About Me

We moved out to Portugal to live a frugal but better , simpler and peaceful life, our house is a very basic, semi ruin, up in the hills outside Figueiro Dos Vinhos, where we work our land, enjoy life with each other and our dogs, and hope to make the smallest carbon footprint we can,

Monday, 26 December 2011

General Update, Sostice, Christmas, Sunshine, and stuff..

Wow... its been ages again. Sadly its that time of year when dosh is difficult so money for the Dongle or trips to town come very low down our list of priorities. But hopefully now Christmas is over (well it is in Portugal ) and we already have some bookings to look forward to, things will get easier again.
We still have Gareth with us, working hard as always, but Osian has moved on, down to Peniche to be a surfer boy for a while. He worked hard and accomplished tons while he was with us. Gareth we hope will stay till Spring at least  we always have work for willing hands.
Hes been helping Rick in so many ways, and the fact that they hit it off so well , having a shared sense of humour helps a lot.. He's been so enjoying the weather, spending his free time relaxing with a book, often outside in the sunshine, he couldnt believe that it was possible to do so on Christmas Eve...


So...


Solstice went very well, although money was tight we really felt it was important to carry on with our celebration if at all possible, so I splashed out on 10 euros worth of chicken, for that we got over 5and a half kilos of chicken... I roasted it all in different marinades, and then served it with homemade bread, roasted pumpkin, carrots, potatoes and baked spagetti squash... oh and red cabbage cooked with apple and onions... all from our garden or a gift from neighbours, so it cost nothing, I made a dessert, some of our lovely guests also made desserts... some brought wine or beer... and a fantastic time was had by all for next to nothing...



We always decorate the house with branches and leaves from the forest, it really makes for a festive atmoshphere. Rick and Gareth built a Solstice Cabin outside, we lit up the garden with tons of little tealite candles someone had left in the cottage last summer, plus of course the Sostice Bonfire and our Yule Log, I made mulled wine with spices and fresh fruit from our trees...


 

 
For us Christmas is just a quiet day, a nice meal (roast pork etc) and back to work today... we had a walk in town to look at the pretty lights and see the bonfire which burns for 12 nights in Figueiro Dos Vinhos... a very low key and relaxing time for us..

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Dogs.

We've been asked by our friends who visit now and again, for some recent shots of our lovely girls...

here they are enjoying the company and the garden.

Pretty but Bad Mushrooms...


We have tons of these toadstools sprouting up everywhere in the forest... and Im pretty sure they are Fly Agaric... very unpleasant... but so pretty... real fairy house type ones...

Mushrooms & Cabbage

We have happily been picking tons of cabbages, its a good job the lads like cabbage, rick is no problem, he'll eat it everyday..
Also luckily we've had a good crop of wild Parasol mushrooms  over the last couple of weeks.

My recipe for  Stirfry cabbage and mushrooms..

Add a good glub of olive oil to a large pan, add a large chopped onion, a few cloves of chopped garlic and fry till just starting to go golden...add as much chopped mushroom as you like... we love plenty!  add a whole sliced green cabbage, ours are the tight pointed top ones, and just stirfry it till its all cooked and the flavours have melded...
Mmmm yummy
I do the same thing with extra garlic and onions if we dont have mushrooms

Sunshine, Olives, cookouts, and hard work..

Its been what seems like ages again, but to be honest, as its winter and things get tricky for us in winter, we try to limit the trips into town to an absolute minimum to save on fuel. Also... we are so damn busy, its just that the days fly by and we dont realise it...
I'll try to get into this update all thats being happening but its tough, and then when Ive done, I'll remember everything Ive forgotten...
The lads are still with us, its been oh... around 7 weeks now I think, so long we've lost count... they have settled well and look and seem happy enough..
They are working hard and still accomplishing so much for us its excellent... although I seem to spend all my life cooking and preparing food that as soon as I turn my back has vanished... they sure can eat...
Gareth has finshed his project, and it looks wonderful, Im so pleased, its turned out just as I'd hoped if not even better. Its very pretty and come the spring will be even better with some nice pots of flowers. Its completely made from our scrap stone, and no cement, Rick showed him the old way of using clay instead , its the way our house was built 250 years ago...
Gareth is understandably very proud of it... and so he should be...
Osian has finally finished stone walling, he's built another one to finish off the terrace by the house, again it looks lovely and fits in completely. The whole area outside the back door has completely been transformed. It was a rubble and weed filled rubbish dump, now it looks like a real garden and will be a beautiful place to sit during the summer.
We have also added another almost full row to the log barn, no mean feat in itself... but we do have the range going all day now, the weather has been stunning, although for us a tad chilly morning and evening, the boys still cant believe it and are in tee shirts.. This last week it was so warm Osian worked in shorts...
its been around 20-22 degrees for best part of the week, on sunday we decided to have what will be the last cookout of the year...
We fired up the old bread oven and I made fresh pizza and then rick lit the BBQ , we have a good brick built one, and we cooked chops Id been marinating over night, some in yogurt with orange juice and basil, some in balsamico and oil and garlic... yummy... plenty of rice & salad and some good red wine of course... it was a great afternoon, Gareth played his Guitar and we sat in the sunshine and relaxed..
The broad beans we planted in the orchard have all popped up, looking good... this week the lads are strimming and clearing the two terraces above the orchard level, tidying and clearing old branches and trimming back old vines. We also have lots of clearing up to do nearer the house now the vines have all dropped their leaves..
We are making a huge bonfire, looking forward to our Winter Solstice Celebrations... it will be a first for the lads so we want to make it special, rick will be building a Solstice lodge for in the garden and we hope to hold the celebration outside if its not too wet...

We have also picked a few olives, we had an excellent crop, but sadly most are on the ground and not much good now, but we'll manage about 6-8 sacks in the end we hope, not a great year but its so delicious... I cant manage without it... I use a litre a week nowadays...
Well hopefully thats all...

Monday, 14 November 2011

More Jobs done...

Having helpers with us, is a two way thing, we must try to offer them something in return for their labours, both lads are learning new skills that while they are learning is helping us out, and hopefully will stand them in good stead in life when they leave us, if I ever let them go that is...
The latest of their new learning experiences was cement rendering... we have a brick built wall that although double skin and insulated, just let damp seep through. It needed rendering on the outside which during winter is the side of the house that bears the brunt of most of our bad weather and wind... as it faces right down the vally.
So we invested 10 euros in some cement and Rick and the lads rendered the wall. mixing and carrying buckets of cement from behind the house, down the yard , up the stairs onto the terrace, was a job for strong arms... they did an excellent job. Rick made a point of demonstrating the art of rendering and let both lads try it out. There is more to be done in the future so we hope that again by the time they leave us, a new skill will be added to their profile lists.


