Sunday, 28 September 2014


25th August
Mrs Duck is moving around a bit better today, she still has a problem with one of her legs (we can’t see/feel anything) and moves about by flapping her wings.
Went into CB; mainly to buy food (we spent nearly 100 Euros in Lidl!) and to collect the cement mixer from Mark’s.
While we were in Bricomarche I looked at their new range of paints and found a couple of lovely greens and a mauve/purple for painting the kitchen furniture (Ikea chairs, which are a horrid pale beech colour, and the sink unit we’re going to build from one of the cupboards we found by the skip), so I came home happy! And Brett was happy as he managed to buy plasterboard screws!

26th August
Brett plaster-boarded the second half of the sleep platform ceiling. It’s really hot up there and when you’re being physical it’s even worse.
I posted a question on the ‘Life in Portugal’ site re the storing of sundried tomatoes and figs,

I never get tired of these photos!

as everything I’ve read on the net says refrigerate/freeze/do not store in oil (or you risk Botulism)/danger, danger, danger/all scaremonger stuff. I wanted to know how real people did it and it seems most of them seem to ignore all the Botulism risks and store in jars/in oil – like people used to do before everyone had a refrigerator! Though I did have response from a few idiots, who obviously didn’t read the post (which said I couldn’t refrigerate/freeze my produce), suggesting I refrigerate/freeze my produce! Anyway my dried figs are now sitting merrily on the shelf in jars (like everyone else’s).
A small selection of my preserves (I need somewhere to store them properly).

27th August
Brett continued the pasterboarding (kitchen wall today); he’s looking forward to plastering it all, that’s when it will start to look really good, but he can’t start until it gets cooler and wetter (? end of next month).
I was back to processing produce I picked up three buckets of windfall apples (for juicing, jelly and sauce), two buckets of tomatoes (sundrying and sauce), masses of aubergines (which will go into everyday meals), plums, melon, strawberries and grapes (made a fabulous fruit salad).

28th August
Brett and I took a trip to Valverde; he wasn’t that impressed by the market, but we had a nice time sitting outside a bar, drinking beer, eating tapas and people-watching.
We took the rest of the day off, but I still managed to get a little apple processing into the day!

29th August
Congratulations to P&M on the birth of their first grandchild!
When we first concreted the floor of, what is now, our kitchen it was going to be my studio, so there was no problem in having a step in the middle of the floor (because the original floor was rather sloped); it was a big step 5’ x 16’, across the width of the room. But obviously, as it’s going to be our kitchen, the step had to go; Brett filled it in today, so the dogs had to be kept out of the kitchen – they didn’t like that, they tried every which way to get back in there!
I bottled tomatoes, apple jelly and apple sauce.
Chris & Di invited us for dinner, then we all went round to help Mark ‘wet the baby’s head’, we didn’t get home until nearly 1.00 a.m.

30th August
Hopefully our new tenants move in today.
The camper van is no longer on the camper van site, but we haven’t had any money paid in either!
When we were looking at the bank statement, to see if the van money had been paid in, we noticed a payment from Clee Thompkinson (at the end of May, three months ago) we have worked out that it’s the money we were claiming from our last tenant’s bond – they hadn’t even bothered to tell us that we had won our case!
Haha, we have been so used to living with a step in the kitchen floor that we keep stepping up/down as we walk over the area where it used to be, our brains do it automatically – we look ridiculous, high-stepping up an imaginary step/ankles jarring as we step down an imaginary step (you have to be here!).
We didn’t do much today!!!

31st August
36 degrees in the shade, it’s hot!
Another lazy day; watered the garden and picked some tomatoes.
Mrs Muscovy is fully recovered; her face is nice and red (she went very pale), but she’s stopped laying eggs. She’s very wary of the geese, understandably; so we’ve kept up the netting we put round the Muscovy shed when she first arrived, she can get through it but the geese can’t.

1st September
Back to work; plasterboarding the other half of the kitchen ceiling.
We processed a 50L tub of apples & pears into 5L of cider/perry.

