Peter's Blog

Iberianspices spicesiberia

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Even we get rain

Even here is Central Portugal we get rain. Now if you are in the UK ok you have just had a bit of rain and it does seem bad but we get rain as well. This week we had rain but nobody complained about the rain we had. It was badly needed to dampen the forests and it helped in fire avoidance but the sun will soon dry up the ground but in the short term it has helped

Why well it's like this we have had some fires but not just a few fires these fires that i was able to see the result of whole valleys where burnt. But what i saw as i was going to Coimbra was Helicopters flying away from a river after dropping the huge buckets into the water to use to help put the fires out.

This is  the type of helicopter used to get the forest fires under control. These helicopter pilots drop down to rivers and sometime water towers to fill the buckets to drop the water where it's needed most. from what i saw this week there where many places that the firefighters couldn't get to but  the helicopters can.

This picture is not one from Portugal but it is shown to let you see the type of equipment used in fire fighting in Portugal.

Here at Vale Boa there is a water tower and should the valuable water contained in the tower be needed then i am sure that the pilots would soon drop from the sky to fill there buckets in the water should there be a fire close by and there was a need for water quickly they would take it.

A long time ago i saw work being done at the side of a river not far from where i live. I asked a friend who was with me at the time what was going on in the river. It seems that the year before there had been flooding along this stretch of river. What was going on was the river was being made wider so that when the rains come the water will flow better without flooding.

Over the last few years that i lived in the UK during the rains many rivers flooded. Why when they know that the rains will bring flooding don't the powers to be have the rivers made wider. If they can do it in Portugal then why can't they do the same in the UK.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Alvar the builder

Quite a while ago while i was with friends in Sao Martinho we where approached by a retired builder called Alvar. He speaks no English and we speak no Portuguese but he made it known that there was a petition he would like use to sign. It seems that the local Camera/ council ran a free bus on one side of Gois to take the older people from teh outlying villages to bring them to the weekly market. Alvar found out about it and asked for a free bus for the elderly from our side of Gois to be able to get to the weekly market.

We all signed the petition and it seemed that the issue was forgotten until we where shown in Portuguese a timetable on a door of a derelict house close by during August when family members who come back to Vale Boa pointed the timetable to me.

It took till today the 24th September before i came to use the bus service. From Vale Boa there where three of use who boarded the bus for the journey into town for the market. On the route down to Bordeiro the bus soon filled up and instead of calling at Pias and sao Martinho the bus had to go straight the market. As the bus was filled it shows that the service was indeed a needed service.

At the market i saw one stall where there was freshly ground spices there where everything from seedlings to cheese, jewelery almost everything but vegetables one of the things i needed most. Also i use a lot of fruit and i was surprised by the prices on show. I helped myself and soon filled three bags with bananas, apples and pears. A total of over 6 & a half pounds in weight or a little over 3 kilo all for a cost of 3.17€ i know from buying in the supermarkets i normally go to it would have cost me more.  Even the butcher had meat that looked so inviting and asking to be taken home a used for a nice meal.

This market i will now be using almost every week after what i found by looking closely today. 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Painting i can do but Artist i am not

During the last week the sun kind but not so hot that you couldn't do any work.  This last week i have been busy with a wire brush cleaning the walls either side of the front door. It was time to start to get the outside of the house painted well the part either side of the front door.  This may be getting to the cooler part of the year but it's a part of the house that would make a nice place to be able to sit outside with a nice something cool to drink.

I am aware that i am now not as young as i was when the dream started so with that i decided to use my scaffolding tower. On the top of the gate where some spikes very sharp and dangerous. I didn't want to be working and perhaps fall on the sharp spikes so i got my angle grinder out and removed the gate. I will at  some time put the gate back but not before the spikes have been removed first.

As well as the walls by the door i am painting the front wall at the front of the house all in a nice clean looking White. At the bottom of the walls one thing i didn't like was at the bottom of each wall was a different colour painted finish. about eight inches up from the floor it was coloured a dirty red colour. A really ugly colour so i have painted from the floor up all white. As soon as i finish i will take some photos as usual to show of.

Now for something that's not about Me.

Now for something that's not about Me.

At the top of the lane past my house is a house that to get to it you have to go through an arch under another house. It has been purchased by an English couple.

After hearing so much about English builders when i heard the name Keith as the builder alarm bells started to ring. I soon found that Keith was a go between for the Portuguese builder who speaks no English. In the first two days the builders removed the entire floor in the lounge and did much of the outside finishing off work left from the previous builder.

