Wednesday, 1 November 2017


12th October
As I'm not sleeping well (keeping my ears open for dogs) I tend to get up early - it's still dark at 7.00; this morning I used the time to post my blog.
It's still HOT ....
Today was our fermentation group meeting at Kimberley's; not a big turnout, just six of us - Kimberley (obviously), Nicky (my driver) & me, Emma & Maria (mount of oaks) and Noya (& Emma, her daughter). I just made a small jar of kimchi.

13th October
Today I tried to finish organising the secondhand stuff for the carboot. Tomorrow I will sort out some of my glass which is ready to sell.
I will be returning to the UK for 10 days to a fortnight at the beginning of November - now I have the fun job of looking for flights.

14th October
A bit cooler today (28C) and rather cloudy - we might even get rain next week!
I spent most of the day in the studio sorting out stock for the carboot; I have masses, it will be interesting to see if it sells - I've put ridiculously low prices on everything (priced to sell).
There are new owners at Bar do Clube, these ones do food! So we're going to try it out tonight with Andrew and Lola & Vince.

15th October
We had a brilliant evening and came home very full. They don't really cater for vegetarians but the lady insisted on cooking a tuna omelette for Andrew, whilst the rest of us snacked on ..... presunto , chorizo and cheese, chicken gizzards, pica-pau (pork cooked in beer or woodpecker), black pudding and bread (as I said they don't cater for veggies!).
I've booked my flights to the UK; I leave on the 2nd Nov and return on the 15th.
Between midnight and 19.00 (19 hours) there have been 303 wildfires today, the most in one day for the year. We can see smoke on the horizon and every other post on Facebook is photos of fires, over 5000 firefighters are deployed.
Wow I have a lovely considerate family (especially my niece); Melanie is going to pick me up from the airport and drop me back - so I don't have to worry about traveling in the UK (apparently you can no longer use cash to buy tube or train tickets!).

16th October
Happy 70th Malcolm! Xxx
The fires are bad; 30+ people dead, loads injured and some missing. Hopefully it will rain tonight.
Bloody hell, poor little Bonnie was smelly; she had maggots under her (dog bite) scab - all gone now!
We went into CB to buy plaster and stuff for the bathroom.
The other day Lola commented that you could go into a Farmacia (pharmacy) and buy medicines without a prescription; as I'm on a couple of pills daily (and have to pay to see a doctor to write out a prescription for them) I thought I'd try it out - it's true, I just asked/showed the old container and I could buy however many I wanted!
I'm having to come up with some type of display stand, for my hanging glass pieces, (I was going to use the old, stand alone, clothes airier, but I can't find it); it's not going well - I'm not happy (big sulks).
So we're off to bed with the promise of heavy rain overnight and tomorrow ........

17th October
04.00 RAIN, thunder & lightning (of course now I worried about the goats and sheep being out in it).
The site showed no active fires this morning .......... But this weekend was bad, so many have lost their quintas and possessions (and at least 36 lives .....).
Very dull day = poor solar so we had the generator on - I did a batch of sandblasting.
Sorting though the fridge today, we had to give the pigs a whole load of over ripe cheese (Mozzarella and Feta) - I'm not at all happy about that .....
Nicky, Erd & Taliss are coming to dinner tomorrow, so I made chocolate mousse.

18th October
Paypal have resolved our dispute, re the milking machine, IN OUR FAVOUR!!!!!!! £373.10 will be credited to our account ........ (he'll probably appeal).
Noooooo, our really expensive, 11 month old, generator has broken!!!!! Which means (1) I can't use my kiln atm but, more importantly, (2) we can't run the water pump to fill the animal's water.  It is under warranty; but, until we hear differently, we worry that whatever has happened isn't covered.
We had fun with Nicky, Erd and Taliss. Taliss had Looby on a lead and was walking her around the kitchen table - she such a sweet natured dog.

19th October
So today we had to go into CB to buy a cheap (260€) generator, just so that we could do the animal's water.
I bought a clothes airier to display my hanging glass (panels, bunting, suncatchers) from at the car boot - I will tie it in the back of the truck so it can't fall over.

20th October
Boring day today, finishing off glass panels (soldering on rings etc to hang them from) and packing everything up for the carboot tomorrow.
It's suddenly gone cold - tomorrow we will light the range.

21st October
We were up early (for us), animals fed and milked by 8.45 so that we could get to the carboot as near to 9.00 as possible.
When I mentioned to somebody that there weren't as many buyers as last month she said "that's because they all have stalls this month" and she was right, masses of stalls this month (lots selling food), but not so many customers. We still managed to take over 100€; I sold a glass dish, a string of bunting and some suncatchers (68.50), so not too bad and I might do a couple of days at the Christmas market in Penamacor.

22nd October
WE GOT OUR MONEY BACK (all £373.10) for the milking machine!!! Good old Paypal. Funny thing is we still can't pay using the paypal account as our address is in Portugal so they want us to open a Portuguese Paypal account but we don't have a Portuguese bank - it's all very complicated.

23rd October
The end of the summer was declared today by the dismantling of the pool. The water in it was thick and green!
We are about to have a very social week so I did a proper house clean (a hated task).

24th October
Nicky and Taliss came round for a sewing day. Poor old Nicky she isn't get anywhere fast as I keep unpicking her work! Which is only fair as they, mainly Taliss, completely destroyed my house tidying; it looked like a bomb had dropped when they left and I was shattered, Taliss is very demanding "play with me" is her constant plea (she's a fabulous child).

25th October
Tristan & Natalie came for lunch (chicken and salad wraps, chocolate mousse). They are proper gardeners (they used to grow and sell organic veg, on a large scale, back in the UK), they are also very keen fungi foragers (Tristan even knows Roger Phillips!!!!); we think, between the four of us, we have identified one of the boletus mushrooms that grows on our land (under oak trees) as a Butyriboletus appendiculatus/boletus appendiculatus/butter boletes, if we are correct it IS edible - so we a terribly excited.

26th October
Happy Birthday Lawrence XXX
We met Kevin & Wendy (and Melanie, Kevin's sister) in Castelo Nova for lunch.
It was a very sobering drive from Vale De Prazeres, Alpedrinha, and onto Castelo Nova; we drove through, literally, acres and acres of burnt woodland and mountainside. These villages were surrounded on all sides by fire and in parts the fire was actually amongst the houses, it must have been terrifying.
Castelo Nova is a picturesque village with a castle ruin at the top. Lunch was well cooked, a little expensive (15€ per head), the restaurant was very popular.
Bugger, our generator warranty isn't valid in Portugal, UK only (they didn't tell us that when they shipped it out to us); so we've got to find Hyundai service engineers here (or just pay someone to fix it, which is what will probably happen anyway!).
Tomorrow we have Andrew, Chris & Di coming for dinner (veggie) and I want to make gram flour (from our chickpeas), to make onion bhajis with. I have attempted this with both my big and small food processors/grinders but all I acheived was a very loud noise and slightly bruised chickpeas .......
Tomorrow I will try the liquidiser/blender (our ears couldn't take anymore this evening!).

