(Noting what’s fresh & local to know what I can grow & when and a record of fresh pickings from our garden to improve future planting plans, manage gluts better etc)
From the store:
From the garden:
Picked some rocket & parsley that had continued to grow in the garden over winter. There wasn’t much there but enough to flavour an omelette. Fresh greens are good no matter how small the amount.
Sowing & Planting
(Building a record of what I need to prepare for next in the garden)
Well, all my intentions about cautious sowing & planting in last month’s review have been thrown to the wind (throwing caution to the wind is a speciality of mine, but that’s another story…). Inspired by books and the enthusiasm & support of those around me, I reasoned that the seedlings would be too small for an appetising goat snack for many weeks yet so we had time… and I embraced the gardening bug with renewed passion.
This year we will have a tyre wall to fill with flowers so I have been sowing seeds with the vision of the colourful, “living wall” in mind. The following have all germinated and are being potted up as they get big enough to handle:
- sweet pea
Herbs are romping away in pots:
- 3 types of coriander (lemon, confetti & regular)
Tomatoes seedlings are going well, even the cherry toms which I sowed way earlier than recommended since it’s already so warm here. And it looks like a couple of artichoke seeds have germinated too.
In the garden lettuce is growing well under makeshift cloches (the tops of 5 litre plastic bottles) and will need to be thinned soon. Rocket, radish & sorrel is sprouting (and possibly the odd leek, although hard to tell for sure at this stage!). Peas are pushing through in places and onion sets are pushing up green shoots.
Baking & Making
(A chance to reflect on the culinary success & failures of the month & share crafty moments)
Made my first batch of kiwi chutney in 2011. Only made 3 jars as I’m saving the kiwis (chopped & in the freezer) for a big chutney-making session with my buddy Katie on a rainy day. It was a good time to experiment with spices and chillies to see how hot I could go with the chutney this time around. I’m very pleased with the result – it’s packed with delicious Indian spices and has quite a few chillies in this time (some small but lethal birdeye chillies, stored whole in our freezer & a good handful of dried red kashmiri). Photos to follow when the serious chutney-making happens…
My baking efforts this month have been based on using up gluts of ingredients. First came the lemons… this batch of lemon curd is one of my best ever. The lemons were picked from a friends garden and their flavour was sooo strong and the consistency was perfect: thick enough to stay on the bread but not too glutinous.
Next came the lamb. We roasted a lamb for our moba (see this post …) and had a verrrry meaty lamb carcass to deal with in the aftermath. First I took off all the meat. There was enough to make a morrocan lamb dish (with left over figs that had been brought to the moba and forgotten about & the dregs of a cous cous salad that a friend had contributed); a lamb curry and shredded lamb with ginger & chilli. Then came the ‘boiling of the bones’… I have many tubs of stock in my freezer now and we had the first (of many!) lamb stews with one of the tubs this weekend.
And finally the bread. Loaves of bread were contributed to accompany the lamb feast but there were 2-3 whole sticks of bread untouched after the event. I took off the crust and sliced it up to make a ’special’ bread & butter pudding. The dried fruit (this time figs!) is soaked in whisky for hours; the creamy-eggy mix is allowed to soak into the bread for at least an hour before baking (to make it light & fluffy) and as an extra special hit, the bread is buttered AND spread with homemade marmalade before being layered…
(Love sharing the books I’m into)
I am still working my way through “Some Other Rainbow” – the story of John McCarthy & Jill Morrell. It’s not the best written book on the planet (I’m trying to be kind) but the story is incredible. It’s a weighty tome so not very ‘portable’ hence it has sat by my bed for weeks and only been read on the rare days I retire without too knackered to keep my eyes open! I am winning. It will be finished soon. I reserve final judgment… but Jill’s hairdo on the cover is a shocker!
What’s the vibe?
(This month’s gut reaction)
Dazed & confused – in a really good way! Hope is turning to joy as promises are fulfilled…
Flights are booked for my Dad, Steve’s parents, dear friends of Steve’s from way back, a long-time buddy from my school days who will be visiting with her entire family and dear friends who will have new baby in tow when they visit at the end of this summer!
The house we rent here is not without its issues during the winter months when the damp creeps into everything and the cold is hard to bear in such a rambling, open-plan space. Incredibly, our landlord has agreed to insulate the whole house, put in vents in key places to assist air circulation and install our stove. Despite this work being a sensible investment if he wants to protect and maintain the lovely structure, it’s still a lot of money and a big commitment all at once so we are very impressed and very grateful. It has however meant we are living in chaos. The insulation had to go on the outside of the house, followed by mesh & glue, followed by some other material (unable to translate!) which will give the house its final texture, colour & waterproof-ness. This has necessitated scaffolding the entire house, taking off the porch, dismantling the A/C units and generally much palaver & mess! Low scaffolding with large metal bolts tend not to mix well with tall, balding men… the bleeding scabs on Steve’s head are a fright to see and we will all be very relieved when the house is back to normal. Having said all this (through gritted teeth as I shrug & get on with living in a dusty, noisy mess) it is WARM chaos, as the installation of the stove was quick & trouble-free and we’ve been enjoying the benefits of a real fire for a couple of weeks now!
We have had our first booking, and a decent deposit to go with it! This is 4 months earlier than last year and this is the first time we have ever taken money in advance so a giant step forward for the business – yeah!
February 19th was the planned work day & it was an incredible day. We got so much done, had lots of fun and got folk camping as early as February. It was a very moving experience – folks had given up their day (and in some cases their whole weekend) to work with us. They worked really hard & there was a strong sense of community, with locals working alongside ex-pats learning new foreign words and exchanging knowledge about different cultural tools & working methods.
