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 22 December 2008

Monday 22nd

Solstice Greetings!!
Well yesterday to be exact....
We had a great time, we built a lovely sort of hut in the garden, from the framework of our old trade stade we used at shows in the UK and the remains of Eucaliptus trees that the loggers cut down, and Rik rigged up some lights, a few plastic tables and chairs, a bonfire, a fire pit for roasting chestnuts, a few glasses of Vinho, a handful of good friends, and then a nice home cooked meal by the fire at the house, wonderful, we had a lovely time and hopefully so did all those invited...
My dad has arrived and in time to join in and seemed to enjoy himself too, judging by the amount of Vinho he drank....
The weather the last couple of days has been stunning, absolutely balmy... at least the middle to high sixties... not a hint of frost for three nights either.... it wont last long but its beautiful while it does, at least dad can get some sun on his bones....
Now I can go and put up our Christmas tree, I never do it until we have celebrated Winter Solstice, this year is special for me as its the first year I have Christmas with dad for about 30 years ....
So in case I dont get in again....
Feliz Natal, Boas Festas.


Wednesday 10 December 2008

Carrot and Green Bean Soup.

One of our best... and as we grow tons of beans, cheap too.
As aways, no precise quantities as I never measure...

I use a big old cast iron soup pan for this...

A large splurge of olive oil, enough to cover the bottom of the pan.... go on its good for you!
1 med chopped onion.
2 or 3 cloves of garlic chopped.
a couple of large carrots, chopped into small chunks
a good couple of handfulls of green beans chopped, can be used from frozen.
1 small tomato, again I used a few cherry ones frozen from freezer.
1 small potatoe chopped, or a couple of tablespoons potato flakes (Portugal, batata flocos)
a good pinch of dried thyme
1 veg stock cube.
Black pepper to taste.

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil till transparent, crumble in stock cube, add the carrots, potato and beans and stir till all nicely coated with olive oil, add toms, and thyme, simmer covered for a few mins till juices start to run. add water, enough to cover all veg by about an inch above. Bring to the boil, then simmer till carrot is cooked, blitz with a hand blender just leaving a few little chunks... season to taste...
Lovely with cheesy herb soda bread, the recipe is on here somewhere....

Energy Update

Life with low energy bulbs is getting better, Rik moved the light sockets around and things seem a little better, well downstairs at least, upstairs is still gloomy but he'll get to that soon. Life with no fridge is not a problem though, I haven't missed it at all, so really shows how little we needed it. I do have a large chest freezer which is jam packed, so cant get by without that, t stores all our winter food, I also buy an extra bag of pasta, or rice or dried beans etc all throughout the summer, so we have plenty of stores in, the bread making every day is still going well, saving us loads of money, and we have lovely fresh bread everyday, as the weather is quite cold we tend to eat a lot of home made soup, especially lunchtimes, its cheap and filling and very healthy, I'll put a good recipe on next post.
So at the moment our total energy use is .... daytime, two 11 watt bulbs and one normal strip light over the work area. . (our downstairs kitchen is a old converted adega and very dark) plus the freezer which is on full time. On Sundays we have half price electric so I do our washing then, generally two loads. And then in the evenings we have three 11 watt bulbs upstairs and downstairs obviously goes off. We have no telly or other electrical items and just watch a DVD occasionally. So I'm expecting a drastic reduction in the bills, Rik is now using the generator for any power tools so that will help. I'll report back when we get our next bill.

The kitchen/ dining room is still an ever changing place, now the wood fired range is definitely staying where it is, Rik is building me a work station around it, rough rendered bricks with slate slab worktops which I'll stone varnish and paint, cheap, clean and efficient, plus in keeping with the rest of the house, which is very ..... rustic.... I can also keep more or less a weeks supply of logs stacked under it all nice and dry and I don't have to keep trekking up to the wood barn.
He's been so busy , he's also built a kitchenette area in the cottage, sink, cupboards and also a nice two ring burner, so yes, although I said I'd NEVER do it.... the cottage is now semi self catering, in this economic climate it would be stupid to lose income through not being able to appeal to as wide a market as possible. Folk just don't have the money they did , and more need self catering... so we've done it, it does look lovely now with the log stove as well. So warm and cosy in there.