While the weather was good, we set to and got the orchard area strimmed , tidied and rick rototilled the whole area ready for winter.
Me and the lads then planted up the whole area with broad beans... thats a huge area ... we certainly wont be short of beans next spring... I had mistakenly asked Rick to pick me up some seed from the local man and he likes beans... so he bought two and a half kilos of seed....
well.. I couldnt waste it could I? The lads went down later and covered the whole area with the wood ash we've been saving from the kitchen range, beans seem to love it...

 





The newly renovated and landscaped garden around the house is starting to green up now, the walls the lads have built look very pretty...

General Update.

There is so much happening at our place I dont know where to begin this update. Of course its all down to having such excellent helpers, almost five weeks on and they are becoming family now..
Right, Osian finished his wall, and smashing it looked too, his latest project has been to build a small drainage gully out of stone to run completely down the side of the steps which lead up to the house, this we hope will stop the steps becoming the annual waterfall that happens normally. As we live on a hill, since we built the steps every winter when the rains come, the steps become a water feature of the garden, but it washes mud and debris down onto my gravel patio outside the cottage and gives us added work cleaning it up...
It rained heavily last night and the finished drain worked like a dream... As you can see by the pictures, the dogs, who seem to wangle their way into most shots, love having the lads around too...

Gareth has a new project too, a while ago, a friend gave us a lovely old pump, he is going to build a two tier stone plinth to mount the pump on, and stone paths radiating out which we will gravel (when we have some money) and plant up with herbs... its a large job, which he can work on at his own pace, as well as all his other things he's doing... Rick is helping him with advice on local traditional methods using clay as filling between the stones instead of cement..

The lads are of course helping out in a multitude of ways, we have to be doing things that cost us nothing but improve our place here, there is a lot more wood to be collected, especially now the weather has turned wet and windy, its still very mild but a tad damp...




We have been chestnut collecting, the lads then were set to boiling and peeling them for the freezer, a useful afternoons work by the fire on a wet day.

Frugal Recipe Spagetti Pumpkin

Wow... doesnt time fly when your having fun..
We seem to lose days and even weeks at the moment, having the welsh lads here means I am busier in the kitchen every day, its my job to provide them with decent wholesome food, but obviously for our budget... which is very little. We are scraping by moneywise on odd bookings at the moment. But luckily we have an excellent year in the garden so food stocks are high.
We have a large amount of spagetti Pumpkin, so we are eating it often...
At the moment Ive tried it just one way;
Bake it whole in a slow oven, when it is tender(I prod with a skewer) open, scoop out the seeds, (which my friend is roasting and eating but we've yet to try) scrape out the fleshy strands with a fork which divides them well, add a knob of garlic or herby butter and a light dusting of parmesan or any cheese you like... its yummy.

Tonight I plan to try ..
Cut in half , scop out the seeds, pack with a mix of cooked rice or cuscous, with chopped mushrooms(we have Parasol mushrooms  growing wild at the mo) onions, tomatos, and herbs, put back together, wrap firmly with foil and bake.
I will serve it with roasted herby veggies and maybe garlic bread if I have any stale..

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Kristina Aubergines..

Kristina, Ive asked a friend here about Aubergines and your problem with them being bitter... Ive was told its the type you grow... maybe try a different one?
None of mine were, Ive often heard about them being bitter, but have never had that problem, Ive eaten mine raw chopped in a salad... they dont grow huge, I pck them early...
If you would like a packet of seed from here just let me know your address. Email me and I'll happily send you some..

Helper Update. Gareth.





While Osian has been busy wall building, Gareth hasnt been idle either, he's been busy doing tons of little jobs around the place, helping Rick with things that need an extra set of hands, he cleared the back garden area ready for rick to rototill, did a smashing job of weeding all the graveled beds in front of the cottage, and the carpark. The weeding of the gravel beds is such a pig of a job, its very tough on the back and leaves you with sore fingers for days... but hes done a great job. Hes also (as we all are) spending time in the wood barn, we are always collecting cutting splitting stacking...
A day or two a go we strained and finshed bottling the second batch of my fennel Liquer, yesterday the lads and Rick took a bottle down to a Portuguese friend in the village, and came back last night rather the worse  for wear having spent two hours or more drinking wine in his adega...

So today we are having an easy day, as they all need it... I am going to teach the lads to make my soda bread later..

Helper Update. Osian's Wall


Well Osian has finished his wall, Its lovely, we are all really pleased, apart from some advice from Rick and some hard work from Gareth collecting good stones for him, sian did the work himself, he designed the curved wall , dug out the ground, and built the wall, filling in the earth as he went, he's done an excellent job and has something permanent to be proud of, and hopefully a skill he can take forward with him too.

Monday, 31 October 2011

General Update.

Well its been a busy few days, the weather perked up again which meant we could all crack on and get plenty done. We are just preparing for winter and the rain that will inevitably come, and its forecast for this week... all week its forecast for scattered showers and even scattered thundery showers, the temps are still up around 19º-21º though so when the sun does shine its still lovely to be out. Not bad at all for more or less November.
Our welsh helpers Gareth & Osian are loving it.
Gareth has been busy weeding the guest area, cobvering the pool, and generally tidying up down there and around the house. Osian has been continuing with a fairly large and complex stone wall he's been building, its been his own project, with just a bit of advice from Rick and some help stone collecting and shifting from Gareth. But on the whole its Osians wall. Its more or less finished and when it is, I'll post some pics here as he's done a crackin job and is very proud of it. We are trying to make sure they take away from here some extra skills as well as having helped us a lot.
Yesterday we had our nearest Portugese neighbours over for lunch, there was seven of us sat down at one o clock, and we were still sat around the table nibbling and finishing off what had been a large amount of wine, at 7pm ...
A great afternoon was had by all, especially the boys, an early night was also had by all....
The lads are off to Coimbra today, an early start as its an hour by bus, they have a packed lunch and plan to spend the day doing the tourist thing, the University, Library, the churches, Botanical Gardens and as much of the old town as is possible...
This week we hope to start picking olives, we dont have many this year, and a lot of what we had are now on the ground due to strong winds last week. But a neighbour has offered three large trees which he says are full... so we may get a few litres, we would like to be able to let the lads experience the whole process, we use an old traditional Lagar, so its quite something to see... and taste. They have a good outside kitchen area and warm fire so we can cook some fish and have a glass or two of wine while we wait for our oil... its all part of the fun..
Then once thats over I have a whole orchards worth of broad beans to plant... and a ton of jerusalem artichokes to dig down there first, I we dont, then when rick rototills to plant the beans, he'll just spread the tubers and we will have a whole field of artichokes next year.... which is not the plan!
Then if the weather isnt too bad or cold we have vines to trim, tons more wood to collect, we plan on making good use of these lads while we have them, and if we can collect as much wood as possible, its just less work for us for next year...

