09 June 2011

a LoNg wAy tO gO...

This is me next to Lesley a week ago during the Permaculture Design Course. I sprained my wrist when I was tying a rope from the tarp in front of the kitchen. I was on a step ladder and wearing an african fabric tied around my waist as a skirt... not a good idea !!! even though I lifted it and tied it up to my waist, as I was stepping down, the fabric untied itself and blocked my knee... so I was not able to step down, fell on my butt and landed on top of my hand... Outch!!! it did hurt... Thank God it was not worse as I had a knife on that hand... Fiiiuuu !!!
     This was just one of the many "incidents" I experienced the last weeks... but there were many blessings too... I would suggest you would grab a cuppa to read the rest...I will try to sum up the last months on these lines ... but I can't promise it will be short :-)


The PD course was going to start on saturday the 28th of May and only thursday I managed to nearly finish the roof with the broom ... Meline and Alfonso, a french couple who live nearby came to help on wednesday with another couple who are staying with them...what a blessing!!! for the company and the help... I really love them...now the course is over and I just need to do 2 more rows, maybe 2 days of work, and that's it (after my hand is healed of course)... but for the course it was enough... fresh and cozy... now we have a big area, with a nice table and lots of comfy couches...
The course itself was quite relaxed... Lesley was saying how stressful for her were the last 2 courses she taught... She was glad to be here, and I was glad too... I think I never had so many struggles before and during a PDC, but I feel good about it, because it's always worth it and we actually never know which seeds are planted and how will they grow...
Nonetheless It was tough for me this time... you will know why.
First of all, I was not really feeling to run this course this year with so many things happening... As some people noticed, I haven't written on my blog for ages... Basically since I came back from Angola... I was only a month on the land, and because it was mainly raining, I just did some work under the "big junk shed" below... I made shelves, organized, etc...as you can see here .
 On the 28th of February I went to London for the SPEAK gathering, SOUNDCHECK .

I thought I was just going for a week, meet Emma there and lots of other good friends of ours. But Jimmy, Emma's dad was not well (for those who don't know, he was struggling with cancer for 17 months), and I decided to go back to Northern Ireland with Emma and stay for a week longer. Well, Jimmy was getting worse every day, and I kept postponing my return.
Sadly for all of us he passed away on the 3rd of April... a long "wake" took place on the farm till the 8th when he was cremated and taken back to the farm where his ashes are now under a tree... For those who are not familiar with a "wake", this is an Irish tradition when the body stays at home for few days so that people can come and visit the family and have their "last good-bye"... this means lots of coffees and teas, sandwiches, sweets, and lots of chatting... It's actually good for the family at home, because it makes you repeat the same stories over and over, and hear many others that people share about the person... and Jimmy had looots of stories... he always helped many people as well, so there was a lot of gratefulness and even laughter in many of those stories ... It was impressive I have to say... hundreds of people came from all sorts of places... there was even a queue outside the door on monday night, cuz usually the "wakes" take only 3 days... it was a living testimony of how special and how much loved Jimmy was... It was definitely a privilege for me to be there at that time and mostly for me to have met this wonderful man who planted trees all his life :-)... a man full of passion and vision...a man full of stories...a man who loved God, nature, playing his guitar and entertain others, a man who loved his friends and definitely his best friend and wife Rosemary and his 3 amazing kids, Emma, James and John... positive, peaceful and full of faith till the last breath...
It was a very hard time for all, and again I felt privileged that I was there, supporting Emma and all the family.
So, I only came back to the land on the 15th of April , not so excited about having people over for the PDC... Still recovering from the emotional exhaustion, I only did few things here and there... Then Emma came over at the end of the month and spent a week... the first time she could allow herself to mourn ... We had some visitors during that time... some rainbow friends who were passing by to scout for the summer european gathering... and Ulli, who comes every year on her "pilgrimage"... It was actually good to have them coming ... Emma was thinking to be more alone, but it was actually good to be hospitable and able to serve others... we were definitely served back... and a blessing came our way... Emma missed her flight from Porto by 10 minutes... we were annoyed at the airport, but then we decided to embrace it and Emma could have 3 more days here... so we went for a wee trip and pilgrimage... I leave you with few pictures :
Franciscan chapel in Le├ža - Porto...

                                              the view in front of the chapel... stunning !!!
                                            Vale do Rossim - Serra da Estrela...walking trail
                                           Serra da Estrela... same trail...amazing place !!!
Belmonte... beautiful old village...worth going several times ...
                                           Belmonte... Jewish museum...

