We were hoping we would hear from the mill today, but we didn't.
It's Mark's birthday tomorrow so we're treating him to a meal at the 'skewer' restaurant (La Fontanha); Jay & Jacky are coming too, they're ALL staying overnight - goodness knows where!
I MUST make my Christmas cards, I just don't feel Christmasy yet.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Mark!
We went to the village fonte, for water, and the shop, for bread; but they didn't have any, so I had to make some. We met Judith, and her boyfriend who we'd never met before, coming out of the shop; they're a very nice couple, we must invite them round soon.
Brett dug his gatepost holes, while I cleaned and tidied the house.
Haha, we took the photo for our Christmas card, it made us chuckle if nobody else.
Mark (birthday boy), Jay & Jacky arrived at 6.00 and at 7.00 off we went to the skewer restaurant .... it was shut!!!!! Turns out today was a National Holiday (The Day of Immaculate Conception); so we carried on into Penamaco. The Christmas market was in full swing. The Christmas lights are amazing, mainly white lights, very pretty.
We ate in O Jardim restaurant; it was cheap and cheerful. When we came out the town was 'dead' everyone had disappeared - I think perhaps there was free wine up by the church where they were building (with tractors) the huge Christmas bonfire.
We didn't get to bed until gone one; J&J slept on the sleep platform, Mark slept in the kitchen on a camp bed and we had the dogs in with us.
We went to the village post office to post a letter to Joyce (I send her long missives at least once a month as she's not on the internet); there were two letters from Joyce, a thank you card from Lawrence for his birthday present and a letter from Penamacor post office saying we need to get a postbox or all our correspondence will be returned to sender or destroyed!!!!! Unfortunately we can't quite workout how to get said box and where to put it once we have it ........ fortunately we have Andrew who speaks Portuguese!
I made up a load of Christmas cards; I had to cut card to size, tea stain photos and cut to size, glue photo to card, write greetings (inside and out) and make envelopes to fit - it took me ages and I'll need to make more tomorrow; then I can write them.
I made more cards and wrote all the ones that need posting, hopefully I'll get to post them tomorrow.
Brett is well on the way to finishing the fencing 😀.
So off I drove to the post office and, for the second time (first time in September), I hit a rock along the track and burst the tyre (same bloody tyre)! I don't know why I'm doing it, I don't feel as if I'm driving too close to the edge of the track - Brett says it's a long vehicle and I'm correcting too soon after I go round a bend.
I 'got back on the horse' this afternoon and drove, very warily, to Penamacor to post my cards.
This evening we went to Vince & Lola's for dinner - I was the nominated driver (I don't usually drive in the dark), so it was quite an interesting evening for me hearing people's intimate secrets and lots of repetitions! We tried some of the oil that Lola made with our olives (in her own mill) - it's quite mellow. Driving home in the dark was a nightmare; I hadn't realised how bad my night vision is, I was driving at about 15mph (and even that felt too fast).
Today started off a lot better than yesterday; first thing there was a message from Andrew to say our oil was ready for collection. So off we went to the mill; we brought home 60L of
On our way back down the track we saw Mr Louis and gave him 5L of oil; he was very happy too.
As soon as we got home Brett lit the stove and I made bread; we sampled the oil for our lunch, dipping our fresh, warm, bread into it - it was much more peppery than Lola's but not as strong as our oil from two years ago.
I salted another five pounds of black olives (Turkish/Greek style, wrinkled olives).
Brett has finished fencing for the time being and, as long as the gates to the lower paddock and along the track are shut, we can let the dogs out and not have to keep a constant eye on them, they can't go off quinta.
This evening we went to Wendy's birthday party in Monsanto - it was a good evening, live music and food provided.
On the way home we scrumped some lemons😀!
Dull this morning, raining this afternoon; if this dull weather persists we're going to have to start rationing solar. Actually we've started, we're not using lights in the daytime and we're going to turn the fridge off overnight.
Another low key hunting day for us, although we could hear gunfire in the distance.
Looby can't understand that she's allowed out whenever she wants, she's being really clingy!
