wine bottle window

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There are a few English words that have found their place in everyday language in Monte.  ‘Non-stop’ is one of them and it always makes me chuckle because a) this word in the local accent sounds funny and b) this an unlikely word for the Montenegrins to adopt considering they are the most laid back (aka, lazy) bunch of folk ever and pretty much everything is at a snail’s pace and constantly interrupted – about as far from being ‘non-stop’ as is possible!!!

Anyhoo!   Here we are, nearing the end of another month… blimey, where is the time going?? So, time for the usual round up.  It really has been a month of non-stop activity, but in a nice gentle (Montenegrin) way.  We have a new BIG LIST of tasks to be completed on the campsite and I’ll be recording our progress against this list here every month.  We had to review the list in relation to funds & time available and get real.  We have decided to do a few things well rather than lots of things badly and on the cheap.  Here are the high level tasks on our list:

  • drainage
  • installing our rainwater collection systems
  • finishing our greywater irrigation system
  • levelling ground to create flat terraces for outside eating areas, a  Boules pitch and lots more tent pitches
  • making a rough, covered outside kitchen near to the eating area and BBQ
  • repairing the critical collapsed terrace walls with planted tyre walls
  • tile the last shower & the urinals
  • paint the outside of the buildings
  • plant the flower & veg beds

This is a pretty tall order considering we only have 12- 13 weeks to do it all.  We have to be ready to receive punters from 1st May and by the time we have taken out time spent away from site house & dog-sitting for various friends over Christmas and a planned break in the UK in March for Steve’s 50th birthday, about 3 months is all we have…  Watch this space!

Things accomplished from the BIG LIST this month:

  • We put the solar fluid in the solar thermal panels & after much faffing about bleeding the system of air we have water at 35 degrees
  • We have bricked off areas to facilitate easy fitting of windows and our planned plastic bottle screen in the kitchen area

Steve - rendering the new brickwork

  • The second wine bottle window is half built

2nd wine bottle window

  • The flower beds and orchard area has been dug over and stumped (the picture below shows the avocado plant in its new home)

Orchard & flower beds - imagine the concrete walls covered up by climbing sweet peas next year...

  • The first terrace has been strimmed, cleared & tidied

Cleared stone wall

  • Parts of the veg garden have been cleared and dug over and the slow process of topping the beds up with rotted manure, leaf mould and soil has begun

Tidy garden

  • Some drainage channels have been dug
  • The branches of the oak tree that were shading the solar thermal panels have been chainsawed
  • The compost has been turned and covered to rot down over the winter and we have a new heap of grass cuttings, debris from land clearing and wet leaf rakings
  • We have made a long-handled rake and raked the compost loo chambers for the first time – the good news is the hummus is already starting to look dry & crumbly and doesn’t smell
  • The workshop, including the work bench which has been in total disarray for months, has been swept & seriously tided.  In the process we uncovered the remains of the creature whose loud gnawing of the workshop roof timbers tormented us all summer and who perished when Steve ran the generator inside the workshop for a couple of nights!

Making & doing:

  • Lemon curd, mandarin marmalade, green tomato chutney & my new favourite, the easiest & tastiest preserve, lemon marmalade


  • Endless plastic bags plaits
  • Living frugally.  Haven’t been ‘big shopping’ for over a month – if we had a cow for milk & dairy products, if I baked my own bread and if the veg garden had produced enough for us to freeze a few bags, we’d be fine!  I’m really enjoying being creative with what’s in the cupboards.
  • The biggest creative thing that has us totally absorbed at the moment… a new image and a new website


  • Current novel is ‘The Milagro Beanfield War’ by John Nichols.  Have already read this month: Zadie Smith’s ‘Martha & Hanwell’ and Steven Galloway’s ‘The Cellist of Sarajevo’
  • Currently browsing: various books on gardening, self sufficiency, using herbs & cooking.  Too many to mention, all from Mon and all wonderful ~sigh~

What’s hot:

  • The weather!  Overall we’ve had a phenomenal November – gorgeous, sunny days & mild evenings.
  • The amazing Autumn-scape and sunsets

November sunset

  • Our chillies!  They may be small but they really pack a punch.  Two of these babies will get you sweating!

Chillies - not chilly

  • The 3 surviving broccoli plants that have managed to produce a spear of yummy green each.  Respect to Mother Nature!


What’s not:

  • The death of a unique individual from my past life.  Rest in peace Audrey Day.  You will be much-missed…

Fun stuff for us this month:

  • A drunken girls night at Danny’s – why am I always the last to bed???
  • Our ‘unofficial’ 19th year anniversary & Matt’s birthday celebration
  • Awesome beef curry at Pete’s
  • Day out on Monty B, this time with Ben & Emma
  • A Scrabble night to remember at Fiona & Dave’s (& not just because I won).  We laughed until our faces ached.
  • A Moroccan dinner party for 10 at our home, cooked by Nicky

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With a honeymoon couple arriving the first weekend in October, we needed to crack on & get the hot water supply sorted.  Esad, our Croatian contact, had supplied us the hot water tank and expansion tank and talked through the installation of the solar thermal system with Steve.  Steve had donned his plumber’s hat and done as much as could but was nervous about plumbing in the copper pipe that would connect the solar panels to the tank.  Perfect timing then, that my sister Chris and her hubby Dave – a plumber – were arriving!  Dave was kind enough to bring a bunch of plumbing stuff with him and bless him, he got stuck into the task of cutting pipes, fixing angles, securing joints with hemp & Plumber’s Mait and generally being a total STAR!!!

Steve & Dave plumbing in the copper pipes

In the picture below, with Dave in full flow, you can also see the hot water tank, with all the inputs & outputs carefully labelled by Steve…

Dave plumbing pipes to the hot water tank

Dave & Steve were keen to see if the system actually worked so they filled up the tank and pipes with water and watched the thermometer rise!  We were all delighted that there were no leaks, that the thermo syphon action was working effectively and the sun was really heating up the water even in late September and with a fair amount of shadow over the panels from late afternoon!  Yippee!

The next step was to get the hot water connected into the water supply for the building but for this we needed a special tool to heat seal the plastic pipes.  Whilst we were waiting for our neighbour to show up with his machine and finish the job, Dave & Steve decided to finish the wine bottle window.

This was the window before they started:

Wine bottle window

They looked great but the gaping holes still had to be filled…

Steve & Dave cementing the bottles

And this was the finished window, pointed with cement and painted:

Wine bottle windows - finished

Meanwhile Chris got busy washing up green bottles as we started to prepare the bottles for the second window:

Chris washing up

Unfortunately, the heat machine did not arrive in time for Dave to see hot water coming out of the taps.  Steve got on with lagging the copper pipes whilst we waitied patiently for our neighbour to show up. Finally on Sunday27th September Milerad arrived and sprang into action with his magic machine!  There was a tense moment when we turned the water back on and turned the tap…  Would the system leak?  Would the water actually be hot?  No leaks and gorgeous warm water – not boiling hot (we can adjust the blending valve to increase the temperature) but more than adequate for washing dishes and having a shower.  Hurrah!!!

In the picture below you can see Steve insulating the last of the pipes.  Notice the green pipe to the right of the tank?  This is pipe that Milerad plumbed in for us to finally get hot water into the system.

Steve lagging the pipes

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