Enxames: one of the newest (1989) freguesias in Portugal with about 500 inhabitants, situated in a bowl between several serras. The meaning of the name is "swarms" as referring to the many beehives in the village from which gorgeous honey is being made.
We are Annie and Erwin from the Netherlands (born in 1961). We both had the same dream all our lifes to live in a cabin in the fields, but in the Netherlands this is unthinkable. We don't have a lot of money either, so: buying a nice house with lots of land and maybe a swimming pool or whatever, never was a possibility for us (and if it was it wouldn't be an option because we do not want that kind of life).
But several things happened in both our lifes: we came together in 2014, found out about our shared dreams and started looking for ways to turn them into reality together. We had little savings and we lost our jobs as a result of which we received a little bit of money and figured that it all together could well be júst enough to give it a go.
So we jumped onto the internet and figured that of all countries in Europe Portugal would be the best choice, we found some facebook-groups and profiles who already lived there, asked them some questions and contacted a real estate agent for some pieces of land and then it all went lightning-fast and now we already are 7 years on our beautiful land (the first year we drove regularly back and fro) and we never had one moment of regret.
We both have some sort of apocalyptic view on things: to us, how we as a species are doing, we are someday going to find out the hard way that we have been messing up our own habitat. In whatever way it comes we don't know, but it will come and we want to be prepared. That's why we live off the grid, trying to be as selfsufficient as we can. We have a solar system and use only 10% of what we used in the Netherlands, we have a vegetable garden, over a 100 fruittrees and we grow our own herbs for cooking, oils and medicine. Sometimes we read about a power-out in the village and we didn't even notice. As far as we are concerned: when all power shuts down, people are free to come and charge their cellphones (you never know: might come in handy when the sh.. hits the fan).
We both have children and parents in the Netherlands and would like to see them more often (I, Erwin, haven´t seen my grandchildren even once ), but in 5 years we'll get our state-pensions and then we finally cán, but living our dream compensates for almost everything.
We bought the land through a real estate manager in may 2015 in 10 days (including the trip from the Netherlands to Portugal and back). We díd make an appointment first and the real estate manager showed us 4 pieces of land. Annie fell in love with the piece we live on now instantly and I agreed immediately. We did a downpayment of 50% and went back to the Netherlands. Then in august the same year we went to Portugal again, paid the other 50% and the land was ours. It was a mess, totally overgown with broom and blackberries but we were só happy.
We put our campervan in the corner of one of the two lower fields that we have, went to Bricomarché to buy two cabanas and put them up on the same lower field, right in the middle (we wanted to live amongst our vegetables, well: that was the idea).
6 weeks later we went back to the Netherlands and on the second of january 2016 we went back to Portugal again to see how the land is in the winter, thinking we could go asleep in the cabanas that we put up. Well, that went a little different, the cabanas were in the middle of a lake and a stream went in on one side and out on the other: we built our "home-to-be" in the middle of a creek (which is dry in the summer).
Long story short: we left the cabanas in the field, slept in the campervan for several weeks in the middle of broom and blackberries and went home in a Portuguese car (because the campervan broke down) to the Netherlands end of january to come back in may again. Luckily the campervan was still there, so we had a place to live, cook and sleep in. And then it all started: we lived in the campervan for one and a half year, bought a new cabana, put down some rocks with beams on top and built the cabana on top of that. We do not use any cement or so, just wood and rocks for the foundation, if we would move to another place we could easily dismantle it and take it with us, all you need is some basic tools.
By the way: with everything that we do we try to use natural materials as much as possible: they blend in with the surroundings perfectly and for us most important: they're free, just laying there for the picking. We also love to re-use things that other people throw away, we believe that we can save our planet and we want to set an example on how that can be achieved.
We know many people from our village and we love them all. We found out that there are a lot of pieces of land and houses potentially for sale but not on the internet, because the owners don't want to work with a real estate manager. And because we have quite some friends who also want to come to Portugal and also are on a low budget (for a couple of 1.000 euros you can already buy a piece of land here), we thought that maybe it might be a good idea to bring the people in the village who have land or a house (or ruin) for sale together with friends of ours, just like exchanging phone-numbers and that's it. Sometimes I (Erwin) help a little with translation or go with friends to the Finanças office to help them get a NIF (Portuguese tax-number). That way I am helping the people in the village ánd our friends too and everybody's happy . Sometimes one of our friends see a house that's for sale through a real estate manager, then we go together to their office and I do some translation to get the process started. I don't require anything, just want to help our friends and the local villagers and most important: make friends ourselves, because friendship is way more sustainable than money (sometimes afterwards we get some gifts like olive oil, vegetables, home-made wine etc. or we make good friends and get a hug and that makes us feel humble and even more happy).
You know: helping each other is the best investment in your own future that you can do.
