Thursday, 26 March 2009

Chinese Pirate Ship Found in Olhao!

Heavy storms, strong winds leave Chinese junk nearly 100 metres inland from the coast of Olhao in the Eastern Algarve

Jack Sparrow was asleep in the Fiat Ducato

Almost like a scene from Pirates of the Caribean, we came across this monolith of a wooden boat, propped on stilts about 100 metres away from the water next to the industrial estate on the Eastern edge of the port of Olhao. It is fantastic but weighing in at several hundred tonnes, and lying untouched for four years, slowly dying. The same thinks me, as the world. After the Russians \ Iranians diverted the main sources to the Aral Sea, enormous tankers can be found HUNDREDS of miles from a small lake that is left of this once mar fantastico. The Iranians are trying to redirect water to start filling it again, but too little too late I guess.

Fretwork and Chinese writing, this was an emperors ship

Eventually a sluggish not Jack Sparrow emerged from the white van to tell us that this boat was given by the Chinese to an Englishman who sold it to a Portuguese man who moved it here four years ago. I want it, I really want it. I want to dig a hole on my garden and plant it there and live on it, complete with scull and cross bones and a few skeletons. We didn't get to look around it - I suspect a packet of cigarettes and a bottle of red from Sete Estrelas might do the trick next time.

Still an active boat yard with low technology, love it

Welcome to follower no 19, Linda Barreiro, the Sunflower. One more follower and the cat is saved - we move on to a purple rhino next... or a few politicians maybe. There is an opportunity next month for a volunteer at Quinta Stuart, to strip and sand some tipi poles and erect it and help finish off the new eco bathroom. Room, light lunch and cooked dinner offered. You can contact me at One person only.
In response to a followers question, I don't put my e mail address around too much as I get swamped with volunteer requests and it wears me out!!

This green green Spring continues, now sitting out at sun down and lots of solar hot water. The need to water my new fruit trees more is a reminder to mulch them and with the dying off of the Bermuda Buttercup weed, time to attack the tall upright weeds which are now exploding out of the ground. It is time to stop planting any more trees and carefully extend and modify my irrigation. Every time we go away, we lose so many trees and find that drought resistant trees have been watered by mistake, wasting my rain water only water supply. Kind of reminds me of a boat out of water....

Echium and Peppers, summers coming

Monday, 16 March 2009

Sun, Sex and a burnt prawn curry at the OK Quinta

Good Morning Portugal!!

Well, I feel blessed to be alive this week after being pursued by Tony One Tooth, Paula Non Stop, Valdemar the Winge, four GNR officers and oh yes two members of the Ambient Death Squad AND a few hundred caterpillars. For those with little time to read my missive, I survived, I partied and I am dead good looking.

For fourteen years, three pine trees overhung my friends property, on the neighbours land. Never a neighbour seen, I cut them down. After being affected by those horrid caterpillars, just as I had fallen three massive pines, the prodigal neighbour arrived... 

a) Tony One Tooth, Patriach, one long bottom tooth.. " It's like having had my legs chopped off!"
b) Paula Non Stop, wife of above "Unbelievable (x 100)"
c) Valdemar the Winge "Like losing my son.."
d) The police "Sort it yourselves"
e) Ambient "Sort it yourselves"

Moral of the story, get a good owner on your side, check with other locals the status of the Winge Family and don't get caught in future. Cost me a nights sleep though.

 It's tricky being the Robin Hood of the Landscaping and Permaculture world. A tough life but I love it!

The sun is out and the future is great. Whilst bankers moan their lack of bonus, our chickens are laying well, cabbages, beans and onions abound. I look forward to the future, to equality, to enjoying simple things not expecting new cars and fancy meals but teaching my kids backgammon and last generations card games, pic nics, bike rides, camping, window shopping, hey even smiling!! Read again what I have just written and these are activities that bring immense joy and cost ZIP. What fun the BMW service bill?

Two litres of boiling water in 26 minutes - in March?

Solar Prawn Curry anyone?

The new solar cooker from Spain is now set up and is incredible. I see no reason for anyone cooking during the summer days to use electricity or gas. They deliver to Portugal and the web site is This dish was about 100 euros delivered - worth every cent. It gives out the heat equivelent to a big gas ring. It isn't going to take long to get the investment back and it really is easy to use.

One of my other investments this week is The Owl Energy Monitor. Full reports on this have been done by Permaculture Magazine and it is brilliant. Not as brilliant as having a purely solar electric system like Rainbows (check out Jonathon at if you want a good high quality installation) but fantastic to see where all your beer money is being wasted on standbys, silly plugs etc. It consists of a sensor fitted to the incoming supply of your fuse board that trasmits to a clock that you can sit anywhere (mine is on the kitchen worktop) that tells you precisely how many watts you are using or how many euros per day et you are spending. I have struck a deal with the suppliers to import them to Portugal and the price will be around 60 euros. E mail me at if I can help you.

