Wild dogs in the woods!

Vanja popped over during her brief Slovenian theatre trip this week to check out the latest developments at Barabrith. She hadn’t seen our “other bit of land” before so we took an afternoon stroll to have a gander. This piece of land is about a kilometre from our house and there is no easy track or road to get you there. It is about a hectare of wooded land and rather nice once reached.

The official Croatian land registry map of our “stray” bit of land.
Just to the left of the middle of this picture is the hectare of woods that we own but don’t really have much use for… a weird idea innit!

We walked down our “unnamed” road to the house with the wind turbine that never turns. As we approached a small black dog that looked like a mini black bear came cautiously towards us. He had been just sitting by the side of the road apparently waiting for something to happen….. not very likely round here but one lives in hope and dogs are nothing if not optimists, I mean look at the way Ena sits by the table drowning  in woeful eyes of abject faux hunger and never gets a crumb! I digress.

Two black dogs play in the woods, guess which one is the male!

The little bear dog was male, Ena is female, the rest of their time together was rather predictably spent with the thankfully smaller and submissive male trying to have his way with Ena, who’s having none of it. But the “chase” was fun and the two of them ran around like, er..  “dogs on heat” and funnily enough when the little bear got tired and stopped running (the poor thing had a limp) Ena came and tried to get him to chase her once more! Ena the tease!

Ena and friend “tear it up” in the woods!

Sweet though this brief romance was the two hounds often looked like some dark and demonic creatures as they scampered in and out of the trees.

Ena and her latest “boyfriend”.

Vanja and I took a selfie in the sun’s warm evening glow. By the time we made it back to the house the sun had dipped behind the hill and the temperature had plummeted.

This is the “heightism” friendly selfie angle for photos of Vanja and I. But I look a bit fat from this side…..


Sunset views

Our neighbours Nada and Stonky have a wonderful view from the back of their house looking east down the little valley that they have  couple of fields in. But when Sunni commented on this to Nada the other day the response was “good view? it’s the view all the time”!! Our house obscures the view of sunsets from their house (unless they climb to the largely unused second floor). These are some of our recent sunsets.

This sunset picture was taken from the back of the main house looking out over our woods.
Another inspiring sunset viewed from the wooden house.
The sun sets over our local electricity pylon. Just down the road from us.
The bit of rope at the back is not part of Vanja’s hair!
The October sun catches the leaves on one of our trees.

The room upstairs….

The  attic of the main house was a concrete floor, dodgy doors and open to the tiles on the roof when we moved in. Lots of procrastination and a lack of suitable  “workmen” meant that its only now half a year later that the room is nearing completion and I will soon have a room of my own that I can unpack my stuff in to. Luckily its quite  big space! The electrical sockets, switches, lights and connecting cables are yet to be done. As is the plumbing and the flooring but the big task of insulation and boarding up the ceiling is almost done.

It should have a nice woody feel to it, with a mixture of very old beams and new ceiling boards.
The short arm of the L shape will be my bedroom area.
The ross beams were taken out whilst the ceiling was being done and are now being sanded down and replaced.
Marko and Sunni discuss work progress and vital concerns of the day with the carpenter.

DIY Apple Cider Vinegar

Here is the almost finished and ready to drink (!?) apple cider vinegar. Apples were picked off the floor, squished and left to “develop” and then when the “mother” had done its job bottled. After a settling time it is rebottled and the sediment discarded which is where we are at with the photo below.

Leaving the sediment behind.


Just look at that dog!

Here is the new black west facing wall of the wooden house. In case the transition from iPad photograph to online image diminishes the true depth of smooth darkness the wood now presents I have included some grey hair in the photo so you can see difference. Now theres a crafty excuse for a selfie eh?

Grey hair black wall

Talk about crafty and black! Ena our dog often behaves more like a fox and looks like one – in black! However her eating habits are more similar to a pig! Here she is chewing her way through one of her regular “between meals” snacks. We had a field of maize (corn) until a few weeks ago. The combine harvester took most of it away but left a significant number on the ground. Believe me when I say they are hard and look very unappetising,,,, unless you are Ena the pig!

Ena the foxy black pig!l

Bird Brain Box

Sorting out the wood

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.

The roofers waste wood pile

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.

Not the birds eye view

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!

My fave screwdriver with added bird shit.

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.

Prepared to paint!

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!

Painting the town red …….. and black!

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!

Red and Black Takeover

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.

Flatline, Active Distribution’s first poetry book, cover artwork.

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!

Breaking new ground

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!

Ena surveys -and guards! – our sledging slope.

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!

Our tabula rasa veg patch

Late Nights and Misty Mornings

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 computer corner in the main room of the house.

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”?

Painting all day long!

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!

Painting the town red and black!

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!

A green wasp eater at work!