Growing Green

Last month our veggies plenty of water but not enough sun.  When the big yellow blob finally came out to stay in the middle of June, plants swelled and ripened almost before our eyes.

Here’s our first courgette – half a kilo of green loveliness!

Our first yellow courgette & first tomatoes of the season…  Oh how we’ve been waiting for the sweet taste of home grown ‘paradajz’.  Cherry tomatoes and beef tomatoes are coming thick and fast now.

Peas have produced well this year (despite the paltry amount shown above!).  Some say “Don’t bother with them – you have to grow loads to get enough veg” but I’d miss them.  They are so easy to grow (shove loads of seeds in the ground, sit back and wait… I’ve even stopped pre-soaking them these days)  and nothing can quite compare with the taste of a sweet green pea, fresh from it’s pod.  OK, so we only get enough for a few meals but what the heck.  They grow early and quickly so once they are done they can be pulled up to make room for other stuff (I sowed local beans all around so they will take up the space now with a bit of luck).  I remain a fan of the humble pea and that’s that.

Our crop of lettuce hasn’t been that great so far – just a basketful here & there (not planted early enough and then held back by too much rain).  But it’s still worth having and I have many more plants coming along in the shaded beds.  The organic Cut & Come again seems to be the most successful though now we have much greater choice of seeds in the stores I’m going to try local seed again and see how it compares.  And look!  Our first 2 cucumbers… good girth, if a little lacking in length.

You will notice some very puny radishes in the pic above (yes, that IS what the small smudges of pink are…!).  I ordered some radish seed from the Real Seed Company in the UK and have been looking forwards to the results but have been really disappointed.  I’m sure it’s not the quality of the seed that’s at fault – I think it’s the difference in climate/ soil, so I’m only buying & sowing local radish seed from now on…

We picked our first marrow in June – 1.2kg of green striped yummy-ness.

The  strawberries began to ripen in the June sun – small but mostly sweet although those we inherited from the Lane family seem to be a wild berry and quite tart.  The berries were all moved and re-potted in May so we’re not expecting much of them.

The tyre wall is looking stunning.  The photo below was taken mid June but it’s really romped away in the last couple of weeks.  You can barely see the tyres for the petunias’ pink, purple and white petals.  May was the month of the Snapdragon, but June was dominated by Petunias and the smell of  Sweet Peas.

Baking & Making

My first batch of comfrey stew matured in June.  Smells like hell but great fertilizer.

Loquats were ripe for the picking in June so I made some more chutney.  Delicious and a big hit with guests & volunteers.

Needless to say stuffed marrow was on the menu this month!  And mussels…  Jelle, a Belgian guy who came to help out for a few days, got us into them and at 2 euros a kilo they are a pretty tasty, economical meal.

Our favourite clearing tool, affectionately known as the  ‘Slasher’, had it’s handle snapped off.  Fully embracing the ‘mend & make do’ mentality of the locals, Steve set about saving it.  He reused an old broken broom handle to attach the blade to and improved the original design.  The resulting tool is practical, comfortable to use and attractive (bit like Stevo really…)

Steve sewed a new gazebo cover – beautifully put together and a perfect fit.  Doesn’t the outdoor living room look inviting?

Steve’s ongoing project for the summer is whittling a Rosewood walking stick.  There was a wild rose on one of the camping terraces that was very beautiful but in totally the wrong place.  A couple of years ago Steve dug it up and moved it (“Tents take priority over roses” his nagging wife decreed!).  It was struggling to establish in it’s new spot by the lower gate but I think this year it might have finally blossomed.  However it never got the chance as it got badly damaged in the gate & fence debacle last autumn and all that remained was the trunk.  Steve visioned a walking stick from the strange-shaped piece of rosewood and it will be in memory of Mr Williams from Wales (a highlight of his trips to Wales with his family as a child was walking with Mr Williams and his dog apparently…).

Feelings & Musings

June has been a long month and it’s felt like an emotional rollercoaster ride.  The month started damp but not so our spirits!  Claire & Shai, our 2 volunteers, were good company and we achieved some good things.

