Pigsty To Polybender

We have not posted in a while, as have been super busy since new year, strawbale building, flattening land, digging trenches, putting vegetables in, clearing brambles, fencing around the well, clearing the well, pruning olive trees, pruning grape vines, making tipis, planning for home ed holidays, workshops, and general holidays and much much more! More photos to follow in coming weeks of our progress with various projects we are undertaking, but in then mean time we can tell you all we are really starting to feel at home now, settling in and feeling like this is where we live, rather than holiday which is exactly how we should feel.  We have survived the winter in the barn with no insulation on the roof and with just a Woodburner, without doubt this is one of the warmest winters I’ve ever had, living in cold damp houses by the sea with no central heating has stood us all in good stead for being in a barn with no insulation, despite it being freezing here for the average temp in the area, five tonnes of wood burned later, we are through the other side and other than on damp days the Woodburner will be redundant for another winter.

We have been busy the last few days on a recent project which is to make a growing space, the vegetable garden has been cleared andy underway for some time now, in summer it’s too hot for most plants to be in a polytunnel however to get an early season started and maintain veg growing through the year we decided to make something at the lowest cost possible using the materials we have around us. We took twelve young eucalyptus, peeled their branches and leaves off and decided to make a bender tent/bow top polytunnel over the old overgrown pigsty in the veg patch by banging wood posts to the ground and attaching the eucalyptus with twine to the posts, slowly bending them to meet in the middle and tied off, a eucalypt for the central beam runs the length of the roof and at the back two other poles are bent from the ends inwards under the end arch, no nails have been used and and rough ends are wrapped in old horticultural fleece which was used for the new trees over winter, it is in a convenient spot at the bottom of the hill for Gravity fed water and cost us a grand total of £99 which was the cost of the uv resistant plastic, it measures 4m wide by 7m long and the pigsty walls will become the retainer for a raised bed and a low trough has been rebuilt with fallen pieces of stone to make a small pond heatsink. It’s been hard work, the brambles were decades old and way over our head in height, but we are happy with the job we have made and once a bit of tightening and earth on the plastic have taken place we will have a wonderful quirky, cheap growing space, which soon we hope till be the site for some avocados :) In total we made the whole thing in 4 hours, in reality it took much longer as baby jiggling, child playing, animal chasing/feeding etc slowed progress!

The site to the left was the pigsty, hidden under the brambles for a loooong time! 

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Andy On A Hot Tin Roof

Finally we have light in the barn… Downside is it shows up all of the piles of junk and the dirt on the floor!! But we need strain our eyes no longer. Even with all the lights on, the bottle and glass brick window and the door open it was a struggle to see much once it went lower than waist height, so we decided to install a clear panel in the roof in place of one of the tin panels, and its a roaring success.

For some reason we couldn’t find panels the size we needed to took the aluminium panel and cut it in half and then fixed the clear panel to the section we’d cut out, it only took 2 hours to do from start to finish…more than can be said for clearing up the mess we now see all around us! We put the panel on the side where the sun comes up which is over the bathroom and instantly its made a hell of a difference, meaning now we can conserve the battery power in the lights for the night time… I say ‘we’ what I mean is Andy, on the tin roof, in the blazing sun :) and me inside jiggling baby, child, lunch and up ladders to push the brace pins through from the steel support up into the panels above where Andy was sitting…

The space feels much better to be in too and maybe, just maybe now the baby is getting more light he will sleep better at night…I can but hope!

Here are some pics of the before, during and after

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Our First Week

I can’t believe we have been here a week already! It’s flown by, and considering all we have contended with I think it’s a great sign that we are still smiling and enjoying Portugal more than we knew possible! Lots has happened in just a week, one of the tortoises has gone off for a walk somewhere and can not be found, we will be continuing to search for him, but sadly in this heat he will be turbo powered and I don’t know if we will ever find him :( we are gutted but I am not worried about his survival here as this is his homeland and he will be perfectly suited to the heat and food available, in the UK it would almost certainly have resulted in death within a short time. I I think Puck (who has been left behind) is quite happy, he is eating fine, and though Torsie was company for him they really did have quite a few arguments, and we had found one or other of them upside down a couple of times after they challenge each other to flip the other over, we always check them so it meant they couldn’t come to harm but I was worried it was a matter of time before one got hurt, so we may have to accept that we are now a one tortoise family. Really looking forward to getting our place built as we are planning to build a courtyard which means Puck can have full run of a large area in complete safety (from dogs and children)

