This is part of a series of posts where we ask one of our volunteers or visitors to say a few words. Max was with us for a marvellous six weeks, and wrote this piece the evening before he continued his travels.
A Visitor’s Perspective: The Land of (Goat’s) Milk & Honey
Six weeks ago I boarded a bus bound for a farm I’d only seen a picture of, in a town I’d never have gone to otherwise. Winding up and down through the mountains half sleeping, half staring out the window in awe, I made it to Casalinho. A good meal, clean mountain air, and the full moon in a clear sky sated my wonder for the night. The next morning’s discovery of eight puppies, chickens, goats, ducks, rabbits, children, Australians, Dutch, English and another American took it to another level.
I won’t bother with the details of every single day, but they’ve all been good. I’ve cut a lot of goat food in the last month and a half, but have been consistently rewarded with fresh goat’s cheese. I developed (and eventually overcame) an addiction to the locally made honey. On bread, in porridge, or simply by the spoonful, it haunted my dreams in the sweetest way possible.
I learned to milk and butcher goats, and to make goat’s cheese (with the magic honey, of course). I got to plant trees, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, pumpkins and onions. I dug water channels, moved fence posts, split wood, practised concrete rendering, helped build a compost toilet, and even got to clean a couple out. The work has varied daily, and there has always been something to learn.
Beyond the day to day occupation there is, as Jeroen says, conviver. Work, eat and drink together. I spent a day working with a local friend of the family building pedestals for beehives. Mostly I just carried concrete beams. But, the work started with a large cup of wine, and ended with chouriço and cheese sandwiches. All truly difficult work is accompanied by alcohol, it seems. The two Portuguese barbecues I was lucky enough to attend at Casalinho were fantastic. Pork cooked over an open fire has never been so good.
It’s my last day and I’m feeling rambly and sentimental, so I’ll spare you the rest.
It’s been real, Casalinho.
Fare thee well!