Peter's Blog

Iberianspices spicesiberia

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Blackberries are now being made into wine Mmmmm

Over the last week i have been collecting Blackberries. My Peach wine as is my Pear wine and also my mixed Peach and Pear wine are now finished and they are set aside now to mature. So it's Blackberry wine next, while making my last lot of wine i found that by following the instruction that came with the Juicer that Cathy and Gary gave me i found that the sugar i put in was to much. I just followed what it said but i was lucky to be able to get the sugar level down by taking some out of the Pear and some of the Peach and mixing them in one container. Each of the others the Pear and Peach then just had water added to correct the sugar level. I found a UK based wine making Forum  and i asked for help in adjusting the sugar levels.

This time for my Blackberry wine i went to the wine making Forum and asked just what the correct sugar i should use. I was advised to use 933 grams of sugar and  so that what i did and it seems just fine after checking with my Hydrometer so i am a happy boy for now.

There seems to be this year a very good crop of grapes both red and white types. The red makes white wine but it's just the skins left in with the juice that make the colour. I went on the Forum today to ask how long to leave the skins in to make a Rose wine.  Nothing like being ready for when the grapes are ripe.

Maybe not the best picture to show the grapes but you can also see in the back ground the water tank i spoke about in my last Post.  What you can't see to well is the black grapes slowly growing and soon to be turned into wine.

How lucky i was to have been born in Liverpool

Many years ago when i was a small child so much was available to me that today makes me think how lucky i was.A small child living in Liverpool if it was dark someone put the light on for me to see. If i was thirsty i would have been given a drink. Now i am 63 years of age and i realize just how lucky i was then.

At the top of a hill just above Vale Boa is a water tower that is used by the village to water there crops and also by the Bombeiros or the fire brigade as they would be known in the UK. As Central Portugal like all of Portugal is covered in Forest Firefighting is done with the aid of plains and helicopters. The water tank at the top of the hill is made so that if needed the Helicopters could just come down and take the water the same way as they do with swimming pools. The water tank has only been there  for about 10 years. Before that water had to be collected by hand from the stream further up the valley.

 In the village there was no piped water or electric light, electric light  reached Vale Boa in 1979 piped water in 1987 and this time the entire population used candles and oil lamps later petroleum to light the houses. The water for there own consumption would be collected and kept jars and used the water from several wells to irrigate their spring crops. The heating was done by using firewood, the firewood was collected during  summer to as to be able to keep warn during the winter with wood for stoves and fireplaces.

Now i have been told how life was all those years ago i realize just how lucky i was. What could life for a small child have been like. As a small child i seem to have had everything and i am right in that i never had to do without.

So when you finish reading this and you go to make a coffee take a moment to thing what life was like then and also now for those who have to do with out not just here in Portugal but everywhere.

Friday, 24 August 2012

A welcome find on the way back from the Porto Airport

Last night at about 11pm i was starting my way back to Gois after coming of the main road from the A1 and i had to turn off at Penacova and make my was towards Villa Nova de Poiares. Coming out of Penacova you have to cross the river and turn right to head towards Villa Nova de Poiares and then home. 

As i crossed the river Steve who i had collected from the airport spotted a roadside fast food van. In the UK it's common to see at the side of the road trailers or caravans selling food and drinks. But here in Central Portugal never this is the first i have seen anywhere since leaving the UK. After turning around we stopped and went over to the Oasis on a dark night and what a welcome sight it was for me as i had had nothing to eat since morning. They had the usual Hamburgers ect but also a Kebab cooker just like in the UK. But unlike the UK and typical of cafes here there was also a selection of salads and well as cold drinks including Beers. 

I was asked do i want cheese on my burger but i didn't understand what was being asked until a couple of people standing having a drink spoke good English answered so i said yes thanks. I really must admit the burger was very good and this has been the first time in over a year i have had any kind of fast food and it was worth the stop. During the course of the conversation that followed Steve mentioned that he lives in Spain In Almeria and that the person who seems to be the partner / husband of the girl working on the trailer works as a trucker for a firm in Spain. But not just anywhere in Spain for a firm who's premises is across the road from where Steve goes often for a meal. 

