Sunday, 30 March 2014

SPRING HAS SPRUNG ...

15th March
This morning I decided to weed the herb bed in front of the house, halfway through I realised I was throwing away ‘food’ – masses of chickweed; so I made a chickweed salad for lunch, Brett says it tastes like baby spinach, and later I’m going to try steaming it. I made the sprouting chickpeas into a raw hummus, it has a much fresher flavour than with cooked chickpeas and tastes slightly of raw peas (well it would, wouldn’t it, dah!).
P&M and their workaway, Leon, came to bottle some wine this afternoon; so we all trooped over to the other sheds (near the ‘swimming pool’). I was showing (off?) everyone the vegetable garden when I heard a ‘splash’ and frantic paddling noises – Lily had fallen in the pool (Looby was nowhere near her!), I rescued her – poor little mite looked like a drowned rat.
About five minutes later ......... Looby ‘fell’ in the pool – she’s so competitive!!!! She managed to get out on her own.
Pam is going to sell their wine to their visitors (in the tipis), she’s bottled it all up, with lovely labels, it looks good. She has also bottled their olive oil and labelled it – she’s lucky she has an outlet for her wares; we have no one we could to sell to, so we’ll just have to find ways to use it ourselves (like bartering oil for lemons).
When we passed Chris & Di (they’re still camping in the quarry) they gave us a bag of lemons (Claire is away atm) and eggs, their neighbours are very generous.
My computer won’t charge any more (Lily chewed through the cable) so I’m using the old notebook with the dodgy keyboard; it works fine for a while (lulling me into a false sense of security) and then goes haywire – I can’t even describe what it does, it just goes ‘mad’, it’s very frustrating to work on.

16th March
Whilst filling buckets with water from the stream (we have this chain gang thing going on, I fill the buckets, Brett pours them into our big barrels, then, when they’re full, we carry them to the duck/goose area for replenishing their water – they use a lot!) I noticed two types of mint growing; one is the ordinary water mint, but the other one is more like an apple mint (I love getting stuff for free!).
This afternoon we pleated and fixed one of the ends to the polytunnel, it looks quite neat – we’ve done this job several times now (at least five) and every time it looks different.
I saw swallows today, about five – so does that ‘make a summer’? Jamie has heard the cuckoo, I keep listening for it.

17th March
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
Oh what an awfully boring morning, it took over two and a half for the tyres to be done; we arrived at 9.00, left the truck, and walked to the shopping centre – apart from the supermarket all the shops were shut, they don’t open until 10.00!
We closed our Portuguese bank account, we’ve been keeping a big chunk of money in it (so we dodn’t get fined like P&M keep getting) then I had this ‘Eureka’ moment in the night - why leave it in the bank not being able to spend it, if we shut the account it could go towards the decking (it should pay for half of it), brilliant thinking.
There are so many wild flowers cropping up on the quinta, the chicken run is full of a dwarf iris
(apparently all iris are poisonous to poultry!),
I went around with the dogs and the camera photographing ................
About 12 -18" tall, very pretty
Peach blossom
Varigated thistly thing
Quince blossom
White Broom
I have no idea what a lot of them are though.
Our first potato was through today.

18th March
I worked jolly hard today weeding the strawberries; they’ve been in over the winter and the rain encouraged lush grass growth, the strawberry plants were hidden under the grass – it looks great now.
Brett strimmered around the vegetable garden, cleared away piles of rubbish (mainly leftovers from Mr Louis), lit a bonfire, pruned the apple tree (with the chain saw!) and generally tidied up; it’s looking the best is has since we moved here.
Another potato came through, but still no sign of any chillies.

