P1030719 lettuce 7 january cropWe love the climate here, with one reservation – the arid summer with its eight weeks of over-40° days. The winter is mild enough for us to have lettuce and radish fresh from the garden, and even to have an occasional barbecue. The evenings are cold, though, and we light the wood fire in the living room for warmth and comfort. Because we grow the fuel we are happy to use it!

P1030620 evening december in living room

In January we spent time on the internet finding some interesting heritage plants that would suit our climate and buying their seeds. I prepared a large vegetable plot and Janet sowed peas – hundreds of them. Our aim was to benefit from the rain and mild temperatures in February, so legumes could be harvested very early and the soil improved well before summer.

Janet and peas They all sprouted and now, in early April, the pods are maturing. We will soon have lots of peas in our freezer.

In mid February, whilst I was pruning olive trees, Janet sowed seeds for “sweet chocolate” peppers, early orange peppers, frilly chillies, Basque chillies and black Hungarian chillies into little compost cells, which then went into two heated propagators given to us by her sister Helen a few years ago.

real seeds bartlett chilliShe misted them daily with water, and these warmed seeds lived in the conservatory where, thanks to extra warmth from the plentiful sunshine, they germinated.

When I was in England Janet used some of her time to move the seedlings into pots and to sow more seeds into cells – golden cherry tomatoes, Latah bush tomatoes, purple tomatillos (these are not tomatoes at all), Tamra cucumbers and musk melon seeds. Again the plant incubators worked their magic and by the end of March she had potted nearly two hundred unusual plantlets. J repotting March14

With such an early start these plants should also be ready for harvesting before the heat of summer arrives. It’s exciting to look forward to trying these exotica on our plates ! We are already proud that we always have something home grown or home made with every meal, but goulash made with our Hungarian chillies, our orange peppers,  our Bulgarian yoghourt, our salad with our own olive oil, own bread, own wine . . . has got to be a winner !  We will definitely not be getting a cow for beef though – the water requirement for its fodder is too high, and we couldn’t leave it for even one day.

potted

I visited England for three weeks in March whilst Janet stayed on the farm looking after our hundreds of onion plants, her seedlings, and Harry the Dog. Eighteen months ago doggo nearly died so she decided to change his regime to energise him. He has a high protein diet of meat or fish in the evening and for breakfast a three-egg omelette with meat scraps or bacon in it. He has unexpectedly kept going well, and is nearly fourteen now, the equivalent for a human of almost a hundred years old. He has lost his sight and hearing, and can only walk a few yards from home. He sleeps most of the time (as you see in the second picture, above) and seems happy. In exchange for the immense good he has done us our efforts now seem fair. I’m so glad we have lots of video of him leaping about and looning around when he was younger !

 

Coping with life on the quinta is becoming easier now we are getting used to the growing seasons, how to deal with our water supply, maintenance of agricultural machinery and so on. We are still learning a lot about managing our lives though, and becoming happier through it.

Sowing cereal in November

Sowing cereal in November

However since late February we have had neither UK satellite television nor radio; the broadcasts have been moved onto a new tighter beam satellite. Although the internet has provided a replacement, the quality certainly isn’t high. Thank goodness for YouTube, Top Documentaries and DVD boxed sets of series – Dalziel and Pascoe, Carnivale, Downton Abbey. Like thousands of ex-pats scattered through Iberia and France, we love the internet, as we can keep in contact with our families through voip (almost free phone calls), Skype (videophone on the big screen) and Facetime. We buy a lot of books and stuff from Amazon, who delivered everything to our door  – until 3rd April, when they announced that they would no longer do free delivery, but charge £6.50 postage on a paperback and more for everything else. This is on top of Portugal having no Kindle service and no Amazon music download facility. Apple offer a very stripped-down service without iTunes, and eBay pulled out of Portugal last year, although Spain is still supported. It seems that there is a concerted plan to ensure our country remains very much third-world, marginalised. This is mostly acceptable to us, but it is plain that Portugal is definitely being snubbed by the Eurocrats. Having said that, we are very happy to be living here!

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