Driving Over Limes*
Staking it out and cutting it up
With a great new car comes great responsibility – something I have been taking extremely seriously.
I have been careful to the point of obsession, avoiding cross-country routes with protruding branches for fear of scratching Cassie’s beautiful metallic red sides and driving with secateurs just in case we get cornered by an esteva rock rose bush.
So you can understand my anger and frustration when Ana pointed out the dent in the back of our fabulous new Hilux at a supermarket in Aljezur.
“It wasn’t there when I washed her this morning,” I replied, as we started analysing it closely and carefully and then looking around for a culprit.
No note, no apology…just a dent in the back of our beautiful new car.
It was a rollercoaster of emotion:
1. Sadness and anger: Who? How? When?
2. Reflection: she’s a working car…a pickup…she is going to get scratched.
3. Frustration: but why sooooo soon?
4. Anger again: who did this and why did they not at least leave an apology?
5. Resignation: it’s not too bad, no scratched paint…it’ll be easy to repair
But every time I saw the un-shapely dent in her rear end, a little salt was sprinkled into the wound.
When Solar Iain came over to talk panels and power systems he spotted it: “I hate to tell you, but someone has dinked the back of your new car.” The knife was twisted.
Rumour had it that our Swedish friend Ola knew a bodyshop guy in São Teotónio: big garage door, always shut, no sign, always there.
I even drove by for a recce on a run to the nearest petrol station to meet a delivery van.
(Only extremely talented delivery folk make it anywhere near the house and a “meet me at the Galp” phone call is much better than an “your address doesn’t exist and the parcel has been returned” email.)
It was fine. There is the technology. We can repair her. But there was still that lingering question over who had done it.
I was planning to take her in to arrange a time and I looked again…the dent had got even bigger!
Where, how, what? How do dents do that? Same place, but definitely deeper…a bigger dent.
And that’s when I found two limes stuck in the bumper. Limes don’t jam themselves in car bumpers.
We had found the culprit…it was the lime tree all along.
Obviously it wasn’t the lime tree…it was me backing the car into the lime tree.
Despite the rear camera and a perception I was being careful, the length of the car and my inability to hear any tree-associated rustlings are mere excuses for diminished responsibility.
Ana was very nice about it: “I feel a bit better knowing it was us and not someone else.”
And she added: “and it’s great because when I start driving the car and dent it you can’t be upset with me.”
* It also gave us the unmissable opportunity (thanks again to Ana for this one) to parody the title of Chris Stewart’s iconic 1999 bestselling book “Driving Over Lemons” about how he started a new life on the farm he bought in Spain.
The former Genesis drummer (yes, really) bought a mountain farm in Andalucia “on the wrong side of the river with its previous owner still resident.”
At least he had a river – we would love one of those – and if our previous owner had still lived here perhaps she could have explained how everything worked and we wouldn’t have broken everything and had to replace it all at huge cost.
We also have great responsibility for two dogs, and one of them has been looking a bit tatty recently.
The travelling puppy parlour is booked up weeks ahead and so in an emergency it was quicker to wait for the Pet Grooming Kit delivery from Amazon.
When it didn’t arrive we found the “your address doesn’t exist” email, but it was second time lucky as a fabulous delivery woman came right to the door and Simon started to worry.
Ana locked the two of them in the bathroom for a couple of hours while I finally got around to finishing the tiling in the indoor/outdoor room (it’s all done Rui and I think you’ll be impressed!)
When a much smaller Simon emerged Garf thought it was a different dog and tried to push his luck prompting a Simon snarl-off alfa-reaffirmation.
It’s always a shock when one shaves, but he looks so much thinner and younger.
(Note to self: time to grow a beard again so I can cut it off and feel better about myself).
It would be irresponsible of us to drive past a fabulous looking mushroom and not go back and get it.
Recently we’ve been harvesting the fruit of the silves or bramble bush (blackberries) - on the basis that if we have to get spiked and cut by this terrible fast-spreading weed all year around we’ll darn well collect blackberries when they provide them!
We’ve also been picking marmelos (quince) to make rich red marmelo - Portuguese marmalade - and while out and about we were surprised to discover a large mushroom before we’ve had much rain.
After a lot of reading and a few phone calls Ana identified it as a “chicken of the woods” mushroom - also known as Laetiporus sulphureus - which is something quite special.
Their market price is around €100 a kilo and we found not far off two kilos on eucalyptus trees, but the plan was always to eat them rather than flog them!
They are apparently mildly hallucinogenic when raw, so we settled for some flash boiling to get them ready for the freezer and buy us time to dig out some good recipes.
It’s obvious when you cut them why they get their name, as they really look like pieces of chicken breast…we shall let you know how they taste!
We also have responsibility for a big building project and a series of meetings this week scared us and inspired us in equal measure.
The first was with a builder and the second with the aforementioned Solar Iain which forced me into consolidating months of thinking about off-grid winter heating into a new sketch map.
By jove, I think I’ve got it: rainwater capture, a new water tank, underfloor heating and wood fires that heat water.
Miguel the thermic engineer added the final touches: buffer tanks with built in air source heat pumps. Yes. That’ll do it.
We need about 200m2 of solar panels, so that needs a support structure which will double as a car port…and will also need some sealed in rooms for water treatment, solar batteries and a backup generator.
It will cover quite an area, but can probably be built quite cheaply…and will give us a load more rainwater capture area to pipe straight into the lake.
Hammering out a few things with the architect and specialities engineer we rounded off the week with another fantastic builder meeting.
We are scared by the prospect of everyone coming back with quotes we can’t afford.
We are inspired by the driving of wooden poles into the flattened eucalyptus forest and plotting out the location and aspect of all the new buildings with high-visibility tape.
I say “driving,” I mean repeatedly trying to stick a few sticks into concrete-hard ground while managing flapping tape to make little tweaks to the angles.
It took us ages…especially after all the tweaks and movements here and there.
The main building feels small…but with a big deck and the pool area it should be OK.
The new houses look amazing…the view is going to be stunning.
And we can now take our safari chairs, sit in various parts of the hi-vis squares and see if we are drinking sundowners in the right places.
It feels a step closer and we’re even more confident it will be amazing “if we can afford to build it” as Ana often says, and “all being well” as my mum and dad used to add to everything for just the same reason…so as not to jinx a good plan.