Tag Archives: building

It’s been a year!


Yes, yes, I know I’ve been slacking for 4 months with updates, but I hope you’ve been following our Facebook page Olives and Acorns

which is always full of news, pics and various tidbits!

Anyway, holy sh*t it’s been a YEAR! A year since we dropped everything and jumped on a ferry to get us to our land in Portugal.

A very busy year, but an awesome one. We enjoyed every moment of this and not even once regretted our decision.

Here is what happened since April, and since I have a bad connection you probably won’t get pics unless you jump onto our Facebook and look through albums.


The planting is finished and we are starting to harvest. Everything is green and full of flowers and the weather is glorious. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful month of the year. The heat is mild too, and all the rivers are covered in flowers.

Our peppers, chillies, aubergines and everything on the corn field is lush and have buds. We are harvesting strawberries, spinach, salads, courgettes, carrots, radishes, potatoes, kale, okra, beans, kohlrabi, beetroot, onions, coriander, parsley, chard, peas, mangetout, cauliflower, and I’m sure I forgot something and can’t check without looking at the pics.




Monsanto has a yearly medieval festival, which we have visited this time. It’s mostly vendors with their home made produce, but there is a proper feast and lots of yummy things. And glorious views of course.



More harvesting and the temperatures are climbing.Our first tree is giving fruit and I am promptly making a delicious plum jam. It’s getting dryer, and while we tried to install a hasty irrigation system it’s not efficient enough because we didn’t plant around the pipes, and the water doesn’t reach all the plants. We’ll do better next spring.





Oh boy, the caravan is heating up! The temperature inside is +36C in the afternoon. Essentially, it’s like a tin – refreshing at night, bearable until midday and very hot until about 7pm. At this point Alex’s dad has had enough and departs for UK until it’s cooler.

We are still harvesting of course – so many tomatoes, more courgettes, first corn, beans, more peppers, chillies and parsley, thyme, salad, kale, a few rare cabbages and strawberries. At this point it’s getting too hot for most salads, rocket and cauliflower.


I also harvest all our onions. Half of them is soft and get used in chutneys and preserves, but another half goes into the shed to be used until the next harvest. In my opinion 500 onions (roughly) wasn’t enough, and this autumn I’ll try to plant double that. I haven’t had a chance to save any seeds as none of them were in flower when I harvested them, but I’ll do it next time.

Our well’s water becomes too sulfuric to drink so we keep using it to water and to wash, but switch to drinking spring water from the village. The well’s level is also slowly going down.

Mike, our friend, replaces the roof on the shed, constructs permanent three year composting bin rotation and starts on building our kitchen.


One of our cheep, Sage, dies unexpectedly. One day she is alright, another she starts wheezing and then just drops. We suspect she ate something poisonous, but who knows? Sheep diseases are aplenty. We are gutted but within two weeks what’s left of Sage is just tufts of wool. The predators take care if it all.

The apples are ready to harvest, so I pick about 10 crates of them. I dry them, make them into a jam or use in chutneys. There are a few different types and some of them are cooking apples but others are delicious to eat.

The kitchen is coming along slowly. Mike and Alex are fully focused on the project, so I’m left to process all the produce when and how I can. I have tomatoes and peppers and courgettes coming out of my ears 🙂 We are starting to pick aubergines and jalapenos as well. Coriander is well and truly dead, and Thai basil is struggling to survive. Sage is doing really well though!

The only thing not from our garden is garlic!

I am drying lots of tomatoes, so we shouldn’t run out in winter months.

It’s blackberry season, and I pick a lot of these delicious berries to make jam.


So hot and dry! The temperatures climb to +40C in shade some days.  Sometimes +39C in the caravan.

First week of August is Boom Festival time, so I fry my Russian pastries for 9 days for our friends chai shop there. I am knackered, and it’s a slow, hard work, which takes about 10 hours a night so the fresh produce can be taken away with morning delivery. Will I do it again? I don’t know. But I’m glad I did so I know I can and am more clear about my limitations.