27th October
The liquidiser/blender worked to an extent - giving a rather coarse flour. Fortunately we had to go into CB this morning (to buy Brett something to wear on his cycle ride), so we bought a coffee grinder hoping it would grind the flour finer.
Grinding chickpeas to make gram flour: stage (1) liquidiser/blender (coarse flour) stage (2) coffee grinder (finer flour).
Cooking vegetarian curries for this evening (green banana and coconut, chickpea and black eyed bean dahl) and making fresh coconut chutney (my favourite).

28th October
I snook off to bed around midnight, I was falling asleep. The bhajis and pickles (fresh coconut, brinjal and fermented lime) were a great success and very filling. I'm not so sure about the banana curry!!! It was a boozy affair and this morning we are both a trifle delicate.
Billy somehow managed to get over the fence and off quinta, he was desperate to get back; Brett had to lead him through Elise's (Gary's) quinta and the eucalyptus wood back onto our quinta (we don't know how he got out).
We walked around all our fields assessing our olives - the trees are dripping with fruit, we will start harvesting on my return.
The government has already extended the fire ban twice (we are not allowed bonfires, barbecues, to use metal bladed strimmers etc) throughout the summer (usually May to the beginning of October), it's now been put back to the 15th November.
This evening Sasha & Chris's family are having a festa/rave type event (with trance music) - not my cup of tea, but we are going!

29th October
Well it was just like any other expat gathering, everyone standing around the bar drinking and talking - they were selling G&Ts for 1€ (guess what I was drinking).
Brett went for a bike ride whilst I made Welsh cakes as Diane & John (Diane & Thomas's neighbours) were coming for afternoon tea.

30th October
Today we gardened. We sowed carrots, parsnips, beetroot, radish, metre long beans, fava beans, weeded and prepared trenches for future sowings.

31st October
I hate days like today - dealing with bureaucracy, (1) in a foreign language and (2) over the phone (fortunately not both at the same time!); firstly the medical centre said I had to register with a doctor, to do this I needed a Social Security number. Our first obstacle was finding the Social Security office (we drove and walked around in circles looking for it), then I was told I couldn't have a number as I don't work, we were informed I needed to get a form from the UK proving that the NHS will pay my medical bills. Found out this is an S1 form.
Next I had to phone the 'fraud squad' at my bank because I wanted to move some of MY MONEY from my account to another account (in my name) - I've done it several times before, this time I got a big red box declining my payment and telling me to phone them. Their security questions were very detailed asking me what type of device I was using to access my account, who provided our internet, my middle names, which branch I opened my account at (I got that wrong!), my address when I opened the account, what age I would be next birthday, maiden name, they went on and on .......
And finally phoning DWP to request the S1 form; again answering loads of questions to verify who I am, re-spelling our Portuguese address and our Welsh email address several times (using alpha, papa, delta, echo etc which I don't know so I'm saying apple, pig, dog, elephant etc) before (I think) she got them down correctly.

Thursday, 12 October 2017


12th September
It's still HOT! (30+).
For over two weeks I haven't eaten gluten (bread, pasta, pastry, cereal etc, in fact I've cut out all starchy carbs) and has it made any difference to my aches and pains? Has it hell! I can't sleep at night because my joints are so achy. Oh yeah, and I haven't lost any weight either!!!!
Ow, ow, ow ....... whilst watering the vegetable garden I got stung (by a wasp?) right at the top of my leg, it really throbs!
Brett still working on the bathroom.

13th September
It's still in the 30's, this is supposed to be autumn! At least it's cool enough to weed the veg garden.
My sting is hot, swollen and painful .........

14th September
So, whilst weeding the veg garden yesterday, I decided that I would be more comfortable sitting than standing and bending; I upturned a bucket, after a while it collapsed(!), I landed on my back. It didn't really hurt, I just carried on weeding - today I can hardly move my head, my neck is so stiff and painful (whiplash?).
On a good note my sting has gone down and is no longer throbbing, just itching.
Our fridge is so full of cheese; I check it often for moisture, mold, ripeness etc. Today I found a four week old Chevre (that I'm ageing), it looked and smelt like Camembert;
we tried it at lunchtime - the flavor is good but it needs to be more gooey, another week should do it.
Today Brett put the glass blocks in the shower area - they look fab.
The area will be tiled (haven't chosen any yet).

15th September
Hoorah, a bit cooler today - so I made (more) cheese, Cheddar.
My beans are already coming through ......
Soddin' goats; everytime we (Brett) leave one of the gates, to the decking, open they sneak in to steal onions!!!!. We've never known goats to like onions before - we have weird goats.
My neck is still giving me gyp; Brett says I'm walking like a zombie!

16th September
Happy Birthday Laura. Xxx
Pete's Car Boot Sale was on today; at a new venue, the sport's field in Aldeia do Bispo - lots more stalls than normal and quite a few customers, we will probably do a stall next month. Met a few 'new' people - it was a rather social gathering.
Took the Cheddar out of the press, it now needs to air dry before I band it.
My neck isn't getting much better yet - I've even resorted to Ibuprofen!

17th September
Happy Birthday Lily. Xxx
How many ways, and how much, cheese can I use in one day? Well let's see what I did today.......
(1) Foudjou (uses soft Chevre and Cheddar) a French potted cheese, recipe from Diana Henry.
(2) Onion fritatta (older/firmer Chevre) for lunch.
(3) Tomato salad (Mozzarella), for lunch.
Actually I thought I'd used more!
Our aubergines are fruiting well so I char griddled some and jarred them in olive oil (Diana Henry again) - nice accompaniment to lunch.
Aubergines (left), Foudjou (right)
I picked a load of apples off the tree so that I can store them for the winter.
Brett is volunteering, again this week, to clear burnt woodland at one of the decimated quintas, so I made chocolate fridge cake (my contribution).
Haha I managed another 'cheese' use; dinner was garlic marinated, sliced, chicken breast fried with (4) Mozzarella(!!!!) and tomato salsa, lemon glazed carrots (bought!), French beans - the cheese worked well.

18th September
The night's are cooler; we even used a cover last night, so we're sleeping better.
Brett's volunteering day has been cancelled - so we have a large chocolate fridge cake to eat, fortunately Taliss is coming on Wednesday (sewing day)!
So I organised all my paper, to individually wrap the apples, and ...... everyone of them had an insect hole in them - so I spent the day prepping and cooking sliced apples to freeze! I'm half way through and, so f I've found one unblemished apple!

19th September
We had guests for lunch, Lola and Katherine (her lodger for the month); of course I had to make 'everything from the quinta' - chicken waldorf salad, tomato salad (with Mozzarella), cabbage and apple salad (with feta), marinated aubergines and various ferments, then junket for pudding.

