Rosemary for remembrance. The plant is highly scented, dripping with flowers and humming with bees just now


On 21 November we celebrated (with a fine bottle of Alentejo red, ‘moon-harvested’, and a log fire) two years of living in this house in the Algarve, a move we’ve never regretted, a change that turned out even better than we thought it would.

Recently we have had plentiful rain – exactly like when we moved in – soaking the red earth and bringing dormant seeds to life. The cabbages and lettuces we planted look pert and healthy. No snails crawling over them but I’ll have to keep my eye on things. We haven’t established an adequate rainwater-collection system yet. Ideally we would have a system that funnels harvested rain straight into the cisterna under the front veranda. We’ve been making do with a water butt at the back of the house, which we dip into. The water running off the front roofs was not being captured. For now at least, we decided to buy some more butts.

‘Did you look up the Portuguese for water butt?’ asked Husband at the wheel of the car.

‘Oh, I forgot, and I forgot to bring a dictionary too.’

‘You could try your phone.’

Google Translate duly delivered bunda de água.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Me too. Notoriously unreliable means of translation, and it’s American English, which means a whole different take on ‘butt’. So I reverse-translated bunda and came up with ‘ass’, and I believe it’s not of the donkey variety. So if we’d trusted Google we’d have gone into the DIY place and asked a nice young man for some arse.

We weren’t born yesterday.

Not to say there aren’t a million things we still have to learn, and many more pitfalls to encounter. That’s just one we managed to avoid.

My list of things-to-learn gets longer all the time. Portuguese language remains top. The lessons with the new teacher, of whom I had such high hopes, have not gone well. No sooner had she bumped me up to level two than she decided I’d be better in level three, this being ‘conversation’, which is something of a stretch. I think it’s because – and I’m ashamed to admit it – I wore a rather impatient face throughout the lesson at level two. The class was largely conducted in English, with lateral conversations in French and Dutch, and I did get fed up.

Finding the right teacher and the right method of learning is surely more challenging than the language itself.

We’re waiting for the river to arrive. So too are the local junta de freguesia, who have been digging up the river bed while they still have the chance. They do this to get material to repair the parish roads – so I was told (in Portuguese) by the JCB driver when I went down to see what they were doing, and to give them a hard stare in case it was anything illegal or dodgy that was going on. He assured me it was all good, good for the riverbed and good for the roads. He was avuncular and polite and he opened the conversation with me and I appreciated that. He even said my Portuguese was good, which it is not, and might call into question the value he attaches to the word.

This is my last post for this year. I shall bring the blog back in 2017. I wish I could say ‘Happy new year’, but it would feel a bit fatuous. Such global uncertainties await us all, but Husband and I have finally opened our eyes to something close to home: our land. We’ve been treating the hillside we ‘own’ as a sort of embarrassment, describing ourselves as fleas claiming to own the dog. Well, no more fleas. We’re going to take that land on and nurture it. We’re going to create a ‘food forest’, following the principles of permaculture. It will take time to establish, and the list of things-to-learn just got impossibly long, but we have experts to learn from. Wish us luck!

PS Just before posting this blog, I drove off to see some neighbours. Rolie had a flat tyre and replacing that made me late but we’re all on Portuguese time so that was OK. Coming home, back down the track, I saw one lorry, then another, hauling away loads of the riverbed. I’d pulled over to let them by but the second truck came so slowly I wondered what was holding him up. Had he pulled aside and was waiting for me? But no. It was a hare, a beautiful, mottled-brown Iberian Hare with tall, black-fringed ears. He was zigzagging in front of the lorry and only when he came alongside me did he finally jink and run up the hillside. Little Edith’s heart was all a-flutter! This felt very special.

The neglected land . . .

The neglected land . . .

. . . and another view

. . . and another view


  1. Nicola

    Hi Marie – best end of year wishes to you and Christian. I still love reading your blog – so much of what you describe mirrors our own life here in Provence although you are some months ahead of us on most vegetation. All best and until 2017 – Nicola (T&H)

  2. BeckyB

    Only last night we were discussing that it must be about your Second Anniversary, and I was going to check your archives this morning! But then awoke to this lovely post . . .

    Very excited about your plans. Really looking forward to hearing all the details over lunch today.

  3. Hazel

    Wow! That land looks seriously challenging — very good luck to both with it. Somewhat selfishly, I’m looking forward already to the yummy results. Maybe you can fence off a corner for a few goats and make cheese? Wednesday mornings without you will be agonising!!! Roll on Blog No. 1 in January (I hope). xx

  4. Janice Bell

    Good luck with the permaculture project. I shall look forward to reading about it.
    How is your husband’s bread making coming on. Does he sell what he makes?

    1. Edith (Post author)

      Hi Janice, thanks. Husband makes his bread to order, for friends and neighbours, which guarantees its sale, though this is quite intensive in terms of customer service and labour. The bakery is great for me and for friends who come to stay with us because we always have our own delicious domestic supply.

  5. Clare

    Hares are the best! Good luck with the new project. I think I speak for many when I say that we look forward to reading about and seeing photos of the fruits of your labour.

  6. fatma

    Wow, good luck with the perma culture project. That will be an undertaking. And, Congratulations! On the two year anniversary. How time really does fly….Amazing. As I have said before, you have achieved so much already. And so much more to come. Meditation Hill to the front in situ; Perma Hill to the rear in planning! Have a good, (very long!) end of year break. Bit early for this but, (in Spanish for me) Hasta el ano nuevo!

  7. fatma

    ps. would love to have seen the Hare.

    1. Edith (Post author)

      The hare was a beauty. Next time you come, Fatma . . .

  8. Allure

    Word of advice, dont use Google cause it translates to brazilian portuguese. Learned that recently.

    Good luck with the new project!

  9. ana

    Hi Edith! Anytime you want to swap some of that bread (or permaculture knowledge) for a chat in Portuguese to help you practice, let me know! 🙂

  10. Edith (Post author)

    Ana, that’s a great idea. (Bread is certainly an option but it will be a while before we have any permaculture knowledge to share!) I’ll be in touch.


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