Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December Update

That cardboard box!

Dancing and dressing up

With Granny!

A month has passed and I haven't written here. What have I been doing?
Since the big downpour in October the ground has been soft and damp which is perfect for digging, so I tackled some of the narrow steep terraces. I dug them over and put horse manure and straw over them then wrapped them in weed barrier, ready to plant in later. That felt good, but now I need to get more manure.

I have been slowly adding to the walls in the mud house in the village. Cob takes a long time to dry in the winter, especially since the extension is on the non sunny side of the house (in the winter it gets a little morning sun and then it's over). But that's alright as it gives me time to think about the whole place.

Blue bottle niches in the bathroom

Interior wall between bathroom and bedroom


The vegetable garden is now looking green and full of slugs eating lettuce, chard and cabbage.... I must take down a bag of salt and make a bucket for killing them... sorry but I have to. And quite a lot of caterpillars too. I have to keep checking and smearing them to death.

The vegetable garden

Cactus flower in studio

Spinning mohair

It's like spinning clouds

Saturday, November 14, 2015

November News

After the deluge - a weekend of heavy, continuous rain, the clouds dispersed and it has been sunny every day. The rain was enough to give the land a real boost and now there is grass on the studio roof, along with some Hottentot fig and other plants that survived the intense summer.

I have been putting wood around the bottom of the roof, from the end of the beams, to try and fold up the plastic to make a gutter and encourage the water to drain to the back of the house. Drips are really damaging to cob, and there was one or two landing on the 'kitchenette'. I have also started to put up cane to make the porch but haven't done much. I need to think about it some more.

There is a cat that wanders around and I don't know who thinks they are the owner. I used to consider it an enemy and shoo it away until one day I changed my mind. It might as well hang out around here and catch rodents. It sleeps on Bonnie's cushion outside during the night. Sometimes I hear it padding about on the roof. Bonnie tolerates it.

Everywhere is green and the sun keeps it warm during the days. The fig trees are losing their leaves slowly. You hear them crunkling down. I have dug over a couple of beds and planted some garlic. (Bulbs that I found in a bed, left from the summer harvest, all sprouting and keen.) The goat shit has done wonders for the soil. There are still aubergines and lots of French beans. Cabbages are coming up, and Swiss chard.

The fields around us are being ploughed and sown with winter wheat and barley. When I walk the dog, if I see a big stone newly brought to the surface I carry it to the side of the road. It's always good to have a stash of stones.

The work on Billy's house is slow. Cob takes a long time to dry in November, especially since the extension is at the back of the house, in shadow at this time of year. But the orange trees are FULL of fruit, all nearly ripe. I have been having fun making bottle niches along the bathroom wall using the vinho verde blue bottles. It's beginning to look cute!  And the solar hot water is being installed. Progress!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Head in the clouds. Feet in the mud.

Clouds. Lovely, bumptious, big, billowy, clouds. I have missed them this long hot summer.

And work is slow at Billy's place. The bedroom outside wall is done and the gravel put down for the earth floors.

There's work to be done.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Early Autumn Update

No more guests in the studio so I put the futon back as a sofa and lay down on it and looked up at the roof and felt very content!

Since the slight cooling off of the sun I have been able to do a bit of landscaping around the studio. I decided that the hole I thought to turn into a pond could go. Much better to have room to sit in the shade of the olive tree and enjoy the view.

I have taken off the shade netting and plan to put up a more solid, waterproof roof. That means getting the drill and fooling around with screws and saws... I am not very patient about that kind of work. So it will take some time.

I beat the carpet really thoroughly. It was very dusty. Now the room smells neutral and lovely.

The guava tree and the bush are both producing delicious fruit. One gives red fruit and the other yellow. The birds don't know that it is tasty so there are plenty to snack on when I walk through the garden.

The chestnuts and the olives are ready at the same time!!!

Here is a picture to show the work I am doing on Billy's house. I have got a bit further since this photo, but I am not going top speed. Sometimes it is good to work slowly and have time to think about what next. I am quite excited by the idea of building a clay fireplace. Why not? An iron one will cost more than 400€.
And clay will hold the heat well.

There have been some lush sunsets.

Some people ask me if I am frightened being up on the hill alone, but I don't even think about being frightened. I feel privileged. I have Bonnie!

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Isabella and Olivia in an Apricot Tree

We found a Private Beach

A Herd of Cows With Long Horns

The Mist In The Morning, Like Sea

Sitting quietly by the window listening to the wind come in gusts. It comes from a long way away, from the coast, and our hill is the highest point, so one can hear it coming before it has arrived. Quite exciting.

I am crochet-ing a little something special for grand child number three, feeling very peaceful, like this end of summer. A time of transition. Preparation. Relief from the great heat of summer which beat me into the shadows.  

