Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Shanti B

Nipped over to Shanti B's place near Fundão for a birthday lunch on Sunday and managed to sneak in a rare video of the lovely lady for you all to see. Check out her blog. Very cool.

Most mornings this week we've woken up to glorious fog nestled in the valleys. Oh, to walk in the clouds. Delicious. Coincidentally been reading a must-read book that's radically changed my view of the skies. The Cloud Spotter's Guide. Thanks Ian. I too now vow to fight 'blue sky thinking' whenever I come across it. Go buy a copy from Amazon today.

Once the mist lifts we'll pop up the hill to put the last few tiles on the roofs and we should be then ready next week to start the sculptural phase of plastering all the walls inside the houses with clay, straw and sand. Metal windows and doors ordered. Water and heating system coming end of November. Plumbing and electrics to sort out before Christmas. It's all happening.

A couple more videos uploaded from my phone today. Quality not the same as the one above. Little snapshots of our excitement over the last month. Half in Portuguese and half in English. Hope you get the sentiment even if you don't understand all the conversations. Kids are good. One day they might have time to write something here. Maybe the holidays. Might try and get them to do an interview on camera for the next post. Their rabbits died this week. Attacked by a dog in their cage. Very sad. We won't forget you Biscuit Berry and Choco Flopsy. Run free wherever you are now.

Pine trunks and tractors....

Yoga platform in place...

An inside peek into João Farinha's Adega...

The foggy foggy dew....

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Grape Harvest and Autumn Rains

Howdi all.

It's a Tuesday morning and a delicious drizzly mist hangs over the valleys heralding in the new season of Autumn. The air is fresh and clean and every plant and tree across the landscape is savouring the dousing it received last night in the downpour.

Yesterday evening, the final nail went in the last beam on the roof of the kids’ house as the heavens opened. Nice timing Boss. Appreciated.

We’re not working on the houses today. And for that we are, in a way, most grateful. The last 3 weeks have really flown by with an energy that’s been inspiring and a result that often makes us want to cry. After waiting such a long time to start renovating our houses at the top, we have raised (with help from our neighbours and in the last fortnight, professionals) all the walls in stone and clay and have 2 beautifully hand built wooden roofs on top of them. At times, especially when we drive back home from somewhere, observing what now exists that never did before, is truly an emotional experience. We're building our home. Not just for us, but for our grandchildren to come.

The next sunny day will be spent carrying thousands of tiles down the hill and carefully placing them one by one on top of each other and the houses will have their hats. That will be time, hopefully this week, to break open a bottle of bubbly with some friends and the people who have helped us on the road so far.

Meanwhile, Vonnie has been tirelessly hammering in hundreds of little pieces of blue slate, white quartz, hard black stone and soft yellow stone into the spaces between the bigger stones in the walls built in August. It’s a work of patience, artistry and above all, love. The effect is awesome. We now have one complete wall of “jewels” as she says, and over the next few months we will have a entire house of them. It’s becoming a fairy tale house in a forest waiting to be discovered by wandering children in search of adventure, riches and sweets.

We’ve not stopped at the weekends either. The last 2 we have helped our neighbours, Laurinda from the café in Abitureira and Jose & Eugenia, harvest their grapes to make hundreds of litres of wine that we, and those of you who come to visit us, will enjoy drinking with them over the next year. Again a real honour to be shown the country ropes. I'm looking forward to making our own wine next year. No time or space or energy to do so this year, but as we like to say these days, there’s more to come.

All this has been happening while I have started teaching English in the local primary schools again. So you can imagine, it’s a bit full on. Loving it though.

Ian and Merle also arrived from England, with a boat in tow, and have taken the kids up and down the river a few times. This time they are staying for 3 months so their lovely 13 year old daughter Evie is starting school here tomorrow, as a kind of educational experience for the winter term. They return to the UK at Christmas but we are already really enjoying having them here just over the mountain at Eira do Miguel.

Enjoy the videos. We’ll post up some more soon.

Sunday Roof Chat with River and Memphis...

And the rain came tumbling down...

Last thing to mention is that the sunsets and the harvest moons at the moment are breathtakingly gorgeous. At the end of hard day's work, we sit and watch the colour of the sky change through its rainbow spectrum illuminating the clouds as the sun dips beyond the far mountains. After dinner there's another spectacle as the moon rises over the top of the hills behind us radiating her soft reflective light all around like a romantic scene from a play. TV? No chance. This stuff is the best show on earth

Friday, October 2, 2009

Houses built of flour

So here's an interesting thing. Close on a hundred years ago, a young man called Senhor Farinha, built a beautiful house out of stone and clay and wood, on a piece of land called Moses in the meandering valleys of central Portugal below a wee village called Amieira. He raised his family, grew all kinds of veggies and flowers and trees on terraces hand sculpted out of the mountain side. Sixty odd years ago he built another house, just above his first house, for guests and friends, we think with his brother, another Sr Farinha.

One of his daughters married the boy next door (he's actually the guy in the middle of the photo of the 3 paunches), where they still live to this day. After her father passed away 20 years ago, that daughter eventually decided to sell the family home and 2 years ago a young English family from London came and saw and fell in love with the house and the land and the people and moved into the village to start a new life.

After a year and half of dreaming and imagining and planning, this little English family began the process of lovingly restoring what Sr Farinha had first created. They had no idea what they were doing really but were convinced that in the process they would learn. With some help from their neighbour João and his sons Filipe and George, they raised the walls in stone and clay, cut down a few trees and made an old time wooden structure for a roof. Just 2 weeks ago a young man also called João, came to help restore the guest house. He was a professional with a team of lovely stone masons. And by coincidence his name, and that of his brother Paulo also on the team, is Farinha.

Yesterday, a mountain of gorgeous wooden pine beams and floorboards for the roofs arrived from a sawmill in the nearby town of Sertã, cut to size and delivered by another lovely young man who, oddly enough is also called João Farinha.

Farinha in Portuguese means Flour. Our houses here in the land of Moses were built, are being restored and probably will be added to some more, with the help of a lot of flour.

Well I thought it was an interesting story.

Bought a new video camera this week. Better quality than the last few months, although better quality means bigger file size, so might need to wait a wee longer for them to load up. Hope it's worth it.