springtime

apparently we’ve had the coldest March for 31 years and I suspect we will have had the wettest April for ages too, by the time it’s over.

riverWe’ve had a lot of rain this year, quite a lot of flooding and landslides but despite the dreadful weather, the wild flowers are amazing and my garden has never looked so good at this time of year.

arti

I sowed some peas at the same time as the broad beans, about October time and although I have never done this before, they seemed to have survived the winter and are now producing actual peas, the broad beans have masses of flower too but are looking a bit beaten down by the endless rain and then winds, but they are still alive and podding up nicely, maybe by the end of the week we’ll have some with our favourite dish….

peasbroad beans

the purple sprouting broccoli has been the plant that just keeps giving, so much that I am giving it away, it took ages to do anything, had to be staked, has got so tall but now they’ve got going, there’s no stopping it

broc

the other thing I’d never done before was to grow some winter lettuce, this too has been prolific, I kept it fleeced over for the very cold months, it’s done really well and has supplied us all winter

salad as has the coriander

coriander

which I have been amazed at as have my friends, who have all benefitted.

The asparagus, as I could have predicted has not done so well, I think I disturbed it a bit last year, so I’ve only got myself to blame, but I’m grateful for the small amounts we have had, I shall be moving the bed this year and starting some new ones, they are 7 years old after all.

Potato obsessed husband has planted almost an entire field of the things

potatoes

Aside from all the foody bits, the flowers are very blue and some are yellow and orange, they’ve been out all winter….weird

iris

hyacinthborageflowers

Now, we would like it to stop raining, please, just for a bit and only at night, thank you

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cherries

black cherries

it’s been a fantastic year for cherries here, the big tree next to the house doesn’t seem to have suffered for having half it’s roots severed by the foundations going in, some if it is a bit tricky to pick some we can pick from a couple of the windows (very romantic), friends have been to help and we’ve made cherry and cardamom ice-cream

ice cream

pie fillings for the freezer and endless tarts

pie

cherry juice

cherry juice

and am now in the process (10 days) of making glacé cherries, i would have dried some but don’t have the space or intact racks and i would have made jam but have noticed that the jam in my stores is not getting eaten………

stuff and what not

I’m still waiting for husband to update the blog with building related stuff, so meanwhile lets talk about the garden and what not……

it’s finally rained so the scorched dryness of everything has slowly turned everything back to a lush green……..

I’ve rearranged my garden again, made new bedded areas using river stones, all designed around the trees and various shapes being made by existing plants

mew edge2

all the stuff I moved including rhubarb is doing very well, miraculously………..

The top fruit meadow has been tidied up

top fruit

and I’ve made a new line for blueberries and honeyberries

blueberry bed

I know blueberries grow well here and as long as I give them the right soil conditions and protection they should do well.

Bonfire heaps have been made

I’ve also made my usual chilli jam, fig and lemon marmalade, apple sauces, with our first apples ever, we’ve dried plums and figs and peaches, bottled over 100 litres of grape juice, dried chillies collected our first almonds
almonds apples chillies grape juice

Down side is I think I may have killed the asparagus bed, the ferns had got so heavy and no amount of staking was helping them when the high winds came, the plants were being pulled out of the ground, so I elected to cut them down, resulting in new growth and possible death, we’ll have to wait and see

garden fits and other failures

lets talk about crop failures, because i wouldn’t want to give the impression that it’s all marvellous, this self-sufficiency lark. It’s not, it’s bloody hard work, the weather is relentless at both ends of the spectrum, too much water when you don’t need it, none, when you do and currently no way of harvesting it without pulling the house builder off of house building duties.

Autumn, spring and winter veggies are easy enough but the summer stuff is difficult when you have to eek out what little water you have, I have created shade in the garden and I mulch where I can with what little I have, but now there is too much shade (ironic!!)shade
so my second sewings of parsnips and carrots look a little bit miserable, the first sewings are ok

carrots

parsnips

we’ve had some thinnings from the first sewn carrots and what’s left will probably last about another month

The peas were a complete failure, I sewed three varieties this year, none of which flowered, they got a kind of powdery mildew and I had a fit and ripped them all up!!

The Uchiri Kuri pumpkins are tiny, something ate the flowers, the ones that survived were already climbing up some beans poles, but whatever ate the pumpkin flowers didn’t eat the butternut squash flowers, of which I have about 20

squash

The globe artichokes never got fat enough to eat so we’ve just left them to seed and look nice, the bees love them

artichoke

One courgette plant survived and has given us enough, there’s always too many anyway, so am relieved there aren’t anymore

courgette

Out of 7 cucumber plants I’ve had about 7 cucumbers, not a great return i don’t think

cucumber

I have done three sewings of cut and come again salad leaves, all self collected from last year and mostly rocket, it’s done well with the shade, so at least something likes itsalad
I’ve got 4 varieties of tomatoes, san marzano, which is doing very badly and has blossom end rot, red alert, a new variety to me which is doing very well, cherry tomatoes and money maker both of which are slow to produce and certainly not ripening yet

toms

the onions were actually great, despite my initial disapointment, we’ve ended up with about 25 kilos of mixed red and white, but still not enough for a whole year

onions3and the garlic not too bad either
onions4
the broad beans were a disaster, mice ate the seed, three times, I gave up, I even soaked some seed in paraffin and they ate that too!! the beetroot was rubbish and I had a fit with that too and threw it all away, yes, I’ve had a lot of fits in the garden this year!!!!

