The weekend was a bit of a slow starter where we walked with Wanda around the farm, throwing her ball and finding the ones that we’d thrown previously and she’d lost! She’s really good now at working out where the stream is and is able to leap over it without any hesitation at all – it could be said that she is becoming a proper little farm dog.
The Ecositana team do not work on a Saturday so we took advantage of their absence and climbed up onto the roof of the barn to check out the views we’ll see once the bedroom and balcony have been built. We could see right down to the farthest part of the Quinta and for miles beyond it. The long winter shadows created a dark contrast against the bright green grass that is now starting to appear and is replacing the weeds and brambles that covered the terraces when we first arrived.
The Gardunha Mountains looked magnificent with the rugged terrain, abundance of trees and many water courses snaking their way down the mountainside. We could see that some areas on the mountain were less dense, maybe because of the raging fires that had engulfed much of the area over recent years. There are a few small roads that look as though they offer a route over the top and we decided that when we are able to start to move around more freely, we would take the opportunity to go off for a drive and explore. It would be great to find some beauty spots to show our friends and family when we can finally have visitors come and stay.
Closer to home, we could see nestled in the foothills the orange roof of a building and further along a large white house. A small village reaches out along the mountainside and we wondered what it was called and whether there may be any restaurants or shops there that we can visit once the uncertainty of the pandemic has declined.
The task for today was to carry on with the olive trees, cutting them back, this time making sure that our equipment was carefully sanitised. We got stuck into pruning the trees outside the longhouse as we try not to work here when the builders are on site. Scaffolding has been erected along the front of the main house stopping outside of the kitchen near the big fig tree which seems to be a hindrance to anyone wanting to work anywhere near it.
Mark found his chain saw and cut back one of the large branches that seemed to be the most obstructive. We had originally thought that the tree should come down in its entirety as we had noticed some damage to the paving nearby. But, for now, with its little trim, it has managed to buy itself a bit of time.
We packed up around 3.30 and had a zoom call with friends. It’s great to catch up and hear how things are going in the UK. It is all very worrying. Zoom certainly seems the way to go at the moment as it doesn’t seem likely that we will be doing it in person any time soon.
In my pursuit to find new ways to use some of our oranges, I tried out a recipe for orange cake with a sticky orange topping – extremely tasty, especially served warm with with vanilla ice-cream and very easy to make. I’ve decided that I will create a collection of our favourite recipes. I think at the moment, they will be primarily orange-based due to the seemingly endless supply of the fruit but maybe when the figs come into their own, this could change.
Saturday night was probably the wildest one that we’ve had since being here and not in a party way! The wind took a sudden turn for the extreme and carried on throughout the night.
We have an orange tree, laden with fruit at the back of the annexe and as it is on the terrace above, the branches overhang the annexe roof. At around 2am, we were woken with a start when the wind blew the oranges off the tree with a bump, bump, bump down the roof until finally they fell on to the path with a thud outside of the annexe door. This at any time of the day would sound loud and in the middle of the night sounded so much worse. Wanda was not in the least bit happy and when the metal shutters flew open and banged against the wall it was the final straw for her and she shot off her bed and straight up on to ours!
Morning arrived and we opened the door to be faced with bright sunlight and scenes of the morning after the night before. Branches, twigs and cuttings were strewn across the terraces and more noticeably were the abundance of windfall oranges on the ground extending right down to the orange grove.
Then began the morning task of gathering up the fallen fruit – today was a bumper harvest resulting in 6 buckets from the orchard and a further one collected later from below the other trees on the farm.
While I was busy foraging, Mark was busy attending to lighting a bonfire. He knew it would not be an easy task as the rain we’ve had over the past few days had made the piles of branches quite damp. But we’d phoned to book a fire and knew that if it didn’t happen today, we would have to start the process of booking another fire all over again.
We’d brought with us from the UK a gas powered weed burner which we thought would be really useful for starting fires. It was something that we have used twice before and in the past has worked very well. Not so this time. For a while a small clump of dried grass or some leaves would spark up a flame and burn for a minute or so, then fade out. Getting more and more frustrated, we used up all of our three gas cannisters. As a last resort, Mark eyed up an empty cardboard box and half a box of firelighters. I could see he was undecided whether to try them but he went for it anyway. Within a couple of minutes, and very much to his surprise, the bonfire was ablaze in no time at all. He still can’t get his head around how a sustained and intense gas powered flame was outdone by a couple of firelighters and a small pile of cardboard.
Once the bonfire was finally esablished, the flames quickly started to creep onto the straw-like grass nearby. In an attempt to halt the quickening pace of the spread, Mark started to vigorously stomp on the flames. Someone with an imagination may have likened it to a rendition of Michael Flatley’s Riverdance. In my mind’s eye, I could see some locals observing the shenanigans and discussing amongst themselves why the crazy Englishman was performing some kind of ritual dance around his fire. As a footnote, we did have on standby a hosepipe set up but for some reason it did not enter into Mark’s head to pick it up to subdue the flames.
I’ve mentioned before that although we think our Champion juicer is fantastic at juicing, when it comes to making orange juice, it is necessary to peel the fruit first. The peeling doesn’t bother us, but it is a bit of a quandary knowing what to do with the peel and damaged fruit that can’t be eaten. We had a great idea, so we thought, of putting the oranges on top of the bonfire thinking thatbthey would burn. The fire was going for most of the day managing to clear all the olive branches we’d cut from the trees during the week. As it was dying down the oranges were rising up like a Phoenix from the smouldering ashes. So here’s the question – what do we do with them if oranges don’t burn?