Monday, 2 April 2018


28th February
Well my butter making didn't work! First of all I tried using my (virgin) manual butter churn - by the time my arms had given up nothing had happened. So I thought I'd use my moulinex mixer - the cream frothed up to about four times it's original volume but no hint of butter! I think perhaps my cream was tainted with milk? I need a cream separator.

9th March
The wells are more or less full, the land is saturated, our track is getting squelchy (soon it'll be undrivable) and still it rains.
Apparently totally annual rainfall for our area averages at about 1000mm (that's a meter in one whole year), we've had 600mm in the last 12 days!!!!! Elise and Yurk (two separate neighboring quintas) are both flooded.
Our vegetable garden is under water, so it's a chore to pick the brassica (the sprouting brocolli is still going strong and more cabbages are ready to harvest).
Yesterday our Fermentalists meeting was at Mount of Oaks (MOO, a local community). I was super excited because I wanted a tour of their place - it was too wet! I made an orange (ours) and red pepper salsa - looks interesting and tasty, I think it will end up quite runny like a sweet and sour chili sauce.
19 people attended the meeting (plus Taliss and Leonie), the group is getting rather big. Me, Nicky, Lola and Jo came from our area (it was an hour's drive to MOO).
I have a Mother's day card and present from Hen (& Indi) - I won't open it until Sunday.
Update on mother's day present: Hen contacted me to see if it had arrived. I said 'yes' but I hadn't opened it; he said I could if I wanted too ...... wow, it's fabulous, a garland made from recycled metal, in the shape of leaves - when the rain stops I'm going to put it up on the decking - thank you Henry & Indi Xxx.
Tonight we had another storm (thunder & lightening) and tomorrow storm Felix arrives (Red warnings) .........

10th March
Today we pulled two vans out of the mud (Pete & Alan's), last week it was Sophie's people carrier and last month Hatti's van - our 4 wheel drive truck is in demand with all this wet weather.
I put my mother's day present up .......
It 'tinkles' in the wind ......
We're getting a little bit bored now!!!!! I played in the studio this afternoon - I'm thinking of making some cards to sell at the carboot.

11th March
Happy Birthday Karen. Xxx
Ooooh goody, it's raining! It's getting a bit boring now ......
We took a walk down to the river; it was raging. But it had obviously been nearly 2m higher on Friday (we could tell by the debris trapped in the branches of the trees).
This afternoon I carried on with my card printing .......

The marbled paper I made years ago when we lived in Wales.
The tomatillo seeds I sowed have germinated in the hundreds rather than tens! So I'm going to pot some seedlings up and try selling them at the carboot. I spent the evening making paper pots (from supermarket flyers) so I don't have to get rid of my pots (I felt very smallholderish!).

12th March
Last week I decided that as I was milking Lucy once a day I might as well milk first thing and milk Jelisa too (with views of cheese making). Day (1) I had 2.5L, day (2) Lucy's kids had found her left udder and she didn't need milking. However today Jelisa came out bursting - I took 2L off her and 1L off Lucy (so perhaps cheese making is back on, I only need 5L per batch for soft cheese).
No rain today so we did some outside jobs (potting on (me) and mucking out (Brett)).

13th March
Another 3L milked this morning. I don't have enough for cheese as we're using it in our tea/coffee etc.
After six months of a persistent dry cough (I haven't had a full night's sleep in months) the doctor tells me it's the pills I'm taking!!!! She's given me a new prescription, fingers crossed.
After years of buying crappy meat slicers and slicing ham or bacon as thinly as possible by hand we might have access to a proper meat slicer. Lola has a Portuguese friend who wants to sell one (50€), it sounds very promising as it weighs 20kgs - we're going to view it tomorrow.
Erd came round this afternoon to help Brett service our truck (he has ramps). It's purring now, job well done!
I continued making paper pots .........

14th March
No milk this morning!!!!
What a bargain!!!! The meat slicer is a proper heavy duty one. It might be old but the blade is still sharp (scarily so), it sliced our bacon thinly, no trouble at all - very happy, it's a quality piece of kit.
Proper bacon ...

17th March
Happy St Patrick's Day!
I didn't go to the carboot. The weather has been inclement all week and rain was forecast; it actually didn't rain while the carboot was on but it was bitterly cold - only three stallholders turned up.
Sara & Greg turned up at lunchtime with my Amazon parcel (Kilner jars), the courier had dropped them off at Bar do Clube.

18th March
Brett off on a bike ride ..........

2nd April
Happy Easter!!!
Well my blog writing has gone to pot! I don't know why, I used to write it religiously, every evening after dinner (maybe it's because we're eating and therefore sitting down later?).
So what has happened in the last 2 weeks?
We have 'processed' two large rams and our big boar. We are experimenting and making Macon and Mam (mutton bacon and ham) as well as making bacon and ham (we're going to build a smoker) - you can tell we're still very happy with our meat slicer!
Macon ...
Vince and Lola are housing our big freezer in their shed (we can't run two off the solar) which is brilliant.
On Thursday Brett and Vince are going to look at my generator (fingers crossed they can fix it in time for Helen's visit, 13th April).
Today we went to CB and met Mark for lunch. Hopefully he's back in Portugal for a while. A while back I was moaning (on the blog) about not being able to get cotton easily - Mark's mum sent me a box of thread (thank you Mark's mum xxx), I'm really chuffed.
The weather had improved last week (it's been raining all over Easter). We went to Fundao market and bought a couple of lemon trees and a lime tree (our third attempt at growing these). These ones will be kept in pots on the decking until they have matured a bit. We're always very enthusiastic about our garden in the spring.
Brett has pruned all the olive trees in the vegetable garden. It is looking very well kept ..... and still the brasiccas are giving us vegetables (red/green/white cabbages, calabrese, brocolli, kale and chard (I know chard isn't a brassica!).
Nicky & Tallis came round last Sunday (whilst Brett and Erd were on a bike ride). We picked wild greens from the quinta - chickweed, hen bit, dead nettle, yellow wood sorrel, salad burnet plus a few herbs, to make into a wild herb omelette - delicious. The left over herbage was made into pesto.
Poor old Lobby is on heat, it makes her so restless. She's lying outside in the dark ...

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

WE NEED RAIN ...........

1st February
Happy Birthday Steph! Xxx
Brett's been working at Jo's this week (plus his bike ride every Sunday) so I've been on my own for a few days - it makes me realise I would hate to live alone!
Today I decided to do some (much needed) weeding; nearly 2 hours later, a wheelbarrow full of weeds (mainly grass), but hardly anything to show for it - though you can actually see one row of carrots now.
I sat outside in the sun to eat my lunch - it was bloody freezing!!!! The sun was shining but there was a bitter wind blowing from the north - I soon came in!
Next week I'm hosting our fermentation group (The Fermentalists) so I've been making a few ferments for our taste and share session. I've so far got ....... ginger ale, sourdough bread (it's in the freezer), chili paste (the one that nearly killed Brett!), pickled radish, curtido (cabbage, onion and carrot) AND I found some pickled garlic I made 13 years ago (it's gone black but it will taste sweet). We'll be making (as a group) beet kvass and ginger bug (I won't as I already have one).

2nd February
I now have a Portuguese Social Security number, which means I can sign on with a doctor at last.
Bloody Chronopost (delivery people) sent our electric fence controller back to Germany because they said had been unable to deliver it. We got one text from them saying they'd tried to call us twice (funny, we had no missed calls) and an email asking how we would like to get our package - the link wouldn't allow us to do either of the options (track the package/rearrange delivery) - so they sent it back! Everyone has issues with package deliveries, we've been ok until this one.

3rd February
Today I helped Brett burning scrub up in the top field. I'm not the best person to assist him as I spend all my time checking the fire isn't getting out of control (I'm petrified of making a wild fire, where as Brett is totally blasé and, I think, doesn't take the dangers seriously enough!).
So I stayed back at the house, after coffee break, and made Scrumbles (and learnt a new vocabulary!). A Scrumble is a freeform piece of crochet; once I have made a bunch I can join them together (a bit like patchwork) to make something - I want to make a jumper. My first two Scrumbles .........

