As we can’t really work in the long house at the same time as the Ecositana team and the electrician, it was always the plan that we would focus on doing the land and legal stuff first. So many things to be getting on with and so many things either part completed or not even started, so we’ve made an executive decision to get a few of these ticked off before beginning anything else.
The build continues to edge forwards and each day seems tantalising closer to completing the first phase. Some days there are quite an army of people working on site, led of course by Sargent Antonio keeping everyone on track. On other days we are down to one, two, or even nobody here.
However, this being said, a lot of preparation is being done in the workshop at Lardosa which means that when things arrive at the farm it is almost fully constructed with often only the fitting and finishing touches needed.
During the past week, the main aspect of the building work has been the flat roof and the balcony. Two water resistant membranes have been laid ready to receive the framework and decking. It took a while to source but late in the week we took delivery of the decking boards which will hopefully be fitted next. Apparently there has been a bit of difficulty getting hold of them.
The railings arrived part-assembled and before too long these were sited and the balcony was really looking the part. The cladding on the downstairs lounge extension was given another application of staining and visually, this made such a difference seeming to link the upper and lower levels. For the first time when standing back and looking at the project as a whole, the barn extension seems to “belong” to the original part of the property.
Meanwhile, Jose, the electrician had turned his attention to the far end of the long house starting to lay the now familiar blue conduit. The electric fuse box is so old it is illegal, so while replacing this we are taking the opportunity to try and conceal it as much as possible within the wall so it is less obvious. As Jose does not speak English and as Raphael is not always on site to translate, we’d given Jose diagrams to work from to simplify the language barrier as much as possible. Although this concept works well, he’s also quick to make suggestions which we are grateful for such as outdoor lighting – something we hadn’t factored in at all at this stage.
On one of the days when the Ecositana army was present, we decided that we would drive in to Fundao to try and register with a doctor. Our EU cards are valid until their expiry date, but we wanted to make sure that we had a health number and if we needed to see a GP, we we were on a system somewhere.
We went armed with passports, residency certificates, nif numbers and certification documents that we downloaded from the Portuguese website directly after Brexit. We have still not been able to join Potuguese language lessons due to the pandemic and current lockdown so we struggled to explain what we wanted. However, Google translate really came in to its own and with a little bit of typing into my phone we got there. I love how the Google translate app enlarges the translated text to fill the screen when I turn my phone sideways – helps with social distancing no end.
It was all a little bit muddled to start with and we were passed from one person to another, trotting dutifully behind several different people as we were escorted through various departments. Eventually we saw a really lovely GP who spoke excellent English and after sorting us out with healthcare numbers, she explained how we could access medical attention should we need it and the process for ordering prescriptions. She also very kindly provided us with a medical certificate which we will be able to take along to the IMT so that we can exchange our English driving licences for Portuguese ones – another thing that we have started the process for but not finished.
On our way back from visiting the Centro Medico, we decided to call in at the garden centre to pick up some things we needed. It’s one of those shops that you could spend hours browsing around – lots of interesting bits and bobs that you would not necessarily expect to find for sale there.
For some reason, I love hardware stores and garden centres. I think it may go back to my childhood memories when my Mum and Dad owned “Handyman’s Corner” in my home town of Withernsea. It is a small seaside town on the east coast of England where back in the day everybody knew everybody else and we all looked out for each other.
Being on the coast, every summer we had an influx of holidaymakers who would come and stay in the caravans. My parents shop sold caravan offcuts, gardening tools and all sorts of DIY things that the visitors would come and buy from them.
People often ask me if I miss anything in the UK and without any hesitation I answer “taking our dogs Dippy and Wanda for long walks on the beach”. Sadly Dippy passed away shortly before we left for Portugal. She is deeply missed and we know she would have loved living here as much as we do.
I enjoyed growing up in Withernsea with it’s outdoor swimming pool, the sand and the sea and spending long days playing outside. I feel fortunate to have grown up when it was safe to go out first thing in the morning and come back at dusk without parents getting worried.
The garden centre in Fundao had a large and varied selection of trees. It has always been our intention to populate the fallow terrace up from the orange grove with lots of different fruit trees. While living in Portugal we’ve enjoyed sampling the different fruits that are not readily available in the UK, so decided to try our hand at growing some of these for ourselves so that friends and family visiting us can try them too.
We bought a small selection to start with : lemon, lime, cherry, plum, a late fruiting orange, a persimmon and a guava. We’re still hopeful that our Cherimoya seeds will develop into strong little plants so didn’t buy one of these. Linda and Andy have already bought us a nectarine tree so by the time we’d finished we had quite a few to be getting on with.
Reading up about the best place to plant fruit trees, they generally need plenty of sunshine and plenty of water to go with it. We both agreed that our empty terrace with sunlight all day long and the nearby well would be the perfect spot.
As part of the inventory of the purchase we acquired with the farm a Japanese Buffalo. It has obviously been round the block (or a plot or two) in it’s time as rags were being used to cover perished rubber seals and as well as a cork being used for a replacement fuel cap, wires were holding the fuel tank in place.
Unfortunately this didn’t seem to work so through Linda and Andy we sourced the services of Simon, an ExPat who has been living here for about 10 years and who is a dab hand at all things mechanical. After a couple of hours he managed to get it going although there remained a problem with the gear box. We agreed that he would come back to have another look at it after he’d done a bit of research.
In the meantime were were able to use it to try and level the ground where the heavy crane had traversed. This was a picture to behold as due to the poor gear selection the machine was rather unwieldy and more often than not was dragging Mark along behind at speed instead of a controlled rotavation of the land. I tried not to laugh and really wish I’d video’d it.
Unfortunately after about an hour the machine stalled, was stuck in gear and remains for now unusable as we can’t restart it. We await Simon’s return for the next instalment.