2nd September
I don’t know how our friends and neighbours take the air temperature; I’m recording 36 degrees today, they’re saying 41 and 46 degrees in the shade. Whatever it is, it feels bloody hot!!! Apparently yesterday was the hottest day of the year – we know it was hot as one of our hens died; today we gave them a wallow under the trees.
Brett finished the kitchen ceiling, so no more scaffold tower for a while.
Oh dear Gary isn’t happy with us; he wants Brett to help him with a building project, Brett didn’t actually agree to this work at any point (although he didn’t actually say no either), unfortunately he wants it done NOW. Brett is far too busy with our building work; he can’t afford to give time to Gary. So now Gary is sending Brett emails saying he feels ‘let down’. But at least our ceiling is looking good!
I put the digital thermometer outside, in the shade, on the decking; it agreed with the max/min thermometer today was 38.5 – I wonder what other people made it?

3rd September
Today started out positively cold; at 7.30 a.m. it was a mere 18C, I had goose bumps!
Somebody had an early deliver this morning, and they obviously weren’t awake or hadn’t opened their gate; there was someone leaning on their horn for over half an hour ... it was driving the dogs mad, and in its turn me, as every time he hooted Lili barked, in her sharp, shrill bark voice (it’s not a nice noise!) – whilst Brett pretended to be asleep!
I phoned the campervan salesman, he says it’s all in hand and that he’s just doing the paperwork then he’ll transfer our money. AND we’ve had the first month’s rent from our tenants – not much left once the estate agent’s fee has been taken out, plus VAT!

4th September
Happy Birthday Sarah!!!
Everyday the house is getting more and more house like and less like a shed! The kitchen window now has a sill, it looks so much cleaner (probably because I gave it a good scrubbing with vinegar).

5th September
Still plasterboarding the kitchen; it’s taking longer because Brett has to disconnect plug sockets, lights etc as he goes round the room, and then has to reconnect them through the plasterboard. He’s getting very excited about plastering, that’s when it will really start to look like a house. Initially we’re going to paint all the walls white; we’ll introduce colour by painting some of the furniture (chairs, sink unit, cupboards either side of the cooker etc).

6th September
Still no campervan money!!!!
Most of the kitchen is plasterboarded now; so we put back lights and coat rack and did a whole load of tidying up ... even the decking.
Yay, it started raining this afternoon; we didn’t have to water! We’ve lost lots of interest in the garden lately as it’s more or less over; there’s still tomatoes coming, the winter squash have been harvested and butternut squash are ready to pick.
Now that the rains have come we need to clear the garden and rotovate ready to put our winter crops in; hopefully I’ll get enthusiastic again when stuff starts growing.

7th September
It rained heavily overnight.
A Sunday with no sight (nor sound) of hunters, maybe the rain put them off?
Mark came around to borrow the grape crushing machine; he’s picked about 100K of grapes – our neighbour says grape picking starts in a couple of weeks time, so we’re going to wait to do ours ... we’re too busy to wine make atm anyway.

8th September
Brett continued plasterboarding the kitchen, until he ran out of adhesive, and I did some window dressing; I made cushion covers, with some of the material Sarah gave me, for the sofa in front of the range,
and I painted the tin cans the solar lights are in (sad aren’t I?), I’m back in love with the decking now it’s been tidied.

9th September
It’s our anniversary; we’ve spent a whole year (nonstop) living on out quinta. Although we bought two and a half years ago we kept having to travel back to UK; we stayed for five and a half months, then went back to collect our furniture and stayed for seven months, came back for a few months, then had to return when I got bloody Bell’s palsy. But now we’ve managed a whole year, so we’ve seen all the seasons.
Hoorah, our campervan money was paid into our account today ... and we got £500 more than he told me on the phone (though what he told me on the phone was £500 less than we were expecting).
Couldn’t get the plasterboard adhesive (we’ve ordered it) so today was a ‘snagging’ day. We made and fitted a mosquito curtain for the kitchen window, which we can open now; only problem is there’s no mechanism for keeping it open, so it just swings shut! Re-hung the mosquito net for our bed, it’s no longer held up with drawing pins which fall out as you climb in and out of bed. Lots of those little jobs that you mean to do but never quite get round to.

10th September
We have guests for dinner tomorrow, so I did some cooking. Brett started plasterboarding the ceiling in the living room.
This afternoon we were treated to a fabulous aerobatic display by a flock of Red-rumped Swallows. I stood on the lower deck and they were all around me, one came within a foot of my face; it was awesome.

