Friday, 18 July 2014

For Mel ... !

26th June
Tonight’s meal was practically all grown on our quinta: Free range chicken breasts pan fried in olive oil, Ratatouille/vegetable stew made with olive oil, onions, garlic, courgettes, beans, olives, and basil – the only non quinta ingredient was tinned tomatoes (as ours aren’t ripe yet) and new potatoes cooked with mint ... fabulous!
Tomorrow a group of us are going to the barragem at Idanha a Nova, for a picnic to celebrate Pam’s birthday; we will take a tortilla (made with our olive oil, eggs, onions, garlic, courgettes and chard), potato salad (potatoes, from tonight, and onions mixed with mayonnaise made with our eggs, olive oil and Claire’s ‘bartered’ lemons), a green salad (all from our garden) and fresh peaches for pudding.

27th June
P&Ms dog gave birth today, there were seven live puppies by the end of the day puppies (one was still born), they look really sweet.
We had a fabulous day out today at Pam’s birthday picnic at the barragem (reservoir). There were lots of ‘toys’; Mark bought Pam a blow up canoe, Chris & Di had a dingy and Vince had borrowed a jet ski, plus water skis and a round blow up thingy – so we mucked about in the water (which was lovely and warm) and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

28th June
Chris & Di are working for the next fourteen days; an eight hour day, starting at 6.00 a.m. so they will not be socialising for a while.
Yesterday (at the picnic) Keren came armed with courgettes, squash and cucumbers, she said she wasn’t taking any of them back home with her – so, to be neighbourly, I took a couple of squash and a couple of cucumber ... ha, today I weeded one of my cucumber tepees and pick nineteen cucumbers from four plants! In fact I picked a HUGE harvest of fruit and veg, including a bagful of plums which had been blown off by the wind. Now I’ve got to process all the produce.
The leeks have bolted, but I don't care the flowers are so pretty and look great as cut flowers.
29th June
Another homesteading day; I processed the cucumbers (not dill pickle, as I didn’t have dill!) and the yellow French beans (mustard chutney). And then I tidied the house for our visitors.
Brett stimmered around the perimeter again, making it wider.
We had run out of beer, we thought we could cope for one evening ... but ‘no’ Brett suggested we went to the bar, so, of course, we invited Chris & Di, and, of course, they came ... so much for not socialising for fourteen days!!!!! The dog at the bar has had a puppy, it looks like a 'pot bellied pig', it's so sweet!

30th June
Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit ... we went into CB to shop and to pick up Debbie and David. When we got home there were feathers everywhere ... we found five dead chickens, we didn’t find Mrs Muscovy and four of her ducklings! We don’t know if it was a fox, a dog, or a mongoose – we’ll probably never know. We just know we feel pretty rotten, ‘free range’ has a lot going for it until the animals get attacked, then you feel absolutely awful, as if you hadn’t looked after them properly.

1st July
Mr Muscovy has taken over the rearing of the four ducklings left; he didn’t have any choice they just follow him around! 
I just love this photo of Debbie and I both with our hands on our hips ...
Debbie and David helped me weed the melons; now I understand why Pam has workaways!
Debbie loves picking the produce
Mr Louis and his grandson came to visit this afternoon, he was very impressed with our onions!
He’s going to arrange for our grass to be cut, as the shepherd (who he doesn’t like!) hasn’t turned up (of course he will now).
Our first tomato ripened today:
Debbie and I have had a project ... we're constructing a scarecrow (lady) 'Mavis'; she's to stand guard over the vegetable garden to keep off all the pesky magpies!
Dave relaxing with Looby
2nd July
We had a lovely trip to Idanha a Velha (the Roman village); which was made even more successful when we were able to purchase more of the Piri Piri sauce we bought last time we were there in April. Unfortunately I was on tenterhooks the whole time worrying about the poultry; the chicken’s fence was on but the geese and ducks were still vulnerable ... but they were OK, this time!
On our way home Brett suddenly swerved the car, a terrapin was crossing the road! We helped it across to the verge.
This evening we were treated to a meal, by Dave’s mum, at O Quartel Restaurante, Penamacor; it was delicious and a very enjoyable evening was had by all.

