Hello Kitty!

Not a good time for the solar panels!

Today was meant to be sunny but it started misty and progressed to grey and even some rain! Still our plans today were to plant the various cherry, blueberry and other trees  we bought last week so a bit of rain was probably a good thing. And the inclement weather did not deter an invasion of curious kittens from across the road.

Barabrith says “Hello Kitten”

I was about to take Marko to the station for his 8.35am train commute to Zagreb this morning when we noticed that Nada and Stonky were getting in their car. The two of them being out simultaneously  doesn’t happen too often so a shopping trip to Karlovac must be their plan. I quickly suggested to Sunni that she find out if they could take Marko to the station and I could then go back to bed. She did, they were, he went, I didn’t.  Instead I made a big breakfast and then Sunni and I prepared to plant the new saplings. Thing is when Nada and Stonky leave their property those members of their little zoo that can roam, do so! Sunni was soon feeding dog treats to four dogs and two of the three kittens were boldly prowling across our grass. The third, the male,  never made it past the gate!

The brave and the not so brave.

Ena, our dog, was almost as curious of the kittens as the kittens were disinterested in her! Pretty soon Ena realised that they didn’t want to play with her like a puppy might and then Ena began to get jealous of their hogging our attention!  Cats and dogs eh?!

Hello who are you? Do you want to play?
Thats funny you don’t smell like a dog either!

The boldest little kitten followed us across the field checking out every emptied plant pot and the compost bag as well as climbing on both our backs. But the first place it went and stayed for some time was the just opened oven of the wood stove in the apartment’s kitchen. Warm I guess!

Baked Kitten anyone?

One of the downsides of living out here in “Bogu za hrbtom” as the Slovenians say is having to make critical decisions about where to plant ones new bushes and trees! Back in Hackney such stress was generously lifted from my shoulders by the ever caring council. The “Judas Tree” we agreed should be near the entrance the White Magnolia too but where did we decide to place the Gingko tree?

I know we chose somewhere to put it but where I can’t remember!

The Siberian and Mongolian Blueberries we spread over the reclaimed corn field.

A future blueberry bush
A cherry tree in the middle of the reclaimed bit of our field.
Another blueberry bush starts its new life in Barabrith.


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!

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”?

Home is where my HIFI is!

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!

My room in the making

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!

My transistor radio from 1979