In other animal news, the dogs are settled well and seem to be loving the heat, we have to tie Benji up in the shade as he loves the sun so much he’d sit all day long frying himself, Frugal cools off by running and jumping into the damp ground where the spring comes up and then drags himself through the muddy water on his belly, they both have met the neighbouring farm dogs, two huge Estrellas and get along well with them, Estrallas are like a cross between an Alsatian and a Newfoundland – they are huge, and native dogs to the Estrella mountains which border the area, around here they are put to live with flocks of sheep and herds of goats to protect them, they are fiercely loyal to anyone they consider to be their flock, so are brilliant with children and as watch dogs, we will be getting a puppy Estralla once on the land, they have an enormous bark, and not many people would want to walk on land where one was running free, but with the advantage that we wouldn’t have a viscous guard dog, if someone visits that they don’t know but the family is happy with, they are known to just keep their distance and ignore the person, but watch to ensure the person is no threat to their family. The Estrella will be the ‘free range’ dog with Frugal and will not be a house dog, Benji will be allowed in the house as his nature is one which means he needs to be indoors, Frugal needs to be outside, he’s no good for being in at all.

The horses are settling well, other than yesterday’s incident with a broken fence and a fat pony. One of them bit the other one, then Tonto got frightened, ran into the electric fence, got a shock, ran off with it trailing behind him pulling the posts out in the process and Misty (aka fat pony) took his chance to bolt to the neighbours hazel nut trees… Greedily grabbing mouthfuls at a time before running off to the next snack stop while Andy desperately tried to catch him, eventually, once cornered he gave up and allowed himself to be led back in disgrace, thankfully the neighbours weren’t there so we haven’t shamed ourselves too much! Being typically us this all happened just two minutes before we were getting into the car to go out for the day. The key turned the ignition and chaos ensued, so coming up to the hottest part of the day we ended up having to juggle a baby, a very excited 5 year old, two dogs who were howling with excitement of watching the chase, an offended horse and a gluttonous pony while trying to put up a fence with a divide so we knew they would be safe while we were out!! And nothing being even half straightforward, dividing the fence meant needing two lots of water, so another 30 trips up and down the hill with sun beating down carrying with bottles and small containers in order to fill the new drinking station, an hour later and we were on our way!

The afternoon got a lot better, we were invited to a friends house for 3pm so to avoid driving in the heat of the day with no air conditioning we decided to head over early and find a river beach to laze by before hand. We ended up at Meimoa a quaint little place only five minute drive from our farm, you park up, cross the bridge and find a beautiful grass lined river with trees shading the whole way along, a weir at one end and a nice cafe and a park along the edge. We flopped down in the shade, as the thermometer tipped 40 and a cool breeze greeted us, unlike the UK and very like Portugal it was not at all crowded, a few families shade bathed, as kids jumped in and our of the perfect clear river water, and the cafe had just a few people sat reading papers and drinking coffee. Tom made a friend at the park and then he and Andy hired a boat (for just €3!) and went up the river, groups of old ladies stopped and cooed over Oscar and I managed basic conversation about his age etc etc, the people here really are so lovely, they are so happy and so enthusiastic even if you are rubbish at Portuguese, they love you trying and are so full of encouragement and more than that, they love children, people think of Italy being the country which adores its children, but having been there I’d say Portugal is equal to the obsession, people stop in the street and stroke the baby, or wants to smile and chat to Tom, in the UK children are not really welcome anywhere, here where adults go, children go, on Friday it was a religious public holiday, we drove back from a friends place quite late, around 10pm and there were still children playing outside and chatting with groups of adults, they don’t tag along, they are part of each event, it’s so nice to see.