20th September
And today it was the turn of Nicky & Taliss - we had the leftovers from yesterday, plus chocolate fridge cake. Taliss's dress needs at least one more session (because I kept unpicking it!).

21st September
Happy Birthday Helen! Xxx
Alfie (Chris & Di's dog) is missing!
I made apple jelly.

22nd September
So I spent the day in the kitchen making cheddar and chicken liver pate - and doing all the associated washing up!
Exciting times, the bathroom is nearly ready for the roof. Brett has to cut out the holes for the beams and I have to paint them (the beams) - we're using the blue/grey paint we originally bought for the field gates (waste not, want not!).
Really excited, it's a pity the 'end of the world' is due tomorrow!!!!

23rd September
Ok we're still here!!!!!!!
Our bed clothes needed washing; so I spent the morning doing the washing only to have it pointed out, just as I was finishing, that I'd forgotten to strip the bed!!!! Fortunately I hadn't drained all the water away.
Brett had a frustrating day; he cut all the slots for the roof beams in the bathroom, only to find that all the beams were banana shaped and twisted!!!! However, after having had a good old moan, he worked out how to still fit them so that the roof can be attached.
4.00 Bar do Club ....... Us, Andrew, Greg & Sarah, Chris & Di, Baptiste, Paul & Martine. It's election time and the Socialists came round - we were given - pens, hats and (Greg got a teashirt!).

24th September
Painted the bathroom (banana) beams. Tomorrow we go to CB to buy the roofing.

25th September
CB to buy roofing, shower and lights for our new bathroom!
An exhausting day with lots of compromising going on (could only get 30mm chapas, wanted 40mm, the lights we saw a couple of months ago were no longer in the shop so we got some that were ok, green rather than blue, we bought new mugs, but they were 1/2 the size of our old ones etc.), we were pleased to get home.

26th September
We went to do our morning check on our sheep and goats (just after breakfast); they had been attacked overnight!!! THREE of our pregnant ewes were dead; of the rest of the flock, many have multiple bites and puncture wounds. We had to borrow T&D's captive bolt gun, as Decibel was so badly injured she needed putting out of her misery. We have no idea what attacked them but we're thinking it must have been a pack of big dogs, (1) from the amount of damage caused, and (2) for them to have been able to get into our quinta - they must have been able to jump the metre high stock fences - most of our quinta is fully fenced (all the animal's areas are) so our dogs and animals can't get off the quinta unless we open gates (the gates were all shut last night).
So we had a horrible day; attending our injured flock, disposing of carcasses (compost bins, liberally doused in bleach) and finding them all a safe place to sleep this evening - the injured lambs are in the small shed (the milking goats are outside in the corral, where they usually sleep) and the rest of the flock are in the old pig run (close to the house). Our windows will be open and we'll try leaving the dogs on the decking, but probably bring them in as Lily will happily bark all night!

27th September
A quiet night (even Lily was quiet); this morning the sheep all seem relaxed and their wounds are no worse - except poor little Clyde who's extra injury, we noticed today, is a shredded scrotum!!!!! He now has blue balls - the colour of the antiseptic spray.
Well that's a turn up ....... I phoned Paypal today, re our milking machine, and (even though we paid by debit card not through Paypal) we appear to be covered, they're going to freeze our payment to our seller and he had 10 days to contact them, if he doesn't get in touch on day 11 we get our money back!!!!!
For dinner I cooked winter squash - using a squash we harvested August 2016! They have kept really well.
Animal bedtime and one of the Muscovy females is missing; we finally locate her, under the decking, sitting on a nest - no way we can reach her tonight, so fingers crossed nothing else finds her (Lily will let us know if any predators get close).

28th September
Another quiet night ....
I can't believe it is still so hot (30s), we haven't had rain for months.
It's our least favourite time of the year - fly season. Swarms (well that's what it feels like) get into the house - we spend all day with fly swats in our hands.
The bathroom roof went on today!!!!!!!
It might not look much, but it will greatly improve our lives ...

29th September
We're invited to dinner with Katherine (Lola's tenant) so I made honeycomb.
I also made Mozzarella.

30th September
Katherine gave us fish & chips! It was a nice evening but we couldn't relax as we were away from the sheep.
The village was packed as we drove out/in to the village - something to do with the election and it looked like free food and drink!
My mission is to shell the chickpeas, so far I've managed 1/2 a sweetjar - it's very time consuming (and boring!).

1st October
Of course we went to the bar last night - it was shut! New owners have taken over and they're getting it ready. So we went to Pimenta's bar (warm beer!) and then relocated to Café Central (better) - we left, to do our animals, just as they were ordering port ......
The sheep are healing well, bless them.
Milk production is declining rapidly; only 2L this morning, Jelisa is down by about 75% (probably because she is pregnant) - typical that I've been waiting for the weather to cool, so I could make certain cheeses, and now I won't have the milk to make it with!
I had a VERY frustrating morning, on the phone to Paypal; our seller is saying he has sent the correct documentation and that the machine has been delivered to us!!!!
Still shelling chickpeas .........
And the garden still keeps giving; I picked a bowl of strawberries, French beans, capsicums, aubergines and tomatoes, harvested the last of the onions and we started harvesting winter squash and sweet potatoes.

2nd October
I was woken by Brett at 3.00 a.m. our neighbour's chickens were making a hell of a racket, we're really worried that they were being attacked by something. Unfortunately there was nothing we could do; although these neighbours border our quinta we can't physically get onto their land from ours as we are separated by a winter riverbed, the banks (either side) are dense with willow, quince and bamboo (animals can get through but not humans) and on his side a stock fence too. To get to this quinta we need to drive about two kilometres (they're accessed by a different track to us) but even then we couldn't get in, as the neighbours live in the village and their gates are kept locked. Brett let our dogs out - they ran off in the other direction! He shone a torch (but could see nothing); we felt terribly inadequate.
I didn't sleep until daybreak, in case the preditor came our (our sheep's) way.
OMG I made us an avocado and prawn salad for lunch ....... I think the prawns were raw!!!!!! They were frozen, but they were also pink (so I stupidly assumed they were cooked), so now we're expecting to be ill!
One wheelbarrow of chickpeas down = more than an old fashioned sweet jar full of peas.
Brett started on the electrics for the bathroom (well he's making gaps for the cable runs).
So far so good (re raw prawns) ......

3rd October
IT'S OCTOBER and we're still getting temperatures of 35C!!!!! And no rain is forecast for at least 10 days.
I podded another half wheelbarrowful of chickpeas (took me most of the day!).
A day and a half since I 'poisoned' us, so far so good (although I have been feeling queasy - but I know that I am high suggestable!!!).

