This is a picture of where it all began, the farm, in the forest, in the mountains, in portugal.
I think its important to try and be as sensitive as possible to the environment in which we are a part, and that includes the way in which any of us build, from our approach in siting buildings, through our choice of materials, and to the method in which we construct.
In an effort to achieve this sensitivity I think its important to be thinking about what we are doing, constantly. To think about what we are doing and our relationship to all things.
As such, I would like the finished building and all the necessary ancillary work to blend seemlessly into the surrounding landscape. With that in mind I will endeavor to maintain as much of the existing landscape as possible. However, and its a big however, it was necessary to fell a number of the pines to put the driveway in. I know it must have appeared as a scar on the landscape, yet subsequent planting and natural reseeding of the area have taken place and have begun to soften it.
Further, in order to improve access to the site, and to protect it from damage due to blowdowns (which are not uncommon here) and fire hazard, as a preventative measure I have taken out a number of pine trees within the vicinity of the planned build.
And although right now, as I write this it may not look as sensitive as I would like, that is my end game, where I am headed toward.
In the beginning of this story, there was a series of farm buildings comprising several parts, perched on the side of the mountain, with terraces sloping off. Slopey terraces may be great for harvesting olives, when you want them to roll down the gathering nets, they are less great when it comes to access and building.
Our farm has an access road running though it, just above the house site, and an ancient caminho publico (that’s public path/right of way, to you and me) running from that road, past the house, along the boundary of our land, and up through the forest on the dark side, to join up with another camino that runs from further down the road, through another section of our land, and from there eventually back to the village. This makes improving access to the farm or building site somewhat contentious, or frowned upon to say the least.
Access from elsewhere is just as fraught with problems. The steepness of terrain governs this region, and nothing much short of a civil engineering project can sort out our access issues. Or that’s how it appears.
We could remove some more trees from the mountain side and excavate a wider pathway with at least one change of direction, wide enough to get a tractor down, but there isn’t really the width of terrain to achieve that. It’s very steep, but not very wide, and it would be marginal at best, and at worst it would undermine the road, which would be a massive headache.
Access back up to the building from elsewhere on the farm is equally entertaining, and would involve crossing more than one other farm to get here, negating the possibility of coming from a different direction.
So we have ourselves a bit of a situation, not uncommon here, where you have no access for plant, and crappy, at best, access for farm machinery. Even though from the roadside its not 20 mtrs to the back of the building, to the front obviously somewhat more, its awkward, steep, very steep in places, slippy when wet, or covered in pine duff, and further confined by a stone wall down the other side. Provided you are able bodied you can get up and down without too much effort, but try barrowing a load of ballast or sand down and it becomes its own stupendous game. It doesn’t matter how strong you are, you can only level fill the barrow or it runs away with itself, or spills, because you have to hold it at such an elevated angle.
What I’m trying to illustrate here is that everything that goes to the farm or building has to be ‘man hauled’ as Shakelton would refer to it. It doesn’t take long to understand why, in the past, people farming here used donkeys and mules and asses.