We are already planning Winter Solstice, this year Rick hopes to build his solstice hut in the garden, where we can all sit near the bonfire and roast our chestnuts and have our wine while the dinner is cooking, we pretty it all up with lights and leaves...
Tonight is Samhain, Pagans believe....
 It is a magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, for they journey through this world on their way to the Summerlands. Light a candle and place it in your window to draw the souls of your loved ones to you...
I shall be lighting a candle for my dad, and of course our lovely Big Boy Cola, as pets are included too...
We shall have a meal, plus some chestnuts and no doubt some wine and toast those we miss...

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Chestnuts, Red Wine and Pickled Herby Aubergines

Its a lovely time of the year, although we didnt make wine this year, we always get given plenty by neighbours, and now the chestnuts are falling and gives us a chance to indulge in the evenings, we are lighting the range for cooking again now and tend to put a pot of chestnuts on to roast, we've introduced the lads to this and they love it... A great evening, scrabble, or Dice, chestnuts & wine, and lots of laughter...
Ive been busy pickling aubergines... I did one jar weeks ago, just as a try out, Gareth and I opened them last week to eat with cold pork. They were wonderful! Really garlicky and herby, with just a little pickle flavour...
Ive since made three kilo jars...
All I do is...
Slice the aubergines up thickly, drop the slices into boiling white wine vinegar for about two mins.. leave to drain for a few mins on kitchen paper.
Meanwhile sterilise the jars by steeping in boiling water from the kettle, fill jars with layers of aubergines, bayleaves, coridander seed, black pepper corns and tons of thinly sliced garlic,(I also added a good sprig of rosemary to one jar)  pour over a good extra virgin olive oil and seal jars, leave at least two weeks , a month is better if you can wait...



Ive included some pictures of the work in progress in the garden too...

Our Helpers. Gareth & Osian

Well things are certainly working out well , both lads are hardworking, pleasant and polite. Both also have an excellent sense of humour, which is always needed when working with Rick... They seem to be enjoying life here with us, its been almost two weeks now and we've all agreed they will stay indefinately. At least till New Year. As long as I can feed them anyway... Luckily although money is extremely tight as always, food stocks are very high, so Im confident the next few weeks will be fine. We've tons of cabbage and caulis coming on in the garden, Ive just planted some Grelos(turnip tops) which make great soup, we are still eating aubergines and peppers, I think I could write a book on cooking with Aubergines.. We've had them in one way or another everyday since the lads arrived..
Things around the place are moving on well, although we dont have the money to do things that require buying materials, land work costs us nothing. The lads have made a great job of landscaping the area near to the house, building pretty little dry stone walls and clearing rubbish and rubble. And moving a small mountain of rock...
They have also made a good start on collecting some more winter wood, a whole van load yesterday, which has been cut up and Im busy stacking it over the next couple of days. Osian has been hard at it , strimming away, and he had his first encounter with a snake, bless him... he was pretty shook up for a while. Luckily we had made sure he was well protected with steel toecap boots, leg protectors and all the relevent safety equipment.
The weather has been superb for them to get settled, its suposed to break this weekend and we are due some rain, it will be quite welcome. We have a lot of stuff to burn, and want to get it sorted.

As you can see by some of the pictures below, they have also been enjoying their time off...
Osian                                                                           Gareth

Friday, 14 October 2011

Flowers & walls



Well the lads have been hard at it again today and the garden is showing real signs of their efforts already. A lovely stone wall has been built to hold back a crumbling bank, and now a large pile of builders rubble which was all overgrown with weeds and home to many mice that invaded my kitchen in cold weather has almost been cleared away.
Again the temps are high, we've called it a day at lunchtime and they lads had a dip in the pool to cool off before coming in to find a cool place in town.
There should be a shot of them here somewhere plus a couple of their handywork too.

When we first came to Portugal Rick bought me, as a present some 'Bird of Paradise ' plants, we've nursed them along and they have never flowered, we get too much cold wind and frost for them up here really, but this week for the first time ever I have a flower.... and another six or so to come... I wanted to share it with everyone Im so pleased!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Helpers... A success this time.

Well our new helpers arrived the day before yesterday, two lovely Welsh lads, Osian & Gareth. Both from the wilds of Snowdonia in North Wales. Such great lads, already they have fitted in perfectly, they have exactly what is needed to fit in well here, a strong back, strong nerves and a excellent sarcastic sense of humour. Plus the ability to ignore almost everything Rick says... he's a real p**s taker and likes nothing better than to torment people... These lads are having none of it and it bodes well for a great fun few weeks.
They are working well and building stone walls and tidying up the main garden around the house, shifting rubble and logs. The weather is to them unbelievable... for us its actually getting a tad tiresome...
I know its not done to complain, but its mid October is today it was 34 degrees in my garden... Im having to cook huge meals for these boys and Rick as they are doing a lot of hard work and lighting the kitchen range makes my kitchen like a sweatshop..So I would like it to cool down a few degrees ....
I suppose when it does happen it will drop like a stone and feel freezing ...
We have lots of plans for all we want to accomplish while they are with us, lots of stone walling, vine clippping, rototilling, beans to plant  for spring, wood to collect and chop and stack, weeding , strimming, oh the list goes on and on... but they seem happy to help...

On a different note, Im SO EXCITED..... its all or nothing for the welsh lads come saturday...Hopefully by the time I can log on saturday morning, Wales will be through to the Rugby World Cup Final....
C'mon the boys!!!
.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Aubergines...

Well I hope our helpers who arrive later in the week like aubergines, ours have been magnificent this summer, and are still producing around 6-8 a day... plus the pepper plants are churning out a half doz or so each day too.
As the freezer is full to capacity I am making sure we eat them every day...
Ive pickled aubergines in garlic oil ...
Im now thinking of making a chutney with them...
And tomorrow Im experimenting with a aubergine & green pepper dip... lots of garlic and lemon should be yummy....
Any more ideas...???

Rugby World Cup....

Just a few words for Jay & Jaqui....


COME ON THE BOYS!!

Its ours this year.....


cymru am byth

Cheaper Car Hire.

As you may well have gathered by now, Livingthedreamportugal .com has made friends with the lovely people at http://www.economycarhire.com/  and through that friendship we are happy to now be able to offer all our guests who book with us a 10% discount off the standard rate for car hire .
So there is no better time to come and visit the beautiful' Green Heart of Portugal'  flights are very cheap to either Lisbon or Porto, our rentals are on winter offer of half price. And now you can get cheaper car hire.... how great is that! Plus.... at the moment the weather is gorgeous, still in the high 20s everyday... pool weather in October!!
So to qualify for your discounted car hire, you must book with us, then I will forward you a link and an access code.
Booking now for Mara's Cottage for  late October & November!

Guest Post.

Kerri Ware from Economy Car Hire posts for us...