4th February
Joyce would have been 89 today ......
I'm trying to replicate one of my favorite dresses (Ewa I Walla design), my one is very old and falling apart. I've chosen three different materials (an old, patterned, cotton duvet cover from Lola, a muslin skirt from Debbie and an old duvet cover from Debbie). The underskirt is patchwork and will be made from the two duvet covers (this will take the most time to construct), the muslin will make the top skirt. Once made I will dye the whole dress a faded purple color (and keep my fingers crossed).

6th February
Happy Birthday Alexandra Xxx
Brett took the car to the garage to get the cam belt changed, it's going to take all day so he had to cycle home (good job he's fit).
It's freezing cold, literally, atm. Every morning the animal's water is frozen (1/4" - 1/2" thick) and, although it's sunny, it stays cold throughout the day. We have taken to lighting the range earlier and earlier.
Despite this I have germination in the polytunnel (the seed trays are in a cold frame on top of polystyrene too); so far a few tomatoes, loads of tomatillos and I can see a bean cracking open - spring is springing!!!!
As I have no lemons I made preserved oranges today - they should work the same?
Last week Diane told me she had made nettle cordial - of course I had to make some too!!!!! I bottled it today; it's a pretty pink color and tastes delicious (Diane says it's good with gin!).

8th February
Brett handed me a 'dead duckling' this morning; he'd found it floating on the duck pond (that had ice on it, unfortunately I'd broken it!). It was soaked through, freezing cold, completely limp and no movement.
I dried it off as best I could, wrapped it in a towel and put it on a hot water bottle. Then I lit the range. I continued to dry, rub, wrap in dry parts of the towel for the next hour ........ then it's mouth opened and shut - it wasn't quite dead! Three hours later, and lots of TLC, it was squeaking and jumping out of the basket it had been cocooned in. I put it back with it's siblings - job done! Now I can't tell which one it is.
I hosted our fermentation group this afternoon. We made Torshi, an Iranian ferment - we have to wait a month to taste it.

9th February
Brett went off on his weekly bike ride today. I spent the day sewing patchwork for the underskirt of the dress I'm making - it's very time consuming.
Lucy is SO pregnant, she looks as if she has at least three kids in her and her udders look fit to burst - she MUST go into labour soon!

11th February
Nope, no kids yet. Poor Lucy looks so uncomfortable; she has black skin but her udders are so full they're red!
We spent the day in the veg garden. Transplanting cabbages, weeding, sowing garlic and broad beans. There's so much food ready to eat - different types of cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, beet, radish (plus the stored onions, sweet potatoes and squash, frozen sundried tomatoes, eggs) .........
One of Brett's cauliflowers ........

12th February
Still no kids!!!!!
Went into CB for a boring shopping trip!
No kids when we got back either!

13th February
She's going to *POP*, her udders are ginormous!!!
Went to help T&D collect hay from Tim's place this morning (hay is in very short supply now). Diane gave me some magic tea for my cough and chest (I know one of the ingredients is hibiscus), it's a very pretty pink colour.
We need rain; the wells are still almost enpty, the grass isn't growing (hardly any growth since we cut hay - that's 10 months), people are worrying about feeding and watering animals this year - we're worrying about feeding the animals and watering the vegetable garden this year!
Dinner this evening: broccoli & stilton (made with calabrese), fried broccoli (sprouting), baked sweet potatoes.

14th February
For goodness sake Lucy GET ON WITH IT! She looks so uncomfortable and can hardly walk with her udders forcing her back legs apart.
We had to put one of our yearling rams out of his misery today. Big ram (weighs about 18 stone) rammed him into the shed wall - we think he had internal injuries. Big ram's will be gone next week!

Saturday 17th February
We did the carboot today. Not terribly good this time, but I did manage to swap a couple of cauliflowers for a bag of lemons.

Sunday 18th February
And still Lucy hasn't produced!!!!!
The hunting season ends soon; so hunters have been more active these last couple of Sundays; shot was running down the roof!
I made lemon curd with my bartered lemons.
Dress prior to dyeing:

Underskirt (patchwork) detail
I dyed my duvet dress (purple); I'm very happy with the results (see 26th for photo). Hopefully tomorrow I can finish sewing it? I had to dye it prior to finishing the sewing as synthetic thread doesn't take the dye (I can't get old fashioned cotton thread here), so now I can finish the sewing with the appropriate coloured thread.

Wednesday 21st
Big bully ram has been dispatched .......
I didn't get my dress completely finished (but it's good enough to wear with a jumper!) - I love it, it has exactly the right weight in the skirt.

Thursday 22nd
What a fabulous day!
We had a trip to Spain with Nicky, Erd and Tallis. I wore my new dress (of course)!
I bought fabric,
I'm going to make a blind for the bathroom.
vegetables, different flavored paprikas, saffron, a couple of types of dried chilies and then we went for a tapas lunch - bread, olives, tongue, gambas, langoustine, calamari rings, calamari a la plancha, a mixed plate of potatoes, chorizo, eggs and ham, beer and wine (which came to 8€ a head).
And ........ when we arrived home hoo-bloody-rah-about-time-too Lucy had kidded!!!!! Unfortunately two males which we had to bottle feed as they couldn't latch on to her ginormous teats! (I took 3L off of her just to make her comfortable!).

23rd February
Hoorah, the kids had obviously fed overnight (only from one side, but that's a start). Took 1L from her (just to make her soft).
sodding goose attacked me - made a hole in the top skirt of my new dress!!!!! Brett said 'why was I wearing it whilst doing the animals' - because 'it's new and I love it'!

26th February
We lost another duckling today; it came out of the shed first thing, then this afternoon we could only see two. Seven were hatched so that's pretty poor survival rates. We don't know if it's predators or our other ducks that are picking them off.
I had to patch my new dress!!!!!!!

27th February
A lazy day as we're actually having a bit of rain!
We've started drinking Lucy's milk (she's producing far too much for her kids), it's really creamy - I'mgoing to attempt butter making this week.

28th February
A proper storm this afternoon; heavy rain and thunder.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018


I'm writing off November and December!!! I was in the UK for most of November and the first two weeks of December.
Then, once I came home, I was ill for several weeks (in fact I'm still not 100%).
Consequently Christmas was a quiet affair. We didn't buy one another presents (probably our cheapest ever Christmas!) and I've yet to buy them for family (can't get motivated). We spent Christmas day at Nicky & Erd's with Hattie & Garf, Erica & Francis, Homa & Ellie and various children. It was good fun. We supplied the turkey, brocolli (Brett's pride and joy), sausagemeat, pigs in blankets and giblet gravy - all from our quinta!
Boxing day we invited friends around, in the evening, for a cold buffet (though I did make bubble and squeak) and drinks.
New Year's Eve was a quiet night in, and bed by 11.00!!! (We did have the option to go out).

My birthday present from Brett arrived on the 3rd January .......
a pressure canner (all the way from America), so now I can can all my vegetable gluts. But first I have to collect preserving jars and the smallholder in me baulks at the thought of buying new jars at 75 cents - 1.50€ when these same jars can be bought, filled with beans or chickpeas (at any supermarket), for 54 cents!!!! So I've put out a call to all my crafty friends to give me these jars if they're going to throw them away.

Our three, very old (3- 4 years),Peking ducks were dispatched. We made duck breast prosciutto (bacon)
and duck confit (salted for 48 hours, then slow cooked in olive oil for 4 hours) which resulted in a delicous and tender meat.

Brett is planning his next build; a dog proof compound with three large buildings for sheep and goats, so that we can sleep soundly at night - at the moment (if it isn't raining and they're in the shed) the flock gets put into the old pig pen (by the house) and we sleep, with the window open, on high alert.

Weds 17th January
We have new neighbours. We didn't notice until this evening when we saw a light; they're behind the pig run (so quite close). They appear to be living in a stone ruin that only has two walls! We think the man was building a fire. There only appears to be two people; a young child (2 - 3 years) and a man (presumably the father).

18th January
I started a disgusting job - cleaning, with bleach, all the books that have been in storage since we left the farmhouse (7 years). Some of the boxes had been invaded by mice so I had to throw away quite a few of my (mainly recipe) books which had either pee or chewed damage (heartbreaking for me!). Until the living room is completed the books will live in the loft over the workshop.

