Growing Green

So, first for the good news… the garden. The silver lining in the dark cloud that was July, is that we’ve barely had to water the garden this month and we’ve had exceptional cropping from plants that usually struggle in the middle of summer.

Runner beans are loving the damp and overcast days – we’ve been picking a kilo+ per day and even having to take bags full back to the house to blanch and freeze as we can’t use them fast enough on site.

July - runner beans & toms
Tomatoes are a JOY! Especially when they look like this!

July - funny shaped tomato

The pink ones (seed donated by Nik on his return from Armenia, I think?) are HUGE – this one alone over half a kilo in weight! (I know it doesn’t look very pink here but when you see it next to red toms in the flesh it really IS a funny colour!):

July - half a kg tom
We’ve picked kilos and kilos of them this month – Tiger Toms and Cherry Toms cropping really well too – and they’re all yummy! Sweet and full of flavour, tho I think they could have been even more delicious with more sun to ripen them faster and we have suffered from ‘splitting’ skins from too much rain.

Lettuce has continued to grow, if not exactly ‘flourish’ – ambient temperature still mostly too hot – and we’ve been able to pick salad greens from the garden throughout July: cut & come again lettuce & wild rocket (too hot for iceberg now & all our cultivated rocket went to seed), young chard, silverbeet, sorrel & nasturtium leaves and colour provided by radish, wild violets & nasturtium flowers.  Here’s a basket of our salad green with a nice sized courgette…

July  - courgette & salads
We pulled our first carrots this month – digging in lots of sand has definitely helped the carrots grow fat and non-forked, though we do still get the odd shaped one and here’s a purple carrot too!

July - carrots
A few onions were also ready for harvesting and we’ve got a new spot for drying onions in the porch:

July - onions drying
We’ve had some whopper courgettes this month, a few local beans and the odd beetroot, plenty of fresh chard, hot & crunchy Spring onions, even hotter red chillies and plenty of herbs: coriander continued to crop as I cut it back hard to stop it forming seeds; basil finally started to flourish as temperatures climbed in July; parsley, mint & chives are all growing well with only the dill a little too delicate to survive the heat…

July - chard, spring onions & beansJuly - red chillies
The tyre wall is looking fabulous: Cosmos, Petunias, Zinnia, Lobelia, Nicotiana, Marigolds and Sunflowers now dominate – with the painted rubber barely visible at all. Surprisingly the star of the show last year – Snapdragons – haven’t really come to much this year. It may have been too wet for them and I think the self-sown Nicotiana has overshadowed them somewhat.

July - tyre wallSeeds saving has started – collecting seeds for next year…  The wild violet pods are star-shaped and very beautiful:

July - wild violet seeds
Flowers, shrubs, trees and squashes still flourish in the orchard. Gazania & Wild Violets line the edges; Geraniums tower over them; Petunias, Snapdragons & Marigolds provide bursts of colour throughout and over it all snake the tendrils of the pumpkins and butternut squash.  Duncan’s Bourgainvillea continues to flourish, despite getting the top snapped off by intruding dogs. But the Clematis he gifted us, which looked pretty sickly, is hanging on by a stick and a couple of leaves…

 

Baking & Making

The focus this month has been using and processing all the produce from the garden. Most meals have contained runner beans & tomatoes in some form or other! I’ve canned a few tomatoes – peeled the skins and reduced the chopped flesh down to make a passata and roasted cherry toms with garlic to be a rich, sweet vegetable addition to stews and risottos.
Steve has been sewing again and made another gazebo cover for the frame over the new platform.

July - Steve sewing

Feelings & Musings

This has been a difficult, stressful month. The weather has been awful for July and it’s been challenging operating a campsite in such conditions. We’ve had cloud, thunder, lightning and rain in abundance – at times it has been positively chilly… in JULY???!!!  The campsite has looked and felt blue… blue tarpaulins cover the various sofas and outside living spaces more often than not, the blue tarp to stop water ingress through the balustrade in the kitchen is almost always up and blue bottle tops on the plastic bottle windows close the kitchen in.

