… and we shall have snow!

Certainly not shorts and t-shirt weather today – even for a couple of hardy English Northerners.  The wind was rattling around the plot blowing around everything that wasn’t fastened down and we received a message from the Hipwell’s letting us know that they had snow in Lourical.   Definitely not what we were expecting, but we were assured that this is not un-heard of in this area.  Our morning walk was a chilly one feeling the icy north eastern blast from the Gardunha’s especially at the barn side of the longhouse.  Down on the bottom plot we recovered a garden waste bag that had been blown down the terraces.

As we walked, we chatted about how the day would pan out, grateful that although we were working outside, we would be lighting bonfires which should keep us nice and warm.

Wanting to make sure nothing unexpected happened, we were careful to do everything as safely as possible, we made sure that we had a hosepipe set up in case any sparks blew across the plot and ignited any of the dry grass.  The fire was piled up in an orderly fashion and we used a little bit of paraffin to set it alight.  It struggled to do anything worthy of being called a bonfire, so we tried a little more of the paraffin.  Over an hour later Mark was starting to feel very chilly as the bonfire still wasn’t catching hold.  He went back up to the compound to collect some of the old wood to try and encourage a flame.  Thankfully, this seemed to do the trick and there was soon a roaring fire.  It was quite windy so we had to be mindful of sparks blowing onto the dry grass and stamp them out before they caught fire.

In all,  there were 4 fires on three different terraces and it took most of the day to get everything burned. 

I decided to go back to the annexe and work outside there.  It is much more sheltered there and the wind didn’t venture that far so I set about cutting back some of the lower branches of the olive trees and the suckers so that we would be able to get the tractor through to the annexe much easier.  It also meant that today’s cuttings could be put on the bonfires instead of creating a pile of waste.  Getting stuck in with the loppers, I was amazed when I looked round to see just how many branches were laying on the ground.  I couldn’t reach the top most branches so left these for Mark to do another day.

I’d only managed to get one of the olives trees weeded and tided up last weekend, so the remaining one was next on my to do list.  As well as weeds, I found buried in the rubbish an old thermometer, a trowel and a ceramic plate.  

 

Mid-morning, and it was our turn to get more than the few flakes of snow that we had seen so far.  Mark was now well away with his bonfire and warm and toasty (although smelly) so I headed indoors to keep dry and got on with prepping for dinner, cleaning our little room and changing the bedding. 

Aware that it starts to get dark around 4pm and by 5.30 it is pitch black, we were keen to make sure we were done before then.  Wanting to get rid of a lot of rubbish from the courtyard, and also the furniture left in the longhouse that we don’t want, we carried it all outside to wait its turn for the fire.  

Last job of the day, was our customary walk around the plot with Wanda.  Although there were some red embers in the fires, happy there was no danger of re-igniting, we made out way back to the annexe looking forward to the lovely bubble bath that we had promised ourselves.  

I chose some dove bubble bath and a lovely soap rose that I had received as a gift and switched on the hot tap.  Disaster, it wouldn’t heat up and all I could get out was freezing cold water.  We do find that this boiler can be a bit temperamental, but try as we might we couldn’t coax it to perform as it should.  Stinking of bonfires and desperately wanting our bath there was nothing to it but to boil the kettle, heat up pans of water on the cooker and carry it through to the bathroom.  Eventually we had enough water in the tub.  The saying “if it’s worth having, its worth waiting for” came to mind as we enjoyed our soak and cleaned ourselves up ready for dinner. 

 

 

Hoping that a new day would give our tired old boiler a new lease of life, we turned in.

The north wind shall blow ….

We were woken at 5.30am this morning by a really loud bang.  Mark jumped out out bed, reached for the poker, and Wanda jumped on the bed frightened half to death and trembling. It was still pitch black outside but we could hear the wind howling against the door.  The bang, wasn’t one of our nightime visitors as Mark had first thought, it was the metal shutters banging against the wall.  

