Sunday, 24 August 2014

STILL PROCESSING PRODUCE ...

31st July
Poor old Lily (Lili) is on heat, so she’s being kept on a lead and under close control – she’s being very good, but she seems to be so much more exuberant than usual, everything is done at 110%!!! Bless her.
Our bread oven didn’t arrive today!!!! He definitely said ‘tomorrow  afternoon’ (yesterday), but we stayed in all day ... ‘nada’!
I picked two buckets of vegetables; there were loads more but I couldn’t carry them, I’ll pick more tomorrow. I have got more tomatoes drying in the sun.

Brett cut down a couple of dead trees for our winter fuel; the nights are starting to draw in already so we have to start our preparations.

1st August
Wow the year is moving fast ... I know it’s a sign of old age!!!
Today was more pickling and preserving for me and chain sawing for Brett.
And, needless to say, the bread oven still didn’t arrive.
It was cooler this evening; I was wearing a jumper rather than sitting in front of a fan.
I started making tomato, chilli jam; but as I made it with cherry tomatoes, and there’s no way I was going to skin those! I had to allow it to cool down then ‘blitz’ it in the food processor to reduce the impact of the skins.

2nd August
Happy birthday Lou!
We had a very comfortable night and both slept really well for a change. It even rained, well spat, a little bit this morning.
I had finished making the tomato, chilli jam before Brett got up!
Lou hosted a birthday lunch for eleven of us; we sat outside at a big table ate, drank and were merry; and then Lou played the spoons – she’s really good at it.
When we got home I went straight to bed!

3rd August
The heat came back today.
Brett continued cutting down dead trees ... and then the chainsaw died – we need to buy a new one.
Gary has his quinta up for sale; he came round this afternoon with a couple of potential buyers – he thinks we are an asset to his sale, which is nice.
I made a fresh tomato sauce with some very ripe tomatoes that were about to go off (you know I don’t like waste Steph!), just in case the bread oven arrives tomorrow.

4th August

It’s HOT again!
I picked FOUR buckets of tomatoes; it took me a couple of hours – the little cherry ones take ages to pick!

I prepared two buckets of tomatoes for sun drying. Unfortunately the cool days at the end of last week were not favourable for sun drying and quite a few of the tomatoes developed mould – lucky chickens! I already have to bring them in at night because of the dew, and they didn’t like the polytunnel – it was too humid = mould! It’s not easy this homesteading lark! But when it works it’s rewarding and I’m very pleased with the sundried tomatoes that have worked – they’re delicious, so much more flavour than the shop bought variety.

Brett is tidying up all our scrub land; the grassy areas are looking so neat and tidy after being cut and baled, soon the rest of the quinta will look well cared for too.
What a surprise, the bread oven didn’t arrive! We’ll have to go and ask for it again – this laid back attitude to deliveries gets a bit wearing at times.

5th August
I woke up with a bad back yesterday, I have no idea what I have done; I had a very uncomfortable night last night and to top it off I’m covered in mosquito bites – and I didn’t even sit outside last evening as I couldn’t get comfortable in the chairs.
But on the plus side Brett suggested that we went for a drive today and have a bit of an explore.
We drove towards Monfortinho and then past it and into Spain; apart from the road markings it looked much like Portugal! Unfortunately there were no nearby towns or villages (apparently diesel and beer is very cheap in Spain), so we turned round and explored Monfortinho, which is a spa town, but apart from masses of hotels and wide boulevards there wasn’t much to see. We ended up at Penha Garcia for lunch; it’s very like Monsanto very steep, narrow, cobbled lanes with tiny old houses.
On our way home we called in at the builder’s merchants ... he smacked his head and apologised profusely, he’d forgotten!!! He delivered it a couple of hours later, so we now have a pizza oven; we can’t use it yet as we have to ‘cure’ it first – gradually increase the heat/size of the fire over consecutive days to stop it cracking (needless to say I froze my prepared tomato sauce!).

6th August
I’ve still got a bad back; so when Pam phoned this morning to invite us to a picnic and jet ski session at Idanha a Nova barragem I declined – which is a shame because it would have been fun, but my back feels too wretched.
We lit a slightly larger fire in the pizza oven today, and now there’s a hairline crack in it! How slowly do you have to heat them? Of course it came with no instructions.

