Quinta

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Portuguese Peasant Meal
One of our neighbours invited us for a meal. He does not get much company so he pushed the boat out for us.
When we arrived he had a wood fire burning in a corner of his kitchen. Already bubbling away was an iron pot placed in the fire. Next to it, already on the fire, was a metal frame that one might use to cook burgers over a fire.
He poured us generous whiskies. He turned over the empty metal frame.
He gave us a small bowl of this year’s olives cured in water and sprinkled with sea salt.
He popped out and brought in from his garden red and green peppers that he placed whole on the metal frame.
He had a chard like vegetable which he trimmed. The leaves were cut very thin. The stalks were cut at about one inch lengths.
He put some oil into a frying pan on his gas cooker. He made a batter using flour egg and milk and a little salt. Once the oil was smoking he dipped the lengths of chard stalk into the batter and cooked fritters. He served fritters.
He also poured more whiskey.
He turned the peppers.
The pot bubbling on the fire held white beans and the ear of a pig and four whole eggs now well hard boiled. He gave us lots of beans each and a slice of the pig’s ear. He poured olive oil over the cooked beans.
He peeled the hard boiled eggs and gave us one each.
He removed the peppers and placed whole sardines on the grill frame. These were not tiny sardines that one might have in a tin but were fishes about seven inches long.
He peeled and deseeded the cooked peppers and sliced them into a salad with sliced home grown tomato and olive oil and vinegar.
By now his red wine from last year was open.
The remains of the batter mix and the thinly chopped chard leaves and added eggs went into the frying pan to make an almost instant omelette.
Once he served the sardines he put sliced aubergine, oiled and salted, on the frame.
We had therefore olives, fritters, whole sardine, some pigs ear, beans, egg, salad, omelette, aubergine, bread, and wine. It was all very tasty although I did not try the pigs ear.
He placed a whole cheese on the table but we were all unable to eat more.
Part of the fascination for me was that I had never seen food cooked on a wood fire. As we still have language inadequacy we had no idea what was happening until it landed on our plates or in our glasses.

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18 October 2016

For about 20 years my wife and I intended to retire to the sun. I have always been interested in writing and my wife has always wanted to have horses.

Just over a year ago we bought a small farm in Portugal, called a “quinta”. It has about 7 1/2 acres of reasonably flat land, on several levels. A couple of the fields slope, but nothing that horses cannot deal with.

On the higher fields the bedrock is close to the surface, breaking through in places. The bedrock is called schist, so when you hit it you call out “schist” or something similar.

The lower fields are on a lower plain which at some point we think was a lake bed. The ground is richer and more productive which is good. It is more prone to flooding, which is bad. The lower land is crossed by storm drains which receive water from neighbours uphill and pass the water to neighbours downhill. If you do not maintain your storm drains the water stays with you for a long time.

The property had been neglected for at least a decade, so the neighbours are pleased to see us. Roughly a third of the local village stands unoccupied so we are not taking housing or agricultural land that someone covets.

Our first two priorities were to improve the property for us to live in, and to make the land appropriate for horses. Well over half our boundaries were secure, being either fenced or walled. We first secured an area for the horses to graze when they first arrived. We put tapes along ditches and boundary walls to stop the horses hurting themselves.

The horses were costing a lot of money at livery in England so getting them out to our farm was a priority. The horses settled in well and seem pretty happy. The only issue is flies. At this time of year the flies have reduced.

The property was pretty primitive with only a loo and a shower, concrete floors, and poor electrics. We have improved it immensely, but we are still making improvements.

So far we

  • Have fitted insect netting over the windows so we may open the windows
  • Replaced one metal door with English PVC door that lets light through.
  • Replaced the adega (wine making shed) metal door with a window.
  • Destroyed the wine making vat
  • Knocked the adega wall through to the main house
  • Installed a long window in the long wall of the adega to let more light in
  • Replaced a skylight over the bathroom with a large ceiling window that can open
  • Reroofed the adega and bathroom repairing the concrete roof and putting thick insulation under the new tiles
  • Painted most external surfaces. Rendered some.
  • Sealed where the sheds and adega/bathroom fit on to the house
  • Rewired
  • Replumbed
  • Put bath and pedestal sink in bathroom
  • had a borehole sunk
  • fitted a wood fire
  • tiled kitchen living room and middle bedroom
  • created middle bedroom by knocking two small bedrooms together
  • fitted ventilation and extractor fan in middle bedroom
  • knocked out some of the chimnet breast to enlarge the kitchen
  • fitted lights in sheds
  • fitted external lighting

We have also erected a heck of a lot of fencing – more than 200 metres.