More Lemons – zero waste

Apologies to anyone who has already read this on my Facebook page last week (before I deleted my account), but I’m going to repeat that post here.

My neighbour bought over huge bucket of lemons last week, about 60 – so I spent the whole weekend processing them.

10 went into a jar with salt and spices to make Moroccan preserved lemons

another 10 sliced and frozen to put in summer drinks

the rest were zested and juiced, the juice and half the zest frozen for later use.

The remaining zest is being steeped in aguadente ( local fire water) and will become Limoncello in about a month or so.

Manky zest and scrap ends of lemons put into a container to make citrus enzyme cleaner.

left over pith boiled up for a couple hours to make pectin, now frozen in ice cube trays for later use in jam-making

Half the boiled up pith became the marinade for that night’s lemon and tarragon chicken, and the rest was fed to the pigs.

The zest that is currently making Limoncello will be blended and used in a dessert, and the leftovers from the citrus cleaner will be composted, absolutely zero-waste!

 

 

 

 

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Feeling hot,hot,hot!

This has got to be the hottest year since we first started coming to Portugal in 2012. It’s been in the mid 30’s for several weeks, and 40 degrees for the past few days. We’ve had very little rain over the winter, the wells didn’t fill up at all (we have 2 that are overflowing by end of December usually), and I’ve been watering the vegetable beds since January! Fortunately we have a natural spring that never runs dry. The forest fires have started in earnest, 12 in our county today already, and a huge fire near Coimbra last night in which 25 people died and another 20 were injured, very sad. I’m hearing the fire-fighter planes going over us constantly this weekend 😢

On a brighter note, our female pig came into season within a couple of weeks of being here (I’m assuming for the first time as she’d been in with the boar for several months before coming to us) and after lots of piggy activity, she was pregnant. Gave birth to seven gorgeous piglets on 1st April and all survived. She’s a really good mum and fell in love with her babies the minute she had them. However, it was so hot when they were born that we had to stop free-ranging them and bring them in under cover, as they became sunburned on their very first day! We still have 2 of the boys, which we’ll raise for meat, the rest have gone to new homes. We gave one to a neighbour who has been incredibly generous to us since we arrived here, 2 were bartered for 2 truck loads of manure (black gold and costs a fortune here) and 2 were bartered for 2 days work (which will be tiling the kitchen floor).

Lucky, our boar turned out to be not-so-Lucky, and we dispatched him on a (rare) miserable day at the beginning of May, with the help of our friends Brett and Sandra. We didn’t weigh the carcass, but at a guess I’d say he weighed 200kgs dead weight. We shared the spoils with B & S, and when they do their boar, we’ll help in return for  half the meat.

Keeping the ‘anti-money’ theme going, we have 2 milking goats on permanent loan from Brett and Sandra (ours wasn’t pregnant, despite my wishful thinking in my previous post). They have too many goats in milk at the moment, and as we have none, they have very kindly made this offer. Our 2 loan goats, Georgia and Hazel, are giving us just over a litre of milk between them from once a day milking, but we really need to start milking twice a day as they are uncomfortably full in the mornings. So far I’ve made  feta cheese, yogurt and ice-cream, and have restarted my milk kefir culture.

And the reason we didn’t have any of our own milk was because we stopped milking Cindy, our lactating ewe (first lamb born on our Quinta, as mentioned in the previous post) as we’d bought a cow! Maisy, a seven year old Dexter who’s calf was being weaned (by virtue of Maisy coming to our Quinta) so that Maisy would be in full milk production. With an anticipated 5 -10 litres of fresh cow’s milk everyday, we’d give Cindy a rest. However, Maisy was having none of it. Any attempt to get near those, extremely full, udders was met with a full-on, aim to maim, kick! And for such a small cow she can really kick high – backwards, forwards, side-ways, any-ways. She hadn’t been milked in years, if ever, by humans, and she wasn’t about to start now! We tried the age-old trick of tying a rope around her belly, and whilst that stopped her kicking (traps a nerve apparently that prevents kicking until they get used to being milked), she wouldn’t let-down at all. Maybe moving house, losing a calf, new people, just stressed her out too much, because outside of the milking shed, she’s lovely, and getting friendlier by the day.

