The village

The village

Or should that be villages? When we first moved in there was a lot of paperwork to be done: forms to be filled in, proof of residence to be made, photos taken… we traipsed round various offices together always taking all the documents with us, never knowing what was needed when. It was therefore with some amusement when we got any authorisation, our residência for example, as it seemed we were not living together. We were given different postcodes, one of us is living in the village to the east, Galega, and the other to the west, Chão de Ourique! We are in fact living bang smack in the middle of the two, perhaps the village boundaries go through the house.

Anyway, this was way back in 2010. Although the house may be in two villages it has neither a number nor a street name (the bank manager is always moaning about that). Some of you will remember the council had a village meeting back in February asking for suggestions for names. Last month we received a note from them saying that the proposed name for ours was Rua da Escola (and giving us 10 days to object and come up with something different). Ah, I hear you say: you’ve never mentioned the school. That’s because there is no school. There is a building which was used as the school, D. Elena went there when she was a child in the 1940s, but it hasn’t been used as one for decades. A name is better than no name though and now we wait for our number. (Which might help us to send parcels to the UK; at the moment the customs declaration form has to be done online but all attempts to fill it in fails as the address is incomplete…).

The old school house

D Elena told me that the schoolteacher used to arrive by bicycle. In those days the road was just a dirt track and when it rained heavily he wasn’t able to come as it was all too muddy, especially as people kept oxen which made the road even more impassable in bad weather. She used to complain that she wasn’t allowed to go to the bigger school when she was old enough, as her brothers did, because it was in another village and she was a girl. She had to stay behind.

Which brings us to the next topic: it seems the village is for sale, including the old school house. There are 17 buildings on the west side, Chão de Ourique. Only six of these are lived in: three with Portuguese and three with Brits. Alas, at the start of the month there were seven occupied houses but we had to say goodbye to Ol’ Man River who lived alone at the far end. There is a lamp post in the village which serves as a notice board and as most notices are about who has died it is referred to as the death pole. We were sad to see his name and picture there but at 96 he had had a good innings, as they say. Despite his age he was always quite cheerful, we could often hear him singing, and always asked us what day of the week it was. His house, along with D Elena’s, is to stay with their families, as is another house, but the remaining are either for sale (five of those, I exaggerated a little) or abandoned (three).

Luis’s house opposite is for sale…
…as is the house next door…
…and the one next to that.

There might even be more abandoned houses but as they have no roofs and have become one with nature it’s not always so clear what was a barn and what was a house. I often wonder what the village must have been like when all the houses were fully occupied and the old people who live here now, or up until recently, were children. D Elena used to talk about the past with pleasure until she remembered how hard it was without water and electricity (and the muddy roads) and got a bit tearful.

For sale
Empty since we have been here

Meanwhile the greenfinches in the plane tree in the courtyard have left their home. They fledged this morning having stood on the edge of the nest flapping their wings and tweeting loudly for the last four days. They haven’t gone far, we can still hear them in the olive trees over the wall begging to be fed.

The last word goes to Jussi. Despite being a pedigree Labrador, with a whole string of operations and emergency treatments and medicines under her belt, she has, amazingly, turned 13. I have lost count how many times I thought she wouldn’t make it through the latest saga of illness, including the operation for the tumour at the start of the year, but she is quite perky, for her age at least, although her daily walk is just through to the end of the village and back. Alfredo is still around to shout Gordo! and chuckle whenever he sees her. Parabéns to Jussi.

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Just around the corner…

Just around the corner…

It may be the longest day of the year but it’s also the shortest summer. We have gone from spring to autumn. It’s grey, wet and a bit miz. We are wearing jumpers. The idea that ‘the nights are drawing in’ seems a tad depressing. There have been some bright days but the barbie is covered up again. Unsurprisingly, we have been watching the footie: all those games in the sunshine! With cooling water breaks! Anyway, the resident meteorologist assures me, yet again, that summer is around the corner…

So let’s go outside and see what’s there. The strawberry pot, planted up in February, is doing well. We just have to move it out of Jussi’s way before she gobbles this lot up. The raspberries have come and gone (the blackbirds won) as have the gooseberries (having been turned into 2 clafoutis, 2 large bottled jars for winter pud and 4 pots of jam).

