The JCB trundled up the dirt road on Tuesday morning, JJ driving, cheerfully bringing potential easy demolition.

His first job was shifting five loads of boulders and lovely old dressed stones to the entrance where my tractor broke down a few weeks ago (doing the same job).

The builders started early too, as the shade temperatures quickly rose from 28°C at 8am. Builders like the cheery sound of a cement mixer grinding round and sloshing its wet sand and cement sloppily between the two curved paddles inside the tub. Does it remind them of home?? João and Manel worked hard all day in full sun, easily five degrees hotter than the 39°C afternoon shade temperature. I struggled to work with them and had to go indoors to cool down every half hour.

Meanwhile JJ in his maquina trundled over to the well and set about pulling out a substantial willow tree which has regrown since being torn up five years ago – see “Clearing the Well” posted November 2007. This well is in a field and the top is level with the land; there was only a flimsy wire fence for safety around it. Two weeks ago I cleared the bracken and long straw surrounding it so we could see its edge.


Having removed the tree he brought five more loads of boulders to add to the pile I had accumulated in the previous year. He used the retro-digger (that’s the one on the back of the JCB) to carefully arrange the stones around the well, and suggested they would make a good start to raising its wall but plenty more would be required. The well is more than four metres across and its circumference over thirteen metres, so many tons of flat-faced boulders were needed.

He finished off by digging a thirty-metre trench for us, which will appear in another blog.

Wednesday 8am and the builders returned and headed straight out to the well. I followed with my front-loader on the tractor. All day we heaved boulders, brought more boulders, searched around for the lascas (flat stones) so useful in stone walling, the bigger the better. They built most of the new wall in one day, with no mortar.

On Thursday they arrived and set the cement mixer running to give a cheery working background. They mortared in the upper part of the wall and levelled it with the lascas.

On Friday we moved to the bottom of the quinta where we brought in its mains electricity supply, connecting via a meter inside a couple of boxes in a purpose-built regulation-height wall. João and Manel levelled the top of this wall with slim stones, faced it smoothly with mortar, and we put boulders on either side of it. They stuck onto this wall a panel of six tiles given to us by Jacinto the builder shortly after we bought the farm.

Now the Quinta da Serrinha is labelled. Five years after we took it on the quinta has a  safe useable well, aproper entrance and a nameplate. Wow !