The well goes down so dramatically, we can see the bottom of it, and it replenishes itself just enough everyday for light watering. At this point everything is drying to a crisp. Last of the potatoes are dug out, corn is finished, we are eating our melons and watermelons (delicious!), chickpeas collected. There are plenty of aubergines, less and less peppers as they are charred by the sun), very few strawberries, courgettes are still going, and parsley is doing so well, I am really surprised! Still lots of tomatoes, and the month is mostly spent watering and making preserves.


The guys finish the shell of the kitchen mid August, so Mike goes away, and me and Al start the slow work of pointing the stone walls with lime and mud, lime washing the walls and finishing the cob oven. The land looks like a bombsite with all the materials lying around, but we physically have no strength or time to tidy it up.

It’s so hot we are frequently escaping to the dam to swim or just around the corner to our friend’s, Paul, swimming pool/water tank. All the water for our usage comes from the village in water carriers, as there is only enough well water for the plants.

OMG, fig harvest! So many different figs, I don’t know what to do with them. We eat them fresh, I make chutneys and trying to dry them as well.

We also buy a chest freezer, and it’s a life saver! At this point our fridge refuses to function in the heat and sucks all the energy off the batteries, so some mornings we wake up with the solar system shut off because it’s drained.

Now the fridge is permanently switched off. Instead we are freezing a 5L bottle every day, stick it in the fridge and it stays very cold! The chest freezer was a bargain at 160 euro and it uses very little power – 75W once in a while. I think it will make a huge difference in winter!

I also managed to freeze some peppers, kale, figs and last of the blackberries for winter use.

We are collecting first pumpkins and butternut squash.

At this point my cupboard (an old, broken fridge from the skip) is full of preserves which I’m really proud of as it’s my first year of making jams and chutneys!

It is jammed packed now, the photo was taken half way! 🙂


Eating last of the apples, melons and watermelons, rock pears are ripening, there are some juicy dark plums on the trees in the field and more figs.


First week of the month BAM! it starts raining, and really doesn’t stop for almost 3 weeks. Everyone says that the rain came very early this year.

Of course we are not ready for it, so the plans for cleaning the well get ruined but the temperature goes down to +mid twenties, and it’s absolutely blissful. The tomatoes produce huge amount of leaves, and the peppers and chillies go into a second harvest. Beans come back from the dead. Halleluja!

The change on the land is dramatic. Almost overnight everything goes from dry beige to green as the grass starts sprouting everywhere. In two first days of the rain the wild amaryllis flower near the well pops out, and it’s gorgeous!

My fig drying is ruined as they get moldy when it starts raining and the heat during the day is not sufficient enough to  cure anything.

I can’t dry them out in the cob oven as it’s not quite ready yet, but we did manage to light a few fires in a fireplace and it looked gorgeous.

We start eating sharon fruit/persimmon as it ripes on our tree.

We also experience some minor troubles with our new car (well, new for us). It’s a Portuguese pickup made in 1980s which cost us 3 thousand euros, and our friends assure us it was a bargain. Ouch. Yes, the cars here are very expensive and they don’t really go down in price.

Anyway, we had a few punctures and still need to replace exhaust, align the wheels and do some cosmetic work. Otherwise it’s a workhorse of a car, great for a farm!

The kitchen looks beautiful, but we still need to put the fire proof tiles inside the oven, add the door to it, line the tabletop and a shelf with tiles, tile the floor, render the ceiling and buy a cooker/or cooker top. We also have second hand steel door for the entrance but it needs to be cut to fit.

As you can see, there are so many things that need doing and we have very limited time to do it! Argh.

Still, when kitchen is done, we are starting on a new chicken coop which will share a wall with a greenhouse which hopefully provide more warmth for the chickens in winter.

We still haven’t replanted anything, and the bathroom needs to be done sometime in winter as well. Right now the composting toilet is in the shed, and that will do for the moment.

