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Pure Portugal – Past Blogs

As part of our Pure Portugal Past and Present series in celebration of Pure Portugal turning 14 years old on May 10th we thought we would find some of the old blogs from Sophie, Andy and some of the volunteers they had way back where Pure Portugal all began at Quinta das Abelhas! You can now catch up with what Sophie and volunteers are up to at her new home Quinta dos Covões who have a Facebook page – click here

Sophie – April 3rd 2005 – Drainage Ditch

Spent all day today (after arguing about where to put it and the best way to do it) digging a big drainage ditch behind the house, after our room has flooded again in the recent rains.

And lots has been going on since the last blog entry: my brother & his girlfriend came to stay for a week which was great and we’re hoping he’ll come back and stay for longer in the summer. He made us a fantastic door for the chicken shed – which our last wwoofers, Reagan & Bree built along with Lester (who’s been staying here whilst looking for & buying land).

The new house has a roof and has been rendered, and the electrics are almost in. The gardens have been growing incredibly fast since the rain, and i’ve planted onions, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, sunflowers, sweet peas and transplanted my asparagus. Reagan and Bree have destroyed a huge patch of couch grass for which I will be eternally grateful. The boys have planted 4 sacks of potatoes into trenches which andy dug on the ‘other side’ of the quinta on terraces that we got the tractor man in to plough. Well, that’s it for my quick update. Will ask Rod, our new wwoofer, if he wants to write something here. He’s a star and has been digging trenches for most of his time here, for pipes coming from the well to a water tank and then down to the house – we’ll soon have plumbed in water. Water that comes out of a tap. Such luxury!!! And I have plans for a washing machine, yes, oh yes, yes.

Sophie – 1st May 2005 – Ducklings! –

Our ducklings hatched today! 9 brought down to the pond this morning by mum, who came the steep way and the ducklings scrabbled/tumbled down the terrace bank into the water and started swimming madly! Unfortunately dad started chasing them and grabbed hold of one by its neck, which it couldn’t then hold out of the water and drowned, which I witnessed helplessly – very upsetting. Then we had to go out and when we got back I went down to make sure the remaining 8 were still ok – and counted 9! One more had hatched while we’d been gone (there were 16 eggs but the others haven’t hatched and the dog has now eaten them – eurgh).

Bit worried now about them as the weather has gone a bit cold again, but mum seems to be looking after them well, keeping them out of the water and snuggled up quite a lot. But the cats are looking VERY interested in them. Also, can’t seem to find much info on whether we need to feed them or not, most of what I can find is aimed at looking after hand reared ducklings (feed them chick crumbs) and one source says ducklings in water can feed themselves. so … anyone with any advice … it is most welcome! Goose is also sitting on eggs so hopefully we’ll have even more new cute little fluffy things soon.


                                  Our First Logo!

Sophie – September 24th 2005 – This One’s For Pablo

ohmigod I think our blog has it’s very first fan. I’m so excited. Hey Pablo, thanks for the comments. Shall I start a fanclub? is that a bit pre-emptive? ok, tenho calma. Seriously, it’s really great to think that someone (apart from my mum!) actually reads all this waffle. and gives me a reason to try and be a bit more on the case with updating this ‘ere blog.

So, pablo & mum, you will be sad to hear, I am sure, that the car must away to the mechanic again on Monday. I actually had to call him out to rescue me today when the so-called repaired brakes completely seized on me and lots of blue stinky smoke started pouring from them. I was a bit desperate as I was on my way to meet people at one of the holiday homes we manage – didn’t really want to be the reason their holiday got off to a bad start by not being able to get into the cottage they’d booked for the week. So, the mechanic finished his lunch quick and dashed out to rescue the damsel in distress – a quick temporary fix and I was on my way. hoorah! until I noticed when I left the cottage, that it was a little strange the brake lights were still on. After all, it was just sat there, parked, handbrake on, nothing else, I got in, took the handbrake off, and the car rolled back down the hill, as it should, so I made a mental note to mention the weird light thing to the mechanic and drove home, only half-way back the damn brakes seized on me again. damn. damn. damn. Couldn’t decide whether to go straight to mechanic and dump the car then then try and get home, or just go home. After letting the brakes cool down and unstick of course – even I wouldn’t drive 20km with the brakes stuck on.