I could waste my time & many, many words moaning about the weather. I won’t. Here are the facts about July:

  • We’ve had very few days without rain – be it a short, light shower or a deluge
  • We’ve had far fewer guests than last year and more cancellations & no shows – people just don’t seem to be camping in Montenegro
  • 9 of the guests that visited in July were repeat customers
  • Most of the guests that have visited have been great people, understanding and supportive and we’ve already had some fabulous views on Trip Advisor and Camping Info
  • We’ve spent many hours this month covering sofas up, collecting cushions from chairs, bringing in hammocks and throwing tarps over tents
  • The bottle windows and rain defences have been in place more often than not
  • We’ve had several hot water crises, when due to the lack of sun the water temperature has dropped to unheard of low temperatures – showers have been described (kindly) by our guest as ‘refreshing’ and we’ve had to boil kettles to wash up
  • We’ve barely had to water the garden at all, in fact our problems relate to too much water – the compost tea tank still has to be emptied and used and yet nothing needs watering!
  • Our water tank still has a ridiculous amount of water in it since we’ve had fewer guests, using less water

We are not alone in experiencing low numbers of visitors – everyone we know with an apartment to rent or a restaurant are complaining. Was it the World Cup that kept people at home in front of the TV? Was it the floods in the region that led tourists to believe that Montenegro was also affected and therefore best avoided? Is it that there’s just less money around and people are going to the dead cert sunny places for cheap package holidays rather than ‘taking a risk’ and exploring Montenegro? Who knows…

Inevitably the situation has worried us both and made us grumpy with each other. I spent too long sitting in an awkward position the night of the Full Moon non-party and triggered problems with my back so I have been in pain again. I went immediately to Dr Delic for some relief and had 3 sessions of acupuncture and some manipulation before I felt fit enough to deal with the ongoing problem myself (well, with the help of my personal masseur, Stevo…). I have refrained from sitting too much, lying down or standing where possible – although driving to Tivat and back for work has been tedious and painful.

We love our caravan more than ever – it’s become our haven, a place to retreat to when we can’t bear to look at the faces of bedraggled guests anymore! It hasn’t leaked and the LED lights are so low voltage that even the little sun we have had at times keeps them charged up so we always have light to do a crossword by as we drown our sorrows in cups of steaming tea.

The good thing about the awfulness of July is that it has forced us into having some good conversations about how to change things for the better in the future. We’re re-evaluating our tent hire proposition, our charging structure, the meals we provide, our volunteer programme – the whole lot.

I am feeling worn down by the whole situation now.  We waited eagerly for June to come when May was a washout and then for July when soggyness continued in June and now we dare not even hope for good things in August as the potential disappointment is too crushing…  The sooner this season is behind us, the better.  I’m finding it hard to juggle being a professional training consultant and coach with being chief cook ad bottle-washer at the campsite and I know that my focus should be on the work that gives me the most income, more months of the year…

Of course, on the sunny days, with wonderful guests around us all raving about the beauty & peace of the place we feel proud and happy and there’s nowhere we’d rather be.  We have to hang onto those good moments and continue to count our blessings.  A run of bad luck weather-wise was always inevitable and we can turn things around by saying we’ve been incredibly lucky that this is the first summer we’ve experienced such difficulties.  We have our health, we have each other and we have an amazing piece of paradise – soggy or not!

It could have been worse – at least we’ve not been completely bereft of guests!  Here’s proof that we did get a bit busy towards the end of July…

July - chalkboard

Reading

I had enjoyed Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency’ series and was looking forward to his novel set in Scotland. I realised once I started reading ‘Love Over Scotland’ that it was the 3rd book in the ’44 Scotland Street’ series but decided to plough on anyway.

Alexander McCall Smith book
It was easy to read and I enjoyed some of the characters – particularly Bertie and Cyril the dog – but overall the book did not really ‘do it’ for me. It seemed very disjointed, following Domenica in her far flung quest to interview pirates alongside Edinburgh tales, with a slight detour to Paris – and maybe I was at a disadvantage in not having read books 1 & 2. There was a smug, moralistic tone to the writing which irritated me and all the stories seemed to be very simplistically about goodies and baddies. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what jarred with me and why I simply finished the book and moved straight on, not giving it another thought but I think it’s something to do with depth. It all felt very shallow to me – the characters were not fully formed enough for me to care about them (again – due to this being book no. 3???) and everything was too easy and superficial – nothing that made me really think or feel anything of import.
Choosing Hari Kunzru’s ‘The Impressionist’ was a deliberate move towards depth and beautiful writing and I wasn’t disappointed.

