Monday, December 30, 2013

Beginning the Hard Work

Alexandre came with his digger on Monday, just before the big storm. There were black clouds and a strong wind from the South West, always a harbourer of rain... I stood and watched and felt the rain trying to start. I guided him and he made big piles of earth and levelled the site. I was very excited because it feels so much more real when you actually do something big like this. Then the storm came and we stayed indoors for Christmas with the wind bashing the roof and the rain being pushed through the window... But we had a good fire burning and some Irish Whiskey to sip. And I did a bit more dreaming and thinking about how I will build my little house.

The storms have abated and today I went down to the site and made a circle two and a halve meters from the centre. I marked it with stones and stood back. I felt nervous. Can I make something that size? Am I capable? I went up for a coffee. Later, I went down again and started to dig with the enxada (hoe-type of tool). I'll just do a bit, I thought to myself. Just get a feel for it... and after an hour or so I had nearly got round the whole circle! Some of it is very hard, full of rocks which I split with a giants crowbar. It's not deep enough in places, yet, and it's not the full circle, yet, but I'm doing it! Bonnie enjoyed running along the trench and dicing with death near the iron blade...

The baby chicks are doing well. They have moved into the new hen house and I am in the process of dismantling the old one.

R has been pruning more olive trees and peeling the usable branches. The wood is so strong and beautiful, we hope to make furniture and other things with it.

New year is nearly upon us. Time to get the Irish whiskey out again, I think.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

So, I love to build stuff...
 So I built a new capoeira (hen-house). The old one (above) was beginning to be rather raggedy and weather worn, and I was tired of having to stoop to crawl into the 'beduin-style' tent. The new one is an 'A' frame covered in chicken wire and tarp and shade netting, with a person-sized door! Yippee! I made nesting boxes out of old paint tins and one of the hens is laying eggs on the straw inside. The other hen has produced TWO baby chicks, one black and one yellow. They are in the Beduin tent for the moment.  We are so happy to have finally managed to keep them alive. I had decided to leave her alone completely, this time. No interference at all. OK so there were far too many eggs that didn't make it and I had to throw away, but two chicks is enough for the moment.
The cockerel comes and stands proudly by their pen to watch (It's true. He is an amazingly good, caring cockerel. I've learnt a lot about the male species from observing him!)

This is the shortest day. It's been beautiful and sunny and I have started to dig a patch for potatoes or chick peas.  I fill up buckets with the stones and take them down to the 'site' of the mud house....(for the foundation ditch).

R has been tackling the brambles around a huge olive tree which he is rescuing. It looks so much better, already. It's hard to believe that when we first came here two years ago there were brambles EVERYWHERE!

When it's clear skies and warm sun during the day it's usually cold at night, but we keep cosy by the stove and lie around with a hot puppy on our laps. Rather nice when she's sleepy. With a glass of Polish vodka and a slice of stollen, that's the Christmas spirit.

The picture at the top is the view in the morning with the clouds. (We get excited when we see clouds!)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mud house dreams

I've been working on my studio... and built the model in a morning. Very exciting and a good learning experience. It really helps to visualise the real one.

R has chopped down a pine tree. He used an axe. We stopped for a coffee and when he went down to finish it, he realised the wind had done it for him. He said that was permaculture in action! I went down in the afternoon and sat astride and peeled it. I got very sticky with the resin which began to blister up from the peeled trunk. It feels HUGE and I feel nervous about using it as the main beam for the studio. But as it dries it will get lighter.

I really want to build a house using mostly materials from around here. The earth is perfect. I made some sample bricks using different mixes, adding sand and straw in different proportions and the best bricks were made from the earth on the site and a handful of straw. No need for sand. That's good news as I really didn't fancy lugging barrow-loads of the stuff downhill.

A view of the village from our house as the sun rises on the frosty fog. It doesn't get as cold up on the hill, never below five degrees, but down in the bottoms it gets to freezing. We are all hoping for rain as it is getting dry. I had to water the cabbage seedlings today. With rain the temperature usually rises.

Monday, December 2, 2013

December already!

It's an unfinished picture.
From a beautiful day of clouds and Jacob's ladders streaming out from silver lined clouds and shots of blue.

December is upon us, cold like a knife, in the early morning. Frosty leaves in the garden. But nothing damaged. The greenhouse stays at least four degrees warmer and yesterday I sat in there and relished the 25 degrees of captured warmth and thought about passive solar heating for my studio, which I intend to build nearby. With a bit of careful planning you can get the sun to warm your house in the winter, when it hangs so low in the sky it can reach in.

