Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Morning River Dips at Cara Creek Eco Lodge

Seia River ~ Cara Creek Eco Lodge
Back in March, just in time for the world to turn weird, I returned home after living and working in my home-town for 3 months of the winter. My first winter in years living in a finished and sealed up house at my Granny’s (talk about extra cozy and spoiled!).... 
Family, Work xmas eve, & Snowy window views in Boston
Living in Boston was a reverse culture shock back into “normal life” where the heat kicks on with a turn of a dial instead of a light of a fire. It was unusually easy to withdraw from the elements of nature ever-changing outdoors. I found myself walking to places that I normally would have driven to expose myself to what I had become so accustomed to. Living on our land in Central Portugal we live so closely with the rhythms of the river, the seasons, and nature... Especially the first years when we were living in an army tent with a wood burner inside.
Our set-up pre house renovation - Winter 2018
On my return, we started a bit of a morning ritual inspired by a friend who was staying with us at the time. Our friend was immersing himself in the river every morning at the river beach which sits at the bottom of our land. Rory joined first, and then I joined too.

Springtime is when the river is at its coldest because of the snow melting off the Serra da Estrela mountains. The frosty melt flows into the Seia River and travels down stream until it reaches Cara Creek Eco Lodge and a few more meters ends at the Mondego River.

It was high. We had had a very wet winter. The rainiest in decades, which led to some unfortunate flood damage for us... But we won’t get too into that... What we’ll get into is the power and fierceness that we were facing each morning getting into her freezing flow. 
There’s this dialogue I’d go through, and still do. “Is this good for me, really?” “Ashley, you’ll feel amazing afterwards.” “Maybe I’ll skip this morning, or do it later when the air is a bit warmer.” “Is the sun up over the hill yet?” “Will meditating beforehand help or make it harder?”... 
And yet once I’m down beside the river there is now an urge to get in and be still. Letting it flow past me and what feels like right through me. It’s a meditation in and of itself! Thoughts stop and there’s only my body and my breath and the river. The more I can slow by breath and soften into the cold water, the more amazing I feel both during and afterwards. A similar-ish benefit I’ve felt from my yoga practice for years and years. But this is a different rush I can’t quite explain - although I know all you Wim Hof cold exposure people know what I mean.

I often think of what one of my favorite Yin Yoga teachers, Sarah Powers speaks of -- "Softening into where it’s hard". And once I start my day with a river dip and can soften into being with that, I know that I can soften into other challenging things that may arise through the day. Physically, mentally, emotionally, situationally... Soften. Because isn’t everything so much easier if we can learn to soften into it?

It’s December 1st. My intention is to keep this ritual and this challenge going each morning, even as we come into winter here at Cara Creek Eco Lodge. And it makes me wonder... What other challenges can I face with a sense of softening?
View up river ~ Cara Creek Eco Lodge
It’ll be a different winter this year spending it in our sealed up AND centrally heated home. Yes, we still light a fire in our large wood oven which connects to a hot water tank and then heats up our radiators and our hot water... It's lush!

Wishing you all a happy winter season from us river dwellers and dippers at Cara Creek Eco Lodge.
Cara Creek Eco Lodge's first EVER Christmas tree ~ Cyrus the Cyprus, who will be planted in 2021😉

Monday, February 4, 2019

January 2019 - New Year, New Trees, New Planning Permission News

After spending the first week of January in Scotland, we arrived home to some surprising, exciting but project-altering news. Our architect urged us to come in to sit down with her ASAP, so there was our first stop from the airport. She informed us that our two ruins have been approved for restoration under the "rural tourism classification" which we need for the EU rural tourism financial assistance that we applied for (still pending) but either way... Great news that we're all set with that classification! The thing is that the council did not approve the extension of ruin 1, which we have been planning, designing, and redesigning for about as long as we have had the property...

One of many sketch ups from early days for the extension of Ruin1
So we've had to make some new plans, and design a new structure for the kitchen dining room that has to be 3 meters from the ruin. It's in the shape of a trapezoid, and will be built from cedar wood and have a rustic barn look. New sketch up designs for it below....

Although it caused us some late nights of brainstorming, playing on "sketch-up", and marking it out to see what and how we could make work, it has completely worked out for the best that the council are in favour of a new build rather than an extension. No matter how time-consuming and mind boggling it seemed at the time, things always do work out for the best. A lesson we've learned over and over again as we work through this massive project!