Standbys, transformers and just naughty plugs - this machine saves money by showing you how much you bloody waste!!!

Just in case you thought I took time off, I have just finished my passive solar cooker, mentioned in my last blog. We had teething problems - lack of heat after we fitted the black painted tin surround and had to resort to lining the sides with tin foil. The bottom is still black and acts as a heat sink and we broke the 100 celcius barrier this week end (white bit on end of finger to prove it!). And yes, it makes great bread. 
A great week. Small investments, good savings and great food. Good luck John LW and Judith, best of luck on your return to UK and see you somewhere soon xx. Life's great, don't use a bank!

The solar cooker. 100 celcius free of charge.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Finally a night in my own bed! Without Boris Johnson..

Not a reference to Boris Johnson's boast of never being short of a woman in twenty years (there is a ruder version of this comment, but I'm writing this sober for once!!) but my return from 9 days on the road. It's all well going on holiday but a number two on your own loo and a good bit of loving in your own bed can't be beaten.
Whoops, I just sank down to Boris Johnson's level............ must get my hair cut as well.

We took Betty (The Camper) up to Portalegre to see my eldest daughter. About 100 km east of Lisbon, it is a sleepy town in the middle of cork oaks and wheat fields - not a single horta (veg. garden) to be seen - no little vegetable plots or corners of self production to be seen. Only the occasional Modelo or Lidl. It gets very hot in the summer and frosty in the winter but come on people!
The police there take great pride in fining the generally poor population there for harmless activities - two of Becky's friends were dragged out of school and fined 50 euros for picking oranges from the trees on the street. I would rather die in prison, hopefully not by some six foot four transvestite pretending to be Boris Johnson...

Part two of my travels was down towards Almeria in South east Spain. Unfortunately bad weather stopped my visit to Dave and Laura's earthship project (check out their great blog and join their newsletter at but there was lots to do there. Mainly drinking, eating and a visit to the famous honey mines at Otivar.

Breakfast in Salobrena, sponsored by

Although it is a region surrounded by plastic greenhouses and high fertilizer use, there really is a lot of good growing going on there and not to much mono - cropping. Whilst one field is potatoes at least the next is spring cabbage or lettuce. The infrastructure of Spain still continues to expand - new motorways abound and there is general feel that large industry is strong, though I saw a lot of small shops closed \ for rent. I went to help a friend of mine who is renovating a small town house near Motril. After being let down by three local builders he is tackling the rebuild himself. We experimented with a product called Pumasec, Capa Blanca. It comes in a 25 kgs readymix bag and you just add water to a sort of ice cream consistancy and then trowel it on like English plaster. New to me, not the throw and smooth mix we use but quick and pleasingly it dries after six hours to a bright white finish. Whilst not a natural or eco product, it ain't have nice Mum, and easy cheap (3 euros a bag, each bag does 3 square metres) so within low budgets. Anyone know of an equal here in Portugal??

One hour to do 3 square metres, whilst not perfect, it is well acceptable and also claims to be waterproof. Note this is the finished colour - no painting required!

Highlight of the trip was a drive up to Otivar to the honey mines. High on a steep hill, North of Almuncar, this has been a regular haunt of mine for twenty years. Every inch was cultivated and watered by tiny canals zig zagging down the valley. It seemed a little abandoned with more emphasis on the ubiquitous building, but still fresh air and real life.

View from the bar at Otivar. Every terrace can use the valletas (little canals)

Paco the terrier nearly ripped my hand off. At 17 he still works guiding the honey pit horses up the steep hillsides.

Yours truly securing his haul of Otivar honey. As a non complex glucose it breaks down quicker in my body and also lasts indefinitely without refrigeration. Two years supply!!

The restaurante near the honey mines has a fantastic bread oven combined BBQ. A small door to the side of the bread oven acts as a chimney and the man cooks all the meat on a rack there. Project number 76 is forming in my head!!

The oven door is perfect - to the left the heavy round counter weight makes lifting the door effortless. Mmmmmm... jealous!

Finally back home and in my own bed. The cold has returned, wet weather, soggy life BUT I have been working on a solar slow cooker. Even in its unfinished form I put an oven thermometre in and it went up to 90 celcius. Things are coming together, solar slow cooker, my tin foiled satelite dishes, my rocket stoves - anybody on for a course in carbon free cooking??
See you next week.

The solar cooker - a piece of double glazing found at my bins along with the blue insulation and a few offcuts of planks. Just needs lining with tin and black paint. So so easy.