Category Archives: Sustainable Living

My lazy August

summer_flowers

Well, this month has been a bit slow in terms of getting things done. It has been scorching hot since mid July but things have cooled down now. That’s my excuse.

pumpkin, Algarve

pumpkin at last

Down by the swale, aka Seven Sisters Ditch, I finally got a pumpkin. I had almost given up as they have been flowering but nothing.

Melons were a bit of a let down they started of well with strong leaf growth and young melons but
then suddenly died back.

 

 

 

melon

last of the melons

This is the last melon plant in the same location as the pumpkin with  a decent sized melon.

 

 

 

 

young_figs

young fig trees

Nearby the young fig trees are growing vigorously thanks to the irrigation pipe my brother put in when he was here.

The tomatoes were amazing but the bushes have started to die back. There are still Sweet Million F1 cherry tomatoes coming online but the ‘Alex’ variety has all but died out.

plum_trees

young plum trees

The plum trees have been shooting away after I began some extra irrigation with the hosepipe.

 

 

 

 

young_carobUsing the hosepipe I have managed to keep about half of the carob seedlings I bought. I lost almost all where there was no irrigation.

carob_seedlings

carob seedlings

Managed to find a few self seeded carob seedlings which I transplanted into pots. A couple are growing quite well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

avocado

Avocado

The avocado that I grew from seed has also made it through the summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Been picking my almonds. It is a slow business as I have to pick them off the trees by hand as I can’t see them on the ground.

almonds

almonds

 

 

 

 

DSC_0055

Olives

Processed the first olives of the season for pickling. This year is a good year for olives. Despite it being bone dry my three large olive trees are loaded. The dry conditions also seem to have deterred the mediterranean fruit fly as almost none of the olives I harvested, had the tell tale puncture marks.

 

 

 

 

 

lettuce

lettuce, Algarve

With a decent amount of irrigation and manure the  lettuce has been growing well. I swear a good amount of it is self seeded.

DSC_0051

earth bag build

The earthbag build is going slow but steady. I have to really step it up before the rains come.

The casinha itself is progressing slowly. I have yet to put in a hot water system and a kitchen. The UV filter I bought on Amazon literally burst into two… O_O

So all in all, plenty to do still.

Offering a Wild Camping Experience

fuseta_beach

Fuseta Beach

ria Formosa

Ria Formosa

Offering a wild camping experience for small groups of upto 4 people.
Set in two acres of natural scrubland and almond, olive and oak trees. Surrounded by orange groves and further natural scrubland, it is the ideal place to get away from the crowds and the bustle of the city. Being just 2 km away from the nature reserve of the Ria Formosa and 4 km away from the beach at the lovely town of Fuseta you have the best of everything that is the Algarve.

Facilities and other stuff you need to know.

  • The toilet is an out door composting type.
  • The shower consists of an outdoor shower. Essentially hosepipe. The water from it is sufficiently warm during summer.
  • Fires have to be above ground and in fire pits with  extra care being taken during windy conditions.
  • Due to the nature of the location no loud music can be played on site.
  • Cycles are available for hire.

 

 

What is available.

 

Free stay with lunch for half a day’s help around the place . The type of work would be such as building an earthbag chicken house, clearing the land and planting trees etc.

Backpacking? Not a problem as a couple of “two man” tents can be provided if required.

Contact.

To make a reservation please use one of the following options:

Telephone: +3519xxxxxx

email: enquiries@bright-work.co.uk

[sbc title=”yes”]

 

Spring is here!

plum tree in flowerI can tell it has because all the young almond trees are putting out leaves. And my black plum tree (ameiceira preta) is in flower! I am excited because I only planted it a month ago. It was a good size tree when I bought it and hopefully I’ll see a few plums!

 

This month has essentially been about grafting. I had started grafting a few olive trees using cleft grafting and a splice union graft.  I think I pretty much have got the hang of cleft grafting. The splice joint takes more time and effort. It also is not as strong as a S(or J) type graft where the scion and root stock actual interlock. I’ll have to learn this for next year.

Cleft grafted peach onto bitter almond tree

Cleft grafted peach onto bitter almond

 

A neighbour whose land borders mine kindly gave be some peach tree branches to use for firewood.

I must take him to lunch. I am sure he is an interesting man. He is Portuguese. He was 30 odd years in Africa as a colonial soldier .

