6 May 2011

It's raining again - now where are my wellies?

Whilst the UK has been basking in glorious sunshine and blue skies, we have been somewhat grey and damp.  As you can see from the photographs, I have nothing to complain about because it has done the tomatoes immense favours.  The tomatoes were like this in the middle of April:

And look at them today, 6 May!

They are already smelling tomatey when they are watered and we are encouraging Boris and Beyonce, the huge bees we have, to do their work.

Although it is a bit irritating when you have had some glorious sunbathing days and got the patio organised, we need rain badly for the crops and vines and, unlike the UK, you know the sun will return shortly, so a quick re-organise of patio to get sunloungers under cover, plants away from edge of cascades off the roof, means we are organised to get the best of the rain.  We are also utilising our spare wood bin as a water butt.  We have it under the edge of the roof and it basically fills in about half an hour when the rains come down heavily as it collects all the run off from the roof.  Excellent for watering the plants too as they certainly prefer it to water from the well.

I have not posted for a while because I seem to have been 'busy' but please do not ask me what I have been doing because I can't seem to work out why I have not had time to post!  Glenn went back to the UK for a few days and returned shocked at the price of things, and whilst he was there, my lovely friend, Wendy came in his place.  There is nothing better than having a girlfriend over for a good catch up session.  The weather was superb which was a bonus, the car playing up was definitely not!

My car is now nearly 11 years old and has been a wonderful purchase.  However, just like humans, cars start to get a bit cranky and mine is no exception.  It decided to throw a wobbler whilst Wendy was here.  We took the car down to a garage in Cascais that has successfully repaired it after a couple of altercations with other cars, and they checked it out and said it needed a new bit to sort it out and that they would call when the piece was in, but to be very careful as the car was actually in 'get home mode' only ie only drive when necessary. 

Even a local trip a couple of days later proved too much for it and it refused sulkily to start after another visit to Colares.  A lovely local man offered assistance and the name of an electrician, which was incredibly kind and shows how lovely the local people are here but we managed to start it and after a chat with the garage again who said the part had actually just arrived, drove carefully to Cascais praying there were no hold ups which would mean stopping and stalling!  We got there and the wonderful garage fitted the piece there and then with smiles and jokes and we were able to drive home again without any problems.

The following week I organised that the car would go in for a full service ready for an MOT, which is due in July.  We had to leave it overnight and when I picked it up, they had actually taken it for the MOT, therefore saving me from having to lurk about in July and apart from a couple of small things that need to be done before winter and the next MOT in 2012, everything had been done.  My grateful thanks go to Pires Auto Nova, Rua Jose Florinda, Cascais and in particular to Jose (the Fox), Diogo and the lovely Marina who is in charge of the paperwork.

The 'Fox' and Diogo
The 'Fox' and Diogo
The lovely Marina

 We have been extremely lucky this month as our lovely landlords offered us a piece of ground to grow our vegetables.  I think they thought we were running out of space on the patio!!!  I  chose a patch that had previously been a small allotment and then we got out our books to see what would be best to grow.  Ignoring all the advice in the two books I have, on the pretext of visiting the garden centre to give some cat sachets (a lovely gift from Aunty Wendy to my two, who promptly decided they did not like them - how rude was that) to their lovely little cat who has just given birth to a couple of kittens - the father having done a runner as per usual - we ended up (or rather I wandered off up the fruit section) with three raspberry canes, one blackcurrant bush and one redcurrant bush for our starter kit!  I also invested in some onion seed, some leek seed and was rather sternly told to resist anything else until we had worked on the earth!!!

As you can see from the photo, it is a rather large area, so we have chosen just to take a piece of it to begin with and see how we go from there.  We have dug a small section and planted the fruit.  It is full of little stones so that takes a bit of organising, but we are doing it in stages, helped by our two doggy friends who think its great fun to get in the way and sit on things.  Dread to think what they might do when we start using our compost!  The labrador already has a love of the open water drain and paddles through it or even lies in it to get the full benefit of rotting, dropped leaves. 

Looking up towards our new venture

New beginnings (fingers crossed)

Although it would have been nice to have the allotment closer to our house, the walk will do us good and we can use the car down the track when we need to carry the big stuff.  We are also lucky that there are plenty of gardening tools for us to make use of and there is a water supply just close by, which was obviously in use when this side was full of grapevines - it's now given over to growing pines.  Our only concern is the bunnies!  We appear to have three on the estate that I am aware of.  One close to our house who likes to graze along the sides of the driveway by the grapevines; one who lives up near our allotment and one who is over the other side of the grapevines.  I am hoping that there is enough green stuff for them to scoff without having a go at whatever we try.  The dogs often disturb them but don't catch them as it's too much like hard work!  They prefer to give chase for about 5 seconds and then sit and watch!

The spring rains have encouraged all the flowers to bloom beautifully.  I gave the roses I inherited a good 'haircut' as Ted Weeks used to say, and I have been rewarded by them coming out and looking far healthier than they did last year.  It is so nice to cut them and bring them inside and admire them.  I usually buy flowers at the weekend market at Almocageme but using your own is really nice.  The back raised flower bed still needs a bit of work but the wisteria, honeysuckle and lavenders are all doing well and the jasmine smells gorgeous.

One of my rose bushes

The first bouquet of roses of the year

The fireflies have been out again and caused a bit of amusement as Glenn got a bit over-excited as he had not seen one before.  There was one on our patio door so he decided to have a closer look and got the torch and shone it on the poor thing, who obviously felt humilated by the competition and promptly stopped flashing.  Luckily Frank, as we called him, returned the following night and brought his friend, Felicity, with him so we had a lovely light show.   They are so pretty to watch flying in and out of the hedgerows or sitting on the door.

A firefly in all its glory

So when the UK has finished with our sunshine, we would be very grateful for its return and we will send your rain to water your lawns.