June 2008

We arrived at the quinta last week to find that our builders had started working for us; JJ the JCB man had excavated the area where we intend to build a barracão (apartment and garages).  However, the levels were not low enough, and a metre out of position. I rang them, and they came over straight away. They agreed to dig the site a foot deeper and put the foundations where I want the building !

In early January there had been a week of bitterly low temperature, which killed most of the orange trees in our area. It seemed to me a good idea to discover which of ours had survived, then to prune them back hard and reshape them.  The orange is a very rewarding tree, being evergreen, with edible pretty fruits in winter, and having fragrant creamy white flowers in spring. Sometimes the fruits and flowers are on the tree together, a feast for the senses!

First two pics show a “before” and “after” pruning a surviving orange tree.

We spent several days digging and planting the veg garden, including aubergine plants from the market, and giving some olive trees a long-overdue treat.

Pic: manuring olive trees

The farm always sounds lovely, with the noise of frogs all night (many live in our water storage tank and others in our charcas nearby), birdsong all day, and insects chirping all the time. We have visitors -the praying mantis was an unwelcome guest in our kitchen, and a holidaymaking   “wild turtle” (a mystery how it arrived) cruises around on a cork raft in the tank, sunbathing !

We have two beehives, but have yet to contact the local beekeeper . . .

The wildflowers are very pretty at the moment, and they are different every month; in April we had acres of purple wild lavender near the woods, this month the fields and olivals are carpeted in yellow and white flowers, with pink foxgloves in the granite rocks.

As for using the fields for crops, I missed the early growing season because of pruning olive trees – now 150 are done (thanks to our friend Ian for help, encouragement, company and being SO adaptable !). The late growing season starts soon, and I think I’ll be able to catch that. I have to learn to plough. The question is, what to grow? And why are we growing it? Although we have no farm animals yet, we made first enquiries about ducks last week. They need a raft with a house on it, floating in the centre of a charca, so they can sleep in safety from any foxes!

We are back at the villa now the weather is wet, and will stay here for a week before our next wave of visitors arrives.  Showers are forecast all week, most unseasonal but great for our seedlings.

As for the barracão and the veg garden, both are unfinished “work in progress” . . .