Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Velvet June

Summer has been switched on. Suddenly. Finally. The temperature has been very pleasant. The warm wind a friend visiting described as being like velvet. Exactly.

I did some of the wood around the edge of the house. It looks so much better. I will need help to do the west side as it is quite high up and I don't have enough hands, to hold the ladder, hold the wood, hold the drill and the screws, etc.

I also made the south bit of roof over-hang more and built a balcony. Cute! I have two kittens and they love to run about on the balcony and the grass roof.

I have started on the kitchen floor. It is going on quite well. Just 2 cm of cob. In this weather it is drying just right. not too fast and not too slow.

I was doing a bit of burnishing with a beach pebble in the evening and found a snake hissing and threatening in a corner, so I decided to stop for the night and hope it would go away. It did. The kittens were fascinated by it.

Laura and Isabella and Sarah came to visit and we went to see the neighbour's horse and foal. Such a pretty one.

There are foot prints on the new floor, of course!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Cool Spring

It feels like a long time since I last wrote here. It must be because I've been busy!

I had four lovely volunteers, who were keen to learn how to build with cob so they continued with the chicken house and did loads of plastering of the kitchen. The chicken house is well on it's way to being useful and the kitchen extension is now mostly plastered. I am so happy to have had this help. Now my eye is led to the roof where I need to put wood around the edges.

The gardens and landscape generally, are outstanding at the moment. Fields of blue and yellow. I visited Sophie's garden which is looking beautiful.

I also went with Sophie up to the windmill to buy flour. My old home! Always when I come here I remember the years I lived near the mill. The children were still children then. So many memories of a valley I love.

Today was a day spent home, alone. After cutting grass and gardening, I walked down to the cafe for a tea and an ice-cream. When I arrived Patricia called me into the dining area. She was making 'alconqueres', one of my favourite sweet biscuit/cake confections. She gave me a taste of the centre stuff and then I saw all the baking trays going off in a wheelbarrow to her mother's bread oven. I went and watched them finish getting the oven ready, scraping away the ashes. We stood and chatted for a while. I felt so happy to be a part of this small village.

I built a shower for me and my guests the other day. It works very well. I even put in a proper shower instead of a garden hose! Works a treat, especially when the sun shines, which it hasn't done very much this month. A cool spring. Blissful really.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Not Alentejo

I spent two weeks in Scotland, one of which was spent on Iona. It was a very special time of writing, singing and walking.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

News From Storm-bound Alentejo

It's been a Hell of a month. Cold frosty stuff which we are not used to, and then came the rain and high winds. Sometimes bits of straw got blown off the new roof, but I have been warm and dry.

The swallows are still avoiding this hill. I have seen them nearer the coast. I wonder if they will come and nest on my clay walls.

Here's a photo of the pizza oven after I had just finished it. It looks a bit weather beaten since this photo was taken, but still functional. When this stormy weather passes I will give it another coat of cal/clay paint.  It is for my neighbours. I hope they like it!

Here is one of the terraces, planted with potatoes and broad beans. When I dug them over the soil was dry. Now, after monster rainstorms the ground is sodden and beans and potatoes are beginning to sprout.

Lower down I have green beans and on the third one the garlic which I planted in November is looking tall and strong.

My house, seen from below. I will never build a two story house again. It is so much more work to get stuff on the walls. I still have to render the outside. We have had a few days of driven rain from the South West and the walls got very wet, but still firm and dry inside. The miracle of cob. The roof needs to overhang more so I think I will make a veranda to go round it, which will protect it from the rain and keep the sun out in the summer.

I thought I'd try a paleo food thing. No bread! No biscuits! I'm into my third week and I feel all right. I sleep like a baby (crying all night Not!!) and have got over the craving for bread. Nuts, apples and meat.

Daffodils are out and lots of plants are thinking it's spring. After this much longed for rain we look forward to the gentle heat that comes in April.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Too Cold for Swallows

Well, it's been COLD!

We are not used to this kind of cold. For so long. Usually it gets cold for a few days, not weeks, and it feels hard to get a room warm, let alone a house. The wood burner works away but to little improvement of temperature... and I have just put the last few logs of old, seasoned firewood in the fire... and madly sawing up bits and pieces of anything that burns to just keep from feeling really cold. The best thing at the moment is the big beach pebble that I warm up on the stove in the evening and put in my bed at night. Bliss. Even the dog knows where to lie on the bed now! Maybe I need two pebbles!

I have also got a new (to me) computer, (thank you Universe!) so it's challenging for a dinasor like myself.

The swallows have not yet returned. I am glad for them due to the temperatures, but I hope they are all right.

I have dug over some of the vegetable garden and two of the long thin terraces on the hill. I put in some broad beans in the terraces and dug up some stray new potatoes which are delicious. The carrots and cabbage seeds all germinated earlier, before the cold set in, and seem to be doing fine. I will plant potatoes in the next few days. Now we can pray for rain.

It is Carnival time in Portugal. Sao Luis is getting a reputation for it's politically incorrect displays. Mostly it's the men who dress up as women and get very drunk. It is quite fascinating and a bit weird. Maybe I could dress up as a man and behave badly... but I'm not sure what that would entail... And would it be fun? Probably not. Seeing them get such pleasure out of wearing tights really makes me wonder. We live in quite a separated society here. There are cafes which women go to and there are cafe/bars which men go to. Some overlap a little. In the evenings, women don't go out. At least Portuguese women don't. I certainly don't as I'm a home-loving person, it's hard to go anywhere after the sun has gone down.

The pizza oven is just about done. Photos to follow when I've learned how to put them onto this computer...

Roll on Spring!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Pizza Oven

My Cob Kitchen

What I'm Working On Now
My Homemade Home
I gave myself a month off and by January I was ready to get on with stuff. I know that now that I have moved into my new bit of house I may never 'finish' it! There is still plastering to do inside, and the earthen floor, and all the outside needs rendering, too. But not now...
Now I am building a pizza oven for my neighbours. I picked up lots of big stones that have been ploughed up on the nearby hill. Put them in the back of the car and took them to the site. Then I built the plinth, dry stone style, and filled the top layer with earth, bottles and sand on top of which went the firebricks. After lots of digging earth for the cob and lots of hauling sand to make a mould, I have put it all together and it is beginning to look quite good. I am waiting for the cob to set before I remove the sand mould. Photos to follow!

Soon the swallows will return!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Nearly Sixty

It's amazing to think that in January 2014 I began to build a cob house, Just using my hands and basic tools and a book. (The Hand Sculpted House by Ianto Evans.)

Since then I have been busy building with mud and loving it.

I was going to post some before and after photos but the computer doesn't want to cooperate so instead I will just have to write about this building experience.

It has given me so much more than just a roof over my head. Through thinking and working at my own pace I have learned to trust my judgment and to make decisions. That feels really good.

I have helped others and learned that that is fun, too!

Now I have a beautiful kitchen and bedroom and the original studio, where I am sitting now, with the stove lit and the dog next to me on the sofa.

And it has rained! Not much but enough to water the onions I planted this morning. Yes, I have actually had time to garden again. This summer was manic and so hot that the garden had to take third place, but now that the ground has softened it's easy to dig and all the coutch grass comes out easily. There is a lot of it. I am going to put it on my green roofs. Why not?

Tonight will be my first night in my new bedroom. I haven't got a proper front door yet but have nailed up a blanket. It will do fine as it is not cold, just a bit damp.

Next month I will be sixty!