We are John and Stef. Six years ago, we 'retired' early from rural development work in southern Africa to 4 hectares of overgrown cork oak woodland in central Portugal which we are gradually developing into a 'food forest'. Our dwelling is a good sized off grid traditional stone house which we share with our two dogs and a cat. We have our own wifi hotspot – Internet is not super quick but its OK. We do not have TV.
We try to live comfortably but with minimum environmental impact, as a constructive part of the local eco system. We provide our own power (solar), water (borehole) and heating (wood from the site) as well as growing a good chunk of our own fruit and vegetables. We use mainly hand tools and minimise use of fossil fuels but use power tools when they can be solar powered. We are not experienced farmers or builders but we enjoy being close to the land and we love continually learning from whatever source.
When it comes to managing and developing 4 hectares of bush/woodland, we let nature do most of the work. Nevertheless, it is more than enough for our aging limbs and we welcome visitors to share both the lifestyle and the work.
Help with Eco project
We are part of a small informal community of off gridders in the area, encompassing different age brackets, walks of life and geographical origins. Part of the fun is in socialising with people of different backgrounds, another part is exchanging ideas and experiences about our daily challenges – such as getting laundry clean at low temps, getting the most out of firewood, not overstretching the solar power system, climate-smart kitchen gardening etc.
For people interested in low impact lifestyles, we can offer an introduction to both the mindset changes and practical challenges involved. For those already well down that road, we look forward to working together and learning from each other.
Languages: our mother tongues are English and German respectively, and between us, we also communicate to varying levels of prettiness ;-) - in French, Portuguese and Spanish. The local villagers are very welcoming and friendly but most only speak Portuguese.
Help required will vary with the season and with the skills and wishes of the travellers. Aside from the sharing of normal household tasks, work possibilities are:
*️️️️️️️ Grape harvest and wine making (September)
*️️️️️️️ Olive harvest (November)
*️️️️️️️ Hay harvest (Summer)
*️️️️️️️ Site clearance/landscaping – much of the land is still overgrown and we are gradually clearing the bush to give more open space to indigenous trees and to minimise the risk of summer wildfires (Autumn/winter).
*️️️️️️️ Firewood gathering and cutting (various stages year round)
*️️️️️️️ Converting vegetable beds into trench beds (involves much digging)
*️️️️️️️ Pointing of the stone house
*️️️️️️️ Building dry stone walls
English, German, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Accommodation is your own rustic stone bedroom (2 single beds) and shared bathroom with sawdust composting toilet. We also have a family size tent available or space for camper van if preferred.
Our food is largely but not exclusively vegetarian, with a strong emphasis on home grown or local (Mediterranean) foodstuffs. We welcome lively culture & skill exchanges in the kitchen.
We are in a scenic, sparsely populated region that looks a bit like a cross between Tuscany and Ireland. So nature and history lovers will be more in their element than party animals.
Apart from hiking or cycling, or chilling in the peace and quiet, the following attractions are only a few kilometres away:
*️️️️️️️ The wonderful 'Inselberg' village of Monsanto: granite boulders and panoramic views galore, as well as some restaurants, cafes and bars.
*️️️️️️️ The UNESCO World Heritage site at Penha Garcia (fossils, museum mill, rock swimming pool)
*️️️️️️️ The old Roman village of Idanha a Velha
For day outings to these, we are happy to play taxi/tourguide, but for nights out, you'll have to find like-minded neighbours for lifts or invest in a taxi.
The municipal centre of Idanha a Nova is 20 km away and the regional centre of Castelo Branco (nearest rail and coach station) is 45 km away. We can usually pickup and drop off at Castelo Branco for travellers who are staying for 2 weeks plus. Travellers wishing to stay for shorter periods should plan to be self sufficient for transport.
Climate: Summer (July and August) is very hot (can go over 40 C) and dry; winter has occasional night frost with days alternating between chilly & rainy and sunny & mild. Spring and autumn are delightful and we actually love it when it rains for a week.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week