With the temperatures in the late 30’s most days now, Wanda is finding it all a bit too hot. She loves her early morning and evening walks around the farm when it is much cooler – chasing her ball and catching up on all the sniffing she has to do, but during the day she is choosing to spend most of her time indoors out of the heat. Despite having regular haircuts, she (and us), were finding that the temperature was quite uncomfortable at times. We’d bought a table top fan when we were here during the summer of 2019 and although this does help a little bit, it is only really fanning around the already hot air.
After one particular hot and very restless night with hardly any sleep, we decided that we needed to buy an aircon unit. But which one? There are so many about these days. As the portable ones can be moved around from room to room, with no need for a box on the outside wall, we decided to go for this type.
Back in the UK, I had a portable aircon in my office at Castle Park Dental Care which was not only really effective, it had the added bonus of being able to heat as well as cool. With the knowledge that Chris Branfield is the master of all things “research”, I called the practice and asked for photos of my old unit along with the information label on the back. I wanted something to compare the ones in the shops to and with this in hand we set off for Castelo Branco with the dream of a cool and peaceful nights sleep.
The main issue seems to be noise – they can be quite noisy. We want to be able to leave it running while we sleep, so needed to invest in one that is as quiet as possible. My old office aircon was 51 dB(A) and I could manage with that so anything around this mark we figured would be a good starting point. We hadn’t been looking very long when I spotted the exact same model as my old one on display in the store. Rushing over to it like a long lost friend, I quickly read over the stats to double check everything was still the same. It was. In fact, it was slightly quieter …… so 10 minutes later it was fastened securely on the back of our truck and we were on our way home to try it out.
It needed a hole making in the wall for the vent and a bit of making good before we were ready to give it a go. I set it at 16 degrees and let it do it’s stuff. The room was very hot so it had to work hard to get the temperature down, but before long it was lovely and cool. We can now sleep very well and although Wanda does still spend most of her days indoors, she is now as cool as a cucumber. It’s such a dogs life!!
We love eating outdoors and I think that one of the things we are enjoying the most is being able to decide that we are going to have a BBQ without having to check the weather forecast first. It had been a while since we had caught up with the Hipwell’s and even longer since we had met up with Steve and Angela – so we decided we would get the charcoal out and invite them over for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Home grown salad with everything fresh from the veggie patch was a treat. I’ve never come across Sorrel before but I received a packet of sorrel seeds in a Christmas present and decided to give them a go. For anyone who hasn’t tasted sorrel (I hadn’t) it is a tangy herb, often used as a salad green with a slightly sour taste, a bit like lemon zest, and I found it a delicious “something special” to add to a bowl of salad. I’ve read that it can also be served with fish and rice and will certainly be experimenting with that.
There was also home grown minted potatoes and such a huge selection of different meats from the BBQ I’m surprised people didn’t get meat-sweats!!. Desert was “double pud” home made strawberry cheesecake and cream (I can’t take the credit for growing the strawberries but they were especially bought in celebration of Wimbledon) and lemon sorbet with lemon shortbread. We’d been given some lemons on a recent visit to see our neighbours Dave and Julie and these were put to good use.
I’ve mentioned before the goody bag of pressies that Mark’s dad gives out at Christmas and though not knowing exactly when they will be used, being confident that at some point in time everything will come in handy. This was one of those times. There seemed to be a lot of irritating flies buzzing around and these little lacey net covers from out of my 2018 goody bag were just the thing for covering the food. They popped out in the same way an umbrella does and were absolutely perfect for the job!!
The pace of work on the longhouse has slowed down slightly as we’ve had to leave the farm to go into Fundao and Castelo Branco on a number of occasions – sometimes our working day was less than 4 hours.
Marks initial apprehension of not skimming the walls and painting directly on to plasterboard was unfounded as he has done a great job painting and the walls look fabulous. My daughter Amy, on one of our Facetime calls commented that they were actually starting to look like real rooms! However, not skimming did have its downside as each joint and gap had to be filled and then sanded down by hand until it was smooth to remove all the bumps and excess material. Only then, could a priming coat be applied to the plasterboard before painting. This was extremely time consuming but one of those jobs which had to be done properly without cutting corners. Mark has commented several times how repetitive the whole process seems to be and that he feels he is doing the same job over and over.
It really does look lovely though and I’m starting to daydream where I’m going to put the Christmas Tree !!
One of the trips off the farm was to visit the Ecositana workshop to meet up with Raphael and Laura. We wanted to talk to them about internal doors and find out what options they can offer. To our delight there were actually quite a lot to choose from so we took the catalogue home to decide what we wanted. Raphael sent us a link to the different types of door handles we could have and after making our choice we returned back to the workshop a few days later. We are always impressed by the attention to detail afforded by Ecositana, and the personal touch. Antonio contacted the suppliers whilst we were still in the office and we are now looking forward to them coming and measuring up for our new doors.