4th October
Still no ill effects .........
Still bloody hot ..........
Still shelling chickpeas ...........
Piglet is growing .........

5th October
We went to Spain this morning. Everyone talks about a shop, 'Gamma', where you can purchase tiles - it was bloody expensive (one of those shops where they don't put on prices!), so we came home with nothing - well I bought some material from the market for 2€ which should make two or three dresses.
Tomorrow we will go to Alcains to look at the tiles there.
FINISHED podding the chickpeas (6.2 kilos),
we also weighed the blackened beans (5 kilos) that we podded last month. I'm going to grind some of the chickpeas to make gram flour. We have enough pulses now to keep us through the winter (hummus, pork & beans, baked beans, falafel, dhal, flatbreads, soups, refried beans, salads .......).

6th October
Well the Alcain's tile shop has change considerably (and not for the better!), so we came away from there empty handed. But we found some tiles we like, amazingly, in Bricomache. Not overly cheap, so we're going to make a feature of them behind the wash stand.
We saw Amelia and her husband as we were going back to the car - apparently Mark has broken a rib (maybe he'll come out here to recuperate?).

7th October
I did a job I have been dreading (in case I broke it) making a hole in old bowl (we've had it for twenty odd years and it was old when we bought it) that we're going to use as a wash basin, in the new bathroom. I used my sandblaster and then the dremel - it worked!!!! And it goes really well with the tiles. It has a matching jug, unfortunately this has a big chunk of the lip missing - I'm wondering if I could mend it (with Fimo?) ........
There was a dragonfly trapped in my studio, it was trying to get out through the glass blocks, so I kindly picked it up, to release it out through the doors - it bloody well bit me!!!!! No blood was drawn, but it was quite a painful nip (I said "ouch" and dropped it!); I captured it in a box, instead of my hands, and let it out - it then spent the rest of the morning trying to get back in!
Meantime, Brett made the house really, really dusty -  channeling out the blocks for the electric cables.
C&D are in the UK; so it was just us, Andrew and Sara & Greg at the bar this evening - we came home sober, but both agreed that it was a very enjoyable evening (smaller groups make conversation easier).

8th October
Just before 6.00 a.m. we were woken by a dog bark, coming from the sheep enclosure, closely followed by our dogs barking and growling, Brett falling out of bed in his haste, and running naked and shoeless into the dark. I struggled into a dress (went out with my arm through the neck hole). But it, whatever it was, was well gone; Brett heard the fence 'ping' as it jumped over into Gary's old place. The flock was unscathed; we were very thankful that we had them close to the house (we had been starting to think that we didn't need to continue putting them in there overnight).
Today I decided to make a dress, with the material I bought on Thursday; I like the dress I copied from Pam, I put it on to the check the fit - Brett informed me that it reminded him of jodpers saying "have you seen it from the back?". He doesn't like baggy dresses (pity I've got a baggy body!), so now I don't know what to do!
I compromised; I made it tighter than I would normally, but not as tight as Brett would have liked! It actually looks rather posh (for me!).
The wildfires have started again, we've been seeing plumes of dark smoke for a couple of days.

9th October
We went to Fundao to buy vegetable plugs (mainly onions) and came back with two big bags of plugs (white onions, red onions, broccoli, Dutch cabbage, pointy cabbage, kale (I hope) and cauliflower) and turkey poults (3 for us, 2 for T&D).
This afternoon we had to prepare channels for the veg and this evening we had to plant them - instant garden!
Tomorrow we've been invited for lunch at Nicky & Erd's, so I made some peanut butter fudge to take.

10th October
We had a fabulous time at N&E's and lunch was a feast - meatballs, roast aubergines, salad, rice, yoghurt dressing and pomegranate sprinkles - all very colourful.
On our way home we stopped to speak to Mr Louis; he told us that several of the shepherds around us have lost sheep to dogs recently - he suggested we shoot the dogs (easier said than done, we have to see them first - oh yeah and get a gun!). But we are now even more worried about another attack.
We have decided that we are (Brett is!) going to build a 20' x 20', dog proof, sheep pen for the flock to be housed in overnight.

11th October
I didn't sleep well; I was listening for dogs all night ........
Lola came for coffee and gossip - always great fun!!!
Then I sorted out stuff to sell at the carboot in a week's time. The boxes have been stored in the big shed for five years, mice had made their homes in some of my boxes of material - all now chucked! It was horribly dirty work.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017


21st August
And another hot day .......
When we came back from watering the vegetable garden there was a message from Lola & Vince asking if they could call around in about an hour. Yes of course, but, as they tend to be late, they would be arriving at lunchtime, so I made a courgette fritatta and a tomato salad (enough to share). By 1.45 we were hungry, so decided to eat! A while later there was a message from Lola - they'd been (and gone), our car was there, but we were obviously out, had we forgotten they were coming? How bizarre, we were in the house the whole time!!!!!
The Corvilha fire looked like it was under control this morning, this evening it's back to raging.
We missed the partial eclipse - too much smoke! But we did see: shooting stars, airplanes, the space station and UFOs whilst bobbing in the pool, before bed!

22nd August
We popped into Penamacor for animal food; on our way back, along our track, we saw a mongoose! It was really close and we saw it for a long time - best view I have ever had of one. Then, just inside the vegetable garden, we saw a golden oriel.
It's too hot to go outside! And, nightmare, our pool has gone thick and green!!!!
This evening I'm off to learn how to play backgammon (watch out Rebecca & Paul next time you visit!).

23rd August
Well I got to the bar at 8.00, got home around midnight, only having drunk ONE beer! I now know the very basic rules of backgammon - I even won two games. They want to make it a weekly meeting, we'll see ......
Another scorcher. I was going to make cheese but it was too hot.
Brett has volunteered to be part of the community team going around to help out at the quintas that were affected by last week's fires. I have to stay here, as they're leaving our village at 6.15 a.m. and I will need to be here to do all the morning animal chores.
And both mountains are on fire this evening! Rain is forecast for next week (fingers crossed).

24th August
It's supposed to be cooling down today, but it still feels hot to me! And the mountains are still burning.
We are just above the cross roads and 'h' in Idanha a Nova
I'm starting to get more tomatoes to dry (not nearly as many as last year); quite a selection of shapes, sizes and colours.
Some of our watermelons are a bit 'floury' textured so I made some watermelon fruit leather - I added a bit of citric acid in the hope that it would taste like tangfastics!
We caught up with Andrew this evening over a couple of drinks at Bar do Clube.
Early evening the wind blew the smoke from the big fires in the mountains, to our north/north east, causing a HUGE black, ash depositing, cloud in our valley - it was like a scene from a post apocalyptic film!

