Building plans and an F-ing dishwasher
An audio version of the blog is above - I forgot to add it in my email this week, so apologies for that.
“What’s that noise?” Ana asked.
My first thought was it might be the dishwasher which had just come home after a week’s sabbatical at the factory following three previous unsuccessful attempts to repair it.
A series of annoying beeps accompanied by the dreaded flashing “F 13” code had become commonplace – something the internet called “a motherboard issue,” which even to the uninitiated sounds serious.
Despite a new motherboard it was still F-ing itself off every other wash and so the men took it away and a week later brought it back and told us it was our fault.
They brought an electrician to stick some probes into our sockets to prove the fluctuating frequency of our solar power grid was the problem.
The numbers did seem to be flickering a bit, although I couldn’t replicate the results when they’d gone, but solar Iain’s techie business partner was pretty convinced the frequency fluctuations of which they spoke were physically impossible.
There is something odd going on as the dishwasher works in the dark, but not in the daytime when the power of the sun in piling into our batteries and inverters, but Iain has promised to investigate and thankfully we now have enough power to wash dishes overnight.
But the noise wasn’t the dishwasher, nor was it the digger the builders are using up on the hill for construction – this was a steady, deep rumble...and it was getting closer...
Our attention has been firmly focussed on the building work this week as roofs and walls are going up and the clock is ticking for us to negotiate the next stage of the project with the builder: everything from the windows, to the interiors and the finishings...that’s a whole new world of things like tiles, taps and toilets.
A Sunday spent poring over quotes and quantity surveys set us up for a week of daily 9am meetings with our engineer, the builder, a new heat pump expert and our architect.
We wandered and pondered our way around a marble yard in the rain, emailed more water experts in Holland and made a plan to add a third building to this phase of the project.
Construction of our four little tourist lodge houses is split into two phases, but with the speed of the work and with all the equipment on site, it makes sense to start a third building now, so they and the pool can all open at the same time...ideally in Spring 2024.
Our main building is looking amazing, with its over-sized chimney feature taking shape, and the villa of two apartments has its mezzanine in place and the concrete guys are busy with the roof.
The third building is three small en-suite rooms. With a bit of design tweaking and the addition of a few basic kitchens we should be on to a winner.
Let’s hope inflation hasn’t driven up the costs too much or else we’ll be asking for volunteer builders as well as people to help us do some planting in the Spring...
Speaking of which, the holes have been dug ready for the three 100-year-old olive trees, but rain has stopped play in terms of delivering them.
We’ve been inundated with welcome rain this week and the lake level is already a little up...even if the swales need some more tweaking.
I’ve ordered new gutters for the solar panels so I can harvest rainfall straight from the panels and get it into the lake.
The building site is potted with puddles and so we need to be careful not to strand tonnes of truck and trees.
Our neighbour Daniel took Ana up to Lisbon airport this week for her trip to Sweden, and for the first time experienced how our dirt road sometimes gets a little...soggy...after a lot of rain.
His automatic Nissan isn’t a 4x4 and so after an increasingly stressful number of attempts and some considerable Slip Sliding Away (as the small dog might say) he took the lower route and made it to the main road.
It was Daniel’s second run-in with water in a week after the local freguesia council delivered thousands of litres of the stuff into his tanks, only for it all to drain away courtesy of an open tap and some fire damaged pipes.
He’s still waiting for the replacement tubes and electrical cables destroyed by the fire to bring water up to the house from his well down in the valley.
“At least the bamboo got plenty of water,” was his philosophical approach to the disappointment of still not being able to flush...or wash up, let alone shower.
It’s been great having Daniel back in the valley and we were hugely grateful to him for dog-sitting Simon & Garfunkel while we headed to inland Alentejo to taste some talha wines. Read all about that in the wine blog.
But back to that noise, and the approaching rumble which was now attracting the dogs’ attention.
A flash of yellow gave the game away – the bulldozer we’d booked to come and help us do some serious earth moving was trundling down the road with Octávio at the wheel.
We’ve been plotting and scheming for weeks about what to do with the opportunity the fire gave us to redesign the landscape for years ahead: bolstering up the dam and creating a new terrace or two.
It’s hard to know whether the rain helped or hindered, but Octávio worked relentlessly all week doing some serious earth-moving.
He took a break from our relentless clay for a couple of hours to bulldoze Daniel’s wood fired oven (which was ruining his view) and to dump a load of debris on his road.
With Ana out of town, it is up to my poor Portuguese to try and stop Octávio from moving earth and rumbling on from now until Christmas - he’s paid by the hour and we’re getting on for a week of work already.
Hopefully with some help, I’ll get the message across on Monday and he’ll wrap up in a day or so...but that’s by no means guaranteed.
It all looks a bit stark at the moment, but with the re-spreading of some good saved soil on top and a bit of new seed, hopefully it won’t be an eyesore in the spring.
And the new terrace is the perfect spot for some more fruit trees
More rain is apparently on the way and we’re loving it...everything is now a lush green after a sun-baked summer, mushrooms are popping up all over the place and the temperature still hasn’t dropped.
But that hasn’t stopped us from enjoying cozy evenings from our room with a view over a wind and rain-washed valley.