Celebration of Generosity: Festa das Papas

This annual festival in Povoa de Atalaia is probably my favourite ‘festa’ in the region. A celebration of the Saint Sebastian and a gathering that exemplifies all that is rich and beautiful about this village!

Every year different families take the role of planting and harvesting and then distributing the ‘blessed porridge’ to the rest of the villagers. It is a great sight to see the parade of the plates carrying the ‘Papas’ from the Mass to the little chapel where is is distributed…

Usually it is men from the household who wander in the crowd giving the magical porridge. The ceremonial aspect is hightened by the fact they wear an ornate embroidered white cloth over one shoulder and take each gift from under the cloak!

This year I didn’t take the best snaps as I was busy chatting to the neighbours!!! If I find links to blogs from the old site, I will post them here!





And here is the link to th

Growing a new economy

This week saw the book launch in Covilha of a practical and inspiring new book offerings some vision of a new greener and more sustainable economy.

The co-author, Roar Bjonnes outlined the integral solutions offered in the book to our current economic problems. It was really fascinating to listen to Roar. This gentleman, who is a long term environmental activist and researcher, shared what is fundamentally wrong with the current systems – and offer some practical vision and ways to put the environment at the center of our practices, not something else for us to commodify!

We were a group of over 30 people who came to listen. The launch was organised by members of the Prout Research Institute, and was introduced by Professor Andre Barata of the University of Beira Interior.

For more information on how to get hold of the book, check the website –


Well done Francisco and Alexandre for your efforts and super translation!

This was a follow-up event from the brilliant conference that Prout organised in Covilha last year. To read a little about, check this blog.


Aqui Não! Local campaign against mining in Serra de Argemela

Yesterday a group of us went to a really well organised campaigning event in Fundao. The aim was to raise awareness of a local campaign to save the Serra de Argemela from further mining.

The ‘Aqui Não’ movement has gained support from the local authorities of Fundao and Covilha and a group of determined local ladies who keep the folk singing alive in the region.

The traditional singing group were present on stage and in the short film made to highlight the issue.

To watch the film ‘Black Mountain’ or know more about the campaign to save the mountain from mining’s follow this link:

It is worth a watch and the music is beautiful.

Tom G Hamilton has been a great support to this project, and is a great example of what a non-national can contribute into the local society!

To read more about the campaign check them group website



For more photos from the event yesterday – check this link


Review 2018

How to condense all the wonderful happenings, visits, events and courses into one blog post?! Impossible to cover EVERYTHING – but here goes at a whistle stop attempt!

There is so much to give thanks for that took place in 2018. The year began with us finishing the major work to the kitchen.

January and Febuary we were concentrating on the kitchen and planning events for the Spring. But we did go and teach a day workshop on using permaculture in an urban context near Covilha.

Then we had the whole mixed ability group at the land for a forgaging, seed sowing and tree planting day!

Already in March we were out and about taking part in the local Eco-Markets – the first of these to happen in the public space was in Alpedrinha. Eric took a lead with these as the year went on and in total he attended 18 eco markets.

What is great about the markets is that they began to grow in popularity – another monthly market opened for BioEco in Covilha – and others in the region started, such as one in Penamacor, and even a market at a conference organised by Sementes Vivas in Idanha Velha.

We gave our first demonstration of how to make Sour Kraut at an Eco Market in Alpedrinha which was LOADS of fun!

and the next in Covilha at the Feira de Troca..

April saw the beginning of the open season. We began to host a weekly yoga practice with Laura. Had family in the form of Marcia’s mum Camilla to visit and Kirsty come volunteer for a month.

Kirsty and Ba made their project for the month the building of a palacial hen house for chickens we were given by Paula a neighbour who moved back to Scotland.

We had our Annual General Meeting for the White Stone association in mid April and it was really well attended by local people and we presented our ideas for the coming year and got useful feedback.

We had our opening event of the season – a Spring Gathering in April too. The preparations for this day were epic fun. We gathered in the village for a ‘chop and chat’ the day before, and a group of some of the bestest ladies in the areas showed up..

And then there was the actual Open Day….which was themed around making connections. It was a family and educational day with mini workshops, an open space type networking part and even a chance to make bug hotels!

May was the beginning of the flurry of guests and events. We had Jenny, Frank and little Iona come to stay and learn how to make a few fermented goodies. We also had Emit from California and Lauren from Canada here holidaying and helping.

In early May we did a workshop in Fundao about healthy foods in the park…

Our first fermenting workshop of the year was in May and my mum was delighted to be here to attend. Marcia, Nicky Arnold (our dear friend and top lady!) and I were quite nervous at the start, but gently found our feet with the structure and layout of the workshop. The participants seemed to love it!