Some Tips for a Frugal Trip to Portugal

The cost of everything seems is always on the rise with no mercy. Even the price of everyday essentials like bread, milk and veggies make your eyes pop lately. But even with the cost of living at an all-time high, none of us seem willing to sacrifice our break away; that one period of the year when we can escape the daily grind and forget our worries. The dark side of a relaxing break is usually the price tag though. The good news is that it doesn't have to be that way; your holiday doesn't have to cost a fortune. We have put together some tips to help you  have a frugal trip to Portugal so that you won't have to sacrifice  your highly anticipated holiday and you can still have a great time without squeezing the living daylights out of your pennies!

Where to rest your head
Where you rest your head on holiday is usually a pretty big part of a trip away. Some yearn for a 5* luxury hotel but they are not only  outrageously expensive; they can on occasion be a disappointing experience too. Plus, will you even use the amenities or wear the bath robe provided? Why not consider some cheaper accommodation options such as a hostel or camping or caravans. After all, isn't the essence of a holiday the new  experiences you get to encounter and the new people you can meet along the way?  You can tick both of these off the list by staying somewhere that maybe you wouldn't normally consider. Not only will the bill be
 considerably cheaper, it will give a better feel for the area in Portugal that you choose to visit. Camping is a great way to enjoy the  outdoors and you will have the benefits of a kitchen if you stay at a  hostel. You'll note the word 'youth' has been dropped from the title these days - the majority are totally family friendly!
Another very worthy option to consider is a home swap holiday. With some research you can find some great places to stay for free with the  all the comforts of home, except in somebody else's house. In turn, they stay at your home and look after it whilst you are away! This is the ultimate way to be frugal when it comes to accommodation.

 Satisfying a rumbling tum
Eating tends to be the next big expense on your trip to Portugal. On  the plus side, this expense is one that is easily reduced. Wonderful weather, beautiful backdrops and delicious local delicacies equal one  thing, the perfect combination for a picnic. Bypass the café lunches, head to the local supermarket and load up on some cheap local food to  eat outside at lunchtime.You can also keep your eyes peeled for the fruits of nature during  your excursions and get your foraging fingers at the ready. You may be  lucky enough to spot some wild fruit growing, like berries or figs but  maybe more. Be sure to check you're not on private land before picking though. They can be a yummy addition to your picnic, or make for a tasty  breakfast the next day. The local produce is delicious and you can probably throw together a  delicious meal together in the hostel kitchen just as well as at that overpriced restaurant down the road. light up a candle and create your  perfect ambience. Eating well is usually one of the best parts of a trip away for most  of us so by all means, do treat yourself, but try to eat like you do at home with some occasional treats and you won't break the bank.

 Getting from A to B

The best and cheapest way to get around is of course on your own two  feet and a great way to see sights that you may not have otherwise seen. Sometimes that isn't always practical though. On holiday, lift sharing   isn't going to be an option either. Taxis or transfers can be costly and if you anticipate several  journeys having your own transport could work out more cost effective  for you. Car hire in Portugal is worth considering but be sure to  research what's included, book in advance and go for the smallest vehicle you can to get the most from your money.

 Out and About

There's plenty to see all over Portugal but the cost of entry tickets can add up, especially for a family. With that in mind, your first  stop should always be the tourist information centre where you might  find leaflets with money off coupons or multi attraction passes which will knock a percentage of the price off. Avoid the souvenir shops and opt for something a bit more authentic to remember your time here; pick a shell from the beach or get that stunning sunset photograph blown up when you get home.
Don't go overboard and scrimp on every inch of your holiday in Portugal, after all it's the one trip of the year we all look forward  to but at the same time, a little frugal living can go a long way and  help to save some pennies without sacrificing on your enjoyment.

Friday, 7 October 2011

General Update & Discounted Car Hire

Gosh... where do the days go...
I cant believe its been almost a month since I updated this blog. We've been very busy as usual, quite a few guests in the caravan and Cottage, although its slowed now and November looks to be very quite. The weather has been lovely, much hotter than normal, generally by this time of the year, although its still lovely and warm, the mornings are often cooler and the evenings the same... up till now thats not happened, but this morning was a tad fresher, which was very welcome..
At some point over the next few days I will post a nice guest post, from Economy Car Hire. They are a company a lot of our guests use reguarly, they always seem efficient and reliable. And of course, excellent value or we wouldnt be recomending them. I have also been lucky enough to organise a good 10% discount offer for our guests booking via us... more on that in a few days. Today I have guests arriving, a cottage to prepare and a evening meal to produce for them.

The garden has wound itself down nicely, we still have a huge glut of aubergines, generally picking 20-30 a week... yep... honest. The peppers are still producing tons too... As is my last crop of green beans...
We have cabbage left, and the new crop we planted up a few weeks ago is going great guns.. We'll have plenty for Christmas time... plus caulis...

The race is on at the mo to get everywhere clean tidy and strimmed for winter. Plus of course the weekly struggle to collect wood...
Hopefully we have a couple of welsh lads arriving about the 14th for a few weeks to help us with all this...
So i'll be busy working in the kitchen feeding three hungry blokes . Luckily, although as normal we dont have any money, we have tons of food put by, this year has been excellent for growing and I have food stashed and stored everywhere...

Saturday, 17 September 2011

New Ideas for Cabbage Recipe...

We have a bit of a glut of Red Cabbage at the mo, my lovely friend Marianne, suggested this... and we love it! I served it up with pork chop and potatoes and green beans...

one med red cabbage, shredded.
One large onuion sliced
One large cooking apple peeled and sliced finely  (I cant get cooking apples so used three med eating apples. )
3 cloves.
3 teaspoons of sugar.
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar. I used red as I had it...
And 1/4 pint of chicken stock.

Put all the ingredients together in a ovenproof dish and cook gently for around a couple of hours, the dish must be tightly sealed so the liquid doesnt escape and dry it out. It will cook in ts own juices and be absolutely delish....
We had some left, I chilled it and served it up with cold meat as a kind of pickly... the next day... lovely

Ricks Aubergine stuff.. Recipe..

Rick cooks them briefly in boiling water(large slices) then mashes them, puts them in a fying pan with thick sliced potatoes, and onions, a good glub of creamy coconut milk and lets them cook gently till the potato slices are cooked, then adds chopped peppers.... the peppers stay crunchy and fresh tasting....
Yummy served with grilled fish..

Stripy Aubergine Recipe.

We've been trying different ways to eat all our lovely big aubergines. The way Ive found we like them at the moment as the weather is so hot we BBQ them.
I also have a good griddle pan which I use for them often

So simple...
Mix together, juice of a squeezed lemon, sprinkling of salt, plenty of good olive oil, and a good teaspoon of lazy garlic (lazy garlic is the crushed stuff that comes in a jar)
Then cut up your aubergines into good thick slices. brush with the marinade on both sides and grill till all nice and stripy.... mmmm yum
I add different herbs too... Rosemary worked very well instead of garlic...
As did sage....

