News from Casa Neroli

Well it’s been a while since we posted anything, so thought it was about time we updated the blog with how things are at Casa Neroli.

 

There is very little construction or major improvement work going on these days, but of course there is always something to do maintaining the property. Of course we are making the most of the property and enjoying the results of all the work over the past few years.

This year has been a horrible year in Portugal, there has been some tremendous fires and it has been a very scary time, an incredible amount of land has been devastated or destroyed. We have, however, been very fortunate, which we are extremely grateful for, the nearest fire to us came within about 10kms, which is still too close. We try never to be complacent and do our very best to reduce the risk by keeping our land clean, plus keeping the land around the house as damp as much as we can and making sure there is water available should anything untoward happen. We are lucky as well that we draw our water from our own borehole and to this point we have always had water, but in a number of areas water is sparse. The long period with no rain and that much of the water available has been used in the fighting of the exceptional numbers of fires has affected availability. We will continue to do as much as we can, where we can.

We are still having problems with our main gates, because of where we are, we do get quite high winds at certain times, which is lovely for a bit of relief from the heat, it does put a strain on the huge metal gates and once again the electric arms have worked loose from the walls and the close stop has been ripped out of the ground. So, we are back to manual operation until the corrective work is completed. It is all well under way; the walls and gate stops have been repaired and we are just waiting for the locksmith to come back and refit the electric arms. We have also asked for a bolt to be added, that will go into the ground to hold the gates better when there are high winds or we are away for any period, it should help to stop the issue happing again.

We have also made the decision that we need to add heating to the swimming pool, whilst it is fantastic as is in the summer, we would look to use it earlier (Easter) and later in the year (October) unfortunately the water temperature is a little too cool at those times of the year, we are not getting any younger so need it warmer as we really do want to use it as much as possible. We know it will also add running costs, but we don’t need to have it on if it’s not needed eh! We have requested a quote to add heating from the guy that originally built the pool for us, so we will keep the blog up to date with how things develop.

We thought it might be a good time to post a little photographic tour of the property so you can see how things have progressed. There are still lots of things we want to do, but we like to see how things develop and then use that as a basis to decide what we want to achieve.

Let’s start at the main gate,here you can see how big and heavy the gates talked about above are.

 

View up the track towards the village, shows our fence and up to the garage.

 

 

Just inside the gates and the drive up to the car parking, we have the newly added and yet to be completed cactus garden. 

 

We still have to find some more to add.

We are continually looking for a more various items of interest to add, maybe an old pump and a few older pots would be nice, guess it depends on what we find.

Also here is “The Cactus” mentioned in many a post, was originally on the bank of the track to the fruit farm (Quinta) and we were determined to keep, but with the work that was done, it was too near the edge and eventually fell out, luckily, we were there at the time and managed to rescue it and plant it at the main gate, to start it looked a little unhappy but you can see it seems to be doing really well now. This has pleased us immensely as it has almost become a trade mark of the property.

Here you can see down the side of the house, the road shown earlier is on the left, and you can see how the planting on the bank has taken, this is holding the bank together really well and stopping any washing away, when the rains come.

When we had the house build there was originally 3 old cherry trees in a row, two we had to lose as it was where the house is now, but we wanted to keep the remaining one, you can see how we have incorporated it into the drive, it seems to be happy enough and gave us a good crop of fruit this year.

Now we are on the other side of the house and here you can see the pool.

Further down the track we can see the channel / drain we had installed to take the water away when the rains come, without damaging the land to much. Over time we are sure this work will blend in better with the natural surroundings.

As we go down the hill to the farm area, here you can see a spot where we had a nice surprise a week or so ago, after walking up and down a few times we suddenly found a small water melon growing. How it got there we don’t know, either the seed blew in on the wind or maybe a bird had dropped it, either way we didn’t plant it, but that area obviously is very suitable and it was a lovely surprise. It wasn’t large, but a perfect size for two of us to enjoy over a few days.

We move down further to see the stream, now with it high banks and clear of undergrowth. If you read back over our blogs you will see about how we had problems a while ago with floods and the stream bursting its bank, we shouldn’t see that again, eh! However, we do have to keep the stream clean, else debris washing down from the mountains/hills and other areas where farmers have/have not cleaned their property, will collect and block the pipes and cause a problem. A small price to pay.

Here are few photos around the property of the trees, wells and views. The wells we are going to seal over in the coming months to make them safe, but for now we just clearly mark with warning tape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, one of the wonderful things we do get to see around the house is the wildlife, some more unusual than others and certainly things we don’t see a lot of in the UK.

