500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

How warm is warm?

December8

This is our first winter at Nový Mlýn. We now have a water supply, and wood burning stoves in place to heat the property… and nowhere else to run to. My greatest personal fear (after global warming above 2 degrees!) is the cold. I recently bought a set of 10 thermometers from a seller on Ebay. The purpose – to give us an accurate idea of the temperature in various parts of the house. Sent from China, nine out of ten of them functioned – though the (included) hydrometers clearly don’t work as some are taking measurements of more than 100%. On Saturday I put these up around the house and the results have been… well… no surprise really. Rooms that we heat are warm… the north side of the property is colder than the south, the upstairs hallway warmer than the downstairs. What is more surprising is that comfortable temperatures can vary so much.

The weather turned cold early this year … with a good half foot of snow falling on the 13th October. We were lucky because by chance we’d bought two extra wood burning stoves two days before the snow, one for the bathroom and one for our bedroom. With the old range in the kitchen and barrel stove heating the guest bedrooms, this means that the rooms which needed to be warm have been so. The hallway is many cubic metres of air space, so I’m not yet entirely sure how much heat we’ll put into a place which is used only to walk through – it would seem a waste. We put a large curtain (well, bedspread) across the hall by the front door to prevent heat escaping until we manage to get the secondary door in there. The hallway stands at about 10 degrees – the same temperature as you’d find constantly under the ground. I wonder if this is a coincidence. If we can manage bedroom, kitchen & bathroom temperatures between 17-20 degrees c and other spaces within the house at about 10 degrees, the winter will not be unpleasant.

Novy Mlyn and our ABC’s (Katie & Rich)

December3

Apples! The amazing discovery by Nic and Katie of how amazing thinly sliced apples soaked in honey is on porridge ..and how un-amazing it is if you soak cubes of apple and pear in honey…
Baking, Beans, Bike Rides, Burrrito eating contests and…..BUNBURY (Nic and Mikes‘s new little puppy named after our lovely, sophisticated and exciting home town)!
Chopping wood. Excellent form of anger release. Composting toilet. Poo with a view. Satisfying. Constipation. Cheese Cheese Cheese Cheese Cheese
Digging holes. Composting toilet holes. Who would have knew this was rich’s dream job? professional poo digger.
Eating amazing foods. Curries, Roast dinners, Vegetarian delights and excellent beer and mulled wine. going to be hard to go back to a backpackers diet of crackers and tuna..
Forrest. Some of the most stunning scenic walks we have been on. Nic and Mike are one lucky couple.
Gigantic knitting needles. The talented knitter Nic and her epic needles that knitted the first ever once you start you can’t stop jumper.
Haircuts. Richard received a beautifully crafted Mohawk..with mike’s very short clippers. Henrik’s bullet wound! Shot by a rock in a poo hole!
Indoor soccer matches. Gave an insight into how unfit a few workaways were. Irish Football game – tragedy!
Jams. Henrik on lead guitar, Noel on the ear piercing tin whistle, Richard on deep smooth vocals and Katie with earplugs. Special note to Henrik for his talented guitar playing.
Kitty cats. With both of us not having the strongest of love towards cats we have made a complete turn around. Pavaoc, George and little Zizka made us fall in kitty love. Going to miss the morning cuddles from Zizka and the face plants from George.(don’t worry George..things will be ok without your balls)
Lifting bucket after bucket of rubble from the dining room. Tyre flooring experiment is now near completion. just waiting on that wood! Hopefully it will be a huge success!
Mushrooms. Eating mushrooms, picking mushrooms, cooking mushrooms and Noel drinking mushrooms. think we may have become part mushroom? Middlesborough = SHITE! HAHA
Nights out in Tabor. Epic. How could we not forget the Hoegarden beer, great feed at two cats and foosball tournaments and 12 hour sessions…
Oooooooooooooooo!! The discovery of a real breakfast in Tabor!! This had to be the happiest day of Mike and Nic’s life (ok maybe a slight exaggeration but still, you can’t go past a great cooked breakfast after a few too many beers at the Lev)
Porridge. sweet beautiful amazing porridge. thinking of marrying it rather than marrying Richard. And can’t forget Ping pong. Had our first ever game of epic ping pong. with everyone in the pub…going to bring this game to the Olympics. Pumpkin Pie! James thanksgiving treat. Poker – thanks again James….for your money!
Questionable motives behind Richard’s online dating service for Noel.
Restoration. The marathon restoration of the bookshelf. so satisfying to see it blissfully clean and varnished. Raw meat should also be mentioned here….Rich = thumbs up, Katie = undecided.
Sawing through massive logs gave us both massive guns and a massive need for tea breaks. Stalkers…Clay ones.
Tea glorious tea. Maybe the result of late night toilet runs but tea is VERY important in a days work needed at regular 2 hour intervals (or half hour ones).
Undulating hills on cute little bikes make the bikes seem less cute and more demon like…but so rewarding when reaching the destinations of Cernovice and Czech Castles.
Violent – Noels chopping technique! Actually just Noel in general.
Workawayers..Claire, Henrik, Noel and James. Our stay would not of been the same without the American arsonist, Smooth Swede, Impotent Irishman and the anti-dish American. Wedding of the century – Henrik and Lenke (BFG!).
Xrated on-line dating profiles of Henrik and Noel.
YES!Yes yes yes…the discovery of a hangover cure drink in Tabor. still yet to decide if it actually works or not..
Zizka adorable. We will very much miss Nic and Mike who made our stay so pleasant and rewarding. Thanks so much guys, we will send you a bucket load of cheese from England or maybe we will start a good cheese factory in Tabor.. Summer will most certainly bring upon a return visit to the beautiful Novy Mlyn as I don‘t think we can stay away for too long!

