The rain has finally stopped and the sun has made an appearance. What a difference a few days makes – last weekend we had a high of 11º and over 50mm of rain in 4 days. By Thursday we had bright sunshine and 23º.
So time to get outside and do some gardening. We started the raised beds back in December when David’s dad was here, but rain stopped play many times during January and February. Each time we had a nice day we would head out to fill the beds with soil from the pile left by the builders. Unfortunately, a fair amount of the pile is stones, bits of broken tile etc and the soil itself is fairly heavy clay – it is slow work taking out all the junk, breaking up the clay and digging in the compost. I read somewhere about composting in situ, so we decided to have a layer of kitchen waste in each bed, topped with several cms of soil/compost mix. Turns out you can grow stuff from kitchen waste too – we returned to a half-finished bed today to find volunteer veggies growing. My cunning intuition (and the not-very-well-covered leaf) tells me that the purple seedling will be purple cabbage, which we call red cabbage even though it is obviously not red. I have no idea what the other four are going to be. We finished preparing another bed today and will transplant the seedlings into it so we can finish the bed they are in.
I’ve been sowing seeds – lettuce, land cress, rocket, spring onions, radish, tomatoes & chillies so far. José (a neighbour) gave us lots of tiny strawberry plants this morning so they are in one end of a raised bed. I had thought that we wouldn’t use all six beds this year – you know, baby steps, don’t try to do too much at once etc etc – but I don’t think we’ll have any trouble filling them, especially if all 30-odd tomato seeds germinate.
David has been working on the top part of the garden, levelling an area where we can put our table and chairs. Eventually it will be a patio or gravelled or something, but for the time being level will do. We suspect we only have a small window of time between ‘quagmire’ and ‘rock hard with cracks’ when our soil is workable. He has also been trying his hand at laying a path – nothing permanent yet until we are sure we know where we want everything to go, but he decided I should have something other than mud to walk on to get to the greenhouse (sounds fancy doesn’t it? It isn’t – it’s shelves with a plastic cover).
Our neighbours are incredibly generous people. So far, from various different people, we’ve had wine, aguardente, bread, eggs, almonds, chestnuts, pumpkin & walnut jam, olive oil and vegetables – all homegrown or produced, not to mention advice and help. We have reciprocated with marmalade and lemon drizzle cake, which seems a bit pathetic really but it’s all we have at the moment so will have to do.
Yesterday we had lunch with some of our neighbours, Augustino & Natalia, who apologised for not having invited us before, but they were a bit stumped by us being vegetarian. Their son and daughter-in-law were visiting this weekend though so Victor cooked noodles & veg with coconut curry sauce. We loved it but I’m not sure Augustino approved – he kept saying ‘I’m Portuguese, I like meat!’. We had a great time, they all speak English so we were able to practice our Portuguese and fill in the bits we didn’t know with English and there was lots of wine, aguardente and conversation flowing. José and his family joined us for coffee and José offered us the strawberry plants. We accepted and mentioned in the conversation that we were novice gardeners and don’t really know what we are doing, so when he brought the plants around this morning, he took David out into the garden to show him how to make a hole to put the plant in. I’m pleased to say we aren’t quite that novice, but it was lovely of him to do it.
When we got home, Idilina (another neighbour) appeared at the bottom of the garden with a fresh cheese she had made with milk from her sheep & goats. We already had a loaf of bread so that was supper taken care of, leaving me time to get on with some important work in the garden….