One hundred

Backlit poppies

Backlit poppies

Backlit lavender

Backlit lavender

vetch

Common Vetch, uncommonly pretty

hairy lupin

The Hairy Lupin, at seed stage, in the rain

Quaking grass

Tiny lanterns of Quaking Grass which, true to their name, shudder in finely tuned response to the merest movement of air

We will have a bumper crop of apricots this year

We will have a bumper crop of apricots this year

A turtle on the riverbank. Its front left leg is extended. A second after this picture was taken, it had disappeared into the water below

A turtle on the riverbank. Its front left leg is extended; disappearance is imminent. A second after this picture was taken, it had dropped into the water below. I was surprised it let me get this close

 

Had I continued to keep count of the weeks, this would be number one hundred. I’m quietly celebrating that milestone. I’m celebrating the rain, too. The sky today has been dark grey, with blooms of white cloud and shafts of yellow light. Our dirt track is running with brown streams and the river is the highest I’ve seen it for well over a year. I dropped into Flaviano’s emporium to collect the post – Nada!, always more of a disappointment for Flaviano than for me, it seems – and the round lady greeted me. ‘How’s about this for rain then?’ she said. ‘Yes!’ I replied (my Portuguese still so limited), and we each raised a thumb, simultaneously. Shared pleasure over rain. Since the relationship between rain falling out of the sky, our well filling up and having water to wash in, cook with and drink is so intimate and direct, it’s impossible not to love the rain.

A few days ago at breakfast Little Owl arrived on his perch (a telegraph pole) and gave us a hard stare. I went to grab a camera but was too late, it flew off. Every day its calls rebound around the valley. At night, the Scops Owl adds its unique sound. We lie in bed at night and hear its solemn and restrained sonar beeps, so unlike the shrieks of the Little Owl. I looked the birds up in a book and discovered that the Scops Owl is smaller still than the Little Owl. Two tiny owls filling our days and nights with sound. We wonder if the Scops Owl, so present in our garden at night, is interested in the nest box we placed in a carob tree up the hill, not far from the bank of solar panels. The box is designed for hoopoes and small owls. I crept up for a look this week: no sign of any habitation.

Our little bend-in-the-valley world is filled with melodious nightingales, cisticolas (whose flight pattern and matching call seem to have tightened up: the loops are sharper and the calls more frequent), babbling swallows, whistling orioles and, impossible to ignore, the frantic call of the serin, that tiny, bursting bundle of yellow feathers. I feel for the serin. I hope its energetic song is born of triumph and not desperation.

The effort not to waste lemons continues. The pickled lemons I made a good few weeks back using a Diana Henry recipe, which involved briefly salting the sliced lemons then packing them up in paprika-dusted layers with oil, has been to my satisfaction, but not Husband’s. To appeal to his tastes, I’ve taken a recipe from the Prashad book, which comes from a small, northern English-based Indian restaurant. The first stage is under way: 1 kilo of chopped, pipped lemons – from Maria’s tree – are macerating in a terracotta sludge consisting of turmeric + salt + the juice that came off the chopped lemons. I give the plastic box a good shake every day, and after three weeks they will be ready for the next stage of flavouring.

I have turned my back on the nespera (loquat) tree, whose boughs are weighed to the ground with pink-flushed yellow fruit. There are just too many. The birds can have them. Our fig tree now has full-size, still-green fruit; not for nothing does the oriole (the papafigos, or fig-eater) turn up at this time. I’d like to get the figs before they do, though. They are so exquisite, and last year we had only the first harvest; the weather was too dry for the tree to manage a second fruiting.

We went this week to a day-long discussion session at the University of the Algarve about the ‘economic, social and environmental impact of hydrocarbon exploration in the Algarve in the 21st century’ – a long title for a well-presented but very ill-attended day. More disappointing than the lack of attendance was the presentation from the Portuguese Association for Renewable Energy, who are – it seems to me – failing to promote solar energy, while still spreading the now-discredited theory that natural gas is a halfway house between fossil fuels and renewable energies. We learnt the extraordinary fact that the solar contribution to energy in the UK is twenty-two times greater than it is in Portugal. I don’t need to tell you how much more the sun shines here than it does in the UK – even if this week might have been an exception.

One day this week I noticed something sticking out of one of the back doors. I bent down and took a closer look: it was a little skull. I opened the door to find the rest of the skeleton inside the door jamb. It was a small gecko that had been unintentionally garrotted. I detached its tiny skeleton from the door and let it be taken by the breeze, feeling out-of-all-proportion sad about this tiny, accidental death.

grotto

I like a bit of religion. Here’s Mary in her grotto in the church of Santiago, the pilgrim, in Tavira

14 Comments

  1. Nicola Orsolini

    Hi Mari – wow your abricots and figs are well in advance of ours here, we are still at the flowers stage. Much enjoy your posts, I like a bit of religion too and love the grotto picture. Look foward to seeing the new pool soon. Love from Provence Nicola (ex-T&H)

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      How lovely to hear from you, Nicola. I hope all is well in Provence with you and your family. ‘Husband’ sends his love.

      Reply
  2. Hazel

    Will visit Santiago church next time we’re in town. I made apple jelly with next-door-but-two’s apples last autumn. Very soft set. Am now waiting with bated breath to hear how the latest lemons turn out. Reminded me of Someone’s battles with kimchi. First batch = fab. Second batch = unmistakable bin-fodder. xx

    Reply
  3. Becky B

    Oh that is sad about your gecko but how wonderful everything else is at the moment in your gorgeous valley. Apparently it’s been too cold for rain this winter which probably explains why as it has got hotter this week there have been downpours 😊
    Look forward already to another lunch in the Autumn and don’t forget if you are in England before then to pop by.

    Reply
  4. Clare

    Congratulations, Edith, for hitting the 100 milestone! Look forward to the next 100….

    (ps it is often very hard to motivate people to stand up and take sustained action, I wish you well with the campaign)

    Reply
  5. Janet M

    Congratulations on 100! Lovely writing as usual.

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      Thank you, Janet, for being with me from the start – no, from before the start! And congratulations to you too – you must have reached a milestone or two yourself.

      Reply
  6. Madeleine

    Thanks for all the lovely pics and updates of your lovely time. Miss you both! Apricots??? I am waiting to see if my fig tree will produce anything….. xx

    Reply
  7. bikes_bics

    Hi, I was recommended to visit you by Becky B. What beautiful photos. We’re a little further east than you north of Conceicao. I’ve recently learned to make tea from the nespera leaves (blog post on that due on Sunday) and I just can’t get enough of eating those fruit! Looking forward to catching up on the past 100 posts. Sarah

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      Hello, Sarah, thanks for visiting. Can’t wait to learn how to make tea from nespera leaves! I’ve been eating the fruit too – decided I could turn my back on them no longer – but I can’t make much of a dent in the quantity.

      Reply
      1. bikes_bics

        Time to get making jam! That’s on my list for this coming week.

        Reply
  8. Jane Maufe

    What beautiful, descriptive writing. I wonder if you can see the Guadiana River from your house ? It has such a romantic name. A great pity that it has been dammed thus reducing its dramatic stature.

    Reply
  9. Allure

    I love loquats. Here in northern Portugal we call them “magnório”.

    Also gorgeous photos as usual! Love the turtle pic

    Reply
  10. fatma

    The picture of the poppies is exquisite! I too feel sad, a sadness all over again for the little gecko who inadvertently came to an unexpected and no doubt untimely end. Please send the loquats over here! (to the UK). We love them and they are not so abundant in this part of the world.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: