Monday, March 20, 2017

Not well-connected but growing deep roots

The internet doesn't work very well down in my little piece of paradise. It is quite peaceful.

I sit and look at the view as I sip a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
The sun rises and shines through one of the bottle niches  as this time of year, the spring equinox. How appropriate and lucky. (I didn't plan it so). So I lie in bed and am blinded by the light.

The cuckoo has begun to call. The golden oriole has made a fleeting visit. The brambles are on the rise. Definitely spring in the air.

Oh yes. I've been digging. Some solid quartz in amongst thick yellow clay.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


This is how we do it in Alentejo. With a wheelbarrow. I just decided it was time to live the dream. The old brick shack on the hill has been a great shelter and has lots of potential, but my heart is in my little mud house.

Anyone who knew me when I lived on Mull will remember we were always 'flittin'. I guess my mum had a restless spirit and we had two farms at once, for a while. I remember coming home from Oban High (where I was a weekly boarder) and being told I was walking in the wrong direction home! Oh, no, she had done it again!

Anyway, back to the present. I must tell you how it feels to live in a house you have actually built with your own hands.... and a rush of words come: happy, smug, amazed, curious, warm, sheltered, hugged by nature. It's grand.

See how my clothes shelves (yes, they came down on the wheelbarrow) disappear when you look at them side-on.

My desk (which is also a treadle sewing machine) and next to it a spare bed/comfy chair, by the fire.

 The window seat, where the heat from the stove slowly penetrates the clay and is a very nice place to sit and drink morning coffee. Beside that is the arts and craft zone.

My bed, where I can look out and see the hills far in the distance, and get the morning sun.

And this is the kitchen area for the moment as it is too windy to cook outside most of the time, which is why I will be building the extension, soon!

And there are daffodils blooming in the garden. Joy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

News From The Hill

A new year. The days have been warm and mild so I have continued widening the terraces on the hill-side and planting stuff.

The broad beans and garlic are coming up fast. Peas on the next level with potatoes.

Oh, look what is coming down the side of the hill... Is it a digger... I wonder what that is going to do?

Aha! Now you know. I decided that the outdoor kitchen would be better indoors. So guess what I will be doing this year? Love mud!

While I've been digging the terraces and the garden I have been chucking all the stones I find into a bucket and then filling up a wheelbarrow and then taking them down to the site. Why not? My Scottish bit says 'it's free', and my quiet self enjoys the zen-like activity.

I am still knitting rabbits. They are so cute.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

December update

The winter days whizz by. I have been busy organizing and doing other stuff so the garden has been sadly neglected, but the other day I managed to dig over a couple of terraces and plant garlic, beans, potatoes and peas. Today I dug over the old strawberry bed and put the plants back in, with weed barrier and irrigation tubes hidden under the stuff. Looks very organized. Let's hope they like it. They were really tasty this year.

The artichoke is huge already.

The bees love this blue flowering bush. It was humming today.

The house being renovated in Sao Luis is very nearly ready. James is doing a fantastic job of building a kitchen.

I have started to paint the front door a dark orange-red.

The computer is not charging so I will have to stop now. The man is back and we are looking forward to the festive season. All is well.

Oh, and I'm knitting rabbits using handspun wool and olive wood knitting needles.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Pumpkin that got Away

It's a bit annoying, but normal, for pigs to wander free at this time of year. Their diet is supplemented by the acorns from the many oak trees that grow in abundance on the hills here. They got into my garden and I was very sad to notice that the one and only HUGE pumpkin, that was almost too big to lift, had gone.
I've been closing the gates to the garden now. While I was digging over a new bed for onions I noticed a big round thing lurking in the brambles by the fence.
Pumpkin! It's a beauty.
The cob workshop was a huge success. The workshopees were lovely and it was  great fun to show how and to join in and to listen to the group as they became experts, themselves. Building with mud is such a peaceful occupation. Very tactile. In fact it includes all the senses in such a gentle way. There are no noisy engines, just the noise of wellies stomping mud!
The workshop was for four days, but we have continued and after about 15 days of work we are nearly at the top. I say 'we' but I have not been doing so much. It has been so great to see cob builders bloom and grow, and see walls get higher, windows and bottles in, roof plans beginning to become reality. The weather has been very kind, too.

Now we are nearing the end of November and I have been neglecting my garden, so I intend to turn some ground and get in peas, beans, garlic, onions and potatoes. There's a nice big pile of sheep shit waiting for me to haul down the hill.
 Oh an R is returning from his Northern sojourn, so we can cosy up by the fire and share stories.
And finally, I hear rain pitter-pattering. We need it

Sunday, October 16, 2016

What Happened to the Golden Oriole?

What happened to the golden oriole? It came in the spring, filled the valley with song, then disappeared. I heard it in the village but not a sighting nor sounding have I heard here, since. A mystery. There are plenty of figs...

There are also quite a lot of grapes, considering the plants are young, less than three years old. The Cabernet sauvignan growing by the studio is looking lush. It enjoys the irrigation system and the shelter.

The guava bush is falling over, laden with fruit. I will have to figure out how to prune it. I think I can treat it like a hedge. The other fruit tree which has red fruit that look like guavas and I've forgotten it's name, is also laden with yummy fruit. I just picked a lot to ease the young branches.

Today I managed to stay at home and do very little. I sat in the morning sun and did some spinning, then I wandered through the garden with the secateurs
looking for olive branches which I sat on the doorstep and peeled. Very relaxing.

And this is what I will be working on tomorrow. It is already lovely. I will wax it with home made wax polish (beeswax, linseed oil, turps) til it shines enough to slip when wearing woolly socks!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Muddy Stuff and a Whiff of the Sea

It feels like an age since I last wrote here. This is the time of change. R has gone to UK to work and I have long quiet times, but I have also been manically busy working on the renovation job in the village. My latest excitement is mud floor making.

Look at those earthen plaster walls

Almost edible

I did the first bit by myself and the next day when my young assistant came I thought why not let him have a go? He was a natural! I am so pleased with his skill (which he didn't know he had) that I have decided to do the hall and the kitchen/living area too! Now it is drying and then I will oil it and do other stuff to it to make it look even better.

The garden is quietly slipping into autumn mode. No more tomatoes, but the occasional courgette. The figs ripen and fall, with drunken wasps hanging to their sticky skins.

I am off to Bristol for a week, and then it will be nearly time for the cob workshop. That is exciting.

Sometimes you have to eat sardines by the sea just to remember what a lovely life it is!