Anyway, I then had the brilliant idea of grafting some of these branches onto my bitter almond trees and excess almond root stock. So fingers crossed it works and I am able to coax something sweet from the otherwise  inedible.

Splice graft - peach scion onto almond root stock.

Splice graft – peach scion onto almond root stock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0402I germinated some tomato seedlings! Two varieties, ‘Alex’ and ‘Sweet Million F1’. Sweet million really came through for me last year, despite being neglected and being put in heavy clay soil. So I hope for a repeat this year. Alex who visited last spring, had given me the ‘Alex’ variety of monster tomatoes in 2012. This was in England, so I had the seeds with me. Hopefully they will do well here.

 

 

 

The tiny cutting of this daisy type plant from England survive the winter and is really thriving!

Linda says they are Chrysanthemums.

Linda says they are Chrysanthemums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coeve Galega

Coeve Galega

 

I put a bit of irrigation pipe alongside a part of my bother with the front road and have stuck in fig and pomegranate cuttings. There are also a some young carob (alfarobeira) trees growing. I also planted some Portuguese cabbage (coeve galega) here.

 

 

 

 

Here is my fig tree nursery.

fig tree nursery

fig tree nursery

 

cabbages

cabbages

Some cabbages and green peas growing at the Seven Sisters ditch (swale) around the young orange trees. I find that  grass cuttings on top of  small shredded olive branches and leaves and wild fennel stems works well. The latter support and help the grass cutting to filter down the organic layer slowly. Otherwise the grass on it’s own would compact tightly and decompose far too quickly. Which is not bad but as my friend Martijn said it’s gone too soon.

 

 

 

 

My just eight green pea plants doing well. Already had a bowlful.

green peas

green peas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loving my Vortex gingabike. And the trailer it can pull. I used it to buy some wood and go get a bottle of gas from town. It goes very well with the trailer attached.

Vortex electric bike and trailer

Vortex electric bike

 

Well, that’s all for February. I broke a bone in my hand a couple of weeks back which has slowed me down but I can’t stop. Staying warm in winter has been a challenge. Thank goodness I had my stove. It has been brilliant. It does hot water for my bath and I have cooked a lot of stuff on it too.

It is warming up nicely now so roll on March 🙂

 

January in the Algarve.

 

Has been a mixed bag. We hand a couple of weeks where the temperature reached 19ºC during the day and didn’t fall below 8ºC at night. We have more normal winter weather now with a cold northwesterly blowing and a excepted maximum of 13ºC. But is is sunny so my solar panels are working well 🙂 . I still haven’t built a charge controller for the wind turbine to harness all the wind energy we have here.

 

Gardening/agriculture wise it’s been a good month. I have started a green compost heap to try and rapidly compost weeds. However I don’t think it will be sufficient so I invested 30 evros in a metre cubed of “stumu”.

Stumu

Stumu

I think it is essentially bog. It smells likes the place in Kenya where we used to go to buy earthworms for fishing.

 

 

 

 

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I have applied some on a small vegetable bed where I have planted some cabbages and four cucumber plants. They are under the cut bottles. DSC_0398I am excited about the cucumbers as I have never seem a cucumber plant before!

I added the cardboard layer after planting as this is when I managed to get hold of some. It works very well as a weed suppressant.

 

 

 

organically grown cabbageOf the cabbages I planted in November I got only 1 badly eaten individual. But it was tasty. 🙂 I got some red cabbages growing at the Seven Sisters swale (ditch) so we’ll see have they come along. I currently get a steady stream of lettuce leaves, even in winter.

 

 

Jamie Oliver Green Peas

Jamie Oliver Green Peas

The trees are doing well. I have planted another plum tree this weekend  as well as a couple more carob trees. One of the two lemon trees has actually flowered! This is just the beginning of it’s second year’s growth. I might a actually see a lemon or two this year 🙂 . I need to press on with grafting more olive trees this month as well as try and set some hardwood cuttings of fig and pomegranate.

 

 

 

 

almond bloom

almond bloom

The almond trees are in bloom. I planted 30 almond seeds in late October in fifteen holes. Six almond saplings are now growing! I have also been transplanting some of my young almond trees as I have quite a few of them.

Young almond trees

Young almond trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the EIGHT Jamie Oliver greens pea plants are doing well. I should have really sown more. The Portuguese here grown them in clusters. I’ll try this next time. I gt some gowning down at the Seven Sister’s Swale too. I palnted 10 potatoes in the heavy clay just to see how they will do. Six potato plants are now growing slowly.

