A combination of poor supervision of volunteers, relentlessly hot weather and lack of time has meant that the garden has been systematically under-loved. Despite that, this month we’ve been picking:
- Aubergines – Stripey & Black Beauty
- Tomatoes – regular, cherry, plum & green grape variety (the latter 2 popped up from seeds in the compost…)
- Fresh herbs: chives (garlic & ordinary), parsley (curled & flat-leaved), tarragon, sage, rosemary, lemon thyme, thyme & basil
And we pulled a few carrots, including the Atomic Reds (RH side) …
They are still forked, despite sowing the seed in a bed that was deliberately NOT manured. We think they are forking for moisture… They weren’t watered deep enough, soon enough. We are trying to correct the problem, watering well now and keeping the new garden shade structures over them to retain moisture and have decided to leave them longer to see whether they will grow bigger & fatter.
The tyre wall continues to provide colour & interest – even the Asters have finally got going now. And as the photo belwo shows, it’s getting hard to see the tyres…
In the last few weeks the Tobacco plants have finally shot up with some diligent watering by Steve & I and lots of compost tea. In the photo below they are poking their heads about the ‘fake’ tobacco plants, Nicotiana, all of which nature planted as I didn’t sow a single seed…
Baking & Making
I’ve really enjoyed living off the garden this month and cooking with whatever we have a glut of… Pumpkin harvest led to Pumpkin & Sage Risotto (of sorts); since we probably picked 100+ chillies these past weeks, I’ve been pretty much spicing everything up a notch and tomatoes have been roasted, sauced and eaten raw & lightly seasoned by the bowlful.
Cat, Kate & Yvette fininshed making another notice board from corks and it’s hung up in the basement adorned with useful info for our guests.
Feelings & Musings
To be honest, at times this month its felt as if we’re coming undone – the threads of the rich (but fragile) tapestry have started to unravel…
We were feeling a little frayed at the edges at the beginning of the month, just before volunteers left. Sharing space with folk every day for weeks & weeks gets wearing, no matter who they are. It’s great to have helping hands but the hands come with mouths to be feed & characters to be accommodated – some are more voracious & demanding than others… It’s also a stress keeping people busy. So, in some ways it was a relief to be back on our own again at the beginning of August and be focused on keeping the campsite clean & tidy and our guests well provided for. Although at times, as the month unfolded & proved to be noticeably busier than last year, we did feel a little overloaded. Once again the Dutch came in their numbers, some with kids in tow, and the Germans kept coming too.
Our waste water disposal system started to fail. A couple of the filtration baths started to back up and plants had to be dug up to free the roots choking the pipes. The area around the baths started to stink. Surreptitious attempts to cure the problem failed. We tried to mask the smell with fragrant incense (‘for the mosquitos, don’t you know’) and soldiered on.
We had a few episodes of illness during the month which was most unsettling. We agreed to welcome these boys, Louis & Will, and let them stay for free in return for “bringing music & joy” as they so boldly claim! Instead they turned up weak from tummy bugs, having had stuff stolen in Budva and used the camp as a place to rest & recuperate before they set off on their bicycle tour again. Oh well, here’s hoping we get a good write up on their blog eventually!
Then one of our guests – our celebrity guest - fell ill. Well, I say celebrity guest – he was named Tom and he was a baker, so we called him Tom Baker… anyway, he succumbed to the Boka bug that seems to be bothersome in August. He came to us looking like he needed a holiday & being already run down made him more vulnerable. He suffered from vomiting & diahorrea and his temperature rose dangerously. We installed him in the basement, in the cool & near to the facilities and took his distressed wife to get thermomenters and medicine. For 3 days we let him sleep, kept him rehydrated and tried to calm & reassure Franske. He got through it and recovered slowly but it did feel like Camp Red Cross for a while there, especially when 2 German girls turned up and Ana was ill too. I mixed up some potions to unblock her sinuses and banish the flu germs and got them on their way again.
Living in a field became tiresome as critters of all kinds made a nuisance of themselves. The edible doormice popped up all over the place – the sounds of them scampering about in the gutters, gnawing the roof timbers and squeaking drove us slightly mad. Occasionally they would stare down at us from various vantage points, taunting us brazenly. Creatures (and not necessarily the same ones) were taking chunks out of the tomatoes, picking off the best figs as they ripened and re-designing the edges of the material we used to cover the sofa…
Bettina & Birgit, a couple of lovely German ladies & their dog Krummel, were living in a trailer tent adjacent to our caravan for a while and a mouse or 2 decided to join them there, getting into dog food and other goodies. The mini drama did encourage them to completely clear out their camp & establish a new one in a tent instead so that there was finally room for the trailer tent of Jonathon & family, on their way to us for the second year running from Croatia. And after that we ensured that all food stuffs were stored in the basement.
When bags of food stored in the basement were nibbled through too and my pumpkin was found, violated, it was clear we had a problem there too. Anything edible was put into cool boxes and other sealed containers and we hoped that depriving the beast of food would send it scurrying away. Piles of chewed plastic indicated that plan didn’t work. Nothing for it but to take EVERYTHING out of the inner basement and uncover it’s hiding place.
It’s not often Steve is disappointed in me as a partner in crime. I muck in pretty well with most jobs and am pretty tough but I totally blew it during the ‘Incident with Ratty’. Spider, scorpions, snakes – I can take them all in my stride, but a rodent running towards me in a confined space… Nah! I totally lose it. Scream. Run out the door and shut it behind me, just as the bugger was making its bid for freedom. To be fair Steve had told me we needed to catch the culprit rather than let it go so my thoughts were: “Don’t let it out, don’t let it out”. But it did mean that we then had to start emptying the outer basement too until we finally chased it out of the door.
