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,  Black Trumpets and others (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 I will ask Sunni to identify for me. 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.
They 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 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!
These fungi are rotting away.
So innocent looking.
These colourful ritters are dying with green grace.
These look seriously dodgy!
Little mush, big mush!
A young Black hiding amongst the leaves, not quite ready to pick yet.
Matchka checks out the base of a tree.
Not for us!
These things are really small and cute and probably poisonous!
A serious family of fungi.
This photo doesnt do justice to the lovely yelloow colour of these three.

I’ll get the info on the above mushrroms checked soon!


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.

Been here done this, Scarlet and Lilian.

The Brazillians arrived hard on the heels of Igor and Sanja’s departure. Scarlet is one of my oldest London mates and long time Active stall helper. Lilian has made me several superb cakes, all for me!!, need I say more!

Here are lots of photos from their visit especially from our amazing day at Plitvice National Park, oh so funny accompanying text will follow soon!

Scarlet arrived a day late thanx to an impossible flight connection at Frankfurt! This meant she got to go to Hrelic flea Market instead of staying in bed on Sunday morning! There she bought this jacket and wore it for most of the rest of the holiday, it cost £6.
Scarlet was bit like a starved kid in a sweetshop when it came to the millions of clothes selection at the market.
It took almost half an hour for Scarlet to chose a piece of jewelry.

Scarlet arrived on Sunday morning thankfully the airport is only 20 mins from Hrelic flea market. Scarlet hit the market with an enthusiasm of someone who’d forgotten that they have no cargo luggage booked for their return flight! She bought more than I did that day by far! Afterwards we went in to the city center and went to Vegehop which is the only vegan food outlet open on Sundays in Zagreb. Vegehop is good and does excellent cakes including the one on the right below which is their gateau interpretation of the classic Croatian Bajadera chocolate, and marvellous.

When two or more vegans meet up in a capital city they shall seek out vegan cakes! These two were happily consumed at Vegehop before going on to a third! Pure joy!
Lilian arrived on Monday and we went straight to Simply Green for a super lunch. They were rather impressed by the size of the burger rolls!
“The girls” gte comfy on my sofa and settle down to some serious social media updating!
We went for an exploratory walk in the woods. We wee looking for the “Gypsy Cave” but failed to find it!
Scarlet was more interested in walking with Ena than staying with Lilian and I! This is picture shot fromthe top of our dead end road looking down towards our house.
We arrived early at Plitvice and though we therefore avoided the crowds we could not avoid the rain.
Scarlet measures the entrance to a Plitvice cave.
No blues for Lilian. My photos are all rather stationary, she was doing instagram clips and boomerangs all day long! What am I tallking about? Indeed!
Some pictures need no introduction or commentry, but I couldn’t resist!
Oi Oi quick it’s selfie time! How wonderfully compliant these two were!
The boat across the lake from station 2 to station 3!
Thats me and Scarlet, that is!
It doesn’t get much better than this.
We got to see this view in the early mist and the later sun. We took 6 hours doing only part of the park!
Scarlet likes to pose for photgraphs, Lilian and I like to sabotage them!
Lilian found the little hammock but needed helpgetting out of it!
Scarlet showed her true love for Ena and vica versa when she took out one of Ena’s tiks!
Yours truly at the Partisan hospital with Lilian

The Petrova Monument is well worth seeing inside which isn’t possible at the moment but I was just sent this short video about the place.

Marko and Sunni show Lilian the Pretrova Gora monument from a distance due to a film company having closed it off to the public.

and here’s a photo taken by Scarlet under artistic direction (choreography I think its called!) by yours truly.

and here’s one taken under similar instruction of Scarlet and I taken by Lilian. The title of this composition is “cake lovers”. The cake was one of Marko and Sunni’s marvellous raw creations! It was a pineapple and vanilla creamy cheesecake on a cashew based base!

Been here done this, Igor and Sanja.

Sanja I met at the FFUD festival in Slovakia last month, she promised to come and play pool which made me very happy. I didn’t expect her to actually do so and I really didn’t think she’d bring a guy with her, wh – with her – would then spend hours helping me sort out my books and cassette tapes!

