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!!



Essential Oils

Marcia and I paid a visit to a local producer of essentials oils recently. The couple, Marju and Marco run a business called Naturalness Essential Oils.

They live, and have their distillation production right next to the beautiful river Ocreza, just below the Gardunha mountains outside the village of Torre. It took us only about 20mins to get there from Mount of Oaks through beautiful landscape.

Marju showed us inside the old mill where the machines are set up to distill the plants and extract the essential oils. They have been refurbishing the building, step by step, while maintaining the character of the place…..

We were really impressed with the stills and the work that the couple had already done to produce and sell local 100% organic oils!

Since we are in the season of the blooming Rock Rose (Cistus ladaniferus var. maculatus) they will soon begin production again. One of the things we really appreciated was that the couple sought to re-use whatever they could from the plants. Even when they had extracted the essential oil from the rock rose, they used the plant material to burn and heat the distilling chambers! No waste at this farm!

What is amazing about this local business and this couple is their wonderful resilience – the fire that ripped through the Gardunha mountian area in August came extremely close to their home. The organic material that they had been harvesting for production of essential oils burnt in the fire.

From the picture it is difficult to really understand the devastation caused by the fire to the mountain behind. But this family will not be discouraged and soon they will offer a workshop.

Sunday, 29th April, they will be opening for folks interested in learning about the process of distillation of rock rose. It starts at 9am, collecting the plants, and finishes at 1pm.

The places are limited to 10, so drop an email to naturalness.cistus@icloud.com in order to book your spot.

It will cost 20E and you will go home with some essential oil and hydrosol MADE on the DAY!


Monthly eco-market launches!

After the success of the monthly markets that started last year, mostly hosted on the private lands of people interested in promoting the organic movement, a new more permanent eco-market was launched in the village of Alpedrinha on Sunday, February 11th, 10am – 1pm.

The group behind the organisation of the market are newly formed association BioEco. The mission of BioEco is to promote organic agriculture – both production and consumption. The association has several working groups, and the group in charge of the markets is working closely with the village of Alpedrinha.

The location of the market was in the center of the village, next to the Tourism Point – so perfect for people to pass by and check it out. Some of the villagers popped into the market after mass!!!

It was a great success, both in terms of the numbers of vendors and folks who came to buy their local products.

Not only veggies were for sale, also juices, jams, natural cosmetics, herbal teas and soaps, essential oils and much more….


The markets play an important function, not only economically, but socially too. The animation of music and face-painting on the eve of Carnival brought a real sense of celebration to the gathering.

Eric brought a stall with Mount of Oaks products and really enjoyed the experience and sense of community with the other vendors and chatting in Portuguese, English and German!

One of the broad aims of the monthly markets is to promote the growing of more organic produce in the locality – when farmers see that there is a genuine market for their produce the are more likely to plant!

Linda, who is a member of the association, and passionate seed saver and heritage seed propagator did a great job of sharing seeds from her collection.

BioEco were also promoting an action the following Sunday, sowing seeds on the burnt areas of the mountain – to provide food for the animals. (See the next blog for an update of how that went!)

The NEXT market is Sunday 11th March – if you are anywhere in the region – feel free to pop along from 10am – 1pm. But remember, bring your own shopping bags!

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.

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.

Homegrown Local Markets

The development of a local sustainable economy has been a focus of the Mount of Oaks community since inception. We have the priviledge of living in a area where farmers still farm and produce fruit and vegetables. We have local farmers markets twice a week in Fundao – and there we can buy from a few producers who consciously do not use chemicals to fertilise their crops.

However, we have been meeting with folks interested in promoting the cultivation and consumption of organic produce for a long period of time – and some of the results of these connections can be seen in the projects that have been emerging over the last months.

(photos from Castelo Novo 2.0)

SO far there have been 4 very successful local markets on farms in our area and 3 markets in the historic village of Castelo Novo, just up the road from where we live.

The markets in Castelo Novo are promoted and organised by a local association called ‘Castelo Novo 2.0’ whose aim is to bring life back into the historic village. Ines and Hugo have been working very hard to promote the village and the local economy.

Markets Movement springing up from the Land!

Alongside the monthly markets in Castelo Novo we have been involved in promoting the little ‘Land Markets’. These have been happening on the 3rd Saturday every month since the first in April. The main person to thank in this movement is the kind, wise and beautiful Fransisco from the organisation, Ananda Marga.

The markets have been opportunities for real social interaction between the ‘new communities’ and the local Portuguese population. Alongside the selling of fruit, veggies, herbal teas, nuts, fermented drinks there has been a part of promoting well being. Keri comes and sells her chemical-free cosmetics, Laura and Joy have given massage, Kimberly and Dalia have instructed yoga practice.

We have really been enjoying transforming our herbs into beautiful tea mixes, selling our cured olives, tangerine cordial, soaps and other produce! We are learning by doing and coming up with some good recipes.

The next ‘Land Market’ is here, Mount of Oaks on 19th August, from 9am-12noon.

There will be at least 15 stalls, a kids area and also the opportunity to practice yoga (starts at 9am, bring your own mat and be prepared to leave a donation for laura)

The invite and more info in Portuguese and English about the market can be found here 

Coming next!

In the next blog about the local markets we will share more about the possibility of an association emerging to promote the markets, education and growth of sustainable local farming.

So far 4 different types of markets!

Bi-weekly Farmers Market in Fundao on Mondays and Saturdays

1st Saturday of the month – ‘Eco Mercado’ in the village of Castelo Novo

3rd Saturday of the month – ‘Mercadinho da Terra’ which happen in different farms in the Fundao district.

Quarterly Local Ecomony Fair – using alternative currency in Covilha