Lest we forget

Those that have fallen

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No man’s land in Flanders Field 1919

FOR THE FALLEN – Written by Laurence Binyon 1914

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Returning from the trenches in the Somme 1919

THE SOLDIER Written by Rupert Brooke 1914

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

BROTHERS IN ARMSDire Straits 1985

These mist covered mountains
Are a home now for me
But my home is the lowlands
And always will be
Some day youll return to
Your valleys and your farms
And youll no longer burn
To be brothers in arms

Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
Ive watched all your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms

Theres so many different worlds
So many differents suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones

Now the suns gone to hell
And the moons riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die
But its written in the starlight
And every line on your palm
Were fools to make war
On our brothers in arms

I am blessed by all those who have fought for my freedom’s and who continue to fight for my freedom. Thank you to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that I can enjoy those freedoms. I will do my utmost to make sure that your sacrifice was not in vain.

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Samhain

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Samhain

A time of endings,
A time of thinning the veil,
A time to honour and welcome the old ones,
A time to clear out fears,
A time for inner peace.

It is pumpkins and apples,
Hazelnuts and cider,
Love, Remembrance and friendship,
May the Goddess as wise one and the God as the lord of the shadows, make us blessed this samhain night,
And guide us through the dark days until we come once again to the light.

~

Samhain is one of the turning points of the year – the final harvest – the last of the crops for the years harvested and laid down for the winter ahead. It is a time of checks and balances of drawing a line and of looking forward to the next year.

As most of you know this year as been one of great change for me – a whole new life has started.  I have a wonderful new relationship and I have changed the country where I live and have left the country of my birth behind.  My whole lifestyle has become much more simplified .  A major plus is the amazing climate in which I now live and the simplicity of how I am living. I am much closer to the earth and the seasonal changes – I now march in time with the earth to a much greater extent.  I believe I am blossoming – or should that be maturing nicely !  To all of those who have supported me, empowered me and loved me enough to let me go follow my dreams – thank you – I love you all dearly and hope you all find the peace and fullfillment that I have found.

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“As evening gathers Her darkness tonight, samhain’s mystery is revealed… Bless the ancestors…bless those to come… The veils between the worlds will thin… Let them in. Let them in…” Lucy Cavendish

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Last week was bought to us by the letter H – Heat, Humidity, Hectares, Harvests, Horror, Hooligans, Heroes, Heroines & Hope …………….

In the best tradittions of Sesame Street this week is bought to you by the letter H.

Last week was my hottest week in Portugal so far – most days it topped 30degrees C ———-and the humidity was high all week  – PHEW . Working with the land and very sensative and time critical crops and with the harvest imminent it meant a week of being on call and in demand.

The harvest at HQ started nearly a fortnight ago and is mostly a mechanized process.  Here our vines are taller and are therefore harvested by hand. The amount of manual labour involved in producing wine is incredible.  The first crews arrived at 6.30 am on Tuesday after days of preparation and continual ( almost daily) testing of the grapes.  I have not had a chance to photograph the harvest yet – the heat and humidity meant I was laid low in the cool and the shade. Maybe this week I will get some.

The weather  – heat- precipitation , humidity is crucial to the grpaes that are finally harvested.  During the lead in time for theharvest irrigation programs are tweaked to react to the weather conditions at least daily  – often more so should sea fog roll in up the estuary. The grapes are constantly monitored for sugar, alcohol and pH value (acidity) by the wizzards at HQ – the wine makers are true alchemists.

The HORROR was of course the rioting in my homeland – Great Britain awash with looters many of then teenagers – some as young as 11. Thankfully all my loved ones are safe. The wanton destruction of property, the sensless violence is symptomatic of a second generation of feral children with no sense of responsibility and born into a society of instant gratification.

My HEROES and HEROINES are the people who stood up to the sensless mobs, those who helped the injured and those who participated in the clean up. Several of my friends volunteered as first responders and for clean up  – you have my respect.

My HOPE is that the example of those who acted with courage and decency have shown others that there is an alternative to senseless stupid behavior  – sadly until their stories are told by the media and decent behaviour gets more press coverage than the bad I do not think this will happen.

To finish on a lighter note – a photograph of the most unusual harvest I have spotted yet  – a solar panel farm – hectares of solar panels at Ferreira do Alentejo.

Harvesting the Sun

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The road to Vidigueira

The road is long .............

If you are connected in any way with Cortes de Cima – all roads lead to Videgueria – HQ of Cortes de Cima.  Last Friday was our turn to touch base with HQ – it was hot here and got even hotter as we travelled the two hours inland from Milfontes.  It hit 36 degrees C in the afternoon.  It did however give me a chance to travel to the “interior”  and to drive though some of the most beautiful countryside and learn more about the country which is to become my adopted home.

The drive takes approximately two hours – give or take a few minutes (or more) depending on traffic, diversions and distractions (passenger with camera).