Today I picked the beetroot that's been in the ground since early spring but only started to grow in September (when the rains came); it's rather woody but I'm hoping I can make chutney with it, we ate the leaves, steamed in olive oil, with our dinner - delicious!
It rained most of the night and was still raining when we got up; so we decided to go into CB to do our Christmas shopping and I wanted to buy some boots as the ones that I bought when I was at uni are split and leaking!
Well I came back with nothing. We went into several shoe shops, I even tried some boots on, at Brett's insistance, and came out feeling like one of Cinderella's sisters 😢 - I take a size 7 shoe, that's 41 European size (I know as the two sizes are printed on the tongue of my walking boots) but ..... the shops only stock women's boots up to size 40!!!!! I even contemplated buying men's boots but there was nothing suitable. I don't know what to do, I need boots.
I put the Christmas ham in brine this afternoon, unfortunately it'll only get 10 days curing (should have been 13-14 for the weight), I'm sure it will be fine.
It rained on and off most of the day, the solar is very low; we turned off the fridge and spent the evening with one light - no music, no DVDs, nothing plugged in, the evening went very slowly. We did have some excitement when the stove decided to billow clouds of acrid smoke into the house and Brett had to try to remove a sooty blockage from the flue (he'll sweep the chimney tomorrow when the fire is out).
It was a bit brighter today, so we should have got some charge.
Brett hasn't got his ladders here (they're at Annika's) so he had to climb onto the bread oven, up onto the back of the roof, then over the ridge to the front of the house, to access the chimney, so that he could brush it and yes, there was a big blockage, it's drawing fine now.
I had a preserving day ...
I made the beetroot into chutney;
I took the 'mother' from the red wine vinegar and put it into 5L of 2013's white wine, which is far too dry for me, to make my own white wine vinegar (though it's looking a bit pink atm!).
And I put some of our dried figs (chopped up) and honey into some of my cider vinegar to make Honeyed Fig Vinegar (Nigella Lawson).
Haha, the dogs are so used to me checking on them every few minutes, when they're outside, that now they are worried because I'm not doing it and keep coming into the house to check on me!
Brett rotorvated the front pasture, it looks good.
I started the Christmas food preparation; I made a jar of vegetarian tapenade.
Tomorrow Brett is working 😞; at least it's the last two days this year!
I had a long list of chores which started out well; I cut out and painted a couple of animal shaped blackboards, lit the fire, put the water on for the washing, made a friendship cake, had lunch and ..... suddenly my back was in agony.
I managed to do most of the washing and clean the floor but, by the time Brett came home from work, I could hardly move; I have to get better as I'm going shopping with Pam tomorrow - I took Ibuprofen.
I was determined to go shopping despite my uncomfortable back; so I dosed myself up on Ibuprofen and it worked I managed to spend lots of money!
Pam is good at helping me find stuff to buy (perhaps this is why Brett discourages me from going shopping with her!).
I bought a pair of boots and ordered another pair that weren't in my size in the shop - from two different shops, they just weren't fashionable shops! I bought a handbag and a jumper .... all for me!!!! I also bought Christmas presents for Brett and other people.
Lots of Christmas preparation today; I made pumpkin soup and chicken liver pate, painted blackboards,
'Cat' blackboard for us .......
Cockerel, Pam's Christmas present
Duck, and I've made a sheep too, keeping as stock - for when I get coerced into doing a craft market!
Brett strimmered around the vegetable garden, the weeds have grown so well (much better than the vegetables😞).
This evening was our language class Christmas meal - it was very jolly. We gave Pedro one of our Christmas cards and he wouldn't believe that the photo was of us, it was very funny (you had to be there!).
Lou brought a Christmas tree over for P&M yesterday, but as they already had one, they gave it to us; I spent the morning decorating it.
We've been discussing the vegetable garden, we're always enthusiastic at the start of the season; we have decided we need a mini cultivator, to weed between rows, and a seed drill*, to make planting easier - we'll go looking in CB tomorrow, I'm hoping the boots I ordered will be in.
