Thursday, 4 February 2016


12th January
The sun came out today; not full sun, there were still clouds, but enough to give us some charge and allow us to keep the fridge plugged in ALL DAY! We also had a frost; typical as I have sown seeds in the polytunnel.
Brett went to work (at Annika's) and I had a busy day at home.
I posted my blog (5 weeks worth), did the washing (I used the generaror, there wasn't that much sun!), cleaned my boots (they now look distressed), hoovered (generator), tidied the house, wrote a long letter to Joyce (somehow I managed to lose the one I had been writing) and cooked ..... this is on top of all the daily chores*  that have to be done, even if we have a day off (though Brett does quite a few before he goes to work) ..... moving three stubborn goats (that want to stay by the oak tree and eat acorns), on your own, is quite a task!
* Daily/twice daily chores:
~ Let out/shut up poultry (ducks, geese, hens and chickens)
~ Feed hens and chickens
~ Feed pigs
~ Check pig perimeter fence
~ Feed dogs
~ Feed sheep and goats
~ Lead out/in goats
~ Feed cat
~ Clean solar panels
~ Clean out and light fire
~ Sweep and wash kitchen floor
These jobs get done at least once a day, no matter what; they are an integral part of our daily life.
As we had no perishable food in the house my lunch was 'interesting' - fried egg with tinned tomatoes (yum!); even vegetables go off in a warm fridge. Dinner was jacket potatoes - Brett is going shopping after work tomorrow.
We picked up our olive oil on 12th December, today we finished our first 5L of oil! I used quite a lot if it in the jars of olives I've salted, once the olives are eaten the oil can still be used, but it's still an awful lot of oil to get through in a month.

13th January
I'm feeling rather sad (and guilty) today; William said he'd been hoping for a suprise visit from me for his birthday, but it really, really is his turn to visit me!
Frosty and clearish this morning; hopefully we should get quite a bit of charge.
I started 'spring' cleaning today; not that you could only do this once a year, there's so much dust.
I also did some hand weeding; there's masses to do so that could be a full time job in itself. Once I can actually see the lines of vegetables I'll be able to use the rotorvator for this task; but for the moment it has to be done by hand.
Brett did some food shopping on the way home from work; he met the lady from the post office in the supermarket, she says she has a large parcel for us - it must be our seed drill, we'll go and pick it up in the morning if Brett doesn't go to work (rain is forecast tomorrow).
I had a lovely long chat with William, on Skype, this evening; the connection wasn't wonderful but it was lovely just hearing his voice (even though I couldn't hear what he was saying properly).

14th January
Yes, it's raining again .......
So much post for us (all at the post office not in our box!):
Our seed drill; it looks brilliant, we just want to get out and use it, but the ground is far too wet.
It hasn't got the handle on yet
Planning permission letter from the council; and it's got a mistake in it - it says we have ONE MONTH (actually it said 30 days) from the 12th January to complete the studio! So that's another trip to Penamacor to sort it out (we asked for 4 months).
Christmas and birthday cards (Will & Gill, Hen and Steph); thank you x.
A letter from Joyce.
There was not much work we could do today so after lunch we lit the fire and watched some 'Fargo' (Martin Freeman).
Oh no, now Alan Rickman has died. It's a bad week for 69 year old celebrities.

15th January
A brightish day .....
Brett went to work.
I hand weeded the leeks (well two rows so far, there's at least one more) with the 'help' of the cat.
Oh dear, the GNR were stopping cars this evening; our friend, who has a UK plated vehicle, was stopped and, as they have seen him driving around in it for more than 6 months, he's been told he has to matriculate it NOW. He can't drive it, sell it, or do anything with it until it's matriculated (they took his V5 document); and matriculation is expensive.