25th August
A much cooler night; we didn't need the fan on - I even used the bedcovers!
So much smoke and ash in the air still.
Because of our stupid bank (closing it's current accounts) we're having to travel to Penamacor daily to take out money to tide us over until we can find away of spending in Portugal without paying exorbitant bank charges.
This evening we're off to Greg & Sara's for dinner, unfortunately poor old Brett's up at 5.00 as he's volunteered to help out at one of the farms that was gutted by the fire (clearing burnt woodland and digging drainage ditches for the surviving trees as the irrigation system was destroyed).

26th August
We had a lovely evening with G&S, it would have been very easy to stay longer but Brett needed some sleep; as it was he didn't get to bed until about 1.00. They had cooked a couple of curries (always popular with us), something that's hard to find in Central Portugal (unless you make it yourself or go into the big towns). They had the cutest, 4 month old, puppy, who was obviously teething.
Bank account saga cont.
Our account closes at the end of the month, we're busily getting out (250€ per day limit) a lump sum of cash to tide us over.
Today I signed up for a Monzo card (preloaded debit card with free overseas withdrawals/spending - problem is it's limited to £3000 per year).
No proof of address required but to prove identity I had to take a photo of my passport photo and then a VIDEO OF MY FACE (!!!) whilst reciting (something like) "please send me a Monzo card" - my video face looked nothing like my passport photo but I passed the test and a card is being issued.
Brett didn't get home until early afternoon, then (4.00) we were off to Bar do Clube for a 'few' drinks with the gang (16€ later we staggered home!).

27th August
Brett worked a couple of hours at Stuart's this morning to get his roof waterproof as rain is forecast (big smiley face!).
11.15 a message (plus photos) from Annika to the fire alert group - fire in Penamacor!!!!
The view from our supermarket car park!!!
We left it until the fire was under control before we ventured into Penamacor to get out money.

28th August
A smallholding day including 2 gallons of milk made into Halloumi.
We were going to have carrots this evening but ..... the sand, we stored ALL our carrot harvest in, was empty of carrots (bar a few bits); we don't think it was rodents as the sand was extremely hard and there was no sign of burrowing or poo. We think, but have no proof, that the sand got excessively hot and cooked/dessicated the carrots!
All day we waited for the rain. ........ it came overnight.

29th August
Castelo Branco - we haven't been for nearly 2 months (!) so lots to do. While we were there we met Concebelle & Andrew (we first met them at A&K's (last year), then they bought some Muscovys off us), they're really nice, so I invited them to lunch next week.
I should have gone to backgammon club this evening but I forgot and once reminded was too tired.
This evening it rained again.

30th August
I never thought I'd get bored with cheese making! But it's so often ....... Today was Mozzarella.
After the last two days of rain Brett took the tractor up to the vegetable garden to prepare the ground for winter planting - he said it was as dry as a bone and very, very dusty!
We (me, Di, Sara and Pam) had a 'girlie night' at Sara's watching 'Mama Mia' (Di had never seen it!) and drinking Sangria - the 'husbands' sat outside and drank beer!
We got home at 1.00 and decided to go to Spain tomorrow - early start as Spain is an hour ahead and the market finishes at 12.00.

31st August
Well the market was a great success; I bought three pieces of material for 5€. The colours and patterns aren't really my choice (but Brett told me not to be fussy!), however the texture is good (not stiff) and I will do some printing on it.
Then we went to the supermarket and bought some intresting tinned seafood (razor clams, anchovies etc).
We were home by 11.30.
This afternoon I cut out and printed one dress, will sew it tomorrow.
I added the birds (of course!)
Brett continued to prepare for winter - although it's still 30+!

1st September
Today I started an interesting cheese 'Mason Jar Marcellin'; it has to be aged in a jar (which creates the right environment) for six weeks and it's supposed to rival Camembert.
We made 15K of grape juice; it'll be fizzy by the end of the week, grape juice soda!
One dress finished!
Di phoned this evening - Richie had found a child! A young boy had been exploring and got lost, he couldn't find his way home (he's only been here a month). Fortunately his parents were located within the hour.

2nd September
I made a second dress today.
Usual Saturday visit to Bar do Clube, but we manage to come away sober for a change.

3rd September
We harvested our onions, some nice big ones, hope they keep well, I'll plait them up.
Lots of house tidying and gardening today as we have visitors tomorrow (Andrew & Concebelle) for lunch - they're coming to be inspired!

4th September
Happy Birthday Sarah Xxx
All the food and drink I prepared for lunch was from our quinta; figs stuffed with feta on a bed of rocket and nasturcium leaves & flowers, roast chicken, tomato salad with mozzarella, pickled cabbage, fermented cherry tomato bombs and grape juice (with sparkling water - bought!). It was a good afternoon.

6th September
We started our winter garden; we bought, and Brett planted, 50 brassica plugs (4€).
Nicky arrived (late as usual) for an afternoon of sewing; her excuse? She'd been trying to load a sofa (from the side of the bins) into her van but it was too heavy/big! After the sewing lesson we drove back with her, loaded the sofa into the back of our truck and delivered it to her place (mainly so that we could see Erd's reaction/face!!!!!).

7th September
1st Fermentation Club (The Fermentalists) meeting. We had a brilliant meeting at Nicky & Erd's; there were twelve of us, we all took ferments to show, lunch to share and ingredients to make into ferments. I came home with Apple Relish, Tomato Salsa and Lime (but in my case Orange, Lemon and Lime) Pickle.
Brett has stared back on the bathroom.
We strung up our onions and hung them on the decking.

8th September
I'm going through a tired and achy phase, hope it goes soon!
Bloody goats keep stealing our onions!!!!
And more fires ........

9th September
What a difference a day makes .......
This morning I was revelling in my goosebumps - however I soon put on a jumper!
I took advantage of the cooler weather to start some Chevre, which I want to age (I haven't managed it yet), it needs to ferment for two days at 'room temperature' so it's been put outside on the barbeque (which is on the shaded side of the house).
I sowed some beans and peas in our Winter veg bed.
Brett carried on with the bathroom (smiley face!).
Then (as it's Saturday) we went to the bar .......

10th September
The sow gave birth yesterday evening; two piglets, but only one alive (she probably rolled on, and killed, the dead one, like last time!). The remaining piglet is female, seems very lively, and we've seen her feeding - fingers crossed she survives her mother's total unawareness!!!!!!
The temperature has risen again and, of course, it's too hot for cheese making again, so I had to strain the curds off the whey - I'm still going to try to age it.

11th September
Happy Birthday Gill, hope you have a fabulous day! Xxx
The piglet (female) seems strong and healthy, so hopefully she will survive her mother's lack of awareness.
I spent the whole morning doing the washing and shelling chickpeas. Brett block laid ....

