Playing Catch-up: A Fall 2019 Update
Somehow, even though “write a blog for Casa Beatrix” is often on my to-do list, it just as often gets bypassed in honor of other commitments and to-do’s. I am working on changing that, but in the meantime, something else that is preventing me from posting blogs is the feeling that there is so much I want to share with you (ironic, I know).
So, to take the proverbial bull by the horns, here’s a quick and dirty all-around update to reset my feeling of guilt on not sharing enough. Thus, with useless emotions banished at least temporarily, I hope to do just a little bit better and share more of the ups and downs of this farmtrepreneurial adventure.
Lots of change on this front, both good and bad.
The chickens & guinea fowl are doing great, still cohabitating in mostly peaceful conditions (I saw Bonnie – or was it Clyde? – peck at Castafiore the other day, so it’s clearly not a boring roommate situation). We get regular eggs, and sometimes discover strays in the toolshed/barn amidst the hay. I am hoping to add a few chickens to our flock soon-ish, ideally funky looking ones that preferably will lay different colored eggs. Not always easy in Portugal, but a girl can dream!
The ducks are true to their usual selves. They quack loudly as soon as I emerge from the Tiny House (aka Chateau Cramooz) every morning, clamouring for attention and to be let out A.S.A.P. Once out, they relax and alternate between foraging for bugs, playing with water (i.e. using water to clean the grass they eat and aid their digestion), and curling up under the Tiny House or one of the cars until further notice. Spartacus – our little duckling – is so big it’s hard to remember how tiny he started off. With two males and two females (we lost Marilyn back in September), we should get a few extra ladies on board soon. We’ve been debating what kind of ducks we want, so stay tuned.
Goats, oh the goats. They are so independent and wonderful, yet always up to mischief. Francois has had to use a special gum/tar/product on quite a few fruit trees that someone (I suspect Meli, but it would be unfair to accuse her without more proof than a hunch) had been chewing on. Pan is a little more mellow than before and even eats out of my hand, and although Avela and Ninja aren’t quite cuddle-enthusiasts anymore, I’m working on winning them back by often taking various types of food down in the morning to see what they like and win back their love that way. Yes, I am shameless. Ooh and we have a new generation on its way, with a first baby goat born just yesterday! (Its twin unfortunately didn’t make it, but Croissant’s little girl is absolutely off the charts adorable.)
The donkey – yes, it’s singular. A few weeks ago, our beloved Ludwig van Beethoven was claimed by old age. It was a dreary rainy gray day, but he was in good company and surrounded by love when we lost him. I’d like to think we gave him a glorious last year of life, free-ranging alongside his number-one-fan Cleo. Speaking of, Cleo is doing fine if a bit lonely, and has started occasionally chasing after goats/ducks/dogs to establish herself as The Queen. I’ve started slowly doing a bit of training with her to try and focus her energy on that rather than terrorizing the rest of the animals. We’ll see if it works. And yes, we’ll get her another companion, but in due time.
As for the dogs and the cat, they are as mischievous, wonderful, love-tastic as ever. Castanha is still growing if slowly, Mojito has taken to jumping up and twisting in the air like a crazy gazelle whenever he’s excited (at least a few times a day), and Murdoch has begun training Castanha to accept him cuddling with her (he is nothing if not ambitious it seems).
The good news is they are progressing, if at a snail’s pace. Our first space “The Bergerie” is done from a renovation perspective (i.e. new floor and walls, electric wiring and plumbing are all in), and a gorgeous hand-crafted wooden kitchen has been set up. Now we “just” have to make the kitchen functional and set up shelves & lamps & the photovoltaic system & water lines. Ha. The never-ending to-do list is NOT a figment of my imagination!
The first big house is being worked on again, with wiring just in and new floors and walls next on the program. That should be done by end of year-ish (spot the optimist!).
The second big house… we should be getting an answer from the Municipality soon, though apparently there’s a 70cm issue that we’ll have to fix.
We’re working on one or two additional units, the natural swimming pool, a shower and toilet for the swimming pool area, and general clearing (the first step before proper landscaping).
I keep holding off on sharing photos until spaces are finished, but perhaps I should just share visuals along the way. Any preference? Let me know in the comment section below!
The vegetable garden
This deserves its own blog post. In a nutshell, this year was frustrating and amazing, a total rollercoaster ride of learning curves, surprises, disappointments, and late harvests. We’re also in the process of upgrading our beds to raised beds, using the old roof tiles from the renovations to create clear borders.
With winter if not here then very very close, I am in the slow process of wrapping up this season and adding compost to all empty beds so that it can sit and infuse and prep the soil for next year.
Still to be harvested: burlap bags of potatoes, bed of sweet potatoes, tomatoes, weird cross of butternut squash and zucchini (oops), a few other bits and pieces (chard and lettuce as a maybe).
The website will soon be available in French (youpi!), I hope to tackle my growing list of blog ideas to share more lessons learnt, recipes, DIY projects, and animal stories with you, and I also want to share newer photos of, well, everyone and everything.
On-site, we’re trying to work around the ton of rain we’re getting (great for nature, sometimes inconvenient for us) to harness the manpower of our friend and volunteer Barry who is working with Francois to get us on track for the opening next summer. That means fencing, improving existing infrastructure, clearing land, cutting wood, fixing things that break (this happens a lot, and no I do not blame Meli), animal care, and the zillion projects that come up in our weekly strategy meetings.
We should also have our first Workawayers coming early December! Let’s hope it’s a sunny week, because we have tons of things we’d love to work with them on, but it’s mostly all outdoors.
If you want to get your hands dirty and give us a hand, get in touch! Friends, family, volunteers – everyone is welcome. We need all the skills you can think of, so don’t hesitate to throw your hat into the ring (or should I say your hoe into the field?).
Did I miss anything? Was there something you wanted an update on that I forgot to mention? Let me know in the comment section below and I’ll respond asap. Thanks for reading & Happy Tuesday!
Featured image: Photo by Rebecca Burton