The roofers who redid the main house roof for us left two large piles of old and off cut wood. It took quite a long time to take all the nails out of it and sort out what was worth keeping. Both my Dad and Nils helped with that when they were staying. I built one of our compost bins from the old 2 by 1 ‘s. Some of the plank off cuts became a bird box. I’d been watching the little birds swooping in and out of the wooden house rafters and was feeling rather guilty about the occupied birds nest that was destroyed by the roofing work.
So I installed a little bird box on the side of the wooden house knowing that it was a bit late in the season but also that I’d soon be working on the attic of the wooden house and so might make it less welcoming to our little feathered friends. I kept my eye on the box but saw no visitors. That was back in July today whilst I was up the ladders again preparing the last of the outer walls for painting I noticed some blades of grass through the entrance to the box.
I opened the top to see if a nest had been built only to find my “missing multi – screwdriver” with bird shit on standing up inside!
I spent almost three hours preparing the last outer wall for painting today. Then after making our late lunch/dinner I ran out of enough daylight to finish. Tomorrow this weather beaten ancient oak wood will be covered in a smooth black matt sheen.
Today included a quick ride down to our nearest post office (3.6Km away in Krnjak) I say quick but it was painfully obvious to me that my cycling legs are seriously out of practice. It is one serious downside so far of being out here that I’m not using my bikes very often. Still it was nice to be out on my Cannondale again and the road is a good smooth one if a little narrow for trucks, coaches and bicycles at the same time. Having lugged the 10kg parcel of books destined for Olympia USA I was told I need to go to the Post office in Karlovac as our local office only handles parcels up to 2kg. Marvellous!
I remember being told by a very annoying disciplinarian teacher at my secondary school that he understood my desire to go out and “paint the town red” but I needed to understand that only by joining the system would I ever be able to change it. “Bollox” my teenage mind screamed in reply and “bollox” I still say to such liberal minded rubbish. But 40 odd years on I haven’t changed much of myself or the system! but I am finally painting my place red …… and black!
Don’t worry comrades I have written to the appropriate authorities in the Barcelona CNT and the remains of the UK Anarchist Federation asking for official permission to use these iconic revolutionary colours and am hopeful of approval.
Today my efforts were curtailed by the unexpected onset of light rain which is good news for our plants but not so good for outdoor painting. Before that though one of our six neighbours tooted his car horn and gave me a thumbs up on passing so it would seem the paint job is popular with the locals. Needless to say bright red window shutters are not the norm around here. This is good news for my future plan to add black leopard spots to the peach paint work of the main house. Here’s hoping the sun returns tomorrow.
Today also marked the end of the my struggle to get all the latest books and pamphlets finished and ready to print. I will have to learn Indesign as well as Croatian if I am to be entirely independent and engage in stress free publishing! Still luckily most of the folk I am dealing with at the printers are pretty good with English. This print run includes the first poetry book Active has published and an ABC of Anarchy aimed at kids!! I must be going soft!
We have about six and a half hectares of land to play with here at Barabrith. A significant amount of that is woodland we hope in the future to do something interesting with tree houses, forest gardens, that kind of “thing”. Our large sloping field is currently lying fallow with our neighbours Nada and Stonky’s sheep and two cows occasionally grazing on it. One day we’ll start to reclaim it and plant trees and build submerged dwellings there. In the meantime it promises to be a mean sledging slope come the winter snow!
Level with the house is the main field that Stonky has been farming for the last ten years. This year he planted corn which gave us plenty of opportunity to make horror story jokes. This year he will plant wheat but on a smaller plot as we have reclaimed a considerable portion for ourselves. At present it is covered in the remains of sweetcorn and six trees I transplanted from the line of fruit trees that surrounds (?) two sides of the house. And a couple of very small oak trees I removed from the sloping field. The question we now face is what else do we plant on this land. Fruit and nut trees and bushes are our first choice but what will work in this space and what else should we do with it? Whatever we choose I see a lot of digging coming up!
Life in “the village” is rather more attuned to the cycle of the sun than I am used to. It kinda makes sense of course in a rural agricultural situation and also when the local population has aged well past the “lets go out tonight, cinema or a club?” stage. (The nearest cinema is in Zagreb about an hour’s drive from here.) So when I find myself sitting in my computer corner in the early hours I know I’m not gonna be in sync with the neighbours as they welcome the dawn chorus each day at 6am!
