It’s been a productive month in the nursery. Flowers sown and flourishing so far include: snapdragons, pansies, cosmos, zinnia, stock, livingstone daisy, lobelia and pot marigolds.
Below is an early pic of courgettes and lettuce bursting into life:
They are now really romping away and joining the veg in the nursery are: tomatoes (60 plants!! Gulp!); peppers; and lots more lettuce – red, emerald oak, red iceberg, cut & come again and 2 local varieties.
I’ve planted all the onion sets and sowed carrots & spinach but not sure it’s been consistently damp enough for them to germinate. Peas have gone in too. We haven’t checked on progress up there for a week now, so hoping for green shoots when next we visit. The only thing currently growing there is rastan:
Herbs are coming along in pots at the house particularly the coriander and dill. Chives and basil seem slower to get going.
Also tidied up the herb bed and sowed lots of seed there. The nasturtiums are still going bonkers as you can kind of see in the pic below (bit of a poor shot, sorry):
And flowers that we were given as cuttings from a friend’s garden have really got established and are now flowering brightly.
The real work in the organic garden this month was improving the structure and fertility of the soil in the beds, digging in lots of organic matter:
Steve also combined the compost piles into one huge heap and tended the worm bin:
We’ve invested in many bags of goat poo.
It will be ready enough to use by end April/ May (it’s a bit fresh right now, good job we don’t have smelly-vision!) so some will be used when we plant our tomatoes out and the rest will be saved to dig into the beds early next year with leaf mould and compost.
Baking & Making
Jen tipped me off to a tree full of sour oranges, so we went a’picking for marmalade fruit. Making marmalade is a time consuming process involving the pips and pith and juice soaking overnight but really worth it. The photo below shows a batch with rind I chopped in the mixer but I prefer the thin strips so I did the rest by hand.
Here are some of the finished jars. The result is very satisfying – tastes really authentic, not too sweet at all and we have jars and jars of it!
Feelings & Musings
The one word to sum up this month… productive!
We’ve achieved so much in February, it’s a very promising start to the year. The gardening is well under way, jars of marmalade line the cupboards and we’ve been busy as bees. We’ve got bolder about asking for work and it’s been amazing what’s come our way. As well as the cash-in-hand jobs, of which there have been plenty, I also finally got some ‘proper’ work confirmed. At the end of March I’ll be training 20 junior managers at Porto Montenegro in a 2-day workshop that I’ve designed for the client. If it goes well there may be plenty more courses to run… Exciting but also a little scary – doing a great job and being a success here is even more critical than in the UK because it’s such a small place and reputations can be made or slain here.
We’ve made progress in marketing too. The signs have been designed for the roadside near the border and we know how much the Opstina will charge us for the permission to erect the sign. Just a few bits of paper to agree with the municipality and then we can give the go-ahead on the signs to be made and get them erected. Dare I say it, the process has been less hassle than expected… so far. And we made it into Chat! magazine in the UK this month with a half-decent article, all things considered…
We’re undecided as to whether to be shouting too loudly about this coup as it’s not exactly the most prestigious mag around. But hey, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right??
We’ve made inroads into cutting our company costs. Steve’s going to be employed part time by our company, which means less outgoings per month and Nik, who needs a work permit and therefore needs a company to employ him, is now employed by us and not only will pay all the costs relating to his salary & taxes but will also contribute to the running costs. We’re just about to sign a new contract with our accountant which might save us hard cash too and at the very least will provide us with clarity of our operating costs so we can plan for such charges in advance. This is bordering on strategic, which is almost a dirty word in Monte!!
We’ve saved ourselves from having to buy more wood by raiding the building site next door, with the permission of the builder. It’s crap wood and most of it soggy but fine when mixed with the dry stuff and it will just about get us through the chill of March before we clean up the fire and leave it dormant for the next 6 months.
We’ve been getting our volunteers sorted for the season. Looks like we’ve got some good guys this year – lots of strapping lads lined up for May in particular which will be our really busy month work-wise. One less thing to organise later…
And last but not least, after 8 years I have finally got a legal visa to stay in Montenegro until the end of the year. It was quite a caper involving me & our accountant going across the border to leave the country and re-enter to please the officious (and completely wrong, but no-one is brave enough to dispute him) Inspector for Foreigners; and the border guards refusing to stamp my passport because Croatia’s in the EU so no stamps required and the Montenegrins also refusing to stamp my passport because I have a valid visa for 3 months, so what’s the problem (“Yes, Officer, we know, but the power-crazed official in the Foreigner’s department who is making us do this just because he can, cannot be reasoned with so…”). In the end we managed to wangle one stamp out of them and went back, trembling and subservient (because that’s the way this puffed-up twat likes his minions to be) to ask if it was enough… And it was.