 

 

 

I haven’t done much about the floor inside the house or built Primeiro his dog house. I need to built a chicken coop too. We eat a lot of eggs. Manged to solve the horrible smell you used to get after you emptied the urine tank by creating a simple U-bend in the flexible hose.

 

I am slow but I am having fun doing what I manage to do :).

Olives 2014

Olives – we love eating the things!

 

 

picking olives

I picked mine October onwards. I have 3 cultivar olive trees. They have not been pruned or cared for in years – so have grown very large and unkempt. Their height makes picking olives for eating very difficult. I was only able to pick olives of the shortest one. This with the aid of a ladder.

 

Over the season I picked 3 kilogrammes of olives from the one tree. The olives on all three trees were heavily infected by the Mediterranean fruit fly. They lay their eggs in the olives and their larvae then eat the olive from the inside. This year I must do something to thwart them. Since I don’t want to spray with pesticides, I think my options are limited to clay coating the olives. I have read that kaolin clay is the clay to use but I think any other fine clay would be suitable. The other option is to use fly traps around the trees.

 

I marinaded the olives following an italian receipe which I found on the internet. I had to substitute the dill with wild thyme as I didn’t have any. I do have a lot wild thyme here so there’s always a wild time to be had 🙂 . I never knew about wild thyme until one swedish neighbour introduced me to it. She is a very knowledgeable gardener. For my first attempt I have to say I am very pleased with the result. DSC_0277 DSC_0377

These olives are certain very edible and I have eaten my way through half of them.

 

I have a lot of wild olives trees. They produced either no olives or very miniscule ones. I however had one wild olive tree produce half decent olives. wild olivesThey are about half the size of the cultivar variety and while not having much flesh on them are still worth the chew with drinks.DSC_0306

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I attempted cleft grafting a wild olive tree. We’ll have to wait a few weeks to see if it’s successful or not. I have read up on and am still learning the different techniques used to graft trees from articles on the internet. I have my grafting compound and grafting tape and am definitely raring to go come spring! DSC_0383

 

 

 

 

End of year and a new beginning..

DSC_0357So 2014, draws to an end. My life here in Portugal has got busier and more difficult in the latter part of the year. I am still very happy nevertheless.

 

The wooden lamparquet floor I was installing ended in dismal failure. It has lifted in several places in the kitchen. It will all have to be removed. I have switched to tiles for the living room area. This together with obtaining Portuguese residency consumed a lot of time.

 

The dog’s been difficult as well . He bit me a few times but we have made a lot of progress since then. I can’t still touch his basket with him in it. He’s very possessive. He needs three walks a day, so I am walking a minimum of 5 km everyday with him.

 

DSC_0316Winter’s been cold. I don’t have adequate heating and the heat loss of the cottage is horrendous. There is really no insulation to speak of. Luckily the temperatures have only hovered a little below 4ºC on just a few nights. I am using a stove as my sole heat source. I also use it to boil water for bathing. It’s too cold for outdoor showers now.

 

Trees. I have planted quite a few trees! Mainly fruit trees. I have a small orange grove in the making but it will take a few years for them to grow. I planted them on either side of the swale. Green peas and lettuce are growing really well. I can also say cardboard layering works brilliantly as a weed supressant.DSC_0342

 

 

 

 

 

LE 300

LE 300

young lemon and lime and tangerine trees

young lemon and lime and tangerine trees

 

Got the wind turbine up. It’s only a 300 Watt one but I like it! At the moment it’s not charging my batteries as I have to build the charge controller.

 

Bring on 2015. It will be the real test for me. As someone told me, 2014 has been my watershed year.

Summer loving..there was none of that but other things kept me occupied. :)

August has come and gone. And a busy August it has been too. Completely none stop, with hundred and one things going on.

