Thursday, 9 December 2010

From Barter to Bath

Not so far in a dictionary...

There's nothing like a wet week and a determination to get a few things done. Nearly 70mms of rain Monday to Thursday was enough to see off most landscapers but not moi. Nao n'este pas. Niete. Never. The James Bond of Landscaping will not be stopped, even by the evil rainman. Business is slow so don't get even - get inventive. I invented the green suited BARTER BOY.

Stuffed into aforesaid tight green suit, a mornings mini digging was swapped for a really big hobby table now set up in the Cheeky Chapati Cafe

Thanks E. Nice big table to hold court!!

Still with time spare in between showers on Monday afternoon, 12 free range eggs were traded for half an hours welding on the air vent of our nearly complete bread oven, bring it on!!

Tricky little job.. thanks Rick. Rick is one of those rare cookies who will weld even the smallest broken hinges or right up to a complete house full of window bars or ornate archways... ring him on 968636421. May cost more than a few eggs though..

Still not satisfied, and with my blood ceasing to circulate in my lime lycra layer (shrinks in the rain, all superheroes have there nemesis) I moved two lorry loads of tree trunks in exchange for a cooker.

Yes it's a cooker...... what did you want? A picture of Barter Boy?

Barter Boy is now retired - until the next rain...maybe
Now that I have three old baths, the second one was planted up with strawberries in my green house and the last one is being used as an experiment in capillary gardening.

A short tube with elbow is glued into the plug hole. The bottom of the bath is then filled with gravel to 5cms above this tube

The water will then stay in the bath and naturally evaporate back up watering the vegetables again. Any excess water will run through the tube attached to the plug hole avoiding stagnation.

A hundred onions later.

Now has anybody an old bath? You might be able to persuade Barter Boy to slide into his emerald zoot suit one more time...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Ice is nice at half the price

England freezes as Portugal swims

Apparently these cold days are due to Artic winds sweeping down through England and across the continent and landing on jolly good Portugal. You realise that in the pre EEC days the winds would have stopped in France, and us Iberians could have still had our three hour lunch hour outside. Thanks France. Due to their 28 hour working week, the streets and roads are all empty allowing this dubious "mistral" to accelerate through cold potato soup land into our neck of the woods...

Almost as annoying was Englands bid to host the world cup. Thanks to Panorama and the feckless thick spoilt twit of the offspring of the jug eared aldulteress twerp, it was bloody odds on we would not host the world cup. Thought it would be pretty obvious a few kilos of beluga, a couple of mink coats and a - natasha - a week - for - life is slightly preferable to tea and cucumber sarnies... To William, Becks and Grabby Lingerer and the entire team of Pornorama, thanks, your fired...

Merci beaucoups.... first frost ever in November

Not that it has stopped us from working. Au contrar mons sweets.Dodging rain showers, I am determined to finish the tribrid cooking station. it has been nearly a year since it was delivered so rain or shine I have been progressing.

After building the sides up, I added an entire bundle of rock wool to the roof to increase insulation

Then I constructed the two apexes and cast a layer of steel covered with a mixture of permalite sand and cement for yet more thermal mass and insulation.

To the side of the main bread oven, I raised the back wall to protect the BBQ and rocket stove section.

Forming the combustion chamber for the rocket stove

The whole unit when finished will do the following:-

Well insulated bread oven. The oven already works but due to some ham fisted bee dropping the oven when it was delivered (ok... it was me..) the cracks reduced the effect of thermal mass, keeping the oven warm for hours down by 75%, increasing the thermal mass using rocks, cement, fibreglass, gravel then perlite will keep ot hot for hours!!
Spanish BBQ next to the bread oven. A very simple system of a deep bed of crushed glass topped with sharp sea sand. Using wood burning on the sand and bamboo skewers, it is an easy way to cook.
At the far right is a rocket stove. Wood is burnt in a lower combustion chamber and the verturi effect (sounds like a jet engine), produces an enormous amount of heat to boil large quantities of water for washing up or boiling potatoes.

What our solar cookers can do during the day, the tribrid will do at night!

Marking out Villa Sheeva, an eight person Goan style hut, our next project

Six weeks after planting the seedlings, courgettes and nabos are ready

STOP PRESS...Please check out our new web site at

Monday, 22 November 2010

It isn't over until the fat lady swings!

