Marisa Dipaola, USA / Portugal

Residency Period: 1 August 2016 - 31 July 2017


Marisa Dipaola was born barefoot on December 12th, 1977, and grew up in the cedar swamps and coastal Atlantic of southern New Jersey. She graduated with honors from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2000 where she majored in painting and began experimenting with site-specific sculptural installations. Upon graduation, Marisa received a travel grant to study la Mezquita, in Cordoba, Spain, which began a collection of travels to eighteen countries, studying the sacred architecture and natural wonders, producing site-specific artworks in Japan and Iceland as well as entire series of artwork while on residence in Spain, India, Italy, Egypt, Austria, and Bahrain.

She has exhibited her works internationally at museums, galleries, universities, cultural institutions, community gathering places, outdoors within natural sculptural parks and urban revitalization projects.


On-hiatus Proposal Summary

In the course of being a nomadic artist, Marisa Dipaola has wandered throughout the landscape in diverse surroundings, constantly inspired by the natural world that embraces us all. After residing in the southern Austrian Alps for three years, she and her family are ready for a road trip to move to southern Portugal, in order to buy and renovate an old farm as a sustainable, permaculture project: moonfarmers. Raising her three-year old daughter while this major project is on the go, she is unable to foresee any free-time to take part in the artworld, at least for a year or so. Instead, she will dedicate her time and artistic effort to turning an abandoned property into a sustainable small farm and retreat, and quite possibly a future artist residency.

Her time will be spent with rebuilding a sustainable habitation, sourcing and planting fruit and nut trees, native edibles, sacred seeds, establishing berry patches, grape vines, mushroom patches, a chicken coop, a small fish pond, a huge vegetable patch. She will use sculptural elements to create terraced farming areas, enhance microclimates and enable year-round cultivation courtesy of cold frames fashioned from old windows as well as illuminating indoor growing areas, a few wind-chimes, alternative-energy-generating works, and the interior redesign & redecoration of their living space. On a more scientific front, she hopes to incorporate the skills she learns during this time to create various sculptural projects that encourage growth, combining illuminated works with fungal works and garden projects to create sustainable, living artworks. Any additional free time she finds will be spent mending clothes from the pile she’s had gathering for years and to complete more butterfly carpets -- and there is that quilt she has wanted to make for her bedroom.

She hopes that the time working and reflecting while on-hiatus from the artworld, but proceeding with her moonfarmers project will guide the future, whichever way it grows.

Final Report

After taking a little hiatus from being "on hiatus"
I have had a chance to reflect upon this past year:
how far we've come as moonfarmers,
and how wide open our future can be.

Or perhaps I haven't really been "on hiatus" at all.
Years ago, I did an oil painting of a little wooden cottage,
set amongst a flowering garden, aptly named "storybook cottage"
for its allusions to an imaginary, out-of-a-storybook world.
I eventually used the painting as a proposal sketch
for "storybook cottage" a knitted inhabitable playhouse sculpture
I (& Mohamed) made for an exhibition title "There's No Place Like Home"
at the Paul Robeson Gallery of Rutgers Newark, New Jersey, in 2013.

Coming together in the final moments, the sculpture was visually satisfying:
and at the opening, a hit with the toddlers (& their parents) visiting the exhibition.
But under its intricate surface, this knitted world was only an illusion,
and an indication of my desire for a real storybook cottage to inhabit.

So here we are.
This ongoing project,
or series of projects,
has only just begun.

And yes, I intend to keep some sort of online account
of how we are progressing, with all our various activities
(something I wouldn't have thought of doing without
the encouragement of the RFAOH community).

But this year being on hiatus has given me time to reflect on what else I can be,
how much further, and farther, my life can take me than simply being an artist.

And funny, everything I thought I'd be doing once I was "off" hiatus
(like keeping up with other correspondences & re-entering the art-world)
I hadn't really thought of lately.

Instead, I've been sitting in the shade watching our garden grow,
watching flower petals unfold and bees buzzing from blossom to blossom.
And watching the stars shine, and finally seeing the owl I'd been hearing lately.

Mohamed had recently told a lady,
who had asked if I had been painting,
that "yes, marisa has been painting with water..."
meaning that I had scattered seeds throughout our yard
and as I spray water across the land,
vibrant colors and forms come to life.

But now that it's August, I have really been "on hiatus" from technology,
including emails and taking photos (& apologies to my parents for that);
and instead, focused more on Marmalade's story-time and creative play
(which reminded me of the years ago I spent teaching arts to children
& the years before when I was Marmalade's age, in my own imaginary world),
and reading (especially as a new book on companion planting just arrived from my Dad),
and materials-collecting for our home and gardening projects.

We dug out all the collected glass bottles, driftwood,
seashells, colored stones, and the tangles of gathered fishing ropes,
to prepare our materials for newly repaired outdoor furnishings,
Marmalade's playhouse, our front porch, and bathroom remodeling projects.
And found another nearby trail within Bamboo Parque littered with fallen bamboo,
perfect to complete the outdoor kitchen area and the pergola over our front porch,
which now has three upright posts with three crossbeams.

And, for some time now, I've wanted to make a collection of wind chimes,
and with all the collected random materials, I can finally begin creating them.

And I dug out my oil paints and stash of brushes,
and began repainting a nasturtium painted on a found metal sign in Austria,
as its trailer trip out west last summer left it dirty, scraped, and stained.
Perhaps an apt metaphor for our journey to arrive here;
but I'm ready to move on, move forward,
and so repainting it with our garden's new blossoms.
Once finished, it will become decoration for our fence,
as another friendly welcome to the moonfarm.

