We are animal lovers who run a little vegan retreat centre in central Portugal, to support ourselves and our many rescued animals. We bought this property 2 years ago to become a safe haven for the animals, ourselves and guests who visit. We have had so many people visit who have felt their time here has been life changing and we really hope to be able to continue on with our dream.
We have virtually no savings having ploughed all that we earn back into our project. We are now faced with the task of replacing all that we have already done and the huge task of removing the dead trees so as to be able to reforest, this time with a better layout and more irrigation pipes and sprinklers in place.
Our village along with many others was engulfed by fire during the night on Sunday 17th October 2017. It was hell. We all survived apart from one chicken who I ran out of time to get, also Jessica the cat is missing, but I don't feel she is dead, just a long way away. We are tired, emotional and so happy to have what we have left. 40 hours awake before the rain came, in the last hours i had no more strength left to carry normal buckets and had to use small ones, to put out the fires that were trying to take what we had left. The horses were engulfed in flames and we had to evacuated without them, I didn't know where they were for hours, around 5am in the morning they responded to my calls and ran to me whinnying , shaking, covered in soot, ash falling around us, they put their noses on me and we all stood together, me crying with happiness and exhaustion, telling them how much I love them.
Around 6am my partner Adam made it back to the farm and to see his face and hug him was a gift, We got separated in the flames, he had the dogs and cats and some chickens in the van. and drove away from them away from our burning village, the last time we saw each other i was going back to try and get the horses, all he knew was I was somewhere in a burning village, and for me when I got to near the place we planned to meet (having not been able to get/find the horses, due to extreme heat and smoke) and saw the whole street on fire, I just hoped and prayed he left and didn't wait for me. The pain of thinking he might be in those fires was overwhelming and it was all I could do to make my weak legs and aching lungs get me back to the relative safety of the firehouse. As soon as I was able to I raced back to our quinta (farm) to look for the horses and save what was left.
The Bombeiros (firefighters) were overwhelmed in our village by fires coming from all directions, at one point everyone who was still in the village just stood still and looked up at the rain that we had all prayed for falling as fire. I have never experienced something like this before, the people of Melo have never had a fire like this before. May it never visit us like this again.
Its still a shock and been very traumatic, tears keep tumbling, the clear up is huge and everything smells of smoke and everything is covered in ash. But we will recover…the land will recover and we learned a lot, the things that we lost were in over grown areas. We will replant and have better irrigation systems and our farm will be beautiful again.
We lost our guest accommodation (and income) the Ark, a huge horsebox we had converted into accommodation and had also used to bring ourselves and 16 animals to Portugal, it had a fully independent solar power system and new batteries. Bedding for 5 people, spare sheets, duvet covers and 10 pillows as well as winter duvets and blankets. The volunteers caravan, which was also full of volunteer tents which we had packed away for the winter and bedding (pillows, duvets, duvet covers), The healing and teaching tent and equipment (massage table, cushions, 3 x reiki mattresses, work books,yoga mats, rugs and comfy cushions to make learning a lovely and comfortable experience) the horse equipment room with years worth of stuff including rugs which we now need badly as the horses have also lost their field shelter and the shelter from the trees and the rains and cold weather have started. We lost hay and food for the horses, many trees and most of the fencing, wooden poles, some post and rail, stock fencing and natural hedges, meaning we now have to re fence the entire 5 hectare (12 acre) property.We lost 3 electric fence energisers and over 1000 metres of tape and over 500 plastic poles for holding the tape.
The chicken houses are cinders and we now are keeping them in the house and under the stairs at night, during the day as always they roam free.
We lost nearly all the mature olive trees, many fruit and nut trees, trees which we rely on for food as well as making a small income from.
We lost tools, building materials, hoses, a seating area with sofa and arm chairs, table and chairs, and so so much more, I just can see the obvious things now, as each day passes I notice something else that has burnt.
We however have not lost hope, we are so happy to have one another, the animals unharmed apart from a few minor cuts and we believe and hope Jessica the cat will find her way home, I am looking for her each day and call her name, to help her find her way home. At the moment we are containing the horses in the dog run we use for foster dogs and guest dogs, which is not ideal, but at least they are safe. Our priority is getting a safe fenced area for the horses and cleaning up all the dangerous metal and glass debris, so the animals do not hurt themselves, then we will tackle the land.
We appreciate any amount you can spare.
This is a list of the costs we have ahead of us
Tree Fund = 1250 euros
2.50 euros buys a young olive, fruit or nut tree. We hope to plant at least 500 trees to replace the ones we have lost, we will buy some young trees and some more mature
Tractor work to help remove dead trees and plough in the ash = 300
Chicken house x 3 (secure from the fox and weasels) = 450 euros
Replace Horse shelter & Hay barn = 2500 Euros
Horse equipment (head collars, brushes, rugs until the shelter is built, buckets, haynets, etc) = 350 approx Euros
Hay (to replace what we lost, plus feed the horses whilst our land recovers. There is no decent hay left in our area as many barns burnt, so I am now having to drive to Spain to get edible hay for the horses, they eat 3 bales a day at the moment and I predict we will need to continue this for at least the next 2 months before the grass has grown back enough to sustain them and then as we will still need to subsidise this with a bale a day) = 830 euros
Electric fence energisers x 2, 300 electric fence poles, for internal fencing of areas, electric fence tape 2000m (for both internal and external fences) 600 screw in tape holders for on top of external fence posts.=1150 euros
Perimeter fencing- 1200m of stock fencing, 600 poles, fence nails = 2970 Euros
Sprinkler and tree irrigation - Petrol water pump, 2 x 1000 litre water storage tanks, 250 m 1 inch pipe, 500 m of 15ml pipe, 5 sprinklers, joints and fittings = 1350 euros approx
Replace the volunteers caravan, bedding, pots, pans cutlery etc, so we can get people to help us through the winter = 1500 euros approx
Replace the Ark with a viable fire safe family accommodation, with solar electrical system, bedding, pots pans etc so we can continue to take guests and large families through winter (not this winter but the coming winters) = 5,000 euros approx
Replace healing and teaching 6m tent, teaching equipment, workbooks, decorations, massage table, reiki mattresses, 1500 euros approx
We feel strange asking for help, but so many have shown an interest in helping us get back on our feet, so we can continue to provide a haven for the animals and spread awareness of compassion for all beings. We really do appreciate any help you can give.
With much love and gratitude
Annie, Adam and all the animals xxx