I know Feb is a short month, but crikey did it feel like it! The days just whizzed by and March marched in almost before it could be welcomed. Phew. Feeling pretty good about our prospects for the year ahead. Now all we need are more bookings… Come on you happy campers, you KNOW you want a camping holiday at our wonderful Montenegro campsite!!
It’s very unusual for me to read a book AFTER I’ve seen it televised, in fact this might be the first…
All credit to the writing of Mr Martin that I read and enjoyed this tome, despite knowing basically what was going to happen next. There were quite a few subtle nuances that I missed whilst watching the series – the relationships between the various houses and kingdoms are certainly clearer to follow in the written word.
There’s no doubt about it, it’s a romping good yarn, with plenty of intrigue & drama and blood & guts strewn around. But it’s not overdone (at least not in the book) and unlike some mighty sagas that churn through this birth, that death, this love affair, it has interesting, quirky, intelligent characters and one begins to really care for some of them. An underdog defender, of course I was rooting for Jon Snow. Tyrion is a smart and complex character – intelligent writing I think to make him a dwarf as it’s almost as if he sees events from a different level, which of course he does actually but also, cleverly, metaphorically. The range of characters is also interesting – Martin builds as good a picture of a young girl as he does of a mature man. Names and descriptions are suitably ‘other-worldly’ without being too alienating or hard to recall.
Being a fan of books that don’t run the normal course, I enjoyed (in a tortured kind of way) the fact that it’s not all “Hurrah for the goodies and boo for the baddies”. Evil lurks and persists and sometimes good doesn’t conquer all. It’s thoroughly enjoyable and I’m eager to get to the next book in the series although I wasn’t prepared for there to be 5 more. Gulp.
Next up was a re-encounter with the exquisite Hilary Mantel…
As the cover proclaims, it is indeed an ‘astonishing, ravishing memoir’. Ms Mantel’s writing is so perfect it almost hurts. I know this sounds melodramatic but I’m fast becoming her biggest fan. Her writing is, well, just…everything. Intelligent, accessible, beautifully illustrated, achingly sad and roaringly happy – perfectly put together so that you cherish every line. I was captivated in the first few pages where she talks about the challenge of writing about herself. I was just about to quote from the book, but I hardly know where to start or end and I fear I will just keep spilling the magic here if I begin – so, go & read it yourself. Now.
The only thing I struggle with is that she describes her childhood in such detail I can hardly believe her. I, who have barely any memories of being small and young, never mind recalling details of the multitude of things around me, am loathe to concede such memories exist for other people. She describes the shape and design of jugs and chair legs as if they have been important components all her life and I wail and gnash my teeth and think “Why can’t I remember?”
And now for something completely different…
Considering Ms Mantel is such a hard act to follow, Louise Welsh’s book managed to hold my attention and keep me entertained. Especially since I’m not overly fascinated by tricks and illusions, which feature highly in the book but are handled really well – enough information given and withheld to keep the intrigue fresh. In fact, that’s probably the key to the book – it’s freshness, it’s difference, something I hadn’t read before and the freshness is a great contrast to the stale smell of alcohol and cigarettes that seems to almost emanate from the pages as William moves from one seedy, shady nightclub to another. The characters are well developed enough to make an impression, even if one doesn’t exactly like them. I definitely read another book by Ms Welsh.
And now I’m reading my first Salman Rushdie book! More of that next month…
This year we’re making a big effort to finally make a big enough stash in Monte to not have to keep running for cover in the UK. And the persistence is paying off…
I have started waitressing at Izvor, our mate Bobo’s konoba, every weekend. The Portonovi crew (the guys working on the new resort in Kumbor, due to open 2016) discovered Izvor and claimed it as their local. They are mostly South African and crazy about rugby. They’ve bought a 60″ screen for the bar and rock up every Friday and Saturday night to drink beer, eat Vesna’s simple but tasty fare and shout & holler at the screen. I do about 4 hours each evening ferrying drinks and food and chatting to the guys. They’re a friendly bunch and it’s good to be in at the start to build relationships with key people for future work possibilities and also tip offs about materials available on site. My hourly rate is pretty crap but together with tips, I’m earning enough.