During the local Cheese festival in Soalheira we had a lovely Austrian couple come and stay in their camper van. We brought them along to a walk where we enjoyed the local countryside, visited sheep farms and ate yummy cheese!

And one wet day in May Rose came and gave us a Kombucha masterclass…

Barbara taught her first building course of the year at Quinta da Fonte, and they were making a ‘tiny house’ as well as learning all the skills Ba teaches.

In June the month began with a visit from dear friends Jayme and Jim from England – they are food people and so there was much fun cooking with fire outside the kitchen and long catch up chats.

We had Carly come in June and lead a course of Pilates in the common space. She since has set up courses in local village halls and her business is growing well!

For Summer solstice we walked silently to the top of the Gardunha’s and watched the sun rise and listened to errie pipes playing and welcome the mid point of the year.

More wonderful people arrived as the month went on…Isik and Craig from London, and then Lucy and Sue came on a mini retreat. Together we walked, collected fruits and foraged up the mountain, our chat spiced with politics, theology, and all other interesting subjects!

One of our volunteers Helen from Toteness came in June and stayed for most of the summer! She was great craic and loved to cook – so we were well taken care of!

In July we welcomed the return of Dearbhla, Ed, Holly and Jude to the area. Thanks to Martin and Tiddy they stayed comfortably at their place and we got the chance to hang out and cook together lots. Dearbhla expertly lead us through a workshop on ‘Seed Cycling’ on the new moon in July and the women present found it really useful.

We held a fun Summer Party in late July. Helen and Manuel were present to help and it was filled with dance, tunes, food and new connections. Click here for more snaps of the event!

As it heated up in August, Barbara headed over to Keela for more natural building courses. These were really popular and so was the short course in natural plasters at the end of the month. More of these courses are planned for 2019 – news of these are coming in the coming weeks!

August was also home to Boom Festival and afterwards we had some guests from Germany who spend days here to rest before heading back to their lives! Our volunteers for August, Sami and Daniel had been working at the Boom and came ready to get their creative hands dirty in our forest….

Also in August we welcome Raquel, Jarlith (travelling to us after completing the Caminho de Santiago de Compostela), Sandra and Alex. We were so blessed with the gift of each of these beautiful folk – each so individual, unique and delightful.

The month of August ended with a personal highlight in the form of weekend Silent Retreat. We had brilliant people come and embrace the practice of silence for 3 days. We ate well thanks to Marcia and Sami, the sitting practices joyfully attended, and so were the mediation walks. We will host two more of these in 2019 – at the start of May and the end of August, both over the new moon. Drop a line if you want to already reserve your spot.

September we had more guests in the form of long term supporter of Mount of Oaks, Miriam and her friend Catherine.

They were followed by a couple also living in Belfast who decided to make our Straw Bale house their honeymoon destination!! Zainab and Paddy were here for a week and they happened to be here to enjoy the Autumn Equinox at a neighbouring project.

They were also here for the annual Chocalhos festa in Alpedrinha….

Here is a blog about it!

We hosted another of the Yoruk retreats in September with Eva and Isik. The theme for this creative residential was ‘Song of the Cave’ and you can read more about it here.

We will welcome the group back again in March 2019 – the title of the experience is ‘Weaving the Dragon’

Before the group left, they had the chance to try some traditional shepherding – this post has more pictures…

Marcia, Eric and I went to Lisbon at the end of September for the first ‘Art of Hosting’ Training in Portugal in the Portuguese language! Yes, 3 day training only in Portuguese – Eric and I just about coped – and despite the frustration of sometimes not being able to express exactly what I wished, the experience was marvelous.

October began with a happy event – Barbara and I finally got legally married in Portugal and had a party to celebrate. Both our mum’s were present and we danced into the wee hours with friends.

Old friendships were a theme for the whole month as we welcomed the return of Juran and Ulli to celebrate 10 years since they got ‘married’ at the Mount of Oaks – accompanied on this trip with their 2 fab kids, Fiona and Alvin.

Ulli Butterfly celebrated her 40th birthday and had a beautiful party on the land. Ulli came for a whole month and we loved having her energy and creativity abounding! Whether she was dancing in the trees, harvesting flowers or fruit, leading us in worship or having a good chat – she was present and brought a lot of joy.

We had the volunteer help from Freddie, Mike and Quis in the run up to the Olive Harvest. These men were a massive help. Digging holes for the chestnut trees, taking back the mimosa or preparing wood piles – it was a blessing to have them here.

