Author Archives: zephyr

Einhell Rotavator (Cultivator)

Einhell rotavator in Luz de Tavira It was a sunny and quite warm 22nd of December morning. I finally pulled out the box containing the rotavator (cultivator) from the shipping container. Three years on! I had bought in England but had never got round to using it. It took me a good few hours to assemble it the previous afternoon.

The machine seems to be quite well built. It started up the first time round and ran well.

The make of the machine is Einhell. Model: BG-MT 3335. It has a gross weight of 35 kg. The digging blades have a circumference of 25 cm. It has 163 cm³ 4 stroke petrol engine is a light noise level of 95 dB whatever that means. I’m not sure how to gauge levels of noise by just listening. I need to read up on this. It would be good to know at what decibel level damage to hearing begins.Einhell BG-MT 3336, Luz de Tavira, Algarve

I trundled the machine on its one solid wheel, half a kilometre down the road to the neighbours. I was making a small vegetable plot for them and this was an ideal opportunity to test out the cultivator. I never used one before.

All in all it went pretty much okay. The only problem I had was that because the plot was on a slope the machine could not climb the gradient on the blades and I had to physically haul it uphill. It also needed this sort of donkey work when the ground was soft as it simply sank in.Einhell at work Luz de Tavira , Algarve

The soil was a mixture of the native clay combined with 15 cm of imported topsoil and a couple of barrows of leaf matter, in this case carob leaves. Cultivator mixed this all nicely together in no time.

After this I finished off by terracing partially the plot. This was to stop the soil from running of in the event of heavy rain. For this I used a combination of logs and small stones to seal the gaps between the logs.

Not being in the mood to walk back home, uphill over stony ground, I opted to transport the cultivator by means of my electric bike and trailer. This went quite well in the cultivator is now back in storage eager to go again.

Update 29th December 2017.

I had a chance to use the cultivator a bit more today. I used it to mix in compost. The soil was damp but still quite firm, being clay soil. This is due to the fact we have not had consistent rainfall during the winter season. compost and bonji, Fuseta , Luz de Tavira

As my friend Kristen remarked cultivators are not easy to use per se. With this Einhell I found the narrow width and small size of the front wheel, makes it very difficult to push forwards. The engine is sufficiently powerful and the rotor blades keep turning. But the machine simply get stuck and it requires brute force to be pushed forwards or pulled backwards. You really have to be quite strong to use it. It requires real donkey work. Other than this it’s very good for working round trees and small areas. As you can see I worked in the compost into the strip of earth in between the young guava trees. Einhell cultivator working in Luz de Tavira, Fuseta

In a nutshell, this Einhell cultivator like other cultivators would would be of better benefit if it had self drive built-in. But I guess this would increase the price. So it is a case of courses for horses and beggars can’t be choosers.

The Beginning

Budget Shipping Containers,

Where to begin is the question. To know the exact point of commencing and reasons for a beginning.

Algarve Freight Services,

Of’course I have been giving this some thought for a length of time. In a serious way for a couple of years before the container. I had been making trips to Portugal to look at properties in Lisbon and southwards from there. Even as far back as 2001 as a family we toyed with the idea of a holiday home in the Algarve.

I think it was whilst doing the Renewable Energy module along with the Oceanography module as part of my bachelor of science degree with the Open University that I understood the path I must take. I can’t recommend Open University highly enough! I had superb support, with the course material being made available in audio format as well. Both modules were very good but I would say that the Oceanography module would have been better if it had been for more credits to cover all the topics in-depth. This is because it covered such a wide range of topics from geology, biology right up to monitoring the Earth from space via environmental satellite systems and data modelling that goes with them. This was during 2013 and 2014.

Prior to this the original idea was to come to Portugal and buy a flat or a town house and hopefully make a living by teaching English as a foreign language. This could probably work in a city like Lisbon where there is more demand for higher levels of english or in an area of Portugal where people speak and think in Portuguese.

But not here in the Algarve I think. I have found most of the native population and the resident communities of foreigners speak English.

While working through the afore mentioned course modules I gained insight into how energy from the sun drives our weather systems and provide us with other forms of useful energy such as fossil fuels – (yes your gasoline was originally solar radition), biomass (e.g wood), wind and of course solar energy which we can harness directly in the form of solar thermal (for hot water) and Photovoltaic (for electrical energy).


This helped change my thinking and I was able to appreciate that being able to grow once own food and generate ones own energy was in the right step to living a more independent life. And a life less dependent on fiat currency (money) as a resource. And so I started looking for a bit of land rather than holiday type properties.

