I think I might be heading over there very soon - planting season is nearly here...
5 min outside Penamacor you also have a forest tree nursery from Viveiros Aliança but like all nurseries all their saplings have root bound problems.
How do you know so much about this stuff? I am scared now that I don't know ANYTHING at all. I bought some land in Salgueiro do Campo, next to Castelo Branco, and will be in Portugal on the second week of October to sort a few things out.
I need to renovate the stone shed there, to make habitable, and also plant things.
I have now copied all your post as a future reference. Thank you for the highly informative piece.
I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see you are unarmed - shakespear. Unarmed tiny ad:
All of Permaculture Voices 3 - 50 hours of videohttps://permies.com/wiki/76959/Permaculture-Voices-hours-video