Monday, 21 August 2017


28th July
Our inverter is playing up; we have to turn the freezer off overnight (although the batteries have charge), last night it was beeping so we had to turn everything off - we have bought a new inverter but don't want to install it until the solar shed is built.
So I got out of bed, in the dark, trod on my shoes and my foot has been throbbing all day!
We tried to open a Portuguese bank account today ...... they wanted so much documentation, including proof of earnings/pension - needless to say we came home empty handed and frustrated!
The Conserva Cruda Di Pomodoro was finished today; one bucket of tomatoes = a very small jar of paste.
I've just posted my blog and as I uploaded the photos I realised they were mainly of food!!!
And this evening the inverter died!!! It just wouldn't switch back on - thank goodness for the generator. Tomorrow Brett will install the new Victron inverter.

29th July
And we're up and running .......
I'm so impressed that Brett has the knowledge and confidence to work with the solar (you can't switch the batteries off!), though I do get really stressed!
So much milk ....... 10L made into Halloumi.
Brett finished harvesting the black eyed beans, they're now drying in the sun, on the decking.

30th July
Apart from his daily chores Brett had a day off as he and Chris are working on Stuart's roof tomorrow.
I attempted a few designs for Bill's Transom window - it's a horrible shape (flattened semicircle) and no brief ........

31st July
A busy day for me as Brett is at Stuart's.
Before breakfast chores:
Feed and let out muscovys, ducks and geese.
Try to contact Brett to find out if he's fed the ewe and lambs, who are following me around bleating.
Milk the goats (including sterilising all equipment at end)
Getting goats into field, without letting any of the other sheep and goats out!
Wash panels (as inverter has already turned off once whilst flashing 'low battery').
Feed ewe and lambs (stand guard so muscovys don't eat their food).
Feed dogs and cat.
Coffee and breakfast!!!
Next chores:
Sun dried tomatoes, sort through and put out in sunshine (they have to come in overnight otherwise they go mouldy).
Water vegetable seeds (in vegetable garden).
Pig wallow.
Duck water (with buckets as solar is low)
Washing up and tidy house.
Preparing a sackful of windfall apples for apple jelly.
Dinner this evening; marinating Turkish kebabs and making dough for flat breads.
Feed geese.
Washing kitchen floor.
Moving beans from decking, as it's about to rain.
Brett home:
Get water from the fonte.
Pick salad.
Drain apples through jelly bag.
Shape kebabs.
Roll out dough and cook flat bread.
Relax and have a beer .........

1st August
Brett at work ...
And now I have to do it all over again!!!
Extra jobs today: make cheese (chevre), make apple jelly, make apple chutney (from left over pulp), make yoghurt and washing.
I managed it all barr the washing - the gas ran out (need it to heat the water), I was secretly pleased!

2nd August
Hooray Brett's at home!
I had a scare milking Jelisa today, no milk was coming from her left teat. On closer inspection (squeezing and manipulating by hand) I discovered a large rubbery plug right up inside her teat, it took a while to work it free (and of course it made her uncomfortable so she was kicking and stamping) but once it was dislodged she gushed ...... I was (of course) worried about mastitis but, on googling the phenomenon, I found that it was something that could sometimes occur. She wasn't off color, was eating normally, and her milk looked, smelt and tasted fine. So just one of those things that happens from time to time in the smallholding world.
I did a big house clean today (we have dinner guests tomorrow evening!).
Brett did a massive weeding (4 wheelbarrowfuls) session in the vegetable garden (we have afternoon tea guests (gardeners) on Friday!), it's looking fantastic.

3rd August
It's hot again .......
Jelisa milked normally this morning (phew).
Due to the heat the cheese I made yesterday (chevre) didn't work - it has to stay out at room temp for 24 hours (room temp is 18 - 20C ours is nearer 40C!!!). I really want to give up making cheese atm (too many failures lately) but the goats keep producing milk so I have to process it.
Sasha & Chris came round for drinks and food this evening, which was nice until Lily started crying, whimpering, holding up her paw, licking it, panting with her tongue hanging out - this is our stoic dog who blanches at nothing. We think she had been bitten/stung by some insect (spider, scorpion, centipede), ended up giving her 2/3 tablet of antihistamine - she started improving after 1/2 an hour, thank goodness.