The plums, at least the yellow ones, are going to give us a bumper harvest. And the two linden trees were amazing with their flowers this year. Picking those for herbal teas was a sense sensation: the sweet, honey-like smell was quite overpowering, and the bees overhead buzzed incessantly. I managed to get, between downpours, a good few baskets for drying.

We have a pomegranate tree, or rather bush. It looks stunning now with its bright scarlet red flowers; we only get one or two fruit, they just drop off before maturing, but it looks lovely.

In the veg patch the runner beans are doing well, we have 6 plants and manage to get plenty for a meal every day. The aubergines, melons and peppers have shot up in the wet weather so hoping for a good year for those. The courgettes are also delivering the goods now: courgette fritters, stuffed courgette, courgette pasta… when they work they are fabulous. The salad toms, the ones that escaped the blight, have fruit although those are still green. We really need some heat and sunshine to get them going.

Meanwhile the rewilding of the garden has taken a different turn. It did look lovely last year but it’s a tad scruffier now with loads of grasses and brambles coming though.

It’s all great for the wildlife though. We mentioned in the last post that the hunting ban meant seeing more animals, and we continue to see deer on many of the dog walks. Richard came across a dead one unfortunately but he took the head and he now has a rather impressive skull to add to his collection. It belongs (belonged?) to a roe deer. The moth is a passenger moth apparently.

Meanwhile we can hear baby barn owls, always very pleasing, late at night. We were also excited that, after 10 years, we had an apricot harvest. Well, we got three! The joy of small things.

Flowers and showers

Flowers and showers

So I went onto our digital photo albums to see what pics we had taken to remind me of the month only to see they were mainly of meals we had eaten outside or knitting projects! I think the reason for this has been the rain again; the excitement of al fresco dining at last and firing up the barbie is always a photo opportunity, and then being inside meant time spent designing more patterns.

So Richard has had more practise with grilling sardines…

plus he has honed his paella making skills:

There have been some winners. The raspberries have gone mad thinking we have moved to Scotland and we are having a monster crop. Not that we are eating them all ourselves, the blackbirds are feasting on them too. The strawberries are also doing well but I just saw Jussi helping herself to one so we are sharing those too!

I’m not really a big fan of roses but the ones of the front door have also enjoyed the rain with the sunshine, as have others in the courtyard. The serins will be nesting above the door as usual this year we hope.

The clematis too looks marvellous and in the countryside it’s been an astonishing year for the bee orchids, we’ve never seen so many before, just wonderful.

There have been casualties though. For the first time the blue tits’ nest box failed. We saw them making their nest, and a few hatched but then, for some reason, they all died. Very sad. Perhaps the rain meant there were not enough caterpillars for them, perhaps one or both of the parents got predated. We’ll never know, and there doesn’t seem any more interest in the box. One lunchtime a buzzard tried to take one of the blackbirds feeding on the ground, there was a load of squawking and it flew over our heads but the blackbird got away. Nice to hear them and the nightingales singing.

In the veg patch the rain and warm temperatures meant one thing: the dreaded blight. I had to throw away all of the cherry tomato plants, they were already very tall and covered in flowers. But the tell-tale signs were there and when I made myself dig them up they stank horribly. A little later two of the salad tom plants also had to be pulled up, I have four of those left. There are still six plum tomato plants to go in, struggling a bit in their pots, but they are to go in after the broad beans and will be next to the others and I really want to wait and check they’re in the clear. We’ve had a marvellous proper hot sunny day today but I’ve just seen it’s only going to be 20 tomorrow with a chance of rain (more!) so perhaps it’s just as well I’ve waited.

On another positive note there are definitely signs in the countryside that the hunting ban has made a difference. Deer, rabbits and red-legged partridges are regularly seen. Oh and yes we’ve both had our first Covid jabs, the next one is late June.

