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Maçãs e peras galore

Maçãs e peras galore

There are a couple of reasons why we have been rather slow at updating the blog recently. The first has to do with my iMac; it seemed to have died. We stared at the blank black screen that refused to show any sign of life and then, as there seemed to be a strange noise coming from behind, we both peered over the top… poof! It blew itself up. We have only just got round to choosing a (non iMac) replacement today.

The other reason (I’m struggling with the different apps on Richard’s computer now) is that we have both been busy turning Casa Azul into Fábrica Azul – a factory for a whole range of fruity goodness. For some reason the apple and pear harvest has been amazing this year, not just in our garden, but everywhere we go. Branches are breaking and bending under the weight of large, ripe fruit, many falling to the ground to create a colourful, fermenting carpet.

Our apples have been grated and given to grateful hens, chopped into cubes for crumbles and of course enjoyed with the local cheese for dessert. They have also been peeled, cored and sliced and then frozen. We have this great gadget that does the peeling, coring and slicing in one go so we go though the kilos very quickly.

Next up was the drying. To say that the weather is perfect for drying would be an understatement, it’s been hot and windy for weeks. So experimenting with an old clothes horse, apples have been dried in spirals, reminding me of the hanging incense in Hong Kong.

Not content with all of this Richard loaded up the truck with empty barrels and we drove around the country lanes collecting loads of apples from a range of different trees for Operation Cider. Out came the juicer and all the paraphernalia for making one of his top tipples. As he has been making beer as well it would not be an exaggeration to say the house smells of a brewery. (In fact the fermenting bucket behind me looks like something is trying to escape from it).

The pears have had a different treatment. Most have been bottled, my all favourite way for preserving fruit. There’s nothing nicer in the winter than to open a jar of summer sunniness which has been flavoured with vanilla, or perhaps star anise and cinnamon, cloves or cardomoms. Mmm indeed.

The bottling process has been quite a learning curve, there’s a huge difference in approach between the US and UK but I think I’ve perfected the technique this year. We have also had pears cooked in a red wine syrup, a dessert so tasty it should be more difficult to make.

Apart from the tree fruit the tomatoes have, until recently, been defiantly putting on some sort of show. Luckily I have grown a fair number of plants because the high temperatures have put an end to any decent crop from each one, and the range of varieties grown has also meant we have had enough for salads as well as roasting a whole load too. You can never have too many roast tomatoes. The special roma ones have then been through the mouli to make passata. Aah indeed. Luckily we have two freezers.

And just as I was feeling we were getting on top of everything, tidying all the gadgets and whatnots away, Richard has just announced that the figs are ready. Looks like the factory isn’t closing down just yet…

Repairing and building

Repairing and building

Today is the second anniversary of our arrival in Portugal to start a new life. It is also just over a year since we moved in to our new house and we are already doing repairs. Fortunately not to the house but only the polytunnel at the bottom of the garden. The sun has taken its toll on the cheap plastic covering which was falling apart so I recovered it with UV resistant plastic. Looks good now, I wonder how long that will last.

'new' polytunnel

However, we continue to build new things. Since the renovation of the barn, our attention has been on the courtyard and to this end I recently made a new flower bed. I had to dig up the new paving, and a layer of concrete and then the original cobbles underneath but the main reason was to practice my bricklaying as I intend to embark on a bigger project in the courtyard very soon.

starting the new bed
New project started. What will it be?

Meanwhile, as we move into September, things are ripening. Walnuts are appearing on the ground around our three trees and so soon enough we’ll be sitting in front of the telly of an evening shelling them in readiness for a succession of walnut cakes. Also the figs are coming to fruition. Not just in our garden but there are a few trees in the lanes and tracks hereabouts. So along with the blackberries and apples, they are providing sustenance for our country walks.

figs and walnuts

One tree that doesn’t know what time of year it is, is our new apple tree as it has rather strangely come into blossom. I’m sure nothing will come of that.

apple blossom in September

Despite Jackie’s bemoaning of the lack of sun and heat to dry her tomatoes, we have had little rain – as measured by my new rain gauge. In fact in August we only had one decent night of rain which measured a relatively pathetic 25mm. However, this was enough for the grass to be reborn and now patches of the garden are starting to green in a sea of brown. And that is the signal that I’ve got a few months of strimming to look forward to …