Senda Verde Permaculture Eco Center

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Lynn and Tom Hart are pleased to announce that Quinta Sao Domingos, holiday apartments in Guimaraes are now open.

Lynn and Tom Hart are pleased to announce that Quinta Sao Domingos in Guimaraes, near Viseu Portugal is now open for business.

Swimming pool, BBQ, terrace and gardens with your own luxurious apartment

A restored farm house and adega (wine house) on the edge of a small village in Central Portugal. The village, Guimaraes, is located about 8 miles north east of the town of Viseu about three miles off the road to Satao.

The Viseu skyline

There are two apartments in the Quinta, (farmhouse) one 2 bedroom, and one 1 bedroom.

Quinta Rosa is on the ground floor and has a kitchen, utility room, toilet, large lounge, and double bedroom with ensuite bathroom. Across the small internal courtyard there is a further double bedroom and ensuite shower room suitable for people with disabilities. It should be noted that the rooms are on different levels so internal access with a wheel chair is limited.

Quinta Azul is on the first floor with access up the staircase at the front of the Quinta with 14 steps. There is a large open plan kitchen and living room, double bedroom and ensuite bathroom.

We offer four self catering apartments, 2 x 2 bedroom and 2 x 1 bedroom. There is a 12m x 6m outdoor swimming pool, with an outside kitchen to enjoy barbecues and the local wine. This is a beautiful largely unspoilt area and is ideal for a quiet restful holiday. The apartments have been refurbished over the last two years, and furnished and equipped to a high standard, they are kept meticulously clean.

Adega Tinta is on the first floor up 10 steps to an open plan kitchen and lounge. There are two bedrooms with shower rooms, one double with a view of the lagar (wine making room) and one twin.

Adega Branca is an upside down apartment, reached up six steps,†with the double bedroom and ensuite bathroom underneath the lounge and open plan kitchen

The village is quiet and peaceful with virtually no traffic and looks over a beautiful rolling landscape to the Serra de Estrela Mountains in the east.

Our garden contains orange, tangerine, lemon, grapefruit, peach, apple, pear, fig, pomegranate, walnut and chestnut trees, together with a small vineyard and flowers.

For more information please visit our website or contact us.

Quinta Sao Domingos


Sao Pedro De France

Viseu 3505-350


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Skype tomatmill

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Thursday, 15 April 2010

The nasty secret in your kitchen cupboard.

18 of 20 most popular tins made with controversial bisphenol A in lining

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Independent

Some of Britain's best-known foods contain the controversial chemical bisphenol A, The Independent can reveal.

Tins of Heinz baked beans, soup and beans, John West and Princes fish, and Napolina tomatoes are lined with a membrane containing bisphenol A, or BPA, a molecule of which is pictured top left. Other companies using it in their tins include the biggest retailers in the UK, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda, who use it for tins of tuna and sardines.

Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has given the chemical the all-clear, in contrast to the US Food and Drug Administration, which in January expressed concern over its impact on the brains and development of young children and said it was "taking reasonable steps to reduce human exposure" to it in the food supply. After the American U-turn, the EU-funded European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) launched and is still carrying out a review of BPA.

Read the rest of this article here
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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Here comes the long emergency

Surplus oil production capacity could disappear by 2012 a report from US Joint Forces Command, says. Photograph: Katja Buchholz/Getty Images

Lets Get Real
Posted on April 12, 2010 by onestraw

There has been ALOT of buzz about the Peak Oil Guardian Article today. And with good reason. For years we, on the “lunatic fringe” have been crying from the roof tops that the sky is falling. And now, the US Joint Forces, is saying the exact same things we have been. HA! We were right! Now who’s the lunatic sucka! But then, within seconds – IT hits. OMG – I’m right. THEY’RE right. Oh.My.God. …2011 oil surplus is gone. Um, that is 8 months from now! 2015 the world is 10 million barrels short. A DAY. In 2008 the US used 19.5 million brls/day. Aw, shit.

Oh, but it gets so much better. I hate reading reports of reports, so I spent 5 minutes tracking down the original Joint Forces Report to learn more. The data they are basing their predictions on is the IEA World Outlook. So lets look at that for a minute:

Right. See the light blue – that is our current oil production. It drops like a rock. Not good for Business as Usual. So if I am reading this right, the IEA says, well what if we put like a bajillion more drills into the current reserves? That gets you the dark blue block- pulling the oil faster, not adding more oil. This is wicked expensive, and won’t really happen any time soon. Why not? Because it didn’t happen at $150/brl oil so there is no way in hell its going to happen at $87/brl oil. But the beauty thing? The billions of infrastucture in drilling only gets us flat for a year, and then 10 million barrels –per day– short by 2015. 4.5 years. Ah but what about the red, gold and green splotches? Notice the lines through them? I translate that as IEA speak for “good fucking luck” or “Cheney made us put that in to stop world panic”.