Hari Kunzru bookIt’s a marvellous book that had me enraptured as the tales wound across India, over to England, finally to Africa and yet all the time ever-inwards. The central character is fascinating and I ached for him and fretted over his next moves, whilst never really liking him. Cleverly, Kunzru has created a complex and fascinating character who is never outright awful or so wonderful either and when one reflects, one realises that Pran (or whoever he is!) doesn’t like himself and somehow you become so much part of who he is that the reader doesn’t either… Hard to describe but I would recommend you read this book to try and grasp what I’m burbling about.

What I especially loved about the writing was Kunzru’s ability to place Indian names and other difficult terms & labels in sentences in such a way that you can estimate a reasonable definition of the word and then he goes on to describe them more fully anyway & demystify. It enabled me to read the book reasonably uninterrupted (no need for constant referral to the dictionary) whilst still embracing a host of new exotic words. Elucidating but neither patronising or overly intellectual.

The book is fantastic but plausible too – it gallops on wild adventures whilst simultaneously dealing with the ordinary & mundane and somehow making one reassess those everyday details for their greater significance. And the pace is perfect – I never felt bored, the writing was never too slow or too intricate but it always felt important… every sentence, beautifully crafted, mattered. And just as I was longing for our hero to express himself ‘as a man’, along comes the perfect love interest. As a whole being, Star is tantalisingly out of reach – so apt. The strangest thing about this book is that I’ve no idea where it came from (it seemed to have been donated mysteriously by a guest – usually people are at pains to share the books they take and leave…) but I’m delighted this gem was gifted to us and I want to read more Kunzru.

And now for something completely different! ‘The Edible Woman’ by Margaret Attwood – to be reviewed next month…

Work

Bad weather and general lack of enthusiasm this month meant we didn’t achieve too much. The ongoing stone wall project did move on a significant step though, thanks to Steve and Silas & Charley – 2 young lads from the UK (a friend’s son and his mate) who joined us for 2 weeks to get a bit of work experience on their CV and have a Montenegrin adventure.

July - Si & Charley

There were piles of cut bushes and spiky shrubs that had been strimmed and left on the top plot, which the lads raked into piles and lugged down to the main fire site for burning. They also did a fine job digging a drainage channel on the top plot, shovelling gravel into it & burying a drainage pipe with more gravel and stones. And they amassed a decent pile of rocks for the next phase of the stone wall. They also tried their hand at pointing the bin store wall that Steve was laying using local bricks and cement.

July - Silas & Charley & brick wall
Julie, from California but living in Spain for the past few years, joined us a volunteer at the same time as the lads. She was super chilled – really easy to be around and was a fabulous help looking after the site for us for a few days and nights here and there (and quietly mothering the lads!). But her biggest contribution was moving along the mosaic projects. She did the mosaic around the chess board table, which Steve then grouted:

July - chess table

And she all but finished covering the wall of the compost tea tank with a beautiful mosaic design (helped by some of our guests, notably Alix) with just a small corner and the grouting yet to be done.  You have to see it in the flesh to appreciate it’s beauty!

July - mosaic
Thankfully my work as a training consultant has taken off this month. It has meant a bit of to-ing and fro-ing to Tivat for meetings and having to spend time at the house writing proposals and sending files, but I have secured 3 more coaching programmes which will give me work through til November and myself & the HR Manager are planning a whole series of workshops in the autumn, which is great news for our future here.

Play

Dear friends, Mick & Jan, came to stay at our house for 2 weeks in July. The night they arrived coincided with a Full Moon and the lads and Julie arriving so we organised a party but predictably it rained non-stop the preceding day and it was still too soggy on the Saturday to risk a full scale event. We still had an enjoyable evening though – Nik & Jen joined us too and we had some nice guests on site who appreciated the meal and the bonfire afterwards. Moon shadows fell as music and the sound of old mates catching up and new people getting acquainted filled the air.

A few nights later we left the campsite in Julie’s capable hands and drove to Budva with Mick & Jan to see Jamiroquai play at Montenegro’s first Seadance Festival. The less said about the drive there and the police incompetence in marshalling the traffic, the better – suffice to say we finally got into the festival at 23.00 having left at 18.00. We bumbled about in the gloom and mud (it wasn’t well lit and it had been raining in the lead up, though thankfully dry on the night) trying to find the various stages and managed to bump into a few buddies. We got in position in front of the main stage reasonably early to see Jay K and his amazing band and didn’t stop moving from the minute they came on to the moment they left. The sound was brilliant – the musicians were so accomplished and SO tight as a band and despite his underwhelming hat (we were hoping for something huge and exotic) the main man was awesome. We wobbled out of there, ears ringing, at 2.00 and Steve and I finally got back to the campsite around 4.30. It was gorgeous to be up at that time in the morning and we relished the peace and the beauty – sipping our tea and watching the world wake up until we finally had to crash out for a few hours at 5.00.

