Then, once I came home, I was ill for several weeks (in fact I'm still not 100%).
Consequently Christmas was a quiet affair. We didn't buy one another presents (probably our cheapest ever Christmas!) and I've yet to buy them for family (can't get motivated). We spent Christmas day at Nicky & Erd's with Hattie & Garf, Erica & Francis, Homa & Ellie and various children. It was good fun. We supplied the turkey, brocolli (Brett's pride and joy), sausagemeat, pigs in blankets and giblet gravy - all from our quinta!
Boxing day we invited friends around, in the evening, for a cold buffet (though I did make bubble and squeak) and drinks.
New Year's Eve was a quiet night in, and bed by 11.00!!! (We did have the option to go out).
My birthday present from Brett arrived on the 3rd January .......
Our three, very old (3- 4 years),Peking ducks were dispatched. We made duck breast prosciutto (bacon)
Brett is planning his next build; a dog proof compound with three large buildings for sheep and goats, so that we can sleep soundly at night - at the moment (if it isn't raining and they're in the shed) the flock gets put into the old pig pen (by the house) and we sleep, with the window open, on high alert.
Weds 17th January
We have new neighbours. We didn't notice until this evening when we saw a light; they're behind the pig run (so quite close). They appear to be living in a stone ruin that only has two walls! We think the man was building a fire. There only appears to be two people; a young child (2 - 3 years) and a man (presumably the father).
I started a disgusting job - cleaning, with bleach, all the books that have been in storage since we left the farmhouse (7 years). Some of the boxes had been invaded by mice so I had to throw away quite a few of my (mainly recipe) books which had either pee or chewed damage (heartbreaking for me!). Until the living room is completed the books will live in the loft over the workshop.
Friday 19th January
I finished cleaning the books, I only managed to salvage one of the cardboard boxes, the rest were smelly with old mouse infestation.
Last Friday we had a visitor - Pedro (Ollie & Anna's dog). Today he turned up again. Unfortunately for him he came via the, very overgrown, quinta next door and was stuck in brambles - our dogs alerted us to his plight. We managed to free him and yank him over the fence onto our land but he's covered in lengths brambles which are obviously painful as he snaps when I try to remove them (I've done what I can) - I haven't managed to get hold of Ollie or Anna yet!
Wow what a surprise this morning - muscovy ducklings!!!!! No duck has been sitting, well not during the daytime, and it's been very cold. At least six so far (plus a dead one - I think the male did that). Neither of the females seem terribly interested, so we've got to leave them (vulnerable) until one takes ownership. The male will be locked out of their shed, at night, (fortunately we have a spare shed) for the next week or so.
Bloody bug has come back; this time I have a nasty, persistent, cough which keeps me awake most of the night. And my chest hurts - it was so bad the other day I likened it to having been shot (not that I ever have!), I think all the coughing strained my inter-costal muscles. I'm on my 5th bottle of cough mixture!
On the duckling front we're down to three! The others disappeared, one at a time, we have no idea to where or who. As they are free range (and they need to be as they eat grass) there's not much we can do to protect them, we do separate them (and their mother) from the other ducks over night.
The weather is fabulous atm; the sky is clear so we're having sunny days (with lots of warmth) and cold nights - the solar is working well.
I have spent time in the polytunnel sowing seeds (tomatoes, chilies, peppers, aubergine, beans, tomatillos). On the negative side, no one's wells are filling up yet so people are worried about watering vegetables in the summer; we might move our vegetable garden and take advantage of the (full) well on the abandoned quinta next door.
The broccoli and cabbage that Brett grew is doing really well. And I've discovered (char grilled) fried broccoli, it's delicious - tastes a bit like 'fried seaweed' (which is actually cabbage!) that is on some menus in Chinese restaurants.
Our craft group met last Friday (first time since last spring) we did freeform crochet - I can now crochet a shell/spiral. It was a brilliant, if slightly drunken, evening. My offering of nibbles was a plate of thinly sliced duck prosciutto and three month old 'cheddar' (goat's) cheese (I was showing off!!!)
Diane & Thomas came yesterday (to pick up some hay). Diane has a canner and has informed me that I need special jars for canning - the ones with the disc lid and a screw band to hold it down (mason/bell jars) which are really cheap in America, very expensive (about 4 or 5 times the American price, plus postage) in UK, and non existent in Portugal - bugger!!!!!
We sold our small fridge (drink's fridge) as we were only able to use it for a couple of months of the year (when the solar is at it's peak). The fridge size gap, we thought, could be shelved and used for vegetable storage or even put a wine rack in there. The dogs had other ideas - they've commandeered it as a (very tight fitting) kennel!!!!
We had to shine a torch in there, that's why Lily is in the spotlight!