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Some September stuff

Some September stuff

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…




Spring is the time for rejuvenation. The trees are full of blossom, bushes are sprouting and the grass just grows, grows and grows. It’s also the time for some man-made rejuvenation and now is the turn of the polytunnel.
Here it is just finished in January 2011
Although we have replaced the plastic once before, four years have taken their toll:
So time for repairs
and now, good as new
To continue the thread of our local orchids, the Early Purples and the Giant Orchids have all but disappeared to be replaced by the Naked Man Orchid and more recently quite a few Sword-Leaved Helleborines have appeared.

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 …



Now the new year has begun, our thoughts turn to preparing for this year’s main harvest. Having said that we still have plenty of winter veg in the garden to eat now. We have only just finished the swedes and cauliflowers, there are quite a few leeks left and the brussel sprouts keep coming and coming. Anyway, with thoughts for the future, I recently constructed the polytunnel (ably assisted by the hairy one) which we shall mainly use for starting seedlings off until they are big enough for the main veg patch. We’ll also grow some tomatoes in there full time and some strawberries have already been installed for safe keeping. If the last few days are anything to go by we may also use it as a sauna when the warmer weather comes.

It was actually very easy to build (just as well as I’m not exactly a master craftsman and more commonly referred to ironically as ‘Handy Andy’ by my mum). Let’s hope it stays up through to the end of winter!

Actually, further to my initial remarks in the first paragraph, there is quite a bit more going on as you can see from the picture below. As well as the brussel sprouts , there are cabbages (left), the purple sprouting broccoli (centre) will soon (insha’allah) be ready and on the right, Jackie is tending the celery (which is doing fantastically well), carrots and spring onions.