Skip to main content

Posts

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.

We have about 13 olive trees in our garden.  Each year we watch the olives grow, fall on the ground and rot.  

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…
Recent posts

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 - http://ramirez.pt/.



As time went on canning factories used new canning technology to preserve the fish for longer, opening up the international market and by the 1980s there were over 150 canning factories in Portugal.  However, canned fish went out of fashion and as processing costs grew many factories closed down. In fact in the year 2000 there were just 20 factories still canning fish in Portugal.  

In recent years canned fish has made a come back in Portugal, it's become a fashion choice, with brands spending their money on nostalgic pack…

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.
That makes for a boring blog....I mean you don't want to hear (again) that I miss central heating, that Christmas came and I made a wreath, that Spring is once again on its way.  But that got me thinking, life is pretty repetitive and during the winter, I think life here in the middle of the hills of Portugal can be very boring, especially during the winter.
- get up - walk the dog - eat breakfast - work - walk the dog - eat dinner - walk the dog - bed -  repeat until fade
It doesn't help that when the rain comes, it sticks around. In March it rained for three weeks non-stop. The dog was wet, the house was wet, clothes were wet....it just didn't stop.  Don't get me wrong, Portugal was in desperate need of the…

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.

The fear of being surrounded and trapped by fire was very real, friends of ours in other locations were already surrounded in their homes. What I'll never, ever forget is the smell of fire, the yellow colour of the sky, the sic…

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.

 1916

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…

Presépio

Now we are in February it seems like the right time to write about a Christmas tradition in Portugal.  The Presépio translated in Google as 'The Crib' is firmly routed in the Jesus in the Nativity and not the Pimp my Crib show on MTV.

The Presépio is traditionally a representation of the Nativity, from a simple Mary, Joseph and Jesus ornament arrangement at home on the mantle to a full on live procession with donkey, cattle and shepherds.

This year I spotted more representations of the Presépio around the district.  It seemed to me that each town had two or three interpretations of this traditional celebration of the Nativity.

Presépio made from recycled materials seems to be the big hit this year, here are some that have caught my eye.















Building our Barrel Vault Wood Fired Oven

This is a short description of my barrel vault build that I have done here in Central Portugal.
The final internal size is a 1m squared floor with a arch height of 50cm.
I hope you enjoy and get some ideas from it. I wish to thank ukwoodfiredovenforum for their advice and support.

• 1: First I dug out a hole in the flower bed, on top of the stone wall, where the oven was to be built


• 2: Set up a form to pour in the concrete base


• 3: Pour the concrete base, which was about 5-6 inches deep


• 4: On top of the base I cast 4-5 inches of LECA (light weight expanded clay balls) mixed with cement to hold it's form


• 5: Then I cast a 2-3 inch heat retaining base, to add to the thermal mass, using calcium aluminate cement with large grain sand, as a flat base for the hearth bricks to sit on


• 6-8: I then dry laid the hearth bricks on a dry bed of fine sand and clay mixture, with the surround/edge bricks cemented in place to give support to the coming vault




• 9-10: Here I cut the bricks for the bac…