Me and Al and thinking really hard of getting a workaway in October. We’ve been enjoying our (relative) solitude for the last month and a half, but we really need someone who knows what they are doing with building work to get onto greenhouse and chicken coop soon. So… If you are that person and want to come stay with us for a bit, write us an email at


What else?

Our cockerel George died yesterday, bless his poor soul. He had both of his legs damaged and we couldn’t bring ourselves to kill him, so we were just feeding him until he just fell asleep and didn’t wake up.

This time we’ll be getting a smaller, local breed of cockerel in hope that it won’t be as aggressive. Plus our chickens are broody. One in particular has been sitting on two lots of eggs for couple of months, but of course the cockerel was incapacitated so they weren’t fertilized. Poor thing!

Our well-being

Alex despite being a diabetic is so strong right now, it’s awesome. While he gets tired easily, he does everything fast and in spurs with breaks in between. It works for him, and we are both happy with the results. He also got a new supply of insulin here from a doctor without a problem, and it was free.

I’ve lost about 12kg in a year, I’m feeling much stronger, more toned and healthy.

We hardly eat any meat, there is just no need for it. Of course when it gets colder our diet will change again, but so far it’s mostly veggie stir-fries and curries, fresh bread and cheese, chips, salads, beans and a lot of Mediterranean and middle Eastern food.

My hair care is pretty funny. My stash of organic shampoo ended couple of months ago, but I had a bottle of conditioner left so I’ve been using it now and again. I also rinse my hair with sage leaf tea because it suppose to darken the color of your hair overtime.

The hair might not be as soft and sleek as with normal shampoos and conditioners, but I tell you that it’s clean, there is no dandruff and no irritation to the skin I used to have. It also takes about a week or longer to get my hair dirty, and it won’t be because it goes greasy, only because it collects all the dust from building work and becomes dryer and my head itches… 🙂

I also had my first DIY haircut and it looks awesome. Don’t know why I was so afraid to try it before, it’s very easy! However, my scissors were so blunt that I went and ordered proper hairdresser scissors for the next time 🙂


God, I don’t know what else to tell you!

Ah, I’ve got Pinterest account  where you can follow my ideas for the kitchen and other building projects. Of course the reality will be very different because our access to different materials is very limited.

I’ll keep you posted on that. Over and out.

P.S. I’ll add links to this post when my internet is fast again, but I just wanted to give you a yearly update on the date 🙂

P.P.S The links and pics are added.


Spring, glorious spring! Part Two


I’m expecting to receive half a kilo of buckwheat in seeds mid-April, so I’ll have another field planted with buckwheat which not only thrives in poor soil, but flowers and attracts bees.

It must be a Russian thing because Alex hates buckwheat with a passion, but I love eating it.  🙂

As for bees, we decided to wait till next year to get them. There is just so much to plant right now, our heads are spinning. We don’t think we are ready.

There are a lot more things to plant, so much that we don’t know what to do first. I change my mind frequently during the day, and I’m sure Alex feels the same.


There are so many gorgeous wild flowers around the quinta, that this evening I did what I always dreamed of – went and collected a bunch of them!

There were wild lupins, fragrant lavender, a small iris, cambions (?), two types of legume-ish flowers and god only knows what else. If you know their names, please let me know. I’m a total novice at this.

However, I DO know how to arrange my bouquets after years of helping Alex in his flower boutique, and this was pure pleasure, folks! 🙂 Put a huge grin on both our faces.


Thanks to Wendy‘s updates on FB,  I managed to find wild sorrel on our quinta, and combined with  chickweed and cress it made for a lovely filling for pasta.

I’ve tried a different recipe for donuts, and it worked much better! It was also much quicker to make.

Other projects

Alex cleared out a space near the kitchen

There must have been over a thousand tiles in total! He plans to build a shed to stock wood in and a space to keep geese and hopefully other birds when we get them.