The Man is back and tackling the bramble regrowth and making me a work table. Something solid to put the wool carder on, or the sewing machine, etc. and I have invested in a Jotul woodburner. What a difference!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Suddenly, It's Winter

The other morning When I got up, it was 4 degrees outside! No frost for us, but other folk in deep dells got frost. It has warmed up a bit since then, and during the day it's between 10 and 15 which isn't too bad. Today, it stayed cold and it rained, so Bonnie and I just stayed in bed til 11 am! That is quite rare for me.

Still, when it's not raining and cloudy you get days like this

I took Bonnie to the sea side.

On Thursday I went for my second day of a horse and human workshop... I don't quite know what to call it, but it was great! Gail was using me and Naomi as guinea pigs for a course she will do next year. The intention is to get closer to the horse and yourself. It's not about 'let's just get up on one and ride off into the sunset.' We did some exercises with blindfolds which I found really exciting and eye-opening.

Naomi did get up on her horse, in the end. This was for the first time. My horse, Mr T, is a Shetland and I didn't think it would be appropriate... and he is only two so still a bit young for hefty grannies!

I've been doing a bit of drawing, using my favourite medium, pastel.

And finally, I go to Faro to pick up the man! After three months away. I have swept the floors and tried to put away the build up which happens in solitary living.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Autumn Chores

I finally went down to the chestnut trees and found the floor covered in chestnut husks holding onto their nuts... Ouch, they are prickly. I picked a bucket full. I think that a lot of them have been invaded by a worm, but I will try and preserve some. It is very lovely down in the trees. They are so tall, you wouldn't believe it looking from the top. The sun was low in the sky and slanting through the brown
ing leaves. 

Of course, Bonnie came too. She slept on my jersey and I carried her up on top of the full bucket afterwards.

The greenhouse, with Laura modelling her baby wrap. It's a long strip of stretchy stuff which you wrap around yourself and then pop the baby in. It's very comfy, I had a go the other day.

The plants in the greenhouse seem to like it in there. I have put in a stray tomato seedling and a small pepper plant.  I have also put in lettuce seeds in some potting compost cos it's 25 degrees there, everyday. Surely they will grow?

I have been digging and putting in cabbage seedlings, and spinach, and lamb's lettuce, etc. The weather has been delightful.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Meet Bonnie!

Here is the latest member of the family! Bonnie, six weeks old and so sweet and bonnie. She already keeps the chickens off the patio. She comes from the cafe at Ribeira do Salto so she is a local dog.

This is a very happy dancing carrot I pulled out of the ground!

Along with all the excitement of getting a dog, I have also been building a green house. It is the structure furtherest away. I used up old bits of rebar and chicken wire and bought some plastic sheeting to drape over it, then put shade netting over it . The door that I had made for the first bender fits for this structure. The cost for this green house - 20€. The temperature during the day in side has been about 27 degrees C when it has been 18 outside. I have put my house plants and other heat loving plants in there, like the coffee plant, some banana trees, a pineapple that has got a new shoot on it (Yes, that's exciting, too!) I want to be able to walk in there and inhale that glorious smell that green houses have, of plant breath!

I never get tired of watching the beautiful unfurling of the day, up here on the hill top, so here is another misty sunrise. Look how green the land has become.

In the garden I have peas and broad beans coming up. And garlic, red onions, leeks, cabbages, and a few potatoes. The guava bush has lots of fruit which I have to get to before the birds do if I want to eat the fruit! The strawberries are still producing and I shall make a much bigger, more fertile bed for them as they obviously do very well here. The carrots continue to amaze, but I haven't had much luck getting more to germinate.

Laura is looking so well and being a great mummy to her two lovely girls.

R will be back by the end of the month. I'm looking forward to that. I hope he likes my little 'rug rat', Bonnie!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Some photos, few words

This is where the chickens have their midday snooze.

I laid some old floor tiles out side the front door. It's a bit wonky and sloping, but anything else would look out of place!

They don't look very appetizing in the flash light, but these are biggish carrots from the garden.

Dawn, this morning.

Proud avo, Lucilia, with our lovely girls.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The waiting is over!

Welcome, Olivia!

And welcome, Toffee!

Yes, Laura was safely delivered of a beautiful baby girl and we are all in love with her! She is perfect and her big sister is proud to be able to help.