But back to that JOE report I linked to. The JOE report is the Joint Operations Environment report and sets out to paint a backdrop for strategic planning for the next 25 years. Its the military so they spend the first half dozen pages talking about honor and history and manifest destiny with the obligatory quotes from Ancient Greece. But then they get into a sober frank telling of the Big Issues of the coming decades. Their conclusions should scare the shit out of each one of us. 5 of the Top 1o will sound very familiar to readers of this blog:

* The Economy
* Oil Scarity
* Climate Change
* Water Scarcity
* Food supplies.

Are Rob Hopkins, Richard Heinberg, and David Holmgren working for the Joint Chiefs? Remember that this is based on the largest and best funded intelligence gathering entity on the planet. Let me state this again – at the highest levels our military views oil, water, climate change and food as strategic issues. Let that sink in for a good long minute.

But as I read through this I was struck by the same thing I almost always am (except when I read the 3 authors above). While the JOE report talks about Oil scarcity by 2015, and 40% of the world being thirsty by 2030 and millions of people under water by 2030 they don’t connect the dots. What they don’t get is that we will be out of oil, thirsty, under water, hungry AND broke. At the same time.

4 years ago I started this blog to document our attempts to be more sustainable. Buying organic. Installing CFL’s. Driving a hybrid. I read and read and my concern deepened so I started growing more food. And working on energy projects. I began to question if these were problems to be solved or if, as John Michael Greer stresses in The Long Emergency that these issues were now predicaments to be reacted to. I guess I have answered that question for myself. We saw the effects of $4 gasoline. Ironically, the recession bought us “time” by reducing oil consumption. We are now seeing the economy resurge. But it will smack into the energy reality before the end of the year or so and we will see economic growth sputter again. But this time we will have less capacity – no more stimulous and unemployment will still be 10%+ so we will likely fall farther and take longer to rebound.

Problem or Predicament, we have our design criteria. Water, energy, “money”, and food will all be scarcer in the future, and likely the near future. Our solutions and preparations will be as diverse as we are – and rightly so. But they must focus on being 3 things:

* Local
* Resilient
* Regenerative

I am scared shitless about how fast we have crossed the tipping points and how even those of us who have been working so hard aren’t ready. Greer nailed it – this will be a LONG emergency sparked with respites, like the one we are in now, where things feel good and we can get our feet under us. But we will get thrown again, and all the uncertainty and fear that we all felt last year will return only to recover again, but to a lower level of “prosperity”.

There is much to do.

Be the Change.

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Friday, 2 April 2010

The Three Sisters guild

The three sisters is a term used by some North American native people to refer to a grouping of plants that work well together: CORN, BEANS, and SQUASH.

In 2006, the three sisters will be planted in Sonoma County in as many locations as are provided by persons volunteering in support of this growing process. All work will be done by volunteers. Food, transportation, music and prayer will accompany all the plantings. Corn, beans and squash produced will be given to volunteers according to their needs, and all surplus will be donated to local charitable food distribution centers.

The three sisters is a term used by some North American native people to refer to a grouping of plants that work well together: CORN, BEANS, and SQUASH

The intention of the documentation of this process is to provide a simple working knowledge for anyone to grow these basic staples of life. The reason for providing this information is that so few people in the USA have any connection to growing their own food. Farming ancestors are three or more generations in the past. In many other countries, even the city residents have parents or grandparents who worked the land, and could provide survival information for younger generations.

Here’s an outline of how it is done. First, determine the earliest planting date in the area for hard corn, which takes over 100 days to become mature. Some of the corn types are heirloom varieties, and may take nearly another month to finish. Also, some time for the corn to harden and dry in the field is needed.

When the corn stalks have reached an average “waist high” then a single bean of the climbing or “pole” variety is slipped gently into the earth in the “toes” of the corn, so that gophers don’t readily find the seed. In a few weeks more, the bean sprout is climbing the cornstalk as a support, and also “fixing” nitrogen for the corn. This soil enrichment can result in an extra ear of corn for the stalk.

Depending on the soils, and rainfall in the area, winter squash is then planted in the spaces between the corn stalks, and the broad leaves shadow the earth and provide cool moist climate for the roots of all three plants. The squash can be planted from seed if there are not too many weeds, or transplanted in as larger, faster growing plants after cultivation and weed removal in the field of corn and beans. Once the squash begins to vine, no more work is done in the field until harvest.

