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new homestead in Portugal- ideas?  RSS feed

 
Steph Range
Posts: 12
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Hello fellow permies! Hopefully all are having a good day!
I'm going to get straight to the point and any help would be greatly appreciated:
My boyfriend and I, born in USA, are planning to move to Portugal. We both agreed we want to stay away from potential chains(loans) and the stressful rat race american lifestyle. We are both in our early twenties and love being outside, gardening and learning about clever strategies to implement into a homesteading lifestyle.
Our goal is to live an almost off the grid lifestyle. Both of us have plenty of family and land there, his father's land being an 1hour30mins from my parents land.
We have bounced around many ideas on how to finance and set up our homestead, we've reached a point, though, where we're not sure where to turn.

What we have:
2 grandmas eagerly willing to feed us in my hometown
A car
A 15 acre land with established olive trees (with an irrigation system) (this is his father's land and where we would set up our homestead)
A 3acre land with acacia and pine trees(undeveloped land)
Potential subsidies(Portuguese government eagerly handing out money to the youth to start up agriculture)
Plenty of tools
An interesting Market
Between the both of us 5k to invest
Buckets full of willpower

Our ideas(making the move in spring/summer, late May 2014 ):
Shelter:
Live on the land for at least 9months in a tent
Build a Small cob house with loft, rocket mass heater and grid electricity(electric bills will be less than 10 euros a month)(we've read a hand-sculpted house, and plenty how-tos for everything else)(Probably will cost 3k to put together over the course of a year and a half)

Water:
Running water from a spring + berkey water system

Food:
Potatoes, canned goods, rice, foraged greens for the first few months(free)
Future food forest Lawton+ Mollison style:
Citrus, berries, apples, peaches, passion fruit, etc.

Finances (with little to no investment in the first months)(exporting goods is an option):
Bean cultivation
Mushroom cultivation (Oyster)
Herbs
Summer Crops(melons)

How do we get from ^ there to this next list?:

Finances(what we want to build up to):
Dairy Goat farm(make and sell raw milk, cheese, kefir, yogurt)
Bee Farm(sell honey)
Chestnut cultivation (sell chestnuts)(going to buy saplings as soon as we get there, each is 7 euros)

(Portuguese people are very set in their olive oil, meat and cheese ways, it's at times hard to introduce radical new ideas to them, such as specialty mushrooms.)

We would really truly appreciate any ideas on how to make this successful.
Constructive criticism is welcomed as well!


 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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A few loose ideas:
Is either property fenced? This will be essential for goats, and highly desirable for gardens in the sense of keeping wild and stray animals out. A stout perimeter fence on a parcel of some size is a significant investment, comparable to that of a small house.
As someone also in a Mediterranean climate, consider design with wildfire in mind. This influences landscape layout, plantings, building design, and water design. Even if you have a spring with enough flow to support household and gardens, you might consider some sizeable storages with a pump, to be accessed in haste and in volume for fire fighting.
Cob and many other natural building materials have lots of positives, but they are one and all labor intensive. Unless you can commandeer several sizeable work parties, host a crew of interns, or otherwise get hold of some source of grunt labor, you might consider some form of intermediate housing, between the tent stage and the cob house stage. Remember you will be starting up gardens and other plantings and whatever other facets of your homestead at the same time. I built a couple of small cabins with tree poles and bamboo, cardboard, plastic, and old carpets stuccoed with mud and cement....and each one still took months! A lot of homesteaders make use of travel trailers, RV's, vans and buses, and old mobile homes for this purpose.
 
Guy De Pompignac
Posts: 192
Location: SW of France
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Geese in the olive orchard (+ figs, tagasaste, etc ..) !

http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_barber_s_surprising_foie_gras_parable.html
 
Dawn Hoff
Posts: 469
Location: Andalucía, Spain
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bee books chicken greening the desert rabbit trees
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Interesting project! Sounds like us, except you start out with less money and have no house OTOH you don't have kids

If Portugal is anything like Spain, the $5k would quickly be spent on taxes for planning permission alone. I'd look into a yurt or something like it. Do you already have electricity? Because getting it to our finca would be €13.000 (so we plan on buying solar for ~ 10.000 instead).

Here in Malaga they sell plenty if oyster mushrooms in the market. We also have an organic market in the Guardhalorce Valle - might be that your grandmas don't know about it, but I'd try to see if there is something like it. Try to find like minded people in your area, it helps a lot. Having goats with your olives will mean that you'd need to watch them all the time, because otherwise you'll soon have no olives - so a fence might not be needed. In Spain the government payed for fencing a few years ago, I don't know if they still do (I'd rather have the opportunity to shoot a wild boar once in a while and then only fence the vegetable garden).

EU subsidies means books and administration. It also means that they will meddle more with what you do. We don't want to go down that route. Organic certification means books and administration too, we are considering that though as that opens up some other markets.
 
Paulo Bessa
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Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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Hello, I am Portuguese, lived there until I was 25 years, now I have been living since a few years abroad.
I have grown vegetable gardens when I was there, for a long time, so I am aware of the climate possibilities and restrictions.

