500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

I’m just going outside and may be some time.

February8

At it’s deepest, the winter has given us the experience of twenty five degrees below zero.   I have fond memories of the days when I thought ten degrees c was cold… I noticed myself thinking when I saw this temperature on the thermometer on my bedroom wall –  “oh good, it’s not too cold then.”  Luckily, manual labour is very warming.

The week in which we experienced minus twenty five was rather catastrophic. Over the weekend we lost drainage, and then a chimney fire on Monday night meant that we had no heating at the house until we had a certificate to say that the chimneys had been swept.  A couple of weeks before the chimney fire we had texted a chimney sweep, but had not chased it up when there was no immediate reply. Next time we will know that when the fires start to burn less strongly, it’s time to get the sweep to visit.  I’d thought it was just because of damp wood. Anyway, the net result is that the core temperature of the house has fallen dramatically. We are down to zero. Read the rest of this entry »

Nový Mlýn Sustainable Housekeeping

January15

I have been thinking about how to record what we are learning at Nový Mlýn.  It would be really useful to have a written guide of how the house operates through the seasons; jobs that happen once a year or every day. At present, this repetitive work occupies a great deal of my time – taking time away from all the ongoing projects – things that would make a quantifiable improvement in our standard of living. This indicates that I need to improve my management skills. As visitors are with us for sometimes as little as a week, Joann suggested that I need to have more information written down.

Housekeeping is a shared task at Nový Mlýn, and every visitor currently chooses one task each day. We have a rota for housekeeping and meal preparation as we discovered that without a rota things just didn’t happen. “We’ll just make it up as we go along” = one person will have to do all jobs nobody else thinks about.  I need to become better organised at training people housework skills, and I need to become stricter at ensuring these jobs are then done.  If I am unable to take this role within the household, things fall apart pretty rapidly – as we’ve discovered times I’ve been ill or away.  For Nový Mlýn to be sustainable – it should operate with or without me.

Rain Lights – wet days converted into light.

January2

So, the issue of micro generation has been at the back of my mind for some time. The standard arguments about it are that if you are going to have a home generator of some description –  solar cells (ridiculously expensive at present), wind turbine or water turbine, you end up with a lot of maintenance and a payback time which is uneconomic (ie the amount of embedded energy needed to create the system will take too long to be made up by the equipment during it’s lifetime).  Dedicated enthusiasts and those who have serious amounts of money to invest can create their own personal electricity supply. Read the rest of this entry »

Gardening by Noel Gallagher

December9

I should tell you what I know about gardening… but I don’t know how much of it is true…
In organic growing you’re depending on earthworms to do a lot of the work for you, if you ever lift up a piece of cowshit in a field you see under, worms having dinner. Worms dig the soil for you. They bring organic matter down under and aerate the soil. So a school of ‘no-dig’ gardeners has come about, because digging is bad for the soil and hard work and it kills everything. But to have this work you need to mulch to keep the weeds down and give the worms something to eat. I get cow dung off my neighbour, lots of it.
So I experiment with this type of no-dig gardening. Last year I mad a bed about 4ft wide and 10 ft long. I made a few, put down newspaper (about 20 sheets thick) then put about 1/2 foot of dung on top. Then using triangles planted potatoes in a bit of compost (triangles make more space than rows).
Of course everybody complained about the smell of cowshit, but not about the spuds in the summer. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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.

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