The SatNav settings for those who would like to visit this  fast food oasis are.

N40 16 09 11
W08 16 23 84

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

My yearly house tax bill or rates as it's called in the UK

Some time ago i received an official looking letter from the Serviço de Finanças GOIS and dated 23rd May i had intended to deal with it as soon as i could. Normally i get things sorted and paid quickly but somehow this i missed until i was looking through my car details i carry around with me in the car.

I went of to the Finanças office in GOIS to find out just what is was that needed my attention. This being my first year  i didn't realize that is was to remind me to pay my house tax.

The guy in the Finanças speaks very good English so he was able to explain quickly that it was the tax for my house. Sadly he said that i was also to pay a fine and interest for late payment.

The cost of my house tax for the year was 30.58€ but the fine was what i was worried about and interest. Anyway he printed of a bill with everything itemized and the fine and interest was a further 19.64€. So in total my tax for the year 50.22€.

In the UK i was paying more than 30.58€ just for one week, i was reminded that i have to pay my tax in April next year and that i will if only to save paying another fine.

Taken for a meal and a warm welcome

While i was out watering my new raised bed i saw my neighbours Donellise and her husband Joseph. They where going for a meal and invited me to join them. It was 5pm and i didn't even know where they where going i said i would follow them. Not wanting to go wandering around i just stayed in my house after completing my watering and started to get my evening meal ready. At 7pm came a knock at the door and one of the ladies from the village came for me to go around with her for a meal. I followed and up a tiny lane through an arch there is a covered outside area  where there was tables and benches all laid out.

There must have been about 60 people all gathered around seated and standing  drinking, taking and eating. I was met by Rita the daughter of a family i met when i moved in last year, Rita speaks quite good English. During the time spent there a number of others who could speak English came over to welcome me and practice there English on me.

The meal consisted of a vegetable soup and much better than i can make, barbecued meats Belly Pork, sausage and a black sausage. Also a huge pan of Goat meat. The selection of desserts was vast and the best was a orange cake and the pineapple cake was just to die for. Not wanting to be seen as being greedy i made do with just the two desserts but i could have eat more.

I had a great time even though i couldn't speak or understand what was being said sometimes you don't need to know the language you still can understand what is being said.  But Sunday it all started again another neighbour Pedro who lives up the lane called with a memory stick of photos from the night before for me to put on my computer. What i didn't expect was to be invited for another meal, i was asked to come around  about 1pm so here it all starts again but very welcome.

I arrived at just after 1pm and instead of sitting at the end of a bench and away from the main group of people instead i was called over to sit with some of the local men i recognized from the village. If i felt like an outsider before then i certainly don't anymore i was welcomed just like everybody else. How do you show thanks to people who are so kind and friendly, i don't know but when i can i will.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Maybe the last time to get stuff planted

It's  mid August and not the time to be putting things out to grow. Well i never did as i was told. I have seed Potatos that where ready to be planted and i have Broccoli almost ready to plant and Chillis in pots. Now i have my first raised bed up and running, i have put in my Potatos that should be ready for Christmas. My Broccoli is a few days away from being big enough to be planted out in there new home  in the raised bed. I have already put in Chilli that was in pots and those in the raised bed look ok.

Carrots are OK to grow at this time of year and i will get some in as soon as i can. I just hope i can get some baby carrots. 

Chilli and green pepper all doing well. They have now been in a week so if they where not going to like the raised bed they would have died. 


 Blackberries are abundant at the moment but they are not as big as shop brought ones but it just means that you need more. These took half an hour to pick and weight 11oz. I need about 5lb to make a gallon of wine. Now they are in the freezer waiting for more and then it's wine.

Tomatos come in a variety of shapes and colours and i don't know how many different types i have but it doesn't matter they are all good.

Just where in the World we get to

Below are the Statistics for this Blog for one day. These change daily as different people world wide come on to view and read the Blog.