16th January
Brett was working today so Pam gave me a lift to class. We had our lesson sitting outside the cafe, in the sunshine (unfortunately it didn't make my learning any better!).
This afternoon I made a clementine cake, as Andrew is coming for afternoon tea tomorrow.
CLEMENTINE CAKE (Nigella Lawson)
6 clementines
9ozs ground almonds
8ozs sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
Boil the clementines in water for about 2 hours. Remove pips, then blitz to a pulp in food processor.
Add rest of ingredients to food processor and mix well.
Pour into, lined, 8x8" tin, cook in medium oven for 1 hour - you might need to cover with foil after 1/2 hour to stop top from burning.
This evening we were at P&M's for dinner along with Lou, Diane & Thomas. I made the starter (courgette fritters with spicy tomato sauce), Pam and Lou did the main course (roast chicken, roast potatoes, creamed kale and mashed pumpkin. Diane made pudding (panna cotta with pistachio brittle, which I have never had before and it is delicious). On our way home we saw two hares; one was on our quinta (it was big), we followed it all the way down the track to poultry island (where it turned right so we turned left, as it was panicking).

17th January
Brett started the footings for the studioπŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€.
I made more cakes (cream slices and 'mince pies') for 'afternoon tea'.
Cream slices

Clementine cake (left), mince pies (right)
The afternoon with Andrew went too quickly and we didn't even get to discuss seeds! He's very jealous of our seed drill.

18th January
We had a smallholding day today; this morning was chicken processing. Not one of our favourite jobs, but a necessary evil - we now have another nine frangos  in our freezer (12 total) so we need our solar to keep charging. They were big birds; several weighed over 10lbs and one weighed 11lbs.
And this afternoon we made a HUGE compost bin; our other bins are overflowing.

19th January
We went into Penamacor to get our planning permission amended; it was very easy and quick. The lady, in the planning office, just crossed out the 30, wrote 120, signed and date stamped the correction and handed our letter back to us - less than 5 minutes.
I was wearing layers (it was chilly); a poncho (black), two jumpers (one black, one grey), Ewa I Walla (we're talking designer fashion here!) calf length dress (admittedly with a bit of colour - coral, with a gathered patchwork underskirt, still shades of coral)  stripey leggings (grey and black), leg warmers (grey) and lace up, ankle boots (black leather). Brett says 'look there's a woman dressed like you' ...... Poncho (royal blue), jumper (?), tabbard/all-one-apron-thing, above knee length (checked, green and cream), slacks (dark), faux swede, mid calf boots (brown with fur cuff) - really? Is this what he sees when he looks at me?!!!!
Brett carried on digging the footings for the studio. I cooked; we have Vince & Lola coming tomorrow evening and tomorrow morning I'm going to my first ever book club at Christine's (we have to bring a plate of food for the lunch table). I made panna cotta (of course I did!) for tomorrow evening's pudding; vanilla flavoured, as I have no rose water, with peanut brittle, as I have no pistachios! For lunch I made some devilled eggs.
400 ml whipping cream
400ml milk
2.5ozs sugar
7 leaves of gelatine
1/2 tspn Vanilla essence
~Soak gelatine in water
~Heat milk and cream, with sugar and vanilla, until boiling
~Squeeze out gelatine and add to hot liquid, stir to dissolve
~Pour into serving bowl to set.
2ozs chopped peanuts
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp 400ml
~Line a baking tray with parchment
~Sprinkle with the peanuts
~Put sugar and water in a saucepan, over low heat, stir until sugar is dissolved
~Raise heat and boil, without stirring, until caramelized (golden brown)
~Pour over peanuts, leave to set
~When cold, blitz in a food processor
I kind of made the panna cotta recipe up (the recipe above has been ammended accordingly); the gelatine you can buy here is leaf gelatine, but I have no idea what strength (platinum, gold, silver) so for my 800ml of fluid I used one packet (five leaves), it set but not very solid (there's no way it could be turned out). So my last job this evening was dissolving the panna cotta and adding another two leaves, hopefully that will be perfect - it tastes like creamy cold custard!

20th January
A dull day ......
The panna cotta was just right this morning πŸ˜€.
Wendy gave me a lift to the book club meeting, at Christine's, as Brett wanted to get on with the footings.
There were eight of us at book club(me, Wendy, Anne, Christine, Dee & Craig and Janet & Clive) (Lola was supposed to come but she didn't get up in time!!!!). Our book is called "A man called Ove", we have five weeks to read it. We came home from Chris's laden down with magazines, chilies (for the seeds), grapefruit (Christine has a splendid orchard) and homemade preserves (I was very good I only took a small jar of tomatillo chutney, that Wendy says is so good she eats it with a spoon!).
Gary came round to tell me one of his dogs has had five puppies, he has nine dogs atm, and could I ask around to see if anyone wants one - I put a post up on the Penamacor Facebook site for him.
This afternoon I prepared the rest of this evening's meal; chicken cooked in sage, garlic and milk, roast potatoes and kale. Lola brought the starter; quiche Lorraine which we ate with the tomatillo chutney - very good!
Unfortunately we had no charge today so we had to spend the evening with candlelight - very romantic.

21st January
Dull, damp, drizzly, dismal😞.
I spent the whole night working out a recipe for tomatillo chutney!!!! I have a couple of jars of pickled tomatillo slices in the fridge that aren't being eaten ........
Tomatillo chutney
2 jars tomatillo slices
2 onions chopped and cooked in water
Good handful of figs, chopped
2ozs sultanas
1/4-1/2 pint vinegar
Sugar to taste (at least 1lb)
~Put everything in a saucepan, simmer for about an hour until thick and syrupy (I cooked it for 2 hours)
It looks good, I just have to wait for it to cool down before I can taste it.
Still no solar, so another boring evening. Brett says enjoy the rest while you can as, once the weather improves, we'll be busy all the time.

22nd January
Today was marking the levels of the foundations; ready for concrete pouring the concrete over the weekend. Our datum was one of the corners; we systematically worked our way around the footings, measuring very, very, accurately as we went. Got back to the beginning and the levels just didn't match, it was several centimetres off. Of course it was an inaccurate spirit level (it measure different depending on which way round it was!); we had to remeasure using another one - it's much better now.
Another evening in darkness/candlelight; Brett reading by head torch and me reading my book club book (thank you Karina, x) on my Kindle, which is back lit.
The tomatillo chutney is fabuuuulous; sweet and sour, and a bit like sticky onion marmalade - I ate it on a baked potato.

23rd January
Bloody hunters were about this morning, it's Saturday!
I left Brett digging the trench for the internal wall of the studio building, while I went to class. I wish I could say I was actually learning something!
We had a small amount of charge this afternoon so managed to watch some Fargo tonight.

24th January
Hoorah, we had sunshine today and no hunters.
A day of hard physical labour; 75 loads of concrete poured for the footings - I shovelled ONE load (6 shovels of sand, 6 shovels of chippings, 2 shovels of cement) into the mixer (about chest height) and was knackered!!! So I was given the jobs of keeping the water barrels topped up and the barrow of cement full and putting water into the mixer - I carried 30 x 25 kilo bags of cement (.....heavy!), (Brett shovelled nearly 2 tonnes of chippings, 2 tonnes of sand, 750k of cement!). But we did finish the footings πŸ˜€.

25th January
Dull again!
Our footings have set.
M&M offered us half a lamb for 35€ (they got their rams at the same time as we did last year, so we knew it would be a big beast), yes please (but we'd already decided we'd give them 50€), the fuller the freezer is the better it will maintain a cold temperature (even if we have to switch it off overnight); we went to pick it up first thing.
Yes it was BIG it weighed in at 27.5k (60 lbs) with only 9lbs of waste.
And my new mixer came into use as it has a fantastic meat grinder on it; it didn't falter at all, just made 4lbs of mince in less than 5 minutes.
We had to make a choice this evening television or freezer, obviously the freezer won (as it's full of meat, some of which isn't frozen yet - we had it on the generaror earlier as it was running all afternoon as Brett did the washing); so another candle lit evening and early to bed.
It looks like our batteries are on their way out; they don't hold their charge for more than a day, so unless every other day is sunny we run out of solar.
Brett is supposed to be working tomorrow but the weather forecast isn't looking good.

