Saturday, March 31, 2012

rain again, but this time it's really wet

What am I doing? He he.  I emptied out the ferro cement tank we are building.  It was full of sawdust to hold the shape while we covered the chickenwire in cement.  It took quite a few days to get the stuff out.  Now we have to render the inside so it's all smooth and waterproof.  Pity we missed the opportunity to fill it with all the rain that is now pouring down and watering the thirsty ground.
The cuckoo sings across the valley, and the nightingale chants on top of the chestnut trees.  Buzzards hover and soar over us.  We sit on a bale and share a thermos of tea, while ginger sleeps on the straw mulch in the sun.  Not bad.  And I have started to dig the next swale. :)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Sunny Sunday Afternoon On the Beach

At the estuary beach Isabella plays in the sand with sticks and stones and plastic bottles.  We are her children.  She's the boss.  The tide is rising to it's highest point - throwing itself at our feet and leaving broken reeds and prickly pear plants that have broken away, upstream.  Roaring water, glittering and waveful, smashing powdery fountains which hang above the rocks for an instant.  All is white gold in the afternoon sun.
Mother, daughter, grand daughter, we work seamlessly together, pulling up leggings, dusting toes, slipping on the socks, knocking sand out of her shoes.  She's ready to climb the steps up from the beach.  Count them, climb the hand rail.  Sing all the new songs she's learnt (in Portuguese), or has she made them up?  I listen (a cousin got married, went to the church, drank beer) Strange, but it rhymes in Portuguese.
Then there's the ice cream.  The gelateria is crowded.  She chooses ice blue ice cream.  Her lips are red and blue, like fat healthy little worms!  We share our flavours.
She sings nearly all the way home, until suddenly, she's asleep, her eyelashes like little black fans on her rosy cheeks.

Friday, March 23, 2012

good day of hard work

We decided to go and pick up the enormous olive tree trunks that had been cut down earlier this year, in our neighbour's abandoned farm.  The neighbour had told us we could take them.  But boy were they heavy!  And down a steep slope covered in long silky grass with purlple seed heads.  So R brought the chainsaw to trim them and then we lugged them up to the car and let them hang out the back.  I sat on the biggest one as ballast, to stop it tipping out the back.  Phew!  They were almost too heavy, but we did it.  They will be wonderful as beams and other things.  Olive wood is lovely to carve.
After that I felt a little drained of energy so I went down to the vege garden and dribbled water out of 5 l water bottles onto some thirsty brocoli plants.  This dry winter and spring is hard on the plants, and hard on a gardener.  I hate to watch the plants and know that they could be so much better... if we had water.  Still, we will be getting mains water soon, not that I plan on using a lot of it for watering.  We are going to wait for next November's rain, and meanwhile build swales and water collection tanks.
Later, I levelled off the ground under a huge old fig tree that had been completely covered in brambles, but now is bare.  I hardly had the strength, but I really wanted to pitch my tent in the dappled shade of the old elephant branches, which have baby fig leaves tufting out the branch tips.  And then I crawled in and slept to the sound of the huge eucalyptus trees roaring in the breeze.  Sounds like the ocean.
Finally, after sharing a thermos of tea, we worked together, R brushcutting and me raking on the steep slope in the evening light.  Swallows swooping, lambs calling, lizards flitting.  A good day.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

spring is in the air

At last, some clouds and a tiny bit of rain.  It just feels more normal for this time of year.  The wnter was just endless sunshine, which made it feel all wrong, with dust on the tracks and hot sweaty digging in the low slanting sun... But now the sun is higher and the flowers are beginning.  The vibrant pink wild gladioli, the fresias, and the daisies. The iris.  And peach blossom and cherry and apple!  Oh, it's all so exciting.