A reminder of the strong agricultural heritage that exists here

First up on our journey is a drive through cork plantations/woods.  They are currently harvesting the cork which leaves the trees with  wonderful burnt orange trunks. The trees provide much needed shade for livestock as well as cork for use in the wine industry and for use in building and for crafting.

Freshly harvested cork trees

Freshly harvested cork being transported on a very rickety trailer pulled by an equally ancient tractor.

Having sucessfully negotiated our way past this obstacle we then enter sunflower territory. Subsidies from the European Union are available for growing sunflowers – provided you grow certain other crops and set aside a certain amount of land.

Sunflowers - at speed

Olives come next  ……. miles and miles of succulent olives ripening in the sun

Olive Oil for the picking

The Olive trees are a sign you are approaching your destination. Cortes de Cima also produce a fine Olive Oil which we use in salads – delicious.

Entrance to Cortes de Cima

This is the last but two photographs of Cortes de Cima for today – I had intended to take more – but they are currently undergoing renovations of one of the main buildings and development of their customer reception and car parking. I will do a before and after post when the works are finished.

As well as renovations and development of the head quarters they are also introducing environmentally sound methods into the vineyard.  The new plantation at Videgueira boasts the latest in recycled plastic supports for its new vines.  These use up a phenomenal amount of recycled plastic and of course save on trees. Their life expectancy is approximately 50 years.

New vine supports made from recycled plastic.

At the moment they look quite stark  – they will soon vanish under profuse greenery and lush grapes.

The prize - treasured grape harvest - soon to be collected.

A long hot day – but so worth it – especially as we stocked up on our favorite wines and a couple of the new special edition Hans Christian Andersen which I am really looking forward to trying.

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Cortes de Cima – Zambujeira Nova – Vineyard Expansion 2

Work here continues – faster than expected – I am used to “directly” which in Devon can mean anything up to six months – or when you hassle them so much their wife complains because you are ringing them up all the time to find out what is going on. The contractors were on site over the weekend to get things moving quickly.

Benchmark shot

We now have the heavy machinery in to clear  out the existing drainage ditch and to lay new piping so the ground can be levelled and the new vines planted in nice straight lines .    The clay in the soil does not allow for effective drainage and prevents a considerable challenge to all the vineyards in the area.

This is the problem with the old pipes - they don't do the job.

Once this is cleared – the new pipes will go in , the trench will be filled with ballast and gravel and topped off with soil and the whole area levelled as much as possible.

The new drainage ditch being dug at the bottom of the field

This is the new trench being dug which will improve the drainage to the whole area and help with irrigation.

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Todays Aroma is Eucalyptus

Young leaves used in floristry

Luckily I love this sharp distinct smell – we are about half a mile downwind of  a large plantation – where it is grown for the wood, the sap and the smaller bushes which produce sprigs for use in flower arranging.

As well as commercial plantations they are used to line most of the major roads around here as well as the local tracks.  They are fast growing trees that act well as windbreaks (and dust breaks).  They take a lot of water out of the soil which is a huge benefit to road drainage.  They are amongst the tallest trees in Portugal.

Typical Avenue of Eucalyptus Trees

The main commercial use is for puplwood for paper making  and huge trucks overloaded with trunks are a common sight as is the damage they do to the countries roads.

I prefer its other properties – it can be used medicinally to treat nasal and sinus congestion and most importantly for me it works very effectively as an insect repellant – tics in particular loathe it. It also has disinfectant properties.

I have a huge bundle of branches haning inside my front door ………… no nore flies for me !

A note of caution – do not sit on cut Eucalyptus logs in hot weather – the sap rises to the surface and boils in the midday sun  – OUCH – yes I am speaking from experience – a good job I was wearing jeans at the time !

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Merci Buckets

One of the most unusual differences I have found between here and England is how much of my household life here revolves around the humble bucket. They are basic, black, with wire handles and color coded with tape – both for usage and to denote ownership – which can and often does lead to some confusion to the uninitiated.

Mr Grey above for instance is sitting in our neighbors gifting bucket – yes another bucket of tomatoes arrived – not to be confused with our blue buckets which are used for water for the animals.

All our vegetable and food waste (except meat bones which go to the dog)  goes into a red taped bucket and gets fed to the chickens – I so missed this when I returned to England where we had problems with our food waste as any composting efforts were rapidly eaten by assorted wild life. It is so much better fror the soul when you can give your food waste to another entitiy who then repays you in wonderful eggs.

We have several green handled buckets that are used in the garden for mixing soil and sand used to break up the clay.  Black handled ones are used for engine oils and other mechanical fluids.

Their use here however goes beyond  the household and into the vineyard where they are used for harvesting – each worker having three or four that they can fill in a relay system – so they never have to stop.

Others of course get used when we run out of plant pots, shopping bags and boxes.  For the first time in my life I can say Merci buckets instead of Merci beaucoup and mean it.

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Filed under Alentejo, Home, Life, Portugal