3rd July
We (well Debbie, David and Brett as I was too busy picking the lbs of beans that had grown in two days)
started digging up the potatoes today, they are actually better than we had at first thought, we should get a few sackfuls – enough to keep us for a year.
And, at long last, the tomatoes are ripening; we had a good selection for lunch, along with our onion and courgette frittata, French bean salad, carrot salad, potato salad, green salad – ALL from the quinta!
Debbie and I went for afternoon tea at Pam and Mark’s; we took them a bag of beans!!!!!
We had a barbecue this evening, even though it was raining on and off – it was dry on our upper decking.

4th July
Today we went for a picnic to the barragem at Penha Garcia; as I was worried about the poultry I left Mavis the scarecrow keeping watch on the decking
it seemed to work, I think she might be a permanent fixture!
The barragem is beautiful, very peaceful, not at all commercial, just a few fishermen and us.
We had our picnic, sitting in chairs and on loungers – all very civilised! But we got exceedingly hot, so into the water we jumped; it was a perfect temperature, we splashed around and swam for about half an hour or so. Out we got, and started drying ourselves only to discover .... our lower legs and feet were covered in leeches!!!!!!!! Yuk, they were between all my toes, little, tiny, pink, squirming, blood suckers – needless to say we didn’t go back in the water! 
This evening we went to the bar to see Brazil v Columbia ... we only had two rounds, which proves to me that Chris & Di (who weren’t there this time) are the bad influence!
There were little wooden stalls being erected in the square, so Debs & I went for an explore – there’s a Medieval festival in the village over the weekend, yay!

5th July
We spent the morning walking around Penamacor, walking around the medieval quarter, up to the tower to see the swallowtail butterflies, up and down narrow, winding, cobbled, steps etc it was lovely, we wanted a drink and snack before going home and somehow ended up being treated to lunch (by Dave’s mum again) at O Quartel! We had a fabulous lazy lunch, sitting outside under a huge parasol, admiring the panoramic views ... the food was good too!
The festival, in the village, didn’t look very bustling when we drove past at 3.30p.m. so we decided to spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool, have a few nibbles then come back out, about nine ,for a bite to eat and to enjoy the entertainment ... ha, we came back at 9.00 and all the stalls were packing up, we hadn’t eaten so ... we were treated (for the third time and yes, we did try to pay, there was nearly a fight between Brett and Debbie!) to a meal at the ‘skewer’ restaurante (don’t know what it’s actually called but they sell a flamboyant dish that is presented on hanging skewers, hence ‘skewer’ restaurante).

6th July
Debbie and I had planned on painting the shower screen, next to the pool; it’s made of hessian and is slightly see-through, so we thought painting a design on it would help.
Unfortunately it was raining and the screen was rather wet so we ended up playing; we did some screen printing, lino printing and printing from poppy seed heads (using it as a stamp, thanks for the idea Helen!) which are fabulous ...
We went to the festa this evening; haha, the Portuguese do love to stare at strangers; everyone’s head swivelled to watch us as we walked in! We sat in the audience, in front of the stage;
humming to the songs and clapping to the dances
and then talking animatedly to one another when the dancers came into the audience to pick partners for the next dance!
We could easily have stayed later but we had to get back for the chickens, I’m still not relaxed when we go out and leave them.

7th July
Happy Birthday Lesley!
Debbie & David went today; they caught the 8.25a.m. train from CB, there were no mishaps this time!
Chris & Di texted us to see if Brett wanted to do a couple of days work with them (for an American lady who has bought a quinta in Aguas).
I picked another bucket full of beans, tomatoes and cucumbers today: And we harvested the onions!
I planted the tomatoes 1 metre apart but now I can’t get between them, they are covered in flowers and tomatoes.
Brett has agreed to work with C&D tomorrow; he starts work at 7.00a.m. which means he has to get up at 6.00!

