A Perfect Time, A Perfect Place

A Piece Written In 2013 When We First Found Our New Home

Enchanted Acres has been found!! In all honesty we saw many acres of enchanted beauty in Portugal but we have definitely found the spot which will be our new base and the area in which we will spend many happy times with new and old friends!

We have just got back from our 10 day research trip, though we went over with a view to buy, we didn’t really expect to find what we hooped to find and had almost resigned ourselves to just making this trip one to decide where we would like to base ourselves when looking for land next year, fate as always had other plans!!

Having left the black steed (van) with family and dropped off all of the furry and shelled ones in their respective ‘holiday resorts’, we started our journey… Arriving in Faro we crashed for a night and after spending the next morning on the beach in gloriously boiling sunshine headed off to meet the lovely Nori, Lucan, Roger and the feathery furry family, after a fantastic evening, sharing, talking and laughing into the night with them we said our goodbyes and headed north to see Sophie and Andy and stay at their Quinta near Tabua, this really kicked the dream into gear, arriving in the dark, to music playing, the smell of an awesome curry on the go and exotic sounds coming from the trees we really started to get a feel for the life we soon could live and share with others, after yet more chatting, laughing and much food we awoke to another day of sunshine and a look around their beautiful Quinta which gave us an idea of the way we might dream to do things one day, ideas buzzing around our heads it was soon time to leave and onwards we went to Oleiros where our next new meeting awaiting with the gorgeous Michelle and her little boy Lucas in their beautiful converted house (which the photos confirmed literally had no roof when she purchased it a few years ago!) more inspiration drawn and more views and sounds to take in, by now we were really starting to get a feel for what the ‘real’ Portugal could offer, Oleiros is surrounded by mountains peppered with trees and crossed by huge wide rivers, day after day of sunshine ahead of us, soaking up as many of the sounds and sights as we could we went to see some land which Michelle had kindly asked around about before our arrival, the land we saw was green, peaceful and sunny but locals were asking a lot of money for even tiny amounts (foolishly believing us to be the wealthy foreigners)…I would be lying if I said we weren’t starting to feel a little concerned that we would be struggling to find something that would offer the many roles we needed it too within our meagre budget.

