unearthing our life
So I suppose my last few posts weren’t very poetic,
as I’ve been feeling weighed down by all that there is to do;
sometimes unable to even prioritize what needs to be done.
And sort out what we have already accomplished.
But let’s begin:
The solar situation has been more or less solved.
Mohamed got all the panels we have working.
Yes, we still could use some more large panels to generate more energy
(to run our computers and so we can use the fridge),
and so each night we can consistently have lights,
but for now, the solar system is sorted.
The water system has taken up most of these past few weeks.
There was a gap between the intake pool and the 360 meters of hose,
so Mohamed went down through the brambles to the ditch
to lengthen the hose and reconnect to the pool of collected water.
But there were blockages throughout the system that needed to be unblocked.
And the giant storage tank had to be de-algaefied, scrubbed, drained, and refilled;
but not until there was guaranteed water flowing from the hose uphill at the source
(as I’ve really appreciated our indoor plumbing & didn’t want to be back in the bushes).
First we used some old, extra strong kombucha to disinfect the 300 gallon tank,
then Mohamed did a complete scrubbing, drained the muck, and was able to refill.
Then we realized the first intake pool had a similar algae problem,
so Mohamed, another bottle of strong kombucha and the scrubber brushes
went up to the source to clean, clear, and refill.
Phew. & flush!
(The storage tank is refilling now at a slow trickle,
so nothing to cheer about, but we are conserving
& trying to make do until we can find an artesian well professional.)
I wished I was able to help,
but I was gardening while watching Marmalade, and way behind on laundry
(some of our stuff stored at Tio Vivaldo’s got rained on & began to mildew),
and then my father was visiting, so we were discussing all the other needed repairs:
The roof over the bathroom was nearly flat, with only a three inch pitch,
not enough to drain the flow from the pitched roof over the living room,
so water began to collect, warping the previous shingled, nearly flat roof.
The warping made two long horizontal pools that become ponds when it rains,
slowly leaking into the bathroom ceiling, warping and splitting the wooden beams.
The previous owner tried to solve the problem
with another layer of tarpaper on top of the old roof,
(making the roof heavier & less pitched,
& making the ponds deeper, yet leaking less)
My plan is to work from inside the bathroom,
to build a support wall of glass bricks,
beginning by extending the half-wall along the bathtub
up to the ceiling and then halfway across the bathroom,
creating a better space without losing much of the lightness,
while creating a load-bearing wall to hold up the roof
and keep the ceiling from collapsing.
After the glass wall is built, we will tear out the old insulation from the ceiling.
Then by springtime we can get some help with fixing the actual roof,
for which we will need additional, knowledgable help,
to increase the pitch and incorporate a green roof native planting.
But for now, we hope to find a large tarp to minimize further damage.
and back inside, the walls need plywood and then tiles or something,
and the area around the base of the tub and the floor need something for finishing.
The other half of the bathroom had been used as a workshop,
with shelves of construction materials and hooks for tools,
and all the electronics for the solar system,
which I’m sure was convenient,
but I am nervous about having the batteries on the floor near the toilet
(& in Marmalade’s reach) and it makes the bathroom feel like a storage shed.
So when time and materials allow,
we will put together some sort of outdoor shed,
perhaps incorporating a small greenhouse/cold frame,
or a wooden playhouse for Marmalade,
possibly using some driftwood that we have been gathering.
Also, two of the exterior walls of the bathroom need siding.
right now the wooden walls are covered in green insulation foam,
and need some sort of weatherproof exterior covering.
We’ve been looking at buildings around for inspiration,
and the Batata Doce restaurant in Rogil gave us the idea to use cork siding.
It’s both locally made and a certified green building material.
We wondered about its exterior durability,
(Batata Doce used it both inside & outside on their East wall)
but found many buildings online in Portugal and abroad
that have been completely covered in cork,
so our 15 square meters of shaded wall should be okay.
And it should be an easy, drill and screw-in installation.
Another fun project will be installing the tiles behind the wood stove.
The back wall has blue foam insulation
and the side wall has wooden supports
that are unfortunately the wrong thickness,
but can be worked around with a lot of sawing.
So today we finally found a place to buy the plywood,
and spent the afternoon cutting most of the large panels,
and tomorrow plan to hang the plywood over both the walls.
Then, next week, get the correct mortar (sold locally, made by Weber), mix and apply.
Luckily, 6 cases of fired clay bricks were already stored here,
purchased by the previous owners specifically for this project.
Some of the exterior paint has begun to peel,
so I plan to find a nice bright blue to repaint the trims and window frames,
as is the tradition for most of the white houses here.
(I was told while on residence in India
that the bold blue color somehow repels mosquitoes.)
After all these repairs, we can think about renovations:
first of all, we need a well,
so that there will be a consistent flow of water to the house.
Yes, we got the current system working, sort of,
but a small stone or piece of tree bark could cause a blockage
and leave us with only the reservoir tankful until unblocked.
