That was the week that was

I have now settled at my winter weight of around 85Kg, helped by generous portions of delicious food and copious amounts of alcohol; well maybe not copious; but more than enough! I no longer need to wear a belt when wearing several pairs of trousers (not all at once) and when I do it looks like the next option is a new belt or a hole punch:)

Mind, it doesn’t surprise me as the only exercise I’ve had lately is walking the dogs down to the forest to keep an eye of the latest beaver activity.  The beavers are having a great battle with the locals, after there first dam was broken up they decided to fell a tree across the track; I have an image of the beaver resistance fighters ready to take the last chunk out of the tree as the vehicle approaches 🙂 This happened about 10 days ago and I’ve followed the progress, as the farmer has moved the tree and cut it into manageable lengths; no doubt to pick up and use as firewood in the future; the beavers had an other idea and dragged the new, handy sized, pieces to use on the rebuilding of the dam; stripping the bark for food in the process.

We did manage a couple of days back at the ranch, checking everything was ok and clearing a patch of land of brambles; warm work even with the temperature close to zero. But yet again as the night time temperature inched towards -8°c it became uncomfortable to stay for two long and we retreated back to heating central.

And if you happen to be wondering how the humanure pile is handling the cold weather; well it seems to be ok, despite not making any deposits for quite a while the pile has reduced in size, with a noticeable indent in the middle, so I’m confidant that the little microbes are still working hard to break down those nasty pathogens; either that or rats have moved in and are eating their way through it!

One of our biggest problems is water whilst we wait for the new borehole pump to be fitted. Our 1000 Litre tanks that capture water from various roofs are either frozen solid or empty to prevent them from freezing solid. We did have a contingency plan of four 25 litre containers, but these soon froze solid, even in the stable, and it amazes me how long it takes for them to thaw out, even when we have the wood burner going. I can now understand how the old ice houses used to work with a big block of ice, it’s a very slow melt.

We do have the old well, but this has all but dried up in the worst drought since records began and we are lucky to get a couple of litres in the bucket as a time, good for a brew, not for a bath!

So back to the cake capital of Poland (Rzemien) more food, more drink, more visiting friends back for the season after working away across Europe; all of us calendar watching for the return to work, some on a tighter schedule than others.

It’s an easy life whilst you have some money saved, but we have started to consider looking for work as the cold prevents us from doing much on the house; it would be a better way to spend our time, rather than watching money trickle away as we laze about. Holland looks good at this time of year, lots of plants need propagating and potting  for the garden centres back in the UK.

But that’s enough talk about having to work for a living, we’ve much more important jobs to do, like baking a beetroot chocolate cake, recipe to follow 🙂

The camera never lies

I may have mentioned that the cold air and snow is now here to stay in Poland, certainly beyond the 10-day forecast that I check almost every day, yesterday we woke to -16ºc (outside) so the prospect of walking the dogs didn’t fill me with the usual joy! Mind you by the time I’d had two cups of tea (big half litre (pint) cups), donned my hat, coat, jacket, gloves and boots; I felt ready to tackle a good long walk. The temperature had warmed up a couple of degrees as the sun decided to make it to work on time and there was no wind to speak of, so I headed off down the road with three exited dogs running off ahead of me announcing to the entire neighbourhood that they were out and free to run around. I think the village thinks I’m a little strange as dog walking is not a big thing in Poland, especially when the weather is like it is; the fact that I’m normally walking on virgin snow is testament to this.

Unfortunately dogs in Poland are still often kept on chains outside, with the sole purpose of acting as an early warning doorbell system or intruder alarm, as well as a waste disposal unit. There is a national movement to try and change the law, but it is a deep rooted cultural thing and I fear it will take quite some time, probably a generation, before dogs are held in the same regard as they are in the UK. Don’t get me wrong, the dogs are not necessarily treated badly, just differently. I have to think like this otherwise I would have to become an animal rights vigilante and free all the chained dogs in the village, and I don’t think that would go down too well and you would simply end up with marauding packs of dogs 🙂

As so many blogs that I read have observed, the snow and ice bring a new beauty to the countryside and I vowed to myself to bring by camera on my afternoon walk to try and capture some of the sights. I would have brought it this morning, but considering that my watering eyes were freezing on my cheeks I doubt I would have being able to use the camera once I’d taken my gloves off!