Please feel free to ask me, whatever you want, but I have a few points that you should ask yourself about it:

1. I hope you do understand that there is a big economic depression in Portugal. Its similar to Greece. That makes creating and running a business a big challenge! Difficult to compete with creap prices of supermarkets, which makes small business difficult to run. People do not want to buy stuff more expensive than in cheap supermarkets.
2. 5K seems also too little money to develop a land. Many expenses can cost just around that. Solar panels for instance will cost around 10 to 15k. Building permission around and property buying tax together can cost around your 5k.
3- Building natural houses can be a challenge if you want to have your house legal. It might depend very much in how conservative the region is, its laws, and neighbors around. Its possible to do it, without being legal, but then your neighbors must be good ones.
4- Also be aware of drought. Summer in Portugal is hot and dry. Water is a must. Expect to water daily, once or twice, even with mulching. It is doable, but for foreigners the dry climate can at times be a bit unexpected. Also be aware of forest fires, which are a big problem.
5. Acacia is a difficult tree to remove. The soil under a pine forest should be quite poor and acidic, and will need plenty organic matter to start something.

By the way where are your property located in Portugal?

I myself think of returning to Portugal one day, but I am aware that running a business there, can be quite a challenge.



 
Steph Range
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Thank you Guy for that amazing Ted talk, definitely something we would consider.
Thank you Paulo! We plan on setting up in Guarda. Solar panels is not something we are considering just yet. We plan on using grid electricity which does run already through the property. Irrigation is already set up, his grandfather set up a system supplying free water.
I've lived in Portugal for a few years also, I love the climate.
Paulo, I've been trying to brainstorm summer cash crops: legumes, melons, certain herbs.....do any more off the top of your head? Thank you again
Dawn, you're right I'll see if some of these specialty mushrooms are in demand, perhaps local restaurants are using them.
Thank you for all the responses so far!
 
Jose Reymondez
Posts: 137
Location: Galicia, Spain Zone 9
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Hey Guys,

Your post caught my eye because I am basically in the same situation and have the same aspirations except that I now realize that I should have found Miss Right rather than trying to embark on this project on my own and I didn't make the move back to my parents' homeland until my kate 20s, rather than early 20s.

Anyway, I am in Spain but I hang out a lot on the Northern border of Portugal, I have a good friend here with land in Spain

If you are are in the North, you should know that the constant winter rain would make living in a tent overwinter pretty unbearable. You'll never be dry. It would be much easier to have a colder but drier winter in a tent than have to endure a frost-free winter that can easily dump 40 inches of rain or more in a few months.

Also, do you have Portuguese citizenship through your parents? As a Spanish citizen, coming back to live in Spain is basically considered like being unemployed, so I get unemployment for 18 months, its 426 euros a month, not much, but enough to live on. Maybe Portugal has something similar for citizens returning to Portugal?

Selling the "weirder stuff" might be tough. My friend with land in Portugal was able to have some success selling the traditional stuff overwinter but presenting anything foreign didn't get him anything other than confused looks. I have a situation here where there is a municipally-affiliated "fundiación" that wants to create and organic brand to market Galician nuts, fruits and berries for products to export to Northern Europeans, which ties in well to my food foresting aspirations. We have an amazing climate for forests, its green all year round,we don't take advantage of it. North Portugal does as well.

Finally, if you're in the North, I can point you in the right direction for finding some of the harder-to-get trees and plants for good prices. If you're further south, we can do a seed exchange, I'm getting a pretty good collection of trees

Be thankful the Portuguese don't like mushrooms, that means you can pick them all for yourselves! Its amazing, on the Spanish side of the border everyone is out there scouting for shrooms, but once my friend and I cross the border over to Portugal, its all ours because no one goes out for them.

If you have any questions, feel free to post or message!

Jose
 
Frank Troy
Posts: 6
Location: Portugal
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I'm currently living in Portugal as well, and have basically the same dream as you. I'm a bit more limited in my choice of land, but if my wife and I see our project to fruition, it will be quite a few years into the future. In the interim, I've been trying to soak up as much info as possible, both about permaculture and Portugal. Just some random thoughts I've noticed in my (limited) time here:

It's true organic hasn't caught on like in other places, but you still can find people who value it and who are willing to spend a bit more for organic produce. It's definitely a niche market at this point, though. That being said, things here seem to be a lot less formalized and the lines are a lot less defined as to what's organic and what's not. Like the fig tree in the middle of the village that nobody tends and everybody picks from in August–is that organic? What about the rows of cabbages planted in a little triangle of earth where two streets intersect? These things end up playing a part, especially in rural Portugal. As an American, where I feel like we tend to formalize everything and do everything in a very organized way, this realization fascinated me when I first started noticing it.

Also, don't discount the sense of community you'll encounter in the country. I have a pair of friends who are also homesteading in the Guarda area, and I recently visited them. I noticed all of the great homemade olive oil, cured meats, wine, etc that they had, and asked them where I could buy such products (in bulk to take back to the city). They informed me that it would be hard, because they were given all of those products. One reason they find life in the country so cheap is because in any month, they're given (and give away) dozens of € in goods from neighbors who have too much.