I decided against having a party for my birthday this year. We’ve been pretty disillusioned with every event we’ve planned recently being rained off so didn’t want to risk another disaster and time off site with friends was really how I wanted to spend my day. We finally got away from the campsite in the late afternoon and had an hour with our local mates at our favourite beach bar in Denovici, sipping cocktails. Matt & Amy phoned me from the US to wish me happy birthday whilst we were relaxing there, as did Nik, on a gig in Macedonia. Here’s the cutest member of the gang – Alena & Ched’s daughter little Ogi with Uncle Blazo and Tetka Maja…

July - Palma 1

Then we drove to our house in Topla where Mick & Jan had chilled fizz to celebrate the event. I fitted in a Skype call with my parents and then we took a cab into town to a restaurant we’d never visited before but where Mick had enjoyed steak a few nights before. The steak was HUGE and scrummy and the red wine and conversation flowed. We took a stroll afterwards to Café DoDo, our favourite spot for people-watching and ice-cream eating and I had my usual scoops of chocolate and lemon.

July - Jan & Den

We took a cab back to the house and continued to drink… Mick had bought us a bottle of Port and Steve had a numbered bottle of Midleton’s Whiskey he’d been waiting to share with someone so the boys piled into the Single Malt and I took a big dent out of the Port. We chatted and laughed and drank and nibbled until 4.00 when we finally crashed out.

July - whiskey
The next morning was bright & sunny and we’d all been invited onto the Monty B as a birthday treat from Katie & Tim. Nursing mild hangovers (we really did deserve worse ones!) we made our way to Donja Lastva where Monty B was waiting. Tim came and got us and Jen, who also joined us for the day and ferried us to the ketch in their new rib where Louis and Mollie were waiting with their birthday garlands on. Laura & Tony and the kids also joined us in the Prawn Cracker and we all motored over to Sveti Marko to our usual anchorage. We sipped chilled fizz, had delicious food and did lots of swimming and lounging about. It was a fabulous, relaxing day and I felt utterly spoilt as my birthday weekend came to a close.

July - Steve & Jan in kayaks July - jumping in sea July - on Monty B
The birthday fun didn’t stop there tho! The Herceg Novi girlies – Hayley, Bernie, Jen, Nadia, Liset, Maja, Karen, Lela and Johanna – organised a BBQ at Hayley’s the Thursday after my birthday. Karen’s hubby took us up to Hayley’s and we got a cab back so we could have a few lemonades! The food was dee-lish and Jen had donated her precious bottle of Pimms for the occasion. Bernie made me a fabulous gluten-free chocolate cake which was utterly scrummy and I managed to eek it out for another week having a small sliver every other day! The girls clubbed together and got me a gift token at a local beauty salon so I’m looking forward to pampering myself at the end of the season.

In amongst all the grey days and stressful times we have had some fun times with our guests, who have all been amazing – interesting people and fabulous company. Mah Jongg evening with Bob & Tequila, an evening playing dice with Ian & Alix and other guests and a lovely evening on the sofas with a bunch of great folk from Belgium, the US, the UK and Oz are a few that stick in my mind…

Nature Watch

The weather has been exceptional.  In the massive storm we had in the last few days of July, nearly 20 cms fell in a few hours.  There were waterfalls around the site and the basement leaked.  We almost never have water in the stream at this time of year and certainly never hear the sound of running water – but this is not a ‘normal’ month.  At least we hope not or else our campsite-running days may be numbered and we’ll switch to selling umbrellas…

Moving onto to cheerier things… I saw an Golden Oriole pretty close as it flew past the car as I was leaving the campsite.  Such a flash of sunshine, it’s almost shocking!  Sadly the Eagle Owl seems to have moved on from it’s roosting position just above the campsite and denied Mick & Jan the pleasure of seeing it.

There are loads of crickets about and the noise level of the critters and the cicadas have increased substantially.  Here’s one we found that has beautiful markings:

July - grasshopper

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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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