Sunday, 30 May 2010

a very english tea


A kind friends' garden
good weather
cucumber sandwiches
egg mayonaise sandwiches
fairy cakes
scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream
shortbread biscuits
fondant fancies
tea cakes
pots and pots of tea
a vintage english car
a very english dog
and loads of wisteria
oh and a godson

yum yum and thank you

Sunday, 23 May 2010


The remaining black hen (Betty) has gone broody.
It's a bit annoying as the other hens can't get into the nest to lay and I don't want her to make them broody too, also she is not eating or drinking and have read that they can literally starve themselves to death when broody. Stupid creatures.

I have been trawling around the internet and found lots of suggestions, some impractical, like: put a clutch of ice cubes under her, not gonna work in 35 degree heat, just getting the ice cubes to the farm would result in puddle on my lap.
Putting her in a cage with a wire bottom, could work but I lent my cat cage which would have been perfect to a friend and it is somewhere between here and Scotland!

A dutch friend of ours visited yesterday and said, dunk her bum in a bucket of cold water. This I can do, when we fill the water butts everyday for our gravity fed watering system, the water is very cold, as coming up from 100 meter hole.
Great, filled a bucket with it, stuck her bum in....lots of fuss.
She unruffled herself and stood straight up and got on with drinking and feeding. Brilliant it's worked I said. 5 minutes later she's back on the nest. Did it again, this time she quite liked it, but went straight back on nest.......Rick's done it again this morning and he left her eating and the others laying.

I suspect that it won't work and will result in a chicken with a very clean bum and I'll just have to let her finish laying her clutch and when she realises nothing is going to happen, she'll give up. I am also considering wearing protective eye wear as when I went to shove her off the nest the other day I got pecked in the eyeball....not good.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

out on a limb

There are a number of trees that all need to come down before rick can continue to build, mainly because of their proximity to the house site, within 50 meters they are a fire hazard. There is also an ever present danger of blow-down, as most of them are at 30+ meters each and the mountain slope in that area is scree, loose and febrile, there's not a lot to hold onto up there, so you can imagine, felling is a nightmare, nowhere to stand, and nowhere to escape. Additionally, and potentially the most worrying, some of them have signs of an extremely virulent disease called seco, a nementode disease, causing rotting of the trees and their death, which has become prevalent in the hard yellow maritime pines of the region, if not caught and halted it can wipe out all the trees in an entire region. The biggest hurdle with stopping it, is that many of the trees that have it are on land owned by people who are no longer here, the trees get the disease and spread it rapidly, whole sections of mountainside can get blighted very quickly. in the later stages of the disease the timber is barely fit for firewood, and certainly not construction.

Obviously, it was going to be awkward, the road and telephone line behind on the mountainside, the house and the well head to the right, too many other trees blocking an exit to the left, the hen house, olives and our only large cherry tree in-front. The largest of the trees needed sectional felling, it had a large and prominent fork 3/4 of the way up, which was leaning out over the house and down the mountain and there was no chance of getting it all in the tiny space that it was allocated for the drop. It was a real hazard of a tree. We decided to get in Shey, a tree surgeon who was prepared to climb and fell it. He did a great job.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

2cv heaven

The 2cv was the first car I ever bought, £300, bargain, one broken chassis later and a lot of crying, I had a 2nd hand chassis put on by Doug Cuuningham, the famous 2cv mechanic who happened to live up the road from me in UK, very handy.

After several years of driving around in Valentine, and a lot of arguing about the awfulness : comfort, weatherproofness, humility (in ricks case) versus the merits of it : cheap to run, fully convertible, fun and exciting to drive and attention drawing, we got rid of it in a pact, you sell your clown car and i will sell my selfish paris dakar motorbike. (actually I pulled out of the deal, but did eventually fulfil my end of the bargain).
We both regretted it. Years later I asked the 2cv mechanic if he ever saw the people who bought my car and he said he hadn't seen them for years. I explained to him that I would love to buy it back as missed it so badly and we needed another car. As luck would have, but i'd call it something else, the people that had bought my darling 2cv from me rang my mechanic the very next day and said they wanted to sell!!!.
I bought her back cheaper than I'd sold her and I still have her to this day. She isn't here with me but will come one day and possibly on her last trip, back to the country where she was actually built! funny that.
Rick has bought yet another adventure motorcycle, actually he has two, but one of them is apparently for me but in pieces. Both of which also sit uselessly in a garage.

Imagine my delight when this morning I heard some familiar sounds in the village, peeked out of my door and discovered that there was a convoy of pristine 2cv's all lined up in the street. Where they here just for me? maybe. They were on their way to the Estrellas as part of the

This is what my idea of heaven would look like, tonnes of 2cv's all restored and shiny and gleaming. If i had enough money I would have a fleet.
Nobody could understand my ridiculous mountain Portuguese so I found a young member of the convoy who spoke english and with a very sad photo of my 2cv, explained that I too had one. Oh but it's very bad they all said. Bring it here and you can restore it cheaply....i quite like it's shabby chicness, but they didn't understand, they were the most respectable, smartly dressed and posh 2cv owners I had ever met. I had a tear in my eye and huge lump in my throat, they understood that, no language needed.

