Tag Archives: self-sufficiency

It’s been a year!


Yes, yes, I know I’ve been slacking for 4 months with updates, but I hope you’ve been following our Facebook page Olives and Acorns

which is always full of news, pics and various tidbits!

Anyway, holy sh*t it’s been a YEAR! A year since we dropped everything and jumped on a ferry to get us to our land in Portugal.

A very busy year, but an awesome one. We enjoyed every moment of this and not even once regretted our decision.

Here is what happened since April, and since I have a bad connection you probably won’t get pics unless you jump onto our Facebook and look through albums.


The planting is finished and we are starting to harvest. Everything is green and full of flowers and the weather is glorious. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful month of the year. The heat is mild too, and all the rivers are covered in flowers.

Our peppers, chillies, aubergines and everything on the corn field is lush and have buds. We are harvesting strawberries, spinach, salads, courgettes, carrots, radishes, potatoes, kale, okra, beans, kohlrabi, beetroot, onions, coriander, parsley, chard, peas, mangetout, cauliflower, and I’m sure I forgot something and can’t check without looking at the pics.




Monsanto has a yearly medieval festival, which we have visited this time. It’s mostly vendors with their home made produce, but there is a proper feast and lots of yummy things. And glorious views of course.



More harvesting and the temperatures are climbing.Our first tree is giving fruit and I am promptly making a delicious plum jam. It’s getting dryer, and while we tried to install a hasty irrigation system it’s not efficient enough because we didn’t plant around the pipes, and the water doesn’t reach all the plants. We’ll do better next spring.





Oh boy, the caravan is heating up! The temperature inside is +36C in the afternoon. Essentially, it’s like a tin – refreshing at night, bearable until midday and very hot until about 7pm. At this point Alex’s dad has had enough and departs for UK until it’s cooler.

We are still harvesting of course – so many tomatoes, more courgettes, first corn, beans, more peppers, chillies and parsley, thyme, salad, kale, a few rare cabbages and strawberries. At this point it’s getting too hot for most salads, rocket and cauliflower.


I also harvest all our onions. Half of them is soft and get used in chutneys and preserves, but another half goes into the shed to be used until the next harvest. In my opinion 500 onions (roughly) wasn’t enough, and this autumn I’ll try to plant double that. I haven’t had a chance to save any seeds as none of them were in flower when I harvested them, but I’ll do it next time.

Our well’s water becomes too sulfuric to drink so we keep using it to water and to wash, but switch to drinking spring water from the village. The well’s level is also slowly going down.

Mike, our friend, replaces the roof on the shed, constructs permanent three year composting bin rotation and starts on building our kitchen.


One of our cheep, Sage, dies unexpectedly. One day she is alright, another she starts wheezing and then just drops. We suspect she ate something poisonous, but who knows? Sheep diseases are aplenty. We are gutted but within two weeks what’s left of Sage is just tufts of wool. The predators take care if it all.

The apples are ready to harvest, so I pick about 10 crates of them. I dry them, make them into a jam or use in chutneys. There are a few different types and some of them are cooking apples but others are delicious to eat.

The kitchen is coming along slowly. Mike and Alex are fully focused on the project, so I’m left to process all the produce when and how I can. I have tomatoes and peppers and courgettes coming out of my ears 🙂 We are starting to pick aubergines and jalapenos as well. Coriander is well and truly dead, and Thai basil is struggling to survive. Sage is doing really well though!

The only thing not from our garden is garlic!

I am drying lots of tomatoes, so we shouldn’t run out in winter months.

It’s blackberry season, and I pick a lot of these delicious berries to make jam.


So hot and dry! The temperatures climb to +40C in shade some days.  Sometimes +39C in the caravan.

First week of August is Boom Festival time, so I fry my Russian pastries for 9 days for our friends chai shop there. I am knackered, and it’s a slow, hard work, which takes about 10 hours a night so the fresh produce can be taken away with morning delivery. Will I do it again? I don’t know. But I’m glad I did so I know I can and am more clear about my limitations.