* The experimental field where we broadcast sowed broad beans and two lots of peas (not peas and chick peas as previously thought!) is not as successful as anticipated; there are patches of very overcrowded vegetable plants along with areas of not vegetable plants, just weeds (our broadcasting wasn't terribly uniform!), it's also impossible to get in and weed around the vegetables. We need the plants to be more evenly spaced. Now I KNOW that if hand sowing vast areas is my only option it's not going to get done! Hence the decision to look at seed drills.
And the days are getting longer ...
We came home without my boots or a seed drill, but we do have a lovely little cultivator (250€)!
We saw the Nada Space Station pass over this evening.
Lola, Leonie and Lola's dad came to pick olives, while we prepared some chickens for the freezer.
Then this afternoon we tidied up the vegetable garden, removing tomato cages and bean/pea supports (a horrible job as the vines are all hard and mouldy and have to be unwound from the sticks) and winding up the irrigation. Brett did lots of strimming and I weeded my carrot seedlings - it's looking better already.
Happy Birthday Me ......
Brett bought me proper (expensive) fabric scissors; I've never owned proper ones before - I will not use them for anything else! He also bought me a posh, leather, cover for my tablet; but it's too big and needs exchanging next time we go into CB.
We went to Spain for lunch, we had remembered about the hour difference so that was fine .... we'd forgotten all the shops closed between 2 - 5 (for siesta). We had a 'tapas' lunch which was good, then we went to buy all the things we can't get in Portugal (sherry, anchovies, different charcuterie etc) - the bloody shops were shut, even the supermarket! We bought some stuff in Penamacor, on the way home; including vodka and Werther's originals - to make Toffee Vodka; put everything into a bigger container, with lid, shake several times daily until sweets have dissolved, voila Toffee Vodka, rebottle and label.
This evening we had a nice meal (giant prawns), fizzy wine and watched 'Water World' - well it was my birthday!
I think we're doing something every day now, except Boxing day, until 2nd January. Today we were invited to M&M's for lunch, along with K&A, Big Alex and K&A's Finnish workaways; I made the starter, canapes (chicken liver pate, tapenade, sweet chilli cream cheese), Mieke cooked Coq au vin, mashed potatoes and vegetables, Karina made a chocolate cake for pudding ... we were well stuffed! It was a good afternoon; it always is with this group of people. The only problem is I start to get restless around 3.30 (as it starts to get dark) worrying about the animals and preditors; they were fine!
When we got home I had to cook the ham for tomorrow (4 hours boiling, 1 hour baking),
MERRY CHRISTMAS .....
My presents to Brett were a hit (all of them) - a head torch (for when solar is low and walking dogs at night), fisherman's hat (his old one needs throwing away), a training diary (tradition) and old fashioned marshmallows (his favourite sweets, kindly donated by C&D).
My presents from Brett were a hit because I bought them!!!!! A handbag and ankle boots (both absolutely necessary).
We had a lovely, lovely family Christmas round at P&M's; there were eleven of us for Christmas lunch - P&M, Brett & I, Lou, Naomi, Will & Ottie, Rowan, Nick and Leon.
We had cocktails, sang Christmas songs, played a hilarious game with dice and presents, ate, drank and, when it got dark, sat outside around a roaring fire ..... Oh yes, and then J&J arrived.
Boxing day; our one day off from socialising until after the New Year, so what do we do? ..... we garden!!!
I weeded carrots, beetroot and rocket, I planted out some lettuce and escarole seedlings in a small bed that we cultivated with our fabulous new machine. Brett re-cultivated some of our vegetable garden (tractor) and fields ready for planting and to keep the weeds down. We're determined to have an atractive garden this year (if only because Joyce is coming to visit again in the spring).
This evening we watched 'Love Actually' for about the millionth time, a real 'feel good' movie.
Today we've been muck spreading; Brett cleaned out goats, chickens and geese putting the manure straight into the tractor trailer (the one pictured on the Christmas card!), I drove the tractor slowly around the lower pasture while he forked it out - we felt like real pioneer farmers!
I did lots of cooking too, as C&D came to dinner (chard and cheese quiche, potato wedges, garlic bread, coleslaw and trifle).