We’ve just looked outside: the skies have turned a distinct pewter grey and the wind has picked up. It really does look like we’ll start the first of the summer months needing our waterproofs for the morning dog walk. Ho hum.

Sing a song

Sing a song

We are right into spring now. On my morning walks the countryside is a riot of green. The olive green is with us all year as is the green of the pine trees but now they have been joined by the green of a wide variety of oaks including holm, kermes and the ubiquitous Portuguese oak as well as the slightly different shades of the hawthorn and strawberry trees. As well as taking in the greenness of the trees we also have our eyes combing the ground as it’s also the orchid season and we always see at least a dozen species. I must admit to being a bit of a wild flower nerd as well and have compiled a list of almost 200 species of wild flowers found in these parts.

But this year I’ve also been trying to attune my ears. A couple of years ago I couldn’t tell the difference between the song of the Robin and the Blackbird so I made a concerted attempt to identify the common birds we get around here by their calls and songs. The tea-cher, tea-cher of the Great Tit and the calls of the Wood Pigeon and Cuckoo are obvious but there were many birds I could hear on my daily dog walk and without seeing them I had no idea who was making the sound. I therefore made a real effort to remember and if possible record the songs I was hearing and then check them on various websites when I got home. Fortunately there seems to be a progression from winter through to spring. Winter is pretty quiet on the whole but we get a few thrushes who are winter visitors to mid Portugal and they are the only ones singing, certainly in February and luckily they have a distinctive and clear song.

Thrush singing

The Robin is famous for singing all year round but on my walks in March I was hearing loads of them and they are not shy so you can often see them singing as well which helps. Later, another group of birds started up. After concentrating on this song, I identified it as the Chaffinch. I think of its distinctive call as reminding me of water tumbling over rocks rising to a crescendo. We don’t get many in the garden but this at least told me there were plenty in the countryside.

A week or two later I started hearing another very distinctive song. This turned out to be the Wren. It is supposed to be the most common bird in the UK. A bit surprising as you don’t see many but its song is so distinctive, once you hear it, you know it’s the little bird with the strong voice.

Wren in its nest in our courtyard (2018)

Another distinctive call we hear is the Green Woodpecker. Almost never seen but its call can be heard from distance with its distinctive laugh, or yaffle. I remember Professor Yaffle from Bagpuss (UK TV series from the 70s) and remembered it was a woodpecker.

Jackie’s favourite is next. They arrive within a few days of 1 April every year and are of course distinctive for singing at night – the Nightingale. This year when I take the dogs out last thing at night, I can often hear three of them. Although they often sing from the top of a tree during the day, if you get anywhere near, they disappear so are also rarely seen (by us at least). Also at night, I nearly always hear the Barn Owl with its distinctive screeech. Again rarely seen (as they are out at night!) but I was lucky enough to see one at close quarters a few years ago perched on a wall right above me. I know they live in the abandoned house next door so hopefully we will hear the higher pitched screech of some youngsters sometime soon. We also hear the distinctive Twit, twooh of the Tawny Owl but these always seem to be quite far away.

rare spotting of a Nightingale in our garden

Lately there is one songster that has been loudest of all on my daily walk but I never see him. He repeats his call which is very distinctive. Jackie thinks they are singing, “I don’t want to have lunch with Ed Meeeel iband”. Strange that we don’t see them in the countryside as they are highly visible in the garden – the Blackcap.

Blackcap (male)

Every year we get Blue Tits nesting in our nest box and I know we have already got some eggs this year, however, I have never identified their song. Listening to recordings it just seems like a high pitched tweet but I’ll keep trying. Lastly but not least, the one bird we always hear in the garden rather than on our walks is the Blackbird. They are around all year but have only just started to sing. No doubt they will already be building nests in the garden. And after all my research, I think I can finally distinguish it from the robin.

One of last year’s Blue tit brood

If you want to check out the calls and songs there are plenty of websites out there but I have found the Britishbirdsongs website and the rspb to be very useful.

Greetings, Spring!

Greetings, Spring!

