Check it out – first of the month & here I am ready to review!!!! You can tell things have changed around here…
From the store:
- Lettuce (someone around here is managing to grow them successfully, even though they are a little bitter)
From the garden:
- Lots of green leaves – lettuce & spinach has refused to grow so our salads for the last few weeks have been created from young, tender leaves of pak choi, swiss chard, silverbeet, beetroots, wild & salad rocket, sorrel, nasturtiums & handfuls of fresh herbs. There are some strong flavours here, so they are all shredded, thoroughly tossed & served with a dressing sweetened with honey.
- Tomatoes – kilos of them, including the green grape variety
And finally… beans! The combo of our watering regime (which included spraying the flowers well every evening) & the cooler temperatures seemed to be having an effect. The flowers which had been coming all season but not opening fully, were now properly agape & a dedicated bee sweetshop! Pods started to form and last night we had our first harvet (just a handful) in our chicken stew. If things continue like this we’ll have a freezer full of runners for the winter. Hurrah!
And for the first time this year:
It was also a fruity month with the sweet, juicy joys of melons & strawberries:
In the bo-flo-grove, the bourgainvillea is getting established and spreading out branches, the passion flower is climbing far & wide and a sweet potato that went to seed in our friend Therese’s cupboard & was chopped up & planted by me, has flourished fast with leafy green stalks pushing high already. Will it wither and go dormant before producing flowers this year? Probably.
The Cosmos has been fantastic value, flowering its head off in the tyre wall and self-seeding new plants too.
And the tyre wall is looking so mature it’s hard to believe that only a handful of months ago the view was more rubber & clay than anything else! The Sunchokes (just found out what they’re called, thanks to this post on a co-operative blog I frequent) growing tall & strong in the greywater baths, finally flowered and their bright yellow faces were a delightful backdrop to the tyre wall. But you can see from the shot below how parched the ground is – the grass brown & dead.
Sowing & Planting
I haven’t given up on the passion flower cuttings. I took 4 more & just kept them in a jar of water for a month until extensive root systems had developed. They are potted up and I am nursing them through the autumn & winter at the house.
Baking & Making
Lots of vegetarian baking again this month. We (yes, including Steve the great meat eater!) went veggie for a week when the last wwoofers of the season came to stay. 2 of them were vegetarian and 1 was moving more towards being a vegan. Our challenge was to eat as much produce from the garden as possible and create something different & tasty every day with minimal cost. And not to cook a single pasta dish. The three travellers had been existing on little but pasta before coming to us on the last leg of their journey & were past-a pasta! We made a Crumble, a Bean Hotpot, Veggie Wraps with homemade salsa and Onion Bhajis & Dhal. The welsh wwoofers were chilli freaks so there were always a spicy dish somewhere in the menu. Here’s Steve dishing up on Veggie Curry night:
Apparently, David Nicholl’s “One Day” is a much-hyped book & film. All the selling-up had passed me by so I read it with no expectations at all.
I enjoyed it. I looked forward to the hours before shut-eye when I’d get to know more about Dex & Em, Em & Dex. I like them both – & even when I didn’t, I appreciated their portrayal. I thought Emma, in particular was real & funny & engaging. But the whole premise of the story hangs on the connection between these 2 and to me it just didn’t seem an authentic enough bond. As friends – yes. But as lovers & life partners – no. With diverse attitudes, backgrounds, views & opinions that seemed to push them apart not together, the only attraction was a physical one. To me, believing in the strength of Emma’s character, this seemed too weak & implausible.
I did applaud Mr Nicholls for not collapsing, sloppily into a happy ending and I liked the edge he allowed the tale to have, not sparing details of drug-induced degeneration, sad & love-less relationships & failed marriages. It was a good yarn but it didn’t fully knit together for me.
Having said all that it was far superior to C J Sansom’s “Winter in Madrid”. I feel especially cheated as the cover note suggested that if I liked Carlos Ruiz Zafon, I’d love this. Apart from the fact that they are both set in Spain, the only book I’ve read by Senor Zafon “Shadow of the Wind”, is in a very different league. Spine to spine, Zafon ’s masterpiece wins… with knobs on.
I’m trying not to be unfair & will begin this ‘review’ with “in my opinion” but…
The characters were mostly weakly portrayed & therefore hard to relate to or care about. Bernie was the exception – Sansom could have written the entire book about his experiences in the labour camp and it would have been more impactful. There was something flat & weary about the book, that’s hard to put one’s finger on. I kept plodding on hoping for passion but I didn’t find it. To be fair there were a couple of twists at the end that made one think “Oh, maybe he’s finally cracked it!” but generally the ending was deeply unsatisfying. And that’s probably the book’s greatest quality – to stay with the grey, dismal futility of these people’s lives and not be tempted to give them a happy-ever-after make-over.
In complete contrast, Marina Lewycka’s novel was well-written, witty & wonderful – stuffed with cracking characters, not least Noami Shapiro & her delightful accent
It made me chuckle & sigh and taught me lots about glue! It was such a readable book that I raced through it in and then was sad when I ran out of story. I had briefly wrapped myself in the lives of a few fine folk and I was loathe to let them go. That’s the power of a good book.
