Wednesday, 15 January 2014


5th January
Not so much rain today, but still dull and not much solar being created - we're starting to get a little 'stir crazy' now, there's so much that we want to get on with; Brett wants to get the chicken house finished, so we can get some laying hens and then start on the pig run. I want to get on with the garden - I have lettuce, escarole, and chard that I've grown from seed that needs to go in and, of course, I need to hoe the weeds.
I had a lovely 'talk' with Hen and Claire on Skype today, (they're still in Thailand), it wasn't a brilliant connection but I could see them (albeit mainly in silhouette and pixelated!) so I'm happy as I haven't spoken 'live' to them for quite a while.

6th January
Drizzle and heavy rain today ............................... but somehow we've still got some solar for the, one, light and charging laptops and phones, but nothing else; the fridge is completely thawed now so we're having to eat everything from it (or throw it away, which is a waste but one can only eat so many thawed brussel sprouts!!!!).
I'm fed up with this weather now, I've got so much that I want to do; I do have some 'wet weather' projects (or so I thought) but I can't get on with them because, when I was naive about solar, it didn't occurred to me that when it was wet I wouldn't have any electricity or light!!! Pam and I bought material in CB and I'm itching to make some clothes.
I'm trying to find as many different ways of preserving food as I can, ready for when we have a glut in the summer. I know I can bottle some of the produce and make jams, jellies, pickles and chutneys etc but the jars are expensive (and take up an awful lot of room) and although I save every jar I buy (and get Mark to save all his for me) I never seem to have enough; we even looked into getting a canning machine from America, but the cans are ridiculously expensive, so where's the sense in that? Unfortunately freezing isn't an option so I need to find other ways to keep our harvest edible; we use an awful lot of (at the moment tinned/bought) tomatoes through the winter so we're going to try drying tomatoes this year which will save space. Today I experimented with some of the lemons that Claire gave us - preserving them in salt, if nothing else they look really nice;
years ago I tried preserving runner beans in salt - it didn't work they went slimy!
OK I have a gripe (or two) ............. why do manufacturers put stiff, scratchy labels at the back of the neck of clothing? I put on one of my new tops tonight and it was awful, I couldn't stand it, I had to take it straight off and cut out the offending label but of course I couldn't simply unpick the stitching because it was sewn into the facing and, while I'm on the subject, why do they sew white labels inside black lacy clothes? And what's with the long loops that always stick out of the neck of tops and dresses, why don't they stitch them to face the other way so they naturally stay inside the clothing (ribbon bends so it would still do its job, for those with the luxury of a wardrobe and hanging clothes!!!!!), I had to have them out as they were scratching me too.
This evening Looby was barking, as she had heard a noise outside, it was a ewe and her two lambs; somehow they had wandered onto our land. It was too dark to herd them back to their flock, not that we knew where it was, so we've got to wait now until the morning and just hope they don't discover our vegetable garden.

7th January
We've had enough now thank you, the wells are overflowing. Every one of my vegetable plugs is standing up straight and tall (unless the sheep have had them in the night, it's too wet to go and look) even the strawberry that I thought was dead is alive, so the garden doesn't need it.
The man on the quinta next door is trying to drain his vegetable garden by cutting channels in it, he's out there, in the pouring rain, with his enxada and an umbrella, bless him.

I made a sage oil infusion with some sage leaves, that I had in the freezer, chopped up and mixed with olive oil, I'll use it in cooking; if I could make the essential oil it's good for colds, sore throats, oral thrush and apparently Alzheimer's! But I need a still for that, I don't think my infusion will have any medical benefits, it's merely a flavouring.
OK Looby is in the dog house;
"Who? Me? ......"
we decided we had to brave the weather and take her out for a long walk, she chased the sheep (they're still on our quinta, but haven't been near the vegetable garden, phew!)) and then wouldn't come back when we called her, well obviously she did in the end, I made Brett take his belt off so we could put her on a lead.
Everywhere is so flooded, fortunately we seem to have the highest land around here so we're not too bad, but the river (which we didn't even know about until a couple of months ago) is way over the stepping stones and has burst its banks. The ditch around the bottom of our property is moving very fast and is several feet deep. And don't let's talk about our track ......... all I can say is thank goodness we have a 4x4!!!

8th January
We had a little bit of sun today and no rain; hopefully we'll get some charge on the solar.
Looby was put on her lead for her morning walk, just in case the sheep were still around - there was one lone lamb, how are we going to reunite that with its flock?
We went into CB for a quick shop but didn't manage to get to the animal rescue centre as it doesn't open until 1.00 p.m. When we got back there was no obvious sign of the lamb but there was a ewe on our land - where are they coming from???
Poor old Looby has been on a lead for all of her walks today, which isn't fair as she likes to run.
Oh dear Louis, the shepherd (o pastor,) came while Brett was training.
Here's how I think our conversation went (bearing in mind it was all in Portuguese):-
·         he asked if he could bring his sheep to eat our grass, I showed him my vegetable garden and said I didn't want his sheep eating the plants
·         he said he would fence off the vegetables (or did he say we should fence them off?)
·         I said he needed to talk to Brett, as he understood Portuguese better than me
·         he said he would come back tomorrow (hopefully to talk to Brett not with his sheep!)
·         I told him about the lamb that was on our land this morning
·         he went off to look for the lamb
So now I realise I need to get back to learning Portuguese in earnest; I was pathetic, I have absolutely no confidence in my ability to converse in a foreign tongue, we need to find a local teacher.