Then there was this drama to contend with and we really did start to lose the plot. The 12v lighting stopped working, doubt was caste on the safety of our electrics and even the generator packed up! The worms in the worm compost got drowned through watering too often and draining off too infrequently; half the tomatoes started to die having been unwittingly butchered by Cat who couldn’t tell an inter-nodal shoot from a main stem and most of my squashes withered on the stem. At this point all thoughts of eating healthily and looking after this temple of a body went to ‘hell in a handbag’ as my mate would say… Since most guests were self-sufficient and demand for the Dish of the Day waned, I stopped cooking and defaulted to junk food, washed down with G&Ts to calm the nerves. Half a stone heavier, bloated & lethargic, I’m paying the price for it now. Laying in bed last night (a proper-sized bed in a real house with no fetid-footed hubby sweating beside me… a PROPER night off!) groaning at the pain in my gut, I had an epiphany about my re-addiction to sugar. Time to dust off the Detox Plan and reign myself in…
If you’re feeling dismayed about our drama-filled August, don’t be… We’re not. Much.
We’re pretty good at mending & making do these days so we’ve been picking up the loose threads and patching our life back together. We have syphoned out the grease trap completely and all odours have gone. The rodent situation is under control – glue traps were employed, former hang outs (under the sofa, unsurprisingly) cleared out and there is an increase of owls in the vicinity. We remain optimistic about the situation with Inspectors and even feel relieved – we knew we’d get busted someday so now we can stop waiting for the worst to happen and deal with the reality. The 12v lighting was easily fixed, the generator has oil in it now so is working again and we’ve even revived the worm compost. I’ve pulled up most of the tomatoes so we have less to water these days and am looking forward sowing fresh crops of herbs and veg.
I finally finished “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles”! Weirdly, trying to recall the sense of it some weeks later and the traces of it are already weak… I liked the main character, Toru, a great deal. He was refreshingly easy to get to know and enjoyable company but somehow this made the weird things happening to him/ around him seem too incongruous at times. I liked the detail about the little routines in his life and the ordinary moments guys like Toru must experience all the time and its a welcome change to see these being paid attention to, cherished even.
Haruki Murakami’s writing style is very accessible – his words (& Jay Rubin’s skill in translating his words) are, mostly, perfectly formed. There is an easy grace about the prose and this book has pages & pages that flow with a gently captivating rhythm. But. Then there are sharp corners that cut me and left me confused and a little vexed as the ’story’ jutted off at an odd angle. The inter-weaving with ‘other worldly stuff’ didn’t always work well for me – ghosts & spirits and mend-melding could get a little wearing…
“I’ll skin you alive!” is not a phrase I can use lightly after reading this book. I spare you details and don’t wish to spoil the stories within a story for others, but there are some descriptive passages in this novel that have left an imprint – simply written stuff it may be, but it is powerfully evocative at times.
“Hunting & Gathering” by Anna Gavalda was a breath of fresh air that I breezed through after release from The Chronicles.
I enjoyed the characters immensely – especially Philibert and Mamadou. Paulette’s portrayal wrung my heart; Franck was infuriating but smolderingly gorgeous and Camille’s waif-like persona became more substantial as she found the strength and inspiration to feed herself in all good senses of the word.
The tale was well-paced and rewarding. It’s been a long time since I read a good old love story and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well-crafted Ms Gavalda!
And now I’m half way through Isabelle Allende’s ‘City of the Beasts’…
Work projects took a bit of a back seat for most of the month as our focus was on keeping the campsite ticking along and trying not to lose the plot!
Nik made a welcome return to the camp for some stone walling, which was very much appreciated:
And towards the end of the month, fresh volunteer blood arrived in the form of Andy, an easy-going English dude helpful, strong and hardworking. Once he’d got into a routine with pumping water every morning, helping watering the garden & taking Daisy for a walk, the first major project was emptying the grease trap and flushing our system clean.
Our next volunteer, Yvette from Holland turned up a few days after Andy. She turned out to be a competent seamstress and was up for the task of patching together material from old sail bags and tents and making a cover for the small gazebo frame:
Meanwhile Andy got involved with re-building stone walls and Steve finally found someone else, other than Nik, patient enough to work with him on this:
Cat turned 20 on 1st August and it was the perfect excuse to throw a party. We already had quite a few folk on site and everyone decided to join us for the BBQ, plus more people turned up during the day and we invited some of the friends that Cat & Todd had made locally so there was 25 of us crammed round tables stuffing our faces & toasting Cat’s transition from teen to Twenties Queen!
The food, if we do say so ourselves, was extraordinarily good…
There was a mountain of washing up afterwards though but Kate, Yvette and Todd managed it all with smiles on their faces:
Daisy had a couple of playmates in August. First came Krummel, originally from Bosnia, but adopted by Bettina & Birgit in Germany. She was an abused hound and was very nervous around people but she soon mellowed out and Daisy adored her. And adored the treats and attention from Birgit & Bettina…
Then came Ganga, Ana’s hound – another German adopting a Balkan dog, this one from Croatia. Now Daisy was the bigger hound and got to be Top Dog for a bit!
It’s been hot & dry this month, although it did sputter with rain halfway through the month for a wee bit (Nigel, who visited us in May and returned again in August is now our Rain God because his visits have brought the only periods of precipitation in the summer!).
With all the drama and hard work I lost enthusiasm for taking photos of all the amazing things around us but here’s a few nice shots (taken, for a change, by Steve) of what’s been buzzing about us…
The bird life has been fantastic this month – the skies have been alive with the flitting & swooping of Spotted Fly Catchers, Swifts & Swallows and various Warblers and Bee Eaters have been frequent visitors too. Not to mention the owls (calling very close but still Steve has been unable to spot them with his super long range torch!) and the various birds of prey…