Archive for the ‘Locality’ Category

Firestorm!

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Forest fires near Leiria. Photo by Hélio Madeiras, Força Especial de Bombeiros

Forest fires near Leiria. Photo by Hélio Madeiras, Força Especial de Bombeiros

Where to begin?

Where to end?

Forest fires in Portugal are a huge subject. Very few of them are accidental. Yet even while the causes are deliberate and fairly simple, what turns fire into firestorm and fueled 2017’s events, allowing them to become so devastating, is more complex.

But that’s for another post. This one is devoted to a very personal experience of them.

Mine.

It’s not often I write about things like this here. It’s not so much what this site is about. But if it contributes to raising awareness of what thousands so close to home have been through against a background of media silence, if it becomes part of a movement to bring an end to this phase in Portugal’s history, if it offers some help to the many people who have lost everything they owned and been shaken to the core by these fires, then it will have achieved its purpose.

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Illegal property scams in Portugal

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Benfeita and its surrounding villages have become very popular in the last 3 years among foreigners, especially English-speaking foreigners, and many people have moved into the area, many to follow lifestyles similar to ours, so this is a warning if you’re one of those looking into moving here.

Benfeita, Pardieiros and Monte Frio, Serra do Açor, Portugal

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Benfeita Wholefood Coop

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Benfeita Wholefood Coop

A few of us in Benfeita have got together to form a wholefood coop. Anyone within what you regard as a reasonable distance of Benfeita (where the orders will be delivered) is welcome to join.

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Pine wilt nematode

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Pine wilt nematode in Maritime pine

This is the view from the top of the track down to the larger building on the quinta. In many ways it encapsulates the nature of the “Green Heart of Portugal” – forested mountain ranges cut deep by meandering river valleys, peppered with tiny white villages perched on mountain ridges, surrounded by land terraced and richly cultivated with olives, vines, fruit trees, vegetables … Idyllic.

But it encapsulates something else about the Green Heart of Portugal too – an ecological disaster-in-the-making presently taking hold in Portugal’s forests. The tree on the left is dying.

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Quinta wildlife #12

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

I mentioned elsewhere what an enormous difference the presence of flowers in the vegetable garden this year has made to the number and varieties of butterflies we’ve seen. Considering that the number and variety here is, even without flowers, comparable to a profusion and diversity that’s not been present in the UK for a good 40 years, then perhaps you can begin to grasp what a wonder this year has been.

Yellow swallowtail butterfly (Papilio machaon)

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Lunch

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

One of the disadvantages of being busy with building at this time of year is that it doesn’t leave much time for fungus forays.

Parasol mushroom, Lepiota procera, growing on the quinta

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Quinta wildlife #10

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

The boozing butterfly is a Two-tailed Pasha or Foxy Emperor (Charaxes jasius). Not seen in the UK as its range is too far south. Its feed plant is the Strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo, which is part of the original flora of this region.

Two-tailed Pasha, Charaxes jasius, feeding on beer

Mud packs

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

The thing with dry stone schist buildings is that they’re dry stone. A good wind will whistle straight in through the walls, and the heat from a stove will whistle straight out. And there’s a fair variety of wildlife that comes and goes and sets up home in the gaps between the stones.

We have no particular objection to sharing the building with the local wildlife, but aren’t so keen on the winter winds and losing all our heat.

With the roof now planked and the wall heads being built up and capped ready for laying the insulation, we’re starting work on pointing the stonework in the interior of the building. It’s a messy job, so one preferably done before we get around to replacing the floors.

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Roof progress

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Renovation work on the roof has been progressing. All the chestnut timbers have now been removed, cleaned, preserved and oiled and are ready to be put back on the roof, as is the timber boarding to go on top of them. Next will come 50mm of cork insulation followed by a breathable membrane, then the original schist slabs.

Old chestnut roof timbers after renovation

The chestnut timbers have a satisfyingly rich colour after being cleaned with a draw knife, treated with an ecological preservative and coated with linseed oil

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This is what’s happening to the oaks

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

A year ago I asked what’s happening to the oaks round these parts. Suddenly around June, the leaves all seem to turn brown and take on a skeletal look. Last year I thought it might be fungal because I couldn’t see evidence of insects, but now that we’re here full time and have the benefit of catching it in the act of happening, this year it’s clear that it’s not.

Oak Flea Beetle larvae feeding on oak leaves

Oak Flea Beetle larvae

Despite searching on Google for oak leaf miners and the like, so far I’ve been unable to identify this pest. Anyone?

Addendum: Thanks to Miguel (comment below) I’ve discovered that this pest is the Oak Flea Beetle (Altica quercetorum). I’ve also noticed that, like many plants subject to insect attack, water stress plays a part. The oaks in wetter parts of the quinta have far less damage, or even none, while the ones in the driest areas have the most damage.