Living off grid in Central Portugal

“Life in the woods” is the report made to raise awareness of the realities now spread to Portugal, where families from foreign countries, have decided to settle down and living ethical, sustainable and self-sufficient. There are many lands in Portugal, abandoned, often left at the mercy of eucalyptus monoculture crops, which are replaced with vineyards and indigenous crops. The new generations have often preferred to migrate, see the strong immigration in Angola, and the fathers of these lands have no chance to leave their property to anyone. Now for some time, English families, German, Australian , with a few thousand euro, are buying or detect, houses and ruined soils and, with their work, giving new life to these places, specifically, restoring old houses. They engage in cultivation of trees and organic vegetable gardens and using renewable energy .


 Reportage “Life in the woods”

I came across these “English”, as they are usually called in Portugal (even if they are then also Australians or Germans, people from everywhere) six years ago, hitchhiking aimlessly. And just one of those steps ‘hitchhiked’ convinced me to stop in the area around the dam of Cabril, rather than go forward. The passenger seat, where I was, was on the left, while the woman who was driving (with the steering wheel on the right) was speaking in English. Her proposal, as soon we met, was to help her with her four year old daughter, as a babysitter, and stay for a few weeks in a yurt on her property.

I have personally experienced this way of living a life without more traditional modern comforts, although it is one with many unique conveniences, and an extremely environmentally friendly one. For me the most obvious example of this was the dry toilet (compost-toilet), which consists of what appears to be a shared water closet, but without the siphon filled with water discharging into sewers, as we are used to. Uncovering the seat (to squat is not to sit comfortably), the “Humanure” (ie. human manure) is collected in a bucket and covered with sawdust, until the bucket is full. At that point it is emptied, by hand, into a large container, where the organic waste from the kitchen is collected and then left to decompose via bacterial processes for a couple of years. The result is a fertile soil for use in the fields – In other words, the waste is returned to the soil, those elements that come from the same soil are consumed by bacteria to fertilise vegetation and are then digested by humans – a proper biological cycle.

Today, as a videographer, I thought about going back to photograph this uncommon contraption I encountered by chance, to share the experience with those who might be curious to know more. As with everything photographic, if the starting point is something known, then it often leads to an investigation into something that was not known before. I do not know if we can talk of “reportage”, I’m not a reporter; I think of the construction of a video as if it were a poem – it uses the same primitive language, has the same childlike freedom, the same lightness.

The fact remains that, as people filming, and then building a video like this, we have something serious to say. For example the problem of infestation of dead eucalyptus that makes the soil infertile as well as inflammable, or the consequences of flooding caused by the construction of a dam. But the stories they tell are not only stories of a united community, the people who help each other in the work of the Earth, the people who are concerned about the environment they live in, the custodians of Earth one might say. As is explained in the video, upon finding a hive in their hut, Hugh and Astrid have chosen to allow the honey bees leave to stay and even grow flowers for them, in the hope that supporting a wild hive will allow it to form an immune system capable of surviving in such hard times for bees, after all their extinction would have serious repercussions for humanity.

This first video (of the two-part series) was discovered during a first meeting at the beginning of April. I will return in June and then July to further the discussion, meet other people. The arguments will continue: all repeated constantly that I should go to meet this or that person, that makes this or that special and/or interesting thing. It is an open work, therefore, a work in progress.

Project realized by Produzioni Clandestine

Notes : The subtitles can be switched from ” settings ” on youtube .



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  • Jane Bird
    April 30, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Did you visit other places in Central Portugal, higher up? There are many of us here further up, living amongst villages, integrating more. There are permaculture projects here, families homeschooling, living off grid. Growing our own food, raising our own goats and chickens. There is more natural flora, fauna up here, less Eucalyptus…Nice video, nice people, good to see more joining in this life, more people aware of the problems of human culture and learning to adapt with the traditional ways. My neighbours teach me their language everyday…share their fruit with us as we share our milk and eggs with them….Life is sweet, children happy and healthy…Thank you for sharing you video…onelove

    • Tatiana
      June 29, 2017 at 4:58 pm

      Please tell me where to come. I wish to live and learn in a sustainable community. I do not know where you are in the north. The Eucalyptus fires scare me.
      In love and light,

  • Simone Cannova
    April 30, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Hello Jane, it would be interesting to come and film at your place as well, I’ll go for another session in June, expanding the “reserch” with other people as well; let me know where I could reach you

  • Eco Direction
    April 30, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    Hi Jane, Glad to know there are more people join a green lifestyle. Please feel free to share it with us! We have a storyteller section. We aim to give more details about the methods adopted to live off grid. Would be great to encourage more people to lift up their lives and thei own communities. Thank you for your support!

  • John Morais
    April 30, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Olá Simone,
    Congratulations for your work and sharing of the many things that are happening in this land.
    I want to invite you to come and visit our project near the city of Águeda, Aveiro district.
    We usually make volunteer events and we are planning to make a walk to show the developments of the project.
    In case of interest, I’m welcome to show you around on a convenient time.

    Take a look on your blog and Facebook page.

    Thank you for your attention.


  • Ralph Morris
    July 14, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    So interesting your lifestyle,I have to say I’m envious,my life mostly predictable and lacking natural stimulation,I’m planning a trip to explore possibilities of changing my life ,wishing you good fortune in all you do .

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