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Aubergine & Green pepper Rich Pasta sauce


As Ive no room left in the freezer and the aubergines and peppers are still pushing out tons of fruit, and look to continue for a while yet. Ive been making this pasta sauce.
In a large roasting tin, I use a good sized turkey tin.
Chop plenty of aubergines, peppers, onions and garlic, good dash of olive oil, and a large glug of balsamic vinegar. Then chop and add an equal amount of fresh tomatoes. Sprinkle with dried oregano and roast in the oven till all cooked down and thick and gloopy as in my tomoato puree recipe , which is here somewhere.
Blend with a hand wizzer, add a dash of sugar if needed. put into hot sterilised jars , cover top with olive oil and screw on lids tight . will store for all winter.
Good as pasta sauce, on pizza.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Staying with Us. Winter Specials.

Yes folks its that time of the year\ again.
We were so pleased with how the winter special deals went last year that Im running them again this winter.
So.
From Sept 30th all winter to March 31st 2012. The priceof Mara's Cottage will be only 15 euros a night. That includes your electricity, gas, and a reasonable supply of logs for the fire.
The caravan goes down to only 10 euros a night. Again that covers electricity and Gas. It has a good fuctioning heater and is cosy enough so Im told.
Im also starting the evening meals again too. three courses, wine and coffee, 7.50 per person
Booking for Octover already!!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Funniest thing Ive seen for ages...

Just walked the dogs in the forest, its a lovely cool but sunny morning, almost autumnal...
Just down the lane the blackberries are just finishing, they have been laden this year...
I came round a bend in the track to see Beesa in the bushes. Wondering what she was upto I aproached quietly, she was eating blackberries straight off the bush... to see her trying to curl back her lips to nip off the berries without catching her mouth on the brambles.... was hysterical....makes me smile again now just thinking of it.... so sad I didnt have a camera...

Monday, 29 August 2011

Peach Compote Recipe -Frugal Cheat

Im making  quite a lot of this at the moment, a neighbour has given me all her fallen peaches, and while they are the small egg size peaches, they taste heavenly. Sadly most are bruised and not great to eat fresh, so Im making compote and we'll have wonderful peach pies during winter.
I am having to peel my peaches as they are bruised and thin skinned, but remove the skin whichever way you find easiest, dropping into water like tomatoes would be easy if your peaches were sound ones.
stone them and cut away bruised bits.
When you have done them all add a good couple of handfuls of sultanas. And then... heres the cheat bit... a peeled finely diced marrow.... Marrow is so bland it more or less has no flavour of its own, and can be used to bulk out almost anything like this. It takes on the stronger flavours of the fruit and no one will ever know...
I also at this point have been adding a big dollop of cheap whiskey, only because I have it , a guest left half a bottle behind in the cottage and we dont drink whiskey... (I usually put red wine in this recipe)
Before you add the booze, whichever you use, weigh the fruit alltogther . You will need two thirds of that weight in sugar, put to one side for later.
So simmer all your fruit and booze together till its all soft and well fallen and the juice has made it liquid... now add the sugar. Stir well and turn up the heat so it bubbles well for about 15 or 20 mins...
Put while hot into hot sterile jars , cover with small paper discs as for jam and screw on lids tight. It will keep in a cool cupboard all winter... great for pies, turnovers.... on pancakes... or icecream... yummy

Friday, 26 August 2011

Harvesting Squash.

Well we wont go hungry this winter. So far I have harvested, 38 Butternut squashes, 32 Spagetti pumpkins, 5 Uchikiri, 11 Harlequin Pumpkins and have 5 very large normal pumkins to come. The Butter nuts are sprouting more shoots and have a few smaller squashes to come yet. They always push out a smaller crop if I manage to pick them in time. I have around  a dozen marrows too, some I will use as chutney bulking stuff, others will keep in a cool place for months yet, and be used as roast veggies cut into large chunks and sprinkled with herbs... ymmmy..

Wood- Warm and Cosy this wintertime..


Two Rows in the barn.






 Well, its that time of year again, the big race is on to collect, cut, split and stack enough dry wood to see us and hopefully cottage guests through the winter. We've worked hard over the summer, to collect plenty, and Rick has spent a vast part of his days lately cutting and splitting the dry stuff, Ive been dillegently doing my part by stacking it all neatly in the barn. We now have two rows, right across the barn stacked to head height. With a pile ready for stacking that should make another row... and Rick is busy splitting a pile outside the barn that hopefully will be another row... Four... isnt enough. but we have lots of scrap scattered around the place yet to collect, tons of pine braches, but they are right down the bottom on the orchard... anyone who has been to our place knows how steep the road between our house and that orchard is.... but, if I want to be warm and cosy this winter, it has to be done. Not only does it keep us warm but cooks our food and dries the washing too...Its a vital part of what we do here... but such hard work... I just keep thinking of how lovely and warm we will be this winter... and all for free....

Two rows in the barn and more to stack
Rick working Hard

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Frugal Living, Quick & Simple Pasta sauce etc..

For Pasta sauces, tomato sauces and my purees, I do exactly the same as for the pie fillings, .
For pasta sauce, I chop all my excess veg, courgettes, peppers, green beans, aubergines etc... make sure the veg is all cut to similar sizes , add plenty of chopped onion, and garlic, and tons of tomatoes... I dont add any liquid... it will all simmer away in its own juices, and when all is soft and tender, season , I tend to add a little sugar...
Meanwhile wash and sterilise jars in boiling water as in last post for pie fillings, fill hot  jars with  piping hot sauce, making sure to leave a good gap at the top, fill this gap with olive oil... it makes a good airtight seal. Screw on lids and leave to cool.
This method works just as well for tomato sauce, I just chop the toms, add lashings of onions and garlic and herbs, obviously basil works well, so does oregano.. I dont add any liquid, they cook well in their own juices...
For tomato puree, just chop the toms onions and garlic add a small amount of good oil  and a good splodge of balsamic vinegar to a roasting dish, pile in the toms, a large heaped tin will roast down to a small amount, roast gently for ages... Im lucky I have a wood stove, when almost all the liquid have evaporated, and whats left is nice and thick and gloopy... add a little salt and a pinch of sugar. and blitz with a hand blender. reheat till piping hot... and put in hot jars as above... add your olive oil to seal tops and away you go... great to add on almost anything you want a concentrated tomatoey taste too...
I plan on making homemade tomato pasta this winter... just by adding a spoonful to the flour while Im making it

Frugal Living. Quick & Simple pie fillings.