4th August
What a horrible, horrible night, so hot, I couldn't sleep, 3.00 a.m. I was up getting wet towels.
Nicky, Erd and Taliss came for afternoon tea; they didn't leave until nearly 7.00 and we were invited to Kimberly & Lawrence's. Ended up not going as it was 9.00 before we finished all our chores.

5th August
So another attempt at chevre, in an attempt to keep it cool I've wrapped a wet towel around the pot!
We started podding our black eyed beans, not a quick task. Brett's method is to flog them to bits (which means a huge separating job at the end) whereas I shell individual pods (very time consuming).
We sold seven of our Muscovy ducklings this afternoon.
And this evening we're off to our village festa - if it runs true to form it will be rubbish!

6th August
It ran "true to form" ...........
We arrived 9.00ish and it was 'dead', by 11.00 it was teeming with people (babies through to ancient), but nothing much happening, 11.30 a Euro-pop band (awful) started playing, 12.00 we'd had enough and came home! Oh yes, we did treat ourselves to some Portuguese doughnuts!
The wet towel cooling method didn't work that well, but the curds were still soft so I put them, in their moulds, in the fridge (far too cold, but it's all I have).
I've been 'googling' homemade cheese caves and might buy a greenhouse thermostat; these can be set to switch on (when temp goes above a certain point) and off (when it goes below a temp) - so a fridge is plugged in after the thermostat thus bypassing the fridge's internal thermostat. We have a small fridge which isn't being used (we just need ample solar to run it!).
Today I made junket - it was 'interesting', the texture of creme caramel, I made it too sweet.
Our supermarket in Penamacor was a Mini-Preso but it was taken over by the Jumbo group - it wasn't nearly as good. This weekend a new Mini-P opened in Penamacor, yay (funny what makes you happy!). One of the good things about Mini-P is they have a loyalty card and lots of offers, today we spent 29€ with savings of over 10€ - that's over 25%.

7th August
Hooray, slightly cooler today.
And now Jelisa is on heat!
Brett started cutting our winter logs.
Wow there's a horrible argument going on, via social media, between all the immigrants/expats/foreigners, so much animosity and vitriol - thank goodness Brett and I don't mix much! I agree that everyone is allowed their own point of view but some of the comments are so nasty (and sometimes personal) ........

8th August
Happy ninth anniversary, Will & Gill, xxx.
Only 26C, perfect for making cheese (today it's feta).

9th August
Nicky (and Taliss) came round, so that I could teach her to sew - we had a fun morning, with me slapping her hand as she touched knobs and dials on her (never used) sewing machine saying "what does this do?". She had made two curtains when she left and is returning on Saturday - she was a quick learner and will soon be making all manner of things.
Brett continued cutting wood for winter.

10th August
Janet came round this afternoon, we all had a lovely long chat (we obviously don't get out much, there is so much going on we don't know about!).

11th August
Karina and Alex came to lunch, we hadn't seen them for ages. Karina showed me how she makes Mozzarella, it's a much quicker method than I use and the cheese stays white (and hopefully not rubbery!).

12th August
Another sewing day with Nicky and Taliss.

13th August
Fires all around us!!!!! Marc & Mieke have one right next to their house - they had to fell one of their trees that was ablaze, how scary.

