10 Aug

Brush and bramble clearing

Brush and bramble burning

Tidying your land is much like tidying your flat. Feels good to clean up, get rid of stuff you don’t need, and see what you’ve got.

Clearing years of brush and brambles that have taken over much of the land is hard work, but is also very satisfying, because you see so much progress in just a day, and features of the land are gradually revealed. Also, the strimmer is a wonderful machine. If you have ever cleared brush without one, and then picked one up, you will know what I mean, and wonder how you ever thought to clear brush without one. It is indispensable to have a steel blade spinning at 10000 RPM as an extension of your arms.

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15 Aug

Cleaning old agricultural wells

agricultural well in portugal

There are a number of old stone-lined agricultural wells on this land. They were probably dug between 100-200 years ago, it’s hard to say exactly when, and it depends on who you ask. Suffice to say, they are marvels of creation. The amount of work that went into their construction must have been immense. The dry stone walls that support the sides down to the bedrock are impressive. They were often also dug well into the bedrock, as we discovered when we started cleaning some of them. Read More

30 Apr

Building a solar pump irrigation system

solar pump irrigation

A part of this land had been terraced decades ago, perhaps even more than a century. The terraces have mature citrus trees, some olives, figs and many grapevines. Three wells are located on these terraces including one large well next to which we installed this irrigation system.


To build an autonomous, solar-powered irrigation system that pumps water from an old agricultural well and delivers it to young citrus trees and grapevines on a terrace several meters above the well. The mature citrus in this area is different kinds of oranges, so we planted lemon, lime, tangerine and grapefruit. Read More

25 Mar

Building a siphon irrigation system

siphon gravity irrigation system

We planted about 30 fruit and nut trees in the fall of 2013. These are young trees from a local nursery. In this part of Portugal, summers get very hot and dry. It may not rain for 4-5 months and temperatures can exceed 40 Celsius on a regular basis. Young fruit and nut trees or berry bushes with shallow root systems probably won’t survive without irrigation. Fortunately there are a number of old stone-lined wells on the land. Most of them are still usable, and full of water. The others will need to be cleaned. This particular irrigation system takes advantage of the varied topography of the land. What we devised is a large siphon. The main garden/orchard is about 15 -18 vertical meters below one of the larger wells on the land, an ideal setup for a siphon. So in March 2014 my friend Alexander and I drove across Europe to bring tools and building material to build this system. Read More