The countries are many and various, from Chad to China to New Zealand to Indonesia even Afghanistan, Kurdistan. It really is surprising just where in the world my Blog gets to. 
It would be nice to think that there are people somewhere on this Planet we call home who my Blog has inspired and they are having the same adventure that i am living.

Pageviews by Browsers


Internet Explorer
79 (26%)

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57 (19%)

14   (4%)

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2     (1%)

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Pageviews by Country


United Kingdom


United States








Other Unix is Ubuntu

Pageviews by Operating Systems


165 (56%)

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Other Unix
  14   (4%)

    4   (1%)

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Today i met new friends who are as happy as me.

It was a day like many in Portugal nice and sunny a good day to go out for a drive. I went to see fellow members on ExpatsPortugal. They had just moved into there house. What makes me write about the visit was that since i have been here i have never been so happy. Nothing gets me down, no stress, no rushing around like a headless chicken.

I get up when i wake, i eat when i am hungry and go to bed when i am tired. A simple but very enjoyable life.

I met Dave and Miry at there house they have just moved into and what i was greeted with was someone like me who had found his dream. All the time i was there Dave was just beaming with pleasure as to how there lives ahead would be.

I was a little envious of all the fruit trees they have 12 different types of fruit. How lucky they are with the amount of fruit i eat  that would save me a small fortune. But better to enjoy what you have than want what others have and be eaten up with envy. 

Dave was telling me that the house he saw was really an after thought on the agents behalf. Like me when i saw a picture of mine i knew that it was for me. Well the same thing happened to Dave and Miry i know just how he feels a year later and i am like a kid with a new toy. I know that i wouldn't change a thing and i know  that Dave wouldn't either. Dave is lucky that his wife is just as enthusiastic as he is and between them they will create a fantastic home. Dave's attitude is like mine it will be done when it's done and does it matter how long it takes.

Could those in the UK or world wide imagine just what when you get the chance you find a better life in later years than you could ever have imagined.

Good luck Dave and Miry

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Raised beds and rotten Cherry branches.

Now that the potatoes have finished it's time to get another crop in or do something else. It's something else that i am doing, i have made my first raised bed down by the Cherry tree or what's left of it. The Cherry tree will be coming down at some point in the future but not know. The Cherry tree is very old and the cherries are very small and not much good but also the trunk is straight and about 9ft high before any branches come out of it. It would be good to have the trunk made into planks and left to air dry for future use. In the first picture you can see the damage to the branch that has been taken down. The branch s about 8in's in diameter but the damage is clear to see. The branch had to come down as once i am growing under the tree i don't want anything to fall on the raised beds once i have things growing.

I put my raised bed into position and i then needed to fill it. I started by first taking all the leaves from the branches from the cherry tree and what a job that was all done by hand. Then where the potatoes had been i took the soil and started to sieve it to get all the rubbish out of it. Next it was put on top of all the cherry leaves in teh hope that the leaves will rot down and help by becoming compost. On top of the soil will be a mix of compost i got from Leyroy Merlin and mixed in will be equal parts with coffee grounds from a local cafe. On top of that is the horse manure i have and then a good layer of soil. But i don't have any soil yet but i know where to get some.

More photos when the bed is completed and i have potatoes to put in for Christmas also some purple broccoli and if i can get away with it some more chillis.

I already have made up another raised bed and it will be put in position as soon as i finish this one. That also means i need to get a lot of soil and know someone who has a lot to get rid of  after having a base for a above ground pool laid.

It's easy to see how rotten this branch is and this is only one branch. 

Here is the bed with all the leaves from the downed cherry branch as a base to turn into compost.

Here is where the soil is  going onto the leaves to make them rot down into compost.

Mushrooms coming on very well and almost ready to be picked.

A little while ago i started helping a friend who was starting a project growing Mushrooms  he now has about 10 types that will eventually be in production. The type of Mushrooms he is going to grow are ones that help with health issues. Shitaki  mushrooms are good for various known diseases but they can take nine months before they start to bear fruit.