14th August
Fires still raging, though it looks like Marc & Mieke's one is out (two Bombeiros slept on the road outside their house all night).
Today I started another batch of aged Chevre and made Mozzarella a la Karina - it's perfect salad Mozzarella; white, soft and not a hint of rubberiness!
Several of our friends were evacuated from their villages this evening. As soon as night fell we could see the mountains on firm

15th August
I helped Brett cutting firewood this morning - I fed whilst he used the chainsaw.
We are surrounded by smoke (from the mountain fires), it's a very strange light, the birds are silent and black ash is falling all around us.
We still haven't got our milking machine (FOUR AND A HALF MONTHS!!!!!) - I messaged the seller, again, threatening him with negative feedback if he didn't produce the necessary paperwork within the next few days.
Villages closer to us are being evacuated this evening!
Our view of the Gardunha mountains this evening!

16th August
Hahahahaha, we harvested our 'field' of corn!!!!!
That's it, our WHOLE harvest!!!!
I made another batch of Mozzarella (Brett likes it, so it gets eaten quickly), whilst Brett harvested the chickpeas.
Several friends of ours had quintas caught up in the last couple of day's dreadful fires; many were evacuated, Tina (one of our craft group) chose to stay and fight the fire (brave or bloody stupid????), she says if she hadn't their house would have been destroyed

17th August
Happy Birthday Hen XXXXXXX P.s. you'll have to come and collect your present!!!
40C .........
Brinjal pickle making.
Black eyed beans podded and winnowed, not enough to feed the animals through the winter!
But should be plenty for human consumption ...
Too hot!!!

18th August
Took the day off, went to Benquerenca river beach with Vince & Lola.
We took a picnic including some delicious Chevre I made SIX weeks ago - very mature.

19th August
I'm always complaining about the amount of time/work this smallholding lark takes; Brett got a tasted of it today when we made pear and apple juice .........
First we picked the fruit: we had 50L tubs, one we managed to half fill we pears (that's still a lot of pears!) and another we filled with apples.
Cleaning the equipment: just rinsing down, as it gets dusty and cobwebby in the shed.
Then we prepared the fruit: cutting out rotten or maggoty bits and cutting into quarters, to make the next stage easier.
Masticating (crushing) the fruit: we have a machine for this, but it is manually rotated which takes a lot of effort (Brett does most of it whilst I cling onto the machine to stop it moving and feed in the fruit.
Pressing the pulp: we have a fruit press, we put in the pear pulp ...... nowhere near enough to operate the machine (!) so we had to add th.1ppe apples (thus mixing our juices, by now we just wanted to finish the process).
Collecting and bottling the juice: ALL 5 LITRES of it ....... just 5 LITRES of juice from 75 litres of fruit!!!!!!!!!
Cleaning the equipment: rinsing of the sticky, sweet, sugary bits of fruit and juice.
And that took both of us ALL MORNING!
On the plus side the juice is very tasty, like toffee apple flavour.
A 'state of calamity' has been declare by the Portuguese Government with lots of things banned including ..... "A total ban on the use in all rural areas of combustion machinery, Internal or external, including all types of tractors and agricultural machinery, or forestry, as well as work in the forest using motor saws, chop saws and milling machines" - so no using tractor, trimmer, chainsaw, water pump (we probably shouldn't even be using the generator or car!).
4.00 met up, at Bar do Clube, with Chris & Di and Bap.
9.00 putting the animals away in the dark!!!!!
9.15 as nothing prepared ate a dinner of crisps, chocalate and cups of tea, then went in the pool
Another HUGE fire on the horizon, this time Corvilha way.
Our view of the Sierra de Estrella mountains this evening

20th August
A horrible hot night ........
Followed by a horrible hot day (we're back in the 40s)........
The Corvilha fire is still raging; information on the fire site ( states there are 16 aircrafts,124 ground vehicles and 474 bombeiros fighting the fire.
I am very aware that I need to travel back to the UK soon, but am worried that I might not even be able to get to Lisbon atm .........
Portugal has only one railway line, in our area; it runs from Lisbon, through Castello Branco and on to Porto, and one road system (more or less running parallel with the railway line). Due to the fires most days sees sections of the train line not operating and many roads closed off. Something else to stress about!
Made a big batch of Mozzarella.

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