There’s a time when everything seems a little sad, the winter drags on and summer is a dream. And then, after the rain the sun comes out, the wind drops and in an instant everything really does spring to life. The trees suddenly have buds and most of them are in leaf, the meadows have some flowers and yes, there are more and more orchids to be seen. Along with the Early Purple (below) and Giant, we are seeing the Man, Naked Man, Helleborine and Sawfly on every walk.

Not to mention the birds and their chorus which greets us in the morning; the blue tits are flying into their box with tufts of Jussi hair and moss in their beaks, the greenfinches and sparrows are squabbling over the bird feeder and the robins are hunting for suitable nest spots. Richard is convinced there’s a couple interested in some nooks and crannies near the woodpile. It happens every year of course but there is something magical about the speed of the transformation. Now that the clocks have been put forward the chickens aren’t put away until after supper. The next two months sees the countryside at its best and the knowledge that that is around the corner is gladdening.

The warmer weather also means we can enjoy one of our simplest pleasures: eating outside. Richard’s birthday was in mid-March and we were able to enjoy our champers in the sun. He’s also been dusting off the bbq and rustling up some paella.

So there is definitely an air of optimism at Casa Azul. The Penela area on the national Covid map has gone from red to orange and now to yellow, just one step away from white. Actually, nearly all the country is now white, there is only a smattering of yellow and orange so all good news. Not that we will see anything of a vaccine for some time yet…

We took a trip up north to have another meeting with the builder. It was all a bit stressful, we have limited Portuguese and even less knowledge of building work and yet we somehow managed to discuss various types of materials for the walls, floors and windows; heating solutions and certain design elements (me brandishing pages from Casas de Campo and saying Isto é o que queremos!) We think we have arranged for him to show us some more of his work, and perhaps come up with a cheaper quote, but who knows. Oxalá!

We had a picnic in the sun and then pootled around Ponte de Lima, it really is one of the most beautiful towns in Portugal. Not only is it charming, it’s full of restaurants which, we hope, will be open the next time we are up. Oxalá!

A month of two halves

A month of two halves

It rained this month. Goodness, did it rain. Our dog walks were turned into river crossings and we were always hoping our waterproofs would be dry enough for the next one. To add to the slight feeling of gloom constant rain brings (we felt like characters in T C Boyle’s novel A Friend of the Earth) Portugal was making the headlines for all the wrong reasons: The Worst in the World label felt very grim. We discovered one of neighbours spent 12 days in intensive care having caught Covid (she’s on the mend), the boiler man had caught it and a local wood man too…

The garden, having had such a cold January, has not been looking it’s best. There have been casualties. The geraniums are no more. Plus the plumbago, which normally gets frost bite, has gone completely black and all the plants in pots wondered why I hadn’t put them away this year.

Then while Jussi was making a great recovery, hurrah, Betty went and got a hole in her side (chasing something through a hedge we think) so yet more vet’s fees! (You’ll see she’s wearing her plastic hoodie in the top photo).

But all bad things come to an end. First of all the incessant rain has stopped, temperatures have risen and we’re having lunch outside again. It’s incredible how the sunshine lifts our spirits. This has meant getting the gardening gloves on. The plane tree has had its annual snip:

I never really like doing it, not that the task is difficult, it’s just that it always looks so sad afterwards. It’s incredible to think that the new branches grow more than 2m in a year, and there will be birds nesting in it again.

We have been to the garden centre and bought some flowers and strawberries to cheer the courtyard up. The hens have been moved yet again to a new field.

And the end of the garden looks just marvellous again:

I’m particularly pleased that the ornamental plum seems to have made a full recovery, it really was looking a bit sad towards the end of the summer. Not only is the blossom so cheerful but the leaves make such lovely blue and green dyes for my yarn; I knitted a jumper with all the different coloured yarns I have dyed over the last few years:

But, along with the sunshine, we have had some good news: Richard has at long last got The Letter stating that he has been accepted for Portuguese citizenship. We went to the Council office to get his card but were shooed away and told it was non-urgent, we’re hoping we can get that done in March, just two years after he applied!