7th August
Thank goodness, my back is feeling slightly better today; I can stand up straight, most of the time, and don’t groan every time I sit down!
I didn’t prepare any tomatoes for sundrying yesterday, as the next couple of days are forecast to be overcast. But we have decided to ‘bite the bullet’ and buy some preserving jars to fill with tomato sauce for the winter. Initially it will be a big outlay but next year I’ll be able to think of them as free. And, as tomatoes aren’t that high in acid, they’ll need water-bath heating for 45 minutes which my recycled ‘bean’ jars might not be able to endure; so probably a prudent decision.
I processed one and a half buckets of tomatoes; skinning, sieving off the juice, chopping and reducing in a saucepan with salt, sugar and red wine – it made enough sauce for two 2lb Kilner jars! But I couldn’t bottle them up as they need the addition of lemon juice to increase the acidity and make them safe to store.
Brett cooked dinner and used nearly ¾ of the sauce in his pasta sauce! It tasted delicious.

8th August
I had a bit of a lazy day today; I went to Claire’s to pick some lemons, and stayed for two and a half hours then, this afternoon, she came to us and stayed for a couple of hours – so lots of chatting and not much working!
Brett did the snagging on the roof, fixing the middles of the panels down, ready for plaster boarding inside, and attaching the ridge sheets to the decking roof.

9th August
We went into CB to buy a new chainsaw (our one has died) and buy jars etc for my preserves ... not a very successful trip. We didn’t get a chainsaw and the jars I bought (3.49€ for a 1.5L jar) are too tall for our stockpot (for heat treating) so we now have to buy a bigger pot!!!!
While we were investing in equipment we decided to buy a Mouli food mill, which means that I won’t have to skin all the tomatoes as the mill will do it for me (yay!). I had a practise this afternoon with 4½lbs of cherry tomatoes (imagine skinning those!) and, as I was in ‘lazy mod’, instead of chopping them up by hand I stuck them in the food processor. So the normal process is, skin, cut in half, remove liquid and some pips (to reduce cooking time), add salt and red wine vinegar (to increase acidity) then cook until pulpy ... my process was, bung in food processor, drain through colander, cook until pulpy (having added salt and vinegar), process through Mouli – it worked a treat!!!
The only negative was that 4½lbs tomatoes didn’t result in much sauce, less than a litre so I’m going to need an awful lot of tomatoes to fill my (so far) six 1.5L jars, probably about 40lbs; how long are they going to take me to pick, especially if I use cherry tomatoes?
But on the plus side it’s a far more concentrated flavour than using a tin of tomatoes in a recipe.
So we are now ready to start plaster boarding; we just have to sort out how to get it to our quinta. Tomorrow’s job is sorting out the shed, with all our furniture in it, to make room for the tools (that are in the kitchen) and to move the kitchen furniture so that it’s easily accessible, ready to bring into the house – how exciting!
The dogs had a fun time this evening just running round and round the house, Lili was making little ‘yapping’ sounds as she followed behind Looby, who is much faster. It was lovely to watch, they were absolutely shattered, and puffing, after six laps.
We went to the village festa; we were sensible we didn’t go until 9.30, as the music was supposed to start at 10.00 ... ha, it started at 11.30!!! And then it was crappy cover versions, we left at midnight. I don’t know why it’s called a festa there was nothing happening; there was a bar and a restaurant, and a cage in the middle with tacky prizes, you buy ‘straws’ with tickets in them to see if you’ve ‘won’ a prize. And that’s it ..... a bit of music towards the very end of the evening. But there were masses of people there, whole family groups; so a lovely atmosphere.

10th August
We tidied out the shed this morning, not a very nice job, but it’s much more organised now and there’s far more available space; so it was worth doing.
This afternoon we took the dogs for a walk to the river, which is nearly dried up now. Looby went straight into the water to cool down but Lili has reverted to her scared of water phase.

11th August
We went into Fundao to look at livestock – we’re thinking of buying some Guinea Fowl. Fundao was absolutely heaving; the roads were gridlocked, there was no parking available even the underground car park was full and so many people. The reason for this is because the younger generations, that left Portugal for jobs abroad, mainly France, all flock back to Portugal to visit their families in August. So this is why all the festas and other activities happen in August.
We didn’t buy any livestock; by the time we had parked (illegally) there was only one stall still selling poultry, and they had no guinea fowl. But we did get a ‘paddle’ thing for putting/taking pizzas in/out of oven, so it was a worthwhile trip.
Tonight we had our first pizzas cooked in the bread oven – they were jolly good! The left over dough I shaped into a loaf and we cooked it in the residue heat for 2 hours – it was cooked but looks rather insipid, but hey it was our first trial, we will get better.