Winter rains, Newcastle versus Portalagre

Last of the banana vine

We lit our first fire on November 9th, two days later than last year. Sitting an hour later, sweating in my ex war (first wife) M and S dressing gown, life is good. Tough but good. Business is way down, the Algarve is no longer a playground littered by beaches but as the circle of life slowly ticks around, it is a backdrop of political graffitti, threats of strikes, increased taxes, more fines and higher bills.

High tech capillary bed, not just a bath tub..

So why is it so good I can hear you thinking? Olives, firewood, rabbits, water, herbs, weeds for the chickens............. Foraging has never been so good! We have picked so many abandoned Olive trees that the local lagar (Olive press) gave us nearly 50 litres of good quality Olive oil. We have installed second hand water tanks on every small roof and they are used to water the new green house - our courgettes are ready after only four weeks after planting as seedlings. Leaving onions and lettuce amongst other plants to go to seed (mocked by Antonio my lorry man!) means wild salad free of charge. Our local paths were so overgrown we have pruned them back and kept all the wood with a pat on the back from our local postman (I was going to say a pat from postman Pat but knew better..)
Unless you carefully push boundaries, pay bribes (our fresh eggs) and open your heart and patience and have more time (slow business) you never know.

Merelie The Landscapers Native Tree stall at The MGS Fair

All our trees are 1 euro each, we still have a few left!!

And I got to see my lovely Newcastle United play. A quick week end to England to wish my eldest brother his 60th birthday wishes. I think he got left in the bar outside
the ground. A strange coincidence was the ladies were wearing mini skirts and high heels - only minus 1 outside.

Happy 60th Angus!!

A little warmer this week end, I took Holly up to see Rebecca for her 17th birthday up Portalegre. Thanks to Sue who let me use her car, meaning we could actually go there and back in the same week end! Oddly it was as cold as Newcastle but elleven times cheaper, bonny lad.. Oh yes and I watched Stricknine come boring and yuck factor. I think I won, I turned the TV off.

Dodging wet weather we are still progressing slowly at Quinta Stuart, working on the bread oven, planting more trees (Pines in the hedgerow to get more noise absorbtion from the motorway), planting more bulbs, and sowing favas and peas.

I am determined to finish the bread oven project soon!! Yet another use for marble left at my local supermarket (local bins.)

A bale of rock wool and sixteen buckets of gravel are used to insulate the original top of the bread oven. adding insulation and thermal mass will keep the oven hotter for longer (and hide the cracks where Muggins dropped it off his excavator...)

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Woody hits 550 for 3

A sceptic silenced

Born in 1951, in Sheffield, left in a field in Silves for the last two years, filled accidentally with sand, soaked in acid, Woody has had a hard life. Woody is a Rayburn that was brought over from England and used for a winter then left outside.
Owl bewailed that I actually handed over money for it. Two weeks taking sand out of it (someone accidentally tipped 4 cubic metres over it), removing the plates and dipping them into acid, scrubbing the outside, it was time to fire it up.
Spluttering into life with smoke everywhere, Owl left with a frown and a shake of her head.

My secretarial team enjoying the new office heating

Two hours later and three small logs, the oven gauge was moving quickly. Up and up to 550 f. (old English speak for nearly 400 celcius!!). All the cast iron bonded together to stop any leaks and yours truly sat in front with a smile.

Three loaves and bean burgers later, the royal sceptic apologised!!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Busy Bees

Lighting the Match

The real meaning of climate change is that Mother Nature is ready to rid the world of carbon burning humans and we must defend ourselves with smart weapons, harmless tools. This means amongst other things embracing genetically modified foods and even nuclear power.

With seven billion people on this world, are we are now the monoculture? Growing one mass crop in the same place eventually fails - take the Irish potato famine or increasingly virelent orange tree diseases as examples. Imagine this if it crosses over to our increasing cattle class population. Like the dieing palm trees in the Algarve, will humans have to walk around with a permanent anti biotic drip attached to our arms?

But heck, cheer up. As usual Stuart has the solution. Breath deeply, walk lightly, speak kindly and love deeply, oh yes and build a green house.

Last week a shade area, this week the front bows of Noah's Ark

Filled with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, beetroot, nabo, we are ready for our journey through winter and the worst economic depression this century.