The sun was out and so it seemd only right to take the city dwellers on a tour of our estate and let them get some fresh air. we tracked up through our woods and out on to the track that runs around the crest of the valley to the house at the top with the three big dogs and another smaller extra noisey one!

The dogs gave us a loud welcome but were less interested in us than they might have been if Ena had been with us. Their owner came out and invited us in for the inevitable rakia – the local “vodka” style drink that Croatians find any excuse to have  ashot or two no matter what time of the day it is.  igor and Sanja assured me it was “good” stuff! We had  alengthy chat much of it in English thanx to Slatko’s efforts. The most remarkale thing I learned was that he used to work building pool tables and may be able to help me re do my baise! Unfortunately he did not jump at the offer to come and play a game or two! Slatko has the best looking tractor I have seen in Croatia. He also has a house and property situated exactly as I wanted! We bid farewell and followed a new “nice” poath that Slatko had recommended but it seemed to lead downhill in the wrong direction so we returned to his house and miraculously managed to get past without the dogs noticing us!

Sanja shows supreme cool whilst being checked out by two of the big dogs from up the valley.
This is the only old tractor I’ve seen here in Croatia that is not red! And certainly the only one with such a cute exhaust pipe!
We tried following a “new” path recommended by our neighbour. It was a mistake and after twenty minutes we headed back and resumed the path we knew!

We finished off a warm day with a cooling swim in the Korana. Nobody else around so we had the rope swing to ourselves and the nibbling fish too! The best bit though was discovering Sanja didn’t want to get her hair wet and so of course I did my best to do so.

We went for a swim at the “beach” in the early evening. To my suprise we were joined by one other old guy!
Sanja kept her promise and we played a local version of pool called Cut-throat!

Cut throat is a “pool” game I think Andi introduced me to many years ago but I had forgotten it till Sanja suggested we play it. it works well when there are three players as the balls are divided into three groups by their amrican style numbers 1-5, 6-10 and 11-15. When you have pocketed a ball from a group the other players try to pocket your remaining balls. The player left with only their balls on the table wins! Simples!

Contrary to the actions portrayed in this picture Igor and Snaja were both super helpful in sorting out my Active Publishing stock and making an inventory of what I have in the attic.
These two really out did themselves with their work putting my tape collection in alphabetical order again.

Doing a proper re-sorting of my Active books attic space. The books had been put in basically as they arrived and where beginning to get a bit tricky to track down. But now thanx to Igor they are now all in alphabetical order and thanx to Sanja they have been counted and recorded.

Then as if that wasn’t enough geekiness they volunteered to sort out my tape collection!!!! It was an offer I was not gonna refuse! They duely split my several hundreds cassette tapes into each letter of the alphabet. The problem soon developed of what to do with the tapes that have two bands on?? It was decided that all those tapes should go with the compilation tapes and I would sort them out later… that of course is still waiting to happen!

Neither of these two had visited the Partisan hospital before so I gave them the full tour on a beautiful sunny but not hot day.
Sanja has a rather strong poser trait and I am happy to go along with that for the sake of a good photo. The stone plaque she adornes is a commemorative tribute from the Russian Federation to the memory of the Partisans who fought against fascism, I’m sure she meant no disrespect!
The Petrova Gora monument was still closed so we got a security guard to take a photo of us. Guess who forgot to wear his cool shades!

Igor and Sanja did try and make some sugar free pancakes but the less said about that the better (we think they used rice flour by mistake!). But even if they couldn’t cook I’d invite them back any day, afterall there’s my books and pamphlets sitting in boxes waiting to be categorised and put in order!

Been here done this, Jen and Mark.

September has been a busy month at Bara’ for visitations from friends. A bit like the proverbial London bus they keep you waiting for ages and then three come at once. First to sample the autumnal joy of Kordun with us were my old(est) mate Jen and her partner Mark. Jen I have known since the days she lived in the Leicestershire countryside and I used to visit her and abuse her screen printing equipment with vigour.

Jen and Mark sit down t a welcoming cup of tea, which neither of them drink!

Jen brought me a new tote bag printed with Poison Girls style crow’s on. A top present. She also brought me a couple of books, The Skin Gods and The Alchemy of Murder to add to my pile of “to read”!!