The good news is, Maisy is very obviously pregnant again, and must have been so when she came to us ( unless she’s sneaking out at night to party with the cows across the lane😳), so we’ll give her another go when she’s delivered, letting the calf drink first so that she lets down, and then Tom and I diving in, she’ll never know the difference…..

 

 

 

 

The Renovations Begin!

So, after waiting months for 3 different builders to quote for our renovations, and none of them understanding what we wanted, and quoting a small fortune – we happened across a house in the village being renovated by a local builder (in fact the husband of the local shopkeeper) that looked fantastic, and we could see that he was using natural materials and doing a really thorough job. We asked him to quote for our work, which he did within a week, at a very reasonable price, and today, just 2 weeks later, the work began.

The original roof is off, and the rotten central beams replaced by reclaimed chestnut beams from a local demolition. The window openings have been knocked out, no small feat as the walls are 2 foot thick granite stone, and the lintels are going in.

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The lintels have been made from the large granite pillars that used to hold up the donkey- driven water wheels on our wells. Tom dug them out of the ground himself, with a little help from Duke

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Ella, being the lady that she is, preferred to watch from the comfort of the car

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The Eco-friendly timber preservative that we ordered from the uk arrived today in the nick of time, so Tom will be applying that to the cross beams and wooden sheathing when it gets a bit cooler today, ready for those to be installed next week after the walls have been rebuilt.

So excited to finally be making progress!

 

Quinta update 2

Having been at the quinta now for a few months it transpires that we have many more trees than we first thought.

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Antonio, our vendor, told us that we have 260 olive trees. That’s a lot of trees, but unfortunately we didn’t get any oil this year. The olive harvest was bad all over our region, and our local press didn’t even bother to open. By the time we arrived on 28th November, all the trees were bare, and the olives on the ground. Hey ho – I’m sure next year we’ll have a bumper crop.

We have 4 mulberry trees, double what we originally thought, which is very good news, mulberries are nutritious and delicious, and chickens, ducks and pigs love them. I’ll make mulberry jam and the animals can eat the rest.

We have 15 fig trees, both white and purple varieties, 20 orange trees, mostly navel type, and they have no pips, which is great, and a few bright yellow ones ( no, they’re not lemons!). Additionally we have 12 tangerine type trees, mandarins, clementines, tangerines etc, not sure how to tell the difference. Some are really sweet and some are horrendously sour. 32 orange trees is probably double what we need as they are all heavily cropping, as you can see in the photo, so the plan is to chop down any that don’t taste good or keep well, and replant with other fruit.

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We also have one peach tree and one apple tree that fruited last year, and 3 fairly immature trees that appear to be cherry, and probably have grown from seeds dropped by birds, as they are in improbable harvesting positions. We’ll move those to the orchard when we know whether they are worth keeping.

Additionally, we’ve also planted some trees in December – 2 lemons, a lime, another peach, an apricot, 2 nectarines, 2 red plums and 2 dark/damson type plums. We intend to plant cherry, persimmon, pear, apple, avocado, elder, hazel, sweet chestnut, almond, kiwi and soft fruit bushes next autumn.

We have about 50 grape vines, and this years prunings have been stuck in the ground to create about 100 new plants. They will take about 3 years to started producing in useful quantities.

My wonderful nephew, Chris, bought me moringa seeds and ash seeds for Xmas, and I’ve sown some in cloches. The moringa for food and medicine, the ash to be coppiced for firewood.

