Mountain Family

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We spent September at Mum and Dad's new home, painting walls white and working in their house and garden. A predictably and unpredictably eventful few weeks including an almighty argument over a toilet cistern and puncturing an electricity pipe with a spade.
Our oldest doggy Woolly bit right through his bottom lip with his last remaining tooth. His lip got hooked onto his tooth and it took a three person wrestle and a lot of blood to unhook it. Previous compost and cat shit eater would then only eat slithers of parma ham and yoghurt from a spoon. He got an infection in his blood and we had a sad few weeks thinking he might join his bro Woofta who'd died in August.. But he recovered and is back to his crusty self, quivering at the smell of an apple core or a cat bowl to lick. 




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We left them to the peace and quiet of their hill-top paradise and buggered off to the North of Portugal. The middle of October was WET. Living in the van started getting a bit damp… We found warmth with some wondrous people in an old ruin, half way up Portugal's highest mountain in the Serra Da Estrella mountain range. Some peeps in Amsterdam (who's other projects include bailing the guy out of jail who sails his ship into whaling boats) had bought a couple of old ruins surrounded by steep terraces and had commissioned Simon, a kind and laid-back guy with a PHD in laser physics, to convert the land and ruins into a retreat space for minority communities. We and the wondrous others were there to help with the conversion.




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The project is 500m up a winding track, just about 4x4-drivable but only by one with a cracked windscreen and cracked chassis and that had reached its final resting place in the Portuguese mountains. The only 'habitable' space in the ruins was a little stone room which we used as a kitchen. A wood-burning stove kept it and us warm and dry, we cooked on it and ate like Queens and Kings, sat around a big table, reading, playing games and having the kind of laughs and debates you can imagine you'd have between a PHD laser physicist and spiritual yogi types. There was a huge Estrella mountain dog called Palancha who 'came with the house' that we fell in love with. He'd dug himself a cave in the mountain-side for sleeping in and when Simon arrived he thought 'What's that big hole doing there..?' and promptly filled it in. He realised his mistake when he saw Palancha sitting next to the pile of earth looking forlorn.




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Palancha




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The terraces are irrigated by water mines cut into the mountain side, which collect spring water in huge granite tanks and direct it around the land via inconspicuous channels called levadas. Using gravity to water the entire mountain side plot, minimal effort! The impressive system had been there for god knows how many hundreds of years and needed clearing of god knows how many years of chestnuts and apples and vegetation. Cue spider bite and uncovering sauntering poisonous fire salamanders. Along with enough dense bramble growth to keep us busy swinging the sythe, the terraces were covered in old twisted apple and sweet chestnut trees, grape vines, tree cabbages and the odd squash plant. A feast for the Javali (wild boar) and for us! Hours collecting and roasting and eating and making into chutneys, to the sound of the rushing stream and jangling goat bells.
We replaced a rotten old floor with a sexy new wooden one, tarped up the roof in a windy, rope-throwing, crumbling roof scrambling mission, planted fruit trees and made friends 4 lyf with our mountain fambly! Thank you so much Simon, Caroline, Jack, Alon, Ze Luis & Father!




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Jack and Caroline





Angus





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Agua-Dente brewing





Caroline




We were put in touch with someone who had a rescue puppy that needed a home... So, suckers to dogs especially little ones with white beards, on our way South from the mountains we picked her up. A stray had turned up under a family's decking, covered in fleas and ticks, they nursed her back to health and when she was brave enough to come out from under the decking one of their other rescue dogs promptly shagged her. She had 8 puppies! All of which had a scheduled re-home, including the mum, they were beautiful and lovely natured... But then one of the puppies went missing whilst out on a walk, and turned up again a whole month later, by which time the person who had wanted to take her had lost interest… So now we are 3! She is called Jella, the adventure dawg. She wees and poos in the water and eats sea-shells, amongst other things. We swore that she'd sleep in her bed on the floor, but for some reason (nothing to do with me) we keep waking up with her under the duvet between us, with her head on the pillow.









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