8th July
Happy Birthday Lauren!
Brett left home at 6.35 a.m. I stayed in bed!!!
I needed to do the washing today, which meant I had to get water from the tank – ha, I can’t even carry a full 20L container, let alone lift it into the back of the truck ... so I only filled them 3/4s full (they were still heavy).
The washing took me most of the morning, there were five loads; the hardest part is rinsing and wringing, the water for rinsing has to be lifted out of the well in a metal bucket on a length of string – which gets very heavy when it is full! But I was OK as the geese came down to ‘help’ me.
Brett came home at 2.30 – the American lady wants him for another three days, the money should go a long way towards buying us a bread oven.
We took the dogs for a walk around out boundary path this evening, we looked behind us and there were the geese – they walked all the way (over a kilometre) with us.

9th July
Happy Birthday Rebecca! X
Brett left home at 6.35a.m. again – I didn’t even hear him go!
I spent the morning planting more vegetables (so our harvest doesn’t abruptly stop in August) – beans, courgettes, carrots, lettuce, spring onions etc.
And when I got back to the house at 1.30 p.m. the ducklings were gone; I thought they had gone ‘walk about’ but they never came back! The rest of the poultry were completely relaxed so it doesn’t appear to have been a fox strike, but if they crossed the stream and went ‘off quinta’ they could (well obviously did) have encountered a predator – there are a few deserted and overgrown quintas bordering our one.

10th July
Well the ducklings didn’t reappear overnight – I went out with a torch at 11.00 last night to see if they’d come back, but they hadn’t.
Brett was working again today, so I ‘spring cleaned’ the house – well swept, dusted, tidied, shook out carpets, even cleared all the junk off the table ... I thought it was looking good. He comes home and says “what have you done today?”, he hadn’t even noticed! 

11th July
Brett’s last day at work, hoorah, I’m getting bored spending the day on my own.
I sowed more vegetable seeds.
Then I went shopping in Penamacor – I bought chicken food, I asked for it in Portuguese! (to tell the truth I’m better when Brett isn’t there, it forces me to speak Portuguese).
I made lunch for when the workers (Brett, Chris & Di) returned home (cheese & pickle rolls and beer); then we all went down the bar for a couple of hours, we invited Mr Louis to come for a drink. Brett had a really good talk with him, the rest of us tried too.
Mr Louis
Then I cooked a curry for us all (not Mr Louis!!!! I don’t suppose he would have enjoyed it, the Portuguese stick to what they like).

12 July
Brett had a well deserved day off, then this evening we went to the festa in Penamacor.
It was really lively in town, there was a lovely atmosphere, with masses of people, lots of family groups, milling around and socialising. There were stalls set up throughout the town with local produce: cheese, chorizo, honey, wine, liqueur etc and homemade crafts: rugs, embroidered cloths, quilting and patchwork, cork goods, basketware ... Some people had set up impromptu shops, cafes, bars in their garages/front room; but nobody seemed to be buying much (in fact I couldn’t see how it was worthwhile for the stallholders to be there). We sat outside someone’s garage and ate octopus salad and green eggs, drinking beer; waiting for the music to start, but by 11.30 there was still nothing happening, so we came home – we were tired. Whatever time does the music start at these events?

13th July
Another group picnic, this time at Meimão barragem; the usual suspects were there ... us, P&M (with three of their tipi guests), C&D plus Vince, Lola and Leonie.
The water was warm, so nice to be in as the air temperature was HOT! I remembered my water woggle/noodle (buoyancy aid) which made it very relaxing too.
In the evening we went to the bar to watch the football final with C&D.