Im getting organised for Christmas, although Rik as a Pagan doesnt celebrate Christmas, he's happy for me to do it, we also are having a Winter Solstice Celebration for him this year too, a few friends, a lovely huge bonfire, hot soup, homemade bread and some golden rice pudding, all either made from our produce and/or coloured golden to celebrate the return of the sun...and the start of the longer days... (and a few glasses of red wine too of course) My Dad arrives again on Solstice day so can join in the fun.
I'm busy tomorrow making my christmas puddings, bloody late this year, but that's just how it is, Teresa made some beautifull home made mincemeat for pies, and gave me a jar , I've tasted hers and its wonderful! Ive stored some brussels, and parsnips and swede so we'll have a very traditional dinner for dad this year. Sadly, Ive even bought presents for the dogs....chewy bones and squeaky toys..

Time to plant the garlic, I'm doing it in buckets this year, as the last twice its rotted in the ground... the cabbage is in, so is beetroot, and soon some early spuds, I so look foreward to the growing season, I really miss the time I spend on our patch...

Well thats about it, I'll only be updating twice a week if Im lucky now as still no income and what little dosh we have must be saved for other stuff, so fuel for the van is low priority at the mo.

Saturday 6 December 2008


Well after reading Alan's blog at (Tales from the edge of town ) and his exploits in bringing down his power bills, Ive been inspired to work on ours, our electric bill is just about the only bill we get, and to us its huge, a bi monthly continual worry... So we made a (for us large investment in low energy lightbulbs, you know those ugly looking things that dont actually fit in a lampshade...)
We paid 13 euros for 6, and those are the 11watt bulbs, we've ftted them in all our sockets except the strip light in the kitchen work area, and the place is like a black hole now.... Hmmmm the good points are that they last for years, and the whole damn lot only add up to the equivelent of one of our old high power bulbs.. which must save us a lot ... The downside is, they are bloody ugly to look at, and they are only equivelent to 55 watts, which means the place is a tad on the gloomy side, plus the light they give is a whiter light which is harsher than normal too. But hell we just have to get used to it...
Also, I unplugged the fridge.... yep we are now fridgeless.... I took a long look at what was actually kept in it and it wasnt much... our fridge is in what we call the cubby, which is kinda like an entrance hall, utility space, and it's stone built, with concrete floor, which makes it cold...
There is a store cupboard where I keep most of the veg, and the milk (its long life so doesnt need the fridge), so actually in the fridge was.... a lump of cheese, some olives, a handfull of carrots, and a couple of opened jars of mayo and pickle.... believe you me that fridge was off in a trice.... not to be switched on again till its hot.... very hot.... and even then I have a cooler box ... heheheheh
Alan, you dont knowwhat you've started.... The cry of 'switch that light off' echo's right across our valley now....

Saturday 29 November 2008

Wild Weather .

Wow was it wild up at Bouça last night, we had howling gales, torrential rain, giant hailstones, then thunder and lightning... and the roof didnt leak once, excellent, each winter we eliminate more holes, draughts and leaks... one day soon we maybe weather proof completely, never mind a warm fire goes a long way... off to market.

Friday 28 November 2008

Post Script on Logs...

I should havesaid on the earlier post, that as Rik is a Pagan, he'll never cut down a tree unless its vital to us to survive, e.g on our veg patch. The wood we burn is always wood we've salvaged from the forest, scrap wood thats been left by the loggers, or thats just fallen down, we feel its not being wasted this way, and there is so much wasted wood in this country. I just wanted to make it clear we dont go chopping down trees willy nilly...
Oh and its raining, pouring cats and dogs, theforcast says its set for a week, so dont know when I'll manage to update again, as I wont be straying far from the fire in this weather ...
keep warm, stay dry....

Wood, wood, tons of it...

