And finally

Jackie is still with us and remains my faithful companion, although the walks are getting shorter and less frequent. Dennis and Zara still disappear every morning to be fed at a neighbour, only to return as darkness falls, to sleep in the boiler room where it is nice and warm. I would put pictures up of the two of them but I don’t have a lens with a wide enough angle! Let’s just say the neighbour spoils them, despite her denials that she feeds then at all.

They are free, fat and happy, so I don’t plan to change things.

Despite my love of dogs the house is now overrun by cats, three of them, Bubbles, Whitey and Marshmallow (English translations). We do have a forth, a tom called Borris who lives in the barn, but his habits are far from polite and he is kept outside when he visits the house for food. I don’t think he actually does much as his figure is much the same as Dennis and Zaras, but on the odd occasion that he wants to play, when I’m in the barn, I’m sure to wear gauntlets. He has been known to kill the rabbits we keep so his death grip is strong. In fact of all the animals we have he is probably the most dangerous!

We had a few volunteers again this last year through the Workaway program, but the numbers and applications were notably down due to Covid and the two couples who stayed were already in Poland.

One couple in particular really gelled well with the family and as we do with a few other past volunteers, we have kept in touch. Not only is it great for me to have an extra pair of hands, we also get to meet a variety of people who share their experiences and culture, something that I hope may help the kids to think a little differently in the future. After all its not every day that you meet someone who has climbed mountains in the Himalayas, rafted in South America, spent weeks in silent meditation or simply come from somewhere other than Poland or the UK.

So that’s it, I have written a post, who would have thought, thank you Pete for nudging me once again. Hopefully this will also prompt me to write a few emails that I have put off for far too long with old friends and if I manage that then maybe I’ll start keeping a record of our slow lifestyle again.

Thanks for sticking with me and the family and a Happy New Year to you all.

Goats and horses (part 2)

I’m glad I split this post up as it gave me a chance to download pictures from Gosias phone and it has to be said she takes a far better picture than me, and of more relevant things 🙂 Hopefully some of them will fit with the narrative that I have already written.

All of this new planned work is possible as I managed to secure a grant to develop the farm. So the lavender, along with an increase in goat numbers, forms the basis of the business plan that we put forward. We will use the grant to purchase new equipment for the tractor for cultivation and care of the new crops, a milking machine to stop my hands from cramping up during milking, and a good few hundred plants to supplement the ones we have already planted. Welcome to Winkos Lavender Farm! 

We have already converted more of our house cellar into a shop and second kitchen for processing cheese, so with all the extra products that will be coming out of the farm and products from other local artisans, we should truly become a cottage industry, with horse riding?

It has given Malina something to do as she fills bags with dried lavender for the shop, and she is saving the money for that pony 🙂

One thing that we did notice during the last year and a half of Covid is that people really wanted to get out of the cities and whilst we remained cautious about guests at first, as the vaccines rolled out we experienced a steady increase in customers visiting the house, a trend we hope continues. The visitors, not the Covid.

This more than made up for the lack of markets throughout the year and has now reached the point that, with the exception of a few long term commitments, we no longer need to pack up the van, set out and set up our market stall. Of course we are ready to go back to this if required, but if the customers keep on visiting then it fits our life better.

Mentioning Covid reminded me that I took Malina on a road trip to Austria to see family back in October, it was a nice easy drive of about 9 hours down to the south by Gratz. We were spoilt rotten whilst we were there and taken to various restaurants on our short stay. As someone who was happy to get the jab I had my Covid pass on me and the process of showing it to gain entry was smooth as silk. I only mention this as I’m surprised to hear about the resistance that there is in the UK and some other countries. If you don’t want to get jabbed that’s fine by me, I’m more of a risk to you than you are to me, but having a pass to enter places where crowds gather seems like a good idea to me and we didn’t experience any of the downsides that I have read about in the UK press.

By the way Pete…The composting toilets are still going strong, the operation, not the smell, and you would be surprised at the interest they generate by casual visitors. The guided tour of the process can take a good ten minutes and it’s only a matter of time before I do a YouTube video for the one or two people who are truly interested 🙂 Of course this is just one of the things that we do to try and minimise the impact we have on the planet. Solar panels for heating water, solar PV for generating some of our own electricity, growing as much of our own food as possible…I won’t go on, but if I was going to start blogging on a regular basis again I think I would have to start offering tips on how we can all make a difference. The problem is it would be one of many, so would it really be worth it if it didn’t have an audience?