It seems that Storm Bella has found us.  We had an early start, as usual these days as the Ecositana team arrive bright and early.  We did our morning walk, but found the wind bitterly cold.  We walked around the terraces a lot quicker than usual huddled, up in our winter coats and wishing that we had put gloves and hats on as well.

Although the six members of the Ecositana team were hard at work, all with masks and wrapped up warm, we decided that today was not a day for working outside and instead settled down with some mugs of hot coffee.

We needed to sort out some Portuguese and English legal stuff that we have been meaning to do for ages.  First up was to register for the new residency card.  We logged in, entered our details and within a couple of minutes had a temporary residency certificate.  We will be sent an appointment to go and take our identification documents and get our new card – but in the meantime we emailed Linda and Andy and asked them if they could print them out for us.  Next we tried exchanging our European driving licences for Portuguese ones.  This was a little more tricky as we need to have a medical certificate to support the application.  We did know this, but initially we were trying to notify them about us living and driving in Portugal.  We had another form to fill in, which must be a paper copy, so this was emailed to the Hipwell’s again for a printed version.

I renewed my English driving licence last month, but didn’t manage to update my V5 form, so we looked for this online and managed to get that all sorted as well.  All in all, quite a successful morning.  Mark had a facetime call with Hollie, she was busy getting stuck into some diy and just wanted to run a few things by her dad before getting on with it.  Mark managed to give a virtual diy lesson and for Hollies’ part, she did a fab job of redecorating her bedroom and putting up a shelving unit.  Definitely her father’s daughter!

 

We had arranged to go off with Linda and Andy to Castelo Branco and register Wanda at the vets so after a late lunch of stew, we headed off to Lourical for a coffee and a chat before our appointment. 

Beans and Mitzi were really happy to see us, dashing around and racing up the stairs. Linda and Andy had found it really cold as well so they too had spent their days doing things indoors. 

I had a surprise facetime call from Amy which was lovely – she only has a few weeks left before the baby is due and we were given a guided tour of the new nursery which Adam is busy decorating.  We were really impressed with the results so far and really looking forward to seeing it completed and meeting our grandson.

We were a bit late setting off so made a bit of a dash to the vets.  Linda, Beans and Mitzy went in first while I stayed outside with Wanda.  We handed over Wanda’s Haven vets records and her pets passport which were used to enter her details on to their system.  I was really impressed how thorough they were and they way that everything was.  When it was Wanda’s turn to see the vet, we were introduced to Sandra, a lovely lady with very kindly eyes peeping at us over her mask.  We went through Wanda’s history and the way things are a little bit different here in Portugal.  We also talked about what we would need to do if we decided to take her back to the UK for a visit.  All seems straight forward, but not something we are considering doing.  We also changed the microchip address details from the UK to Portuguese ones.  Wanda was giving her worming tablets followed by a treat which she loved and then we were done.  I’m not great at remembering when things are due so we’ve arranged for reminders to call and book appointments.

 

Starting to take shape!

The Ecositana team were on site bright and early, Setting our alarm clock has become a thing of normality now and we find ourselves once again looking forward to the weekend when we don’t have to get up in the dark.

There seems to be something strange happening in our outside bathroom during the evening as every morning when we open the door there is a very very strong cabbage smell. Not sure what it is, probabably drains but we’ve decided to leave it for now and not do any exploratory work to investigate as it shouldn’t be too long before we are shifting our base camp to the long house and starting to renovate the annexe and its bathroom. We know that there is a septic tank a short way away and that the grey water comes out of a pipe near one of the larger vines as we’ve come across grains of cooked rice and bits of sweetcorn close to it. Needless to say, that particular vine is the biggest, strongest and meanest of them all!

Wanda has really settled now and seems to like being a farm dog. Her favourite time of the day seems to be first thing in the morning when she can sniff out all the new and exciting smells that are around but even she doesn’t stray anywhere near the cabbage smell !

Today I was working indoors all day so I lit the fire, made a cuppa and got settled down to do my days work.  It seems quite chilly indoors, especially when just sitting at the computer.  It seems odd to think that in a few month time I will be throwing open doors and windows and switching the fan on.  Bring on the summer.