Time was ticking, two years on and still nowhere to go.

The house was already up for sale so I decided to buy a shipping container. Yes, one of those big metal boxes that brings your goodies from China.


The Container

I went for a single use 20 foot long shipping container from Budget Shipping Containers . They provide an excellent service. I went for a single use container as they are almost new and have a valid shipping license which increases your transportation options. They also come with a wooden floor as standard which is nice. cont3

This is where I was going to put my things if the house was sold before my move. Coordinating the delivery truck with a mobile crane capable of offloading it from a different company proved a little bit of a challenge. But we got there in end and had the container sitting in my front garden.

Seeing as I did not know exactly would end up I will end up decided to make the container habitable as a sort of makeshift mobile home.

The Conversion.

This involves insulating three sides of the container as well as putting in wiring for lights and sockets. The hardest bit I remember was getting the ceiling panels fitted in as they were quite heavy. I think I used 9 mm OSB. Behind the OSB panels I used 50 cm of foam insulation. I can testify that this is sufficient to keep out the heat during the height of summer in the Algarve. cont4

My brother Yuri is a very talented chap. He is multi disciplined and can turn his hands to most things. We experimented with solar photovoltaic technology as we doing up the interior of the container. It was new and exciting stuff. I also had some very good help from my friend Jorge . My other two friends Anthony and Jacob also chipped in helping with the wiring and carpentry to put the OSB (oriented strand board) panels in place. It all went quite smoothly.

All the hardware material was sourced from the Wickes hardware store. I got most of the solar kit from Bimble Solar.

Bimble Solar,

When I finally found a spot in the eastern Algarve, I used Algarve Freight to transport the container first by sea to Setubal and then by road. They really did an excellent job.

Freshly Pressed Olive Oil

olive press, Algarve, Portugal

Olives being loaded onto the conveyor

Middle of October was amateur olive picking season commenced in the eastern algarve mid October. This was linked to the Co-operative press in Santa Catarina do Fonte da Bispo starting up. No money ideally exchanges hands. People collect their olives and take them in for pressing to extract the oil. The co-operative keeps a percentage of the oil. I have yet to confirm this, but I believe you get about 1 litre of olive oil for every 10 kg of olives pressed.processing2

The first pressing of a batch of olives gives you the coveted virgin olive oil. If you want to get the this virgin oil from your own batch of olives you need to make an appointment to take them in and you need to have a minimum quantity. I believe this to be 400 kg.

Olives off to be pressed for their oil, Santa Catarina do Fonte da Bispo, Algarve, Portugal

Olives off to be pressed for their oil

The batch I combined my small harvest of 41 kg exceed one tonne. This was a combined harvesting effort of seven to eight people, including my two neighbours with whom I harvested olives. For the purpose of oil extraction the size or variety does not seem to be critical. Having said this, if a batch has too many very raw green olives it will be rejected. This is because of raw olives adversely affecting the pH value of the oil finally produced.

I have recently found out that there is place in Tavira which buys harvests of eating quality olives for 75 cents a kilogram. These would have to be harvested carefully, preferable by hand to avoid damaging them. I may explore this option next year.

olives, Algarve, Portugal

Tired but satisfied

Harvesting olives for pressing is hard word. You lay mats, tarpaulin sheet or nets around the base of the trees and then use suitable implements to knock off the olives. Implements we used included cane poles, garden rakes and some plastic rakes from the Chinese shop. The latter proved to be ineffective. Olives that a lower down can be stripped of the branches directly into a bucket.

harvesting olives, Luz de Tavira, Algarve, Portugal

Work buddies 🙂

Luckily the weather was on our side and those two days though tiring were fun as the it was sunny enough and not too hot. My neighbour kept the troops well fed and watered as we worked harvesting the trees on her plot. All in all, it was a great experience.

extra virgin olive oil, Santa Catarina do Fonte da Bispo, Algarve, Portugal

Extra Virgin!

Estava ao Norte! – I was North!

capela da Nossa Senhora de Socorro

capela da Nossa Senhora de Socorro



DSC_0129September was simply fantastic in that I had the chance to visit my dear friend Jorge Morais and his parents in the town of Albergaria a Velha, in the north of Portugal.



While up there, I gave Jorge a hand in what little way I could, He is renovating a ruin in a semi abandoned village which he hopes one day will be a meditation centre. Jorge is also in the centre of a reforestation project up there. The project involves creating a corridor of native trees such as oak through an area dominated by monoculture of eucalyptus trees grown for paper pulp. Senhor and Senhora Morais were impeccable hosts.