Almost 700 hundred words again, my fault for getting onto Covid, so time to break it down to a third part, I hope you don’t mind? More tomorrow….

Goating and riding around in 2022 (part 1)

Where to start after more than a year without posting? A look back over the last year, a list of hopes and dreams for the future or just an unstructured ramble as is my habit? 🙂

I should start with the children, yes, they are still here. I haven’t shipped them off to boarding school (in my dreams) or worked them to the point of exhaustion (it’s a struggle to get them to empty the dishwasher) nor have we moved to a new house whilst they were at school, home schooling put a stop to that idea!

Truth be told they have just got taller, more independent, talkative, inquisitive and annoying 🙂 Fortunately, despite becoming grumpier, I have also become more patient as I have got older, I just wish I had a bit more energy, but then don’t we all?

Thankfully as they age they are more inclined to play with each other (80% of the time) without fighting too much and they have developed a common love of horses.

Luckily Gosia supplies a nearby stable with soaps which they sell as souvenirs and this has become a handy exchange for horse riding lessons, which is where they spent their summer weekends. Unluckily this love of horses has turned into the new expectation. Try as I might to discourage the idea of getting a horse\pony I fear I am outnumbered, given that Gosia also quite likes the idea.

So this year I will be building a stable.

Now to be honest it’s not all bad, as it fits in with the bigger plans that we have, in fact I don’t mind at all as long as I’m not the one left mucking out at the end of every day. This I have made clear. The thirteen goats that we have, soon to be twenty, provide enough crap for one man to deal with. But it is due to this planned expansion that I had already taken steps to build a shelter for the farm equipment and drying area for the various plants that we now grow to compliment the cosmetics, which in turn freed up space in the barn for the extra goats and potentially a small horse. As with most things nothing is planned around here, it just happens, so I have probably said too much already.


One thing I do know for sure is that we will be planting out the top field with more lavender this year after the success of the four rows that we planted last year. I’m hoping I find a picture as it’s hard to describe, but we have essentially set aside around a half hectare (1 ¼ acres) for lavender along with some space for other botanicals for Gosia cosmetics.

Ok, not such a good picture, the four rows of plants are pruned for the winter, but we did learn that red deer do not eat lavender, although our goats do like to rub their horns on the plants, no doubt trying to improve their aroma, so fencing or hedging is also on the cards this year.

I just noticed I’m probably pushing your attention span, so this is to be continued tomorrow….. 🙂

In the garden this year

Someone asked me recently, about a month ago, what we were growing this year. I logged the question with intentions of writing a post as soon I had taken some pictures, which I promptly did. Take some pictures that is.

So here you go, some pictures of the veg gardens this year, albeit from around 4 weeks ago, with a brief listing of what we are growing.


The bean triangle, not to be mistaken for the Bermuda triangle, although it is true to say that many things were lost to weeds over time.

Green beans, yellow beans, purple beans all dwarf varieties (for freezing and eating fresh) Climbing Borlotti beans in the foreground growing on hazel tepees (our beans for drying). And then filling in the gaps we have purple spouting broccoli, Brussel sprouts, green and purple kale, paprika, a couple of varieties of chillies, sunflowers, garlic, shallots and a permanent bed of 5 asparagus plants that we grew from seed about 4 years ago. Oh, I almost forgot, there is also a variety of French pumpkin in there.


Moving onto the green house, which is new for me, we have had great success with cucumbers, aubergine, cape gooseberries,  melons, and luffas. Not to mention all the salad that we had early season. I will plan better next year, but I can see the greenhouse working well into the autumn and possibly early winter for more salad crops.


My pride and joy is always the tomato and pepper patch, about 100 plants of each, sadly struck down by blight not long after this picture, but with some aggressive pruning to cut out the disease we are still able to harvest a basket or two every day.


Running down the side of these are a few rows of celeriac, basil, spring onions, more peppers and some lavender from seed.


Past the permanent and ever expanding raspberry patch we have an area for gherkins, then courgettes, carrots, turnip, root parsley, parsnips, beetroot and to the left calendula which Gosia uses as decoration for her soaps.

