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Chestnuts and Saints

St. Martinho or St. Martin of Tours, became the first non- martyr saint to receive official church worship and became one of the most popular saints in medieval Europe. (Source wikipedia). His feast day is 11 November, deep into autumn and the chestnut season.
In Portugal, as it's chestnut season 'Magustos'are celebrated in St. Martinho's name. A magusto is a group  of friends and/or family who get together and bake and eat chestnuts. 

We have our village magusto at the weekend. 
Meanwhile at home I've been celebrating the chestnut instead of the saint.  This 'celebration' involves collecting the chestnut harvest, splitting, cooking and shelling hundreds of these shiny brown chestnuts. Well, there's not much else to do on a wet Monday in these hills.

Now I've got a bowl full of chestnuts I'm looking for recipes.  Here's what I've tried so far:
Chestnut cake.  Made by using blitzed chestnuts instead of regular flour.  I used Rachel Allen's…
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Is it worth it?

When we moved to the hills of Portugal we thought we'd be growing all our own vegetables, picking grapes, harvesting olives and being just a little more self-sufficient.  But over the last 8 years we've not really embraced this way of life.  The veg patch is more of a place where veg goes to die, we've never picked the grapes and up until this month we've never bothered with the olives.

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I hack back the grapevines so hard the neighbours come out to laugh at my poor pruning skills.  They tell me each year 'you'll never get grapes if you do that' I reply 'I don't want grapes, I just want leaves'....they shrug and laugh to themselves as the walk away.

And as for that poor veg patch...well aphids, rot, bad soil and a whole host of problems mean we only plant peas (which we often forget to harvest until they've gone hard), tomatoes (you cann…

A bit fishy

Portugal has a long history of preserving fish, it seems to have started in Peniche with two main ways of preservation recorded.  Either drying on racks in the sun or as Roman remains have shown, they were salting fish and putting it into clay pots. The first modern commercial preservation factory was started in 1853 and put locally caught sardines in olive oil. In fact this company are still doing it today with a wider variety of fish canned -

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Repeat until fade

When you write a blog about your life you soon realise that life is fairly repetitive! I mean, apart from those big moments that naturally happen throughout the course of 12 months (the fire in June last year for example) life pretty much just gets on with itself.
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- get up - walk the dog - eat breakfast - work - walk the dog - eat dinner - walk the dog - bed -  repeat until fade
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After the fire

June saw Portugal's worst forest fires in living history....174 square miles of central Portugal burned and tragically, 64 deaths and people still in hospital.

We were lucky, the fire reached the top of our village then, as we were evacuated, took a turn and moved upwards...we were lucky. People have lost their land, their home, their family, their life.

We were very lucky.

We ran, we ran for the coast....away from the fire, away from the smoke, away from the fear.  But in making this trip we drove along the main road out of town passing the burnt-out cars where people died  in their cars, fleeing their homes as the fire moved at over 200 miles an hour, at temperatures which melted glass.  I try not to think too much about what that was like for them.

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Gates and Dates

One thing you do on dog walks is notice things, from the people on the bus (which passes at 8.10am) to visitors staying with family, how the sun is rising a little bit earlier every morning this time of year.

One thing that has always intrigued me is the initials and dates on house gates.  Once you start noticing these things then you see dates everywhere....and of course the JF initials on all the benches....who is JF......but more of that later.

So as a result of all this noticing, I've been thinking about the dates and what was going on for Portugal when our neighbours installed their gates.


The oldest gates I've found in our village.  The house is now abandoned, but it's a lovely place, with some great stone work.   This gate was installed during the First World War.  In 1916 Germany declared war on Portugal.   Portugal had honoured its old alliance with Great Britain by seizing German ships anchored in Lisbon’s harbour following a request to commandeer all forei…