Cob workshops

A recent guest made this video of cobbing at Quinta Do Animal

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III International Mondego Vale and Hills Field Archery Tournament

Once a year, our neighbour Wolfgang organises an archery tournament at his quinta (this year was the III International Mondego Vale and Hills Field Archery Tournament)

The competition comprised of two parts, ten rounds in each part. One was from 12 metres, aiming straight ahead.

And the other was 15 metres but aiming from a terrace above the target. The competition really brought the hunter out in some of us……And the crowd went wild…..Archery is Wolfgang’s hobby so he was happy to teach the less experiencedUlysse kept score…Wolfgang made brilliant prizes – medals made out of fossils, with 1st, 2nd, 3rd medals as well as participation prizes….Afterwards Moise made pizza and we had dancing and fun into the night!

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Rhubarb and ginger mint jam

Yesterday we made rhubarb and ginger mint jam. As it is our favourite here we thought we’d share the recipe!

Take 2kg of trimmed and washed rhubarb and chop into 1inch pieces. Put in a pan with the juice of a lemon and 250ml of water. Bring to the boil and cooked until softened. Whilst waiting for it to boil, peel, chop and bruise a 1inch piece of root ginger. Chop it as small as you can so you don’t make accidental ‘huge lump of ginger in your mouth’ jam. Then add to the rhubarb. Simmer everything together until it is a soft gloopy mass.

Meanwhile chop 2/3 tablespoons of mint very finely – try to use ginger mint if you have it, if not then any mint will do although we’ve been told to avoid using peppermint as it’s too strong for this recipe.

Back to the gloop: once softened, add 1.5kg sugar, stir in until dissolved then boil rapidly until setting point (running round madly cleaning up globs of jam as they spew out of the pan, and then testing for setting point far earlier than necessary so you can eat more jam along the way). Once setting point has been reached, funnel into warm sterilised jars! Then hide away until the winter time otherwise it won’t last a week.

Then clean out the pans….

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Harvest time

We’re at the end of summer now and we’re well into picking and preserving. It’s been hot this year and some gardens have suffered. Moise’s garden is too high up the valley and too exposed to the sun this year so hasn’t grown very well. Fiona’s is sheltered and has done very well this year;  mine and Tommy’s garden has turned into a bean and tomato jungle!

Fiona’s garden was newly built around April and she chose to make it in the shape of a leaf. Moise ploughed up the soil several times and we piled it up into a raised bed, smoothed it out on top with our hands then covered it in straw as mulch to keep the weeds down and the moisture in. Fiona then installed a drip feed watering system so she could just turn on a tap at night, then turn it off in the morning and we held the hoses down with spare tent pegs!

After that, she started planting tomatoes, beans, aubergines, peppers, basil, brassicas and many other bits…..

I think her favourite so far has been the metre long beans, although currently the longest one has been 65cm – not 1 metre yet!

The chickens keep coming and eating the tomatoes before they are ripe but hopefully the ones higher up will survive!

Fiona has been nice and neat with her garden, making a structure out of cane (a plant similar looking to bamboo but much weaker – but it grows here in abundance), in order to string up her tomato plants and let her beans climb.

Mine and Tommy’s is a bit more haphazard…..

We have to duck and dive under the beans…..

Hunt for our regular lunch of tomato salad…..

And we’ll have to cut out some of these trees to get our pumpkin!

It’s also the time for preserving the abundance in the garden so we can still enjoy these things in the winter. We have peach chutney, rhubarb and ginger mint jam, fig jam and pesto here, as well as eggs, milk and TONS of cheese!

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Fire and water

August is a very important month for us here. Although we have lots of yummy produce to eat and sunshine to enjoy, we also have to keep an eye on our water consumption as it is becoming very scarce. We also have the added risk of forest fire so it is important for us to save our water any way we can so if the worst happens, we are prepared.

Five years ago a big fire burnt down the area where Quinta Do Animal is now. For the last few years there was little growth as everything was recovering from the fire, however this year there is a lot of broom and brambles as well as dry ferns. There is lots of eucalyptus around too which drops its bark which is good fuel for a fire so it is very dangerous for us here. The best we can do at the present is to reserve water anyway we can, in large tanks (which are also great for jumping in when its hot) and making sure we have lots of hoses all over the place. It is also really important for us to keep the land clear of undergrowth. We want trees to grow tall, as eventually this will help reduce the risk of forest fire (trees hold in moisture and reduce temperature) but we must get rid of brush by strimming regularly.

We have been researching methods of preventing forest fire; our friends at Pure Portugal have posted an article recently : http://www.pureportugal.info/reducing-the-risk-of-forest-fire

We have also looked up advice from Plants for a Future and found this list of Fire Retardant Plants

Waterwise, we must conserve anyway we can, not just because of fire but also because the sunshine is very harsh on the soil and will bake it as hard as concrete. We have various food producing areas on Quinta Do Animal and to keep them productive the soil must be moist! We use a lot of mulch to hold the water in. Fiona and Moise prefer to use straw although when straw is hard to get hold of, ferns will do. Straw is long lasting and protects the plants well, deflects light, suppresses weeds and only needs to be renewed once or twice a year. Tommy and I use ferns because they are abundant all around our vegetable patch and when they need to be cut, they go straight on the vegetable patch. It rots down a lot faster but the ferns grow quickly so there is always a lot of mulch available. Tommy has also been experimenting with digging trenches down the side of the beds so when we are feeling lazy we can just put a hose in the end and let the water follow the trenches. This works well in spring but in summer the plants need direct watering. Fiona and Moise use drip feed systems which are economical and easy to use, whereas Tommy and I are using hoses patched together with scavenged bits and pieces! Moise had also advised us to plantlots of tall shady plants and gave us all some heirloom maize which grows quickly, very tall and provides food for us, wildlife and poultry. It has proved invaluable for shading our precious tomatoes and basil (Quinta Do Animals favourite dish is tomato salad!)

Growing up in England it is easy to miss the significance of water, however as my first year in a hotter climate goes on I realise how easy it is to take it for granted. The last couple of days I have had a water “crisis” where part of our pipe from the water mine had come apart draining the reserve and meaning I had no water for my garden. It took me two days to fix (lots of sucking on a pipe and rearranging things to let gravity do its work in getting the water to the right place!) but my garden was noticeably wilting. I lost some baby tomato plants but because of the mulch holding in moisture my garden was saved!

……………Emma x

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Splashing around in the river

We are very lucky here in that we have a beautiful river to mess around in when it’s hot. There is nothing better on a hot day than jumping in and spending time with friends.

Moise and Tommy are both good at organising games so we had a great afternoon last week playing……

……. jumping………..

swimming……..

…….jousting…….

………eating an enormous feast…..

 

…….and then playing some more!

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First post

This is Yurt Portugal’s first foray into the world of blogging! To keep our friends and family updated and to tempt you into coming and visiting our little corner of paradise. Also for us to connect with people all over the world and share pictures, stories and experiences……perhaps improve our language skills too! (posts will predominantly be in English but there will possibly be some French input and some Portuguese when we are feeling brave!)

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