Changes in the countryside.jpg

Changes in the countryside


[email protected]

INTO THE autumn, the sun is slipping south and, after recent heavy rain, the countryside is regenerating at a remarkable rate. Grass, like fuzz on a baby’s head, and dead herbs putting out new leaves at ground level give the hills and valleys a spring-like air. It will not be long before our neighbour’s herd of goats returns from summer pastures further north.

We are plagued with flies that until now have been kept down by the long dry summer and already snails are leaving glistening trails on concrete paths and tiled patios. Fewer locals have been seen raiding the grass verges for bucketsful of these plump and juicy Caracóis, which at one time were relished as a bar snack together with cooked chicken innards known as Pipis, both heavily salted and hot with plenty of garlic. Tastes are changing as young country people drift to the towns and old folk from unwanted small holdings die off.

However, the snails know nothing of this and have had a long period of aestivation in the shade of our assorted flower pots, tubs and troughs. Piled on top of one another and sealed against the heat, as soon as their summer quarters became wet there was a mass exodus.

‘Several blackened trees are now beginning to sprout bunches of young leaves’
‘Several blackened trees are now beginning to sprout bunches of young leaves’

Marshalling yards and motorways of slime fanned out in all directions, and other predators than human were waiting in the wings.

Enjoying life

A couple of nights ago, our dog, Millie, was digesting her supper and dream hunting with squeaks and twitching paws when suddenly she leapt up and began to bark by the front door. The tirade continued until we freed her to sort out the real or imaginary intruders. After much rushing about, lots of noise and plenty of encouragement from the neighbourhood dogs, she settled down for the night.

Next morning, we found pots, tubs and troughs scattered all over the place and a fair bit of ploughed up ground on what we call the lawn. Prints left in the earth were of small pigs’ trotters and snuffling snouts, marking where their owners had enjoyed a feast of jellied slime and crunchy shells. Happy as only piglets know how, they were back next morning for breakfast and a joy to behold.

Our neighbour has done all the right things to keep her young porkers shut in using specially designed electric fencing, but to no avail. The short sharp shock apparently only spurs them on to a life of adventure and exploration. Not being keen gardeners, we welcome their presence up to a point and where the soil has been turned over I intend to plant something, but not until they are permanently behind bars.

Three of them are about to be turned into roasts, chops and sausages within the next few days so let them enjoy a short and happy life.


Autumn came early to a plantation of eucalyptus through which we drive into our valley, where a wildfire in early August killed everything in its path, leaving behind a sad beauty of its own.

After two months, several blackened trees are now beginning to sprout bunches of young leaves, an example of the resilience of Nature and a sign of hope that life continues no matter what the odds.

Sooner or later, this particular stand of timber will be felled and sold as domestic fuel being of no use for its original purpose, but unless the logs are well dried, chimney linings can become layered with tar and then a potential fire hazard. The chumps give out considerable heat, burning fast and furiously with a pleasant fragrance and pretty flames.

Part-time residents are filtering back for the winter after travelling far and wide, while others have spent time with their families to avoid the heat. Keeping an eye on the premises of our nearest English neighbours during the last couple of months, their pool having been emptied before leaving, an assortment of creatures has moved in since the last heavy rain.

With several inches of water and good cover among the leaves and floating insects, three Salamanders and a frog had set up home together with a lizard. Gently lifted out when the owners returned and placed in damp undergrowth, they will soon find somewhere else to breed.

Noisy computer

Plenty of heat has also been generated within our household over the last week as both computers were unable to connect to the internet and pressing mail waited to be sent and received.

As a sideline, from time to time my computer had been popping off like a 22 calibre rifle. Although it continued to function like that for several weeks, I viewed the whole setup with distrust and some fear.

The computer noise was intermittent so I carried on but eventually the whole works shut down. As I was slack about saving written material, some went down the tube. The Boss called his own guru to sort out whatever was wrong and after about four hours tweaking and testing, blame was laid with SAPO.

Phone calls produced promises of reconnection by the end of the day. We continue to wait and after 10 days, in the company of many friends and businesses, remain unable to go on ine. As for my computer, it needed a new motherboard and, for certain, SAPO expect to be paid monthly for doing nothing!