11th September
Happy Birthday Gill!!! XXX
A few days ago the dogs found a kitten in the vegetable garden (it wasn’t really lost it came from the quinta next door), I brought it home but Brett made me take it back to the vegetable garden. When we spoke to our neighbour he said his cat had had four kittens and did we want one (I said ‘yes’, Brett said ‘No’!)?
Tonight, while we were having dinner out on the decking, with Alex & Karina, Lili started making a fuss under the decking and there were .... TWO kittens there!!!! Really cute, one all white (Daisy) and the other one (Connie) white with ginger rings around its tail. Although they hissed a lot, and all their fur was standing on end, we managed to pick them up and when they were on the ground they were flirting with the dogs (I think it was the dogs that attracted them to the house).
It was lovely to have a ‘catch up’ with Karina & Alex.

12th September
The kittens were still on the decking this morning – Brett took them back to the vegetable garden L.
Brett continued with the living room ceiling while I made more cushions and cooked for the guests we’re having tomorrow

13th September
The kittens didn’t come back over night!
Nicky & Rich came to lunch. We all sat out on the decking (including their two dogs), except Lili who decided to be shy and nervous; she stayed inside with her tail between her legs – silly mutt.

14th September
Sunday ... but no sound of shooting – hoorah!
Brett continued plasterboarding, whilst I made wire cobwebs!

Tonight’s meal was completely raised ‘on quinta’!

15th September
So we went into Fundao, to the market to buy some Guinea Fowl and some vegetable plugs but ... there was no market! It was another public holiday (Fundao Day)!
The rains have started in earnest, it was very wet in Fundao and we have stopped watering the garden.

16th September
Happy Birthday Laura XXX.
Marc & Mieke came to lunch; the weather wasn’t nice so we stayed in the kitchen with the door shut – we haven’t resorted to lighting the stove yet, but we are talking about it fondly!
We were supposed to be visiting Andrew on his quinta this evening but ‘rain stopped play’.

17th September
Happy Birthday Lily (niece not dog!) XXX.
It rained for much of the night. It wasn’t a nice night to be sleeping in a tent like Clare and Andy (and their two young children); so tomorrow we are going to help them lay a floor in their shed so that they can, more comfortably, live in the shed for the winter, while they build their house.
Brett finished boarding the living room ceiling; it makes quite a difference to the sound of the rain hitting the roof.
I had a cooking day; soup, to take for lunch tomorrow, and Alice B Toklas’s Apple Chutney, which is a family favourite. I was lucky as I found the recipe on a scrap of paper, tucked inside one of my old preserve books; I did look for the recipe on line but the best I could get was the ingredients without amounts (which wasn’t much use) so I’m including the recipe here:

Alice B Toklas’s Apple Chutney
3 dozen apples (peeled and cored)
3lbs onions
3lbs brown sugar (dark muscavado, if you can get it)
½lb sultanas
2ozs mustard seeds
½ oz chillies
¼oz salt
2 quarts vinegar (malt, if available)
1oz ground ginger
Chop up apples and onions (I use a food processor!). Put everything into a preserving pan and simmer for several hours until thick and dark (up to eight hours if you’re lucky and have a Rayburn/Aga and it goes a lovely dark caramelised brown colour); this stuff keeps for years, and improves with age – I have just finished a 1997 jar!

All this rain means that the solar isn’t getting fully charged so we’ve turned off our ‘beer’ fridge; a sure sign that winter is on its way.
Annika (the lady that Brett did some work for in the summer) is over for a week and this evening she treated us (us and Chris & Di and three friends who are over with her) to a meal in Penamacor. When we parked we passed J&J’s, Marc& Mieke’s, Vince& Lola’s and Nick’s cars – they were all in the restaurant having a meal too. We went to The Cave, a newly opened establishment which was teeming with people, although they didn’t have a vegetarian option they cooked omelettes and prepared salads for the vegetarians amongst our group. We ended the evening in the village bar with Chris & Di and didn’t get to bed until after 1.00 a.m.

18th September
... We had to get up at the crack of dawn, to do the animals, after only five hours sleep!!! Then off to meet Andy, at 8.30 in Penamacor, to show us the way to their quinta. Our fabulous, fantastic friends, Chris and Di, turned up to help with the floor and it was all done by 3.00p.m. (we were so lucky with the weather); then we had lunch (Brett was starving). Then we (us and C&D) went to the village bar – we deserved it!
Unfortunately we missed out on a night of revelry; we were invited out to The Cave (again), with  J&J, Marc& Mieke, Vince& Lola and P& M to ‘wet the baby’s head’ (P&M’s granddaughter) and welcome Pam back home, after a month in the UK. But we were too tired, after little sleep and a hard day’s labour (Brett not me, I just got a bit of water, made drinks and babysat!), and opted to go to bed early.

