Experiencing permaculture in Colares

I am typing these words when it is the third week I have been living in the Quinta dos 7 Nomes. Located in Colares and just a ten minutes walk from terrific cliffs and an area which is UNESCO world heritage. Sintra, the town who inspired Lord Byron, one of the book of Harry Potter and many other artists, it is just a couple of kilometers away.

I think about myself the day I arrived here after some weeks in the Algarve and I remember very well the feeling I had as I stepped into the path up the road. It is the same feeling I will have this evening when I will be again into the unknown and the ‘who-knows-how-will-be-the-next-place’  mood.

This is me. A nomad who loves the thrills and the shakes given by every new adventure. For those of you who may have missed some parts of my most recent decisions, I can tell that trying to turn every day into an adventure worth to write down is my current full-time job.

I am feeling very lucky in this moment of my life, also because there are only a couple of things I am sure of. Uncertainty can be a strengthen factor too. Today, there is one certainty related to this place. I know I am about to leave somewhere I can call home. I will hug people who have been my family for all the days I have been waking up surrounded by frogs and hens and birds while hearing the whisper of long leaves when the wind blows stronger.

Quinta dos 7 nomes just hit its tenth year anniversary, it was inaugurated in April 1991. Activities and opportunities designed around sustainability, nature, arts, vegan and bio food and music, are scheduled weekly or fortnightly. Every intended or by chance visit will award the visitors with authenticity and the warmest welcome into this community.

The quinta hosts a bio shop, a vegan cafè, an eco-camping, a baker and a big garden where veggies and other products are cultivated. There are hens, there is a baby Vietnamese pig (Mr. Bacon) and the philosophy behind this project is to stimulate the environment without (or with the least) human interference possible. Locals, tourists, cooperative associates, passengers and volunteers like me come regularly to help out and to learn about permaculture.

In this place, you will experience permaculture as local, earth and ethic.

I am enjoying the last moments here trying to kidnap Isabel so that I can learn a bit more about this place. I still remember the day I arrived and how she hug and smiled at me. It is the same as she would do it now, after all the laughs and the hours spent working together and cooking or harvesting lettuces and onions. After all the times we had lunch with everyone else around that big, rectangular table. It didn’t matter if employees or locals or tourists or volunteers. The moods and the laughs and the vibes and all the thank you for cooking for us today, they are all I need to remember.

‘What you see in this space as of today, it was so different in the beginning. Originally there was just me, wanting to change my life. I was a teacher and was doing also other jobs but I truly wanted to start working with other friends and give a definitive cut to my solo career. At that time, me and 6 friends used to run a bio shop only for some days a week. Our customers were 50 like-minded, regular visitors. All together, we were a very nice and harmonious group. Thinking and considering sustainability in a serious way in the year 1991 in a country like Portugal, it wasn’t for everyone, you know?

Trying to keep her away from the thousand and a hundred things she has to do is a challenge, especially on Saturdays when the quinta hosts workshops. Today is the carpentry turn. Two weeks ago was aromatic plants and medicines. People keep coming and going and she stands up and hugs ad welcomes everyone and starts talking and when her phone is ringing you will see her running up and down with the loudspeaker on and if you are not from the south of the world you may think she is arguing with someone while she is giving sweet advice and try to manage all the things she has to do.

 

‘So one day I asked my friends to form a cooperative. You should have seen their reaction! Everyone laughing at me because we had no money to start, nothing at all. I was the only one crazy enough to value the most important thing we had. It has nothing to do with moeny or possessions. It is something that we often forget and underrate but in a group, when you are more than one person, you need it.

It’s trust – as simple as it is.

We were trusting each other and even today, have a look at this place. This is not a normal way of doing business when you leave a shop and a cafè and other properties without the use of a key to lock doors and valuable possessions, not even at night. The shop is always open, everyone is welcomed and we like living this way. We work together, we have lunch everyday together and once a week we go eat out, like true friends do.

The spirit is here and it is still alive.

 

Her eyes kept sparkling for the whole time she was speaking. Isabel told me something already about the history of this place but hearing these words today gives me goose bumps. This is the kind of place I am always looking for. Where people are people and keys are forgotten and the music is always too loud, according to the neighbor.

 

‘To overcome the financial problem one day me and my 6 friends asked our customers if they were willing to anticipate their membership fee. Surprisingly enough, they loved the idea and each one of them gave its part. All of a sudden we had 2.500EUR to begin our project. We looked around for where to move and we found another place, about 3 times bigger than this quinta we have here now. Everything was shortly set up and we were all so happy, ready to sign the renting contract.

However, the day before the signature and the formal agreement, the landlord stepped back. He said he did not want to go through this anymore…the day before! Can you believe it?  The real issue were again the funds because we had spent them in his land. There was a small house which we had already restored because in our plans it would have become the bio store.

After one week we were lucky again. This place appeared and we had a generous donation also, out of the blue. A friend coming back from her travels in India walked this path one morning with a ch
eck in her hands as she wanted to help out. We had again 2.500EUR to start and this time, we made it.

As I look around and I see so many beautiful things and people, I wonder how different was here years ago. I observe this woman and feel goose bumps again. Having met her isn’t probably something that occurred by chance, especially in this moment of my life.

If the group was not there, all of this couldn’t have happened. Inside a group we can be more sustainable. This way we can’t refuse the change because we are obliged to accept things when they won’t be the same anymore.

In a place like this, my goodbye smells of a see you soon.

 

Até já Mr. Bacon!

 

For more info, just visit:

http://www.quinta7nomes.com/

For travel bits of advice and planning, check this space, the guys are awesome:

http://turempor.com/en/#

 

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