The well goes down so dramatically, we can see the bottom of it, and it replenishes itself just enough everyday for light watering. At this point everything is drying to a crisp. Last of the potatoes are dug out, corn is finished, we are eating our melons and watermelons (delicious!), chickpeas collected. There are plenty of aubergines, less and less peppers as they are charred by the sun), very few strawberries, courgettes are still going, and parsley is doing so well, I am really surprised! Still lots of tomatoes, and the month is mostly spent watering and making preserves.


The guys finish the shell of the kitchen mid August, so Mike goes away, and me and Al start the slow work of pointing the stone walls with lime and mud, lime washing the walls and finishing the cob oven. The land looks like a bombsite with all the materials lying around, but we physically have no strength or time to tidy it up.

It’s so hot we are frequently escaping to the dam to swim or just around the corner to our friend’s, Paul, swimming pool/water tank. All the water for our usage comes from the village in water carriers, as there is only enough well water for the plants.

OMG, fig harvest! So many different figs, I don’t know what to do with them. We eat them fresh, I make chutneys and trying to dry them as well.

We also buy a chest freezer, and it’s a life saver! At this point our fridge refuses to function in the heat and sucks all the energy off the batteries, so some mornings we wake up with the solar system shut off because it’s drained.

Now the fridge is permanently switched off. Instead we are freezing a 5L bottle every day, stick it in the fridge and it stays very cold! The chest freezer was a bargain at 160 euro and it uses very little power – 75W once in a while. I think it will make a huge difference in winter!

I also managed to freeze some peppers, kale, figs and last of the blackberries for winter use.

We are collecting first pumpkins and butternut squash.

At this point my cupboard (an old, broken fridge from the skip) is full of preserves which I’m really proud of as it’s my first year of making jams and chutneys!

It is jammed packed now, the photo was taken half way! 🙂


Eating last of the apples, melons and watermelons, rock pears are ripening, there are some juicy dark plums on the trees in the field and more figs.


First week of the month BAM! it starts raining, and really doesn’t stop for almost 3 weeks. Everyone says that the rain came very early this year.

Of course we are not ready for it, so the plans for cleaning the well get ruined but the temperature goes down to +mid twenties, and it’s absolutely blissful. The tomatoes produce huge amount of leaves, and the peppers and chillies go into a second harvest. Beans come back from the dead. Halleluja!

The change on the land is dramatic. Almost overnight everything goes from dry beige to green as the grass starts sprouting everywhere. In two first days of the rain the wild amaryllis flower near the well pops out, and it’s gorgeous!

My fig drying is ruined as they get moldy when it starts raining and the heat during the day is not sufficient enough to  cure anything.

I can’t dry them out in the cob oven as it’s not quite ready yet, but we did manage to light a few fires in a fireplace and it looked gorgeous.

We start eating sharon fruit/persimmon as it ripes on our tree.

We also experience some minor troubles with our new car (well, new for us). It’s a Portuguese pickup made in 1980s which cost us 3 thousand euros, and our friends assure us it was a bargain. Ouch. Yes, the cars here are very expensive and they don’t really go down in price.

Anyway, we had a few punctures and still need to replace exhaust, align the wheels and do some cosmetic work. Otherwise it’s a workhorse of a car, great for a farm!

The kitchen looks beautiful, but we still need to put the fire proof tiles inside the oven, add the door to it, line the tabletop and a shelf with tiles, tile the floor, render the ceiling and buy a cooker/or cooker top. We also have second hand steel door for the entrance but it needs to be cut to fit.

As you can see, there are so many things that need doing and we have very limited time to do it! Argh.

Still, when kitchen is done, we are starting on a new chicken coop which will share a wall with a greenhouse which hopefully provide more warmth for the chickens in winter.

We still haven’t replanted anything, and the bathroom needs to be done sometime in winter as well. Right now the composting toilet is in the shed, and that will do for the moment.

Me and Al and thinking really hard of getting a workaway in October. We’ve been enjoying our (relative) solitude for the last month and a half, but we really need someone who knows what they are doing with building work to get onto greenhouse and chicken coop soon. So… If you are that person and want to come stay with us for a bit, write us an email at


What else?

Our cockerel George died yesterday, bless his poor soul. He had both of his legs damaged and we couldn’t bring ourselves to kill him, so we were just feeding him until he just fell asleep and didn’t wake up.