Bloody Looby ran off this evening; Brett was doing the goats, the dogs were with him and she disappeared, she was gone for nearly two hours - I blamed Brett, he's so complacent and laid back when he's looking after them (I'm the opposite, forever calling them to heel!), he blamed Looby! Fortunately she came back with C&D as they were walking up the track to come to dinner.
Dull, dreaery, drizzly and then lots of rain ... No solar charge today!
Mark had offered to take us out for a meal tonight; but, as the weather was so vile, we convinced him that we'd rather stay home and I'd cook a curry.
We're getting rather jaded by all the socialising; tomorrow is Karina's birthday (tapas party at their house), 30th we're off to Christine & Mark's (lunchtime drinks and nibbles), 31st, New Year's eve (Hub gathering at Gloria's, but we're thinking of staying home!) and 1st at P&M's (they're having a lunch time do) ........
Then 4th - 8th Brett is working for 5 days (to make up fo all the time off he's had over Christmas).
Mark brought a cake with him; the Portuguese version of a Christmas log - I'm sure it had grated carrot on it!!!!
Happy Birthday Karina xxx
Dull, dreary, drizzly morning ...... (so no fridge).
Oh dear it looks like our 'kitten' is on heat, male cats are turning up to serenade her! Nine weeks from today will be 2nd March; Di says she wants a kitten😀. Brett is threatening to put them in the freezer; he says it's the kindest way to put them to sleep - I trust he's kidding!
Mieke suggested that the food we bring, for the tapas party, be traditional to our country; in the UK it's traditional to eat left overs after Christmas - so I made bite sized pasties of ham & cheese
and guinea fowl & chorizo
We gave the Toffee Vodka to Karina, for a birthday present, but then proceeded to drink it, along with several bottles if wine ...... it was a good evening!
Dull, dull, dull, dull, dull .........
The fridge was still turned off overnight and wasn't turned back on today, so now we're worried about the chickens in the freezer.
Oooops, I had a hangover this morning and we were off socialising again - this time, lunchtime drinks and nibbles at Christine & Mark's (I didn't drink any alcohol!).
Wow, they have a proper house ...... flushing toilets (several!), a couple of showers (AND a bath!), electricity, heating, swimming pool, habitation licence - really posh!
This evening we sat in front of the stove, by candlelight, with Brett wearing his new head torch to read by; then we got bored and risked watching a film (the tv is only 30 watts), we didn't turn any lights on though.
Tomorrow evening there's a Hub 'do' at Gloria's bar, we don't really feel like going, we'll decide tomorrow.
Still dull, dreary, drizzly, still no solar charge, still no fridge .......
We used the generator to do the washing (Brett), run the fridge for a few hours and charge our devices. I cooked stuff from the fridge to stop it going off - pasties to take to Pam's tomorrow, soup for Sunday, ribs for tonight etc.
We made the decision not to go to the Hub's New Year party - you're expected to stay until gone midnight!!!!
We had another candle lit evening; it's very cosy in our kitchen with the stove lit too. We're so rock 'n roll; there we were at 10.00 p.m. Brett drinking a 'nice cup of tea' while I was having hot chocolate with squirty cream!!!! Needless to say we didn't stay up to see in the New Year; we did hear fireworks at midnight (didn't bother to get up to see them though!).
1st January 2016
HAPPY NEW YEAR/BOA ANO NOVO!
Bloody hell another rainy day, the solar is non existent, and it's going to continue for another week, and still no fridge.
P&M had a New Year's Day lunch party which was fun, not a boozy do, though there was mulled wine (which was good as it was chilly). Lots of people who came hadn't bothered to go out last night either, and most were in bed before midnight (so it wasn't only us).
We spoke to Tristan about the seed drill we are thinking of buying - he has the same one and says it's great.
Of course we had to leave while the party was going strong, as we had to put animals away, which was a shame (but probably a good idea as Lou had started to make cocktails!).
We had another night with just candlelight (no tv, music etc) Brett wore his head torch and read John Seymor - he's very enthusiastic about the garden atm.
Hoorah some sunshine at last; the fridge went on first thing - we've had over 4 days without the fridge (if we don't count the 3 hours on the generator on the 31st).