Nový Mlýn Apples in Honey & Incidental Mead

November30

By the beginning of October it was not possible to dry apples in the sun any longer and I didn’t want to buy a small and power-hungry fruit drying machine. We have made cherry compote, but I’m keen to avoid using sugar as the main preservative here because it has to travel so far (food miles) and is not good for our teeth or waistlines. Therefore, the majority of the cherry compote is, rather tellingly, still in the cupboard.
I’ve been doing some research about alternatives and have come across some great information about honey. My interest was sparked by a radio article about honey from the Pyramids still being edible after thousands of years in storage. Eating locally produced honey is said to help build up a resistance to hay fever, and it was used as a preservative since Roman times, long before sugar was available so far from the equator. I tend to use honey to sweeten my current favourite Dilmah Green Tea with Moroccan Mint, as well as breakfast porridge, therefore it made sense to also use it to store apples that could not be dried.
Apples sliced with the kitchen mandolin and layered into the honey worked very well – they have kept their colour (unlike the vodka apples from 2007 which went brown very quickly). The only problem is that we keep eating them… meaning that I can’t judge how long they will keep. They are delicious on porridge (made with water) with a dash of cream – a good, hearty winter breakfast.
The apples and pears that we cut into cubes behaved rather differently – they started to ferment in a very short time, and the liquid bubbled out of the storage jars, slowly spreading a sticky goo around the kitchen. I eventually gave up on these, instead I drained the fruit and put it in with a batch of mulled wine – the result – apple or pear poached in mulled wine has made a very tasty desert to share with guests. The liquid continues to ferment – I’m adding it to tea, but it is beginning to loose it’s sweetness so I’m curious to see how this incidental mead will turn out.
I look forward to experimenting with cherries in honey in 2010.

By Emily

November3

Coming from the bustling streets of Prague, I was ready for the lull and undiscovered woods of the countryside. I had pieced together my idea of Novy Mlyn from images on a computer screen: sweetly colored pears basking outside, an endearing huddle of mushrooms in the bottom of a basket, a row of trees bending together in the mist of a field, instructions on how to fix a butterfly wing: A conglomeration of whimsy and authenticity. When Mike picked me up from the bus station (after nearly getting killed by an ornate bus) I was already enamored with the Czech countryside and it’s bassooning hills. Novy Mlyn unfolded into all of those images I had first imagined and then multiplied on itself in depth and form and sense. There were eons of wealth in this piece of land, the four floors of space and earthy smells, the heaving barns and scrawling lush trees. I became convinced that magic burgeoned from the soil: the wild hedgehogs cultivated it, the pennybuns discussed the intricacies of the land’s fantasy. Off in the middle of the night there were exhilarated creatures that met with joyfully patterned scarves; they waved them around in ancient dances and ceremonies to preserve the spirit of this place. Yes, the land seemed enchanted and would enchant anyone who listened to it. Mike and Nic had listened carefully and they had found themselves intimately connected and tending to an accordion of history, intoxicating corridors and blossoming spaces.

It was solacing to run your palm along the cool walls of the house, see the winter light through the warm kitchen windows, smell the footprints and creaks in the encompassing attic. The house is an organism, alive in its transformation. The wood stoves its sultry respiratory system, its peeling walls its constantly renewing skin. Nic and Mike revitalized its heart and all the workawayers are guided around the house’s circulatory and nervous system, like artistic plasma.

