Taking the proverb literally, we decided that this was the week our new veggie patch would be created. With all the land around the farm, anyone could be forgiven for thinking that we were spoilt for choice when choosing a suitable location for it. Not so, there are apparently lots of things to consider when creating a vegetable garden, including having the right tools for the job. Our one and only fork lost a prong early in the game, so the stack of jobs for Mark and his welder continue to build up.
Keen to grow as much as possible to meet own needs, and hopefully have some left over to give away, we knew that the plot had to be in the right place. Our seedlings are growing at some speed and it won’t be long before they need to be planted out, so we knew we had to crack on.
Not wanting to make the same mistake as last year when we planted all our seeds at once, resulting in about 200 lettuces all being ready at the same time, we have staged the growth of seedlings and have another dozen or so packets waiting for their turn in the propagator once the first growth have been planted out.
Back to planning … there was so much to think about… how big does it need to be? what was the soil like? will it get enough sun? will it get enough shade? would it be in the direct line of the wind coming down off the Gardunha’s? will it be easy to irrigate? is it accessible? These were only a few of the things going round in our heads but eventually we agreed … then changed our minds – twice before deciding on the perfect spot!
The first step was to mark out the shape of the garden with some red rope and metal rods. Reading the sowing instructions on our packets of seeds it seems that we have to leave quite a lot of space in between the plants so we went big – Mark was unsure if it was a vegetable garden or an extension to the nearby N239.
We spent the next two days digging up the grass and relocating it to in front of the annexe. There was a bare compacted mud hollow between the two olive trees and we’d decided to build it up with our excavated soil and use some of the grass seed we had brought with us to try and create a tiny grassed area. Not sure how successful we will be but we’re hoping with plenty of watering we will be able to keep it green during the summer months.
We dug, we raked, we levelled and raked again and finally we were happy with the result. In the middle of our vegetable plot standing proudly is the old walking stick cabbage. I remember seeing this growing up through the long grass when we first came to look at the farm a couple of years ago. Since moving in we’ve redirected our grey water onto this terrace and the cabbage plant seems to love it. The waste water pipe is buried just under the soil leading from the bathroom (where the washing machine is) and comes out on the top of the bank near the cabbage. We didn’t realise just how much water is used doing the laundry and we will certainly be looking to make good use of the grey water in the long house. We’re learning bit by bit.
Our 2 compost bins we had in the UK hitched a ride on our removal van and with all the cutting back we had to do when we first arrived, were filled up within a day. My impatience got the better of me and I ordered some compost accelerator tablets online. Once delivered they were quickly put to good use and within three weeks the level in the bins had reduced by half the size. I’m glad we decided to place them at the end of the terrace as there are hundred of tiny little flies in and around them. Back to researching and we have been looking in to the sort of stuff we can compost. Some of our trusty orange skins, Vegetable peelings, egg shells, grass cuttings, ash from the log burner to name a few. It’s going to be a while before we can use it but maybe when we have finished harvesting our home grown stuff it might just be ready.
Way back when we first completed on the sale of the farm, we found that there was a little triangular patch of land opposite that also belonged to us. It’s not very big but it does have several olive trees on it and a good supply of water which is always useful. This little bonus also came with the task of clearing it. The farmer who comes to see to his sheep has his land adjoining it and I’m sure that he must have been eyeing up the overgrowth and wondering when we were going to get around to doing something to sort it out. Loading up the trusty ride-on tractor with the trailer full of gardening equipment, and with Wanda in tow, we headed over the road. Wanda soon got herself settled down in the shade and despite the noise of the strimmer, lawn mowers and chain saw, slept soundly on her blanket. In fact, there was one small patch that we had to leave until the very last as she was fast asleep and we didn’t like to disturb her. We were quite pleased with the results of our labours and since it has been tidied up the farmer now seems to go out of his way to acknowledge us with a toot, a wave or a cheery Bom Dia.
During one of our regular video calls with Mark’s mum and dad, we were excited to show them how the land was coming along. Ray is a really keen gardener and for years now has been growing bedding plants for us to put in our hanging baskets and borders – we’re going to miss them this year but have noticed some little marigolds growing so will think of his plants when enjoying them.
The last week has been another full on week with the build. The hard work of the Ecositana team on the renovation of the long house has continued at pace. All the barn extension has now been clad and the making good of the block wall beneath has been completed. The RSJ has been fitted and the interconnecting wall from the living room extension into the old store has now been removed. Work on the roof of the ground floor extension has also started.
We still have our morning and evening strolls around the plot and love seeing the daily progress. We are particularly pleased with the roof tiles, they blend in so well and the finish is fabulous. We can now see the views we will be able to enjoy from the balcony once the project has been completed. It is going to be another busy week again this week with the electrician due on site and Ruivo, Carrega Barata coming to measure for the new windows.
To be continued …