12th August
Ooh I’m a little bit cross/disappointed this morning. I was trawling through facebook and there’s a photo of a piece of work by one of my favourite artists, NeSpoon; she has been at a festival just up the road and some of her work is in Fundao where I was yesterday!!!!!!! last week!!!! I wish I’d known, pooh, pooh, pooh!
Her work is absolutely fabulous, she takes her inspiration from doilies, she does street art, a lot of graffiti, it’s beautiful ... she has installations on beaches, HUGE doilies attached to driftwood, gorgeous. And she was here, just up the road, at a festival
I picked and processed three buckets of tomatoes; 25lbs was made into tomato sauce (that’s what the recipe calls it, I say it’s tomato pulp with a little flavouring – there’s no onions, garlic or herbs in it as they would make it unsafe to store), 25lbs filled three, quart size, Kilner jars (so 25 lbs results in only 6 pints of sauce!). A by-product of the tomato sauce was 4½L tomato juice, and the rest of the tomatoes are drying in the sun.
I’ll probably have to do exactly the same tomorrow and the next day, and ... !
Brett tidied his tools, in the kitchen, and managed to condense three lots of shelf units (four shelves each) down to one set of shelves – the rest have gone over to the shed we cleared yesterday.

13th August
Yep, picked another three buckets of tomatoes and bottled more ‘sauce’ today. And there’s still more tomatoes coming; however the vegetable garden is starting to look quite sorry for itself now, most of the produce is over and harvested/about to be harvested.


14th August
I was up and out early today; to go to a market in Spain (Valverde) with Pam and Lola. We bought some fabulous material, huge pieces for only 5€ each, Pam bought four dresses (they were very cheap). It’s far more ‘bustley’ in Spain than in Portugal.
Pam had invited Lou for ‘afternoon tea’ at 3.00p.m., we were invited too; so I went straight there with Pam from the market – of course it turned into a social with 16+ people, we left at 9.30, others left at midnight!!!
As we drove along the track through our quinta Brett saw the first ever fox we’ve seen on our quinta (we knew they were about), he sped up, as the birds were not shut away – fortunately they were OK, but if we’d been ten minutes later ...

15th August
We went into CB to order the plasterboard; it was another bank holiday, so of course the shop we wanted to go to was closed! But we managed to order some anyway (phew!), it’ll be delivered on Tuesday. We asked for delivery quotes at two stores; Maxmat’s was 75€, Bricomarche’s was 1€ per kilometre – we went with Bricomarche as it was practically half the price

16th August
I made some more preserved lemons; they are a wonderful addition to meals (as long as the salt is rinsed out!).
Vince brought over some plasterboard which he had left over; so we were able to start the kitchen ... today we boarded under the sleep platform, over half the ceiling, and two walls ... then we went and fetched the ‘larder cupboard’ from the shed. I cleaned it and Briwaxed it, then we put it in situ (looking good!),

tomorrow we will move the large glazed cupboard over too – and in a couple of days the welsh dresser will be put in place and then we will really start feeling at home.

17th August
Happy Birthday Henry XXX
I can’t believe it ,,, the bloody hunting season started this morning!!!! We had meant to go to the Hunting & Fishing Lodge to get our land deregistered and some ‘no hunting’ signs put up, but we didn’t get round to it – hopefully we’ll get there this week, I can’t put up with being shot at (well that’s what it feels like when the lead shots are rattling down our roof at 7.00 a.m.) every Sunday for the next six months.
We had a very busy, exhausting day; shifting and cleaning furniture, putting up more plasterboard, cleaning stuff off the plastic shelves and rearranging the kitchen, we even managed to get the dresser base in.
By 7.00 we were shattered and ready for a well deserved beer, sit down and relax.