Plus, drum roll, we also got The Letter from the Ponte de Lima council saying that our plans for the house have also been approved, almost a year of waiting there! We have sent these to a builder we met last year and now we are hoping we can afford the work that’s needed to be done. (Rather ironically the Penela council had a meeting yesterday in the village to discuss the naming of the streets, it’s been infuriating not having either house number or street name. They’ve been promising to do something about that for at least a decade).

So small steps forward. It doesn’t look like normal life will return here until after Easter, but as soon as the restaurants are open we hope to celebrate the light at the end of the Covid tunnel and getting the moving up north back on track.

Meanwhile we are enjoying the countryside in the spring sunshine. The wild flowers and orchids are starting to come out, the birds are singing and the mornings are lighter.

Here we go again…

Here we go again…

I wanted to start the new year off with some enthusiasm but it hasn’t been a wonderful start, really. First up was Jussi’s operation. She was diagnosed with a tumour on her right side towards the end of last year. Any hopes that it may well not grow very large were quickly dispelled so we decided to have her operated on, although the vet warned us that, as an older dog (she’s 12 and a half), there are risks. It was a bit of a tearful farewell when we dropped her off but the good news is she has made a remarkable recovery and is still fairly keen for a shortish walk in the morning. So, despite the eye-watering vet’s fees, (more tears!) that is good news in the end.

The weather has been grim. Most of the new year has seen us waking up to beautiful frosts but although the temperatures haven’t fallen as low as previous years it’s been relentlessly cold day and night for much longer. Usually the winter sun has been warm enough for lunch outside but not this year. The plants have suffered, even those I put away under the table under a lean-to roof are looking awful. The geranium leaves completely froze and now hang limp. In the garden the prickly pears have collapsed. The chicken water was rock solid in the mornings. I saw three dead birds under trees one morning; the idea they froze in the night is very upsetting.

The garden birds are getting extra treats though and are consuming vast amounts of sunflower seeds. It’s nice to see them so close, the thrushes are back and we can often hear a green woodpecker.

Now the weather is turning, it’s blowing a hooley outside at the moment, and we have a week of rain and storms to look forward to, oh joy! We have moved Skittle and his harem to their original coop which means more grass for them so at least we won’t be walking in the mud to let them out. With luck it’s been made mongoose proof now.

Nothing deters Betty from her morning walks though and she’s fine; she’ll be ten this year. So again we should be positive about that.

On top of all this we are back in lockdown, with much stricter rules this time. Any opportunity to shop apart from essentials has been thwarted: supermarkets can only sell food and drink (alcohol not after 8pm), and there is more of a police presence on the road checking drivers are only out and about as allowed. This means of course more delays on our new house, the bets are on for whether it will be more than a year before the council approves the plans…

On the work front Facebook has decided our website is spam and is refusing to allow us to write posts that promote the latest podcast. Not only is this very frustrating there is absolutely no way of contacting them to complain, I just don’t think that should be possible.

Ah well, we are both safe and sound and for that we are exceedingly grateful. We have found time to do our favourite hobbies which means beer making for Richard and another knitting pattern designed by me.

January is marmalade making month so that’s the next project, and something I enjoy, but fingers crossed for a warmer and more positive February.

Good riddance, 2020

Good riddance, 2020

Richard was looking back at previous posts and noted two things. The first was my reference to a cough in February: I have had a cough for what seems like weeks now which I just can’t shift... we then remembered that it really did continue for a long time, when I returned to the chemist to get yet more cough medicine all the perspex shields had been put up, and one night he even slept in the spare room to get some sleep. I also recall saying, well into spring, that I still wasn’t feeling 100%. Of course nowadays it would mean a trip to the Covid test centre but presumably it was just another virus…

The second thing that Richard noted was I had given the broad beans Plant of the Year award for 2019! Well, they deserve to have it two years on the trot. Highly recommended. We had some for our Chrimbo meal and will have more this weekend. The latest crop are doing well, along with the beetroot:

The sun came out for the 25th, certainly warm enough to enjoy some homemade sloe gin and chicken liver pâté for starters, but as last year the wind was a tad chilly and we ate inside.