                                           still jewish museum... I shouldn't have taken pictures, but I only found out at the end... worth going ...
                                                 narrow streets...

                         And Finally Malcata Range, a natural reserve for the Lynx...between Portugal and Spain... not so far from our home...
Finally back to the land...
we  did a bit of work ... Emma was preparing the vegetable bed near the kitchen window...I wanted to trim some of the grass on the paths, but my strimmer didn't want to work...hmmm... Ok, I have a warranty, so I can sort that later... The first small little obstacle...I was a bit annoyed though... so, I went and cut some mimosa trees to make the beams for the roof of the shelter (where the Permaculture course would take place)...
Emma left on friday morning and I was super excited to get on with the roof, so that's what I did from friday to monday ( I had enough resting days, so I worked all weekend)...
I pealed all the mimosa trees... I nailed all the structure in place... I pealed a bit the main beams that were already on the ground from last year, and then I painted all the structure with used motor oil... a bit nasty work, but that's what prevents the wood worms from destroying the wood and it costs nothing...
Actually, I didn't spend any money on this building... first because I don't have much, and then because I reused the plastic tarp, I already had nails and the broom and beams are on site :-)
So, here are some more pictures:
                               the new beams on ...
                              Oh, I also had this structure to extend the shelter a bit and break the strong winds which come mainly on this direction...
                       All painted with oil now... the outside structure also in place, so I can attach the broom outside the tarp...
                                 A bit of gardening then... I got some plants from the market and just needed to improve my old mulch beds... and a new one that Emma started next to the kitchen window...
Here I'm using bricks (left from Lyna) to try to stop the moles from destroying my plants like last year...
I planted here some lettuce, onion, peppers, eggplant and basil...outside on the corners, some parsley and sage...
            The bed where I have the lemon tree, nectarine and rosemary bushes, I planted some tomato along the fence, few basil, onions in the middle, more peppers next to the wall, and Emma also planted some sage next to the lemon tree... here you can see my next step: I laid the wet cardboard,  I put some tyres on top where I also planted peppers, potatoes, basil in between and courgettes...
             But for that I already had some help... Louise and her father Brian, came to stay for a week... it was such a pleasant time... Brian loves gardening and building and he actually works with wood making beautiful walking sticks and bowls...

        What a nice company and help... I also went with them for a day trip and they took me out several times for dinner...
               Brian got all excited with building... so he bought some wood and made a table, a seat and another little table... he cut the boards for another small table that I just need to nail it (when my hand is well again )... he also realized  that my cordless drill was not the best , so he left me a donation to get a nice one... I already bought it, and it's such a big difference... Thanks Brian !!! for all... I loved the chattings around a cuppa ... he has so many nice stories to share ... it was a great week !!!
           Me and Louise were focused on the roof .. it was looking nice...

         After they left that was all I did... between some more gardening... I needed more smaller mimosa sticks to hold the broom, so at the same time I cleared this little "forest" which was actually blocking the way already... everything grew so much while I was away... it's amazing !!! beautiful !!!
                   I mulched all the beds with straw... actually I'm already eating the lettuce I put here few weeks ago :-)
        the tomatoes that we can't even see here are already the same hight as the fence :-)...

But the course was about to begin, I had 2 weeks to finish the roof, trim the paths and camping area, clean the caravan where Lesley would stay and the guest room that one of the participants would sleep in... I wanted to fix a hot shower, but no time... oh well, there was not many complaints after all... the weather was not super hot, but hot enough...

It was about this time that more obstacles started to happen...
I usually sign my e.mails with this quote...
       “Faith is not for overcoming obstacles; it is for experiencing them.
           (Fr.Richard Rohr)

I guess that's what happens when we pray for faith :-)... we experience obstacles on the way !!!
As I said before, I was not so excited to run this course... I only had 5 participants registered one month before but as I know people always wait till the last minute, I sent another e.mail and said that if I didn't have at least 10 people to cover all the costs, I would not run it... it didn't take much to have  people signing in and telling me they would be coming for sure... so 3 weeks before I had 11 people confirmed and 3 of them who would come from italy made a transfer to my bank to pay the full amount... that helped, as I needed to make all the shopping before it started... 
At the same time, my phone broke down for some reason I still don't know... another obstacle...  a software problem I'm still trying to figure it out till now... At least I borrowed one where I can use my card... David came to visit for a day with Nolan and he had a spare one... I also noticed that with every obstacle, I had lots of "angels" coming around to help... I'm sure there were people praying, even though I didn't even had the time to share any of this until now...
I really needed to trim the paths and the camping place.  While I solve the warranty issue of the strimmer, Alfonso lent me his... another "angel", besides the day they all came to help to set up the broom... it was amazing how much quicker it was with 4 more people... 