Another part of our Ark. Two new compost loos, more rainfall catchment and a look out point for the western boundaries. Thanks to Joe and Nattai for lots of hard work.

JNs new garden and shade area. A carbon neutral landscape

And lighting the match? Fusion power, generating power by fusing atoms together, rather than splitting them, would be totally green, cheap and infinite, if it worked. America is ready to test the first model. This is called laser confinement fusion. If they get ignition by firing a laser at a fuel pellet, then the surface of the pellet will be blown off sending a shockwave inwards that will fuse its atoms and emit a pulse of energy.
We may be a monoculture, but a darm smart one.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Winter arrives

Finally we have to escape from the tipi as the nights sink to 15 degrees. Warm days and windy nights, shorter days and spicier food, firewood to stack and thick hearty soups and stews to make........ agghhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!! Roll on summer but roll off heat, sleepless nights and moon bathing.

Preparing for the annual burning of the tipi

Wild guns. Two new helpers, Joe and Nattai are racing ahead with the new two compost heap three solar shower bird gallery

Not a quick job, but the back wall we will use as a competition zone

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Big News From Little City

Big Hearts, great food and ten days of permaculture learning at Varzea de Goncales

Thanks thanks thanks to Kris, Chris, Brendon and Gaynor as patient hosts and Lesley Martin who taught the 72 hour Permaculture Design Course there.
Owl returned refreshed, informed and bouncing on the spot. It really is a fantastic location, a couple of kilometres east of Aljezur. Anyone is welcome to visit - this week they have 26 school kids using the top cottage to study as the local school is being repainted (sadly with toxic paint.. which can take up to 5 years to become neutral!!)

Chris and daughter Megan, a humble man with passion for life!

Raised swale beds awash with vegetables

The Usual suspects. As the course went on, the students bonded and dyed all their clothes the same colour (or maybe my camera batteries....)

They have an amazing array of workshop weekends - please visit their website at for their diary. Good honest simple people, I am jealous!!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Whistling at wasps

A Summer Sauna

High temperatures and high humidity, in other words a typical August. Dragging my heels, head down, teeth clenched... and that's just walking to the fridge to get a beer. A pigeon hurls two feet over my head propelled with lead... bloody hunters. Two flocks of pigeons continue to fly round and round in circles. Sport no, cowardless pig headed slaughter yes.

The tipi is the coolest room at night...... get one!!

Work in progress. This is going to be three solar showers and three compost loos

The Cheeky Chapati Cafe, finished!!

New extended dining area in front of the C.C. Cafe

Kitchen started in the C.C.C. All the marble was found in various gardens!

Owl is heading off next week to do a Permaculture Design Course at the fabulous retreat of Chris and Kris near Aljuzer (see The ten day course is being led by Lesley Martin (Hi Lesley, promise to share a Medronho with you) and starts on the 10th September. There are still two spare places for anyone to grab?

Ah yes! Latest tip, whistling gets rid of wasps (sometimes..)

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Can fish smile?

17kgs of pumpkin. There is a reason for my nakedness. Nice prize for anyone who can guess!!

Finally home from a 7100 km Odyssey.

Funny sometimes that it takes sitting on the motorway for a few days until your mind can wonder to the more important things in life.
Rolling through Southern Spain, you can not avoid looking at the rubbish on both sides of the road. Bottles, bags, plastic, paper.. they really must assume it all comes free and disappears the same way. Dirty dirty buggers. Slovenia, Switzerland, Austria, germany - not a grain of litter. Italy a little, France a little, then hit Spain; you may as well save a years worth then release it bit by bit every 50 metres , especially when you are 20 feet from the beach.
In "Five Acres and Independence" (M G Cains, published by Dover), published in 1940 comments " The average smallholder has no need of a rubbish bin since he produces no waste."
Crumbs. Guilty as charged. So what do I do?

1. Food waste.

Any waste, which is little (ever read about the English that throw away 30% of their food?? Hang 'em!!) Anything we do not eat goes for tomorrows lunch, chickens or compost. Zero waste

2. Paper waste.

All our waste paper goes into the bread oven, but unless we cook bread a little more regularly, it really just goes up in smoke and leaves a big pile of ash... could do better. Ironically, any plastic that burns without a coloured gas is safe to burn as well, Owl's brother Hugh told me which ones were which but I had a little drink about a while ago and need to re check which is whicch.. watch this space!

