A quick catch up

How do, its got a bit cold here, not too bad but enough that I lit my wood burner for the first time this ‘winter’? just to take the chill off when I got back from Belgrade. Belgrade!! Yep I took a train down to the Serb capital to do some vegan tourism and work out exactly who the comrades are down there that I know! Belgrade was warm, I was walking around in a t-shirt on one day! The flat I was staying in was an old school block with a centralised hot water and heating system that was on all the time. Thanx to Sanja, I had a grand time and look forward to returning to Beograd again soon. Check my Happy Cow reviews if you want to find out just how suprisingly good it is for vegans!

In an alleyway in Belgrade a shameless egotist fell for a shameless selfie gimmic!

Anyway back at Barabrith the neighbours cows have had their morning grazing  field extended up towards our upper garden.

The cows are munching the grass and farting methane outta their arse. Still saves on “grass” cutting!

I have been busy on our Ebay accounts selling stuff to keep the debts at bay. I have also started an Etsy account to sell the Anarchopuzzles jigsaws that are my latest “get rich slow” scheme. I got my latest box of puzzles from comrade Sned, the other half of the puzzle project in Newcastle today.

My box of our latest jigsaws, The Mob, DOA and Oi Polloi arrives beautiflly packed and wrapped by Sned.
My room with its endless wooden support structure and beams offers quite afew places to store stuff.

The most recent bit of shelf construction completed in my room was the long awaited photograph album shelves. Yes before the arrival of digital camera and smart phones ‘we’ used to have photographs printed on paper and we’d store them in albums for future perusal and amusement. How quaint! The problem with hard copy photographs from ones past is pretty much the same as with digital ones though! Who the hell is that? Where was I when I was doing that? When did that happen? You gotta label the photos asap. In the old days you either wrote on the back of the photo or in the index of the photo album. The album below is my shining example of best practice, sadly never repeated, where I typed out descriptions of each picture on a sheet that is stored in a pocket in the back of the album for that very purpose! So here my, now deceased, mother makes a belated appearence in my blog with the pink umbrella I bought her for her birthday in 2004!

My prize photo album, one of almost 100 albums I have. Thats approximately 7000 photos to keep me entertained when the power fails!
Just managed to squeeze all my photo albums on to these shelves which is good because its unlikely Ill need anymore space for such albums in future.

 

 

Outdoor pursuits

The weather changed for the cooler and it rained quite a bit this last week but the last few days have also had some glorious sunny days that were not too hot to be outside doing some gardening in.  First I had a quick snack out in the gazebo, Kaufland’s soya yoghurt with fruit and cornflakes added in.

“Take it Veggie” is Kauflands badly named veggie and vegan line of foods. You’d think they’d ask an English speaker if it makes sense first wouldnt you?
Digging over what I hope will be future veg plots. It was so warm I did most of the work topless but put my shirt back on to show some photographic decorum! Amusingly I can’t get this image to rotate the right way up!
This shiny fork was a gift from my folks long ago when Marta and I started doing the allotment. The handle broke years ago and I finally managed to fix a new one just last week. I can’t resist a dramatic image or should that be “stupid pose” – don’t all shout at once!
A slightly too oversized comb for my whiskers but good for a serious scratch!

It also gave me a window to do another section of the repainting the concrete walkway around the house. I chose to do the steps up to my door.

Or in deed to take out a bike to deliver my latest ebay sale to the Krnjak post office in the short 4 hour window it is open in the early morning each day. Then I had the chance to try the track that comes off the main road near Krnjak and follows the ridgeway along the top of the valley around to the woods and then back down tothe top of our road. Unsuprisingly the road is  a bit steep to start with but once up high its a nice ride till you reach Slatko’s big white sheep dogs (time to get off so they recognise you as human rather than an alien intruder!)

My dear old Cannondale has not been off the security of tarmac for sometime. We both felt rather adventurous!
The leafy and slightly muddy track through the woods back to our road from the top of the valley.

It was a short ride but enjoyable and a nice change to the main road.

