Archive for May, 2011

Solar water heating: Part 1

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

Besides a dining table and water from a tap, there’s another thing noticeable for its absence these last 18 months.

That’s a shower! Bucket baths are all well and good and serve their purpose, but once in a while there’s nothing to beat the feeling from a shower.



Sunday, May 29th, 2011

The Portuguese builder who helped us out recently was somewhat bemused because the dog has a ‘human’ name (Nelly). Goodness only knows what he’d make to our inappropriately anthropomorphised trees, but for us it’s a kind of acknowledgement of their individuality. Not just any old tree of species x, but this tree here …

Wollemi pine, Wollemia nobilis


Stopping for breath

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

With daily attention inevitably circling around all that still needs to be done to convert this land into a fully productive, self-sufficient and sustainable source of food and shelter, sometimes it’s good to stop for a breath or two. Stop and glance backwards to see how far we’ve come. Preferably at breakfast time, when there’s fresh strawberries and redcurrants to savour …

Strawberries and redcurrants



Friday, May 13th, 2011

Water coming out of a tap into a kitchen sink. A very ordinary photo of a very ordinary process. But it’s had me shrieking with delight for the best part of the last hour, standing at the sink turning the tap on and off, and and filling all manner of receptacles with water just for the hell of it, all the while giggling insanely. Who would have believed so much fun could be had with a tap and a kitchen sink? If me 5 years ago had seen me now, I would have immediately taken out life insurance and given up the wine.

Water from a tap!



Monday, May 9th, 2011


Strawberry time. Last year I planted about half a dozen strawberry plants brought from our garden in Scotland, plus another half dozen or so gifted from friends. This spring many of the offshoots they produced were spread about the quinta (as they will be every year) and today we harvested the first bowlful. Discovering patches of ripe strawberries you’d almost forgotten you planted just has to be one of the greatest pleasures of growing your own! Somehow it’s even better than picking them from the beds you’ve carefully sown and nurtured.

More on renovations

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Progress. The balcony, patio area and log store outside the main building are now substantially finished.

It has been quite a transformation.


Grapeleaf blister mite

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

This is what damage by the grape erineum mite or grapeleaf blister mite, Colomerus vitis (Pagenstecher), looks like. We’ve found it in a few of our vines now that they’re bursting into life. It produces deformations of blister-like galls on the upper surface of the leaves and whitish patches on the underside.

Columerus vitis, grapeleaf blister mite


Dinner time

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

We have been living on the quinta now for over a year with a severe lack of convivial eating furniture. Last year a slightly decrepit foldaway camping table and some slightly decrepit foldaway chairs did the job, but barely. 6 people to a meal meant there was only enough room on the table for the food. Plates on knees didn’t make for easy enjoyment of the fruits of our labour in the garden, and neither did the occasional chair collapse, so a workshop on lashings at Easter weekend’s Encontro Verde provided both inspiration and skills to remedy the situation.

A few days ago I went up into the woods to cut pine poles for the purpose with Valeri, our new WWOOFer, and today we started work.

Lashing poles to make tripods

Lashing 3 long poles together to make a tripod. The middle pole lies in the opposite direction to the outside pair.