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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Oily Paper Circles

THAT’S IT!!!!!!!! Done! Finished! Nothing more to do!!!! Despite being 3 days away from 9 months pregnant and with only a few hours sleep last night, I sluggishly started sewing around late morning, and found myself a few hours in having almost finished everything, so I pressed on and here I am FINISHED!!! Wahooooooooooo!

Now…it’s time for me to tell you how the machine continued for so long without its usual weekly mental breakdown. Yes the all singing, all dancing brand spanking new steed which was sold to us as ‘the best machine ever’ (hence the £1500 exchange of paper notes for it) by Fred the snake salesman….after just over a year of ownership and close to £1000 in repairs, several gallons of tears, at least a bucket and a half of blood, and enough swear words to keep the neighbours kids going until they are well into their late teens, we were sent details of a man in Truro by lovely Lizzie Cornish, and upon hearing my plea around a month ago he dutifully drove on down the next day and came to take a look.

A lovely squashy, huggable man he was, Cornish through and through, and just like my much loved fabric supplier Brian with his Somerset tones and warm smile, Cornish David came in calmly and asked to have ten minutes to just take a look and see what was happening… Within the time it took to boil a kettle and make him a cuppa he shut his tool box and said….’all done! I don’t need to do anything really!’ Upon seeing my baffled and disappointed expression he pulled a little piece of folded lined paper out from one of his huge tweed pockets, and laid it on the sewing bench, he took a pair of scissors and cut a rounded corner off one side of the paper, following the shape of the end of his thumb, he then snipped off the pointy part of the shape he had left and opened it out, to make a perfect circle with a hole in the middle, the right size to fit in the bobbin case, he dabbed a little machine oil on it, a fitted it in and said ‘THAT….will be all you need to solve the problem here’ I started sewing and the expectation of the clatter, clunk and then jammed machine didn’t happen, he stood and sipped his tea while I continued and then once the cup was finished he went on his merry way, charging only £50 and refusing my request to cover his fuel bill….

And he was right, absolutely right, not once has the machine broken or threatened to jam in the way that makes £100 a pop Fred appear, by now the machine would have broken a dozen times at least, by my calculations, depending on the day it chose to break on we would have spent £900 more on repairs and I’d have had no hope of ever finishing work before the baby arrives! I shall not lie, knowing that the slithery one would have certainly known the issue causing the problem, and still continued to fix it and charge us for the pleasure has made me twitch a little… Though money is money, and it’ll come back to us in one form or another as all these things do…

But!!! To think that of all the things needed to fix this metal lump of clattering spindles, needles, cogs and pedals was a piece of paper leaves me more than a little dumbstruck!!! So thank you Cornish David, for your good humour, your honesty and your knowledge… Thanks to you, I can start to rest a little, and can start to focus on thing other than canvas! I will still be making the little mytipi minis for those who want them, shall upload some pics to the website soon, but I am thrilled and relieved that I can finally stop worrying about going into labour anytime soon with a pile of sewing staring at the from the corner of the room!

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Keep It Clean

For once I thought I’d post less of a tale and more of an informative post – all is happening full throttle here at Monson HQ a van load of junk has been removed this morning, meaning the house is groaning less and less, wardrobes, cabinets and drawers left last night, we now have only two beds, a dining table, a chair and some benches left in the house. Tipi work is finally starting to become more of a slope than a mountain to climb and I’m hopeful that as long as the machine (and I) hold out it will all be finished within the next week or less! Must say I can’t wait!

All of this means that focus can be made on the logistics of the move and the reality of landing in 40degree weather and moving to a piece of land with nothing more than a well, a bucket, some trees and (currently) a fire risk covering the entire area. We have a small solar panel which will run two low energy bulbs, so we have some light to get us started. We will be buying a water pump when we get there which means we should be able to extract water from the well up the hill to a holding tank which will provide us with gravity fed taps and shower, and we need now to sort out a small generator which will be enough to power the sewing machine and some back up batteries when we first arrive. Of course, moving with a new baby, and washable nappies means one glaring issue….. Washing machines!!!!

We know we can’t power a machine on the meagre supply of solar panels we will be starting with, even in the summer, I had toyed with the idea of hand washing, then quickly abandoned it, and we were originally planning on taking over a bike or trike and making a pedal powered machine out of an old drum and some belts…logistically it’s proved a problem and it will still need setting up upon arrival so it’s not much use really, we will still be making one for the campsite guests, and times when we feel we want to keep fitter but in the meantime we have found a perfect happy medium, in the form of a twin tub! Low energy (because it doesn’t heat the water) and cycles which can be 1 minute to 15 minutes long, with a separate tub for spinning for up to five minutes, of course you can wash once or twice and rinse a few times too, more importantly the spin dry gets clothes as dry as they ever came out of our old machine! We have now been using the machine for 2 weeks and it is coping brilliantly with the washing demand we put upon it, once in Portugal we will use a black container to heat our water in summer, at the moment it’s a little tiresome heating water on the stove to wash and rinse in, so we are in the middle of putting together a quick 16 brick ‘rocket stove’ so we can heat kettles in super fast time. There is a hose attachment which means when we have a house and can hook up to a tap we will just turn on the tap to fill it up when washing (height of luxury!) which will be much less messy, but it’s no great chore for now and not waiting around for an unnecessary 40minute ‘Eco’ cycle certainly is worth a few buckets of water being carried from the kitchen to the garage where the machine finds her temporary home!