Mark on the other hand was dressed in his shorts and t-shirt and was soon hard at work clearing the land near the open well.  He exposed and beautiful granite wall which had been overgrown for a long time by the look of things.  Once the grass was cut back, we could also see more clearly the waterways from the well and the mine.  We had originally thought that these two together had contributed to the flow of the little brook.  Once it had all been levelled it seemed that the mine didn’t do much other than make the ground around it a bit soggy – Wanda paddled around and came out looking as though she was wearing mucky socks.  The water is always lovely blue-green cobalt and it would be interested to find out if that is due to different minerals.

 

Meanwhile, back at the long house, the Ecositana boys were working hard. We had a team of six on site today including Antonio and Raphael. I was impressed to see that they were all wearing their face coverings and also just how incredibly hard they were working. It was quite windy today and being up a scaffold on top of a roof is certainly not something I would want to do in such conditions. Before long, the large beam was in place across the top of the roof. We didn’t realise how poor a state the existing one had been in until we saw our new gluelam beam in place. it was twice the size of the old one and perfectly straight.

Mark and Wanda spent the whole day down on the bottom plot and did a sterling job. The brook was visible from end to end and we could clearly make out its pathway. Experimenting with making little dams, we could see that it would be fairly easy to keep a flow of water and possible look into diverting it to water some of the fruit trees. Something on our list to revisit in the summer months when it is a bit drier. We could see that something similar has been attempted before and there is a furrow going off to the left as though the idea had been for irrigation.

The majority of the terraces are now clear and weed free although there are a number of bonfire dotted around. To minimise the number of blackened areas when fires had been, we were hoping to keep the number of firs down to two or three. There is so much rubbish to burn we probably have nearer five or six ready for Saturday.

Today was Mark’s mum’s birthday.  It is always lovely to see them both and have a chat and today especially as it was a special day.  They both looked really well and we chatted about Coronavirus, the vaccine and the weather back in the UK.  It is really good that we made the leap and moved when we did – I think it would be impossible if we were trying to move now.

We also had a chat with Hollie, the boys are growing so quickly and it was lovely watching William doing his reading.  He’s one bright little lad.

Fording the Brook

over the past month we have been slowly but surely clearing the terraces and although time consuming and often heavy going, we are pleased with our results to date.  Now that much of the overgrowth has been levelled, we can start to see the shape of our farm.  The terraces meander across the Quinta, in no particular order or shape. they look very relaxed, almost as though they have decided for themselves which route to take.   We have been able to get the ride-on tractor around each of the terraces moving between each of them in turn although some have had a steep incline to contend with.  However, there has always been a bit of an issue with the little brook and crossing to other other side to clear the furthest two terrace.  It wasn’t helped by the fact the banks were so overgrown, we couldn’t really make out the edges.

Today, we decided to try and get this sorted out and so Mark set about strimming, cutting, shovelling and clearing the little waterway.  Eventually, afetr several hours, we could finally see the extent of it’s passage across the plot and start to make plans of how to bridge it. The water seems to come from both the water mine and the overflow from the well, and we found that it was running at quite a pace even though a lot of the grass cuttings had fallen in to it.  We talked about perhaps making a tributary towards the orange grove as a form of irrigation.  There are numbers lengths of pipes around the plot which we presume were used or earmarked for just that.  When we came in the August of 2019, we remember that it was almost dry, so fully aware that this would not be an all round source of water.

 

For now, we placed the planks across the water again and managed to get the tractor over to the other side to clear the grass.  It has already had one cut since we’ve been here so I was able to lower the cutting blades and get it shorter still.  

The taller of the terrace banks were looking very untidy with lots of unwieldy vines reaching up into the olive trees so I set about trying to cut these back and tidy everything up.  I was quite unforgiving in my approach and not knowing if the vines were wild or trained I decided to give them all a good haircut.  The dead wood was piled up to make a bonfire along with the cuttings and branches that Mark had collected and we telephoned the office to book in a fire for Saturday.  There are a number of piles of rubbish and wood around the plot and we we were advised it would be ok to light all of them.  We just need to do it all on Saturday and if we don’t manage, will need to call her book and book another date.