This is not the type of Mushroom that i am growing. I am growing Oyster Mushrooms because they are easier and quicker to grow. Mushrooms double in size every day so as quick as you pick them the next day you need to pick more and this goes on every day. I now have a second batch on the way and another is ready in the fridge for starting of. One thing that is needed is Coffee waste and here in Portugal there are cafe bars in every town and village. These cafes have to get rid of the coffee waste so there is plenty of coffee grounds to be used for mushroom growing.

The down side is if i want a break away what do i do once i get these in production, they have to be picked each day. Now that's a problem i will have to solve when i get to it.

This is from the 3rd August.

This is the 4th August.

This is the 8th august.

This today the 9th August. Just compare the picture above. What a difference a day makes.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

This is it the end of year one.

Part two even more happened so we need a part two.

I have had to put you through even more sorry but so much happened I have had to do a part two.
After moving in and mooching around in the cellar found a 5 litre wine bottle with a spirit in it. Being careful I filtered it three times to make sure it was free from any foreign objects, it tasted OK and the smell was OK so why waste it. I do know from speaking to neighbours that it is many years old but who cares you only die once. I had been watching River Cottage and Pam the Jam was making Cherry Brandy and after watching I decided to use the Aguardiente this is Portugals answer to Pocheen that's made in Ireland.

To make Cherry Aguardiente you have to prick Cherries with a tooth pick and then put them in a bottle or jar and that's it. Pam says to leave it for at least three months so come September it will be ready to try. I also made Cherry Vodka the same way, Cherry Cognac using Remy Martin Mmmm and last Peach Aguardiente. All will be left till September. In June I picked Cherries from my own tree and made Cherry wine a whole gallon of Cherry wine It's now ready for bottling and leaving to age for a few months.

A major project I had to do was to get my car made legal here in Portugal the process is called Matriculation. Friends used a local who speaks very good English but watching then I could see that I could do the whole process myself. There are a number of thing that you need to do to get started so I set about doing this on my own. The first was to get a copy of my Certificate of Conformity from my cars maker and that done of I go first to the Portuguese MOT station to get an MOT. Done now go to the Consulate in Porto. Done now call at the Customs to collect forms that need to be filled in. Done now home to transfer all the information from the Certificate of Conformity to the Customs forms. Done now the end is in sight. The thing that's makes the process easy is in the preparation so now it's a trip with all the forms and documents to the Customs, then a visit to another place 40km away then back to the MOT for a number for a form and then back to Customs and from a 7am start all was done by 2.14 in the afternoon. This was a major worry as on the Forums you read horror stories about people getting into all kinds of trouble, but mine is all done. 

For three months prior to the end of my first year i helped a friend setup a mushroom project. This in-tailed  felling trees cleaning the logs and drilling them prior to knocking in up to 20 dowels in each log. The ends of the logs had to be sealed with hot wax and also the places where the dowels had been put also had to be hot waxed. He is growing types of mushroom for medicinal purposes as they command the best prices. 

I have started my own small project with mushrooms and the type i am growing is called Oyster mushroom. What you do is rip up lots of clean cardboard and sterilize it with boiling water. Collect waste coffee from the cafes and sterilize it. Layer it in a suitable container and mix in the mushroom spores. then another layer of coffee on top then a layer of sterilized saw dust or wood shavings and then a layer of compost. Easy or it sound easy. My mushrooms are coming on very well and it shouldn't be long now till i have fresh mushrooms. As i will be growing more than i can eat i will sell the surplus.In Gois you can't buy fresh mushrooms so maybe from the Brits i will earn a few Euro's.

Well that's pretty much a years gone so i hope you enjoy this my first year recap.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

This is only part of the story. I am working on Part two.

A year in my Life.

Well here we go. It started on the 1st August 2011 when I arrived in a town called Gois in Central Portugal. On Friday the 12th 2011 I signed and became a house holder in my place in the sun. As it was late in the afternoon it was to late to move in so it had to wait till the Saturday morning of the 13th. Who says the 13th is a bad number not me. Moving in went without a hitch and the next few days where taken up with unpacking and putting things away.