Free time

My folx have gone, Marko and Sunni have gone to Sibenik and so I am free to do what I like. A week or so ago we heard a wierd noise that sounded like some animal attacking the structure of the house. The next day I discovered a load of the polystyrene insulation and bits of wood and plaster on the walkway below an enlarged whole in the wall below the underhang of our roof. Something was trying to get in, or out! I put sealing up this route in to the roof cavity on my list of things to do.

The ladders go up again.
The gap begins to get smaller. You can see where some animal has been attacking the insulation and waterproofing material.
The gap or should that be entrance, is sealed off and painted over.

Now I’m going back to painting the red walkway, it’s time to tackle my stone stairs.

My folx come and go.

My sister had threatened last year to return to Barabrith and even worse to bring my brother along too. It took over a year to get it together but the deed was finally executed this month with the partial compensation that they brought Dad over too.

We only had three and half days to cram everything in (aka I had to entertain them for over 50 hours) so a program was put together. Bearing in mind that my brother, henceforth known as Plog, has not been here before and there have been significant changes since the other two visited last,  the first item on the list was a tour of the estate. This takes time when every change whether past or future needs to be pointed out as part of the Barabrith progress plan!! Oh yeah! Inspecting the book storage attic in the wooden house (see photo), checking on the pistachio plant growth, surveying the future site of Malcolm’s cottage, marvelling at the wood shed, my bedroom, the gazebo and the wooden house paintwork are just a fraction of the itinerary.

Rebecca and Dad check out the wooden house attic.
My sister does some rather strange early morning stretching exercises.
Rebecca crashes out in the unofficial clover field after her exercises.
A picture of contentment.

Second item was the Partisan hospital and Petrova Gora Monument. This we had not much time to do as I needed to play taxi service for Marko at 5pm. I drove about as fast as the dodgy surfaced road would allow a non fourwheel drive to go and we managed to squeeze a quick circuit of it all in. The Monument is still sealed off from us – the public – as the film set gets bigger and bigger.

Plog and Bek follow me down the ever worsening steps of the partisan hospital.

Sunday brought more lovely bright weather and so Dad, Plog and I went off for a walk through our woods and round the valley a route I am thinking of calling “The Dogs Walk”. Dad is 83 and since his appendix op a couple of years back he’s been a little less steady on his feet but he likes a walk and is game to try and tackle off road challenges when armed with a walking stick.  My sister Rebecca, technically the youngest of us, stayed behind to rest! It took Dad some time and trepidation to make it up the hill through our woods but once out on the ridge of the valley he was fine. Slatko’s dogs heard us coming and welcomed us in their usual noisy style, my brother was impressed with their size, Dad waved his stick at them!! Slatko ineviatbly invited us in for a rakia and my brother did the honours for all of us though Dad did try some too “ooh very strong”. When we made it back to the house coming down the road taking the full force of every annoying barking hound there is around we found Rebecca blissfully asleep in the sun under the gazebo, a Balkan holiday in late October!!

Beka sunbathed – slept – in the Gazebo whilst the rest of us went for a walk.

Sunday afternoon, Marko made a quick pasta lunch and then the Elliott’s headed off to Ozalj castle. It’s still a novel thing to have “new” car that is comfortable, smooth and fast. I detest the fact that I had to buy it and use it so often but for visitations like this it makes things much easier. I omitted to inform my lot that the Croatian car insurance system would allow them to drive the car but they seemed happy to allow me to chauffer them around! Ozalj castle is open on Sundays till 8pm and there is no charge to enter the grounds and wander around which is great because it has good views of the river valley and railway line. The castle is a great jumble of buildings from different periods. Seeing as we were with Dad we happily paid the £4 each to go round the museum. The curator was happy to talk in English which was good because my brother pestered him with many questions, as he is want to do and then Dad did too! Sunday evening was scheduled to be pool night but they were all too tired and we planned to be up early for the next day.

Ozalj castle in the evening.
The street lamps around the Ozalj castle.
Dad wins the ugly face competition of the day, by a mile! And yes if any of you wondered where I got this “skill” from maybe its genetic after all!
Ploggoff, Malcolm and Rebecca line up on the Ozalj castle wall.