Antonio and Raphael came by again and we had the opportunity to talk about the extension to the lounge, the glass, the quote and raising the roof on the barn.  They always seem amazed that Mark is out working in shorts and a t-shirt, we tell them we are from the north of England!

There were a lot of idea passed around and what may or may not be possible.  They asked if we could decide how we wanted things to look and then let them have a sketch.  I had noticed a facebook post a few days ago from one of my friends who is an architect, and decided to message him for a bit of advice about what may be possible and if it would be structurally sound.  I sent across the plans we had received in the notary when we signed the deed and some photographs of how things are now.  It wasn’t easy to explain what we had in mind but we gave it our best shot,  Mick was really helpful, came up with questions that we are aware of but don’t have the answer to – where the staircase will be, if we are having a log burner with a flue, where the drains are …. we arranged to take more photos and measurements tomorrow and send them across to him.

As the sun started to dip around 5pm, it felt really cold all of a sudden. Keen to see how our builders had got on we packed away the tractor and gardening equipment and locked everything away before taking an our evening stroll around the quinta. It is looking pretty smart, even though I do say so myself. There are a few untamed areas still dotted around – the cluster of sistas, the pine trees, the areas close to the water mine and well, Ther are also a huge list of other things such as trimming the vines and tress but we pick our battles and that is one for another day.

We bathed before dinner – pork chops and vegetable followed by semolina pudding with jam – we haven’t had since school dinner days. Mark had a facetime call with Helen and had a good chat with her and the kids. The kids are still able to go to school but this means Helen picking them up early and working late to make up her hours. We realised once again that we are very very fortunate to be living our dream.

Happy New Year!!

When we woke this morning, the first day of a brand new year, we were blessed with a beautiful sunrise and the promise of a glorious day ahead. Living in one room with our kitchen, lounge and bedroom in a space 20 feet by 12 feet certainly does have its disadvantages without doubt. But on the flip side, being able to open wide the door and look out on to the mountain, un-interrupted by anyone else, is certainly pure joy.

Wanting to make the most of the good weather, we were up, showered and dressed early. Our morning routine is usually the same – we empty the portaloo, put out the rubbish, re-set the log burner and make the bed. We have breakfast and then wash and pack away the dishes before turning out attention to the tasks of the day.

Mark went up to the longhouse to bring down the things we would be need to work on the plot : a strimmer, ride-on mower, secateurs, loppers, gardening gloves and a saw for chopping off some off the branches that had been earmarked for removal.

He also climbed onto the annexe roof to check if the trap the had set last night had caught caught a rat but there were no signs of any activity and the trap lay empty. Before getting on with the days work, we enjoyed our morning walk with Wanda around the plot. She seems particularly interested in sniffing around the large hole in the fence where we suspect a wild boar comes in to eat olives and drink from the brook. We could hear in the distance the faint sound of gunshots and realised that that the hunters were out a few miles away. There were no other sounds and everything was still and peaceful. It seemed unusual that the farmer on the land opposite to ours had not been to let out his sheep – their now familiar little bells were silent and we decided that perhaps he had been revelling last night to see in the new year and had afforded himself a well deserved late start to the morning.

We always enjoy our morning walk, Wanda chasing her ball and us picking and eating the oranges, daydreaming about what we would like to do on the quinta. We still can’t really identify the different varieties and our sum joint knowledge consists of whether they are sweet or sour, seedless or have pips and whether they are easy peelers.   We will certainly need to work on this if were to gain any credibility with the locals. 

Mark set about getting everything ready to continue clearing the vineyard directly in front of the annexe, while I went inside to prepare the evening meal.  Another routine we have created is to prepare dinner in the morning so that we can come in after working on the land and all we need to do is switch on the oven.  We know that we would be too tempted to skip dinner and opt for a snack instead if we were tired with nothing prepared.  Today we were to have home-made meat pie, boiled potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and cabbage that I picked from the terrace in front of the annexe. 