19th September
We found some Chicken of the Wood fungus growing on Eucalyptus stumps, which we ate for dinner. Chris & Di (vegetarians) ate with us and Chris said it really did taste just like chicken (I think if he hadn’t seen me prepare the meal he would have thought I was trying to make him eat meat!).
There are lots of fungi that I can't identify with enough confidence to eat cropping up all over the quinta.
BIG Puffball, which I think is edible ...

... but we didn't risk it!

Some kind of Boletus, nearly 8" across.
Mr Louis is coming in the morning to show us how to make wine (his idea!), so we picked all our black grapes, only three barrels this year it’s not a good year for grapes. We had three kittens helping us pick the grapes! The third kitten is much smaller than the other two, dark ginger tai, with a bit of ginger on its head and very persistent, it purrs like mad when it’s picked up.
And this evening we had (the first two) kittens back, on the decking/in the house, they were being very pushy, when we put them outside (after one pooed in the corner!), they meowed and clawed at the door!

20th September
The kittens spent the night on the decking but, once we were up, they tried desperately to get into the house ... we took them back to the other sheds, where the third kitten was waiting!
They helped us to make the wine with Mr Louis, who insisted there must be more grapes and went off with a couple of buckets to pick them – he didn’t get many more! He made the wine exactly the same way as we have made it for the last two years but ... he says we take the fluid off the solids after four days, we left it until the rapid fermentation had ceased (about ten days); so we’re hoping for a more palatable brew this year.
Brett boarded most of the inside of our cupboard bed and now I have to design and make a shade for the light in there.
We were going to go to Alpedrinha festa this evening (the one where the sheep are brought down off the mountain) but it rained and rained and rained, so we gave it a miss, we might go tomorrow morning instead.

21st September
Alpedrinha festa was good, I think it’s the best festa around here; we saw the sheep and goats being herded down from the mountain, ate some food (the villagers sell food, drinks, crafts etc from their front rooms/garages) and I bought a bell (one of the ones that the sheep wear).
On our way home we called in on Jeanette; she has a beautiful place with fabulous furniture and accessories (a beautiful Moroccan chandelier she bought from the shop in Monsanto where I bought my lamp, I’m in lust; oh yes ... and a gorgeous sky blue Esse stove in her kitchen). Ha, I thought I made a lot of preserves; my goodness she is the queen of preserve... I was so impressed with her set up; she has an outhouse, dedicated to her preserves, which is lined with shelves that are bursting with every conceivable type of pickle, chutney, vinegar, dried fruits and vegetables (she has a proper, electric, dehydrator), fruit leather etc: she employs many more preserving techniques than me. And she makes wine ... 900L last year!!! She leaves it until it’s finished fermenting (like we have for the last two years) but she doesn’t press all the juice from the fruit – maybe that’s where we’re going wrong ... so many experts, so much conflicting information!!! Oh yes and she has her own aguadente!!!! She makes a liqueur from wild cherries (Ginga), sugar and aguadente, similar method to sloe gin; but she then bottles the cherries in a red wine syrup – she was in the middle of doing this when we arrived and she gave us a couple of jars of cherries (pre the addition of the syrup), she also gave us some of her red wine vinegar as it had a ‘mother’ in it (the cultivated culture for making vinegar rather than the wild bacteria that’s in the air).
We had a spectacular storm here tonight; there was lightening from every direction, we didn’t know which way to look and then it rained and rained.