As the weather has now definitely changed to winter, with good hard frosts four nights running now and temps below 60 during the day, (yeah yeah I know.... but to me its very cold! ) We have been working on the log situation, luckily for the first year since we've been here, we are doing well, we have plenty and are able to share them around a bit to our friends who are not so fortunate or fit enough to drag them out of the forest. Rik went out into the forest yesterday and managed another trailer load which he chopped and I stacked, we've been using the range now about two months and actually have more wood than we started with... what a result. Logs are the most vital thing to us during winter.
We set aside a day here and there all summer to get the barn filled and continue as long as the weather allows, we use an amazing amount of logs, it fuels the range which heats the kitchen and cooks all our food, plus we have Big Bertha upstairs which heats the whole top of the house we only light her when its really cold though. We have managed to start putting next years aside too, green stuff that needs the year to season and dry out and it makes me smile just looking at it all... I bloody hate being cold.
Anyone thinking of buying here, think about your heating and how you plan on doing it... we are fit and healthy and it takes up an enormous part of our time to amass enough wood to last. But on the other hand, we heat our house and cook for free 7 or 8 months of the year....

Monday 24 November 2008


Yep I spoke too soon, we were awoken in the night by the sound of the wind howling outside. Being quite high up on the hillside, we get some lovely wild weather. We chose this part of Portugal especially because we wanted seasons, not too cold obviously but we did want some winter. We get spectacular storms, with howling gales and sheets of rain, we can see it coming right down the valley. We love to sit upstairs and look out the big double doors to watch the bad weather. It was lovely this morning snuggling up warm in bed and knowing we didnt have to get up.... except I did, today was Portuguese lesson day... but at least I didnt have to be there until 10am. I could sit by the fire and enjoy my morning coffee at leisure. The forcast doesnt look inspiring for a while, I dont really mind, we get so much splendid weather hear and the land so needs the rain.
On a different note, Ive discovered a small patch of self set potatoes, they must have been some I missed from last years new spuds, well they are already six inches high and growing well, so if the frost doesnt get them we are hoping for at least one meal from them as early, earlies...
Rik hopes to make a start on the floors in the spare bedroom in the next week or so, we have the blocks and beams so its just the hard work that needs doing now.

Friday 21 November 2008

Quiet days..

Hmmmm lovely, I am really enjoying this time of year, its still lovely and bright and sunny, cold and often frost nights but now we have the kitchen range its really not a problem. I can stay in bed till Rik has lit the range and come downstairs to a lovely warm kitchen and a coffee all made for me... yes I know he spoils me...
Im still making bread first thing every day, the soda bread with caremelised onions and topped with cheese is a real stunner...
Im just having quiet days , as we try to not throw anything away that has even an ounce of life left in it, Im catching up on a ton of mending, darning and patching of work clothes at the moment, Its nice just sat by the fire sewing. Im enjoying having time to spend on trying out new recipes and trying more veggie food, especially things to do with dried beans, as I grow and dry my own, plus they cost pennies to by and are full of protein.
We had a slight problem the other day...
Our entrance cubby, or hallway or whatever you call it, decided to spring a leak... yep, suddenly from nowhere came a huge puddle of water, or fluid of some kind... I obviously blamed 'his' dog, well there was sooooo much of it... we'd had no rain, and it dried up over night... two days later it was back... Rik was all for moving the store cupboard (containing my jams and preserves and stored pumpkins and squashes) and digging out the wall and floor... when we realised the fluid was actually dripping out the bottom of the cupboard, hmmmmmm bugger. Yep, the biggest pumpkin, a huge great thing of outstanding beauty...had been slowly rotting away from the bottom, cleverly disguising the fact by doing it from the side that faced the back, so all that was left was a huge hollow crust... not good...

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Barter Market!!!

Well we are getting some interest on the Barter Market idea,
we plan on holding the first one in early January, starting off with produce, seeds, plants etc I´m also hoping to include second hand clothes at some point. The book and DVD side of it will stay as a 'loan library' and items remaining the property of their owners.
If the whole thing takes off, maybe we can add a skills side to this as well and see how that goes...
If anyone reading this is interested please contact me for more info.

