pista de arado restorative

in a valley north of lagos, algarve, is my mate mike’s beautiful ‘simple’ living home. a hectare of land nestled in this pretty valley that runs east to west with the ribeira da cerca. it’s fringed with native cork oaks, willow and some eucalyptus. the little river had already run dry, earlier than last year and the year before.

mike’s dug two wells and has large containers of collected rainwater. this is carefully used to wash and clean, and recycled to water the many fruit and nut trees he’s planted over the last two years. he lives in a yurt, and has built a kitchen, compost loo and workshop, with help from neighbours. he has a big plunge tub in a shady canna circle near the creek. i shower with a spray hose by the veg garden.

the ocean is in the distance at night. with cicadas, nightingales, blackbirds, owls, hedgehogs. under a starry sky and a bright flower full moon. it’s the sounds i turn on digitally to get to sleep in the city.

valley dusk

the days start with fresh juice, local kombucha, stretching in the newly erected open bell tent shelter, then some harden work or other making and tidying. coffee or fresh herb tea and a shady break. a little more work and then garden produce for lunch, after a nap, yoga, meditation , we head out to visit neighbours, shop at the hardware store, a coffee maybe, a swim at the immaculate efficient free local pool, then a beach for walk, swim – mike goes spear fishing – and some gentle yoga as the sun lowers. then home to water and cook, eating under the stars with george the cat charming his share of dinner from us.

i pee into a bucket beside the van i’m staying in. it goes on the indigo seeds i’ve planted – water conservation and recycling is vital!

indigo patch and a gifted cotton plant

on my last but one morning before breakfast i pick 8 courgettes from one patch. preserving needed. or he’ll sell or swap with friends.

Ribeira da Cerca ochre

collect red earth in a paper bag

break large stones with a larger stone

pound in a pestle


remove larger stones that aren’t breaking or are granite

keep grinding 😄

add water and mix –

for mike’s bell tent we used it straight from the pestle bowl. adding concentrate from the wet pigment jar to moisten if needed ( see next stage below)

pour off pigment liquid into a clean jar and allow to settle for 30 mins

pour of or syringe top clear water. repeat a few tines to get stronger pigment

this is wet pigment

return to stones and repeat. reuse water

dry the pigment in a muslin, collect water to reuse

store in a paper bag or jar if totally dry. label it!

add a binder/fixative as desired: gum, resin, shellac, beeswax, linseed oil, alcohol, mineral oil – only if really needed!