Kids, not goats

I have already fallen at the first hurdle as I missed my first target of posting every Sunday, still if this goes out this week than I will be happy given the long gap between post prior to this.

Conscious that whenever someone visits that we haven’t seen for a while comments on how the kids have grown then I thought it might be a good idea to let then be the stars of this post. More picture, less writing Smile

Then it turns out that looking through recent pictures turned out to be more time consuming than writing, still here’s a selection from recent weeks.

Of course everything that happens is a lesson, but occasionally we manage to get them to sit at the table and do some scholastic tasks 🙂

Can we be twins please?

As you may imagine this moment of cooperation and coordination only lasted a short time 🙂

The barn remains the favourite spot for play, a bath that collects water and a sand and gravel pit that I use for mixing concrete hold a magnetic charm 🙂

With such good weather we have spent a lot of time outside, making fires to bake potatoes and cook the occasional sausage 🙂

Ok, thats two post is two weeks, maybe more ahead as I think it might rain later in the week 🙂 Take care and stay safe all.

Another update, well not really

I was thinking about an update on the animals, but what can I say, they are goats. Sunday, Monday, Minka, Meggi and Rozka are all doing fine and with luck Monday and Minka will be mothers in late spring.

But then it started to snow, and snow, and snow. And whilst we haven’t had it as bad as some in Europe, we have had our fair share. Luckily for us we have a Lada Niva; built for Siberia, not suburbia!

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The last picture is the main road, about a mile away from the house and as of yesterday we have to travel about 5 miles to see tarmac again. That could be further away now as we have had another 5cm (2 inches) so far today and it’s still snowing.

If I’m honest I have loved the challenge it has presented, but don’t tell Gosia. Transporting children around in this weather is challenge enough in itself!

Jackie is having fun as well Smile

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Well, it’s about time

So here we are again, snow scattered on the ground this morning, the nights well and truly drawing in and my duties on the farm reduced to the milking of the goats now that the pigs have enjoyed their final meal. In theory I now have time to blog, although in truth it’s more about making time than having time and I’m the master of procrastination. Continue reading “Well, it’s about time”

A morning walk

More pictures than words for a change, you will be pleased to know!

The pictures are from a couple of weeks ago when we experienced a spell of exceptionally good weather for the time of year. A change in schedule and tasks for the morning sent me on a route down to the stable, barn and beyond the orchard. There are no real paths, I make it up as I go along, often guided by the dogs and where they want to go next and this is where they took me.

Click on the pics if you want a better view.

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After dropping a fresh bucket of water off to the goats we walk through the orchard and look back at the barn. The patch on the left was cleared by the pigs last year and I have just planted 120 raspberry plants. Recently chopped branches sit on the blue tarpaulin to dry out a bit and also to stop them becoming overgrown and entangled with grass.

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Jackie leads the way down the small wooded valley about a 1/4 mile away, we drop down and back up the other side. Dennis takes a breather!

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Looking back its quite a climb and turning around we have quite a bit ahead, towards the rising sun.

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Reaching a farmers track we have the option to head back towards the house, but instead we carry on away to the right and look down into the village below.

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We walk on for a mile or so, over barren fields, when the sky is this clear you just know its going to be a good day.

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As we reach the old council road the dogs decide it’s time to head home, or at least look to me for guidance. Zara decides to join us after looking for pheasants, or chasing deer.

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We reach the ridge line and look back the way we have just walked and then turn towards to house, not long now before i get my brew 🙂

Spring

I mentioned in my last post that I had a few in drafts, but as often happens the moment is lost and I have decided to write an update encompassing those posts and more, otherwise it could be October before I post anything!

Animals

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One of the posts was about a dog attack on our rabbits, ten of twelve lost including Mummy rabbit and Peter rabbit, who between them kept up a steady meat supply. So much so that we had reached one of our goals, to become self sufficient in meat. The pigs, a lamb in exchange for crops, a dozen or so meat chickens and the occasional bit of venison helped in the mix.

Luckily one of the females that survived was pregnant and our supply will resume again in the near future and the cages and runs will be reinforced with a welded wire mesh. Lesson learnt, although we still don’t know who the dogs belonged to.

I mentioned before that we are are now up to six female goats, two in milk, three kids and the last doing an impression of a bus as she waddles around with who knows how many additions to the heard inside her huge belly. Expect an update on this soon. Of course having so many goats means that we have more milk than we can drink, make cheese and of course soap out of, so the cats and dogs get their share as well. It will be good to have pigs again soon so that we have something to eat all the whey that we seem to produce. Thankfully Gosia has developed a market for the cheese, I can only eat so much!