We have a glut of fruit at the moment, and although I am fast running out of jars now, this is the way I make my sweet pie fillings to keep for winter.
All I do is , wash and clean the fruit, at the moment its black berries or peaches.
The blackberries are put in the preserving pan, any large heavy pan will do, with just a small amount of water, to one kilo of fruit I add around 200 ml of liquid.. gently warm the fruit till the juice runs... simmer away till fruit is soft and fallen. Add equal amounts of sugar to fruit... bring to a rolling boil as in making jam... but dont expect it to thicken like jam.
For the peaches I just peel, and pit them, cut into chunks as it will cook down to a pulp. (half the water though) I also add the odd clove and a handful of dried fruit... and cook as for the berries, when all has fallen to a soft pulp, add the sugar, and rolling boil..
Meanwhile, scrub jars well, I then fill my washing up bowl with boiling water, slip in the jars and lids, and leave to sterilise for a few minutes, then with tongs I pick one at a time out, fill with red hot fruit , and put a paper circle on inside to seal against the air, then screw on lids tight. Mine always keeps for all winter...
Perfect for a quick pie filling, fruit turnovers, or just on pancakes ... yummy...

Monday, 22 August 2011

Natures Bounty...

Well , I thought the garden was winding down a bit... and I suppose in some ways it is... but I seem to have spent all my time since my last post, either picking, preserving  bottling freezing... or eating the produce we have...
Its a lovely time of the year, we are almost completely living off our garden produce. We've tons of tomatoes, I pick a washing up bowl full every other day almost... Im making tons of roasted tomato puree, and tomato passata, and pasta sauces, luckily the basil is doing well too so we eat tomato onion and basil salad with most meals...
The french beans have been wonderful, they are almost done now, but we've been eating them most days too as I have so many in the freezer I just cant freeze any more. The latest crop of peas is just starting, we've had a couple of meals from them to ring the changes from beans... there wont be enough to freeze, which is great as there just isnt the room... but I have plenty in there from our early crop anyway... the pt beans are cropping now and Im picking again a washing up bowl full every few days and no room to freeze them...
The aubergines and peppers are slowing down a bit, which is great as we are having to eat them as they come and its testing my creative cooking skills a bit at the mo... how many times can you serve up a mix of beans, toms, aubergines peppers, courgettes... without going .... ohh no not again...
The Jar situation is becoming quite critical too.... I have a few jam sized jars left for the peach preserve I plan to make this week, but the large kilo jars I use for pasta sauce etc and preserving figs in syrup are in very short supply. Sadly Ive had a few with damaged lids but I think I may have to buy some more...
My freezer is just crammed, Rick took everything out and rearranged it last night to fit in some magnificent huge honey figs our neigbour gave us... a large carrier bag ful... these are the biggest figs Ive ever seen... and so sweet... I have another large bag coming in a few days and nowhere to put them, I have a excellent recipe for bottling them in honey/tea syrup but need some jars badly.
We have done really well for fruit this year, peaches in syrup, peach preserve, blackberry and apple jam, blackberries in syrup, frozen blackberries, frozen mini grapes, frozen apples sliced... black currants...
And more peaches to come....
phew...

Friday, 12 August 2011

Another Quick Update

hehehe Im updating this again very quickly because certain people are nagging me.... Yes Betty... I mean you!
I do realise, Ive neglected this blog most of the summer. But its precisely this time of the year where I barely get time to draw breath let alone get my thoughts together to write this blog... Sorry.
So... well Rick is back, the working in the UK thing just didnt work out for us, he didnt earn enough to warrant the heartache it caused us both being apart. (Everybody say AHHHH)  luckily the cottage and caravan have both paid their way the last month, plus with more bookings to come, its enabled us to live and start to put a tiny bit by for the winter.
Rick is off to Germany the last week of August to run a Softball training clinic over there, and hopefully again to Madrid in late Sept... so thats looking promising too...
The garden is starting to wind down a bit now, all thats left to come is tons more beans... french ones and runners and portuguese ones too... we are eating as many as possible, giving them away and making them into veggie pasta sauces, as the freezer is more or less packed to the gills... Ive saved enough room in there for the late peas, some more apples, and some more aubergines...
We will soon have our second crop of peas, yummy.... the basil is still going strong, as are the tomatoes, kilos and kilos... and the peppers and aubergines too...
In the freezer we have, chestnuts from last year, jerusalam artichokes, peas, carrots, broad beans, french beans, sliced runners, sliced portuguese beans, podded pt beans, sliced yellow american beans, leeks,  toms, aubergines, peppers, corn, tons of it, coriander, basil and sage, parsnips, apples, blackberries, and grapes, figs. Probably much more I cant think of right now...
We still have three sacks of potatoes in storage, I managed to produce 7 Galia melons... they were fantastic... so sweet...
All the winter squash is ripening up nicely, Ive tons of marrows to be used as bulk for chutney, im madly processing the toms into roasted tomato puree, tomato sauce, with basil, or with onions and garlic... pasta sauce with veggies.... Ive sundried a huge jar full too.... made 12 litres of Fennel liquer...
I have a massive crop of wild blackberries all around us, Ive frozen some, and made eight jars of blackberry and apple jam, but have a huge batch to make within a day or two. Then will come chutney... the beets are all pickled and put away...
So we are still working like mad to get everything done and make sure none goes to waste... we planted 3 doz caulis and 3 doz cabbage today too...
At least its cooled down today, the weather has been soooooo hot, 38 degrees and more the last few days, today is only 32 and feels wonderful, we actually have breeze...thank heavens for that pool....

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

General Update...playing catch up

Well, its seems such a long long time since Ive updated this blog. Its been weeks. Suddenly I dont know where the time goes, days, weeks even have slipped by and I just seem to miss this blog out... then suddenly I think.... ooh poo, best update the blog, I keep getting emails from people who worry about us... Ah bless... thank you all of you, you know who you are...
Right.
Whats been going on in our world then... lots in some ways.... and not much in others...
The biggest thing really I suppose, is that Rick is back in the UK, and has been for almost three weeks now...and for me it seems like forever.
It was a hard decision, we had been discussing it for a while, and had put it off a few times. Then Rick's son Daniel called to say he and his lovely wife Lynne and their twin girls were probably emigrating to Canada, very. very quickly, as he had been headhunted by IBM . He offered to pay for his dad to go visit them all before they left, that sealed the deal, really, it seemed daft to come back when he could stay and try to earn us some dosh to get through the winter... plus he could play some Softball too.... Killing three birds with one stone so to speak....
So... there you have it. He hopefully will be back by late August, early Sept. Earlier if I have my way...
The cottage and caravan keep us pottering along money wise, but never enough since the crisis hit,  to put by for the winter really. So he had to go earn some...
Im working like mad trying to keep the place going at the mo, its pretty difficult, I am doing what I can but so much doesnt get done, like weeding, strimming etc.. I could have volunteers I suppose but then I would have to cook for them, and at the moment, its so hot, I just live on fruit, yogurt and salad....I think they would complain...
Im concentrating on harvesting our food and watering whats still growing, I was up at 5 am today so I could plant more beans for autumn while it was nice and cool...
I also cut all my coriander , Ive left it to go to seed and now its cut and drying in the kitchen, I use the seed for chutney in autumn. Then I always have enough to replant too...
I harvested 97 corn cobs for the freezer , yummy...
I picking and freezing aubergines, peppers and courgettes most days now, plus a few toms the last couple of days. I have the drying rack out and starting to fill it too... Sun dried tomatoes are so good come winter...
I have my second crop of french beans coming on well, and ordinary portugues beans too. The first lot have been pulled and frozen... same with the peas, my second crop of those wont be too long either... thats the joy of this country, I just keep planting till the frosts come...
The wild apple trees nearby have lots of tiny apples on I hope to harvest later, and Im madly picking blackberries when I can... I hope to make jam this year...
My fennel liquer has been strained and bottled the other day... 12 litres this year.... thats a lot more than I thought... Rick will be very pleased...
Ive managed to stash 9 kilo jars of pickled beetroot away as well, with him not here to pinch it, it will keep longer...
I have tons of winter squash , butternuts, ukuchi kiri , spagetti pumpkin, and some REALLY huge pumpkins... still growing ... they were plants I found growing on the compost heap and transplanted... wow, we certainly will be eating a lot of pumpkin this winter...I have never grown one as big as this one before... hopefully later when its done, I will take a picture.
My Gladiator parsnips are getting big.... but some little bugger keeps eating them from below... its had three now... I never know till the leaves wilt... when you pull them there is nothing left but a stump....
Lettuce.... my word... weve had more lettuce this summer than anyone should ever have to eat... and still tons left...
So there you have it... the girls and me are fine, the garden is muddling along.... Hopefully Rick will come home soon...
Lots of cottage bookings will come in so he wont need to go again....

