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.

In the public eye!

A few weeks ago we were interviewed by journalist Ana Cristina Perira for an article she wanted to write about ‘Sustainable Lives’. She and the photographer Paulo Pimenta joined us from Porto on a hot summer day.

The article was published this week in ‘Publico’ a well respected daily newspaper. We were surprised and amused at how our stories had been recalled. The headings would not have been our choice of words, but beyond that, the piece was fairly representative of our views and ideas.

It was surprisingly emotional to respond to deep questions about our philosophy, spirituality, economy and daily lives! We did most of the talking over lunch and then up at the N’jango beside the pond.

Ana was really interested to see where Samuel goes to creche, so she accompanied us to Alpedrinha, and then to the river beach at Castelo Novo to finish the day.

Since the publication of the article we have had a lot of welcome attention – several portuguese families are coming to camp for some days and others interested in our future events. So, in this case, the media attention has been really helpful.

Thank you Ana.

To see the full article click here

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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…..