We’re Krister, Miranda, and Tor, our fourteen-year-old son, who likes cats, ants, and board and role-playing games, and reads a lot (as do we all). In 2015 we moved to this place and began restoring it as both a working farm and a beautiful, peaceful place with an amazing sense of history.
We produce quality organic olive oil from our 16-hectare organic olival, which we manage as a changing natural environment as well as a source of income, deliberately leaving some wild areas and encouraging wildflowers, herbs, and wildlife to coexist with the olive trees. We also harvest and brine table olives for our own use earlier in the season (late September and early October, though we also make salt-cured (oil-packed) black olives at the end of the season), using the traditional Portuguese method. We think this is a fun and satisfying task!
We are also constantly working on restoring the quinta's buildings—a somewhat overwhelming task—as well as its citrus grove and other fruit trees and its impressive Moorish irrigation system. We get a lot of use and pleasure from our kitchen garden, but we also enjoy experimenting with pushing the boundaries of the climate, with an eye to future changes: exotics or unusual plants like mangoes, avocadoes, finger limes, bananas, and kaffir lime in sheltered spots; new pistachio, fig, and almond plantings suitable to this climate; the tough, aromatic plants in Miranda's dry garden; and an explosion of roses in spring and fall.
We enjoy making a wide variety of food from different cuisines, using seasonal and local (or quinta produced) produce as much as possible. We also love the occasional board game or game of spades in the evening, and playing croquet or boules in the afternoon.
We're 5km from the center of Elvas, a World Heritage Site for its impressive fortifications and aqueduct, and two satellite hilltop fortresses. There is express bus service from Lisbon to Elvas 6 or 7 times a day.
Cooking / shopping
Help with Eco project
Help in the house
We are connected to the Alentejo community through our workers, neighbors, and other relationships. Our experience has been that Alentejans are warm, open-minded, and courteous to outsiders—it’s a great place to be, with many opportunities to learn and practice Portuguese.
Around this harvest time you can feel a connection with the local community. It's great fun to learn about and get the opportunity to go to the local olive buyer, have a beer, and see our olives go through the Dr Seussian machinery that sorts, cleans, and weighs them. Every kind of olive grower, from people with huge semis full of olives to a father and couple of kids in a hatchback with a few crates of olives from the trees in their back yard, hangs around checking out each other's olives and discussing the weather and the harvest. We also hope to make some olive oil at a biologically certified mill near here, which will be cause for great celebration and olive oil tastings.
Just as important to us, though, is our natural environment, with its great variety of flora and fauna—hares, partridge, hoopoes, little and tawny owls, stone curlews, wild boars (very shy), mongooses, geckoes, newts, fire salamanders, wild cistus and lavender, lupins, broom…—and our equally fascinating variety of agricultural opportunities. We grow figs, oranges, lemons, limes, Australian finger limes, kaffir lime, pomegranates, almonds, capers, walnuts, mangoes, avocadoes, pistachios, and a rotating cast of vegetables (there is no off season for vegetables, just different seasons), as well as roses, herbs, ornamental shrubs, and flowers, and we are always trying new things.
We hope you will learn both the pleasure of slowing down in a culture where time does not equal money, and that of learning to live in harmony with your natural surroundings, adapting to the climate and eating locally, seasonally, and adventurously.
This year we are looking for volunteers with two (possibly overlapping) focuses.
First, during olive harvest (mid-October through most of December), we are looking for a n all-round helper with garden, animal, and household tasks, especially cooking, shopping, and/or keeping the kitchen sane. This is a very busy time for us, and we struggle to keep up with our own work and daily quinta chores while overseeing olive harvest.
We have a good collection of suitable recipes built up from earlier harvests, and can take our own turns in the kitchen or cook and clean up together with you if you are unsure. We also need help keeping the kitchen and common areas neat, keeping fires going when necessary (we heat with wood stoves, using only our own olive prunings), and taking care of the vegetables and other gardens. A few favorite former volunteers will be returning during some parts of the harvest who know the routine and can pitch in with cooking help etc. The work will not be so demanding that you won't get plenty of chances to work outside, especially since your help will be mostly centered around mealtimes. If you're interested, you may get a chance to see how the harvest works, and go with the others to the oil mill or olive middleman, a great way to truly feel a part of rural Alentejo culture. In good weather, often we serve lunch outside under the trees. The olival can be beautiful at this time of year, and oranges and pomegranates will be ripening.