26th January
Brett and Chris decided, last night, not to risk going to work today, as the weather forecast for today was the same as yesterday's (and it was a miserable day); so, of course, it was warm and sunny!
Brett spent the morning mucking out animals and I went into the polytunnel and planted seeds - it was hot, I striped down but I was still sweating; the cold frame is full. The chilies, herbs and peppers I sowed a couple of weeks ago have germinated.

27th January
And of course today was dismal, Brett went to work.
I planted a sack of daffodil bulbs along the track; give it a few years and it should look lovely in the spring.
The rest of my day was taken up with housework; which has been neglected since starting the studio (I prioritised, and the studio was way out front and of course I had to garden yesterday as the sun was out!), we have dinner guests tomorrow so it had to be done.
The dogs (even Lili) have befriended a little black male (in tact) dog; he's so small he can climb through the stock wire! He could be the one that Chris & Di have adopted (Pig) or the one that adopted Gary (which he wants to rehome). I have tried to dissuade him; first of all I picked him up and put him back over the fence, he just wriggled back through. Then I tried keeping the dogs in the house with the gate across - so he sat with his nose pressed up to the door whinning piteously (while Looby whined inside the house, asking me to let him in). We don't need another dog, however cute!

28th January
RAIN .......
Brett got up for work (raining), communicated with Chris, delayed departure for an hour (drizzle), went to work (raining), decided to come home (raining), delayed departure (overcast), decided to wait until it rained again (cloudy) ......... in the end he didn't come home!
Hoorah I had a phone signal today, for the first time in ages; so I phoned Joyce (haven't had a conversation with her for weeks), ran out of credit after about 10 minutes (typical). But hey, no problem I can top up by text, no I can't Brett has my card (with last 4 digits and security number) as he's going shopping after work! Never mind I can top up online using another card, no I can't "transaction declined", why????? I HATE computers they don't think! Ok, text Brett and ask for my 'last 4 digits and security number', shit ... no credit!!!!!!! So frustrated I want to hit someone 😭.
When Brett got home, I sent a top up text ...... didn't receive a confirmation text! A couple of hours later tried topping up online .... nada! And the only way to contact Orange?????? By phone!!!!! And I have no credit!!!!!!!!!!
P&M came round for dinner bringing their internet router with them (Pam has been telling us how amazing it is and that we should get one, we wanted to test it first); well it IS pretty good! I didn't have to stand in the doorway to get a signal AND Rebecca just happened to call on Messenger, while I was testing it, we had a long VIDEO call (I usually have to turn the camera off), I tried a Youtube video - it played without buffering once. Next time we're in CB we'll look into getting it.
Rebecca had some pretty exciting news ....... she and Paul are getting married in September!!!!!!

29th January
Dull .......
This afternoon we went with Alex & Karina, Nicholas & Emily and Lene to a quinta in Ladeiro where they sell animals and birds. We need a couple of muscovy females for our drake, he's lonely! We took boxes (so we knew we'd come back with nothing!). Unfortunately, this time of year, he was only really selling males, unless they were cross bred - so A&K and N&E bought lots of ducks and chickens, but as we wanted a proper breed we came away empty handed😞. We were awfully tempted by some dwarf goats that looked like Muntjac deer; in fact we're not convinced that they weren't muntjac, in which case we'll definitely get some (imagine having your own venison!), but once again he was only selling males, so we'll go back when he has a breeding trio for sale. He also had pheasants; we might go back for some of those too.
Of course I always leave my homework until the last minute (nothing changes!), tonight's was hard; Pedro is making a speech, about some of the historical monuments in Penamacor, in front of a group of foreigners so he's speaking in English. Our homework was to translate the text from Portugese into English and then to make it make sense.