Within only a few days it was again time to head further inland to our next stopping point, once we had prised Tom and Lucas away from each other we said our goodbyes and made our way to Castelo Branco to meet the infamous Maria, Paulo and Chanel (the tiny and much adored dog) of Remax, Maria is well known by people flocking to Portugal because she has a true no nonsense approach to land hunters and almost always finds people the exact place they are dreaming of without even realising it…within the flash of a bleached blonde lock of hair and the click of a snakeskin mule we were handed a stack of papers and a man called Angelo who would show us the places she had in mind….a full 5 hours later, having seen various shapes of field with varying amounts of olive trees, driving in what seemed like an endless spiral we dropped Angelo off and headed to the tipi site near Penemacor which we would call home for the next 5 days. A warm welcome, dinner and a glass of wine all washed down with the wonderful Pam and Mark owners of Tippings Tipi Site, the stay started well!… Two further days of the same brain spinning task of looking, smiling, nodding, touching leaves and kicking soil while grasping at pieces of paper with numbers written on them which would tell us whether we could a) afford and b) have space…still nothing totally fitted the bill…Luckily for us Mark and Pam seemed to have rubber ears and having (12 months before) been through a similar exploration they had settled into a gorgeous 3 hectare Quinta complete with the most incredible old man face shaped rock and were more than well equipped enough to listen to our confused and exited ramblings, offering words of advice on how to consider the land we had seen and what might or might not be of much use to us. One thing had started to settle though, and after a few days near Penemacor things started falling into place, this area has something about it, something comforting, rugged but clean, peoples smiles reached us here more than they had in other parts of Portugal, it felt as though we had come home to a place we’d been many times before, we were certain Penemacor was the place we would like to live. We by now had seen at least 12 pieces of land and though we saw some incredible places, none were ‘the one’ smiling and cooing over soil quality was starting to wear thin. “No matter” Pam said “when it is right you will know” herself and Mark suggested we meet some friends who might be able to help and in stepped Jamie and Joshua who, within a few beers and brief run down figured out just what we were looking for, a few phone calls later and we heard some exciting news that they had something they thought we might like…off we all went Josh crammed in the back of the hire car playing with Tom on his computer game, Jamie in the back of Pam and Kens land rover trying to figure out where this land was that they had seen months before…For those of you who do not know Portugal well, imagine building a main road, adding countless tracks off of said main road each looking roughly the same and removing all signposts and natural landmarks, and you almost get the picture… These tracks had cattle grids just to add interest and make you believe you know where you are without realising there are in fact several cattle grids with a low bush and a cow stood next to them…somehow after only one incorrect journey leading through a field of large horned heifers which didn’t want to move out of the way we found the land they had told us about and, without being dramatic in the least we all instantly fell in love… we went through a gate, over a dry river bed to the first space which was an orchard complete with a well, many fruit trees and an olive grove, then around the corner to a huge field which stretches out up a slope into the distance, surrounded by woodland on either side and another separate triangle with a pigsty with a little fruit tree in it which would make a perfect medicine garden…more than enough space for the animals and humans and lots of stunning old trees, including the most twisted, beautiful wise old olive tree and two huge line trees which some lovely old fellow 50 years previously had clearly planted at hammock width apart… The smells around us were beautiful, more cork oak trees that we could count and plenty of firewood from the unmanaged woodland to last us years! Even though we were visiting immediately after the obsessive annual ploughing which Portuguese land is subjected too it still looked beautiful, with grass and wildflowers and ponds we could just imagine how much more beautiful it would be!! Sold!! We knew it was home instantly, the views of the Serra Estrella mountains where we can ski in the winter, the river beached and thermal spas nearby, the sense of peace and tranquility was all totally overwhelming and within a matter of days we decided this was not only the area we wanted to live, it was the land we wanted to become guardians of for the foreseeable future too, our feelings further confirmed more by the reaction of Tom who would sit in the same spot and peacefully dig while singing to himself each time we visited (something he hadn’t done on any of the other land we had visited so far)… It felt right, there was no doubt about it, and in classic portuguese style when we offered the farmer a 50% deposit instead of the usual 10% he offered us a beautiful stone barn as a thank you, which not only will help us to store our belongings in the time between arriving and building our home but will also serve as a wonderful workshop save or holiday cottage in the future… So here we are…back in the UK with everything now signed, deposit transferred, and the farmer hand shaken and hugged and kissed. And as an added bonus the people along the way which have taken this journey with us have been mind blowingly full of love and kindness and friends for life without a doubt. How lucky we feel to have cemented new friendships and found a new home all at the same time!!

For now it is back to Cornwall, with website to build, lists to make, lists for lists to make, things to sell and give away, lives to pack up, and animals to round up… the adventure has only just started, but already it feels incredible! The purge of so many un needed ‘things’ will be a huge release to us all.

We will keep you updated as we go, including with lists of things for sale and for free. I (hopefully) have attached some pics below of the new land, even though they are terrible pictures you will get the idea, plenty more time for more detailed ones when we make our final move in a few months time! Thanks for following our journey with us, we look forward to sharing the rest with you all too. Love and hugs xxx