The first week of Mike’s time helping us he was accompanied by his wife Sarah. These two have been supporters of the Mount of Oaks, and one of their daughters since the start – so it was great to have them with us this Autumn.

In October Marica, Eric, Barbara and I began community meetings to speak about the vision and needs of the Mount of Oaks and us as individuals. The outcome of these heartfelt discussions was the decision that Marcia, Eric and Samuel would move on to find their own place to live and work in early 2019.

November saw us host the final soap making and fermenting workshops of the year.

We also harvested all the olives which was SUPER fast and fun this year! The team consisted of us 4, (Barbara going ahead and doing a first prune) Mike, Quis, Hajo, Freddie, Tobias and Russ! Dream Team!

At the end of November we threw an end of year closing party – it was there that Eric shared their news of moving on. After 4 years of living together, we are all of the same heart – this is a good time to begin new chapters and adventures!

Visits in November also included a return for Hajo – and he saw great changes in the place since his last visit. He brought with him Sasha. Together we plotted about a possible retreat in September 2019 focused on rituals for processing grief. More of this to come… When Mike came for 6 super weeks, he drove from Northern Ireland towing a foldable caravan….it was amazing to see him take it down!

His was a planned visit – we had many unplanned visits too – like for example from a couple, Hilde and Oscar traveling from Holland, all around Europe collecting little videos about places that are ‘Finding a better way to live’.

It was a fantastic year – busy, we tried lots of new things and learned important lessons. We experimented and had lots of laughs and shared hugs and tears with many folk. We had frustrating moments, but on the whole, it was another super productive year and one we can celebrate for gifts of friendships renewed and new ones begun.

Looking forward to that 2019 has in store!!

More news on courses, retreats and info on volunteering to come! For, now, many many blessings from here to wherever you are.

International Seasonal Welcome!

To mark International day of the migrant, on 18th December,  Fundão Municipality hosted a Multi-cultural Christmas event in what was previously the Roman Catholic Seminary in the town.

The Seminary has been home for several months to not only a group of international students, migrant workers from Asia and Eastern Europe, and most recently has welcomed a group of African refugees.

The group of 14 men from Eritrea were the ones responsible for cooking the hot chicken curry – part of an inclusion project part funded by the EU. Mum and I tasted it and it blew our heads off! Like many of the Portuguese present we found it HOT. We were treated to many foods from different countries – and we brought something typical to our Christmas…. mince pies and homemade Christmas cake. No-one in attendance had tried these before, so that was novel.

When our bellies were full, we sat to hear a contextual speech from the mayor of Fundao, Dr. Paulo Fernandes, who spoke to the diversity of migration stories that were present in the room. There were folks who migrated to northern Europe for jobs, people who had been forced to return to Portugal from the colonies of Mozambique and Angola in the early 1970’s, a group of young professional engineers from Nepal, India, Brazil and other parts of Portugal, there was our dear friend Rosso (Italian) and his wife Jamie (Korean), and my mum in the mix!

The beautiful  man who represented the Eritrean group spoke about the welcome they had received in Fundão, how this was their home now, and how they wanted to get involved in the society and to work. Probably a mixture of a political point (as refugees are not supposed to work) and gratitude to the local authorities who were trying to spear head a scheme to get these men out and to learn how to prune cherry trees – the symbol of Fundão. Here is a link about the initiative.

The other refugees staying in the Seminario are from Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen. It was a little strange for me on such as day talking about migration that the word for refugee was not mentioned in the Portuguese language. Migration instead was the preferred term.

Even in the panel discussion that followed the heart warming speech from the  Eritrean man, the topic of question was how have you found it to live in Fundao? And were there any difficulties you encountered? This was asked to me, a fantastic Lithuanian lady and of a Nepalise engineer. We all did our best to answer – and of course i found the main difficulty in communication!

An invited guest from Lisbon, a history professor who was born in Angola spoke the most candidly about some of the difficulties that people of colour face. But the evening was made light by the Lithuania lady singing us a seasonal carol with her amazing voice! All in all, it was a gift of an evening.

Being part of this multi-cultural event, surrounded by friends who work for the local council (Paula, Ana Teresa, Sonia, Esmeralda, Dona Alcina) friends who have moved here like me, where from Brazil (Marli) or Korea (Jamie) – I felt very ‘at home’ in all the diversity. Let’s see what adventures in welcoming and hosting we will get up to this year of 2019!



Happy New Year!

On this the 2nd of January 2019, many greeting from the Mount of Oaks. Below are a few snaps from life here over the last weeks…. its has been lovely and quiet.

Barbara in Brazil, Marcia, Eric and Samuel with family in Germany – and me, Mum and the dogs enjoying the short days.