This time we’ll be getting a smaller, local breed of cockerel in hope that it won’t be as aggressive. Plus our chickens are broody. One in particular has been sitting on two lots of eggs for couple of months, but of course the cockerel was incapacitated so they weren’t fertilized. Poor thing!

Our well-being

Alex despite being a diabetic is so strong right now, it’s awesome. While he gets tired easily, he does everything fast and in spurs with breaks in between. It works for him, and we are both happy with the results. He also got a new supply of insulin here from a doctor without a problem, and it was free.

I’ve lost about 12kg in a year, I’m feeling much stronger, more toned and healthy.

We hardly eat any meat, there is just no need for it. Of course when it gets colder our diet will change again, but so far it’s mostly veggie stir-fries and curries, fresh bread and cheese, chips, salads, beans and a lot of Mediterranean and middle Eastern food.

My hair care is pretty funny. My stash of organic shampoo ended couple of months ago, but I had a bottle of conditioner left so I’ve been using it now and again. I also rinse my hair with sage leaf tea because it suppose to darken the color of your hair overtime.

The hair might not be as soft and sleek as with normal shampoos and conditioners, but I tell you that it’s clean, there is no dandruff and no irritation to the skin I used to have. It also takes about a week or longer to get my hair dirty, and it won’t be because it goes greasy, only because it collects all the dust from building work and becomes dryer and my head itches… 🙂

I also had my first DIY haircut and it looks awesome. Don’t know why I was so afraid to try it before, it’s very easy! However, my scissors were so blunt that I went and ordered proper hairdresser scissors for the next time 🙂


God, I don’t know what else to tell you!

Ah, I’ve got Pinterest account  where you can follow my ideas for the kitchen and other building projects. Of course the reality will be very different because our access to different materials is very limited.

I’ll keep you posted on that. Over and out.

P.S. I’ll add links to this post when my internet is fast again, but I just wanted to give you a yearly update on the date 🙂

P.P.S The links and pics are added.


Spring, glorious spring! Part Two


I’m expecting to receive half a kilo of buckwheat in seeds mid-April, so I’ll have another field planted with buckwheat which not only thrives in poor soil, but flowers and attracts bees.

It must be a Russian thing because Alex hates buckwheat with a passion, but I love eating it.  🙂

As for bees, we decided to wait till next year to get them. There is just so much to plant right now, our heads are spinning. We don’t think we are ready.

There are a lot more things to plant, so much that we don’t know what to do first. I change my mind frequently during the day, and I’m sure Alex feels the same.


There are so many gorgeous wild flowers around the quinta, that this evening I did what I always dreamed of – went and collected a bunch of them!

There were wild lupins, fragrant lavender, a small iris, cambions (?), two types of legume-ish flowers and god only knows what else. If you know their names, please let me know. I’m a total novice at this.

However, I DO know how to arrange my bouquets after years of helping Alex in his flower boutique, and this was pure pleasure, folks! 🙂 Put a huge grin on both our faces.


Thanks to Wendy‘s updates on FB,  I managed to find wild sorrel on our quinta, and combined with  chickweed and cress it made for a lovely filling for pasta.

I’ve tried a different recipe for donuts, and it worked much better! It was also much quicker to make.

Other projects

Alex cleared out a space near the kitchen

There must have been over a thousand tiles in total! He plans to build a shed to stock wood in and a space to keep geese and hopefully other birds when we get them.

Me and the cockerel George made our peace (I think). Alex told me I had to “dominate” him,so I literally had to jump on him and hold him down next time he attacked me, getting pinched in the process and scraping my knee. Then I walked around with him, stroking him in the process, and now it looks like much of his aggression to me is gone. Although I keep my stick with me just in case!


We had a lovely night with a barbecue at our place with our friends.

Alex cooked Thai pork dish (kao kha moo), we also had homemade foccacia from Erica and Leo, and lots of steaks from Ben!

We stayed out for a long time drinking wine under the stars, listening to frogs and crickets (and cockerel crowing at night because we were making too much noise!), and it was gorgeous.