So … the car is now home with the battery disconnected so the brake lights don’t drain it and mean I can’t get it to the mechanic on Monday, and the hire car is booked for me to show clients property for sale on Monday and Tuesday. and I am not thinking about where the money is coming from to pay for all this (and the 300 euros we already owe the mechanic cos we always get everything done on tic and then it just mounts up and it’s hideous and … ok, what was that I said about calma ….? On the upside, we did manage to go shopping, and I did get chocolate, all is not lost.

Sophie – October 22nd 2005 – Foxed

Woken up last night at 4am by the ducks making a big fuss, went out onto the balcony, turned the light on, and shouted, thinking it might be another stray dog trying to get them, then I heard loads of splashing, much more noise than the ducks would make – so something obviously down there…Andy went out to investigate and in the dark only made out a biggish dark shape managing to struggle out of the pond – he thinks it was a fox. so I think my shouting must have scared it and it fell in the pond! hopefully it won´t try getting the ducks again after that experience.

WWOOFER Volunteer – November 17th 2005

I’m staying with a really lovely couple Andy and Sophie and their 2 boys -12yrs and 15yrs – both mad on skate-boarding. They have a small holding in the hills not far from Coimbra. The olives and grapes are on terraces below the buildings and a man leads a herd of sheep and goats with bells on through to graze – they follow his call. The place I sleep is a canvas and pole yurt – kind of chest height igloo from Mongolia with a little wood burner in it. However have not had much success with fires.-

There´s not much in the way of plumbing- one tap attached to the outside wall, 4 acres to pee in, a bath on one of the terraces that is warmed by a fire underneath and a plastic toilet seat on a wooden crate over a hole for serious business. All with a view over olives, pine forest, distant houses and the Portuguese Mountains.!! Very panoramic once you get over stage fright. There are 3 cats that sneak in and sleep on my bed and 2 dogs.

I tried to get the bath fire going the other day and had to first clear the firepit as it was full of water – eventually I got some wet wood burning and noticed the plug was leaking underneath so pushed it in a bit harder and it went right through and the bath water put the fire out again. I persevered and got a fire going after 3 attempts but the sun was setting and getting cooler so decided to jump in the bath while the fire was still heating it and nearly asphyxiated on smoke!!. Think I was a bit cleaner after a quick plunge in tepid water.

The food here is fantastic, plenty to eat and delicious thanks to Andy! The wwoofing work is really fun and big variety of things to do. I’ve been doing mosaic tiling and limestone painting a room here and now on to the olive harvesting.

It’s gone from freezing cold in the pouring rain, mist that hangs low over the valley and snow on those beautiful mountain ranges!! And along with these days there’s been beautiful clear sky and sunshine like today when its so good to be alive… I’ve just come up from trying out my limited Portuguese on the Shepherd grazing his herds of sheep and goats while I pick olives. That warm Portuguese sun and the tinkle of bells made up for any lack of words.

This has been an experience I wont ever forget from adjusting to the lack of amenities but mostly because of the warmth and generosity of Andy and Sophie with their totally relaxed attitude and encouragement to try new skills and welcome for strangers.

Sophie – March 12th 2006 – And It Was All Yellow

The mimosa is in full bloom and smelling lovely, heard the first cuckoo in our woods yesterday, and today was gloriously sunny 24 degrees c. Spring is here!

Sophie – August 16th 2006 – Monika The Magnificent Mosaic Maker

Finally got around to funkying up the outdoor bathroom. WWOOFER Monika laid a mosaic on the floor and we lined the edge of the pathway and sides of the bath with granite stones. Just got to plant around the edges now with herbs to go in the bath, which will be watered by run-off from the shower (will have to put a pic of that up here too).