And I feel better.  The nasty lurgy left me feeling downhearted.  I'd lost North.  But now, after a day digging and planting potatoes, I feel like I'm back in the saddle.  This is a long term project and I have to be patient.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


This afternoon, at around two, I heard my first
Just a couple of calls and then it flew
But it helped speed away my 'flu!
Sorry for corny rhymes, I blame it on my head being full of nasty stuff which is leaking out of orifices...
Today was the first day I went up to the monte since I got ill.  I took Laura and Isabella, who haven't been there since last summer.
Isabella called for her gardening tools straight away and then got down to digging and raking.  Laura sat on the straw bale in the evening sun looking beautiful.  We could hear crickets.  And some of the potatoes have started to emerge from the soil.  Yippee!
And the other exciting thing is that Isabella can pedal her bike.  We're very proud of her.
she fell off it this afternoon and watched as we peeled off her tights and saw two beads of blood on one knee.  She would never be able to walk!  No school tomorrow! But eating her first kiwi fruit distracted her and soon she went to show off her wound to Daddy.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Life of Byron

Yes, not Brian!
Between bouts of head torture I listened to a BBC Podcast about Lord Byron.  It was a real delight to have these four very educated people talk about something they knew thoroughly.  I had no idea what a challenged childhood he had.  His mother had been a rich heiress who was wooed into marrying a reckless Naval man who used all her money to pay of some of his debts and then died, leaving her almost destitue.  She moved back to Aberdeen and the young Byron went to Grammer school, until, suddenly and unexpectedly, he became Lord at the age of 11.  He was sent off to boarding school and he and his mother moved to nearby his inherited estate.  (They were not able to live in the house as it was falling down).  Anyway, off he went to University.  He was not allowed to take his beloved dog with him (rules), but he got a bear to live with him instead as he discovered that it was not in the rules to have a bear!
I had no idea that when he went on his grand tour of Europe, he spent some time with Shelley and Mrs Shelley and they sat inside during a wet summer and compsoed gruesom tales to each other.  Frankenstein and Count Dracula both came from this time.
He was a liberal.  He was against overindustrialisation of the weaving factories, saying it took work away from the people.  He denounced Lord Elgin for defacing the Greek monuments by removing them to England.
Anyway, he was the first 'celebrity writer', a complicated man, who loved swimming and was mostly vegetarian. He played a large part in the liberation of Greece from the Ottoman Empire.
His childhood would make a great movie....

dreaded lurgy...

Finally I succumbed to the 'gripe' that's been gripping the population of Sao Luis.  I stayed in bed with my head feeling as though it was caught in a giant garlic crusher.  At least I can see the sky and the hill behind the house from my bed.  I watched the nieghbour build a shed.  I LOVE sheds and building!
Spring is in the air.  Swallows nesting in our ruin.  Trees have catkins and other strange tufty bits.  It's all so exciting, and it always is, every year.  Even though we've had almost nonstop sunshine all winter, the strange dryness and the extreme cold at night have been a drain, so now, to walk about in shirtsleeves and without a scarf it bliss.  We haven't lit a fire in the woodburner this evening as it's not cold.
 Here's a pic of my room.

Hopefully, I will be fully recovered by tomorrow and back to work!

Monday, March 5, 2012

some highs, some lows

 Laura made a beautiful wedding dress for a cliente, and hand painted the flowers cascading or climbing over it.  She made the top as well, and a sweet 'fairy' dress for the young bridesmaid.  I'm really proud of my clever daughter!  She was looking forward to a trip to London with her friends, but then the dreaded 'flu knocked her sideways.  A big disappointment.

Meanwhile R is still recovering from his 'flu.  We went in search of oranges, and on the way found this flock of sheep curving round the hill, coming out of a cork forest. An endless flow of sheep and lambs.

 Finally we found the abandoned orange grove and filled a laundry basket with delicious, ripe oranges.  We have been drinking pints of the juice to combat the dreaded lurgy.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


OK just a shower but desperately needed.  I was out walking the hills near the windmill with a friend and my old dog, Ginger.  I've got so used to no rain that I wasn't wearing a coat.  At first it was just black clouds, and I said nah, it's not going to rain until October....  We walked up a dusty track and a small puppy decided to follow us.  Then a large family of pigs came bundling out of an old mud-built shed and sniffed the air.  They all pee-ed outside.  House trained pigs!  Then they followed us.  When the rain began we turned back, but the puppy didn't want to stay with it's mum.  He kept following us.  Enentually I found a piece of old bailing twine and tied him up next to his mum.  By the time we got back to the car the sun was beginning to shine again but there was more black sky in the South West, where the rain usually comes from.  When we reached Sao Luis the roads were dry.  The rain that soaked us on our walk hadn't fallen on this side of the valley.