Monday morning I was up at quarter to six preparing breakfast and a packed lunch so we could be on the road by  seven am and on our way to Plitvice National Park. We were away by 7.30! I had filled my nano Ipod with Tom Lehrer and suprised Dad with songs we first learnt from the one bit of “music” – the 10inch record An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer – that he passed on to me that I really appreciate.It wasn’t exactly a sing along but it was a “shared moment” and a rare moment of agreement that “he’d never get away with those lyrics” in such puritanical times as now!

Plitvice is just full of such photogenic vistas.
One of my siblings took this!

When I was here last month it cost – the generous – Scarlet 250 kuna for each of us to get in, thats about 30 quid. Now it had passed the 30th of September the price had dropped to 100kn each (£12.50) and it was less busy and better weather!! Sorry Scarlet and Lil! We strolled off at Dad’s gentle lurch pace and saw some of the best of the park in the middle section and the walk up to the top lake. I noticed that the water level was significantly lower than it was only a few weeks before and this made quite  a difference to the waterfalls. It was 10.30am, we’d been walking around for about two hours when I got a call from cousin Dulcie. It was a call we knew would come one day but you never expect it when it does. Wendy, Dad’s sister had had a fall and was unconscious. Many calls across Europe and a short walk to “Station 3” (our picnic stop) later we got another call to say she had died. Weird for me as it was, I was relatively “close” to Wendy – she liked my sense of humour – this must have been a really “wierd” scenario for Dad. Walking around a really beautiful natural park with us, his kids whom he only gets to see all together very seldomly, enjoying a guilty break from the “stress” of looking after his complicated and demanding sister and then she’s gone! We were all rather worried about Sandro who was looking after Wendy on his own and would inevitably be upset by the experience. Using mobile phones is no longer unusual in fact it is unusual not to be using them constantly! But out there in the middle of nature deaing with the end of a life that started back in the 1940’s talking with a paramedic about the condition of our sister/aunt the fact that we knew within moments such news that a generation ago may have taken days to get to us was extraordinary.

We three Elliotts walk around the Plitvice lakes.
The sunlight sparkles on the waterfall.
This pool is just so tempting to take a swim in.
Dad talks to Dulcie about Wendys situation.

At the end of our seven hour visit to Plitvice we split so Dad and Plog could take the short easy way up to a cafe at Entrance One and Beka and I walked back through the park to Entrance Two. That meant that Bex and I spent about eight hours doing the park. The walk back along the edge of the big lake was great we only saw about five people in the whole half hour!

I give you clear turquoise water and a wooden pathway across it.

Sunday evening they were again too knackered to play pool 🙁

Monday morning I made them their last “Jon style” museli and yoghurt and then we finally had a pool session before bidding farewell to the kids and much indecision about which route to take to Ljubjana airport.  We did the scenic back route which is much nicer to look at and drive. Maybe I’ll end up being a taxi driver if all else fails financially.  I dropped my folx off at the airport with the unfamiliar knowledge that I will propbably see them all again soon; at Wendy’s sending off.

Dad looks on a Rebecca shows us how to clean up a pool table.
Plog show us how to use the robust table to prop oneself up with when bending over.
Dad almost wins the game with a very close finish on the black!

I spent the evening in Ljubjana walking around, eating cake and then catching up with comrades at a vegan meal event at the Infoshop in Metelkova. I drove back through some serious late night fog, playing with the cruise control system and listening to the new Culture Shock album. I was knackered by the time I crashed out on my bed.

Aunt Wendy at Forde Abbey in 2017 with her new walking stick.

Goodbye  aunty Wendy, you were a joy.

VIP Prep

This evening Nada asked Marko if I had found a wife!! Her reasoning being that why else would I be engaged in all these tidying up and redecorating exercises!

The wooden house steps got a make over today.

In truth the repainting of the concrete pathway around the house has been on my “to do” list for a year or so.  Similarly the attack of Health and Safety conciousness is not new, I decided it’d be prudent to paint some white stripes on the steps that go around the house after almost falling on my nose one night having tripped on one of them! The VIP arriving on Friday that has stirred me to get this and other “intended but never succeeded” projects done is my Dad. Friday I pick the old man and my brother and sister up from Ljubjana airport and they will be here for a long weekend..

The white stripes of Health and Safety come to Barabrith! Oh yeah and thats the new car in the background, how I would love to paint some red and black stripes on it!