Spiders, mummy and babies.

 

 

 

 

Scorpion

 

 

 

 

That’s it for now, keeping checking back for updates.

Posted in 2017, Casa Neroli - Photos, General, Project Portugal | 1 Comment

House Completion

Well finally at the end of May we got our official completion certificate from the Council, which means we now officially have a house. The upside is that everything is now legal, including the swimming pool that we added.  The downside is that we will now have to pay annual council tax. We have been paying tax on the land but not on the house.

The delay has all been due to the builder, firstly not completing all the relevant documents that the council require, then by not signing the blue work book. Our architect and Project Manager has been working tirelessly with the authorities and suppliers etc. to get all the required documents and certificates together, all things the builder should have done, this has taken a ridiculous amount of time to organise.

So, one would have thought that it should be simple from this point, just need to tell the finance people so they can send us the taxes for the year and of course register with the land registry that we have a house there now. Huh! Let me tell you a story, things that if you are doing a project like this you should be aware of.

So, armed with the completion certificate and the Project Manager, with all his paperwork, plans etc., we met up on Thursday 1st June at a café around 9:15am in the town. We had a leisurely coffee and discussion before setting off around the corner to the Department of Finances.

 

This was the most important job as it has to be done within 60 days of the date of the completion certificate.

At the Finances office, we took the next number from the machine and took our seats, after a short wait of about 20 minutes we were called forward. Paulo our Project Manager explained to the lady official why we were there and she began entering everything on to their computer system.

Worth taking a pause here to explain that the Portuguese finances computer system is not the most modern, they are still using old CRT monitors and everything takes several minutes to happen.

After a series of questions and answers it was explained that there was a gap in our dates, due to the reason discussed above, e.g. the builder not submitting the documents on time, so we may receive a fine. What happened was, we had a licence to build the house which was issued on 05/03/2014 and ended on 06/03/2015. The house was completed by that date, but it had taken 2 years (can you believe it) to get everything done to get the Completion Certificate, which was issued on 18/05/2017. However, because we had not been in trouble with them before, e.g. no previous fines, they agreed to waive the fine.

Worth noting here that the fine would have been €300, €150 for each year.

We were advised that the paperwork would now go off to the relevant department in finances and they will set the amount of taxes that they think. We will get a letter in a few weeks advising us of the amount. In Portugal, the taxes are paid in arrears so this would be the amount due next April (2018). We will have the right to appeal the amount if we think it is not right, but Paulo advised that they are usually about right.

Everything done we set off for the Court building across town to do the Land registration change.

At the land registry office, we obtained the next ticket to take our turn, and was called forward almost immediately. Again, after several conversations between Paulo and the Officials we were advised that we couldn’t register the house because the land was still registered as “Rustic” and therefore the house could not be registered. The status of land had to be changed to “Urban” and only the Finances office could do this.

So back across town to the Finances and pick a new ticket to join the queue, of course by now there are lot more people, so we had almost an hour wait before being called forward. Again, Paulo explained to another official everything, and the official started the process. However, because we hadn’t changed the status of the land when the construction licence ended, in 2015, we would be fined! Paulo wasn’t aware of this rule, so it was a surprise to him as well. Why they didn’t tell us this when we registered the house earlier in the morning was also questionable, but not worth arguing. Paper work done, computer system updated and a €75 fine paid, yes, we had to pay this one, we set off once again across town to the Court, Land Registry office.

So, I think you may be getting the routine now, yep, take a ticket, join the queue and wait, lucky the wait was very short this time. So, we all sat down with another different official, and started the process. Then, guess what? Yep another problem. This time was the local council where the house is, has been combined with the local council next door and all the registration numbers of the land have changed and they can’t update anything without official notification of the old to new number conversion. The lady official tried to call the Finances office to see what could be done, but there was no answer. So, we still couldn’t change the registration.

We started to head off back to the finances office again, but before we got back to the car, we met the lady from the land registry that we spoke to the first time. She advised it might be best to wait for the paperwork from the finances, with the taxes, as that would have all the right numbers etc. and that changing the entry at the Land Registry was not critical, as long as it was done before if and when we wanted to sell it would be fine. As we are not selling anyway and we had by now, lost the will to live, we took the decision to stop and wait. It was now 2:45pm, so we had been at it for 5 and a half hours.

If fairness the official’s in both the finances and the Land Registry tried to be as helpful as they could, it was just the bureaucracy of the Portuguese system that was creating all the issues.

