Wellbeing Festival: Kids+Clay, Fermenting Fun!

The bi annual Well Being Festival in Fundao was again held at the Parque de Convento this summer. There were workshops, gong baths, live cooking, stalls and lots of different types of therapies.

Many of our friends from BioEco were present, and Mount of Oaks shared 2 sessions.

In the pictures below you can see that on the Saturday I (emma) had a great time playing with the kids as part of the programme organised by Susana Carvalho. We built with clay and then made crowns from natural materials. It was brilliant to chat with the kids and their parents about how enlivening it is to play with mud, get dirty and be outside!!!


And after making a castle we made the crowns…..

On the Sunday morning Marcia Luz, Jeannette Trevethyen and I ran a fermenting workshop and tasting session. While it started with only a few participants, buy the end we were a big group of food lovers ~many with questions and comments!

Thank you to the team of organisers, in particular Paula Roque, and look forward to an even bigger crowd in 2 years time!!



Successful Natural Building Course

Last week Barbara taught another of her marvellous 8 day Natural Building Courses, at Keela Yoga Farm. The participants were an international bunch from South Africa, Portugal, UK, Italy and Holland. The team learned a variety of techniques and quickly got the chance to get their hands dirty and practice their new knowledge! Straw bale, wattle and daub, cord wood – earth plastering, just some of the variety of skills they learned!

Some of the photos below are from one of the participants – Damien Walsh, the others from Barbara’s phone, so the quality is not the best, but you get the picture (pardon the pun!)

and they sum up the fun, as well as the work that group practiced.

On the day off, mid way through the course, the group came to Mount of Oaks. We prepared a meal, and Barbara gave a tour of our natural buildings. A great way to relax.

I was grateful for the help from Tatum and the girls in preparing for the guests!!

Alexa, Sven, Stephan, John, Damian, Clara and Ugo. WELL DONE!!!!!! We look forward to seeing what you will do with what you gained on this course! Please stay in touch!

Special thanks to Kimberly and Laurence their super hosting at Keela, and for their fantastic volunteers!! The pizza night on the final night was really special.

News and Dates for Natural Building Courses taught by Barbara will be shared in the Autumn.

Economic Democracy

We took part in a two day conference on the topics of local, sustainable, innovative economy at the University in Covilha – organised by our dear and inspiring friends from the Ananda movement.

We listened to a such a range of speakers – practitioners, professors, activists, members of huge cooperatives/small cooperatives, public and private business, new models for cooperating, where the environment and social care were at the center – ……all very inspiring and lots of food for thought.

Several of us from the BioEco association went along to take part and offer our ideas and to learn what we could from other places. And that was one of the clear benefits of the gathering – to bring together many of us who are working away on little projects into one public space to imagine a future to work towards.

The action element on the second day divided us up into 3 groups to design a plan for alternative finances, developing cooperatives and encouraging more participation. Marcia went to the group focusing on the potential of setting up a co-op – and I went to the developing participation folks. More of the outcome from this in further posts!!

One of the examples given was the pilot programme in Fundao – part of the Agri-urban movement, where a primary school in our district is including organic, locally sourced produce in its school meals!

Even the more theoretical panels were super interesting – like that from Andre Barata also from UBI. When we use the word ‘strategic’ in relation to economics or life, he says, we exclude the logic of feelings from our understanding of the benefits of cooperation. In the work context care for the other must be essential, not just a model of efficiency. In his development of an economic philosophy he critiques the growth ideal – arguing that balance is missing and political action is limited. He proposes a ‘degrowth economy‘.  A ‘monoculture of time’ was the expression he used to depict our lost relation with time – living ever in the now, but with superficial, artificial consequences. Restoring our actions in time and space is best served with our mutual cooperation and collaboration he argued.

Roar Bjonnes was broadcast on the screen via skype. His theoretical approach was an explanation of the PROUT model. This interesting model is well developed and radical! The vision of cooperative economy and coordinated cooperation has the common goal of transforming the current capitalist ideals. The new economic policies that were proposed included a three tiered economy where small businesses and cooperatives are the norm. The cooperatives he gave examples of were successful in terms of return and had the balanced view that Andre had referred to previously. In Europe alone Roar shared that between 4-7million people are employed in cooperatives. Caring about working conditions, the environment and the long term personal and social development of people and place was also a strand of the PROUT model. Again another really interesting presentation.

Ana L Santos’ presentation was compelling and uplifting. She moved between different disciplines, from neuroscience, the philosophy of Kant and Spinoza, to social and evolutional psychology in order to address her three questions, namely: Why do we enter into competition in the first place? What are the advantages of cooperation? What are the conditions required for a new vision of society where cooperation is central? She explained that as a species on a personal and social level ‘competition is killing us’. When we care about the well being of others, our own well-being is effected in a positive sense. Creating social conditions where cooperation is the norm and not the exception is the vision she was proposing.

