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We are Lee and Mel, a couple in our late 40's working our way through the process of setting up a home and family run farm - having started completely from scratch in 2017. We are living entirely off grid in a beautiful rural valley location in Oliveira do Hospital in Central Portugal with our 17 year old daughter. (Our elder son is currently based in London having finished University there).
The valley is beautiful, and the land we live on borders 2 rivers - the Rio Seia and the Rio Cobral. There is a dam /waterfall on the Cobral which feeds into a stone irrigation channel called a 'levada' which we restored so that the water runs once again through the land and around the houses. The water brings the entire place to life.
In the Rio Seia - a deep pool carved into the rocks gives us a natural swimming spot - and there are plenty of pools and special spots to enjoy without leaving the farm.
We have an area of 10 hectares which we are slowly developing with the goal of eventually running the farm as a rural tourism project alongside our agriculture interests. We achieved quite a bit in 2022 - having introduced new solar systems for both electricity and hot water and made our tiny home much more functional to meet our everyday needs This year we have introduced cows to the farm and as usual - we are bursting with ideas and have a heck of a lot to do!
Access to the farm is via a dirt track which is passable by car - but a 4X4 is preferable at some points during the year.
The village of Andorinha is 1.5 kilometers from the farm. This is a friendly village where the local people welcome visitors and have a strong sense of community. In Andorinha you will find several cafes - one of which has a restaurant. All other shops and facilities are a short drive away in the town of Oliveira do Hospital.
ACCOMODATION FOR OUR GUESTS:
Basic camping accommodation in a tent - with a proper bed and mattress. All bedding and towels are provided and we have a washing machine and dryer on site.
OFF GRID - WITH BASIC / LIMITED FACILITIES
We have solar power which is sufficient for basic everyday needs charging phones etc
Unlimited WiFi which behaves itself most of the time and is sufficient for working and streaming films etc.
No mains water - we have rainwater collection tanks, and well water which is pumped to tanks with a solar pump and fed back to the taps using only gravity. This means that water, like our power - is always used carefully.
Dry composting toilets.
Anyone adventurous, (or daft) enough to join us will need to be up for going back to absolute basics with us. Being off grid can be a lot of fun but it can also be insanely challenging at times, we live in such a beautiful place -however at times it really is a challenge!
The weather here in the central region is extreme. Mid winter it can be incredibly cold overnight. We get frost during the winter - and get to enjoy the distant view of snow on the mountains.
Warm clothing and blankets are required.
In the summer - it can get ridiculously hot. 40's is not unusual in July and August.
Decent shoes and appropriate clothing are essential here. Its hilly terrain and you need durable clothing suitable for a farm - summer is dry and dusty - be prepared to get mucky!
HELPING HOURS AND FREE TIME
We are asking for help with our projects for 5 mornings per week and will provide you with breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. Please let us know your dietary requirements and any allergy info.
The rest of the time is yours to do with as you please!
If you have your own transport there are many places to explore in the local area and beyond. Without transport there are a couple of villages within walking distance - but this is a quiet and rural area where the pace is slow. Grab a hammock and a book, swim, relax, stargaze and enjoy being well and truly unplugged.
Types of help and learning opportunitiesLanguage practiceHelp with Eco ProjectsGardeningDIY and building projectsAnimal CareFarmstay helpCreating/ Cooking family mealsHelp around the houseGeneral Maintenance
Cultural exchange and learning opportunities
We have a fluent Portuguese speaker in the house and our friends and neighbours will be delighted to talk to you in Portuguese - so if you wish - there is ample opportunity to practice / learn a new language here. Our primary language is English and if you wish to practice that with us then great!
There are 2 cafes in our nearest village Andorinha, (one has a restaurant)and there are plenty of friendly and curious locals to chat with! During the year there are various events to join in with including village parties, olive picking, grape picking etc.
There is the opportunity to learn how to grow your own produce, (seeing what grows best in this climate), learn some preservation techniques - for example making sun dried tomatoes! - and in Autumn the possibility of getting involved with the harvesting of grapes and olives locally.
Animal care - we have a small herd of around 30 sheep, and also breed ducks.
Learn about all aspects of animal care - we usually shear the herd around April - this year lambing will begin in May.
The village is very traditional, many people keep animals and farm their land, working incredibly hard. Our neighbours are always keen to chat and share their knowledge.
We have a whole heap of projects planned for our farm for 2023 - and some friendly faces and helping hands would be a welcome sight indeed :) We are particularly interested in hosting people with interest / general skills in construction, gardening, animal care and cooking!