It is at this point that I realise that I never took a picture of the thousand plus onions that I planted, or the leeks, or the butternut squash. all in the third patch that we work. I should also mention that we have twenty rows (80 meter) of maincrop potatoes, an acre of peas (as a cover crop) but still harvestable, 5 rows of Styrian pumpkins and a mixture of Hokkaido and other pumpkins scattered about the place.

Sometimes I wonder why we do it Smile

Looking back only this last month we have pickled gherkins, made jars of ratatouille and started on our planned hundred plus jars of passata. And the second freezer is now in service full of peas and beans.  So if we go back into lockdown we have plenty to keep us going Smile

Future dream

I don’t do fiction, but this has run around in my head for a few days now so I had to write it down.

I woke up at 6AM; it seemed to be getting a little earlier everyday as the spring sunshine came through the widow, just another day.

My routine was still much the same, have a cup of tea, followed by another and another, greeting members of the family as they ventured downstairs.

Check emails, read blogs and the news, and most importantly the local web portal to see what was going on in our community.

The big news for the end of the quarter was that we had generated a good amount of electricity in recent months thanks to the good weather, and the community council was already considering increasing the number of PV panels that we have, there was also a suggestion that we should make the move to hydrogen production with the excess power that we generated and run our own fuel cell for the lean times. I added my thoughts to the monthly discussion document that was available to all within our mini society and moved onto more immediate things; after all it would be the end of the year before any big decision would be made.

There were no new supply opportunities, but then most of these were negotiated the year before, but there were two new applications for new business. Cheese making (another one!) and a cobbler. I whole heartedly supported the latter as it was still hard to get a decent pair of functional boots rather than some imported, stylised, flimsy junk that lasted a few months before they had to be broken down for recycling. Better to have something that could be repaired and someone who could repair them. I added my approval to the community loan that would be granted if the application was given the green light.

I wondered if my arteries could support another cheese maker.

The usual notices; births, deaths and marriages, and register of visitors. The latter, now somehow redundant, was one of the reminders of harder times when local borders were created to stop the mutating virus from spreading. Movement of people was tracked much like the movement of animals, which kind of made sense if you remember the foot and mouth crisis that hit the UK early on in the century.

I had laughed at the UK slogan “lockdown locally, live longer” I have no idea who came up with these slogans, but they were crap!

It was during these localised lockdowns that community devolution was created. Initially it was by town or city, and then expanded to rural communities, especially as there had been a mass migration back to the countryside as people fled to apparent safety. This turned out to be the turning point as the city folk spread the disease far and wide, and as the borders went up, although only virtual, you now had to register your movements. If they put you in a different location for more than a week (increased from a day), or if you planned to move somewhere on a permanent basis then you now had to seek permission from the community you wanted to live in. I think some people were quite happy with this as it meant that money was no longer a passport, although it had to be said it created a new set of problems, but then what system doesn’t?

I think we all expected the government to keep hold of some of the temporary powers that were granted during the pandemic, just so long as they had a soft approach to enforcement then only a minority seemed to care. We all seemed happy enough for Google, Apple and Facebook to track our movements so passing that power to the government wasn’t that much of s stretch, knowing that you could ditch your mobile if you wanted to appeased the naysayers and conspiracy junkies. We may well have taken a step closer to the Chinese model, but it seemed to be one that worked so why not?

Perhaps surprisingly this changed the demographics of the cities, towns and villages as the young migrated to the higher risk, higher paying, metropolises and the old(er) folks headed for the less populated areas. A sweeping generalisation of course, but it was certainly a trend.

With the demise of many of multinational service industries such as MacDonald’s, Costa and the like, small independent enterprise was rife and the only competition they faced was from their neighbour, which I have to admit seemed fair to me. The little guy was no longer forced out by the giant who could run at a loss to kill the completion. At least on the few occasions that I did travel to a city I was guaranteed a different experience in each of them, not the same photocopy high streets of old. A multitude of independent shops now crammed the huge vacant spaces that used to be Next or HMV. The big guys still existed of course, but many had shifted entirely online to cut costs when fearful customers changed their shopping habits, and only a few had gone back to the old model.

Maybe this played a part in the collapse of the financial system as investment groups (landlords) lost a big part of their income stream?

But I think it was introduction of a universal basic income was the real game changer. After the collapse of the financial system, which everybody feared as in meant that everyone’s pension was up the spout, something had to be done to stop a civil war similar to the one that had happened in the USA.