30th January
Brett has a new cycling buddy, Paul from Proenca a Velha; they went for a ride, while I went to class (don't know who got the better deal, class was hard today!).
After language class Pam and Lou came to us for lunch (egg & chips); Brett was back from his 35 mile bike ride. Then we (not Brett) went to the chorizo festa in Aranhas, where the villagers spend the winter making dried sausages, which are then hung up on sticks and auctioned off (60-70€ was about the going rate) - I was tempted but don't need 40 odd dried sausages!

31st January
And now Terry Wogan ........ (and Frank Finley) ....
The hunting was in the distance today.
It was a beautiful sunny day; we let the sheep and goats graze around the house and along the track.

Brett started the block work on the studioπŸ˜ƒ and I gardened; lots of weeding (I actually found a row of beetroot hiding under weeds!),

planting out lettuce (I keep finding clusters growing,
they must be in Mr Louis's old seed beds). This afternoon I rotovated a bed ready for planting out strawberry plants from Andrew;
then I went to his quinta to pick up the plants (27). I was given a tour of his horta (vegetable garden) - so much neater than mine! Full of fava beans in blocks of straight lines - he uses them as a green manure.

1st February
Happy Birthday StephanieπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽπŸŽŠπŸŽ‰!!!!
Brett continued with the block work and I created ridge and furrows, for the strawberry plants, with an enxada; I'm not terribly skilled with it and it's hard work - I'm shattered and achey, but also pleased with the work I've done.

2nd February
Poor old Looby is 'on heat' (even though she's been sterilised); she's not fun to live with atm, whining, pacing and generally getting on our nerves (I know it's not her fault but it's still annoying!).
Brett continued with the block work, I had a 'bit of a rest' as A&K and Alex's dad (Alex) were coming to dinner (my version of Doner kebabs and Portugese doughnuts); so I cooked (pitta bread, hummus, cabbage salad, cumin, coriander and garlic rubbed shoulder of lamb, tzatziki and deep fried doughnut strips) and cleaned.
Portugese doughnuts
7ozs plain flour
1 tbspn oil
1 tbspn orange liqueur
1 tbspn icing sugar
1 egg + 1 yolk
Put ingredients into a food processor and mix until combined
Wrap in cling film, put in fridge, and leave to rest for 1/2 hour
Roll dough out thinly
Cut into strips
Deep fry until puffed up and golden
Dust with icing sugar to serve
I was actually a bit disappointed with the doughnuts, they were very 'short' and tasted like sweet pastry crossed with shortbread!
The 'Doner kebabs', however, were a great success (even if the pitta breads did have to be cut open with a knife!).
And Karina brought some very tasty zucchini chocolate muffins so we were well satiated.
Karina download a load of books from her Kindle for me, about a year's worth of reading πŸ˜€.

3rd February
We went into CB to buy windows and glass blocks for the studio. Clear glass blocks cost 1.39€, coloured were 3.99€ - we bought clear! I'll experiment with glass paint to see if I can colour some.
We signed up to the internet package that Pam has; no more standing in the doorway to get a signal. This evening we watched an episode of Silent Witness on BBC Iplayer - we must not do this too regularly! I also ordered a load of organic vegetable seeds off Ebay.

4th February
Happy Birthday Joyce! xxx
Looby is getting worse, rather than better, hopefully she'll soon be back to normal; she's taken to standing at the fence gazing longingly down at Gary's quinta (we think that's where the black male dog is atm, though someti es he lives with C&D!).
Hmmmm, I've found a problem with the faster internet ...... it's too easy to shop on Ebay; I bought another bunch of vegetable seeds at lunchtime!
Rebecca was at Joyce's and we managed a Messenger video call (I had tried ringing from the phone, but had no signal today).
Brett built walls, I expermented colouring glass blocks (unfortunately most of my glass paints have dried up after 4 years in storage).
Clear block

Painted block (stippled), it casts a lovely shadow.
Then I did some gardening (the endless, thankless, task of weeding).

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