Another valuable aspect of all three of the sisters is that no special means of saving the food is needed, such as refrigeration, canning, cooking, drying, root cellars, etc. The foods are field dried and then placed in the home until needed. Winter squash can sit happily under the table or on a bookshelf and provide interesting conversation. Beans can wait in jars, and corn can be tied in bunches by the husks and hung on the wall

Contact Steve Tinling
0191 278 1969

The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Native American tribe were the first to tell the story of Three Sisters, who grew up together in harmony – corn, beans and squash. It is a story that is shared by people in the Caribbean, and one we can learn from here in Britain. In Newcastle upon Tyne in the cold North East of England, an innovative project aims to investigate how different Native American cultures have developed sustainable horticultural methods and demonstrate how these principals can be applied over here.

Good Road community garden is an experiment in ecologically sound approaches to vegetable gardening, such as organic composting, companion planting and biological control of pests. This is a wonderful urban green space, which can be used as an inspiration and a resource by community groups interested in food growing or in cultural diversity.

Meanwhile, visits from Native American teachers introduce school children to accurate information about the lifestyles of First Nation peoples, who often lived in harmony with nature, and whom the children may otherwise never have the chance to meet. This project highlights the fact that interest in different cultures is not about focussing on the countries of origin of local ethnic minority groups. For there is no significant community of Native Americans living in Britain; yet through projects like Three Sisters, white children are able to learn about the richness of other cultures, and how this can be drawn upon to enrich their own culture.

`The corn, the bean and the squash are three loving sisters who must always live together to be happy. The older sister is tall and graceful, the next younger loved to twine about her and lean for strength upon her. The youngest rambled at the feet of their sisters and protected them from prowling enemies. When the moon drops low and the summer night is lit only by the mysterious light of the stars, these three sister come forth in human form wearing their green garments and decked in blossoms. They have been seen dancing in the shadows, singing to their mother earth, praising their father sun and whispering words of comfort to mankind. And women and men, to show gratitude, call the three sisters Dyonheyko, “they who sustain our lives”'.
Haudenosaunee (Iroquois `Longhouse' people) legend

I first heard this story when I lived in South London, it was told to me by my elderly neighbour, Uri Peart, who in his youth had been a farmer in Jamaica. He did not mention mother earth and father sun. He was a devout Seventh Day Adventist. But he did explain to me that people in the Caribbean have long since practised companion planting – growing certain plants together, so that they support and protect one another. He recalled being taught as a boy to put the three seeds – corn, bean and squash – side by side in one small hole in the soil, so that they would grow up together.

First the corn would sprout and grow up tall and strong; then the bean would twine around it's stem, so there is no need to build a `tipi' of bamboo canes as gardeners in Europe tend to do. In return for this support, the bean converts nitrogen from the air into food for the roots of the growing corn, so the gardener does not need to apply fertiliser. Then the squash will spread as ground cover, its broad leaves shading the soil to preserve moisture and protect the roots of the taller plants, while preventing weeds from taking hold, so again the gardener need not apply mulch.

Mind you, Mr Peart also told me about how he used to pick a banana from the wayside tree to eat on his way to school, or pick up a ripe avocado fallen from a tree as big as the Horse Chestnut which grew opposite our block of flats. It all sounded rather exotic and I was not confident that it would work over here where the climate is very different.
Inspiration for organic gardeners in England and Wales

We had a tiny pocket handkerchief of shared garden surrounding our building, in those days, and those who were fit enough and had some spare time would share responsibility for tending it. At the front our English neighbours kept a neat lawn and straight rows of flowerbeds in red, white and blue. But out the back my partner and I experimented with growing food. Our Ghanaian neighbours laughed heartily at our first small crop of potatoes, suggesting we should take them to the supermarket to sell. When we grew pumpkins, however, there were plenty to share with all our friends and we distributed seeds widely among our women's group and across the South London Permaculture network. Pumpkins are surely one of the most fertile kinds of squash we can grow.

Then when I heard about the Good Road project, I was very keen to visit and see for myself how companion planting was working successfully in the Jesmond Dene district of Newcastle upon Tyne, way up in the cold North East of England. Steve Tinling is the man behind the project. I met him on a cold winter's day, in his little port-a-cabin office alongside the council's plant nursery. Steve runs the Home Composting Project from here, distributing big plastic compost bins to encourage people to recycle kitchen waste in their own gardens. His office is beautifully decorated with garlands of colourful cobs of corn, such as you might see in the USA around Hallowe'en and Thanksgiving time. Steve told me how, very often people who have just come to pick up a compost bin will spot this display and comment, opening up conversations about the wider issues around sustainable horticulture.