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A Brief Tipical Day

While sat watching the fire burn, smoke started pouring out of the woodburner door…. Add more dry wood, get it hot….nope, open all the vents get the flames up…nope… throw firefighters in…a whole pack….nope…. smoke starts billowing out of the door, the window, and now the flue joints…even at the bottom of the flue…..evacuate The Hermitage, remove cot mattress, baby, child, random things affected by smoke damage, turn the soup off the boil, remove kettles to avoid them boiling dry…go back inside, wondering what on earth could have caused the woodburner (at only three days old), to react in such an aggressive manner….half an hour later stood half in, half out, unsure what to do next notice the baffle on the flue is closed, tight…firm shut…..allowing no smoke out…. Open baffle to watch the fire roar to life, the smoke pouring out of the windows and door starts to turn to wisps, and instead comes billowing out of the flue, in the manner it should… Just as the sun comes out… And the temperature soars outside for the first time all week, and so we have an enormous woodburner full of wood capable of melting the polar ice cap…luckily the sun being out means we have enough solar to power a fan, so we can suck up and blow out the smoke which fills the inside..(oh the irony). The rest of today has been spent moving horses, sadly waving the fat pony goodbye, seeing a friend in the Camara to arrange a stall for the Xmas craft markets, arrange for firewood to be dropped off using a badly drawn map (sorry andy) sign language, Portuguese to make a 3 year old feel ashamed and the agreement to place a stick in the ground painted (salmon pink) to mark the track for our Quinta, collect 40 litres of water from the font, use the car to chase the huge orange thunder horse away from the fenceline in the hope he will soon give up his questionable advances at Tonto and his doe eyes, feed horses and dogs for a friend, collect some hay, eat soup, eat baked banana and chocolate cooked in the woodburner, make a bed for Tom, cut up wire to make pan hooks for the ladder above the sink, question whether it should sound so normal when you hear Andy say to Tom (not for the first time this week) ‘Tom please stop howling, its making the dogs bark’, massage the baby, sing, dance, open the bottle of champagne we were given by lovely friends for oscars birth because now is the first time its seemed there is time to drink it before falling asleep into a heap in bed. And some other stuff in between… :)

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Cake Houses, Stone Barns, Prickly Tents

Can plans change any faster? I suppose its to be expected that in a naturally developing (non) planned house build they will change frequently, and its good as it shows we are considering all angles to ensure we do the right thing at the right time, not so much a change of plan, more a change of route.

After visiting friends the other morning with their roundhouse still in working progress we have decided to build exactly that (it was stunning to see!) still as planned but not rush to do it before winter, or before anytime really, just to build it and let it develop as it should, taking our time, as and when we have the money and importantly after the first rains have come. When it rains here, it rains, so we can see how the land fairs when they first hit and ensure our chosen spot is good.

Once this is done we will flatten the spot and slowly, slowly start with the frame. When you are juggling feeding a new baby, stopping dogs from getting lost, horses from escaping, a 5 year old who deserves as much attention as possible after the last six months he’s had, (soon to be) rain/punishing heat, eating and sleeping it leaves us with about 10 minutes 45 seconds to build per day, so we might be some time….

In the meantime we are going to do a quick conversion on the stone barn, at 10m x 5m it is bigger than the 2 bed house-sit we are living happily in anyway and at least gives us the head start with new roof and solid walls… It has an earth floor, no water and no electricity of course, but once the solar is running, and the pump is pumping water from up the hill it’ll be ok, and with a mezzanine bedroom and a window knocked out will be a lovely space, it also is at the very easiest part of our land to access so no need to spend time building roads yet either. All in all, much better and much less pressure. We have found a slate supplier who can cover the entire floor for 140€ which is a bargain and will be perfectly in keeping with the space, we then will make a bathroom with partition wall, and will make two window frames to fill the holes which have been slated over, it will be a basic conversion as we don’t want to spend money on something that just needs to protect us from the elements, we don’t want to be too comfy or we will never get on with the ‘real’ build. Once we have moved out, we can add some finishing touches, render the walls etc and it will be a stunning holiday let for spring/summer and workshop space. It’s very exciting, I’ve always wanted to build and design our very own ‘tiny house’ and it looks like we have the added bonus of now doing so!

The plans for there ‘big house’ are looking great too, thanks to the huge patience, ideas and love given by a soul sister friend who works on planning projects for Eco builds we are getting more confident that the plans we had in our head will work as hoped, currently to save it from sounding so daunting and technical she and I are using cakes as ways to describe the effects on a house or ways to see structures… Like a battenburg we will only have windows and doors on either pink or yellow squares, but not both… Like a cheesecake we will ensure the ground is level and tampered down solid… Cakes and house design should be applied together much more often, as should cakes mechanics, I would learn so much faster!

So with pressure off it means we can really enjoy the build and not stress, we will be building a stable area still for the horses and to store the things which are currently in the barn in for winter, tools etc etc and while the digger is there we will be building an experimental dew pond for water collection and for the horses to drink/wade in on hot days, I’ve always wanted to try one, so now is as good a time as any and it means we can use it as an example of what/what not to do for one of the workshops next spring, with current world unrest it feels more important than ever to be examining methods of water collection without using more typical rainwater harvesting methods which are already becoming illegal in some US states.

