Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Day of Yoga

We found this truly beautiful video of yoga posted up on the web last week by Enrique Espinoza.


A Day of Yoga from Enrique Espinoza on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gloriously Sunny by River

It is a gloriously sunny day today.  Though the calendar tells us that Winter is fast approaching I have been working all day in shorts and a t-shirt.    I am alone, well without human company.  Just me and Moses and our new puppy Safira.  Angel my wicked cat is around somewhere, probably trying to tease hibernating voles out of their holes.   The children are already at school and Memphis has gone to work on the roof of some friends.  It is a good day, a quiet day. (photo Yulia and Safi on yoga retreat)

It has been almost a year since my last entry and I know some of you have been wondering where is Von, thanks for the emails.  To be honest, I have been working and this year has flown by.  We have had the great pleasure of housing, feeding and watering a number of Woofers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), visitors, family and friends.   A great deal of work has gone into the vegetable production and with thanks we have eaten well all summer and into the autumn.  (Bill, Becky and Ollie round the Nov 5th bonfire)

We are still learning the art of organic vegetable growing, and believe me it is not without challenge.  This year we have met the challenges of tomato ad pumpkin blight.   Little horrible bugs I have never had the horror of meeting eating the broccoli.  I have had to sow all of our winter veg twice due to some naughty get away chickens and a frisky puppy, even now the horrible caterpillars are munching away on my lovingly watered and fed cauliflowers and nothing organic I seem to try really works.  Right now I am preparing to begin the disgusting task of picking the buggers off one by one, perhaps this will be futile but gardeners are known for the obsessive love of perfect plants. (Entry in our Guest book by the frisbee throwing wwoofing gals of Kansas)

I know the caterpillars will be back and we will laugh through this just as we have learnt to laugh at all the trials and tribulations we have had here so far and press on regardless. (Jonny battling Memphis at scrabble)

On the lighter and brighter side, the chilli peppers have been sublime and after two years of trying to grow perfect chilli peppers, the chillies this year have been my crowning glory!  Hallelujah red hot chilli peppers by the basket full.  It is still warm enough for the Calendulas and Californica Eschlotzias to be flowering.  Their iridescent orange colours are greatly welcomed at this time of year.  Strangely enough my Red hot Pokers are rising valiantly out of their sword like home of leaves , their conical flowers just beginning to bronze, I look forward to their ever increasing reddening, perhaps we will have Red Hot Pokers for Christmas. (Eloise and Joshua, the most established of all the plants in our garden)

The Olive harvest was speedily completed with the help of one of our very much appreciated German Woofers, TK, big thumbs up to TK!  It was great fun being up in the trees with you.  We are now pleased to have our own Olive oil again this year, only half that we made last year as the trees are semi biannually producing. 1 year bumper, 1 year low.

The other big news this year has been yoga.  After thirteen years of grabbing practice time when and if I can it has been wonderful to wake up before the sunrise and practice.  I believe this is how I have managed to keep sane, this year, mind you.  Before we came here, yoga was largely about the relaxation of the body, busy Mums need to find ways to relax.  This year however, it has been wonderful, delightfully centering to simply be within myself, despite all the plants that need watering, and the clothes that need washing, and the hurts that need cuddling and the house that needs cleaning and the people that need feeding.  It is from this state of stillness of meditation that all else has been given invitation to flower.   Or, maybe I am just middle aged and needing to be still a great deal more.  Either way I can safely say that meditation is a revelation.  If you have never tried it, do, it will change your life.

This year I have also had the pleasure of teaching our first yoga retreat in Portugal and also teaching some Woofers.  How wonderful to wake up in the morning and just watch lovely young people stretching, earnestly trying to relax.  Very sweet.  I hope to do more of this as the years unfold here.  It is a beautiful place to meet oneself face to face.  There is something about yoga that invites the bubbling up of the naughty happy child within us, and it is that child that will bravely go forth to face the most gruesome of challenges, such as horrible caterpillars. 

