Help with a Forest Garden and tree-planting project in Central Portugal

  • Favourited 44 times
  • Last activity: 17 Jul 2024



 Min stay requested: at least a week



  • Description


    Family looking for help with a Forest Garden, and also with tree planting and nature conservation projects, near the market town of Arganil.

    PLEASE NOTE: The terrain here is very steep, meaning that this is not a suitable venue for anyone who is unfit.

    (If you are already familiar with our page, please scroll to the bottom of this section to read our latest update.)

    After 30 years of travelling under sail, we've decided that it's time to put down some roots. Tree roots! The world needs more trees - and we, meanwhile, need a place where we can grow our own food. So we've moored our dreams and aspirations on a mountainside in Portugal, and we're planting an area of native forest on one hillside, and on the adjacent abandoned terraces we're planting a mixed orchard (fruit trees, nut trees, berry-bearing shrubs, etc).
    We've also started growing our own veg, and we have some chickens. Oh, and two stray cats have adopted us. In the future we hope also to have sheep and a donkey.

    I guess we could call it a permaculture, eco project, but that sounds a bit hypey, so we just call it a Forest Garden.
    Our long-term hope is to run the place as a very low-key meditation centre, perhaps with a resident Buddhist monk or nun - but first we will have to restore the old stone huts so that people have somewhere to stay!

    Setting up a place like this is a lot of work for just the three of us, so we're looking for help.
    We're also hoping for some companionship and conversation. After a lifetime of travelling we're accustomed to being part of a mobile, flowing community - an infinite fellowship of people of all races, cultures, ages and backgrounds; a loose affiliation of folk who consider the whole planet to be their home; a people for whom No Fixed Abode is an address to be proud of. In short, we love our new lifestyle - we love the fact that we're finally doing something meaningful and worthwhile, for the health of the planet - but we miss the company of like-minded souls who drift through our ambit.
    We would also be very happy to share the project on a long-term basis, if we are so lucky as to meet a couple, or a family, or an individual who seems to belong with us.

    A lover of wildlife would be very happy here. The entire valley below the cottage has been abandoned for decades. Absolutely nobody ever goes there apart from us, and even we have only had time to explore a tenth part. As a result, it is home to many species of woodland bird and also to all sorts of mammals and reptiles and amphibians. In effect, it's a hundred-hectare wildlife reserve.
    Buzzards, eagles, and ravens sail over us as we work. Lizards scamper along the walls; snakes slip away through the grass. Newts, frogs and toads have set up home in our pond. Salamanders emerge from the gutters at night when it rains. Foxes, mongooses, deer, and javali (wild boar) visit our land far more often than we would wish; and there are also genets and pine martens on the lower terraces, and we once saw a badger. There used to be wolves here, seventy years ago when the land was in use. Maybe there still are...

    ABOUT US :
    We are all vegetarian and non-smokers.
    Our first language is English, but we can also get by in Portuguese, Spanish, and French.
    - Mum is an artist and a Buddhist, but currently without the time to practice either. She is the driving force behind the plan to build meditation cells in the woods some day (along with a studio, an outdoor lounge with a fire-pit, and all sorts of other good things - WHEN we have the time...)
    - Dad is a mechanic. He likes digging ponds and watering the trees.
    - Son (aged 30) is proficient with electronics and computing but nowadays spends most of his time building stone walls, pruning trees, installing irrigation pipes, and planning the nature conservation area. He is the MD of the project.
    We all enjoy hiking, when we have the time. And we like sailing...

    We are eager to find someone who can be trusted to look after this place while we take a break, in the winter, and go sailing. This would entail feeding the chickens, cuddling the cat, and making sure that the avocado trees don't blow away. In return, you get to live in our very rustic cottage with its amazing view and its opportunities for rambling, painting, and just chilling.

    There is also the possibility of some adventures under sail, for the right person - because now that the youngest member of the family has left home to do her own thing, we have a spare cabin. The boat is currently in the Pacific and is ready to carry us to wherever we whim. Polynesia? Canada? Antarctica...? Perhaps we'll discover another 'paradise', somewhere, and put down some more tree roots!

    If any of this appeals, please drop us a line and tell us all about yourself.

    BUT DON'T FORGET: The terrain here is very steep, meaning that this is not a suitable venue for anyone who is unfit!

