New Year’s mess-solution
Planting, pregnancy and post-it notes
This year we decided to spend the ‘New Year, New Start’ gym membership money on post-it notes.
The white board just wasn’t big enough for what we aimed to achieve on January 3rd when we felt compelled to get a grip on the chaos of our projects our business and our lives in general.
Inspired by Ana’s experience of work planning retreats she led our inaugural annual planning meeting with the support of the sticky paper colours yellow, pink, green and blue.
And in the pursuit of strict structure and prioritisation we almost ran out of yellow.
Everything was on the table...and then stuck on the windows...and then transferred into a spreadsheet as we divvied it all up and got a head start on 2023.
Things have been...getting away from us...and after putting back on all the weight I’d lost last year with my Springtime strimming frenzy, we had everything from pulling up estevas (rock rose) and moving rocks to getting Ana’s driving license and designing interiors.
This is the year of action, after all.
Last year we took a different approach, rejecting the whole wholesome approach and doubling down when we #TookBackJanuary with Mr Piggywig’s parade, and that was fun.
But with an F-ing dishwasher problem still to solve, a pump to buy for our disappointing and expensive new hole, and measuring how many hundred metres of three phase, armoured electrical cable we need (and where we can buy it cheap), there’s no time for pig roasting.
In my first step towards a clean-living, booze-light January I made sure the rest of the Christmas cake was eaten as soon as possible and all the chocolates polished off so I could start cutting back without any distractions.
Bread is out, intermittent fasting and aggressive dog walking is in.
We need to be in tip-top shape for the largest expansion of the valley family so far: it turns out Val Kilmer is pregnant.
For those a blogpost or two behind and confused by this unexpected and unique Hollywood update, Val Kilmer is the Oda-named cat we rescued from a restaurant clifftop, and the vet says we’ve got less than two weeks before anything from two to six kittens are delivered.
No wonder she’s been hungry.
Valkyrie Killmouse (to give her full name) has now successfully imposed herself on Simon & Garfunkel and is turning into a wonderfully sweet indoor/outdoor household cat..let’s see how she does as a teenage mum as she can’t be more than a year old.
The post-it notes naturally arranged themselves into sections like ‘building project’, landscaping, guesthouse improvements...that kind of thing...and then were ordered by Quarter (1-4) and Priority (1-3).
Top of the list, beyond the usual post-holiday catch-up admin, was planting trees to make use of the continuing and very welcome rain and getting Ana’s driving license sorted.
Now that has been a drama: one small yellow post-it note just doesn’t seem enough for the weight of the task in hand.
Ana’s had a driving license for ten years and other than needing a few lessons in non-automatic cars (courtesy of learning to drive in LA) is good to go.
Although her US license expired a while back, her Kenyan license and international permit from our last posting meant we didn’t foresee any problem.
But...it seems Kenya didn’t sign the right UN treaty in the 1960s (I don’t know, maybe they were too busy getting independence or something) and so Portugal still doesn’t recognise a Kenyan licence and so the best option is to take a new test here. How hard could it be?
It turns out 28 theory classes and 32 driving lessons are obligatory preparation for a test – even for those who can already drive – and although the package costs less than in most other European countries, that’s a lot of time and effort.
And Portugal’s highway code book is a monstrous document of amateur psychology, sweeping generalisations about how much “more aggressive” male drivers are than women, and a lot of ambiguity.
Ana’s been caning it on the studies and we’ll be taking Siouxsie the Suzuki out for some clutch practice, so hopefully we’ll soon be up in Lisbon for some proper practical lessons and a shorter waiting list for a test than down here in the country.
Under “Outdoor Projects” Q1, priority 1 was “order trees for Spring” and “seed terrace” and so we began the search for a source.
A great Facebook group tip-off pointed us towards a plant nursery up in Monchique called Viveiros Dinis and so we headed for the hills with our neighbour Daniel who’s always on the lookout for new plants.
Linking up with Swiss pals Niels and the particularly green-fingered Sybille, we ticked off the vegetables before moving on to a meat main course at Dona Paula’s wild boar (wild boar) restaurant and dropped by a fabulously crazy sculpture garden for dessert.
We learned a lot about the different types of local olives (the best for eating, the best for making oil), were told we needed permission to plant cork oak and pine nuts from the town hall, and were kept well away from citrus saplings curiously sealed off in double plastic tunnels.
It turns out there’s a major threat to Iberian citrus trees, which if established could wipe out Portugal and Spain’s orchards in just 15 years...that’s a lot of lost oranges.
This week’s rabbit hole is Huanglongbing disease (HLB) – also known as ‘Citrus Greening’ and caused by Candidatus liberibacter – a bacterium spread by insects.
The guilty sap-sucking psyllid is a little blighter called Trioza erytreae and it’s been spreading down the Portuguese coast for the last ten years.
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We’re lucky the Citrus Greening bacteria hasn’t followed it yet, but the Life for Citrus programme fears it’s only a matter of time.
“The disease has no known cure and the current means of control...[has] a high economic and environmental cost that is incompatible with European production systems,” the EU-funded body warns.
Presumably meaning you have to rip them all out and it explains why some fields of oranges near the coast from here have gone un-harvested and we heard are destined for destruction.
Daniel went plant-crazy as usual, Niels & Sybille chose four types of apricot tree and we picked up a few fast-growing melaleuca to help private-ise our guesthouse while we plot, scheme, order and return with the trailer this week or next to get planting!
I’d love to linger longer and bore you with the minutes of our latest building meeting, and the findings of our PVC factory day out, but there’s post-it notes to tear through, tick off, scrunch up and use to start the fire.
But I definitely think we’re going to need a lot more yellow ones.