Today we went into CB; we needed to exchange some presents (Brett's fisherman's hat which was too big and my tablet cover again too big). We got 300€ out (to buy Mark's scaffold tower), filled the car with diesel (it's only 86 cents a litre, that's about 60 pence!!!!!), Brett bought some shoes, I bought some boots, we went ito the supermarket and bought stuff we can't get locally plus a whole smoked ham which was half price (32€) and ........ (how embarassing) our card was declined😞! How can this be, it's the beginning of the month; our money gets transferred into this account on the 1st of the month (only it didn't as it's been a bank holiday and now it's the weekend). So we had to use Mark's money (thank goodness we had it).
We're still rationing the solar (it takes several days to get full charge) so it was candles again this evening. Brett watched 'Dumb and Dumber 2'; I didn't, I just don't find that kind of humour funny, in fact I find it annoying! Unfortunately there wasn't much I could do without light, but I have found something positive about my tablet - having a virtual keyboard means it can be used in the dark!
I've been yearning for mince pies; they don't sell them in Portugal, so I decided to make my own (with a made up recipe). I chopped up some of our figs, added some sultanas and some port and left to soak overnight.
Back to dull, dreary, drizzly ........ (back to rationing solar).
Mince pies continued: I added half a jar of apple cheese (our own apples), brown sugar, toasted flaked almonds and mixed spices. I had pastry left over from the pasties on New Year's day; I cut out circles of pastry, added a spoon of filling, drew in the sides, pinching to seal, and made a kind of star shape, baked for 15 mins, and finally dusted with icing sugar - verdict ..... tasted like real mince pies!!!😀 I also made bread, focaccia and lemonade.
A&K, Big Alex and their Finnish workaways came for lunch - roasted pumpkin soup with focaccia, bread, meats and cheese, lemonade and mince pies, Karina also brought some honey, cinnamon and walnut pastries - it was a feast. Then we walked around the quinta in the drizzle admiring animals and vegetable garden (well it's potential).
A&K brought their hard-drive with them, so we have lots of new stuff for viewing.
And we couldn't view anything as the solar was so low; we turned off the fridge and sat in candlelight (again! It's beginning to lose it's novelty). The forecast is not looking good for the rest of the week 😞!.
Brett & Chris were supposed to be working at Annika's this week, but the forecast put pay to that; they'll reaccess the situation later in the week.
Hoorah, at least the money went into our bank account today - bloody banks, I bet it went out of the other account on the 1st.
I sorted my seeds and started my new gardening journal - I'm all enthused atm!
The boar has been digging up tree roots and is starting to disturb the fence posts (his digging covers the electric wire, so it stops working); Brett had to do an emergency deterrent today, fencing off his digging with two strands of electric wire, or we would have had a breakout! I had to keep the pigs away from Brett (they're very inquisitive) by shouting "pig, pig, pig, pig, pig ...." and throwing carrots and potatoes at them (to eat!).
As it was raining we put the generator on this afternoon to run the fridge and charge appliances and, rather than waste the surplus electricity being generated (I don't know if this is true but it was a good excuse!), we watched the first episode of one of the series that Alex gave us; 'The Hour', it looks addictive.
Heavy rain this evening, Gary's quinta is flooded, our wells are full up to ground level. Brett reckons this is the most rain we've had since we moved here ...... it's just like Wales, except there we had electricity!
Heavy rain first thing, but then the sun came out😀, and then it clouded over and rained again and so it continued all day, we did get some charge.
But it wasn't raining in the polytunnel, we had a good day in there; we tidied up and rotorvated the soil, all I need is compost and I can start sowing tomatoes, peppers, chili's etc.
I found a small amount of compost and sowed 75 capsicums (5 varieties), 45 chilis (3 varieties) 41 aubergine (3 varieties) and pots of borage, coriander and chives; so our vegetable plants are on their way.
This evening's meal was all grown on quinta; roast chicken, roasted acorn squash with sage, carrots (found growing in the polytunnel) and kale
Happy Birthday Andrew!
We went into Penamacor to apply for permission to build my studio; apparently there are new rules, all about underground water, and we have to go back on Friday when they have the up to date maps - so now we're worried!
