Conscious Consumer Network

meeting 2Currently in the local area there is a welcome interest in the consumption and production of good healthy good. As a result of this growing desire to connect consumers and producers of organic food, there was a very successful meeting in Alpedrinha recently. Seeing that there were over 40 people present who wish to be part of the group – this was a huge signal that NOW is the time to develop this project.

We were delighted that Alexandre and Fransisco from the Ananda Marga organisation came and presented their ideas for a veg box scheme – with the added idea of a small market at the locations where boxes could be collected. There were many questions from the floor and very useful suggestions.

Castelo Novo 2.0, have been proposing the idea of an organic market in Castelo Novo – and there is support from the Camera of Fundao for this venture.

The next meeting of this Conscious Consumer Network will be here – at the Mount of Oaks on 26th March. Our Open Day themed on Organic Food will be the launch place for the networks next steps!

open day poster

 

 

 

Kitchen renovation!

IMG_3384 Last week we began the EPIC mission of clearing out the inside of the kitchen and starting to make some needed improvements.

In this year where we are celebrating our 10th Anniversary it is really fitting to be going back to the original structure which holds SO many MEMORIES for the wider Mount of Oaks community.

 

Stripping back the shelves, taking everything out to prepare for power washing the walls showed us just how beautiful the space actually is! The simple stone building has a lot of character.

IMG_3383

The floor came off too……

IMG_3410

 

 

and then Barbara had a lot of fun with the power hose outside and inside!

 

 

IMG_3392

 

IMG_3405

Power washing the floor boards – with ‘safety goggles’!!

 

Next task was to make a temporary kitchen outside…..

 

IMG_3402

This week we will work on cobbing the walls – we will keep updating with the progress of the kitchen. If you feel to donate a few euros towards the project, click on this link to see how to do that.

We are entering a new season, while appreciating all that has gone before!

 

Inspirational Visit to Ananda Kalyani

IMG_3303Our visit to the Ananda Kalyani Master Unit was a mind opening and heart warming experience.

We were given a tour of the farm project that based in view of the Serra da Estrela Nature Reserve, below Covilha – a 40 min drive from Mount of Oaks by Alexandre and Francisco – both of whom are part of designing and working on the agricultural and distribution arms of the mulit-dimentional project.

 

 

For a while we have been connecting with the Ananda Marga group based in Covilha and Paul. Anada Marga is an interesting global spiritual and social service organization founded in 1955 by Shrii Shrii Anandamurti (Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar). For more information about the organisation check out the information provided by the group here

Our paths have crossed due to our common interest in organic food, boosting the local economy, permaculture in practice and alternative education. What we discovered on our visit was that we also have a strong sense of service and a desire to collaborate together where we can.

 

IMG_3308

The site of the Master Unit is stunning – with a river running at the bottom of the property and above forests, we could see why the community had fallen in love with the place. Even on the cold January day we could imagine people swimming in the river in the summer months.

 

 

 

 

IMG_3306

The structures that the team have put in place at the Master Unit are to serve the farm and the future community who will move to live onsite. They have a large wooden barn and cute camping facillities for when they host their festivals or youth camps. Currently the community live in the nearby village of Paul, and from there host volunteers and many activities from their hub.

Our disscusions included us asking about their experience of gaining subsidies to move their project to the next stage. It was obvious that there had been much investment on the land in the last 3 years, in machines, irrigation systems, soft fruit plantation and hundreds of cherry trees. Their aims of the rural unit is to move forward with their cherries and berries, food forest and the vegetable and herb gardens. We were really impressed by the level of planning that has gone into the project so far – and their plans for the development of the place.

One of their slogans is ‘modelling a sustainable present’ – it seems like they are well on their way!

table

 

Like us, they gather around the table as a community for shared meals. Back in their base in Paul we were treated to a YUMMY lunch. Knowing that your food has been prepared with love and that the food is local simply adds to the experience. Rui had also prepared some raw food and a delicious orange and nut cake. Over lunch we shared about Mount of Oaks and learned more about the Ananda Marga organisation.

Alexandre and 2 others had to rush off to Lisboa with a car full of organic produce to sell – it was again inspiring to see how they are taking the dream of connecting the producers with the consumers and making it a reality.

mediation room

We discovered more about the daily rhythm of the community – they rise early and meditate and then practice yoga before breakfast. We saw the space dedicated to their practice. Dalila shared the story of how she and Rui decided to give up their lives in Lisboa to move to the countryside. In all, we left feeling nourished. Our minds and hearts expanded as we saw the possiblities that a big, well planned project can have on the local economy. These people from Ananda Kalyani are beautiful souls and we are glad to call them friends.

Barbara took part in a pruning course that was organised by the Prana Academy. In a few weeks she will attend another of their courses, this one on organic olives and olive oil. For more information about the project and their events, check out their website

Local Legend gave birth to Festa das Papas

 Annual Porridge Party in Povoa de Atalaia

On the third Sunday in January every year, the village of Povoa de Atalaia, walking distance from the Mount of Oaks, prepares to cook the maize porridge (papas de carolo) and receive hundreds of visitors.

