Week 33: Fire and water
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.
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.
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.