Tag Archives: land

Two years and counting!

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Sorry my dear readers!

Last time I posted was on Sept 25th 2014 and I have been a bad, bad blogger…

So much happened, I don’t even know where to start. It’s insanely busy here.

First of all, the majority of continuous news are always posted on our Facebook page, details of which can be found on our About page. So if the timely updates are important to you, please find Olives and Acorns there. I will also reply to messages and questions much faster on FB.

That out of the way, here is what’s happening on the farm these days.

Building:

Kitchen and bathroom built. All that’s left is the bedroom and living room which we’ll tackle next year.

Animals:

We have 4 sheep and 2 lambs. A pair of goats and 3 kids. A dog, 4 cats, 5 ducks and 14 chickens. There have been a few births on the farm (sheep and goats) and so far no kid or lamb died and the process wasn’t as scary as some website will make you think.

Land:

We started in 2013 with 1.45 hectare, now we have almost 5, due to our next door neighbour wanting desperately to sell his lot last year. That gave us an independent access to the property, 2 big Barns and some lush growing soil, which is why we’ve moved all our growing next door, away from all the animals.

Garden:

We’ve moved it to a better patch of land and it’s doing great. I’ve just planted all our winter veg. We also fenced it off so no animal can crash the party 🙂 Although cats are welcome to come and hunt for some mice.

The road is getting fixed next week and we are also hoping we’ll get a pond or two dug with a JCB.

Food:

We largely eat fruit and veg from our own land, but I buy staples from the supermarket from time to time. Not only our meat consumption went down to once a week or once every 2 weeks, I also became a much better cook! We bake our own bread and I make preserves from a variety of fruit and veg.

There is still a huge amount of things which needs to be done, but practice makes perfect and each year we are more confident and comfortable with what we do and while it’s not slowing down it’s done faster.

Right, I have to run. We have friends for dinner tonight, and I want to make lasagna with homemade pastry and some dessert. I’m thinking eclairs or lemon squares. 🙂

Hope to speak to you soon!

It’s been a year!

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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.

May

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.

  

June

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.

    

  

 

July

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.

August

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! 🙂

September

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

olivesandacorns@gmail.com

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.

 

What’s been accomplished in 8 weeks? Part 1

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So sorry, peeps! We’ve been busy and couldn’t write an update here fast enough.

Last time I promised to tell you what we’ve been doing on our land.  So here it is:

First 2-3 weeks we definitely dedicated to clearing everything from the brambles. They grow really fast and have vicious thorns, but they have two saving graces: they give you berries and they burn really well.

Here are pics BEFORE the clearing 🙂

kitchen

dog kennel inside

 

and the stacks of tiles covered

water tank

 

first quarry

back of the shed and kitchen

second quarry

 

in the middle of meadow

the well

There was another wall that we’ve cleared out, but I can’t find any BEFORE pics. I don’t think I’ve taken them!

Pics AFTER:

slowly clearing out the walls and stacks of tiles

levelling the floor

 

opening up the terrace on the top of the kitchen. The trees had to be cleared off of brambles and vines

water tank is cleared

 

meet our friend, Shaun, whose first task on arrival was kitchen floor. He’ll be staying with us for awhile

Alex starting on the outside wall for the future bathroom

 

another terrace discovered under all the brambles and vines!

back of the kitchen and shed completely cleared. Discovered possible water mines or wild boar dens. Who knows?

 

Side of the shed is cleared. Solar panels temporarily go up, and we are powered! We also start collecting rubbish left on the land – plastic, chemicals, rusty metal, shards of glass, etc. Temporary structure for the tarpaulin goes up.

bye, bye, brambles in the meadow…

 

second quarry is cleared

Here is what we’ve been doing since Shaun joined us in the second week of October until now, 16th of November…

the dry stone wall is getting raised for the composting toilet

it’s getting there…

 

voila! the toilet is done.

 

sensor solar light inside for night use

Right, it’s getting to be a long post, guys, so I’m splitting it in two.

To be continued in a min!

Arrival Part 2 and What Kind of Land Have We Got?

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There is a lovely restaurant on top of Monsanto mountain, Taverna Lusitana, which is where we went to celebrate buying our land in May. If you ever in the area, go there. The views are out of this world, although to get to the top you have to climb a pretty steep hill.

So the evening was spent in a company of unexpected friends whom we met for the first time just that morning, Martin and Ann, plus Alex’s cousin, Steve, who drove the caravan for us all the way from England and who was a relentless slave driver to get the caravan onto the land.

Steve, if you read this, you were as good as gold. Come again any time!

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Thursday night, 26th of Sept Steve went home unfortunately, and me and Al were left to fend for ourselves.

So, what kind of land did we buy?

It’s a 1.4 hectares agricultural plot of land with rich sandy clay soil, a small barn, a well and a seasonal stream on one of the sides of the property.

We have 67 olive trees, over 50 young cork trees, and around 40 fruit trees. There is a defined orchard, a meadow and a few terraces.

Everything is largely overgrown with brambles, there are a couple of small quarries with granite which is plentiful in the area of Idanha-a-Nova, a couple of unfinished brick walls which the previous owner wanted to make into a house, an unfinished water tank and a lot of rubbish and broken glass around the barn which needs to be cleaned off.

But the soil is rich, the landscape is promising especially if you want to follow permaculture principles and harvest plenty of water, and the view on Monsanto mountain is to die for.

The view from the top

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The view from the bottom corner

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I’ll talk about what we want to do in the next post, peeps.

Over and out.