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.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

wood shed returns

What was for a few months a kitchen and social hub has been withdrawn back to it's original usage of a woodshed in preparation for the expected cold winter months. Today the temperature has noticeably dropped for the first time this Autumn and the stove of heat has been burning since breakfast time in the cottage. Only a few brave leaves remain attached to the branches of the walnut trees, the rest have either been swept away for composting mulch or left to decompose in long sodden grass. 
A visit to the town and the meat shop queue is growing with kilos of pig and cow parts bought for filling the chest freezers in time before the daylight dwindles. 
The 'death board' in the square had a raised count of 4 as the older contingent of the town dressed in dark woollen overcoats huddle round to check on the latest casualties and reflect on past times.
But our dogs soldier on, despite their age and of recently our two week absence back in the UK. When the weather turns they are first to let you know. No weather forecasting required, not long to go before the winter hits our doorstep.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Another Autumn to not dwell on the multitude of tasks that never get done before the sprinkling of snow in the first week of December (the beginning of the winter weather has been the same every year we've been here). 
Slicing wood collected from last year with my blunted chainsaw blade. Filing a chainsaw blade back to anything resembling sharpness is I am finding a very pain-staking task and more often than not I give up and decide to splurt extra effort to slice open the timber. My back is beginning to ache.
Bright September sun has helped to keep our spirit going and carry on bringing the garden plots back to life after a summer of weeds and invading long grass.
Self-seeding marrow and pumpkin plants which had been left to grow in the compost piles have finally been de-fruited and taken out. On reflection maybe we should down-size our cultivation next year. 
Back in the town, little old ladies are still found in the local Tesco store dressed in traditional ware. The 1980's pastel yellow, green or blue Lada/Skoda/Travant waits in the car park with a husband. Summer festival posters are gradually being covered over with 'DJ Fresh' or whoever parties advertising their nights in nearby village halls. A yearly cycle and the town hasn't changed much since the previous warm and sunny September.   
Now with no guests around, our place reverts back to looking like a garage sale. Belongings scattered everywhere either being prepared to sell at our town's second hand shop or online. Our spring clean season to once again try to down-size the things which have not held any use or value to us over the last year or two. Having lived here for more than three years we really should have everything in the right place now.
But it is sometimes difficult to let go.

Friday, September 5, 2014

mushroom cloud

Handled with care, mushrooms on demand. Picked by guests last weekend after endless rain and humidity, perfect sprouting conditions. In fact, judging by the amount of mushroom-picking traffic passing our gate, possibly the best ever since we have lived here. Not that we know much about the edibles and non-edibles, our knowledge fortunately has improved to knowing about a few. But even those few have look-alikes that can fall into the less favourable poisonous varieties. Suffice to say we have survived and enjoyed a breakfast, lunchtime and evening meals with the seasonal delight. And now the sun arrives late for this year's summer, the grass grows to demand another cut and the local farmer realises he has a second chance to cut the surrounding meadow. More guests arrive for a last minute deal and whilst we mellow to our mushroomy vegetarian diet, I smell chicken on the grill. The summer outdoor cuisine is not finished yet.  

Sunday, August 31, 2014

apple pie

Having fought off the pro-caterpillar rebel forces earlier in the year we are left with enough apples to make tasty pies into the winter months. And now just waiting for the sun to shine again before the full scale harvest assault of picking begins. We had been saddened by the pro-caterpillar gains on the leaves of the plum trees despite all our ultimatums. So all the cakes, jams and syrups from the apples is a nice conclusion to all the sanctions we had to impose in the orchard at Havran Cottage. What significant further steps we need to take for the future is still undecided. But in light of what illegal border crossings these pro-caterpillar rebel forces took (with possible outer perimeter support) we know that next year we will have to act much more quickly in order to prevent another difficult fruit growing season.