Saturday, April 28, 2012

More rain!

People are saying we are having the winter we didn't have during the winter, now.  It's not very cold, but the rain is good and wet.  We went to the big market at Brunheiras and there were a lot of puddles and the storeholders were didgging ditches to take away the floods.  But luckily it stayed dry while we were there.  I bought some onions to plant out.  Than means more digging as I have run out of space for vege!

Billy has been helping up at the land.  He used the brush cutter and cleared away some brambles.  And endless task.  I hope he liked the sounds of the birds and the breezes.  Must make quite a change from the Bristol sounds. I asked him if he felt inspired to write hill billy hip hop... He has written and performed some stuff already. 

R and I made a makeshift gutter system to catch rainwater off the roof of the shed into the 'Elephant'.  I'm very curious to see if there is any water in it tomorrow.  The intention is to have a big water tank one day, to catch enough rain to keep us over the hot summer months.  Don't want to pay for water if we don't have to.

Looks like EDP have finally come and put in the cables needed to connect up to the grid.  So, maybe, we will have power, soon.

I spent the afternoon drawing and then Isabella came and we did some painting.  It's great to just play with colours and forget about doing/creating.  Just splash and smudge.  I seem to be flavour of the week as she decided she wanted to stay over, so now the sweet child is sleeping on a matress beside the bed after having had the Billy Goats Gruff read to her. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

spring flowers

How can I weed when the 'weeds' are these beautiful  scarlet and blue pimpernels, and this exquisite little red wild pea?  It's truly Spring now, and the flowers are always amazing and every year I am excited by their beauty and their bountifulness.
And here's a small view from the garden.  I love the sheep around the cork oaks.  It's hazy and warm and the air is full of the sound of birds calling.  Nightingales, blackbirds, stonechats, finches, sparrows, cuckoos.  Heaven on Earth.
Yesterday I took Isabella to the beach at Malhao.  We met up with Gail and her dogs and walked along the empty shore.  Low tide.  A flock of seagulls flew in a 'v' formation which was fun to point out to Isa.  'Muitas gaivotas' . Ah yes, she's my talking dictionary.  It's great to learn a language from a four year old! (Actually, I did know what a seagull is in Portuguese, but she does help me with lots of the language.)
We sat on some big round rocks and Isa played with her spade and some found stuff. a stick, a fishing float.  Water in a plastic bottle.  The sun came out and here we were on the beach, hot, sunny.  With just a few fishermen on some rocks.  Surrounded by nature.  :)
And finally, a bouquet, picked along the road from our street.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Finding the levels

  Meter by meter the swale begins to curve around the hillside.  Brambles get dug out and anthills disturbed.  Marian has done a brilliant job of clearing cistus and digging out bramble roots.

Marian's hard work.

Inside the elephant!

 I found this tiger moth outside the house the other day.  If you look at it sideways you can see the face of a tiger, leastways I can.  It had a beautiful sunset red body.
 And we have just about finished the first water tank.  It looks more and more like an elephant's backside.  Because I was the nimblest of us I was the one to render the inside.  Two layers plus the final coating of stuff called Nil, which is just cement and water, which makes a very fine smooth paste.  It felt very sensual to smear it on, wearing latex gloves.  I feel I know the inside of the tank intimately, now!
  Marian had read in the rough guid to Portugal that Beja had a museum, so I said lets go there for a day trip.  Catch a bit of culture.... so we went.  The drive was stunning.  The wild flowers begining to paint the hills yellow, and the gentle undulations as we entered the prairie planes of interior Alentejo.  Then we entered Beja with a cold wind and visited the old convent, which has indeed been turned into a museum.  The church bit was rather grand and pathetic at the same time.  The walls and ceiling were all covered in gold-painted wooden panels, carved and covered in saints.  On closer inspection the whole thing was completely riddled with woodworm.  The place really was a holy miracle!  Or should I say holey...
The cloisters are tiled floor to ceiling in beautiful tiles, and the chapter house had a brightly painted ceiling which I enjoyed seeing.  The religious paintings felt creepy and I felt blessed to not have to suffer a religion so heavy, guilt-ridden and cruel.
Upstairs they had some archeological stuff from the bronze age.  There were some large stones with ancient writing that hasn't been deciphed yet.  Very intriguing.
The castle is in pretty good shape compared to a lot of the castles along the border between Portugal and Spain.  I climbed up the stone spiral staircase to the top, feeling myself walking into the past.  Immaculate stonework.
  I'd say it was worth the trip, even though it felt strange to be a tourist in a place I would usually only go to to do very boring burocratic stuff that required hours of waiting in strange waiting rooms hoping that the paperwork was enough....  Ah, Beja.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


As I sweated over the swale-digging I thought how slow the progress is when you do things by hand, and that this gives one the time to observe and absorbe the surroundings, rather than just obliterate it.  How easy it is to go in with a machine and dig loads of swales in one day, but there would be no knowledge.  I am learning the contours and the colours of the earth.  And the speed with which new brambles appear.  And the size of the miniscule flowers that are popping up.  And the smell of the flowers on the eucalyptus trees.  And the cloud patterns. And, And, And.
Oh Joy

Sunday, April 8, 2012


The camera (coucil) workers came the other day and started laying down the pipes for us to be connected to the mains water!  Great excitement as the digger groaned and dug along the track and men in baseball caps popped up through the cistus trying to decide where to go.  It will take a few days ( or even weeks?) to get it up and running but it will be an improvement on the five liter water bottles that we have been using to dribble on a few chosen plants.  Still waiting for the electriciy to be connected...
 My first tulip in the garden/wilderness.
Meanwhile we have been enjoying the rain.  Everything has grown, including the brambles, of course.  We ate our first brocoli and peas.  R's mum has come for a visit and has been cutting back the cistus and weeding and doing pastel sketches of our bit of land.
The potatoes have shot out of the ground.  Hooray!  And there are lots of little figs on the tips of the branches of the fig trees.
And I have started the second swale. :)

Monday, April 2, 2012

the elements - wind

It got very windy last week.  And of course, since we are on the top of a hill next to an old windmill, it gets very very windy.  It seems to come rushing up hill.  So it rushed and took off the corrugated roof that we had put on a few weeks ago.  Whoosh!  Took all the beams as well.  And whisked it over to the other side of the building.  We had gone to the cafe for a coffe after lunch, and I could see the outline of our house from the cafe table.  I said  The roof looks strange.   Our neighbour, Jacinto had shook his head at the roof before and had told us it would blow away, so at least he could get some pleasure in telling us he told us so.  Ah well, we have to learn that the first year in a permaculture project is mostly spent in observation.... And luckily, no one was hurt and miraculously, all the tin stayed straight.

The potatoes are coming on, grateful for a little rain.