Portugal is justifiably famous for its ‘azulejos’. Originating in Arabic times these are (usually) blue and white polished and decorative tiles which cover everything from churches to train stations and on and in many large and small houses. To give our courtyard a bit of local colour, we had long planned to add some of our own. We had bought a few second hand ones at bric a brac markets but then we found a warehouse with hundreds of old ones and the lady there was giving them away for free. Never looking a gift horse we carted a load away and my next job was to incorporate them. And here they are.
Hairy one senior has obviously already schooled hairy one junior into the art of getting into the photo shot.
I just happened to see an old photo of me enjoying lunch in the ‘old’ courtyard not long after we arrived on 20 September 2009. I think I was having a rest having cleaned the whole place up as it was in a right state then. Funnily enough I have another photo taken exactly two years later from about the same spot.
The new project I mentioned in the last post is almost complete. I’m not sure what it is called but it creates a cool shaded area in the courtyard which was looking too barren. And I managed to use up the old tiles and some of the wood from the barn roof.
Today we celebrate one year in Casa Azul. So what are we doing this mid July in Central Portugal – bbq in the garden? Swim at a river beach? Walk by the sea? No! We’re staying in and watching the tele! We woke to rain and gusty winds, for some reason the weather this July has been very unJuly like. The average temperature for here is meant to be 28 this month, today it’s 22. Ok the sun is out now but it’s blowing a hooley still. We did have a nice lunch of baked Jack be little squash stuffed with our sun-dried toms (only just managed to get 2 consecutive sunny days to do the cherry toms) and mozzarella cheese, and our beetroot grated with feta; and tonight we’ll have a bottle of champers my dad brought with him. We’ll wash that down with… kippers! Yay, Richard bought back kippers from the Isle of Man – can’t wait!
Another big day tomorrow – the first of our roasties is going to be killed. We’re going across the road to our neighbours where Laurinda is going to do the deed and we’re going to watch, and then the plan is to have a go ourselves. Full details to follow soon…
…OK a bit premature but over the last couple of weeks the veggies have sprung to life. We’ve been eating the strawberries for a while, the delicious raspberries have now come on stream and the cherries have already come and gone. Admittedly ours were rather small like last year. And of course just like last year, Luis, with a big smile on his face, came over with a huge punnet of plump ones for us. Back to our veg, the artichokes and purple sprouting broccoli have come and gone but now we’ve got potatoes, onions, garlic and various beans and peas. Oh, and those triffids from last year are back and already producing like no tomorrow – the courgettes. And that’s just the start. There are plenty of other veggies on their way as well. Jackie will follow with a full update soon.
In addition to veggies, the tree fruits are coming through. The plums should be ready soon and although the main pear tree (and apple tree) may well disappoint (the aphids have been extremely busy this year), we found a rather sickly young pear tree at the end of the garden last year and after some careful nurturing looks like it will come good.
I only hope our electrician returns and connects the electricity to the barn as our new chest freezer is ready and waiting for excess produce. Talking of the barn – that is finished (but still needs painting) as is the patio. And I must say the front of the house finally looks pretty good. However, unlike in the UK, we haven’t seen the builders for a while and I still owe them 1000 Euros!
Jackie has also been busy making Elderflower champagne. Despite exploding bottles – glass and even plastic (see below) we have salvaged a fair amount and I must say it’s pretty good. Next up the quince wine.
Apologies for no posts over the last two weeks but we’ve had Jackie’s parents staying and we’ve been quite busy. So has Jackie’s dad. He very kindly brought over a new henhouse for our proposed table birds (chickens for eating) and he also made a run for them while he was here.
Having them over has also meant me and Jackie (and the hairy one) managed to get away for a few days for some camping while they looked after the hens. As this blog is focussed on casa Azul, I won’t go into details but we had a great time and below are some photos.
And to wrap up this blog entry – garden wildlife. It looks like the black redstarts won’t be making a nest in the postbox this year but we do have a couple of collared doves in the garden. I presume the nest must be here somewhere but we haven’t found it yet. Watch this space!
