Friday, 22 November 2013

IT'S A LONG TIME SINCE I POSTED ..........................

31st October
Looby seemed ok this morning, until I gave her her breakfast, she just wasn't interested in the biscuits (usually she's knocking her bowl over in her enthusiasm to eat); she did eat a couple of digestives and a (mini) bonio. We bought her some meat and she ate that quite happily, and she seems fine, a bit clingy but that's probably her feeding off my worries - I just want the next few days to be over safely so I can stop all this worrying.
We went into Penamacor to pay our fee for the toll road we used on Saturday (to catch the train), then went to the supermarket (to get Looby some meat); we met Chris and Di. They had just been (on the spot) fined, 30€, by the GNR (the scary police force, we also have the Policia - local friendlier police force) for parking outside the gas shop - we often park there. Last week we heard of someone who had a tent up, on their land, for visiting relatives and they were fined (by GNR) for having an illegal campsite!!! We're keeping our heads down.
I put up a mug rail on the kitchen wall, actually Brett put it up as I couldn't hold it straight and drill at the same time, pathetic!! But I designed and fashioned it with the jigsaw, and put the cup hooks in it. 
It's supposed to look rustic that was my design!
Mark came to dinner, he stayed overnight on the sleep platform; he said it was very warm up there (the stove is underneath it and we have on in the evenings now).

1st November
Mark stayed for breakfast, then went off to visit P&M ......... poor bloke bet he wished he hadn't; he texted us this evening to say he had been stopped three times by the GNR today, the worst time being at the end of P&M's track where they kept him for 45 minutes and wanted to confiscate his generator because he didn't have papers for it (you have to carry receipts for all items that you are transporting in your vehicle, even old stuff) - like Chris and Di he is driving an English plated vehicle.
This afternoon we picked olives for eating; our trees are so big we can't reach the olives very well Brett is itching to prune them.
P&M came round for dinner, we're doing all the evening cooking on the stove nowadays - we love it (so does Looby, she lays in front of it when it's alight, but she gets a bit hot).

2nd November
It was a bit dismal today ......... which was great as it was a good excuse to light the stove early!
Does anyone know if this is Wild Rocket (it's growing all over our quinta)? 
It's quite hairy/coarse and tends to have a red stem but apart from that it looks like Rocket to me (it tastes peppery too) - I'll be able to tell once it flowers - but is there anything poisonous that can be mistaken for Rocket is what I'm really asking?
We've bought a plastic device that will score the olives (they're supposed to cure quicker if their skins are cut); it's rather time consuming you push the olives, one at a time, through a tube with four blades which slash each individual olive. So we are experimenting with one batch of scored olives and another of intact olives which will be cured in a strong brine; if it makes an appreciable difference to the speed of the curing we will use it again, otherwise it will go into the drawer of gadgets that looked useful at the time of purchase (like the apple corer and slicer).
We have masses of fungi appearing around the quinta but we're finding it hard to identify them; there's a Boletus which, unfortunately, isn't Penny Bun (Ceps) as it's bright yellow underneath (the spongy bit), Puffballs which could be edible, when young, but we're not confident to eat them, Inkcaps, and some big Bracket Fungus, to mention a few; I mean to take photos but keep forgetting to take the camera.

3rd November
Brett started preparing the olive trees for harvesting; strimmering away undergrowth and cutting off suckers - they have been neglected for a good few years. It took him several hours to do 35 trees - we have between 200 - 300 (he's counting them as he goes), so it could take him quite a while!
I carried on with the olive processing; I made a couple of jars of Tapenade with some of last year's olives; it'll make an easy meal when we can't think of anything to cook - just mix it with hot pasta and serve with grated Parmesan. And now I have another device to go into the drawer full of looked useful at the time of purchase gadgets - my olive pitter (pipper?), the whole olives just pushed straight through the hole the  pips are supposed to get pushed through! So I had to pip them by hand (rather time consuming). Then I made another 5L of slashed olives, this time they're just in water - there's so much contradiction, on the internet and from everyone you ask, so I'm trying out as many methods as possible (or as I can be bothered with) and then we can chose which ones work best for ourselves.
Tonight we watched the first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy The Fellowship of the Ring, I took much more in than the first time round but it was quite a marathon.