And Marmalade and I begun our largest collaborative project yet,
repainting the back wall of our house, which, hopefully,
will soon become the inner wall of Marmalade's own bedroom.
Painting this mural reminds me that I truly love painting on walls;
and that although I am not just a painter, I do love painting.

(& I've wondered how I can share that love here;
& painting our house seems the first logical step.
Yet Marmalade's school, most of Zambujeira do Mar,
& the Casa Viva teahouse in Odemira all seem possibilities
to spread my colors further & to reach a wider audience;
something I imagine would unfold over the next few years.
& speaking of Casa Viva, we'll be there more often,
since Mohamed will be leading a weekly capoeira class there.
So painting their walls seems a very real possibility, too.)

We are also trying to get the place cleaned up a bit,
to feel like we've finally moved in and claimed our home
(& get it ready for a huge visit by Mohamed's family).

And I've been really busy with the bounty from our garden:
jars and jars of blackberry jam, applesauce, and pasta sauce.
With a growing pile of adorable summer and winter squash,
and bush beans, tomatoes, arugula, kale and cauliflower,
and kohlrabis, tomatillos, cucumbers, onions and pears
(which sliced thinly together make a lovely salad!)

And, as our summer harvesting is in full swing;
we are also getting the garden ready for the fall planting season.
We're putting in another few planting beds for an exciting collection of fall favorites: radishes, peas, onions, garlic, broccoli,
rainbow beets and carrots,
and including: fenugreek, red cabbage, celery, shallots, leeks and rutabaga,
that I've never grown before.

We arrived one full year ago,
as our first day in Portugal was Marmalade's third birthday.
This year we have so much to celebrate, so much growth, joy, and surprises.
Marmalade wished for a birthday picnic at the beach,
so we invited the Sebastians to come along,
for lunch and chocolate cupcakes by the sea;
not all that different than a scene from one of her storybooks.

While wandering our land harvesting all the ingredients for the garden salad,
I realized that our home really is out of a storybook:
over a river and through a bamboo forest...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

While our first residents were here in the early summer,
I really saw the potential the moonfarm has as a residency;
not just the location and tranquility and mild weather,
but the abundant found materials and room to experiment.

I've been on enough residencies
(& helped run Townhouse's while there)
to know that I would excel at running a residency,
and hope that the glassbottle construction for the ruin
gives the moonfarm the perfect place to welcome all creatives.

Yet being "off hiatus" hasn't given me any extra free time;
I still spend hours daily watering, cultivating, harvesting, and cooking.
And there's always dirty dishes and laundry piling up.
But the year "on hiatus" has kept me focused on our goals,
and helped me remember that although life is mostly out of our control,
we do have a little time and space to spread happiness
and make our world a little bit brighter.

Thank you for this incredible opportunity.
And please come back to the moonfarm.

With peace and love,
m, M, m (& tuna)




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natural artists

Over a decade ago,
I was the drawing instructor
for (mostly) Sudanese (mostly) refugee artists.
It was an experimental drawing workshop
held at the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo,
and the director, William Wells,
had promised to personally teach the weekly workshop,
forgetting his incredibly crammed calendar.

So I gladly became the instructor,
needing a break from working (in the gallery’s library)
and wanting to meet other artists who were outsiders, much like myself.
Some were classically trained artists; some were not,
but had a natural ability of storytelling through provoking drawings.
And I was particularly excited to push the experimentation,
going far beyond creative content to materials exploration,
so we ditched the art materials (except the india ink)
and ordered up drinks from the coffeeshop downstairs,
focused working with brewed coffee, black tea, and kircade (hibiscus tea,
a common drink there, bright fuchsia in the glass, various shades of indigo on paper).

Our weekly critiques gave me a real opportunity
to look at other artists’ works with a constructive perspective,
always discussing strengths as well as areas for improvement.
But mostly I appreciated their unique styles of representation,
sometimes bordering on abstraction,
that evolved week by week.

Fast forward to our last few days walking the beach at Zambujeira do Mar,
I am astonished to find some incredible artists at work in the tidal pools.
These small artists were drawing lines through their locomotion,
each ephemeral work recording their recent movements,
traversing the tidal pools in search of sustenance and a safe shelter.
Most of these drawings were done in collaboration with others,
an artist collective of periwinkles and other mollusks,
each tracing lines onto the tidal stones,
contributing to the whole abstract scene.
Reminding me of our experimental drawings decades ago.

natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artists at work, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar

While scouting out and shooting their artistic works,
I stumbled upon a few other noteworthy finds:
most striking the sculptural reliefs carved by the waves
and streams as they navigate their way to lower ground.
Their etchings record their reconnection to the great source
of water deep below.
And beyond.

natural artwork in progress, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artwork in progress, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artwork, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar
natural artwork, tidal pool, Zambujeira do Mar

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Southern (un)comfort

Yesterday we journeyed down to the Southern coast,
to segment the trip to drop off Mohamed’s parents at the Faro airport.
For us, it was an excellent opportunity to see the differences of the regions,
especially with the climate and ocean (drier & warmer, less waves in the ocean),
which leads to different architecture and vegetation
(lots of olive and orange trees, scattered pomegranates & even date palms),
making it feel much more like a slightly cooler version of north Africa than Europe.