A Meat Recipe...

Marinaded Pork Chops.
As pork is cheap and such excellent quality over here we do tend to eat pork more than any other meat. Generally good chops work out about 50cents each...

My marinade..
1 Large onion chopped quite fine.
3 big cloves of garlic chopped fine, or squidged.
A really big slurp of olive oil.
2 tablespoons of massa de pimento (red pepper paste)
A really good slurp of Balsamic Vinegar.
Mix together, completely coat all the chops and leave as long as possible. I tend to prepare in the morning and leave it in the fridge all day.

Fry in heavy bottomed pan, over gentle heat till all liquid has gone... all the onions will caramelise .... oooooh beautiful.

Tues 19th. Free, free, free at last...

Thank god... the olive picking is finished. We finally managed to pick just over 900kilos.. almost a ton!!!! We have 54 litres of our own fantastic oil now which means I can slurp it about in everything in gay abandonment... Im soooooooooo pleased.
But for all those who have never picked olives and fancy coming over and buying a grove and making money... dont do it... its not the easy option, its not actually strenuous, but it does get exhausting, it took us just about three weeks, from early morning to dusk, its repetitive and you get aches and pains you never imagined.
To us its really worth the effort, and I loved it, but also couldnt wait for it to be done... its certainly not an easy thing..

Well Rik has almost finished putting a log burner in Mara's cottage room, and maybe then we'll be able to do something more to my kitchen, money is so difficult at the moment, so it will have to be things that cost nowt. We have some paint, so I hope to get going on that at least.

The weather is still beautiful, cold clear nights and bright sunny days, wonderful!!

Thursday 13 November 2008

Food at Bouça..

Just to clarify a few points, some people have mistakenly thought we were veggies, well not really. While we lived in the UK, both Rik and I suffered with IBS, and really had trouble.
Since we've lived here, we have made a real effort to organise our eating and to improve our health. Our well water has made an incredable difference, we have found if we do not drink tap water (its highly treated just like UK water) and stick to our well water, then our IBS is very rare, added to that we have cut down or out every kind of chemical or additive in food that we possibly can, plus eat a small amount of meat now and again and we are really healthy. And it saves money.
We do like and eat meat but just in small amounts and maybe once or twice a week at most, we love veggie food, and to be honest eat it often as when we grow it in the garden for free.... why buy meat? Our wine is our own brew, and now we have our own oil.... what more could we ask...

Hey hey .... We have oil!!

Well by the time I got home from school on Monday clever old Rik had managed to find a new Lagar, chat to the very nice couple who run it and organise to take our olives to be pressed that very afternoon.
And for me the very best bit.... its a old fashioned traditional press, complete with coir mats and steam driven crusher... we had our own pressing, we waited and watched the whole process from start to finish... wonderful, we got 32 litres!!! We still have more to pick and hope to finally finish over the weekend and take the last bags next monday... I'll probably have enough oil to keep us going for two years or so... plus a few bottles to barter with...

We went to pick again today, it was lovely, tee shirt weather .. well from about 10.30am to 4.30pm it is.... then the temp drops like a stone, we've had quite sharp frosts up at the Bouça the last few nights, but its burnt off by 10ish... I love these crisp mornings though, I go for my morning walk in the forest and its truly stunning, the view always seems so much clearer forst thing in the morning with the sun just coming through the trees... by the time I get back home its warm too..

Monday 10 November 2008

Recipe. Beetroot Suprise.

The suprise is, its really very nice... Rik'd fave dinner...

The quantites are a little vague as I tend to just sling things in..

Enough cooked beetroot to cover the bottom of suitable dish.
Good handfull mushrooms, sliced.
1 small green pepper. sliced.

About a pint of good strong cheese sauce.

Put chopped beetroot in ovenproof dish, sprinkle with chopped pepper and cover with mushrooms. Pour on cheese sauce and bake in hot to med over till all nice and brown and bubbling.
We usually have it with Rice 'n ' Beans.