It is worth noting that with all these extra goats (three were an unexpected gift in the autumn) we ran out of hay and oats so we have had to purchase extra. My profit from pigs and rabbits was ploughed back into the business so to speak. A bit more planning this year, more oats and more hay, both achievable with the land we have and we have had an offer to use a neighbours field if required.

Wood

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Oats and hay are not the only things we ran out of this year, we also ran out of wood! The old wooden house that we demolished two years ago was finally returned to the earth as ash and smoke, not to mention what I thought was a good pile of firewood from the land. Alas the colder than normal winter and its duration whittled down the pile quicker than I expected and to make sure we could get through the final throes of winter we had to buy 3 cubic meters (about a cord).

Keen to avoid the same fate again this coming winter I have made inroads into our woodland and cut out and chopped a good 10 cubic to season over the spring and summer. We also have the promise of some ash, which was struck by disease, in exchange for some help moving and chopping, so I’m hoping we will be good.

With all the tree felling we decided to invest in a branch chopper that fits on the back of the tractor, it pretty much devours anything up to 5-7cm (2-3 inches) in diameter and spits it out in 10 cm (4 inch) lengths. This frees up a lot of time that would otherwise be spent doing the job manually and provides extra fuel that would otherwise have been left in piles to rot down as we never seemed to be able to borrow the neighbours implement of destruction! Recently aware of the cost of buying wood we calculated that the investment will be paid off in a couple of years.

Airbnb

I don’t know how many times I have said that the house is almost finished, but the house is almost finished! The only thing of any significance that needs doing is the terrace railing\barrier….the thing that stops people falling off! We have employed the skills of a local carpenter to make the components and we hope to be fitting in the next month or so. This will ultimately make it safe for guests to stay which is what had always niggled in the back of our mind and stopped placing the advert. Of course many dangers still remain, six goats with horns, potholes that the dogs have dug in search of moles, wild rabbit killing dogs, I better stop before the list becomes another reason why we cant take guests.

Of course anyone out there that may be reading this is welcome to contact us directly and make enquiries about availability, we would love to hear from you and offer a commission free, blogger discount!

In fact I’ll offer a free long weekend (short break) to anyone who can take decent photos to help promote our B&B, all you have to do is get to Krakow or Rzeszow airport and we will look after from there. Having looked at my poor attempt below I think we need something better.

Composting toilets

I know that many of you want to know how things are going with the pile? Well I’m pleased to say that I have just emptied one of the four piles that we are running at the moment, this was added to the second pile that has reached maturity over the last 14 months and between them we have at least 1000 litre’s of sweet smelling, crumbly, nutritious compost.

I have taken a slightly different approach whilst emptying  the piles this year by digging out from the centre, which leaves a nice giant whole to fill with new manure. I watched a few videos on the Humanure Handbook website and this seems to be a better method. I can tell you that once emptied the whole is filled again with eighteen 20l buckets of manure and 4 buckets of kitchen scraps. Topped off with straw and up to temperature (50c\120f) over the last month. I may try and do a time lapse on this pile, a picture every month, you may be surprised, if not interested!

Soap

I expect some of you fecophobes would like to wash your hands after reading the last bit, well help is at hand with Gosias hand made soaps!

Although there is nothing new on the site you can always get in touch via the contact form at www.winkos.co.uk or www.zielonakoza.pl if Polish is your preferred language. Or comment below. And for those of you who have bought soaps of us for the first time or as a repeat order, thank you, your support is very much appreciated!

Gosia must be doing something right as she recently received a request to run a workshop and demonstration in a local hotel, to a visiting group of about 30 guests from the UK!

Gosia has also teamed up with a friend, Iza, who is felting the soaps with her own designs. We are expecting a selection for the Easter markets so I will take some  more pictures, the only one we have left at the moment is a hemp oil soap. I’m sure you will agree that Izas artistic talent adds a new dimension to the soaps. So if you are looking for a unique gift idea then we have the answer.

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More

Probably, but it’s taken me a week to write this! The weather has been great and the tractor busy getting the oats sown and compost spread, I actually got sun  burnt whilst working out in the field!

The sad news is that Sunday, the pregnant goat, had stillborn twins. Mother is well though and shows no signs of on-going infection so we will put it down to one of those things. Nature can be cruel at times.

 

A little bit of sunshine

I just read last nights post and thought it looked a little bleak, so I thought I’d quickly post this picture from last week.

