Benfeita Terraces

Another episode of the good life


Hello friends & family readers. This is the first page published since the end of May. We have been wondering if we should continue exposing ourselves in this way on the net. It has created some weird & wonderful situations & thousands of hits, for now we will leave it running.

During the summer we were busy having fun & rebuilding our roof. Now we don't get to go on the internet very often since the free wireless of Benfeita has stopped until next summer.

Here goes a little recap of how things have been the past few months & some pictures of interesting things at the quinta and of some good moments. Thanks for stopping by.



-In the old days when these stone houses were built there were no roads and all the materials came from the surrounding area of the quinta. Wood was felled here, stone was quarried right here etc.

There still isn't a road coming here apart from the donkey & cart track that is as old as the house.

We want waterproof insulated houses, we want efficient burners we want modern long lasting tiles, glass, & ready cut planks & beams these days.

We got roof tiles from 10 km away factory in Coja, but when it came to hauling them up here 850 tiles at 3 kilo each we needed a donkey. Fortunately for us we have good mates in Benfeita and so Wane and his 4x4 tractor pascuali provided donkey & skilled master. 3 very hairy trips later we had the tiles at the bottom of our quinta steps.


When it comes to unloading the tractor you need a strong team of cheap labour contractors. Thank you Rose, Frances, Maeve & Flora for all your hard work in the burning sun. Thank you for all the fun & life you have brought this summer and all the babisitting and tanning hours spent by the river. Come back soon.






All the old heavy roman tiles had to be removed, and stashed for later use in other buildings. Then all the rafters & beams had to come out and nails removed before they were shaved clean with a draw knife. It was a very long process but very worthwhile.



 Here's Flora supervising DJango's hard work. 

Life without a roof was hard, mostly hot, sometimes unbearable. We did panic when it rained sometimes and almost flew off with the tarp during mad storms to try and keep things from getting too out of control. It was all worth it and all that is left now is funny memories and a warm dry roof over our heads.


We couldn't go on asking for favours every time we wanted something brought up. Over 2 tons of wood, an extra 200 roof tiles, all the insulation and now over half ton of olives had to go to the press. The list goes on and we realized that we better spend our last cents on the donkey well its more like a racehorse hence it's name 'horsie'.

It was a wonderful investment we did back in the summer. This little suzuki. Her and an old trailer we already had are very economical and very useful. The helmet worn by the model came with the bike.

Flora, Rose & Francis Chillin on the hammocks 

 With no roof and hardly a space free of ruble indoors. Our living space was all over the terraces and we only changed this when the first drops of rain arrived. 

Django is growing stronger every day climbing terrace steps on his own.

 Boys will be boys.


Lunch at Ortigal our favourite swim spot this summer. At the peak of summer having no roof, we had to leave the quinta from 11am to 5pm every day. 

We don't laugh at fat people but driving behind this motorcyclist in Coja was quite entertaining.

Shaving one of the two beams kindly donated by Ian & Una. These beams came from around half a Km away and bringing them up to the house was a scary job. Placing them up on the roof was another scary job. These chestnut beams were well worth saving, and after shaving them they look beautiful.

Just beams and sky! No rafters. At this point we started making progress. 2 months later the roof wasn't finished. It was a race against time get it done before the rain.

In the end the clay roof tiles are very pretty and the roof is very sturdy and weather proof. However we didn't anticipate all the work involved grinding every one of the edge tiles, and also all the waste left when we finished.



Here's a view looking west, you can see the vertical batons that hold the shiny silver insulations material, plus the horizontal batons that hold the tiles. Lots of work screwing and nailing these to the rafters through the insulation.

We used one layer of roof-mate and one layer of silvery bubble wrap. The house is as efficient and we could make it, and it feels very cosy.


Up and down with each corner tile for grinding. You know when you've been tangoed, 3 days of grinding tiles. The orange dust gets everywhere.

Inside is very homely and we are very happy with our new roof. Still lots to do but the worst is over.

Now lets get to work on the land...

 Take the tractor to the fields...

 King of all wild things...

Saw this at the tile factory in Tomar. Converting vegetarians.

 Clare pointing in the new opening for a door facing west.


later we put in a door made with some recycled glass. We built a bit of temporary decking until we can afford some wood for a good balcony to cover the whole area of the old pig sty.



The old front door was replaced with a chestnut glass door to make better use of natural light. It has an Acassia root door handle.

Mummy's cake mix is the best!

The acorn of cork oak. There are 2 kinds of cork oak with slight differences visible on the leaf and the acorn. We also have several different families of the more regular quercus Oak. We are trying to plant lots of all different species and families in our forest above the terraces. Chestnut, and Medronho(wild strawberry tree) etc..

This is nothing to do with the quinta, I just thought it was very funny.

In an old monastery on our way to the sea we came across this LED candle box. 10 cents to light an LED?!?! I am a fan of LEDs but I wouldn't pay to light one Jesus!. I guess this is a green alternative? 

Clare's started experimenting with wine making and I can't wait for next year. We have 100 grapevines that really need attention, but they are producing a little.

Some of the wine Clare used the wonderful wild grapes that grow around our forest, Mmmmmm. We opened several explosive bottles of very tasty wine. All finished before it actually had a chance of maturing. Next year we will be more prepared and will use all the grapes and other fruits in some madly wonderful brews. Essential, just like bread and olive oil.

Mushroom season, how wonderful! On our land alone we found hundreds of different varieties. Thank you Sarah and Ian for the amazing Roger Philips book on mushrooms. We managed to identify lots of different ones, however we respect their power and have lots to learn before eating other than the huge meaty & tasty easy to identify parasols that grow under the big cork oak.

 The one above we havent identified yet also growing under the cork oak

Olives.... We decided to count the olive trees for ourselves since we couldn't really say for sure how many trees we had left to pick. 68 trees!!!!! Obviously we are not picking everything, and next year we have to get more organized. Get reliable help is essential. We will be taking bookings, need two people for at least 2 weeks.
So far we have pressed 250 kilos and got beautiful 31 litres of lovely olive oil. We have another 250 to press next week and if we were able we would easily pick 750 kilos. 7 kilos press into a litre this year. It is a wonderful experience to bring it home warm from the press and dip some bread straight in. Mmmmmmm.

Night night

Sweet dreams.

Benfeita Terraces - May 09 - May 2009

Benfeita Terraces 3 - page 3 - We camp at our terraces for the first time in the warm Portuguese Autumn

Benfeita Terraces 2 - page 2 - We own it and our baby is here!

Benfeita Terraces 1  - page 1 - before we bought the land. It was all just a dream-

A Picture A Day - Joao's Photography page

Wind Turbine Workshop  - Page about Joao's wind turbine at Evelyn community gardens in London