A revolt that was only quelled when the president of the time was killed by a stray golf ball, by all accounts struck by Chinese guest staying at the Mar a Lago estate.

The UBI was quite simple, or so they said, I never quite got my head around it, but it worked so happy days. It certainly changed peoples approach to work as they invariably followed their own path rather than having the system force a low paid, stimulus free, career upon them. Jobs began to mean something to people again and although you could probably survive off the handout, if you wanted to buy something beyond the basics then you had to find some way of generating money, so work still played a big part in everyone’s lives. More importantly it pretty much eradicated poverty and deprivation overnight, as well as making a big dent in the crime statistics.

I could go on of course, but goats don’t milk themselves, maybe I’ll dream more in the future.

Life goes on

If I didn’t have the internet then I doubt I would know what was going on in the world, true I may question why I have to wear a mask and gloves to go and do the shopping, I might even wonder why the roads are so quiet and the skies above clear of vapour trails, for all I know the kids are just on holiday and Gosia has found a way to make soaps super fast and has more free time on her hands. So far I can only see positives in the current situation and thats when I realise how fortunate we are to live the life we do. The memories of living in a flat and working the nine to five are best left in the past as I try and imagine what it must be like for so many people now. I hope for their sakes that a solution is found sooner rather than later, although I secretly hope that it changes people and ‘the system’ for the better on the other side. This could be a real opportunity for humanity to improve.

Phew, that was close, I nearly got caught up in the brave new world ramble, instead I thought it was about time for an update, fill in a few gaps from the last year or two.

Eleven & Twelve

I’ll start with the goats who seem to be multiplying at the moment, if only because it’s a great photo opportunity. Eleven and twelve (names to be confirmed) were born yesterday, joining Sunday Monday, Minka, Meggy, Rougeka, Baba, Chocolada, Dushek, Daisy and Socks, both destined to join the herd as long term members. There are more still to come, possibly another six, so I’m reminded that I must extend the stable to make room for more and\or get an advert on the local web gazette.

All these extra mouths to feed mean that we now collect hay from a neighbours field as well as our own, and I’m becoming a dab hand at setting up an electric fence as I try and find new grazing land to keep the herd interested enough to leave other farmers crops alone. A bored and hungry goat can jump close to 6 foot and is quite happy to reason that an electric shock is a small price to pay for a lush crop of wheat or oats, so I try and keep the fence moving and occasionally dress up as Heidi and take them for walks 🙂

Window house
Window house

And its not just the goats that seem to want feeding a wide variety of food, the wife and kids are quite demanding too 🙂 Luckily I built a green house out of old windows and some wood left over from the house build (yes I still have some left) which has helped me get off to a flying start with the veg this year. Radish, lettuce, rocket, cucumber, gherkins, melons, strawberries, pumpkins, peas, onions, broccoli … get the idea, all starting off well and slowly planted out as the weather improves and the last frost nears. My biggest problem at the moment is water as we had such a mild winter with hardly any snow, coupled with only one notable rainfall so far this month, my IBC’s (1000 litre tanks) are empty and I’m having to transport water from the house in cans. Dont get me wrong, I’m not complaining, this climate suites me fine as It keeps me outdoors getting on with the multitude of jobs that have waited multiple years to get done 🙂

Growing fast
Growing fast

Talking of kids, I guess they should get a mention, at six and two they are the life and soul of the house and everything revolves around them, which is a good thing as they keep us on our toes and stop me from taking it too easy. I just wish we could get more sleep 🙂

Foraging ahead

Mind you if things gets too much I can always escape on a walk with the dogs, I love to see all the blossoming trees at this time of the year, making a mental note of where to go foraging for wild cherries, damsons, sloes and a wide variety of other plunder from abandoned small holdings. I wonder if this pandemic will bring people back to the country?

Ready for a load of

One final note, as I know Pete will be eager to know how the composting toilets are coming along, I actually replaced the wooden sides on one on my many piles after liberating the sweet smelling compost (vintage 2018) The original wood finally rotted after six years, but as it was free of any preservatives and went straight into he compost. Just what I like to see, no waste 🙂

Poland April 2017~ part 2

We are loving this free exposure, continue to follow Fraggles trip to Poland here. More great photos 🙂


Part 1 HERE

Eddy’s home is set in a fair acreage of land, and the views from his balcony are stunning, so today I’ll show you the outside and around.

