Tuesday, 22 April 2014

DECKING, FLORA & FAUNA ...

30th March
Everything is going wrong ....
1st the puppy chewed my computer charge lead, so, until I get a replacement I’m using my old notebook which has a very dodgy touchpad.
2nd Brett’s computer crashed; it’s been misbehaving for a while, so he backed everything up on the hard drive and took it back to ‘computer settings’ but now it doesn’t work at all.
3rd, today, the hard drive died!!!!! So we’ve lost everything – photos and videos of Molly and Winnie, all the films and TV series we’d been downloading from all and sundry; it might be possible to retrieve them but at a HUGE cost. We’ve shared the films etc with lots of people so in time we can get them back but the photos and videos are lost L.
Brett spent the day making concrete pads to put extra supports under the decking.

31st March
First disaster of the day, Brett opened the fridge and a bottle of beetroot Kvass shot out and smashed on the floor spraying broken glass and bright red juice everywhere! Not a good start to the day!
I finished weaving the fencing around my herb bed – it looks rather nice.
It was hard to find the enthusiasm to do anything as it was cold and wet outside.

1st April
The weather was vile today. Lily wouldn't go out this morning, she was so distressed at us trying to force her she managed to empty her bladder all around the house, so I had to follow her around with bleach – she doesn't like the rain! We were going to take her to the vet to have her vaccinations and be chipped, but we thought she might think we were punishing her; so we just went into town to shop.

2nd April
And if things weren't bad enough today we got another delightfully depressing email from our estate agents ........ storm damage to the cottage, broken tiles, penetrating water, catch come off the gate (flippin’ heck it needs two screws to secure it, but our tenants can’t even do that!) and our tenants have given notice – so we have decided that perhaps we should to try to sell it, it’s deteriorating rapidly without us there to maintain it.
Another horrid day weather wise, getting slightly depressed!

3rd April
It was a slightly better day today, still cold and windy but not nearly so wet. However the ground is still very soft so I couldn’t do any gardening.
When Alex & Karina came around at the weekend they brought some delicious homemade dips and flat bread; I got the recipes off Karina today – I made the dips ...
(1) Carrot dip/spread: Grated carrot and garlic fried in olive oil until soft, season to taste, mix in a little sour cream (I used Greek yoghurt) then allow to cool – so simple and absolutely wonderful. (2) Refried beans: Fry chopped onions and garlic in olive oil, until soft, add cooked beans and spices of choice (cumin, coriander, turmeric) fry for a bit whilst stirring and mashing, add lemon juice and seasoning to taste, cool – very good too! Karina said the carrot one can be made with beetroot too, which sounds lovely.

4th April
Today was still gloomy but not the constant rain we have been having. The ground, this morning, was perfect for weeding (although I did make BIG footprints), it was good to get some work done in the garden.
Brett carried on with the decking between showers but had to admit defeat after lunch. But we both felt better for getting some work done.
For lunch we had the dips I made yesterday with some Russian flat breads (fried), that Karina gave me the recipe for; wow they are delicious and so easy to make and very versatile – I will be making them next time we have a curry, they will work brilliantly as Nan breads.

5th April
Hoorah sunshine at last!
While Brett continued with the decking I carried on weeding the vegetable garden; I hoed the whole potato bed, and was absolutely shattered after that, then hand weeded the garlic (it’s got to look good for Joyce, Sarah and James’s visit).
This evening we had a night out at P&M’s which was lovely. We put the goslings and ducks away before we left (they’re easy to herd) but we just had to leave the chickens out and trust the electric fence – they were fine.

6th April
Hot, hot, hot!! By 10.00 it was 30 degrees in the polytunnel.
Pam uses eucalyptus poles for her bean supports, it grows on her land, they look good; we don’t have any eucalyptus, but there’s a small copse between us and Gary .... I took the fallen poles, and felled a few that looked like they needed thinning out! In all our time here we've never seen anyone in there, it is completely neglected, like a lot of the quintas around us, it seems to be abandoned.
This afternoon I prepared the land for the bean supports hoeing and weeding; it was backbreaking, hot work! Not helped by the fact that I was completely overlooked by the family working on the quinta next door - though the locals do like to see the expats taking care of the land (they don’t care what your dwelling is like, but they approve of a well tended vegetable garden).
The shepherd came this afternoon, with another of his homemade cheeses (jealous Mel?). He wants to bring his sheep to graze our land for a couple of weeks, which is fine as long as he keeps them off the vegetable garden, herb garden and out of the polytunnel; the grass needs to be eaten (Pam is strimmering her grass all the time now) unfortunately sheep are indiscriminate they’ll eat all the wild flowers too which is a shame.
I managed to build one structure for runner beans, and got my first lot of beans planted out, so I’m happy about that.
Brett is going great guns on the decking, today he finished the joists for the roof – it’s starting to take shape now.

7th April
This morning we went to Fundao market and bought ten more chicks (Ross Cobb type), when we got them home we realised they were all snuffly and congested; they don’t do well in damp confined spaces and we’ve just had a very damp period and I can imagine they were living in rather crowded conditions; hopefully they’ll get better now they’re getting fresh air and lots of sunshine.
Going to Fundao takes up most of the day, but I still managed to get some weeding done in the vegetable garden.