19th March
Brett heard a cuckoo this morning, I didn’t!
Mark wanted to do a ‘Screwfix’ order (they deliver to Portugal now) so we went round to add to it (if you spend over £100 delivery is free). Poor old Pam spent ages on her Ipad filling in the order form, then it wouldn’t accept her address (invalid post code), so, two phone calls later, she was back on the computer reregistering her address, filled in the order form (3 items for P&M, 8 items for us), order accepted – ‘hoorah’ we thought, then a message ‘3 items no longer available’, everything P&M ordered!!!!! What a frustrating morning for P&M, our order is on its way (we registered independently; I thought it was a bit mean expecting P&M to continue with the order when they couldn’t get anything). And they are very busy atm as their first (paying) guests arrive in less than a week, this afternoon they’re putting up a tipi (they didn’t need our help as they have their workaway and Rowan there).
Their goslings have grown so big; they’re far bigger than ours – but still really cute.
Today we made and put the doors on the polytunnel – ‘it ain’t half hot mum’! We purposely positioned the polytunnel under trees for shade but it’s still extremely warm in there.
Cesar came with the wood for our decking, there’s absolutely masses (we look like a timber yard); so we will be busy for a while!
Tonight we had our first solar showers of the year (usually we heat the water up on the stove then fill the bags); Brett went first, he came out saying “that wasn’t bad at all, I enjoyed that”. Ha, it was bloody freezing and I had no choice but to continue as first thing I did was shampoo my hair!!!!

20th March
1st day of Spring!!!
Brett has started making the decking; he put together the frame and it’s going to be fantastic; two 12’ x 12’ decks, one at the front of the house and one at the side.
The one at the side will have a roof over it to give shade in the summer and obviously protection from rain, the one at the front will have about a metre of roof and the rest will be open (for all our visitors who want to get suntans!!!!).
I was kept busy painting a toilet seat; compost toilets can look pretty!
It’s taking me a long time as I’m using acrylic paint and if I don’t let it dry thoroughly the bottom coat comes off, today I painted a Swallowtail butterfly.
Oh flippin’ brilliant; tonight we had an email from the estate agent who is managing our cottage in Wales, for £50 a month they do nothing but send us bad news which usually costs us. Today’s message ....... a lorry travelling up the road has caught the electricity cable which has been pulled off the house (along with the telephone cable), dislodging the big stone it was attached to. The electricity has been restored by attaching the cable to the fascia board (which is in no way strong enough) and the stone has been placed back, but not secured – so did we want to contact our insurance company to get the damage made good; well ‘no’ actually as we have an excess on the policy of £300 which basically means we will be paying for the damage that someone else has caused!!!! How on earth do we sort this out, apparently it’s ‘not in the estate agents remit’, so what do we do????

21st March
Brett continued with the decking frame; due to the gradient, at the side of the house, he’s having to do lots of digging away.
I spent the day making mosquito curtains for our bed (the mosquitoes have woken up/hatched out, with all the sunny weather, and we are both getting bitten at night) – to make them ‘pretty’ I appliquéd them with hearts made from lace.

22nd March
Another glorious day, so, for Brett, it was continuing with the decking; Today he dug up and moved about 96 cu feet of soil, in fact a lot of it was rock, which he had to break up with a pick axe first, – he deserved his cold beer and sit in the sun this afternoon (he’s looking forward to a couple of days of rain so he can have a rest!)!
I finished appliquéing hearts onto the mosquito nets, then I varnished the toilet seat – unfortunately the varnish dissolved the acrylic paint a bit so now my design is a little blurry, but hey it’s only a toilet seat!

23rd March
I heard the cuckoo this morning!
The Max/Min thermometer in the polytunnel said it went down to zero degrees last night (which means it would have been about -2 outside), so I’m slightly worried about the potatoes; on the plus side I haven’t been tempted (well I’ve been tempted but haven’t succumbed!)  to plant out beans or courgettes yet (phew!). Everything in the polytunnel looks fine.
Brett carried on preparing the ground for the decking; digging holes and making concrete plinths for the posts to stand on.
I pottered around in the polytunnel and finished varnishing the toilet seat, I’m not that pleased with it; while it was drying outside in the sunshine dust adhered to the varnish AND the varnish has yellowed in the sunlight, so .... blurry paint job, dirty yellowing varnish, lovely, but it’ll do the job.

24th March
We went to Fundao market to buy more goslings – there weren’t any there!
But we did get a couple of hundred onion plugs, twenty five strawberry plugs and Rich gave us ten Jerusalem artichokes – so I’ll be busy tomorrow.
It rained while we were in Fundao, big ploppy cold rain and we didn’t have coats; water was running down my chin!!! And we were so cold.
Looby is in the ‘dog house’, she will be good for so long and then she’ll go off and won’t come back when we call; so now she’s got to go on a lead when she’s outside. There are sheep on the quinta next door, and the Portuguese won’t hesitate to shoot a dog they think is worrying the flock, so she needs to be kept under control.

