Week 33: Fire and water

Évora is a well-preserved medieval Portuguese town and a World Heritage Site. This picture doesn’t do it justice, I just liked the way the fading sunlight caught a single building

Évora is a well-preserved medieval Portuguese town and a World Heritage Site. This picture doesn’t do it justice, I just liked the way the fading sunlight caught a single building

I liked the light here too. Arraiolos, in Évora district, where rugs have been made since the Middle Ages

I liked the sky here. Arraiolos, in Évora district, where rugs have been made for centuries and traditional designs can still be bought


On New Year’s Day we drove with friends north into Alentejo to visit Évora. The main reason for visiting, besides its being a beautiful place, was that Husband’s friend had as a young traveller many years ago wound up here and stayed put for months, making and selling bread to get by. There’s a whole story there – for another time. The next day we came home, our friends having taken the train to Lisbon. I went immediately to see Horse. I’d given him extra apples and carrots the previous day to see him through.

Horse wasn’t there. He’d gone back to his stable. He’d walked back, of his own accord, while I was away. Someone saw him pass by, texted the owners, and they opened the paddock for him. He’s a creature who knows his own mind, is Horse. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about him any more but I do miss him. Maybe he will need another holiday one day and come back.




An aspect of our original dream that hasn’t exactly come true is that of finding of an old Algarvian bread oven to restore and bake in. This oven isn’t old, but it’s functional, and with our visitors we tried it out for the first time. The most romantic part about it was using two wonderful, and genuinely old, pieces of handmade equipment – a peel, and a thing for shoving embers around, which might have a name but I don’t know it – which First Friends found for us in an long-abandoned ruin.

Our outside oven

Our outside oven


The oven heated up well enough to bake two loaves perfectly (and two imperfectly). Good, and good fun. We probably should have left the embers in for longer, but they did warm us up a treat in the wheelbarrow as the sun set.



The oven won’t do for serious breadmaking. Husband is right now in Germany where he will visit a specialist company to choose a well-engineered, stone-lined oven which will produce reliable, even, consistent heat and bake enough loaves for a small concern like he is setting up.


We have a well in our garden, which provides water for the house. We also have the use of Eleuterio’s well by the river, which provides water for the garden. Our own well feeds a 30,000-litre cisterna under the front veranda. We have since discovered that what most people have is a small cisterna with a valve that automatically operates a pump when the level drops and refills itself. We have a massive cisterna, which needs refilling infrequently, but has to be operated by combination of instinct and hard work. After a month of living here, we thought we’d better check the level.

Not easy. The metal-lined lid had rusted in place since it was last opened. It took hours of ingenuity, spread over several days and interspersed with consultations far and wide, just to get the lid off.


Almost empty

Almost empty

Getting water to the cisterna from the well involved a lot of hose, a pump, a valve and some kind of an air-lock screw – I don’t know what I’m talking about, Husband did all this – each operated separately and by hand. The first water that emerges is rather brown, so that goes into the garden. As soon as clear water flows, the hose has to be dragged to the cisterna – I do know what I’m talking about, I did this – and it was rather like trying to land a shark or some other powerful, wriggling thing that doesn’t want to be caught. We got the cisterna half full, gave the well a rest for a week or so, then did it all again and filled the tank to the top. I do wonder if the Sensibles were as sensible as I thought them.

Bom ano novo

And finally a very happy new year to you. Thank you so much for reading the blog – and, to those of you who have, for  commenting.


  1. Husband

    If that picture of Horse had been taken after his return home, I’d have said that it was HE who is missing YOU. It’s inconceivable he won’t be back for another holiday by the river, when the nights get warmer perhaps…

  2. Hazel

    I’m hoping he’ll find the need for a holiday at about the time we’re planning to pay you a visit! The well sounds fun — very aerobic, as far as getting the lid off the cisterna goes. Far more romantic than what we’re up against at the moment: moving a built-in wooden cupboard (where we keep the glasses . . .) to accommodate a decent fridge. Dull. Love the gorgeously glowing photos — clearly we’ve seen nothing like enough of lovely Portugal: the opportunity awaits!!! xx

  3. Vic

    Just love reading your blog with my morning coffee. I wonder if Horse will come back. xo

  4. Fiona

    Really enjoying all your tales, and look forward to reading more in 2015. Perhaps we can meet Horse at Easter?

  5. David Berridge

    Happy New year to Edith and Husband!

    It certainly looks idyllic.
    How wonderful to have a visit from a stray horse.

    I guess there was a check pre-purchase of the water supply as fit for human consumption.
    Here it would cost around £15, and well worth it every year or two.

    Here it is very grey, so it’s jolly good to see somewhere with sun.


    1. Edith (Post author)

      Thank you, David. Water test done post-purchase. Happy new year to you and Catherine.

  6. Fatma

    Ha Ha, enjoyed the blog this week (not that I don’t always….). The comment about the Sensibles made me laugh. Felt sad about Horse, quite unreasonably! as clearly he has a home and moves of his own will – to be applauded. All very interesting; is it not possible to rig up some kind of pump, valve pipe feed system from the well to the large cisterna?

  7. fatma

    ps. loved the photo of Evora with the sunlight picking out just that one far building top….great.


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