Senhora Morais is a fantastic cook and made an huge array of desserts during my week long stay. A new dessert almost every day. I am sure this is what made me gain a couple of kilos. Jorge was kind enough to take me to meet his friends friends2 friends1whist I was up there. It was really great meeting all these very friendly people.

Thanks to Jorge I was lucky enough to visit Figuiera da Foz, Aveiro and the historical university town of Coimbra.











Weather wise,  it’s significantly fresher up north than in the Algarve, hence greener too.


Back on the home front things progressed a bit slow. Still no running hot water so I have have to boil water in a pot for bath. I am also still waiting for a quote for the kitchen units. Outside things are growing. Lots of lettuce and cabbages. The odd melon and pumpkin. The cherry tomatoes have fizzled out but I am getting a few plum tomatoes “Alex” variety still coming through. The bougainvillea given to me by Vitor, of Viverplanta is doing really well. This ruellia was given to me by my swedish neighbour has really taken off and is growing well. I get immense pleasure seeing the vivid purply-blue flowers daily. When up north we visited Claudia, who generously gave me this pear melon plant amongst so many other gifts.

pera melão, pear melon

Pear Melon / Pera Melão

I am really pleased that it is growing well!




Senhor Morais was kind enough to give me a variety of portuguese basil, called Manjaricão and Peppermint (Vietnam Horta) Both are growing well.

Manjaricão / Portuguese Basil

Manjaricão / Portuguese Basil










I am also pleased that the lemon grass given to me my a kind lady by the name of Beverley, from the local gardening club is doing really well and can soon be divided. lemon grass

The work on the earth bag chicken house has been slow. But I did start laying the roof rafters today for a reciprocal roof.

earth bag build chicken house

earth bag build

My excuse is that I have been working part-time with Vitor :). That’ s about all for September.




In Aveiro

My lazy August


Well, this month has been a bit slow in terms of getting things done. It has been scorching hot since mid July but things have cooled down now. That’s my excuse.

pumpkin, Algarve

pumpkin at last

Down by the swale, aka Seven Sisters Ditch, I finally got a pumpkin. I had almost given up as they have been flowering but nothing.

Melons were a bit of a let down they started of well with strong leaf growth and young melons but
then suddenly died back.





last of the melons

This is the last melon plant in the same location as the pumpkin with  a decent sized melon.






young fig trees

Nearby the young fig trees are growing vigorously thanks to the irrigation pipe my brother put in when he was here.

The tomatoes were amazing but the bushes have started to die back. There are still Sweet Million F1 cherry tomatoes coming online but the ‘Alex’ variety has all but died out.


young plum trees

The plum trees have been shooting away after I began some extra irrigation with the hosepipe.





young_carobUsing the hosepipe I have managed to keep about half of the carob seedlings I bought. I lost almost all where there was no irrigation.


carob seedlings

Managed to find a few self seeded carob seedlings which I transplanted into pots. A couple are growing quite well.














The avocado that I grew from seed has also made it through the summer.








Been picking my almonds. It is a slow business as I have to pick them off the trees by hand as I can’t see them on the ground.









Processed the first olives of the season for pickling. This year is a good year for olives. Despite it being bone dry my three large olive trees are loaded. The dry conditions also seem to have deterred the mediterranean fruit fly as almost none of the olives I harvested, had the tell tale puncture marks.







lettuce, Algarve

With a decent amount of irrigation and manure the  lettuce has been growing well. I swear a good amount of it is self seeded.


earth bag build

The earthbag build is going slow but steady. I have to really step it up before the rains come.

The casinha itself is progressing slowly. I have yet to put in a hot water system and a kitchen. The UV filter I bought on Amazon literally burst into two… O_O

So all in all, plenty to do still.

Offering a Wild Camping Experience


Fuseta Beach

ria Formosa

Ria Formosa

Offering a wild camping experience for small groups of upto 4 people.
Set in two acres of natural scrubland and almond, olive and oak trees. Surrounded by orange groves and further natural scrubland, it is the ideal place to get away from the crowds and the bustle of the city. Being just 2 km away from the nature reserve of the Ria Formosa and 4 km away from the beach at the lovely town of Fuseta you have the best of everything that is the Algarve.

Facilities and other stuff you need to know.

  • The toilet is an out door composting type.
  • The shower consists of an outdoor shower. Essentially hosepipe. The water from it is sufficiently warm during summer.
  • Fires have to be above ground and in fire pits with  extra care being taken during windy conditions.
  • Due to the nature of the location no loud music can be played on site.
  • Cycles are available for hire.