This year, Eric, Marica, Samuel and I enjoyed the afternoon with the neighbours, basking in the sun!

IMG_3290

So, what is the Festa das Papas about?

Everything began with a legend…..

According to the legend, a long time ago, there was a very serious plague of grasshoppers in the region. Everything farmers cultivated was eaten by the grasshoppers. The farmers asked Saint Sebastian to help them getting rid of those insects. They promised they would build a chapel in his honor and, yearly, each third Sunday of January, they would make a pilgrimage there. In this pilgrimage, farmers promised also they would distribute white maize porridge (papas de carolo) freely, as well as fritters, to all the local inhabitants.

The grasshoppers disappeared…

 After a mid afternoon mass in the main church in the village, the families who have the responsibility that year for sowing, growing and making the traditional maize porridge dish parade in front of the priest and the band to the chapel of St Sebastian. 

 

IMG_3260

The ‘papas’ enter the chapel on the heads of the villagers and are blessed by the priest.  Then, they are distributed to all the people outside in a regal sort of fashion – it is a beautiful ritual and quite theatrical. The tradition reminds the village about the importance of sharing

Here is what is looks like…..large squares of a porridge-like consistency. It is difficult to describe – but worth tasting! 

IMG_3273

 Something else that the ladies make and offer as part of the ‘festa’ is a deep fried sweet, like a fritter – which I prefer more!

 

Our neighbour, Tia Adelina was delighted to hold Samuel during the festa. Samuel also loved the Papas!

 

IMG_3270

If you read Portuguese, here is the link to an article about the Festa das Papas. The article is very informative about the history of the tradition.

There are more images in the 5 min long youtube video made by a few girls in the village for a school project. The music is traditional to the area and the video gives a real sense of the festa, and what it means to the locals. Click here to see the video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

first weeks of the new year…

IMG_2946

These first weeks of 2017 have been beautiful! Amazing sun rises and sun sets – bright sunny days and cold nights. With this great weather we have been doing lots of outside jobs – in the garden preparing beds for spring and weeding paths, and fixing fences. A real transformation has been occuring on the middle terraces where Barbara has been strimming the brambles to reveal walls and hidden trees!

This weekend is the annual “Festa das Papas” in our village, where families parade through the village with offerings of sweet porridge cake, which is blessed by the priset and then distributed to all present. But more about that in the coming post.

papas.jpg

For now, sending love and peace for a great 2017.

 

2017 Calendar featuring Xico the DONKEY

Introducing our FIRST calendar

We have been planning to put together a calendar for number of years, but this year we have finally gotten around to it! Our inspiration was our friend, Xico. In the last 4 years of him living with us we have taken countless images of him in different seasons, with different kids on his back, or people in his cart!

Since his passing in September we decided to put those images together into a calendar and raise some money for abandoned animals. The funds raised from the selling of the calendar will be shared between us, (for the purposes of continuing to develop the infrastructures at the Mount of Oaks) and an animal sanctuary called Refúgio dos Burros, that cares for countless animals, in particular donkeys, in the south of Portugal.

 

Here is a preview of what a typical page looks like. Each month there is a different photo that we hope will bring joy and colour to your 2017.  We decided to make this a limited edition – only 100 copies – so get in touch asap!

How much does it cost?

The recommended price for the calendar is £10 or 10E plus postage which for normal mail in Europe is 2.35E, and 4.70E for fast post.

How to get hold of them?

Drop us an email to – mount.of.oaks@gmail.com with your address, quantity you wish and we will let you know the price for the postage based on the weight.

If you wish to purchase other Christmas gifts such as soaps, herbs or teas – let us know too and we can send a list of prices.

Any donations to the projects beyond the price of the calendar would be warmly welcomed.

For bank transfers:
Name: Ass. Rec. e Cultural White Stone
Bank Name: Caixa Geral de Depósitos
Address: Lisbon
IBAN PT50 0035 0339 00059421630 49
BIC SWIFT CGDIPTPL

Paypal:
whitestone2004@gmail.com

When will you be able to receive your calendar?

We will be sending packages out twice a week from 28th November by normal mail. However, if you wish to pay the extra for fast post – let us know and we can calculate the price.

Many thanks…

As often, this project was a community effort. Our deepest thanks go to a talented and longstanding supporter of the happenings at the Mount of Oaks, Emmanuel Ingelsten for the design and printing of the calendar. Thank you too for the permission granted by those who are featured, parents and children.

This calendar is a great gift for any animal lover – knowing that the proceeds are going to two good causes!

Harvest Thanksgiving

In this season of Harvest, it seems like a great time to give thanks for all the bountiful gifts from the earth. This post will contain a few snaps taken during and since the summer. We have been blessed with delicious fruit and veg in the garden, and on top of that, the company of wonderful people to help us harvest and EAT it!

IMG_1156

When it comes to helping in the garden, one of the important recurring tasks is that of WATERING!! If you come from the northern countries one can easily forget just how much time goes into keeping the plants hydrated and happy.

