Someone once told us, that Portugal doesn’t get much rainfall, but when it comes – it comes!
The rain came …… and stayed with us for five days albeit with varying degrees of intensity. The little brook that weaves down from the water mine, along past the olive trees and onto the orange grove now closely resembles a fast flowing stream and we have our own water feature where it disappears under the fence and onto the land next door.
With the rain has come new growth and all around we can see the first little shoots and buds of the year, as though heralding the advent of Spring. The grass does grow at quite a fast pace and now that it has nearly all had a good cut, it is a joy to see the land starting to look cared for. We trimmed back some of the trees that were heavily overgrown when we first arrived and these are now bursting into life. It was really more by luck than design as we needed to clear a way through for the little tractor so we chopped off the bits that were in our path. However, it is as though they have appreciated our efforts. The lavender too is showing its first signs of colour, the vines have signs of new growth and our big fig tree (the one I am so reluctant to take down) is boasting tiny little figs.
There are a number of daffodil plants directly outside of the annexe. My Mum used to love daffodils and pussy willow together in a vase and I smile thinking how much she would have been in her element here on the farm. Our plan is to recreate this as a tribute to her. We have a willow growing on the edge of the brook and we sent a photo to Matthew Pottage at Wisley RHS to ask if he would identify it for us. We also wanted to ask his advice on the terrace banks as they seem to be collapsing in places where we have taken out a lot of the weed. The answer to our queries came back within a couple of hours – our willow is probably a goat willow (and is pretty much a weed) although I still think it looks pretty. Matthew recommended that we invested in some creeping rosemary and blanket plant this, or a Myrtle, to help stabilise the banks. He also suggested that we might want to think about using railway sleepers to create two or three terraces and plant around these. It wouldn’t be practical to do this on a large scale but I do like the thought of having a pretty little garden area and think this would be perfect for this. Something on the back burner to re-visit at a later date.
The Ecositana team, although unable to work on site while it was raining were busy making the new wooden structures for the barn in their workshop. The new roof has been a blessing, protecting the end wall and our belongings from the rainwater. There is a small gap where the new building will meet the old one and the driving rain had managed to get inside and made quite a puddle, but thankfully there is no sign of any damage to the internal wood.
While we were confined to working indoors, we busied ourselves looking at plans, working out were the internal dividing walls will be and researching types of windows. My favourite pastime at the moment is going up to the longhouse and trying to decide on the design of the kitchen and the decor for each of the rooms. It seems way down the line at the moment but everyone needs a goal!
Portugal remains in lockdown until at least 15th February, with the general feeling being that this will be extended for a number of weeks. We can only travel for essential purposes and have 1pm curfews on a weekend. All three of us desperately needed a trim so we decided to try our skills at hairdressing.
First up was Wanda. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the breed, The Spanish Water Dog is classed as a medium sized dog with a thick curly coat and if left uncut, her hair will grown into long thick woolly chords. A lot of people mistake her for a labradoodle although the history of the Spanish Water Dog goes back hundreds of years. They were originally bred as gun dogs to retrieve prey and flush out game. Most Spanish Water Dogs, as their name would suggest, love water. When Wanda first came to live with us she was extremely wary of any water – the sea, rivers, ponds or puddles – you name it, she was frightened to go anywhere near it. It took a lot of effort and perseverance but eventually we got there and she’s much more comfortable these days, even going in for a paddle from time to time.
Back to the haircut. Her hair has been getting thicker and longer and we’d noticed she was getting very warm and panting a lot. Having invested in some Andis dog clippers, an assortment of blade sizes and some cooling oil spray back in the UK, we were all set to go. Wanda was a little sweetheart and stood really still while we cut her curls. We had to keep checking that the blades were not too hot and giving her lots of cuddles but after around an hour we were quite pleased with our first attempt. Wanda dashed outside to play ball and obviously felt much more comfortable.
Next it was Mark’s turn – we also have some hair clippers for him so we chose a size four cutter and set to work. He hasn’t got as much hair as Wanda, so was all done in 15 minutes. He thought I’d done an ok job so I decided to trust him with the scissors (I didn’t really have an option and figured if it went wrong it would always grow back). Mine took a bit longer, with a lot of direction from me but with two inches off I was all done too.
Despite the extremely wet weather, it was also surprisingly warm and when we were able to get outside there was a pleasant earthy musk as we walked the around the farm. The lavender smells lovely when the rain has fallen on it and the Cistus has a rather unusual but pleasant, almost fruity fragrance. I remember being here when it was in flower, a beautiful delicate white.
Although we both envisaged the need for flip flops as opposed to wellies, we packed our boots all the same and were glad that we did. The water mine is overflowing and a large part of the bank has collapsed and fallen outside the entrance. Another job to add on the to-do list. We have noticed that the water from the tap is cloudy so we have been collecting our drinking water from the communal fountain in the village, just to be on the safe side. We have made a mental note that we need to find out about the process for getting mains water.
Wednesday morning, the sun had was shining and Ecositana were back bright and early. The preparation in the workshop certainly paid off and by lunchtime the roof apexes and the trusses’ were fixed in place. If anyone had told us at the beginning of the week that by Friday afternoon we would have the barn walls built, the roof and openings for the windows in place, the vaulted ceiling up and the waterproof membrane on …. We would have queried their optimism.
We’ve got a really good working relationship with Antonio and Raphael. We can hear Antonio loudly giving instructions while they are working and have it on good authority that his nick-name is the Sargeant! He’s also a very knowledgeable and gentle man and has immense pride in their work. Raphael has been our conduit between us and his dad and has also demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of not only the construction of buildings but the considerations that need to be made given the geographical location of our farm. He constantly offers impartial advice and is more than happy to help us obtain quotes and estimates for other materials and skills that we need.
This has given us great comfort and confidence as the renovation has progressed and we look forward to the end results and being able to share it with our friends and family.