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Visiting Saudade - life in a Portuguese village house

Mother Tree
Posts: 11893
Location: Portugal
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Yesterday I went to visit an elderly friend of mine from another village.

I noticed that she had several embroideries on the wall, including a wonderful example of the local Castelo Branco style, which I talked about in this post. I asked her if she had made it herself, and she proudly admitted that she had, so I plucked up the courage to dig out my camera and take her photo by it, and she happily obliged.

I found it very interesting that the embroidery of the tree of life, which represents the family of the person who embroidered it, is on display next to framed photos of Saudade and her three brothers. I believe she has never married, and there is only one bird embroidered on her tree of life, so her family is her brothers not her husband and children.

Here's a close-up of the embroidery.

And then it became compulsory to do a tour of the house and photograph her posed in front of all her other favourite things. This corner is dedicated to her mother.

And this is her in her dining room next to a dresser, which is amazingly similar to a Welsh dresser.

The fruit bowls seem to be the cabbage-leaf style ones that I have such a fondness for. Portugal is rather proud of its cabbages!

This is the sink in the kitchen. The whole thing, including the draining boards, is made of one huge hunk of marble. I was impressed! I wonder how they lifted it into place...

Saudade is obviously a keen embroiderer - the door curtain is her work, too. I should really asked her about those mat things on the wall. I'm sure they have a story to tell, too.

And then I had to tour the upstairs too. I was fascinated to notice a brass Buddha on the bottom of the stairs. Portugal is supposed to be Catholic, but there are very pagan overtones everywhere you look, and there are surprising number of Buddhas tucked here and there too. I've never dared to ask. Half way up the stairs is another of Saudade's embroideries, in a completely different style.

And then on the landing was her old reel for winding the linen thread onto as it is being spun, which confirmed my suspicions that the embroideries were very much home-made, right from growing the flax and raising the silk-worms.

Also on the landing was a wonderful example of the type of wooden chest that seems to be ubiquitous around here. I don't know anything about these. I think maybe some research is in order.

She showed me round the bedrooms, and then brought out her distaff and spindle, and put them with the reel for me to photograph, just so I understood that they all belonged together. Even after having lived here so long I still struggle with the Portuguese language and the locals feel the need to explain things very simply and visually for me. For which I am very grateful!

And then we did a tour of the back yard.

Here are some rather nice house-leek type plants. In the background you can see an example of the way they make basic garden shelves out of local slabs of slate, and the type of crockery that they use.

Old olive-storage pots get used as plant pots. This is just outside the door to the outside kitchen. Everyone has two kitchens, so that the heat is kept outside during the summer and inside where it's needed in the winter.

And this is inside the outside kitchen, with yet another embroidery - of ducks!

"Come and see my garden. I've planted potatoes over there, and strawberries along here..."

"These are my chickens! They give me eggs to eat and to make cakes. And manure for the garden."

"This is MY house. The other one belongs to my parents."

I love the gutter - just enough to stop too many drips if you're standing in the doorway, and it all collects in that blue barrel, presumably for giving to her chickens.

Old tools hanging up on the wall. I think that wooden shovel things is for putting bread in and out of the cob oven.

Saudade's galega patch. I tried to ask her how long they lived but the best answer I could get was 'You have to keep taking the flower spikes off!' so I'm still not sure.

And her favourite orange tree.

Note the way the soil is shaped around the base of the tree so that water will soak in and not run off. I was presented with three oranges from this tree - one for me, one for my husband, and one for my son.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, and I think she did too. I might find an excuse to go back and photograph more things and take a few more notes. I'm sure she has a lot she can teach us!
Posts: 826
Location: south central VA 7B
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Thank you for this! I know she has a lot of knowledge to share~
Hope all is well with you !
Posts: 113
Location: PNW
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This was absolutely beautiful, thank you! The simplicity and practicality of village houses, as well as their strong connection to traditional ways of working, has always inspired me. I look forward to another installment!
Posts: 18
Location: Western PA
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Thank you for sharing your tour through your friends home. It was very interesting seeing the pictures and the beauty and simplicity that abounds there. I am very interested in the 'Tree of Life' tradition she embroidered as well. I have not heard of this before, but it definitely resonates on a deeper level.
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