The weather seems to have now done it’s worse and we have enjoyed some beautiful sunny days recently. This has been a plus all round – the builders have been able to work outside making great steps forward with the cladding and staining, the water filled trenches have started to dry up and we have continued our work on the land.
We’ve noticed just how much the nights are starting to draw out. When it gets dark, it is still as though a light has been switched off, but instead of this being about 5 o’clock we now have light until almost 7pm. The warmth on our backs and the bright sunny days lift our spirits giving us such a zest for life and for living and we enjoy being able to spend so much time outdoors.
Not all is as straight forward as it may seem though as we’ve have quite a few windy nights where the metal door to our bedsit has rattled and banged and the wind chime on the olive tree outside our annexe has definitely been chiming.
Now, we can usually sleep through such things, especially after long days toiling out on the farm, but Wanda isn’t at all happy with it. Our room is only 5 metres square, so as you can imagine, Wanda’s bed isn’t far from ours although to her it would seem that it is not close enough.
For several nights now Mark has been woken in the small hours with her head inches from his and her breath on his face. We’ve tried lots of things to try and settle her – putting a draught excluder up against the door, moving her bed next to ours, snuggling her down wrapped in a blanket all to no avail. The only thing that seems to offer any help at all is asking Alexa to play “calm” music for 30 minutes at bedtime. It’s definitely a dog’s life!
Clearing out the little brook that runs through the bottom terraces has been on our list of things to do for some time. The recent rains have made their way down the mountains and in to the wells and water mine. The increased water has washed away some large chunks of the bank as well as flushing debris along the brook, where the already overgrown edges caught the twigs, grass and sludge. One side of the well is already open so we could clearly see the water line rising, so much so that the ground around it for four or five metres was acting as a huge soakaway. It was extremely boggy and the only way to walk on that terrace was by wearing wellies. The grass seemed to love it though and grew to almost a foot high.
Extremely happy to see that not all the foliage around the edges of the brook were weeds, we found lots of mint, wildflowers, watercress and grasses that we wanted to keep. These were carefully gathered from in and around the brook and relocated on the sides of the terraces. We’re hoping that the mint in particular will take hold and spread along the bank, helping to knit it all together. The mint smelt wonderful and there are at least three or four different varieties that I spotted. We brought out Moroccan teapot and glasses with us from the UK and I’m looking forward to using this to serve our home grown mint tea.
But before then, so much work is needed to sort out the not so babbling brook. Mark spent the full day digging out the smelly stuff from the bottom and using it to fill in the little gulley in the orange grove. His challenge was to channel the water so that it flowed gently through the terraces and over into the land next door at a much slower pace. This way, we should be able to keep the brook flowing and use it’s precious water to irrigate our trees and vines.
To stem the flow of the brook Mark came up with the idea of damming it by using a series of blocks with a hole drilled through the middle so allowing the water to flow. The blocks were then covered with soil and plants such as mint and watercress to make it look much more in keeping with the natural environment. As part of the work in progress the blocks had to be frequently removed while their positions were adjusted, resulting in a sudden excessive flow of water down the brook. This brought with it more smelly slurry and debris at such a force that frustratingly washed away some of our newly created dam. Although it’s taking quite a bit of effort to regulate the flow, we’re slowly getting there and we can see the brook starting to take shape.
Half way through the digging near the well, we were startled when we noticed a long tailed creature dart up the bank and into one of the water irrigation pipes. First thoughts were that Mr Rato had returned although we were surprised to see him out and about in daylight. Waiting quietly for a while we saw it emerge back out of the pipe and we found that it was in fact not a rat, but a water vole. A sweet looking creature, with a rounded face, currant eyes and a twitchy nose. I remember reading as a child Kenneth Graeme’s “Wind in The Willows” where one of the leading characters, Ratty, was actually a water vole. He is quite a cute little fellow and feeds mainly on grass, and other vegetation near the water, possibly why he has made his home near the mint and watercress.
Sometime later, we found another co-habitant of our farm that wasn’t quite as pretty. A Scolopendra Cingulata, aka the centipede that bites!
The one Mark found was approximately 3 inches long, and we found later that this was a baby as they can grow up to 8 inches. It is often found under stones, rocks and fallen tree trunks where it rests during the day, only to come out at night-time to feed, but as we are doing a lot of digging and land clearing, we had obviously disturbed it. These centipedes eat all manner of other insects and grubs but have also been know to tuck into small mice as well as eating each other. Apparently, their main weapon against threat is their painful bite which although causes a nasty inflammatory reaction, is not supposed to be fatal to humans. Not something we’re planning on putting to the test! We’ve even heard that they can rear their back end up like a scorpion with their pincers ready to bite. Would you believe that some people actually have these centipedes as pets? Definitely not for us, we’ll stick with Windy Wanda thank you very much. This fella was swiftly tossed over the fence.
So, an update on the progress of the build. We are so pleased with how it is progressing. We’d heard some disturbing stories relating to local building works and must say we are so happy with the professionalism, advice and attention to detail from Ecositana. I’ve managed a number of building projects back in the UK so have a rough idea of the challenges and procedures that need to be in place, We were under no illusion that systems would be different in Portugal due to the locality, building materials, geology and the sheer heat of the sun. I must say, Raphael has been an absolute star, going the extra mile sending us information and youtube videos as well as sharing his network links with us. Fantastic company.
The electrician has now started doing his stuff. We’d provided him with a drawing showing where we wanted sockets, switches, lights and such like and he got stuck in. I’m sure he must have wondered why so many sockets were necessary but was polite enough not to pass comment. He too has also shown his expertise suggesting changes that would better suit the layout of the build. It’s sad really that because of Covid we can’t be on site as much as we would like while the work is being done. Maybe its a relief for the workmen, but we would like to be able to build a relationship with them and just communicate what a great job we think they are doing. Sometimes we do need to go and talk through things with Antonio or Raphael but even then it is difficult to express any real emotion as we can’t shake hands and our faces are covered with a mask so smiles go un-noticed.
Jose, our electrician has set to about his work laying a labyrinth of blue pipe conduit ready to accommodate our requirements for endless sockets and switches. The Ecositana team have moved on to the balcony area and have already completed laying the base to the balcony floor, ready for fixing the decking. Two layers of waterproofing membrane is now in place and we are looking forward to seeing the decking being introduced next week.
We’re still plodding on with sorting out our hidden treasures although Mark did a double take when he came across an old scythe – wondering if it was a relic from a bygone era or a calling card. Whichever, it has now been added on to his list of things to weld!!