The house in the landscape

Phil and Dennis the dog (she’s a lady 🙂 ) on the balcony.

view to the west

Eddy (and Dennis) scything feed for the goats 

Eddy has a basement workshop where he saws wood and does manly DIY stuff, and Gosia makes soaps,

After we had a look around the workshop, Eddy took us off to his shed to feed the goats and rabbits.

The shed is huge!

Eddy has two shed cats, we didn’t see Boris but Silvex was in-house

There are 6 lady goats whose names I can’t remember but here they all are and we got to feed them.

and not forgetting the rabbit

Our favourite view was to the west, and…

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Fraggle Report ~ Poland April 2017~part 1

We were very happy to have guests stay over the last weekend and I think you will agree that Frags has done a fantastic job of capturing the house and with more parts to come I wont have to write a blog post for a while as I will be re-blogging all of them here 🙂 Thank you again to Frags and Phil who arrived as guest but left as friends, we look forward to their return, and the next post 🙂


Here it is then 🙂

My trip to Poland came about when Eddy on his blog (which can be found HERE) offered a free weekend B&B if someone would take photo’s of the house for his website advertising the B&B, and then Pete (who’s blog can be found HERE) suggested Eddy asked me. To cut a long story short, 4 weeks later Phil and I set off for Krakow from Newcastle and arrived on a dark and stormy Friday night.  I recognised Eddy straight way as we came out of the airport though I’d never seen a picture of him before,and even though he wasn’t wearing Lederhosen :).  It was a 2 hour journey back to where Eddy lives and as it was dark and raining we didn’t see much of the countryside, but it didn’t matter as we chatted on so much and got to know each other, and planned out…

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Movie myth busted!

We headed out yesterday, after lunch, to pop in and see a few friends. The first couple are building a ‘tiny’ straw bale house. Taking advantage of a Polish law that allows you to build something\anything as long as it’s footprint is no more than 35m2 (380ft2). No planning permission required.

It is the forth such building that we know of in our area and it is always interesting to see how people deal with the restricted space available to them. Personally having lived in digs, bedsits and small flats for most of my adult life I’m happy with the space we now have, but I can see the attraction and freedom that is this type of building provides. I may try my hand one day, once everything else is finished!

From there we went to new friends, Jesus and Marta, to exchange some oats for wheat, we had some spare after planting and plenty set aside for our own goats. They needed feed for there newly acquired goats and had some wheat spare from there tortilla making enterprise. It turned out to be quite an eye opener as we realised the scale of the business, big industrial machines; grinders, mills, ovens, and most of it shipped from Mexico where Jesus is originally from. They are the only manufacturer of traditional corn tortillas in Poland and they supply direct to restaurants all over Poland.

We were treated to some traditional Mexican food, Malina was kept entertained by their three boys and it was almost 8pm before we headed off home with close to a two hour journey ahead of us.

Pottering along at around 50mph, the road twists and turns through the countryside, up hills with duel carriageways to let the faster traffic pass and then down the other side.

Now I don’t drive too fast, I don’t see the point, but you always pick up a bit of speed on the decent, dabbing the brakes to keep control, so imagine my surprise when the brake pedal gave under my foot and hit the floor! Immediately struck with the thought of all the movies I have seen when the brakes fail in speeding cars and my assertion that you should simply use your gears and handbrake to slow down and stop, that’s exactly what I did. From fifth to third, then second and first gears whilst applying the hand brake on and off and we came to a stop a couple of hundred meters down the road.

So that’s the movie myth busted, my work is done, although I’m not sure what happens if you are driving an automatic? 🙂


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”

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)


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!

If I was a bee

I keep worrying about the bees, as you may have noticed, so when I read this I thought I would share it; wonderful words as are many of the Optimistic Pessimist.

The optimistic pessimist

If I was a bee

Where would I be?

Flying free

A breeze carrying me

Or sat near a tree

By the old factory

Looking down on the flea

Envious of me.


If I was a bee

What would I be?

A worker endlessly

Toiling restlessly

Until the end of me

Diseased horribly

Dying painfully

Farmers forgetting me.


If I was a bee

How would I be?

Magic maker me,

Sweet creativity

Feeding everybody

Damaged chemically

Who will protect me?

You will miss my honey.


© Jennifer Winterburn

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