It was the start of a wonderful sunny day with the sun taking temperatures just above freezing. The house heated up to 23c\73f without having to light the fire, the water warmed up to 45c\113f from the solar water panels and I ventured outside to chop up a bit more wood to make sure we can deal with another cold month.

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From the terrace on the East side, sorry about the drain pipe.

Roll on spring!

Weddings, wellies and a whole lot of snow

I had to check the historical weather data to see when we last had temperatures above freezing, believing that it was sometime back in November, but of course it’s not as bad as I thought, we have had nineteen days above freezing since December the 1st 2016, although only two nights!

Continue reading “Weddings, wellies and a whole lot of snow”

Off with the Tilly on with the woolly

I received an email last week congratulating me on my anniversary, I immediately went into a panic thinking that I had missed our wedding anniversary as I knows it’s around this time of year, but further reading revealed that it is in fact four years since I started this blog! Continue reading “Off with the Tilly on with the woolly”

Thanks to Putin, we have something to put in.

As I brought the seedlings inside from a day out in the sunshine, to tuck them up as the nights are still cold, it struck me that I have President Putin to thank for the handy crates that are the new vogue around the villages of Poland. Continue reading “Thanks to Putin, we have something to put in.”

Bringing home the bacon

I know, I know I said bacon and the picture is of sausages!

March already, when did that happen! So much for my resolution to try and post more on the blog. It’s not like I haven’t had anything to report, as we have kept ourselves busy and the house becomes more of a house everyday. Continue reading “Bringing home the bacon”

Making hay whilst the sun shines

That’s what they say so that’s what we did.

I’d guess a couple of acres, possibly a bit more, of grass cut by tractor on Saturday the 30th. And just like when lighting the BBQ or forgetting your umbrella it decided to rain, despite a clear 10 day weather forecast.

This changed our schedule a little and the hay had to be left to dry until Monday when we turned it all by hand, an all day job, as our neighbour with the tractor was working his 24 hour shift at the garage.

No sooner had we finished then another storm crept in, dropped a few more buckets of water on the hay and moved on.

Thankfully we have had temperatures close to 30c (86f) most of the week and Kazek turned up a couple of times a day with tractor and hay turning machine thingy, and so on Wednesday we piled the first nine stacks. No bales here, just odd shaped domes of fresh, sweet smelling hay. Apparently the way the hay is stacked varies from region to region, with that in mind I think I have invented a new way, although I doubt it’s a style that will catch on.

We will be putting it in the barn today along with the hay from the bottom fields that we have left in windrows as the weather stayed fine. We probably have have twice as much as we need for the Sunday and Monday (the goats) but then who knows what else will be eating it come the winter.

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A rare appearance from me next to the last and smallest stack of the day. I could never have done it without Malina!

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Look daddy, look what’s happened to that nice hay stack.

Tales from the village #2

Its a long time since the first tale, but after hearing this one I thought it deserved a post.

But first of all apologies for anyone who received multiple notifications of my last post We are not vegetarians or indeed didn’t receive a notification or did and then couldn’t find the post, technology, time zones and schedules got the better of me.

So back to the tale, from our neighbours who have the diary farm, and as such they grow there own crops for animal feed, one of which is potatoes. Now the thing with potatoes is that the wild bore like to eat them and if they find your field they can do some serious crop damage in one night, so it’s common for the spud fields to be surrounded by an electric fence.

As the farmer employs a crop rotation system, this year the potatoes are in the field adjacent to his barn separated only by the road, but as  a canny farmer he had put a drain pipe under the road when it was tarmacked about four years ago, meaning that he could power the electric fence via mains power, if only he could get the cable through the pipe.

Long sticks, compressed air, bits of stiff wire, he tried everything but couldn’t get the cable through, but then he had a light bulb moment and grabbed one of his three cats. As you can imagine there was quite a bit of fur flying as the tied the cable to the cats tail and it was only Bandziorek (the third cat) that tolerated, or perhaps understood, the plan and happily scuttled down the pipe with cable in tow.

I haven’t tested the fence but I’m assured it working, plugged into the mains!

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Where does the time go?

I have started to write a post three times in the last month, each time editing the previous version to make sure the date references were correct and that it still all made sense. I almost got to the point of adding some photos at one stage, so close to hitting the publish button, but it never happened.

Time just seems to fly by and it’s only because the van refused to start this morning (Sunday) that I’m at the keyboard trying again to catch up on events of the past month or so since I last posted. I may even get a chance to read a few of the post of the blogs that I follow!