3. Glass waste.

Up to now, we have managed to fill and smash our (sometime to be finished) BBQ / Bread oven / Rocket stove station. We have to do another glass smash then it is full. Then I intend to collect the bottles to make a Moroccan sauna (Hamman) but it is a worry, a perpetual stream of non returnable bottles - any ideas anyone? I can take used wine bottles and buy dodgy red draught wine, Holly makes lemonade but every beer, decent white wine etc creates a stockpile of glass..

4. Plastic waste.

Now we have installed a three stage water filter (Leroy Merlin) we refill any plastic water bottles and more importantly don't buy any new ones. But every bin within 100 miles of here is overflowing with plastic bags and bottles. Recycling is ok but we need to stop the initial phase of packing and bottling. I can buy all my vegetables at Sao Bras market on a saturday morning without a trace of plastic but followed by a trip to Lidl, the car is awash with oil based products.

I will improve, I will reduce my footprint. Buy loose beans and soak them rather than the endless tins. Do not wash tins or plastic for recycling.. water is our prime source, save it. Look at every product you buy and imagine how you can replace it when there is no oil, no transport, no packaging. All I have to do now is figure out how to repay 7000kms of carbon emissions from our recent travels.
About time I got back to work,

Stu and Owl xx

Monday, 9 August 2010

the Oldest Inbetweener

Somewhere in Southern Spain

Sunrise on the East coast of Spain

I don't know if any of my readers have ever watched "The Inbetweeners" - a sitcom consisting of cringingly embarrassing 15year old school boys trying to get a girlfriend.One of them wears a tie and specs and spectacularly can't stop putting his foot in it whilst chatting up girls. That's me, except it never ended at 15 and is continuing into my 50s... A complete inabiltiy to link brain to mouth at those vital morning.
One of those moments was this morning. A police woman was trying to explain that we - could - not - park - or - camp on the beach, even though i had passed out under the stars the previous night after a typical Spanish dinner of Biryani and Beer.
"I love you" I mouthed. "Move sherbert brains" she answered. I took this as a come on and tried to kiss her just as she tazered me with my own Sunday Times.
I moved on, what is 500 metre compared to the 6100 kms we have driven so far this holiday. we have so far driven to Spain, France,Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland, France and we are now back in Spain, in Mojocar just above Almeria. Old Smokey, the camper is going well, not using water but still smoking in the morning especially over angry but attractive Angie Dickinsons..
Lots of countries in lots of days, here's the view from the top;;

1. Slovenia

Beautiful, clean, scenic, cheap -and that's just the women!! Well worth a visit

2. Spain

Good old Spain, you drive 6000kms just to discover its tanned topless beauty with great beer

3. France

Great scenery, spent more on tolls than diesel (or women). Expensive but so picturesque.

Hire boat proved too weak to handle The Merelie Family Summer Tour

4. Austria

Great drivers, tall ugly athletic women. Innsbruk was fantastic. Whole place is full of tunnels. No tolls!!!

5. Switzerland

Now officially renamed rip-off-aland. Don't visit ever ever ever. Pretty though

6. Italy

See above but 20% cheaper. Lake Garda and Sirmione were nice

And there you go, saved you 6000km. Slovenia was so nice so I will return and take in Hungry and Croatia at the same time
We are back in a few days
Only one boat was destroyed in the making of this blog
All references to women except for Angie Dickinson are fictional

Monday, 19 July 2010

Sausage of the week

Thanks to all of you who turned up to the open sexuality afternoon last week. a good time was had by all and by the end of the day some of us were walking around like John Wayne. Okay okay only kidding, this isn't some German eco village north of here, but it got your attention.

When I was 30, I bought brogues, scatter cushions and knew the sizes of all our beds so I could shop with confidence at Ikea. At 40 I bought a Mercedes convertable and knew the lingerie sizes of 4 beautiful ladies. By the time I reached 50, I lost half my wealth to the DVD Club (Divorced, vicious and dangerous), the other half to a lacklustre stockmarket and gave my suits to Oxfam.

But I digress (too much). The Owl House shade and kitchen is now finished and that completes a good year of progress at Quinta Stuart.