The first thing I did was to start work on the Kitchen as that was the room I wanted to do first. In the corner was a huge chimney vent and it was hideous, so it had to go. This was my biggest single mistake because what I found was that it was an integral part of the ceiling. As I cut it down the ceiling started to move and caused me to remove a whole section. The ceiling was made of concrete beams with concrete blocks between and I had disturbed two beams and three rows of blocks. Well I got over that problem and it took an incredible time to do but I did it all on my own and I am glad to say is now complete with only 3 bulbs to fit and it's done.

The house is made from single skin of brick and as such the house is cold in the winter but I have an air con unit so it's just a matter of pressing the remote and the place soon warms up. But in the lounge there was a door in the corner that was like a huge radiator doing nothing to keep out the cold but radiate cold. I would like in this corner to have a log burner for the next winter so for now I insulating material and put a sheet of plasterboard over the door and that solved a big problem of cold. Now when I insulate the external walls of the lounge on the inside the door is already done I am blocking it up for good. All I have to do is cover the walls with plasterboard with insulation on the back and that will insulate the walls that face the outside. That is a job for the coming months as I have already started it and it will soon be finished.

When I moved in there was a cooker that looked like it had seen better days and three gas bottles. He cooker cleaned up quite well so it was OK for cooking on. My new cooker and hob remain in there boxes until I finish work building my kitchen. On gas bottle had a little gas in and that lasted for about three weeks of cooking and then I had to buy my own refill at a cost of 25€. The price was a bit scary as I didn't know how many I would need over the space of a year. My third bottle is still going strong after a year so the cost of cooking and a bit heating as atone point I put the bottle in gas heater a few times, the cost for a year has only been about 75€ for all my cooking and a bit of heating not bad value.

My first water bill was a shock and a pleasant shock 4.88€ for a month but now it's gone up a lot and i am paying at year end 6.07€ so for a year that's been a little under 70€ for a years water Wow. Electric I have changed all light bulbs for Low energy and when I get to use the kitchen they are LED and they are cheaper than the Low energy bulbs I use now. At times my computers are on 24 hours a day when I have lots to download. My first electric bill was 48€ for a month and at it's worst it was 58€ a month now that's not bad considering I have had for a while when I needed it air con for my heating. Phone and Internet per month include free calls at the weekend is 30€ and by paying by direct debit you get unlimited downloads a bargain. Rates I haven't had to pay yet I am told are about 50€ per year.

Water 6.07€ per month
Phone / Internet 30€ per month
Electric 58€ per month
Rates 50€ per year

That's all incredible imagine if you where paying those prices in the UK.

The main things really have been outside I wanted chickens so I set to work making secure the chicken house over on what I call my estate. After that I built on a space so they could come outside and have somewhere to run around. I watched them from small chickens to almost ready to start laying eggs. Over three months or more I had watched them and I was so proud of what I had done until one morning when coming out they normally make such a fuss but this morning they didn't all was quiet. Like a fool I thought I had got out without them hearing me. As I approached them I could see a mass of feathers all over where they used to run around. Two where dead one missing and two cowering in the corner injured. I couldn't tell at this point what was wrong with them but over a couple of days I could see them with blood all over there necks. One of the remaining hens died after two days and then No6 the cockerel was the last to go. I found a hole under the fencing that I thought was secure. It's a bit late now but it is secure with stones all around the inside fence and on the outside more stones but with cement mixed in with it and broken glass. The top of there run is also covered in chicken wire so that part is ok and that's why they would normally come in and out when they wanted. I don't know what more I can do but each night there door will be locked when they are in, so they will have to wait for me to open the door for them each day so I will have to start to get up earlier than I do now.

I have never grown anything in my life before so starting now at my age is something new. Started by getting a few trees two black cherry, an orange, a lemon and a lime. I know the cherry will take a couple of years before it bears fruit but I can wait. They all seem to be doing well new leaves etc. But the Lemon tree seems to be ok and is laden with fruit. The Lime and the Orange have developed fruit but after a little while the fruit has dropped of. On the Orange tree new flowers have blossomed so maybe I will get some oranges after all.