Fire has been a big theme, both inside and outside.

We enjoyed an early Solstice practice at Kalyana Nada – arriving in the mist to sit until the sun was up, a beautiful stretch and a cuppa thanks to Chloe and Nick

This season of then giving thanks for the beginning of the return of the sun was marked by mum and I decorating some rosemary branches from the garden with  Christmas decorations!

On Christmas eve we attended ‘Mid Night Mass’, which was actually at 11pm in Alpedrinha. The village was full of people enjoying the HUGE fire that was alight. And a group of the ‘new locals’ gathered to wish Linda (one of our dear associates) a HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

In the days between Christmas and New Year a few fires have been lit, both inside and outside! Inside to keep lovely, cozy and warm – and outside with the help of Chloe, Anne, Rupert, Sarah, Danny and Johannas to clear a part of the top forest of mimosa.

As the light begins to return, here is what it looked like as it rose on New Year’s Day yesterday at the Mount of Oaks.

Happy New Year one and all.

A wee reminder, you can still get hold of a 2019 calender by clicking here to find out more. Simply drop us an email (mount.of.oaks@gmail.com) with your mailing address, we will send the payment details and get it/them off to you asap.

They cost 8.50E and the proceeds are for our irrigation system to feed the new trees! They make lovely gifts and also will brighten up any area of your home or office.

Gorgeous Goats

Our shepherd neighbour and friend, Antonio Lopes needed some help again to herd his precious goats from his farm to another on the slop of the mountain. A group of us gladly agreed!

We got up at dawn and arrived at the farm. First thing was that Antonio made us all shepherding sticks from a black bamboo cane – light and strong.

Jade and Mayan, Eva and Isik, me, Barbara and our amazing volunteer Alex had a super duper morning…

The babies were too small to walk the long journey so they went in the back on our trusty truck, Soraia….

Of course at the start we had to learn quickly how to handle the goats….

And we had a Serra de Estrella shepherd dog with us too – i’ve temporarily forgotten his name – but when I do it will be added here because he was a character!!

And then we were off…

….into the beautiful morning, imitating the professional and having a magic experience.

When Eva got a little tired she took refuge in the back of the van with the baby goats. Both she and Isik had been hosting a creative residency at the Mount of Oaks the precious days, so they had every reason to be tired!

We emerged from the country roads onto quite a main road – the N18 and the adventure really began…

There we were, parading down the main road, slowing traffic on their way to work – but really hardly anyone was annoyed at all surprisingly.

We arrived at the destination where the baby goats and their families will stay for the winter.

And we celebrated by eating melon that Marcia and Eric brought as a snack and congratulated ourselves for the waking early and not loosing any of the precious animals.

Thank you Yoruk for the photo of Antonio – he loves it!


Retreat with a Difference!

We once again were delighted to host Eva and Isik from a creative initiative, Fourthland. They brought a group of beautiful artistic souls for a retreat entitled ‘Song of the Cave’ a part of a project called Yoruk.

During the five magical days that the ladies were holding space and leading workshops and rituals were special, for the participants and for us. We ensured that they were fed with supporting teas, foods and fruits from the gardens to aid their processes…

Processions of stunning humans and joyous sounds of laughter and singing errupted all over the land. And we could feel that some deep conversations and processes were happening…

We borrowed several bell tents locally from some dear friends and ‘homed’ the group inside their nomadic palaces!

And they used various parts of the land for various activities – the N’jango in the evenings, the common space for morning yoga and singing, and the big tent for processing their land art.

We gave a couple of workshops too – Marcia and Eric taught the ladies to make an activated charcoal soap, and the results were amazing! They went home with soap they made here with charcoal inside from special wood they had worked with here at the land.

We also gave a fermenting workshop and made together a scrummy kimchi recipe and a sourkraut from Dearbhla Reynolds book The Cultured Club called ‘The four Thieves’  The ladies really enjoyed harvesting the herbs from the garden as well at the massaging of the cabbage!!! Lots of laughs!!

Isik and Eva are incredible women – what else can we say?

The last words will be from one of the participants and her feedback from the experience…..

“Our time together nourished me so deeply, it planted so many seeds for my life journey, for the expansion of myself in the world. I came with the clear intention of being held, but I didn’t know what that looked like or felt like. I came with a veil on, not knowing what I was to see, but was met with the most beautiful humans I’ve ever met who held me and nurtured me in ways I never knew I could be open to. You have all changed me and held me, and I will carry the sacred journey with me everyday. I will carry the bravery it takes to open and be held, and the empathy it takes to hold, and create a nurturing space for myself and for everyone who is apart of my life path. Thank you for the gifts, I am honored to have shared this experience with you and learn from your ancient wisdom. – Residency participant

We look forward to the residency coming to visit in March 2019. More news about that in an upcoming post.


