After a 6 hour bus ride north, about one third of the way up Portugal near the Spanish border, we arrived at Elvas (pronounced Elvash) for our first Portugal WOOFing experince. An American lady and a Swedish man, together with their 11 year old son Thor, had bought a run down and neglected 10 hectare olive and orange farm just over a year ago and they are trying to resurrect it. Miranda is a novel editor and Krister is a book illustrator and these jobs they continue to do online to bring in an income while they wait for the olive harvest in October. They are in the process of organising to export their organic, early pressed olive oil to the States.
Quinta da Velosa is a huge, sprawling house complex that includes a gate house, a chapel, a mule house and used to house Dominican monks at one time. One wing has been renovated for an Air B and B - an additional source of income.
There was also another German woofer there, who was mainly helping the two Portuguese workers, and another young French couple on a few weeks vacation. A mixture of languages was heard during the day. Krister spoke Swedish to their son Thor, Portuguese to the local workers, English to Miranda and us with a little French when the WOOFers couldn't find an English word.
We did a variety of jobs - raked up chipped mulch from pruned branches and bamboo and wheelbarrowed it under all the orange trees, finished painting the entrance gates, watered the oranges with a big hose or had the water flow in channels between the trees, picked up already cut donkey feet shoots (new growth on the olive trunks) and put them in piles to burn, cleaned out around and in a large stone water tank.
There has been no rain since May and everything is really dry. The olives don't mind as they are very old trees and have deep roots.
The first couple of days there the temperature was 40 plus. We got up early in the morning just as it was getting light, had a quick cup of coffee (strong expresso in a small cup) and worked for a couple of hours before we came in for breakfast. Then we finished round noon when it got too hot, had a long afternoon siesta and did another hour or two in the cool (relative!) of the evening. Luckily they had a nice swimming pool which we enjoyed taking a dip in several times a day.
Despite the stone buildings looking dilapidated, they can be renovated. The collapsed roof tiles are removed and the wooden beams replaced if necessary. The old, cracked plaster is chipped off back to the sturdy rock wall and replastered.
Because Evlas is near the Spanish border (Miranda and Krister often go to Spain to do shopping) there are many forts dotted along the countryside as Spain and Portugal have fought back and forth over the centuries. Elvas is a quaint World Heritage town with a cobbled square, narrow cobbled streets, and also a very high stone aqueduct which in Roman times provided water to the town.
From Elvas we headed south once more back to the Algarve area for a few days R and R in Tavira before starting our final Portuguese WOOFing job.