The wall that ran midway under the floor that was removed had to have a doorway  cut into it and also a stairway built in the corner and if that's not enough a block and beam floor had to be installed. Then the floor had to have a layer of cement skimmed over the entire floor.

What isn't shown is the floor that was taken out. The floor was a timber floor and also the beams where also timber these where all removed before i was able to take any photos. 

All this was done by four workers and they did a remarkable amount in only four days.

I will look forward to bringing more of this stiry over the coming weeks.

You can see below where a doorway was being cut in the wall below. Also the block and beam floor is being laid.

Here that floor has been completed and now needs skimming with concrete before a final skim.

Here the builder is passing down concrete in a bucket to the other builder who is casting the stairs below.

This is the stairs that are cast in concrete going down to what will be extra rooms at a later date.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Time to get a load of wine made.

For hundreds or maybe thousands of years man has been making alcoholic drinks by means of fermenting all kinds of fruits etc. Today i picked 20 kilo of white grapes and took all the grapes of the stems and 20 kilo is a lot of grapes and stems.

While in Porto during the week i was in Ikea with a friend after dropping of a car back to the car hire place at the airport. During the time in Ikea i found a box and a lid that would do for starting of the fermentation process for my wine i planned to make.

Sunday morning i decided it was time to pick the grapes. It didn't take long and i had about 20 kilo and then started the long job of taking the grapes of the stems after that was done it was time to  juice the grapes. What i mean by that is time to give my feet a good clean and then get into the big box i had the grapes in. Pressing grapes by foot was a strange thing to do as i have a steam juicer but 20 kilo was to much to try and do in a juicer.

The juice is now in a container ready for fermenting not bad for a days work. I went on a Forum i am on asking to borrow or buy a a fruit press. I had a reply from someone who i know not far from me who has one for me to borrow or if i want to buy it. There are still a lot of white grapes where i got mine from but also i have probably at least 50 kilo plus of red grapes so it would help to be able to use a fruit press. The white grapes just have to have the juice extracted from them but the red grapes you can leave the skins in to give the wine the red colour. The juice from red grapes is actually white so the skins are needed for colour.

When i make the red wine i will leave the skins in with one batch to make a good dark red wine. I will also take out the skins a bit early with another batch so as to make a Rose or lighter coloured wine.

I am temped to get the white wine  put through a Still and have it made into a spirit. Cognac is made from wine made from white grapes and then it is distilled a number of times to create Cognac. Seems easy but there is a bit more to it but i don't have the types of grapes  Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard that are needed to make a Cognac type drink but it's worth a try

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The difference a few years make

On another Blog i am working on about Vale Boa but about the history of Vale Boa i was sent some photos of Vale Boa 2011 and some from 2004. Looking at the photos i can make out some difference in my hose and the one next door.

This is the picture i received and cut away some to show just how the house next to mine was in 2004. The roof can clearly be seen and intact.

Here in 2011 it is clear that the roof has fell in and the house is now a ruin.

One thing i have found out is that if you own a property and there are windows that overlook someone else's property then you have to have a barrier in front of the window so your window can't open onto a property that you don't own. Pity as it makes the house look so uninviting with bars up on the windows.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Cherry Cognac and Cherry Vodka and cake.

It's now about three months since i made my Cherry Vodka. The plan was always to use the cherries in a Christmas cake. Well i also made some more cherries but these where in Remy Martin VSOP a really nice Cognac.

After three months the normal Vodka that i used has turned into a really nice Vodka with the added bonus of now being flavoured with Cherries Thhe Remy Martin well enough to say i won't be sharing any it's all for me anyway i made it so i should get to drink it.

Three months on and it was time to prepare to make my Christmas cakes yes two cakes. I couldn't put vodka  cherries and remy martin cherries in the same cake so i had to make two. As i didn't have two round tins i used the two long tins instead and they are now cooling and i will take some photos later but for now i have pictures of the cherries.

I had to sit for a long time splitting the cherries in two just to get the stones out and i did do a good job but then look at the knife i used my best boning knife.

These are Cherries that you can buy in any shop all i had to do was to prick loads of holes in them for the Vodka to infuse with the cherries. It really is that easy prick holes in the cherries and  put the cherries into a bottle with a wide neck and after putting in the cherries then fill with you favourite spirit. It's so easy.


These Cherries are different these cherries came from my own tree at the bottom of the lane by the font. These like the other cherries i sat and pricked loads of holes in them before these where left to soak up the Remy Martin flavour.