Most striking, the beachside cliffs were erosion-carved colored earth
(reminding me of the Badlands Natl. Park or somewhere in Utah)
and completely unlike the striated sloping rock cliffs we’ve gotten familiar with here.

Pine Cliffs coastline
Pine Cliffs coastline

But by far the most noticeable differences were the tourists and development,
with an incredible variety of vacationing Europeans, and many British,
there to enjoy multi-storied resorts, 22 golf courses, water slides, and ZooMarine
(a more humane version of SeaWorld, with proceeds used for marine rescues & recovery).
All in all, we felt totally out of place, out of our element,
and grateful that we are settling up on the West coast.
We do hope to grow many of the tropical fruits we saw thriving there,
hoping we can create a microclimate to support oranges, dates, and pomegranates
(we saw three pomegranate trees in bloom
on a trip earlier this summer to Reggello, Italia,
growing on a riverbank up in the mountains a little south of Florence.
Although it is much hotter there in summer, they have cold winters.
Overall it gave us hope.)

So we’ve returned to Zambujeira do Mar for a couple more days,
to finish laundry, recharge and repack before a few more weeks of camping in Rogil.

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tidal shifts

Each day, the tides move forward a little bit,
most noticeable over the passing weeks,
as our daily schedule shifts to take advantage of the low tides,
(usually the tides affect the quality and form of the ocean waves,
yet here, the tides are quite dramatic considering this southernly latitude,
and many wide cliffside beaches disappear during the high tide).

The tides, of course, are affected by the moon:

its gravitational pull and its movement through the cosmos,
which also quietly affects many other aspects of life on Earth.
All plants, fungus, people and other animals,
all things containing water molecules, really,
are influenced by the lunar shifts.

For Mohamed’s Masters Thesis on shell formation,
we began studying growth in relation to the Maria Thun Biodynamic Calendar.
An incredibly in-depth analysis showing how certain aspects of
life are more possible at certain times within the lunar shifts.

(I’m instantly reminded of these lines:
“To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap…”
from The Byrds song “Turn!Turn!Turn!”)

Summer has ended; Autumn has begun,
or as I had originally typed it: become,
become=come into being.
(typing these lines has reminded me
of something I had written in the Springtime,
about wanting a place where I felt I belong,
belong=to be there long.)

But back to Autumn, since we are back to Autumn;
I couldn’t sleep at all during the Autumnal Equinox,
apparently a time when an egg will stand upright on its end,
and my stomach felt it was doing flip-flops all night long,
perhaps trying to stand on its end instead of lying flat,
or affected by whatever force affects the egg.

The more we studied the Biodynamic calendar,
and over-lapped it with the Chinese Five Element system,
(adding a Stem Time to the Biodynamic’s Root, Fruit, Leaf and Flower)
the more we became aware that certain aspects of life
were indeed easier at certain times:
Flower/Wind (& Metal) times are great for communication, as in expressing oneself,
Leaf/Water times for listening and reflection,
Fruit/Warmth for creating, a time for things to come to fruition,
Root/Earth for centering, for grounding (no pun intended),
and Stem/Wood for orientation.
The times are determined by the constellation of the Zodiac
that the moon (& planets) are situated in at the given time.

(Our introduction of the Five Elements began
when I sowed arugula seeds during the beginning and end of a Leaf time,
and the ones sown in the true Leaf time were lush and leafy,
while the row planted later in what was supposedly still Leaf time
were very leggy, all stems with just two tiny little leaves at the tip.
I felt that the stem portion of plants was being neglected in the Biodynamic calendar,
and the arugula illuminated that there indeed was a Fifth Element at work,
as has been known for thousands of years.)

We have been using the calendar to sow seeds and tend to plants,
during the times that correspond to the portion of the plant you wish to flourish,
with incredible results.
Much in the same way we find it is easier to catch waves during low tide,
easier to catch fish when the tide is coming in (almost hard to avoid them!)
and more likely to be sucked out to sea by rip currents when the tide is going out.

Autumn seems to be the time to move inside again,
after a Summer spent swimming and camping out.
But due to situations beyond our control,
it seems we will be outside for a few more weeks,
soaking in the last of the sunshine
and stopping to smell the roses.
By the way, I took photos of this rose
in the garden during the last flower time,
as it was especially vibrant and sweet-smelling,
regretting that there was no way to capture to smell,
which was sort of like raspberries, but less tart, like an over-ripe berry.

rose in our garden, Zambujeira do Mar
rose in our garden, Zambujeira do Mar
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the (soon-to-be) end of roadtripping

For our honeymoon, in the summer of 2012,
we went on a six week camping road-trip:
driving west from southern New Jersey,
camping at state and national parks
through the Appalachian Mountains,
the south coast of Lakes Erie and Michigan,
up through Pipestone, the Badlands, the Black Hills,
and Devil’s Tower, throughout Wyoming and Montana,
down through Utah and Colorado,
and back east again on a more southern route,
8,485 miles in all.

Unsure of our future plans,
we were thinking the whole time
that we may find a place we would want to call home.
But nowhere did we feel was right for us.
Some were truly magical, awe-inspiring places.
(Beartooth Pass, on the border of Wyoming and Montana,
stands out as a great example, as does Pike’s Peak in Colorado)
yet nowhere did we feel that we found our new home,
or a place we could call home, even temporarily.