Friday 19th January
I finished cleaning the books, I only managed to salvage one of the cardboard boxes, the rest were smelly with old mouse infestation.
Last Friday we had a visitor - Pedro (Ollie & Anna's dog). Today he turned up again. Unfortunately for him he came via the, very overgrown, quinta next door and was stuck in brambles - our dogs alerted us to his plight. We managed to free him and yank him over the fence onto our land but he's covered in lengths brambles which are obviously painful as he snaps when I try to remove them (I've done what I can) - I haven't managed to get hold of Ollie or Anna yet!

Saturday 20th
Wow what a surprise this morning - muscovy ducklings!!!!! No duck has been sitting, well not during the daytime, and it's been very cold.  At least six so far (plus a dead one - I think the male did that). Neither of the females seem terribly interested, so we've got to leave them (vulnerable) until one takes ownership. The male will be locked out of their shed, at night, (fortunately we have a spare shed) for the next week or so.

21st-31st January
Bloody bug has come back; this time I have a nasty, persistent, cough which keeps me awake most of the night. And my chest hurts - it was so bad the other day I likened it to having been shot (not that I ever have!), I think all the coughing strained my inter-costal muscles. I'm on my 5th bottle of cough mixture!
On the duckling front we're down to three! The others disappeared, one at a time, we have no idea to where or who. As they are free range (and they need to be as they eat grass) there's not much we can do to protect them, we do separate them (and their mother) from the other ducks over night.
The weather is fabulous atm; the sky is clear so we're having sunny days (with lots of warmth) and cold nights - the solar is working well.
I have spent time in the polytunnel sowing seeds (tomatoes, chilies, peppers, aubergine, beans, tomatillos). On the negative side, no one's wells are filling up yet so people are worried about watering vegetables in the summer; we might move our vegetable garden and take advantage of the (full) well on the abandoned quinta next door.
The broccoli and cabbage that Brett grew is doing really well. And I've discovered (char grilled) fried broccoli, it's delicious - tastes a bit like 'fried seaweed' (which is actually cabbage!) that is on some menus in Chinese restaurants.
Our craft group met last Friday (first time since last spring) we did freeform crochet - I can now crochet a shell/spiral. It was a brilliant, if slightly drunken, evening. My offering of nibbles was a plate of thinly sliced duck prosciutto and three month old 'cheddar' (goat's) cheese (I was showing off!!!)
it went down very well.
Diane & Thomas came yesterday (to pick up some hay). Diane has a canner and has informed me that I need special jars for canning - the ones with the disc lid and a screw band to hold it down (mason/bell jars) which are really cheap in America, very expensive (about 4 or 5 times the American price, plus postage) in UK, and non existent in Portugal - bugger!!!!!
We sold our small fridge (drink's fridge) as we were only able to use it for a couple of months of the year (when the solar is at it's peak). The fridge size gap, we thought, could be shelved and used for vegetable storage or even put a wine rack in there. The dogs had other ideas - they've commandeered it as a (very tight fitting) kennel!!!!
We had to shine a torch in there, that's why Lily is in the spotlight!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017


12th October
As I'm not sleeping well (keeping my ears open for dogs) I tend to get up early - it's still dark at 7.00; this morning I used the time to post my blog.
It's still HOT ....
Today was our fermentation group meeting at Kimberley's; not a big turnout, just six of us - Kimberley (obviously), Nicky (my driver) & me, Emma & Maria (mount of oaks) and Noya (& Emma, her daughter). I just made a small jar of kimchi.

13th October
Today I tried to finish organising the secondhand stuff for the carboot. Tomorrow I will sort out some of my glass which is ready to sell.
I will be returning to the UK for 10 days to a fortnight at the beginning of November - now I have the fun job of looking for flights.

14th October
A bit cooler today (28C) and rather cloudy - we might even get rain next week!
I spent most of the day in the studio sorting out stock for the carboot; I have masses, it will be interesting to see if it sells - I've put ridiculously low prices on everything (priced to sell).
There are new owners at Bar do Clube, these ones do food! So we're going to try it out tonight with Andrew and Lola & Vince.

15th October
We had a brilliant evening and came home very full. They don't really cater for vegetarians but the lady insisted on cooking a tuna omelette for Andrew, whilst the rest of us snacked on ..... presunto , chorizo and cheese, chicken gizzards, pica-pau (pork cooked in beer or woodpecker), black pudding and bread (as I said they don't cater for veggies!).
I've booked my flights to the UK; I leave on the 2nd Nov and return on the 15th.
Between midnight and 19.00 (19 hours) there have been 303 wildfires today, the most in one day for the year. We can see smoke on the horizon and every other post on Facebook is photos of fires, over 5000 firefighters are deployed.
Wow I have a lovely considerate family (especially my niece); Melanie is going to pick me up from the airport and drop me back - so I don't have to worry about traveling in the UK (apparently you can no longer use cash to buy tube or train tickets!).

16th October
Happy 70th Malcolm! Xxx
The fires are bad; 30+ people dead, loads injured and some missing. Hopefully it will rain tonight.
Bloody hell, poor little Bonnie was smelly; she had maggots under her (dog bite) scab - all gone now!
We went into CB to buy plaster and stuff for the bathroom.
The other day Lola commented that you could go into a Farmacia (pharmacy) and buy medicines without a prescription; as I'm on a couple of pills daily (and have to pay to see a doctor to write out a prescription for them) I thought I'd try it out - it's true, I just asked/showed the old container and I could buy however many I wanted!
I'm having to come up with some type of display stand, for my hanging glass pieces, (I was going to use the old, stand alone, clothes airier, but I can't find it); it's not going well - I'm not happy (big sulks).
So we're off to bed with the promise of heavy rain overnight and tomorrow ........

17th October
04.00 RAIN, thunder & lightning (of course now I worried about the goats and sheep being out in it).
The site showed no active fires this morning .......... But this weekend was bad, so many have lost their quintas and possessions (and at least 36 lives .....).
Very dull day = poor solar so we had the generator on - I did a batch of sandblasting.
Sorting though the fridge today, we had to give the pigs a whole load of over ripe cheese (Mozzarella and Feta) - I'm not at all happy about that .....
Nicky, Erd & Taliss are coming to dinner tomorrow, so I made chocolate mousse.

18th October
Paypal have resolved our dispute, re the milking machine, IN OUR FAVOUR!!!!!!! £373.10 will be credited to our account ........ (he'll probably appeal).
Noooooo, our really expensive, 11 month old, generator has broken!!!!! Which means (1) I can't use my kiln atm but, more importantly, (2) we can't run the water pump to fill the animal's water.  It is under warranty; but, until we hear differently, we worry that whatever has happened isn't covered.
We had fun with Nicky, Erd and Taliss. Taliss had Looby on a lead and was walking her around the kitchen table - she such a sweet natured dog.

19th October
So today we had to go into CB to buy a cheap (260€) generator, just so that we could do the animal's water.
I bought a clothes airier to display my hanging glass (panels, bunting, suncatchers) from at the car boot - I will tie it in the back of the truck so it can't fall over.

20th October
Boring day today, finishing off glass panels (soldering on rings etc to hang them from) and packing everything up for the carboot tomorrow.
It's suddenly gone cold - tomorrow we will light the range.

21st October
We were up early (for us), animals fed and milked by 8.45 so that we could get to the carboot as near to 9.00 as possible.
When I mentioned to somebody that there weren't as many buyers as last month she said "that's because they all have stalls this month" and she was right, masses of stalls this month (lots selling food), but not so many customers. We still managed to take over 100€; I sold a glass dish, a string of bunting and some suncatchers (68.50), so not too bad and I might do a couple of days at the Christmas market in Penamacor.

22nd October
WE GOT OUR MONEY BACK (all £373.10) for the milking machine!!! Good old Paypal. Funny thing is we still can't pay using the paypal account as our address is in Portugal so they want us to open a Portuguese Paypal account but we don't have a Portuguese bank - it's all very complicated.

23rd October
The end of the summer was declared today by the dismantling of the pool. The water in it was thick and green!
We are about to have a very social week so I did a proper house clean (a hated task).

