Perfect joy (or was it?)

This wild pear tree predates our arrival, but has never done much. Certainly its few and hard small fruit have never been of interest to us. But as if the permaculture project on the hillside above has given it a boost, it produced more blossom this spring than we’ve ever seen. The blossom is sweetly fragrant and thrumming with bees and wasps. If you get too close for a sniff you are in danger of inhaling the stinging insects


Tuesday 7 March: a day to remember. The red-rumped swallows returned – much earlier than we’d expected them. It was warm enough for breakfast on the veranda. It’s rather exposed there now since we cut the bougainvillea back to a coarse heart-shape bristling with cut arteries that isn’t even visible over the front wall. We had to do it for the painting work. I miss its colour and exuberance and trust it to come back in full vigour. In the meantime, we now enjoy sweeping views from the full width of the veranda across the valley to the Meditation Hill. The same change of perspective has occurred inside the house, where you can glance up from the kitchen table or sofa, through the window that gives on to the veranda, right through to the other side of the valley. Our horizons have broadened.

Into these broadened horizons on Tuesday morning floated the shiny elegance of two red-rumped swallows. They surveyed the veranda in two broad sweeps through the airspace, then one returned and settled upon what remains of the nest on the hook. He – I think it was the male – delivered a peroration. It sounded like: ‘We’re back. This is ours. Sparrows, get lost. And you humans could have done a better job of caretaking. You realise we now have to rebuild, don’t you? Don’t you think we’ve had enough work to do, flying here from Africa?’ Then off again. We sat there in perfect joy, despite the telling-off.

Later the same day, we saw barn swallows on the wire outside the house. Barn swallows, not red-rumped. Had we been mistaken in the morning? Still half asleep over breakfast, not fully with it? Over-keen to see one of our most beloved birds? We’re going to have to wait and see. If they were barn swallows on the veranda in the morning then it raises the uncomfortable possibility that we might have to protect the red-rumpeds’ home from the barn swallows, too.

We want the red-rumped swallows. They belong here. They’ve been a big part of our lives and we want them back.

And if it turns out that 7 March is memorable for nothing else then at least as the first night we didn’t light a fire in many a month. It seems to have been a long winter. Even if days were warm and bright, nights were always chilly – until now.


A Mediterranean Garden Fair took place near Silves, about an hour’s drive west, on Saturday. We went in Rollie with two friends. Four people in Rollie for a longish drive: this was a first. We’d have used the jeep but its engine packed up a couple of weeks ago and it’s undergoing a complex repair at a local garage. Rollie was well up to the task, including the transport on the return journey of a number of new plants for our land. We’re putting smaller trees and shrubs between the larger trees now, and after that we’ll probably start putting in vegetables in the reducing spaces that are left between. The small lavenders, sages and succulents went into Rollie’s boot. Into the rear footwell went the two grapefruit trees we selected on the advice of our permaculture expert to fill a couple of gaps in the irrigated swales. At roughly shoulder height they just fitted in, their young leaves brushing the roof. They were held securely between the two rear passengers, of whom I was one, for the return journey. Already showing blossom they ensured the journey home was bathed in heavenly citrus scent. Another kind of joy.

Then it turned out that the grapefruit trees were an error in translation. Our permaculture advisor does us the kindness of speaking in English, her third language. But ‘grapefruit’ tripped her up. She had meant to say ‘pomegranate’. And when you come to think of it, ‘grapefruit’ is a silly name. How did that stick? It came about because of the fruit’s tendency to grow in clusters, like grapes. This tendency has never been very evident in our one pre-existing grapefruit tree, even in its most abundant fruiting year, which was the year we moved in when we hardly knew what to do with all the fruit it gave. The name was a stretch of someone’s imagination.

According to Jane Grigson, in her Fruit book, the citrus’s earlier name was shaddock, after an English sea captain who brought its seeds from their native Java and Malaysia to Barbados in the eighteenth century, beyond which they spread to Europe. Alan Davidson, in his Fruit book, describes another old English name: pimplenose, a mishearing perhaps of the French name pamplemousse. Pimplenose! Such a brilliant name. I wonder if I can make that stick?

PS Three years ago when I began this blog journey I met another would-be blogger, Penny Johnstone, a lovely, warm person who was a huge encouragement to me. This week I learnt from her daughter that she has died of cancer. Pen: this one is in memory of you.

Damp crevices. One day after heavy rainfall the water-retaining capability of the swales is clear

Fava beans are sprouting all over the land after our broadcasting of the seeds: this is green manure

Our guest dogs, Estrela and Lordy, found something interestingly smelly on the veranda floor

With the bougainvillea cut back, Estrela and Lordy have found a new vantage point. In view top right is the inevitable plastic bag, used in the bakery for proofing doughs then washed and hung out to dry



  1. Edith (Post author)

    Wednesday morning: we weren’t mistaken! The red-rumps are here and claiming their home. They’ve been back in for a new inspection. We are so happy.

  2. hazel

    Yippee! So pleased for you! Hail, O red-rumps! Enjoyed Pimplenose as light relief at the start of what will be a taxing day. And aren’t Estrela and Lordy photogenic?! xx

  3. fatma

    Sorry to hear of your erstwhile blogger aspirant, Penny Johnstone, demise. It is a precious time we have on this earth indeed.

    It seems your pear tree needed the support of promised company to fully blossom; together with the return of the red rumped swallows (or is it the barn swallows?)it seems an auspicious beginning to what we might take as the beginning of Spring. How wonderful!

    ps. Lordy and Estrella looking very much at home!

  4. Patricia Roberts

    Such a lovely view from your veranda now,felt l was back there,it looks so homely,you surely have made your it your home,also Lordy and Estrella,l love what you are doing there ,this is a wonderful story,Peace be with you Penny.

  5. Madeleine Day

    Loved reading your blog, as always. Thanks for all the lovely update, and the pictures.

    Haven’t you read that book ‘ The Scarlet Pimplenose’? xxx

    1. Edith (Post author)

      Hahaha! Love it. xx

  6. Sue


    A very belated happy new year to you. I tend to read the blog in batches and have just spent a delightful hour or so catching up on this year’s posts.

    Hope to see you soon.

    1. Edith (Post author)

      Lovely to hear from you, Sue. I hope all’s well. xx

  7. Jane Brewer ( Nikki Jones)

    I really enjoyed reading about your Swales and th journey into planting on them. And I was at the Mediterranean Garden Fair too, what a pleasant event! nice to see your pear tree In full bloom, the pears here, although there hard are really sweet. I remember, when we first started coming here, seeing a whole pear in a bottle of liqueur. They used to attach empty bottles to a branch containing a nascent pear and then cut it when full grown, leaving the pear inside the bottle and filling it with aguardente.

  8. Edith (Post author)

    Thanks for dropping by, Jane. Yes, I’ve heard about the bottled pear in liqueur too, but never seen it.

  9. Michelle

    So sorry to hear about Penny. Thankful you were helped by her and that you found out and passed on the news.

    Enjoying your journey, as ever.

    1. Edith (Post author)

      Very sad about Penny, but good to see you here, Michelle.


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