The Cistus Fields – Revisited

This morning’s routine of a 6.30 alarm call, shower and unlocking the longhouse for the builders was abruptly interrupted when there was a loud knock on the door. It was a bit alarming as we don’t get many callers in the middle of nowhere. It turned out to be one of the Ecositana team who was trying to explain in Portuguese the reason for him being there. All that was running through Mark’s mind was “I wish I could speak Portuguese”. After some gesturing and beckoning with his index finger, Mark followed him up to the longhouse.

He continued to explain in Portuguese what he wanted, pointing first to the kitchen ceiling, and then to that in the room next to it, saying “esta? esta?”. All that was running through Mark’s mind was “I wish I could speak Portuguese”. Eventually, it became apparent that he wanted to know which ceiling to remove and it was Mark’s turn for gesturing to let him know.

Everything seeming to be sorted, Mark turned to the builder and said “Tudo Bem” (which means all ok? in Portuguese). The expression on the builders face for all the world seemed to say “now you can understand Portuguese?”.

Today was a day in the office for me and as is was such a lovely day, I was able to work outside. Wanda seems to be my shadow these days – not sure if it’s because I give her more treats or if its because she gets to lie in the sun when I’m working. She’s taken really well to being a farm dog and seems to have little short cuts to get around the place. I’ve noticed sometimes when I’ve set off on the tractor to go to a different terrace that she’s arrived there way ahead of me. Usually there is a lot of ball throwing when were out on the land which means that by tea-time she is tired out and sleeps all night. We must have brought with us a dozen balls for her to chase and I think ten of them are dotted around the Quinta.

Mark decided to go back and work in the Cistus field as it is quite a way from the house where the builders are and quite a way from where I was working.  I thought I heard voices at one point and went down to see who he was talking to.  It turned out he was talking to himself, or rather practicing his Portuguese out loud.   When we were in the UK we bought an audio Portuguese language course,  We never really got past asking for directions to the tourist information office or asking for more marmalade, but he was really going for it today and already up to lesson 7, obviously trying to make up for his shortfalls this morning!

So, back to the Cistus.  Mark has been busy trying to dig it out and re-plant on the boundary and today managed to dig up approximately 209 square metres.  There were a couple of hidden surprises as he went along …. 1 fig tree, a cork oak and three vines.  Just goes to show how tall this stuff can grow and take hold if you can lose trees in the middle of it. 

We also discovered that one of the pine trees had been damaged by wild boar, probably when they have been foraging on the land.  Apparently, they are quite hungry at this time of the year.  A few weeks ago we were told that a wild boar had been shot nearby by hunters and it took three grown men to carry it away.  We did come across one at the side of a lake when we were here last year and fortunately it was on the other side as it wasn’t a very cheerful looking chappie.

The cistus loaded in to the trailer ready to be taken down to the bonfire

On the plus side, now there is some progress being made in removing the cistus, we are now able to access our little wooden copse.  This is a small area at the furthermost north-eastern part of the land containing approximately 20 pine trees and couple of cork oaks clustered together.  There are also clumps of lavender dotted around which smell so lovely and a few other plants that smell nice although as yet we’re not sure if they are weeds.

At this time of the year, as we have pine trees, we have to be very mindful that this is now the season for the pine procession caterpillars and they are extremely dangerous to dogs.  We have seen silky white nests in the trees near to Linda and Andy’s quinta where the processionary moth has laid its eggs during the summer on the pine needles. When the caterpillars hatch, they eat the pine needles during the night and go into their nests during the day.  The caterpillars grow during the winter months and around this time of the year they are ready to make their transformation – this is when they become dangerous.  They leave their nests and make their way down the tree to the ground in search of somewhere to bury themselves and turn into pupae for their transformation into moths. They have tiny barbed hairs covering their body and can be launched like harpoons if threatened.  When they come down the tree, they travel in a processional line, nose to tail, hence their name and the line can sometimes be a few metres long and resembling a fluffy snake.

We are keeping Wanda away from the trees for the next couple of months because we have read that if she was to sniff a caterpillar, she could suffer horrific injuries or even die – the vet has told us that some dogs have even lost their tongues.  We’ve considered cutting down the trees but really like the wooded copse and the world certainly needs more trees.  There doesn’t seem to be any of the nests in our trees, but to be safe, we will not let Wanda anywhere near them for a while.


The sound of sawing wood, hammering and loud voices could be heard coming from the direction of the long house.  By mid-afternoon we could see that the tiles on the final section of the existing roof had been removed.  Raphael came to give an update of what was happening.  They had decided not to insulate and waterproof the existing two thirds as no rain had been forecast and they wanted to crack on and get the last bit taken down so that they could start concreting the ring beam.  This had become more complicated than first thought, so had taken longer. But we now have a vaulted timber kitchen ceiling and the middle section of the longhouse is boarded ready for the next stage. 

The vaulted ceiling in place, the concrete beams still to be removed and a decision yet to be made about exposing the granite wall

Published by vinhadasalmas

a couple of fifty somethings who want to start a new life in rural Portugal

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