8th April
We had a hard day working in the vegetable garden; this morning Brett rotorvated the unplanted ground, to reduce the weeds and so that I could plant out, while I carried on weeding (the rain has a lot to answer for). Then this afternoon he strimmered – it all looks very tidy, and I planted out courgettes, squashes, pumpkins etc. the garden is getting quite full.
This evening, 8.00, we lost the ducklings we scoured the whole quinta and couldn’t find them by the time we got back to their shed they were back and putting themselves away.

9th April
Another glorious day, it was 35 degrees in the polytunnel by 10.00 a.m. and I was in there potting on – I was ‘glowing’ profusely!
This afternoon our friends Marc and Meike came round for afternoon tea, while we were taking them on a tour of the quinta the dogs disturbed a snake, it was hissing and looking poised to strike – but we think it was a ladder snake, so not poisonous, and this was merely it’s defence mechanism (I still called the dogs away, just in case!).
Then, this evening, I came across another snake; they must be coming out of hibernation with all the warm weather.

And look at this beautiful sparkly beetle, it's bronze coloured

10th April
Today I made a very solid structure for my mange tout peas to grow up. We have a plant that looks like bamboo growing in the ditch, but I think it’s giant reed/cane, which isn’t as strong as bamboo (gardening sites say don’t use as it won’t last the season), but needs must! So I’ve woven and tied it together – it appears to be really stable (it took me most of the day!).
Brett made the handrail for the lower decking; I can’t wait for the floor to be laid, it’s looking absolutely fantastic – actually I can’t wait to start ‘dressing’ the spaces!!!

This afternoon we went to view the cottage that Joyce, Sarah & James will be staying in while they’re visiting us in TWO WEEKS TIME!!!! It’s lovely, a little bit further from us than we had thought; it’s not actually in the village of Aldao de Bispo (where we were told it was, and which is about 5 – 6 miles from us) but another couple of miles the other side to us. But it’s in a beautiful spot, cheap and very well equipped (it has a washing machine!!!!!) and I will definitely recommend it to anyone else who doesn’t want to rough it at our place (Will & Gill????).
One of our six ducklings is much smaller (about half the size) than the other five, it’s either a runt or we have one female and five males. When we got home from the cottage we could only see the five larger ducklings, we found her frantically paddling her legs to keep her head above the water in the bowl the big muscovies bathe in. She was absolutely drenched and shivering, she was so exhausted she couldn’t move. I wrapped her in the dog blanket, to soak up most of the water, and then we placed her in a box in the sunshine. Fortunately she pulled through her ordeal, we have no idea how long she was in the water, it could have been hours, poor little mite.
Then it was back to the garden; planting out and weeding. Tomorrow I’m going to Pam’s to pick up some Eucalyptus poles that she’s got for me – so I’ll be constructing more structures, I like lots of different shapes and textures in the garden, it looks attractive. Brett’s tells me off because I’m not weeding out all the weeds; I’m leaving in a few chamomile plants and some that I think could be poppies – I told him it’s companion planting they’ll attract beneficial insects!
The wild flowers are 'blooming' gorgeous atm!
Looks like a 'Pitcher Plant'
Red 'pea' type flower
I just love these Rock Rose with their tissue paper petals and beautiful magenta spots

11th April
It’s really incongruous, we have lots of song birds that continue to ‘sing’ all through the night; so when we go out after dark it’s really noisy with bird, cicada and (atm) frog sounds – it all sounds very foreign!
The small duckling came out of the shed looking none the worse for her adventures yesterday.
We picked up some eucalyptus from P&M and I spent the rest of the morning removing all the leaves and small branches, a thoroughly monotonous task.
Brett fitted the joists to the lower deck.
I then had a hot, tiring and frustrating afternoon; I had to saw my poles to length, a job that would take Brett about ½ hour, it took me several hours (I’m sure the saw was blunt!). Then I attempted to construct ‘wigwams’ for the beans; I couldn’t even get the poles to push into the ground, I went home in a sulk – what a wasted day!

12th April                                   
Today we had our first chicken egg!
I helped Brett flooring the lower deck; first we had to coat the wood with two layers of borax solution (insect and fungal treatment); we bought a spray pump especially for the job, it lasted about 5 minutes before the nozzle got bunged up with borax crystals, so we (I) ended up painting it on with a brush (not good for my back).
We had to sort out all the planks of wood, as they are all different widths, and we needed two the same for each run; unfortunately hardly any planks are the same width along the whole length, they differ by about 5mm, let alone two planks the same  – Brett can’t believe that the saw mill can’t cut accurate pieces of wood, he kept saying “if we were in the UK this would be a doddle” instead he spent a lot of the time planning down planks to make them fit AND the planks aren’t even all the same thickness they’re supposed to be 25mm but some are as much as 32mm! However what we did today looks good, so we were quite pleased with our work.

