Trying It On – Just some quick advice on buying land

I’d just like to make a note of this, and warn everyone coming here to this area in Portugal, although it probably applies to most areas.

It is unfortunate that many or at least quite a few people have overpaid for their piece of land that they’ve bought here in Portugal. It has ramifications, because the locals trade amongst themselves, at the going price and then will often try and flog it off to a foreigner for multiple times what they paid for it. It’s a bit like a disease, more like a fever, some kind of rush, that I see happening. It’s precipitated by those who are fooled into believing that what they are buying is a good price. I include myself in this equation. I came in enthusiastically and very naive. I bought at double what the guy who sold it to me bought for. So is it a good price if the guy who you just bought it from has just bought it for half the price he sold it to you for? Or even less? Someone in the middle just got fat, while the two on the outside got done raw. I’ve seen one piece one guy was trying to sell for 20k and I later found out he’d not even bought it yet, but had agreed to buy it for 2000. Another that was purchased by a guy for 3k and trying to flog it to foreigners for 50k, just cos it was on the river. You hear all kinds of incredible stories, but basically it’s like a gold rush in little Africa. You’re the rich foreigner who’s going to line their pockets with gold. I’ve been getting more and more involved with this kind of thing here in Portugal and I can tell you it’s damn frustrating dealing with them (especially as a foreigner). One guy wanted to know who I was going to show his land to. He’d set his price, but If they were going to be Dutch then it would be an extra 5k, and then if they were German it would have been an extra 5 on top of that again. It’s just sickening, but that’s what you have here. Of course, that’s on the negative side of things. It’s not all like that. You just got to know who to deal with and who not to. That’s how I see it.

So just some advice, Do your research, get help (if you contact me I’ll try and put you in touch with good local people that can help you) but most of all don’t rush, and BE PATIENT! That’s how it works here. If you rush, you will only feed the fever and make it worse for others who come after you. The objective is to repopulate rural Portugal with the right people. That includes young Portuguese people, so if you purchase land at extortionate prices then you are only contributing to speculation and pricing the Portuguese youth (or any youth for that matter) out of the market. I personally would like to see A LOT more Portuguese youth return to the rural areas to help regenerate the land, along with youth from all over. Let’s be aware of our actions. I’ve said my bit, but I’m sure I’ll say more when the time comes. Please feel free to comment below.

Chicken Fortress Strikes Back

It was quite a while ago when the chicken fortress was compromised by pesky critters, and since then I’ve just not had the time to get it back in action. So it’s come as a saving grace that Itay (from Israel) got in touch through Earth Neighbours with the intention to come visit and help out. He helped me out with a few things, one of which was rigging up a more secure door for the chicken fortress. Thank you Itay! And then I can’t not mention Bart, my crazy polish friend who has left me all that scaffolding. Real nice stuff! It’s come in dead handy as a temporary solution for the refurb project. In fact, I reckon with all that scaffolding I can turn the chicken fortress into a chicken hotel! We just put the scaffolding up, used a few old pallets, an old 44 gallon drum, some old tyres and some roof sheeting that I picked up from Manuel the Junk Yard Dog around the corner (for only 4 bucks a sheet – Bargain!) … and what a better way to make use of the recently acquired mulch than to use as bedding in the chicken fortress. The overturned bath tub on top of the tyres makes for two nice cosy little nests for those looking to get away from the crowd. Nicely done that is. Only took us a few hours to get the interior sorted. With my truck now and the mulch collecting I reckon I could make this a seriously deep litter system. It will be like a 5 star hotel for chickens and they’ll be producing for me lots of good compost!

I’ve also used Bart’s scaffolding to cover the tank that I have located just outside the chicken fortress. I needed to put some permaculture strategy into action. i.e. slow the water down. In this case slowing it down from going up through evaporation! The shade cloth is not great, not my favourite solution, but until I get vines planted then it will have to suffice as a crappy plastic solution (I hate plastic!!).

So I’m all geared up and ready for chickens again! Anyone got any for sale or up for doing an exchange then I would love to hear from you. Otherwise I might have to visit the local market and salvage some of those poor scruffy little creatures that are sold down there. Perhaps that might be the most humane thing to do. Save them from a life of despair and bring them into a life of luxury! Maybe they’ll be so overjoyed they’ll start laying eggs like there’s no tomorrow 🙂

More fotos of the chicken fortress during it’s development …

Getting there …
Willi approves!

Mulching Success

It felt like a satisfying moment today, having picked up my first lot of garden clippings from the local village with my recently acquired truck I bought from one of the locals.

I’m sure the gardener from the local village was chuffed that I’d cut down his workload and I was chuffed that I could get so much, so quickly and so close to home. I trust that it’s the start of something new. The idea is to offer this service to all locals, as a free pickup, especially for any kind of organic matter that would normally just be burned off. The idea is to try and get locals off the idea of just burning off organic matter and start showing the value in it by demonstrating that there are people willing to pick it up for free.

Next step would be to get a wood chipper that can be carried around for on site work where there will be branch trimmings etc that need picking up. If there is anyone out there who would like to make a donation towards a chipper then please don’t feel intimidated 🙂

I’ve started advertising my service around the local area. So far I’ve had some very happy clients. You can see more details here. Another fine way to fund my project. If you need my service for anything, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! It’s all for a good cause.