24th October
Nicky and Taliss came round for a sewing day. Poor old Nicky she isn't get anywhere fast as I keep unpicking her work! Which is only fair as they, mainly Taliss, completely destroyed my house tidying; it looked like a bomb had dropped when they left and I was shattered, Taliss is very demanding "play with me" is her constant plea (she's a fabulous child).

25th October
Tristan & Natalie came for lunch (chicken and salad wraps, chocolate mousse). They are proper gardeners (they used to grow and sell organic veg, on a large scale, back in the UK), they are also very keen fungi foragers (Tristan even knows Roger Phillips!!!!); we think, between the four of us, we have identified one of the boletus mushrooms that grows on our land (under oak trees) as a Butyriboletus appendiculatus/boletus appendiculatus/butter boletes, if we are correct it IS edible - so we a terribly excited.

26th October
Happy Birthday Lawrence XXX
We met Kevin & Wendy (and Melanie, Kevin's sister) in Castelo Nova for lunch.
It was a very sobering drive from Vale De Prazeres, Alpedrinha, and onto Castelo Nova; we drove through, literally, acres and acres of burnt woodland and mountainside. These villages were surrounded on all sides by fire and in parts the fire was actually amongst the houses, it must have been terrifying.
Castelo Nova is a picturesque village with a castle ruin at the top. Lunch was well cooked, a little expensive (15€ per head), the restaurant was very popular.
Bugger, our generator warranty isn't valid in Portugal, UK only (they didn't tell us that when they shipped it out to us); so we've got to find Hyundai service engineers here (or just pay someone to fix it, which is what will probably happen anyway!).
Tomorrow we have Andrew, Chris & Di coming for dinner (veggie) and I want to make gram flour (from our chickpeas), to make onion bhajis with. I have attempted this with both my big and small food processors/grinders but all I acheived was a very loud noise and slightly bruised chickpeas .......
Tomorrow I will try the liquidiser/blender (our ears couldn't take anymore this evening!).

27th October
The liquidiser/blender worked to an extent - giving a rather coarse flour. Fortunately we had to go into CB this morning (to buy Brett something to wear on his cycle ride), so we bought a coffee grinder hoping it would grind the flour finer.
Grinding chickpeas to make gram flour: stage (1) liquidiser/blender (coarse flour) stage (2) coffee grinder (finer flour).
Cooking vegetarian curries for this evening (green banana and coconut, chickpea and black eyed bean dahl) and making fresh coconut chutney (my favourite).

28th October
I snook off to bed around midnight, I was falling asleep. The bhajis and pickles (fresh coconut, brinjal and fermented lime) were a great success and very filling. I'm not so sure about the banana curry!!! It was a boozy affair and this morning we are both a trifle delicate.
Billy somehow managed to get over the fence and off quinta, he was desperate to get back; Brett had to lead him through Elise's (Gary's) quinta and the eucalyptus wood back onto our quinta (we don't know how he got out).
We walked around all our fields assessing our olives - the trees are dripping with fruit, we will start harvesting on my return.
The government has already extended the fire ban twice (we are not allowed bonfires, barbecues, to use metal bladed strimmers etc) throughout the summer (usually May to the beginning of October), it's now been put back to the 15th November.
This evening Sasha & Chris's family are having a festa/rave type event (with trance music) - not my cup of tea, but we are going!

29th October
Well it was just like any other expat gathering, everyone standing around the bar drinking and talking - they were selling G&Ts for 1€ (guess what I was drinking).
Brett went for a bike ride whilst I made Welsh cakes as Diane & John (Diane & Thomas's neighbours) were coming for afternoon tea.

30th October
Today we gardened. We sowed carrots, parsnips, beetroot, radish, metre long beans, fava beans, weeded and prepared trenches for future sowings.

31st October
I hate days like today - dealing with bureaucracy, (1) in a foreign language and (2) over the phone (fortunately not both at the same time!); firstly the medical centre said I had to register with a doctor, to do this I needed a Social Security number. Our first obstacle was finding the Social Security office (we drove and walked around in circles looking for it), then I was told I couldn't have a number as I don't work, we were informed I needed to get a form from the UK proving that the NHS will pay my medical bills. Found out this is an S1 form.
Next I had to phone the 'fraud squad' at my bank because I wanted to move some of MY MONEY from my account to another account (in my name) - I've done it several times before, this time I got a big red box declining my payment and telling me to phone them. Their security questions were very detailed asking me what type of device I was using to access my account, who provided our internet, my middle names, which branch I opened my account at (I got that wrong!), my address when I opened the account, what age I would be next birthday, maiden name, they went on and on .......
And finally phoning DWP to request the S1 form; again answering loads of questions to verify who I am, re-spelling our Portuguese address and our Welsh email address several times (using alpha, papa, delta, echo etc which I don't know so I'm saying apple, pig, dog, elephant etc) before (I think) she got them down correctly.

Thursday, 12 October 2017


12th September
It's still HOT! (30+).
For over two weeks I haven't eaten gluten (bread, pasta, pastry, cereal etc, in fact I've cut out all starchy carbs) and has it made any difference to my aches and pains? Has it hell! I can't sleep at night because my joints are so achy. Oh yeah, and I haven't lost any weight either!!!!
Ow, ow, ow ....... whilst watering the vegetable garden I got stung (by a wasp?) right at the top of my leg, it really throbs!
Brett still working on the bathroom.

13th September
It's still in the 30's, this is supposed to be autumn! At least it's cool enough to weed the veg garden.
My sting is hot, swollen and painful .........

14th September
So, whilst weeding the veg garden yesterday, I decided that I would be more comfortable sitting than standing and bending; I upturned a bucket, after a while it collapsed(!), I landed on my back. It didn't really hurt, I just carried on weeding - today I can hardly move my head, my neck is so stiff and painful (whiplash?).
On a good note my sting has gone down and is no longer throbbing, just itching.
Our fridge is so full of cheese; I check it often for moisture, mold, ripeness etc. Today I found a four week old Chevre (that I'm ageing), it looked and smelt like Camembert;
we tried it at lunchtime - the flavor is good but it needs to be more gooey, another week should do it.
Today Brett put the glass blocks in the shower area - they look fab.
The area will be tiled (haven't chosen any yet).

15th September
Hoorah, a bit cooler today - so I made (more) cheese, Cheddar.
My beans are already coming through ......
Soddin' goats; everytime we (Brett) leave one of the gates, to the decking, open they sneak in to steal onions!!!!. We've never known goats to like onions before - we have weird goats.
My neck is still giving me gyp; Brett says I'm walking like a zombie!

16th September
Happy Birthday Laura. Xxx
Pete's Car Boot Sale was on today; at a new venue, the sport's field in Aldeia do Bispo - lots more stalls than normal and quite a few customers, we will probably do a stall next month. Met a few 'new' people - it was a rather social gathering.
Took the Cheddar out of the press, it now needs to air dry before I band it.
My neck isn't getting much better yet - I've even resorted to Ibuprofen!

17th September
Happy Birthday Lily. Xxx
How many ways, and how much, cheese can I use in one day? Well let's see what I did today.......
(1) Foudjou (uses soft Chevre and Cheddar) a French potted cheese, recipe from Diana Henry.
(2) Onion fritatta (older/firmer Chevre) for lunch.
(3) Tomato salad (Mozzarella), for lunch.
Actually I thought I'd used more!
Our aubergines are fruiting well so I char griddled some and jarred them in olive oil (Diana Henry again) - nice accompaniment to lunch.
Aubergines (left), Foudjou (right)
I picked a load of apples off the tree so that I can store them for the winter.
Brett is volunteering, again this week, to clear burnt woodland at one of the decimated quintas, so I made chocolate fridge cake (my contribution).
Haha I managed another 'cheese' use; dinner was garlic marinated, sliced, chicken breast fried with (4) Mozzarella(!!!!) and tomato salsa, lemon glazed carrots (bought!), French beans - the cheese worked well.

18th September
The night's are cooler; we even used a cover last night, so we're sleeping better.
Brett's volunteering day has been cancelled - so we have a large chocolate fridge cake to eat, fortunately Taliss is coming on Wednesday (sewing day)!
So I organised all my paper, to individually wrap the apples, and ...... everyone of them had an insect hole in them - so I spent the day prepping and cooking sliced apples to freeze! I'm half way through and, so f I've found one unblemished apple!