Rice 'n' Beans

One cup (coffee mug size) Rice.
One cup dried black eyes beans.
one stock cube
dash mixed herbs

Remember to soak the dried beans the night before. ####
Boil beans for ten mins then simmer till soft.
Boil rice in water with stock cube and herbs added, when rice is cooked add cooked beans to warm through, drain and serve.

Carrots add a nice colour to the plate....

Mon 11th November

School today, I attend classes in Portuguese at our local library in Figueiro Dos Vinhos, its hard but I seem to progress, though sometimes I feel I'll never get it...

Yes Peter and Teresa my head is fine now, so far we have picked over half a ton of olives... still eight trees to go though, so yesterday we went to the lager to try to get the first batch pressed as we just have no more storage space, the appointment they gave us to take our olives in is almost three weeks away.... hmmmm not sure what we'll do now but I'd rather not wait as although they say the olives will keep in the sacks, Im not sure I fancy that...´
The sun is shining, the weather has really picked up, yesterday we had a great day picking , and sat outside in the garden eating homemade bread and eggs and salad, all topped off with home brewed wine... I love this country!!

Friday 7 November 2008

Friday 7th November

Oooh a day off from picking olives... its been fine dry and cold a couple of days so we have been hard picking, but now itswet again, so I get a day off to catch up on being a domestic goddess rather than a farm labourer. Ive time to bake a cake, make some biscuits and maybe even sit by the fire and read a book for a while... Bliss. Thanks to the help of Peter and Teresea again, we have managed to fill 8 barrels of olives so far which is already more than we picked ever before, and still about 12 large trees to go!
Rik is busy using some insulation board we had spare to insulate part of the roof, and then move the log burner we had in the kitchen down into the cottage, we've had a electric oil filled rad in there but it really hasnt been up to the job, the cost of electricity here is high and with money tight, this way will be far better for everyone, and cost us nothing !!!
Ive had a little interest from people about the barter/swap system of skills, seeds, produce etc that I wanted to start, but will need more to make it work.
And for all those people who have been asking about Cola after he had his fall, he's much better, running about chasing Bonnie just like his old self again now.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

My Soda bread recipe.

9oz plain flour
3-4 oz SR flour
half oz cooking marg
half teaspoon bicarb soda
1 teaspoon salt
one teaspoon sugar.
dash of milk to mix.
seseame seeds
ut all ingredients in a bowl, rub in marg, then mix with knife with dash of milk till soft dough, gently form ball, flatten, brush with milk, sprinkle with sea salt and seseame seeds, slash crosss on top with knofe and stick in a moderately hot oven for about 15 mins or untill its cooked...

you can add a pinch of mixed herbs or a sprinkle of grated cheese, but its not so good next morning as toast...

Tues 4th Nov.

Well its still wet.. to be honest it has stopped once or twice, but on the whole its been wet for a few days now. Its also pretty chilly, the range is going great guns though and Im cooking on it all the time now and havent burnt anything for abouta week. With money being non existant at the moment, Im making soda bread every morning , it takes me about half an hour from flour bag to on the bread board... not bad eh. Rik is actually eating it and loving it, which is quite a result as he's picky about bread. One small loaf does lunch and his morning toast the next day all for about 10cents. For anyone reading this who doesnt know us, we are at the mo living on no income, the cottage rentals have ground to a halt so no dosh. But we have tons of food stashed away, water from the well is free, cooking and heating is supplied by the range, so we dont do badly, the trick will be to see how long we can actually survive like this.....
We have friends in the same situation, most living in either ruins or semi-ruins on next to nothing, but most enjoying really fruitful happy lives.
Im hoping on this blog to share tips, recipes, and any other kind of ideas on frugal living, even to set up a kind of barter system for people living as we do ... thats if we get much interest...
I have to try to understand how to get the best from this blog so please bear with me, also as I said before, we dont have internet and it may be days ata time till I can get to town to do this.