What is available.


Free stay with lunch for half a day’s help around the place . The type of work would be such as building an earthbag chicken house, clearing the land and planting trees etc.

Backpacking? Not a problem as a couple of “two man” tents can be provided if required.


To make a reservation please use one of the following options:

Telephone: +3519xxxxxx


[sbc title=”yes”]


Spring is here!

plum tree in flowerI can tell it has because all the young almond trees are putting out leaves. And my black plum tree (ameiceira preta) is in flower! I am excited because I only planted it a month ago. It was a good size tree when I bought it and hopefully I’ll see a few plums!


This month has essentially been about grafting. I had started grafting a few olive trees using cleft grafting and a splice union graft.  I think I pretty much have got the hang of cleft grafting. The splice joint takes more time and effort. It also is not as strong as a S(or J) type graft where the scion and root stock actual interlock. I’ll have to learn this for next year.

Cleft grafted peach onto bitter almond tree

Cleft grafted peach onto bitter almond


A neighbour whose land borders mine kindly gave be some peach tree branches to use for firewood.

I must take him to lunch. I am sure he is an interesting man. He is Portuguese. He was 30 odd years in Africa as a colonial soldier .

Anyway, I then had the brilliant idea of grafting some of these branches onto my bitter almond trees and excess almond root stock. So fingers crossed it works and I am able to coax something sweet from the otherwise  inedible.

Splice graft - peach scion onto almond root stock.

Splice graft – peach scion onto almond root stock.













DSC_0402I germinated some tomato seedlings! Two varieties, ‘Alex’ and ‘Sweet Million F1’. Sweet million really came through for me last year, despite being neglected and being put in heavy clay soil. So I hope for a repeat this year. Alex who visited last spring, had given me the ‘Alex’ variety of monster tomatoes in 2012. This was in England, so I had the seeds with me. Hopefully they will do well here.




The tiny cutting of this daisy type plant from England survive the winter and is really thriving!

Linda says they are Chrysanthemums.

Linda says they are Chrysanthemums.












Coeve Galega

Coeve Galega


I put a bit of irrigation pipe alongside a part of my bother with the front road and have stuck in fig and pomegranate cuttings. There are also a some young carob (alfarobeira) trees growing. I also planted some Portuguese cabbage (coeve galega) here.





Here is my fig tree nursery.

fig tree nursery

fig tree nursery




Some cabbages and green peas growing at the Seven Sisters ditch (swale) around the young orange trees. I find that  grass cuttings on top of  small shredded olive branches and leaves and wild fennel stems works well. The latter support and help the grass cutting to filter down the organic layer slowly. Otherwise the grass on it’s own would compact tightly and decompose far too quickly. Which is not bad but as my friend Martijn said it’s gone too soon.





My just eight green pea plants doing well. Already had a bowlful.

green peas

green peas








Loving my Vortex gingabike. And the trailer it can pull. I used it to buy some wood and go get a bottle of gas from town. It goes very well with the trailer attached.

Vortex electric bike and trailer

Vortex electric bike


Well, that’s all for February. I broke a bone in my hand a couple of weeks back which has slowed me down but I can’t stop. Staying warm in winter has been a challenge. Thank goodness I had my stove. It has been brilliant. It does hot water for my bath and I have cooked a lot of stuff on it too.

It is warming up nicely now so roll on March 🙂


January in the Algarve.


Has been a mixed bag. We hand a couple of weeks where the temperature reached 19ºC during the day and didn’t fall below 8ºC at night. We have more normal winter weather now with a cold northwesterly blowing and a excepted maximum of 13ºC. But is is sunny so my solar panels are working well 🙂 . I still haven’t built a charge controller for the wind turbine to harness all the wind energy we have here.


Gardening/agriculture wise it’s been a good month. I have started a green compost heap to try and rapidly compost weeds. However I don’t think it will be sufficient so I invested 30 evros in a metre cubed of “stumu”.



I think it is essentially bog. It smells likes the place in Kenya where we used to go to buy earthworms for fishing.













I have applied some on a small vegetable bed where I have planted some cabbages and four cucumber plants. They are under the cut bottles. DSC_0398I am excited about the cucumbers as I have never seem a cucumber plant before!

I added the cardboard layer after planting as this is when I managed to get hold of some. It works very well as a weed suppressant.




organically grown cabbageOf the cabbages I planted in November I got only 1 badly eaten individual. But it was tasty. 🙂 I got some red cabbages growing at the Seven Sisters swale (ditch) so we’ll see have they come along. I currently get a steady stream of lettuce leaves, even in winter.