19th September
We had guests for lunch, Lola and Katherine (her lodger for the month); of course I had to make 'everything from the quinta' - chicken waldorf salad, tomato salad (with Mozzarella), cabbage and apple salad (with feta), marinated aubergines and various ferments, then junket for pudding.

20th September
And today it was the turn of Nicky & Taliss - we had the leftovers from yesterday, plus chocolate fridge cake. Taliss's dress needs at least one more session (because I kept unpicking it!).

21st September
Happy Birthday Helen! Xxx
Alfie (Chris & Di's dog) is missing!
I made apple jelly.

22nd September
So I spent the day in the kitchen making cheddar and chicken liver pate - and doing all the associated washing up!
Exciting times, the bathroom is nearly ready for the roof. Brett has to cut out the holes for the beams and I have to paint them (the beams) - we're using the blue/grey paint we originally bought for the field gates (waste not, want not!).
Really excited, it's a pity the 'end of the world' is due tomorrow!!!!

23rd September
Ok we're still here!!!!!!!
Our bed clothes needed washing; so I spent the morning doing the washing only to have it pointed out, just as I was finishing, that I'd forgotten to strip the bed!!!! Fortunately I hadn't drained all the water away.
Brett had a frustrating day; he cut all the slots for the roof beams in the bathroom, only to find that all the beams were banana shaped and twisted!!!! However, after having had a good old moan, he worked out how to still fit them so that the roof can be attached.
4.00 Bar do Club ....... Us, Andrew, Greg & Sarah, Chris & Di, Baptiste, Paul & Martine. It's election time and the Socialists came round - we were given - pens, hats and (Greg got a teashirt!).

24th September
Painted the bathroom (banana) beams. Tomorrow we go to CB to buy the roofing.

25th September
CB to buy roofing, shower and lights for our new bathroom!
An exhausting day with lots of compromising going on (could only get 30mm chapas, wanted 40mm, the lights we saw a couple of months ago were no longer in the shop so we got some that were ok, green rather than blue, we bought new mugs, but they were 1/2 the size of our old ones etc.), we were pleased to get home.

26th September
We went to do our morning check on our sheep and goats (just after breakfast); they had been attacked overnight!!! THREE of our pregnant ewes were dead; of the rest of the flock, many have multiple bites and puncture wounds. We had to borrow T&D's captive bolt gun, as Decibel was so badly injured she needed putting out of her misery. We have no idea what attacked them but we're thinking it must have been a pack of big dogs, (1) from the amount of damage caused, and (2) for them to have been able to get into our quinta - they must have been able to jump the metre high stock fences - most of our quinta is fully fenced (all the animal's areas are) so our dogs and animals can't get off the quinta unless we open gates (the gates were all shut last night).
So we had a horrible day; attending our injured flock, disposing of carcasses (compost bins, liberally doused in bleach) and finding them all a safe place to sleep this evening - the injured lambs are in the small shed (the milking goats are outside in the corral, where they usually sleep) and the rest of the flock are in the old pig run (close to the house). Our windows will be open and we'll try leaving the dogs on the decking, but probably bring them in as Lily will happily bark all night!

27th September
A quiet night (even Lily was quiet); this morning the sheep all seem relaxed and their wounds are no worse - except poor little Clyde who's extra injury, we noticed today, is a shredded scrotum!!!!! He now has blue balls - the colour of the antiseptic spray.
Well that's a turn up ....... I phoned Paypal today, re our milking machine, and (even though we paid by debit card not through Paypal) we appear to be covered, they're going to freeze our payment to our seller and he had 10 days to contact them, if he doesn't get in touch on day 11 we get our money back!!!!!
For dinner I cooked winter squash - using a squash we harvested August 2016! They have kept really well.
Animal bedtime and one of the Muscovy females is missing; we finally locate her, under the decking, sitting on a nest - no way we can reach her tonight, so fingers crossed nothing else finds her (Lily will let us know if any predators get close).

28th September
Another quiet night ....
I can't believe it is still so hot (30s), we haven't had rain for months.
It's our least favourite time of the year - fly season. Swarms (well that's what it feels like) get into the house - we spend all day with fly swats in our hands.
The bathroom roof went on today!!!!!!!
It might not look much, but it will greatly improve our lives ...

29th September
We're invited to dinner with Katherine (Lola's tenant) so I made honeycomb.
I also made Mozzarella.

30th September
Katherine gave us fish & chips! It was a nice evening but we couldn't relax as we were away from the sheep.
The village was packed as we drove out/in to the village - something to do with the election and it looked like free food and drink!
My mission is to shell the chickpeas, so far I've managed 1/2 a sweetjar - it's very time consuming (and boring!).

1st October
Of course we went to the bar last night - it was shut! New owners have taken over and they're getting it ready. So we went to Pimenta's bar (warm beer!) and then relocated to Café Central (better) - we left, to do our animals, just as they were ordering port ......
The sheep are healing well, bless them.
Milk production is declining rapidly; only 2L this morning, Jelisa is down by about 75% (probably because she is pregnant) - typical that I've been waiting for the weather to cool, so I could make certain cheeses, and now I won't have the milk to make it with!
I had a VERY frustrating morning, on the phone to Paypal; our seller is saying he has sent the correct documentation and that the machine has been delivered to us!!!!
Still shelling chickpeas .........
And the garden still keeps giving; I picked a bowl of strawberries, French beans, capsicums, aubergines and tomatoes, harvested the last of the onions and we started harvesting winter squash and sweet potatoes.

2nd October
I was woken by Brett at 3.00 a.m. our neighbour's chickens were making a hell of a racket, we're really worried that they were being attacked by something. Unfortunately there was nothing we could do; although these neighbours border our quinta we can't physically get onto their land from ours as we are separated by a winter riverbed, the banks (either side) are dense with willow, quince and bamboo (animals can get through but not humans) and on his side a stock fence too. To get to this quinta we need to drive about two kilometres (they're accessed by a different track to us) but even then we couldn't get in, as the neighbours live in the village and their gates are kept locked. Brett let our dogs out - they ran off in the other direction! He shone a torch (but could see nothing); we felt terribly inadequate.
I didn't sleep until daybreak, in case the preditor came our (our sheep's) way.
OMG I made us an avocado and prawn salad for lunch ....... I think the prawns were raw!!!!!! They were frozen, but they were also pink (so I stupidly assumed they were cooked), so now we're expecting to be ill!
One wheelbarrow of chickpeas down = more than an old fashioned sweet jar full of peas.
Brett started on the electrics for the bathroom (well he's making gaps for the cable runs).
So far so good (re raw prawns) ......

3rd October
IT'S OCTOBER and we're still getting temperatures of 35C!!!!! And no rain is forecast for at least 10 days.
I podded another half wheelbarrowful of chickpeas (took me most of the day!).
A day and a half since I 'poisoned' us, so far so good (although I have been feeling queasy - but I know that I am high suggestable!!!).

4th October
Still no ill effects .........
Still bloody hot ..........
Still shelling chickpeas ...........
Piglet is growing .........

5th October
We went to Spain this morning. Everyone talks about a shop, 'Gamma', where you can purchase tiles - it was bloody expensive (one of those shops where they don't put on prices!), so we came home with nothing - well I bought some material from the market for 2€ which should make two or three dresses.
Tomorrow we will go to Alcains to look at the tiles there.
FINISHED podding the chickpeas (6.2 kilos),
we also weighed the blackened beans (5 kilos) that we podded last month. I'm going to grind some of the chickpeas to make gram flour. We have enough pulses now to keep us through the winter (hummus, pork & beans, baked beans, falafel, dhal, flatbreads, soups, refried beans, salads .......).

6th October
Well the Alcain's tile shop has change considerably (and not for the better!), so we came away from there empty handed. But we found some tiles we like, amazingly, in Bricomache. Not overly cheap, so we're going to make a feature of them behind the wash stand.
We saw Amelia and her husband as we were going back to the car - apparently Mark has broken a rib (maybe he'll come out here to recuperate?).

