Archive for December, 2008

Fungi collecting - the fruits of our labours

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

Fungi 20081206_0552, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

Went for a walk today, fine mushrooming weather but I think someone had been there before us as most of the Chanterelles were gone apart from these small ones, and of course the Wood Blewits which nobody around here knows are edible ….

Flying into Portugal from America

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Our North American guests usually travel in on either US Air or North West airlines. The flights come into Faro, Lisbon or Oporto.

Delta also fly to Lisbon.

American Airlines will take you to Madrid or Barcelona for a local flight onwards.

Flying into Portugal from within the EU.

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Flying into Portugal

Most of our non Portugese guests fly into Faro Airport.

There are plenty of commercial flights, most of the routes are listed here.

For the UK

Easyjet

Belfast-International, Bristol, East Midlands, Glasgow-International, Liverpool, London-Gatwick, London-Luton, London-Stansted, Newcastle

Flybe

Exeter, Southampton

BMI baby

Birmingham, Cardiff, East Midlands

Flyglobespan

Aberdeen, Durham Tees Valley, Edinburgh, Glasgow-International

Jet2.com

Blackpool, Leeds/Bradford, Manchester

Monarch

Birmingham, London-Gatwick, London-Luton, Manchester

Ryanair

Dublin, East Midlands, Glasgow-Prestwick, Liverpool, London-Stansted, Shannon

Thomsonfly

Bournemouth, Cardiff, Doncaster/Sheffield, London-Gatwick, Manchester

If you are coming from Germany then there are also plenty of local airports, for instance Airberlin fly from…

Basel, Berlin-Tegel, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Erfurt, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Leipzig/Halle, Münster/Osnabrück, Munich, Nuremberg, Paderborn/Lippstadt, Palma de Mallorca, Zurich

To see a full list check out this page on Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faro_Airport_(Portugal)

Image of fao airport attributed to “babynuke” and taken from wikicommons. Full GNU free documentation licence acknowledged

Faro Airport

The lake and it’s evolving ecology

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Been ruminating about how the lake has evolved over the years. You see , its only just under 40 years old and in that time its gone through distinct phases.

For instance in the early years we had a lot of tall water weed along the shores. Then came the drought in the mid 90’s, the water levels dropped and the weed died back. It has never really re-established itself.

Then there was the time when the lake supported a massive population of crayfish. They’re still here but their ascendance in the lake’s ecological hierarchy lasted only until a fierce storm washed so much silt into the lake that they had difficulty breeding.

Now it seems as if it’s the turn of the Carp  - a couple of years ago I pulled one out of the water that measured 92 cms tip to tail; maybe they’re the ones keeping the crayfish in check!

More to come later….but just a gentle reminder that sometimes the things around you, well they might work to a different time scale but they are alive and growing all the same.

Cork oak forests - the Montados.

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Taking the cork off a tree is highly skilled and a pig of a job!I wanted to write a little about the cork trees which surround the Quinta. These are the trees which have their bark harvested every 10 years or so - never less than 9 and you can see the year of the future harvest for any tree from the large white number painted onto it.

These forests are really a long term investment. The first harvest is at approx 25 years of age. At this age the cork is suitable for floor tiles and not much else. At 34 years old the second harvest is still too poor for cork stoppers for wine. It’s not until they are 43 years old that the cork can really be used for the wine industry.

The cork oak forests of the Alentejo supply 70% of the world’s cork, including 15 billion corks a year for wine bottles. An average tree will live for between 170 and 200 years, go through 17 harvests and produce around 4,000 corks a harvest.

Stripping the cork is a skilled manual job. It has never been successfully mechanised and the trees actually benefit from the stripping.

So why should we care? Well back in the 80’s EU subsidies were encouraging maize growing and the abandonment of Cork forests. When this combined with the growth in wine consumption, standards deteriorated to meet demand  and TCA (trichloroanisol) started to appear. This causes the wines to be “corked”. The lowering of quality in turn encouraged the emergence of plastic corks as competition.

However stringent quality control standards have lowered the incidence of TCA and the industry is fighting back.

But why should we care? Well if the farmers switch from cork to maize then the habitat which supports an amazing variety of wild life , from the Iberian Lynx, (the world’s most endangered big cat), through to birds like the Bee Eater will be lost, probably for ever.The end result could well be desert and scrub land across the beautiful Alentejo.

So please…if you have a choice go for a wine with a proper cork in it :-)