As Storm Cristoph descended upon us so did our inability to get outside and do anything on the land. We’ve heard from other people that this is an ideal time to catch up on things that they have meaning to get round to for ages – reading a book, pursuing a hobby, calling friends and family or maybe watching a film or doing the ironing.
Mark took advantage of the down time to Facetime Annie and hear about how her new cake baking venture is going. He also managed to get in touch with “family Brown” and it was lovely chatting with the kids. They are also in lockdown and are taking full advantage of their family pub “The Dog and Duck” which has been made out in their back garden, seems like its the future!
We too had a list of things to do that were overdue. Mark put up some shelves in our little annexe to create more storage. Wanda now has a full shelf all to herself in the cupboard under the sink and we have ourselves a mini bar and our electrical stuff neatly packed away out of sight.
However, keeping busy was a bit more difficult as we may have first thought as we are in Lockdown and confined to one little room. Although we could do essential shopping, we do not want to be venturing out, not even for essentials. Anyway, there’s nothing that we really “need” as we’d stocked up a couple of weeks ago.
We bought enough uht milk to keep us going for a while and surprisingly have got quite used to drinking it. We have our endless supply of freshly squeezed orange juice and our walking stick cabbage plant straight outside of the annexe door. We’ve also fond that fruit and vegetables keep much longer if they are spaced out in the fridge.
As well as giving us juice, the oranges also produce a supply of pulp. True to our adopted Portuguese way of thinking, we don’t want to waste anything that could possibly be used and decided that we would try our hand at ice-cream making. We took some vanilla ice-cream from the freezer, let it defrost slightly and then mixed in our orange pulp before popping it back in the freezer to set. We tried out our experimental desert after dinner and it was really delicious. However, being the chocoholics that we are – we plan to recreate this on a stick dipped in dark melted chocolate and rolled in toasted chopped nuts to make ice-cream lollies.
While Mark was busy making his ice-cream, I was having a bake-fest too. It had been difficult figuring out in the supermarket what to buy to make pastry, or what to buy to make cakes for that matter. Having invested in a few different items I was keen to try out my ingredients opting for coconut tarts (these were always Mark’s dads favourite and I’m sure that Whitworths profits increased tenfold after meeting him). I also had a go at scones and a cheese and chorizo quiche and was quite pleased with the results.
It was warm and toasty with the oven on and the aroma of home baking made our little annexe bed-sit feel cosy and homely. Outside the wind and rain was picking up and we could see the rainclouds rolling down the mountain side. Certainly not the bright blue skies and fluffy white clouds that we’ve been used to!
Antonio and Raphael called by with a copy of our plans in hand and a few questions that they wanted to talk through with us. We had included at the back of the barn a couple of triangular windows where the bathroom and the dressing room would be. It quickly became apparent that they would not really be practical as they would be out of eye level and we would not be able to reach up to open them.
Our reasoning behind the concept was to make them a feature, something a little bit out of the norm, which would compliment the modern extension, but as we needed to be able to open these in the hot summer months and create a through draught to the front of the bedroom, we agreed that they had to be lower and decided on rectangular ones instead.
The next question brought us to the front of the longhouse to review where the extension would meet the existing building.
We needed to make a decision whether to build this in concrete or wood. As there will be quite a lot of glass on both sides, we chose a timber construction to compliment the area where the bedroom and the new flat roof will be. This will also help to mask the joining together of the old and new buildings. We talked about the staircase, removing part of the wall and putting in new concrete beams. It all seemed to be so real all of a sudden, after two years of waiting and chasing the sellers and solicitors, everything seems to be slotting into place.
Moving into the kitchen area, we could see that the rain water had worked its way through the temporary roof where the longhouse met the barn. It had come down the corner of the building and also down the chimney, but fortunately it looked as though the water had bypassed the new vaulted ceiling.
As this is an outside wall, it made us realise the effect that any water ingress would have on timber cladding so we decided that we would insulate and then plasterboard to help keep it dry.
Two of the Ecositana team would be coming back tomorrow to start work in the barn, so in preparation Mark needed to empty both storage areas so that they could get in. It took a while clearing everything out and moving it into the longhouse. When disassembling the old animal shelter and hay feeder, he moved some planks and uncovered a rats nest. The rat shot out in front of Mark and ran vertically up the wall and on to the mezzanine floor above leaving behind its nest made of shredded paper, plastic and straw. We knew that there had been some rodent activity is this building but it was still a surprise to find the nest tucked snuggly in its little hidey hole.
With the nest removed, the rat would need to find a new home and we had plenty of new cardboard boxes and nooks and crannies not too far away that we feared may seem far too inviting.
We’d invested in some rat bait and a trap a few weeks ago when we had some sort of night time activity on top of the annexe roof. This has never caught anything, so we decided to move it into a storage area that we haven’t really explored since arriving. It is full to the brim with old bits of furniture, artifacts and farm equipment. Mark added the bait, set the trap and put it on top of a frame that was being stored in there. It will be Mark’s job to check it each morning and report back while I wait in the annexe!
The following day, The builders were back on site and by the end of the day had removed the old water tank, cut out the slots for the new concrete beams and crate a hole in the roof where the stairs will be placed.
The rat had taken it’s supper and managed to avoid setting of the trap. Mark re-set it with more bait and will check again tomorrow.
We kept out of the way of the builders, walking the plot when the weather permitted. We’re keen to be back out working on the land and finding it very frustrating being confined to barracks. The rain, although not as severe as what we were used to in the UK, has made the land extremely waterlogged and sodden. Although it has been mostly what we would describe as a heavy drizzle, the tracks where the crane has been driven are full of water, the wells are filling up again and our little brook is flowing faster.
According to our Google weatherman, today is the last day of the rains so we are planning on an early start in the morning to review the terraces and see what, if anything we can get outdoors and get on with.