In a bumper month for reading, I’m already half way through Amanda Smyth’s “Black Rock”.
What’s the vibe?
A rollercoaster ride.
It’s been a funny old month with the best & worst of times. A month of contrasts, with spirits soaring high and then low.
The difficult guest last month, in no way prepared us for September’s challenging visitor. It’s the other guests I felt sorry for – Steve & I have had enough practice of slapping on our ‘neutral’ faces, nodding, “umming” and generally ignoring – but in a group of really lovely people the metaphorical sore thumb stuck out. The group did really well at tolerating and remaining polite but the suggestion afterwards from Duncan that we should hold Big Brother-stylie evictions will be remembered for next time…
We had a pretty good start to the month financially with guests staying longer, eating more & drinking lots but then the accountant’s bill arrived just in time to wipe the smile off our faces.
It was still hot, we were still bothered and despite enjoying the company of great people and special friends this month, we were getting a bit tired of sharing space with people 24/7. Despite needing the energy & enthusiasm of the 3 wwoofers from Wales who joined us half way through September for some camping in Montenegro & stayed for a week, it was a difficult time socially. Our ‘friendly host status’ had pretty much expired and yet with no other guests or friends on site, there was only us there to look after the volunteers. It was more than worth it in terms of the list of jobs jobbed but when they left us on 23rd Septmber and our last guests cancelled soon after, we breathed a big sigh of relief, de-camped to Topla and wallowed in peace, quiet & nobody’s company but our own.
Groove Armada as Steve dives into the “unplayed, unrated” section of our music collection…
We were lucky enough to host our dear friends Jess & Dunc for a week – this time with baby Islay in tow. She’d been a mere bundle of cells, just a few weeks old last year during their previous visit so it was wonderful to meet this living, breathing, gorgeous human – as cute as a button (despite looking like Duncan) and so calm & happy.
We had some great evenings with some of our guests in September – special campers on our special campsite in Montenegro. Einat & Auva were a special, memorable couple. Two friends from Israel, travelling together – very serene and lovely human beings. Einat was an amazing cook and one night she, aided by Auva & Andrew, cooked us up the most delicious meatball dish. It was such a treat to have someone else cook!
Suzanne & Sylvie was also great fun – straight-talking Germans, whose no-nonsense approach had us in fits. We had a great evening with them chilling under the stars as we shared stories and much, much more. They loved my vegetarian cooking & would recommend us as one of the best places to eat & drink in Montenegro
Dear friend Annie was around for a couple of weeks too. Unbelieveably we have no photos of the gorgeous Irish lass from this recent visit but we do have some lovely memories. She helped us out keeping the place clean and entertaining guests (& journalists!) with her colourful stories and looking after the campsite for us so we could get off site & get stuff done. And we helped her out by giving her a safe place to chill & be herself, happy camping in Montenegro.
Some guests easily turn into friends, and this is definitely the case with Terry & Emma who have returned to us 3 times this year. Towards the end of their last visit, things were finally quietening down for us and we enjoyed a couple of evenings just the 4 of us, playing games and listening to each other stories. We will be following their progress here and hoping one day we can join them aboard…
And on our last night with the Welsh wwoofers, we found out what a talented guitarist & song-writer Efa was. As we stared into the flames of our first fire for 4 months, Efa’s beautiful voice rang out in the starry night.
We’re back at Topla and the neighbourhood girls are pleased to have Daisy back. It makes me smile how they just let themselves into the garden to pet her. They think nothing of it and we think nothing of letting them. How different to the UK?
One Green Thing
The prize this month for the best thing crafted out of bits of scrap materials must go to Nik for his beautiful Draughts Board:
Finally, in the 3rd week of September, the ridiculously hot, dry weather ended abruptly as an amazing storm erupted. It bucketed it down for a few hours on & off for a couple of days as the thunder roared and lightning crashed.
When the storm broke, I was alone at the campsite. I’m not ordinarily spooked by storms (especially after 5 years in Monte!) but I was under orders to clear out all the bedding from our tent (as Steve felt sure the pods would finally start leaking under the pressure of BIG rain) and had to make a dash for the tent to bundle up our duvet & check for leaks. Whilst in the tent the thunder & lightning intensified and realising there was nothing but a bit of thin canvas between me & the full fury of Nature, I felt very vulnerable. I legged it back to the building unscathed and Daisy’s distress at the turn of events soon took my mind of my own woes. It was a good test of the rain cover though. Sadly the design was flawed & did let a lot of water in but it was better than nowt.
After a couple of soggy days, bundled up in jumpers and thick socks, the sun came out again and all the clothes came off. The nights stayed chilly though and we swapped to a thick duvet for our last few nights of camping. The garden and grounds sucked up the water and a greenish tinge replaced the fried brown look.
And now we’re experiencing a Europe-wide late heatwave with temperatures in the late 2o’s/ early 30’s and the 2 soggy days already seem an age ago. We need more rain. Soon. Please.