Updated: Apr 1, 2021
***Edit: April 01, 2021
I'm making a quick update to this article because it's been getting some traffic lately, and I've learned a lot since this post was published in May, 2020.
My focus on homesteading in Portugal has narrowed to Central Portugal, and especially Castelo Branco. Here are two relatively recent posts that take a deep dive into Castelo Branco and Santarém districts.
The bulk of my interactions with Central Portugal consists of following a number of YouTube channels run by various ex-pats. The original article, below, points out a few (and I still follow each of them - good stuff) and now I would like to add a few more. Also, I have episodes from all of these vloggers on my Video page.
Luke and Sarah's Off-Grid Life - I've been working with Luke and Sarah for a while designing some merch for them. They're awesome. And they just got goats - win, win!
Eco and Beyond - Less homesteading and more renovating an old farmhouse and modest piece of land. Highly recommended.
Project Amber - Fairly new channel, well produced, documenting starting from scratch on a smallish plot while living in a converted ambulance with a spaniel.
The Indigo Escape - These guys are brand new and oh boy have they bitten off a big mouthful. I'm very interested to see how they fare. Best of luck!
Life Reimagined - These two are down in the Algarve, dreaming of opening up an eco retreat and, perhaps predictably, having problems.
Here are three examples of people documenting their experiences as they homestead/live-off-grid in Portugal. Educational, informative. You can find them on YouTube, of course, as well as the usual socials:
The Portuguese countryside hosts many thousands of farms and agricultural projects that have been effectively if not actually abandoned. Often this occurred when the children of those farmers grew up and moved to the coast in search of jobs and tourist dollars. The parents grew old and died, the next generation had gotten used to urban life, and the farms became overgrown and fallow. As a result, rural property in Portugal can often be had quite cheaply. Many immigrants and ex-pats have recognized this, as it is an ideal situation for those with a desire to homestead. There is a real community of younger people, often with families, buying these properties and trying to revitalize them. It's a way to live closer to nature, reduce overhead, and establish a lifestyle that relies less on the grid and more on oneself and one's neighbours (whether those neighbours be physical or digital). It's helpful that a lot of the infrastructure on these properties has often already been built with things like boreholes, out-buildings and terraces. Brush and overgrowth will need to be cleared, stone walls mended, cisterns repaired, and usually extensive work spent on living quarters, but the broad strokes are already in place, witnessed by the generations who raised families there before.
This movement, if you want to call it that, is championed on the daily by Carl Munson, host of the podcast and YouTube channel, "Good Morning Portugal!" He is part of a virtual community calling themselves the "Happy Homesteaders," people living as described above. I've talked a little about Carl elsewhere, so I'll just recommend his show here and highlight a recent guest of his. Her name is Lea, the main presenter on her YouTube channel, "Our Portuguese Homestead." She, along with her partner and toddler, documents the development of their farm in Castelo Branco, Central Portugal. They've been working on it for over a year, starting with almost nothing, building a yurt to live in, establishing gardens, caring for their trees. It's a real journey, regularly updated with lots and lots of practical and pragmatic advice based on both successes and failures. For example, here are some episode titles:
Learning old skills for the future - Preserving excess and spring potatoes
I've watched four or five episodes now, mostly dealing with the garden and yurt construction. I will be watching and learning a lot more. I will definitely be watching I think about the Apocalypse a lot - Thoughts on the current crisis, as I am very curious about a homesteader's perspective on the crisis. I can highly recommend this channel for anyone who is interested in homesteading in Portugal.
This blog post is going to take a while to complete. I want to watch multiple episodes of these channels so that I can give a good account of them. There is a lot of content available here, which is a good thing. I've watched a few from OKportugal, and I'm liking very much what I've seen so far. Quite a different experience from Lea's, with the farm being recently tended before occupation, and things like the helpful neighbour showing up with his tractor-drawn plow to dig up the vegetable garden.
Click on the above pic for a higher-res version. The level of detail makes me feel like I can hold the whole thing in my cupped hands. Photo of Vale de Silves by Berit Watkin.
Again, click for a higher-res version. Algarve View by David Lewis
Header photo, "Portugal," originally by Pug Girl
Photo, "Portugal," originally by Pug Girl
Photo of Vale de Silves by Berit Watkin