The sun hovers high in the azure blue sky, there is the briefest of ripples of a breeze down the valley today as I sit and rest awhile in the shade. The temperature has hit 95 making the daily chores a little more tiring and with this being the start of Summer I contemplate on the planning of the various tasks ahead.
Becoming more sustainable
The last few weeks have seen a few changes here at the property in Brasoes, Central Portugal. The last of the land has been stripped of its brambles and growth of 10 or more years, which means that I have been able to document all of the bushes and fruit trees, both old and new. There are some 75 in total now and 23 varieties ranging from the standards of olive, fig, orange and lemon, to the rarer walnut, coconut, pomegranate and the new arrival of a baby banana tree. Now over the coming season’s growth can be monitored and further additions can be introduced in an effort to become more sustainable.
Salad and vegetable patches have been dug and a variety of plugs have been planted, tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, aubergines, cucumbers and lettuces are all doing well, also potted are chillies and aromatic herbs all thriving in this part of western Europe. I have used plugs rather than seeds as they are in abundant supply and so inexpensive, you can get 15 lettuce plugs for a Euro!
A happy relationship
Watering can be time consuming, especially in this heat, in fact most, need watering three times per day. There is a large water tank adjacent to the land from which I take the water, though there is 2 holding tanks on the land, both are in need of repair at present, but the water comes from our well, which our neighbours fill their tank with, so it’s a happy relationship, they use our well to pump up the water into their holding tank and I get to use the same water. Planting this year is really experimental and next year will be following an annual plan for year-round produce.
There have been other additions besides edibles, one of them is a cat named Ernie, a waif of a cat if ever there was one, but a tough little boy all the same. He was a stray of which there are an abundance of in Europe but this one decided that he didn’t want to be a stray any longer, so, as other stray cats come prowling around at night looking for morsels and then move on, he decided to stay. As the other cats came by, there would often be a fight, so Ernie had to learn fast, fight or flight. I started letting him in on a night to avoid the breakages outside the flats, now he has decided to stay, gets fed and watered, gets treats and has his own bed.
Armies of ants
Another set of additions are 4 baby ducks, that are around 5 weeks old now and growing incredibly fast, they grow at three times the rate of chickens apparently and I have to say that it is apparent. Out in the fields here are armies of ants, which have been helping themselves to the young fruit trees, they harvest and nurture aphids with the young sweet buds of fruit to such a degree that there is no fruit left to grow. This isn’t a problem for the first years growth as the young trees need to establish themselves in the ground rather than using their energy producing fruit. But next year? Well ducks love ants, and seems as there are no anteaters down the market, ducks it is. They have been housed for the first few weeks and next week I am going to build them a temporary run so they can get outside, then the plan will be in 2 weeks let them have free reign but encourage them to come back before nightfall.
On a more personal note, it has been a struggle with pain recently. A few weeks ago I was in desperate pain in my temple area, it turned out to be an abscess in my upper jaw, I had to take a course of antibiotics and return 10 days later to remove 3 teeth from my upper set. After a serious accident nearly 30 years ago, I already had a palate with 3 upper teeth on, this now reduced my upper set to 7 natural teeth. I took the decision to have them removed and a denture made for the top set, it wasn’t an easy decision knowing that there was to be further pain and discomfort ahead. But in the long run it eliminated the possibility of further abscesses and other inevitable dental work.
I was booked in for 3 visits in the same week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, where they took 2, then 3 and then the remaining 2 teeth. On both the Wednesday and Friday there were complications. My teeth broke whilst being extracted, so it was necessary to cut my gums and drill the roots out, and then stitch them back up, so both sides of my upper gums had stitches. Eating or drinking anything was a problem, but I knew it was something that was temporary and that it was something that I had to get through. I now sit here with my new dentures, smiling as I write, knowing that it is now pain free.
In our afflictions we prove His promises
Afflictions are something that we know we will have to go through as Christians, whether it be mental, physical or emotional pain, it won’t always be plain sailing ahead. The Psalmist wrote, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” We ought not to think that we are above the possibility or deserve better, the servant is not greater than the Master and the Lord suffered great afflictions, being “afflicted” of God. Jesus Christ the righteous and all His people are “made unto the righteousness of God in Him”.
During these times of trouble and pain is probably when we seek Him the most deeply, it ought not, but it is possibly true, as the Psalmist wrote in 119:71, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes”. In these afflictions we prove His promises to be true and faithful, we learn His word, seek His face and find in the midst comfort and hope. The continuation of Psalm 34:18b is this, “And the Lord delivers them out of all their troubles.” Rest assured that His grace, His mercy is more than sufficient to bring us through all things no matter what they may be.