There was not one project I did not enjoy working on. I started refinishing a window, its layers of sea green paint telling me about the turn of the century. We unsheathed the attic from a cloak of dust and bat leftovers, the air crisp and the atmosphere nostalgic. We fondled presents from the ocean and destroyed yet delicate china until the tesserae were laid out on the window sill in a mosaic. I helped button up the corners of the house and prepare it for winter (that came overnight). We all cooked and laughed and slept in warm beds. There is a constant air of movement and progress at Novy Mlyn: Refigure. Build up. Tear down. Smooth away. Research about. Wire together. Clear. Stitch. Make. Continue.

Amidst the work we wandered through the woods. When the snow fell the whole valley became even more sacred. We found a herd of horses careening through the wet ground and nuzzling in the cold. We came across an architect’s grave; an oval portrait with muted color in his cheeks by the patient lake. Novy Mlyn took its blanket of snow gracefully and shined in its white coat.

It was so hard to leave such a wonderful place with lovely people that we decided to stay longer. When the time finally came for our departure, we wrapped all the interesting projects and ideas, shared dinners and marvelous cats into a resonating memory. Novy Mlyn will be vivid to me in its pocket of enchantment nestled by the edge of the world. I think Nic and Mike and Novy Mlyn have found the perfect match in each other and I wish them all the best. I hope I can come back someday, maybe to live in the attic!

Wood Stoves: A Cautionary Tale (from Claire)

October21

At the conclusion of my first week at Nový Mlýn, I’ve developed what you might call a frienemy. How is this possible, you ask, when only the nicest hosts, the coolest workers, and three adorable cats inhabit Nový Mlýn? Two words: wood stoves. When my toes are numb or when I’m snuggling into my bed for the night, they’re the best friends a girl could ever ask for. Or when I shower and there’s one right there, just waiting for me to finish so that it can continue to keep me warm through the drying-off process, I love them. But it was also in the bathroom last night that one of the stoves turned on me, rightly earning the enemy half of their title. As I took a quick shower, my beloved sweatpants, Vassar sweatshirt, and incredibly warm socks were nestled in a basket next to the stove. When I went to put them all on again after the shower, they were, gasp, MELTED! Who knew that cotton could melt? Not I. True, I must’ve knocked them closer to the heat while reaching for a bar of soap in the basket, but still I was heartbroken to know that the stove was capable of such destruction. And as I gaped at it in horror, it just stood there steadfastly as if to say, “Who me? No, of course not!” Not unlike George, the cat here who favors jumping on the counters to steal cheese, and then stares at you innocently when you scold him and then boot him out of the kitchen.

Alas, I should’ve known the treachery of the wood stoves, as just the night before I essentially fried two of my fingers after grabbing a hot pot off the top of one. And again, here, I should mention the human element of negligence involved, but still! I mean, I had to sleep with my fingers in a glass of ice water! We’re talking blisters and all. FYI: honey compresses, vinegar soaks, and lavender oil are all excellent home remedies for painful burns.

Luckily, no other object at Nový Mlýn has declared war on me. Last week Emily and I worked on drilling holes into the walls that surround the windows, and then we sawed IKEA curtain rods down to size in an effort to eventually cover each window with an insulating duvet. Even though it was my first time using both a handsaw and a drill, each provided nothing short of a stellar performance. We finished the job covered in red dust from the drilled brick walls and that, combined with my new tool usage, made me feel pretty badass and awesome.

I also had the pleasure of helping Emily finish a gorgeous mosaic on one of the front windowsills. She had already plastered down most of a very cool swirling star design and I simply helped her fill in the last spaces with some sea glass. It was a lot of fun picking out the most interesting pieces of broken porcelain and glass, and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to learn a little bit about doing a mosaic. The only downfall was the weather; three days of constant snow doesn’t exactly nurture the best environment for being outside working with bare fingers. Therefore we took frequent tea breaks while we defrosted our numb hands next to a wood stove (oh, wood stoves…). The mosaic still needs to be grouted since Emily and Grier have just left Nový Mlýn to continue their travels. Luckily, one of the new Australian workers, Katie, has experience with grouting and has volunteered to take on the final step of the mosaic.