Ben reciprocated the other night, and everyone got together in his place for the first time. He doesn’t have any livable amenities yet, but we sat around a huge bonfire

It was at least a couple of meters in diameter!

while a trio of guitarists played Pink Floyd under the stars. It was surreal…

I think this is it so far.

I keep meaning to update the blog more often, but I haven’t got into the habit yet, so once a month it is.

Hugs and ciao!

Spring, Glorious Spring!


It’s warm, people! Like the weather in its plus twenties warm!  It gets hot from 12 till 3pm and we have to have a siestaaaa… *grinning*

Anyway, update. This is what you’re waiting for, right?

Lots of planting done, but it’s still feels like we are too slow.

The vineyard has been fenced off from the chickens. We just used the netting we brought from England, poles bought here and stones on the bottom. Hopefully it will keep other critters away!

We’ve made progress on long beds!

The biggest one has some peppers, chillies, okra, parsley and basil in one end, and courgettes and pumpkins on the other. We plan to fill the rest with aubergines, more okra and herbs.

By the way, we bought one of those 1000ltr water tanks which you can see to your left, and Alex plans on having a drip irrigation system in vineyard for watering. We’ll see how it works out.

The second bed is the deep trenches with various tomatoes, thyme and Thai and Russian basil, but it also has marigolds planted on the edges.

Third bed is my favorite. It starts with borscht beet which my mom got me from Russia (it’s doing really well in that bed), continues with garlic (you can see its shoots on the pic) then moves into spring onions, Detroit Red beetroot, goes back to garlic with Brussel sprouts in the middle and ends up with a bit of kale. (yes, I am going a bit mad with companion planting!)

Fourth bed starts with peas and mangetout in the middle, surrounded by carrots. Then there is a potato bed with coriander, leeks, and another potato bed with coriander. Peas and mangetout are really pretty right now.

Fifth bed is not done yet as it needs a lot of destoning, but I’m planning on dedicating it to onion planting.

There is another row of trenches which we haven’t touched yet, but hopefully there will be more mangetout there.

Moving on to the orchard.

First bed is potatoes surrounded by Russian tarragon. I made a mistake planting tarragon directly and nothing came up. Apparently you have to transplant seedlings into the soil, so I’ve planted it again in the greenhouse.

Second and third bed are local lettuce mixed with onions (all bought as seedlings).

This one is broccoli, chard, cauliflower and Brunswick cabbage. It’s all colour coordinated in my head and so far it’s doing well.

Fifth bed is cabbage golden acre, kohlrabi, cauliflower, cabbage Brunswick and kale.

6th bed: leeks in the middle, surrounded by radishes, beetroot, spring onions and lettuce.

7th bed is a disaster as it’s the one I’ve done first, when the ground was still soggy. It has strawberries, and I planted sorrel and thyme around them. I think the seeds must have rotted in that much water, as nothing came up so I’ll have to rake everything, mulch it and replant 🙂

8th bed is rucola, oriental lettuce and chard.

9th bed is strawberries and spinach.

I’ve got no pics for 10th and 11th bed (which I just discovered) but one of them has dill and marigolds in the middle surrounded by cabbage. Another is radishes, beetroot and carrots.

We also have a lot of things planted along the fence – gherkins, artichokes, sunflowers, beans, gladis, fennel and dill. It should be amazing when everything shoots up and opens. 🙂

Right now I’m working on extra project and we have 3 more beds to fill in.

I’ve also started working under the fruit trees in the orchard.

Apricot which we planted in November now has marigolds and basil underneath.

Two peaches and a cherry planted in November as well have garlic planted underneath.

We had our first plum tree blossoming, I spotted two more which will do the same soon.

We also found what we think is wild plum (at least Internet says so!), and it has gorgeous blossoms too (2 or 3 trees in total).

My daffodils are opening up one by one! I planted them in December.

They are all a mix of different bulbs, so they are all different which is very exciting for someone who never planted flowers before 🙂

At last Alex and Shaun made beds for our corn seedlings in the field.

The pic shows it unfinished, but it’s done now. We have corn there, pumpkins, watermelons, melons and beans. There are sunflowers along the edges.