The big news of course was Malinas first birthday which we celebrated, as agreed, on the condition that she had started to walk! Lucky for her that I wasn’t more specific about the definition of walking and I was willing to accept her ten step efforts. Three weeks later and she is almost ready to go to the shops, unfortunately she hasn’t master orienteering yet and it’s not a straight road to the store, but she is now more than capable of making her way around the house and has discovered new ways to keep Gosia and I running around after her.

As you might expect we had a number of guests for her birthday; friends, grand parents, aunties, uncles, cousins and of course their children, many of whom remembered the house from our wedding in August 2013. There must have been a feeling of familiarity for some of them as they had to walk the last half mile of so to the house. On our wedding day it was because the coach could get no closer on the dirt track road, this time the road was impassable by car as the snow and ice had yet to recede. We had only just managed to dig the Niva free two days earlier after it became stuck for the second time on the top road. Just as well as it was called into service as a taxi for the less agile of the guests.

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I must send an email to Guinness to see if there is a record on how many ‘middle aged’ Poles you can fit into a Lada Niva?

As with the wedding the kids had a great time, space to run around and a mini tractor and trailer to get towed around in, with the chance to get to drive if the owner thought your legs were long enough to reach the pedals! Not to mention cake, lots of cake.

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The occasion was also a great test for the Winkoloo, having only had a two bum testing period to date is was good to have it put through it’s paces by almost 20 guests. I’m sure you know from experience most visits as a guest are of the prime number and so it wasn’t necessary to bring a second bucket into play, although I did have the luxury of several on standby, just in case!

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Checking back on my calendar it looks as though the weather started to get considerably better around valentines day and on the day of the party (15th Feb) we had our first passive day, in that the sun was strong enough to keep the water hot and the house warm. No doubt aided by the extra people in the house, but none the less it was good not to have to fire up the boiler. By some strange coincidence the same happened today, returning after a day out we found a tank of 60 degree water and a house settled in around 18, warm enough not to put the heating on this evening.

Mind you it’s just as well that the boiler isn’t requiring as much attention at the moment as our wood supply has gone down considerably. So much so that I have spent a couple of weeks thinning out our woodland to collect firewood for next winter. Cutting down the willow has been the main job, but we were also left with a few pine, beech and alder by the gas board, who felled any trees that ran too close to their underground line. They have the right to do this without question, as do the electricity board if they get to close to the overhead cables, but it worked in our favour as it saved me a job and cleared some trees that I would otherwise have to get permission to cut down. The only real problem I’m left with is getting to them as they are inaccessible by tractor and trailer, but rumour has it that my father-in-law is building me a pulley to connect to the PTO of the tractor, I can’t wait.

I’m hoping that the willow we have cut will coppice and I have planted a few whips from the felled trees in the hope that they will take. We are also using a number of the straighter willows as posts for the chicken run which I hope to have finished by the end of the month, several young pullets are relying on me for a new home, so I’ll be on the case this week.

Work has continued of the house as you may expect and I have made some progress on a cowl for the cooker hobs, I’ll report back on this once it’s complete.

I should also mention that I started off the chilli and tomato seeds on March the 1st, we opted for a couple of cherry varieties of tomatoes as they seem to be more resilient against the blight that we seem to suffer from later in the season. As for the chilli’s, we planted seed that we collected from last years haul,  Padron, Lemon drop, Hungarian hot wax, Scotch bonnet, Prairie fire and Jalapeno. The latter in great quantity as the pickled variety have become a popular condiment of our extended family, we are down to single digits of jars remaining from the fifty plus that Gosia cooked up. Of course the knowledgeable gardeners out there will say that the chilli’s are too late and the tomatoes too early, but the mood took me and nature will sort out my mess. I can report that the tomatoes have already started to germinate.

A quick mention of last years crop, if only because the drafts in my head had a post title ‘Pumpkins last stand’, we finally harvested the last sixteen pumpkins from the pivnica (root cellar) as they started to show signs of rot. Not bad, as we picked them in October, and I can report that the pumpkins that we left on the stalk lasted far longer. As seeds are the most valuable crop to us in the absence of any livestock to feed the pulp to, I can report that we managed to get about 100g per pumpkin. We also have a LOTS of pumpkin soup in the freezer and ate pumpkin fritters for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a good few days. This years target is two hundred plus pumpkins so that we might try and produce our own oil. very healthy.

