If I was fluent in The TikTok I’m sure I would have gone viral this week with the latest trend to hit Vale das Estrelas: the “burn, baby, burn” challenge.
I’m still working on my dance moves, so haven’t gone public yet, but I guarantee pretty soon it’s going to be on fire.
So far it’s got me out into the forest, got me a-choppin’, a-sawin’ and a-carryin’ and it’s been the hottest thing here all week. We have been baking.
In truth my social media skills are a little rubbish: if it weren’t for my wife’s use of The Facebook I’d miss a lot more birthdays.
Their algorithms have already worked out my posts are more about the specifics of off-grid living than cats that look like Salazar (but the way Val Kilmer the cat is going, we may be posting a load of cute kitten videos sooner rather than later).
Ana often posts on our Instantgram and it’s a lot of fun posting snapshots from here, but as far as The Twittersphere goes...there are a lot more useful rabbit holes I can disappear down, and for me this week it was the turn of the Tartessians.
Don’t get me started on the lost Iberian civilisation of miners and traders from 1,000BCE who got a load of likes from Diodorus of Siculus and hearts from Herodotus who shared their story with all his followers – and that guy’s historic.
I’m not even going to get into why the Tarts mysteriously disappeared in the 6th century amid a frenzy of animal sacrifice and clay-burying bake-offs, let alone talk about the Turds who followed in their wake (no, seriously…and please, Gen-Z, don’t try that at home).
At some point I’ll write a concise history of the Tartessians, but for now you’ll have to take it from me just how fascinating they were, so let’s get back to what’s trending...
Last fall in ‘Murica, Portugal’s most famous alcoholic export got the TikTok treatment and the results are pretty impressive.
Not being up (or is it down?) with the kids I had no idea the #taylorport challenge was even a thing until I stumbled across it this week while reading up on how badly the wine industry is doing among the generations who aren’t dying.
Millions of people have watched thousands of other people necking glasses of port and occasionally faceplanting...a total of 65.9m times...and although it hasn’t quite reached the following of #taylorswift, it has led US port sales to increase by 63.4% year on year.
There’s a lesson in that I guess.
A lesson I learned in my rugby playing days when we had a bottle of port on the way back from every away game (each), was not to drink it excessively.
I’ve only recently been able to smell port, let alone taste it, but I’m back in the room and am now enjoying it…in small doses.
As I was leaving the BBC, the top priority for the broadcaster was to win the attention of the young through every way possible and TikTok was high on that list.
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We did some fun experiments with branching narrative series on YouTube and our Virtual Reality films and 360 videos were great and ahead of their time, but I guess contextualising the Congo isn’t terribly trend-worthy (although that documentary has had more than 13 million views on YouTube, so there is that).
How TikTok is best used to disseminate fair, balanced and accurate news in an entertaining but non-superficial way is now up to my former colleagues to fit in around fabulous filmmaking.
Anyway, back to the “burn, baby burn challenge.”
It’s where this 51 year old white guy who lives off grid in the Portuguese countryside tries to work out...wait for it...stay with me...
Tries to work out...which wood from his land burns the best.
What do you think? Huge, huh?
If you thought spending hours researching a lost civilisation of indigenous Iberians, Greeks and Phoenicians was at best geeky, at worst downright odd, I suspect this does suggest I should get out more...and not just into the forest.
With the cold nights bringing a smattering of frost to our hillsides (and bringing the temperatures below zero in the valley), I’ve developed a daily routine of getting a roaring fire going once the sun sets.
Our fireplace is plumbed into the hot water tank, so our evening fires warm the house and the water.
This is when I get smug about off-grid living in a time of soaring energy prices.
It might have been cold recently, but it has also been beautifully clear and so the sun has been heating our thermal panels as well as supercharging our batteries.
While thermal solar keeps our showers toasty all summer, the house radiators can cut through three days of hot water in a couple of hours.
That’s why we’re installing underfloor heating run by heatpumps in the new buildings...as it warms at a much lower water temperature. It’s also why the fires are important at the moment.
So far we have run the gas backup only once this winter – for 20 minutes – just to make sure it still works.
My new wood-collecting obsession mostly stems from the fact I didn’t put enough eucalyptus under cover before the December rains soaked my outside stash that Lionel cut a while ago, and so now I’m running short...and looking for alternatives.
Unfortunately the wild fire burned my fabulous log pile; but fortunately the fire also brought new alternatives.
So would it be the burned medronho cut straight from the tree, or the pine logs? Would the toasted poplar be more popular than the oak branches (burned or unburned) or cork oaks felled by the fire?
I guess you’ll have to join TikTok to find out (just kidding).
Thanks to everyone who responded to last week’s blog with advice about fittings and finishings.
Ana’s pursuit of the perfect porcelain continues apace and you can never have too many tap and shower-head catalogues.
And thanks in particular to our friend and neighbour Ola (who used to run five star hotel groups) for recommending taps that emerge from the wall, toilets that hover off the floor (as long as they’re not too expensive) in the interests of easy cleaning, and toilet doors that properly close.
Never mind all those lovely suspended sliding rustic-look things, apparently acoustics are as important as maintaining a “contained room.”
In the last week or so we’ve met the carpenter (twice), an IKEA designer, our building engineer (for hours), our architect, the heat pump guy (again), called the glass guy (again), called the energy certificate guy (again), met a pool person and visited a few kitchen showrooms.
Next week the landscaper, the waste water guy, the other window guy and the other heat pump guy will all be visiting or sending quotations.
The roof concrete was poured, another building was pegged out, dug and concrete foundations started.
We need to open around this time next year...tick, tock indeed...but we’re getting there!
Hey guys - I’ll drop you a line.
Hi Alastair, I found you - lovely to meet you and Ana buying trees. Let's stay in touch! Linda & Jason email@example.com