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.
So 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…
Here’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.
Tomato 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!
Compare 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.
The 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.
I’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!
We 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.
The 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!
Sunflowers 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.
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:
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!
- 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!
Aleksandar Hemon’s book was the perfect book to read in the soggy times sheltering from the rain:
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!
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.
Not 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:
Meanwhile Aimee & I completed the privacy fence on the workshop boundary:
And 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:
He 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.
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!
Other 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.
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:
We 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!
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…