April Showers – Portuguese style!

Well – we knew that the rains were coming and fortunately we’d had enough time to prepare for the downpours as down-poured it did! 

The barn refurbishment has been finished for some time and as we still haven’t had the windows fitted, there are three very large gaping holes where the windows should be.  With the insulation in place and the vapour barrier fitted we were naturally concerned about the driving rain getting into the upstairs bedroom and soaking it through.  We have rockwool as insulation and although this fits in to the space really well, if it gets wet it would sag down, creating a gap at the top and compromising its functionality.  

We needed to find a way of protecting it or at least making it as waterproof as we could.

In need of building supplies, for a number of things we wanted to do around the farm we headed off to see Sergio, our local building supplier.  Worried about the rains, we enquired about purchasing some tarpaulin and we were in luck – there was one left in stock so we snapped it up.  It didn’t really resonate with us just how big 12m x 8m was until we got it home and unwrapped it.   Perhaps this was the reason it was still on the shelf as not everyone has a five a side football pitch that needs covering!

But, with a Stanley knife and spirit level in hand, we managed to cut three large pieces and fastened these firmly in place to fill the gaps where the windows should be.  There was enough tarpaulin remaining to cover the Japanense buffalo and the tractor in the compound with still another two large pieces left over.  

For three days the rain came. Relentlessly. The land was saturated and fast flowing rivets of water streamed down the drive and across the terrace in front of the longhouse.  It waterfalled down the bank, washing parts of it away before flowing onto and flooding the  the veggie plot.  It was flowing that fast at one point we contemplated whether it was time to start building and ark instead. 

The recently planted beetroot and carrots were under water and the swiss chard squashed flat to the soil.  Indoors, our little bolthole was springing leaks.  I’d put some of Marks socks on the top of the fireplace to finish off drying and when we woke found that the the rain had come in,  run down the chimney breast and soaked his socks so much that they had to be wrung out.   Hung above the fireplace was an aerial view of the farm which we have inherited and we could see that this too had received a good soaking.

We had leaks elsewhere in the annexe roof as well and found that we were dancing around to dodge them.  With a quick feng shui of our furniture we were able to strategically place  buckets and bowls on the floor to catch the water and once the fire was lit, fortunately things started to dry out.

We called in at the Hipwell’s on the way home from taking Wanda for her routine check up at the vets and they too were having extreme weather – Hailstone!  Dashing the few metres from our car to their kitchen and we were soaked through.  The hailstones hit the tiles and pool with such a force they bounced back up about a foot into the air.  Portuguese April Showers!

It was lovely to catch up with Andy and Linda and as always we enjoyed sharing a delicious meal together – Boef Bourgignon Linda style. 

Mark and Andy spent a good while going over the options for insulating the inside walls.  The problem with our building is that the walls are very thin, made only of single block.  This means that they require insulating.  A traditional wooden batoning and plasterboard with insulation wouldn’t suffice as any moisture could travel through the batons. 

So the next option was for a metal batoning system.  However, due to this being substantially thicker that the wooden system, we would lose significant space within the inside rooms.

So the third option was thermally insulated plasterboard.  However, we discovered that the adhesive for these plasterboards could also allow moisture to travel through so the final decision was to have metal batoning on the exterior walls and dot and dab plasterboards on the interior walls.  Life is all about compromises!

We’d invested in some acrow props when we’d bought the tarpaulin so that Mark can start knocking the long house into shape ready for us to live in.  At the moment there is only a basic electricity supply, no running water and a lot of rearranging of windows, walls and a fireplace – so it is a long way from being habitable. 

Although we’ve been living in the annexe for 5 months now, it is definitely showing signs of failing and I’ve got a feeling it’s very much on borrowed time.

As well as the leaky roof, it is extremely hot in summer and even with a fan and an open window it was unbearably hot and difficult to sleep when we stayed here in August 2019.  We need to get the long house, or at least part of it, up and running as soon as possible.

It took a couple of day, but eventually the red brick fireplace was no more.  We found a bar inserted in the fireplace which seemed to be some sort of hanging rail for a cooking pot with it’s chain still attached.  We’ve put this to one side in our stash of treasures and plan to reinstate this in the outdoor kitchen when we get round to creating it.  

We now have a hole in the ceiling where the chimney used to be so Mark has made some shuttering so that we can board this up.  We have spoken with Raphael about obtaining a roof tile which will accommodate a flue for a log burner and as always Ecositana have come good and are sourcing one for us.

Popping in at Lidl to stock up on some basics, we wandered down the fruit and veg aisle to check out anything unfamiliar that we may want to try.  We spotted this specimen and with no  idea what it was, or what to do with it, popped it in our basket.

It was quite a heavy vegetable with no particular odour although it felt as though it had been dipped in wax.  Once again we’d omitted to make a note of it’s name, so messaged a couple of foodies in the family for a bit of direction.  My daughter Amy suggested that it might be an old carrot that has been found under the shop fittings, Adam was more helpful letting us know it was a cassava or also known as manihoc.

Once we had a name it was over to Google to find out what we could do with it. It is a edible tuberous root often made into flour, mashed or made into chips. It is high in carbohydrates (mainly starch) and is reported to be the third most important source of calories in the tropics, after rice and corn.

I found a number of different recipes, some sweet, some savoury, all of them stressing the need to thoroughly boil it to avoid cyanide poisoning! Needless to say this one got boiled to within an inch of it’s life. I decided to make manioc balls stuffed with cheese which are then fried like a dumpling.

Following the recipe, I cut off the peel and boiled it whole in a pan of salted water. Once cooked the stringy bit in the middle was removed and the manioc mashed. A bit tricky as I only had a fork. I mixed in some butter, parsley, salt and pepper and then moulded the mix into croquettes containing grated cheese and chopped sausage – it was too messy to make into balls.

My mixture made around 16 croquettes so some were frozen. I cooked some on a baking tray in the oven as a healthier option and also fried some. Usually I can find a healthier way to make something, but in this case the baked option failed miserably. The fried variety was a big hit and the frozen stash will definitely not be wasted.

Ironically, when we were watching the final of Masterchef, one of the contestants made cassava or manioc chips as part of her final challenge. Who knows what we are going to find on the shelves next time …. watch this space!


Published by vinhadasalmas

a couple of fifty somethings who want to start a new life in rural Portugal

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