    UPDATE (May 2024) :
    Winter has been wet in the mountains, and now that things are warming up again everything has gone crazy.
    The sapling fruit and nut trees in our Forest Garden are looking good, but the whole place is reverting to nature. The veggie garden has disappeared under a jungle of thistles and other weeds, and the chicken coop is surrounded by a field of bracken. Meanwhile, our seedling forest of native trees, on the opposite hillside, is being overgrown by gorse; and the paths which we cut through the dense thicket of brambles in the bottom of the valleys are all but lost.
    We need to get out there and do something, fast! Come the summer, all this flourishing vegetation will be dry and crisp and there will be a tremendous risk of fire - so we urgently need to bring order into our little domain.

    Added to all this, the roof on one of our buildings is falling in... This was going to be the summer when we built ourselves a bathroom (and a kitchen, and maybe a couple of bedrooms...) but all of this has been pushed aside by the need to strim and weed and repair.
    We also hope to complete the installation of the irrigation system, in the Forest Garden; and we very much want to dig some new ponds, some as a water storage facility and others for the sake of the frogs, toads, water snakes, lizards, salamanders, and other newts (not to mention the insects).

    All of this takes time. We are looking for volunteers who are fit and reasonably strong and who are happy to operate battery-powered tools (hedge-cutter and strimmer) on a steep hillside. The pond digging will follow afterwards, if time allows.
    As well as tidying the land which we already use, we hope also to have time to clear an area of broom, brambles, and acacia so that, come the autumn, we can plant more native trees.
    Besides operating as Nature's own carbon capture technology, our seedling and sapling trees are the first step in the restoration of the local, fire-damaged environment. Eventually, we hope, the forest of oaks, cork oaks, and other native trees will repair the local water cycle, encouraging rain to fall and improving its retention. They will also provide a habitat for wildlife - and, indeed, this part of the dream is already beginning to come true. Already the roe deer, the badgers, the red squirrels, and the martens have returned to the valley.

  • Types of help and learning opportunities

    Types of help and learning opportunities

    Help with Eco Projects
    DIY and building projects
    Animal Care
    General Maintenance
  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Since our home is in a small, friendly village, visitors have the chance to get to know the traditional Portuguese way of life, and they also have the opportunity to learn Portuguese at the daily get-togethers.
    Volunteering here also presents a useful learning opportunity for those who are considering similar projects (ie. growing our own food; the restoration of abandoned land for the creation of a 'Food Forest'; the planting of a forest of native trees on a steep hillside; the restoration of old schist buildings).

  • Help


    We're currently looking for people who would like to operate the electric strimmer and the hedge cutter, in order to maintain existing paths and to clear new land for tree planting.

    Assistance in the veggie garden would also be welcome, the main chore here being weeding and also creating new beds.

    So far as the Forest Garden is concerned, our task is to strim, and then to weed, feed and mulch the trees. Here, we prefer to have the help of people who are interested in permaculture and in the concept of creating a multi-layered garden (formed of trees, fruit-bearing shrubs, and edible ground-cover) which will eventually be our principal food source.

    We'd also be delighted to hear from someone who has experience in restoring old stone walls or who has building experience.

  • Languages

    Languages spoken
    English: Fluent
    Spanish: Intermediate
    French: Intermediate
    Portuguese: Intermediate

    This host offers a language exchange
    We're eager to improve our Portuguese. We're also happy to share our native language, English.

  • Accommodation


    Our own home is a tiny hovel - but we can offer single accommodation in another stone building, immediately opposite, or in a house in a nearby village. Facilities are very basic, with only cold water and composting toilets. The house has a shower with a gas water-heater. (In the cottage, we still have to use a tub in front of the wood-burning stove.)
    Camping in the woods is also an option for those who are not afraid of the wild boar, the deer, the foxes, and the badgers. We have a suitable tent.

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

    • Can host families

  • Can host digital nomads

    Can host digital nomads

    This host has indicated that they love having digital nomads stay.

  • Space for parking camper vans

    Space for parking camper vans

    We don't have any flat land, ourselves, but smallish campervans can park on the edge of the village, adjacent to the village swimming pool. And for bigger vans there is always the 'baldios' (common land), with a splendid view of the surrounding countryside.

  • Can possibly accept pets

    Can possibly accept pets

    Dogs are welcome ONLY if they can be guaranteed not to chase free range cats and chickens or to fight with the resident dogs.

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?

    More than two

  • ...

    Hours expected

    Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week

Host ref number: 617855357937

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