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.

Natural Plastering Workshop

Keela was again host to a workshop that Barbara taught – this time specifically about the techniques and tricks of natural earth plasters and pigments! The 15 participants came from the region and further away like Porto and Leira.

Below are a load of photos that give a flavour and the fun had over the weekend….thank you to Kirsty for the images!

So there they were, learning new skills, practicing what they were learning and feeling empowered for their own projects.

Well done Barbara and all the team at Keela for a well organised and super practical weekend workshop!


Cool Carpentry

It is pretty hard to begin to describe the transformations inside the kitchen – the hours of labour (of love, I am told) that has gone into the making of the cupboards! Every board needed sanding, measuring, cutting, treating with linseed oil, fixed into place….

But the result of this handmade kitchen is beautiful.

The handles are pieces of olive wood from the land, the drawers planks saved from the yurt floor where Lyna’s yurt lived for a while on the top terrace….new and old mixed.


Ba did most of the work herself, but she was also grateful for the input of Eric and Judith. Eric did a great work with the electrics – bringing light to the new counter area…

Notes made on scrap pieces of wood remind me of how my dad used to work!!

All is all, the work has been slow and steady and we HOPE to move in tomorrow….there are a team of people willing to come and help – which is super. A community work for a community kitchen!

More snaps to follow….

If you are interested in learning more about natural building – Barbara is teaching several courses this year….

TRADITIONAL TECHNIQUES OF NATURAL BUILDING… 8 day COURSE and community experience, taught by Barbara Da Nova Leite, founder at Mount of Oaks, with 10 years experience on Permaculture Design Implementation and Natural Building…

Two different options for 2018 : – a Tiny House building at the Rural Tourism “Quinta da Fonte” or a 200m2 Community House at “Keela Yoga Permaculture Farm”.
Same program, different challenges .

Only 500‚ā¨ with all meals, camping facilities ( or other accommodation with extra fees), a Pdf Manual with all the notes for each technique and an unique experience that might just transform your life

19-26 may – Tiny House at Quinta da Fonte
9-16 June – 200m2 Community House at Keela Yoga Farm
30 June- 7 July – 200m2 Community House at Keela Yoga Farm
4-11 August – 200m2 Community House at Keela Yoga Farm

For more info – check the workshop page.

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Perfect Imperfections

Kitchen Renovation – week 3

Turning to the interior of the kitchen these last 2 weeks has proved to be a most satisfying job! As you will see from the pictures that follow, work is coming on WELL – despite the rain outside and the storm that blew a fuse in some needed equipment!!

The arrival of volunteer, Rubi and his delightful dog Stella came at JUST THE RIGHT TIME! He turned up with the heart and the desire to help out.

The team of Barbara, Eric and Rubi have been working tirelessly….

Adding windows to bring more light into the kitchen….

Then the process of making the counters, starting with clay bricks….

There were funny moments when Stella (Rubi’s dog) sat in between the walls, as though she was in a kennel! Unfortunately didn’t capture that in a picture!

Then onto the first structure for the counter-tops…

Barbara coordinated the work with precision and the lads were a great help!

A great design idea was to construct a space specifically for our veggies – a handmade veggie rack…..

The rains continued to fall, heavily and persistently this week. We had several storms – during one storm a fuse blew on the Makita battery charger!! This is a really important piece of kit in our off-grid building projects!

Friends, Anne and Grant kindly allowed us to borrow theirs for a few days and boom, up and running again…

Storms were not going to slow this team down….next was the plastering with LIME!

In tricky positions even a practicised yogi would find difficult they balanced and plastered along to the sound of the rain…

By the end of the week, tools down, bodies aching, wine consumed – this is the result so far….

This is what Barbara calls, ‘Perfect Imperfections’. The lime already gives such a different feeling inside the building. It has made the place MUCH lighter and the feeling is earthy and natural.

Further updates to come…..but remember if you want to take part in one of Barbara’s natural building courses – check the events page for the months of June, July and August.

Or if you want to take part in the Permaculture Experience Programme – 6 weeks blocks, where you live, and work with us, learning about natural building amongst all the other things……

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 ‚Äėnon-professional‚Äô 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‚ā¨/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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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.


Kitchen Renovation

For those of you who have visited here, the common kitchen will be a familiar sight and the center of much of the activity on the land.

As it stands today, it is in much better shape than when Barbara, and a group of other pioneers found it in the winter of 2006!

Then it had a hole in the roof….Eddie was able to poke right through!

the floor was a mud bath and it needed a chimney…..which they made from an old oil drum banged by hammers into shape!

shelves and storage was improvised in the more creative ways….

All of those things were sorted and if you go look at the old blog posts from the ‘old’ blog, posts from the early days, you will find images of what it looked like in different seasons…..

However the NEWS is that we are working on renovating the inside and putting on a new roof! Work started last year, taking everything out, and make a temporary kitchen outside the building. Then the plastering of the walls, with cob, for which we had some french female help!

Barbara worked on many versions of the design for the inside – and came up with ones, she and we are happy with. Work on the roof will hopefully start next week.

The plan is to have a pantry area, as well as storage for bulk items, a sink inside and tiles on the floor! It will be a massive transformation for the space, and the uses it can have.

If you would like to contribute towards the costs of the building materials, please drop us a line, or follow the instructions here. We are using as much reclaimed materials, building with pallet wood for the doors of the cabinets (which Ba will make), and bits and bobs we have picked up on the way – however the wood we need to buy and the roofing materials are not cheap – so every little helps!

We will keep posting updates on the work to keep you up to date!

Thank you, much love, all at the Mount of Oaks!