The sun came out on 7th June but I was far from shiny & happy as that auspicious date saw my Dad turning 80 years old without me there.  I regretted not moving heaven and earth to be with him and just felt very, very sad.  When I thought of turning to friends to share the pain I realised that many had already lost their fathers and some were undergoing treatment for cancer or fading away already and compounded the feeling of regret for not being present to celebrate the important milestone, when time with him (still so hale & hearty, thank the Lord) is clearly so precious.

Sadness smudged into worry as June on the campsite progressed at a painfully slow rate.  We had a few guests but not enough, not by a long chalk.  When the weather was bad we could console ourselves: “The rain’s putting the punters off.  It’d be miserable if we had guests now anyway” but with the sun very firmly out and temperatures rising the excuse fell flat.  We tried to enjoy time on site on our own: “Oh how lucky we are!  This beautiful campsite all to ourselves…” but it was a hollow victory.

With no guests or volunteers to cook for I abandoned all responsibility for preparing meals and lived on sandwiches and crap food and as a result have emerged in July with more flab and a chunkier waistline and feeling bloated and unhealthy.  I fell into bad habits on my return from the UK (sugar in my coffee, slack about my carb/ protein separation, an alcoholic drink every day…).  What started as a ‘treat’ has now evolved into the norm and I need to get a grip.  Feeling fat & unhealthy has a huge impact on my energy levels and my mood.  If I don’t  look the best or feel clean and healthy inside, I just don’t feel good.  Today has been a good day – a peppermint tea to start the day, a healthy breakfast & lunch and lots of water.  I’ve skipped my morning coffee altogether until I can face it again with no sugar…

The additional layer of tension that’s enveloped June is the ongoing licence application mission.  The many Inspectors rushing about fining everyone for minor (and usually invented) transgressions is the talk of the town so we’re nervous about our completely illegal status and are desperately trying to tick all the right boxes.

A rollercoaster goes up as well as down right, so what were the upsides???  Firstly, reassurance from local friends running businesses that we are not alone.  Lots of folk are having a tough month and Herceg Novi is especially quiet.  The town has had no water for more than a couple of hours a day for 3 weeks (thank goodness for off-grid living!) so why would you want to come here as a tourist???  It’s massively under-invested in compared to other parts of Montenegro because Herceg Novi’s politics are more aligned to Serbia and don’t fit the norm.  Also, flights to Montenegro in June have been higher than in July and August – very unusual.

There are worse places to not be busy.  Even if we are biting our nails a little we are doing it in an amazing place where the sights and sounds of nature that surround us can quickly erase any black moods.

The guests that have visited in June have been lovely folk, full of encouraging words, who ate with us more than not and included some repeat customers.  Booking for July look encouraging and even September is looking promising with dear friend Annie coming for a couple of weeks, a lovely English couple hopefully coming back with their baby daughter and a few more bookings than usual.

We made a big breakthrough with the licence application when the local council finally issued us with a stamped piece of paper that confirmed they were happy for us to use all of our plots of land for wild camping.  We’ve been waiting for this for 10 months!!!

At the end of June Steve & I celebrated 14 glorious years of marriage and when all’s said and done, we have a strong & happy partnership, we’re healthy and have a little piece of paradise to call our own…  so what’s there to be blue about??!

Reading

I read my first Inspector Wallander book this month and really enjoyed it.  Others have told me that Henning Mankell is a dark and depressing writer.  I found him a little sombre but it didn’t detract from the pleasure.

It was a jolly good yarn, well put together and easy to read.  Mankell built the tension well and created lots of intrigue.  I was happily immersed in its pages, always wanting to know what would happen next and will be reaching for another of his books soon.

I bought my mate Katie, a fervent anti-Thatcherite, this book for her birthday…  A few months later Thatcher was dead.


I borrowed it from Katie to see for myself what all the fuss was about.  It was set in the Black Country and so perfect for Katie the Brummie.  It took me a while to get the gist of the dialect written down but I got there and it added to the enjoyment.  It was a cracking little book, a frank portrayal of a community slipping into the shadows of their lives.  Quotes from Thatcher were juxtaposed with stories of the disintegration of ordinary people’s lives – showing just how out of touch and uncaring she was.  I’d forgotten the horrors of the years and they were all there, woven in some way: the Iranian hostage crisis, the Falklands War, the hunger strikes – terrible, shocking events. But more shocking still was the stuff close to home that led to mass unemployment, emasculation of the unions, riots and strikes and was at the heart of Sean’s tale.  Anthony Cartwright’s well-crafted book didn’t have a satisfactory ending.  How could it…?