We both started cutting back the vines.  We decided to be quite lenient, removing only the really long stems which prevented us from driving the ride-on tractor between them to cut the grass.  Linda has offered to come and give us a lesson in cutting back the vines in the next week or two.  It was all very much overgrown with brambles and ivy tightly wrapped around the vines and fences.  It took quite some time but eventually we were able to get the tractor on to the plot and cut back the overgrowth while Mark followed behind with the strimmer.

The strimmer seems to becoming more temperamental by the day and took some coaxing to kick into life
The vines previously hidden by weeds and grass are now standing proud and already starting to bud

Moving on to the terrace above the vineyard, we started to repeat the process of cutting back the weeds and brambles. The Olive trees are also in need of some attention. Not really knowing what to do, we remembered helping the Hipwells with their trees – removing the lower branches to make it easier to cut the grass underneath and also thinning out the tree tops to open up the canopy and create “pom-poms”. It was impossible to reach without a ladder so we decided to leave this until another day.

The cuttings were loaded onto the trailer and taken up to the top plot by the gate to prepare for a bonfire. Several trips later and we had quite a sizeable heap. In Portugal, anyone who wants to light a fire needs to obtain prior permission and need to book a slot for a fire. We have a telephone number to call and will get this booked in for some time over the next week.

The day was starting to close in and we could feel a chill in the air. We locked up the longhouse and had another walk around the edge of the plot. Mark needs to build himself a workshop mainly for storing gardening equipment but also for carrying out repairs and making things to be used on the quinta. Walking around, we tried to decide where would be the best place to site this. It would need some electricity and be easily accessible – despite having 4 acres of land, we can’t find a suitable spot for it! We also talked about building a store to house the logs to fuel the log burners and both agreed the ideal spot would be backing on to the planned annexe extention.

We manged to catch up with family after dinner – it sound pretty awful back in the UK with the new variant of Covid spreading at an alarming rate. It’s such a worry especially with Jodie, Hollie and Annie working in healthcare. We feel safe on our quinta, although we do need to go to the supermarket to buy provisions from time to time. We’ve both decided to try and limit our trips into the big towns to maybe once a month.

A view from the top terrace of the courtyard wall and the barn

Working on our Farm!

Another early morning alarm call, another hard frost and another beautiful day. The builders arrived early to continue taking off the roof tiles and removing the wooden slats. A couple of friendly blokes. They declined our offer of hot coffee – we heard that the Portuguese think the way the English make coffee isn’t quite right – too much and too weak. Mental note to get the Tassimo unpacked and give that a go.

Mark spend the day working on the land while I set up camp in the annexe with Wanda. I cranked up the laptop and got stuck into admin stuff that was outstanding. I managed to take photographs of the missing paperwork Oscar has asked us for and got that emailed across to him thanking him for all he has done. I do feel for the guy as it’s taken two years to complete something which we first thought would only take two weeks. I don’t think for one moment that he could have done anything else to move this along any quicker. I also believe that if the sellers hadn’t appointed their solicitor in Fundao and given him power of atourney, we would still be dancing around.

Mark was extremely productive and did a fantastic job strimming, clearing the Sistas and freeing a little fig tree from the vines, brambles and weeds that were choking it. Still so much to do, but looking so much better.

Raphael and Antonio had called by earlier in the afternoon to check on how things were going.  It would seem that the orange trees in front of the long house are not doing too good and are going to be in the way of the equipment.  After a bit of discussion, it was agreed that one of them would have to go, but we also received some advice that now is the time to be cutting back the dead wood from other trees as it is sapping the strength from the healthy bits.  We added this on our to do list and shuffled it up a bit on the list of priorities.