Fungi Food Fun

Stonky, our neighbour turned up with a plastic bag full of great big fat Penny Bun mushrooms. For some reason Stonky and Nada do not eat them, they don’t eat Parasol mushrooms either!

Penny Buns before cleaning and preparation!

That evening we brushed off the wild woodland residue of dust and dirt and cut away any bad bits then sliced them into slithers! This is easy with the stems but the green underside of the caps easily turns to sludge when compressed. Then the slithers were spread out of a sheet to dry. The next day we put them out in the sun. Now they are dried shrivelled and safely stored in clean jam jars for future culinary use.

Sliced as thin as you can!
A mad mushroom “jigsaw” puzzle, can oine arrange them all to fit on the table without touching one another?
Slithers of mushroom as far as the eye can see!
The first two jars from the left are Penny Buns, the last two on the right are Black trumpets all dried and stored. Winter is coming!

We kept back a few for the next days meal and Marko turned them (and some parasols) in to giant mushroom battered fritters.

Here are the battered and fried results, very nice!
This is a pnackae of Black Trumpet mushrooms.

We also got a load of Black Trumpet mushrooms, also known as Dead Man’s Trumpet. These were turned into a mushroom rissotto and the rest were dried on baking trays on the wood burning oven in the apartment.

 

A mushroom cat walk!

It’s mushroom season, it rained a week ago and now its warm again and so the little and not so little fungi are popping up all over the woods in our area. We have been eating Parasols, Penny Buns,  and Black Trumpets (sadly no more Chanterelles or little foxes as they call them here!). Today we all went in to the woods to see if we can find the “Gypsy Cave” – again! – and when I say all , I mean all, Matchka the cat came too!

Ena leads Chucho – our neighbours dog who loves to come on our walks -, Matchka and the humans off through our village to find the cave!

Stonky gave us new directions to find the rocks with the cave and we set off with a new confidence. Matchka was understandably rather slow coming along the road past the madly barking dogs, but to our delight she went into the opposite field and then reappeared after the dogs house. That kitty has balls!

There follows a load of photos of mushrooms that Sunni has kindly identified for me, some are not named because they are too old, rotting or the stem is not visible to be easily identified from a photo. If you want to see such sights you would need to be here at the same time each year and be lucky!

Quite otherworldy these things are.
A lonely young parasol mushroom patiently waiting to grow and open!
A Parasol open and proud. This is pickable and edible, just brush/clean off the head and fry it with a bit of salt.
These Panther Caps look good but are best left alone!
These look like the Penny Bun mushrrom weve been eating but they are not! Avoid!
Matchka is not interested in mushrooms she just wanted to run with the dogs but had trouble keeping up with them!
These Birch Polypores (aka Birch Bracket or Razor Sharp!) fungi only grow on fallen Birch trees, they are no good for anything else.
Its red, that means dangerous though pretty!
Pretty little things, are best avoided as their name suggests… False Death Caps!
These fungi are rotting away.
So innocent looking.
These colourful ritters are dying with green grace.
These Lepiota Alba’s look seriously dodgy!
Little mush, big mush!
A young Brown Cap mushroom hiding amongst the leaves, not quite ready to pick yet.
Matchka checks out the base of a tree.
Not for us!
These Turkey Tails are really small and cute and are used in natural healing as an immunity booster.
A serious family of fungi.
This photo doesnt do justice to the lovely yellow colour of these three.

We didn’t find the cave, that search will be resumed on another day!

 

Wheels of steel but legs of jelly.

The first visitor we had at Barabrith was Blazh the demon cyclist and keen photographer who regularly goes off on week long rides around the Balkans, off road and on! He rode down to see us from Zagreb and I thought “I must try that sometime”! Google maps say it is only a 70km journey but the hills towards the end of the route made it feel like a good deal more than that. I guess I am not quite as cycle fit as I used to be 🙁

Here are the photos from the trip, more text to follow later.