One big thing I've learned (as my wife's Portuguese family has several lawyers) is that yes, gov't regulations can be the end of any plans of this nature. Regarding housing, I'm told that the best way to do it (it's almost impossible to get a building permit for even a "conventional" house without dropping a ton of money in licenses) is if you can build your shelter on any sort of existing structure whatsoever (abandoned house, shed, etc). Even if you don't take advantage of any existing materials, you can count your work as repairs to an existing structure, and therefore you either don't need a permit, or it's easier to obtain (not sure which). I don't know all of the particulars about this, but it's what I've been told and seen over and over in various parts of the country. If your plots of land have any remnants of structures, you might consider this. Another option, according to my friend in the Guarda area, is to check out the records of the particular area you're living it. I've heard that it's possible to claim that your structure already existed on the land, but the municipal records were either lost, incorrect, incomplete, etc. I guess you can only get away with this in really rural areas.

Anyway, I hope this helps some. I'll eagerly keep up with your progress; I can use all of the advice I can get as well. Good Luck!
 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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Like I said (and I am Portuguese) you must either do the cob house without anyone noticing, or neighbors must remain quiet. If they snitch, then you will have to pay a fine and for the permits. Anyways, paying for the permits, which can be strict, implies money, which can be up to a 5k, because it requires an architect plan plus other expenses and taxes. And being a natural construction something that raises odd looks, I wouldn't go down that road. You need to access how much remote your place is.

Or you can speak to someone that knows the local council and establish a good relationship with them, and convince them of what you are doing, but that can be difficult and it would be nearly impossible if you are a foreigner. Anyways Portuguese are not as strict as rules, but everyone and the gov is in dire need for money, so they will use any opportunity to fine or make you pay something. And like I said, it depends a lot on the region and town hall.

You need to be realistic and know of these challenges and also the way how Portuguese people work. Selling mushrooms to restaurants... Hmm, I doubt it. You can try to sell them to organic shops, in large cities. But do not expect countryside folks to buy them. Guarda is quite a conservative place, people are very friendly, hospitable, giving and nice, but will give a odd look if you try to sell them a weird crop, unheard of (for them). Speak to them of permaculture and they will answer come and try my own wine or cheese

Cash crops: melons yes (they are a traditional crop), herbs (to organic shops or young city people, otherwise not so much), chestnuts (definitively but you need to do some street selling, it works best for chestnuts in autumn), wine and liquors (big yes!), olives are also traditional crop, beans not so much (but sold as bulk, can be, more countryside), cheese can be a good bet, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, turnips tops... Talk to your grandfather, he can probably come with good ideas. But as I said, difficult to make enough livable income, as you will compete with a lot, and cheap supermarkets.

Great that you have already irrigation, that's a big plus.

Guarda has also slighty colder winters than most Portugal. Snow can occur ocasionally and frosts can be down to zone 8. You can't, for example, grow bananas there, but still a lot of subtropical crops. Summers will still be nice and hot. Not so much problem with forest fires there as elsewhere.

On building the cob house, if you can have a large property, try to build the house in a remote place, and keep it low profile. If there is a ruin there, then it helps a bit. Laws can be flexible and bent but can also be a headache, just be aware of that.

 
Steph Range
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Thank you so much Frank for that info! We do have 2 sheds already set up on property, that would be great if either are registered. All the info you gave us is great! We truly appreciate it. We will make sure to keep this updated. The specialty items(homemade organic jams, pate) will probably sell in the feiras in the big cities, closest to us would aveiro and porto. Also we might consider exporting specialty items, perhaps mushrooms and etc...
Thank you Jose, we just might get in contact in the future, we're definitely interested in buying good quantities of saplings. Miss. Right will come around when you least expect it!
 
Steph Range
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Paulo, the land is secluded from the main town, The olive trees are grown right up to the street and extend a quarter mile back into the land. We would build deep in the property, perhaps where the second shed is.We would definitely try schmoozing the council. We had most in mind selling in the big cities, where my parents live.
As you know, in portugal you don't need a whole lot to get by. We've significantly cut down our expenses and plan on cutting down further when we get there, to the point that our only expenses are diesel, internet(about 15-20 euros a month), phone(cheap in portugal) and food(free for the most part). We use clay for toothpaste, no shampoo, no deodorant, no television, etc., my point being we don't need a whole lot.
Thank you for all the info, I'll jot down some of those cash crops as well.
 
fei martins
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hello, I live near Aveiro,there are several alternative markets in Coimbra, a saturday organic market by the botanic gardens, first Saturday of the month a feira sem regras, free and you can sell anything except cooked food. mushrooms are popular.
Hope you do get your goat milk for sale as we can only buy a Spanish brand.
strongly suggest you purchase a caravan, easy to heat in the very cold wet winters. we lived in a motorcaravan when we arrived was great.
best of luck, fei
 
Andre Lemos
Posts: 56
Location: Castelo Branco, Portugal
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Cheese, cheese and cheese. Export goat cheese! Guarda is the district capital of the goat cheese center.
About the rest, Paulo and Frank said it all there is to say

I'm on my way to do the same as you in Alentejo region, you guys could visit me in the spring !!!

Good luck
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
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