Mixed Talks: Summer Social

We had a lovely relaxed evening in Fundao on the last night of the Cale/SangriAgosto Street Festival. A bunch of new people who have moved to the area in the recent month came along. We ate, chatted about language, school options for kids, even how to register with a local doctor….the things that people who have just moved to the area have questions about. This was the 4th of these gatherings that have been hosted in Fundao as part of the Inclusion/Integration programme run by the council.

It was also really worthwhile to get to know the team working out of the old Seminary building. Ana Teresa, Andreia and the newest member Nuno Calvario.

The plan is to have another gathering before Christmas, so watch this space for news and the theme.

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.

Summer Gathering

We had a most fun Summer Gathering! If only the pictures could convey the amazing smells of the delicious grilled veggies, or the laughs as we danced and later played music – or making of new friendships and renewing older ones….

Our programme was pretty simple – eat together, play music together and dance together, thanks to our dear friend Ana Teresa teaching us some traditional Portuguese dances!

Eric worked out that we were over 45 adults and 15 kids – and representing approximately 9 different nationalities. Truly a beautiful mix of ages and backgrounds living in the area!

Special thanks go to Helen, a volunteer who was with us for 6 weeks this summer – she was such a help in every way. Her bubbly personality and over flowing youthful joy made her a joy to work with and to be around.

Many thanks too to Keri Millard who took the action shots that follow – it is one of her passions and professions. She caught many of us in blissful moments…



Thank you for all of you who came along and supported the project by your presence and your generosity of heart. Recently we read a quote – ‘some of the best memories are made in flip flops’. It made me think of this night and several of us making fools of ourselves and having a right old laugh while dancing in flip flops!

Until the next time…..






Natural Building Courses 2018

We are delighted to announce the dates for the Natural Building Course that Barbara will teach in 2018. 3 exciting course will be located at Keela Yoga Farm.


Dates for the Introduction to Natural Building Courses at Keela Yoga Farm

  • 9 – 16 June
  • 1 – 7 July
  • 4 – 11 August

The courses are designed as an introduction to natural building. Participants have the opportunity to learn and experiment with a variety of different building techniques which will then be used in a practical setting on a real building.

There is a progression in the teaching and practical methods that allow participants to grow in confidence as the course continues. This course is designed with the ‘non-professional’ builder in mind and is aimed as an introduction course.

An introduction to natural building will be facilitated by Barbara Leite; a pioneer of the Mount of Oaks community since 2006. She has over 9 years experience in Permaculture Design and Natural Building, with all the mistakes and successes that go with starting from scratch!

All courses will be held at the off-grid permaculture community Keela Yoga Farm, in Central Portugal. Course participants will have the opportunity to practice daily yoga, meditation and other related activities held on site. A day trip to visit some natural buildings at Mount of Oaks community is also offered on the day off.


Come and learn about:

…Gravel Foundation, french drainage and stem wall with gravel bags


…Strawbale walls


….Adobe bricks and light earth slabs


……Wattle and daub walls


….Cob with glass bottles and cordwood,


……Earth and lime plasters


….Lime-wash painting with natural pigments.

What can you expect from this course? 

  • The course will consist of daily theory classes, with introductions to all of the aforementioned building techniques using local and natural materials (A complete PDF manual will be provided at the time of registration). However, this is predominantly a hands on learning course and it will mostly be practical in order for participants to really get a feel for each material and technique.
  • Participants will gain the ability and skills to design and build their own small natural build.
  • Three meals a day including tea, coffee and snack breaks.
  • Daily Yoga Classes
  • On the day-off, an optional day trip to the Mount of Oaks community will be included in order to see some of their existing natural buildings, have a tour and lunch for an extra cost of 15€/person.

There is no need for any previous experience as a builder, an engineer or an architect. (If you do have previous experience, please come with patience because there might be others who don’t).

We expect to learn with each other and have a unique experience of life within a community setting. During the course we will work together, eat together.

This course is limited to a maximum of 8 students in order for participants to have maximum practical experience throughout the week.

500EUR – 8 day Natural Building course including camping (in your own tent or van), 3 delicious vegetarian meals daily (seasonal and locally sourced) and daily yoga and meditation
450EUR – 3 EARLY BIRD places for the first 3 people to register
Caravans, tents and tepees are also available for hire. Click for options at Keela Yoga Farm for accommodation
Please complete the application form to book.

Course participants will learn a lot of different building techniques, and if you wish to put these into practice and perfect your skills further, you can contact us about staying on after the course as a volunteer at Keela.


Permaculture Experience Programme

We have launched the dates of 5 blocks for the coming year, where folks can come and learn theory and practice the skills needed for off-grid living, informed by permaculture principles.


Dates for the 6 week blocks are:

Block 1: 26th Feb – 8th April

Block 2: 23rd April – 3rd June

Block 3: 25th June – 5th August

Block 4: 27th August – 7th October

Block 5: 15th Oct – 25th November


For the full volunteer pack follow this link to a PDF. There is a description of what you will learn in each block.

During the PEP you will be immersed in learning about sustainable and simple living; practicing skills connected to the garden and the structures; opportunities for consulting the resource library; chances for personal development in the midst of a loving community – and free time to enjoy the interesting walks, avail of the growing network of like-minded people in the area, or simply take a step out of your day to day routine. Our educational philosophy is a mixture of us sharing our knowledge, formally and informally, depending on the task – but we are often about ‘learning by doing’.

You will be required to fill in the application form and the liability form.

Get in touch for if you have any queries after reading the information pack!