12th September
Whilst we were watering the vegetables I got stung (by a wasp?) right up the top of my leg - it throbs .......,.
So our latest communication from Customs (re the milking machine) is that the paperwork our seller sent us is not what they asked for. Brett phoned Ebay and you're only covered for 30 days!!!!! So it's looking like we have lost £450 which is ridiculous/annoying, we just can't think go to get it back - we're both in bloody bad moods today!
I cleaned out the fridge, there's so much cheese in there (Chevre at various ages (2 days - 7 weeks), Mozzarella, Feta, Halloumi, Cheddar, Crotin and Mason jar Marcellin), we're just not eating it fast enough!

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.

Friday, 28 July 2017


14th July
Only 43C today ....
4L of milk today, most ever!
Into Penamacor (BP check).
We watered, weeded and picked ......
Di is back in the UK, so we invited Chris for a couple of beers (three at the most) at bar do clube - we never learn! Seven beers later we stumbled home!!!!
So much for me making cheese this evening!
Then we bobbed around in the pool for a couple of hours ........

15th July
I had no choice but to make cheese today as we had 16L of milk filling the fridge and every available vessel (and that was before I milked this morning!

10L made into Halloumi and 6L trying another recipe for Mozzarella!
12 hours later, I have a big jar of Halloumi (it works nearly everytime now ) and several balls of Mozzarella (still rather rubbery) and only 4L of milk (today milking) in the fridge (tomorrow it'll be 8L).
We did have a couple of hours off when we went to visit Sarah & Greg (unfortunately Greg was working, so not at home). We've invited them to dinner Thursday evening.

16th July
Only 43C today!
Another 4L milk ......
A huge group of us went to the Idanha barragem for a picnic lunch - it was a fabulous afternoon, lots of bobbing around in the water!
We picked our first two melons today (Gala), slightly under ripe but very sweet and juicy.

17th July
40C (it's cooling down!!!).
And another 4L of milk ........
The morning was lost speaking to solicitors and writing letters (boring stuff). While we were on the phone Brett was jiggling around playing with his shorts; after the call he dropped his shorts and a centipede dropped out (I didn't see it). We have these big centipedes here (Scolopendra cingulata, also known as Megarian banded centipede, or the Mediterranean banded centipede), it has a rather nasty bite (and can cause anaphylactic shock)- fortunately Brett didn't react.
It's the time of year when harvesting produce gets boring! There's just so much to pick; then we have to eat or process it. Apart from basics like salt, pepper, sugar/honey, flour, rice, pasta etc every meal is prepare from ingredients we've grown/raised. We are eating pretty much a vegan/vegetarian diet atm (very occasionally we eat meat to make room in the freezer!). But I shouldn't moan, we came here to be self sufficient and we're more or less achieving it (it's just bloody hard, continuous, work!).
Anyway just finished dinner and we're off to the pool with a couple of beers!!!!

18th July
We are no longer using any shop bought milk but we still had 11L of goat's milk in the fridge. So today I made (a very long winded) cheddar, took me all day.
Brett harvested carrots and beetroot.
The carrots went into a tub of damp sand and the beetroot cooked for pickling.

19th July
A bit cooler today, only 31C - I can cope with this.
Pickled beetroot made.
Sundried tomatoes started.
Goat's milk yoghurt sieved to thicken.
More melons picked (and tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and cabbage).

20th July
Greg & Sarah are coming to dinner tonight, so I spent all day cooking and cleaning.
Everything for dinner is from the quinta. Starter; A meze of Presunto ham, mozzarella, melon (watermelon and Gala) and cherry tomatoes. Main: Roast chicken, smashed potatoes, ratatouille, lemon glazed carrots. Puddin': Creme caramel (made with goat's milk).
Brett harvested the potatoes, not a particularly good yield - as he said if we needed to grow potatoes to survive we'd be dead! We get blight, always have, it was here when we came - we thought we'd avoid it in a hot, dry climate.

21st July
Happy Birthday Saskia xxx
We had a good evening, sitting out on the decking; eating, drinking and talking. We didn't get to bed until gone 1.00.
Today's cheese is Creamy Feta (slow ferment method), it has to ferment at room temperature for 24 hours - I've put it in the darkest corner of the kitchen to keep it as cool as possible.
Brett is really into vegetable gardening this year and it shows, far less weeds than in past years.
Claire brought us an amazing book on fermentation (The Art of Fermentation, Sander Ellix Katz); today I prepared a bucketful of tomatoes to make Conserva Cruda Di Pomodoro (Fermented Tomato Conserve).

22nd July
Every other day we thoroughly water our vegetables (the day in between we water our field of maize) and harvest all our ripe produce - today's offering: a big bucket of courgettes, tomatoes and peppers (more work for me processing this lot).
1.5L milk out in the heat, making yoghurt; it's not as creamy as Greek yoghurt, but I can make it thick by straining out some of the whey AND it's free!
24 hours later and the Feta looks as if it's going to work! Last time I used this method (slow ferment) I used a buttermilk culture (mesophilic) as my starter and it didn't work; instead of the whey fermenting and the curds sinking, the curds fermented and floated (it wasn't wasted, the pigs liked it!). This time I used active whey as my starter, saved from making the cheddar, and I have lovely soft sunken curds (which now have to drain in mould for 24 hours). This means I can now experiment with making aged Chevre.
The cheddar has had two days air drying next stage was cloth wrapping it with butter muslin (coconut oil was used to hold it together - traditionally this would have been lard). Now it'll mature for a few weeks (unfortunately in the fridge as we have no cellar or cool areas).
More tomatoes sundrying; we've nearly finished the seven big bags I made last year. Mainly blitzed up with olive oil to make a fabulous paste; great as the sauce for pizza,on toasted bread as part of a meze or simply used as flavouring in sauces/soups).
This evening we are going to the local produce festa in Penamacor, it was brilliant last year. However as the time to go out gets nearer we're becoming less and less enthusiastic.

23rd July
We went to the festa last night and it was disappointing. Nowhere near as much going on as last year, not that many people, the stalls were 'same old, same old'. We ate from a food stall (Brett had Leito cooked in bread, I had pizza), it was ok, but Brett still felt hungry. So we went to JCJ's (Brett had a burger and we shared some chips). Then we went home.
Jelisa is not up to par; she stood on the milking table not eating and spitting out her cud! She could be on heat (it doesn't feel like heat) or she could have eaten something that disagrees with her.
My Conserva Cruda Di Pomodoro has a white mould on it (it's supposed too!) I'm so excited.
Today I made a fermented salsa (tomatoes, onion, garlic, pepper, active whey and salt). It'll be ready in a few days.
The feta cheese is out of the mould and air drying for 24 hours. And I'm trying to make the slow Mozzarella again (using whey as my starter). These slow ferment recipes take days to process (but I'm not using any chemicals just natural organisms), fortunately at lot of the time is just hanging around.
Top (L to R): sundries tomatoes, yoghurt, Conserva Cruda Di Pomodoro
Bottom: sausages, mozzarella, feta
A big fire, of signifigance, between us and Escalos de Cima .........