The past couple of days have been pretty mellow and actually quite domestic. Henrik from Sweden and Richard from Australia have undertaken the everlasting task of chopping wood while Katie and I have been doing a few little sewing jobs. Aside from pricking myself about 100 times and cursing at the thread, which liked to slip out of the needle at only the most inconvenient moments, it was nice sitting by the fire and being domestic. Today, Henrik braved the melting snow by himself to tend to the wood, while Katie and Richard worked on a draft of the Nový Mlýn property. In the meantime, I’ve been taking pictures of everyone else working and then writing about it, calling that my own form of work for the day…

Clafoutis for you!

October16

As cooked by Emily:

Clafoutis aux Cerises

Baked cherry pudding, serves 4-6

Butter for greasing

750g/ 1 ½ lb black cherries, or other fruits and berries

4 eggs

Salt

100g/3 ½ oz sugar

70g/2 ½ oz flour

70g/2 ½ oz butter

250ml/9fl oz milk

Sugar for sprinkling

Generously butter a wide, shallow oven dish and arrange the cherries evenly over the bottom. Beat the eggs lightly in a large bowl; whisk in a pinch of salt and the sugar. Sift the flour gradually, still whisking. Melt two-thirds of the butter and beat it tin. Stir in the milk.

Pour this batter over the cherries and dot with the remaining butter. Bake at 200°C/400°F/Gas6 for 35-40 minutes until the batter is set. If you don’t want to serve immediately, it may help to prevent the batter sinking if you turn the oven down to 150 °C/325°F/Gas3 and bake for a few minutes longer. Sprinkle with sugar and serve hot or lukewarm, with cream.

Nový Mlýn Dried Apples

October8

This year, we wasted not a single apple at Nový Mlýn. In terms of sustainable living, the two of us could probably live on apples alone as we have a vast number of trees here. Experiments in the past which failed included storing apples in the cellar wrapped individually in paper in 2007 (out of sight equalled out of mind, and we never got round to using them before they turned bad), cooking apple sauce for the freezer in 2008 (which is still in the freezer), cutting them up and putting them raw into vodka – which created great apple flavour vodka, but not so great vodka flavoured apples which we didn’t use. I tried adding apple to recipes such as West Country Stroganoff – however Mike wasn’t keen, and in general we don’t eat deserts – so though the Tabor Apple Bomb was nice, it wasn’t going to use up even a small percentage of apples.
The process of juicing the apples was really messy (especially before we had water here), and we need a device to crush the apples before putting them in the press. This is something we need to work on when we have a larger apple crop. We plan to make cider in the future – I do hope that the apples are of a good variety for this.
So, this year, as soon as apples started falling from the trees, I began to experiment with sun drying apples. At first I carefully cored each apple and sliced it using a kitchen mandolin from a Moseley jumble sale. It’s possible to prepare the apples really quickly – you need a very narrow sharp blade to cut out the core by cutting a circle the size of a ring around the stalk. As you slice the apple, you can pick off any bits of seed, and the fibrous flakes around the core are no problem as they are sliced so thinly.
Leaving them in the sun directly dried the very thin slices of apple out quickly, but was way too interesting for all sorts of flying insects – a layer of muslin above and below the apples solved the problem. I needed some kind of wire rack so that air could circulate underneath, and came across two wired bed bases in the attic – once we’d cleaned these up, they were perfect. We positioned them in the middle of the garden – for maximum sunlight and apples would dry out within a couple of hours on a hot day.
Once the apples were dry, I put them in large jars with a piece of fabric held in place with an elastic band as a lid. These were placed in the kitchen window so that they could continue to dry if necessary. They have been a great success. We put them out on the kitchen table as snack food in the evening, and they are quickly devoured. I’ve now labelled the jars with the month for consumption so that we can share them with visitors throughout of the year.
A note: the first apples were not so ripe and produced sour apple rings – which were good, but different from the sweet apple rings later in the season. We tried pear, however these dried rather differently – rather thin and lumpy – Rosie & Esther’s Pear Chutney was a far better use for them.

Flourless chocolate cake…so easy

October3

As cooked by Rachel

INGREDIENTS

* 4 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, chopped (I USE ¾ BAG OF TRADER JOE’S CHOC. CHIPS… WITHOUT MEASURING…. DOESN’T SEEM TO MATTER MUCH. 😉
* 1/2 cup butter
* 3/4 cup white sugar (less is more. not too sweet, brings out choc.)
* 1/2 cup cocoa powder (plus a little bit more to coat the pan with)
* 3 eggs, beaten (by hand)
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease an 8 inch round cake pan, and dust with cocoa powder. (JUST SPRINKLE COCOA POWDER OVER A GREASED CAKE PAN WITH A SPOON. THEN TILT IT BACK AND FORTH SHAKING IT AROUND, TILL THE COCOA COVERS BOTTOM AND SIDES WELL.)