It is no wonder they call the autumn here the little spring. It is with the same kind of joy that one welcomes it. Cool fresh days when one can work in the garden and not notice the hours passing. When one can walk a distance without that heat bearing down on your back. And no more of the constantly sweaty face! Phew... 

I finally managed to get my head around drip irrigation for the fruit trees. I don't know why I felt it such a challenge. I bought 100m of tubing and some little drippers, laid out the tube along the lines the trees are planted, just below the swales, connected it to the tap, turned on the water and hey presto! No more dragging 70m of hose from tree to tree. It is so much more efficient, too. I have also mulched the trees with old brambly straw, which I hope the chickens will leave alone. I now wonder why I didn't do this years ago!

Down in the bottom the chestnut trees are bristling with chestnuts. Soon they will fall. The wild boar and I will gather them up. The ones I gathered last year and par-boiled and peeled then froze, were very successful.  I made some delicious chocolate puddings with them.

R has gone to England to pick apples and pears and that is another transition. I miss him and the routines we have, but I also relish the time by myself and the different routines one creates when alone.  I have been spinning and playing the guitar a little bit.

Life is good.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Drip irrigation being drippy

I don't know why it has taken me so long to get round to actually getting a drip irrigation system up and running.

 I guess it was too hot. Every time I was down in the garden thinking ok let's do it today, I'd find that I didn't have the right connectors or tools at hand.

And that uphill walk to the tool shed is no joke when it's over 35 degrees Celsius.

Well, anyway, finally, on an unusually cool day, I finally got the pipes, the drill bit, the drill, the plumber's tape, the taps, and everything else ready.

I had even dug some beds and put in the lovely goat manure.

Joined it all together and Hey presto!

Water spouting all over the place...

woops, not so much pressure! It works.

The beans are coming up and the peppers and cabbages love it. So do the dang chickens, who have found a way through the fence which I haven't discovered...

Now I understand how it works I will improve what I have and enlarge it for next summer's plantings.

It is definitely a water saver and much less stressful. ( I have a thing about running water...)

I have also started on clearing and leveling ground for the new chicken house. That's not going to happen in a hurry. The ground is like concrete!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Summer time blues

This heat is beginning to get to me.
The walls are hot. The floor is hot. The car is like a cooker. The earth is baked hard and cracking. It did actually rain a little the other night but it made not a jot of difference, except the solar panels and the car looked a bit less dusty. I am dreaming of rain and wellies and lighting the fire.

It's so nice when good friends come and visit and drag me off to relax by cool water under the leafy trees by the 'secret' pools. We spent a whole afternoon being lazy and eating fruit and occasionally slithering into the water to refresh.

The garden is almost bare, just a few tomatoes, which are looking rather good, and some peppers and strawberries and the odd cabbage. I am getting ready to put in a few lines of drip irrigation to see if it works better than standing with a hose. Now that the beds have goat manure dug into them stuff should grow...

I am inspired by a photo I saw of a pod bed room and think I would like to make one on the other side of the studio... but I do have a chicken house to build first. When the weather has cooled a little I will get the stones and then throw one up. I am hoping that someone may come and volunteer with me and help.

Meanwhile, we just have to sweat it out.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Boiled Brain Can Hardly Write

Sitting in the shelter from the worst of the heat of summer. It has been 38 degrees all day and Sweat trickles down the body like tickling flies. Just keep drinking water and going into the tank for a bit of total immersion. Ah, to sit still and feel the coolness begin to penetrate the skin. To watch the wasps drink thirstily at eye-level. Laundry takes about 15 minutes to dry!

Isabella came to stay.

Here are some pictures of the studio with shade netting and weed barrier in the outside eating area, to keep the dust down. Looks and feels great. And the inside is so cool. It's a huge relief to go inside. I've been letting other people have the pleasure of staying in it and it is POPULAR! Even the cold shower.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

And Suddenly It's Summer

Yup, the heat is on - in the thirties up here on the hill. The landscape turns to tan and caramel as the hay gets taken off and the vegetation dies back. Already the cork is being taken off the trees and big round bales of straw dot the fields.

We took Isabella and Layla to the agricultural show in Santiago and saw lots of horses and donkeys.

They are so soft and cute.

My studio is nearly ready for the first guests who are arriving on Thursday. Exciting. The futon base and mattress are in place and the kitchen area outside is more or less sorted and I have built a shower under a young cork tree.

The garden is looking rather wild and woolly. I need to cut the grass and weed the beds. I am thinking that it all needs a complete overhaul and an irrigation system put in which uses less water and is more efficient. I also need to either put cardboard or weed suppressant down to stop the dang chickens from scruffing up all the seedlings... grrr

Olivia playing with water on a very hot day... inside.