Saturday, April 4, 2015

April arrival

The unlikely arrival of snow showers and mud has marked the first days of April. Slipping on sloppy ground, bringing into the house large clumps of sloshy mud from our boots every time we had to put some more wood in the stove to keep the house warm. Overalls now with a faded dirt colour, soaking wet woolly hat and gloves with more holes than fingers. And all for the sake of preparing for chicken arrivals in another week's time. Our neighbour (the one who didn't move our trailer, gossips but we have to remain friends with when we need repairs on chimneys or drill bits..) has already judged that the local wildlife will have easy pickings on our new flock. It's so nice to hear that sort of feedback. He did offer us cake though when we saw him, so we let that remark pass.  
One week earlier I was back in Prague for a couple of hours work. 8 hours there, 8 hours back. At least the sun shone there, which brought out the camera clicking tourists in their droves. Easter colour with all it's eggs and shiny material and a chance to see english acquaintances in groups of matching t-shirts with wording or pictures to help me distinguish who the lucky groom will be. 
And these days it is fun seeing how the self-portrait photograph has developed with straining arm and neck muscles. I don't understand why they can't ask a passing stranger to take their picture instead like before. Then again I was starting to charge for this service.        

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Neighbourhood watch

Not a new arrival at Havran Cottage but a change of view for the blue trailer. And with it idle neighbourly gossip. 
We had a choice of two tractor owning neighbours who both live alone. One being our sweet looking, dirty talking, sprightly elder who had been working his engine over the last month or our negative speaking, shaking head, "you should do it my way", 'hasn't run his tractor since October' neighbour who will talk about you to anyone on his regular friday morning shop in the town. Therefore it was an easy decision. With his tractor worn-through thermals and bobbly hat to fight any cold weather, the  consequence was we had the task done in a short time with a glass of wine to celebrate. 
In the distance the following day we hear the revving of a tractor engine and gushing smoke rising from near our other neighbour's house. As if he was making a point, it's too late to concern us.

Friday, March 6, 2015

wait is over

Counting down the days left of winter and frozen ground was like waiting for the bus. Whether it will be late or on time but knowing we need to be somewhere very soon. 
So now we must move on and take advantage of early Springtime sunshine which brings with it defrosting temperatures and mud. Clogged up boots and the inevitable forgetfulness to take them off at the front door. Lunchtime dishes not washed until later in the evening or even the next day as there is eagerness to persist with outdoor plans. 
At the moment two more constructed outdoor composting toilets or privies or places of peace or whatever else you want to call them, have been built in my trademark hap-hazard rustic way. And after all the weather boarding of each cubicle my hands are left littered with splinters and dirty finger nails. 
Our other challenge at present is the almost impossible task of clearing and organising what we call room number 2. A challenge that was initially so hard that to even open the door required brute force just to get beyond the first stuff blocking your way. Now after a couple of days and a near empty space with contents scattered both inside and left outside our cottage, a mess would be only a polite term as to how our place looks right now. Neighbours have driven past with twisted heads as to see what we are doing and predictable tut-tutting and gossip thereafter.  
The week ahead is going to be busy to put what we need back in once some shelving has been created out of what scrap wood is left. Quickly too in case Winter decides to re-emerge.      

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.