By the way: I (Erwin) hope that some day I'll be having enough time on my hands to start building a neolithic (Scandinavian) longhouse on another spot on our land, a structure from natural materials with a firepit, a foodforest for collecting edibles etc. People who come and visit us can then sleep there and feel how it is to live in nature and with nature, to be really away from the madnesses of modern day society...
Our village has about 500 inhabitants, but the area is very large: almost all houses have their land and / or garden all around it. On the outskirts of the village there are many people living quite isolated, mostly on old farms with lots of history that you can only reach by a dirt track, sometimes you even need a tractor or off the road vehicle to get there because regular cars can be damaged by the bumpy road. But most quintas are very well reachable (bom acesso). There's a bus going regularly to and from Fundão and the village even has a trainstation. It's about 20 minutes drive away from Fundão and 40 minutes away from the beautiful city of Covilhã. There's a lake (barragem) only 5-10 minutes drive away in Capinha, where you can swim, fish, lay in the grass under the trees and even buy something to eat and drink. There's a little stream 5 minutes from the village, where in september you can sit or lay flat in the water and let the little fish eat away the dead skin-tissue from your body. And there are many river beaches and other lakes close by too.
Enxames is one of the newest freguesias of Portugal, it's not even 40 years old. It basically is a conglomeration of smaller settlements that have been bundled together into the freguesia de Enxames. The name refers to "enxames de abelhas" which means "swarms of bees" but there's also a story going round that there's a second meaning behind the name: "people who have swarmed all over and who have found their home-(bee)hive in Enxames".
The village has two cafés and mercearias (grocery stores), a posto médico, a post-office, a primairy school and a place where you can buy all kinds of building materials for very competitive prices that can be delivered to your house for free. They also sell large bags of fertilizer and other stuff for gardening as well as animal food and other things related to living on a farm.
The inhabitants are very nice people, they are all very helpful and understanding. The people who work at the junta de freguesia always try to help you with whatever question or problem you have and the presidente de junta de freguesia is a very kind and caring lady who really loves the village and all it's inhabitants. We are sóóó lucky to be amongst this tiny sweet community. We say "you haven't really seen Portugal, if you haven't seen Enxames (and it's surroundings)". Well: just come and see for yourselves, feel the serenity and friendlyness of the village, have a drink at one of the local cafés and take a tour through the area around it, you will be amazed by the diversity that Enxames has to offer.
Some useful links:
- Website of the junta de freguesia
- Facebook-blog about Enxames
- Facebook-page of the junta de freguesia of EnxamesSeja bem-vindo nos Enxames! (be welcome in Enxames!)
We left the Netherlands to go to Portugal because in Portugal we can live the life that we want: off the grid and as selfsufficient as possible. When we arrived to stay forgood, first thing we did was building a vegetable garden, it was a huge struggle. The whole spot was overgrown with broom and blackberries and we didn't have a bushcutter at that time. The weather was hot and it was the end of may so we were already late for seeding so we were kind of in a hurry. But half of june everything was in the ground. We also still didn't have a wellpump, so we had to use buckets on a rope to get water and walk 50 metres with it uphill to water 3 square metres of garden, I (Erwin) lost over 15 kilos in the first two months and every evening we were fast asleep at 21.00 o'clock, completely exhausted.
But the grass was 40 centimetres high too and badly needed to be cut. So we bought an electric strimmer because we wanted to use the solar energy as much as possible, but it was undoable with that kind of machine: there was too much to cut and the machine-engine completely overheated and broke down. We bought two of these afterwards but always the same problem. Finally we bought a petrol-bushcutter and that was a gamechanger; we should have bought one right from the start, but what do a bookkeeper and a taxi-driver know?
After one and a half year we had put up our cabana and it felt like pure luxury after living that long in a small and old campervan, the garden was doing fairly well (but far from perfect) and we made it a home already. We were thriving: most of our vegetables were coming from the garden, we made our own toothpaste and medicines, we baked our own bread from whole wheats that we ground with an antique coffee-grinder and we cooked mostly on a camping-gas-cooker, yes: we were (and still are) living our dream.
Bit by bit we grew into the homestead: we have 2 greenhouses now, a lovely bathtub outdoors made from an IBC-container, a woodshed and workplace from scrap materials that others threw away and so much more of that kind of relatively little things that for us feel as huge steps: every time we finished a small project we enjoy the extra that it brings, no matter how small it is: it has been sitting on our to-do list for 5 years and then suddenly it's there.
Our vegetable garden, that we are still developing since two years (we made a mistake 7 years ago to start planting vegetables on the hill where the house is). This video is made at 06.30 in the morning, it was 10 degrees Celcius and I was shaking from the cold, trying to keep my voice steady...
We still don't have any farm-animals (just no financial resources to build a chicken coop or a shed and a wall to keep sheep). But we dó have two cats and a dog and they are a great help: the dog keeps the wild boar, the foxes and the deer at a distance and the cats eat all the mice, rats, moles and voles who destroy our plantbeds.