The conference was really inspiring and we were honoured to be part of it! The current examples given were extremely helpful to lay out a vision of what is possible if we want to transform the current economic and social practices into something more human and practical for the times we live and the future we want to inhabit.

Well done team from Ananda Kalayni, Master Unit and all those who helped to organise.


Chopping and Chatting

An amazing bunch of women gathered at the village hall kitchen in Povoa de Atalaia to prepare scrummy food for the Spring Gathering. Many thanks go to the creativity and care that these women gave to the preparation of the food.

But first – where did the veggies come from? LOCAL producers!

This is Vasco. He grows organic vegetables in our neighbourhood. It was a pleasure to visit him with Kevin and to harvest cabbages and select the salads we wanted.

Now, back to the ladies and our chatting and chopping…..this is about the 5th time we have cooked for large gatherings at the local village hall. Every time we seem to have more fun, create more elaborate dishes and make deeper friendships!

Nicky took charge of the Indian Spiced cauliflower rice…..yum yum!

Kimbo became the humus queen for the day – transforming chickpeas and fresh fava beans into pastes that tasted even better than they looked!! (and they looked scrummy)

Tyra, Tina and Kirsty were busy with preparing the roasted veg – chopping and chatting all the way!!

And then there was the limed onions…..

Anne had a recipe for mini veggie burgers. With the help of Kate and Suzy, together they prepared about 120!

The industrial kitchen is perfect for huge quantities….

Having a laugh and breaks were all part of it…

homemade oat cakes….

endless washing up….

Over lunch break we spoke about how social and fun it is to come together to cook together and swap recipes and tricks. Following this one of the ladies started a group to propose doing this more often – not just for large events, but more of a monthly thing.

Many many thanks to this team of incredible ladies who have made this region their home. Kate, Rena, Linda, Kimberly, Anne, Tyra, Tina, Suzy and Nicky – and our amazing volunteers Kirsty (who we are encouraging to come live here too!)


Seasonal local roasted vegetables

Mini burgers/fritata

Beetroot/fava/lemon hummus

Oat cakes

Fresh celery pesto

Spicey black bean stew

whole grain and white rice

Indian Cauliflower rice

Green and mustard salads

Linda’s tortilha wraps


Sowing Seeds of Hope

On Sunday, we took part in a joint activity with the local village council and a new association we are members of called BioEco (Association of Organic and AgroEcological Agriculture). The idea was to make a call to action and invite people to help regenerate a section of the mountain affected by the fire last summer.

February 18th was the chosen date and we all met at the Tourism Point in the center of Alpedrinha at about 10am. We were a group of about 20 people and several children. Our ages ranged from 21 months to 83 years!!! We were a mixture of Portuguese and a diverse group of those who have made this region our home – ranging from eastern Europe and Israel, to France, America and Scotland.

We pilled into a couple of vehicles and followed the major, Carlos who was driving the tractor that was carrying the seeds. We drove out of the village and up as far as we could into the mountain……

The Junta de Freguesia of Alpedrinha provided seeds of forage grasses, of fast installation and high production, to cover the soil devastated already next spring.

We had literally begun our walk from the parking place to the point where the major would distribute the seeds, when we saw a farmer and his goat herd. This was a significant reminder of why we were preforming this action – the animals that inhabit these lands need food!

Carlos had explained to the group that the rabbits, wild boar, sheep and goats that normally feed in the mountain are having a tough time, especially as there has been a scarcity of rain thus far this winter.

Carlo and Annabella distributed the seeds….

…so we all had a bucket or a bag full of grass and grain seeds….


We got a quick description of the area that we wanted to cover. This was all land commonly owned by the village, and used by local shepherds in the summer months. After which we began to scramble all over the mountain to spread the seeds…..


Can you see the seeds flying from Marcia’s hand?

Everywhere signs of the burnt trees, black charcoal…….

…..and yet signs of hope spring up from badly burnt trees…..

The scale of the fires can be seen clearly from below, but when actually in the mountain, you can feel the the post-fire scars.

Yes, there is vegetation thankfully growing back – we were amazed to see and taste some of the edible wild plants, such as wild brassicas and sorrels. But nothing like at the rate needed to support the life up there.

We had a lot of fun as well as enjoying the views and spreading the seeds!

For the younger members of the team it was a real educational opportunity. Seeing the burnt carcass of an edible chestnut tree with a breadth as wide as my arm span shocked this little man. His dad was explaining that it was hundreds of years old left him quieter than usual.

Thank you to the village of Alpedrinha for providing the seed and the support. And thanks to from BioEco for sharing the idea – may we see more such civil society actions to protect and restore the local biodiversity of this region.

Now all we need to hope for it RAIN – it has been a very dry winter so far!