We did a couple of walks around our woods visiting the little ruined castle hidden away nearby. We also checked out our other bit of woodland that required a rather daft walk through tall braken and brambles that I hacked at with a walking stick. Jen and Mark gamely followed!

Jen debates the wisdom of trying to squeeze through a rotten tree stump.
Jen walks round the old ramparts of the little fort in the woods.
Mark and Jen climb through our woods.

The weather has changed and the summer has gone taking with it the Croatian holiday makers. This meant we were alone on the sunny day we went for a dip at the local river Korana swimming spot or “beach” as it’s known here. The picture below is a panorama shot of one side of the beach. There is a bar on the otherside of the river next to the bridge but that had closed for the season last weekend. We were alone in the cool clear(ish) water. The little fish that like to come and nibble at your skin were very pleased to see us!

This is the spot on the river Korana closest to Barabrith where people swim most. Though th locals pretty much all cease to go in the water once September arrives!
Jen captured the moment I relived my youth and swung out in to the Korana river on a rope. Perfect!
Barilovic boasts a picturesque litttle castlecthats currently under renovation, a “beach” on the river Korana and a cave!

One day we took the dying van up the river to Barilovic where we inspected the inside of the castle that was unusually open because some guys were working on the renovation project. Imagine that in the UK, workers not batting an eyelid when you wonder past them into a historic monument that is officially closed!! Accross the river from the castle is a cave, a muddy cave but this is what the local tourist office says….”There is another very well-kept secret hidden at the Vražića cave near the Korana river, in the very heart of Barilović. Legend has it that a big white catfish lives in the middle of the cave! Is it just a legend or is there more to it? If you are brave enough to step into the darkness of the cave and go towards the hidden underground lake, you might get a chance to discover the secret for yourself” Needless to say neither Mark nor I saw the fish!

Jen stands safely at the entrance to the Barilovic cave as Mark and slip and stick in the muddy interior.

No visitors to Barabrith can escape the ‘de rigueur” trip to Pretrova Gora. Unfortunately the ‘peoples monument’ is currently being rented out by a German film company and so access is restricted to walking around the outside of the building. Which is not quite as impressive! Thankfully Jen and Mark have other interests and that includes birdlife! Pretrova Gora has a large birdwatching platform and a walk through its woods with a bunch of information signs about the birds that one might see there. This was a relief because they had remarked how quite our area was for birdsong.

There is a bird walk at the Pretrova Gora monument that has a bunch of signs nicely illustrated but allin Croatian.
Mark spotted how this generator at the Partisan Hospital complex was nicely reinforced with steel plates and bolts.
Jen wanders back down the tree loggers track that narrowly misses the old Partisan Printing house.

We did the Partisan hospital trip and stopped at the printing press where Jen found some typeset under the leaves that made a great little souvenir. But all of these experiences will be lost and forgotten as nothing in comparison with the excitement of taking Ena – our dog- for a walk around our valley.

This is the view from the house at the top of our valley, that made me a tad jealous.

Jen had been making a fuss of Ena, as visitors do and as Ena loves. So when Ena saw Mark and Jen heading off own our field towards the woods she followed them. I had said she might. Jen called me a little later to ask about taking Ena past the house at the top of the valley that has three big dogs. “no problem” I reassured her,  “just keep her close and they’ll leave her alone, and pick her up if that fails!” When our distant neighbour saw them arrive with Ena in tow he threw down his strimmer and ran to shepherd his dogs indoors with a very worried look on his face. All good, except as they passed the house the dogs got out and came for Ena with gusto. Jen carried Ena away in to the woods and most of the way home as the dogs continued to persue them. Who said country life is boring?

Jen made five of the biggest Cornish pasties I have ever seen and took three for their 18 hours journey on to Hamburg. The other two kept us going for the next few days.

The next day came Igor and Sanja.

Postal Unservice

One of the nicest things about moving here has been recieving letters and presents by the old school postal service. There has been a catch though and that is the apparent inability of the local post in our area to deliver any post bigger than a small envelope within two or  three weeks of its arrival in Croatia!

The first example of this phenomenon was a book and t-shirt sent to me by my comrades at Dog Section Press who posted a clearly addressed cool looking black packet to me from London. It took 29 days to be delivered to me!

