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.

 

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Early start, late finish.

It has been a funny start to the season, late March, early April showed so much promise with temperatures reaching the mid twenties (77f). The noise of traction could be heard all around as farmers rushed to get seed in the ground. We were no exception and with a new array of tractor tools fashioned from old horse drawn equipment I set too and managed to prepare the ground for a dusting of oats by the 5th of April. A good early start to the years crops.

Continue reading “Early start, late finish.”

A very passive April

It’s a bit overdue and only a short post, well at least that’s what I think as I start to type it, but I promised Pat over at Solarbeez a run down of our solar water heating system. It seemed relevant now as we are starting to feel the benefits, in fact we felt the benefits in April with a whopping eighteen days heating free.

Ok, that’s not entirely down to the solar system, or entirely true, in that the house captures quite a bit of heat as the sun shines in the morning and evening and then retains it pretty well. The midday sun stopped heating the house in early April as the height of its arc moved beyond the terrace roof, I had worried that this was a little too early and that we would benefit from a slightly higher roof, but as it happens, with the warm weather, the timing is about right. The little white lie I slipped in is that I did fire up the boiler on occasion to get the water up to a minimum 50c but not for more than an hour or so on the days when the sun just wasn’t strong enough for long enough. Incidentally I read that most domestic systems heat the water to a minimum of 60c to prevent the very small possibility of the bacteria that causes legionnaires disease forming.  It is an extremely small risk and so we save our wood and 50c is more than hot enough for a decent shower.

Ok, here’s the technical bit, except it’s not that technical as I didn’t get that involved other than to specify that we wanted evacuated tubes. So we ended up with 30 one meter evacuated tubes fitted at a 40 something degree angle on our south facing roof. These are feeding a 300 litre multi element tank via a 14 watt pump which circulates the fluid as it heats and transfers that to the water. My observations so far show that as long as we have a clear day with the sun shining the outside air temperature has to be about 15c to provide us with a full tank of 50c+. Conversely a 25c day might only heat the water to 40c if it’s cloudy; it’s all about the sunshine!

Our boiler is a big old wood burner with coal auto-feed attached just in case we need to run the heating for prolonged periods in really cold weather although it was relatively mild this last year so we stuck to the wood (except for a few lazy days)

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If we ever finish the house then the boiler will heat 12 radiators and the kitchen and bathroom under floor heating. It’s main job at the moment is topping up the hot water on cloudy days, like today, and an arm full of old chopped up pallet board took the water form 35 to 55c in about half an hour. More than enough for our ablutions, the washing up and indeed most of tomorrow, by which time the sun will have done it’s job.

All in all I would recommend a solar water system if you live it the appropriate climate, despite the rather long return on investment for us as we are only saving the burning of wood which is free (other than my time and the chainsaw) If you are lucky enough to live in a country offering rebates or other incentives then I’d say go for it if you have the money to invest, if only Poland was a as forward thinking and as green as some of it’s European counterparts.

Mind you, now that we have pigs (more in my next post) maybe we can start to generate electricity from the methane The Good Life way!

A busy week

Well I should say three days, as my brother in-law and two nephews turned up on Thursday to help out on the cold and neglected upstairs!

Of course I had pottered about early in the week finishing many small jobs that remain on the ground floor; finishing the bathroom door frame, putting a few more touches to the kitchen, chopping more wood and planting garlic which I had completely forgotten about until now. I’m not sure how it will fair, but I always remember that I would plant in November or December back in the UK as I once read that a frost is good for the cloves, helping to promote strong growth. We will see if the couple of rows I put in come up later in the spring.

Anyhow, back to the family visit, which was announced about a week ago, Bartek had a couple of days off and offered his services along a couple of school free nephews who are enjoying their winter break at the moment.

It did kind of put the pressure on me as I had to have all the electrical cables in before they put up the battens, insulation and ultimately the plaster board ceiling. I also needed to tidy up the electrical consumer unit so that the basement and ground floor where complete, to lessen the spaghetti like mass of wires that would become unfathomable with the addition of extra lighting circuits! Still, I work best under pressure and everything was in place and I even managed to keep ahead of the workers as I second fixed my ceiling roses leaving a flex for the light fittings. In the end I was short of about 12 meters of four core cable, but this can be retrofitted within the stud wall, again I was happy that I didn’t hold the workers up.