Monday, 4 July 2011

Frugal Living Recipe. Beetroot Suprise.

I know Ive posted this before somewhere, but its such a great recipe and my beets are just coming in now and they are lovely this year. We are eating tons at the moment. Im pickling them in sweet vinegar, just boiling and slipping the skins and eating them in salads.
But the best ever recipe for beetroot is Beetroot Suprise.
We called it that because not being a great 'beetroot as a hot vegetable'  type of family, we didnt think it would be good... but its delicious... so its a 'suprise'.
Boil the baby beets till the skins will slip off easily, cut enough beets in to chunks to fill the bottom of an ovenproof dish.
Cover with sliced mushrooms.
Pour over the top a good strong cheese sauce.
Sprinkle the top with oats and seseme seeds.
Bake in a moderate oven till the top is brown and crisp and the underneath is bubbling....
Hmmmm yummm
Serve with Rice & Beans and a salad.
Or... gently wilt the beetroot leaves with a knob of butter and serve as a green vegetable... delish.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Salad Days are here again...

Oooh I love this time of the year when all the lovely salad stuff is coming in. We are eating new potatoes with most things at the moment, plus we have tons of lettuce, rocket leaves, and beetroot. I love the beetrootleaves either in salads or wilted like spinach with a knob of butter. I also eat baby courgettes raw and chopped on salads, plus lovely new fresh peas...
ust last night we had homemade veggie quiche, a salad of new pots, chopped raw courgettes, grated carrot and sprinkled with fresh peas. I made Rick a huge bowl of homemade coleslaw, its his absolute fave stuff at this time of the year, made with our own red cabbage, grated carrot and onion... yummy.
The tomatoes although no where near ready are very tall, and healthy looking after our scare with the potatoes. They havelots of fruit setting and tons more flowers, so I think we'll get a good crop. The corn is also looking as if it wont be long , another week or two maybe, some of the silks are already turning a bit  brown, and that when you should pick. when its all brown.

Today I picked a huge bucket of peas, and another one of french beans which have all been frozen for winter. We are eating a lot of cabbage as normal, if Rick doesnt get to eat cabbage in some way at least three times a week he complains..
Tomorrow or sunday I'll have to pick green peppers, there is around twenty ready, and the aubergines re starting anyday now, we have ome small ones coming on. I'll freeze most of these peppers and aubergines that we dont eat , then when the tomatoes come in, I'll use the access peppers and aubergines with them for pasta sauce in jars.

We have been busy planting our new rhubarb crowns out today, we have two now and they are small but looking good and healthy, maybe next year or the following one, I'll be making crumbles with it...

Friday, 24 June 2011

First pickings...

What lovely weather we are having at the moment, its hot during the day, but for us anyway, it is nice and breezy and much  cooler at night. This I could cope with forever...
Today I was up bright and early, have to be nowadays as its getting too hot to work during the heat of the day so we have to find the hours somewhere. So I get up earlier, the garden was still lovely and damp from last nights watering, so nice and cool for working. I picked, two big bunches of baby carrot thinnings, a colander of peas, another large bowl of french beans, thats the second this week. Plus a large bunch of baby beetroots,  five small green peppers and ahandful of courgettes..
Nothing will be wasted, The peas were podded and put in the freezer, the pods were chopped and put in the dog bag towards tonights meal for them, the baby carrots were scrubbed, topped and tailed and put in the freezer, they go into rice dishes etc, the carrot tops I trimmed and put in a bag and into the freezer for bulking out soup during winter, great vitamins. Some french beans were put aside for tonights dinner while the rest was frozen. The peppers and courgettes will be eaten tonight also. And I'll pickle the beets tomorrow...
All in all a good first pickings...

The peas are coming on well now, we should have more than last year, and we have made a large second sowing too so will have some late sept time too...
We are keeping on with the beet sowings to make sure of plenty of those, and cabbage of course, Ive tons of red cabbage coming so lots of recipes needed to make it different.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Sunshine & Sardines

One of the great joys in life living in this country are the fantastic people we meet and share our lives with.
One of those people is Dona Lara, one of our closest friends and a nearby neighbour. Shes in her mid seventies and lives alone, but is always cheerful and smiling. She works so hard from first light to dark. She has chickens, ducks, goats, cats and a dog, grows all her own food and food for her animals and bedding for them too. She is a really lovely lady and often invites us for lunch at her home. Today was one of those days.
Although she has a good kitchen she, like most Portuguese would never dream of cooking fish inside the house... she has a fire pit in the yard with a grid over that she cooks the fish on, we prepared, tomato and onion  salad  plus shredded lettuce and onion salad, boiled potatoes she dug just as we arrived, and fresh bread and olives, lashings of her own olive oil and a large jug of her own wine to wash it all down with. We sat outside under her shady vine covered yard and stuffed ourselves... she then came back with a homemade Pudim which is kind of eggy desert.... and fresh plums from the tree...
What a wonderful way to pass the afternoon... the sun was shining, we had good food and wine, lovely company . Its what living here is all about for us. We may not have any money, but the quality of life is unbeatable...
One of the good things is also that I know the meal she gave us, didnt cost her much either, apart from the actual fish everything else was her own grown...

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Herb teas...