Alex made me a small field for quinoa which I’ll plant this or next week. I actually read that it does better in the cooler weather, and I’m thinking now that maybe I should wait till autumn to plant it. Any ideas?

There are more news, so I’m splitting this post in two.

Portuguese Chickens Affair


I know, I know, it’s a terrible name! 🙂

Monday after we built our chicken coop we drove to Fundão, a beautiful town 40 mins away from us with a market which happens every Monday.

outside the market. It’s a pretty big space. Just follow the signs to the center of the town and you won’t miss it. Plenty of parking as well.

There is a usual variety of market goods – clothes, tools, shoes, household items and some souvenirs plus a two-story building with fresh fruit and veg, meat, bread and cheese products.

What we were really interested in is this little corner

only few vendors selling hens, cocks, ducks and rabbits but for all we know that might be because it’s winter

and this little alley


pretty good selection of trees, shrubs and seedlings! Cheap as well.

So far we made two trips to this market and bought 11 hens and 1 cockerel.

Alex suspects that it’s Lohman Brown breed, and it sure looks that way.

They supposed to start laying at 15-18 weeks, and we were told in Portuguese to wait for 3-4 weeks for the hens to start laying. I will give you an update when they will.

Very sweet hens, and a quiet gentle cockerel, so he doesn’t crow. Maybe he will when he gains some confidence, who knows? The pecking order has been established and it’s been fascinating to watch.

I named the cockerel George, and Alex is calling his second in command Giselda who is a very beautiful and fierce bird 🙂

Every time we get close to chicken yard George is the first one to run to us for some food, and he is hilarious. We also have a couple of adventurous hens who keep escaping and coming to see what we’re doing. So we either have to grab them or herd them back into the yard. For that reason I want to clip their wings tomorrow. If they escape with us being away, they might get lost or injured.

The prices.

Hens cost 6.5 euro each, a cockerel 12 euros.

Our cat Henry got curious in the first day, and then he stopped paying any attention to them, so if you have cats, your chickens will be fine.


We bought a big bag of feed and some corn. They also love fruit and veg scraps, remains of soups, rice or pasta and some fresh juicy grass of which we have plenty.

I am looking forward to our first eggs, and in the meantime I’ll try to take better pictures inside the coop and of our hens  and George in general.

Over and out and please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.


What Are The Goals?


I remember that in the last post I promised to talk about our plans or goals for this property.


We would like to put 10 years of hard work into establishing a system which is as self-sufficient as possible. Which means that what we can’t produce ourselves we want to barter for within a community of like-minded friends and neighbors.

We want our fruit and veg, olive oil, eggs and poultry from chickens and ducks, cheese and milk from sheep, fish from our fish ponds. We want to build our house. We want honey from our bees. Wax and olive oil as basis for organic creams, soaps, shampoos and conditioners. We want medicinal herb garden to make tinctures and remedies and we want some sort of mushroom production.

Our friends grow their own wheat for making bread and I’m not sure if they grow rice as well but they might. So there is a possibility for bartering.


Our quinta is a natural water line, so before the planting season starts in January we would like to dig out 3 fish ponds,

top terrace for the 1st pond. No olive trees will be affected, there is more space than the pic shows

middle terrace for the 2nd pond

3rd pond in the meadow

convert the existing unfinished water tank into a fish tank for breeding fish (tilapia mostly),

it just needs bottom and re-enforced walls

build a green house and start to germinate seeds into seedlings to give them a better surviving chance in our first year of planting,

create raised beds for our fruit and veg.

These goals are a MUST in the first year.

The ongoing projects are retiling the existing shed roof,

the existing tiles are really brittle

and building a big communal kitchen and bathroom.

Existing walls for future kitchen and bathroom

In April we’ll also be able to get bees, and as soon as we can spare our attention, we would like to build a chicken coop and buy a few chickens.

By spring we would need to get a bore hole and get a bigger inverter and extra batteries for solar system, so we can run non-sensitive equipment like fridge/freezer and washing machine through them.

We also need to build a root cellar.

The house is in the works, but we won’t start anything until the planting finishes next year.

So as you can see, our hands are full right now. There are also extra challenges every day, but we are loving it all.

In the next post I’ll start talking about what’s been done to the land so far.