The advent of spring.jpg

The advent of spring


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Margaret Brown is one of The Resident’s longest standing contributors and has lived in the Algarve for more than 20 years. As well as Country Matters, she also writes Point of View every week.

SUSPECTING A slow puncture in the front offside tyre of my small runabout, I reverted to old ways, applied a heavy foot and felt the sidewall give a little. Having paid several visits to the petrol station air pump during the previous fortnight, the time had come to have it checked by an expert. Fountain pen type pressure gauges being as unreliable as those found on a garage forecourt, I dropped in to see the village tyre salesman.

He was already employed taking an inner tube filled with water from the front wheel of an old Massey Ferguson tractor.  I asked the farmer why he had done this? Apparently it is to keep the front wheels on the ground when dealing with heavy loads, rather than place

Pockets of low growing blue flowers.
Pockets of low growing blue flowers.

concrete weights over the front axle which can cause damage. He preferred to put water up to the correct pressure rating in the inner tube. The idea hadn’t caught on, although he maintained it was the ideal solution.

A young and highly original thinker, his farming enterprise is equally successful and different. Owning no land of his own, he farms a large number of small plots for people who want them kept tidy: in exchange he keeps everything he grows, which is mainly high quality hard wheat for bread making. No money changes hands and all concerned are very pleased with this sensible arrangement which is a form of barter.

GM crops

Aiming to farm organically, this entrepreneur uses neither sprays nor artificial fertilisers on the land, nor will he consider sowing genetically modified (GM) seed. Such a principled attitude works well for countries that can afford the luxury, but for impoverished populations trying to scratch a living from poor soil and little rainfall, perhaps their only hope lies in GM crops.

The Boss’s niece is into organic farming. For a short while she carried on a horticultural enterprise in Pembrokeshire before migrating to South Island, New Zealand for more of the same. There, as it was in South Wales, slugs and snails are two of the most troublesome pests if no pesticides are used. Daily handpicking from vegetable crops is necessary and the disposal of these fleshy creatures is a messy business, crushing being the chosen method.

Containers sunk to ground level and filled with beer also prove irresistible and it helps if there is a friendly Publican within easy reach who has a surplus of ullage at closing time. In the Algarve, after dew, fall big brown slugs from under the wet vegetation, that make slow tracks with their slime lubricated single foot before dozing off in the middle of a footpath.

With the advent of spring, much larger slithery creatures are coming out from their winter sleep. One, to the Boss’s astonishment, was wrapped round the pipe that discharges water from the borehole into our Cisterna. About 3ft 6inches long, grey-green with ‘dog’s tooth’ patterning, either it was thirsty or had hibernated there during the colder weather. A most welcome sight, snake numbers having dwindled during the last twenty years. Perhaps their return may help to reduce an increased rat population that has developed a taste for plastic car parts.

Wind turbines

Stranger things are happening away from the mainstream, like wind turbines springing up all over the place. Viewed as either ecologically friendly or a blot on the landscape, these tall graceful converters of wind into power are here to stay. Whether their carbon footprint created during manufacture is balanced by the pollution free electricity produced from the wind has yet to be assessed.

All I know is that on the British equivalent of Bank Holiday Monday following Easter Day, we went for a drive into the local Parque Florestal, which last time we explored it a few years ago, was a sanctuary for birds and local wildlife. On this occasion we saw only two birds as we followed a line of wind towers, each rooted in the middle of a large area of ground devoid of all living plants. Access dirt roads cut the forest into parcels, felled trees and vegetation piled along the way would no doubt rot down, burning being out of the question.

Finally we found the makings of the tower next in line, its parts clustered together like a nest of some giant Martian invader. There were three sections for a single pole each about 80ft long, one still on its low loader: three even longer curved blades as well as the hub into which these would be inserted and the generator itself.

Awesome in size and even when recumbent each part had a certain beauty that in no way fitted the final assembly into the environment it was to dominate.

The scarified ground was more like a moonscape than part of a protected forest. However, against all odds, here and there small pockets of low growing blue flowers were enriching the devastation.

On the way home we picked up the post which consisted of two bills and a request for a contribution to the Blood Bank at Barlavento Hospital where the Boss had been given a new knee and received a transfusion. Being too old to provide the latter and required by law to pay the former, it seems that either way nothing is for nothing and one is always accountable.

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