The stanley plum, planted in memory of our first dear dog is having it’s second year of fruiting, they are such a beautiful colour
plums

we also have our first apples, the apple trees were planted 5 years ago and all bar one have fruited for the first time this year, finally

apples

I know I’m not doing too much wrong, I can’t get the nutrients I need into the soil and that is the main problem, I am considering changing the garden again, as we both mature together, I can see that I have been trying to create a garden that I would have liked in the UK and it just isn’t working here, so back to the drawing board and several more fits no doubt and eventually I’ll either die or the garden will!!

the fruit aisle

there is nothing quite like wandering down the fruit aisle and tasting everything,

P1140951

only my fruit aisle’s are not like supermarket aisle’s there’s a full on interaction from the very beginning until the very end. When you you are in a position to not only gobble your way up and down for free but give surplus away to passing strangers, that for me is the point of it all.

berries

There is no money exchange only love and no ridiculous plane journeys for washing, packaging and god know’s what else, it’s straight from the plant either into the mouth or home for inventive cooking,


P1140953

hand

around the garden in May

garlic head
some of you may remember my post about garlic. I’d collected seed three years ago and every year since have been growing garlic from that seed, it started tiny, got a little bigger and this year I actually have some useable sizes, I graded them into large, medium and small,

large garlic

the large I will use as next years seed, the medium I will use in the kitchen and the tiny I will either give away for someone else to start off with or keep for emergencies…..

the flowers have been fabulous, the house is full of them and i’ve had enough to give away to people in the village, such a nice feeling.

moth1

The rhubarb has been better than most years, I’ve planted a lot of comfrey around one patch and they seem to get on well together.

rhubarb

When we first bought our farm there was no shade in the valley at all, we planted a lot of false acacia and it has done so well, so well, infact that we are going to have to cut some of it down, it is now creating too much shade and plants like the strawberries are now suffering, but despite their lack of sun, i am still harvesting about 1/2 kilo everyday……

strawberries

The broad beans did well, despite the efforts of the mice to eat all the seed, we harvested about 6 kilos, some we just ate fresh and the rest is frozen. I didn’t have enough to keep any seed for next year, but given that the mice ate most of it, I’m not so bothered about buying it, it’s so cheap to buy.

The carrots are doing well, the parsnips not so well, I will sow one more bed of both and hope for better things. My little rows of potatoes are doing well and are just coming in to flower,  Maris Peer, Charlotte and King Edward

potatoes

The onions are pathetic and I am right on the verge of giving up with them, they take up a lot of room, look messy and never produce well,

onions

I don’t know what I am doing wrong, I have never managed to get decent onions out of the ground here. I’ve always planted from sets, so if I carry on I will just do what most of the portuguese do and plant from plugs much later on, again so cheap at the market.

The salad has been great, especially the rocket, will sow one more bed in the semi-shade and see if I’m not too late

rocket

The peas and beans are doing well, various kinds of all, mostly self collected seed, Feltham First, Hurst Greenshaft and an unidentified giant pea from some friends…

peas

the beans in the garden are mostly cherokee trail of tears and some purple french thing and up in the potato field are some borlotti, am hoping that the shade won’t hinder their progress too much.

beans

Uchiki Kuri and the Butternut’s are doing well, and the courgette’s are flowering

courgette

the asparagus is being left now to replenish itself, but the base makes for a good place to plant herbs and more lettuce etc.

asparagus

In between all of this I’ve been harvesting the cherries, elderflowers for cordial, strimming various bit, tying in the naughty top fruit vines

loganberries

and trying to get rid of my farmers tan……….

food of love

marriage is a difficult thing, some would say it’s the most difficult thing you will ever do, whether you are officially married or not, it takes work, compromise, patience, discipline and a lot of love.

heart

I live with a man who loves his food, he loves different foods from me and generally that’s ok it work’s,  it take’s a lot of discipline on my part to not eat everything he eats and it takes some compromise on his part to eat the things I want to eat.

One thing is certain, I have learnt, that the way to my husband’s heart is through his stomach or less his stomach but more his desires for things to put in his stomach. When we met each other I had never made a cake in my life, having not come from a home of baking or even puddings for that matter, his childhood was very different, they always had puddings and at least one cake a week……..

cake

For the first few years he didn’t ask me for anything special in the kitchen, I was commuting to London everyday and rarely had time to think straight let alone bake a cake but since we moved to Portugal and I have more free time, I’m able to indulge him and I love it, it makes him so happy and that in turn makes me happy, call me old fashioned, I don’t care, but that is (for me anyway) all that matters, it works, it’s the easiest thing, it doesn’t take a lot, just the desire, the desire to do whatever it takes to make someone happy without sacrificing very much at all.

So when he asks for bounty bars and he’s worked his heart out all week, that’s what I do, take the morning off and indulge him

bounty

Happy eating