Plus, a deep-enough well might yield drinkable water,
which would save a lot of trips to the spring to refill 6-liter bottles.
Along with the well, I’d love to get a solar hot water system.
According to my father, who passed on the info. from my brother,
a solar whiz, the standard solar hot water systems are efficient and worth it.
(Right now we have a gas-powered, battery-spark-ignition water heater,
that we just got running today. Hooray!)
However, our 300 gallon water storage tank is atop the hill in full sun,
so by midday, we have fairly warm water for washing, etc.
To use a solar heating system for a reserve of our well water would be ideal.
Secondly, we want to build an addition off our bedroom
so that Marmalade can have a bedroom of her own.
There is space to add onto the south or west wall,
cutting a doorway and attaching another room.
As the west side of the house only gets late afternoon light,
we might try to make it like a sunroom, so that it wouldn’t be so dark.
The front porch needs both repair and renovation,
as the paint peeled off the poured concrete slab
and water has seeped in and eroded the surface.
Also the one cinder block step at the front door is narrow, high, and uninviting.
We’ve been collecting broken tiles to resurface the whole porch,
but I want to first use bricks to extend the step
and add a small bench or two alongside the house.
We need to put together a chicken coop,
perhaps incorporating one of our mushroom projects
(in particular, an oyster mushroom-embedded cotton rag carpet)
to absorb some of the nutrients from their wastes.
Depending on many factors, we might use the ruin,
converting it to a barn, for a couple of goats as well.
The walls are sturdy, the roof is missing,
but somewhat covered by the neighbor’s grapevines.
Or, if anyone is up to the challenge,
the ruin could become a guesthouse,
and we wouldn’t mind doing much of the labor,
especially the finishing, tile work and painting.
But because of strict building code laws,
to renovate the ruin as a habitation would require a building permit,
which requires hiring an architect, and having certified plans,
and certified labor, at least for the foundation, plumbing and electric.
So many costs we cannot even begin to cover,
though it would be an incredible guesthouse for the grandparents,
and other family, friends, and artists seeking a quiet retreat.
As far as landscaping, I want to build more terraced garden boxes:
another downhill from the three existing boxes,
and three to run parallel to the first three.
The whole area had been cultivated a dozen years ago,
and I want to make use of that soil and that sloped space.
On the garden perimeter, I want to extend the orchard to include
more varieties, and especially more local varieties, of fruit trees
(peaches, apricots, FIGS, oranges, pomegranates, etc.)
and plant sections of strawberry and blueberry bushes.
I want to create an outdoor sea stone mosaic patio,
partly covered with a grape arbor and flower trellis,
to use as an outdoor kitchen as the weather here is quite mild.
I want to embed a barbecue and traditional bread/pizza oven into the back walls
and have storage shelves and a counter space to prepare and serve foods.
As we have a rolling hillside, and an area cut out and cleared
by the previous owners for a convenient parking space,
the back of the kitchen area will be walled into the hillside,
while the front will remain open and lead out toward the garden.
We want to have more ponds.
We’ve begun extending the pond system,
and have repositioned and reconnected the old water storage tank
for collecting the garden water uphill from the orchard, garden, and pond.
We plan to add two more ponds, one small one near the house,
especially to catch some of the rain run-off from the roof,
and a larger one above the garden somewhere, to use for irrigation.
As much of the orchard will be uphill from the house
(& toward the water storage tanks),
we plan to keep the existing water system
and use it for watering the trees and garden.
(The water comes from the canal system,
from the Mira river, which flows from the Santa Clara lake,
created in the 1960’s to irrigate all the coastal farmland.
It’s a really cool system & really great water,
that just flows into the Atlantic Ocean if unused.)
And there are more, smaller projects,
including resealing much of the exterior joints with silicon caulk
(luckily, we found & purchased two tubes today, for a quick project),
making new wind chimes for along the eaves of the house
(I read that they repel wasps, especially if they contain metal components),
finding and getting a beehive next Springtime
(& planting enough sunflowers & other flowers for them!),
and taming the sea of blackberry bushes and other thorny plants
that have invaded the yard and our forest from all sides.
But for the time being (& foreseeable future),
we don’t have much money to buy the needed supplies;
and still have to sort through the paperwork process
for both our visas and re-registering (or selling) our car.
And we’ve been collecting firewood,
from the dead and downed limbs of oak and eucalyptus
that are littering our little forest, to keep us warm this winter.
We are trying to accomplish a little bit each day,
working towards our shared goals of moonfarming,
and hoping to shed the stress and anxiety of the unknown.
p.s. So, a few days ago, we unpacked the last of the big suitcases.
In it, I had carefully packed many of the paintings I had made in Austria,
mostly floral still-life painted atop old, faded Alpine landscape paintings.
It was funny that with each layer of unpacking,
more and more paintings kept surfacing,
including a few we had entirely forgotten about.
So with our newly acquired Yankee push drill (Thanks, Dad!)
we started hanging up some of our favorites.
It instantly felt more like home.