24th July
Happy Birthday Claire! Xxx
Jelisa is back to normal, apart from a litre less milk (she obviously didn't eat much yesterday).
Mozzarella is still rubbery - I think I'll give up try g to make it
Mark is over for a flying visit, so he came to dinner and stayed overnight.

25th July
The heat is coming back! And so are the wildfires - they're in Castelo Branco region this time ......

The Conserva Cruda Di Pomodoro was ready for the next step; removing the skins and seeds, then straining through cheese cloth - well my mouli sieve didn't work, a metal sieve was not much better, I ended up using the juicer (which is crap) and the amount left is pitiful!
Back to cheese making experiments; today I started an aged Chevre, Crottin (translation from French apparently is little turd!). It has to ferment for a couple of days, until a white mould grows on it (unfortunately room temperature here is rather hot).

27th July
And this morning my curds are floating, which means they have yeast fermenting away in them - I'm 100% sure it's the temperature (perfect temp for bread making), it will have to go to the pigs .....
So we decided to have a day off and go to the barragem. We left the quinta, drove along the track to the village and there's a HUGE boulder in the middle of the road,
no way around it (thank goodness we weren't fleeing from a fire!). We had to back up, go back to the house for crow bar, shovel and rope. Whilst we were moving it Joao & Hilda turned up - they thought we'd crashed the car.
LOST IN TRANSLATION: We told them we were off to Meimao (and Meimoa to eat); he was saying (in Portuguese) the 'soupa de pedra' was good, then he looked at his watch and seemed to be saying come and quickly have some soup with us ...... we said "We don't understand", but he was bring his fingers to his lips (eat food), pointing towards his house, saying "rapido" - so we said "ok" (couldn't think what else to say!). Then, as we drove to their house, we realised/decided he said 'go quickly they start serving at 12.00' (or words to the effect). Oh dear, our Portuguese 'nao es bon!'.
This evening we harvested half our black eyed beans.
Beans before harvest

Thursday, 13 July 2017

SUMMERTIME, but the living's not easy .......

2nd July
We spent all morning in the vegetable garden - weeding, watering, harvesting (beans, onions, beetroot, carrots, tomatoes, aubergine .........). For their first time ever we have managed to grow melons, the only problem is we don't know when to pick them!
Wow, my UK phone costs 40p/minute to ring anywhere in Europe (it used to cost 4p before roaming charges were dropped) and my Portuguese phone costs me 50c/minute to ring UK - I need to find a better deal.
This afternoon was spent making cheese (Halloumi). This self sufficiency lark is very time consuming!
Look a
Flippin' heck, I caught Brett sneaking out of the house with apple cider vinegar (bought, therefore expensive, as I have run out of homemade); he was going to use it to clean the car's windows!!!!! I 'squawked', rescued the ACV and gave him white vinegar from my studio (he refused to try my homemade red wine vinegar!).
And then he went to give the beetroot leaves, which I had washing in a bucket of water, to the pigs - they were earmarked for the curry!

3rd July
Wendy & Kevin gave us some plums, I made jam ....
Wildfire between our village and the next this evening (21 fire engines, 5 planes, 64 people); out now (phew!).

4th July
Every other day our mornings are full ......
Get up
Animals out and fed
Milk goats (3L today)
Weeding, watering and harvesting
Feeding goats, sheep and pigs with the weeds
Back to the house (for a well earned drink) ....... it's 12.30!!!!!
Vegetarian lunch, mostly from the quinta: carrot dip, crisps (bought), pickled cabbage/sauerkraut, goat cheese; actually Brett's wasn't veggie, he had sausage rolls (our pork).
Vegetarian dinner, ALL from the quinta: Saganaki cheese (well our version - fried Mozzarella), beetroot salad, carrot salad, beer (bought!).
Need to eat more beans .......
Made clementine cake for tomorrow afternoon.

5th July
Up at 6.30! Don't know why, I was awake ........
Another 3L from the goat's, need to make cheese but we have guests coming this afternoon (Nicky, she and her husband bought P&M's place, and Taliss, her daughter). Nicky wants me to teach her how to sew.
Ew, I saw the young Billy pee on his face!!!! He seemed to be able to control his penis, so he was peeing forwards, then he turned his head so it caught the flow. He's in with our milking females and he thinks the smell makes him attractive to them! He's only in with them because he jumped out of the sheep field .......
Nicky is hosting a beginner's fermentation workshop - I gave her my Kombucha Scoby 'hotel' (about a year's worth of spare Scobys).

6th July
Cheese making today as I had 11.5L of milk in the fridge. 7.5L made into Mozzarella
and 4L is clabbering, so I can make some Chevre ....... and that was most of my day gone! Until I discovered the whey from the Mozzarella had split - so I had to make Ricotta!

7th July
Happy Birthday Lesley xxx
So our bank (Norwich & Peterborough), in it's wisdom, has decided to close it's current accounts section. We chose it because it had no oversea fees for purchases or cash withdrawl (it did have it's limitations - €250/day cash limit). So looked around for a better deal (Money Saving Expert) and Halifax Clarity Credit card came out top (as long as you pay off the balance each month). Great, I have a Halifax current account (my money gets transferred from there into N&P each month) so this should be easy - wrong!!!! We have a Portuguese address (we have a UK one too, but we're not there obviously) and therefore not eligible for the card (EVEN THOUGH I BANK WITH THEM ALREADY) how absolutely ridiculous. And that goes for all UK banks and credit cards. My Halifax card charges 2.75% plus £1.50 per cash withdrawl (ATMs here have a 200€ limit per transaction) if anyone has got any good ideas?????

8th July
Happy Birthday Lauren xxx
A typical smallholding start to the day, as in you never know when something unexpected is going to happen! Whilst letting out and feeding the geese I could hear plaintive bleating, so went to investigate.
The young Billy (the one who jumped out of the field to be with the milking females) had jumped back into the field overnight with the rest of the flock. He had managed to get his foot through the stock fence as he went over, twisting the second strand down over the top strand, thus snaring his lower leg. He was well and truly stuck; three feet on the ground and a back leg caught at the top of the fence. We needed wire cutters to release him (he can't put his foot to the ground atm) - of course the fence is ruined!!!
The billys and rams are in full-on rutting mode; it's mayhem in the field, they're fighting and molesting the females, egged on by Jelisa and Lucy who are flirting from the other side of the fence - they'll get their comeuppance tomorrow as they're being put in the field with the rest of the flock!.

9th July
Happy Birthday Rebecca xxx
As Brett is working next week we took today off and went to Meimao barragem.
As soon as I start wearing sandals I have problems with dry cracking feet (always have, they're fine if I wear socks). I have a pathetic, (12v) battery operated, machine that sands off the dry skin, but it's not very powerful or effective. So Brett has loaned me his mini orbital sander (180 Watts, I can only use it when the generator is on) - it's scary, but it does the job! I wonder if chiropodists use them? Ok, looked it up; Chiropodists use razor blades - I wouldn't try that myself!