Some projects have just recently been started and are to be developed - many others however will be started from scratch. Here is a general brain dump / overview:
So far we have successfully cleaned and tamed about 5 hectares (another 5 to go) with the help of our sheep herd who we introduced in 2018. We currently have around 30 sheep and will begin our next lambing season in May 2023
We also have a large pond and breed Khaki Campbell ducks. Each morning and evening the animals need to be checked on and fed. There are also eggs to collect each day.
The sheep can be walked to graze in unfenced areas - so if you fancy some experience as a shepherd or shepherdess we can show you the ropes here!
The sheep barn needs to be improved this year with new hay feeders, drinking stations and possibly some smaller new shelters. Fencing - and creating secure areas for the sheep to graze - is also on the list for this year.
We have 4 dogs - Sonny is 6 - a miniature Yorkshire Terrier who sincerely believes he is boss. His big brother Simba is 5 years old - a Serra da Estrela mountain breed who takes his role very seriously and spends his time fighting crime - making sure no foxes or birds of prey enter the farm unnoticed. 2 new puppy recruits recently joined us in April 2023.
We recently obtained our licence to keep cows and just introduced the first one. More to follow soon! Chickens have been reintroduced recently along with geese and all are providing us with plentiful eggs.
Gardening is an area where we require some help and enthusiasm as it is always the first area to be neglected when other jobs on the farm take priority. Tasks include design, planning, planting up and maintaining of vegetable patch and the polytunnel area, harvesting, preserving and cooking.
Tree planting and care is another important one.! This is a work in progress and as well as protecting young trees from being nibbled by sheep - they also need watering in the dry season.
Strimming - Clearing of broom and brambles -Chipping and mulching - and other tasks relating to the maintenance of the land is a typical task here on the farm.
Other tasks could include creating new stone steps and pathways - repairing old stone walls.
Watering - summer is HOT! Watering the veggie patch is an important job for many months of the year.
This year we plan to build another dry compost toilet and create a new and improved shower area. We also need to create a new site for our outdoor kitchen and install a bread/pizza oven
Lee is in the early stages of designing a hydro system and if you are interested in this - he would be delighted to talk more on this topic with you.
Renovation of granite tiny homes (One is almost complete - one in the very early stages of preparation).
Chopping and stacking of wood for winter is an important task here each year.
Levada maintenance and repair - we have a fantastic stone levada (irrigation channel), which is fed from a small waterfall and this irrigation runs right through a large portion of our land. This is one of the most important features of the farm and its maintenance is critical - especially over the hot dry summer months. This irrigation system supplies our duck pond with water - and irrigates our crops.
We have 12 years of experience of living and farming in Central Portugal so we have picked up a few tricks along the way :) We are however very open to our volunteers bringing lots of fresh ideas and inspiration to the table, and we are always open to learn new things.
This host offers a language exchange
English is our native language and we are happy to converse with you in English if you wish to learn / improve your language skills. We are always happy to talk in Portuguese and improve our vocabulary and grasp. Our daughter is fluent in both English and Portuguese and adores French - so if you speak French she would be super happy to learn from you! She also speaks Spanish - at a basic level.
Accommodation is in a tent with a proper bed and mattress.
Shower with hot water. Dry composting toilets. Basic site facilities are a work in progress. There is a washing machine and dryer on site.
Access to solar powered charging points and unlimited WIFI
If you have your own van or camper to sleep in - there is plenty of space and you are very welcome to park up!
What else ...
Transport is limited, a car is essential here if you wish to get out and about to explore.
Our closest bus station is in Oliveira do Hospital. Nearest train station is Santa Comba Dao. Coimbra train station is a 1 hour drive.
This is down to earth, rural, Portuguese life - a complete back to basics experience.
If you are looking for excitement and nightlife - this is the wrong location for you! You will have a 1.5 kilometer walk to the nearest neighbours and the village.
We have loungers, hammocks, natural swimming spots in the river, books, board games, a big trampoline, swings etc.
There is plenty of space for relaxing and chilling out on site.
If you would like to chat - or ask questions - please get in touch!
Mel and Lee
A little more information
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
Space for parking camper vans
We currently have no facility for emptying of toilet cassettes but are very happy to accommodate vans.
How many Workawayers can stay?
More than two
4 hours per day, 5 days a week
Our experience was amazing, the family couldn't have made us feel more welcome… read more
Our experience was amazing, the family couldn't have made us feel more welcome… read more