We are picking olives, still... Peter and Teresa , some friends came over today to help out, a bowl of sop, some bread a glass of home made vinho and a cold wet day was made a lot better.

Friday 31 October 2008

Hmmmm I forgot...

I suppose I really should give a brief outline of what we are doing at Bouça just for those that dont know us...
We bought Bouça Da Figueira almost three years ago now, we are bikers, we own a Yamaha Venture and love it!! We both have spent all our lives involved in some way with motorbikes, Rik was a custom bike and trike builder and I was editor of 100%Biker Custom Bike magazine, we decided we'd had enough of the UK weather, politics and the general idea that the loons had taken over the asylum, so we got out while we could.
It wasnt easy, but we wanted peace quiet and loads of trees!! We have our own land, we grow our own food, drink water from the well, make our wine and try to leave as little carbon footprint as possible. Having said that, Im fully prepared to work my socks off collecting wood, chopping logs, growing food, ect etc, but, we wont be too radical I'm afraid, I will not do without certain electrical stuff, like the freezer, and a washing machine, although we use the wash tank in the yard during summer, and do hope that soon (money permitting) Rik will build our windturbine and we'll manage a most stuff off grid. We dont have TV or internet ect at home, our power supply is often erratic, but we are happy with that, I also will not be having animals, apart from a few chickens in the futire and the dogs, again, we feel life should give some time for enjoyment, we work hard but do not want to be at it from dawn till dusk . And although we want to be green as possible.... we still want to enjoy life and ride the bike!
Things have slowed down now the economic crisis in the UK has made the cottage rentals quiet, money is just not there at the moment, so we are battening down for winter and trying to do things around the place that costs us nothing, working on the trees and cutting brush etc.
So there you have it....

October 31st 2008.

Well, here we are then, welcome to Living the Dream Portugal. I dont quite know where to start, this blog has been set up really because we've had so many requests from people to hear what we are doing and how things are going, and people saying we dont update the website often enough. So here it is.
Im going to use this as a basic diary just to say whats been going on, if nothing happens... then there will be nothing to write, simple. I'd love everyones views, (if anyone reads this)and try to answer any sensible questions, but please bear in mind, our money is very tight and sometimes we dont come into town for a week or so, and we do not have internet access at Bouça, hell sometimes we dont even have power...
So to start...
The weather has finally turned.... wet... Its still not too cold.. bearing in mind I feel cold now when the temp drops below 70degrees... but luckily for us we used all our savings on buying a log fired cooking range for the kitchen, this not only is cooking our food for free but is keeping the kitchen - dining room lovely and cosy, plus the pipe goes up through the upstairs room which will be a lounge one day and takes the chill off there too... the wood is free as we've worked like trojans to collect it from the forest and stack it in the barn all summer.. still not sure we'll have enough though.. but it does mean we will be greener,(its scrap wood and would be left to rot if we didnt pick it up) and 20 euros a month better off as we save a bottle of gas for the cooker every month now.
The garden is finished now for winter, I made a decision not to grow anything this winter, the freezer is jam packed full, Ive preserves, pickles, chutney, pumpkins and loads of squashes put by and I feel the land needs to rest for a while, we have plenty of food to last us through so more would just be a waste. The patch did us proud this year, mountains of food, if I can remember all of it... new spuds, the main crop failed though but so did lots of folks round here, lettuce, cherry toms, salad toms, plum toms, peppers, spring onions, normal onions, broad beans, french beans, dwarf green beans, and loads I dried for soup, 3 crops of peas, sweetcorn, tons of cabbage, spouts, parsnips, swedes, beetroot, tons of pumpkins and butternut squash and cauliflowers.
At the moment we are picking olives and hope to get enough oil to last the year, next year we wont get any as we are cutting the trees really hard as they are far too tall to pick properly.
The grape harvest this year was excellent, luckily for us Rik's brother Jon was visiting at the time and helped so much, we now have 400litres sitting in barrels working away nicely, hmmmm look forward to spring for that lot !!!
Well I think thats a good start to this blog.
More again soon.