18th August
I was really knackered after yesterday, so I just pottered around rearranging stuff in the kitchen cupboards.
Tomorrow we’re having a rather big delivery of plasterboard (40 sheets); the lorry will only be able to bring it as far as the village, so we will have to ferry it home in small batches. Brett made a support for the back of the truck; higher than the wheel arches and coming out over the tailgate – we think three or four trips should be enough.
We saw two whirlwinds today, right up close, coming across the quinta next door; you hear them first, as they start to build up, the trees dispersed them both. Unfortunately there’s never enough time to take a photo, but it’s really quite awesome.

19th August
Brett finished boarding the ceiling below the sleep platform; we now have two ‘slashes’ of down-lighters, lighting up the stove and the larder cupboard (we thought about where the furniture was going when the electrics went in).
Hoorah, the man delivering the plasterboard came; OK we waited in the village for an hour and a half before he turned up, as we had had a phone call and were told he would be at the Junta between 5.00 – 5.30, so we arrived at 5.00, he arrived at 6.30!!! But, Hooray Hoorah, he arrived in a transit van, which meant he could drive all the way to our quinta AND, as unloading the plasterboard was a two person job, I was superfluous (yay!).

20th August
Brett boarded the ceiling above the dresser; it’s a job he’s been dreading as the beams are so hard that screwing into them has proved to be very difficult, even with pre-drilling, but today’s work went very smoothly ... and now my dresser shelves are in and on their base but I can’t load the shelves yet as we’re going to do a bit of modification first.
When we bought the dresser, twenty odd years ago, it came from a stately home, Staverton Hall, where they obviously had very high ceilings. We were living in a Victorian House with seven foot ceilings; so we asked for the shelves to be made shorter (thinking the man would do it properly, huh!), he just sawed 6” off the sides of the shelves which makes the bottom shelf only 6” from the base while the space between the other shelves is 12” – it has always grated on me!!! So we’re going to raise the bottom shelf ... by adding 6” to the side of the shelves! The piece has been modified and repaired a lot during its lifetime so it shouldn’t look untoward.
The kitchen is starting to feel, and look, like our home.
We have had no internet for a couple of days, which makes it hard to keep in touch with family and friends. I had to type an email to our estate agents on the Kindle this morning – hopefully we have tenants for the cottage, at last (now all we need is to sell the camper!).

21st August
An extremely physical day today; we boarded half the kitchen ceiling using a very high scaffold tower. I had to support the boards (often using my head as my arms were aching so much!) whilst Brett drilled and screwed. We were shattered by the end of the day, didn’t feel like cooking, but couldn’t be bothered to go out for a meal either ... oh for a ‘take away’.
Tonight we were watching a film that had a car chase in it (American Police cars), lots of sirens making lots of noise ... suddenly Lili starts howling, just like a wolf; it was hilarious, she didn’t seem to be distressed she was just joining in!

22nd August
Brett carried on with boarding; he was in the sleep platform and didn’t need my help.
I picked some buckets of tomatoes (made into sauce), aubergines, melons and the figs are ripe so I’m sun drying a load of those too.
Chris & Di are back from the coast; so we went to the bar this evening – we made sure we were back in time to put the animals away! Chris & Di were away for three weeks and I have to say we started to feel rather nostalgic for our camper van (it still hasn’t sold); so now we’re thinking if it hasn’t sold in a few months time perhaps we could get it back ...

23rd August
Brett finished a small amount of plasterboarding on the ceiling and then took down the scaffold tower, we can’t do the other side of the ceiling until we’ve concreted the floor (there’s a step in it).
I carried on processing tomatoes ....
We took the afternoon off; had a little siesta, Brett surfed the net and while he was on took a look at the Campervan Dealer, where our van is, and saw a SALE AGREED banner across our van. I phoned the company to check, and yes, a deposit has been paid and they’re waiting for full payment then we get our money!!!!!!!!!!! Bloody typical though, we had spent the morning discussing ways we could use it (trips to the coast, visit family in UK, Brett wants to go to Scotland and Ireland, lots of exciting plans) and Brett was looking at vans we could upgrade to (he would like a fixed bed).
The Muscovy duck has stated laying eggs; she must be sending out pheromones as the geese were trying to mate with her this morning and now she doesn’t seem to be able to walk. Hopefully nothing is broken and she’s just got a sprain or pulled a muscle; poor thing is looking very feeble.

24th August
Mrs Muscovy is still alive, but not moving around much.





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