On the last week, well, 4 days before everyone should arrive, I started to get e.mails with kind apologies saying they could not come anymore... I could actually understand their situations, but now I was the one in "trouble"... In the end I only had 6 participants, and 2 of them "came to see" for 4 days and paid only half of the course...
But you know what ?!!! It was worth it... It was worth it for those 6 people... all beautiful ones in their own way...it was worth it for Lesley to have a more chilled out time and eat lots of cherries :-)... it was worth it to have Victor, a local from Povoa de Atalaia, and an amazing person and friend... actually, they end up all going to his piece of land in Povoa and made 2 nice designs for it :-) ... it was worth it for the pleasure of cooking for all... it was worth it for the laugh and fun we all had most of the time... it was worth it to be like children, laughing and practicing throwing olive pits to hit a cup :-)...no one beat Valerio on that competition though, he was just too good :-)... it was worth it for the team work...
  it was definitely worth it !!! I don't organize this courses for the money, even though at this time it would be really useful (and you'll know why soon) , so I know, whatever happened this last week , it will bear good fruits... and that's what it's all about...   
Also in the end I explained the situation and they all gave an extra donation for our "magic can"...


But let me go a bit back again...
It was thursday afternoon, I had the shelter ready, the paths trimmed, the kitchen organized, the caravan fixed and tidy, the guest room too... I just needed to go shopping and then relax a bit on friday before everyone started to arrive... these were my thoughts before knowing the obstacles ahead...


However, around 4pm I was driving to Fundao... on the way to the high-way I got stopped by the police... I had all the documents, except for the insurance that I was waiting in the post... he said the receipt was out of date, but I insisted that I was waiting for the letter to arrive and I didn't have it... I called my insurance broker in Fundao, and after some talking the police realized I was being honest and let me go...Fiiiu... that would be a 30€ fine... ok, I went off, it was almost 5pm then... on the high-way tunnel my car started to smoke...ups... I pulled gently where I could and stopped the car... I checked the water and oil after it was a bit cooler, and it seemed ok... I called the insurance company for assistance, but then they asked me for the policy number and I had to explain that I was waiting for their letter...the irony... no chance, even though it was their fault, I was in "trouble"... I called the broker again and he said he would give me the number... meanwhile the high-way assistance arrived... another "angel"...my car wouldn't start, so he pulled me out and off I went... no charging, just filling a paper saying the assistance was great and a "thank you very much"... I had to go on the next exit and come back to my mechanic... all very slow as I was not really trusting the car... 
getting to the mechanic I got the not so good news... the head of the engine might be broken... it was a hole on a pipe and there was no water at all... I only checked the small water container, but the main one was totally empty... bugger !!!


what now ?!!! I had 9 people arriving the next day, no food at home, no transport...
I called the broker again and he was great... he told me to call the insurance company, he gave me now the policy number, and I could ask them for a replacement car for 3 to 5 days...
As I was on that process, with lots of waiting on the phone, my credit run out, so I had to go to the village cash machine to put some credit on my phone... I was about 3 km from it...
I was walking and pulled my thumb up to every car which was passing... another "angel", one of my neighbours and his wife... they took me to the cash machine... I went to Maria's cafe, sat for a bit while calling the  insurance company... they told me I needed my mechanic to send a fax explaining the car situation... I was a bit annoyed then and tried to explain that I was in a small village, walking, and a bit far from the mechanic... anyway, that didn't make any difference to them...another "angel" came by... the priest in his car... he heard me talking and asking the kid on the cafe for his bike, and he immediately offered me a ride to the mechanic... great !!! so, back to the mechanic... we both tried to work out the fax and sent what they needed... except that they wanted a printed paper and not just a stamp... I was already walking back home when they called me to say that... I couldn't believe it... I must have been fuming as much as my car :-) ... so I walked back to my mechanic, it was nearly 8pm, asked him to send another fax with one of his receipts... and finally it was over... my mechanic was another "angel" by the way... I'm thankful for his patience...


But things were not quite right with the insurance company yet ... of course... they called me to say that my insurance is not active in their computer systems... so after few back and forth calls with my great broker and the insurance company, they finally got it sorted... Jorge, my broker, another "angel", working after hours...


