The frustration with the skimming saga continued as the new product proved problematic to apply to the ceilings and it was almost unworkable at times. Not sure whether the heat was a major factor but the challenge was such to the extent that the plastering rule book had to be thrown out of the window. Mark, in a very unorthodox method, instead of fully coating the ceiling from beginning to end, found it had to be plastered in strips of approximately 3 feet wide trying to feather in all the seams as he went along to avoid cracking. This appears to have been successful but the jury is out until it is fully dried.
Mark tells me that he has never sweated so much in all of his life and that attempting this while leaping up and down stepladders during a Portuguese summer is definitely a young mans game, not someone who is 58 years of age.
The bathroom was revisited once the filling of the joints had been completed to make some recesses in the wall. Once the shower has been sited these will create a simple but effective way of creating space for shower gels and shampoos. This was a relatively simple process removing some of the block wall and relining the openings with waterproof plasterboard, which in turn will then be tiled and grouted.
With the plaster-boarding, filling and skimming all done, it was time for us to head off and pick up some paint.
We have brought a number of tins of matt white with us from the UK, courtesy of Mark’s sister, so we are pretty much stocked up in that quarter. However, we have found out that it is usual to add a coat of primer to the plasterboard instead of skimming the walls as we have mentioned in our earlier blogs.
We’re yet to ascertain whether there is anything special about this type of paint other that it being pretty expensive and that it creates a base to put surface coats onto. Mark got to work applying this to the walls in the cupboard and the hallway to try it out. Initial impressions are that it does what it says it does on the tin, but the proof is in the pudding once the top coats have been applied.
Down on the veggie plot and around the farm we have been seeing the fruits of our labour (do please excuse the pun – I couldn’t resist!!). Our year of learning is certainly becoming just that and the land is teaching us new things every day. At times we feel quite humbled at how little we do actually know but at the same time we are really enjoying our lessons.
Time and time again we are in awe of nature and how it provides for our every need. This past year with the pandemic dictating almost every move we all make, we’ve definitely learnt that the most peaceful and rewarding times have been those spent outdoors working on our little quinta. We’ve also discovered that as we are learning to slow down from the busy and hectic life we had back in the UK, we now notice the plants and trees that we have on the plot and how they change throughout the different seasons. We were once too busy to heed the beauty of nature and are now seeing and enjoying even the very smallest change on a daily basis.
Keen to be the star pupil Mark is writing in his diary the developments on the land so that we know the different growth stages, when to expect a harvest and the best times for us to plan when to do our pruning and cutting back. We feel that this will be extremely helpful developing the farm over the coming years.
With the cherry season passed, on came the season for picking our purple figs. I’ve never seen figs so large and so scrumptious. Our morning walks around the farm have involved eating two or three figs for breakfast as we checked out the plot. We soon found that one of the greatest pleasures is to bite into a juicy fig fresh picked straight off the tree. It took a while for us to work out exactly when they were ready for eating as they often looked ripe before they actually were.
Our figs are ripe when they feel soft when pressed and when we start to see white cracks appear on the outside. They are absolutely delicious – full of sticky loveliness, a kind of cross between molasses and caramel. There were hundreds of them – and just like we were with the oranges, we didn’t want to waste any. Lots of experimenting in the kitchen has produced figgy crumble, sweet fig pie, fiery fig chutney, roasted fig and root vegetables and fig and feta parcels. The purple figs have finished now but we have plenty tucked away in the freezer to savour another day.
As it was with the cherries, the birds seem to be our partners in the harvest. The cherry and fig trees are way too tall so we can’t reach the topmost branches to pick the fruit. They are desperately in need of a haircut, but for now, we have more than enough to go round and we are happy for the birds to have their share.
On a well-balanced quinta the farmers, plants, trees, animals and birds are all connected with each other and we all have our own individual parts to play.
Since moving here in December we have had regular visits from the sheep belonging to the shepherd over the road. They would climb up to bank and peep in through our fence to see what we were up to, constantly nibbling at the grass and in the process playing their part in keeping it all neat and tidy. I think as they eyed up Wanda, they may well have though that she was a long lost cousin with her curly hair.
Early last week we noticed that the shepherd (we have affectionately given him the name “Shep”) arrived one morning with another man and a very large truck. The sheep were rounded up into the truck and then taken away. It was all very sad and I found that my mind was straying off to them throughout the day. A couple of the larger ones used to wear bells around their necks which clanged as they grazed and the silence that followed in the wake of their absence was almost deafening.
I know it’s the food chain and the circle of life and all that stuff but I could remember their lovely little faces and their nosiness. A couple of days ago Shep and his truck was back again with a whole new flock complete with a couple of them wearing bells. It’s good to see animals in the fields, roaming freely, happily grazing and looking quite content and settled.
When we first came to see the farm back in January 2019, the land was extremely overgrown and it was almost impossible to make out where one terrace started and another one finished. We did notice though a band of very dark green grass running through the lower terraces and on looking closer saw that it was a brook fed by the water mine and the open well. We loved the idea of having running water across the land and it was always our intention to make this into something special.
Mark has made a series of “locks” or “dams” to help regulate the flow along with a rustic bridge (although it is not quite finished on this photo) made from the reclaimed timbers removed from the old roof when Ecositana were here doing the construction work.
This means we can take the ride on tractor across the brook to cut the grass on the other side. Wanda has got really apt at jumping across it and we seem to be equally as apt at throwing Wanda’s balls smack into the middle of it.
It is really hot at the moment, around mid to late 30’s and most of the grass has turned brown. The brook is still feeding the grass and plants on its bank and we can still see the dark green band of lovely smelling mint along the full length. We are looking forward to working on this next year and making it into something more of a feature.
Our vision is to create a habitat which helps the birds, insects and wildlife to thrive. We are all increasingly more aware about global warming and the destruction of ponds, hedgerows and pastures to make way for roads, houses and industrial buildings. Although we do not expect to turn our quinta into a sanctuary for endangered species, we can do our bit in helping plants, birds and wildlife right outside our back door. We have little fieldmice, water voles, rabbits, various type of birds and insects all sharing our farm with us. Hopefully next year we will create a wildflower trail in our little wooded copse and encourage water-loving plants such as watercress, mint, lillies and marsh marigolds to grow along side our brook.
It’s the little things in our new life that we have come to value and appreciate. Our morning routine is pretty much set in stone with Mark still fetching the buckets of water, I set about watering the vegetables and trees and we both clean, sweep and mop our annexe and bathroom.
I think we both used to see this kind of stuff as a chore, or a hindrance to getting on with something we really wanted to do. Here on the farm we appreciate the simple things in life so much more – and this week our well-worn mop head was replaced with a brand new one. It made such a difference – like I said – it’s the little things!!