4th November
Brett continued to prepare the olive trees, he did another 27 today (with the 'help' of Looby). Then Looby went 'walk about', he found her down at Gary's playing with Betty!
While I went into Fundao with Pam; it's good shopping with females as you can ... browse, buy things that aren't on the list, and go into shops that you went into last week (but didn't buy anything) just in case they have fresh stock! But I hate clothes shopping, so I'm not a proper female! I bought everything on my list bar Spot On (which we know we can get in CB tomorrow) - fly curtain, dustpan and brush, LED torches, plus a few bits not on my list ... herbs (to plant), onion and leek plugs (goodness knows where I'll put them as I have no dug over soil spare), 1K of garlic (to plant, so ditto previous comment!), a door mat, candles and a lovely purple tub (for dirty washing).
I thought I had done really well with my purchases until I got home; the fly curtain was only 90cms across and our door is a metre and I bought it in a 'China' shop where they don't give you receipts! Now I've got to dig up some ground to plant the onions, leeks and garlic - but they were so cheap I couldn't resist! The door mat only fits in the door well if the door is left open (the door won't actually pass over it so we'll have to lift it out of the way any time we want to open and shut the door).
While Brett trained I made the runner beans that were left over from yesterday's lunch into runner bean chutney - I managed to find my favourite recipe on the internet (from an old W.I. cookbook 'Unusual Preserves') so I'm happy about that.

5th November
Looby woke me at 6.30, to go out  to the toilet, and at 7.30, to be fed, so at this point I got up to have a shower. Showering is quite a rigmarole, especially for me; first you have to heat water on the stove, then I have to wash my hair in a bowl on the table (if I wash it in the shower I get water in my ear, which isn't a good idea as I have another ear infection, and shampoo in my eye, because I can't shut it). Next you mix water to the correct temperature in the watering can and then fill the solar shower bag. The shower bag has to be heaved up to head height (we have a pulley system) and then finally you can wash!
Tuesdays come around exceedingly fast L; which means we have only a few hours in the morning to do stuff, then it's off to CB to shop and then to class.
Brett did some chain sawing, while I did some weeding in the herb bed; until I unearthed a nest of centipedes!!! There are poisonous centipedes in Portugal so I decided that it might be prudent to buy some gardening gloves before I continued with that task.
Looby was quite eager to go into her shed, which makes us feel better about leaving her. We picked up Pam and did a couple of hours of shopping before class.
Pastor Allen is trying much harder with the classes, but I'm still feeling out of my depth (I'm just crap at languages!). Brett on the other hand is really good (although he doesn't believe it). Pastor Allen said we shouldn't pick our olives, for oil, until about 80% have gone purple/black - probably not until the end of November, apparently we're about 2 weeks later than usual this year (thank goodness he told us, we'd have been picking them too soon and the people at the olive press would have said they were no good).
By the time we came home Looby had been shut in the shed for 5 hours (and it was over an hour late for her dinner), she was so pleased to see me. Her shed is about 250m from our house and it was extremely dark (I didn't have a torch), Looby was very keen to get home (for food and to see Brett). She was pulling very had on the lead (usually she doesn't pull at all), she managed to pull me over (I kind of tripped over a deep rut in the track) and now I ache from head to foot; especially my right boob, because she was pulling on the lead, I fell with my arms forward right onto my chest (ouch!).

