What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is a sustainable design system that provides for human needs while having positive effects on the surrounding environment.

It is based on the ethics of earth care, people care and fair share, and provides practical solutions to the global crises we are currently facing.

Permaculture is for EVERYONE, regardless of their education, background, or previous experience.

Permaculture is NOT just about trees, or just about gardening! You don't need loads of land to practice it and it's a design method that can be applied to all social systems.

Support our Project

We'll use your donations to further our plans to plant more trees and vines.

Frequently Asked Questions – Volunteers

So what’s the deal?

Volunteers are asked to work 25-30 hours a week around the farm in exchange for their meals and basic accommodation.

What sort of work will I be asked to do?

Anything and everything! The vegetable gardens and animals are where most of the daily work lies, but we often need help in the forest or orchard, with clearing land, with building or with other specific projects. If you have specialist skills it would be great to know about them in advance so we can plan projects you can be involved with.

We want everyone to enjoy their work, so do discuss with us if there’s anything you love or hate doing and we’ll try and accommodate if we can. Bear in mind that part of the experience is learning what life on a smallholding really involves! It’s not all butterflies and cuddly lambs!

Everyone is expected to help out with daily household maintenance tasks like veg preparation, washing up, collecting firewood, dog walking etc. These aren’t included as part of your working day, but we try and get them done together after lunch and it shouldn’t take long if everyone chips in.

Can I work with the animals?

Working with the animals could involve collecting and distributing food, cleaning them out or walking the goats. Everyone will be expected to help with collecting food for the animals and cleaning their accommodation.

For the comfort of our goats and to make sure we remain at maximum productivity it’s important that we don’t have too much disturbance at milking time. We’ll always try and accommodate if you’d like to try your hand, but please appreciate that this won’t always be possible, particularly if you are not planning on staying with us for long.

Do I need experience or special skills?

The most valuable things you can bring with you are enthusiasm, flexibility and a willingness to get stuck in. We will show you what needs doing and encourage you to ask questions, but please bear in mind that we have a lot to do and you might need to work alone.

Do I need insurance?

Yes. You need to ensure that you are covered for damage to yourself (accidents, illness and medical expenses) and damage to ourselves and our property (civil liabilities towards third parties). You are responsible for your own medical expenses, repatriation should it come to it, and for any damage that you cause.

Check that your ordinary travel insurance will cover you whilst you are engaging in farm activities. Some won’t.

WWOOF Portugal suggest OV Europa or World Nomads, who both offer policies designed specially for those doing volunteer work. As always check the small print. We’ve never used either company, but if WWOOF are suggesting them then we think they’re probably worth checking out.

Please ensure that you know how the Portuguese healthcare system works for travelers of your nationality and can provide the correct paperwork in an emergency. Not all European countries have a reciprocal agreement. We won’t pay your medical bills if you don’t get this right!

We ask all volunteers to supply us with a copy of their passport and emergency contact numbers on arrival. It’s also a sensible idea to ensure that copies of insurance policies and any other paperwork are easy for us to find in an emergency.

Whilst we’re talking about insurance I can’t stress enough that while you are working on the farm you are responsible for your own safely and we expect you to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of others and the security of our property. We’ll give you the best instruction that we can, but if you don’t understand or don’t feel comfortable with a task then speak up. We cannot read minds (despite all our other superhuman qualities 😉 ).

How about days off?

We operate seven days a week, so your weekly day off will be arranged to suit the needs of the project. It may not be on the same day every week. We’ve generally no objection if you would like to save up your time off and use it for a longer trip away from the farm to explore further afield.

How can I reach you by public transport?

You’ll find local public transport details here. For travel to Portugal without flying, look at this guide full of links.

What should I bring with me?

Take a look at our Packing Guide. It’s not intended to be a definitive list, so please ask if there’s something specific you’ve got in mind.

What is there to do locally?

Restaurants / Bars  – Great restaurants in Portela da Unhais and Casal da Lapa, both offering a lunchtime prato do dia menu. Both have wi-fi. Many more restaurants and bars further afield if you have a vehicle or want to make a day of it.

Swimming – In summer you may choose to swim in the local river spots, in the free outdoor pool at Meãs, or at the Barragem de Santa Luzia which is a little further away.  There are indoor pools in Pampilhosa da Serra and Fundão, both accessible by bus.

Barragem de Santa Luzia – This large lake offers fabulous walking and cycling, a fitness trail, swimming in summer plus canoes for hire, and a lively bar with wifi access. There’s a reasonably priced local restaurant/bar open all year, also with wifi, which serves local specialities like chanfana at a very reasonable price. Pay showers are available all year. A walk all the way round the lake should take around 6 hours or you can just wander more locally.

Walking and cycling – The whole area is great, with many peaceful tracks and little villages to explore. If you’re up for some more serious hiking it’s worth it for spectacular views. We’re within sight of the Torre, the highest mountain in continental Portugal and part of the Serra da Estrela mountain range. There are a number of suggested cycle routes which start at the Barragem de Santa Luzia, which also boasts a BTT centre.

Local markets and shopping – There’s a weekly market in Fundão each Monday and a fortnightly one on Thursdays in Pampilhosa da Serra. Pampilhosa da Serra is a small town with a post office, theatre, library, plenty of local restaurants and bars and all your basic shops. Fundao is larger. Both are accessible by bus for a day out.

We realise it’s quite a distance to travel to local supermarkets etc for snacks and ‘extras’ so our children run a ‘tuck shop’ for the benefit of our volunteers where they sell a range of drinks, snacks and essentials. This is an educational maths project for them and they are learning fast!