Finished are :-

Theatre of Dreams with seven hammocks and outside movie screen
Cheeky Chapati Cafe, three season lounge with chillout zone
Villa Ganeesha, our first Goan style coco hut
Owl House, shade and outside kitchen and course area

To finish:-

Cladding of bread oven, rocket stove and BBQ
Full kitchen in Cheeky Chapati Cafe
New triple compost loo and solar shower block

To follow:-

Villa Sheeva, six person coco hut
Villa Gemini, twin two bed coco huts with a centre lounge

We have 4 volunteers coming for September / October so hopefully we can comlete one or two more projects before the rain starts. For us, we are off to Slovenia with Old Smokey, the camper..... only 3100 kms each way!!

Friday, 25 June 2010

50 and counting....... Stu's getting old!!


Thanks to all my friends, enemies, Slovenia, Algeria and the USA for all my birthday messages. Unfortunately I have not got time to replace Rooney in South Africa, no hair dye avaliable.

Had a wonderful day shopping in Ayamonte and lunching at Casa Simoe on the coast at Punta Moral below Ayamonte.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Villa Ganeesha Now Open


Apologies for the lack of text in the last blog. Good old Linux (or rather Uncle Ubuntu) likes to show my blog in html as I am typing it - including the pictures which makes editing it all rather tricky (HTML stands for "Leave it to the anoraks, I'm off to the pub"). As work is quiet I have taken two weeks off and finished Villa Ganeesha, the first of our Eco co co huts, a simple pole and bamboo net construction. Ganeesha (named after the Hindu Elephant God) is 1,5 metres above the ground, a small 3m by 3m bedroom with a covered terrace at the front.

Villa Ganeesha in its various stages of construction. The tongue and griive walls took ages, whereas the roof took a morning..... Sheets from Goa and rugs from the Atlas mountains give it a really relaxed feel. A small fan moves the air and a few meditation cds make it a lovely place to stay - please drop in and try it. We will start the next version in September.


A couple of friends called in, and described Quinta Stuart as "Paradise" Sometimes I can be blinkered when working and watering the land every day. Only by taking photos and putting them on my blog, can I see the progress. Trees are laden, courgettes, onions, nabos, green beans and beetroots, tomatoes ripening, bananas hanging laden, apricots and peaches ripening, it all is growing. Water is still a pain, we have already used a third of the water tank (my fault, left an irrigation system on all day....) and have started to buy in water already.Not too permaculture based but we will cover this summers water bills with the few weeks we have booked in the Owl House.

We will concentrate from next January re renting out our various rooms, but in case you are curious, it is basically the following:-


Lovely wooden chalet with en suite bathroom and sun terrace with simple outdoor kitchen (fridge, gas cooker, work top - this will be improved over this winter)
A simple calm place to stay, ideal for a couple. A comfy double bed and just installed air conditioning. From 210 euros per week


A 5,5m genuine Indian Tipi. Inside is a double bed and simple lighting. You may have to prise Stuart out of there!! As the sun sets, the warm air flows under the tipi sides and accelerates out of the smoke flap at the top. In the morning, the early light illuminates the canvas to give the perfect dawn. From 150 euros per week.


Our brand new Goa style co co hut. Sits 1,5m above the ground with a narrow shaded terrace and a bamboo walled bedroom with bright Goan coloured sheets line the walls. This is a good eco option as it has a high quality compost loo nearby and an indoor shower room and small kitchen. It is next to The Cheeky Chapati Cafe - a shaded lounge and outdoor kitchen and also close to The Theatre of Dreams, a shaded chill out zone with seven hammocks and outdoor movie screen!! From 140 euros per week


A small chalet with two single beds, again close to the compost loo, shower and shaded areas. From 120 euros per week

Prices are for two people sharing - we keep the prices cheap and can do favorable deals for sinlge people. We expect a small donation on top of these prices for water, and give a small discount if you bring your own bedding. We have washing machine, wifi unlimited internet and like to organise courses and special days / movie nights / airport pick ups. Try and find something of the same quality with an eco theme cheaper!!

I was trying to add more photos but Uncle Ubuntu won't play!! Please feel free to call in for a herbal tea (often Sagres flavoured).
Take care, Stu and Owl xx