Work

June was soggy but it didn’t stop us working.  In fact it probably helped a bit.  Claire was a willing volunteer from London who didn’t mind getting stuck in to muddy jobs and was always cheerful (proof below!):

She & I tackled the orchard area together, digging it over, weeding vigorously and re-planting with flowers and shrubs that would survive being watered only every 5 days or so as, we resolutely set about minimising the time and resources taken up by watering.  Shai was a demon stone-waller from Israel who worked with Steve on rebuilding walls and also started the wall retaining the soil in the orchard.

Claire painted a new sign for us since the old one with our name and number on was trashed in the re-building of the fence and gate.

Shai left us to travel to Bosnia but came back en route to Albania and spent another day with Steve, creating a beautiful set of steps to replace the sleeper steps that were falling apart:

Meanwhile I strimmed the top plot which hadn’t been touched for a year and was getting pretty hard to walk around because the grass was so high.  It took me 2 days of solid strimming but it is now almost back to it’s former glory.

Jelle was the next and last volunteer in June.  He was Steve’s dogsbody for a few days collecting rocks and passing up stone to Steve as he continued to build the wall.

He also did a fabulous job of wearing Daisy out, taking her on a long hike every morning down the hill and back up again.

Steve made a new rain cover for the kitchen area out of a blue tarpaulin donated by Katie & Tim and then made a blind that attaches on the front of the porch and is pulled down when the wind and rain is coming from the South.

Here is the blind, all neatly rolled up…


Play

It was nice to enjoy some live music and have a bit of a singalong whilst Shai and his guitar were with us…

I escaped the campsite for the delights of Monty B in the second week of June.  A rare few days off for Katie & Tim coincided with a decent opportunity for me to leave the campsite in Steve’s capable hands.  I had a blissful afternoon and evening with my buddies and my first swim in the Bay this year!  Katie cooked a yum meal.  We had bubbles on deck as we watched the sunset.  I woke up really early and had a gorgeous swim – alone, peaceful, beautiful.  I returned to the campsite refreshed.

Maja hosted a BBQ to get the Herceg Novi gang together before the summer madness took over.  Food was amazing and Pimms was a real treat.

We had a small party for the Full Moon on 23rd June.  We had a few guests on site so we couldn’t go mad with a full-on party  but we invited a few folk and had a really lovely evening – a big BBQ, lots of booze, good music, good company and up to the wee hours laughing with our dear friends.  We even trooped up to the top plot and howled at the moon for a bit, much to the bemusement of Daisy, Louis, Mollie & Monty…  And it was a GORGEOUS moon.  So bright & so beautiful and in the end a perfect evening despite threatening to rain during the day and being cloudy right up to the late afternoon.


Nature Watch

June started wet and cold.  Nice weather for toads!

Into the second week of June the sun finally came out and then the temperatures shot up from 17 degrees to mid 30′s in a matter of days as a mini heatwave kicked in.  It was bizarre and pretty hard to handle – we started to move more slowly and not even bother getting dressed in the evenings.  The weather broke again and temperatures cooled and normalised a little.

It’s been an great month for Mother Nature’s miracles.  The Great Tit chicks nesting in our eaves finally flew and we had a day of drama and angst keeping Daisy away from the chicks that had fallen but not flown and willing the little blighters to fly.  At least one didn’t make it.

I don’t know if it’s cricket season anywhere else in the world but it has been on our campsite!  Crickets everywhere.  Crapping all over the surfaces, chewing holes in everything and generally being a pest.  Daisy’s had fun chasing them and pulling off their legs.

Probably in response to this, there are loads of lizards and snakes this year.  The green lizards which seemed shy and were rarely spotted last year are easily seen about the place now and I’ve seen 3 different types of snakes quite close up.  Daisy has had fun chasing the lizards and actually caught one which promptly detached its body and I was left staring in fascination at a pulsing green tail.  Amazing.

The bees and butterflies have increased in number and variety and the flowers in the garden are alive with wings of many colours.  We’ve also seen some unusual and attractive moths.

So now we have all the ingredients: sun, warmth, natural beauty… just need the ruddy punters now!!!!

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