My excuse is of course that it’ll take time to “acclimatise” to these rural ways. Also October has brought some very atmospheric morning mists that don’t clear till almost 8am so hey whats the point of getting up and getting lost in that grey “pea soup”?
That damn dog called Nina likes to bark. She did so until about 3am last night when I finally fell asleep. If anything is gonna test my vegan resolution over here in Croatia it’s her! Anyway there was still dew dampening my walk across from the wooden house to the kitchen in the main house this morning but the sun was already warming the fresh paint from yesterday and its looked nice and black! So today I cracked open the red paint and started the more complicated task of painting the windows, their shutters and a couple of doors. Marko and Sunni had visitors and they went off on another chestnut hunt leaving me with the peace and quite of my iPod’s headphones. The sun was out and I was soon shirtless . I am determined to help my body produce enough vitamin D before I have my foot operation!
Today we witnessed a bright orange crescent moon, I don’t have right photographic equipment to record such things so you’ll have to trust me on that one. And also a Preying Mantis devouring a wasp! This I was able to catch on my iPad. October my still feel like summer weather wise but the seasonal change of bugs has kicked in. Hooray for no more mosquitos, hardly any hornets or horseflies but loads of ladybirds today were landing on my fresh paint and one yellow ladybird transformed itself into a red one with its kamikaze landing in my paint pot!
It’s October and finally the weather is just right for working outside. So on with my 70’s German porn gear (see photo) and out with the brushes. The wooden house – guest quarters- is in dire need of a lick of paint and of course as with all good lickings its all about the preparation! So I scraped, sanded, dusted and even vacuumed the outer walls whilst the sun beat down and then proceeded to paint it black (what else!). Actually tomorrow I will start doing the windows , shutters and doors in red, but there are three more walls to paint black. If the weather holds out I’ll be doing this all week.
Having just got back from London after spending about six months here in Croatia the concept of “home” has been on my mind. Riding around London was an all too familiar feeling, but I felt like a tourist ! Thing is I’m still without my own room here at Barabrith let alone having a place to set up my HIFI. Sure my room is being worked on by “the builders” and when its done it will my “den” extraordinaire! But as yet I struggle to feel I’ve settled here ….yet!
Still one good thing about my brief visit to Hackney was collecting my first ever bit of HIFI , my ITT transistor radio! It was birthday present for me from my parents back in 1979 (or maybe 78!) and it soon became my secret late night listening to John Peel device. Oh the days! The thing still works a treat even though the ariel came off a couple off a couple of decades ago. Trouble is John Peel is no more and over here I can’t get Radio 4!
Today was chestnut collecting day! We headed off to Petrova Gora which is better known for its crazy Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija than its chestnut trees. The monument was erected by a sculpture to remember those that fought the fascists in WW2. Unfortunately since the Yugoslav war the monument has been left to rack and ruin. But its a great building to climb inside, the inner architecture is as wild as its outer and the view from the top magnificent.
We took our neighbour Nada along with us as she has all kinds of essential local hidden knowledge, she was keen to pick chestnuts and has not been to Petrova Gora since 1993 despite it being a top spot for chestnuts. We foraged around the forest floor for about an hour or more and came away with finger tips tingling from the spikey outer shells of the chestnuts that many nuts were still hiding within.
My haul was given general approval and later that evening Marko and Sunni roasted a load on their wood stove. I was a bit disappointed that so many were bad or had worms inside but the good ones were wonderful. I freezer bagged a load for Vanja which now we have a new freezer unit is easy to do.
At long last this tentative first version of the Barabrith website is up and running. Thanks to Stjepan for much help with it.
Now I have much uploading of photos and telling of stories from the past year since we bought this place.
Unfortunately this project is in competition for my time and energy with repainting the wooden house, planting trees and bushes in the ex-corn field, laying the floor in my attic bedroom, decorating and finishing my room (at the moment the builders are still installing the ceiling, walls, plumbing and electrics), building tree houses, digging vegetable gardens, publishing more anarchic books and maybe getting my oft dreamed of pool table. … so it may not always be as up to date as one would wish.
Please note I detest Facebook and the rest of social media so this will be the only source of information on Barabrith and my life here in Croatia that you will get from me.