There are a few options of sizes of these machines, some as small as 2.5kg, I’m glad we opted for a larger 4.5kg one though as we already have to split the wash into threes or fours to enable to spinner to spin efficiently, once we have moved we will probably buy a mangle still for large bedding and thick towels which the spinner might not cope with too well, but that’s no biggie.

Energy output is fantastically low, and will hopefully mean we can use the machine through the summer and winter! :) on a wash it uses 200 watts and on spin it uses 120 watts which in comparison to the average machine somewhere between 700 and 1200 watts means we feel very happy indeed! It also means we can do tiny washes of just one or two items with a bowl of water which would never have been an option with our old machine!

Shall follow up more on the dodgy ‘rocket stove’ with pics and instructions ASAP :)

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Oily Tears and Aeroplanes

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This has been a weird week, you read this now, and find me 8 months pregnant I’m constantly aware that I’m nowhere near in the head space that I need to be and this baby I waddle around with in front of me is soon going to be here, I still have to remind myself I’m pregnant and not just knackered and out of breath from tipi making and packing the house up! The spare room is empty (or at least keeps being emptied) and I can hope soon to make it a nice little peaceful nest, away from boxes and packing tape and bits of stickle brick (which, incidentally hurt a lot more than lego bricks do at 2am when you have got up and stumbled your way down the hallway for the 7th time that hour to go for a wee) once the room is sorted out I will feel a little more relaxed about things, right now I feel more like a frantic flapping bumbling bird knocking the nest over and stamping all over the little twigs I’ve found while trying to gather them back up again than an elegant stork who calmly stands in meditation….

I suppose moving country with a host of animals, a business, a new baby and a child, with absolutely no help nearby whatsoever was never going to be something we could do calmly and elegantly – this is nesting on speed… Not enough for me to feel the need to clean out all of the cupboards and wash the curtains, for the last month we have been living in a house with almost no furniture, curtains removed from all but the bedrooms and (as of today) no lampshades, rugs or cushions anywhere to be seen. The living room is now the packing room, a mountain of things to take with us piling high up against a wall on one side of the room and on the other side of the room all of the camping stuff for the last few rentals we have to do balances precariously, casting shadows over the tortoises who sit quietly in their sun box, seemingly unaware of their impending move and almost taunting us with their ‘ready built home on a back’. The packing is slowly getting there, boxes are being filled, and lots and lots of stuff is being got rid of, and it feels so good, as a bit of a hoarder I thought I’d find it impossibly hard to see things leave, but it’s now become an obsession, the less stuff I see in each room the better, cardboard is the colour of this spring season. Originally we had planned a (slightly) madcap drive across England, Spain and Portugal with the truck, a huge old heavy wooden horse trailer and all of our belongings… however fate had other ideas when she decided to blow our engine up on the truck 4 days ago when we were driving home from a rare day out to the Eden project, luckily for us (and everyone else on the road that day) we managed to pull off the dual carriage way just as the burning hot oil started spouting from the gap in the bonnet hinge, the strong smell and the smoke coming through the air vents was also a key sign something was wrong, no sooner had I opened my mouth and looked in Andy’s direction did we hear an ENORMOUS clattering sound, the engine revved higher and higher, she ate her oil and that was it…the soul of the old girl flew upwards into the sky surrounded by thick black plumes… out we leapt, serenaded by people screaming from their car windows ‘get out of the car!! NOW!’ As we looked on from a safe(ish) distance, a black river pouring down the road behind her, it was clear this was not a job that Ruan our (overworked) mechanic would be bodging for us…It was with sadness that we advertised her on eBay and sold her for £700 two days later, leaving us with a trailer, a lot of belongings and no vehicle, in a village, with no shop, one bus a day, a child, and us heavily pregnant…

After a day of scratching heads and scribbling numbers, exhausting every other idea we succumbed to the direction we were clearly being now pushed, cancelled our ferry ticket and booked a lovely man called Bill to drive to us on the morning we had originally planned to leave the UK, load up his van with our life, take the dogs, drive off and hopefully take the 3.45 Plymouth to Santander and meet us at the farm in Portugal, meanwhile we will fly over (and spend some of the flight trying to remember how in the hell to find the piece of land we last stood upon 10 months previously)…… In the meantime on goes the search for a cheap (under £300) car to see us through the next couple of months… It’s fair to say we expected plans not to always go to plan, can’t say we expected this though! As is often the way, its all worked out for the better, and my recurring nightmare of us sitting on the side of a road waiting for a Spanish pick up truck in 40 degree heat to drag a wooden horse trailer with a broken axle and three tonnes of ‘stuff’ in the back away for us can be forgotten… hopefully leaving us a far less stressful journey to our new home and the joy of looking through the second hand car market of Portugal when we arrive –

Can’t say much right now, but there are many other plans afoot, we will keep you updated on them as frequently as possible! 12 weeks to go!!!!!!!