7th October
I did a job I have been dreading (in case I broke it) making a hole in old bowl (we've had it for twenty odd years and it was old when we bought it) that we're going to use as a wash basin, in the new bathroom. I used my sandblaster and then the dremel - it worked!!!! And it goes really well with the tiles. It has a matching jug, unfortunately this has a big chunk of the lip missing - I'm wondering if I could mend it (with Fimo?) ........
There was a dragonfly trapped in my studio, it was trying to get out through the glass blocks, so I kindly picked it up, to release it out through the doors - it bloody well bit me!!!!! No blood was drawn, but it was quite a painful nip (I said "ouch" and dropped it!); I captured it in a box, instead of my hands, and let it out - it then spent the rest of the morning trying to get back in!
Meantime, Brett made the house really, really dusty -  channeling out the blocks for the electric cables.
C&D are in the UK; so it was just us, Andrew and Sara & Greg at the bar this evening - we came home sober, but both agreed that it was a very enjoyable evening (smaller groups make conversation easier).

8th October
Just before 6.00 a.m. we were woken by a dog bark, coming from the sheep enclosure, closely followed by our dogs barking and growling, Brett falling out of bed in his haste, and running naked and shoeless into the dark. I struggled into a dress (went out with my arm through the neck hole). But it, whatever it was, was well gone; Brett heard the fence 'ping' as it jumped over into Gary's old place. The flock was unscathed; we were very thankful that we had them close to the house (we had been starting to think that we didn't need to continue putting them in there overnight).
Today I decided to make a dress, with the material I bought on Thursday; I like the dress I copied from Pam, I put it on to the check the fit - Brett informed me that it reminded him of jodpers saying "have you seen it from the back?". He doesn't like baggy dresses (pity I've got a baggy body!), so now I don't know what to do!
I compromised; I made it tighter than I would normally, but not as tight as Brett would have liked! It actually looks rather posh (for me!).
The wildfires have started again, we've been seeing plumes of dark smoke for a couple of days.

9th October
We went to Fundao to buy vegetable plugs (mainly onions) and came back with two big bags of plugs (white onions, red onions, broccoli, Dutch cabbage, pointy cabbage, kale (I hope) and cauliflower) and turkey poults (3 for us, 2 for T&D).
This afternoon we had to prepare channels for the veg and this evening we had to plant them - instant garden!
Tomorrow we've been invited for lunch at Nicky & Erd's, so I made some peanut butter fudge to take.

10th October
We had a fabulous time at N&E's and lunch was a feast - meatballs, roast aubergines, salad, rice, yoghurt dressing and pomegranate sprinkles - all very colourful.
On our way home we stopped to speak to Mr Louis; he told us that several of the shepherds around us have lost sheep to dogs recently - he suggested we shoot the dogs (easier said than done, we have to see them first - oh yeah and get a gun!). But we are now even more worried about another attack.
We have decided that we are (Brett is!) going to build a 20' x 20', dog proof, sheep pen for the flock to be housed in overnight.

11th October
I didn't sleep well; I was listening for dogs all night ........
Lola came for coffee and gossip - always great fun!!!
Then I sorted out stuff to sell at the carboot in a week's time. The boxes have been stored in the big shed for five years, mice had made their homes in some of my boxes of material - all now chucked! It was horribly dirty work.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017


21st August
And another hot day .......
When we came back from watering the vegetable garden there was a message from Lola & Vince asking if they could call around in about an hour. Yes of course, but, as they tend to be late, they would be arriving at lunchtime, so I made a courgette fritatta and a tomato salad (enough to share). By 1.45 we were hungry, so decided to eat! A while later there was a message from Lola - they'd been (and gone), our car was there, but we were obviously out, had we forgotten they were coming? How bizarre, we were in the house the whole time!!!!!
The Corvilha fire looked like it was under control this morning, this evening it's back to raging.
We missed the partial eclipse - too much smoke! But we did see: shooting stars, airplanes, the space station and UFOs whilst bobbing in the pool, before bed!

22nd August
We popped into Penamacor for animal food; on our way back, along our track, we saw a mongoose! It was really close and we saw it for a long time - best view I have ever had of one. Then, just inside the vegetable garden, we saw a golden oriel.
It's too hot to go outside! And, nightmare, our pool has gone thick and green!!!!
This evening I'm off to learn how to play backgammon (watch out Rebecca & Paul next time you visit!).

23rd August
Well I got to the bar at 8.00, got home around midnight, only having drunk ONE beer! I now know the very basic rules of backgammon - I even won two games. They want to make it a weekly meeting, we'll see ......
Another scorcher. I was going to make cheese but it was too hot.
Brett has volunteered to be part of the community team going around to help out at the quintas that were affected by last week's fires. I have to stay here, as they're leaving our village at 6.15 a.m. and I will need to be here to do all the morning animal chores.
And both mountains are on fire this evening! Rain is forecast for next week (fingers crossed).

24th August
It's supposed to be cooling down today, but it still feels hot to me! And the mountains are still burning.
We are just above the cross roads and 'h' in Idanha a Nova
I'm starting to get more tomatoes to dry (not nearly as many as last year); quite a selection of shapes, sizes and colours.
Some of our watermelons are a bit 'floury' textured so I made some watermelon fruit leather - I added a bit of citric acid in the hope that it would taste like tangfastics!
We caught up with Andrew this evening over a couple of drinks at Bar do Clube.
Early evening the wind blew the smoke from the big fires in the mountains, to our north/north east, causing a HUGE black, ash depositing, cloud in our valley - it was like a scene from a post apocalyptic film!

25th August
A much cooler night; we didn't need the fan on - I even used the bedcovers!
So much smoke and ash in the air still.
Because of our stupid bank (closing it's current accounts) we're having to travel to Penamacor daily to take out money to tide us over until we can find away of spending in Portugal without paying exorbitant bank charges.
This evening we're off to Greg & Sara's for dinner, unfortunately poor old Brett's up at 5.00 as he's volunteered to help out at one of the farms that was gutted by the fire (clearing burnt woodland and digging drainage ditches for the surviving trees as the irrigation system was destroyed).

26th August
We had a lovely evening with G&S, it would have been very easy to stay longer but Brett needed some sleep; as it was he didn't get to bed until about 1.00. They had cooked a couple of curries (always popular with us), something that's hard to find in Central Portugal (unless you make it yourself or go into the big towns). They had the cutest, 4 month old, puppy, who was obviously teething.
Bank account saga cont.
Our account closes at the end of the month, we're busily getting out (250€ per day limit) a lump sum of cash to tide us over.
Today I signed up for a Monzo card (preloaded debit card with free overseas withdrawals/spending - problem is it's limited to £3000 per year).
No proof of address required but to prove identity I had to take a photo of my passport photo and then a VIDEO OF MY FACE (!!!) whilst reciting (something like) "please send me a Monzo card" - my video face looked nothing like my passport photo but I passed the test and a card is being issued.
Brett didn't get home until early afternoon, then (4.00) we were off to Bar do Clube for a 'few' drinks with the gang (16€ later we staggered home!).

27th August
Brett worked a couple of hours at Stuart's this morning to get his roof waterproof as rain is forecast (big smiley face!).
11.15 a message (plus photos) from Annika to the fire alert group - fire in Penamacor!!!!
The view from our supermarket car park!!!
We left it until the fire was under control before we ventured into Penamacor to get out money.

28th August
A smallholding day including 2 gallons of milk made into Halloumi.
We were going to have carrots this evening but ..... the sand, we stored ALL our carrot harvest in, was empty of carrots (bar a few bits); we don't think it was rodents as the sand was extremely hard and there was no sign of burrowing or poo. We think, but have no proof, that the sand got excessively hot and cooked/dessicated the carrots!
All day we waited for the rain. ........ it came overnight.

29th August
Castelo Branco - we haven't been for nearly 2 months (!) so lots to do. While we were there we met Concebelle & Andrew (we first met them at A&K's (last year), then they bought some Muscovys off us), they're really nice, so I invited them to lunch next week.
I should have gone to backgammon club this evening but I forgot and once reminded was too tired.
This evening it rained again.