I already have other fruit drinks on the go at the moment but the next while they are in season will be Blackberry flavour but maybe a cheap brandy. Even a cheap brandy will turn out really good once it has the added fruit flavour.  

Thursday, 6 September 2012

It's been a painful day today. Ouch

Many years ago maybe as many as 15 years ago i was drilling some aluminum to fix some brackets to it. I slipped and the drill bit broke while embedded in my thumb nail.  The drill bit broke and a piece was left behind in my nail. Painful as it was i had two of my children with me so i had to show i was OK while if the truth be known i was wanting to shout Ouch or something like that.

Well today while at the market in Arganil i was getting out of a friends car and slammed the door on a finger. With so many people around i couldn't scream much as i wanted as the pain was so bad i just kept quiet. It's only hours later that the pain has really got bad. Ok i know about as a man i could never know hat pain is as i am not a woman but believe me it hurts. What i need is someone to administer first aid and ring me cool drinks while i feel sorry for myself.

As the last time i did something daft like this was over 15 years ago well maybe it was a bit overdue. If nothing happens for another 15 years i will be happy but for now i am in pain.

If you are eating then it may not be wise to go any further. Sorry


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Lots of things growing well but could do better.

We are now into September and with the weather as it is i hope for a lot more time for growing. I took some pictures of things yesterday that are ready for picking. Well it really has been a good year for me with my growing food for myself for the first time. Ok the crops where not as i would have liked but with such poor soil i have got the best that i can. Over the winter i will work hard to make the soil much richer for next year. Growing green beans in a tree was worth a try and next year i will probably have loads more beans growing in the tree that's for sure.

One pepper is turning colour to red and you may be able to see there is still one that is green.

Another type of chilli that still has to turn another colour before it's ready for picking. Also i have some of these in my Raised bed.

The purple chilli you see at the top has to turn red as those lower down have and then in the freezer till they are needed.

A nice little red chilli almost ready to pick in a few more days.

From an Orange, Lemon and a Lime i am left with just two lemons still there is always next year.

A little red chilli ready for putting into a Chilli con carne. But for now stored in the freezer till i make my next chilli

The sky is full of Smoke

The next subject i should be talking about was about how things have been growing etc but while out today and these evening i must go back to the fires.

I went over to a place called just outside of Oliveira do Hospital where someone was selling up to return home. On the way there in the distance i could see huge clouds of smoke in the sky. In some places you could also see the smoke rising above the skyline. What is rather upsetting is that this time last year i had been here a month but saw no signs of fire or smoke in the sky. There had been fires but none so near that you could see the smoke in the sky like today.

Looking down the lane i took a picture that i have already put on my Blog and it was clear that smoke was in the sky. Tonight as i went out to water my plants i could see in the distance that the sky was growing dark so i went to get my camera and took some alarming pictures that you can see blow

Helicopters and planes could be often seen today doing there part to control and put out the fires. I even saw down in Gois the Fire tenders though not like i know from the UK  but machines suited for the terrain here in the Central part of Portugal.

The brave men and women who fight these fire are not paid they all do it voluntarily i certainly do thank them because it's these brave people that keep places like where i live safe. The sky here is normally a beautiful blue colour and at night the stars twinkle away for all to see. Today the sky was taken over by smoke i can only say i hope very on of the brave fire fighters returns home safe. 


Monday, 3 September 2012

16 Die is forest fires in Portugal

This time of year forest fires seem to be a common thing in Portugal. Here in Central Portugal we seem to be having our share of forest fires like the rest of the country. Our local fire department known as the Bombeiros, they are made up of Volunteers and don't have the modern machinery that you would see in the UK. The machines they have may be old and look like they should be scrapped but they are designed and built for the conditions found here and do a job the the modern UK machines could do or get access to the fires due to there size and design.

Below is some text from a UK News Paper that shows just how serious it is if it gets International coverage.

I also am showing a pictures i took looking down the lane from where i live. If you look at the skylive above the trees it's a greyish colour and then it  goes to blue. That's the smoke in the sky and at a time like this we must spare a thought for those brave Men and Women who are fighting the fires.

