Monday, August 21, 2017

A Wider-Angle Lense

It's not all about cob... Especially when it is 40 degrees and there is nowhere to hide...


I have been nursing my left shoulder and crocheting. My cob house stays about 26 degrees, which feels frigid if you come in from outside, but with the windows and doors shutting out the heat it gets a bit claustrophobic. Anyway, I have survived and made a pair of slippers and a tea cozy and a rabbit with clothes. Oh, I have also managed some cobbing, having this great, crazy Irish girl come and swing the pick-axe and muck in.




A week ago we had 'As Montras' in Sao Luis. It is a weekend of music and local artists and artisans and all sorts of other things, organized by the transition group of Sao Luis. (I know, this is the Totness of Alentejo!) Anyway, it's all about showing what people do in our neighbourhood, using the shop windows (as montras in Portuguese) of the shops in the main street leading up to the church. My daughter and I got invited to participate so we filled Hugo's shop window with an iron bed covered in quilts, bunnies, knitting, spinning and some paintings. It looked really cozy. My granddaughter took off with my camera and took lots of photos, a set of which are when a horse and rider dance to a fado singer and a guitar player.




Me and my beautiful daughter outside our 'Montra'.

Every month for the past 12 years there is a market in Sao Luis on the third Sunday of the month. Myself and Renate and Jurgen started it and it has grown into a real social hub. People come out of the woodwork and buy, sell, share stuff and news. This Sunday it was busy! I brought a bunny and Renate put it on her stall where she sells lovely creams, soap, home-made bread, yoga mats, and other good things, alongside her man who sells guitars and percussion instruments.


Figs and almonds from the Algarve and other goodies.





I did some tie-dye the other day. Then made a dress with some of the stuff.





So on we go, keeping busy but trying to stay cool. It's August in Alentejo!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Big Gratitude

You know that feeling when you are half way through a project and you think... OH OH what have I started? Well, I have waves of feelings like this, but then I trot round to the back of my round house and enter the kitchen-to-be and get excited again. It is a lot of work but I have been so lucky and blessed with volunteers who have loved to make cob.

I have reached the bedroom floor level and started to put in the upstairs windows.


And we built the stairs! They are so lovely. Solid cob, except for where we made niches. When you build niches with arches they are so strong. Putting the 'arch' back in architecture.

I hope to have a small balcony in front of the upstairs opening window. The room will not be full height as it is 'mezzanine'.






Marion did some plastering and tried bas relief work. I think she has done a lovely job.





I couldn't have got so far without these lovely earthy airy people. Big gratitude.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

If you live near a windmill, expect wind


How it looks in the summer. It's getting rather wild and woolly.


Meanwhile, behind the  scene... The kitchen slowly develops.


Built-in cupboard with cane shelving.

After  the burst of extreme heat it has got considerably cooler. It even rained for about five minutes, yesterday. Today it has been very windy. Too windy to work!

I have the pleasure of Dom and Jo next week. We shall see some progress in the walls going up. During this time of not doing much I have thought a lot about the placement of the windows, so I'm glad I wasn't well enough to work. (Bad cold)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Understanding Everest

I had the two elder granddaughters to stay. So much fun. Playing with water pistols and a tiny inflatable paddling pool. We could get really deliciously wet in the extreme heat. Isabella is quite a dab hand at photos. Here are a couple she took that I was hardly aware of.







Oops, I look a bit grumpy there! Probably expecting the water pistol!

I have been getting on with cobbing my kitchen. Sometimes it feels a bit like Everest. I actually prefer to work alone for the moment in this new room, as there are a lot of things to think about at this level. Windows and the cold cupboard and shelves for storage. I found some big floor tiles that fit the cold space exactly. They make perfect shelves.





It doesn't look like much but I am on the fourth 'row' of mud. Yesss!

Also, today I began the earth floor in Gail's house. We decided not to use any sand (because it had been scattered by dogs and some of it has been used for cat litter tray). Instead we used fresh and fairly fresh horse shit. In this weather it is dry nearly as soon as it hits the ground, but boy oh boy does it make a good mix!





We mixed it in the wheelbarrow so that it was easy to pour into the designated area, which consists of two pieces of lath, (ripas) set a distance apart and amazingly enough, quite level!






A scrummy texture that went on a treat. We wet the floor well before putting it down and made sure that the mix was not too wet. We had to stop as it was getting too hot outside to sieve the earth. Take note: Prepare your materials in advance! Gail has put shade netting over the roof which makes it really fine to work inside.

So it's all stations go for the moment. The vege garden survives and is producing scarlet runner beans and some tomatoes are nearly ready. A regular supply of strawberries for breakfast (and the blackbirds get some). I will have a good harvest of blueberries from one bush, this year.

It feels unusually hot which makes it hard to work much. Siestas and cold vinho verde in the evenings. Yeah!


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Mostly Mud

I have been busy.
Workshops and wwoofers.
Mostly mud.








Domenico lovingly sanded the eucalyptus poles which had gone a bit discoloured from rain.

Janosch built the foundation wall using stones that both of them had brought by wheelbarrow from around the place.  Amazing work by lovely guys!





Then I was ready to start cobbing, finally! I made a ventilation hole using an old wine bottle as a mould.





That worked very well. This mud is amazing!





The plastering workshop at Gail's went well and we have more or less finished the inside. It looks great.

The spring flowers have been fabulous and now it's hay-making time. Soon the land will turn brown and dusty. Summer is a coming in!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

May Be Wet


We have had some rain and clouds so the flowers and the sky are really something!


The cob workshop went very well. We got up to height, plastered the inside and finally, we notched the rafters and put them in place. That little house is coming on nicely.


This is my view when I sit outside and have tea in the morning.  Far away in the distance there is an old windmill which I can only see when the morning sun shines on it. For the rest of the day it disappears and I feel tricked. Where is it?


I zoomed in a bit so the view is more visible. Lovely and soft on the eyes.

I have two brilliant helpers to get the kitchen extension going. Very exciting. Photos to follow, soon!


Thursday, April 6, 2017

April Update


Tulips by the door. Lovely spring colours. I planted a jasmin by the compost loo which wafts sweet smells in the evening. (The compost loo is not smelly, btw).


I haven't done any more to the extension, yet. Building up my strength to tackle the trench. It won't take long when I'm in the right mood. I am still considering going up a level, but that feels very far away and almost too exciting to think about!

Meanwhile, I have neighbours! Rosa and Raquel are living up in the top house and it is nice to see a light on in the evening, and to say hello on passing. They have done some mounding up of potatoes and dug over one of the terraces. I had planted chickpeas but they looked too weedy to be worth it, so we will sow ordinary peas instead. All good nitrogen fixers.

The artichoke is a major feature in the garden these days. Oh, and there are strawberries ripe in the strawberry patch! Delicious.