The end of an Era….

When we arrived in Portugal last December we drove our little Audi, packed to the roof with our belongings all the way from Withernsea to Vale de Prazares, and for the past five and a half months we have been driving it around the highways and byways of the Portuguese interior. 

However, in Portugal there is a time limit of 6 months before it is a requirement for it to be either be re-registered with Portuguese number plates or taken back to the UK.  

As we are no longer in the EU, it is not possible to sell it in Portugal without paying import tax and even though it is still driving really well, it would also be impossible to scrap it or sell it for parts as again import duty would be necessary.

Before we could let our trusty Audi go, we first needed to invest in a Portuguese vehicle.  With all the building and renovation works that we will be doing over the next year or so, we both agreed that our best option would be to buy a pick up truck.  To make things a little comfier for Wanda, and any passengers, we also agreed that we needed a five seater.  We enquired at a nearby garage that we have passed several times when driving into Fundao if they had any for sale.   They only had one pick-up available, which was over 20 years old at a cost of 12,000 euros so we decided to explore other options.

Our neighbours, Dave and Julie, have been living here a while now and Julie seems a whizz at all things online.  Within minutes of asking she had sent across a link to a dealer located about 40 minutes drive away from us.  Their website looked very promising and two days later we were on our way to check them out.

The dealers, Carina and Goncalves are based in a small town called Caria and they had quite a large selection of pick-up’s for us to look at……. although strangely enough every one of them was white.  It reminded me of Henry Ford being quoted as having said “you can have any colour you want as long as it is black”. 

There was one particular pick-up that really caught our eye although the investment was significantly more than we had expected. It was in an immaculate condition with low mileage – so after a coffee and a bit of deliberation we decided to go for it. I’m not sure how comfortable I will feel driving it though and to be honest it is that high off the ground I almost needed a step up.

The two men that looked after us, Pedro and Eduardo were wonderful. They spoke excellent English and it was quite clear that they took a lot of pride in delivering great customer care looking after all the documentation, insurance and tax. Our experience was top notch and we were extremely happy with the customer service we received. Would definitely recommend.

Unfortunately it was not viable for them to take our Audi in Part exchange so we decided to advertise it on a local Facebook group. We did have quite a few people enquiring about buying it and one person even wanting to swap it for a Kawasaki motor bike! We declined the swap and were surprised that it took less than a day to find it’s new owner. Having driven that car since it had only 150 miles on the clock I have come to know it really well and in many ways have an emotional connection with it. We’ve been all over the UK together and lately all over Portugal.

It’s sad in one way to be saying goodbye but on the other hand good to know that it is not the end of the road for her (do please excuse the pun) and that she will continue to drive on back in the UK.

I gave her one last clean out before driving her for the last time to hand her over to her new owner.

Work on the long house has been continuing day be day at a steady pace.  Once Mark had installed the pipework to carry the hot and cold water we were able to take delivery of a brand new boiler.  It was such an exciting day and with the introduction of running water we felt as though we had taken a massive step forwards. For the first time in it’s history, water can be accessed in the long house through a tap although the bath will need a bit of a clean before I’ll be having a soak in it!

Mark is now quite a dab hand at fixing the metal batons to the wall and I have eve been getting stuck in to fitting the insulation. However, the challenge now is not the technique, but the dynamics of the buildings.   As no two walls are the same size in any of the rooms the direction of the walls create a shape similar to a wedge of cheese, I found Mark more and more frequently referring to the long house as being rustic, quirky and with “a feature” especially when referring to the mis-shaped and mis-aligned walls. 

Even though we are still waiting for the windows to arrive and be fitted in the new part of the build, we are keen to create measurable openings for the next phase of windows so that Orlando can build the new windows for the long house.   As the original building was never interlinked, it had three separate doors so that each of the three dwellings could be accessed.  Since creating internal access to all rooms the first door is no longer needed and as part of the refurbishment we have decided to remove it and replace it with a window to create a small lounge which we refer to as the snug.

The process was somewhat protracted as Mark had to fit a concrete lintel above the new and extended opening of the window.  Due to him being over-cautious when cutting out the space for the lintel it took numerous attempts at siting it before it was finally in place.  We were both relieved to see it slot into position as it was so heavy he didn’t believe he would have been able to offer it up to the space any more.  It was a solid concrete beam which he was manhandling using a set of step ladders to rest it on at one end whilst lifting the other end in to the opening.  He then had to climb up the step ladders to offer it up at the other end.  All-in-all, quite a physical exercise and I don’t think I have ever seen him sweat so much.  Just glad he isn’t working in the middle of August.  

About a week later the door had to be removed and the gap widened as well as blocking up the lower half of the door opening.  The removal of the old metal door frame proved challenging as it was built around four metal spikes before being bricked in. It was extremely solidly fastened meaning that it had to be literally prised away from the brick work.  There was some collateral damage as some of the old block work came away in the process so this had to be made good.  On the plus side, this is the first occasion on this project that Mark has made use of the bricklaying course he did back in the UK.

Before moving to Portugal, I had never heard of a loquat never mind seen or tasted one. We arrived when our loquat trees had just finished flowering. There were a lot of dead flowers on the trees, many of the leaves were a bit weather beaten, the branches were overgrown and unruly and all four of our loquat trees looked, to say the least, very scruffy.

That being said, at the time we didn’t know what they were and we had already decided to give everything on our land the benefit of the doubt for the first year until we had got used to each other.

The loquat trees are quite tall with large, dark green leaves and over the past few months we have seen the fruit develop, first making an appearance as fuzzy little green balls, then as they grew turning a lighter shade of green, then yellow and finally a dark orange.

Not known for my patience I thought I would pick one when it was yellow to sample it. It was extremely tart and not at all pleasant, so I decided to turn to my trusty Google to find out a bit more about this strange tree and it’s fruit.

The loquat tree originated in China and can also be seen throughout Asia and many warmer countries. The fruit is about the same size as a plum and grows in little clusters and its texture is similar to a plum although very juicy. It’s taste is very difficult to describe as it is unlike anything I have ever eaten before, but perhaps could be compared to a cross between a gooseberry and a mango.

I learnt through google to leave them on the tree until they had turned almost orange and in doing this found the ripe fruit to be absolutely delicious – I always pick and eat three or four of them on our morning walk around the farm.

Wanting to make good use of everything our land provides for us I started to research how loquats can be eaten and found that there is a huge list to try out …. jams, chutney, pies, crumble, compote, ice-cream and of course fresh from the tree.

The downside with this fruit is that once picked it doesn’t take kindly to not being used – possible one reason why they can not be found for sale in supermarkets. So, determined to get the best out of my first attempt at jam making I picked and prepared the fruit and made my jam as quickly as possible – in fact from tree to jar it took less than two hours. As loquats are naturally high in pectin, all that is needed to make the jam is fruit, sugar and lemon juice. I also added a little bit of ground cinnamon to mine which worked really well. will definitely be trying more recipes using this little fruit.

Published by vinhadasalmas

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

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