I digress…We have found a place which sells old telegraph poles very cheaply, these will form the henge part of the roundhouse, we have to go and chainsaw them and then move them ourselves…in Portugal you can’t carry anything which is longer than your vehicle legally, meaning we need a trailer or a long vehicle to carry the 4 metre lengths which we need for the build but I’m sure we will overcome this soon enough… You can have an electrical power cable 2ft off the ground in a children’s park, inviting them to (as Tom did) to swing off it (thankfully it was insulated with thin plastic along all but a foot either end of it so he’s still alive today… but safety first, you can not carry things longer than the car, because that, would be dangerous. We also need some long length poles cut and delivered for the roof poles, we can get Douglas Fir here and eucalyptus in abundance of course, but it all takes time… Unlike in the UK, where you pop along to a huge depot which sells everything you need under one roof, or you call and order a delivery in for the next day, in Portugal its like going back in time, you order sand and cement from the builders yard, maybe tiles and bricks if you are lucky, or they will be somewhere up the road with someone else, then you go to the woodman, tell him what you need, a tree is chosen and (if they remember) that week it’ll be cut and processed and then delivered the following week, then you go along the road again to the fence post place and order these, they all come with delivery generally but it means you’re at the mercy of people remembering, and when you have accounted for the fact that everywhere shuts for their 3 hour daily lunch break and you have no address for delivery anyway its a fairly lengthy process to undertake. Here like in ‘the good old days’ people don’t call on the phone (most don’t answer or have such a crap phone line it’s not worth it) you drive to and visit the person who’s services you need, it’s wonderful, much more meaningful than placing faceless phone orders, but takes much, much more time… Luckily the relaxed attitude in west Cornwall and the even more relaxed approach from most of the tipi material suppliers means we are well versed in this coming Tuesday meaning next Friday without any warning at all.

So for now, we continue our cake/house design and we will be making the barn habitable ASAP. The long term plan is to have a round house with living space, kitchen, sitting area and dining room, connecting via a glass walkway to the courtyard and a second straw bale, cob wall hallway to a second roundhouse which will be the bedrooms. The cob wall walkway will be north facing and will be pantry and boot room and the glass walkway will be south facing and will heat the house in winter and will be another growing space. It’ll be wonderful to see it take shape over the course of winter and spring!

In the meantime today we have had more of our stuff arrive today and have been getting ready for the official move tomorrow. The horses will be loaded at 8am all being well thanks to a lovely new friend carol who has a trailer and is happy to help us with the two hour round trip, they can then get to work shortening the horrible spiky dry grass which cuts your feet as you walk through the field. As our short-short term accommodation we have set up a bug 5m bell tent and will create an outdoor kitchen and shower and loo sometime tomorrow, along with setting the well pump up (once we have the 200metres of pipe needed and something to pump the water too) and getting the solar power sorted.

In other events this week, life is settling down, we are getting used to the heat, its still mid 30’s most days, but we hide from the heat in the afternoon. We have been to see friends for the last few evenings, and had a lovely time, we are socialising more now than since I was about 25, and love every second. There is talk of Pygmy goats, Estrela dogs and fluffy kittens on the horizon, we have pretty much already agreed to take in a lovely little cat who is currently a few hours up the road after being rescued from the streets by a friend…the zoo is taking shape :) – It feels weird to have been here nearly three weeks and only just be going ‘home’ needless to say, we can not wait though, we are desperate to watch the sunrise and set and be nearer to the people we have grown to know and already love!

Here below are pics of the short temporary home, before the medium temporary home is finished. I shall take regular pics of the progress, hoping we can have this building ready in the next two weeks, which is incredibly ambitious but it wouldn’t be us if we didn’t set stupid deadlines for things!!!

The campsite temporary home before the temporary barn home.

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Our shade thanks to a big old olive tree

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Preparing the ground for the tent

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Setting up camp

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Spiky grass

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Home for a while

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