From the river beach we went on to our friends and had another fantastic time, we met up with a couple we met last year, who’s little girl is just a few months younger than Tom and will be home schooling (I will write on that another time but there are some fab developments in that area and some Portuguese families doing it too which is brilliant!) We all sat, laughed, chatted, watched the sun move over the sky, ate gorgeous food, and looked out over the mountains in the distance while the kids all swam and splashed in the little swimming pool. The group of people here could not be nicer, or more welcoming, everybody totally on the same vibration and with the same hopes and dreams about the future, we couldn’t be more happy to be surrounded by people who believe in the same freedoms as us, and who’s children are being raised in the same way. We left having agreed to go to another river beach tucked into the Estralla mountains next week, and smiled the whole way home, feeling so pleased that we made this move.

Today has been a day of lazing, we need to make some Tipis next week, we don’t really want too, but we need too, and we need the money now as we have decided to crack on with the building ASAP, so today is the last guilt free day of doing nothing for a little while, off now for a swim and then later when it’s cooled Tom is taking Misty for a ride. Life is good. Portugal is stunning. And we feel incredibly blessed to be here, with such lovely people. X

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Slug And Harmony

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This is the second picking from the strawberry plants in the last week!! I only have 6 of them but they’re old and the girls always produce us so many strawberries!! There are at least this many again waiting to be ripe. No nets, no killing of slugs or snails and better yet, no standing outside at midnight with a torch picking off pests.

I realised last night things are even more harmonious that I knew, as I went out at 10pm to bring Puck and Torsie the tortoises inside I watched about 30 slugs all heading over the wooden wall to the tortoise garden, I love where the tortoise’s are located because its right next to the veg patch so I get to watch them often and can also throw all the bits that are no good for us over for them to eat, what the torts don’t eat by the time they lazily trundle to their outside bedroom (at around 5pm) the slugs come and eat later, along with a couple of sacrifice favourites I grow for the slugs near the tort garden this keeps them happy and keeps them off the veggies…! No effort required!…everybody gets their fill and everybody gets to LIVE alongside each other taking whatever they need.

In other news we are super busy with work at the moment, the horse trailer is almost finished and Findus the pony is being picked up on Tuesday! It’s all go go go at tipi HQ. more to follow on Monday… Xxx

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

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Living the dream…

Bags Of Rainforest And Low Impact Houses

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Just over a month into the year with the terrifying number thirteen and so much has happened already!  Warm beaches, super yachts and mountains covered in snow seem like years ago rather than a matter of weeks – The Monson family dropped in numbers when Mrs Fox came for dinner one night, taking three of our four lovely hens, numbers promptly grew again with the addition of a pair of Blue Silkies called Dande  and Cuckoo who are settling in well and we soon hope to hear the peeps of tiny beaks coming from the hen house, Puck and Torsie the tortoises are still in hibernation, Frugal the puppy is housetrained and crazy as a crazy thing, Molly the cat is finding her way around just fine and seems to be adjusting to blind living just fine, and Benji dog is still – well still hairless and stupidly lovely really…

January arrived and a last hunt to get some land in Cornwall started, with the thanks to a heart warming offer from a beloved friend to hike up the bank balance we found something!!!  Dreaming and planning followed immediately – but the elated feeling only lasted for a month sadly, reality bit hard when we accepted our slim chance of either living unnoticed for a full 4 years to get a Certificate Of Lawfulness or proving our ‘needs’ were enough to convince the planners to let us live on own piece of land in a low impact dwelling, it seems it will be a step too far for our local planning authority, even with a free forest school for the local schools to use, supplying local businesses with even more trade than we currently do in the way of putting people up in local B&B’s and feeding them at the local food places   during courses on our land and making local ‘green’ BBQ charcoal for the tourists to cook their horse burgers over rather than the rain forest in a bag they buy in tonnes from Tesco each summer (other supermarkets are also available) – still, it is more and more apparent it will just not happen….

We are all too aware that without people willing to pioneer low impact dwellings in each area and set precedents for future generations nothing will change…But along with this we also have to pick our   battle wisely and taking on a piece of land with slim to no chance of ever winning approval would be foolish on our part…So, no low impact dwelling for us in Cornwall it would seem.