Fire Season 2017

The fire season is upon us. It’s the time that keeps reminding us the huge problem that this ‘country’ faces. I put country in apostraphes because I have no idea what a country is any more. I thought it had to do with culture but it appears to me that most cultures have been subverted by some idea of inspiring people to become productive economic units, and hence making a country nothing more than a corporation and it’s leaders just soulless CEO’s. I don’t know why they’re portrayed as leaders. They’re simple followers, not even smart it seems. It seems to me that Portugal has been tagged by the ‘powers that be’ as a place where we can grow lots of eucalyptus for the purpose of producing toilet paper so that the rest of Europe can wipe it’s arse with its ‘commodity’. Of course, it’s not anybody’s fault right? I mean people gotta make a living, but what if the real deal is that Portugal is being ‘encouraged’ by EU, ECB, IMF (they’re all the same thing) to produce whatever the hell they have to in order to pay back the debt that they’ve accrued with European Central Banks and so hence, encourage governments to encourage people to plant ‘unsuitable’ species here with complete disregard for informing them of the fact that they only help to degrade the soil, dry up water sources and contribute to creating infernos that kill off whatever wildlife this ‘country’ has (and now even people, by literally creating roads to hell – roadsides just deep with eucalyptus plantation). Let’s also try and imagine how much it costs Portuguese government to fight all these fires and where does all that money come from? Furthering the depth of debt and death. Anyone with some kind of conspiracy mind could possibly think that it’s end game is to create a land grab scenario where those with all the cash can come in and buy up land for pennies in the dollar, once the ‘government’ fails its ‘debt obligations’. It’s happened before, and hasn’t that already happened to Greece? Of course a lot of that is just my own twisted suspicions and I’m obviously having a good rant.

There are others out there who’ve done more research it and come up with interesting conclusions / views. Here is an excerpt from EXCERPT from Doug Crouch’s article titled ‘A Holistic Perspective on How the Fires in Portugal Came to be and Where we Go from Here‘ …

Thus basically what the EU does is offer a subsidy for a particular crop selection and people jump on it and an industry is developed. Henceforth, when this EU policy was instituted and intensified over the years, what a great solution to no markets for traditional crops or being an absentee landlord.  Simply drop some forestry trees in through signing a contract spurred by EU subsidies, wait until the forestry crops were ready years later, and receive fat royalties for doing nothing other than selling out the ecosystem.  Thus the industry grew in its power and control as people could not sell land in Portugal because who wanted to move to this forgotten, economically depressed country struggling to catch up with the rest of the world.  It’s not like that way now as foreigners are fleeing inwards to these regions for a self-sufficient lifestyle outside of their mainly northern European locales.  But the damage was done already before they arrived.

Here is another good article worth reading regarding other forces that are tied in with making Eucalyptus a huge monocrop here in Portugal …

The Eucalypt Invasion of Portugal

Personally I think that if you are coming to Portugal as some kind of get away, somewhere to live the good life. You better think twice. It’s not for the weak of heart, and if you’re not coming here to become part of the solution, then you may only end up becoming an innocent victim, or potentially even part of the problem. I would suggest that you come prepared. Last year fire in Portugal destroyed nearly 116,000 hectares and accounted for half of all forests destroyed by fire in EU. There are many stories behind how these fires start, I could try and go into all the stories that I’ve read and heard but here is someone that may have a little more to say about it then me: Hernâni Carvalho – Há uma indústria do Fogo escondida dos Portugueses.

Sadly, the other day a fire started on my neighbour’s land, with a steel blade brushcutter, so yes, these things do happen, and sometimes they are accidents – however the use of steel blades on brushcutters, as well as toppers (capinadeira) on tractors have been prohibited during high fire risk season and incurs at minimum a hefty fine. Be aware. My farm was so lucky to have survived this incident. First of all the wind was going in the opposite direction (which is opposite of the normal prevailing winds), however it was still crept towards mine. Luckily we managed to get the call out early and were eventually received with several fire trucks, followed by one helicopter, then 2 planes along with 8 or so friends. It was all pure luck. If there were any other fires happening at the time in Portugal then I’m sure I wouldn’t have received that kind of attention from the fire department – my friends though, most certainly yes, and with the wind in my favour we were lucky enough to stop it only a few metres from within reaching the boundary of my land. It was a heroic effort from everyone involved and I’m so thankful.

Land here in Portugal is cheap, but there is a reason for that. The country is poor. During my search for land in Portugal I bumped into a guy I’d known from my London days, and told me that Portugal is like a little Africa in Europe. Well, considering the curious stare I get from most people it does resemble the feeling of being a white man in black Africa, Perhaps he was referring more to the fact that it’s poor and quite wild in the way that things work. Wild as in the same sense as ‘wild west’.

A word of caution when buying land here in Portugal. There are some people out there that will try and sell you land with the illusion that what you are buying is cheap, or at best, a fair price, but unfortunately if you’re a foreigner then the likelihood of that being true is, well … ‘relative’. There are many out there selling land who will try and make you believe their intentions are pure. Just be careful. Seek advice from local friends if you have any, otherwise, if you need some advice from a trustworthy agent (of change) on whether a piece of land that you’re interested in is fairly priced, then get in touch, and I’ll either try and help you myself or put you in touch with a trusted person that can help you, however there will be a cost for this valuable service, and you should be happy to pay it, as it it’s about creating a social economy for people and projects worthy of support. If you are financially challenged then exchange possibilities may exist. As they say in Permaculture … It all depends. I know that if you understand and trust what the vision of Earth Neighbours is about and you are willing to support it with your heart then it will prove to be a very valuable and worthwhile service for you.

I’ve also been starting work on creating a network, of trusted local people, that can be available to help people with finding land for their off-grid, sustainability, permaculture regeneration project. The idea is to build a small economy from this. Something that can help to sustain the people who are ‘on the ground’ and with good intentions. The network will start local, and small, but it will grow to cover all areas. It all starts with one to one. Peer to peer. The basis of all direct and honest communication. If you’re interested in supporting then please get in touch. If you’re interested in knowing more then stay tuned. First priority right now is creating fire breaks in case any other fires break out close by …