Honey Moon and Autumn Sun

We had the absolute honour of being the place Zainab and Paddy chose to celebrate their honeymoon in September!

Having had their ceremony in Manchester, and living in Belfast they came to us for a week of relaxing. Of course we also got them involved in a bit of dinner prep and fermenting!

Paddy is quite the chief, so we were exchanging ideas along the way.

Since the couple have mediation practices and are linked to the Plum Village community, it was wonderful to spend the autumn equinox together.

We got up while it was still dark and drove to a neighbouring project in silence. We were Marcia, Alex, Zainab, Paddy and me. Nick and Chloe, guardians of Kayalani Nada welcomed us to join in a beautiful silent mediation while we watched the sun rise. Then a beautiful gentle set of asanas led by Nick to salute the autumn sun.

Afterwards Chloe invited us all to chose a ribbon to tie on the wishing tree…

And we processed, still in silence to the special tree…

where we tied them and made our intentions.

What a precious morning, with precious people! We were also joined by

local friends Laura and Cali.Thanks for having us Nick and Chloe! Hope to make this an annual gathering.

Paddy and Zainab stayed a few more days and then had the final days before flying to Dublin by the beach. We look forward to seeing them again at the Mount of Oaks.

Special thanks to Nick Upton for several of the snaps in this piece. x

Chocalhos: Traditional ‘Festa’

The second weekend every September there is a marvellous ‘festa’ held in the local village of Alpedrinha. It celebrates the return of the shepherds and their herds from the mountains. Themed around cheese, traditional music and the culture of the shepherds, the festival is attended by hundreds of people from near and far…

This year a mural was unveiled that commemorates Antonio Lopes senior who passed away and was a local character and founder of the festival. A traditional shepherd himself, he taught his son, Antonio, our friend the ways of the animals and the mountains…

From Friday to Sunday the village was awash with people eating, singing, taking part in workshops and dancing too! Miriam and Catherine arrived back from walking in the Serra de Estrella just in time to enjoy the festivities.

These lovely ladies came from Ireland to spend some time at Mount of Oaks relaxing and taking in some walks in the region – and we had such a great time together they are planning on returning again. Why did they like it some much – well what they said was that it was the atmosphere and the ‘craic’!

Every year the village twins with another region that also still produces cheese with traditional methods and has a practice of local costumes and instruments. This year it was Asturias in northern Spain. The image above is one of the bands that came down with their beautiful bagpipes and drums.

The spirits were high, and the cherry liquior was royally presented in edible chocolate cups!

In the evening the streets were full of people moving to the music.

Samuel was carried mostly by Eric in his super duper backpack allowing the wee man an excellent view of the action.

Neighbours Tyra and Martine were producing a fresh sangria with their grapes and pears – oh it was delicious. Many others had little stalls selling their produce and drinks. A great opportunity to boost the local economy!

Friends Eva and Isik loved all the beautiful decorations inside the houses that had been converted into taverns or cafe’s. This snap doesnt convey clearly how beautiful this room looked!

Yes lots of fun!

We even bumped into our fantastic neighbour Sr Aqulies and the marvellous Andrea and Manuel! Together we were blown away by the music of ‘O Gajo’.

On the Sunday of the festa we have been taking part in the annual walk behind the sheep from Fundao to Alpedrinha. This year there were huge numbers of people, and groups who had come especially to take part in the unusual tradition.

We saw the sunrise in Alpedrinha before getting a bus to Fundao….we were, me, Marcia, Sami, our saintly volunteer Alex, lovely Pia, plus Catherine and Miriam. And as it turned out too many to fit in the first bus! So Miriam, Catherine and I waited it out patiently on the side of the road until our lift arrived!

Arriving into Fundao we joined the others outside the town hall and waited for the sheep and shepherds to arrive.

And then we set off….

We had about 6 shepherds and a guy from the village on his horse accompanying the group. It was a lovely pace and gave the chance for me to walk along with Catherine and get to know this amazing lady a little more!

At the top of the mountain before we began to descend into Alpedrinha, we stopped for a break and snacks. Even though it was only 11am the wine was flowing into some eager mouths..

Miriam looking beautiful!

We arrived into the village where we were welcomed with the streets lined with well wishers. It was hot and so we celebrated the walk with a yummy lunch!

In order to get an idea of the walk from the perspective of one of the participants – check this little video. Or this video from one of the news stations that shows more about the festa and its other traditions – for example how the drums are made!

Other useful information in English cane be found here.

Until next year….