The cake and (pallet) tree are usually decorated with knitted trees. However, the moths got to most of them while in store in the attic so I had to make some more decorations. This year I chose a woodland / wildlife theme:

The hens are all fine. Interesting that Hazelnut, now that all her feathers have grown back, has actually changed colour. She was nearly all brown before but is distinctly piebald now. This is her and Momo:

Lacey and Hattie are the biggest, but Hattie is the boss:

We’ve just noticed that Preta has started to lose some feathers again on her back; earlier in the year this happened to them all (except Lacey) and some of you will remember we separated Skittle for a while until they grew back. Branca is the smallest and is the only one to lay white eggs. Yesterday we got six. Well done, Laydeez.

Skittle meanwhile has found his tail but some of the longest, most colourful feathers are still to regrow. We found the saddle made for Branca earlier in the year which fell off overnight, I don’t think we put it on properly. We have now put it on Preta, it doesn’t quite fit, she must be quite narrow across the back, but it serves its purpose. Skittle has started rearing up and flapping his wings over his back in anticipation of spring fun so we do hope Preta is fully feathered by then.

In the spring, we often spend time looking for nests. They are always difficult to find (unless they belong to the blackbirds) and we’ve only discovered this little one in the Acer now all the leaves have fallen.

We had a bee in the kitchen the other day. The only flowers we have are on the viburnum. We have a number now and they definitely deserve some recognition. They blossom three times a year, and are then covered in black berries so great for the bees and the birds. Despite the scorching summers they need little water and just grow with the minimum of care. Perfect for lazy gardeners like myself.

The bird feeder is always occupied by squabbling greenfinches and sparrows, the goldfinches prefer the seeds in the meadow next door:

So good riddance indeed to a horrid 12 months. 2021 must surely be a brighter, less turbulent year. We wish joy to all our readers and a Happier New Year.

Bean feast

Bean feast

I have at last cleared the three main raised beds, a task which is now so much easier to do than when the beds were just on the ground. There were hardly any weeds, the boards keeping them at bay, and the soil was just so crumbly that any gatecrashers were dealt with swiftly. I’ve always quite enjoyed preparing the beds, getting the trowel or rake out and sowing seeds or plugs, it was the back breaking weeding that was so dispiriting. The longer I put it off, the worse the situation became and so when I eventually forced myself to tackle the beds my back complained bitterly for a week. Now it seems there is science behind the enjoyment: the benign soil bacteria mycobacterium vaccae can trigger a release of serotonin in the brain and that makes you feel happier. Which is why gardeners enjoy pottering, the close contact with the soil is a real feel-good factor.

Two of the beds are now covered in a thick mulch of cut grass. Richard has strimmed the whole garden and I have raked up what I needed. It wasn’t an easy task for him, I gave the impression in the last post that we have not had much rain but this isn’t true. Between the lovely days of sunshine we’ve certainly had our share of heavy showers and finding a window to strim has been difficult. It also meant the grass had grown exceedingly tall. It’s all done now but will need doing again soon.

The third bed has been planted with beetroot plugs from the market, it has also been planted with broad bean seeds. I went to find last year’s packet only to discover the box was not with my other seed packets but had been left in the potting shed. The shed gets boiling hot in the summer, not ideal conditions for seeds. Anyway, rather reluctant to buy more (there are loads in a box) I went ahead and sowed a whole load, two to a hole (on their sides to prevent rotting) and would you believe it – they have all come up! Already, within two weeks! They survive the frosts and provide a great spring / early summer veg. We froze a few packets of them which we will have for our Christmas meals. So a great success and therefore how can I not give them the Plant of the Year Award 2020?

And clearing the beds also meant removing the dead plants from the summer, including the runner beans. Once we’d had our fill, and also frozen some too, the rest of the pods were left to dry on the plant. Many of the beans collected from these have already been used in a casserole. Next year I’ll have another go with the dwarf purple ones. Definitely a plant to recommend on any veg patch: easy to grow, reliable, hardy and tasty too. Well done, the beans.