30th August
I never thought I'd get bored with cheese making! But it's so often ....... Today was Mozzarella.
After the last two days of rain Brett took the tractor up to the vegetable garden to prepare the ground for winter planting - he said it was as dry as a bone and very, very dusty!
We (me, Di, Sara and Pam) had a 'girlie night' at Sara's watching 'Mama Mia' (Di had never seen it!) and drinking Sangria - the 'husbands' sat outside and drank beer!
We got home at 1.00 and decided to go to Spain tomorrow - early start as Spain is an hour ahead and the market finishes at 12.00.

31st August
Well the market was a great success; I bought three pieces of material for 5€. The colours and patterns aren't really my choice (but Brett told me not to be fussy!), however the texture is good (not stiff) and I will do some printing on it.
Then we went to the supermarket and bought some intresting tinned seafood (razor clams, anchovies etc).
We were home by 11.30.
This afternoon I cut out and printed one dress, will sew it tomorrow.
I added the birds (of course!)
Brett continued to prepare for winter - although it's still 30+!

1st September
Today I started an interesting cheese 'Mason Jar Marcellin'; it has to be aged in a jar (which creates the right environment) for six weeks and it's supposed to rival Camembert.
We made 15K of grape juice; it'll be fizzy by the end of the week, grape juice soda!
One dress finished!
Di phoned this evening - Richie had found a child! A young boy had been exploring and got lost, he couldn't find his way home (he's only been here a month). Fortunately his parents were located within the hour.

2nd September
I made a second dress today.
Usual Saturday visit to Bar do Clube, but we manage to come away sober for a change.

3rd September
We harvested our onions, some nice big ones, hope they keep well, I'll plait them up.
Lots of house tidying and gardening today as we have visitors tomorrow (Andrew & Concebelle) for lunch - they're coming to be inspired!

4th September
Happy Birthday Sarah Xxx
All the food and drink I prepared for lunch was from our quinta; figs stuffed with feta on a bed of rocket and nasturcium leaves & flowers, roast chicken, tomato salad with mozzarella, pickled cabbage, fermented cherry tomato bombs and grape juice (with sparkling water - bought!). It was a good afternoon.

6th September
We started our winter garden; we bought, and Brett planted, 50 brassica plugs (4€).
Nicky arrived (late as usual) for an afternoon of sewing; her excuse? She'd been trying to load a sofa (from the side of the bins) into her van but it was too heavy/big! After the sewing lesson we drove back with her, loaded the sofa into the back of our truck and delivered it to her place (mainly so that we could see Erd's reaction/face!!!!!).

7th September
1st Fermentation Club (The Fermentalists) meeting. We had a brilliant meeting at Nicky & Erd's; there were twelve of us, we all took ferments to show, lunch to share and ingredients to make into ferments. I came home with Apple Relish, Tomato Salsa and Lime (but in my case Orange, Lemon and Lime) Pickle.
Brett has stared back on the bathroom.
We strung up our onions and hung them on the decking.

8th September
I'm going through a tired and achy phase, hope it goes soon!
Bloody goats keep stealing our onions!!!!
And more fires ........

9th September
What a difference a day makes .......
This morning I was revelling in my goosebumps - however I soon put on a jumper!
I took advantage of the cooler weather to start some Chevre, which I want to age (I haven't managed it yet), it needs to ferment for two days at 'room temperature' so it's been put outside on the barbeque (which is on the shaded side of the house).
I sowed some beans and peas in our Winter veg bed.
Brett carried on with the bathroom (smiley face!).
Then (as it's Saturday) we went to the bar .......

10th September
The sow gave birth yesterday evening; two piglets, but only one alive (she probably rolled on, and killed, the dead one, like last time!). The remaining piglet is female, seems very lively, and we've seen her feeding - fingers crossed she survives her mother's total unawareness!!!!!!
The temperature has risen again and, of course, it's too hot for cheese making again, so I had to strain the curds off the whey - I'm still going to try to age it.

11th September
Happy Birthday Gill, hope you have a fabulous day! Xxx
The piglet (female) seems strong and healthy, so hopefully she will survive her mother's lack of awareness.
I spent the whole morning doing the washing and shelling chickpeas. Brett block laid ....

12th September
Whilst we were watering the vegetables I got stung (by a wasp?) right up the top of my leg - it throbs .......,.
So our latest communication from Customs (re the milking machine) is that the paperwork our seller sent us is not what they asked for. Brett phoned Ebay and you're only covered for 30 days!!!!! So it's looking like we have lost £450 which is ridiculous/annoying, we just can't think go to get it back - we're both in bloody bad moods today!
I cleaned out the fridge, there's so much cheese in there (Chevre at various ages (2 days - 7 weeks), Mozzarella, Feta, Halloumi, Cheddar, Crotin and Mason jar Marcellin), we're just not eating it fast enough!

Monday, 21 August 2017


28th July
Our inverter is playing up; we have to turn the freezer off overnight (although the batteries have charge), last night it was beeping so we had to turn everything off - we have bought a new inverter but don't want to install it until the solar shed is built.
So I got out of bed, in the dark, trod on my shoes and my foot has been throbbing all day!
We tried to open a Portuguese bank account today ...... they wanted so much documentation, including proof of earnings/pension - needless to say we came home empty handed and frustrated!
The Conserva Cruda Di Pomodoro was finished today; one bucket of tomatoes = a very small jar of paste.
I've just posted my blog and as I uploaded the photos I realised they were mainly of food!!!
And this evening the inverter died!!! It just wouldn't switch back on - thank goodness for the generator. Tomorrow Brett will install the new Victron inverter.

29th July
And we're up and running .......
I'm so impressed that Brett has the knowledge and confidence to work with the solar (you can't switch the batteries off!), though I do get really stressed!
So much milk ....... 10L made into Halloumi.
Brett finished harvesting the black eyed beans, they're now drying in the sun, on the decking.

30th July
Apart from his daily chores Brett had a day off as he and Chris are working on Stuart's roof tomorrow.
I attempted a few designs for Bill's Transom window - it's a horrible shape (flattened semicircle) and no brief ........

31st July
A busy day for me as Brett is at Stuart's.
Before breakfast chores:
Feed and let out muscovys, ducks and geese.
Try to contact Brett to find out if he's fed the ewe and lambs, who are following me around bleating.
Milk the goats (including sterilising all equipment at end)
Getting goats into field, without letting any of the other sheep and goats out!
Wash panels (as inverter has already turned off once whilst flashing 'low battery').
Feed ewe and lambs (stand guard so muscovys don't eat their food).
Feed dogs and cat.
Coffee and breakfast!!!
Next chores:
Sun dried tomatoes, sort through and put out in sunshine (they have to come in overnight otherwise they go mouldy).
Water vegetable seeds (in vegetable garden).
Pig wallow.
Duck water (with buckets as solar is low)
Washing up and tidy house.
Preparing a sackful of windfall apples for apple jelly.
Dinner this evening; marinating Turkish kebabs and making dough for flat breads.
Feed geese.
Washing kitchen floor.
Moving beans from decking, as it's about to rain.
Brett home:
Get water from the fonte.
Pick salad.
Drain apples through jelly bag.
Shape kebabs.
Roll out dough and cook flat bread.
Relax and have a beer .........

1st August
Brett at work ...
And now I have to do it all over again!!!
Extra jobs today: make cheese (chevre), make apple jelly, make apple chutney (from left over pulp), make yoghurt and washing.
I managed it all barr the washing - the gas ran out (need it to heat the water), I was secretly pleased!

2nd August
Hooray Brett's at home!
I had a scare milking Jelisa today, no milk was coming from her left teat. On closer inspection (squeezing and manipulating by hand) I discovered a large rubbery plug right up inside her teat, it took a while to work it free (and of course it made her uncomfortable so she was kicking and stamping) but once it was dislodged she gushed ...... I was (of course) worried about mastitis but, on googling the phenomenon, I found that it was something that could sometimes occur. She wasn't off color, was eating normally, and her milk looked, smelt and tasted fine. So just one of those things that happens from time to time in the smallholding world.
I did a big house clean today (we have dinner guests tomorrow evening!).
Brett did a massive weeding (4 wheelbarrowfuls) session in the vegetable garden (we have afternoon tea guests (gardeners) on Friday!), it's looking fantastic.

