welcome to emmas housethought

french drains and common render

There is so much talk on the net about French drains that I felt I simply had to have some at my place. And I’ve gone a little French drain mad. There’s been scoffing and rolling of eyes amongst the workers vis-à-vis my penchant for washing rubble-gravel… but you know how the French are;  a drain should have a certain je-ne-sais-quoi cleanliness. What’s the bloody point in digging the trench and filling it back up again with dirt???


So rest assured, dear readers, my French drains are clean. Which leads me to builder talk. There’s been a recent ban on rough talk on the site, with the exception of the standard newbie question, “Danny or Kylie?”…;) In the absence of blatant filth quite professional conversions about tight gullys, gentle inclinations and flexible tubing have us apologising for fear of giving offence where none was intended. And then try explaining why we are laughing in Portuguese…


I know my husband is quietly congratulating himself on having married a woman who can build a solid septic tank. He thought he was just marrying me for my looks, my wit and my baking abilities – but no, there’s more. Quite frankly I’m so happy with the fosse that I almost sent the photos to my mother. I know what you’re thinking: it looks small, but in fact we precisely followed the project specifications and it didn’t allow for the rather crafty although labor intensive grey water system (also council approved) I’ve built as well. So the “shit pit” is exactly and only that. Before I leave this paragraph I’ll also give credit to woofer flo for the hole, penfold for the base, eric for the first course and coaching, to woofer sam for always saying “it’s looking really good”, woofer mo for carting sand, to The One for the tea, to my parents for having me and to little baby jesus for his love, even though he doesn’t know me very well.


Wonderfully we are rendering. I love it to death. Finally my lime needs are being met and sticking to the walls in big globs just the way they should. It’s a little bit sad as a stone lover, having stripped off the old render to be covering up the stone again. Some bits were very pretty, but there’s plenty more on the outside. Adding to the long list of things The One and I agree on, we’ll have a clean interior with none of that cartoon stoneness that other people do. (Oh except for the doorway which I’m not telling him about ;))


Mate, rendering is so much fun – mud pies for grown ups – and it’s good to be having fun. The last few weeks have been downright stressful and there has been very little work to enjoy. The filth, the dust, the wet hands, the scratches and bruises and cement up the nose – and the relentless bleeding… of money, that is.

But I should be enjoying this right? It’s what I came for? I remind myself this every day – but there are a few factors that have poopered the party. Firstly working under a deadline was never what I had planned. So if you’re going a do-it-yourself – don’t set a schedule, just go with the flow. On the other hand we have done lot in 3 months and I have lost 4 kilos. Ilhamdulillah.


Secondly having to watch every last cent is, if you excuse the mixed metaphor, taxing. Barely a day passes when I don’t mourn the loss of 30 very grand grand in the great global financial fucking crisis catastrophe. Bit strange missing something you never actually loved when you had it, but a bit more money to throw at the problem would have been nice.

Anyway, cracking progress is satisfying and I am mightily looking forward to living on the other side of the mountain again. And not having to drive over it twice a day. The only problem now is August. Of course I know that everything stops in August, but now it has stopped on me, sending whole timber yards to the Algarve and plumbers to the Açores. So we’re going to take a holiday next week too – just to go to the local beaches and enjoy some VIP visitor’s company.


Building delay it will be, and now that it’s out of my hands I feel more relaxed. Which is kind of like what living in Portugal does to you. You are forced to go slower, at the pace of the don’t-give-a-shit-about-doing-business-today Portuguese, and you can either accept that or die fighting it. The bottom line with changing countries is not about geography – it’s about changing yourself.



  1. Rosa Maria August 15, 2011 10:21 am Reply

    Olá Emma
    Beautiful this post, and with filosofie !!!!!
    Congratulations and good resting days for you !!!!
    Rosa Maria

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 15th, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks Rosa Maria!

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  2. Paula August 15, 2011 11:36 am Reply

    It’s amazing! When I first began reading you I thought you were kidding or at least exaggerating but now I can see you’re really doing it yourself. A hell of a woman your husband found 🙂 And a good writer too. Brave Emma!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 15th, 2011 at 7:32 pm


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  3. Sami August 15, 2011 1:29 pm Reply

    Oh yes, Portugal stops in August, don´t expect anything done in that month LOL.

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  4. Irene August 16, 2011 10:16 pm Reply

    hope that man knows how lucky he is to have found you xx

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 20th, 2011 at 12:08 am

    oh yes – a woman with a “fosse” is a woman with a fortune!

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  5. jean-marc August 18, 2011 6:15 am Reply

    mais pourquoi sont-ils “français” ces drains? n’y a-t-il que les français qui vont aux toilettes ( w-c…for englishs… 😉 )

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 20th, 2011 at 12:07 am

    @jean-marc, je ne sais pas! Peut-etre en francais ils sont appelé tranchée australiennes! (excuse-moi mon français imparfait!)

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  6. Arthur E Grice October 11, 2011 12:03 pm Reply

    Hi Emma. just returned from Portugal AREIAS ,time went so quick.Already looking forward to returning in October. Every time I am in Portugal I love it a little bit more. I remember you writing about your :Aunty Maria; well we met one as well ( her name really is Maria ) ,she was helping to clear a fire break next to our place and we got talking and before you knew it she and her family had adopted us. Now we feel as though we have been friends for years. You said you had a 1,000 litre water tank,are you via the blog able to give information on rainwater tanks in central Portugal i.e. different types and associated costs..Take care.Arthur. 🙂

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: October 16th, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    hi arthur… I shopped around the agri-cooperativos and found there wasnt that much choice. There’s the 1000l square one and one size bigger, and then you drop down to wine making blue bins of about 100-200-300l. The ideal thing is to build one yourself with a young lad to dig the hole 😉

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