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Still unpacking

Still unpacking

After two weeks in the house we still haven’t finished unpacking. And no, we haven’t just been lazing around enjoying our new home. In fact I think we’ve been busier these two weeks than ever before. Jackie has finished painting and I have finished the shelving – not only the mammoth bookcase in the lounge but various shelves in the kitchen and a bit of work in the bathroom. My electric drill has been a constant buzz around the house.

bookcase is still standing after a day

We have also completed shelving for the pantry which now holds a whole raft of various preserves, chutneys etc in addition to home grown veggies including some rather large prize-winning (but possible inedible) marrows.

This weekend saw us down in Lisbon where we were once again very well taken care of by our friends Jo and Nigel. Not a complete jolly however, as we needed some stuff from Ikea. Mainly lights for the bathroom and bedroom but also various other necessities that only the big city superstore can provide. Of course, sod’s law took over and they were all out of the lights we were after but still we managed to spend almost 400 euros. We spent 700 last time and on neither occasion did we buy any furniture (except for a kitchen table and TV stand).

With the shelves up, all Jackie’s kitchen stuff is organised and our books unpacked. So all that remains are our clothes (the carpenter still hasn’t finished the wardrobe) and then the final thing will be to hang the pictures and find room for our knick knacks – sorry, objets d’art. Oh and there is still a bit of work for the hired hands – the local blacksmith has to put in the main gate and the builder install the “Pombals” – pottery pigeons which adorn the corners of the roof and which is a local tradition.  I think only then can we say we have really moved in.

Veggie update: We’ve been eating sweetcorn almost every day as it has ripened and can’t be stored fresh. Needless to say it is absolutely delicious. The salad stuff is going strong and I can’t believe it but the fruits of another plum tree have ripened. That’s five varieties and all taste very different.

tomatoes going strong
a couple for "That's life"

The chillies are turning red and the aubergines are coming on. This is the moment that Jackie has been waiting for – to prepare a meal totally from garden produce – it will be a ratatouille, with aubergines, courgettes, onions, olive oil, peppers, garlic and herbs and if I have any say, a red hot chilli pepper as well . We shall see.

Food mountain

Food mountain

So, stage one is essentially over – the main fabric of the house is completed. and from these photos taken in January we have come a fair way in six months:

But we have more immediate concerns. Having been totally ensconced in the structure of the house we have temporarily forgotten the veggie patch. And now we have discovered lots of it needs eating. Namely: Tomatoes, cucumbers, broad beans, french beans, borlotti beans, runner beans, courgettes, chillies, aubergines, lettuces, onions, garlic, cabbages, spinach, carrots, turnips, sweetcorn and we even think the brussel sprouts are ready. Three months ahead of schedule.

Meanwhile the celery, rhubard, currents of various hues, artichokes, asparagus and lord knows what else is on its way. Needless to say one of the rooms that needs seeing to now is the pantry and some storage needs to be created.

A dream come true

A dream come true

We are just coming to terms with the fact that tonight will be our first in Casa Azul. Today we have been scrubbing floors, unloading boxes and trying to give directions in Portuguese for the delivery men who came with our new furniture (the bed upon which we will be sleeping tonight!!). We are exhausted but had a mini celebration of champagne on the threshing square followed by a barbeque with a difference – the difference being we don’t have to pack up and go to our rented house. The difference also being I am updating this blog from our sofa while J does the dishes (double bonus!!) – actually she’s now in our solar powered shower.

Too excited to sleep but too tired to do anything but drink red wine and listen to music – heaven!

But we realise it is far from finished – unpacking and then clearing up the huge amount of detritus in the courtyard followed by more unpacking, then there is shelving, paving, strimming etc etc etc.

However CASA AZUL/BRANCA is now (almost) finished and welcoming guests. Come on down!!!!!!

Pictures to follow…

…and the doors!

…and the doors!

Just waiting for a lick of varnish and the glass panel

The most important one being the front door which means that we can lock the house and move our stuff in and, am I actually saying this, move in ourselves!! Yes, move in!! MOVE IN! This weekend, move in. Hurrah!!

Ok, we still don’t have the solar panel up or the boiler installed but who cares about hot water in the summer? Not for a few days anyway.

PS And while I was writing this we got a hand-delivered letter from the Council which stated that we now had planning permission – I kid you not!

The windows arrive at last…

The windows arrive at last…

At long last the windows have arrived and they only actually took a couple of days to fit. Now we are waiting for the final piece – the carpenter and the front door!! -Oh and the iron man needs to sort out the grills for the upstairs bedrooms and the spiral staircase and the electrician needs to fit the solar panel and install the boiler and and… Anyway, the builder assures us it will now be a matter of days rather than weeks. We still refuse to count chickens but here are the latest photos.

So close and yet…

So close and yet…

As we edge ever closer to completion, every day brings joy and disappointment in equal measure. Mainly the saga about the windows and doors. The manufacturers say they are almost ready, the builder that they won’t be ready for a while. One says the 6 July the other 11 July. Why are those few days the difference between hope and despair? Also the electrician/plumber promised that the heating/plumbing/electricity would be finished today, but as I type, the site stands silent.

Except of course for the birds and another little saga, a good one this time. Remember the little redstarts that nurtured their brood in the old postbox? Well they are back again for brood number two and I was lucky enough to see the first egg hatch. I even caught it on video while I was recording the latest update:


A few photos:

Meanwhile of course the garden goes full steam ahead. In fact, the courgettes are more like runaway trains. We can’t eat them fast enough and we can’t give them away. Every day at least one needs picking. We wanted to give some to our neighbours and the workmen but they all refused. As everyone round here grows their own food everyone has loads of courgettes! We have let one of them grow into a marrow and it is enormous. We are going to give it the chop tonight and have stuffed marrow.

deep in thought behind the courgettes wondering what to do with them all

In addition to courgettes we are in a similar situation with the plums. We have one tree loaded with yellow ones and another with much fewer (but if anything more delicious) red ones. In addition to making plum jam, plum jelly and plum cordial, Jackie has rather ingeniously made some plum and courgette chutney.

In other veggie news the sweet corn has now grown beyond my height and nears 2 metres. Broad beans are finally ready and we have loads and loads of toms starting to redden. Oh and the handyman has managed to cobble together an air dryer from an old pallet – for converting some of those plums into prunes amongst other things.


We are also about to receive our first guest. Sarah, who now lives in Paris, but whom we knew from Jordan, is on her way. She is due next Friday, 9th July. As she is only staying a few days, it will be a close run thing to see whether she gets to actually stay a night in the new house. Can’t wait to see you Sarah!

Casa Branca

Casa Branca

A new name may be required for the house (and the blog!) as it’s been painted completely white and the last of the azul (blue) has gone.

The inside is also white as shown by this photo of the master bedroom.

master bedroom

The bathroom is also changing. The tijolo vidros (glass bricks) have been installed into the shower.


Next up the spiral staircase and the plumber has promised that the central heating and plumbing will be completed next week (maybe).

The kitchen sink

The kitchen sink

Never thought I’d get so excited about a sink and work surface. However, although we want the kitchen in general to have some kind of traditional rural feel (free standing cooker, no ikea cabinets…) we did decide to splash out on a flash work surface. It was all designed last year so it was great to see it actually installed, and the brown speckledy bits go great with the terracotta tiles (that’s cement dust on the floor):

The guys who put it in were really nice. One of them found a problem with the orange trees in the courtyard, we hadn’t seen that they had become infested with some kind of cochineal beetle. He recommended what we should do to get rid of it, and then proceeded to lop off some of the branches!

Meanwhile, the final stonework is being put in around the windows and the spiral staircase is coming this week. Am trying not to get too excited, there’s still lots to be done, but it’s really looking like a home now.

Slowly but surely

Slowly but surely

Another vid of the house as promised. Plenty of changes since last time including the fact that most of the tiling is done now. The kitchen and bathroom now are recognisable as such. Apparently the painters will be in this week and the doors, windows and spiral staircase are getting made. We edge ever closer…

The end is in sight

The end is in sight

Well maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but over the last week there have been visible changes to the house. In addition to plastering all the interior walls the men are finishing off the exterior and all the floors have been cemented ready for tiling. Also the units in the bathroom and kitchen are being made and they are waterproofing the flat roof. And they are finally getting rid of the builder’s rubble lying outside the house. All this is being done by an expanded workforce of up to 7 men rather than the usual 2 who have done the majority of the work.

In addition we have also had the carpenter round who will do all the interior doors and the blacksmith who will be making the spiral staircase and the grills on the upstairs windows. It seems that our continued earbashing of the builder is finally paying dividends!

lounge with cemented floor and plastered walls and ceiling
kitchen units
Rubble disappearing
builder's rubble is finally disappearing and the surrounds to the windows are finished

Meanwhile the veggie patch is benefiting from a week of all out sun. We’ve had some carrots and I was amazed at how much tastier they were to bought ones. The salad leaves continue to sprout and Jackie even managed to leave a few strawberries for me. The beans and peas are coming through as well.

Compare the picture below to the one from the post on 21st April.

Given that there is so much action on the house at the moment (adding to the noise is a lot of pneumatic drilling to get rid of a few pesky big rocks outside the French windows) it is surprising that a couple of Black Redstarts have built a nest in the old letter box. Well actually they built the nest a few weeks ago. Well now the eggs have hatched and there are 4 fluffy chicks inside. We were a bit worried that all the noise would disturb them but they seem to have thrived. Here’s two of them waiting to be fed.

two chicks in the old letterbox

I think I mentioned a while ago that two wrens were building a nest on the balcony at our rented house. I think I neglected to mention that our adopted cats managed to grab and eat one, right in our living room :-(. However, two more must have moved in or the widow(er) found a new partner as the new couple have also managed to rear four chicks and these have recently been seen flying in and out of their tiny nest.

We’ve got video footage of the redstarts which you can see on the video page.