So, we are now all official, we have the Completion certificate and we are all legal with the taxes, we just need to change the land registry when we can, by the way it costs €60 to make the change.

If you are doing a similar project at any time it may be worth digesting all this, perhaps you can avoid some of these issues or any possible fines, if not you will at least be aware of having to allocate at least a whole day to the process.

As soon as we have any more details from the finances on what the taxes are or the land registry process, we will post another blog entry on the subject. For now, we have done what we need to, to be legal.

Posted in 2017, Construction Update, House & Garden, Project Portugal | 1 Comment

Farm & Garden – March 2017

Wow, we are off to an excellent start to the month/year, Snr Proenca has been at our place at the end of last week and the start of this and from the pictures I have seen is doing an amazing job.

The grass has been cut, the flower border, tidied, the land cleaned, the vines pruned (properly), the soil aerated between the vines, gravel placed where we asked and needed, the damage near out neighbour repaired and the boxing in on the drainage started. Just need the boxing in to be finished, the irrigation pipes put back and the system checked.

We have attached a number of photos below, which should give a good appreciation of the site. Our wish as I think we have expressed in earlier postings is to take away the nakedness that this level of cleaning/tidying leaves and regain a more natural appearance, but we have to get the base right first and that requires this level of cleaning.

The problem at the moment is we haven’t been able to spend as much time as we need to keep it tidy as growth appears, but hopefully soon we will be able to (Well I will anyway) so we don’t have to have the annual harsh clean.

Let just hope he finishes the last little bits, we know from past dealings, there always seems to be a few little bits left unfinished so that he needs to come back, but of course he needs to make it worth his while so always finds something extra.

Enjoy the photos.

Around the house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vines

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Tractor Update

Nothing brought yet, but we now have a good indication of the size and accessories we need and how much it is likely to cost. The reason for delaying is we have to ensure that it will fit ok in the garage, for when we are not there, plus the company say it will take about 2 weeks form order to delivery, so in Portuguese terms this could be anything up to a month, and we need to ensure someone is at the house to accept delivery, which is a little difficult, but may become easier in the near future. Read the main postings for more detail!

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Farm & Garden Update

The Farm and Garden, so far have fared well during the winter, but now we are entering February, probably the wettest and windiest month of any year and all indications are this year is not going to be an easy year either. So far the work we have had done seems to be working, fingers crossed that it is affective enough this month.

There are a couple of things that still need to be done, but hopefully these are just improvements that will help ensure the work that has been done will last and a couple of corrective items.

In terms of the improvements, there are two things. The area where the two new tracks meet and the concrete tubes to take the stream are, has created an area on the high side of the buried tubes that can get very muddy when it rains, this we think is just due to drainage, but adding more is not really an option, some we are going to place an area of gravel, which should allow us to pass without getting too muddy, suspect we will have to top it up each year for a while until it forms a more solid area, but hopefully it should work.

The second job is where the new gutter we had put down the track, meets the old concrete tubes, which form a drain to take any water under the track into the stream, we want a concrete box put to stop any damage from any water flow.

The corrective/maintenance items, are to finish filling the holes crated by the damage last year, in the main they are done but a bit of levelling is needed. Then the irrigation system timer was not working properly so whilst we don’t need it at the moment it needs to be sorted before we do. The reason to chase this is, that is difficult to get Snr Proenca to us at the best of times so we need to time it with the new work.

The only other thing is the grass cutting! God it’s difficult to get this done. We have now purchased a suitable lawnmower, which we will take down next trip so hopefully starting this year we will be able to do some ourselves.

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House Update

The final sign off documents are now with the council, including all the required papers for the house and the pool, I am lead to understand that all that’s needed now is a single signature from the builder and everything else is good to go. We just need to get the builder to the council office to sign were he missed, no easy feat I can tell you, remember its Marco we are talking about here. Maybe when we are next there we will have to kidnap him and take him to the Council and not release him until he has put pen to paper.

Adjustments to the electric gate, ensuring it closes without straining the fixings, which also has now been done.

We have also asked Paulo our Project Manager to try and get the builder back to fix a couple of issues on the house, nothing too major, but things that happen as a matter of a new build settling. There are two things. A few cracks on the walls in certain places that need correcting, well within tolerance, but need putting right and some of the granite blocks in the path around the house have sunk, again due to settlement but need to be put right.

The biggest problem we know is going to be getting Marco the builder back, he has certainly become very elusive in the past year. A shame really as we thought we had built up a really good relationship with him, but it seems that perhaps others are not quite so tolerant and we seem to be paying the price.

