Fence and Firewood Fun with Friends

Work Exchange in Portugal

After about five or six weeks at Keela Yoga Farm living communally, working hard every day, drinking copious amounts of red wine, pooping into a bucket, and having cold showers I think I was due a bit of a break. Happily, Sinead and I had the opportunity to head over to my friend Keri’s place for a few days to help out and hang out. She’s been living in Portugal for a couple of years (making awesome natural products) and building up her property and her business and I was curious to see what life was like over at hers, at least for a few days. I felt a bit of time off the farm would be good opportunity to gain a bit of perspective, try some different work, enjoy a hot shower and sleeping in an actual bed, and to go back with a renewed appreciation for the Keela experience.

Work Exchange in Portugal

So after a fairly rowdy evening at Alpedrinha’s Chocalhos festival (which was one of the best nights of my time in Portugal and you should go if you get the chance), we scraped ourselves over to our Keri’s house to see what work she had in mind for us. Lucky for us and our current obsession with building, she was eager for us to design and build some sort of a fence to surround her super deep and slightly terrifying (but very cool) stone well. She provided some tools and a forest filled with mimosa trees and we provided an extremely vague design idea and the blind confidence that we could get it done, despite never having built any sort of fence in our lives. I think that’s been the common theme for me on this Portugal trip… not really knowing what I’m doing but being able to figure things out as a team, listening to each other’s ideas, talking things over a zillion times, and then executing something that doesn’t fall down. It’s a fine way to work!

Work Exchange in Portugal

We were pointed in the direction of the tool shed, the well, and the forest and we got to work. Well, first we had to hack through a small mountain of brambles surrounding the well which took most of our first day of work (and scratched my legs into oblivion), and then we came up with a very rough plan (we decided on the ‘whimsical’ look, and that was about the extent of our plan). We chopped down a bunch of mimosa from the forest nearby, looking mainly for thicker pieces for posts. The mimosa is a fire hazard in the dry summers and it tends to grow a bit out of control so the added bonus was thinning out the small forest a bit. We chopped some posts, decided where they’d go, and bashed them into the ground. Sticking in some posts seems like a fence building type thing to do, and so we did!

Work Exchange in Portugal

Since I’m sure extreme detail in how we built this fence is exactly what people love to read, I shall continue. We then got some long pieces of mimosa to put on to of our posts to tie the whole thing together and using a chisel that was fairly similar in sharpness to a spoon, we attempted to do some basic joints. It was a challenge and I learned the hard way never to leave my set of chisels all alone at home when there’s work to be done. Eventually we got the tops on our fence and then we went searching again for long, spindly pieces so we could weave them and make something resembling a whimsical fence.

Work Exchange in Portugal

It was a really fun small project and I loved it. I’m not sure it’s the most sturdy of fences to exist and we never did get around to making a gate for it, but it marks where the scary well hole is and I think small children and small animals will be deterred, at the very least. Win! We banged this up pretty quickly (for us) and it’s cool to have had the experience so I know that in the future if I need some sort of a simple fence, I can figure it out. As someone with zero formal woodworking training, I think it’s these small jobs that all add up to some sort of a vague confidence in my building abilities. I think I’m ages away until I feel remotely adequate at woodworking, but I feel like these little projects act as baby steps in the right direction.

Work Exchange in Portugal

After Keri’s Fence of Whimsy was completed, we got down to the less inspiring but equally as fun job of moving firewood from the field and stacking it in the shed. Weirdly, I loved this afternoon of work. Hard manual labour in the hot sun using wheelbarrows… yes please. No, but really. I muled the logs into the shed, Sinead stacked them, we got ashy, we were tired, I had fun.

I loved the time we spent at Keri’s and it was really cool to hang out and see what her day to day life is like, at least for a few days. One of the most intimidating aspects of my living in Portugal plan is the whole doing it on my own thing. I have some confidence in my very mediocre building abilities so it’s not that part that scares me. Plus I’m pretty sure I can figure out the whole land buying process and all of that bureaucratic stuff, too. My hope is to find a property in the Alpedrinha area of Portugal and I know a lot of people here so I think I’ll have a nice community of friends around me so I’m not massively worried about that aspect, either.

Work Exchange in Portugal

I’m not sure what about it freaks me out… maybe just making such a huge commitment, maybe the fear of loneliness despite knowing lots of people, maybe brutally injuring myself with a misdirected chisel and then stumbling into a deep hole never to be heard from again, or maybe something else I can’t quite identify. One reason I wanted to help out at this Keri’s place is that she’s doing things on her own and I wanted to attempt to get a feel for what that actually looks like.

The property itself is a house with running water, electricity, and all of that fun stuff. It’s a far cry from the ruin that I’m hoping to start with but I was trying to imagine my pile of rocks turned into an actual house and what it would be like to live here. I felt all peaceful and content when I stayed here and I especially loved the thought that having my own place would mean having the ability to make my own decisions as the property is slowly built up.

I had an awesome experience spending a few days at Keri’s. It was fun hanging out, eating together, chatting, working on some different things, and did I mention the hot shower?

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *