Growing Green

The silver lining to the unseasonably cool and damp weather this month has been the garden thriving with little intervention.  Not much chance of it drying out and little sun to cause plants to bolt so we’ve enjoyed a  glut of salad crops.

June - salad basketSo much lettuce I can’t fit it in the basket!  And baby courgettes, rocket and peas – we picked a bowlful of peas regularly for a couple of weeks, just enough to add colour and a sweet crunchiness to a meal…

 

June - harvestHere’s the shaded salad bed looking somewhat depleted.  Lettuce & rocket seedlings are now growing away here whilst the Spring Onions are nearly ready for picking and we wait for the courgettes to fill out.

June - salad bedTomato flowers finally started to set this month tho we lost many to the wind and rain but now we need a continued period of sunshine to ripen the fruit.  Notice the capsicum in the background – we’re unsure yet if it’s a big chilli or a small pepper!

June - toms & paprikaCompare this picture to a similar one posted last month to see how far and fast the beans have grown.  I picked the first 4 runner beans a couple of days ago; the plants are full of setting flowers and the local beans are also forming.

June - beansThe chard is growing underneath the shade of the beans and seems to be doing really well there.  The peas are finally over though – best crop ever this year.  And here are the first 4 garlic bulbs of the season.

June - garlic & chardI’m trying to remember to take a photo from the same view at the end of each month to show the overall development of the garden.  If you compare this pic with last month’s you can see a remarkable difference!

June - view of gardenWe haven’t invested much in the strawberries since the plants are not a great variety – only bearing a few, small fruits.  That said it has been lovely to add the sweet crimson berries to our breakfast cereal or munch on them as we potter about.

June - strawberriesThe tyre wall abounds with colour and form and the tyres are barely visible.  Even in the last few days since this photo was snapped the flowers have grown!  The lobelia is a particularly lovely addition this year, it’s tiny midnight blue flowers and green leaves frothing over the rubber edges (not well featured in this shot, admittedly – will try for a better pic next month).  And look how tall the sunflowers are getting!

June - tyre wallSunflowers in the orchard aren’t climbing as high but I think they are a different variety.  That’s the problem with self-seeded plants that I transplant into position – I’m never sure exactly what I will get where…  The orchard generally is still looking gorgeous – just in this small snapshot you can see the lavender, petunias, wild violets, pansies and alyssum happily thriving.

June - orchard flowersAnd the squashes and pumpkins are very happy scrambling amongst the trees and roses and flowers in the orchard area:

June - marrow

An update on herbs:  I successfully transplanted a load of mint from the tyre wall (where it can’t be eaten as it gets watered with diluted compost tea) to the herb bed.  Parsley, chives, mint & oregano seems to be the only herbs really thriving in this bed so may continue to grow other herbs in the main garden.  Coriander & dill have flourished in amongst the tomatoes but basil continues to struggle wherever I sow it – think it’s just been too wet and not warm enough.

Baking & Making

Nothing notable apart from a couple of cracking Indian feasts, including a lovely Korma from scratch for our wedding anniversary.  My pooris with our wide selection of dips go down SO well with everybody.  And now I have some Gram flour (chick pea flour, recommended by Aimee and smuggled in by Ditsch) I can make pooris without gluten that I can eat too.

Feelings & Musings

Soggy, frustrated and a little anxious probably sums up the overriding feelings this month.  The weather has been awful a lot of the time – wet and chilly and miserable.  There’s been SO much rain it has felt like April not June.  And even when the sun has come out, we haven’t been able to rely on it staying out – tarpaulins have been constantly on & off the outside furniture, the hammocks have been hung out only to be unclipped again and stowed in the basement and the bottle windows have been in and out like a demented needle (odd analogy?!  just going with it!).  The knock-on effects of little sun and a soggy campsite are: not enough hot water; a constantly muddy building (impossible to walk around the site without getting caked in mud and almost impossible to avoid tramping the dirt everywhere and of course we don’t want to waste the precious hot water we do have by constantly cleaning – this is reserved for bodies only which need sanitising and warming with hot water more than ever in these times); sinking tent pitches; water-logged gardens; high fuel usage (the generator has to go on earlier because it’s been so dark and if we were to achieve anything during the grey days we had to be able to work in the basement occasionally and therefore needed light) and grumpy people.  It’s been grim.  Weirdly, I know we have had some sunny and productive days at the start of the month (the photos in the sections to follow are the proof) but I can’t recall them that well and honestly June has felt like the LONGEST month EVER.

The absolute low point for me was Thursday 19th June.  A group of crafty folk from Tivat were due to be visiting to do some mosaics with us but we had to cancel it – indeed the entire Art Week got washed away with not a single bod showing up for Kid’s Art or Life Drawing or anything.  The campsite was IN the clouds, the rain was relentless and damp permeated EVERYTHING.  Our guests from the UK (where of course it was SUNNY) were understandably fed up, especially since their tent leaked and even when we upgraded them to our biggest tent that leaked too due to such a volume of water (despite the 3000mm hydro rating of the tents!) and I was cooped up with them in the kitchen trying to make light of it all, whilst they read books and waited for their hire car to arrive so they could escape the soggy site.  It actually looked and felt like NOVEMBER that day and the incessant chant in my head was: “Who’s bright idea was it to have a campsite?”

Poor weather has thwarted ‘Operation Sign Watch’ – no point in putting the sign up in the rain as we know the locals well enough to know they won’t be bothered to venture out when it’s wet – so we’re no closer to knowing who the villain is.

Unsurprisingly, we’ve had very few guests this month – who wants to camp in the rain???  Thankfully the guests that have visited have all been amazing but we have literally seen business slip through our fingers as guests who arrived, planning to stay, have (sensibly, and I really don’t blame them) deserted us for the option of an actual room, with TV to watch on the long grey days.  Income was boosted a little by the completely unscheduled arrival of 17 Latvians though.  Despite lots of texts to & fro (which led us to believe they might be a nightmare) and an after-midnight arrival – they were a fabulous group of people.  They erected their tents and got themselves to bed & up again in almost silence, very respectful of other campers and made the process of breakfasting and de-camping 17 people seem totally effortless.  And they were such lovely folk – so complimentary about the campsite, leaving us gifts of Latvian biscuits and all of them assembling to sing us a goodbye song in their language when they left.  Amazing.  Here they all are, finishing breakfast:

June - Latvians

Of course, there are always silver linings so here’s a few of those this month:

  • Yoga Week wasn’t a wash-out and whilst it didn’t really bring much business for us or our volunteer yoga teacher, Aimee, it did bring Darijan to our campsite – a Serb, living in Tivat who was attracted by the Yoga theme.  He enjoyed some one-on-one sessions with Aimee and fell in love with us and our home.  He had such a good time he returned later in the month with 2 of his friends.  And he’s a fabulous hairdresser apparently, so that’s a good connection to have!

Here he is learning how to ‘fly’ someone!

 

June - yoga 1

 

  • We barely had to water the garden so that was a bunch of time saved and we’ve enjoyed produce that may have otherwise bolted in the sun or suffered from the heat
  • We had few guests to divert us from work projects, so whilst in some ways the weather thwarted our efforts and we couldn’t tackle certain ‘outside’ jobs, we were able to capitalise on our fabulous volunteers in other ways
  • And… well I suppose it has made us appreciate the sun more (we will be making a BIG effort not to grumble about the heat after non-summer we’ve had so far!)  and has also clearly highlighted the need for a covered eating area.  We have been SO lucky that the maximum we’ve had to squeeze in the kitchen, out of the rain, for an evening meal has been 8 which is JUST about do-able.  Any more guests would have been difficult to say the least!

Thankfully Steve and I are still hanging onto each other and our love and dreams…  We celebrated 15 happy years of marriage on 26th June and despite all the doom & gloom here, we have no regrets really and still count ourselves as the luckiest buggers we know.  Upwards and onwards to a sunnier future then!

Reading

Aleksandar Hemon’s book was the perfect book to read in the soggy times sheltering from the rain:

Aleksandar Hemon book

Easy to read, bite-sized chunks of stories of life in Sarajevo and in Chicago, it was both enjoyable and a great leveller.  What did I really have to grumble about in my life when stories such as Hemon’s have to be told?  There are some big, sobering things to grapple with in this small, paper-backed book: the consequences of conflict; the crippling effects of displacement; the importance of friendship, loyalty and love; the fragility of life and how far we can be weighed down by sadness…  Hemon’s writing is frank, funny and poignant all at the same time.  It put me firmly back in my place – the place of a privileged individual with a blessed life, relatively free from sorrow and strife.  Thank you Aleksandar for this timely gem!

Work

Ian joined us at the beginning of the month and we took full advantage of his civil engineering background to figure out the easiest & cheapest way to level the outside eating area.  We now have a foundation wall edge laid, which we aim to finish in September when the weather is cooler and we have our next gang of volunteers.

June - eating area wallIan was a quiet, unassuming character who was easy to be around and contributed great things.  Here he is tackling other jobs:

June - Ian painting balustradeJune - Ian painting tablesNot long after Ian arrived, Aimee joined us.  And on her recommendation, Giuseppe (an Italian guy she’d met at the previous volunteering project) turned up shortly after her.  Giuseppe was a real bonus and he pretty much single-handedly tackled the big project of making a platform that would provide a level surface for my massage table and double up as a chill space/ dance floor or games area when not in use for massage.  Here’s the dude cutting wood for the project:

June - Giuseppe cutting wood

Meanwhile Aimee & I completed the privacy fence on the workshop boundary:

June - bamboo fenceAnd Aimee painted a lot of stuff: beautiful wooden chairs donated by Carrie that needed stripping down and re-varnishing; the wood that Giuseppe was using to build the platform so that everything was as weather-proofed as possible…

The last volunteers for June were Peter (from the US) and Victoria (from the UK) – a fabulous couple who contributed so much and were so easy to live with we asked them to stay another week.  The list of stuff we got done with them around, despite the weather, was pretty impressive.  Turns out Peter was pretty handy with a welder and he made a big impression on me by fixing our big metal gate, so now I can actually open and close the gate by myself with little effort.  Here he is in action:

June - Pete weldingHe used his welding skills to make up 2 security doors so we can actually shut off the shower room area of the building entirely in the winter.  This gives us even greater peace of mind about leaving the site unoccupied and he managed to make them out of an old gate we had lying around so they cost virtually nothing to make apart from some new welding rods and the cost of running the genny.

June - securrity doors

Together Steve & Peter put the 3 wooden decks that Giuseppe had made into place, levelled it and erected the tent structure on top, all ready for Steve to sew another of his fabulous gazebo covers!

June - finished platformMeanwhile Victoria  repainted our sign:

June - signVictoria did some cleaning, helped tidy the site, did a bit of land clearing and burning and continued the mosaic project that Aimee and one of our guests had started:

June - mosaicOther jobs that got done : new shelves in an old wardrobe in the basement that we use for storing ground sheets and camping gear; various tents put up & down; security lock on the water tank, the stone wall got moved along a little further and various other bits & bobs.

 

Play

Thankfully the rain stopped just in time for our Summer Solstice Party.  It was a roaring success – fabulous food, a great fire, mad dancing, good booze, interesting people – all the key ingredients for a great night.  Some new people came to the campsite for the first time – out of the 25 of us that were there around 9 were first-timers, which was great.  I was too busy having a brilliant time to take any pictures but here’s one that Steve too of Blazo’s girlfriend Maja, who was as happy as can be:

June - Maja at SolsticeWe were slightly worried about our guests being disturbed by the music and merry-making but they happily joined in, had a great night and there were no complaints.  We had a fab Dutch couple staying with us: Bob & Tequila (I KNOW, what a great name!) and Bob made superb Chicken Satay for the BBQ and entertained everyone by being the last naked man standing!

Ditsch arrived to cheer us up at the end of the month.  Apart from the 3.5 hour drive to Podgorica to pick her up and the awful first 2 days of rain that scuppered her sunbathing in the sun plans and left us feeling wholly responsible, it was great to have her back.  Blazo threw a party at our house for his birthday, so we had a night off the campsite, at our house but with someone else hosting which was nice!  It was great to see Ditsch having a few glasses of wine and enjoying herself…  She’s usually my excuse to spend a day on the naturist beach and thankfully the weather improved enough for us to have a beach day together and my first swim of the year!

 

Nature Watch

I’m not going to go on about the weather – suffice to say it was unseasonably crap.

Here’s a lovely pic of Grace’s Smokebush instead…

June - smokebushRegarding naturals wonders, apart from being overrun with crickets again, we had the pleasure of watching some kind of mating ritual between a couple of Smooth snakes:

June - smooth snakesAnd on Daisy walks this month I returned wearing spider’s webs and crushed mulberries on my shoes…

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Growing Green

Plenty of rain & sun this month has led to verdant growth. Lettuces continue to thrive – we are so delighted with our crop this year: fully formed icebergs, well-hearted salad… We are enjoying the fresh, tasty leaves from the garden whilst we can before the plants bolt in the heat. Here’s a basket of goodies from a late May picking – rocket is also in abundance and if you look closely you’ll see the first baby courgettes and the first peas (oh, so deliciously sweet!).

May harvest
Radishes have come & gone this month and the next sowing will be eaten in June. Emerging carrot seedlings have loved the rain and cooler conditions, so thankfully more have germinated than I first suspected. Onions are looking impressive already, although quite a few got too wet and rotted and some were eaten (by ants?). The tomatoes are looking amazing, tethered to strong tall stakes, full of flowers – I am ridiculously excited about seeing the fruit form & ripen and tasting our first homegrown of the season. Which variety will pip the others to the post, I wonder??? In amongst the tomatoes in one bed I sowed lots of herbs. The coriander & dill is flourishing and chives are hanging on but not much else has grown there unfortunately. In the other tomato bed, the peppers and chillies are coming on – we have our first chilli already and the rest of the plants are full of flowers. Marrows were slow to establish but they are finally taking off now and in the orchard the pumpkins, butternut squash and various unknown curcubits that have self sown from the compost are coming along nicely.

May view of beds
The runner beans are clambering up their impressive new structure (thanks to our volunteers) and flowering already. Underneath, the pea pods are swelling, local beans are pushing through here & there (the first sowing seemed to have suffered from cold, wet conditions and greedy insects), chard and silverbeet leaves are unfurling amongst the crimson-veined beetroot leaves. Petunias (supposedly the companion for beans) are romping away – it will be a picture when they start flowering.

May beans
Talking of flowers and companion plants, my marigolds this year have been a real disappointment. The pot marigolds grew from seed and are now offering colour (and hopefully protection) in the garden but no other marigold seeds germinated. I think the seeds must have been too old and by the time I got new seeds, it was too hot for germination. Luckily nature’s lent a helping hand and I’ve been busily transplanting all the marigolds that have popped up in the compost.
Flowers generally though are a great success so far. The tyre wall is looking promising: Cosmos, Snapdragons, Petunias, Zinnia, Alyssum, Stock, Mesembryanthemum, Pansy and Lobelia are all in bloom to varying degrees. Nicotiana is popping up, self-sown, all over the place too.

May tyre wall
All my hard work and persistence in the orchard has finally paid off – even Steve, who has been against me ‘wasting my time’ there and grumbling about more stuff to water, admitted how lovely it looked. The citrus trees flowered properly for the first time this year; the Choisya is very well-established now and looking really healthy; the roses are settling in nicely and currently creating a splash of colour; the geraniums (which also survived the winter) are a picture of deep green foliage and orangey-red flowers; Snapdragons and Petunias that survived from last year have been blooming impressively and the frothy drifts of pale pink, blue and white Nigella are so beautiful.  Can’t seem to capture the loveliness of the orchard but here’s Nigella growing around the first bath…

May Nigella
Ground cover in the orchard is provided by wild pansies, with their pale purple, white and lemon yellow edible petals and the bright yellow flowers donated by a local friend as a cutting last year, are carpeting the ground with sunshine stars. Just looked them up and think they must be Gazania, which means we were lucky to keep them through this winter because it was mild but the next proper frost will kill them (so might be taking cutting to over-winter indoors just in case). There’s a nice little herb patch getting established up there too with sage, mint and sorrel not minding the poorer soil. Sunflowers popped up in the compost again this year and I’ve transplanted them at the back of the orchard where hopefully they will provide an impressive backdrop. Passiflora is scrambling all over the palm fence behind the orchard with it’s incredible blooms providing interest and colour and has now been joined by a Clematis gifted to us by Duncan on his recent visit.
In the streamside bed Petunia, Sweet Peas, Lobelia, Pansy and Snapdragon have been planted amongst the existing lavender & geraniums and a Bourgainvillea now provides a burst of colour against the fence as you enter the campsite – another gift from Duncan, so updates and pictures required regularly!

Bourgainvillea
The herb bed is coming along nicely. Coriander & dill are really getting going now; basil is slow to grow (still too wet & chilly at times I think); chives (ordinary & garlic) are doing great; flat-leaf parsley is an impressive bush; oregano (picked from the surrounding roadside) is getting established and the one sage plant that germinated is settling in. But it’s the nasturtiums that steal the show – growing over the top of other herbs, clambering up the wall and pushing out their bright orange edible delights.

Hanging baskets on the porch are looking lovely too:

May  - hanging basket

 

Baking & Making

Aline made rosemary syrup for us and Jenn picked elderflowers to make a cordial. Sadly she didn’t get to taste it (the flower heads have to steep in lemon juice & rind, sugar and water for 4 days) but it was delicious and spurred on by these examples from our volunteers I tried again to make sage flower juice, this time with greater success. I picked wild sage flowers that were in abundance in the surrounding area and next time I’d pick a large bagful, not a small one as I think the taste is too subtle. And too sweet, so more lemon juice and rind next time too.

May syrups
I’d been meaning for ages to make use of the sorrel romping away in the garden. I only use the very young leaves in salads to give a crunchy, lemony bite but hadn’t figured out what to do with the mature leaves. Potato & sorrel soup of course! A bit of a risky cooking this for the first time at the moba for lots of hungry helpers, but it was delicious and a great success. Unlike the carrot & orange soup which was toooo orangey – although Jenn had it as cold leftovers and said it tasted better chilled.
This month saw the loquat tree at our house loaded with fruit so it was time to make chutney. I mucked around with the spices a bit adding black pepper, kalongi and methi as I didn’t have enough mustard seeds so it’ll be interesting to taste when it matures in a few months but we’ve been eating the leftover splodge that didn’t fit in the jars and it’s yum.
Other than that, it’s the usual cooking up a storm to keep the hungry volunteers and guests happy. Rave reviews from them as usual, so all good. Nothing really notable to mention other than a great homemade curry (Look! No pre-prepared paste!) & lots of tasty accompaniments to welcome Jess & Dunc.

Feelings & Musings

May started badly.  For the first time I just wasn’t excited about opening up the campsite.  No guests, wet and chilly weather forecast – I was very reluctant to leave the warmth and comfort of our house to go live in a caravan in the rain.  Poor Steve, I think I must have been a pretty miserable companion for those first few days…

Rachel and Steve put our smart new sign up at the border, on the pole on the piece of land we had rented.  The next day it was gone.  Someone had actually peeled off the sticky sign from the metal plate!  On the bright side, at least we didn’t have to pay for the entire sign – only €10 for a new one to be re-stuck.  And this time the guy stuck it so it overlapped and was harder to pull off.  There is someone in our neighbourhood who is either jealous, anti-foreigners, thinks we’re competition or disapproves of the FKK angle.  We are yet to find out who, but Steve is planning an all day vigil to catch the culprit.  watch this space…

Such vandalism and the realisation that we had at least one enemy somewhere, really brought us down. I wasted half a day of mine and our mate Bobo’s time waiting around in the police station to report the crime, exasperated that it had happened in front of all the border police and customs officials!  But no-one was particularly interested, and crimes of less than €150 in value aren’t investigated.  We’ve asked all our neighbours and everyone seems outraged and adamant that it’s no-one in the village.  So, we’re clueless and frustrated.

It helped that Rachel was a low maintenance volunteer and that Hugo & Aline, our unexpected volunteers, were useful too.  As the sun came out my spirits rose.  Seeing the site transform was a great motivator and having our first 2 guests turn up on spec on 10th May was a boost too.  Another lovely German couple who stayed for 2 nights…

But frankly guests have been very thin on the ground this month with a couple from Edinburgh the only others, apart from our friends.  We’re beginning to accept the local way of not starting the season until at least June, since May is always so unpredictable and may well be reviewing our opening date for 2015.

Trying not to grumble, the caravan has been a cosy place to retreat to.  The gas fire has been amazing and I’m not sure I could go back to camping in a tent in the cold & damp anymore!!!  So I try to think how lucky I am, tucked up on damp days with nothing to do but read a book – there are still folk who’d swap with me in a jiffy…

With Katie & Tim back in the Boka, it was time to say our final farewells to David.  A few friends of Michelle & David’s boarded the Monty B for a simple but touching eulogy from Tim who echoed all our feelings that he left us too soon and too suddenly and will be sorely missed.  Michelle read a lovely poem and we all had a Arum Lily each (that bloomed on David’s birthday in their garden, for the first time ever) that some of us wrote messages in and threw into the Boka.  Fizz was popped and we toasted our friend.  Very poignant and sad.

Thank goodness for the Dunlops for brightening our lives in May.  It was fabulous to have them around and a good excuse to take a bit of a break.  Good friends are the best tonic, I find.  And now we look ahead with hope and optimism to sunny days and a productive, successful June.

 

Reading

The Monkey Wrench Gang is a romping good read.

Edward Abbey book

Weirdly, it breaks all the rules (for me) about building strong characters – there’s not much background given to our 4 heroes – and being believable (the 4 of them seem to come together out of nowhere, having Doc as the rich benefactor is very convenient and he’s portrayed as getting on in years but seems to do amazing feats for his age…).  But I didn’t care a jot.  I loved it!  Some crazy eco-activists wreaking havoc – what a splendid idea!!!  It’s well-written & engaging.  Funny at times too.  But the book’s charm rests on it’s simple central notion – that the big corporations trying to screw with nature are baddies and the small folk with good intentions to save the untamed wilderness are the goodies.  Somehow you just can’t disagree with that and I raced through this novel urging them on; holding my breath through the chases and so, so wanting this oddball crew to triumph.  Easy to read.  Wonderful descriptions of the Colorado River and its environs.  It’s a must.

William Boyd’s ‘Any Human Heart’ is equally captivating, though an entirely different story.  It’s a made-up memoir of an individual who lives through most of the 20th century, meeting famous people and getting involved in profound, global events along the way.  Logan is very human – he loves, experiences loss, does good things and bad things just like the rest of us, no matter that he hobnobs with artists and poets and is involved in daring deeds.  He’s not a ‘hero’ as such and his life is more real and grounded in familiar feelings and experiences than it is fantastical. And that’s probably why I enjoyed it so much.  It’s very cleverly written, using the form of memoir to best effect – journals end abruptly and take up elsewhere and it’s all very forgiveable.  Logan is honest about himself – he doesn’t dress up his faults and his less likeable, but very human feelings – jealousy, greed, selfishness etc…

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it or be as impressed by the book as I was.  I felt very bereft at it’s ending and have been converted to a William Boyd fan overnight.  It was just immensely enjoyable.  And the latter part of the book as Logan describes his & his friend’s physical disintegration was extremely impressive.  I found myself reflecting a lot on the future, death, friendship and other such stuff.  The imprint a book leaves after I’ve finished is my best indicator of how much I enjoyed it.  Boyd’s writing, through Logan, left a marked imprint.  Seek it out and read it.

Work

May is the month of transformation: the empty, grubby building becomes the clean, kitted-out shared space; the wildly overgrown grounds & gardens are tamed & tidied and the outside living areas take form again. But what a lot of work… First there’s the cleaning: scrubbing, dusting, mopping until the surfaces, sinks, cupboards, shelves, showers, loos, urinals, floors and tables & chairs are spotless and shiny. Then there’s the unpacking from the basement: cups & glasses back on the shelves, crockery and bowls back in the cupboards, kettles back on the stove, spices back in their rack, storage jars rediscovered and refilled with tea, coffee, sugar, flour as the kitchen starts to take shape. The shower fitting are re-attached, curtains re-hung and anti-slip mats put in place. Loo rolls on their holders, soap dispensers and scrubbing brushes out and towels hung – the shower & toilet area is up & running.
We had scheduled 3 volunteers to join us for the first week in May to help shift furniture and carry stuff in the countless trips to & fro the house to bring all the paraphernalia stored there back to the campsite. 2 strapping young lads and a young lass. In the end, only Rachel turned up but as the weather was so awful for the first few days it all worked out OK. We didn’t get the furniture-moving done and the outside lounge installed but we postponed that anyway due to rain and at least we only had one volunteer to keep busy. Rachel was fab – easy to be around, easy to please and when we all had to spend a day in the caravan reading because the weather was so grim, she took it all in her stride.

Luckily the sun did shine for her last few days and we were joined by Aline & Hugo, a French couple travelling through who asked if they could volunteer for a few days. Aline & Rachel did great things in the garden, strimming, weeding & planting flowers.

Rachel strimming

 Aline & macheteHugo prepared the ground for the outside lounge, levelling and removing stones. He helped Steve erect the gazebo frames and concrete in metal posts for our sign. We acquired 2 new sofas (lucky, as one of the sofas from last year had to be chucked so now we have a replacement +1) and Hugo helped Steve retrieve and unload one of them (we had to enlist Nik’s help to get the second one into the van and to help us load the van with mattresses and tents from the house). Our 3 volunteers had a great final day together in the garden, cutting down trees to make stakes for the garden. Here they are in front of their handiwork!

May - volunteers
The weather cheered up the second week in May so we got the outside sofa set up:

May sofas

We invested in a new tarpaulin large enough to cover the entire area so the space could be quickly and easily covered at the threat of rain. With the basement finally empty of furniture, it was cleaned and organised.

May basement 1
We dug out and re-planted the first 3 greywater baths – a job I’d been dreading but actually wasn’t as bad as I remembered.  We managed to re-use all the gravel by seiving it into a series of barrows:

May - greywater bathsHere’s Steve filling the first bath again after the plants had been split up and roots cleared:

May - Steve & 1st bath

Steve installed the solar system for the caravan so we now have a small PV panel that charges our battery during the day and gives us light at night and no faffing about changing the battery every few days to recharge. Steve mowed all the terraces and saved all the cuttings for the compost (a truly knackering job walking up and down all day).  Between us we managed to lug most of the extra stuff from the house so by mid May everything was where it should be. I spent a long, tiring day cleaning the house from top to bottom and leaving everything in pristine condition for our next guests.
Saturday 17th May was our second ‘moba’. The weather had been deteriorating as we moved towards the weekend and Steve was ready to ditch the idea and cancel the event. But I remained optimistic and rallied the troops who seemed pretty undaunted about a spot of rain. It was a successful day in the end and well worth doing. 10 of our mates turned up and attacked the upper plot of land with various tools, starting at the roadside and working back and by the end of the day we had made a phenomenal difference.

Here’s me on the strimmer & Bernie on loppers and slasher:

May Moba 1

 

Blazo and Aleksa raking and burning, whilst Steve the foreman oversees the work:

May Moba 2Alan in action:

May Moba 3Marko looking scary with the chainsaw!

May Moba 5And here’s a shot of what the top plot boundary looks like now:

May after the Moba 1
When the next round of volunteers arrived from 18th for a week, we really appreciated the value of the clearing that had been done as collecting rocks from the top plot was SO much easier. Jenn (from the US), Zohar (from Israel) and Truman (from Taiwain) were a merry and productive bunch of helpers. Truman fixed and re-covered tables for the eating area:

May tables

Zohar made new legs for our new sofa and got it level and the boys got the extra sofa into place on the bottom terrace. Steve and the boys erected the tents for our guests and friends. Zohar and Steve dug out and re-planted the final 2 greywater baths and between them the water tank got filled to the top, more land was cleared on the top plot and a big pile of rocks were carried onto site. Zohar had a particularly unique technique for shifting rocks!

May Zohar

And Jenn? Well Jenn was just there, doing everything, even before you needed to tell her to: cleaning the cooker, mopping the floors, scrubbing the rug, organising and motivating the boys and shifting rocks with the best of them:

May Jenn

Steve had made me swap out some of the larger stakes that our volunteers had collected for the tomatoes, as he was worried they were too tall and too unstable. I saved the giant stakes and Jenn singlehandedly made a fabulous sturdy structure for our beans to clamber up. She also sewed the torn gazebo cover and got that into place before she left.  And she endeared herslef to us immediately by bringing us a big pile of English goodies!