One thing we are sure about is that we will take lessons from being here right now and wherever we end up it will be well thought through and somewhere truly wonderful…We are now considering everything else and somewhere in between, New Zealand has been discussed (again) – too far – Wales where One Planet Development is taking off with force thanks to LAMMAS – quite possibly – Southern Ireland where ancestral roots are buried and I can speak at my natural pace and still have people that understand me – Portugal who have planning laws I wish we had in the UK (if you own your land and you put down no foundations i.e. live in a low impact dwelling of a reasonable size you can live there with no planning permission needed) many, many families are heading this way at the moment for much the same reason… We are lucky to have the opportunity to choose, I will never lose sight of the fact that we are so fortunate to be in a position where we can buy our way out of a system and choose where to do it…Even so, the thought of leaving Cornwall will be a wrench like no other – Watching a new (and celebrated) housing estate being built less than half a mile from the land we found just makes it an even more bitter pill to swallow…This is seen as progress, while our little straw bale build which could bring security to a family and keep business local is not, the digging, the shifting of tonnes and tonnes of soil from small fields which have been grazed for hundreds of years, blades of grass to be replaced with concrete blocks and tarmac in the name of progress…  So February sees us positively head onwards and upwards, exploring new opportunities, nothing to say they will not be better ones and of course nothing to suggest anything other than the fact that this is ultimately where we are destined to head!  It seems 2013 has an even bigger adventure in store for us than we first knew!

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Triskaidekaphobia

Firstly I apologise for the large gap between Italy, Mont Blanc and New Years Eve – It is clear that we did indeed survive – even managing to dodge a lorry sized piece of sheet ice which flew and spun up the motorway towards us after being lifted by the wind off a lorry roof in front and beating some of the worst snow to hit the alps in decades – Those stories are for another day though and I feel the moment has passed since arriving home, fitting a wood burner and completing a million other things which needed to be completed in order to sit and be comfortable in our little house after it’s month long abandonment –

And here we are, after a year of adventures 2012 has been the best and the worst in equal measures – I am determined that next year WILL be truly magical, I feel a sense of hope I have not had for a long time when starting a new year –

Next year is going to be huge for our planet and every living thing upon it, I hope we all can learn to work together, to protect what matters most, to be able to ask for help and be willing to offer knowledge. We can all make this a better world, I am blessed to know so many people who care about what we will leave behind, who, like me know our little patch is purely put into our trust and is never ‘ours’, who have genuine care for how we act during the little blip that is each life, people who love unconditionally – If I know this many people, it reasons that everyone I know knows as many others… it stands us in good stead…

All being well our dreams will continue to span out before us, this year has been a massive awakening in so many ways.

I have had the honour of sharing special moments with people who I love so much I feel my heart might burst – I have made some incredible new friends both in person and on dear old Facebook – people who have inspired, pushed and shown kindness that knows no bounds.  By the end of next year where will we be? What will we know? Who will we meet? What new dreams will we have? Will the pedal washing machine be a success?! – Who knows? The mysteries that are around the corner are what makes life the most wonderful party we will ever get an invite too…

Personally I will continue my hope that we will have a bit of land (either our own or rented) on which to keep our ever-expanding menagerie (and if it’s our own land shoving bits of paper with drawings on under the planners nose frequently) – I hope I will have started making wooden spoons (and will have all/most of my fingers still) I will be weaving baskets again, all being well and providing I knuckle down I will be a qualified Herbalist Practitioner and Reflexology Therapist, we will have a rocket stove and a wood fired bread oven, our electricity usage will have dropped to the lowest point it can – along with our water usage, the monthly meditation in the tipi will still be going strong, I shall master the Ukulele, tinkle on the piano,  Tom will still be running away from monsters that hide under the bushes in the garden and the dragon that frequently roosts in the trees above the hens, I may be the proud owner of some beautiful Indian Blue Peacocks – ssshhh don’t tell Andy!, the wood fired bath will not result in bottom burns, I will start drawing again, practice Yoga regularly, sink my teeth right into charity work, I will eat healthier, grow spiritually, no longer feel so reliant on money, be a better wife and mother, meet the people I am yet to meet, hold hands with the people I love, make new memories and belt out much laughter and bad singing with old (and new) friends… and mostly, more than everything else on the list, I hope that everybody that I hold so dear in my heart has a safe, healthy and happy year, that your dreams be reached, that your aims are ones that will bring true happiness and that we all can look back on a wonderful year next year.  May next year be the year we get less angry about the things that don’t matter and show more love to the things that do.

So here is to 2013 and me finally being rid of the Triskaidekaphobia!!!!! xxx