My first Christmas present has arrived from Memphis, a tractor load of goat poo!  Hooray.  Not the glamorous handbag or necklace kind of present, but it is just the thing to put a smile on my face.  Big!  Big!  Big pumpkins next year.  2012 big! (Memphis relishing the battle with Jonny)

 I guess one could say we are simply living a normal life now.  The builders have long departed.  The furniture, paintings and photographs are largely in place.  The days are now made up of morning yoga, gardening, cleaning, sewing (I learnt to sew this year, thanks Aunty Sally).  The nights are still nights of bonfires outside and music but all in all it is just life.  There are still an infinite number of projects we hope to complete, chicken houses and barns and the little Adega at the end of the hill.  All in all this Winter 4 are still bobbing and jumping and jiving their way through life with all the enthusiasm we can muster, maybe we are getting older but some meditation and silence is creeping in there too.

Off to finish the Christmas tree.  Happy shopping to all…  Thanks for the new tunes Ian, digging the classical music.  However, I must say that Chase and Status are wonderful for chopping firewood too, thanks Aunty Helen.  Getting older is better…
(Josh on da karaoke)

Peace and Love



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wine, cakes and olives

Quick post to say 10 litres of the 50 litre barrel of wine we made last month, is now drunk. Tastes amazing, thanks to some wizened guidance from José our neighbour. I'm so looking forward to giving our vines some love next year. If wild grapes make wine this good, imagine what tendered and sweeter grapes will make!

Just a couple of videos today. One of cake making which seems to becoming a way of life here. Lost count of the kilos of cakes we've baked and eaten this year. Outstanding.

Second is of picking olives with our favourite Dona Laurinda. We picked ours last week that are now waiting to be sacked up ready to take to the olive oil press on Monday. We made 35 litres last year, this year our trees produced a lot less. Which is normal in these parts. 1 good year, 1 poor. And so it goes.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Do have a glass!

It's October. And that means round these parts, wine making. For the 3rd year on the trot we've eagerly helped a couple of our neighbours do their vindimas, 500 litres in the first one, then 600 litres in the next. Over the last fortnight, our closest neighbours have once again between them made over 1000 litres of wine. In years gone by they have made much much more. But now they don't have the time to look after that number of vines. 30 years ago, the families living on the 2 farms on the land here at Moses used to make 8000 litres of wine every year. Not a typo. Eight thousand.

You should have seen for yourself these vast vats (which unfortunately collapsed when we moved them outside and now exist as various cupboard doors, walls and panelling) that were here in the basement. Steeped they were, steeped. In history, in stories told and songs sung and moments of friendship shared in front of them. And, of course, in the colour and smell of a century's worth of wine. Which, if I hadn't already mentioned, was rather a significant quantity.

For over a hundred years these farms have been flowing with wine. It's an intrinsic part of the Portuguese culture. To make your own wine and offer it generously to anyone at every possible opportunity. (Last 2 pics we took in Sep 2007)

Finally last weekend, 4 years after we arrived, we did our very own vindima at Moses with the wild grapes picked from the vines still left over from yesteryear. We took up the grapes in buckets to our neighbours João and Eugenia and crushed them with their grape crushing machine to produce 100 litres of the sweetest grape juice. 40 litres of that we used to make 50 litres of Jeropiga, by adding 10 litres of Aguardent (strong local moonshine). We'll open that 50 litre barrel in a month or so to taste and hopefully it won't have fermented (which is why it has the moonshine and is in an air tight barrel. The remaining 60 litres is fermenting right now in its journey of becoming wine. Videos below.

This week, as a result, has been quite an emotional one for me. Wine is, as I said, important here. We've helped others make and drink plenty of theirs. But we have never had any of our own to offer visitors. For 3 years we've admired grapes. Watched them grow up and into the trees along the streams. Written a couple of blog posts about them. Taken photos. Videos. Trained one over a pergola at the guest house, watched it get covered in bunches within the year. Eaten kilos. Never made wine. Until this week. It's not 8000 litres. It's only 100. But it's a start. The first 100 litres.

I bloody hope it doesn't turn to vinegar.

October has also been the month of putting our kitchen garden to bed for the winter, bringing in the last of the summer harvests. The tomatoes, peppers and chillies have all been sauced and bottled in various concoctions. Onions pulled and hanging drying. Peas and beans dried and stored.

Alongside 3 lovely wwoofers we have at the moment from Kansas, Kristen, Naseeb and Jenna, Eloise and Vonetta have been cooking up a storm in the kitchen with the rest of the summer veggies and also baking every other day.