With the help of friends we have planted about 50 trees this month (thank you Dean and Evelyn!). We planted an orchard of fruit trees - apple, pear, peach, plum, nectarine, cherry - and nut trees - almond, hazelnut, chestnut, walnut... Plus some big trees which line the track coming into Cara Creek such as liquid amber, oaks and tulipfera. We put in some trees down by the river too - willow, silver birch, and gynko. After a few days of hard work getting all the trees in, we enjoyed a Saturday of showing Dean and Evelyn some of the gems around Serra da Estrela, including the old schist village of Piadao.

Another friend came for a few days to lend a hand this month too. Mullett and Rory put their engineering minds and skills together to fit some large stone stairs onto the outside of ruin 1. He also planted a nut tree in the orchard and helped to level out the area where the bathrooms are going, behind ruin 1. He got a really awesome go-pro video summarising the construction site, farm, and rustic life we're living. It'll be awesome to look back on it as we progress!

Other things in January... We've weaved some mimosa to create a bit more privacy for the rustic cob shower, dismantled the good old faithful temporary kitchen, and finalised plans and designs for the "glamping" pentagons which will be along the river. For February, Rory and Spike will be focusing on getting the kitchen/dining building done, our friend Jon will be constructing the decks for the 5 pentagons along the river, and our friends at Mytipi will be sewing the canvas for them. WatersEdge (Paul and Shelley) will be planting the filter side of the pool, which we're so excited to have for the spring!

Keep posted by following us on FaceBook and Instagram. Thanks for following along and reading!
View of our cleared little piece of paradise from the other side of the valley....

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

December 2018 - Cozy for Christmas

December was a fabulous and cozy month at Cara Creek Eco Lodge. Firstly, we moved into the downstairs of ruin #1 after living in our tent for just over a year. Regardless of how nice we kept our tent, it has been such a welcome change to move into 4 walls with the powerful wood burner stove. And now our tent is cleaned out and set up for visitors and work away volunteers to come😀.

Our miniature animal farm continues to go well. Our two Nigerian dwarf goat sisters have settled in great, and crack us up with their silly personalities every day. Our chickens began laying the tastiest eggs. Although it took longer than average for them to settle and begin laying, it was worth the wait for how good they are. 

We also got one of the miss piggies a boyfriend to breed, and ate the other miss piggy. The whole process of killing and butchering the pig went really smoothly, and the Pork was out of this world. We’re excited to continue expanding our farm raised meat and eggs, as well as growing more of our own veggies in the coming months too. It’s brilliant to truly know where some of our food is coming from and there’s a whole new appreciation for it as well.

Some new structures went up before Christmas, such as the roof structure over our outdoor shower, making showers in the rain a better possibility. And a wood shed has been built for our heaps and heaps of fire wood to keep dry.

We closed out the year spending Christmas with amazing friends, who welcomed us into their families and homes to celebrate with them. We enjoy the traditions here... especially the one of a lighting the village bonfire for the 12 days of Christmas from the 24th at 10pm until the 6th of January. Everyone gathers around the fire over the season with homemade cheeses, sausages, wines and more to share with who ever is around. It's really sweet. 

To celebrate New Year’s Day we planted new trees with our friend Gary, who came up for the pork party and then stayed on to look after the place and animals while we were in Scotland. It was wonderful to get his expert advice on giving our trees the best start. We planted many varieties of apple trees, pear trees, peach trees, and plum trees. It’ll be a few seasons before we get fruit, but it’s lovely to replace the invasive mimosa trees with a variety of different trees that will give back so much. Over the next month or so we’ll be planting dozens of a diverse selection of trees on site.

Just after ringing in the new year we headed off to Scotland to have our celebrations with Rafa, two of my great aunts who live in Scotland, Trina, and Matthew.

We’ve had a fabulous month of productivity at Cara Creek Eco Lodge, and a lovely couple weeks wrapping up 2018 and ringing in 2019. We feel refreshed, and have hit the ground running as we come into the new year. Good thing because it’s going to be a busy couple of months preparing for some great friends and family visiting in April 2019. Then we’ll be hosting (I’ll be co-teaching) a Yoga Teacher Training in July 2019, so stay tuned for more information on that coming in the next couple of weeks!

Keep following along on Instagram and on Facebook as things progress exponentially! Happy New Year to all! We wish you a healthy and prosperous one, and as always thanks for following along as our dream becomes a reality!