First steps towards a third floor

June started with a heat wave. Dave was away in the UK and I was just trying to keep myself and the plants alive until it passed. Then when I headed off to join Dave in the UK, a cold front swept in and there was snow a few hundred meters above us, night-time temperatures of 5 degrees and long, cold, rainy days. At least my plants didn’t need watering whilst I was away! Brrr.

We had a wonderful time in Britain. We saw my family for a weekend in Scotland and all went to a wedding together. I went to Aberdeen with my parents and reconnected with some old friends. And our one evening in London was spent feasting on oriental food and good chats with Jo.

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On returning to Spain we had a visit from Dave’s parents. We visited the local museum for the first time, trying to work out what all the old, hand-built, wooden machines were used for. The weather was lovely and we spent several days up at the house working and gardening and chatting.

Then we had a visit from Jacquie and Neal, who have their own place in Portugal with 7 hectares of land. Jacquie had last been to visit us two years ago so it was a relief to hear that she thought we’d made some progress since then. We enjoyed a wander around our place and spent the evening chatting away over a few beers.

As for progress on the house, there hasn’t been anything radical going on but slow and steady progress is being made. Omar has been chipping and pointing on the outer side wall of the house. I have been making box benches for the balcony that will eventually be an outdoor sofa. They’re made from old joists and floorboards and have been cladded with sweet chestnut planks from the local woodyard. They’re already getting good use for lunches and breaks.

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One bench is finished and boxed in. The seat is on a hinge to make a lid.

I talked to the local blacksmith who says he’d be happy to come and weld our metal beams together for the sleeping loft. That encouraged us to make a start on that project and Dave and I spent a whole weekend tidying out the house, removing rubbish, getting our stuff out of Tarje and Signe’s house and making space for it in our basement. With the house clear and tidy, the scaffolding went up to make a start on the holes in the walls.

The last weekend in June we did our definitive measurements to decide where the main beam was going to go. Then we started taking out rocks, putting in props and grinding out space for it.

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One of the prepared holes

There is a pair of wrens raising a brood in a hole in the wall inside our house. They’re coming and going all the time with beaks full of grubs and generally don’t seem to mind us working in there. At least our house is someone’s home already!

The garden is looking pretty great at the moment. I’m delighted with my tomato plants, which are big and healthy and are already sporting big clusters of flowers. This time last year, all had died from blight, and the year before had barely got going by the end of June, so it feels like a big achievement (although I partly have the weather to thank!). The herb beds are romping away nicely. And beans, brassicas, pumpkins, corn, amaranths and courgettes are all taking off, having endured the spells of hot and cold weather valiantly. I’ve strung up plaits of garlic, dried my harvested onions for use, and we’re getting good crops of kale, cauliflower, peas and mange-tout.

I saw a long black snake the other day when we picked up a scaffolding board and disturbed it keeping warm underneath. It slithered off and I looked it up to find out it was most likely Natrix natirx, a harmless grass snake. I’m always delighted to find out that the changed habitat we’re creating is providing homes for interesting creatures.

I’m happy with the way this month has gone. In spite of trips away and visitors here, we have inched our way forwards, ever closer to having a bedroom.

-Anna

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