19th February was to be our work day/ lamb roast event and as we spread the word to friends and supporters about how their money was being spent, the projects for the work day and the fun planned for the evening, a local friend contacted us to congratulate us on organising a ‘moba’. Turns out we were reviving an old Montenegrin tradition, a moba, where villagers (in this case, mates) would rally round to do heavy/ difficult work for a homestead (in this case, a campsite) to achieve together much more than one family could on its own.
The lead-up to the moba was a bit frantic. Willing volunteers are great to have but experience has taught us that preparation is the key for getting the most out of people on the day. We had to think through all the projects we wanted to tackle and tell people in advance so that they could pick a team. Materials had to be bought, tools sharpened and the details of each project talked through and agreed between us: we wanted to use the extra manpower to shift rocks, but where should they be piled up so as to be ‘on hand’ but not ‘in the way’?; Trees needed to be planted but where exactly? and so on.
The main project was supposed to be erecting a fence but it was also the most problematic and very hard to anticipate the problems in advance. We decided to concentrate on one border of our land and did the best we could to estimate the materials needed: How thick did the angle iron posts need to be and how high? How high should the chain link fencing be and what length was required? How big a drill & drill bit was needed? How much galvanised wire?
Then there was the campsite to prepare and the lamb to order. We did go through a panic about what to do with an 18 kg dead animal on the day if rain stopped play but had to plough on regardless. It rained for 2 days in the lead up to the moba. On Friday we stomped up to site to make the final call – if we were going to cancel it had to be then… It was soggy underfoot but the rain had stopped and all the signs were that Saturday would be fine & dry. With so many people all fired up for the day, I couldn’t bear to let them down… and Nik was really looking forward to that lamb roast, so we talked Steve around.
Having made the decision, we cracked on with opening up the campsite for business. We re-stocked the kitchen, moved furniture about, got the bottle windows in place and scrubbed everything clean. Steve & I pitched our tent in the afternoon and had our first night on the campsite in 2011 so that we could be ready for the arrival of early helpers. By sheer coincidence, it was a full moon that evening so the campsite was brightly lit and no need for torches (one less thing to worry about!). We made a cosy nest in the tent and went to sleep with the stream’s lullaby in our ears. The sound of rushing water is so loud at this time of year with the stream so full and high but it’s strangely soothing – it’s so loud you can’t think (so no lying awake with a zillion thoughts & last minute worries stimulating your brain…) & it kinda blocks out everything else: all you can do is yield, and sleep.
The next morning was clear and bright. Hurrah! We began to relax about the day. The first job was to collect the lamb. Steve took the spit to our neighbours down the hill and came back with a beast on a pole. The fire pit was prepared and a fire lit by 9.30 am. Nicky & Blazo had the task of supervising the lamb roast so we gave them all the kit - the battery-operated spit, the big metal drip tray, the bricks, wood & charcoal for the fire – and left them to it. Here are the guys doing their thing having finally hoisted the lamb into position over the hot coals at noon:
Very untypically, quite a few folk turned up on time! After propping some people up with mugs of strong coffee, they were raring to go and the work began… The first phase of the fence project was to clear the boundary, which meant shifting all the materials we had stacked alongside the workshop and piling them up tidily in a new spot, out of the way of guests and work areas. Aleksa, Paul & Tim got cracking with this:
See how busy it looks on site already!
Meanwhile Nik got his team together and set Katie, Jen & Jelena off on a mission to collect buckets of stones from the bottom terrace and pile them up around the area that would be the 3rd new tent pitch.
Whilst the girls toiled, the dogs played. Mollie & Louis were joined by their buddy Aoife, Jen & Nathan’s dog, and they ran up & down joyfully chasing the sticks that Jelena threw them:
Meanwhile, back at the fence project, Nathan & Giles (newbies to Camp Full Monte & boy were we glad to welcome them!) got set up with the work bench and power tools and that’s where they stayed for most of the day. There was reinforced bar to cut & weld for the electric fence, lengths of angle iron to angle grind, weld and drill… generally they were in power tool heaven.