Another new comer, Toffee, AKA Mr T, is a very sweet tempered (yes, it seems possible) Shetland pony. He's two years old and ready to learn a few useful things to help around the place. My friend and nearly neighbour, Gail, and I have gone halves in this sweet little horse, for our grand children and for hefting stuff. He is very strong. And very cute!

The days have been hot and humid and finally some thunder and lightening, bringing some rain. The hills are greening up and the brambles are beginning to amass once more. Also, the olives are ripening.
some have fallen to the ground already. Not sure why, perhaps it's the heat. I have begun to pick them, but not in earnest. Another week, I think.

Armed with some more old straw and estrume, I have been digging over some beds, and it is very satisfying to notice that the soil is really improving. Where there has been peas, the soil is really good, so I have sown some more as green manure over the winter months. Also sown fava (broad beans), and cabbage, lettuce, pak choi, etc. The carrots are doing very well. The thinnings are not too mean. I must sow more and hope that they do as well as this lot. The red onions and leeks have been transplanted, too, so the showers that come with the thunder and lightening will settle them in.

The compost heap is still producing heat. I am very happy with how it chomps up the 'waste' so actively.

The chickens are back to free ranging. There is more for them to scavenge, now that the ground is looser and the grass is coming up, so the patio doesn't get so abused by them. They lay wonderful eggs when they are free to wander.

Soon be time to plant trees!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mini Spring in Autumn

A view of the village (I used the zoom, it isn't so close), but look at those clouds! The first clouds in months. It was so delicious to feel cool during the day. Already, since the rain, the fields are turning green.

 This overhanging tree on the road suddenly reminded me of Ginger. It looks like a dog's head, and it nods as though barking, when the wind blows through it.

Hmmm... I settled into the idea of rain and autumn and mellow fruitfulness. And then the rain stopped and it got hot again. But not as hot. In fact it is lovely. The perfect temperature, around 25 degrees. And beautiful, blue skies, rosy sunsets and new green grass coming up like living velvet.

The rain mashed up the figs which are all falling to the ground in a soggy mess. No dried figs for us this year. I hope that the figs in Algarve are more successful as they are delicious and people try to make a living from them.

I have pulled out all the tomato plants and have started digging up the beds to make way for the autumn planting and sowing. The ground is looking very good. All that manure, mulch, and compost that I have dug in, and also the growing of peas and beans, has really improved the soil. It is no longer just heavy clay.

I had put a few raw peanuts in the ground a few months back and today I pulled one up, and hey presto! it had a cluster of peanuts, in their shells, hanging from strings. Next year I will definitely grow more. They are easy to grow, and easy to harvest.

In the mornings the compost steams as it cooks up all the good ingredients. It only takes a few minutes at 50 degrees to kill of pathogens in the compost, so it's definitely working!

I explored the hugelkulture bed and found it to be rotting down quite well, but needs more time, and perhaps to be covered with earth. I will either plant more stuff on it, or even put the next compost heap on top. That should sort it out.

Mostly I am on stand-by for a call from Laura. The baby is due any day now. We are all excited.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Don't count your chickens...

Sweet little cantaloupe melon

Magic dawn

How to grow melons in a green house!

Darn! The black hen was sitting on eggs. I had lost track of the days, but was beginning to think it must be soon... when she decided to get off the nest and come and have a good old dust bath.... and didn't go back. So I went and had a look. Sixteen eggs, still warm. I decided to take away the ones that looked fresh in the hope that she would come back quickly, but she stayed out. Then I decided to take them all away as they were cooling down, and as soon as I had done that she went back to the nest! I am confounded by this chicken lark for the moment. I also have a bucket of dodgey eggs.

EDP finally came and connected the solar panels to the national grid, so I am now officially contributing to the nation's power supply.

I have been working on shoring up the hill that the house sits on as the chickens have been systematically undermining it and I'm sure they are the cause of the large cracks in the floor and walls! I carried bucket loads of stones and earth and filled up the shoring and it looks quite good. Rather like some ancient Peruvian terracing...  I have covered it all in stones to keep the darn birds from scratching all my hard work down the hill again! I don't even eat very many eggs!

In the garden the figs are ripe and falling to the ground in abundance. Sweet, sticky, beautiful. The black ones are the best this year, probably because I have been watering plants under the tree. The small crop of melons was quite successful. I planted them over a pile of bramble prunings ('hugelkulture') so I hope that has encouraged the brambles to decompose at the same time as helping the melons to grow. I will have a look under the plastic soon.

I sowed some carrots a few weeks back and they germinated almost immediately. I was so surprised. Now they are growing well, and I must sow some more, as you can never have enough home grown carrots. Also have red onion seedlings growing thick and strong, in a bed where the mange-touts were. Looks like I will have some transplanting to do soon. Also time to sow cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli, and other delights.

