Saturday, February 7, 2015

predictive text

Winter draws out a familiar daily routine. Get up, empty the ash pan, fire the stove, feed the dogs and cats, empty the ash, compost bucket and pee container on the compost heap, bring in wood for burning for the day, breakfast, chop more wood, check any emails, waste 5 minutes on what the world has to say. All very predictable. So when snow arrives it is welcoming. The snowman contest, won by Jana thanks largely to the saucepan hat. The sight of our neighbour's grandson force his patched up ford mondeo estate up our hill at his fifth attempt of wheel-spinning. But perfect of all is the excuse of not being able to go anywhere and survive on what is available. And currently not have to bother to think about a backward and silly referendum this country's church is sponsoring right now because the farmer still hasn't cleared the snow on our road with his snow plough. 
But when the sun shines or even more spectacularly when the full moon glows on the snowy surface, the crystals reflect like a million diamonds. It's not worth going anywhere else.
Whether the cold snap or the previously luke warm winter has caused it we are not sure, but the black splodgy pumpkin and marrow harvest in the cellar is more likely to finish on the compost heap than the dinner plate now. A last pumpkin crescendo meal consisting of pumpkin curry, pumpkin and apple cake and some slightly less desirable marrow (and fruit juice added) wine spread over three lunches may mark the beginning to buy in some vegetable from the supermarket again. At least for the closing months of winter. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Parsnip soup this week. Snow joke. 5 days of snow excuses  to work outside got wiped out by an overnight meltdown a couple of weeks back. The ground, like Springtime softness to pull out our ingredients for a few lunches.
So the outdoor toilet production is back in full flow with an erection of the framework today!
A chance to better my crooked lean-to (literally!) storage hut next to the outdoor shower. The two spirit levels I have is never enough it seems. 
Each nail echos with every thump of the hammer, as one goes in another tries to escape out. Extra nails are added just in case. Some nails only make it halfway in, which are then stuck in the soft pine frame. Nevermind I keep saying, all the bodge work will be hidden with the wooden lathe exterior. But by the end of the third day of production the mis-match of recycled timber starts to resemble some box-type shape with a slightly protruding rear end. Rustic is word often used for anything we make here. 
Countless journeys from a shed to the construction site situated in a distant corner of the garden to find that right tools which now lie scattered around the new small tardis structure. Beady neighbour's eyes, when passing, have been wondering what this new item in the garden is and despite it's almost completed look still have no idea. 
What's left next is the more accurate construction of hinged doors where poo will be shovelled out. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

festive feast

Christmas time, a time to eat lots of white sugary cakes.
Our on-off affair with our neighbour is back to a friendly truce. Any back-chatting allegations are put aside for a festive feast at his. A midday invite for the 24th, traditionally a day of fasting any heavy foods until the evening. 
He lives and cooks alone most days so it is our charitable goodwill and of course hunger  to try what he might be preparing for his evening meal.
Dress code is fairly informal in the bellowing furnace of his kitchen. As expected camouflaged baggy trousers and a holely string vest is our host's attire. 
Our stomachs were looking forward to trying his self-acclaimed sauerkraut soup. I've come very fond of this christmas time starter over the years and thankfully wasn't disappointed with our neighbours treat. Seconds were in order as he had re-heated so much of it on the stove for us which we were happy to oblige.
Of course owing to tradition we weren't expecting anything else. But our neighbour likes to show that he is a more than capable cook and without much hesitation the fridge door was swung open and not before long three scoops of heavily mayonnaised potato salad, a chunk of ham, a red sausage and a 'meal on its own sized' piece of fish is piled onto a plate in front of me. 
There goes tradition, there goes any need to eat anything later, there goes 5 shots and two beers to help moisten my palette and clear most of what was on my plate. 
And it would only be seen as impolite not to tuck in as he watches you with his proud grin. He had been cooking since the day before and had eaten before we had arrived (a sort of brunch I guess..). The irony of hearing Bob Geldof's 1980's mates sing the Band Aid song on the radio didn't pass us by. 
Why so much food? Well even if it is supposedly a one-off christmas meal our neighbour would always save and cook for as many days as possible. 
We can on certain days be fortunate to have him as a neighbour.

Snow finally came, but only days later like everywhere. It brought a bit of normality back to this time of year. With freezing temperatures all the time, moaning cats and the constant persistence of who causes more smoke when starting the stove fire in the mornings it's nice to have winter back.


Friday, December 5, 2014


The prediction of heavy snowfall for the first week of December has fallen flat. A mushy sludge from the week before our only evidence of any white stuff this winter so far.
Our neighbour has his quadruple wood supply now sawn and ready for his sauna  temperature kitchen in preparation for a cold spell which isn't on the forecast horizon yet. But the twirling engine sounds from chainsaws around here has ceased, the woodlands can finally relax and sleep for the next few months.      
Here at the cottage the kitchen area is undergoing a makeover from it's mis-match, still looking like we have just moved in appearance, to something more permanent looking. We are still finding belongings which had been stuffed away in an outbuilding since our move here more than three years ago which belong in our kitchen environment. Either we haven't missed them or we have been too busy to miss them. But not everything will be wanted, and therefore this Winter a big sale is required to down-size what has been bought, brought, or inherited. In a country that prefers new items to old, it is not easy to always find an interest though. 
Toilet production is in full flow. My 'C' grade in craft and woodworking skills is being fully tested with the frame construction of a second outside loo. As with any of my projects here I am copying. This will not be an original design but one that matches our current outdoor facility. That one has stood the test of time and transportation across our garden on two wheelbarrows, so I am quite happy to stick by it's design. The wood being used to make it is, ahem cough...., fallen pine taken from around us. Actually we do have permission from our forester to grab what we want but only with a wink and nudge to help clear the woodland floor after a year's felling in the area. In other words tidy up what mess they've left behind.
In fact I have found a new passion, stripping! Or really should I say bark removal. The pleasure has kept me working into the darker hours shaving each piece, and like magic real wood appears for building with! Having visited many dilapidated outside conveniences in Slovakia maybe I should start a business making new ones.   

Monday, November 17, 2014


3 flies buzzing around the light bulb in our bathroom and clearly haven't lost their energy yet. A distant hum of a mosquito somewhere nearby. I'm lying in the bath thinking that it is some time in the second week of November and I shouldn't be hearing these sounds. This was another warm day from last week, but now finally we hear of some colder weather is on the horizon. 
This time of year also warrants an invading army of ladybirds, mostly hybrid varieties which take over our window panes in the cottage. Where they converge from we don't know. But these are docile at this stage (unlike the flies) and their hibernation destinations are only interrupted by Henry the hoover. 
It was my distinct pleasure to find the source of our water blockage problem we have been suffering with. You see here one has to clear one's own drain... Initially armed with a plunger, the gurgles from deep beneath the bath made no affect to the increasingly slower 'drain off' of water. It was left to see what was happening on the other, greyer and murkier end to find what was blocking. A dirty job, but with the ground still warm it was fortunately very easy to dig below and find the cause, some white slurge obstructing our outlaying pipe. 
Smelly jobs have continued into this week, a huge container of water and weeds had been left in the garden for some future liquid manure project. Funnily enough not even flies were now bothering to go near it. So now it was left for us to disperse over the vegetable plotted land. A single drip on the skin leaves a smell which will outlast any perfume. Careful now, otherwise it's back to the bath tub for an impromptu wash.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Visiting neighbours

Emptying toilets on a windless and quiet day. Spreading the contents into a shallow grave in a far off corner of the garden. Last year's remnants all but disappeared except for a few scrunched up bits of paper not quite eroded away but will be soon. Compost is a crucial ingredient to how we take care of our place here. 
The only stink or odour is from myself as I plod through another vegetable plot armed only with a garden fork. 
As each season passes our plots keep evolving with new content added, whether from mushed up leaf mulch or broken down veg and anything matter. The bonus this year is a pile of weeds, covered over and hidden from when we first dug out the garden two years ago, now reduced to a pile of top soil. Sieved meticulously in the hope nothing too weedy is left, and spread where needed across a dozen or so plots of 20m2. But it is an endless battle with what we want and don't want to grow here. Our neighbours scoff and prefer the less laborious and time-consuming method of ploughing every year. Maybe to give more time to make nice cakes. 
A recent visit to a neighbour and the standatory plate of homemade and freshly made squares of chocolate and quark slices are brought through from a bedroom left without heat next door to the kitchen to where we are sitting. We hadn't arranged to see our neighbours but had just turned up. A plate of cakes is always on standby for any passing guests, a very normal procedure when visiting people in this country. But it is in-polite to take a piece of cake from the beginning. This proves more and more difficult as I try to listen but without understanding enough to our 'grandma neighbour' gossiping to Jana. And after poured a glass of stiff homemade plum brandy the temptation is too much to wait any longer. The result is a delicious flavour to the palette. Worth waiting for, a bit like compost.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

If you go down to the woods today...

A walk into the peaceful woodland with the Autumn sun filtering through the last leaves on the trees. On days like these I only want to be in one place, and that is here. Peaceful that is until the annual start up of the Stihl motor on the chainsaw. Although we have enough wood for the next couple of Winters (hopefully), a ticket for another supply within walking distance of home should not be scoffed at. This may sound greedy but In future years there may not be any in such locality and for the same price. But this year I am cutting alone. Our trigger-happy chainsaw slicing neighbour could not wait for our return from a fortnight break away and had worked in the forest without us for his own supply. Selfish b**tard! Nevermind, I can pace my day without his taunts and complaints this year. Whilst the chains on his tractor may have been handy, my trusty rust bucket wheelbarrow can handle most terrain for the transportation of the cut wood to the stacked up inspection point. Tough, but I have a week to do all this in and the fallen wood that I am allowed to take is mostly very carriable by hand. 
In this part of the woodland I am ever watchful. Straying eyes round these parts have been known to walk off with your hard work before you trailer it away. 
After three days and a slightly sore back I have reached our limit with what we allowed to take. Another year of fuel supply sorted and now time to close down the hatches for the colder months to come.