Our grand plan
And plenty of time to get things done with a lockdown coming
Some things can leave really big holes in your life, but here in Alentejo you have to deal with them before they get out of hand.
Unless those holes are filled, you can’t really move on. In truth, you can’t really move anywhere.
So, I decided to fill them myself with crushed brick, sand and mud.
It’s only about a mile to our house on a dirt road, but as you may have read a few weeks ago we’ve had a few issues with rain and clay.
A quick drive-by from the Cow King’s tractor and a week of sunshine means the road is now good to go, but the final stretch up to our house has developed a couple of cavernous holes.
(The sunshine also means we currently have hot water – yay – even if it is rather chilly in the house at night…yup…still waiting for parts for the second German boiler to be fixed!)
The water creates small lakes, and every time Millicent bounces through them, we gouge a bit more out of the bottom of the muddy pool, and she gets her pink eyelashes splashed.
Building work produces some pretty chunky waste, and so I’ve been saving up a pile of crushed bricks for just such an eventuality.
I piled them all into Millicent’s boot thinking it’d be plenty to fill up all the holes, but a couple of hours, and plenty of sand and mud-shovelling later, I’d managed to get one hole levelled out.
So, I guess I need to smash up more bricks.
It’s all just a quick fix for now as we’ll be bringing in some big machines to cut down and dig out two hectares of eucalyptus forest for our BIG PROJECT and we will grade the road properly once that work has been done.
Did I mention the big project? Yes, we have a grand plan…and all this learning to build stuff is all being done with that firmly in mind…
We currently have one guest house split into a two-bedroom flat and a one-bedroom flat which we hope to rent out from May, but we’ve also submitted a business plan to Turismo de Portugal and are waiting for an answer on whether they can help us with funding.
We have planning permission, lots of people lined up to do the job, but we’re just waiting and hoping we can get their support for the project.
There are zero interest loans available – some of them forgivable – for projects in the poorer provinces like Alentejo.
We plan to build three new houses for guest rooms and a main building for meals, events, a little broadcast studio for me (and perhaps for colleagues who would like to spend some time working remotely from the countryside), and a wine tasting deck next to the pool – in the spot with the best view.
It will all be off the grid using solar, hopefully some form of wind turbine if I can work out how to link that into the batteries, and a good back-up system for those few weeks when the sun doesn’t shine.
Guests apparently get very upset about not having hot water…can’t imagine why!
Everything is so uncertain with the pandemic hitting tourism so hard, but in two years’ time when we hope to fully open, we think it could be great timing.
We’re very rural and so peaceful and isolated, but only 15mins from the beautiful beaches and the hiking trails...and we have sooooo many brilliant people all over the world following our progress who might actually come and stay (when they are finally allowed to)!
We were introduced to a fantastic architect in Villa Nova de Milfontes – Gonçalo Araujo – and he has created a really cool feature for our new lodgings – the massive chimneys.
They will separate off the units and also create space for BBQs outside and fires inside…and it’s a really cool way of modernising the old, characteristic Alentejo style of building.
The plan is to build in taipa, which is a traditional building method here which dates back to when the Romans inhabited these lands.
The taipa bricks are more than half a metre thick and are made from the clay from our own land – so they’re sustainable…and very good at keeping the houses cool in the summer and retaining heat in the winter.
We’ve started learning more about how to maintain temperatures in the houses – hot or cold – and to look at efficient ways of generating heat in the winter and cooling in the summer.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a carbon neutral lodge? We’re working on it!
What are your thoughts on carbon neutral accommodation?
Is it attractive or “whatever”?
Would you mind not having a bathtub on your hols, if you knew it was helping with water management?
Are you an expert?
Do you know any?
This all for another blog when we know more, but we’re thinking underground and air heat exchangers – and were introduced to Combined Heat and Power (CHP) by our friend, the marvellous architect Paul Tierney last night.
Lots and lots to learn…but it’s fun…and today’s learning has been…plastering.
On the building front I’m pleased to report the coarse layer of plaster was successfully splashed on to all the walls and pillars to give the smooth finishing plaster something decent to stick to.
I must admit though, this was all Rui. I just couldn’t get the hang of wrist flicking “the mud” without it going everywhere else except where it was supposed to be.
In most cases I like to think the work I am doing is helping us do the job faster, but on this occasion, I made the executive decision to simply watch and learn…and then clean up.
I’ve got a little better at the plastering…we’ve started on that today and the results are already amazing.
We’ve also built the structure for the roof at the back of the house.
That’s just going to be light corrugated plastic to keep the rain off and give us some extra storage space behind the house, but Rui approached it with the usual attention to detail.
It looks like we will probably have plenty of time on our hands as Portugal goes back into a national lockdown after a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The Ficar em casa order to stay home was announced by the prime minister and starts this Friday for a month.
Schools and universities will remain open, but non-essential shops, theatres and restaurants will shut except for take-aways.
The government message here is to focus on the rules, not the exceptions.
People are very good at following the rules…and the police are tough and good at imposing them!
Better get smashing some bricks…those holes ain’t gonna fill themselves.
But I’ll start out by getting plastered.