If you have read earlier posts you will see we have had a lot of thoughts about tractors, cutters etc and what to do for the best going forward to be able to maintain the farm.
Early thoughts were for a full mini tractor with capanadeira and box attachment, but we just couldn’t justify the cost for new. Looking at used was the next option but even that was quite expensive and difficult to justify for wanted we wanted to achieve.
We could continue to use locals to clear the land two or three times a year. Cost wise we could probably clean the land to 10-12 years for the same cost as a new setup, maybe only 6-7 for used equipment. The down side is that in the growing season, a week or two after cleaning it really needed trimming again.
We had a lot of discussions with someone who had contacted us via this blog about the possibility of using a ride on brush cutter. Initially I was dead set against this, feeling it would not be man enough for our needs. However, after a long discussion, many backs and forth emails, analysis of his purchase and trying to strim all the land a few days after it had been cleaned, I felt that this maybe the way to go.
After investigations on what was available, costs, robustness, service availability etc we finally agreed on a Grillo Climber 7.13. It was the simplest of what was available, but looked to more than meet our needs, especially as we could add a simple tipping trailer as well to make moving stuff around easier.
I contacted the manufacturers in Italy, they put me in touch with the importer in the Algarve, Portugal who in turn put me in contact with the local dealer, who was based just 30 minutes away from us.
We had the local dealer visit us at our farm to check that in his opinion the Grillo would be man enough for our land and to negotiate a deal.
This was a holiday month for us, we spent a few days in the UK, before flying to Turkey to visit some very good friends of ours. This was them followed by a 10 day drive back across Europe to the UK. We completed 10 Countries in 10 Days. A fantastic experience.
Teresa’s sisters wanted a holiday at the house early this month, which we were of course happy for them to do. Whilst we didn’t intend to return to the house until the end of the month, to make it easier for them we returned at the end of their stay mid-month, which meant they didn’t have to close everything up. It also gave us the opportunity to investigate why the grass around the pool was dying.
On initial investigation we couldn’t work out what was going on with the irrigation system, it seemed to be working ok. Over the course of a few days we noticed that the water pressure was reduced and in fact on one day at one point there was no water in the taps to the house.
Cutting a long story short, what had happened was a combination of 3 things. Firstly, the pressure on the pressure bladder had gone, secondly the filter had never been cleaned and both these had meant the compressor at the bottom of the borehole had been working overtime, so had weakened. The resolution was to pump up the pressure bladder, replace the filter and replace and upgrade the compressor.
You can see before and after pictures above. It’s amazing how quickly the grass recovers once it has some water.
Following on from our/my thoughts about the ride on brush cutter it was decided that we would purchase and a deal was struck with the local dealer and delivery was made in just a week, more on this in a separate blog.
We also investigated the possibility of having the outside of the house repainted, it has been about 5 years now since the place was built and we haven’t done anything to repair any settlement issues on the outside. In fairness we had very few but one or two were beginning to nag that we should get fixed, plus we needed to get new mesh put around the covers on the chimneys, to stop birds coming down. We felt we needed to do something. We contacted a local guy, well he lives local, he is actually Australian by birth, but had been doing a lot of work for friends and they were happy with his work.
We knew that we had wild boar visiting our land, but visits were always at night. I purchased a cheap motion activated camera and attached it to a tree in a place that we could see they had been.
Much to my amazement, first time out a caught one on camera, what a result.
We returned to the UK this month as there was a number of things we needed to be taken care of such as family and friends Birthdays, renewing my Passport and getting all the necessary documents should a no deal Brexit happen.
Just a few more days and we will be back in Portugal.
I bet anyone reading this blog would believe that we are not doing anything this year. Well the truth is far from that, we have had such a busy year, I just haven’t had the time to be able to post anything on the blog. Also, as time goes on, when so much has been happening it is difficult to know what or how much to post and the challenge becomes a bit daunting.
So, here is a very brief summary of the year so far.