Hoorah, my birthday parcel from Helen arrived ..... a medley of presents including Tangfastics (you can't get them here and they're my favourite) and a beautiful scarf (we saw it when we were together in H&M this summer); all lovely appropriate presents, thank you Helen x.
We found a seed drill on Ebay (for about 1/2 the Amazon price) and they agreed to ship it to Portugal! So we bought it £92 (including the postage of £17); we're so excited, our garden should look amazing this year!
And still it's miserable and raining .......
But we are still picking tomatoes!
Brett managed to do a bit of work in the garden with the tractor, between showers.
I hate the smell of a warm fridge!
Still raining, still no solar, still sitting in candlelight all evening.
Ok we need visitors from the UK asap, we're down to our last box of teabags😢.
We have had an 'interesting' day, well actually most of it has been bloody boring, just watching someone huff and puff over a computer screen. It took us 5 hours (that's FIVE HOURS) to get the planning permission for my studio; we arrived at 11.00, saw two different people, got sent away for an hour when they closed for lunch, and finally left at 4.00. But ..... we have the go ahead and we have just 4 months to build it, so by the beginning of May I will have a studio😀. We saw lots of interesting maps that would have affected us had our plot overlap their highlights (fortunately it didn't, but Gary's does and all our neighbours below us); maps of - underground waterways, areas of fire risk, agricultural resererve, ecological reserve. The water one explains why our front neighbour's vegetable garden is so lush.
I was in bed before 9.00; having no batteries means my Kindle and tablet have very little charge and I can't read by candlelight ..... bored! .... I didn't sleep, I was still awake at midnight.
A little bit of very watery sunshine first thing was soon replaced by rain.
I made some coconut chutney to take to Martin & Anne's Indian themed lunch party. It's usually made with fresh coconut but I had to use dessicated (rehydrated in warm water), not nearly as good, but still quite tasty.
Whole coconut grated (save milk)
Big handful of fresh mint, chopped finely
2 - 4 fresh red chilies, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
Juice of a lemon
1 tsp cummin seeds
1 tbsp sugar
Salt & pepper to taste
Mix everything in a large bowl, adding the saved coconut milk if too dry.
It was a lovely gathering and we were the first (reluctantly) to leave at 4.00; it was dark and wet when we got home so we were just in time to put the animals away.
So fed up with the rain and candle power now!
Still no sun .......
I had a crap night; I have earache and can't hear properly - woe is me! Fortunately I have some ear drops, left over from my last Bell's palsy episode (2 years ago), so we're treating it and I haven't had to go to a doctor.
Anyway I had big plans for today; as it was raining outside, I would work in the polytunnel. My plan was to plant 1/2 a sack of sprouting potatoes, build a bean support along the centre of the cultivated area and sow a load of early beans and mangetout. Yeh right ...... so I walk into the polytunnel with a heavy tub of potatoes, heading for the far side of the cultivated bit, and 5-6 metres in I realised I was sinking! It was like quick sand, it was over my boots, I couldn't lift my feet, I was stuck!!!! I did get out, after a lot of struggling, but I've ruined my brand new boots
All the food in the fridge is going off, we just can't keep it cool with a couple of hours on the generator; we're making meals with whatever needs using first (it's not tasty!) and of course soon the freezer will defrost (we have chickens in there). Unfortunately most if the people we know are on solar too and are in exactly the same predicament as us; there's no one nearby we can ask for help.
Oh no, David Bowie has died, that's sad .......
Hoorah, we had a few hours of sunshine today AND snow is forecast HERE next Monday!
We put our post box up, at the village end of the track; unfortunately the ground is very stoney/rocky (as it's where the cobbles start), we found the softest bit we could, but the post is not terribly secure.
The council man came to take a photo of the area where the studio will be built; so now it's official we can start building ........
At last we got some solar charge, we put the fridge on, we had cold drinks!
The down side of the improved weather is Brett having to go to work tomorrow; Annika gets him when the weather is fine, then when he's at home it's inclement so we can't get much work done here - seems back to front somehow!