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Sunday

14 day solo mission back to England - Saúdades for Portugal

 I missed my husband, I missed the sun, I missed speaking Portuguese - loads!  But there were a few compensations.  30 day matured sirloin steak which I cooked on a griddle in my woodburner.  

90 seconds each side and 90 second rest.  Perfection.






Any tame Portuguese archeologists about??

Whilst digging my vegetable patch, deep deep, down I have been coming across various shards of pottery.  As a potter I recognise it isn't an even manufactured clay, it is a mix with bits of tiny stones in it and an uneven firing temperature which suggests a basic kiln type and very clearly isn't glazed or to do with drainage.  

I have often thought that cultivation of our land here dates back centuries, with wonderful terracing and water well which possibly might be pretty ancient.  Now I need to find an expert who might date a few shards of pot.  There is also a stone I found which isn't like our local stone, and I think could possibly be an ancient axe head - my husband thinks it's a ...stone.

Here are my prized finds.  Any positive helpful comments please send to rachel@rachelbarker.com



  

Friday

As Nossas Queridas Vizinhas

 Somos abençoados com uma família encantadora ao lado da nossa casa.  Estou sempre interessada em ver como eles estão a cultivar as coisas, e aprendemos muito ao olhar para as suas vinhas.  Este ano cultivaram abóboras enormes que se tornaram cada vez maiores a cada semana.  Hoje, elas desapareceram!  Queria tanto tirar uma foto de Sónia e Andreia, as suas filhas com os legumes.  Aqui estão elas e não tenham um ar tão angelical!  Tiveram a amabilidade de me deixar tirar-lhes uma foto e interromper as suas vindimas.









We are blessed with a lovely family next door to our house.  I am always interested to see how they are growing things, and we learn lots from looking at their vines.  This year they grew huge pumpkins that became ever bigger every week.  Today they were gone!  I so wanted to take a photo of Sónia and Andreia, their daughters with the vegetables.  Here they are and don't they look so angelic!  They were so kind to let me take their photo and interrupt their grape harvest.

Thursday

Finally some rain

After months of absolute drought I awoke in the night to hear rain on the tiles  - and over the course of the day rain cells have been passing over with sometimes heavy showers.  The trees and plants breath a sigh of relief!

Here is a departing storm over Alvaiazere Hill down from our valley towards the coast.

 


Tentacles - worth a trip to sample

(No, I said tentacles).  We have just discovered a new favourite restaurant in Sertã.  I chose Polvo à Lagareira, and it turned out to be one of the best examples of the genre, delicately grilled to keep it tender, and served with batatas murras (bashed potatoes).  
Tel 927775316






 Finally I seem to have cracked it, making feta.  You can buy it here but it's wildly expensive so I have been experimenting making it in house.  It has a nice creamy, yet crumbly texture with a slight sharp edge to the taste.  Excellente with our home grown cucs, toms, and olive oil.



Monday

Tuesday

The drought continues...

 Despite the ferocious heat and total absence of rain some things miraculously just keep going.  The grapes are starting to turn and we are wondering if my trip to England in September is going to coincide with the ideal time for the harvest.  Another case of careful planning coming unstuck?  We will see.

This is a shot of our entrance walkway, the vines making a perfect, enticing dappled shady path to welcome us home.



Wednesday

Pastelaria Império - Cernache do Bomjardim

 Just been to our favourite pastelaria in Cernache do Bomjardim, not far from us.  All the cakes are made on the premises and super fresh, and the ingredients are lovingly prepared to make delicious treats.  It is run by a team of very nice people who patiently listen to us stumbling through our portuguese!



Sunday

A Whopper from our favourite tree

 


Hot Days Ahead

 
With temperatures like these make sure you keep your favoured vehicle somewhere cool.     

    

Friday

The remarkable power of the sun

 Here is a picture guide to our growing prickly pears.  We "gathered" our paddles from Pedrogao Pequeno on 17th Feb 2020.  Now in June 2022 we have our first prickly pear fruit, with flower just starting to develop.



Sunday

Ucrania woman alone harranges Russian soldiers near Crimea -

 

This brave woman confronts Russian soldiers, addressing them as enemies and telling them in no uncertain terms to leave, pressing upon them sunflower seeds to flower when they are dead.  

Thursday 24 February 2022

 


Saturday

February 12 - the end of summer

 This has been a winter like no other.  We have had pretty much 3 months of sunshine and blue skies, (which now obviously is becoming a problem for farmers who rely on winter for growing crops and grass for animals).  But we woke up this morning to cloud - it was so odd, I'd forgotten what an effect dull skies have on a person.  Tomorrow we might even have a small possibility of rain, well let's wait and see.

In the meantime our arum lilies have just started to flower.


  

Monday

"Less is more" and the moon

 This is our first year of managing our vines properly, cutting out excess "twiggage" drastically from previous owners methods, and learning from our previous year's mistakes.  Here is a detail from one of our walkways, culling back to create a basic cordon form but from which we now know huge amount of growth will spring.  You can just see the buds swelling (we are the first week in February) and also the very tiny moon in the middle at the bottom.



Thursday

fanfare ciocărlia - golden days

 You know what it's like when you hear a teeny clip of music that reminds you of something from way back, well I just had one of those moments and after an evening of searching Youtube I finally found it.  Crazy Balkan guys playing frenetic music to make you feel happy.  Try this...

Golden Days



Wednesday

Sunshine bush

 Even on dull days our Bush Daisy aka Euryops pectinatus exudes light.  It's a native of South Aftrica but thrives here - not even our huge population of Lusitanian Pine Vole can undermine its enthusiastic growth.  It starts flowering in November and will carry on without break until June or July.  This autumn/winter has been remarkable for the lack of rain and almost uninterrupted sun for over 3 months - even by Portuguese standards this is unusual.  Admittedly the reservoir is decidely low and it is difficult for people with grazing animals to find enough grass, but for us sun deprived English it is amazing.



  

Thursday

Digital images

 I still find it amazing that an image taken in a nanosecond, with barely any thought can produce such clarity - such is the joy of taking photos with a phone.

This is from a garden in Coimbra.



Wednesday

Our best oil so far...

  We inherited 30 or so neglected olive trees, many very ancient ones with huge boles, but they were badly in need of serious pruning, if they aren't pruned they are not viable fruit producers and old wood is a source of disease to the point of tree destruction.  So pruning is not only done with secateurs but also with chain saws.



Thursday

One of our favourites from2021


 

 


Twelfth Night

 Before Christmas we discovered how a few pruned twigs from one of our fig trees, put on top of our wood burner, gave off the most delicious sweet spicy smell that you can normally only come across in the heat of summer.  With this in mind I dreamt up an alternative Christmas tree which we made together in Andrew's workshop.  Here is the result.



Jan. 2022

 Our 2 favourite clementines are just starting to ripen.  Citrus trees are truly miraculous, they are ripening fruit (often in huge quantities) whilst putting out flower for the subsequent season.  And ours will produces fruit over a 4 or 5 month period.