In 1997, the Home Composting Project together with friends, colleagues and interested customers set up Good Road Community Garden to investigate traditional plant uses and historic growing methods of various Native American cultures. There is a demonstration garden, where you can see three sisters growing in the summertime, together with various wild or semi-domesticated plants. Sometimes visitors are surprised to see such an informal arrangement of plants in a garden. Well, that was the reaction of the first Europeans arriving in the New World. Native American agriculture was rather different from European methods, so the settlers did not recognise what they saw as farming.
Sustainable agriculture of the Original People

The indigenous peoples often practised forage-harvesting for their food, medicine and amenity plants, alongside farming which worked with, not against, natural ecosystems. Only small areas of forest were felled for farming. The three sisters were planted on small mounds, not rows. Planting in rows can cause soil erosion whereas mounds help to retain moisture and soil fertility, encouraging strong, healthy plant growth. Healthy plants are more disease resistant. And grown together, they attract beneficial insects, which prey on those that are destructive. This system is known today as biological control.

A key partner in this project is the International North American Indian Association, who have a base in Edinburgh. They hold the view that all peoples share one Earth and so have a responsibility to keep abreast of environmental issues which affect us all. They monitor the effects of industry on wildlife in America, and the introduction of beaver and other species into the UK. The project is also closely linked to the Lenni Lenape Resource Centre UK, which provides information and advice about specific Native American cultures to schools and community groups; and the Lenni Lenape Historical Society / Museum of Indian Culture in Pennsylvania USA.

The Lenape people occupied an area of Turtle Island (as America is known to them) stretching from Delaware to Long Island New York. Named the Delaware Indians by white people, their own name for themselves, Lenni Lenape means `original people' in Algonquin dialect. For 15,000 years before the arrival of Columbus they lived in small villages connected by a criss-cross of footpaths. They farmed, fished and hunted many species of animals and birds. To read the sad story of what became of the Lenni Lenape, please visit the website
Bringing the lessons home

Carla Messenger, Director of the Museum of Indian Culture, visited Newcastle in July 2002 to show an exhibition and give a series of talks to local school children about Native American sustainable lifestyles. The talks were held at Good Road in a polytunnel (polythene covered, tunnel shaped, plant-growing greenhouse) not unlike a Haudenosaunee Longhouse in construction. Carla talked about Native American technologies and cultures, including the re-use and recycling of plant and animal materials.

Steve Tinling showed me some artefacts of the type used by American Indians, including gardening tools made from a deer's jawbone and antlers. The antlers would be used for digging and the jawbone, complete with teeth, for removing grains of maize from the cob. He also showed me a great many varieties of seeds from the types of corn, beans and squash grown traditionally by the Lenni Lenape and other tribes.
Seeds of Heritage, Seeds of Diversity

These are heritage seeds, in that they are not registered in seed catalogues and so cannot legally be sold in Europe; but they can be shared and grown quite happily. And many people consider it increasingly important to do so, saving seed each year and keeping these ancient, rare varieties alive for the benefit of future generations.

I am starting to notice seed-swapping events cropping up around the UK in early spring. Perhaps we can hope to see exciting varieties like these become more readily available. Networks are beginning to emerge of people keen to share not just the seeds of special plant varieties but also the heritage of stories that go with them – stories about how the plants grow and what they mean to us.

For as well as complementing each other in the garden, the three sisters have for centuries lived in harmony in the kitchen. Corn gives us energy food, and some protein to help us grow strong like her. But when eaten together with beans, the protein from the beans combines with that of the corn to produce maximum benefit in our diet. (Think of tortilla and refried beans – they go together just like rice and peas, dahl and rice or bean or toast!) Now add some juicy squash, full of vitamins, and you have the perfect balanced meal.
And it works in Wales too!

Since moving to Wales and getting a bigger garden, last year I decided to have a serious go at growing the three sisters. I did not have success starting the three seeds together in each pot. But I did manage to start of first the corn, then the beans and finally courgettes – a kind of squash familiar to Europe. I used ordinary packet seed from the shops. And they did very well together. We were lucky to have a lingering `Indian' summer so the corn eventually ripened in September, and my family enjoyed a harvest festival feast of the sweetest corn you could imagine. I am sure my old Jamaican neighbour, Mr Peart, would be so proud of me, if only he were still alive to see my little raised beds, home-made organic compost and fine healthy crop of food.

Next year I hope to get hold of some heritage seed and contribute to the growing movement for conservation of plant diversity. You can get more information about plant diversity in an information sheet from Steve Tinling at Good Road.

The Truth WareHouse