{Where we met in Bahrain, international couplings are quite common.
And within Mohamed’s extended family, their frequency
throughout the past two generations has made family gatherings
a warm, cross-cultural experience.
(This week I began reading Mohamed’s Aunt Rashida’s inspiring autobiography
“My Journey Beyond Borders” about her life as the first Malaysian living in Bahrain.
Her honesty about raising a family while living away from her parents and culture
has resonated with my own isolating experience of raising Marmalade in Austria.)}

Four summers later, on our recent road-trip leaving Austria,
we really feel that we found the place we wanted to call home.
We had joked with friends before beginning the journey
that we were going to drive southwest until we reached the end of the continent,
traveling only one way, moving forward towards our destiny.
By the time we reached Rogil, we were ready to stop and settle.
But the land had been logged and our partners backed out,
and so we are moving a bit further along,
another half hour up the western coast.

Yet in Portugal we already feel more at ease,
and less obviously different than everyone else;
perhaps simply due to the less homogenous population here,
or more historically tied to Portugal’s past presence in Bahrain.


Mohamed & Marmalade practicing Capoeira on the beach, Zambujeira do Mar
Mohamed & Marmalade practicing Capoeira on the beach, Zambujeira do Mar

As far as our new home, we are slowly making progress.
Our offer has been accepted, the down payment paid,
and now awaiting bank transfers and paperwork to proceed.

We went back to see the house and asses the needed work on Thursday;
it is already beginning to feel more like home there.
In fact, Marmalade has been calling it “Marmaladey house”
since our first visit and asks when we can go back.
Mohamed’s mom seems to enjoy sitting in the living room,
visualizing the needed renovations on walls, floors, and the bathroom,
while Mohamed’s dad walked the property with the realtor,
assessing the landscape and the potential of the property’s 32 sq. meter ruin.

Eager to get to work and begin repairs and renovations, but enjoying a break,
both from roughing it while squatting and the construction work ahead,
to spend time with Mohamed’s parents and explore Zambujeira do Mar,
a really quaint seaside village with incredible beaches,
nice restaurants, and hiking trails up along the coast.

Marmalade exploring the beach at Zambujeira do Mar
Marmalade exploring the beach at Zambujeira do Mar

Only 8 kilometers from our soon-to-be home,
we were excited to see that it is so lovely here;
and once we get our bearings on the local roads,
we should find a relatively easy bike ride to the ocean.

Otherwise, I’ve been doing a lot of laundry,
taking advantage of the running water and electricity that modern living can provide.
Funny, it took about a day to get accustomed to going to the bathroom inside again,
stopping halfway out the backdoor while about to go outside to find some bushes.

Marmalade is enjoying all the attention and affection
that doting grandparents provide.
Which I thought would give me a break to refocus on art,
or future housing and gardening projects,
or something mentally-fulfilling or stimulating,
but other than seeing some pretty flowers I want to grow,
I’ve been in a lull creatively…
Just trying to catch up on sleep
and make sense of the paperwork ahead.

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co-director (m) wrote on Sep 23:

Marisa I love the way you are writing in stanzas.

co-director (s) wrote on Sep 22:

Yay, but it's always those papers that need to be pushed, isn't it? Super exciting though!


(almost) endless summer: five weeks of love

We have now been squatting at the ruin in Rogil for five weeks,
and although happy to say “Tchau”
(pronounced like “Ciao” & Portuguese for goodbye)
to the sorta illegal squatting aspect of life
(especially the squatting to poop in a hole in the ground),
we have really loved being here, every single day.
We are even enjoying the pared down existence of a non-civilized life,
especially since Marmalade began helping with the washing
(she is getting the hang of our two-bucket system for dishes & laundry).

Marmalade helping on laundry day
Marmalade helping on laundry day

The best campsite ever doesn’t even begin to explain this place…

We will miss the endless sound of the waves crashing into the rocky coastline,
which we can hear from our tent at night,
and see from most of the property, even while squatting.
Most especially we will miss the incredible beaches nearby,
and the sea life we have discovered there,
including fishes, big and small, and all sorts of mollusks and aquatic life.

{As an aside, I have been amazed at the variety, quantity and size
of the schools of fish we see while swimming and snorkeling around.
In this age of over-fishing and depleted, polluted oceans,
it gives me hope that a little protection and respect can help our oceans recover.
I am also hopeful that Mohamed will sort out how to turn his aquaculture project
into a sustainable system, helping mollusks and seaweed recover lost ecosystems,
filtering seawater and providing habitats for a multitude of life.
He and his intended seaweed partner still need to find funding
(investors perhaps, and hopefully grants will become available)
yet I see this as an investment in our food security and our environment.}

Marmalade on a rock slide
Marmalade on a rock slide

So we have been going to the beaches everyday,
to spend time and each and say our seasonal goodbye
(though at only a half hour or so from our new home,
I’m sure we will be back again to visit).
Aside from swimming and climbing the sea-sculpted boulders,
we have been collecting bags full of multicolored stones
(for an outdoor patio project at our new home),
gathering driftwood (possibly for a treehouse or outhouse),
seashells (for a wind-chime & possibly a beaded curtain)
and other assorted abandoned fishing gear (ropes, weights and metal rods)
which will come in handy for something or other, someday.

collecting driftwood on Esteveira beach
collecting driftwood on Esteveira beach

And we will miss the town of Rogil itself,
a really chill small town, very bike-able,
with lots of friendly people, farm-fresh produce and dairy products.
And we will miss this property itself,
(a warm thanks to Imonova realty for letting us camp here),
which we wished we could have afforded to stay at on our own,
(and, if the building permits would’ve gone through,
would have become an incredible eco-golf course).

