When we woke this morning, the first day of a brand new year, we were blessed with a beautiful sunrise and the promise of a glorious day ahead. Living in one room with our kitchen, lounge and bedroom in a space 20 feet by 12 feet certainly does have its disadvantages without doubt. But on the flip side, being able to open wide the door and look out on to the mountain, un-interrupted by anyone else, is certainly pure joy.
Wanting to make the most of the good weather, we were up, showered and dressed early. Our morning routine is usually the same – we empty the portaloo, put out the rubbish, re-set the log burner and make the bed. We have breakfast and then wash and pack away the dishes before turning out attention to the tasks of the day.
Mark went up to the longhouse to bring down the things we would be need to work on the plot : a strimmer, ride-on mower, secateurs, loppers, gardening gloves and a saw for chopping off some off the branches that had been earmarked for removal.
He also climbed onto the annexe roof to check if the trap the had set last night had caught caught a rat but there were no signs of any activity and the trap lay empty. Before getting on with the days work, we enjoyed our morning walk with Wanda around the plot. She seems particularly interested in sniffing around the large hole in the fence where we suspect a wild boar comes in to eat olives and drink from the brook. We could hear in the distance the faint sound of gunshots and realised that that the hunters were out a few miles away. There were no other sounds and everything was still and peaceful. It seemed unusual that the farmer on the land opposite to ours had not been to let out his sheep – their now familiar little bells were silent and we decided that perhaps he had been revelling last night to see in the new year and had afforded himself a well deserved late start to the morning.
We always enjoy our morning walk, Wanda chasing her ball and us picking and eating the oranges, daydreaming about what we would like to do on the quinta. We still can’t really identify the different varieties and our sum joint knowledge consists of whether they are sweet or sour, seedless or have pips and whether they are easy peelers. We will certainly need to work on this if were to gain any credibility with the locals.
Mark set about getting everything ready to continue clearing the vineyard directly in front of the annexe, while I went inside to prepare the evening meal. Another routine we have created is to prepare dinner in the morning so that we can come in after working on the land and all we need to do is switch on the oven. We know that we would be too tempted to skip dinner and opt for a snack instead if we were tired with nothing prepared. Today we were to have home-made meat pie, boiled potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and cabbage that I picked from the terrace in front of the annexe.
We both started cutting back the vines. We decided to be quite lenient, removing only the really long stems which prevented us from driving the ride-on tractor between them to cut the grass. Linda has offered to come and give us a lesson in cutting back the vines in the next week or two. It was all very much overgrown with brambles and ivy tightly wrapped around the vines and fences. It took quite some time but eventually we were able to get the tractor on to the plot and cut back the overgrowth while Mark followed behind with the strimmer.
Moving on to the terrace above the vineyard, we started to repeat the process of cutting back the weeds and brambles. The Olive trees are also in need of some attention. Not really knowing what to do, we remembered helping the Hipwells with their trees – removing the lower branches to make it easier to cut the grass underneath and also thinning out the tree tops to open up the canopy and create “pom-poms”. It was impossible to reach without a ladder so we decided to leave this until another day.
The cuttings were loaded onto the trailer and taken up to the top plot by the gate to prepare for a bonfire. Several trips later and we had quite a sizeable heap. In Portugal, anyone who wants to light a fire needs to obtain prior permission and need to book a slot for a fire. We have a telephone number to call and will get this booked in for some time over the next week.
The day was starting to close in and we could feel a chill in the air. We locked up the longhouse and had another walk around the edge of the plot. Mark needs to build himself a workshop mainly for storing gardening equipment but also for carrying out repairs and making things to be used on the quinta. Walking around, we tried to decide where would be the best place to site this. It would need some electricity and be easily accessible – despite having 4 acres of land, we can’t find a suitable spot for it! We also talked about building a store to house the logs to fuel the log burners and both agreed the ideal spot would be backing on to the planned annexe extention.
We manged to catch up with family after dinner – it sound pretty awful back in the UK with the new variant of Covid spreading at an alarming rate. It’s such a worry especially with Jodie, Hollie and Annie working in healthcare. We feel safe on our quinta, although we do need to go to the supermarket to buy provisions from time to time. We’ve both decided to try and limit our trips into the big towns to maybe once a month.