14th July
OH my it’s getting hot again, 38 degrees in the shade today and it was 34 degrees inside the house when we went to bed.
We ordered our bread oven today, so we should have it delivered sometime this week – how exciting!
Our chickens are suffering from heat stroke, we lost one yesterday – it just keeled over and died; they have water (buckets of the stuff) and shade (big trees), we don’t know what else to do for them, it’s very distressing.
Mr Louis’s friend started cutting our grass this afternoon, which was ... great, we need it cut ... a shame, I wanted (needed) to go in the pool, and didn’t want to do it in front of him!
We watered the plants late as it didn’t start cooling down until 8.00 then, as it was beckoning us, we jumped in the pool ... it was so good!
When we got back we had another dead chicken!!!!!

15th July
Another dead hen this morning; I’ve ‘googled’ heat stroke + chickens and put a post on ‘Life in Portugal’ to see what we should be doing to help them – it’s not ‘rocket science’ providing shade and ample water are the main two criteria; we’re doing that, but it’s just too hot for them. Brett made them a ‘wallow’ but they didn’t get themselves wet (they’re not pigs!), they just paddled and drank from it.
Brett has started making the staircase for the sleep platform; it’s very sturdy and makes going up to the sleep platform so much easier.
Mr Louis’s friend was back cutting our grass today, the quinta is starting to look cared for again. Unfortunately he turns out to be the man who cut Pam’s grass last year, she has asked him to cut her’s again this year but he hasn’t been to her yet, so we’re feeling a little bit guilty – but we didn’t organise him and we didn’t realise who he was until he turned up, so we weren’t intentionally  poaching him.

16th July
40 degrees, in the shade, today ... it was HOT!!!! We have two broken Max/Min thermometers; their bulbs have burst!!!!
But we didn’t lose any chickens; I fed them on chilled cucumbers and Brett dunked, any that he saw panting, in a bucket of water!
I picked nearly a bucket of yellow cherry tomatoes (Millefleur), they hang like bunches of grapes from the vines, and then a made a ratatouille with them – it looked weird, but tasted fine.
Brett’s back at work tomorrow with Chris & Di; they might do a day a week for a while (the owner has gone back home until September, but she wants some work done while she’s away).

17th July
Brett left home at 6.35, so I got up early too and got masses done ....
First I counted the chickens.
I made an octopus salad, we really enjoyed the one we had in Penamacor on Saturday evening, so I experimented (lots of garlic, parsley and olive oil).
I made three batches of iced tea – it’s good to have a supply in the fridge.
I counted the chickens and gave them some cold cucumbers.
I cleaned the house (bet he doesn’t notice!). 
I counted the chickens.
I watered the seeds – I had to trek over to the vegetable garden to do that.
I dug up a row of potatoes – bloody hard work, especially as the ground is so hard and dry.
I picked a bucket of beans – hard on the back as they are dwarf plants, so it’s all bending down.
I took some of my sundried tomatoes (not fully dry, so sun blushed) back to the house and put them in olive oil, to make an antipasta ... very, very good, even though I do say so myself!
I counted the chickens.
Then back to the vegetable garden, loaded a wheelbarrow with fifty (I counted) of our HUGE onions, that weigh up to a kilo each – then push them back to the house, I was sweating by this time, so that I could string them up and that’s when everything started going horribly wrong ... they’re obviously not main crop onions and therefore not storing onions as some of them are starting to go soft on the outside; I’m so disappointed, I grew enough to see us through the winter - I’ll have to use them up quickly, which means I need to make them into chutneys and pickles (all is not lost then!).
I counted the chickens, phew they were all still alive.
Then Brett came home, and ‘no’ he didn’t notice that I had cleaned the house! (Ha ha, he read my blog and said he had noticed!!!) He was shattered, so we had a beer with lunch (there’s always some excuse!) – then, somehow, we went to sleep!
Later Brett called me outside, he handed me the binoculars – there was an eagle with a live snake in its claws flying over the house!!!! Unfortunately we didn't manage to take a photo.

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