We have had to buy the eggs for all those cakes though as a fox ate the chickens.

Last but not least, October means firewood. Our wood shed (which if you remember I had to rebuild in July, cos it collapsed murdering 6 innocent pumpkins on the terrace below) is now choka bloka stacked with ready to use firewood, and kindling galore, plus the old stone chick shed in front of Joshua´s bedroom door on the right of the kid´s house is also rammed with a dozen sacks of big pine cones, the perfect Portuguese fire starters.

It's 35 degrees outside, hasn't rained for 3 weeks and isn't looking likely to until November, but we know the winter is coming and that stacked wood shed means we ain't gonna be cold. It's only a couple of months worth but I'll cut down some dried dead pines (eaten by beatles we think) and chainsaw them into logs next weekend to store under a tarpaulin somewhere. We'll chop them when we need to sometime in January.

On my list of things still do to round here is build a way bigger wood shed. Probably a barn on the car park terrace above the houses. Next year. Maybe. For now though, our cute wood shed next to the house is full. Once again, it's a start.
We're trying. We're practising. We're playing really. We're working it out. Patiently. How to live a life a little more self sustainably. We're learning. First hand through our own mistakes but also from our lovely neighbours always ready to share their rural wisdom earned over years and years of working these hand carved out terraced slopes and gardens in the middle of a forest.

A big thanks to all of you have being plugging our new retreat website We've had enquiries and bookings. Hoping the advert on Green Traveller also works. Any other publicity suggestions gratefully received. And if you get the chance yourself to visit us, I do very much hope to be able to offer you a glass or two of the finest of home made wines ever. Though I suspect that might be more likely to happen if you drop by in 2042 rather than 2012.

A good vintnor, like a good fisherman, stonemason, father or husband is not made overnight. Takes a lifetime. Undoubtedly one well spent I would wager.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

We live in a fairy tale

It sometimes feels that way. That the mystical and often abandoned valleys of this beautiful Portuguese countryside, have in days gone by been the scenic backdrop to many a valiant tale of elves, dwarves, princesses, gallant princes, ogres, trolls, wicked stepmothers and magical helpers. And now they are the backdrop to ours.

We watch the unfolding bloody stories of humans on planet earth in lands far distant from these peaceful hills. The riots in London and the UK, the invasion of the middle east by our resource hungry governments, the unabated ravaging of our old precious cultures as in Tibet, by ruthless neighbours. The list goes on. We watch. Recognising that our own small story is taking part within a much much wider context.

The unprecedented rate of change humanity is now experiencing, has meant that more of us are becoming increasingly uncertain as to what the near future holds. Not fearful, just uncertain. This year we have had the honour to host some wonderful Wwoofers from quite a few far away lands. China, New Zealand, America, Australia, Morocco, Hungary, Holland, France, Spain and England.

Wwoofers bring their own stories. And in them we find the similarities of shared sentiment. Desires for living more simply, more in harmony with nature, with the seasons, with the fruit of the land and their labours. Hopes that we can be less dependent on the relentless stripping of the earth's resources that is our current global economic model of civilisation.

It makes no sense really to have hope in times of such immense change and unpredictability. But there it is nonetheless. That's what makes it feel so akin to a fairy tale. When the rich and powerful corrupt kings get wealthier and more influential everywhere, the day dawns for a new era of humble heroes to defeat them.

Maybe in the tales of history recorded for this time, it will be written that an army of unknown nobodies from nowhere fought the system simply by ignoring it and lived as much as possible outside of it, until the wicked kings lost their power. Oh I know this is just the talk of a foolish idealist, the ramblings of an Englishman living in the mountains of Portugal with way too much time to muse, and the reality for those living right in the midst of troubles is altogether very different.

Yet there is a surprising profundity in having the freedom to grow and eat your own potatoes, tomatoes and pumpkins and grapes. The freedom to wander through a valley such as this watering newly planted orchards, kitchen gardens and woodlands, whistling with birds and crickets as we go. It's not difficult to see why Disney and Pixar so often present peaceful paradise as they do. Peace is a great environment in which to grow, even if not to grow up.

Here's hoping your fairy tale is full of adventure and magic and ends happily ever after.

Thanks for popping by the blog,