We are a retired vegan couple living a somewhat isolated 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 very 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 get (and keep) things on track.
Help with Eco Projects
DIY and building projects
Staying with us would mean accompanying us on our learning journey into food forestry. You will be spending a substantial amount of time working on projects we already have in mind, and 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 totally different 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. Still, there are some 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 lovely! 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 apart from the shared meal each day, 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.
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 of regenerative agriculture to complement the already existing mixed broadleaf forest (mostly oak, chestnut and wild cherry) that surrounds us. We are learning as we go along so if you have ideas about permaculture, regenerative agriculture, or food forests we could really use your help in planning things. Right now, we urgently need help with some 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 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, 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, and with some small construction projects we have planned, namely the building of a wooden barn on one of our terraces, using timber harvested from the forest as well as pallet wood and other materials.
We have two separate forms of accommodation for workawayers and can therefore simultaneously accommodate singles, who wish to have their own private space, and groups willing to share space.
Our main form of workawayer accommodation is a 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.
If the Bedford is occupied, we can also offer accommodation in the form of 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 sheltered terrace, close to a piped spring water source, but if preferred, it can also be erected closer to the Bedford.
We offer one substantial daily communal meal (vegan) at midday at the farmhouse. However, as kitchen facilities are provided in both the Bedford and the tent, we really don't mind if workaway volunteers prefer to cook all their own meals. The expectation is that volunteers will purchase their own additional 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. There is a 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 20 hours a week
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