I went out today and was given a lovely cup of home dried mint tea... and suprisingly as Im not a 'minty' kind of person it was delicious, so this afternoon I went behind the house and picked a couple of huge bunches of the wild mint that grows there, its a nice shady place and its still nice and lush and green up there.
I plan to dry it nicely over the next few days , then I'll brew it up, add a couple of spoons of either the Stevia or some honey, then chill it in the fridge, which we've just moved back into the house for summer.  It will make a lovely refreshing drink on hot days... and cost me nothing...
I hope to dry enough for the winter too so I can drink it hot then when I want...
Im also madly drying Mullien, good for all chest, lungs, coughs, mucus, and of course pain relief... the plants are huge at the moment,  and stunningly beautiful with their tall yellow flowering spikes... great additions to any winter herbal teas...
As is Lavender, Im picking some this week to dry for adding to herb teas in winter, good for headaches, migraines, or just adding to your bath (if you are lucky enough to have one,) a great relaxing stress relieving scented bath for last thing at night...
The wild  Fennel is huge here too right now.... Ive picked and dried my Fennel leaf already, great in teas for indigestion, wind, colic in babies, etc... makes a great Liquer too...

Now is the time to make repeated pickings of Lemon Balm and Lemon Verbena, great in many different winter teas and remedies. Lemon Balm, is a beautiful calming, mood lifting tea , also good in salves as a skinhealer  and soother...
Lemon Verbena is excellent for most nasal complaints.. like sinisitis., etc.. good for coughs and colds too... also settles the stomach a little...

Stevia Herb Update.

Well.... it wasnt a great success, the trying to grow my own plants... It actually wasnt a success at all... I managed to buy 40 seeds, so far Ive potted up 20 of them, in batches of ten at a time.... nothing... nada... zilch... I really thought I would be able to germinate them with it being so warm and humid here...
I have another batch Im going to try this next week at its turning warmer still...
But in the mean time, I saw the lovely German lady that told me about the Stevia herb originally and she sold me some for a couple of euros, its the green Stevia which is dried ground up leaf ... Im trying it in tea... it is defo MUCH sweeter than sugar... I use around just less than a third of a spoonful... when normally I would take three sweetners in coffee... so its much sweeter, it does have a very unusual taste... and I could understand if some people didnt like it... I didnt the first few mouthfuls... but I persevered and I think I could become accustomed to it in time... In coffee.... hmmm not sure... Im trying tea and then will work up to it... all the time telling myself.... its calorie free.... its calories free....
It does actually have a sort of chemical taste... which is strange... but thats more pronounced the more you use, so less is defo best in this case.
You can buy a refined Stevia liquid, which is supposed to be better than the green, but I really want to grow it, so getting use to the green leaf type is right for me...

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Bartering...

Just a quickie ...
If any one of you reading this lives within reasonable distance of us... Im going to have tons of Jerusalem Artichokls this autumn... and I mean tons... Im looking to barter most of them ,for a joint of meat maybe...
They are excellent for freezing, roasting , soup etc or just  for planting to grow your own for pig food, pigs absolutely love them...
Please get in touch anyone who is interested...

General Update.

Well things here are pottering along, our lovely friends Jan & Alik have moved on for the rest of their holiday and are traveling around southwards...
After a few days of quite cool weather... well cool for us anyway, it dropped to 18/19 degrees... which after 30 or so, seemed chilly... its picked up nicely again and is around 25/27 degrees which for me is about perfect, it still cools nicely at night so we can all get a good nights sleep and get plenty of work done outside during the day.
We are having a bit of a car problem, after Rick being smart and fixing the farting and coughing problem, it still needed a new part for the starter motor, no problem, the engineer said, in and out, one day 45 euros.... lovely we said.... except when Rick went to collect it after work having dropped it off on his way and some friends picking him up and taking him to work and doing the reverse in the evening.... a problem... its a rare part, not sold here, has to be imported via UK and all in all wont be ready till fri at best, and will cost three times what we were told.... bugger, bugger bugger....
But.... it has to be done, we want to sell the car and get another van, a van is so much more 'us' ...
It also means that ricky cant work this week as we have no transport... bless him he's walked into town this morning while its cooler to get me a few odds and ends of groceries...
The garden is still coming on, it seems slower this year... maybe thats me I dont know... but the daily slog of watering has begun, the whole top terrace which is my squashes , peppers and chillis and the aubergines and soft fruit has to be done by hand with a watering can. We have moved the large tank over there and pump the water from the well every few days, we plant all the squashes in large deep sink like holes, so we can fill each sink with food and water and it doesnt run off but soaks in gently, works a treat for us, I have tons of baby squash poppin out... Ive picked the odd baby courgette too... all the aubergines have tons of flowers and the pepper plants are setting baby peppers too... as are the chillis. I dont think I'll have the hundreds of piri piri that I had last year but what I have coming are much bigger...
The tomatoes seem to have survived our infected potato problem, but some look very wek, so I may well put in a few more and so we get a more staggered crop than the huge glut we normally get, all the potatoes are dug and clean and stored in our storage chest upstairs, we ended with four sacks... which is a poor crop for what we planted, but hey... they are free , delicious and will last us till probably christmas or late late autumn at the least...
We've been busy clearing a space and digging trenches and putting up concrete posts and wires for our new Raspberry bed,(and one new Loganberry Rick bought me as a pressie)  last year I was given six canes and they have transformed themselves into around 25 this summer, so we've moved them into orderly rows and given them some support ect in the hopes they will keep increasing and then we can make a nice cage to stop the birds or rabbits or whatever it is that keeps nicking them before me...
I dont think its rabbits, as we now have a lovely family of foxes, we are keeping it quiet from our village neighbours over the hill as they will come with either traps or poison and I dont want that... I dont have chickens and they are feeding on the local rabbit population which is helping my veggie garden no end...
The first few nights drove us nuts as they yip and yap as they play and our dogs barked half the night... but they seem to have got used to it now and things are quieter...
The lovely Jan brought me two baby rhubarb crowns too, so they are coming along nicely in pots till the autumn when I think they'll be strong enough to plant out.
The amount of fruit we've planted you would think we would be in clover wouldnt you.... but sadly pretty much none of it is old enough to be giving much more than a handful here and there.... in a few years though we'll have every kind of fruit imaginable .... I hope..
The guest cottage situation is not bad, not great but again we are stumbling along, we've had a few cottage guest and have some more booked in, the caravan has helped out a little, with the odd booking here and there, its not wonderful in terms of income to live on, but we are just about paying the bills and staying afloat, just a few more would make such a difference to our coming winter so I have to pin some hopes on our Spanish guests who generally come last moment July and August, I have two lots booked in now but more are needed...
The whole Cottage area is looking very pretty this year, Im so pleased, the tubs are all down to me , I grew the flowers from seed so they have cost us pennies this year compared to arounf 15- 20 euros other years.... you can guess what I'll do from now on...

The new hot water system is working reasonably well, it still needs tweeking, but we have free hot water most days and thats excellent for us...
Work on the wind turbine is at a standstill, Rick is blaming lack of money... but I think without Aliks motivational skills its stumbled to a halt...