May goodies
Steve has finally made a start with the stone walling project and even Duncan got involved:

May Dunc working
Regarding ‘other’ work: Steve presented at a Green Cultural Conference in Tivat and made some useful connections and I fitted in another coaching session with my coachee.

Play

The night of the moba was a hoot. After all the hard work we relished relaxing and eating & drinking together. More friends turned up in the late afternoon to join us for the food and fun round the fire. Steve did a fabulous BBQ and Vedran took charge of the Ispod Sac (lamb & vegetables cooked under the ashes):

May VedranMay ispod sac

There were salads galore and the homemade wine & rakija flowed. It started raining just as the food was cooked so we piled into the kitchen to eat in the dry.

May Moba party

Then, remarkably, the rain stopped and the clouds lifted to reveal a fabulous starry sky so we piled back outside, to toast our toes by the fire and be mesmerised by the flames. Fiona and Monty dog were the only campers in the end as everyone else chickened out but we had some lovely time at the end of the night with Fi, chatting round the fire.
Most of the fun stuff this month revolved around Jess & Dunc who stayed with us at the campsite for most of their 10 day visit. They were unsure how the kids would sleep in the tent and if Donald, the 1 year old bum-shuffler, would be ok getting about the campsite (given hazards such as stairs and the like) but, thankfully, the kids slept pretty well (mostly) and everyone was comfy and warm enough in the tent. Here’s the big man with his wee son:

May Dunc & sonNik came over for a boozy evening of fun to catch up with the Dunlops.  The Monty B finally sailed back into the Boka towards the end of May and I was happily reunited with my buddy Katie. She came over to the campsite for a night on her own for hugs and laughs and Nik came back for a repeat session!  We made Pimms from a recipe found on the internet, which we followed (ish) substituting some ingredients with others, but it turned out yum.  Steve did another wicked BBQ and then we built a lovely fire to enjoy with guests, volunteers and friends:

May firesideAn old colleague of Duncan’s and now friend of us all, Ajsa, came to visit with her family.  Islay had a ball with Alisa and Sylvia:

May Ajsa visitAnd Donald had his first date in the hammock:

May Donald & AlisaThe happy times with the Dunlops were too numerous to mention – games, laughs, booze, late night munchies… Great times.  Islay celebrated her 3rd birthday with us and Jess & Dunc celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary.  Here’s the happy couple on their anniversary night, sadly their last night with us so Steve mixed up some Blue Margheritas for the occasion:

May J&D annivWe finally got a game of Bridge in that night too but Dunc and Steve thrashed us girls soundly.  Ho hum.

 

Nature Watch

May’s weather has been very variable.  It started wet and cold, cheered up for a bit, deteriorated again, cheered up for most of Jess & Dunc’s visit tho the last couple of days were overcast and showery.  Seems like summer’s not ready to begin until June!

Wild flowers & herbs have been gorgeous this month – thyme and sage flowering fragrantly everywhere and the site and surrounding area awash with colour and scent.  Early Purple Orchids and Bee Orchids in vases behind the big basket of lemons from our tree that Steve make ‘sok’ (syrup) with:

May - fruit & flowersAnd here’s flowers that Islay picked, which include some privet, some wild verbascum, vetch and other delights:

May Islays flowersWildlife in abundance this month!  Snakes, slow worms and lizards have been warming themselves on rocks.  Crickets are starting to appear.  Mr Ratty is back in the compost but we’re on the vermin-control case…

But it’s the birds that have given us greater joy this month.  We had a Blue Tit nest in our porch and I managed to get a snap of one of the tiny chicks that flew the nest but huddled on the grass for a bit whilst the parents continued to feed it to give it strength to fly.  How adorable is this bird!!

May - Blue tit chickAnd we finally found where our resident Eagle Owl is nesting.  We happened to catch sight of it on the shaded rocks above us, alerted to its presence by the sound of it cracking something (blummin’ big snails? a tortoise?) against the rocks.  We were able to follow it with the binos and see where it rests during the day.  We stared at it, in awe, for half an hour or so getting really good sight of it’s head, the amazing markings on it’s feathers and it’s yellow feet.  It’s HUGE!  More than a metre high. Absolutely magical!

 

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