We are excited to host these programmes this year!

Autumn Event: Inspired by OLIVES

We woke on the morning of the Autumn Open Event to a most beautiful sky!

Warm open-hearted welcomes as folks arrived…..

A group of over 40 came through out the day – we started with the group who came in the morning to do tours of the land…..

We had a mixed bunch, of people who have visited before, and for others it was their first encounter with the project.

The tours were in English, ‘lead’ by Eric and Emma – and the second in Portuguese with Marcia.

Thanks to the team of angel helpers we had a delicious lunch, with veggies from the garden and inspired by the olive theme and fermented recipies from Dearbhla Reynolds book, ‘Funky Ferments’.


The olive oil tasting was great fun – as we decided upon our favourites…..

Most people had a sure sense of what they ‘didn’t like’. It was amazing that neigbour Nick was ‘spot on’ with his diagnosis!

Then the ‘experts’ gave their feedback…..

We had with us professional organic olive oil producers. Luis Coutinho with his brand ‘Tojeira’ has received much attention for its high quality. Also with us, the engineer Joao Mateus with nearly 20 years experience in working with the Portuguese ministry of agriculture and most recently with Sementes Vivas.

We also had the pleasure of the experience of Miguel Fiadeiro, from the Olive Oil Co-operative in Fundao. Miguel shared and answered questions regarding the differences between the methods of pressing olives, amongst many other things!

Conversations continued about the need for a local organic press, and various solutions were discussed.


After much sharing, we got up and picked olives to demonstrate the method we use for curing our olives. One we learned from our local neighbours over 10 years ago!

As we were harvesting a few olives, out neighbour, Tia Adelina’s son, Antonio came passed – it was his MUM who had such an influence on much of what we know now about olives! It was a lovely moment.

Back in the common space, Marica demonstrated the curing process, and the knowledgeable Sr. Eduardo gave some great and easy tips.

The rest of the afternoon we carried on sharing about olive oil production and best practices while enjoying each other’s company!


We had the delight of having Stefan and Bettina of Sementes Vivas with us. They too have been promoting organic and biodynamic production of olive oil. They shared about an upcoming conference on the theme of ‘New Ruralism’. They are bringing together many of the best-known names in the world of rural development and sustainable construction. The link to the conference can be found by clicking on ‘events’ from here

Thank you to all who came and participated, shared knowledge or bought our olive oil inspired products!

Until next year….!

Chocalhos: music and laughter

The festival of Chocalhos in our neighbouring village of Alpedrinha was again this year full of wonderful surprises.

From 15-17th Sept the village came alive with traditional music associated with the pastoral past and present.

People travelled from all over Portugal to enjoy the activities, food, music and dancing.

For the last number of years the Chocalhos, which celebrates the traditional shepherding ways in the region, has twinned with another region in Europe which still has strong links with sheep and goats. This year the region was Extremadura – so the Spanish over the border brought their delicious cheese and local products.


There was a beautiful family feeling in the village. With singing, people eating and chatting together and enjoying the beautiful weather.




Our super team of volunteers, Kirsty (South Africa), Julia, Henrike and Thomas (Germany) along with Marica’s mum Camilla co-ordinated the stall for the duration of the weekend. Eric and Thomas stayed up until late and the girls did the day shifts!





One of the highlights for Eric of the weekend were the conversations that he had at the stall with Portuguese people who had come from the cities to visit the area. He encountered many from Lisbon and Porto who were delighted to experience as sense of community, celebration and simplicity on the streets of the village.


A group friends had travelled from Lisbon and Porto, organised by our friend Duarte, camped at the Mount of Oaks. They took part in the nightlife and the walk from Fundao to Alpedrinha with the sheep and shepherds on the Sunday.

Above is a picture of Duarte and friends as they were handed a few musical instruments and they gratefully created a tune!


Friday and Saturday nights bands took to the street, at every corner of the tiny cobbled streets groups playing drums or bagpipes were found! It is hard not to dance to this music!!

In the week before Chocalhos we had the pleasure of hosting Nuno and Luisa from the Lisbon area – this amazing couple were on a camping holiday with us, and yet helped in many ways, for example tackling an area of brambles next to one of the stone walls.


Nuno and Luisa, were happy to experience the lively mixture of animation and music, food and feeling in Alpedrinha.




On the Sunday there is typically a walk from Fundao to Alpedrinha along the old Roman road. People process after the sheep and shepherds. When they arrive in the village they are blessed by the local priest. Here they are arriving to the cheering of the onlookers!

One of the low-lights this year was that there were less local people out in the celebration than normal. We put this down to the fact it was difficult for people from the area to celebrate when so much had been lost this year due to the fires in the mountain behind the village. There was a sadness too at one of the oldest shepherds, 91 1/2 year old Antonio Lopes from the village passing away, the father of Antonio Lopes, our dear friend.

However, despite the lower numbers for the festival in general, the Home Grown Market on the Sunday, after the sheep walk was VERY well attended – and a huge success.

Many thanks for the success of this goes to Francisco from Ananda Marga – he has been working on the promotion of the local organic markets for months. This was the first to take place in the public space in Alpedrinha, after discussions with local producers and the local authorities.

We look forward to next year’s Chocalhos festival. If you would like to stay at Mount of Oaks for that weekend, remember – Chocalhos normally takes place the 3rd weekend of September every year. Options for associates are camping or booking the straw bale guest house.

Special thanks for help this year goes to Marcia’s mum, Camilla, Eric, Marcia, Thomas, Kirsten, Henrike and Julia.