By the time that the day was drawing to a close, the roof tiles and wooden slats had been removed from the first two sections of the house.  The Ecositana crane had arrived and was sat ready and waiting to start moving the old tiles to an area where we can revisit them when refurbishing the annexe as we may be able to re-use some of them.  The sand and gravel was piled on the driveway  This will be used with the metal rods to create a metal and concrete beam to strengthen the top of the wall before the roof trusses are added.

 

Linda and Andy had invited us over for dinner so Mark packed up his tools, I shut down the laptop and we checked our mailbox before we headed off for Lourical. It was a lovely surprise to find Christmas cards from Mark’s mum and Dad and my friend Nadene along with a New Home card from Mark’s sister, Paula. There has been some sort of postal strike back in the UK and so a delay in things getting through to us. All seems to have cleared now so perhaps we will be getting a bit more delivered over the next couple of days.

Dinner was delicious with great company and the added bonus of eating at a table that wasn’t two feet away from our bed. We chatted about Brexit, Covid, our future grandson and plans for the next couple of months. It feels very real now and starting to feel like we really belong here. We’re going to register Wanda at the same vet that Andy and Linda use for their two dogs and we have made an appointment for us all to go together on Friday evening. we arranged to meet up at Lardosa so that we didn’t get lost finding the vets and said our goodbyes and left. It was extremely cold by the time we reached home and we were amazed at how clear the sky was. There was hardly any light pollution at all and the starts were so bright. Once inside the annexe, we were thankful that our morning routine includes setting the log burner. This was lit before sorting out a 6am alarm and turning in. We’re so very busy, and loving every minutes but the days fly by so very quickly. We’ve already been her a full month.

Buying a Farm

For the first time since arriving in Portugal almost a month ago, we set our alarm as we had to be up and out by 6.30am.  Still struggling to get hot water we boiled up pans and kettles.  I set the fire and sorted the washing, Mark went up to the long house to open up the gates and building before covering our belongings with dust sheets as Raphael and his dad were arriving at 8am to start prepping for work on the roof.  Mark also had to cap off two waterpipes in the kitchen so that water was accessible to the builders without it leaking out from where he had previously removed pipework.  Wanda and I had our morning trot around the plot, although she really didn’t seem comfortable with Mark not being there with us and keep looking for him.

8.30am and the team from Ecositana arrived and started to unload the scaffolding into the courtyard.  Antonio, Raphael’s father had a chat with us about the wall of the building, it is bowing out and although there is nothing that can be done to straighten it, a metal banding will be placed around the top of the walls to make sure that everything is structurally sound before the new roof is fitted.  Shortly after they arrived we needed to set off for Castelo Branco, so left them to it.

We arrived in good time for our 11:15 appointment with Lilliana and spent a few minutes in her office while she explained that there had been yet another chaotic morning regarding the sale with the potential of it falling through yet again. The solicitor appointed by the sellers had failed to present the appropriate certification of ownership. Also, there had been some confusion regarding how much money we had already paid, which in turn caused more confusion with the tax office and caused further delays. Lilliana had managed to persuade the Notary to accept the certification if it was submitted today so we headed off to the bank to pick up a bankers cheque. We walked the 100 yards or so from the bank to the Notary office only to discover that the certification still hadn’t arrived. We arranged to reschedule our meeting for 2.30pm.

We spent the next couple of hours doing some errands that we needed to do, We replenished the two gas bottles which were extremely empty and we stocked up on enough provisions to last us 2 or 3 weeks. Once we manage to get an extra freezer working we will be able to stock up a little more, but in the meantime will cope with the little one we have in the annexe. While we were in the shopping centre we took the opportunity to go and get some spare keys cut and was shocked that this came to 75 Euros.

2.30 and we were back at the Notary office. After a short while, we were seated and the clerk read out the deed in Portuguese. Lilliana then read it to us translating into English. Also in the office was Oscar from Remax, looking quite frazzled and a representative of the sellers solicitor. We signed the deed, handed over the cheque and thought that this was job done. Not so. We were asked to stump up an additional 382 Euros to cover the cost of the electricity and council tax for the period August 2019 to date. Pointing out our original agreement when we signed the promisory document was to pay for the electricity for the month of August 2019 only, we stood firm and Lilliana took up the cause. She can be a fiesty little thing when challenged and a lot of words were spoken on the phone between her and the sellers solicitor. We paid for the electricity for the month of August and left.