Me and the cockerel George made our peace (I think). Alex told me I had to “dominate” him,so I literally had to jump on him and hold him down next time he attacked me, getting pinched in the process and scraping my knee. Then I walked around with him, stroking him in the process, and now it looks like much of his aggression to me is gone. Although I keep my stick with me just in case!


We had a lovely night with a barbecue at our place with our friends.

Alex cooked Thai pork dish (kao kha moo), we also had homemade foccacia from Erica and Leo, and lots of steaks from Ben!

We stayed out for a long time drinking wine under the stars, listening to frogs and crickets (and cockerel crowing at night because we were making too much noise!), and it was gorgeous.

Ben reciprocated the other night, and everyone got together in his place for the first time. He doesn’t have any livable amenities yet, but we sat around a huge bonfire

It was at least a couple of meters in diameter!

while a trio of guitarists played Pink Floyd under the stars. It was surreal…

I think this is it so far.

I keep meaning to update the blog more often, but I haven’t got into the habit yet, so once a month it is.

Hugs and ciao!

What’s been accomplished in 8 weeks? Part 2


…back again!

The tarp we bought during the week of rain was hastily set up with what we had on the land, so when we had time we got back to it and created a proper wooden structure. Again, we’ve tried to use what was available on the land. hence the piping for the support 🙂

After 5 days of non-stop rain, the area under the tarp turned into a swamp, so we had to drain it and dig some trenches around.

took us 3 days to drain all the water


just one layer of gravel

trenches all around for rain run offs

the small solar panel is for the caravan 12v lights by the way

I think it came out rather nice!

The dog kennel has been torn down, and the floor in the kitchen leveled and gravelled. Alex and Shaun have started raising the outside wall. We’ve also ordered some concrete poles for the roof, which we’ll use to build the structure that we will tile later.

I haven’t got the pic for the whole floor, but it’s all done now.

I have been salting the olives using Wendy’s suggestion although Portuguese do it in a completely different way leaving olives in fresh water every day for a month, and then adding salt to them. I have three different batches.

I’ve done big green olives, small black ones, and really big black ones. We’ll see in few months!

We’ve made a lovely fire pit (courtesy of Shaun) for our bogracs (Hungarian cooking pot), which we have been using very frequently for slow cooking and grilling.

I’ve also collected the rock pears from our pear tree and made a delicious French Countryside Pear Jam using this recipe.

chopping with gazillions of flies around.


cooking and sterilizing the jars at the same time

You can buy these in Chinese shops in few different sizes. It’s much cheaper than Portuguese supermarkets. Off course I’m collecting all the jars of food I buy anyway for future use.

Just three jars from 5 hours of work, but the jam is delicious!

My first attempt to create a quince jam wasn’t very successful as I used too little sugar and too much lemon. It’s sour but it’s still nice to eat with sweet biscuits and it smells lovely.

harvesting quinces


I’ve had 5 jars out of 2 kg of quinces (maybe?). Will wait till the end of the month to make more. Quinces weren’t quite ripe, and it’s really hard to cut them right now.

As to the olive harvest we kind of messed it upright away.

We started in the beginning of November and collected about 90kg from 5-6 trees…

But you can only keep harvested olives up to a week so we looked for the olive press when they started going off on us. Well… Apparently olive press here doesn’t open until the 18th of November, so we had to follow Portuguese advice and leave what we could salvage from our olives in water until then. I think I lost half a crate to the rot.

Anyway, we are harvesting again next week onwards and we still have at least 30 trees to do. Oh boy!

For those of you interested, we were told that the press in our village which is one of the best in the area will take 13kg of olives and return 1 litre of extra virgin olive oil back. They will take their cut in oil as a payment.

We’ll know more after we’ve had our oil.

we are pruning the trees as we go as well. They are very overgrown.


picking olives is a very relaxing, meditative job. I’m loving it!

To be continued in part 3…