Steve has been working for a friend who services boats in the marina at Tivat. He’s not exactly built to be folded up in the engine rooms of boats but it’s all for a good cause – hard cash wins the day.
We did a day’s work at Nik’s land in Bijela clearing more brambles, taking out some trees and generally tidying the plot up for prospective buyers to enjoy.
The pig sty, believe it or not much improved!
With the smoke from the fire in the background, here’s Nik marking out his boundary with string…
And the view I’m most proud of, the back of the house, which was completely obscured by brambles and ivy:
We (Steve more than me) helped Hayley & Jack move into their new house and traded 3 single mattresses and some cash for our labour. Great news as we were debating what to do about upgrading our mattresses so that the guests on their camping holiday in Montenegro who hire our tents can continue to get a comfortable bed.
That’s the run down on paid work this month and as to work on the campsite, the main focus has been collecting palms and using dry days to get them up on the fence to repair the gaps where old palms have dried and shredded over time
We entertained new friends & neighbours, Karen & Darren at the beginning of the month. Darren is working on the Portonovi project and he & his wife are from Northern Ireland. Nice folk and good to have some fresh faces around. We did a wicked Chinese (Steve’s sweet & sour chicken, my fragrant pork) which went down a treat.
The big event of the month was the Valentine’s Hop, a celebration of Ann & Richard’s marriage. They transformed Izvor for the night, with huge posters of classic couples (Fred & Ginger etc, etc) and photos from their own wedding obscuring the windows, cupids (hand-drawn by a friend) hanging from the ceiling and a bespoke stage (made by Bobo’s fair hand) providing the focal point for speeches and the platform for the amazing Sinobusi, the band from Novi Sad who kept up dancing all night. We all got dressed up for the occasion, Steve wowing all the girls as usual with his tails and bow tie; me with my one nice ‘little black dress’ that thankfully I can still squeeze into after all these years. Here I am with the bride and groom and Danny, who made a proper night of it and stayed at ours so she could have as much bubbly as she liked!
It was a spectacular night. Richard had been driving us all bonkers with tying down every last detail (including candles in the trees – Steve’s job!), but all the planning paid off and the evening went without a single Montenegrin hitch! Endless trays of nibbles and glasses of bubbles; cup cakes galore (baked by Mary the self-appointed Cup Cake Queen) and dancing, dancing, dancing. We finally got home at 2.30am and then sat up giggling with Fi & Dave until 4.30am. Needless to say the next day was a write-off!
Mary’s on a mission to launch a baking business here, so she hosted a Tea Party at the Porto Montenegro Yacht Club the following week. It was an afternoon laden with gluten, sugar and caffeine so not exactly my cup of tea, pardon the pun. But I offered to help out as tea lady and back kitchen support which meant I could enjoy the event and catch up with friends without stuffing my face (though of course there were stacks of goodies left over and my face was inevitably stuffed…).
Here’s the hostess herself with her most loyal customer, hubby Tris:
It was a full-on afternoon but a big success and afterwards a few of us girlies ended up at Danny’s for the evening. She cooked a yummy chilli which we washed down with nice wine and a lovely time was had by all.
The month started pretty gloomy. The first weekend in Feb sees the start of the Mimosa festival here and sadly the rain kept us indoors for most of it. We did make it to the Flower Show though and bumped into an old friend who gave me a nice sprig of mimosa:
We’ve had some warm, positively hot days too. Overall, the weather has been changeable with the temperatures yo yo-ing and dry days following deluges.
Daisy and I have enjoyed some nice walks on the sunny days, often visiting our favourite place, a gorgeous piece of land with an ruined house and lots of trees and grassy terraces, where she and the local dog Patch run like loonies. And we picked some lovely wild flowers en route there:
If anyone can identify them I’d love to know what they are!
The birds have been out in force this month. I watched a pair of Black Caps from our back window – she with her brown head and he with his midnight coloured cap. We’ve seen and heard plenty of Tits of various species; Robins and Redstarts provide flashes of crimson and Yellow Wagtails sparkle like the sun. Spring is definitely sprung.