6th November
Looby loves to play with acorns on her walks, she tosses them up in the air, jumps on them and then run round and round like a lunatic with one in her mouth - it's a pleasure to see her acting like this.
So today I had to plant my plugs; Brett strimmered one of the beds for me, then he turned over some of it, then I had a go, then he finished it off (I did about half). I weeded it and raked it flat - by then I was knackered! Then I planted 54 onions, 77 leeks and 36 cabbages (grown from seed by me) ..... and then I ran out of room and energy! So tomorrow I will have another go and plant the garlic.
Brett continued with the olive trees but ........ he didn't count what he did today. So after we'd finished work we went out to count how many had been done so far, an impossible task; unfortunately we were concentrating so hard on the olive trees we stopped watching Looby, who we're periodically letting off the lead - she ran off, one minute she was with us, next minute she was gone. We shouted and shouted, Brett drove off in the truck to look for her, I texted Chris & Di and P&M. Brett came back and just as he arrived, by the top track, Looby arrived by the bottom track (phew); naughty girl she was gone about 30 minutes, we have no idea where she went (we won't be letting her off the lead again for a while).
I'm not sure that I don't have a cracked rib (of course Brett thinks I'm exaggerating!) because every time I breath in it hurts and I can't lay on my right side in bed (which is my preferred side, needless to say!).

7th November
I had an awful night's sleep, I couldn't get comfortable and to top it all I woke up deaf in my left ear - NOT happy!
Lobby and I always go for an early morning walk (before Brett gets up, to be fair he has done the late night walk on his own for the last two nights), and she did her 'acorn thing' again - I must try to remember the camera tomorrow so I can film a little clip, she's so cute.
Brett went off with the strimmer and left me to do (as he calls it) 'crafty stuff', I need to get my Christmas cards made in the next week or two.
I was still feeling rotten this afternoon so, while Brett continued strimmering, Looby and I watched 'Mama Mia' and relaxed in front of the (unlit) stove.

8th November
Hoorah I can hear again today and I was feeling much better, so perhaps I haven't got a cracked rib after all (yes, Brett was right!). I didn't care that it was raining when I got up (it's good for the garden); I donned my wellingtons and my waterproof coat and took Looby for her 7.30 walk but, when I got home, I couldn't get my boots off - I always have a problem with boots as I have a high instep (or as Brett puts it 'stumpy feet'!). Brett wasn't up, I just had to stay in the boots ........ so I decided to make a boot jack, and I did (make a boot jack) 
and it works brilliantly (as you can see in the photo, the boots are not still on my feet), so I'm very pleased with myself and am busily looking around for more woodworking projects.
Brett's task today was to get rid of all the olive trimmings, so he lit lots of smoky, crackling bonfires (it all looked very autumnal); there was no risk of wild fires as everything is so lush and green. He is excited about broom (the plant) it is, as he puts it, natural kindling it just lights if you set a match to it (it's a 'boy'/pyromaniac thing), so his bonfires were really easy to light and the oil in the olive cuttings meant they burned well too. Broom is an easy way to lit the stove too, you don't even need paper (now I'm beginning to sound like Brett, but it is pretty handy - and free).

9th November
After being woken by Looby, for her toilet break, we were re-awoken by her barking loudly and persistently (as if someone was at the door). We both got up to check (it wasn't even 7.00 a.m.) and suddenly all hell broke loose - shooting all around us and very close, it was continuous and very loud .................. we tried going back to bed, I couldn't sleep so got up. Pam (who I texted at 8.00) suggested I went out with Looby and she would bark at them - ha, I didn't want to get shot, I was cowering in the house and flinching every time there was a particularly loud, nearby, shot (even Looby flinched a couple of times). The hunters come onto our land, they are very rude they don't acknowledge us; we have up signs to say they can only come on with our permission (we think that's what they indicate) but they come on any way. It lasted about 5 hours and then it was over, such a relief.

10th November
It was Sunday but we had no hunters. I sat outside in the sunshine with Looby to have my morning cappuccino - I froth the milk in my cafetiere (a trick that Hen taught me).
We went to P&M's for lunch, Jamie, Vince and Claire were also there along with Rowan (P&M's son); it was lovely, very relaxed, good food and good company.

