Nature, in all its majesty and splendour has been very busy on our little Quinta doing what it does best. Before moving to Portugal I guess I was one of the many who didn’t really give the importance of nature the consideration it deserved and I definitely did not appreciate just how much we rely on it.
We love spending time outdoors whether it is working on the land or taking Wanda for a walk up the mountainsides and along the little tracks near our farm. In fact, we have noticed that when we are out in the fresh air, something quite magical happens.
We find that we stop for a moment, relax and take a good look around us!
We notice the birdsong, the wind in the trees, the church bells, the smell of the earth, the warmth of the suns rays on our skin, the occasional sound of a donkey braying in the distance and we breathe it all in.
We’re experiencing first hand the peace and tranquillity that is found in the simple things of life.
As well sunshine helping the body to absorb vitamin D, research shows that being amongst nature makes people feel better emotionally. Blood pressure is lowered, stress hormones are reduced and muscle tension is relaxed. There’s definitely a lot to be said for being in the great outdoors.
We realise that our part in the story is to treat it with respect and nurture the land we are blessed to call ours. Without any doubt, we still have a huge amount of lessons to learn but we can also look back on our journey so far and see how far we have come.
We were fortunate to bump into a couple of guys that live in our village while having coffee one afternoon in the little pastelaria. We soon realised just how knowledgeable they are in all things relating to the plant world and when they offered to pop round to visit us and see if we needed any top tips or pointers, we almost bit their hands off.
Last year, before pruning our vines we searched Google and watched a few You Tube videos to find out the best techniques to adopt. It was a bit tricky to find the information we needed as our vines are dotted randomly about the Quinta and the information talked about tying vines to support structures or wires. Although it is much more difficult to keep the land clear around our layout of vines, it seems to be the way the local Portuguese farmers do it – and to be honest we like it.
Unfortunately, after all our hard work of putting our research into practice we still had a poor yield of grapes. The vines had definitely produced lots of foliage and looked healthy enough – just produced very little fruit.
Billy and Rogerio arrived one sunny afternoon and we walked around our terraces checking out what we had and what we had already done. We looked at our fruit trees, shrubs, vegetables and vines and it soon became apparent that we had been nowhere near as harsh as we needed to be with our initial pruning. It would seem that we were not on our own and the most common mistake people make is not pruning hard enough. Heavy pruning provides the greatest quantity and quality of grapes and together we spent the next hour or so having a very enjoyable tutorial on cutting back the vines, when to prune and how to identify wild vines. Such a lot to take in but extremely interesting.
Our lesson had come in perfect time and we quickly got started pruning and cutting. The trouble was, so early in the year it was difficult to decide if any of the side-shoots were already dead but we took care to look for green wood and put our training into practice.
A week or two later we had a visit from two of our friends living in Portugal and to our delight, they asked if we had appointed a professional to do our pruning. The vines are now starting to produce their greenery and all that is needed now is for us to wait for the harvest and see if our new skills have paid off.
Knowing that the land will soon be demanding lots of care and attention we decided to book a trip back to the UK to catch up with family and friends. We also took the opportunity to pop into Castle Park Dental Care https://www.castleparkdental.co.uk/ for our check ups and I guess we get the prize for being the patients who travel the furthest for an appointment. I met up with my friend Hannah and her son for a coffee. Hannah has taken on the role of practice manager since I left and it was great to hear all her news and how well everything is going. It’s crazy how things have changed since Covid in the dental profession and it looks very unlikely that it will ever go back to the old ways of doing things. Chatting to Hannah, I realised just how distanced Mark and I have become from the hustle and bustle of life and felt grateful that our daily uncertainties consisted of how to prune, when to water or when to plant our vegetables.
One of the hardest things about living here is not being able to pop round to see family as often as we like. Of course we have our regular video calls but nothing beats the feeling of being able to hug someone in person so it was lovely to be able to see Mark’s mum and dad. Ray is my go-to person when I’ve got a question about gardening and I do miss his annual contribution of marigolds and bedding plants to my flower borders. This year though, he surprised me with amongst others, a packet of marigold seeds instead of the actual plants. I’ve now planted these and am waiting to see if they are as successful as the one he grows.
While we were in the UK, it was one very special little boy’s birthday and we had a great time celebrating. It was also his very first birthday bake and although he wasn’t quite sure what to do with the candle, he did very much enjoy eating the icing off Duggies’ feet! In case anyone is wondering, “Birthday bakes” in our family replace the traditional birthday cake. Not everyone likes cake, so we have replaced cake with bake and the birthday boy or girl can choose whether to have sweet or savoury. We have seen scotch eggs, sausage rolls, jalousies, cakes, cup cakes, bakewell tarts, pavlovas, brownies and cookies to name but a few. Rupert, though, it was decided, should start his birthday bake off with a cake and had Hey Duggie with one very large candle in the middle.
The trip back was over far too quick and once back on the Quinta we were keen to crack on with our renovations. Mark for a while has been working on rendering the gable end. As this was his first attempt and working with materials he wasn’t familiar with, there were three attempts at coating the wall. It was difficult to get the required finish with a plastering trowel so after being told about using a damp sponge to smooth it off, Mark gave it a go. Although not entirely happy, Mark decided that enough was enough and to stick with the rustic look. Three coats of paint later and we now have our first finished wall. Bright, white and our first glimpse of things to come.
Next up was to tackle a rather large tree that was growing out of one of the wells. We would like to cap the well off for obvious safety reason, but as is the case with many wells here, we’ve got a tree growing out of ours. For months we have quandered over how to remove it and for months it has kept on growing. Our neighbour, Dave, offered to make a bracket to fix a ladder to, and another friend (who incidentally is really not keen on water) offered to climb down, cut the tree and apply a substance to stop it growing back.
What seems an age, but in reality was perhaps only half an hour later, the tree was out. We were so grateful for the help and now need to clean up some of the concrete beams left behind from the renovations to the long house so that these can be used to cover it over. For now, the bracket and the ladder remains in situ …. just in case.
I remember once reading a quote that said something along the lines of a little progress every day adds up to big results. Looking back on what we have accomplished so far, we feel we are indeed edging forwards. Now ready and able to welcome visitors, we look forward to introducing our little piece of paradise to our friends and family.