Can you cater for special diets? What’s the food like? Who cooks it?

We serve three simple meals per day whilst you are working. On days off we supply breakfast and dinner only. Breakfast is generally porridge and tea, lunch generally something light like soup, salad or bread, and dinner is generally a cooked meal. We feel that it is polite for you to be on time for meals.

We serve primarily vegetarian meals, including our own eggs and dairy. We use as many home produced ingredients as possible, so you’ll be eating the profits of your work! Where we buy food in, we try to consider seasonality and food miles.

We do not have the time nor budget to cater for special diets, but if this is likely to affect you then you are welcome to take the part of each day’s meal which you are comfortable with and supplement it with your own extras.  You will need to provide any foods which we would not normally purchase ourselves. The key is in communication! Please don’t arrive with a list of things you must have and expect us to have them in the cupboard.

We’ll normally do the bulk of the cooking, but we do expect help with veg preparation and washing up.

We have facilities for you to boil water for tea. We do not supply coffee, fresh fruit out of season, or in between meal snacks.

Our children operate a ‘tuck shop’ where you can purchase between meals snacks and drinks or other essentials.

Is there internet access?

We currently don’t have internet access for visitors to the farm, although we are hoping to soon. If you have your own device you will be able to use the wifi provided by the local council which is open office hours in Unhais o Velho or 24 hours in Pampilhosa da Serra. There is also a bar / restaurant with wifi in Portela da Unhais and another in Casal da Lapa. If you don’t bring a computer, there are a couple of internet enabled computers in São Jorge de Beira Post Office or larger facilities in Pampilhosa da Serra and Fundão libraries.

You can normally recharge devices at the wifi centre in Unhais o Velho or at the bars if you ask. As we cannot offer recharges at the farm you may wish to bring along a solar device.

How about telephones?

There is only one mobile network which works in the area, which is NOS. The signal isn’t great at the farm but if your phone has roaming it should pick this up (and will probably work better than ours!).

You will need to recharge mobile phones at local bars or the internet facility. You own solar phone charger may be a sensible investment if you are likely to use your phone a lot.

We have a landline telephone your family can reach us on in emergencies.

Can I bring my children?

We love hosting children along with their responsible parents. All families are different so we have no hard and fast rules as to how to manage the work / family balance. Older children may be able to work for their own keep, but where younger ones are concerned some parents prefer to work additional hours to cover their food costs whilst others prefer to provide some of their own meals or pay us for them. The best thing to do if you’d like to bring your children is to start a dialogue early on, letting us know how you think it could work and we’ll go from there. Children must be accompanied at all times.

Can I bring my pets?

No.
Don’t even think of arriving with a dog and not discussing it with us first.

Can you accommodate groups?

Absolutely! We hosted our first Scout camp summer 2010, and enjoyed it so much that we’ve hosted Scouts every year since. We’d love to talk to you about your group.

Have you got space for camper vehicles?

We do, but let us know in advance to ensure that we have space.

How about smoking and alcohol?

What you do in your own time and space is your own business, but please bear in mind that this is a family environment and we don’t welcome drunken singing at 3am!

We can provide you with home made wine, aguardente and jeropiga, either to drink here or take away as gifts. We normally have beer in the tuck shop.

Due to fire risk in summer, smoking is restricted to ‘safe’ areas and never inside the caravans or communal space. If you’re a smoker we ask that you’re meticulously careful with your butts. Not only is it horribly impolite to leave them lying about, but they pose a serious fire risk in a dry climate like ours.

Can I do my laundry?

We have a traditional washing facility for you to scrub your laundry in. You can buy ecologically friendly, locally made, laundry soap from our shop or bring some with you, but we do insist that you use it to avoid polluting our water. Alternatively, we’ll do your laundry on a per load basis for a donation to project funds. 

Can you tell me about your bathroom facilities?

We have a compost toilet which deals with solid waste in an ecologically friendly way and incorporates a pee separator so that this valuable resource isn’t wasted. Don’t worry if you haven’t used one before, we can explain the system.

In the summer we wash in the local river which is a quite wonderful experience and something that some of our previous volunteers have commented has been one of the aspects of their stay that they’ve really enjoyed. Each Spring we dam an area next to the farm. Please ensure you bring ecologically friendly toiletry products with you to ensure that you’re not polluting this resource. We try and stock some basics like soap in the shop.

If you aren’t up for bathing in nature, we do have a more conventional solar shower. We were lucky enough to win a grant from WWOOF for this work, and if you’re interested you can keep track of our progress via our blog.

Unless you’ve not managed to work this out alone, it’s worth pointing out that this is not the place to come if you are looking for a daily wallow in a bubble bath followed by blow drying your hair!

What should I do with my rubbish?

We’d rather that you didn’t produce any to be honest, but that’s probably unreasonable! But please consider packaging when making purchases. We’d rather reuse than recycle, so if you’re throwing out anything that you think could be reused please flag it up. Food waste goes to the animals and anything else organic like card, tissues or natural fabric goes into the compost. Otherwise we take recycling and rubbish into town when we go. Many guests decide to lighten their luggage load whilst they’re with us, so if you end up with anything you’d prefer to leave behind we’ll make good us of it or make it available to future visitors rather than throw it away. We have a book swap shelf.

 

If we haven’t answered your question, please don’t be afraid to email us!

Here’s a link to the WWOOF Portugal FAQ. You might like to try there.