9th January
Today I made Kvass, a lacto-fermented beetroot drink (Russian); drinking it twice daily is  supposed to have a beneficial effect on the digestive tract, you can also use it in recipes in place of vinegar which is how I will probably use it.
Brett really enjoyed his fermented turnip and carrot, we're going to make more as it's all been eaten.
Louis came (without his sheep!) and said that our vegetables will be fine as someone will be with the sheep at all times when they are on our quinta (unless they are corralled, which they will be overnight, I'm sure that isn't what he said to me yesterday)  but that's what shepherds do here they spend all day with their sheep, it could be in an unfenced field or the verge at the side of the road, the shepherd is there keeping control of the flock.
Yesterday Brett saw an ambulance and a Bombeiros vehicle driving down the track that goes passed Gary's (our nearest neighbour, but  a different access track), Louis told us that a man had drowned in the river, how awful.

10th January
The fridge is back on for the time being as we have full batteries, I do love the sun!
P&M came round for dinner, we had a lovely evening and I'm really getting into our red wine (which is just as well as we have rather a lot of it!!!). We had a Thai chicken curry (my take on Jamie Oliver's fragrant green curry) and I made crepe suzettes (with our own oranges and the orange liqueur I made for Christmas) with Chantilly cream, jolly tasty they were too (even though I say it myself!). And, I'm so excited, tomorrow Pam is coming round and we're going to have a sewing day (yay!).

11th January
Brett finished the chicken shed, which looks absolutely fabulous - I want a big version for a summer house! We will probably go into Fundao on Monday to buy chickens, how exciting.
Pam and I started making a dress each, we took a pattern from my 'Magnolia Pearl' dress which I practically live in, by the end of our session we both had smock shaped garments that Brett said only needed a slit up the back to look like hospital gowns!!! The material is very stiff, we hope that a good wash with some fabric softener will help.
Pam brought over her hard drive which had masses of films and TV series on it; we spent the evening watching 'The Good Life', one of the classics; funnily enough we had been looking for it on Ebay last week but it was too expensive for us!!!

12th January
We were woken at 7.30 by gunfire - we had forgotten it was Sunday.
Pam came back, we finished making our dresses, washed them in hot water with lots of fabric softener in the hope that we can get rid of some of the stiffness. This afternoon we both made ourselves a top which we dyed with a Dylon hand wash French Lavender colour - they came out bluey grey!! But it's an OK colour.
Then this evening the rains came back, it's been so nice being able to go outside, hopefully it won't last too long.

13th January
Happy Birthday William !!!!!!! XXXXXXXX
We went into Fundao, me wearing my new dress which I'm very pleased with, to buy some POL hens, but somehow we managed to arrive at the market just as the poultry sellers were packing up!!!! We'd been to the supermarket, China shop, pottery etc first as we didn't want to leave the chickens in the car while we shopped, we were being considerate. Anyway all that was left was a crate of 8-10 week old Warren type hens at 6€ (about £5) each; we bought six and will go to our village market in the morning to see if there are any older birds for sale there. It's great to have livestock again, and I've always liked chickens, I love the soft burbling noises they make and these ones are very docile. They're already coming out of their shed and exploring their run.
And naughty Looby is already breaking into their run and exploring them, she got tied up after that little incident; we've erected an electric poultry net to keep them safe and Looby just pushed under it, but what she doesn't know is that it hasn't been switched on yet (she's in for a bit of a shock!!!!).
We couldn't get any commercial chicken food so we made a mash from stale bread, some brown rice (yes I cooked it first!) plus some vegetable peelings (which I cooked in with the rice), I wouldn't say they loved it but they had a good old peck at it - they have to get used to it because we're not going to buy all their food, they will be fed on scraps (until we get the pigs).

14th January
The chickens had to be forcibly shoved outside this morning and their pop hole shut; then they found their food and water so they were happier.
We went to the village market (leaving Looby on guard) we saw Mr Louis there, and Mrs Louis was with him, last time we heard she was in hospital in a coma so it was lovely to see her up and about. They insisted we went for a coffee with them, then Mr Louis took us to buy the chicken's food (he thinks we're novices, he doesn't know we had about 250 birds (laying, eating and POL hens to sell) at one time when we were back in Wales!), he likes to help us - he's going to come up in a few days to advise us on our vegetable garden.
We spent the morning increasing the run size, it's now two x 50 metre poultry nets, so they have a huge area with three big trees for shelter - lucky birds, 
and the electric fence is on - poor Looby, it won't be long before she gets a shock, I keep telling her to stay away from it (but she's fascinated by the hens) so it will be her own fault, she'll do it when we're not watching her!

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