I thought 29 days would be the exception!! Always the optomist!

Secondly to arrive super late was a book from Nick Blinko. His more artfully addressed envelope took 49 days to arrive at Barabrith from Hertfordshire!

Currently there is a birthday present sent from my friend Montserrat in Germany that has been in the postal system since July the 8th! That means that like both the other packets it could have been carried by a walker from its sendee to recipient quicker than the post delivered it. But this packet could have gone back and forth between Brabrith and Oldenberg six times by foot by now!! Oh well as the phrase goes “that’s Croatia” hopefully it wil arrive before my next birthday!

Back to Brown

It cooled a bit the last couple of days and so I was able to step out and do some work about the place. One task I’ve been meaning to tackle ever since I first stepped through our gateway is the de-barbing of the barbed wire that runs in a single strand around the top of the fence encircling our land. The quickest thing would be to rip it out and replace it but that would be wasteful and so I am slowly unravelling the twisted wire and then removing the spikes and before reattaching the double wire to the fence posts. Why didn’t I take  a photo of that ?

Selfies on a ladder whilst holding a paintbrush in your right hand are a skilled art form I hope you appreciate!

Painting the houses, the barn and other out buildings is gonna be a bit of a Fourth Road Bridge task I suspect ut thats no reason not to do it, life is a cycle after all. I’m currently working my way slowly around the wooden underhang of the roof that juts out giving us some welcome shade from the sun and so deserves a new lick of dark brown paint.

Painting the underhang or whatever its called outside my easterly door. Gotta do those bannisters too!

Today it finally rained. There was a brief storm with thunder and lightning hopefully my fresh paint was dry enough by the time it poured down. The plants will be most happy.

A cool grey sky with rain pouring down, lovely!

I have not been idle of late. When the sun is too hot for me I have been sorting out our food stores so that they are safe from moths and working on my new venture! New venture! I hear you ask incredulously, What now? Well its a long story that started either when I damaged my big toe three years ago or when I was in Newcastle as the guest of my old mate Sned back in Febuary this year, depending on the version you hear. The climax of both tales is the launch of ANARCHOPUZZLES a jigsaw project run by the aforementioned Sned and yours truly. We have produced two puzzles so far, with another in production and several more planned. I will tell you the whole tale another time but for now here is our newly created flyer for you to wonder at.

Our first flyer, for internet circulation and I hope real life paper printing too!

Dining Pool Table

My pool table – and yes you better get used to me going on about it for some time to come! – has taken the space of the dining table and so I needed to make it multifunctional. You can buy pool tables that are made as dual use and that was what I intended to do untilI saw my vintage beauty! So I got Stonky our neighbour to give me a lift into Karlovac yesterday, it was a memorable trip if only for the conversation that comprised of my improvised Polish !? (its sometimes similar to Croatian) and my limited acting skills and Stonky just repeating sentences at me until he was sure I must understand him “by now”!

Getting the 1cm thick strips proved to be the most difficult bit at the timber supplier and i ended up having to butcher some “cieling wood”.

I went back to Drvona the main wood supply place and managed to get what I wanted which meant I bought a 5 metre by 2 metre by 2.7 cm piece of wood that was cut into three 136 x 86 panels and I had some nice bits left over. The question I wrestled with was wether or not the panels would be strong enough to take weight in the middle without some support underneath. I decided to see how it goes! My other dilema involved how to circumvent the fancy snooker table style pocket holders that stand about 8 mm above the wooden edge of the table. I settled on a plan to rest the panels on 1cm strips that would fit snuggly between the pockets resting on only the wooden edge and so stopping the panels from moving. To my delight this design seems to work. Now all I need is for Sunni to come back and choose a waterproof table cloth with some “bad taste” pattern or picture on and the table will be a dining pool table!

One day I will splash out on a new bit of green baize but in the meantime I will invest in a snooker ball set and an English style set of pool balls (red and yellow).
I’m glad I decided to do three panels. they are heavy enough, two would have been a strain to lift.
I was thinking of varnishing the wood with a stain to match the rest of the table, but it’ll be always covered by a table cloth so whats the point?