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All Year: mainly April to October
Area (ha): 2.5
Persons: up to 6
Category: Organic Farmstay
Host ID: 35687
Country: Portugal

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Last Updated: February 4, 2018

Quinta do Vale is an off-grid permaculture project of 2.5ha in the foothills of the Serra do Açor near the village of Benfeita. It's an evolving education and demonstration site for many aspects of sustainable living and I'm 8 years into the project now. The land is steeply terraced with vegetable gardens, fruit trees and vines, some olives, chestnut woodland, a stream, ponds and ancient stone-built waterways, a developing biodome with aquaponics system, a coniferous plantation under conversion to deciduous woodland, a growing food forest, and several buildings being constructed and renovated using natural materials and techniques.

In 2017 the various buildings, the geodome greenhouse and the permaculture design work were all coming into the final phases of completion. Then in October we, along with countless others throughout Central Portugal, were hit by the unprecedented and catastrophic wildfires which burned over 3,000 square kilometres (over 1,150 square miles) over the course of just 24 hours. I lost all my guest and volunteer accommodation and facilities, the geodome greenhouse and part of the cob bathroom, as well as countless trees, tools, etc. But I was one of the luckier ones. Many lost everything, some including their lives.

So now we start again.

I'm looking for some very special people this year. People who are willing to forego the opportunity to stay and work in all the stunning places available to you worldwide to be part of a workforce helping a still-beautiful but devastated region on its long road to recovery.

The priorities this year include reinstating volunteer and guest accommodation and a working kitchen, so there will be a lot of building and repair work, involving natural (re)building and developing sustainable infrastructure including an innovative rocket stove design. There's also the opportunity to immerse yourself in the many aspects of a maturing permaculture project, albeit a rather burnt one at present. This can involve any combination of digging, hauling, clearing land, collecting goat manure, poultry care, pruning, weeding, watering, sowing, planting, harvesting, cooking, preserving, laundry, cleaning, planting trees, felling trees, and cutting and chopping firewood.

I have also been working with the local council (concelho) in recent years on the design and implementation of vermicomposting sanitation systems based on the one I built here. I have open sourced the technology. It has great potential in this mountainous region for returning the waterways to pristine purity. Anyone interested in sustainable sanitation is welcome to come and study this as part of their volunteering experience. It's possible I'll be installing another system here during the course of the year.

Since all my volunteer accommodation and facilities burned down in the fires, I'm afraid I can't offer any accommodation, so volunteers will need to bring their own - a camper van or tent - as well as cooking facilities until we get a kitchen rebuilt. The water supply has been re-plumbed, so there is water onsite. There's also solar electricity. And hot showers! Because even though the bathroom is partly burned, the fire didn't get into the interior. The fires have also consumed all my financial resources, so I'm afraid I can't offer food beyond what we can produce here on the quinta.

There's a growing international community of off-grid eco-immigrants in this area with many artists, craftworkers and musicians, so the social life here can be good. We are all recovering from the fires still, and evolving many ways to respond creatively to our situation. There are frequent community events, including permablitz-style workdays on each other's land which volunteers are welcome to join. The quinta is 300m from the summer river beach and café in the village and the surrounding area contains an indigenous forest reserve and waterfalls, some of which survived the fires relatively unscathed.

See the website for more details of the site and the work being done here. If you're interested in volunteering here, please make sure you've read the volunteering guidelines on the website in full before making contact and contact me direct from the website rather than through this site. Minimum stay is one month.

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