When one dear friend squeezed me and said, “We’re all here because of you, honey”, it brought tears to my eyes. But I was reminded again at how much other people gain from the experience too. The chance to sweat, work muscles, be outdoors in the sun all day, exercise & entertain their kids & dogs, eat good food, warm their bones by the fire and have the crack with a diverse and great bunch of bods, is really valued. As if all of this wasn’t overwhelming enough, we were stunned at people saying: “I had such a great time, I would love to come back.” Well, ok then…!
We have chatted to Peter, our would-be volunteer, and are even more excited about the prospect of him staying & helping for a month. He seems like a really nice guy and a good fit with our small team. The moba underlined to us how much work can get done with extra helping hands.
So, overall, feeling quietly amazed at the progress so far this year and excited about the future months, however February is a tough month for remembering folk no longer with us, so the joy is a little subdued…
(Trying to listen to some new tunes every month)
Nope. Not listening enough, or carefully enough.
February always starts with a bang. The Mimosa Festival in the Boka begins the first weekend in February and with it the Herceg Novi Wine Festival… Steve & I went for a rekkie on Day 1 and he was sloshed in less than an hour! As I drove him home, chuckling to see him so merry, he was on the phone to all & sundry, urging folk to join the fun the next day.
So on Saturday there was a bunch of us, swilling wine and having a giggle, though sadly Nik missed the fun due to family commitments in the UK. Unfortunately I had forgotten the lethal combination of: me + free wine. I got totally trashed… to the point of having ‘gaps’ in my memory of the afternoon & evening (this never happens to me – the last time it happened was 2 years ago, at the HN Wine Festival funnily enough!).
I do remember making the day of a small, local producer by persuading everyone to buy his delicious organic wine and loza (a bottle of each for 15 euros – bargain! And absolutely NO chemical aftertaste.) I don’t remember why we thought it was a good idea to buy a bottle of Kosovan Brandy, nor how we got from the festival to a pizza restaurant (although thank god we did – food in my belly saved me from alcohol poisoning probably!). Thank the lord no-one thought to bring a camera! Folk piled back to ours and the drinking & merriment continued. I then sensibly drank loads of water but unfortunately went to bed just as my hangover kicked in, so tossed & turned all night with some creature trying to get out of my head…
I’ve already blogged about our amazing moba but here are some shots of the fun stuff. Some of the more lighthearted moments in the day…
(Bizarre & extraordinary happenings? This is Montenegro)
The story of the dump
We wanted to find out where the palm leaves were being dumped in Herceg Novi so that we could go & collect van loads at a time (to replace the ones falling off our palm fence boundary) from one place rather than traipsing around town chasing potential palm cutters. We managed to hook up with Mil who speaks the lingo and we 3 jumped in the van to try to find the dump. We found a place with official looking vans and containers for sorting refuse but no plant debris in sight.
After a conversation with one of the guys there, he jumps into his car and we follow him. Rather than try & explain where it is, he’s going to take us there. Understandable actually, as the many twists & turns we took around the back tracks of Herceg Novi’s industrial suburbs soon became bewildering. At one point the road disintegrated into a black squidgy mess and the guy we were following actually had to stop talking on his mobile phone to negotiate the goo-ey trail. The van just about slid through but moments later nearly fell into a ravine as Steve misjudged the tiny track. Mil & I gasped. To be fair, Steve wasn’t entirely focused on the road at that moment because he was distracted by the sight of a half built house, entirely overrun with pigs! It was indeed a pig house and it was fiercely guarded by an enormous dog whose slathering jaws came within inches of a tyre.
Eventually the guy stops and effectively says: “I ain’t going any further. It’s up there. Look out for a metal gate.” He drives off, leaving us in the middle of frigging nowhere and I began to wonder at Mil’s flippant comment of a few moments earlier: “Bloody hell, where are they taking us? Somewhere remote to be shot?” So we drive up the road to nowhere and drive right past the gate. Not a soul but plenty of piles of rotting palm leaves… We manage to turn around without getting stuck or falling in a ditch (hands are getting quite sweaty by now…) and this time stop at the gate, hoot and brace ourselves. Nista. I think at this point we are almost relieved and tiptoe our way back, as far as Transit can ever tiptoe. We manage to witness some live sex action on our way back past the pigs, which then sparks a disturbing conversation about the volume of pig semen (a tumbler full apparently, they’re prolific and reknown in the animal kingdom for such!).
Now we’re thinking that we probably need a Plan B for palm collection…
One Green Thing
(One more step along our green journey)
I’ve put a lot of thought into using recycled materials to support my gardening efforts this month. This season I hope to sow double, maybe triple than last year – if I can pull the early sowing off without Nature catching me out with a late frost or a prolonged deluge and if I can nail the succession planting thang. This means more pots and I’m determined not to buy any. Plastic bottles are being cut up and used as pots and the tops are reused as cloches for the tender seedlings growing away in the garden. I’m also growing in empty toilet roll holders & egg boxes and using thick carboard trays that beer is packed in as seed trays.
Labels are always a source of frustration. I have to label things properly or else I get hopelessly confused. Last year’s efforts using old egg boxes didn’t work – paper goes soggy. I needed something plastic that would be easy to write on and my glut of margarine tubs was the answer. I chopped up a couple of tubs and ended up with loads of thin, but strong, strips of plastic in a nice light cream colour, easy to see and easy to write on:
And of course some of the seeds are recycled, from last year’s crop or from flowers that friends had collected for me.
(Charting the weather for us and our garden)
It has been another awesome month! A little more rain than January but mostly the days are bright & sunny and warm. However, there have been the occasional cold snap and in areas like Zljebi above us there’s been 12+ cms of snow dumped in a morning…
Nature’s waking up all around and already the wild flowers are popping up all over the place: crocuses, narcissi, violets, daisies. And the air is full of birds, bees and butterflies.