I’ve counted around 5 hawthorn trees in the hedgerow, so will take cuttings of those. Hawthorn is good for hedging and the prunings make excellent firewood. The Haws are a great source of food for wild birds over winter, and apparently makes good jam. I hope it doesn’t taste like the Chinese haw sweets my girls loved when they were younger, they taste like putty

We have at least 30 oak trees at different ages and sizes, and a small coppice of mimosa, which I expected to be a problem, it’s incredibly invasive, but actually is great for firewood, one large mimosa log will burn all night, so they can stay and we’ll harvest the larger trunks for firewood and the smaller saplings for pea and bean supports.

Quinta update

I can’t believe it’s been almost 5 months since I posted on the blog! A lot has happened since then. Tom and the dogs moved to Portugal at the end of November, I was there for almost half of December, and now going there every three weeks.

The people who sold us the house took nothing with them, so we had about 70 years worth of junk to remove, and it’s taken almost 3 months to fully clear out the place and clean up the land, which was strewn with broken glass, rusty metal and half-burnt wellies (you’d think that after the first 10 pairs didn’t burn, they’d have given up, but no! I cleared 2 wheel barrows full of charred wellies and the remains of other shoes).

On the plus side, they also left all the wine making equipment, including some fabulous antique wine jars still in their original carrying baskets, loads of barrels, olive nets etc.

Tom has spent his first couple of months making the house liveable, or at least one room, fencing where the perimeter wall is in a bad state, covering over the wells ( even though both dogs fell in a well on their first day – both whilst being supervised by me 😦 fortunately the wells were full to the top so they climbed out easily), moving massive granite stones away from the house, and preparing the land for planting, pruning the grape vines and olive trees and generally clearing up the place.

We had 3 builders survey to quote for the renovations, so hope to get started on those this spring. Tom will do a lot of the work, but some of the structural work needs to be done by a professional.

I’ll post some before and after photos when it’s done.

Quinta da Bem Paz (or the Farm of Wellness and Peace)

So we’ve finally found and bought our smallholding in Portugal!

After several visits and dozens of viewings we came across the most charming small farm, with an outstanding view. The land is just perfect, it has everything we need (almost). Gently sloping, south facing, walled in granite all round, and although it needs repairing in places, is basically in very good condition. Lot’s of fresh water from 3 wells, strategically placed around the land, and best of all, a fresh water spring situated at the top of the land so that we can gravity feed fresh water to the house. A large pond, also at the top of the land, for rain-water catchment, which we may convert to a natural swimming pool in future, or maybe use to feed a series of smaller ponds and rice paddy down hill.

There are approximately 220 olive trees, so we’ll have a LOT of olive oil (guess what everyone’s getting for Xmas!), lots of grape vines, about 20 orange trees (why anyone would want that many oranges is beyond me) 3 fig trees, a couple of peach trees and best of all, 2 mulberry trees, one black, one white.

Wild blackberries are growing all around the perimeter wall, some of which we’ll keep, and some of which we’ll set the goats to clear. I spotted at least 2 hawthorn trees, and there are several cork oaks at various stages of maturity.

The house is very old and made from local granite stone, and whilst it’s basically habitable ( well one room is) it needs a lot of work. We intend to renovate in natural materials, and are very fortunate that there are 3 tumble-down animal houses on the land built from the same granite as the house, so we have some of the materials already to hand.

Here is a photo taken from the top of the land looking down towards the house

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We intend to plant more fruit trees this autumn – cherries, plums, nectarines, pomegranate, apples, pears, lemons and limes; kiwi fruit vines; almond and hazelnut trees; raspberry, blueberry, gooseberry and currant bushes. Apart from olive prunings, there’s no firewood on the land, so a priority this year will be to plant a woodland of ash to coppice to provide firewood in the future (about 7 years in the future). The lovely people we’ve bought the farm from are leaving us all their firewood, about 3 cords, so that will see us through this winter, and as most of the farms around us are abandoned, we may be able to ‘scrump’ some fallen trees in the spring.

So very excited to be starting yet another adventure! Tom will move to Portugal with the dogs in November, and I’ll continue living and working in Abu Dhabi for some time ( or until the building work is finished :))