On Tuesday we will relocate to a villa in Zambujeira do Mar,

(a seaside town near the house we hope to buy)
for the next two weeks while Mohamed’s parents are visiting.
I’m sure we will have a culture shock living under a roof,
with electricity and running water (and indoor plumbing!)

So my next post will be from there,
as we continue our journey towards moonfarming…

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summer love: doggie-style

So let me start by saying I debated writing this post,
because it is a part of life I sometimes try to erase from my mind.
But, it has become a very large part of this week,
and our interactions with animals is a common topic,
so let’s get on with it.

Last weekend Nutella became “in heat” as they say.
Usually this just leads to some annoying behavior
and occasional whimpers, and soon passes.
However, here, camping out without doors or fences,
our private life is very much public,
and this is no exception.

Every male dog in Rogil can smell that Nutella is in heat,
and several available bachelors have been roaming by the ruin
to make their advances and intentions known.
The first night, we had three dogs roaming around our tent,
all night, occasionally scuffling and growling at each other.
(This would have been enough for a sleepless night,
but the irony was that Nutella wasn’t with us…
she had run off with a yellow dog who seemed fairly friendly.)
Very early in the morning, Mohamed went back to the ruin,
correctly assuming that Nut was hiding in her blankets there.

By morning, we exhaustedly trudged back to the ruin,
tossing pinecones at ones that got too close.
(I don’t advocate hitting dogs, or anything for that matter,
but these dogs are big and full of testosterone,
and not necessarily friendly. But fortunately,
they have all been domesticated enough to take the hint,
so a pinecone tossed to bounce off their haunches
has been enough for them to keep their distance.)
We are very fortunate none have attacked us,
or Nutella (at 15 lbs., knee-high and almost 10 years old)
because she doesn’t have the strength to fight them off.

When we got back to the ruin, it looked sort of ransacked,
as one of the big dogs must’ve realized Nut was inside
and tore through the place looking for her.

And as the day wore on,
that one yellow dog in particular seemed to keep her attention,
and he used his size and eagerness to chase off the other dogs seeking attention; soon afterward she went over to him and their love affair bloomed. They were gone for awhile, and returned reenergized.

When we were going to the beach, they tagged along,
sniffing and pawing at each other the whole way there.
And they had quite a romantic day at the beach
(& probably ruined several beach-goers romantic times as well).
Unfortunately, Nutella stumbled into some decaying fish that washed up onto the beach, and got this stinking dark greasy nastiness all over her boyfriend’s yellow coat.
I tried to wash them in the ocean, luckily it was only on Nut’s paws,
but Ya’lla (as I began calling him, Arabic for “come on” or “get going”)
wouldn’t let me wash him, nor would the seawater be enough. He stank.
So when we arrived back home, I told him to go home and threatened him with pinecones until he took off.
I pitied his person, whoever the poor sucker is that had to wash him.

Ya’lla returned that evening, thankfully smelling much better.
And stayed with us all night, sleeping just outside our tent,
growling and chasing off any other dogs that got close.
(Nut was safely inside, passed out from all the day’s events.)
And the next day, he tagged along all day again.
We began wondering why he didn’t have people searching for him,
and although at first we were actively trying to shoo him away
and telling him to go home (in several languages, as I assumed
he had foreign owners, since he didn’t respond to Portuguese.)


Marmalade & Ya'lla
Marmalade & Ya’lla

But he stayed around, even though I refused to feed him,
soon becoming friends with Marmalade as well as Nut’s “boyfriend”.
(Ya’lla is very patient with Marmalade, and this is especially nice
since she is a bit too rough to play with Nut.
Marmalade started calling Ya’lla “Marmalade doggie”
so it seemed like we adopted a stray dog…
But we knew he had people since someone washed the decaying stink off him.

Marmalade with Nutella & Ya'lla
Marmalade with Nutella & Ya’lla

The third full day of having Ya’lla yielded the truth.
As Cornelius’s son Jonathan biked by, he yelled “Alvin?”
Yup, it is Alvin.
Our adopted dog Ya’lla is actually Cornelius’s dog Alvin.
They thought he must’ve gotten hit by a car and were searching ditches for him…
On Jonathan’s return trip, he took Alvin home.

Alvin showed up tent-side again the next morning.
Since then I’ve sorta lost count
of how many times Cornelius took Alvin home, maybe 3 or 4;
of how many trips to the beach he’s tagged along,
of how many nights sleeping outside our tent,
but it’s been a full week now, so probably six or seven,
with little sign of letting up, until we move, that is.
(I’ve also lost count of the attention they’ve attracted,
since many people slow down or stop to watch their doggie behavior.
Even beach-goers stopped their photo-taking and making-out
to watch Nutella try to hump on Alvin.
Their geometry is all askew, yet they keep at it.)

Yesterday morning he ate our breakfast,

that stands out as the low point
(I had a plate of french toast cooling in the ruin while I checked on our plants. When I went back in, the french toast had disappeared. I was pissed.)
This morning he ran alongside while I biked down the road to Esteveira to pot up a small agave plant I want to transplant. That was nice.
Usually he just tagged along with Nut,

but now he’s become more “our” dog,
which is nice, since Nut’s hormones aren’t raging as strong anymore.
And he’s great with Marmalade

(he has Santosa, a 2 year old, at home).