Thankfully for my afternoon walk the temperature had reached -8ºc, so I quickly picked up the camera, checking the battery level (24%) and headed out with the dogs once again; a second thinner pair of gloves under my chunky ski gloves, so that I could turn the dial and press the button on the camera.

First of all I had to capture the second bloom that the reeds and grasses are displaying as the ice crystals cling to the bare stems and spent seed heads; much more spectacular first thing in the morning with the fresh frozen dew and rising sunlight, but still a good photo. Next up the dogs, I’m writing a page for them to appear soon, so a few more pictures as they play in the snow will be good for the gallery. Jackie collecting snow on the fur of her back legs much like a bee does pollen, Scooby dipping his head into the snow on the move to catch a bit of snow to eat, Bruder rolling around on his back in the snow with what can only be described as a smile on his face; all great pics for the post. And then as the sun turned a blood red and began its decent over the far horizon a thin grey cloud cut across it splitting the sphere into two blobs reminiscent of the oil separating in a lava lamp; click, click, another couple of memories stored.

Now if you have a car that was built in the last twenty years or so, there is a good chance that it has some kind of warning when you get out of the car forgetting to turn your lights off? It’s especially useful in Poland as you must have your lights on at all times. So why in the age of digital photography and advanced technology in general can’t they do the same for cameras that don’t have the memory card installed because you left it in the card reader after downloading your last set of photos! Why does the camera happily click away despite the fact that it has no recoding medium on-board? Why does the lens whirr and focus when it has nothing to leave an imprint on?

Why don’t I start to check the camera for a memory card every time I take it out with me! 🙂

To coppice or not to coppice, that is the question

One of our hopes for the future is to be self-sufficient in wood as a fuel for our heating and some of our cooking, I would say all of our cooking but I don’t think it will be practical or realistic  to cook on the wood burning piec in the height of summer; 35ºC is not uncommon in July, August and September and the extra heat might just push us over the edge!

So back in  the spring of 2011 we purchased our first necessity (toy for me) for our future smallholding, a chainsaw; believe me Gosia is hard to convince when it comes to spending money so I had to have a solid argument ready before the go ahead was granted, but it was an easy sell with the above argument for self sufficiency laid of the table. Oddly enough once the novelty wore off and the initial felling of some of the larger diseased fruit trees was done I went back to using a bow saw, or even a pruning saw to thin out the woodland that we have; the chainsaw only comes out when really necessary.

As an experiment I decided to cut a section of trees down, not the really young trees, but ones I guessed to be five or six years old; about 3-4 inches (7-10 cm) in diameter., to see if they would send out shoots. The majority were silver birch, which I had read would coppice if they were under ten years old or hadn’t started to send out seed; there were also a few willow the odd oak and a few unknowns; and then I forgot all about them. So when I noticed new growth on the tree stumps that remained after I cleared a path for the new electricity cable trench, I was reminded that I must check on the previous years experiment.

 As you will see by the pictures we have had a degree of success with this birch and neighbouring willow; in fact as I inspected the area that I cut it would seem that about 30 % of the birch has coppiced well and sent out multiple shoots all of which are almost 6 feet high (close to 2 meters) All of the willow seems to have done what it is renowned for and exceed the growth of the birch by a foot or more, even the oaks have sent out shoots, although as would be expected the growth is a lot slower at about 2 feet (60cm). A great success?

Thinking that this was proof that we could have a sustainable source of wood in the future I thought I better turn to the internet for more advice of coppice management and from what I have read so far it may well be a false economy to coppice as the space requirements for a coppice to perform well may well be better allocated to many individual trees! I will of course continue to read  and may well report back once I’m convinced either way. Any advice happily received 🙂

Watch out, beavers about!

That’s beavers, not beadles 🙂 (sorry this only works for UK readers over a certain age).

After the reintroduction of beavers to the forest near Rzemien, local land owners; especially those growing trees, have had to deal with a new problem. Unauthorised and premature felling of trees!

Even though they were introduced in the middle of a 15 square km forest  with a lake and lots of trees, they have decided life is better on the edge and someones future firewood tastes that much better. Man controlling nature, it rarely works 🙂