Two mattresses came out of retirement and our food consumption tripled for the duration but it’s amazing the difference those three day made as we now have, apart from the area above the steps, a wired, insulated and plaster boarded ceiling on our second floor. I ventured upstairs again today and as the lads had done a splendid tidy up job I could see quite a few tasks I can tackle before the spring. A very positive move forward.

No pictures of the work at the moment, I wasn’t expecting to write a post, but then I had a few few beers! Mind you this is what it used to look like back in May last year, an encouraging reminder of what we have achieved in the last eight months.

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I just thought, I now owe you a kitchen, a bathroom and a second floor. Oh and how can I forget, a Winkoloo! It’s coming….soon, very soon.

The missing photo

I suddenly realised that I didn’t add a crucial photo to my last post, a picture of the curved wall! Now whilst I could wait until my next post, I thought I would do a quick post now as I have the time and the inclination.

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You may also notice the bricks on the floor, the foundation if you like, of our hand built kitchen. Of course I’m still building it, but what we have at the moment is functional and I’ll try and bring you some pictures in my next real post.

Filling in the gaps

As I reported in a recent post, it is extremely important to fill in the gaps between windows doors and framework of the building to keep out the drafts especially when the east wind blows.

However I thought it equally important to fill in some of the gaps I left in my absence from blogging, almost eight months without posting a single update!

First a quick recap on what the house looked like in May last year.

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Functional for a workforce, not so good for a baby, so I spent a little time on our stable accommodation, plaster boarding the ceiling, patching up blown plasterwork from a freezing winter and installing an electric heater. All in all quite habitable during the warm summer months, even for Malina.

One of the first tasks was to get the final coat of lime render on the walls, having decided to complete downstairs before we moved up a level. This was completed fairly quickly the stud walls for the bathroom and pantry, the only two real rooms, followed fairly rapidly.

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I did spend a little time of the pantry as I envisaged a curved wall on the leading corner from the main door to draw you into the kitchen area. After experimenting a little I decide to try my luck with reed mats, we still had a few left over that we purchased for bridging gaps on the outside of the building, so it was using up otherwise surplus materials.

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As you can see it works in a very similar way to the old lath and plaster technique that used to be used before the advent of plaster board. The plaster is squeezed trough the gaps and as it sets grips the mats. I actually used plasterboard on the lower level section to provide a flat surface to make fitting the worktop easier, at least on one wall 🙂

I really like the end result, the bumpy contours flow from the bale walls giving the impression of an internal bale wall, very organic! So much so that I hope to use the same method upstairs in the corridor that connects the bedrooms.

More to come in my next post.

Two out of three aint bad

Was that the title of the song or the line I can remember? Either way this is not a post about music or food.

You may remember that I was running a tight schedule to try and get a few things finished for Gosias names day last weekend (18th Jan)? Well the news is that I almost finished on time!

Actually the two items I did complete were for Malina so that she had somewhere to sit to put her shoes on and also somewhere to hang her coat 🙂

The bench was in a sorry state when we bought it for £20 about two years ago and I think it’s life in our barn didn’t do it any favours either, but I’m certain the woodworm is from times past and the only rotten wood was on the arm.

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The bench design is a classic in Poland, almost certainly homemade, it is the original bench bed. The seat lifts and the lower section slides out to reveal an overlap of planks making up the base of the bed. The bedding would be stored inside until needed. Sadly I only thought about pictures after I had started on the repair.

I managed to make a replacement upright for the arm and with copious amounts of glue and wood filler, a dowel to keep things in place and a nail or two you would hardly know that it’s a botch job!

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Still once I had taken off the lose paint, smoothed down the edges and gone to town with the paint brush it started to look ok. Gosia mixed up the colour using an assortment of paints and only changed her mind once (after the second coat) turquoise, green, graphite, white and cream apparently, given a passable duck egg blue finish. And of course Gosia made the pillows, her many boxes of collected materials coming to good use.

You will be pleased to know that I have no pictures of the coat hook shelf thingy build, but it’s essentially made from a few planks left over from our scaffolding and off cuts from the terrace decking. We did buy the hooks in and nails and glue were involved, but other than that it’s a freebie. Let me know if you want one making Smile

 

I did actually finish the bathroom door as well, essential for the guests on the day, but it was only a temporary installation as I still need build the frame, so I left it out of the shot until it is eventually finished.

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It was a great day by the way, Gosia forgave my slack schedule and we had quite a few first time visitors who generally gave there approval to the house so far. The composting toilet was well used 🙂  Talking of which, that’s my current project, so avoid this space if you don’t want to see how my prototype Winkoloo turned out.