11th November
Brett counted the olive trees he's done to date, 188 and we think there's another 25 or so to go; so we have about 213 trees and they are BIG trees, Brett is now working out how he's going to prune them - we have to make them so they are easier to pick, at the moment you couldn't even get a ladder into them, and fruit grows on new growth - so the higher, outermost branches.
When we first got the dogs they were scratching, so we bought flea collars from the vet which should protect against fleas, ticks, lice and mosquitoes (there's a really nasty illness, Leishmaniasis, dogs can get from mosquito bites here). After three weeks Looby was still scratching, so we ditched the collar and bought Frontline spot-on, after six days her scratching seemed a lot worse so tonight we took her to the vet. He thinks she has an allergy to .................. meat!!! She has been worse the last week or so, since we started feeding her meat? We are only to feed her on dried food for the next ten days to see if she improves (she has to have daily injections too, we think they are anti-inflammatory). How can a dog be allergic to meat? I have to say I think it's more likely that she's allergic to our concrete floors, I can understand that; but we'll give the meat thing a go.
We received a short email this evening reminding us that there was no class this week (first we knew about it!) and it completely lifted my spirits (that's not good is it?).

12th November
What a fabulous day, could it be because language class was cancelled? It's also a lot to do with the weather which is lovely, sunny and warm; perfect weather for gardening, which is what I did this morning. Brett has nearly finished the olive trees.
Pam and I went shopping to CB (Pam had agreed to give someone a lift to the train station so had to go in anyway). We went fabric shopping; there's this very old fashioned shop that seems to sell everything (a bit like William's Bazaar in Ammanford only more so!); it sells wonderful cottons, linens and lace - we were like 'kids in a candy store'! And then I spoilt the day all by falling over; bloody hell what is it with me and falling over? Of course I had to do it in a busy part of town so there were lots of people to see my humiliation (but that stopped me crying!). So now I'm all achy again, but I do have some nice fabric and lace!

13th November
We do our washing regularly, by hand, but we can't really manage duvet covers and sheets so, as we were getting rather a big backlog, we asked Pam to put them in her washing machine (she's kind like that); one day we might have a washing machine, but you need running water and water pressure, which we don't have yet.

14th November
Today I made mango chutney and bread & butter pickle (cucumber pickle, I don't know why it's called bread & butter) and continued weeding the herb bed - there are lots of arum lily type leaves coming through which I am trying to clear, they are very deep rooted.
Brett cleared scrub land with the strimmer.

15th November
Pam texted this morning to say that we had a parcel from England J; it was from Debbie and David. There was a Dutch hoe (you can't get them here, all they use is the encharda and I wanted a hoe to weed), these clever lids that fit the 5L water bottles that can be fitted with a standard airlock (I had to leave all my demijohns in Wales) and saffron (I haven't been able to find it here and have been using turmeric as a substitute - the taste is wrong!), so absolutely brilliant presents - thank you!
Wow, we invited Chris and Di for a curry tonight and they, kindly, said they would cook and bring it with them; so all I had to do was make starters - spicy fish cakes and curried courgette fritters served with mango chutney, raw onion relish and raita.
We invited Mark over too. We served this year's red wine, which must be ok as it all went (it's still a bit dry for me, but it's much better than last year); we didn't get to bed until one-ish.

16th Nov
We're having a weekend off - yay!
We are going to look at walking tractors when we go into Castelo Branco on Tuesday - it will make the vegetable garden so much easier to manage.
This afternoon we went to visit Patrick & Lara, a couple we met last year who live near Monsanto - they bought a walking tractor last year, we texted them to ask for advice and they invited us over. So Patrick gets out his tractor and drives off to this virgin piece of ground and the tractor just chews through it, within 5/10 minutes he had a workable plot - I'm soooooo excited, roll on Tuesday!!!
I've been thinking it for a while, and Brett voiced it today, we're not getting much out of our language class, we both felt relieved when it was cancelled last week, so we have decided if this week's class is true to form (Pastor Allen just speaking at us in Portuguese for an hour and a half) we'll stop going. Mark (and Glenn) has loaned us a box thingy so we can get Portuguese TV which we can watch for half an hour every evening (sometimes there are even English speaking films with Portuguese sub titles) and we'll get just as much from it.

