Wow… Has it really been that long!?
We know it’s been quite some time since we last filled you in…the thing is you see, it’s been quite the rollercoaster!
So where were we all that time ago!? That’s right. Mike was heading to Portugal to do the first trip!
A LOT has happened since then.
When Mike came back it was my turn to do the drive with Elvis and the dog Mia. It was in total a 24 hour drive without stopping. I think I did in about 35ish with a little sleep stop here and there. The rest stops on the way down through France and Spain are great and very frequent, so if you’re feeling tired you really don’t have to drive for much longer to find somewhere.
Now Elvis is 5 years old and I expected the usual fidgeting…are we there yet? I want to get out of my seat, I’m bored. But my oh my….he was simply amazing and made the best co-pilot. We had plenty of stops for a quick dog walk, to stretch our legs and have food. We had prepared a picnic so we didn’t need to worry about finding any shops.
We arrived in Portugal at 7am on Friday 21st August at our new home, the quinta. The weather was bleak but driving through the mountains and seeing the top of them covered in fog was mesmerising and despite the lack of sun I was still very excited to be there.
An hour or so later my dad came to the quinta with our bell tent that we would be living in. Mike was on his way with furniture so for now, me and Elvis were on a blow up mattress with a duvet.
We spent the first couple of weeks just enjoying life in Portugal, the temperature reached over 40 degrees some days and we were desperate for shade and ice cold drinks.
We realised very quickly that trying to get everything done we wanted was going to take its toll on us. Stood there just looking at the land we got that ‘oh fuck what have we done’ moment and it was all very overwhelming, it still is to be honest.
Our building was surrounded by mimosa, which until you really get in and look around you realise that it’s going to cause big problems. We cut it back but it was so dense that there was no way in hell that we would be able to take the roots out ourselves, but they needed to come out as we could barely get to the house through them.
We hired a guy with a digger, the very famous Frank de Digger who came for a couple of days and ripped out all the roots. We also got him to make us a new entrance too with a huge driveway. Until the mimosa had gone we hadn’t thought much about where we were going with the building and optimistic me thought ‘how hard can it be, we can do it ourselves, save ourselves a bit of money’…I was very very wrong. While we had the initial plan in our head having the man power and construction knowledge to physically do it was beyond us and we didn’t want a building that would fall down in 5 years!
We had a meeting with the local council architect and discussed with him what we wanted to do. It’s his job to say yes or no and offer advice on what you can and can’t do and that was pretty much it. We left feeling great and relieved that we could go ahead with our plans.
Time was getting on winter was about to set in… Portugal rains hard and it gets cold.
With the help of friends we managed to source some local Portuguese builders who promised us they would start early December.
We were a bit dubious as we have heard many horror stories about builders not showing up, doing a terrible job or only working when they please. But these guys came well recommended.
They did not disappoint!
From 5th December to now, 27th Jan, they have turned our decrepit ruin into something we can visualise ourselves being very happy in. They’re skills are excellent, they’re lovely guys and boy do they work hard.
We will be doing the inside of the house ourselves and are yet to bring the electricity cables to the house and install a fuse board, it took from June to January to actually get the electricity installed and connected to the quinta itself along with water mains. Again I think we had luck with this as we’ve also heard extortionate quotes to have this done.
Life has been good so far, we struggle some days…ok a lot of days, to summon the motivation to work on the land. There is a lot of clearing and a lot of digging and a lot of old, dead plants and weeds laying around so we are taking one step at a time on concentrating on thing. Sometimes you just can’t see the woods for the trees!
We have so far managed to clear the whole of the forest after years of pine needle build up just laying there, the forest floor can finally see some light, we have had lots of mushrooms growing (which we hope to identify for next year so we can forage) and we also threw a lot of grass seed down to get some greenery in the bottom. We probably raked out around 5 tonne of pine needles!
We have also prepared the ground to plant our vineyard. We hope in a couple of years we can start making our very first wine which is going to be pretty fun. We wanted to get the vineyard done by Christmas but unfortunately as it was just so cold we didn’t manage to finish it. Originally we prepared the ground and worked out we could fit around 350 grape vines in but have decided to cut that down and instead used about a 3rd of the ground we sectioned off for a vegetable patch instead.
And that’s pretty much it for now. I mean there are so many other things I could go into but I didn’t want to drone on just wanted to give you an update on our building work and our land. There’s so many things I want to tell you in more detail but I’ll do that on another post.
We promise to write again much sooner that last time and tell you about the all the exciting things we are doing instead of just the building progress. We have already seen so much of the local area, and not for one minute do we ever get sick of the sight of the views.
Covid at the moment means there are a few restrictions and lockdowns but when you have your own beautiful land and outdoor space it’s not really all that bad and feel we are very lucky…although I’m dying for a decent coffee!
Look after yourselves.