In the longer term, we are looking for one volunteer, or possibly a couple, who want to really feel part of the quinta. This could be a good position for a writer or artist, someone with freelance or remote online work, or another independent personal pursuit that can be combined with hands-on tasks on the quinta. If you are really interested in gardening, both practical and ornamental, we feel you could learn a lot here, too.
We would ask for 25 hours of help per week (5 five-hour days, though especially outside of harvest time, the arrangement would be flexible). Help outside of harvest time might include ordinary day-to-day tasks like cooking, keeping up fires, keeping common spaces clean and organized, caring for the gardens and trees, managing and maintaining the irrigation system, construction or painting help, projects like a stone view tower in the olival or a tree-house platform, caring for our chickens and/or horses (don't worry if you are unsure about handling horses; you will have help!), preserving fruit and vegetables, and many other things, according to your skills and interests. You will need to be well up on all the various everyday tasks that merely keep the quinta's plants and animals thriving, because we would need you sometime to be able to take care of the quinta (with help from our Portuguese workers and perhaps another friend) when we are away—usually (and not very often) a few days at most, but possibly for three or four weeks in the summer, when we go to Krister’s family lake cabin in Sweden.
On the other hand, to return the favor, we'd be happy for you to take a week or two off now and then at other times, to explore Portugal or visit home, etc.
The ideal person would be someone who could truly develop an interest and engagement in the quinta as if you have a real stake in it, and care for it as we would when we are gone. We'd likely share dinner most days, but you would need to be quite self-sufficient at times, since we both have our own freelance work. The ability to drive, willingness to shop and run errands, interest in cooking or helping to cook, and a certain adventurousness and interest in different cuisines, would be strong pluses—but the most important quality is a sense of personal satisfaction in your tasks here, and commitment to the quinta as a place you feel attached to and proud of.
That sense of engagement is a state of mind that usually takes time to develop and is hard to predict, so the best plan might be to start with a two-week trial and see how it goes for all of us. If you are interested, one possibility would be for you to help with the harvest and then, if it feels like a good match, return or stay on. (A number of our former volunteers have made this transition naturally, staying on longer than they originally intended and returning one or more times.)
We are constantly working on renovating new spaces in the quinta's sprawling stone complex, built around a hilltop courtyard. At the moment we have several reasonably comfortable though not luxurious rooms for volunteers in the house proper, and a few others in other sections of the complex. Volunteers who stay for a longer time will end up having first choice of these spaces, and can also help to improve their own space over time. Our eventual aim is to have a dedicated private space for long-term volunteers, which would not be fancy but a comfortable and appealing retreat.
During harvest we provide the materials for breakfast according to your preferences, and everyone makes their own; we provide lunch and dinner every workaway day, and volunteers can make their own food, take turns or gang up to cook together for everyone, or decide to go out (on their own dime) on the weekends. The rest of the year, things are more relaxed. Usually we make up a rota at least for dinner and maybe for lunch, but sometimes we may go out, and sometimes everyone may just want to make their own food, especially on weekends, when everyone has different plans. We are omnivores, but eat mostly vegetables, as many from the quinta or the area as possible. We like our food flavorful and often spicy, and enjoy Mexican, Thai, Indian, Persian, and many other cuisines. We always love to be cooked for, and it doesn't need to be fancy--whether your favorite dish is a grilled sandwich or simple pasta, or some special thing we've never had before, we'd like to try it!
We are about 5km from the center of Elvas, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its amazing fortifications and aqueduct, and its two impressive satellite forts. There are many easy, rewarding day trips for your days off: the enchanted fortress towns of Marvao and Monsaraz, the hiking trails of the Sao Mamede, the wonderful market in Estremoz, the ruined bridge and river walk at Ponte de Ajuda, the ruined, deserted fortress of Juromenha, tapas across the river in Olivenza, Spain, and many more. We enjoy exploring ourselves, and may take volunteers for sunsets at Juromenha or other relaxed outings from time to time.
Many volunteers enjoy just staying around the quinta in their time off, reading, swimming, walking in the olival, drawing, or just enjoying the gardens and various places to sit and relax.
We have a few bicycles you may be able to borrow if you’re respectful of them. Those who drive may be able to borrow a car to go out after work or on the weekends. Walking to town is definitely possible, and many volunteers have done it often, but it is not a short stroll.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
5 hours, 5 days a week