Here is the route, google doesn’t do cycle estimates over here so I used the pedestrian option.
On the way out of Zagreb, I use the flood protection of the river Sava to take me out to the Arena centre with its whale skeleton concert hall in the background.
As I get out of the Zagreb suburbs the road is nice an flat and the countryside begins to take over.
I make a small detour to visit Maggie of the family who sold me her/my pool table! They have a lavender growing business surrounding their picturesque self built house.
It’s always a joy to be able to sit up, ride my bike none handed down a slight hill and feel my back stretch out and relax.
The border of Zagreb county with the county of Pisarovna.
Oh no a traffic jam! The only vehicle that got in my way on the whole journey was this farmer moving a load of fire wood. Spot the self service table selling freshly picked mushrooms at the side of the road.
This little musuem of wooden houses deserves to be revisited and done properly at some time!
At last the welcome to Karlovac county sign. I was getting a bit tired by this time. But a few miles on I hit a load of hills that almost finished me off.
This is google maps depiction of the “up and down” factor of the route does not do justice to the reality of the inclines! The last  10 km left my legs feeling very very very knackered!

Visitors who cycle to Barabrith from Zagreb will get my earnest respect!

Chimney chores

We have two chimneys one from Marko and Sunni’s apartment and one that serves the dining (pool) room and my attic room. The apartments’ chimney was too short and so the smoke would sometimes blow down the chimney. The answer we surmised was to install an extension and so it was up on the steep roof again for yours truly.

The old top was taken down and then the surface smoothed, cleaned and then glued for the chimney plate to be screwed in to.
So shiny, tall and proud!

The other chimney is a wreck. I can’t believe the roofers who did our attic extension last year were so unprofessional as to not mention it and to attach the new metal work to bricks that are flaking away, but hey it is Croatia!

As you can see this chimney needs some serious “pointing” action! The bricks from the middle down on the sunny side are all soft and flaking away. I am going to try to patch it all up with cement in a classic “botch job” style!
Here is a roof top shot of both our chimneys.
A panorama shot from the roof top of “our valley”!

More on this topic tomorrow night, if I dont fall off the roof that is…..!

Ajvar DIY

I first came acoss Ajvar in Poland 20 years ago and was impressed with this new rarity. Living now in Croatia “rare” does not come into the description, it’s everywhere, especially at this time of the year when the markets are brimming with red peppers. Wikipedia describes it thus;

“Ajvar pronounced “eye-var” is a pepper-based condiment made principally from red bell peppers and oil. Ajvar is used in the Balkans in Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Serbian, and to a small degree the Slovenian cuisine. In Serbia, it was long known as “Serbian salad” or “Serbian vegetable caviar”. It became a popular side dish throughout Yugoslavia after World War II and is nowadays popular in Southeastern Europe.

Homemade ajvar is made of roasted or cooked peppers. Ajvar can be consumed as a bread spread or as a side dish. Ajvar has few variations. Ajvar containing tomato is called pindjur and if it contains eggplant it is called malidzano.”

Despite the fact that the supermarket shelves are full of the stuff almost all of the brands have sugar added so we decided to make some ourselves.  Here’s how;

Buy a load of red bell peppers and aubergines, (one aubergine for every ten peppers) wash them and cut out any imperfections. Then make a slit along one side of each pepper and place on baking paper. Then put in an hot oven at 250C and roast until the skins start to blacken.
Turn the peppers once to ensure an even roasting. Do the same with the aubergines though they do not need slicing.
Take the roasted vegetables and put in a large pot with a towel over the top, add more, and leave to cool slowly for a few hours.
Carefully extract the seeds and peel the skin away from the flesh of the aubergines and peppers. Your fingers might feel irritated by handling a lot of peppers this is normal. Discard the skin and seeds.
Take the flesh of the peppers and aubergines and put them through an old school mincing machine. Ours is called a “Fleisch hammmer” on the box but now its a vegan one!
Get a large flat bottomed pan and add a thick covering of cooking oil to it. Heat till hot and then add the minced vegetables. At this stage you can add spices to taste. We suggest a bit of salt and a little bit of vinegar.
Colourful eh!
Stir the mixture constantly to avoid burning. When it begins to thicken remove from heat.
You need a load of clean jam jars, only ones with metal lids will do. In to these you spoon the Ajvar till it is almost to the top. Firmly close the lids and place on a tray. When all are done put in the oven for an hour at 100C and then turn oven off and leave the jars inside for 12 hours -do not open the oven door. These jars shoukd then be good for many months till opened.