As an aside, since we are on the subject,
I often thought if I ever made a television show,
it would be about animals mating.
Maybe for Animal Planet, a series for their late-night time slot.
I used to watch in awe as my two guinea pigs would begin their courtship dance:
the male (mostly white) and female (dark brownish) would run in tight circles, curved towards each other, resembling a spinning Yin-Yang.
Eventually they would vibrate into each other purring deeply
and I would leave them to their private time.
I once happened upon two large slugs while mushroom hunting,
laying atop a mushroom cap in a similar vibrating Yin-Yang position.
And on the morning of our wedding day, my niece Angelina took photos of two painted turtles we saw stacked askew in our backyard.
Later that evening, a wedding guest informed us that yes, they were mating.
But my point is that unless you are one to take notice, many don’t realize that animals and humans both have “animal” instincts and “human” natures.
That a romantic day at the beach is a romantic day at the beach,
though the four-paws seem less inhibited about their gawking onlookers.

As a second aside, this whole week of Nut in heat
has been eye-opening for Mohamed as well.
At first he was blaming Nut for attracting all these stray dogs to our place, because they would follow her scent as she was peeing everywhere.
But soon, after watching the male dogs act like male dogs,
he realized that her scent, not her behavior,
has beckoned all these dogs to come calling.
He’s learned to empathize with Nut, (and women in general)
with the harassment and uninvited advances they must endure,
saying “that men don’t understand what being a woman entails.”

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flight test (“birdies in the hedgehog” part 2)

A little over a week after our arrival,
the baby swallows began to get more curious of our existence.
They would poke their heads out of their nest to look at us,
and we became curious about them, too.

A few days later, as we approached the ruin in the early morning,
we could hear that there was a fluster of activity inside,
and upon entering, three swallows swooped out.
“Three?” we wondered. Usually there were only two parents inside the ruin.
“One of the babies?” maybe.
About an hour later, a(nother) baby swallow flopped out of the nest,
ungraciously and without warning, and looked puzzled on carpet.
Upon approaching, it flapped and flew upwards, landing on a backpack on the shelf.
I was excited to get a closer look, and take photos and video footage.
It might’ve felt a little camera shy,
so fluttered over and landed atop a cereal box on an upper shelf.

After some videos were taken,
I took the box outside where its parents circled and encouraged it to alight.

After our trip to the beach,
we returned to find the last baby swallow sitting on the carpet.
Nutella and Marmalade were here this time to add excitement to the flying lesson.

All in all, each birdie made it out of the nest successfully,
and still swoop around the ruin and even fly through occasionally.

Funny side note, once we had power

and began sorting through the footage to decide which ones to upload,
a swarm of swallows circled overhead,
one entering the abandoned hedgehog nest,
apparently alerted by the distress calls recorded on the video.

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week four: moonfarming begins

So after four weeks of squatting in a ruin in Rogil,
we put an offer on the wooden cottage
in the midst of the bamboo park.
It is an off-the-grid property,
with great potential to be a sustainable,
perhaps even self-sufficient farmstead.
It reminds me of a miniature version of my grandparents’ house,
with the possibility of adding on rooms,
or building tree houses, guest cabins, or yurts,
and will give us a good start this autumn
towards building our own home/life here in Portugal.

We will be excited to finally have a little chunk of land to call our own,
where we can invite friends, family, fellow artists,
and all kinds of creative people we have met along our way.

And begin moonfarming.
Though I guess that has already begun.
The concept is that we imagined we were swept up in a great storm
and transported on a giant wave, washing up on the moon,
with a endless coast of scattered debris in which we scavenge
to build a farmstead, in order to survive.
(It is the beginning scene of a comic book Mohamed hopes to draw.
It has also been the unofficial title of all the fungus experiments
we have grown in the past year, in part for a research project
Mohamed and I completed for one of his Biomimetic courses.)

But all in all,
we have been collecting odds and ends since we met,
beach combing, dumpster diving, roadside salvaging, etc.
for raw materials to transform into a livable habitation,
creating a happy little sculptural storybook cottage
where we can have a giant garden, extensive orchard,
grow mushrooms in the forest, have chickens and fish pond.
(For a few years, before moving to Austria,
I had created a series of soft-sculptural “habitations”
surreal spaces for visitors to interact within an artwork.
Although fulfilling as a sculptor, seeing people entranced within my works,
these pieces left me feeling almost homesick for a place that never existed.)

So we await the acceptance or denial of our offer…
4,000€ below their asking price,
hopefully enough to complete repairs and finish the superficial sidings
and really begin moonfarming.

While at the beach over the weekend,
we began collecting smooth colored stones for our patio project:
a mosaic floor for our outdoor kitchen/dining area,
hopefully building it under a grape arbor.
And yesterday, while at Esteveira beach,
we collected a few armfuls of driftwood,
in random shapes and lengths,
which we plan to paint multicolors,
perhaps to use as exterior siding
or on a treehouse or garden project.

And then while biking to the market,
and passing the recycling bins in town,
there was a stack of old enamel cooking pots,
an giant ladle, an old kettle, and some flower pots.
I crammed them all into the basket on my bike
(not leaving any room for the groceries I was about to buy).
Marmalade immediately began playing with the new treasures,
and this morning helped me pot up some wild succulents
that we hope to transplant to our new home
(perhaps as the greenery for our intended green roof).