2. In the top of a double boiler over lightly simmering water, melt chocolate and butter. Remove from heat, and vigorously stir in sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Slices can also be reheated for 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave before serving.

IMPOSSIBLE TO GO WRONG. NOTHING MUCH IN IT. NOTHING MUCH TO IT. EXCEPT, OF COURSE, HOW FABULOUS IT TASTES.

Ten extra pairs of hands later…

September25

I registered Nový Mlýn on a website called workaway.info earlier in the summer.  I was looking for volunteering opportunities – so I could go and stay on a farm where I could learn about looking after lamas, or organic apple farming. The deal is that you provide food and accommodation, and your volunteers will work for 5 hours each day, 5 days a week.  It took me a while to realise that people might want to come and stay with us here on that basis, but filled in the application form as prettily as I could. I had no idea how much interest there would be with a project like ours…  but quickly discovered that a calendar was necessary to organise visitors!

Up to today we have hosted Jess, Rosie, Sian, Caro, Helen, Rachel, Rosie (2 – our research shows that 66% of English women are called Rosie), Esther, Matt and Andrew… ten people…  and only three people have ever left!

We started in June with individual visitors – though the house was often full with family, friends or the Global Agents for Change (team of 20 riders plus film crew). We doubled our numbers when Sian and Caro were here at the same time… then Rachel arrived as well. Caro and Rachel have formed a crack baking team – they’ve really shown us how far you can go with the new oven – with a constant production of cakes and pies to keep our energy levels up.

Currently we have Rosie and Esther here too … they had been volunteering at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales for the past year.  I have heard a lot about CAT so it’s wonderful to have visitors who have spent a considerable amount of time there.  It’s been really great to compare notes with them about all sorts of eco technology – high and low.

Sian is leaving today. She has worked like a trooper and is incredibly strong – she also blasted a lot of my students’ stereotypes about women… her job back in Australia was working in explosives in an iron ore mine – and her ovaries are fine!* Sian single handedly shifted tonnes of rubble away from the kitchen & we suspect would have dug her way back to Australia given too long. We now have a cellar with lighting and a concrete floor, walls in the hallway, stripped and varnished floors in all the bedrooms, a hot shower, washing machine, oven and freezer – (all post Sian developments). She’s been great fun to spend time with and we’ll really miss her sense of humour.  Our plots to keep her here have so far failed – (finding a Czech for her to marry – for example) but we hope she’ll come back some time.

It has been really useful seeing how the house operates with 7 visitors… though Matt and Andrew (also from Australia) have their own camper van so I didn’t need to find a bed for them. Andrew has contributed way more experience in chopping wood than I was expecting from a design specialist!

Over recent weeks we’ve eaten some really fantastic meals (though, now, cooking for nine, people are a little more daunted by the task!) and been introduced to the idea of desserts (not at all usual for us two). We’ve heard lots of new music and been educated in many different ways. By the end of October we’ll be down to one or two visitors and things will quieten down for mid winter – I can’t now imagine Nový Mlýn with only us here!

(*My Czech students often warn me that certain types of work are bad for the ovaries and so, as a woman, I shouldn’t dig or lift heavy things).

Foundling

August28

A kitten was put (unnoticed) into the car of a friend when he was at a petrol station today. He discovered it when he got to our house, and offered to take it out and leave it in the forest ‘to let nature take care of it’ – he doesn’t like cats very much.

The kitty is ginger (like Jiri and George the second), weighs 300 grams, has all his front teeth and wobbles as he walks – which means he’s over 3 weeks old and should be fed every 5 hours. I’m feeding him soya milk formula. He needs 80ml of formula every day. I have a 1ml syringe with the top cut off which seems to be working as a way of feeding him – so 16 lots at 5 hour intervals. He arrived at about 2pm and so far he’s not pooed… but at least he’s eaten (he’s had quite a lot of soya milk).

There is no cat’s protection league here, so we can’t just hand him in. Luckily there are websites like kitten-rescue.com to help.

He’s way too young to be away from his mother, but we’ll try our best. This will make for an interesting day tomorrow… we’re going to Cesky Krumlov with our Aussie visitor, then collecting a couple of Taiwanese couchsurfers before going to camp overnight at the cottage of a Czech friend who is having her 50th birthday party… all with a 3 week old kitten in tow.

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