25th March
Heavy frost last night!!! Our friends Karina & Alex lost a field of sweetcorn and all their beans, so frustrating after all the hard work they put in. I was worried about our potatoes, but they are fine.
Outside the house I have a small garden which I am going to use for herbs; at the moment it has rocket, peas and mange tout in it – well it did until the bloody ducks and geese decimated it! So I’m now making hurdles from olive wood stakes and mimosa, to keep the blighters off the area; it actually looks rather attractive.
We went to visit Marc & Meike (the people who gave us the Muscovy ducks) in their new house; they have a huge lemon tree, I’m so jealous I’ve managed to kill four lemon trees since we’ve been here, I just can’t get them to grow – they gave us a bag of lemons!
It was very windy this evening, I started worrying about the polytunnel – so we took a walk over there, it’s actually positioned well, in a slight dip, so quite sheltered from the weather; I felt better after checking it though (I wouldn’t have been able to relax if we hadn’t).

26th March
Still windy, but the sun was out – we have a week of cold, wet, weather forecast. So today I had to plant out all the plugs we bought on Monday; 189 x onions (main crop), 21 x strawberries and 10 x Jerusalem artichokes.
Brett put in the roof supports and hand rails on side decking.
Pam messaged us this afternoon, did we want to go for a pizza tonight as it was their workaway’s birthday. It ended up with thirteen of us at the pizza place in Penamacor – a jolly evening was had by all.

27th March
I haven’t hoovered the floor for a least a week (Brett’s digging was causing so much dust there was no point) but today I had that dubious pleasure- I HATE my vacuum cleaner!!! Today it would only suck when I was using the attachments, so I had to clean the whole house using a tube with a 1” x ¼” orifice! It took me ages, and of course it spent most of the time spitting the dust back out; and yes, I have cleaned the filter (in fact I clean the filter after every time I use it and usually at least once while I am using it). And while I’m on the subject ...... why do they make vacuum cleaners from a plastic that becomes static, so that all the dust sticks all over the machine (inside and outside)? I not only have to clean the filter, I have to completely clean out and wipe down the cleaner after use too (I HATE, HATE, HATE, HATE, HATE ....... IT!).

28th March
Raining and cold; I walked to the polytunnel with the dogs and we got stuck in there, the rain was relentless – not a nice day, and we couldn’t go anywhere as our Screwfix order was expected today .......... it arrived about 4.30 it was such an easy process:
·         We ordered over the internet
·         We were given the delivery date, on completion of the order
·         The courier phoned our mobile, when he got to the village
·         Brett drove to the village to meet him and signed for the delivery
·         He came home with our order
The courier was happy that Brett was willing to drive to meet him, he said it was easy for him too and he would meet him in the same place next time we have a delivery ......... we are very happy – most of the delivery was for the decking (joist hangers etc.), but there’s lots of stuff we can’t get in Portugal, now thanks to Screwfix we can (and as long as our order is over £100 delivery is free); it’s funny what little things can ‘make your day’!
Pam came over with her guests, who are thinking of buying land in Portugal, – we enjoy showing people our vegetable garden, it’s looking rather good atm .... haha Pam said she has ‘garden envy’.

29th March
Brett put joists on one of the platforms; it’s starting to look like a ‘room’ now.
I spent the day cooking as we had Karina, Alex and Sean round this evening – lovely evening, they are very easy to talk to (we’re all doing the same thing, so we have lots in common). And they brought us a beautiful bunch of wild flowers from their quinta.
We will have most of these flowers but ours are behind because we had the sheep grazing on our grassland.
I’ve run out of pots for potting on, so now I’m using used milk cartons (I pinched the idea from a ‘repurposed, recycled, reused, reclaimed, restored’ site); now all I’ve got to do is find a use for all the tin cans (mostly dog food) that I can’t bring myself to throw away – there’s only so many storage containers I can use and they’re too tall for plant pots (would use too much compost).





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