Never give up

Moody weather over the Meditation Hill

Linaria amethystea, Amethyst Toadflax, a tiny jewel amid the abundant greenery


The landform engineering is complete. The steepest part of the hill is wreathed in swales. They are large and deep, and within each land-hugging curve is a flatter terrace designed to make the land easier to walk on and – eventually – harvest from. The completion of the digging was met with downpours. Pleasingly, the swales, although they lack the mulching and the plant roots that will make them truly like sponges, channelled and held on to plenty of water.

Before the rain came we sowed the swales with seed – what musical words! – of broad bean and oat to generate green manure for spring-time and roots to train the water down into the earth. I joined in, informing the others as I scattered the seed with a sweep of the arm that this was the origin of the English word ‘broadcast’. This fascinating announcement fell on stony ground. Of much more interest to them – I discovered only when I’d finished – was my technique of scattering. It took me four times as long as anyone else and on completion I was met with indulgent looks. I demand patience from my co-workers, it seems. My desired transition from desk-worker to smallholder is going slowly. I’m still more Margot than Barbara.

It was morning and the sun rising over the opposite hill – the Meditation Hill – had lit up most of the dew drops like diamonds, but some drops, hanging heavily from grass stalks by a broken rock, looked more like copper, gold, amethyst. The broken rock had to be shale, I realised; this shiny film is what the fossil-fuel dinosaurs are interested in. It’s a great relief that the contracts giving one deluded businessman the rights to frack almost half of the landmass of the Algarve were cancelled. All the offshore rights remain in place, however, and one activist with her nose close to the paperwork – Laurinda Seabra – discovered that in January the government had secretly signed the licence for Galp-ENI to start drilling 3,000 metres below the seabed off the Aljezur coast. Not only that, in the small print the oil consortium is exempt both from paying licence fees and a security deposit and from providing proof that they have civil responsibility insurance in place – which can surely only mean that they have no such insurance in place. The government has taken no notice whatsoever of our repeated protests and petitions. Gestures towards public consultation were a weird Trumpian handshake while behind the scenes it was business as usual. So we’ll have to keep protesting. The next demonstration takes place in Lisbon outside the Assembleia da República on 23 February, when a long overdue parliamentary hearing is intended finally to take place to discuss the issues raised during the public consultation process: just to complete the window-dressing on their part, I guess.

Soon we will plant trees on the land. Mind you, with all the log fires we’ve been making to drive out the damp and the chill of recent wet days, we must be burning more trees than we could ever replace. Hypocrisy – never far away.

The sparrows refuse to lose interest in our veranda and its mud nest. They managed somehow to dislodge the two corks nailed together with metal U-pins. This contraption must match the body weight of the sparrows, so they really do deserve applause. But they are not getting in on my watch. I’ve replaced the corks. Build your own nest, feathered friends. You have so much space to choose from.

The sparrows don’t give up. The oilmen don’t give up. And we don’t give up. Well, apart from last week when I was scheduled to write a blog as ever, but ran out of juice and didn’t do it. It is a purely self-imposed deadline, an exercise in self-discipline and commitment as much as in communication, but it’s important to me and I didn’t like failing to meet it. I’m glad to be back this week.

This sparrow youngster was fascinated by the phones near the Signal Tree, aka the central post of the veranda with its backdrop of bougainvillea, often strung about with devices as it is one of the best places to have a chance of picking up an incoming call. First it looked at itself in the screen . . .

. . . then, having discovered how cute it was, it played all coy in front of Husband, hiding its face in its wing


  1. Hazel

    And we’re glad to have you back, Ede! Glorious photos this week — all that greenery. The violet toadflax is much prettier than the rather vulgar bright yellow sort of fleshy variety we get in Ally Pally park, tho’ I’m always pleased to see it later in the year. We have been shivering in London altho’ today it’s warming up. Am beginning to feel sorry for the sparrows you’ve foiled so comprehensively! And glad you haven’t gone in for a cat, with that little fellow pictured above. xx

  2. fatma

    Oh, hypocritical Margot, moved across waters from urbanity to embrace (relatively) remote rural living; baking your own bread, growing your own fruit, making your own jam, installing solar panels, reforming your own land for planting trees, throwing yourself into the good fight against degradation of the land and sea and, last but not least, protector of wildlife habitat on your own verandah. Well, really, you should be ashamed of yourself.

  3. fatma

    ps. loved the fotos of the sparrow admiring itself in the mobile phone! The tenacity of that tiny creature has to be admired although one does wonder, why put all that all effort into appropriating another home when surely, in the face of the obstacles you are setting in its way, it would be easier to build its own home……

  4. BeckyB

    Hooray you are back, and with such a lovely post too. Glad all is well . . . .albeit I guess the person who was home alone last weekend didn’t plant the trees or build the nestbox then?!!!

    They won’t give up you know, so here’s the link

  5. Lionel

    Swale on … good luck, relieved it was not all washed away in the deluge, look fwd to seeing the results in years to come. I have sprinkled SO many seeds over years and know now that they only come up it if THEY want to. First orchids out though! Curious, what do that old Lotario and Maria make of it all? Ex-pat eccentricity or sound country wisdom? Not to mention those dogs!


  6. Madeleine Day

    Thanks for the update. Good to have you back – missed you! More Margot than Barbara – look forward to seeing you planting, in your evening dress! I will join you – uh oh, what about those nails!!! All sounds great and look forwad to more news, and how the protest goes on 23rd Feb. OOh, I can smell the bread now! xx

  7. Patricia Roberts

    Seems you all have a long way to go ,what stalwarts you are,up against such liars they seem to be.take good care of yourself .


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