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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.



The countryside, very much like our garden, is unkempt. This year many of the hedges and meadows have been left to grow and flourish, wildflowers abound and there is an explosion of colour (deep yellow yarrow, lavender-blue chicory and pale pink mallows galore) and overgrown hedgerows. Our garden too has turned into some kind of wild nature reserve, places are impassable as the flowers battle with the grasses. The reason for this rewilding is not the same for both places. In the countryside the folk have definitely stayed at home; fields that normally would have been cut back by now have been abandoned to nature so that strange new wildflowers we have never seen before have emerged and we have to duck under bushes on our dog walks. This is all simply because the local Portuguese have taken the strict observance of mask wearing and social distancing to heart, and they have been nervous to venture too far from their homes. No surprise really as most of them are on their last legs.

We however, have other reasons. One is that the bother of strimming and ‘keeping on top of it all’ has become increasingly challenging. The second is that we want to have as much wildlife as possible in the garden and leaving areas untouched seems the way forward. The idea is to let nature take care of itself. We are alarmed by the shortage of bugs, and therefore bats and birds, and are doing our bit to help out. We have had a renewed interest in the flora and fauna of Casa Azul and are delighted we have a couple of greenfinches nesting in the plane tree in the courtyard now.

One benefit has been I don’t need to stroll around the neighbouring fields to find the plants I need for dyeing, they are all in our garden now!

It looks charming in a sort of run down cottage garden kind of way. No idea how it will all look over the next few weeks. Meanwhile in the veg patch good and bad news. A real disaster with my Sicilian broccoli and cauliflower which was a bit depressing considering how much time and effort I put into those, the cucumber plugs I bought have turned into water melons (don’t ask) and all the flowers of one set of toms, also bought as plugs, have all simply died. Anyway, on a happier note we have green beans, or rather stripey red beans galore, and the bush toms are well on their way…

plus loads of brightly coloured courgettes:

Richard was pleased that the chicken lady at the local market had returned so we have another batch of ‘roasties’ enjoying the sun. Skittle and co are fine as are the dogs. So all’s well here and hope it is with your and yours. Stay safe.

The colour of straw

The colour of straw


Crunchy underfoot, alive with insects and pollen, the land is slowly but surely turning a lovely shade of straw. Pale and interesting, hot and dry. It seems almost novel to us after last year’s green and pleasant land, but with no rain and scorching temperatures it’s a different story this summer. Most of the wild flowers have disappeared but hardy souls linger on including this yellow thistle, called a Spanish oyster it seems, and the fragrant, golden sweet yarrow that borders all the country lanes around us.


Many of the meadows have been cut, leaving unruly hay bales, reminiscent of autumns from yesteryear in the UK. Only the other day an old boy and his donkey cart tottered by. Meanwhile, the veg patch is also sporting the colour of straw. The first of the plums is always the yellow ones, not such a bumper harvest this year alas but we have put them to good use.


The courgettes as always put on a golden display, such a nice way to be greeted in the morning.  Peaches and plums have been bottled.


My sister gave me some seeds for climbing yellow courgettes, these are doing well, as are the round lemon flavoured cucumbers. We’ve also been eating one of Richard’s favourite crops, the oh so delicious sweetcorn. It’s always a success and this year I have planted a second crop which should be ready in late August or September.


The final word goes to our faithful labrador, who is blending in nicely with the colour scheme:




Hooray for May

Hooray for May

Well, hardly a mention of the veg patch and growing things so far this year but rest assured it’s been a busy time sowing, transplanting, mulching, planting, weeding etc etc over the last few months. This morning the first courgette flower was out and that for me is a sign that the growing season has really kicked in and the munching season is not far behind. I’d taken a photo of the beds on the 29 April and already, just over two weeks later, there’s a big difference:


And here you can see how the sweetcorn, chard and sprouts have enjoyed the sunshine:


The asparagus, leeks and purple sprouting broccoli have all gone (plus most of the artichokes) but waiting in the wings now are more brassica (loads of cabbage for some reason,  calabrese, cauliflower) plus beans, onions and garlic. The potatoes have pale purple flowers. There’s aubergines, buttercup squash and melons planted too. Oh, and some carrots.

Along with the baby courgettes there are tiny toms appearing (the comfrey fertilizer should be ready for them soon), weeny cucumbers and minuscule peppers. And for dessert they’ll be gooseberries, plums, raspberries and red currants before long:


It’s always a nice time, it’s still sort of green, the heat hasn’t become too oppressive and there’s the excitement of a good crop of nourishing things to eat. I was feeling rather pleased with myself as I looked over the beds today until I saw what a mess the potting shed is but I just can’t face sorting that out now. I’d failed to clear it out at the end of last summer because of a huge wasp nest. They tried loads of times to make a new one this season but I put an end to that.


A little pat on the back for me too as I won a couple of prizes at an agricultural show. Not a good time of the year for showing veg but the lemon cake with borage flowers, and a trio of preserves did well:


So it’s all coming up roses, or rather dandelions, at the mo 🙂


Back to the veggies

Back to the veggies

Although we’ve been focussing lately on chickens and relatives, the veggies have kept on coming. Only now are things coming to an end – we’ve had our last cucumber, the final tomatoes are hanging on and turning red (or yellow) and the courgette production has eventually slowed down to a trickle. However, we have made the best use of our bounty and Jackie has been busy roasting and freezing, pickling and drying a lot of the veggies ready for winter. Even the very few raspberries that we have carefully nurtured have now been picked and frozen one by one and we shall have enough for one final end of summer treat.

It is interesting that the cycle of fruit and veg has come round again from when we first arrived just over a year ago. I remember then, the first fruits we sampled were the pears and this year they have come and gone in a period of weeks and in a flurry of delicious pear crumbles. Also the quinces. Unfortunately our quince tree has had a torrid time but there have been plenty by the sides of various lanes that we have been able to purloin and process into quince jelly and quince cheese. Now the walnuts are coming into season. Despite eating my own weight in walnut cakes over the year we still haven’t finished last year’s crop. Likewise the olives which will be ready in a few short weeks.

It never stops down on the farm…

last of the melons and pears, first of the walnuts

dried chillies

what to do with sunflower seeds?

the oranges are on their way

The eagle has landed…

The eagle has landed…

…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:

Our daily veg

Our daily veg

Every day when we arrive there are new things to see, and eat! The courgettes will be on the bbq this weekend, and suddenly there are loads of peas – we have already eaten some straight from the pods and they are as sweet as they are bright green.