Black van

A black van arrives most mornings and disgorges a bunch of good-looking young people, distinguished by beards and/or dreadlocks, who then work the land over the course of an often long day. Their current tasks are to fill the tree holes and layer the swales with compost and mulch (straw) and to continue to distribute the stones in the land to best advantage for the swales and for the plants to come. Hillocks of compost sacks and miniature hay ricks appeared at the bottom of the track up the hill, dropped off by van, and were then delivered by tractor to the top and sides of the land where they could be more easily dragged or rolled to where they were needed.

I was in England for a while this past week and in that time an enormous amount of rain fell here. From the pictures Husband sent me and the descriptions he gave, it sounded more torrential than any I’d ever experienced. Certainly the river is lovely now: enough current to smooth over the worst of the council digging – which went on for ages but seems at last to have stopped – and with a crystal clarity. The rain proved a little too much for the swales, however. There were a few breaches, one in particular that carved a clear path through, leaving a U-shaped gap in the earth mound. This is good, however. It revealed exactly where the water on its desired route down the land met a weak point in the swale, and enabled us to fix it before the planting started. It was a fierce downpour and so a worthwhile test. Additionally, the swales, newly made, are at their most fragile. When plants have established themselves on them with root systems burrowing down, they’ll be stronger. Even in their newly made state, they channelled and furrowed the rainwater to much better effect than has ever happened before. So, it was all done just in time.

It was several days after I returned home before I could even go and see what had happened on the hill, having been laid low by an English cold. When I finally emerged, it was to a whole new space, one which invites wandering and exploration and offers many opportunities for planting. Today, I got to be an occupant of the big black van, as we drove the long journey across the Algarve to Monchique to our chosen viveiro to purchase the trees and shrubs, which include these: Portuguese oak, olive, almond, red pepper tree (not sure if that is its name in English), loquat, fig, medronho, quince, persimmon, plum, apricot, mango, banana, avocado, grapefruit, lemon, lime, blackberry, mulberry, goji, strawberry, walnut, vine . . .

Our plant haul, arranged in the back of the black van. Being away and then sick this week meant that this is the only photograph I took, but it is one to lift the heart


  1. Hazel

    Wow!!! A proper market garden! How fantastic to have all those different fruit trees! Hope the English stinker is now a thing of the past — we’ve all had the one that lasts six weeks or so: hideous. The clear Algarvian air will do the trick. xx

  2. Patricia Roberts

    Such a blog today I am breathless, what a list of trees to plant. It is becoming a huge undertaking, it makes my effort in my garden rather feeble. I may try again today, you inspire me. Glad to hear your nasty cold has gone. I await the next instalment. Love to you, Marsie

  3. BeckyB

    oh now you have had the horrid cold too . . . I’ve been out of sorts too because of it.

    But how exciting about the trees, they look wonderful. Can’t wait to see it all, and fingers crossed we don’t have all that rain again. We’ve seen quite a lot of damage in the hills this week, and haven’t dared attempt another ford crossing.

  4. fatma

    Wow, so many trees! It’s going to be amazing up the back hill. How really wonderful. And interesting to hear how the work progresses. So we have ‘Meditation Hill’ to the front; have you settled on a name for this new creation yet?


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