I bought an avocado tree and have planted it below the banana, where it will get watered from the kitchen sink and shower water. It looks so lush I can't wait to plant more fruit trees. Have to dig the holes first. That's the hard bit. Especially at the moment while the ground is so hard. I think I will wait for nature to do some of the work first!

And it is raining! Lightly, but wet. First rain in months. It makes the air smell so lovely.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bits and pieces.

I had a bit of a do and it was lovely to see friends and we had so much food!

I tried to say 'I embrace shabby chic' but it came out as 'I embrace shaggy sheep'! Well, this is a towel rail a la shabby chic.

Finally, I managed to get down to a bit of digging! I was beginning to despair and to think that I didn't have it in me to do this gardening lark, but today it wasn't so hot, so after doing stuff in Sao Luis I came home and got swinging that enxada and picking out the creeping coutch  grass and pulling out the cherry tomato plants. They were prolific but I got bored with them! I have bottled some, but they are better to eat raw and I couldn't eat them all.

I have made chutney and other kinds of bottled vege. It's a good thing to do when it is too hot to be outside. I have also made some face cream and am going to make some soap when I can remember to bring the scales up from my house in Sao Luis.  The other day I made some laundry detergent which works fine and costs about 3€ for 20 litres. If you want the recipe just ask.

It has been a bit boring without R. I don't feel inspired to cook anything and am eating far to much chocolate!

I have white washed the house. It is so quick and so economical and it is good for the walls. None of that plastic paint for me.... I hope it will help to dispel the rain when it comes horizontally with the wind on our hill top.

Soon it will be time to order more firewood. I hope that my improvements on the woodburner will make a difference. Fire bricks and clay.

The chestnut trees are full of big bristly balls. Looks like a bumper crop in November.

The black hen is sitting on eggs, again. Let's hope it works this time, and that the saco rabo can keep his paws off.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Still Darn Hot

 A day on the beach with Isabella. That's my idea of 'child minding'.

Thursday, 5th September, 2013

I so seldom write out the full date, or even need to know it, that I hovered over 2013. 2013, I thought, that's a bit further on from 1978. I wonder what I was doing then that my mind should choose that year? Anyway, I am home alone and my mind is wandering around the big empty space of my head and trying to sort out old thoughts and new ones, and maybe even do a bit more writing. It is still too hot to really get my teeth stuck in to the garden, and also I don't know what job to start first. So I have retreated to the house, in the shade, in a nice cool draught, to write up this blog.

The tomatoes are still going strong, and the aubergines and peppers. A few cucumbers cling to the vine, but I am beginning to wind down the watering. Soon I will clear out the beds and get them ready for autumn planting. The figs are beginning to ripen. Big fat juicy green figs.

I keep the chickens locked up most of the time these days as they were turning our patio into a chicken roost. Why is it they like to hang out near us? And eat my flowers? I love for them to range the land, but not come and eat out of my plate.

The weather is changing slightly. There were one or two clouds today. I will have to start thinking about battening down the hatches, in case there is a sudden storm and everything gets battered or blown away. But it's still hot. The beaches and water holes are emptying out of people now that the summer holidays are over. Ah, we get the place to ourselves. It's great that folk come here and have a good time, but it is also lovely when it's just the locals.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

No man and no dog

 Empty Chair...

Day one of being on my own on the monte. R got into his old Renault Clio and drove off towards England and the apple orchards of Gloucester-shire, yesterday morning. Suddenly the days feel rather mad and without structure... but that's OK. I will settle into it. (I know, I've got a book to finish writing and pictures to paint, etc)

The riding school in the village has a huge pile of horse manure so I asked if I could have some. When she said help yourself I did! I am so happy, filling old feed sacks full and loading the back of my little unsuspecting car and gloating on my luck all the way to the garden. The garden really needs more shit and plants need a lot of water in the summer, so if the soil holds it better and I have lots more mulch, hopefully the tomatoes will be bigger next year.  Yes, there is a feeling in the air of change. It is still summer, but the thoughts are going towards clearing beds and digging over. There is one bed that is doing particularly well, and that is because I loaded it with shit and straw and then covered it with that black growing stuff with holes in it from last year. I then planted stuff or sowed seeds in the holes and hey presto! Stuff grows so quickly and no weeds. I will do a strawberry bed like that under one of the big fig trees and see if I can get year-round fruit.

I am picking loads of tiny tomatoes from the rogue cherry tom plants, and ate a small but delicious cantaloupe melon grown on a heap of bramble brash ('hugelculture'). The courgette plant (I know, only one!!!) has finally started producing fruit. And the aubergines also. Typical that I know have food aplenty and there's just me to eat it. Spicy chutney, perhaps.

Last but actually the biggest bit of news is that dear Ginger went for a wander on Monday and never came back. We went up to Lisbon for the day and when we got back there was no sign of her. I do feel bereft. I didn't really say good bye to her. Such a loyal companion for 16 years. So no dog and no man.  Exciting times.

 I hasten to add that R is returning in November!!! :)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summer update.

Blog entry

It's nearly midnight and the crickets are singing loud and clear. If you listen very carefully you can almost hear their individual song. It's not very musical, but together they make an amazing noise. One got in the house a few days ago and so for three nights we had it's deafening sound coming from the cane ceiling. I found it hiding under a half eaten melon today and managed to catch it in a tea towel and put it out. Too noisy.

Talking of noise, I had arranged to have a small tea party the other day and made a cake in the morning. As I was baking I noticed a digger coming up the hill. It was coming to do landscaping work at the newly renovated windmill at the top. Aha, thought I. We need one of these. So I went up and investigated. As luck would have it, it was my favourite digger man, Alexander, so I asked if he could do some work for us after he'd finished this job. Brilliant!... So when my friends arrived for the tea on the patio, they had to walk over a ravaged, dusty, war zone, and then sit enjoying tea, cake, the view, and conversation to the back ground noise of Alexander filling in a big hole and the trench for the micro generation electric cable for the solar panels. Sigh. For weeks at a time we live in mostly silence, bar the crickets, cow bells and the occasional tractor. This one day was quite spectacularly noisy and dusty.

We have been enjoying the new tank. The temperature has been in the high thirties, today it touched 40 for a while, so it is almost essential to immerse oneself in the cold water until you feel your bones get cool. After five minutes of sitting in the sun to dry it's time to return to the tank. This kind of heat makes my brain go all soft. Very hard to think. Later in the afternoon I drained the water onto the garden and gave everything a good drink. Now, at nearly midnight, it's still hot. 24 degrees outside and 27 inside. Everything feels warm to the touch. The walls, the bedding, the floor, even the cold tap is warm. I love the novelty of this heat as it is usually only in the month of August when it happens. And this is the time of year when the Portuguese take their holidays. It's too darn hot to work.
 A view of our patio, with shade netting to keep off the morning sun.

 Here is my home made kitchen. Notice the meter and a half string of garlic.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Laughing tank

We had Isabella for the day. That was fun! We went and started to fill the tank and got in. Ah! Cool. So we played in the tank for a while, then swung on the hammock. Soon it was time to go back indoors. Too hot. 39 degrees.
So we did some painting, some colouring in, some dressing up and some mixture making (macaroni, rice, red lentils and coloured water) Yummy!

After lunch round about three o'clock we all went down to the tank and sank our hot bodies into the water, and stayed for an hour, just getting cool. Well, Isabella had a piece of insulation to float with and roared around the 2x1 tank. When Isabella and I went up to the house to put the kettle on we could hear R laughing with the sheer pleasure of feeling cool in the pool.

In the garden, the tomatoes have finally decided to ripen, but they are not the big fat juicy ones I thought they were going to be. There are also lots of rogue cherry tomatoes from last year. So sweet. The cucumbers are only just beginning to 'hatch' and I sowed some more sweet corn which is rushing along, in a new bed with lots of manure and that black plastic mulch which is actually quite good for somethings. I was not impressed with growing potatoes under it last year. So many were green because they grew just under the black stuff.

I started to improve the strawberry bed when I found that some one lives in it.... Hmmm a mole or a mouse. That is not good. That is probably why the strawberries were not racing along. I think I will move them and completely redig the whole bed, and perhaps line it with some kind of netting, either rabbit or nylon stuff. Perhaps that will keep them out. I have also planted a caster oil plant as it is supposed to deter moles.

The big rain water tank is getting closer to being finished. R goes down in the evening and does another bit, in the cool.

I decided to go on the maple syrup detox diet and am finding it very boring. I want to eat all those delicious tomatoes! We'll see how long that lasts.

August is the month when everyone goes on holiday, to the beaches near us. I can completely understand. It's too hot to work outside. But the cork cutters do it. They just work in the heat and drink gallons of water (and madronho) and climb the beautiful trees and peel off their outer skin. They can only do it when the weather is hot, otherwise it damages the tree.

Tomorrow I will paint the house with cal (lime) and the new tank.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hot and Sweaty

Friday evening at sunset. The neighbour walks his cows across the shorn fields their bells ringing to the rhythm of their footsteps. A hot tired sound.

It has been hot. Averaging 40 degrees up here on the top of the hill. Inside has been up to ten degrees cooler, thanks to the sheep's wool insulation and some green shade netting we have put up to try and keep the walls from getting so hot. That is where taipa walls are the tops. If this had been a house built in the traditional manner, with rammed earth walls 50 centimeters thick, it would be cool in here during the day, and only after sunset would the heat start to find its way into the rooms. Instead, it is crappy old hollow clay bricks. Still, one day they will be replace with straw bales or adobe.... Dream on.

The garden was looking so pathetic a few weeks back I was beginning to despair, but Laura suggested more water. The magic ingredient! Now I have a whole host of vegetables that will be ready, soon. In fact, we ate our first cucumber this evening, and what a taste! The tomatoes aren't huge, but they are also tasty. The aubergines that I grew from seed are really big and strong.  Now I am scraping off the cut grass from the hill and using it as mulch to try and stop all that precious water from evaporating too quickly.

I went to the Tamera open day a few weeks ago. Tamera is a large community, mostly German, that have a lot of land quite near us. They have done some amazing water retention schemes in the landscape. They had the famous Sep Holzer from Austria to help them design their lakes.They have so much water, all gathered from the rains from the winter. It is inspiring to see. I also was inspired by some of the alternative buildings they have, made from straw bales and other stuff. Of course, it is very well made, expensive stuff. Not so home made as my attempts. But then, they paid experts to do the work. It is still impressive when they tell us that they only had to light a fire twice the whole of last winter. Well worth a visit. The vegetarian lunch is always yummy!  I cycled there and was surprised at how close it is to us. Sometimes, in the evening, we can see a small mushroom cloud over the hill where Tamera is. R reckons it is coming off the lakes!

The tank we have been slowly constructing is almost ready. I have rendered the inside so it is all smooth. Next, we must make the walls level, using an angle grinder... that does not sound pleasant work. Also, in this heat it could be dangerous, due to sparks flying into the dry grass.

Nuno has built us a little splash pool so we can dive in and cool down. I will use it for watering the garden. Permaculture - stacked functions.

There are a lot of things happening around here now that it's holiday season. World music festival in Sines, FACECO, the agricultural show, in Sao Teotonio, and next week end, 'tasquinas' in Sao Luis, where all the local restaurateurs have stalls selling their best menus, and a bouncy castle for the kids and a baile later, so we can all dance off the excess!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Wedding and the Weeding

What a wonderful day it was. Laura and Nuno got married on the beach!
Family and friends had created a lovely space on the beach that points out to the Atlantic and also embraces the big sandy estuary of the river Mira. The day was perfect Blazing sun, a bit of a breeze, high tide, and eighty guests in their wedding clothes all smiling and their children playing in the sand.
The alter was made from eucalyptus poles and blue netting, the space was marked out with bits of leafy cane and a white ribbon, in a large circle, and the entrance was made with a brilliant arch that Nuno had made from cane. It was soooo pretty!
The bride, my blooming and beautiful Laura, walked down the steps on her father's arm, her bride's maids in front all in blue, like mermaids, and Isabella and Beatrice holding the rings and rose petals....
As for the feast, afterwards... It was fun and fab. The food, thanks to Hotel Social, was beautifully displayed and tasty, too. I danced and talked and cried when Laura and Nuno took their first dance together as a married couple. It was romantic. A huge full moon and lots of sumptuous bean bags and bouncy castles. The perfect day.

Meanwhile, back on the land, it has become hot. 35 degrees and more! Because we are a bit inland from the sea, we don't get those cooling sea breezes. Some plants love it. The tomatoes and strawberries and aubergines are shooting up. I sowed some peanuts a few weeks back, and they are coming up.

I had planted a passion fruit next to a young cork oak, thinking it would grow up it, but they didn't like each other! I have moved it to climb over the first 'bender' I made, which is now my shaded area for plants in pots. It has a fruit on it already.

The experimental cabbage is doing very well. No watering, but growing strong and heartening up. It proves that if you give plants enough space and no competition, they can grow without watering. This is an important discovery in a land which is sometimes in drought.

The red cabbages are growing well and are not bothered by the flea beetles which are busy making lace out of the other green cabbages....

