The fly in the ointment

The fly in the ointment

So March is here along with the showers, sunshine and birdsong. Looking back it really hasn’t been a bad winter, for a winter. There wasn’t too much frost, or rain, or wind or cold for that matter. There was some flooding, some blown over trees and red noses but all in all an unremarkable winter. Which means that we have blossom, green grass and colour in the garden and courtyard.


We have asparagus in the veg patch and the purple sprouting broccoli coming along nicely, thanks.


We are also really pleased the trees we planted on arrival are at last rewarding us with signs of fruit and nuts. There are tiny apricots and almonds appearing, and the quince, pear, cherry and plum trees are also in full bloom. But while sniffing the blossom we got a less attractive smell followed by a whiff of anxiety, yes: the pong of poison was in the air. We have no neighbours on our side of the road and both fields on either side of our house are occasionally sprayed with something nasty and then planted with kale or turnips. But now alas the meadow beyond our garden was getting the treatment. The meadow which has thigh high wild flowers in the early summer, the meadow our dogs run through every morning, the meadow where D. Elena grazes her sheep and goats. The meadow which is also an olive grove. That meadow.


Two old boys, one the owner and the other his mate, were spraying the grass with some kind of herbicide. Richard tries to intervene but is shooed off with reassuring noises – it’s not bad, they say. But now the grass has wilted and yellowed.

poison2The only comfort I get is that I know it all grows back. Last year we were disappointed that another villager had sprayed a field near us including the wild irises growing there. I dug some up and put them in our garden where they disappeared not only to come up this spring but also to flower. If someone could explain why the grasses around the olive trees are sprayed I’d appreciate that. It’s the first time in 5 years it’s been done on that plot, the farmer usually gets it all strimmed and occasionally dug over. We can see it in many places this spring, a kind of scorched earth policy, and in this beautiful, healthy, wildlife abundant Portuguese countryside it’s sad to see.

4 thoughts on “The fly in the ointment

  1. this is a very annoying but common practice, I´ve seen the same in my area…specially with old people, I think they belive that olives will have a better crop if they eliminate competition from other “weeds”…and that means all the other plants out…it´s sad.

  2. Yes, Jaime, sad. However, I have seen the chamomile daisies also return along with the wild irises. I’m sure that the olive trees would appreciate a good lot of organic fertilizer instead!

  3. It was really good reading this, we are just starting out to looking for somewhere in Portugal, I’m coming down in September to search.
    I have lots I could ask you but will save it for another time.
    Any chance of chatting to you between 22 and 25 September when I’m down there??
    I’m coming into Porto and then staying down at Figueira Da Foz for the next 3 nights.

  4. Hi Graeme
    Unfortunately I’m in England at that time. Hope all goes well with your search. It’s difficult to give advice as everyone is looking for something different. The best advice however is to stay here as long as possible – renting a place first, rather than diving in and buying something straightaway (like we did but we were lucky!).

Leave a Reply