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2017

Finally, better later than never, welcome to 2017. Apologises for the lack of postings recently, I guess there are two main reasons, firstly it’s the winter and therefore there is a lot less activity to talk about, and secondly we have been “planning” yes, always plotting and planning, more about that in a while.

During the last few months we have been working with our Project Manager to try and get a few bits finished off, I will put postings in the different categories to explain a little more on each.

So anyway, Happy belated New Year and welcome to 2017.

We celebrated seeing the New Year with our annual short visit, which once again this year was very successful. It was great to get the log burner lit, it just makes the place so warm and cosy.

Plotting and Planning, so what’s that all about? Well the decision was made that we need to start the process of retiring! Wow, but we are too young! Never! You can imagine the conversation. Can we afford it? Can we afford not to do it? All which resulted in the decision that I, being the older part of our partnership would retire first, lucky me, and this year.

So 2017 looks like it going to be the year of retirement.

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Tractor – October 2016

tractor2Information gathering and investigations has been the flavour of October, we have spent a number of hours on the internet and watching YouTube researching and learning about 3 point mounting systems, age is measured by hours and not miles/kilometres, etc.

This was followed up by a visit to some friends who already own a small tractor and associated equipment. This proved very useful to see about the things I had learnt, further my knowledge on size and power, size in BHP and power required to drive the accessories. I also had the opportunity to try for myself, playing with their setup. I think had it not been a showery I could have spent many happy hours driving around cutting the grass and weeds. I like this, it’s fun, probably only because it’s something new. Let’s see if I still think the same in the years to come.

Armed with all this new knowledge it was off to the first dealership to look at real tractors. Lucky enough one of the guys at the dealership spoke very good English. We looked at both new and used, used seem to be about half the price of new. In Tractor terms, we understood that used was not as bad as in the world of cars and used Tractors can be very reliable.

However, the stock of used tractors available was very limited, from what we could see they were all “very” used, maybe not for us at the moment. We think we need either to wait perhaps until they have some more stock or/and look around at other dealerships, or maybe we should consider new?

Watch this blog for more news.

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The Farm – October 2016

olivetreesWe should be starting to think about harvesting the olives now, but unfortunately this year once again we are not going to be able to harvest. Work commitments just will not allow. We have tried a number of alternatives to try and get someone to do it for us, but to no avail, so I think this year they are going to have to go to waste, let’s hope we can get better organised next year.

grapevinesOn the up side we were able to sort the irrigation for the vines, and to re-establish 3 more of the runs with new posts and wires.  At the moment there is only a couple of vines in each run from the old stock, but the plan is that in the spring we can plant some new vines stock, hopefully now we have the irrigation in place they have a better chance of survival.

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House & Garden – October 2016

As mentioned in the last blog we had damaged the Main Gate in the summer and I can confirm that the repair has been done well on the side we damaged. However, whilst the repair on the other post was done well, there is still movement in the fixing on that side, which has been there since the original installation. We are going to have to get in touch with the gate installers to see what can be done, then we might be able to make a more permanent repair the post. It just needs the fixing bolts removed and replaced but tightened down properly. The gate does however work properly now, which is of course the main thing.

grassWe had the most amazing clover grass, we really wanted it to be cut more often than it is but it has proved hard to get anyone to do it. The guys doing it now are the same people that demolished the old hut, I guess it’s because they were trying to do it all at the same time.

The net result was we have grass that was about a foot (304.8mm) tall with clover leaves about an inch (25.4mm). The good news is that it has now been cut and with the winter coming it shouldn’t grow as fast as in the summer, the not so good news was that it only got cut on the day we had to leave to come back to the UK.

channelNot sure if this should be in the House & Garden section, the Old Hut or the Farm, but
let’s leave it here for now. The old hut is gone, so we had to get the land re-landscaped and also deal with water flows. We had a channel put in down what was the old track, this was being lined with a concrete gulley whilst we were there. This runs into a drain which takes any water under the track and shoots it into the stream (The old 500mm concrete tubes that we had to upgrade from the stream tunnel were used for this) All looks a bit messy as well at the moment, but I am sure when it is finished and the natural vegetation returns it will be fine!

On the down side the Cactus that we had been trying to keep on the bank dropped out the bank, where the team had to widen the track. On the up side this all happened whist we were there so we were able to retrieve it, and move it to a better place. Just hope it survives! It’s a Cactus, they survive anywhere, don’t they?

cactusbeforecactusafter

Posted in 2016, House & Garden, Project Portugal | Leave a comment