The new water tank is really taking shape now. It is solid and I have been inside, plastering the walls, listening to Santana and Jimi Hendrix. It gets very hot in the tank, even with shade over the top, so I come out soaked even tho' it's still empty!

 My shady bender full of young trees

And here is another beautiful day dawning on the top of the world!

Monday, June 17, 2013

building, learning, letting go...

Time is whizzing by. It's nearly midsummer and also officially the start of summer on 21st June.  The weather has been mixed, some days blisteringly hot, then other which feel decidedly chilly. Modern times.... Modern climes as they say.. well, I say.

Anyway, we have had another couple of chicken casualties... I found one lying by the path, dead as a door nail. No reason that I could see. Then on the weekend we went to baby sit for Laura and I didn't lock them up (the chickens, not the baby) because we left quite early and I thought we wouldn't be out too late.... Wild animals are cunning. They know when you're not around. They must check the fence and the door every night. So another chicken gone. Now we have one cockerel ( he ran off and roosted in a tree) and two chickens, one of which has been sitting on a huge pile of eggs for more than 21 days... Hmmm

We have been eating peas and cabbages and carrots from the garden and soon we shall have beans and tomatoes. I harvested a measly amount of tatties. They taste great. Just wish I had planted more. The first lot got done in by the bad weather in early spring. Too wet. Still, there is always next year. I plan to grow a proper amount and not too early. The guavas are in flower and have lots of buds. They seem to grow well here. I love guava. Also, I bought a passion fruit, which has flowered. Exciting.

I have a few trial patches of corn and beans and pumpkins (the three sisters). One patch I water and one patch I don't. The watered patch has bigger plants, but the proof is in the pudding. We also have two cabbages planted far apart which are not getting any water either, but are already big and heartening up.  There is a good book by Steve Solomon about dry gardening, where he did lots of trials and found that if you give plants enough space they don't need much or any water as long as they have no competition nearby. Seems to be true. Just means that you have to have huge gardens.

R has been building a large water tank using an experimental technique. It is top secret so you will have to wait for photos and results.

Nuno is putting another window in the kitchen and so we are immersed in dust and brick particles. Because the house is on the saddle of a high hill with a lot of strong wind, with the new hole in the side of the house, the front door has blown out and broken the door frame. Aye, it's a fair breeze we get here. No wonder they built a windmill here.

The big wedding day approaches. My beautiful daughter, and the handsome Nuno, and the delightful Isabella are all getting married on Saturday, on the beach! Family is beginning to crawl out of the woodwork. Anyone want to do some brush cutting or digging? Nah, they want to party and loll on the beach! Sigh, that's the problem of living somewhere as enticing as this. And it is looking particularly lovely at the moment with all the wild roses and other flowers of the fields blooming.  So on Saturday night I will wander down to the beach in my new dress, in the moonlight and ....
 You will have to wait for my next post to find out!

Friday, May 31, 2013

I am still having problems with posting photos on this blog so sorry for that. I wanted to show you our fridge. We call it the African fridge. It is a large terracotta jar inside another large pot, the in between is filled with sand which we keep damp at all times. It does actually work! R keeps his beer cool, and we put in butter, vege, occasionally a bit of meat. It works due to the water sweating out the sides and keeping the inside cool.

The insulation is working a treat. The big room keeps cool during the heat of the day.

I have had Nuno working for a couple of days, digging a trench around the back of the house. It got so wet last winter that there were puddles inside the house. I really don't want to live with that this year. Of course, it may not rain this winter... Still, it's good to get it done.

We have been eating lots of peas and onions and carrots and cabbage, from the garden! The mange touts that I ordered off the Internet are very good. They have dark purple pods. Very sexy. And very tasty. When I cook them up I keep the water. It makes delicious stock or a hot drink. Yum! The spinach (Swiss chard) is coming on nicely and also the cabbages. I have to patrol them and rub out caterpillars...

I have planted two beds of the three sisters, corn, beans and pumpkin. One of the beds I am watering and the other i am not. Just to see what happens. We also have two cabbages that are planted with a lot of space around them, at least a meter, and they are not getting water, either. It is possible to grow stuff without lots of water, if you give them enough space and keep the weeds down.

The golden oriole has been singing away and I wonder if it has taken the black figs... there are none where there were some a few weeks ago... Hmmm.

The new water tank is rising out of the foundations. R is slowly building it up. It is an experiment, but it's beginning to take shape.