Jamie Oliver Green Peas

Jamie Oliver Green Peas

The trees are doing well. I have planted another plum tree this weekend  as well as a couple more carob trees. One of the two lemon trees has actually flowered! This is just the beginning of it’s second year’s growth. I might a actually see a lemon or two this year 🙂 . I need to press on with grafting more olive trees this month as well as try and set some hardwood cuttings of fig and pomegranate.





almond bloom

almond bloom

The almond trees are in bloom. I planted 30 almond seeds in late October in fifteen holes. Six almond saplings are now growing! I have also been transplanting some of my young almond trees as I have quite a few of them.

Young almond trees

Young almond trees












All of the EIGHT Jamie Oliver greens pea plants are doing well. I should have really sown more. The Portuguese here grown them in clusters. I’ll try this next time. I gt some gowning down at the Seven Sister’s Swale too. I palnted 10 potatoes in the heavy clay just to see how they will do. Six potato plants are now growing slowly.




I haven’t done much about the floor inside the house or built Primeiro his dog house. I need to built a chicken coop too. We eat a lot of eggs. Manged to solve the horrible smell you used to get after you emptied the urine tank by creating a simple U-bend in the flexible hose.


I am slow but I am having fun doing what I manage to do :).

Olives 2014

Olives – we love eating the things!



picking olives

I picked mine October onwards. I have 3 cultivar olive trees. They have not been pruned or cared for in years – so have grown very large and unkempt. Their height makes picking olives for eating very difficult. I was only able to pick olives of the shortest one. This with the aid of a ladder.


Over the season I picked 3 kilogrammes of olives from the one tree. The olives on all three trees were heavily infected by the Mediterranean fruit fly. They lay their eggs in the olives and their larvae then eat the olive from the inside. This year I must do something to thwart them. Since I don’t want to spray with pesticides, I think my options are limited to clay coating the olives. I have read that kaolin clay is the clay to use but I think any other fine clay would be suitable. The other option is to use fly traps around the trees.


I marinaded the olives following an italian receipe which I found on the internet. I had to substitute the dill with wild thyme as I didn’t have any. I do have a lot wild thyme here so there’s always a wild time to be had 🙂 . I never knew about wild thyme until one swedish neighbour introduced me to it. She is a very knowledgeable gardener. For my first attempt I have to say I am very pleased with the result. DSC_0277 DSC_0377

These olives are certain very edible and I have eaten my way through half of them.


I have a lot of wild olives trees. They produced either no olives or very miniscule ones. I however had one wild olive tree produce half decent olives. wild olivesThey are about half the size of the cultivar variety and while not having much flesh on them are still worth the chew with drinks.DSC_0306











Today I attempted cleft grafting a wild olive tree. We’ll have to wait a few weeks to see if it’s successful or not. I have read up on and am still learning the different techniques used to graft trees from articles on the internet. I have my grafting compound and grafting tape and am definitely raring to go come spring! DSC_0383





End of year and a new beginning..

DSC_0357So 2014, draws to an end. My life here in Portugal has got busier and more difficult in the latter part of the year. I am still very happy nevertheless.


The wooden lamparquet floor I was installing ended in dismal failure. It has lifted in several places in the kitchen. It will all have to be removed. I have switched to tiles for the living room area. This together with obtaining Portuguese residency consumed a lot of time.


The dog’s been difficult as well . He bit me a few times but we have made a lot of progress since then. I can’t still touch his basket with him in it. He’s very possessive. He needs three walks a day, so I am walking a minimum of 5 km everyday with him.


DSC_0316Winter’s been cold. I don’t have adequate heating and the heat loss of the cottage is horrendous. There is really no insulation to speak of. Luckily the temperatures have only hovered a little below 4ºC on just a few nights. I am using a stove as my sole heat source. I also use it to boil water for bathing. It’s too cold for outdoor showers now.


Trees. I have planted quite a few trees! Mainly fruit trees. I have a small orange grove in the making but it will take a few years for them to grow. I planted them on either side of the swale. Green peas and lettuce are growing really well. I can also say cardboard layering works brilliantly as a weed supressant.DSC_0342






LE 300

LE 300

young lemon and lime and tangerine trees

young lemon and lime and tangerine trees


Got the wind turbine up. It’s only a 300 Watt one but I like it! At the moment it’s not charging my batteries as I have to build the charge controller.


Bring on 2015. It will be the real test for me. As someone told me, 2014 has been my watershed year.