13th April
We had our second chicken egg!
We continued flooring the lower deck; it’s a long winded task due to the rubbish wood!
Then this evening we were invited to dine with Chris & Di; we had a fabulous evening.  We had to go home at 8.00 to shut up the animals; we took the dogs back with us, and didn’t return home until way past 1.00 a.m. (I thought it was about 10.30 – 11.00!). When we walked home, there was a full moon so it was really easy to see, it was a lovely walk.

14th April
Hoorah four eggs today and so far all the eggs have been laid in the nest boxes, what clever chickens!
We more or less finished the floor of the lower deck, it looks absolutely fantastic and we’re both shattered!
For dinner we had broad beans from the garden, with parsley sauce (parsley from the garden)  and I’m back to making iced tea with our used teabags – Karina posted a recipe for Mint Tea Punch, which is iced tea flavoured with mint (from garden), orange juice (from garden) and lemon juice (from Marc & Meike), it’s very refreshing and exceedingly tasty.

15th April
I was very disappointed when I let the chickens out this morning, as there were no eggs in the nest box, but we had four by the end of the day. But I don't know who laid this one ......
Ouch!!!!
It was wonderful, sitting out on the deck, to have my first morning cup of coffee.
The parcel arrived from UK (thank you Stephanie) with my new computer lead in it and .... it doesn’t work! The lead is fine it obviously wasn’t what was wrong with the computer; Brett says it could be a loose wire inside, so it looks like we need to take it to a repair shop (more expense).
Back to some gardening today for me (Brett still working on the decking) – lots of weeding, then tomorrow I’m going to plant up my herb garden; I’ve grown lots of herbs from seed in the polytunnel, then I’ll cheat and go to Lidl, they have some really interesting culinary herbs in pots which do quite well in the garden (and they’re cheap!).
Tomorrow we have been invited to a barbeque at Karina & Alex’s; I made some chocolate cornflake nests with sugared almonds, for eggs, as it’s Easter this weekend.

16th April
At last we’ve spoken to the neighbours opposite our house, we have waved a lot but never had a proper conversation; this morning we made the effort and went to speak with them, she is called Olivia and he is something like Jocam (I didn’t quite get it, but then the Portuguese find it very hard to get Brett, today for some reason they thought he said he was called Manuel - it doesn’t even sound like Brett!). They have a very nice quinta, with a fabulous vegetable garden, which they are trying to sell (he says “mais Barata” – ‘very cheap’).
I planted up the herb garden with some of the herbs I’ve grown from seed – rocket, basil, parsley, coriander, bronze fennel etc.
We boraxed the upper deck in preparation for starting to put the floor down tomorrow.
Karina & Alex’s barbeque was great fun, and it was nice because there were lots of different people to our usual crowd; we had to come back at 8.00 to put the ducks and geese away (the chickens were left safely behind their electric fence), but we went back again until it got too dark & cold and the mosquitoes came out (I’d conveniently forgotten about mosquitoes!), about 10.00p.m.
When we got Looby, six months ago, she had just been spayed; she still had stitches in her abdomen from her operation. Well now she’s giving every appearance of being on heat, last week it was mainly physical symptoms (oozy, glowing, swollen bits!!!), this week it’s mental; the desire to find a mate, she can’t be left untethered at all, she disappears within a few seconds (even when we’re watching her closely, she can be gone in seconds) and this evening she and the puppy went while Brett was taking them for their midnight walk. Brett had to get the truck out and drive around the tracks to find her (the puppy came back on her own), he found Looby at Joao and Ilda’s we think/hope that their dogs were safely behind a fence and couldn’t get to her – now we’re just hoping that she’s not pregnant .......... but how can this be happening, she’s been spayed?

17th April
Lovely, lovely weather, it’s a pleasure getting up in the morning; I so love my first cup of coffee sitting on the decking.
We haven’t had the village internet for three days which is frustrating (we can just about check emails on Brett’s Kindle, but it’s very slow); fortunately it came back at lunchtime.
We’ve started picking vegetables from the garden; today it was lettuce, chard and radishes.

Brett got about a third of the upper deck completed today; we sat up there on our chairs to drink our evening beer!!!

18th April
Brett finished another third of the upper deck floor – it could be finished tomorrow!
And I spent the day planting out in the garden – peas, beans, tomatoes etc. It was jolly hot work.
The weather is cooling off over the next few days, which is probably good as Joyce doesn’t like it too hot.

19th April
Well the weather has certainly changed; today was dull, overcast with a hint of moisture in the air. I worked in the polytunnel wearing a jumper and boots and not a sign of ‘glowing’! Then I did some planting out and was decidedly cold!
There were people working on clearing the ‘abandoned’ quinta next door (our quinta borders lots of other quintas), I couldn’t tell what nationality they were.
Brett more or less finished the floor to the upper deck, there’s one area he can’t do as we’re waiting for a post.
For the first time in a fortnight we lit a fire as it really was rather chilly!                     

20th April
Happy Easter!
And the sun was back out this morning, but it’s still a lot colder than it was – typical as I planted out my tomatoes two days ago!

Brett finished the decking floor, he made a mock up of the post we need so we haven’t got an unfinished corner, it’s looking absolutely fabulous!


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