Around us the fields have been cut and baled into barley hay. In small bales. I like to see them dotted about the fields. The farmer hopes to sell them for 3.50 each.

And so we move into June. This has been a long slow spring, cool and windy at times. Let's see what summer brings.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Sorry, no lovely photos for the moment, as I have a new system on the computer (Linux) and don't really know how to use it!

We bought some wool from the son-in-law of the lady in the cafe. Three huge bags full! And for a few days I pulled off the dag ends (with the help of Marian, who also did some sterling work on some of my poor weedy beds and borders, while on 'holiday' with us!) and then I stuffed them in feed sacks and stapled them to the rafters under the tin roof. Now that it has started to get hot it has made a big difference! It looks a bit funny and smells a lot worse, but already the smell is diminishing.

We have been eating quite a bit of food from the garden. Peas, beans, broccoli, spinach, leeks and yesterday I harvested the first proper hearted up cabbage! I feel very proud :) and rather healthy!

We have started digging a new terrace for the next water tank. The ground is like iron. I used a huge iron bar and broke up the surface, then scraped it off, then did another depth. Hot work!

Yesterday I put up a big tent on the only bit of flat land we have. It was windy and quite a few swear words were being blown over the hillsides.... but finally it is up and now I'm getting it ready for my cousin and her son who are going to come and see what we are up to. Exciting!

The swallows have made a nest under the eave of the tin roof, next to the bedroom, so I hear them whizzing about and squeaking. I hope it's not too windy for them. I have made a small temporary 'pond' for them out of a huge plastic bowl. I would like to have a larger area of water for all the animals, the birds and the bees. One day.

The once-a-month Sunday market is on in the village today. I will go and see if there are some organic avocados and figs to buy. We have eaten all our dried figs from last year, and the avocados from Algarve are really delicious.

Hopefully, I will get the photo thing sorted as it is fun to share them.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A new month

I have been to England and back since I last wrote here.

And we have new a chicken and cockeral. R saw them in the flea market in Sao Luis and we had to get them (guilty conscience?). They are lovely, polite little chickens and now most of them are laying so we are rich in eggs. The colour of the yolks are deep orange.

We have been working on another water tank, lower down the hill. In the last couple of days we have been laying concrete foundations. Hopefully, we will soon put up the walls. It will be a kind of ferro cement construction. It's going to be muxh bigger than the 'elephant' we built last year.

R's mother is visiting and she has been doing brilliant work on the flower borders and clearing brambles from a fig tree. It's great to get help with that kind of work.

We have just received three huge sacks of sheep's wool and I have begun making roof insulation by stuffing it into feed sacks and stapling them to the rafters. I think it looks very neat and should work a treat. The sheepy smell will soon dissipate (we hope!)

We are eating beans, peas, brocolli, spinache, leeks, onions and carrots from the garden. I am very pleased about that. The taste of fresh vege is so good.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Good Bye Cocky

An accident occurred this afternoon... We were sitting outside eating some food when Cocky came up to R and pecked him... so R kicked him... a bit too hard... off he went squawking in the long grass, his girls following. I got up after a while to go and see... There he lay, dead as a door knob, surrounded by his ladies, clucking quietly. I think it was shock. We are all a bit shocked. He was so splendid. I had a cry, then we quickly plucked him before he got cold. R is very sorry. He thought Cocky would move away, but he didn't.....RIP

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Creativity Between Showers

A rainbow landing on the dome! It must be a good sign.

  During a couple of dry days we managed to make a hessian-cement roof for the dome. Very interesting medium to work with. It appeals to the dressmaker in me.

First we painted both sides of the hessian with a cement mix and then we draped it over the dome. Rob had made a wooden frame to hold it out at the sides to try and stop the water from running down the sides of the dome.

 When it was all covered we painted on another coat of the mix, then the next day we painted on a mixture of cement, PVA glue and pigment, to make it waterproof and more the colour of the earth. Anyway, it works and the dome is now dry inside. Hooray!

 The chickens like to roost in the olive tree near the house for their after lunch nap. They are now being rather difficult about going to bed at night, and I have to tempt them into their pen then sling them into their house. It's not an easy job. You put one in, then when you open the door to put in another, the first one sneaks out. Grrr. Hopefully they will get used to it again, and feel safe. The cockeral now crows, usually just outside the front door in the morning. Time to get up!!!

And I suddenly got the urge to get on with my mud bender. I have been using bottles to make the mud go further. It builds up quickly, but mixing it with my hands was really sore, so I found a pair of huge, thick rubber gloves, which made it much kinder, but not as easy to make.