Another bed tackled was the asparagus. The ferns turn the most beautiful golden colour but these have been cut down and mulched ready for the first crop in March.

We have a new batch of roasties. Unfortunately, we no longer have the same number as we first bought; one disappeared. Regular readers will know we have lost hens or roasties to three different animals: fox, mongoose and sparrowhawk. I set the camera up to see which was the predator this time, but this is all I caught:

It came a few times, and was clearly interested in the roasties (in their cage temporarily) but it does seem rather far fetched that a cat killed, and carried away, a (admittedly the smallest which had a limp) roastie… anyway, they are all bigger now and have been let out again to enjoy the grass. This one looks like a contender for our Christmas dinner.

Some of you will also remember that 2 years ago we bought a whole load of saplings. The ones that have survived erratic summer watering (and Richard’s strimmer) have done very well. These are all now taller than me, and the liquidamber and red oak, while not as tall, are putting on a fine winter show:

I am embarrassed to admit that in the barn are a number of dye experiments that have been forgotten about. So one sunny day I had a go with some lichen, evernia prunastri, that had been sitting in its concoction since November 2018, another 2 years ago. I couldn’t remember what the VSU on the label meant until it was cooking in the kitchen and Richard wanted to know what the ‘very strange smell’ was, and then I remembered: very stale urine!! A sort of pale lilac colour was the reward (not as peachy as it seems here).

The dogs are getting on but are fine. Betty has lost some of her colouring, she used to have brown patches on her face, and Jussi is plodding along.

Richard has also made yet more beer and got his wood working tools out again for various projects. We have both enjoyed getting out and doing some walking.

Our concelho has now joined the “very elevated risk” areas re Covid, there are new State of Emergency procedures in place so excursions for the mo are restricted to the local countryside. We can’t even drive out of the area. Fortunately, we have stocked up on both wine and wood and continue to be more than appreciative of our personal situation. We do hope our readers are safe and well too.

Blowing hot and cold

Blowing hot and cold

We started the month with a short trip across the border to Mérida in search of vultures, Roman ruins and good Spanish food. We were not disappointed. We were hoping to have a few days away at the start of November too, again to cross the border but this time to travel north to watch La Vuelta; travel restrictions have put a stop to that. Portugal has returned to a State of Calamity and there is an air of grim resignation among the villagers about the months ahead.

The resident meteorologist tells me that it takes a longer time to go from spring to summer than it does to slip from summer to autumn. September can often be warmer than June but come October temperatures start to fall considerably. During the day it can be just lovely, really very warm, especially with clear skies and out of the wind, but come the evening it’s quite chilly and we have had the wood burning stove going at night for a while now. I suspect it won’t be long before the electric blanket gets taken out of the box…

The veg patch is waiting for the broad beans to be sown but in the meantime it is still giving us peppers, including the pimientos de Padrón, and tonight we are having some cavolo nero (an almost black curly kale). The yellow peppers have been great and the warm sunny days have meant that some of the fruiting trees are flowering again.

We’ve taken full advantage of the sun to eat out in restaurants more than usual, especially those that have outside access. This horseshoe whip snake found in the garden has also been basking in the sun (on the left 😉 ) .

We came home the other day to find some chillies left for us by a neighbour so there’s some chilli oil in the making to add some heat to our food. And for those who remembered that last year we made some prickly pear jam: we are eating it now and it is delicious. Almost like apricot, a beautiful ruby colour and perfect on home made toast.

On the chicken front Skittle, rather foolishly, has lost his tail. And we have a new set of frangos who have been enjoying the new sweet grass. Otherwise a quiet month, some of the many walnuts have been shelled, the pond cleared of its leaves and hedges pruned. A rather poor olive harvest has not encouraged us to pick them again this year; plus we still have the oil from two years ago!

Once again we have been appreciating the countryside and the ease we can get out and about so easily. Let’s hope things will improve for November.