So, I had to pick up this car next morning in Fundao and they only gave me untill monday morning... I called Victor and he could give me a ride... one more "angel"...
at 10.30am on friday I had a van to make all the shopping, get all the water containers filled and head home ...Fiiiu...
It all went fine, besides the fact that I still had to fix my car...
when I was getting the vegetables in Maria and Casimiro I met there the 3 italians who were coming for the course... perfect timing...
we all drove to the land... Lopes and Nuno, some friends from Castelo Branco also came after lunch so they could stay around to receive people while I was going to pick up stuff... more "angels"...
I arrived with the 3 italians, Valerio, Chiara and Stefano, and all the veggies... Tiago came from Lisbon and Julio came from Porto, they were already chatting with Lopes and Nuno...
I went to the kitchen and started to prepare dinner for all... some pasta with a tomato sauce...
I had to pick up Lesley at 8pm in Fundao, so I asked Chiara to finish the pasta...
when we came back they were all waiting for us to have dinner... Maria and her mom Ana also arrived , they were the ones staying for 4 days only...


I could breathe now... everything was ready... the next thing was to figure out how go to Fundao on monday morning to give the car and come back to make lunch... but one thing at a time...
The group was great, and the course was going well...


I had an idea for monday...I asked Meline if she could come after going to the market and cook lunch... she was totally fine with helping out...what an amazing friend !!! another angel !!!
I only had a train back at 1pm, so that would be too late... Jorge also told me to go to my mechanic in the morning and tell him to send another fax to the insurance company to tell them my car needs few more days... In the end I did that, and they spoke with my mechanic and gave me the car for one more day... so , in the end, I didn't need to go to Fundao on Monday, but Tuesday morning...


I also realised Meline didn't need to come, as I was mainly doing salads for lunch... I left everything ready on tuesday and around 10am I left to Fundao... I left the car, it was all fine, and then I decided to hitch-hike back... and guess what ? another "angel" .... a man from Fundao was going to Povoa de Atalaia to buy chickens and gave me a ride right to Maria's cafe where I had my bike (I left it there when Victor picked me up)... perfect !!! I arrived at the land around 12, more than enough to serve lunch at 1pm :-) Thank God !!! and the Angels...


Anyway, this was a bit of a drama !!!
But Emma was arriving that afternoon and I didn't have a car to pick her up... she could wait for the next train, get to Castelo Novo and walk about one hour to the land, but Victor lent me his car and I picked her up early in Fundao...
It was all more peaceful now...
Wednesday would be a resting day for the course and they would all go out... Maria and Ana would go back home...
me and emma stayed resting as well, the last thing I wanted to do was drive around...


I decided to stretch the tarp in front of the kitchen because it was always being blown by the wind and the rain water would always get stuck there... and that's when I sprained my wrist, if you still remember the first part of this post after all this :-)...
It was quite bad, but I could move my hand after I fell, so I knew nothing was broken...
I don't think I could cook anymore though, so I was glad emma was here... another "angel"...


Josh and Rosie, who lived here for half a year, also came to teach on the course... they are making their diploma and this is part of it... it was nice to see them after almost 2 years, together with little Lohan, a cute little one... they seemed ok, excited with the new place they found, and happy as a family... I'm really happy for them !!!


The course was going really well and everyone was loving it... the atmosphere was great among us all...
just one more obstacle came on my way, but not a big deal... the gas stove in the kitchen was not working and we had to start cooking in the bus... which meant , carrying lots of things up... many trips up and down, emma cooking and me trying to do little things with my one hand :-/ ...
I have to say that when that happened I  got to my limit of patience and faith... I just couldn't believe how so many things were not working well... I'm thankful for emma who was patient with me and reminded me to pray and give it all into God's hands... I was exhausted to be honest !!!


wow... I guess that's it !!!
Me and Emma had already great days resting after everyone left... even though we also missed the buzz of those days during the course... it was really a nice group of people...
I still can't do much with my right hand... I can type already, and I'm slowly exercising it a bit every day...
I have time for blogs and e.mails now... even though I still have to spend some time figuring out this error 1011 on my phone... it just doesn't restore...


the car, well, after many days looking for cheaper cylinder heads online, I had to go with what my mechanic can get here... the fix would cost about 750€ ... Outch !!! you know now why I could use some extra money from the course... but hey, it will come someway !!! Any more donations are very welcome at this stage !!!


If you made it till here, congratulations !!!  thanks for reading !!!







        

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