Sadly the limiting factor in the fence project was the genny. It’s only an ickle machine (2.5 kW) so welding, angle-grinding & drilling couldn’t be done simultaneously. It took most of the day to simply prepare the materials and get a few fence posts in:
Still, it was a start and the boys enjoyed playing with big toys:
Nik and his ’stoners’ team were doing great things. The girls had collected so many rocks & stones, they had actually made the entire retaining wall required for the 3rd new tent pitch & now the darned thing had to be filled in with soil. So Nik set Katie & Jen off on the task of digging & barrowing the dirt…
… And went off to recruit some big boys for some big rocks. They shifted some really big buggers and even enlisted Dave’s Jeep to pull one huge rock out of the car-parking area:
Finally, my tree-planting team showed up so I got Fi & Danny (now joined by Jelena, who’d had enough of rock collecting) on the task of planting the 2 blood oranges and 2 lemon trees in the orchard:
By now there were over 20 of us working away at various jobs and the campsite was a hive of activity. Time to reward the workers with a lunch break in the sun:
We had mountains of bread, salad, cold meat & cheese and Amy had prepared dips and raw veg which were delicious. Fed, watered & rested it was time to get cracking again. Dave & Tim took over the soil digging task which the girls were finding soul-destroying and physically tough. With the boys at the top shovelling & barrowing dirt and the girls at the bottom raking it off the shute, barrowing it into the new pitch, breaking it up and raking it out, the progress was incredible:
Tony single-handedly took on the job of putting an outer frame of concrete around one of the compost chamber hatches as an extra protection against water ingress and did a cracking job:
Everyone worked so hard all day, I felt like a fraud. As usual, despite plans to be stumping tree trunks and other stuff, I spent the whole day just ‘organising’ – getting people tooled up, finding gloves for our workers, making tea & coffee, getting lunch out on time, clearing lunch away etc. The job of chief photographer is also a key one – I sped around trying to capture the work getting done. Here’s me with the girls, a rare moment when someone else is behind the camera:
As the afternoon wore on it was time to get people to wind down and prepare for the evening. Those who were camping put their tents up before the light faded and we started to collect tools up, get chairs out, prepare for an evening of eating & drinking & welcome visitors who had come for the nosh and the camp fire fun.
The lamb was declared ready to eat after 5 hours on the spit.
Then began the major task of getting the lamb off the spit and carving it up, with all the locals fighting over the ‘best’ bits:
Aleksa wanted to eat the brain (a delicacy, apparently) but wasn’t sure exactly where it was!
The table was piled high with food. People had contributed to create an impressive spread with piles of bread and many different salads, dishes & dips to go with the roast lamb. The desserts (& not a one by my fair hands!) were stunning. Read ‘em & weep:
- Sticky Date Bites with butterscotch icing
- Carrot Cake
- Strawberry & Chocolate Cake
- Poppy-seed Roulade
- Cherry Pie
- Apple Pie (which was so good that one of the locals sung an ode to it for most of the night!!!)
- Kit-Kat Kake (Nicky’s extraordinary bake that had “Happy fence day” written in Kit-Kats on top)
It had been an amazing day. 6 fence posts up, electric fence posts prepared, 4 trees planted, 2.5 cubics of soil shifted, 3rd new tent pitch completed (almost), trees and roots stumped, countless rocks shifted and stacked, tents up, lamb roasted… phew-wee! In total there were 38 adults, 8 kids & 5 dogs and everyone had a blast.
With the lamb gone, the camp fire was reinstated and we drew our chairs around it. I don’t have any photos of the evening, which is a shame as it was magical. But a camera can’t really capture the whole picture, a deeply complex mix of: flickering flames, proudly aching bodies, happy community, beer-soaked giggles, passing the cake and rolling in the moonlight…