Outside Oscar invited us to have a drink with him in the nearby cafe and we chatted about how long this had taken and the journey it had taken to get us to completion. Almost 2 years in all. He seemed very appreciative of having Lilliana to help with things and promised to pop in to see how we are doing if he is ever in the Vale de Prazares area.

Around 6 hours after we had left home, we arrived back. The builders had gone home but we found that the scaffold had been been erected around the long house and that some of the granite blocks has been moved to create a pathway for when the crane arrived.

Weary from our busy day, we walked the plot as proud owners of this beautiful dream and shared our news with family and friends back home.  On a footnote, with the news of the UK once again going into full lockdown, we have never felt so blessed to be living in semi-isolation in such beautiful and tranquil surroundings.

Part two …

After a very disturbed night of sleep, I was really quite relieved when the light started to creep in through the window and it was time to get up.  There had been a lot of strange noises throughout the night.  We haven’t been here long enough to identify what they were, maybe a fox or perhaps even rodents.  From time to time we have heard something walking about on the annexe roof.  Sometimes it sounds quite small and other times it is something that is quite heavy footed.  Mark usually hears it first and is spurred on to grab the poker and bash it on the roof.  This usually does the trick and wakes me up!  Last night Mark was sleeping peacefully oblivious to any creaks and sweaks and I saw practically every hour pass on the clock.  Convinced that there had been creatures in the roof and unsure if anything had been in the cupboards, I took everything out to check and disinfect anyway.  There was no sign of anything, so with our little room now spick and span, I turned my attention to working outside. 

Mark had been out some time, and had already dismantled the tumble down chicken coop next to the bathroom.  We are soon learning that hardly anything is thrown away in Portugal, with re-purposing being the order of the day.  In the chicken coop we found an old arga cast iron oven with a  little side door where solid fuel wood be burned.  Not sure if this could be used to heat the workshop he is planning on building it was decided to put this to one side for the time being.  We also found three rings that had once belonged to a wooden barrel, a french banner and a roof which had been cut off an old car.  The banner had to go, we could not think of anything we could use it for, the rings were put to one side for now not sure how we my use them.  The roof was also a keeper.  Mark had invested in an arc welder whilst in the UK and found that if using a metal welding bench a much better contact was achieved and the intention is to cut down the roof and use it for a welding bench.

 

It took most of the day for it to be dismantled, cut up for firewood or put in the courtyard reading for getting rid of. We managed to replenish the stock of wood that we bought from Pedro and this should keep us toasty for the next month or so.

It was a lovely warm sunny day so I decided to change the bedding and get this pegged out on our little washing line to dry.  The olive trees in front of the annexe were desperately in need of some attention and we set about cutting them back and attempting to open up the canopy.  The suckers from the base of the tree were removed as were the two empty water bottles that has been filled with sugar and water last year to attract the flies.  Although it sounds pretty horrible it certainly did the trick as both bottles were full of dead insects.  To one side of the tree on the raised bed was a clump of orange flowers with the rest of the bed full of rubbish, weeds and dead leaves.  I set about clearing this out.  The soil is very good quite dark brown and sandy.  I split the plants and unsure whether I was doing it properly replanted them in two rows around the edge of the bed.  I was surprised that for such delicate little plants there were really big woody roots and I wondered if they would take kindly to being disturbed.  To complete the look, I hung up the little gold bauble that Steve and Angela had bought for us and re-set the wire mushroom that Twiggy had made.  Pleased with the result, the little plants were give a good drink of water before packing up the gardening equipment.

   

Wanda spent the whole day outside with us, running around, sniffing out new smells and when she had had enough decided to have a sleep on her sun bed!