The new windows continue to be a bit of a no-show and with the pending Portuguese holiday season approaching, where it would seem that nobody works in August, we are bracing ourselves for a September installation at best.
While much of Portugal has access to mains water, we are in the 50% of rural Portugal that still uses water mines, bore holes or wells for drinking and irrigation.
Although the spring water from our mine has been tested, and considered safe to drink, we are still collecting our drinking water from the communal fountain in Alpedrinha, using the mine for washing and cooking. We do have tap water as Mark and Andy did a great job back in 2019 installing pipework and a pump from the mine up to the long house. The pressure is a little unreliable and the pump wouldn’t work if we had a power-cut so mains water would be the preferred choice. Mains water would also be filtered so kinder to our new boiler.
We realise our first 12 months on the farm is a year of learning and one of the things we need to know is how plentiful our water supply is. We have been to Aqualia to find out if it is possible to be connected to the municipal pipework. It is, but not without a considerable cost, so for now we need to be careful with the natural resources we already have and not waste any.
With the absence of mains water and no prospect of getting this in the foreseeable future, we need to take stock and make note of what we have at different times of the year. We have two wells, a small pond which is heavily overgrown with trees, bushes, brambles and long grasses as well as a water mine with fresh spring water. One of our wells bizarrely has a tree growing out of it, but then we are told that almost every well in Portugal has one! The open well and the water mine feed the little brook that runs across the bottom terraces and the flow of the water in the brook is always a good indication of how much water we have.
We have 2 septic tanks for our sewage and have come up with a couple of ways of recycling our grey water. As in many Portuguese homes, our washing machine is in the bathroom, which as luck would have it is within 2 metres of our veggie plot. Mark has directed the waste water pipe on to the veggie plot and the cabbages and chard are definitely benefitting from it.
For now, the pond complete with its overgrowth will have to be a battle for next year although we can see that the water level has significantly dropped.
We found a large red tub which has previously been used for wine making and have relocated it to the terrace outside of the annexe. Each day we can be seen carrying our buckets of waste water from the bath, kitchen and cleaning across to the tub to save it for using later on. It will hold approximately 400 litres and we manage to fill in in 5 days. This water is used to irrigate the land – either the vegetable plot, the vines or the olive trees. We figured it’s not a massive amount, but we’re not ones for waste and every little drop helps. Having invested in a submersible pump and some irrigation sprinklers, we can leave it to get on with doing the watering while we get on with something else.
We’ve had the inevitable wobbles and hiccups along the way which are usually managed by sitting down over a coffee (or a cerveja) and working out what we would do differently if we had the opportunity to go back and do it all again. Our latest hiccups didn’t need a post-mortem….. we need to get on with learning the Portuguese language “rapido”.
Our morning routine is pretty predictable – watering the veggie plot and trees, fetching the water from the long house for a bath, plot walk with Wanda, prepping the evening meal and a board meeting to plan our day while sat on the bench that Mark has made from recycled timber and tree trunks found on the farm.
We’ve picked up quite a few words in Portuguese along the way and the supermarkets generally have a picture on the packaging as a bit of a fail safe. On one of our recent shopping trips, seeing a picture of a chicken on the carton and recognising the word frango, we had spotted some very reasonably priced diced chicken which we had popped into our trolley.
One particular day was especially lovely and our extra early start had paid dividends as we were all done and dusted with our chores by 8.30am. We’d decided to have casserole and home grown vegetables for dinner so had made a trip up to the chest freezer in the long house to get the diced chicken out to defrost.
Tipping the frozen contents into a terracotta pot I added mushrooms, garlic, onions, peppers and spices, covered it with water and tinfoil and left it to thaw out while we got on with our day. Mark decided to do a bit more to the bridge and I worked on the veggie patch – weeding and harvesting the sweetcorn, courgettes and radishes.
By four o’clock we were tired, hot and hungry so I switched on the oven and started to clear away the gardening equipment and water the now very tidy vegetable plot.
There’s something about the smell of onions cooking that is so lovely and homely and we were both looking forward to dinner and chatting about out day. The vegetables were almost ready so I lifted out the casserole to do a taste check. Despite the lovely aroma it was horrible – all gristle and rubbery. I took a closer look and even though I was brought up in a butchers shop, I couldn’t recognise what I was looking at – such strange shapes now that it had been defrosted and not a bit like diced chicken.
Quite alarmed, I retrieved the packaging from the bin. The picture was still a chicken, it still said Frango, but there was another word as well, Moelas, that I typed into my trusted google translate. Moelas literally translated mean gizzards.
I would definitely not recommend gizzard casserole for Sunday Dinner – we had crackers and cheese and resolved to sign up to the next Portuguese available language course that we saw advertised !!