Archaeology, well sort of!

On one area of our land we had an old concrete water tank, which every year filled with rain water and was full of frogs and the detritus that comes with them. It was obviously used to push water up to, so it could be used to run down over the land to water any planting. In the summer the water would evaporate and leave a slushy mess in the bottom of the concrete tank.

This summer was very dry and hot and all the water evaporated, the tank had dried out completely. This left a hard, crusty layer in the bottom of the tank. This was a suitable opportunity to sweep it up and clean it out. This led to me investigating a bit further to see how it had been used.

I found a couple of holes in the sides of the tank which must do something. Digging down on the outside I found a bricked drain type area, in each drain was an old cast valve type thing on the outside of the tank. I gave them a good squirt of WD40 and much to my amazement they still worked.

This gave me further encouragement to work out how it was all used. One valve just seemed to let the water flow across the top terrace of land, but the other seemed to have a further pipe at the bottom of the drain.

 

This I found ran under the track and poked out in a wall on the other side of the track. There underneath there was a further drain arrangement, with two pipes which released the water across the lower terrace of land. So, using the valve on the concrete tank, it was possible to release the water from the tank and it would work its way under the dirt track and water the land, clever.

 

 

 

I cleaned everything out to see if it still operated and tested it using a hose from the house and much to my amazement it worked. Now we just need to work out how they pumped the water up to the tank. We have two wells on that part of the land and I have found a few bits of pipe in various places, so I suspect they had a pump somewhere to pump the water from a well into the tank.

There was just one other area around the tank which needed investigation. There is a hexagonalish construction which has been filled in with dirt. We don’t have a clue what it was used for. It seems to have a brick rim, put on top of an old concrete construction. Thoughts are a platform for a pump, a filled in well, a olive wash, a tank for grape pressing.

Further investigation is called for. I have been gradually cleaning it out, the first thing seems there is an amount of waste concrete dumped in one side. I think this might have been the left over from when they put a new layer on the floor in the garage. Digging down it looks like there may have been a flat cement surface just at the bottom of the brick layer, the top of the concrete part. This is just around the edge, the middle had still more soil, digging further it seemed quite soft, the material dug out looked like old rotting tree waste.

Progress was slow as it was very hot and the ground very hard, so I have left it for now until the rains come and it softens the material inside and I will dig a bit further.

Come back in future and I will blog again as we uncover what it might be and what we decide to do with the area.

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Making things homelier – Part 2

The next area we wanted to attack, was the bit if land where the old hut used to be. We had grassed up to the hut when it was there, but we now have this area of rough ground which is just weeds, now the hut has been demolished.

There was a, kind of line at the edge if the grass, which had a shallow dip, this seemed a natural break / edge to form some kind of floral border. There were already water sprinklers that covered the grass, on inspection I could see that I could see that I could adjust them to cover a 360 degrees spray, rather than the 180 degrees they where currently set to. This would mean any flower beds could be covered as well.

We decided to tackle in two stages, just to check everything was ok, before we invested in too many plants.

Here are some photos showing the progression over the two stages, in this area. Hopefully you will agree that the result, although still a little raw, will form a basis for a nice area when things get established.

One by product of this job was, that with the opening up of the water sprinklers to 360 degrees was that grass also started to grow on the other side of the new borders, so it looks like it will tidy that area a bit as well. I have already started to mow it.

The idea is that eventually we will try to grow a few vegetables in the area the other side of the new borders.

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Making things homelier – Part 1

We felt as we are both retired now and spending a lot more time here, we need to make the place a bit homelier. We felt getting a few more flowers/plants around the place would help.

We have a lovely covered outside area on the corner of the house, we felt that some nice pots would look good.

The first job was to make sure we could get water to the area, so we could set up some automatic watering system for when we are away.

The builder had the foresight to put a water outlet in the area, it just needed a tap adding, so first job is to remove the cap and replace with a tap. Next add some nice pots, add a watering system and finally plant.

Here are some photos showing the progression. Things still look a little clinical, but we have the basic bits in place and we are sure it will evolve more as time goes on.

Posted in 2018, General, House & Garden, Project Portugal | 1 Comment

Water Leak

Walking around the farm, I came across a wet patch about 200mm in diameter, all around the area was very dry so obviously something was amiss. I was very quick to blame some workman that had been clearing the land for us back in February. I know roughly where all the water pipes run and I assumed they had damaged the pipes whilst turning the ground over.

There are three groups of pipes around that area. One is the main feed to the house, a second is the feed/circulation for the swimming pool and the third is for the irrigation. I was concerned if I open up the ground would I have an uncontrollable gush and spurting water everywhere. At least at the moment the dirt was holding everything in place.

After a visit to a couple of local hardware stores and the purchase of a couple of variations of pipe joining connectors that I thought would help, it was time to dig down and find out what was going on. So, treating it like an archaeological dig, using a small garden trowel, I scraped away at the soil.

Eventually, I found the problem, it was, fortunately just a bad joint on the irrigation pipes.

I had seen this issue a couple of years earlier and had reported it to the engineer that fitted the irrigation system and had believed it had been fixed. Obviously, only a bodge job had been done and it had just been covered over.

It was a relief that it was not on the main water feed to the house and I could just turn the irrigation system off to make a repair. Of course, none of the connectors I had brought were of the right type, so a second visit to the shops was required.

Once the correct fittings had been obtained it was a simple job to cut out the bad connection and made it good.

A quick test of the irrigation system proved nothing leaked and I just left it for 24 hours to double check before reburying the pipes.

I had also worked out how all the irrigation system was connected, both water pipe wise and control valve wise, so now have the knowledge to be able to extend the system in the future is required.

Job done!

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July 2018

So, news from Casa Neroli for the last couple of months. The weather during May and June was awful, very wet and miserable, usually the sort or weather expected in January and February, but like the rest if the world the weather seems to be a little off cycle this year. However, the good weather seems to be back now, long may it stay, although we don’t want to see the fires that we saw last year in Portugal.

The entrance drive and gate as reported before is all complete now and the new arm has been installed, it is working a lot better now, we can pull in off the main track and any visitors can do the same before we open the gate. The steep slope has gone and the swing in is wider now, just makes everything so much easier.

The heating on the swimming pool, works well, although it is quite expensive to run. It does however make the pool so much more enjoyable, 28 degrees is perfect! Any way the heat pump only cuts in when it needs to, so when the sun is out the pump runs less. We did need to get the electricity supply to the house increased as when we tried to use the oven, with the heat pump running the power tripped out. This was a relatively easy thing to do, just a visit to the local EDP office and two days later it was all sorted.

The farm and the land around the house has been cleaned, although we are still having a couple of issues with the damage the contractor did to the land. I don’t think the sub-contractors that Mr Proenca used this time, cared as much about the job they did. I was able to repair some of the things, like putting the cover back on the septic tank and repairing the irrigation pipes, although I shouldn’t have to. There is still the fence repair to be done, where they obviously damaged it with the tractor, but he has had the valve and cover repaired, again damaged by the tractor. I am sure we will get this sorted soon. Then I guess I will have to pay him!

We have re-structured the cactus garden now the entrance has been completed, everything is the other way around now. It didn’t take too long, just needed to clear the weeds, add a bit of gravel, a few “ornaments” and start adding a few plants. This time we added a really pretty rose and a Bougainvillea, hopefully they will survive and grow up the wall a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have also found a guy, Tiago, who comes every couple of weeks to cut the grass around the house. He is very reliable and reasonably priced. Regularly cutting it is better for the grass, it stays greener longer as the watering gets to it better and it is easier to cut when he comes.

So all in all, pretty good. Long may it last!

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Overgrown

The land has got very overgrown this winter so we are in the process of having it cleaned again so heres just a quick post to show the “Before” state of the farm.

I will post a “After” as soon as the work is complete.

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Gate Update – May

Well there has been a lot of progress during the last month.

The new entrance is finished and the electric arm has been replaced (although the arm is missing in the photos) it should make getting in and out so much easier, but only time will tell.

 

 

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April 2018

One of the things that has really bugged us has been the entrance to the property from the road (Dirt Track). We have had a few attempts at trying to get this right, but until now whatever we have done has just not quite worked fully.

At the start of the construction of the house we just had a very simple post attached to the lamp post at the entrance just to fix the electricity meters to.

When the entrance was constructed properly, the builders only used standard tile type blocks, these proved later not to be strong enough to hold the weight of the fixings for the gates or to defend against the winds that we get at certain times.

Everything did look smart once the rendering had been done and it was painted white.

The entrance was reasonably easy with a car as the drive was just about level with the road outside and there were no gates.

However, because of the slope (left to right) it meant there was a large gap under the right-hand side, plus a slightly less, but too high gap where the gates met. This resulted in a high stop in the middle of the gates, this proved to be a problem, as we often caught it with the underside of any car we drove in or out and we regularly had to have the stop re fixed.

 

 

 

We also had a problem with the granite cube drive, the slope here was too much and the it had to be lowered to allow for the gates to open. The company doing the gates, adjusted the granite cubes where the gates were to allow them to open, but it left the drive very uneven.

In order to overcome this and to smooth out the drive we had the granite blocks on the drive re-laid to firstly smooth the level out and secondly to raise the drive under the gates to be more even, left to right, and to reduce the gap underneath so we could fit a lower stop in the middle of the gates.

 

 

 

This overcame this issue, except that to achieve this affect it meant there was a steep ramp on the right-hand side from the road. This also proved to be a problem with getting low cars through the entrance, they would ground as you went in and out. It also resulted in the shorter stop in the middle being regularly broken as well.

During this time, if you have read our blogs you would have seen that due to the winds we get on occasions and the poor strength of posts we had to regularly call the builder and locksmith back to re-fit the electric gate openers as the fixing would pull out of the posts.

We finally took the decision this winter to redesign the entrance to overcome all these problems. The idea was to move the gates back from the road, so giving us a larger turning circle to get on the drive from the road. Also meant we could drop the level of the drive back down to road level, removing the steep slope. We also had the posts to hold the gates made from reinforced concrete, so fixings should be stronger.

The gates will also be re-fitted with just a small, even gap underneath, so the shorter stop can be used in the middle, but as there is a gentle slope the bottom of any car should clear it easily.

We could also build a wall down the side of the entrance which should give some extra protection from the winds for the gates. We have also had a bolt fitted to the bottom of the gates, so when it gets windy we can drop the bolt as well if we need some extra strength.

It also gives us an area for parking off the road, whist we are waiting for the gates to open.

All this is currently being done, here are a few photos taken during April, showing what’s happening, hopefully you will be able to see what we are trying to achieve. At the time of writing, the new posts are in place and the granite cubes have been re-laid yet again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is still work to be done, the gates to be re-installed, the electrics for the openers and the doorbell to be installed plus the rendering on the walls to be finished and painted.

I will post another blog as soon as everything is complete so you can see the finished product. Hopefully this time we will have got it right. I’ll let you know!

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February 2018

Swimming pool heating has now been commissioned and we have received training from the company that installed it. The new summer pool cover and its spool have been delivered and stored away. It’s still a bit early in the year to use the pool even with heating at the moment, but we are all ready now for using the pool around Easter time.

The land at this time of year is not looking its best, although there is an amazing crop of Oranges, Lemons and Clementine’s, they are all quite small this year as it was very dry last summer and we were still struggling in getting the irrigation working properly. Hopefully 2018 will be a better year both weather wise and the fact we now know how the watering works and we have fitted a grit filter. It was interesting however to see the lemons heavy in fruit yet also showing blossom for the next crop.

We have also repositioned the bird table so we can see it a bit better and the birds seem to favour this area at the moment. However, you don’t see many bird tables in Portugal so we don’t think the birds know what they are, they don’t seem to be too interested at the moment. Have put a good pile of rocks around the bottom to hold it in place as we do get quite strong winds at times coming down from the Estrela. It is also helping to frame what we might do with that part of the garden/land.

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Swimming Pool Heating – Update

Quick update. Looks like the heat pump for the heating of the swimming pool has been placed and installation is well under way. Still some finishing work and commissioning to do, but looks like we may have heating for this year.

Unit is quite big, bigger than I expected, but the company doing the work did say that had to get a slightly better heat pump than originally specified so it should heat the water quicker, same price! Great that it has been installed out of view from the house, so will not interupt our beautiful view.

Looking forward to trying it all out.

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