DSC_0226It was fantastic to have my friend PT Jorge and my brother visit me!  Maybe we should have relaxed more but I had them both give me a hand with things that needed doing.  Jorge was fantastic in aiding me to harvest the carobs. We got 12 sacks full.  carobs_collected

 

 

 

 

 

 

The carobs are then sold at this Co-operative type place who personally I think are doing a fantastic job. The Government now want there cut from every carob bean traded.. :). DSC_0249

 

 

 

 

 

 

My brother was a great help. We had a go at installing the wooden floor (oak lamparequet blocks) using untried methods. It was challenging but we managed to find a method that seems to work. But gluing the 2 mm cork underlay to the floor first and then using a minimal amount of glue for the wooden blocks that stick on top of it seems to work best. It is a slow process never the less and I’ll be lucky to get the kitchen finished before winter. DSC_0260 He was a great help in helping be to find the pipes in the walls. There was no mains pipework installed which is good to know. I can now implement my own solution. My bro also helped me install my second solar panel array on the roof. Couldn’t have managed this on my own. It consists of three, 160 watt panels giving me a total generation capacity of 960 watts which should be sufficient for my needs. I have a 1200 W inverter.

This runs all my current appliances except the washing machine which stresses it out. I would like to go upto 2400 Watts but I am not sure if I have enough batteries to sustain this type of load for any significant amount of time.

I charge my electric bicycle from my solar generated electricity! I really love this bike. It has given me substantial independence here and has good range of 60 km. gingabike TWA

The composting toilet has been challenging in terms of the odour. I was almost about to call it a day last week but I have decided to stick with it. I’m going to seal it up and then use forced ventilation for this enclosed space.

 

 

 

steady_trickleBeen getting a steady stream of veggies.  Cherry tomatoes, rocket, basil sweet, peppers, melons! bro_wit_melon and now the garlic are doing well. They wouldn’t sprout in August because it was too hot.This despite giving them all the water they could possibly want.

 

Sweet Million F1I am really pleased the two Sweet Million cherry tomatoes that I planted back in March have come through for me!  I have this august,  planted a bit of ginger in a pot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0262 It’s growing slowly but steady. This week I put a bit in the ground so fingers crossed. I’ve planted a few fruit trees as well so I have a mini orchard now. A clementine, tangerine – my bro gave me hand with this one, lemons, lime, one pear tree and a couple of peach.

 

 

 

 

 

It the middle of September. I have been harvesting my almonds. It has colled down and actually rained today. So I got to built Primeiro a house -asap. He is a good dog and I glad I have him. He´s got my back whwn he’s not trying to bite me..) He is a little possessive of this things. I got him a trailer now, so when we have to travel far I pull him along in this.

Of Rats and Seeds

Rats and seeds.
melon
I will have been back two weeks in Portugal come tomorrrow. I returned to find the house completely infested with rats. They got in through the chimney which I had failed to block adequately. They were have themselves a rave. They ate everything edible and even the non edible. My solar power system was disabled until a couple of days ago because the rats had gnawed through the cables. They really go go for the PVC insulation with a vengeance. The last two were too intelligent for the traps and seemed immune to poison. So I named them the Rasputins. I had to take them out by hand as I couldn’t stand it any longer. I disabled my kitchen drain in the process / dead rat trap in the pipe, but thankfully have sorted this out today. The whole place absolutely stinks of rat wee but I am cleaning up slowly.

My Irish/English neighbour, Denise was good as gold and look after Priemeiro, my dog, as well as my plants while I was away finishing of my degree. I am now a holder of a BSc Open. I can definitely say it was worthwhile doing. I specialised in environmental sciences and linguistics in my third year modules. Oceanography was tough but really useful for gaining an insight as to how our planet functions as a biosphere. The Renewable Energy was really practical and fun.

I have been planting seeds as quick as I can. The Jamie Oliver peas I had planted when I first got here, in Feb had fruited. So I collected seeds from these pods which I planted. They sprouted within a week! I hope to save them from the snails this time round.

Planted more beans and I also got a pot full of coriander coming up. Sown some rocket with willow cuttings in a builder´s bucket. I planted about 14 willow cuttings out in the field but they are really struggling. It is far too dry and hot for them. I have sited the builder´s bucket underneath the carob tree so it should be shaded. The Carob tree is a wonderful tree. Besides not requiring irrigation and producing a cash crop, they provide ample shade. Tomatoes are what I crave. I got a few from my first attempt but they, like the green peppers are struggling to grow in the heavy clay soil. I´ll have to try something different with the new batch of seedlings.
I am trying to propagated a few grape vine from cuttings. So far just one has taken.

As for flowering plants, I think the trailing lobelia have germinated! I see tiny pairs of leaves comign through the soil 🙂 I collected the seeds from my garden in England. Can’t wait!

peasI got a small harvest of beans, but they have all turned yellow now. Maybe it´s too hot for them.
Look the one melon! I have 4 melon plants but just one melon so far.. . I also planted a peach tree. lemon_n_peach
My lemon tree is not doing great. The new leaves are curled and deformed and all leaves have an unhealthy yellowish tinge.

