Where to start? Well, we took the first 2 weeks of September off, another camping trip to the French Pyrenees plus some super stopovers in Spain. Faithful hounds, house and hens were all looked after by a fabulous couple which gave us a real break.
Now of course it doesn’t feel as if we have been away at all. Our first task on return was Operation Pergola. We put up this wooden structure in 2010, before we’d even moved in.
The idea was to grow vines over it for a lovely shady spot to eat under in the summer. The first year went to plan, three vines grew quickly up and over. The second year was okay but come the third the vines just didn’t seem to be doing very well, and then alas they seem to have died. Such a disappointment. I blamed it on the location: too high up, windy and exposed. But then Richard built another structure, even more exposed, on the threshing square. The vines grew and flourished and soon became exactly what we wanted:
The vines, or rather the dead woody branches, were cut down and onto plan B: kiwis. They grow so well around here and the fruit would be an added bonus. Again, they started well but it soon became apparent that these were a failure too. Digging them out, with a heavy heart, we found the problem, or rather the culprits: voles. There were enormous holes under each plant and the roots had all been eaten away.
So plan C was activated on our return. This was to lower the top, it was always proportionately too high, and cover it with bamboo sheets. Somehow we ended up buying the reed version but it has been covered. Then we’re going to plant climbers in large pots around the structure, it will look nice one day… but look how the plants around it have grown!
Meanwhile the veg patch has sort of been abandoned. The heat has just been too much for most things, although we have had tomatoes, cucumbers, some celeriac and courgettes on our return.
The real survivors though are the peppers, both sweet and hot. The forecast is for temperatures to remain high so perhaps the aubergine flowers will bear fruit.
Another victim of the heat has been the polytunnel. Such a great idea but in reality, with these Portuguese long and oh so hot summers, not very practical. There were days when it rained (I vaguely remember what that means…) or overcast when the polytunnel was great. However, seedlings, if left in there even on a sunny March day, would soon shrivel up. I tried to grow tomatoes in a small bed but these too suffered in the heat. Rocket bolted and lettuce shrivelled. I was forever taking trays in and out, and then I lost a couple of sweet potatoes over the winter as it didn’t even keep the frost away. So, all the plastic has been pulled off and I’m considering just covering the top half so that it can still be some sort of shelter and storage area.
One success story has been the prickly pears, loads this year, and we seem to have a bumper harvest of walnuts too.
Finally, Richard has asked me to put up this photo of his cider factory. (Faithful followers will remember the last post when we picked barrel loads of apples). We’re hoping it’s going to be ready for Christmas:
That’s it! The chicken story will have to wait, as will the saga of the dual carriageway being built though the village…