Monday, 2 March 2009

Finally a night in my own bed! Without Boris Johnson..

Not a reference to Boris Johnson's boast of never being short of a woman in twenty years (there is a ruder version of this comment, but I'm writing this sober for once!!) but my return from 9 days on the road. It's all well going on holiday but a number two on your own loo and a good bit of loving in your own bed can't be beaten.
Whoops, I just sank down to Boris Johnson's level............ must get my hair cut as well.

We took Betty (The Camper) up to Portalegre to see my eldest daughter. About 100 km east of Lisbon, it is a sleepy town in the middle of cork oaks and wheat fields - not a single horta (veg. garden) to be seen - no little vegetable plots or corners of self production to be seen. Only the occasional Modelo or Lidl. It gets very hot in the summer and frosty in the winter but come on people!
The police there take great pride in fining the generally poor population there for harmless activities - two of Becky's friends were dragged out of school and fined 50 euros for picking oranges from the trees on the street. I would rather die in prison, hopefully not by some six foot four transvestite pretending to be Boris Johnson...

Part two of my travels was down towards Almeria in South east Spain. Unfortunately bad weather stopped my visit to Dave and Laura's earthship project (check out their great blog and join their newsletter at but there was lots to do there. Mainly drinking, eating and a visit to the famous honey mines at Otivar.

Breakfast in Salobrena, sponsored by

Although it is a region surrounded by plastic greenhouses and high fertilizer use, there really is a lot of good growing going on there and not to much mono - cropping. Whilst one field is potatoes at least the next is spring cabbage or lettuce. The infrastructure of Spain still continues to expand - new motorways abound and there is general feel that large industry is strong, though I saw a lot of small shops closed \ for rent. I went to help a friend of mine who is renovating a small town house near Motril. After being let down by three local builders he is tackling the rebuild himself. We experimented with a product called Pumasec, Capa Blanca. It comes in a 25 kgs readymix bag and you just add water to a sort of ice cream consistancy and then trowel it on like English plaster. New to me, not the throw and smooth mix we use but quick and pleasingly it dries after six hours to a bright white finish. Whilst not a natural or eco product, it ain't have nice Mum, and easy cheap (3 euros a bag, each bag does 3 square metres) so within low budgets. Anyone know of an equal here in Portugal??

One hour to do 3 square metres, whilst not perfect, it is well acceptable and also claims to be waterproof. Note this is the finished colour - no painting required!

Highlight of the trip was a drive up to Otivar to the honey mines. High on a steep hill, North of Almuncar, this has been a regular haunt of mine for twenty years. Every inch was cultivated and watered by tiny canals zig zagging down the valley. It seemed a little abandoned with more emphasis on the ubiquitous building, but still fresh air and real life.

View from the bar at Otivar. Every terrace can use the valletas (little canals)

Paco the terrier nearly ripped my hand off. At 17 he still works guiding the honey pit horses up the steep hillsides.

Yours truly securing his haul of Otivar honey. As a non complex glucose it breaks down quicker in my body and also lasts indefinitely without refrigeration. Two years supply!!

The restaurante near the honey mines has a fantastic bread oven combined BBQ. A small door to the side of the bread oven acts as a chimney and the man cooks all the meat on a rack there. Project number 76 is forming in my head!!

The oven door is perfect - to the left the heavy round counter weight makes lifting the door effortless. Mmmmmm... jealous!

Finally back home and in my own bed. The cold has returned, wet weather, soggy life BUT I have been working on a solar slow cooker. Even in its unfinished form I put an oven thermometre in and it went up to 90 celcius. Things are coming together, solar slow cooker, my tin foiled satelite dishes, my rocket stoves - anybody on for a course in carbon free cooking??
See you next week.

The solar cooker - a piece of double glazing found at my bins along with the blue insulation and a few offcuts of planks. Just needs lining with tin and black paint. So so easy.

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