Making my own

Sketches in ink – 36

After six years of practice, I am no stranger to hacking through an overgrowth of weeds during winter in the Algarve.

In fact, doing just that was an integral part of my embarking upon the journey of learning the Portuguese language; a kind of grassroots approach, if you like.

Our friend Marianne has an unruly piece of land in the Algarve. We had what is known in some circles as an “energy exchange”. For one hour’s worth of gardening, she gave me a Portuguese lesson lasting one hour. Sometimes, this was one and the same hour.

In my former place of residence, Zimbabwe, I spent many an hour on weekends extending the vegetable garden at the back of the property we rented. Its sole purpose was to produce food in a time of food shortage. Spinach, tomatoes and onions were the main things I grew because these are the chief ingredients for a sauce which Zimbabweans call “relish”, often eaten with meat (but without meat during the food shortages) and the country’s staple food, maize meal (also in short supply at the time), called “sadza” when cooked. I grew more vegetables than we needed, so that I could distribute the surplus – fairly indiscriminately – as required.

When I first arrived in Portugal, I needed to get grounded and I needed to learn Portuguese. My ability to hack away at overgrowth and make things neat was instrumental in achieving both things. Gardening while conjugating verbs and learning new words was the perfect solution.

There is something therapeutic about planning what you are going to do in the garden. I achieve this by gazing at it. Then, all of a sudden, as the mood takes me, I do what I have been thinking about since the gazing session. Obviously, learning Portuguese was not that easy, since I had to “garden to order”, and gazing was not required.

Now that I rent a home with its own piece of land, I can get back to some serious gazing. In the short six months in the new house, I have been away from it for a month and a half. My most recent absence was during the rainy December-January time, when everything grows incredibly fast in the Algarve. Had I been here, I would have kept it under control. Now that I am back for a good long while, I have made a start (pictured above).

I posted this picture on Facebook, and said that although it looks nice, there is a lot of work to do. A friend replied, “Then get started and make your own Paradise.” What a lovely thought!

So far, my paradise has a cobblestone frontage now completely cleared of silt and weeds, and half the weeds out back have been strimmed to ground level, thus liberating abundant seeds for the many birds which visit every day. Today’s joy in the icy late afternoon was the severe pruning of an old rose bush with black spot and a continuation of the task of weeding the front flower beds. I have purchased three packets of flower seeds and I am eager to get those planted soon. For the uncleared vegetable bed at the back, I have seeds for strawberries and lettuce, which variety goes by the name of “Summer Marvel”. How imaginative.

Oh, and I kept the seeds from that half of an enormous pumpkin my neighbour across the road gave me, but I have no idea when one plants pumpkin in this part of the world.

Meanwhile, my sister in Australia reports that the nasturtiums I put in a large planter of hers (near the hammock) on the last day of my holiday are beginning to peep through. I had forgotten that I had done that. Why nasturtiums? Because those were the very first flowers we planted in seedling trays and grew as little girls together “all by ourselves”.

©2015, Allison Wright



4 thoughts on “Making my own

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  1. Sounds idyllic, Allison. There’s something very thrilling about starting a new garden – and I know just what you mean about thinking time when you’re gardening. It’s not a conscious process, but you can go out with your head in a whirl and come back feeling thoroughly grounded and clear in your mind where you want to go next. Good luck. Will look forward to the next instalment…


  2. Thank you for the “follow” and tweet, Claire.
    It will never be a garden with anything resembling a lawn, but I do want to complement the delightful variety of fruit trees with a decent vegetable bed or two, and clear everything up so that I can reward myself with a few chickens in the neatest little walled coop I have ever come across. I shall rely on the expertise of my landlady when it comes to the caring of the fowl. 🙂


    1. I think lawns are very overrated! I’ve done away with the one in my tiny back garden, and encroach each year on the lawn in my front garden as I acquire more plants and the flower beds expand accordingly! I don’t think the dogs would be impressed if I got rid of it altogether, but it’s a long way from a bowling green… My allotment has rough grass under my fruit trees, which I mow paths through at intervals, so that the other plotholders don’t complain too much! I love the more natural approach though, and am sure it must be good for pollinating insects and wildlife in general. Good luck with the hens too – a friend has a smallholding with Shetland sheep and hens and they are real characters (with delicious eggs).

      Liked by 1 person

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