Been working on my round house when i can. It´s been slow but steady ) I´ve almost got the stone and rubble foundation done. DSC_0202

That’s all from me and my dog in the campo 🙂

Almost 3 months on..

Almost 3 months on and still no pipes. I just haven’t been able to work out where the main pipes are that would bring water into the house. I went and got copies of the planning application for the build from the town hall but these make no mention of plumbing of any sort being installed. So for now this is how the kitchen sink is operating 1397664573305and these are the showering facilities 🙂 DSC_0146. It’s great at the moment as I manage to get scalding hot water between noon and five pm. Looks like I will have to go down the route of breaking walls to try and  find the  pipes.

 

 

 

Here I’m using the portable bbq as a kind of rocket stove. DSC_0167It works very well as  I have plenty of branches and twigs to feed the beast.  I found putting a pot inside the main pot works well and means you have only the one blackened cooking pot. You can see that I got green beans cooking around the smaller pot with the rice inside.

DSC_0161

Caught some snails for some Portuguese people as a practice run. When life gives you lemons make lemonade 🙂 Looks like I have to eat them myself soon 🙂         1398584167040

Speaking of lemons I planted my first lemon tree which I got at a monthly market that’s help in Montecarapacho.

Got my first veggies! Green peas that I had planted from seed. first_green_peasJust two plants survived the snails.

I stuck carob tree cutting in the ground to see if they will root.

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I got a dog now. Primeiro Maio. primeiro 1

He a good dog with a good set of fangs. He gave me a good bite when I got between him and another dog when they were mixing it up.  I’m fine. I am not foaming at the mouth any more than usual :).

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My kind neighbour, Denise it looking after him at he moment while I’m away for a bit.

The off-grid solar setup is working fantastically well! The Victron 1200W inverter can drive both my fridge and 5 kg capacity WASHING MACHINE!
This with just two 160W solar panels. At around 11:30 am I had them generating over 8A at 35V.  (I’m on a 24V system)
This is more that sufficient power for the above mentioned load. The batteries remained fully charged throughout the  washing machine’s program.

So Happy days! 🙂

 

 

 

First Steps

Well, it´s been just over a month since I´ve been in Portugal. The first few days were really hard. I had huge rats crawling all over the place and no light. Fortunately my batteries arrived by the end of the first week so I got my solar panels  and led lights working.  They are working really well out here.  DSC_0073_sBlew up my cheap Chinese inverter a couple of weeks a ago though – by connecting it the wrong way round.

I splashed out and got a 1200W Victron. I have as yet to test it properly to see that it does what it says on the tin. But I´m confident as Victron inverters have pedigree. I plan to use it to run a fridge,  pump and electronic equipment. I´m running most lights directly off the batteries.

I had week of dust bowl hell. The floors were not sealed. The dust even killed the keep pad of my mobile phone. I couldn´t deal with the floors uni I finished my uni assignment.

Toilet – as there is no water in the house I have a composting toilet. It works really well. potty It separates the poo and wee so there is really no poo smell, once you cover it it with a bit of hay.  I have got to pipe the wee outside though as it gets a bit smelly if kept indoor.

Don´t know when I´ll get the water sorted out. I still haven´t worked out where the pipes go.. .

first_plantingsPlanted a few things. Green peas, yellow peppers, onions and garlic. Two tomato seedlings sprouted but they don´t look too sturdy.  I´ve got a compost heap going as well. Works great for recyclign all organic waste. green_peasMy perennial fusia seems to have recovered. I´m pleased about this as it flowered in England every year without fail.

 

Senhor_Panadero

Bought and installed a stove. Eustfas Juan Panadero No.3 . It´s a top loader so a bit tricky lighting and reloading it but it works well once it´s going. I also love my WROX rotary drill! It the first time I´ve used one. Brilliant! buraco

 

 

 

Well that´s all for now. The battle with the rats with be drawn out. They are determined and intelligent. They avoid the rat traps. Outside is absolutely crawling with them. The air is also thick with bees but this is a good thing. I never saw a bee in England in my garden going back a  good few years.  It rained really heavily this week. I mean absolutely poured down. But I´m not complaining. The wild flowers are loving it.wild_lillies