3rd August
It's hot again .......
Jelisa milked normally this morning (phew).
Due to the heat the cheese I made yesterday (chevre) didn't work - it has to stay out at room temp for 24 hours (room temp is 18 - 20C ours is nearer 40C!!!). I really want to give up making cheese atm (too many failures lately) but the goats keep producing milk so I have to process it.
Sasha & Chris came round for drinks and food this evening, which was nice until Lily started crying, whimpering, holding up her paw, licking it, panting with her tongue hanging out - this is our stoic dog who blanches at nothing. We think she had been bitten/stung by some insect (spider, scorpion, centipede), ended up giving her 2/3 tablet of antihistamine - she started improving after 1/2 an hour, thank goodness.

4th August
What a horrible, horrible night, so hot, I couldn't sleep, 3.00 a.m. I was up getting wet towels.
Nicky, Erd and Taliss came for afternoon tea; they didn't leave until nearly 7.00 and we were invited to Kimberly & Lawrence's. Ended up not going as it was 9.00 before we finished all our chores.

5th August
So another attempt at chevre, in an attempt to keep it cool I've wrapped a wet towel around the pot!
We started podding our black eyed beans, not a quick task. Brett's method is to flog them to bits (which means a huge separating job at the end) whereas I shell individual pods (very time consuming).
We sold seven of our Muscovy ducklings this afternoon.
And this evening we're off to our village festa - if it runs true to form it will be rubbish!

6th August
It ran "true to form" ...........
We arrived 9.00ish and it was 'dead', by 11.00 it was teeming with people (babies through to ancient), but nothing much happening, 11.30 a Euro-pop band (awful) started playing, 12.00 we'd had enough and came home! Oh yes, we did treat ourselves to some Portuguese doughnuts!
The wet towel cooling method didn't work that well, but the curds were still soft so I put them, in their moulds, in the fridge (far too cold, but it's all I have).
I've been 'googling' homemade cheese caves and might buy a greenhouse thermostat; these can be set to switch on (when temp goes above a certain point) and off (when it goes below a temp) - so a fridge is plugged in after the thermostat thus bypassing the fridge's internal thermostat. We have a small fridge which isn't being used (we just need ample solar to run it!).
Today I made junket - it was 'interesting', the texture of creme caramel, I made it too sweet.
Our supermarket in Penamacor was a Mini-Preso but it was taken over by the Jumbo group - it wasn't nearly as good. This weekend a new Mini-P opened in Penamacor, yay (funny what makes you happy!). One of the good things about Mini-P is they have a loyalty card and lots of offers, today we spent 29€ with savings of over 10€ - that's over 25%.

7th August
Hooray, slightly cooler today.
And now Jelisa is on heat!
Brett started cutting our winter logs.
Wow there's a horrible argument going on, via social media, between all the immigrants/expats/foreigners, so much animosity and vitriol - thank goodness Brett and I don't mix much! I agree that everyone is allowed their own point of view but some of the comments are so nasty (and sometimes personal) ........

8th August
Happy ninth anniversary, Will & Gill, xxx.
Only 26C, perfect for making cheese (today it's feta).

9th August
Nicky (and Taliss) came round, so that I could teach her to sew - we had a fun morning, with me slapping her hand as she touched knobs and dials on her (never used) sewing machine saying "what does this do?". She had made two curtains when she left and is returning on Saturday - she was a quick learner and will soon be making all manner of things.
Brett continued cutting wood for winter.

10th August
Janet came round this afternoon, we all had a lovely long chat (we obviously don't get out much, there is so much going on we don't know about!).

11th August
Karina and Alex came to lunch, we hadn't seen them for ages. Karina showed me how she makes Mozzarella, it's a much quicker method than I use and the cheese stays white (and hopefully not rubbery!).

12th August
Another sewing day with Nicky and Taliss.

13th August
Fires all around us!!!!! Marc & Mieke have one right next to their house - they had to fell one of their trees that was ablaze, how scary.

14th August
Fires still raging, though it looks like Marc & Mieke's one is out (two Bombeiros slept on the road outside their house all night).
Today I started another batch of aged Chevre and made Mozzarella a la Karina - it's perfect salad Mozzarella; white, soft and not a hint of rubberiness!
Several of our friends were evacuated from their villages this evening. As soon as night fell we could see the mountains on firm

15th August
I helped Brett cutting firewood this morning - I fed whilst he used the chainsaw.
We are surrounded by smoke (from the mountain fires), it's a very strange light, the birds are silent and black ash is falling all around us.
We still haven't got our milking machine (FOUR AND A HALF MONTHS!!!!!) - I messaged the seller, again, threatening him with negative feedback if he didn't produce the necessary paperwork within the next few days.
Villages closer to us are being evacuated this evening!
Our view of the Gardunha mountains this evening!

16th August
Hahahahaha, we harvested our 'field' of corn!!!!!
That's it, our WHOLE harvest!!!!
I made another batch of Mozzarella (Brett likes it, so it gets eaten quickly), whilst Brett harvested the chickpeas.
Several friends of ours had quintas caught up in the last couple of day's dreadful fires; many were evacuated, Tina (one of our craft group) chose to stay and fight the fire (brave or bloody stupid????), she says if she hadn't their house would have been destroyed

17th August
Happy Birthday Hen XXXXXXX P.s. you'll have to come and collect your present!!!
40C .........
Brinjal pickle making.
Black eyed beans podded and winnowed, not enough to feed the animals through the winter!
But should be plenty for human consumption ...
Too hot!!!

18th August
Took the day off, went to Benquerenca river beach with Vince & Lola.
We took a picnic including some delicious Chevre I made SIX weeks ago - very mature.

19th August
I'm always complaining about the amount of time/work this smallholding lark takes; Brett got a tasted of it today when we made pear and apple juice .........
First we picked the fruit: we had 50L tubs, one we managed to half fill we pears (that's still a lot of pears!) and another we filled with apples.
Cleaning the equipment: just rinsing down, as it gets dusty and cobwebby in the shed.
Then we prepared the fruit: cutting out rotten or maggoty bits and cutting into quarters, to make the next stage easier.
Masticating (crushing) the fruit: we have a machine for this, but it is manually rotated which takes a lot of effort (Brett does most of it whilst I cling onto the machine to stop it moving and feed in the fruit.
Pressing the pulp: we have a fruit press, we put in the pear pulp ...... nowhere near enough to operate the machine (!) so we had to add th.1ppe apples (thus mixing our juices, by now we just wanted to finish the process).
Collecting and bottling the juice: ALL 5 LITRES of it ....... just 5 LITRES of juice from 75 litres of fruit!!!!!!!!!
Cleaning the equipment: rinsing of the sticky, sweet, sugary bits of fruit and juice.
And that took both of us ALL MORNING!
On the plus side the juice is very tasty, like toffee apple flavour.
A 'state of calamity' has been declare by the Portuguese Government with lots of things banned including ..... "A total ban on the use in all rural areas of combustion machinery, Internal or external, including all types of tractors and agricultural machinery, or forestry, as well as work in the forest using motor saws, chop saws and milling machines" - so no using tractor, trimmer, chainsaw, water pump (we probably shouldn't even be using the generator or car!).
4.00 met up, at Bar do Clube, with Chris & Di and Bap.
9.00 putting the animals away in the dark!!!!!
9.15 as nothing prepared ate a dinner of crisps, chocalate and cups of tea, then went in the pool
Another HUGE fire on the horizon, this time Corvilha way.
Our view of the Sierra de Estrella mountains this evening

20th August
A horrible hot night ........
Followed by a horrible hot day (we're back in the 40s)........
The Corvilha fire is still raging; information on the fire site ( states there are 16 aircrafts,124 ground vehicles and 474 bombeiros fighting the fire.
I am very aware that I need to travel back to the UK soon, but am worried that I might not even be able to get to Lisbon atm .........
Portugal has only one railway line, in our area; it runs from Lisbon, through Castello Branco and on to Porto, and one road system (more or less running parallel with the railway line). Due to the fires most days sees sections of the train line not operating and many roads closed off. Something else to stress about!
Made a big batch of Mozzarella.