We are a retired vegan couple (in our early 60's) living a somewhat isolated and off-grid existence with some animal companions (goats, chickens, dogs, cats) on a heavily forested 10ha plot in the mountains of the Serra da Estrela Nature Reserve in Central Portugal. The land we have chosen to make our home, was abandoned for 40 years prior to our arrival, so is quite wild (although we have been attempting to "groom" it a little!). We came here at the end of 2019, after having decided to retreat from the consumerist lifestyle we were experiencing all around us in the UK, where we were living and working before. Our vision is to pursue a more sustainable, peaceful and self-sufficient way of life, while sharing the experience also with like-minded others.
We are looking for some animal- nature- and peace-loving human companions to share our vision and help with fairly substantial tasks to keep things on track.
Help with Eco Projects
DIY and building projects
We invite you to share our own off-grid learning journey, offering you the opportunity to experience some of the joys and frustrations of trying to live in a more sustainable and non-consumeristic way. We are learning about things as we need to, and are more than happy to receive advice from more experienced others, and/or share the knowledge we have so-far gained about no-dig gardening, forest maintenance, and roundwood timber construction. Although you will be spending a substantial amount of time working on projects we already have in mind, we'd also welcome a project or idea that you initiate yourself, that we feel we could support. In this way you will have the opportunity both to help shape the way in which this beautiful farm evolves and to learn from the experiences you have on the farm. There are many and varied existing tasks to occupy yourselves with, and abundant opportunities to initiate new things. We like the idea of different people bringing new ideas to the place, and we are curious about the possibilities this may afford.
That said, we would like to make clear, that to enjoy your stay with us, you would need to be pretty self-reliant in terms of entertaining yourself in the forest. There are two main reasons for this.
First, we have no close neighbours and we are not as well connected to the local community as we would have liked, partly owing to the advent of Covid 19 soon after we took up residence on the farm. This is slowly changing, now that covid is subsiding, but we still have a way to go. Despite this slight disconnect, there are opportunities to make friends in the village for those who wish to. A small market every 3rd Wednesday of the month enables some socialisation with the local villagers, who are super friendly and welcoming. Also, there are 3 bars in the tiny village where locals hang out. We have found that although almost no-one in the village speaks English, this doesn't put people off trying to have conversations with you! We have always felt welcomed in the village.
Second, we are ourselves also fairly reclusive, which means that time spent at the farmhouse is normally by invitation only. One of us is a retired academic (political philosophy and educational theory) and the other a self-taught Irish folk musician (who plays many instruments, but is most passionate about Uillean bag pipes). While we'd be more than happy to engage with you on these levels on occasion, we'd like you to know that neither of us is great at (or even interested in) small talk. That said, we hope you will enjoy a monthly event we have just started hosting: an outdoor folk music jam session around our firepit around the time of the full moon. We usually invite some neighbours who play musical instruments.
Although we are passionate about the lifestyle we have chosen for ourselves, we appreciate that our somewhat isolated existence is not for everyone. If you are looking for some peace and quiet, and an opportunity to do something a bit different, and quite meaningful, in the mountains, then this could be for you.
Our aim is to create a beautiful edible garden that blends in with our natural forest surroundings and is capable of better supporting human as well as non-human species. We are attempting to employ no-dig principles to make food gardens which complement the already existing mixed broadleaf forest (mostly oak, chestnut and wild cherry) that surrounds us. We primarily need help with land maintenance tasks, as the place is a bit too big for us to manage on our own. To be more specific: we could do with some help managing certain invasive species of plants naturally growing on our land as we try to encourage greater biodiversity. We also need help weeding and tending the vegetable gardens that we have created from scratch. More substantial tasks include bringing in firewood, repairing broken fencing, and doing some clearing along the banks of a small stream that runs through our land. Workawayers could also assist with opening paths through the forest, making log stairways where needed along these paths, and with some small construction projects we have planned. Two projects we hope to start soon are (1) the building of a new outdoor shower and dry-toilet facility, using timber harvested from the forest as well as pallet wood and other materials, (2) a roof extension (patio!) to the goat housing, (3) the construction of a wooden round house on one of the terraces, which might serve as a social space or shelter for visitors who might be passing through.
We have two separate forms of accommodation for workawayers: a campervan and a tent.
Our main form of workawayer accommodation is our classic old Bedford TK horse box lorry converted into a camper van which sleeps up to three people. It is situated in a beautiful, private, shady glade of chestnut trees, about 200m from the main farmhouse, and has its own a small verandah. Inside it has a double bed as well as a large sleeping sofa and is equipped with a small kitchen (cooking and cleaning utensils as well as gas for cooking are provided by us). Outside the Bedford is piped spring water and, for your private use, a composting toilet and outside shower (cold water, which is slightly warmed in summer in black pipes). The Bedford has a small solar panel for charging phones and a 4G phone signal is usually available. However, the phone signal can be erratic, especially after rain. It is recommended that you bring your own power bank for phone charging when the solar panel is not generating electricity on overcast days (not usually a problem during summer!). You would also need sufficient data from your phone provider as we do not offer Wi-fi.
The other workawayer accommodation we offer (only when the Bedford is already occupied) is a three-room tent, which sleeps up to two people (double bed). It is a lot more basic than the Bedford, and has no solar power source, but is similarly equipped with a gas cooker, cooking and cleaning utensils, cutlery and crockery, and a private composting toilet. The tent may be erected on its own private terrace, close to a piped spring water source, but if preferred, it can also be erected closer to the Bedford.
Kitchen facilities are provided in both the Bedford and the tent and the expectation is that volunteers will arrange their own meals and purchase their own supplies on our once-weekly supply trip into town or provide us with a list of things we can purchase on their behalf. That said, when supplies are plentiful, we are more than happy to provide, free of charge, vegetables and fruit from our own organic gardens.
We primarily offer a peaceful place for people to come and do something a bit different than normal. The place is pretty isolated, so you’d have to like the peace and quiet of a fairly solitary (except for us) existence while here. The area we live in is picturesque, with broadleaf forest, some open spaces, massive granite boulders, mountain streams and pools, and an abundance of granite ruins. Visible from the house is an array of giant wind turbines which have a beauty and elegance all of their own. We have a lovely reservoir on our land, which can be used for swimming on hot days and there are many exceptional walks through the mountains, one of which includes rock pools big enough to swim in (3km from the house). There is a public river beach fairly close by (on the Zezere river in the town of Valhelhas) which is dog friendly and also has a restaurant and bar. It’s about 15 mins away by car. Our tiny village, Famalicão, is half an hour away walking (it has a small grocery shop, 3 bars, 2 bakeries and a pharmacy), and the historic and beautiful city of Guarda is 20 mins away by car (an alternative to going to the town of Belmonte, where we normally get our groceries). From Guarda there are bus and rail routes to anywhere else in Portugal.
We are more than happy to collect you from the train station in Guarda when you arrive.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
Animals are welcome as long as they are friendly towards our own dogs, cats, chickens and goats, all of which are totally free range.
More than two
Flexible.. about 10 hours a week (usually 5 days a week, 2 hours per day))
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