Thursday, May 30, 2013


We all love to receive and these last few weeks I received many gifts. This makes me very happy as you can imagine. 

It started with a visit to Sra. Maria da Gloria. She used to live about an hour walk outside town, past the dam,  in the loveliest place. Now she spends half her days in town, a recent move which leaves her extremely sad. After visiting her I now understand why. She offered me a "refresco" of honey in water. The honey she said was still her father´s. Very old honey, and very tasty. I am now addicted to honey water. Before we left to make our way back to town Sra. Maria da Gloria turned to me and asked me if I wanted a stool. To my surprise she presented me with the most wonderful cork stool. She made it for me, with cork from trees she has on her property, and finished it with an old vinyl floor covering she cut to size. The vinyl makes it cheery. Even though it is probably not the best combination with the cork in terms of warmth, I love it.

Then I received a swift. I now no longer need to dance around two chairs or ask for help with the job of  taking wool skeins and turning them into balls to use as I please.

Then Sra. Lizete told me she had a bag of fabrics for me. They are lovely and so happy and some are quite old already. I have to think of a little project for them. The fabric that made the happiest is the one pictured with the donkey and squirrel, what a wonderful combination.

And today I received these blocks of soap, also made by a lady in town, Sra. Fátima. She makes them from olive oil and other things I cannot remember. She says it lasts forever.

Other gifts were received that are not pictured. Of note is a can of tuna, a very random gift, from the man at the fabric shop in Sabugal. And Cherries from a lady from Massarelas, who is also attending the weaving workshop in Maçainhas. The cherries were the brightest red and far too delicious and when I remembered to take a photo, it was too late, they were all in  my belly.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Surprise Patchwork Quilt

I can finally show you the custom order quilt I have been working on since April. I delivered it to my friends in Porto this weekend. I was nervous of course having worked on it for so long and knowing how bad surprises can sometimes go. But I am happy that both Olivia and Paulo are also happy with their new quilt.

I started with the center flower, a pattern I got from the Quilting Arts Magazine. Then everything just kind of grew from there. The only request I had was that the colors to be used were brown, yellow and orange. The rest was up to me. This much freedom is not always a good thing especially if you are as indecisive as I am. But somehow things fell into place quite naturally. I love it when a fabric chosen for a particular place is just enough to the mm as though it was meant to be.

The batting I used is a 50/50 cotton and bamboo blend. It is a good choice. Easy enough to quilt, all natural and eco-friendly. The quilting part is always the hardest. First finding the space to lay the whole quilt flat to baste all the layers together, then quilting all those tiny stitches. By the end my fingers were bleeding and I have a tiny whole in one of them from the back of the needle constantly pushing into it, totally my fault for not liking to use a thimble. 

This was the good news.

Now for the bad news.
The corn we planted has all but almost died because Spring decided to turn to Winter overnight and it frosted.
The birds that had been reusing a nest from last year right at the entrance to our house forgot to do some much needed home renovations and upgrades and all 3 of their baby birds fell from the nest on the same day, before they even got to grow feathers and... died.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bright, work and play.

Last week I made it down to Lisbon and of course to Feira da Ladra. I was fairly lucky this time and bought 3 brightly coloured patchwork bags, an even brighter small hand stitched rug and a hand knitted woolen hooded jumper inspired in the traditional fisherman´s outfits from Póvoa de Varzim.

I also managed to buy some more fabrics to add to ´that´ patchwork quilt I am making. Better still I caught up with friends. Ben, who was visiting from London, brought me over ´Robocup´, a genius set of measuring cups.

Back on the farm, as you can see the office is not so bad. I decided to work there specifically to keep an eye on our chickens after we built this extra fence to keep them from getting to the veggie garden and still have plenty of space to run about and feed on grubs and green things. Either our chickens are incredibly smart or as I am starting to believe we are the least smart of all the animals that we share this space with. They managed to find every single weak point in this very badly built structure. I am not really sure why they feel the need to go beyond it, they have so much space to run around and do what they need there. But when they see an opening they go running as fast as they can, even take flight for a few seconds, lifting off to a height of about 30cm or thereabouts, such is their excitement at having even more space to scratch about.

I made 2 potholders to give Alice as a small thank you for looking after our chickens while we were away. They are hanging for this photo on my studio wall garden which is also coming along nicely now the weather has warmed up.

We learned how to make balls from the leaves of the Asphodelus Ramosus, commonly known as Branched asphodel. The leaves are wound round to form the ball and then fastened using the left over tips of the dried seed pods of the Cistus Ladanifer, commonly known as the Gum rock rose. These balls are what kids used to play with in a time, not so long ago, when creativity and resourcefulness ruled the world, two things often confused or mistaken unfortunately, as much then as today, with poverty.

May is the month to start collecting and drying flowers to make infusions for medicinal purposes. I have been busy collecting the flowers of the Baccharis Trimera (Less.) (of the aster family), the Fumaria Officinalis (Earth smoke) and the Lavandula Stoechas to name a few. I am hoping to build my own herbal medicine cabinet. I feel like a bee when I am picking these flowers, although I am sure bees are a lot better at navigating from flower to flower, less easily distracted, than I am. I see flowers here, then spot some more over there and off I go leaving half the flowers to be picked behind. The real bees can have those flowers. It is a fun activity apart from the fact that I am constantly thinking there is a snake about every time some weed or stick brushes my feet or legs and I have a small panic attack.