Jerry – Volunteer –  February 13th 2007 – Anyone Who Doesn’t Like It Here Needs To Go And Have A Word With Themselves In The Corner

Well, what a trippy month that has been. Mind you it was absolutely brilliant. Everyone was so welcoming, all great people. I think today (12th Feb) is the hottest so far. I’m surprised all the rain last night didn’t put the sun out. Have really enjoyed my horse shit removal, bramble cutting, planting trees, digging over a new garden and cleaning the horses tackle, by tackle I mean the saddles and reins not the tackle. Food has been great thanks to the chef (he’ll say “I know”). These guys work at 100mph so hardly surprising that they’re knackered every night. Just a quick warning Andy DOESN’T do chirpy mornings, give him an hour and he joins the rest of the living. Can’t say enough about how hospitable they are. Really welcomed me into the fold. Well that’s me done hope to come back soon with one of my sons to stay, and look forward to that good old homely sarcasm (yeah right, says Andy). Thanks for everything, you do yourselves proud.

Sophie – March 14th 2007 – Shut Down Day

Another very busy day today showing clients around. So I’m afraid today’s post is also someone else’s (see below). I am, as yet, undecided as to whether I will be able to take part in this experiment. Can I manage to not look at my emails for one whole day? Dare I not look at my emails for one whole day for fear of being swamped with so much backlog to catch up on when I turn my computer on the next day? But I think I am going to really, really, try not to turn my computer on as I have been promising myself a day off, a day out in the garden to get my hands into the earth again.

It is obvious that people would find life extremely difficult without computers, maybe even impossible. If they disappeared for just one day, would we be able to cope? Be a part of one of the biggest global experiments ever to take place on the internet. The idea behind the experiment is to find out how many people can go without a computer for one whole day, and what will happen if we all participate! Shutdown your computer on this day and find out! Can you survive for 24 hours without your computer?

Andy – April 1st 2008 – Wood Fired / Solar Shower Almost Ready

We were recently given an old wood-powered water heater, of german design, and this has now been installed in the compost toilet block. Its a fantastic device, a woodburner under a large tank of water: In the summer the water will be heated in a coil of black pipe on the roof. We’ve been busy tiling and grouting the shower area, finishing a mosaic that was started by WWOOFERS last summer, and we are now almost ready to go, just a little grouting left to do. Cant wait to try out the water heater!

Andy – August 8th 2008 – Vegetable Lasagne

I am working through a Self-Sufficiency course, and was asked to write a recipe for a balanced meal. So, I thought I’d include it here, as another of my recipes.

  • Melt a decent lump (I don’t use measurements!) of butter in a pan, add flour (wholemeal preferably) and mix, while slowly adding some milk to make a thick sauce. A spoon of organic stock powder, some garlic or sweetcorn kernels are optional.
  • Meanwhile fry some onions in a wok or large pan, add chopped courgettes, and plenty of fresh chopped tomatoes. A dash of soya sauce is also optional. Cook until all is soft, then add some finely chopped greens, whatever is available, spinach, New Zealand spinach, cabbage, kale whatever. Stir in until the greens are soft.
  • Spoon a layer, about 1cm thick, into a large shallow baking tray. Place a layer of lasagne (from the supermarket I’m afraid) over the top, then spoon a layer of the white sauce over this pasta.
  • Alternate layers of white sauce with tomato sauce, with lasagne between each layer, until the tray is full. Place some slices of tomato and grate some hard cheese over the top, and some black pepper.
  • Place in oven for roughly 40 minutes, or until the lasagne is soft and the top has browned.

Eat with two salads. One of grated carrot and beetroot, chopped apple or pear, toasted seeds (sunflower, sesame and pumpkin) and pieces of orange, peach nectarine, plum (is very good). The other salad is green, comprised of chopped lettuce and a selection of leafy salad vegetables, and herbs, whatever is available in the garden. If you add some cooked beans or chickpeas to the grated salad, this will increase the protein within the meal, as the bean protein will combine with the wheat protein in the lasagne. All of this can come from your garden, except the milk, cheese, lasagne sheets, butter, stock and soya sauce. Hmm, delicious, just about everyone loves it, including meat eaters.

Sophie – January 15th 2009 – Website Upgrade 

I’m taking advantage of the horrible pissy weather to sit indoors by the stove and catch up on some long-overdue computer stuff.  Part of which is upgrading this website. So – please bear with us because it’ll probably all go a bit wobbly for a while! And yeah, just after we’ve been nominated for a blogging award is possibly not the best time to start messing with the site …


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