Our website is in a half finished state but new info being added all of the time, needless to say it hasn’t been read through and check for mistakes as yet, but feel free to hop over and have a look, you’ll see our plans for the space there under the visions tab : http://www.enchantedacres.co.uk

Enchanted Acres – Just The Beginning

I can not believe the last time I wrote was February!! Time seems to be whizzing past faster than ever.  Finally we are getting a burst of sunshine which means we are cracking on with the tipis and getting them delivered as soon as possible, people are booking their bell tents for summer holidays and we have finally cemented a plan of action which brings so much joy to me that I feel I might burst!

I knew when the dream of finding land in the UK dried up that it would be replaced with something amazing, something huge and something that we could never have considered doing in the UK…and it is fair to say that this most certainly is proving to be the case!  For a long time I have wanted to create a space where people with similar intentions can come together and share knowledge, enabling us all to start to live in harmony with the planet and free ourselves from some of the trappings of society, especially trappings associated with price tags.

As many of us know, the future for Mother Earth is looking desperate, far worse than a lot of people realise, tomorrow is not an option anymore, the planet is in need of help and she needs help now… What is happening ‘out there’ is reflected in some ways with people who feel something is missing, maybe in a spiritual sense, a lack of health, a sense of disconnection from community or family – It often manifests itself as something we can not quite put a finger on…Whatever reason we give ‘it’, it is more clear than ever that we need to start changing the way we live.  And from this thread of reality, Enchanted Acres is forming and it is taking us in a direction which means we can offer workshops to people on a variety of things which we feel are incredibly important for the survival of us all, things we should have never been allowed to forget – FOR FREE! No money, no hidden cost… I firmly believe this is the only direction that gives us all a chance of turning things around, the planet we live on needs us to get reconnected and needs us to share the path to do so…

Ok, so what about Enchanted Acres? – Well, we have known for a long while that Portugal was a possible place to look for land and, it seems it is calling more than ever…Parcels of land we could not consider affording at in the UK are affordable with our meagre budget, and we have a good chance of living somewhere in a building which we can not only afford to build but also build in a way we believe we should all be living.  Because we can live much more easily and need less money for land, we can afford to buy sooner rather than later and most importantly without borrowing, this also means we can start the dream of sharing such information and the space with as many people as possible as soon as possible.

Enchanted Acres will be a permaculture project aimed to reach as many people as possible, somewhere which will have wonderful examples of rainwater harvesting, trees growing along swales, food forests giving food security and reforestation to increase the biodiversity of the area.  We will build somewhere that we can run workshops and share our ideas with people, we hope to show people first hand that they do not need huge debt and tens of thousands of pounds to live in a way they believe in.  We want Enchanted Acres to become somewhere that offers an example of what can be achieved when you are working with nature.  We will be offering ALL workshops for free and they will cover a huge range of things from cob wall and straw bale building to planting and maintaining food forests, growing within permaculture principles, creating rainwater harvesting systems, creating our own clean energy, enhancing our health with herbalism, juicing, meditation and other complimentary therapies as well as workshops which will aid spiritual growth such as belly dancing, massage and positive birth, the list will continue to grow and grow!

As most of you know, we started a crowd funding campaign in the hope that we could get the project off the ground as soon as possible.  Having scrimped and saved for the last few years and thanks to generous guests giving us money towards our land fund for our wedding gift we already have money to buy land with.  The idea with crowd funding money was that we could get the project up and running ASAP so as many people as possible can start benefiting from it sooner rather than later – We have just kept saving money up, and we will do this in order to grow the project as much as possible, but this would have delayed the project by years, and given the way things are going on this planet time is not something we have on our side – Well, I am thrilled to say that today we not only hit, but exceeded our target! We have 2 days left to go and any extra money we get will go towards buying more trees for the land.

We can not thank everyone enough for the support people have shown us, your words of encouragement, your constant sharing of the project and of course your pledges! We have had offers of help from so many people – people who wish to write articles on the project as it unfolds and photograph our story, sponsor us with monthly donations, help with building work once we are there and we have even had an amazing musician offer to help raise extra funds through a gig in the UK!!!!!  The words of encouragement are heart warming, we can not wait to bring the workshops to reality and we promise we will deliver and more, we will not let any of you down!!

Together we truly can make a difference, and thanks to your support Enchanted Acres is one step closer to becoming a reality! Next step is to head to Portugal (at the end of this month) to hopefully secure the land that we can begin this incredible journey on!  We can not wait to share it with you and hope to meet plenty of you there!

For the next couple of days please do keep spreading the word if you can for the crowd funding page http://crowdfunder.co.uk/enchanted_acres/

I will be back with updates as soon as they happen!  Thanks for being part of this journey with us

Love and Hugs

xxx

roundhouse

Living the dream…