Marmalade playing with her new treasures
Marmalade playing with her new treasures
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co-director (s) wrote on Sep 9:

Yes, they'd better give it to you guys! and, gosh, those enamel pots are real scores in my opinion! I would have grabbed them too and forget about groceries...

co-director (m) wrote on Sep 8:

Exciting progress Marisa! Fingers crossed your
offer's accepted!


tidal pool party


intertidal pools on Praia Esteveira
intertidal pools on Praia Esteveira

For the past few mornings,
we’ve foregone time-consuming breakfasts
to head over to the beach much earlier in the morning.
And what a surprise was in store:

the Atlantic recedes much further here
than across the “pond” at the mid-Atlantic seaboard I am most familiar with.
Giant towers of rock (maybe 3 meters high),
completely submerged at high tide, rise far out at sea,
marking the gateway to a maze of sea-carved rocks,
some creating channels for the ebbing seawater and their fleeing big fish,
other areas of rock filled in with salt water tidal pools,
housing barnacles, mussels and other mollusks,
sea urchins, anemones, and a plethora of fishes,
some babies of the bigger fishes that ride in and out with the tide,
and others that seem more adapted to tidal pool life than the open ocean,
like gobi and others that sit on their fins at the edges of rocks,
and stonefish, that are camouflaged perfectly for their tidal pool life.


(this post was written two weeks ago…

Since then, we have been investigating the other nearby beaches
during their low tides as well, always amazed at the sea life we find,
including crabs, shrimp, multiple types of anemones, all sizes of urchins,
and recently, a small lobster crawling along the beach at sunset,
that must’ve gotten washed ashore beforehand.
Mohammed scooped it up and returned it to our favorite tidal pool,
hoping we will be able to see our new friend again sometime.

We have taken some incredible underwater photos and video,
which we currently do not have the resources to upload.
Until then, I hope these photos and videos give a glimpse
of the underwater world we have been exploring,
on Esteveira beach and other nearby beaches in Rogil.


tidal pool party at Praia Esteveira
tidal pool party at Praia Esteveira
anemone tidal pool at Praia Esteveira
anemone tidal pool at Praia Esteveira



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the Valley of Bamboo & the wooden house in need of repair… Part Two

So this week has been eventful,
and full of opportunities to learn, grow, and develop…
Mostly, we have come to the realization that we cannot do this on our own.
Basically, that our life will not be built by ourselves alone;
yet working cooperatively we might not only survive but collectively thrive.

(Just to get back online, we have had to rely on the kindness of our neighbors.
Yesterday during our trip north to Porto Covo, we lost our two mini solar panels,
so without electricity from neighboring houses, we cannot make phone calls,
take photos, or search for housing & job opportunities here)

Yesterday a lot of the previous post had reached its fruition:
(the Valley of the Wind & the perfect seaside house at a dead end… Part One)

We drove northward into the Alentajo to meet a diver about aquaculture
and see the adorable wooden house in São Teotónio.
This dive master is a seaweed specialist and also a knowledgable farmer.
He runs Eco Alga, a recreational dive center,
although he has been looking for funding to begin a serious aquaculture project.

My husband Mohammed is a diver and had been studying biodynamic farming practices as part of his Biomimetics Masters program. His thesis was on shell formation.
Their meeting was an informal talk on the possibilities of aquaculture,
as Mohammed wants to use his diving work to help the sea and humanity,
and restoring the marine ecosystems while growing food seems a win-win.
We are hoping that somehow a partnership may develop, funding may materialize,
and the ocean may help grow our future.
On a side note, the coast here is nearly pristine,
the clearest water I have ever seen in an ocean,
because of the momentum of the Gulf Stream is north of here,
the warmer waters (& all the pollution & plastics they carry) aren’t here.
So as far as growing uncontaminated shellfish, these cool waters are ideal.

While in Porto Covo, we visited their incredible beach.
(Unfortunately it was a cloudy day the day,
so we had no charge to take a photo of the pristine coastal coves.)

On the way back, we stopped in São Teotónio and met with a Dutch realtor
to see the adorable wooden cottage on 1.17 hectares of hillside.
Unfortunately the house was never entirely finished inside or out,
as the husband of German couple who were building it fell ill,
and has been left abandoned for over a year now.
The part of the roof that needs work shows promise that we could finish it as a green roof,
growing a local flowering succulent that thrives in full sun and minimal, sandy soil.
The bathroom will need a lot of work (the fixtures are all there, not sure of the connections)
because insects have moved into the ceiling insulation, requiring some repair.
The exterior walls beckon for paint and in some cases, siding,
which we could possibly experiment with recycled metals to create a reflective surface,
capable of both blocking the rain and winter winds,
and creating a microclimate to grow some tropical trees.
Yet overall, the house is ready to move into, with solar panels and their storage batteries,
a furnished kitchen, bedroom and living room, with a wood stove.
The property needs some borrowed goats to mow the year’s overgrowth,
yet with its small pond, nearby stream, and canal water,
ideal for a large sustainable garden, berry patch and fruit orchard.
And, the surrounding location was incredible, with cork oak and eucalyptus trees uphill,
as the property is tucked into a hillside surrounded by a stream and bamboo forest.

(However, tucked away in a valley accessed by swerving, narrow local roads,
it doesn’t seem very bike-friendly. And our car needs repair,
and at this point, not very sure we will be able to keep it in Portugal
due to outdated laws about importing autos across Europe.)

And the selling price claims our whole budget,
and the repairs might require 10,000-20,000€,
depending on how much we can fix ourselves.
It reminded me of my grandparent’s house,
a magical cottage my grandfather built himself.
On the drive home I began crying,
thinking that if my grandfather were alive (& about 40 years younger)
he could transform this place into a dream home.
(And then last night I had a dream take place in his home, reinforcing the connection.)