17th November
It's getting decidedly cold at night (we still have a lot of sunshine in the daytime, and there was snow on the mountains yesterday. But that's fine by us, we just light our stove and it's all snug and cosy in our little house/shed.
We had a lazy day today, the dog got lots of walks, while we carried buckets to collect fire wood, and we watched a film 'Con-Air' with Nicholas cage and John Cussack - lots of blood and blowing things up, but quite entertaining.

18th November
We started our olive harvest today, we worked for about 5 hours and picked 85 kilos of olives from three trees; we had a simple method, Brett pruned out the wood from the middle of the tree, then we stripped the olives off (it was easier than trying to pick them off a ladder, and it was wood that needed taking out anyway). 

Mr Louis sold us a machine for removing the leaves and debris from the olives, you turn a handle and these large paddles create a draught which blows the waste away - very simple but very effective.
My goodness I ached this evening, especially my back, I could hardly move; we spent the evening snuggled up in front of the stove.

19th November
It was COLD last night, not as cold as Wales gets but below freezing (and we're living in a single block shed) tonight we put on our winter duvet.
We only had time for an hour and a half of olive picking this morning as we had to go into CB (Tuesday = language class). Chris and Di dog sat Looby, which was brilliant as she likes them, so I feel relaxed leaving her. On our way past Mr Louis's son's house we saw Mr Louis, we had to stop as he wanted to talk - he's coming to see us tomorrow to advise us on our olive harvest, he's already told us that we shouldn't prune until March so we're a bit worried that he might see where we've cut off branches (that needed to be pruned) in order to harvest the olives!!! We're going to set up in another part of the quinta before he comes!!!!.
We looked at lots of walking tractors and now we have decisions to make 7.5 HP Chinese engine at 695€ (the same one we test drove on Sunday and were impressed with) versus 5.5 HP Honda engine at 854€ or even a complete Honda machine, but smaller (same 5.5 engine), for about 800€ = do we go for Honda reliability or Chinese cheapness?
We, reluctantly, turned up for language class today and the building was all locked up, we phoned Pastor Allen, apparently had he tried to call us but he has our old telephone number, so he apologised and said 'something had come up'; however ...................... Pam says he only left her message at 3.00, that is very late notice as he knows we travel in from 25 miles away and he cancelled last week too, so I don't think he'll be very unhappy, or surprised, if we stop attending.

20th November
Mr Louis arrived early, before we had time to set up! Brett was getting stuff from the shed, so we kept him talking there. In fact he did agree that it was done practise to cut off upward growing branches at harvest time, which was a relief. He told us he would come up when we wanted to buy weaners and advise us - apparently they bring them to your quinta to choose, so that's useful. I think he would have loved to have seen in the buildings, but we'll wait until the house is finished and then invite him up.
We continued with our olive harvesting, 
yesterday we bought net sacks to put the olives in and quite a bit of today was spent separating the olives from the leaves and filling the sacks but we still managed to pick 89 kilos today, we have picked more than 200 kilos so far. Mark (and Glenn) is coming Friday morning, to help for a couple of days so we should easily reach our quota.
We spent the evening watching 'Friends', in front of the stove; it's getting quite cold in the evenings we're seriously contemplating getting a little stove for the living room (otherwise it won't be used in the winter).

21st November
We went into CB this morning and bought a walking tractor, the one with the Honda engine - when we got home we tried it out ................ it made awful scrunching sounds when we tried to put it into gear (like a learner driver) and once in gear wouldn't stop moving until the engine was switched off, after a while we realised that the clutch cable and reverse gear cable had been put on back to front!!!! We spent most of the afternoon fixing it so didn't get any olives picked.
Tonight we went for pizza night at P&M's, (Pizza night on a Thursday?) later she confessed that she had thought it was Friday! While we were out we left Looby in the 'house' (we thought it was too cold in the shed), it's the first time she's been left in the house on her own - she was very good, nothing chewed or disrupted (I made Brett turn off the inverter just in case she chewed any cables!).

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