22nd September
And it continued to rain, quite heavily, for most of the night; it was still raining when we got up ... and it was cold!!!! But it’s a novelty to wear jumpers, so I was quite happy; I had porridge for breakfast.
The internet doesn’t like inclement weather; rain, fog, or wind (in fact any excuse) and it goes down ... but we can’t complain as it’s free! Most of our friends pay 30€ a month (that’s 360€ a year). We can pick up emails on Brett’s Kindle, but there’s no way I’m typing replies on it; it’s been absolute torture the few times I have had to use it.
Haha, today I have made apple jelly, mint jelly and apple cheese (I prepared and cooked the apples on Saturday, it was nothing to do with seeing Jeanette’s preserves yesterday!); I have, though, also bottled the cherries in a red wine syrup and made a couple of bottles of red wine vinegar – and these were as a result of our visit yesterday. I wish I knew where my cooking thermometer is (it’s in one of the kitchen boxes in the shed), I have to test my jams and jellies by the ‘flaking off the spoon’ method ... I’m obviously not very good at it as I had to re-boil both the apple and the mint jellies today as neither set!
Brett boarded the ceiling of the cupboard above our bed – he says he’s getting bored with plasterboarding now! But it’s nearly finished, so soon he’s be on to plastering and he says he’s looking forward to that.
Nikki & Dave came to dinner, and Chris & Di and Chris’s son & girlfriend came for drinks and a jolly time was had by all. Another late night (it was after 1.00a.m. by the time we got to bed).

23rd September
Plasterboarding is nearly there; the ceilings are all finished and the walls to the ... kitchen, finished (except behind the stove, ... cupboard bed, finished, ... cupboard, above bed, finished.

24th September
We took 40L of red wine, off the grape pulp; it was easy, by pressing a gap in the pulp with a plastic sieved we were able to pump the fluid out with the little water pump that came with the camper van (it plugs into the vehicle’s cigarette lighter, but Brett rewired it to attach to a battery). We’re hoping that by not pressing every single drop of juice from it (‘what a waste’ my inner voice is saying!) we will get a more tasty (palatable?) wine.
Within five minutes of us being at the sheds we had three kittens playing around our feet! But that is nothing ... Chris & Di have been feeding a female cat and yesterday she arrived carrying a kitten in her mouth, by the end of the day they had five kittens under their house!
Plasterboarding behind the stove, done! It doesn’t look as if we live in a shed any more.
Oh I’m having so much fun ... once Brett has plastered the walls we’re going to paint them white (to start with); but I have been told it’s a ‘blank canvas’ for me to adorn! I have been experimenting with stencils; and I have found a brilliant use for those horrible disposable plastic plates that you never know quite what to do with, after a party – now I wish I could get larger ones.
I really like this simple stencil, which I'm going to use around the kitchen door frame.

25th September
We went into CB today to: check on Mark’s house (looks fine, no water penetration etc), order plasterboard and buy a few things ... I bought the paint for the kitchen chairs.
We were going to book Lili in at the vets to be sterilised, but it was shut (they have strange opening hours).  

26th September
Today we had two deliveries.
Last week we ordered some ‘no hunting on our quinta’ signs, from a Portuguese site; but when it came to paying we couldn’t as we no longer have a Portuguese bank (long boring story!). So we thought that was the end of that ... the company emailed us ‘did we still want the signs?’. End result, they put them in the post for us yesterday afternoon, we stopped the postman in his van in the village this morning. Brett says ‘have you got anything for me?’ (in Portuguese), he says ‘Brett Smith?’, he gives us package, we pay him – how efficient.
The plasterboard man said he would come at 3.00p.m. he would ring us when he got to the village and Brett would go and meet him (it’s difficult to find our quinta). At 3.10 Brett suddenly had three texts ... missed calls (we have a very crappy phone signal atm). He jumps into the truck to go and meet the man but ... he’s already here!!!! He’s picked up one of the villagers (who we have never seen before) and been brought to our quinta!!! How clever was that?
So I’m very impressed with Portuguese deliveries today.
Brett rotorvated a large patch of the vegetable garden ready for winter crops, I think I’ll go to Fundao on Monday to buy some plugs.
I filled up two 25L drums with windfall apples today; I’m going to make them into cider.

27th September
Until we get the posts to put them on we can’t put up our ‘no hunting’ signs; but, as it’s Sunday tomorrow, Brett screwed a couple onto the gate posts at our entrance and we will make sure the gates are locked tonight (but they can easily climb over the wall to get in).
So behind the stove, sink unit and cooker we are going to put white tiles, which I am going to decorate first with the glass paint that is baked in the oven. Today I cut up lots of paper into 6” squares and played around with various stencils and ideas.
I have designed a, very simple, olive twig stencil which I’m very pleased with.
We had another spectacular thunderstorm this afternoon ... so we settled down and watched a film.
And this evening we went into Penamacor and met up with a group of friends for a meal at The Cave.
It was foggy on the way home; it’s starting to feel autumnal.

We padlocked the gates before we went to bed; hopefully any hunters around in the morning will get the message.

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