Wednesday, July 25, 2012

,The Dome is built!

Yes! the good news is that we finished building the earth bag dome today.  Nuno came with Isabella and he filled buckets with earth and passed them up to me and we finished it by midday.  Yipee.  Now I just have to cover it in more earth.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Slow progress - Patience required

 Monica's gravel garden.

A nice cool dip in the water... In my dreams...

It's been too hot to work during the day.  It feels as though the sun is melting my bones.... But today we went up at six in the evening and did three hours of earth bagging and got a row done in the blissful coolness of evening.  The sunset on the horizon and just a hint of mosquito near the end.

I have been trying to learn more about permaculture via the internet.  Rather addictive.  Some good videos on Utube.  I realize that I must do more mulching and even make shade for the plants as it is very windy and sunny on the hill.  I do not want to be a slave to the hose pipe (nor have to pay big water bills) and after reading Soloman's book on low irrigation gardening, I know it is possible to grow stuff like he describes.  Just have to get out of the habit of planting eveything so close together  and give them some ground cover.  Also, a good drenching every few days or weeks is better than dribbles every day.

Meanwhile, back in the village, Laura and Nuno have got engaged and we are all thrilled.  Laura and Isabella are getting very excited,  planning the dress and the do.  They're going to get married next June, so there will be no excuse for anyone saying that they can't come over from UK, or any other part of the globe.

Last weekend we (Laura, Isabella and I) went to Monica and Carlos' Open day and had fun making stick dollies and I did a bit of spinning.  Monica has made the garden beautiful and Carlos has made the house beautiful.  Good job.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Flights of fancy and landing with a thump

 This is where we should hang out drinking cold shandy.... At Quebramar in Milfontes.
Instead we are slogging away at the earthbags...

And here is a picture of Isabella and her classmates with their teacher, Ana, at their end of year party.

I got so excited last week over building a bigger better bender... I could hardly sleep.  And as soon as I had time I started to dig a level site and then create the amazing cob bender.  First of all I had to downsize as the steel rebar was too bendy to make it the size I had imagined.  That was a bit of a blow...  Then I got excited by the new shape, like a spider, and covered the top in chicken wire and then cob.  All well.  The next day it had dried to a fine biscuit and looked amazing.  So I began to do more.   It began to sag, and then the wind began to blow it over to one side.  Darn!  The rebar is just not up for what I want it to do.   So I had to admit defeat and take off the still wet cob.  It bounced back into shape and I have left it there.  I will concentrate on the earthbag dome for the next few days.  It is nearly finished.  I will have somewhere to live on our land, one day.  I must be patient.  Meanwhile.... It is too hot to do anything.
R has made a very comfortable and good looking chair for sitting around outside.  He is making another one  so we can sit in the shade and pant.  Over 35 degrees in the shade.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

There's more to life than earth bags...

We have been busy doing the earth bags for quite some time, and to tell the truth I got a little sick of it!  My right hand decided to get sore, so eventually we had to stop for a few days.  Yes!  It is so nice to do other things.  The dome is now over one and a half meters high and we are ready to put in the door.  We have covered the outside of the building with black shade netting as the sun will destroy the fabric of the sacks.

I've been dying to play with the mud and experiment with cob, so the other day I sieved some earth and then mixed it with straw and put it on some chicken wire to see if it sticks.  It did!  It feels lovely to work with.  I then made up some more and started to fill in the gaps between the earth bags.  It sticks there,  too.  So I got very excited and have decided to make a bigger bender out of ferro and chicken wire, and then cover it in cob.  I hope to enrole some girlfriends to help cover it.  Then we can camp on the land in style.  It's ok in my little bubble tent, but crawing out (over the dog) in the middle of the night... well, I'd rather not.

 I have been to the beach once of twice when I can drag myself away from our exciting project.

Well, there's more to life in Alentejo than earthbags and benders, and last Friday I went to see Isabella perform on her last day at nursery school before the summer holidays.  The school at Castelao has won prizes for it's various good things.  One of them being the vegetable garden they have made, which they actually made money from selling the produce, to buy toys and books.  Pretty cool I think.  And it involves the parents and grandparents.  It's a great community and the teacher, Anna, is full of good ideas and love for her work.  I hope she gets reposted to Castelao, but the system isn't like that.  They get sent to wherever, usually a different school every year.  Madness.  Anyway, the parents and guardians and fairy godmothers all prvided cakes and sandwiches and crisps and juice. The table was groaning, and later so was my stomach!

The weather has been kind.  A cool breeze keeps us fresh, even though it's hot and clear skies.  When I hear of the weather that is going on in Britain I feel a bit smug.  Sorry folks.  It must be grim to have it so wet.  But perhaps it's not as bad as we hear.