Dinner this evening was stew and spicy potatoes which we had taken out of the freezer in the morning.  We decided that we would have a lovely hot bubble bath as a treat for our hard days work.  Hopeful that the gas bottle would rise to the challenge, we turned on the taps and added the bubbles.  It soon became clear that the gas just wasn’t up to the task so two minutes later, not to be deterred from our reward we were boiling the kettle and eventually had the tub filled.

Raphael sent a message to let us know that his team would be arriving first thing tomorrow to start the preparatory work for the new roof.  We were so excited to hear that.  It will be a big day tomorrow as we have our appointment in Castelo Branco at the notary to sign the deed of sale. Not wanting to sleep late tomorrow, we turned in early setting an alarm and hoping for a good nights sleep.

 

Taming the Land

There was a crisp frost on the ground when we woke this morning forming tiny little icicles which crunched as we walked on our morning trip around the plot.  We saw the farmer arrive to let out his sheep – we were only thirty yards or so away from each other and passed the morning with a cheerful Bom Dia.  He appeared to glance over our plot as  he was going along his way – hopefully approving of the results of our efforts from yesterday.  Today’s tasks were pretty much a continuation from the day before. We wanted to clear as much of the land to the right of the annexe as possible.  This is where we plan to create our veggie plot so we brought the two compost bins from the courtyard and placed them at the far end.  

We’ve noticed that quite a lot of shrubs and trees are growing closely together, fighting for light and being strangled by vines and brambles.  It is difficult to identify a lot of the trees as they have no leaves or fruit.  Some though, like the fig are quite distinct in their shape and branch formation and we have counted at least seventeen figs around the plot.  A decision had to be made regarding which to keep and which to take out and we worked hard all of the morning cutting and clearing from the terraces.  The leaves were gathered up and put in the compost bins and before long they were both full to the brim.

The sky was clear and the sun was lovely and warm.  Mark was working in a t-shirt and shorts and the sun melted the frost leaving patches of white where it hadn’t yet reached.   He climbed up into the olive trees, cutting off the branches that had olive knot and opening up the canopy so that the fruit would get more sunlight in the summer months.  The branches were carried off to the top plot by tractor and before long there were three rather large bonfires built ready to be lit.  We will contact the authorities on Monday to get our fires booked in and find out what else we need to do. Apparently, there are quite significant fines if we fall foul of regulations around lighting fires and we are keen not to upset anyone.

 

Cutting back the branches from the fig tree which will be stored and dried ready for the log burner next year
Sorting out the chaf from the wheat – sorting out what to keep and what to remove

We were pleased with how quickly the terrace started to look tidy and we enjoyed working together outside in the fresh air and sunlight. Wanda was running up and down the terraces bring her ball to be thrown. She loves being outside with us sometimes roaming off after different scents but hardly every sitting still. No wonder she sleeps so soundly during the night.

Lunch today was toasted sandwiches and hot mugs of tea outside on the terrace. We sat back and admired our handiwork – under no illusion that this was only a fragment of the work we had to do on the quinta.

The working day came to a close with a walk down to the bottom terrace.  we wanted to collect oranges and juice them so that we would have fresh orange juice to drink.  We collected almost two buckets full, a mixture of tangerines satsumas and oranges.  Although the juicer is a beast of a machine and extract practically every bit of juice from the fruit, we have found that we need to peel the oranges first to avoid getting a bitter taste in the juice from the zest.  Our oranges made us three large jugs of juice which we will keep in the fridge.  Once we have some suitable containers and the larger freezer up and running, we will also freeze some juice to have in the months when the trees have finished fruiting.

 

The water supply, although plentiful from the well was not getting very hot.  We have a gas bottle which is linked to the boiler so that our well water can be heated for washing, showers and cooking.  We switched the two bottles over to see if that helped things at all and soon came to the conclusion that both bottles were in need of being refilled with possible a third one being purchased as a spare.  Another job for next week when we are in Castelo Branco.  For now, we have decided to use the electric kettle to boil water for cooking and doing the dishes in the hope we can stretch out what gas we have left for another couple of days.