DSCF0001   DSCF0003

 

One of the great successes this year was our crop of ‘Ladies Fingers’, okra or in Portuguese ‘quiabo’. It is not a cheap vegetable to buy in the supermarkets. We were able to enjoy the yummy veg for several months. In an Angolan dish that Barbara and her family cook, okra is one of the star ingredients. We also discovered that the slime that is removed by cutting the ends and soaking in water is really a beneficial for the management of diabetes. Our neighbours’ dog, Ellie, who has juvenile dog diabetes, has been enjoying the juice that is claimed can reduce blood sugar levels.

DSCF0005  DSCF0029

   IMG_1574

Okra belongs to the mallow family, it’s flower resembles that of a malva. Here is Christina out collecting a bowl full in mid August.

Every year the fig tree outside the kitchen offers bags and bags of figs. The variety is called ‘honey drop’ and develops a visible blob of sweet delicious juice on the exterior of the fig. Even after Xico and everyone who visited had eaten their fill, we still have lots left over to preserve for winter.

IMG_3260

Gardeners refers to some plants as ‘greedy’ meaning that they need a lot of manure/compost to allow them to grow and produce well. Watermelon, pumpkins, squashes and corn fall under these greedy veg – and this year we had them in good quantities and we were more than satisfied.

DSCF0040

IMG_1819

 

While in South Africa last year Barbara was offered many organic seeds from a  a heritage seed banking initiative called, Mandala Seeds. The seeds are grown largely in the Klein Karoo region of the Western Cape which has a similar climate to us. We sowed different varieties of aubergine, sweet peppers and heirloom tomatoes – but probably the strangest ‘fruit’ was a variety of cucumber or melon known as the African Horn Melon. It is is a strange-looking fruit that is native to Southern Africa and is an annual vine. It has been known as jelly melon by some and this possibly alludes best to it’s consistency and strange exotic flavour!

DSCF0055 DSCF0057

DSCF0061

Our annual and perennial herbs give us joy and add spice and flavour to our food. Even though we are in Autumn we still have basil, parsley, corriander, various thyme species, sage, rosemary, mints, fennel, lemon balm and lemon grass all on the go! We dry most of our herbs for either for culinary uses OR for yummy tea mixes.

We collect seeds from the annuals to sow again in early spring. Here are the parsley and basil seeds being collected.

IMG_2154IMG_2155

In the last weeks with the move into more Autumn weather we have been noticing a huge amount of mushrooms around. While James and Louise were visiting we made a mushroom stroganoff using fresh parasol’s. Often we prepare the parasol mushrooms like a schnitzel and it really is a delicious alternative to steak! At the end of November we will take part in a day workshop to learn how to identify more of the wild edible mushrooms in the region – for details check this link

IMG_2507IMG_2508

Before the cycle continues it is good to pause and reflect on how generous the earth is to us humans!

From the last months of work in the garden, the fruits of our labour have been enjoyed and some preserved for the winter. There are many people to thank for your help in weeding, mulching, staking, harvesting and bringing love to the land. Many thanks to the seeds who provide such variety in shape, colour and flavour.

IMG_2457

In our next blog will share exciting news of our first ever calendar that we will be selling to raise funds for this project and a refuge for donkeys. There will also be an update due on the OLIVES – picking, processing and pressing!

Until next time, many blessings from the Mount of Oaks…..

Beginning a New Season

Welcome to the new blog.

DSCF0032

Welcome to Autumn and to the first of several updates as we look back over the summer months. We decided that SOOO much has happened since the last news from us that it would be kinder to split up the summer review into bite sized chunks……you can look forward to news, pictures, recipes and much more!

Before we get onto sharing all the great stuff that has been going on – we need to first share our sad news about Xico. Those who have visited or followed the old blog will be aware of our love for our darling donkey Xico. He arrived with us 4 years ago and quickly became a fond friend. His cheeky moments when he would escape would infuriate and also amuse us greatly.

People who visited will remember Xico’s calm affection. Those who were lucky enough to head out pulled by him in his cart will have cherished memories. Children and adults alike enjoyed his company.

We always knew that Xico was old. When he was given to us by a neighbour we were warned that he was coming to retire at the Mount of Oaks. Clearly he had worked hard during his life, but he had such a great time munching happily on grasses and fruit he looked well for his age!

We lived with the delusion that Xico would live forever, but this was not possible. In the last weeks of his life he was finding is more and more difficult to stand up. He was pretty miserable when he could not stand up and move around. We fed him lying down – it was fig season and he gratefully ate from our hands buckets of figs and apples.

 

IMG_3268

It feels like the land misses a family member. It is not only the humans who seem to miss Xico – but his friend the rooster and the cats were lost without him. Still, over a month later we find ourselves expecting him to be munching away on one of the terraces. I expect to hear his gentle ‘eeyore’ and long give him a brush.

There is a possibility that we will look for more donkeys (note the plural) next year. For now we simply morn the passing of a friend and plan a calendar of photos of Xico to be ready before Christmas. Our plan is that with whatever money we make from the sale of the calendar to give a percentage to a donkey shelter in the south of Portugal.

Feel free to email us with photos of Xico – if you do it quickly it might end up in the calendar!!

IMG_3097

IMG_0171