10th July
Brett was up at 6.00 ....
I tried out a different Mozzarella recipe, it is a much longer method than the one I usually use (it's titled 'traditional'), fingers crossed I get the salad Mozzarella this time.
6 hours later - I didn't! It didn't stretch, it tastes and sounds (squeaky) like Halloumi, so I'll try making Saganaki cheese with it.

11th July
Brett was off before 7.00 again.
37C .......
I did all the animal chores and the washing - boring but necessary jobs.
Tomorrow we're off to CB (we have a long shopping list on our way back we're calling in on Amelia (Mark's friend) who is going to introduce us to Bill - a prospective stained glass window customer!

12th July
40+ ......
We had a successful shopping trip - I even managed to buy some sandals!
Bill wants a transom (a glass panel above his front door) but ...... he doesn't have a preference for colors or design, "You're the artist, you decide. Whatever is easiest for you", was his input! His budget? "As cheap as possible" - do I really want this commission?????
After dinner, it was so hot, we stripped off and spent an hour in the pool; it was lovely just bobbing around and putting the world to rights. Then we came in, looked at camper vans and drank beer. We're both in a good place at the moment.

13th July
It's going to be a hot one; it's 10.00 and already 34.5C (in the shade) ............
3.00 44.5C: that is hot, and even hotter if you go out of the shade. All our tubs of water were too hot to put your hand in!
We harvested a load of vegetables and went down to introduce ourselves to our new neighbour (Eloise) - Chris & Sasha were there working, they looked hot and tired.
We bobbed around in the pool again this evening, it really cools your core temperature. Then we came in and drank beer - it's the most thirst quenching drink!

Saturday, 1 July 2017


17th June
We got 133 bales of hay (at a cost of 70c per bale = 93€) from our three fields.
As rain is forecast for the next three days Brett wanted to get it under cover (a dirty, itchy job); I drove the truck Brett did the dirty, itchy bit!
This evening was an annual village festa (actually it started at noon), everything was free - lunch, beer, dinner. We went after we'd put our animals away; Greg & Sarah had been there since 12.00! Chris & Di since 4.00! We had a lot of catching up to do!!!!! But we managed!
Dinner was bread, barbecued pork and sardines (no vegetables) and red wine.
Bap's traditional village group played, a fabulous dancing group danced (the men wore wide brimmed hats), we left when the 'Euro-pop' group were on!!!!!

18th June
Dreadful, dreadful news masses of people killed (62 so far) some in their cars trying to flee massive forest fires in the Coimbra region.
This story has dominated Facebook today; people trying to contact loved ones, updates on the 'worst wildfire' since records began, offers of food, clothes and accommodation. And around us there's a haze, we can't see the mountains, we can hardly see the village water tower. And it's only June!

19th June
Last sheep shorn! He was a big boy (last year's ram lamb, about 16 months) and a real struggler - we missed Claire's help.
Nicky & Rich messaged us, they're coming round tomorrow evening.
A fabulous electrical storm this evening; but, as the fires on Saturday were probably started by lightening, rather scary!

20th June
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEL!!!!!!!🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈xxxx
We're really hot in bed, unable to sleep; we've tried covering ourselves with wet towels and having a fan on - it works to a degree, but not that well. Brett has had an idea; as it's colder outside at night we need to bring the cold air in, so ........ we're going to put a hole in the bedroom wall and insert an extractor fan (the opposite way round to usual) so it will suck the outside air into the bedroom. Today we went into CB to buy the extractor fan and bits and pieces (came to about 20€).
We went in late-ish, so we could get worm tablets for Lily (the vet opens at 3.00). Everything took so long, we didn't get home until gone 5.00 (Nicky and Rich arriving at 6.30!).
A mad rush to get food organised (and wash the floor) and we were ready for guests! Fortunately N&R are easy guests, once they arrived we relaxed and had a good evening.

21st June
The nights start drawing in ........
Brett installed the extractor fan.
I have a new cheese book and have found a traditional (slower) method for making a creamy salad Mozzarella (the curds are left in the whey overnight to ferment) - mine is always a bit rubbery (so best used on pizzas!).

22nd June
The extractor fan worked, it was still warm (it isn't air con. so can't work miracles) but far more comfortable than of late - well done Brett.
My mozzarella didn't work - the curds wouldn't hold together, perhaps the room temp was too hot?
We should have known better!!!! "We're going to the bar at 4.00 for a quick drink" said Chris & Di - five and a half hours later (it was dark) we arrived home to put our bemused (but thankfully safe) animals away! They are such a bad influence!

23rd June
House tidying with a hangover is not fun .......
Debbie & David arrived one and a half hours late as their train broke down - it was great to see them.
We started by making them pick their dinner (a bucket of French beans).

24th June
Didn't do much, well obviously quinta chores (including lots of gardening), and erecting the swimming pool - pity the temperatures have dropped (they'll soon heat up).

25th June
Happy Birthday Pam xxx
Everyone but me spent the afternoon weeding the vegetable field. I was in my studio cutting out a large bird lino cut and then printing onto my green dress - I'm so happy with the results ......

The pink background pattern is printed from a plastic placemat!
The birds are linocuts

26th June
Started making Chevre (10L milk) from my new book (slow ferment method) before we went out.
Went to Meimao for the day, treated to lunch.
The curds were fermenting and bubbling (not supposed to) when we got home, we think because our 'room temperature' is too hot atm. Strained the curd (as it wasn't going to make Chevre) and put it into a mould to see if it could be rescued.

27th June
Lots of weeding and watering.
Yesterday's 'Chevre' is very crumbly, but it works well on tomato salad (already picking our own tomatoes).
Helped Debbie print fish one of her dresses, last time she did a linocut she was at school (a long time ago!!!!). She was very pleased with the results.

This evening it rained ........

28th June
Went to Monsanto (we did take D&D there on a previous visit, in 2015, but it was foggy!) and then we were treated to lunch in Idanha.
On our way back home we drove through Proenca a Velha: so stopped off at the Junta to ask about our oil. WE HAVE OUR OIL!!!!!! A measly 8L from 96kgs of olives, should last us a few months (probably not until next olive harvest). We also picked up D&T's oil, which we will drop off tomorrow.
This week has gone very quickly, D&D are off first thing in the morning.

29th June
Up at 6.30, in CB by 8.00 ("goodbye D&D, see you next year"), at T&D's by 8.40, back home and milking the goats by 9.30 .........
Relaxed for the rest of the day (apart for some hoovering, as Looby is shedding dreadfully).

30th June
Lots of weeding today ........
Stuart & Helen go back to the UK tomorrow so we went to the bar for a few hours, as C&D weren't with us we managed to get home before dark!

1st July
We had a lovely lunch and gossip at Wendy & Kevin's today.