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We also used the last of the cabbage, although we have plenty of sauerkraut to go at, and the pile of potatoes is still a big pile of potatoes, despite our best effort to give them away as presents to passing strangers!

It’s Monday now and I can see this post dragging on (even more) if I allow it to so I’ll sign off with two links that may be of interest. The first is to spread the fame of young Malina as she was honoured by Ladysighs: https://ladysighs.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/bench-series-march/

The second is a shout out for anyone who would like to volunteer with the build of a Straw Bale house in France. Paul who helped out on our build is embarking on his own adventure http://planetstrawbale.ning.com/events/straw-bale-house-build-in-france If you have any trouble with the link then contact me direct and I’ll pass on Pauls details to you.

One final thought to put your minds at rest, we counted the guests in and out of the party as well as checked everyone’s necks for puncture marks and all was well. The picture is a result of a bilberry pie, or so the story goes!

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The great God of Thaw!

No crash of thunder or flash of lightening; no, just a gentle warming, trickle of water and a chance to see the grass again below the snow. I like Thaw, he’s a nice God, and he came to visit us three days ago.

After our first imprisonment this year, we were finally released from a seven day lock down on the use of the vehicle. Whilst the snow wasn’t that bad, the drifts that covered our two possible escape routes were way above the Nivas sump and without one hell of a lot of shovelling there was no way out other than on foot.

To be honest it’s wasn’t that bad, we did run out of milk, but not for long as Gosia hitched a ride with the neighbours to get provisions. A short walk down the hill and a longer walk back with a rucksack and shopping bag!

It has been cold, which on it’s own is no real problem, but it was backed up with some pretty strong winds which pushed the limits of our poorly sealed windows. Unfortunately one of the jobs I never completed last year was the external window sills and insulation round the French doors onto the terrace, so the wind kept finding it’s way in and keeping the temperatures down on the few extreme nights we have had.

Not that it’s that bad, don’t get me wrong, I keep the boiler stoked and the temperature stays close to 20ºC and we have only resorted to using coal twice when the temperature dropped to -16ºC and that was more for Malina than us. I’m just a little disappointed with myself that I never sealed the building better.

Still it will be spring soon and whilst the weather is dry and sunny, like it was today, then we pick up quite a bit of solar gain through the windows. There was no need to fire up until the sun went down today and we picked up a tank full of hot water (48ºC) from the solar panels and it was only 8ºC outside! Anything free is always sweet to a Yorkshireman.

Anyhow, just a short post to keep me in the swing of things, I’m busy fulfilling promises I made which must be completed by the weekend for Gosias birthday and names day, these Catholics have a good deal!

And now to try and catch up on a few of your posts I haven’t read yet.

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Burning down the house

No, nothing to do with the 80’s classic from the Talking Heads, nor the last desperate act of a father on the brink, it’s just that it’s rather cold and we ran out of wood!

But before you worry too much its not the house we are living in that we are torching, despite what you might think about a house of straw they don’t burn that well, rather it’s the old derelict house down by the barn.

Eighty or ninety years old, maybe more, it holds many memories for some of the local people. Only this Boxing day we met an elderly lady who remembers visiting the house as a young girl, visiting your neighbours was all the rage back then. The house itself was considered big for its time and its design is one that typifies the Polish countryside for me, with many examples still sanding, nestled between the modern freshly built houses of the last 20 years. If you ever visit Poland I would suggest a visit to one of the many open air museums, http://openairmuseum.pl/ they offer a unique glimpse of Poland’s past architecture and way of life.

Still we made a deal with my father in-law in the autumn, that if he demolished the house he could have half of the wood for his own winter fuel supply. No sooner was the deal struck then the family and quite a few friends descended, although it has to be said the bulk of the work was carried out by mother and father in-law.  We were left with heavy beams, cut to the length of the van for transport back to the family home, piled neatly under tarpaulins and whilst most made the journey quite a bit was set aside for us.

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In the end half of the house was left standing, the weather turned against us and it made sense to keep the shelter in place as there is still a couple of tonnes of clay in there! Which is handy as I want to build a straw bale cottage there in the years to come.

So here I am, cutting with chainsaw and chopping with axe, almost a hundred years of history to warm a new generation. Marvelling at the giant hand carved dove tail joints that held the old house together, it seems a shame to burn it somehow.

But burn it does and it burns wells, too well in fact as the old dry timbers are a honeycomb of wood worm burrows and rot that has set in over the years. I just hope that it lasts us the rest of the winter as I’m not sure what to burn next…um maybe this bit of old furniture in the basement!