So much for summer – this week has seen plenty of rain, which is fantastic for all the plants and the well is well on the way to filling up. We’ve also had more friends staying. This time a fully fledged family. My old school friend Simon, his wife Paula and two sons Lucas and Sam. It was great to see them and there was a break in the clouds long enough to go for a very pleasant walk.
Meanwhile, the barn has been finished. Or at least sports a new roof and plastered walls. Just needs a lick of paint now.
And despite the hectic lifestyle there’s still time to relax…
The next big project is renovating the barn. We either had to renovate it or the thing was likely to collapse as there were holes in the roof and the joists were rotten. Basically we just want to replace the roof, plaster the walls and level the floor. We started work by ripping off the roof but then we promptly had to stop.
A year and a half ago the local council told us they were thinking of widening the lane outside and then we heard no more. Anyway, if it goes ahead we may have to slice a corner off the barn so work has had to stop until we sort out the bureaucracy. A pain but I have to admit we have been remarkably free of bureaucratic problems so far, so fingers crossed that we can soon resume.
Another project is to get more chickens – this time growing them to eat. I’m putting off making a new henhouse as it promises to challenge my rudimentary woodworking skills to the max. However, I have prepared an area for them and fenced it off in readiness. The laying hens have tried it out for size and seem satisfied.
Now spring is here the garden is green and lush. We’d better enjoy it because in a few short months no doubt it will turn into a dustbowl.
Someone still looks as cute as ever and never far away from a ball ready to be thrown.
Finally we have started work on the area of the garden right next to the house. It was always going to be a problem area as huge rocks break the surface here and it is full of builders’ rubble. Anyway, we decided to grass most of the area (with seed from Jersey provided by Jackie’s dad) and cobble the area in front of the kitchen door. Cobbles seemed like an obvious choice as they are everywhere hereabouts including the pavements of most towns and even the roads through a lot of the small villages. They are also cheap. We’d been watching them laying new cobbles in a local town so knew exactly what to do. Almost. Anyway, we gave it a shot and here are the results. I also made a small gravel path to the pergola as well.
…or rather the pigeon! The only thing remaining to be done on the house was to have a couple of doves / pigeons perched on the roof. With those we would pay the very last of the builder’s fee. And last night they arrived and with them a feeling of completion; there is of course hundreds of things still to be done but by us rather than others. The bird on the roof, the cherry on the cake. Actually, they weren’t exactly what we wanted. Many of the old houses here have ones with wings outstretched as though they are about to take off, but on reflection I like these modern sedentary ones – they look calm and settled, one looking north and the other south.
When Richard asked me to update the blog I realised that I never took any photos when the veg patch was looking it’s best. At one time it was teeming with produce and flowers but I think I was so busy picking and then cooking, bottling, pickling etc that I forgot. Anyway here are some that give you an idea of what’s happening now. All the beans have finished. The borlotti beans and runner beans have been dried for winter use, everything else was eaten. But it seemed strange to me not to have any more growing, so I set about sowing some more and in this heat they have all come through in record time. So a second round of peas, dwarf beans, french beans and runner beans are on the go:
Meanwhile the cherry toms have almost finished but we still have ‘golden sunrise’ and ‘tigerella’ coming through:
What else? The sweet corn have all been eaten – when I found out there was only one cob per plant I thought I wouldn’t grow those again but in fact they were so delicious that I may well do them again next year. I’m pleased with the aubergines and peppers (there are sweet peppers, chilli peppers and red hot chilli peppers) and the melons will be ready soon we hope.
The Brussels sprouts are slowly taking over from the courgettes which are still producing but flagging:
I’m not sure how successful the companion planting was but the nasturtiums did indeed have loads of aphids on when other plants didn’t, and the bees loved the marigolds which have grown enormous. The flowers have made the garden really colourful, both plants were a range of reds, yellows and vibrant oranges.
However, I’m aware that these pics have made the veg patch look more attractive than it is. It’s midsummer here of course and not having had any rain for weeks means that the land is bone dry and turning a paler shade of yellow:
Our next project is organising the ground around the house, we’re thinking of simply getting some earth and encouraging grass and flowers to grow (with a sign up saying no weeds) because the birds come right up towards the windows as they can’t see us inside and that’s great. Meanwhile, Richard is relaxing: