Sunday, December 29, 2013


Calm, warm and quiet, and no sign of change. Normally an expedition to reach the woodshed when the snow falls at this time of year, only the slippery trodden mud is becoming the hazard at the moment. 
Warmer conditions has made it easier to fire up the chainsaw, noisily breaking the silence with its ever blunter chain making hard work of breaking down the timber into useable chunks to axe. In need of a beginners guide to sharpening chains, I might need to relent once again to the clever hands of our neighbour to graft away on his sharpening tool to bring the chainsaw chain back to life. I'm sure he has been listening to it from the other side of the woodland and is expecting the call. 
There is technique involved with cutting and especially more so with a blunt tool! One such bit of knowledge is knowing which way the timber could close up on the saw when cutting. Whilst this is less likely from cutting small lengths, the longer tree pieces we reduced down to metre lengths it was particularly important to know. This could mean cutting from underneath the fallen trunk, meaning pushing the chainsaw upwards through the wood towards you. I am always relieved when this works and that I have safely not acquired any injury in doing so. 
Soup is ready, the sun is still shining and the half day of cutting to keep the woodshed fuller for another few weeks is done. Bliss.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


It is the time of year for repairs. Snow-less but still crispy in the mornings, using the time efficiently to do those little, necessary jobs around the cottage which have been put off time and time again over the last year. 
It is also the time when baby pictures with tacky holly covered borders appear on facebook messages and the same old Christmas related drivel tunes cock up the radio airwaves in supermarkets. Bah humbug! 
Here, it is nice and quiet, with just the occasional 4x4 vehicle stuffed with hunters passing by the front gate. The whimper of far off boar at night the prize for their exploits. The unusually mild daytime temperatures has melted some of the treacherous ice off the exposed track leading to us and has given us an un-seasonal opportunity to do some winter weeding in the garden. 
Tiling the last bits in the kitchen (it was supposed to be finished last October..) in these warmer days, the stove has been sufficient this year to keep us down to wearing just two jumpers. And what of Christmas traditions here? The sour cabbage soup, the fish meal and plenty of homemade biscuits to munch on. A pair of slippers bought for each other. We have enjoyed these simple pleasures.  

Monday, December 16, 2013


To wet our appetite over the wintry months we have the pleasure of adding jerusalem artichokes to the menu. ( 
An awkward looking vegetable but a useful substitute for the potato if we were ever going to need a substitute for any of the 3 sackfuls of spuds stashed away in the cellar. In the upcoming months I may be writing about all the mashed, chipped, souped and baked 'arties' that we will be putting to the taste test and then all the awkward consequences the next day. Thankfully the toilet is outside! 
Last weekend I found myself in the Old Town Christmas market in Bratislava, and not an artichoke insight! Instead the same wooden kitchenalia stalls, and several hundred food huts consisting of either pancakes, burgers or gingerbread. Not that these are not Slovak specialities, my criticism would be on individuality and choice. In my mind a missed opportunity to either explore something new or to bring back a more unique recent and past traditions. It all felt very safe without the sparks compared to neighbouring countries examples. A glass of artichoke brandy would have been nice.