Fire crews are still struggling to bring wildfires in the southern Algarve tourist region under control today, officials have said.
The death toll from two weeks of record blazes rose to 16 when a firefighter, who had been burned in a forest fire in central Portugal last week, died of his injuries late Wednesday night.
Almost 500 firefighters, working with 139 fire trucks and helped by 240 soldiers, contained most of the fires in the Algarve region that had raced for five days through a hilly inland area of dense forest.
Strong winds and a heat wave drove the fires.
The main fire moved to within about five miles of Lagos, a major holiday town on the southern coast, before being brought under control, said Antonio Gualdino, spokesman for the National Fire Coordination Center.
The wildfires have charred a record 215,000 hectares (531,000 acres) so far this year, an area almost the size of Luxembourg, according to an estimate by the Forest Service.
The government has announced a national disaster in some areas and has requested financial aid from the European Union.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Life is just so good

I am so lucky life is good and every day i am able to look back in the evening and say That was another good day.

Today is no exception after sterilizing a load of straw for my next raised bed. Sterilized whatever for, well in this raised bed is mushroom compost and not wanting any bad bacteria to spoil it the straw had to be sterilized. I then after it had time to cooled i then spread it over the raised bed and then covered it with a layer of mushroom compost and then soil. Not just any old soil, soil that was so dry after sieving it into a wheel barrow it was more like a powder than soil. Then i had to  take it down to my raised bed and spread it over where the raised bed was. The difficult part was spreading over the raised bed because it was like powder. It had been dug out from where someone was having a pool base built. The soil had been left in the baking sun for a couple of months and was  dry it was more like powder. After a good watering hopefully it should be ok. Next i need some horse manure and i am told the Co-operative in Arganil have it for a little over 3€ for a 70 liter bag.

Tomorrow i will hope to get my Carrots planted for later in the year and i want them to do well after all this work i have done to give them a good home.

I got to go to Coimbra late in the afternoon with a friend and while there we went to Makro. I like the flour you can get at Makro even though it is a little bit more than i would pay at the likes of Lidl, a little over 8€ for 20 kg. Also i got some Currants and Sultanas for both my Christmas cakes.

Talking of Christmas cakes this year i am going to make two cakes but in tins like you would use for a meat loaf.

The reason for this tin is because i have two but also i have some very nice Cherries that have been in Vodka for the last three months. I also have some Cherries that have been in Remy Martin for the last three months. It would be wrong to mix them up so i will have to make two cakes. Because i can.

In the cakes will be Currants and Sultanas. At Makro they have Currants and Sultanas that are huge not at all like you get in Asda or Tesco  in those little bags of 100gm or 250gm these bags are a Kilo. Any over i will be using them in my bread.

I have mentioned before that i make all my own bread and i often use Currants or Sultanas in it  i would normally  put in 50gm of either Currants or Sultanas it does make a nice change to my bread. Before you get to impressed i use a bread maker but then again what can you expect from a man with such a busy life as i have.

Well that's all in a day so as you can see life is good in fact very good.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

I need my knives sharpening

Leaving school i decided to become a Butcher my line of thinking was that you can't get a machine to cut and prepare meat. You also could get to meet Girls. Now remember that i was 15 and a half just the age to start to have girl friends. I was lucky when i left school in the 1965 it was a great time to be starting out in the new world of having to work and earn a living, no more delivering paper for the news agent to get my pocket money. Instead i had to get a job because it was time to leave school behind me.

My first job was in a shop in Liverpool called Coopers now Coopers was the Harrods of Liverpool full of posh customers people running around helping rich people shop. The smell of roasting coffee and bread made working there a real pleasure. But my time there was to come to an end  i was only getting £4 and 8shilling a week in todays money £4 40p now i had to get the bus into Liverpool town centre and pay for my dinners and give my Mum money for my keep and have a social life.

I found a job in another butchers less than half way to Liverpool town center and for an extra 4 shillings a week. Now 4 shillings may not be a lot but i could go home at dinner time it i wanted my bus fair was much less but i had a bike and i got more money. But i got to met lots of girls my own age and life was good it was here i was to meet my first wife and also Jean. Jean was my first love and is still that one special person and she will always have a place in my heart.

We used to have an Italian man call each week to sharpen the shop knives and he had a bicycle that he could pedal and a grinding wheel spun round and it was on this he sharpened the knives.

I went to a craft fair in a Town called Arganil some time ago. I saw  man sharpening knives down one of the lanes but as it was late in the afternoon and a long journey home and back to get my knives sharpened seemed a waste of time. If i had gone home he may not be there when i got back so i didn't bother. But i do need my knives sharpened but here in Central Portugal i can't find anywhere to get them done.

As a butcher we used what was called a Steel to keep our knives sharp but there is only so much you can do and now Mr knive sharpener where are you?