In January and the first half of February we were enjoying the fruits of our labour and in the main relaxing at the house. We arranged for the farm land to be cleaned from growth, the streams cleared and half of the Olive trees to be heavily pruned. We also had a wonderful 5-day trip to the island of Madeira. It is amazing the bargains that are available at this time of year, we found train tickets to Lisbon for 9€ each and return the same, a flight from Lisbon to Funchal for 9€ and return for 19€ and a hotel for the 5 nights for price of 4 including an incredible breakfast for 200€.
At the start of the month had half of the land cleaned and the Olive trees pruned, they badly needed it. We also benefited by a substantial amount of wood that we could season for use on the fire next winter. We dod however have to store it away inn the dry.
We also completed the transition from NOS to MEO for our cellular Broadband. The NOS service was not very reliable, we only seemed to be able to get a stable 3G service although we were paying for 4G we very could never get the service stable, it kept reverting to 3G and could take an hour to complete the switch. Plus, it was also getting more expensive. MEO had a better 4G service and for just a couple more Euro’s a month we also got Satellite TV and a phone.
NB. At the time of blogging we are still far more satisfied with the MEO service, not perfect, but so much better and stable on 4G, Down speeds vary from 1 to 27Mbps but the average is around 10Mbps, more that enough for our usage.
The second half of February we returned to the UK to catch up with everyone and sort everything ready for our March venture’s
Something we had always promised ourselves a trip to see the “Northern Lights” and to see “Killer Whales” as a retirement present, so early in the month we set of for a short trip to Iceland.
We had a wonderful experience, it was just a small group of 15 and the courier was amazing doing everything that they could to meet our objectives, alas whilst we did get a glimpse of the lights, it was very cloudy and a tad disappointing. We did see dolphins and a hump back whale, but no sign of Orca’s (Killer Whales), so we may have to try again at some point.
At the end of the month we had a few days in York, seeing all the sights and visiting some old friends we had met in Portugal, who were now living nearby in Goole. York was amazing, very historic and we had a brilliant time catching up with our friends, who made us extremely welcome.
The trip made us realise and remember that there are still a lot of lovely places in the UK we need to visit. Time to start planning for some other places we can go.
April is Teresa’s birthday month and as we have been away most years on her birthday it was great to spend it in the UK with the family. Also, time to get all the personal things done that need to be done in the UK and sorting out issues around the house. The latter part of the month we were back in Portugal and catching up with our Portugal friends.
The Pit – Growing plants from seeds or seedlings has always been a problem as we regularly get fairly strong winds, which of course will damage young plants. After watching what some others have been doing and my own design, we decided to dig a hole about a metre deep and approx. 3 metres square, taking the soil from the hole and building it up around the edge of the hole, so giving an overall depth of around 2 metres. Then with some additional screening against the sun and wind and the help of a close neighbour and his digger, we created “The Pit” an area where we could hopefully grow young plants. So far it seems to have been quite successful, however we are expecting issues with collapsing sides when the winter rains come, but we will face that problem if it happens.
Every other year in May Aldeia de Santa Margarida hold a flower festival, the streets are lined and covered with thousands of paper flowers and the streets are closed to traffic. It is an amazing site.
This month we just really spent the time working on the farm, relaxing and lots of swimming.
We have never been able for one reason or the other, mainly work, to harvest our olives. This year as we are now both retired we took the decision that we would. We were keen to convert some into oil and have some for eating.
We have some friends who live not too far away, who had harvested their olives the past couple of years, so we spent a couple of days helping them to harvest theirs and to follow the process through with them to convert the olives into oil. We then could follow the same method to do ours.
The first thing to do was get the necessary equipment, we already had ripadors that our friends have given us after helping them. We just had to get a large net to lay on the ground under the tree to catch the olives as they fell, a few crates to carry the olives about, a couple of large buckets to do the sorting and some bags to be able to get them to the press (lagar). We then just needed a few days of good weather.
Teresa and I spent 5 days harvesting what we needed to be have our own oil at the lagar. They set a minimum amount because the lagar processes in batches and a minimum batch is around 500kgs. It wasn’t hard work, but it was very tiring.
We would start about 9:30 in the morning ripping the olives from the trees, work up to about 1:00pm stop for some lunch, then carry on from around 2:00pm until 4:30ish, when it started to get dark. Most days we could harvest about the equivalent of 8 crates (we only had 6) but it was dependant on how rich each tree was. Some days we only did 6. After cleaning ourselves up and having dinner, we would sit and sort the twigs, leaves and any bad ones out, then bag them into 20kgs bags, just because that’s amount all I wanted to carry at any one time. The bathroom scales came into play here.
On the Sunday we loaded the car, oops may have a bit more than the car should be carrying and made our way to the lagar, we made it OK. There a many lagars around, but we used the same one as our friends had used, for obvious reasons, plus they spoke English which helped.
We actually collected 520kgs of Olives, which produced 77 litres of oil. We paid for the processing in oil, this lagar charges 19%, so we drove away with 64 litres. We were over the moon, not bad for a first attempt.
You can pay the lagar in cash for the oil if you want it all, but it just makes sense to us to pay in oil. All we had to pay for was the containers to take the oil away in, cost was about 6 euros.
If you want to know any more, I will always try my best to help. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are a few photos which followed the process. (Click on photos to see Gallery)
Since the house was built we have as expected had some ground setting. Whilst things in the house have been fine, the granite path around parts of the house, particularity where the waste pipes run, have sunk enough in areas to cause a possible trip hazard.
We felt we had to do something so we had the team that redid our entrance back to lift all the granite cubes in these areas and repack sand underneath and level everything up again.
Only took a couple of days work but it looks so much better now and the trip hazard has gone.
We have a small garage which came with the extra piece of land we brought. The building itself is well built, even if it is a bit rough. The only issue was the doors they badly needed replacing, several of the hinges were broken and it wasn’t very secure. The doors although in 4 sections and folding opened inwards, which was a bit restrictive. The previous owners had also poured concrete on the floor to make a solid base inside the garage but they didn’t allow for the doors so they never really opened properly.
You can see the old verses the new doors in these photos.
We spoke to Miguel Valente, the guy who make and fitted our main entrance gates. We agreed with him what was required and he made the doors and fitted them within 3 weeks! excellent service eh!
He did a brilliant job and I think the garage will fall down now before the doors give up, you can see from the photos here the result, including the size of the lock and bolts. Its certainly a strong and secure job.
I guess I will have to smarten the outside now and repaint.
The next project we wanted to tackle was the section of land just the other side of the new flower borders. This was the site of the original brick hut that we had knocked down a while ago.
The area, furthest from the house we are using as a composting area. The rest of the area was very rough and just grew weeds, however over time the clover/grass from around the house has started to spread over this area and with the work we have done on the flower beds it seems to have naturally smoothed this area a fair amount, so much that I am able to run a lawnmower over the area. To encourage the clover/grass to spread and grow, we decided we should add some irrigation (water spray) to the area, and run tubing up the area enough to allow for us to add a raised vegetable bed at the top end near the house.
We have started to put in the tubing for the watering, there is still a way to go as we are learning how to make it all work, as we go. Here are some photos to show what we are taking about and shows how far we are at the moment.
I know it seems a strange time of year to be installing watering as it is the wet season, but with the ground being wet, it is far easier to did the trenches to bury the tubes. In the summer the ground is so hard, it is impossible without a machine, so do it now then it will be ready for the spring, hopefully!
We are having a few teething issues getting the sprinklers to work properly. I put 4 pop ups sprinklers on the tube but there doesn’t seem to be enough pressure to run all 4. I can run 2 perfectly, but not 4.
I took the decision to lay a second tube so that if I can’t solve the issue we can run 2 on one and two on the other, albeit it be at slightly different times, but the controller allows for that. Maybe not the correct solution, but it should work. I still have to connect up the second run.
The parts are not expensive so it’s fine, and even if I do work out the issue I can use the second run to set up an alternate feed to the vegetable patch when completed. I suspect we will need a different watering regime for the vegetables and grass anyway. I will blog again when / if we resolve the issue.
We still have to work out how we are going to construct the raised vegetable beds. Any suggestions just email me at email@example.com
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.
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.
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.