Friday, 14 May 2010

oh that's good, that's very good

Those of you who know rick from old, know how we affectionately call him pudding boy. Not cause he is tubby, but simply because he loves his puddings, and the more english they are the better. I consider myself quite a good cook and am constantly coming up with delicious meals from limited ingredients, but never get to making the pudding stage either because I'm too tired or have run out of time or both. Also I can't eat them because they do make me tubby.

Rick had left open Nigellas "domestic goddess" book (which is a big fave), on the steamed syrup sponge page, it's been sitting in the kitchen for a couple of days, staring at me.

Fed up with being drizzled on all day at the farm and being cold, I decided to come home early and make the bloody pudding. It takes two hours to cook, I was quite nervous about it's success, when the moment of truth arrived I couldn't have been more chuffed, not just because it looked stunning but it made pudding boy so happy.

And boy did it taste good, it's a 2 pint pudding, I've had about 1/2 pint and rick tried to eat the other 1 1/2 pints but had to give up and is saving the rest for later.
Perfect for such a miserable night....

shiny happy piggies

I read that we needed to be grooming the pigs with a dandy brush, well I don't happen to have one of those to hand, so when I went riding at Sophie's on monday I had a look at a dandy brush and bought a much cheaper equivalent from a local builders yard (€0.95 actually). The pigs loved being groomed and it was quite satisfying as all the mud and flaky stuff flew off them, it also gave me a chance to check them over and discovered that the hooligan male had cut his face in several places, more about that in a minute.After grooming you're supposed to cover them in neetsfoot oil, well I don't have any of that either so I used linseed oil, which Rick assures me is just as good. Needless to say they now look filthy again, but we'll go through the ritual of this grroming malarky cause it's quite nice and a bit like having two tiny ponies!!!

The reason the hooligan pig had cut his face is because he insists on tearing around the campo and charging into the house that rick built them, which, as it's made out of corrugated tin, has sharp edges.

I came up with what I thought was a genius plan to use some old hose, cut it and wrap around the edge of the tin and stick it all on with gaffer tape. This I did. Feeling rather proud of myself for not just coming up with a cunning plan but also implementing it (obviously with some fuss thrown in for good princess farmer measure!).
I was mighty pissed off to discover that hooligan was slowly and not quietly ripping off the tape and chewing up the hose. GRRRRRR

His cuts healed overnight, I will slowly be less precious about their welfare, not neglecting their well-being just treating them more like livestock rather than pets. Otherwise I am never going to be able to eat them.

Now about that broody hen, I'll tell you about her later

Friday, 7 May 2010

a long whey to go....

pig food is expensive and they eat a lot of it, we supplement them with all sorts of kitchen vegetable waste and i've now persuaded one of the local caterers to give me all their veg scraps, which is great. What we really wanted was some whey, first find the word in the dictionary, mmm doesn't exist, hunt around on the internet, found a word, no-one knew what it was. Imagine the conversation, "you know, the liquid after make cheese", cos that's probably what my portuguese sounds like to a portuguese person. We happened to pass a sign on the road the other day pointing to a farm, the sign had a big cheese on it, ooohh, lets go there and ask them for, oh christ what's that word again, anyway had to have the whole, "you know, the liquid after make cheese" conversation again and lo and behold we have been granted as much as we want whenever we want!!!!! hurrah.

Soro de leite coalhado (which actually translates as serum from clotted milk, no wonder we couldn't remember what it was called, or that anyone knew what we were talking about).
I went today to get our first load and decided to count how many bends there were between us and them. What am I doing counting bends when i should be concentrating on driving, well, becoming more portuguese I guess, not really paying attention, using all of the road instead of my half and generally not paying attention (did I say that already!). 94 in all, some of them the kind that you have to change gear on, (down,not up!!) and various obstacles to veer around, including animals, people and rubbish and and the occasional fallen tree.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

buckets of beans

The garden is coming along nicely, apart from having lost most of the brassicas I put in, cabbages and swedes, not too bothered about the swede as we didn't eat that many last year and ended up giving most away to english friends. The days I put them in where fruit days and ordinarily would have been fine, but the temperature suddenly shot up into the 30's which finished them off, I tried shading them etc. but it looks like they are dead.

The beans and peas are going great guns and we've harvested tonnes of broad beans. I have tried to get some of our neighbours and friends to eat broad beans raw, trying to explain that they are delicious when eaten raw, young and small, anyone would think that we were trying to get them to eat dog poo or something. Tonight our friend who is always trying to ply us with rice pudding and making us eat all sorts of portuguese delicacies, literally spat out a broad bean in front of me, suggesting that it was the most appalling thing she had ever tasted. I said I felt rather insulted as i was constantly having to taste her food and feign deliciousness, purely out of politeness. Obviously doesn't work the other way round.