I have grown in a small piece of ground my first ever crop of potatos and I am sure that had the ground been used before then there would have been a better chance of a good crop. From 10 / 12 plants I got over two 5lb bags so I can't complain. At the side of the potatoes I have a tomato plant, three chilli plants, two red cabbage plants and a load of strawberries. But even though they seem to be doing well the ground they are in has just been over grown for many years. Over the winter I will get loads of manure and compost into the spoil and I am sure that next year I will get a much better crop that I got this year.

In pots I have tomatoes, chilli, peppers and green beans growing all could have been better but with the condition of the soil even though I put compost in the return was a little disappointing but worth the work involved. Next year the soil will be so much better than I have had this year this year has been about leaning and I have been doing that all the time.

Up on my estate that's what I call my land I have built two raised beds. Due to the land being so steep my beds look just like horse jumps but behind them I have been building up compost from all the plant matter that I have pulled up, some is like a kind of heather / bracken and all my kitchen waste everything from potato peeling to orange skins you name it it's in my raised beds.

When I left school I started my working life as a butcher. I still have those skills today and I do use them. My last meal of this my first year turned out to be one of my best. Gone is the steak etc and I have used lots of belly pork, shanks, goat and turkey thighs. It was the turkey thigh that I made my last meal of the year. I boned out the thigh and stuffed it with chopped carrot and broad beans and breadcrumbs and rolled it with the skin on. Next I boned the leg and cut the flesh into strips. The strips where used for a curry. The rolled jointed was put in my Targine with sliced potatoes, carrot, onion and broad beans, a teaspoon of Oregano and a half teaspoon of both Coriander and Cinnamon. Salt and Pepper to complete the seasoning. The Targine when into a preheated oven on low and the Targine was in for 3 hours. I wasn't prepared to how the meal came out as it was the first time I used a Targine apart from a chicken casserole. Without I made my last meal of the year my best and I feel so proud that instead of just cooking what comes easy I constantly challenge myself. My shopping consists of fresh meat, fresh vegetables and fresh fruit. The only food in packaging is 5kg bags of both Flour for my bread and Rice.

The year has seen me come from eating all the wrong foods and being over weight to now eating beautiful fresh food and now much fitter and not so over weight as I had been. 

It's been a marvelous year and i am so proud of what i have achieved so it's the start of the next year. 

Strange noise in the dead of night

Being so far from the nearest road the nights are quiet in fact deadly quiet and a new sound has been heard outside that sounds like it is coming from up on the land opposite.

It's hard to explain what the sound is like or even describe the sound, the sound is like something you hear in horror films but you don't get to see what it is.

While having my breakfast i heard a noise like i have been hearing through the open windows at night a Rustling type sound.  I rushed to get my camera and try to get a picture of this strange creature and down the lane was something i still can't make out what it was i was looking at. I only managed to get one clear pictureout of many i took.

I have seen pictures of the Yeti and the Abominable  Snowman but what is this strange creature? it scurried away down the lane and disappeared into the undergrowth. Will it be seen again who knows but my camera is ready should it be seen again.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Well it's arrived my first year over.

I have now been here for a year today. What a year it has been and could i ever have imagined how much i would learn in that time.

I am going to write a summary of the year past and it will take me a few days so please be patient. I will try and cover all the highs and if there are any lows them as well.

I have 20 people who have taken the time to register as Followers i would like to take this opportunity to say thanks for being there and also to those who took the time to leave a comment a big thank you.

For my family i hope you enjoyed this my first year away from the UK and how i have got on with life.

My three Children you are never out of my thoughts. I can see the change in you all and i am so proud of the three of you.

Sean and Chelsee i may only get to see you on Skype but we will see more of each other i hope in the coming year. It would be good to see more of Sean on Skype.

To all the Forum members who i know read my Blog thanks for taking the time.

By for now back in a few days with a year in my life.