I wonder what will develop,
and will continue searching for alternatives,
but a part of me hopes to live there.

Today Astrid and her family stopped by before their return trip to Austria.
They met with architects at the municipal office to verify building codes
for moving and installing their yurts and containers, and were denied.
So after all their searching and meetings, they are no closer to moving here.
We were told to try further south, where there is less demand for property,
and hopefully leas restrictions. And further north, for similar reasons.

So the quest continues. The clock ticks.
And the ocean beckons…
the sea our one stress-relief during these trying times.

possible new home in São Teotónio
possible new home in São Teotónio


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the Valley of the Wind & the perfect seaside house at a dead end… Part One

(please note this was supposed to be posted on Monday, August 29th)

After three weeks of squatting on the property we were going to buy,
perhaps it is time for an update:

Astrid and her family arrived a week ago,
and have been thoroughly searching
every and any available property that fits their needs,
(and found that many don’t, won’t, and can’t)
and have found two or three that might.
Our favorite so far: the Valley of the Wind.
4 hectares of property with several small ponds,
a small house set into a hillside, (with municipal power & water),
surrounded by cork oaks, rose and blackberry bushes,
with a small garden aside a hay field, that tumbles down into a valley.
Across the road that divides the property evenly,
a wooded hillside, mostly pines, mostly shaded.
5 kilometers from Aljezur (schools, shops, etc.)
and about 9 or 10 kilometers from the beaches
(not ideal, but bike-able, if you make a day of it).
The sound of the wind whooshing through the valley was enchanting,
the best feature, in my opinion.

Otherwise, they are considering a property in Aljezur,
not sure the size, or other details quite yet,
that would be run more as a guest house or cafe,
that would be walkable to all amenities offered in Aljezur,
and half the distance to the beach.

I suppose there is still the smallest chance they will decide to live here,
5.48 hectares, 600 meters from the beach,
and a short bike ride from three more beaches
and a quaint little town…
honestly, the best “campsite” we’ve ever stayed at.
We like it here, and would love to make it our home.
But the decision is not ours,
since we cannot afford this property
(and all the needed renovations) by ourselves.

Who knows if they will make a decision
during their three week camping trip to the area,
or where they might choose to live. Or when.
Otherwise Petra and her boyfriend, the other family
moving from Villach, Austria to here, will be arriving in October,
and so they might be the ones to pick a property when they arrive.

So where does that leave us?

Well, we have been searching for properties as well,
since our reality is that we need a home, here,
before the stormy season hits and before our visas run out,
so within the next month.

A friend here, Cornelius, showed us a place he had wanted to buy:
about 10 hectares, nestled into the National Park land,
with ocean views, a short hike (less than 500 meters) along trails to the beach,
with a beautiful large house, ready to move into (municipal power & water)
and an outdoor bread oven and a few fig trees.
Stunning. Perfect even. On a dead end.
Literally, the property is at the end of a pebble road.
And unfortunately, metaphorically,
in that the property isn’t technically for sale.
Although uninhabited for over five years,
two brothers own the property and disagree about selling it.
Rumors from neighbors indicate that soon it may come up for sale,
and possibly a reasonable price (around 200,000€),
but so far these are just rumors, and without Astrid and Petra involved,
even this rumored price is three times our personal budget.
But the house is ideal, and we have been visiting it often.
And so far haven’t found any similar for sale,
except one on about half the land, but with a house in upper class condition,
500 meters from Samoquiera, a nearby beach, for 295,000€.
Maybe someone’s dream home, or retirement home,
but not our style and even more out of our price range.

We have been in contact with the owner of the Ziegen property,
(see the post: música das cabras) but haven’t yet determined the price.
We love the community here, we love the beach and the ocean views,
and at 2.3 hectares, recently fertilized by the goats, perfect for our farming needs.
Since the ruin would need to be entirely rebuilt, a well dug,
and other improvements needed, the property could only be about half our budget.
So maybe Tiago, the owner, will come through with a fair offer.
And then we would really get to work rebuilding before wintertime.

And finally, there is a small wooden house
I had found on the internet before we left Austria.
It is in a village a bit north of here, in São Teotónio,
out of the Algarve and into the next district actually, Beja.
It is a small 1.17 hectare property near a steam, 69,000€,
with a huge garden, lots of trees, and an adorable little house,
with a wood stove, and appears to be ready to move in to.
We plan to visit it this week to see the property and investigate the neighborhood.
It is 9 kilometers to the beach, and 8 km from Odemira,
a larger town with a train station, connecting us back to the world.

And after reading through all I have just written,
it appears to be our best chance, given our present situation.
By no means our favorite choice,
but a compromise we can live with,
if all goes well.

In all honesty, I had found a perfect farm property months ago,
that would have suited all our needs, for an incredibly low price: 65,000€
5.3 hectares, along a river, with a solar-powered house with an adorable covered patio.
It was in Odemira, so even further from the beach, but connected to more of Portugal.
In the time taken by others to come to agreement with this property, it had sold.
I was heartbroken, but over time felt that there were other places to search out,
and whoever bought that place wouldn’t be in the market for buying our new home,
wherever it would be.

We are still searching, but hope to be settled somewhere soon.

Although a bit disheveled, our temporary residence in Rogil has been complimented for its "art installation" & several passers-by have taken photos.
Although a bit disheveled, our temporary residence in Rogil has been complimented for its “art installation” & several passers-by have taken photos.

the "gallery" Rogil, week 3

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