500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

What is it with the Czechs and sand?


On Sunday we learnt an important lesson – why chimneys should be regularly cleaned.  The lesson was, of course, too late – as we had by then already set our house on fire. To our rescue came Chynov fire brigade. With great efficiency they poured sand down our chimney and put out the blaze. When the police arrived, I told the officer that the firemen were on the roof, putting songs in the chimney (Pisek/Pisen). My Czech is not good.
This is the second time I have been rescued by Czechs filling something up with sand.

When he was a child, my grandfather watched as Exeter was set ablaze during the second world war. As he watched it burn, a bomb fell a few feet away from him. He felt the ground heave up… but the bomb did not detonate.  When the bomb disposal officer arrived, my grandfather followed him to the crater where there lay a 1100 pound bomb ‘as big as a dinner table’. When they opened it they discovered a note written in pencil saying ‘to the people of England from the people of Czechoslovakia, this bomb will not explode’. The bomb had been filled with sand.

When we got married in Prague (31st May 2005, Old Town Hall), I tried to tell the story about the bomb to the official conducting the service…  a strange feeling – if it had not been for the bravery of unknown saboteurs…

Chynov fire brigade – first class service


So… we’re just sitting down after the fire crew have left.

To dry the plaster going on in the new kitchen/dining room we lit the old boiler fire.  A while later the chimney set light.

Ironically, sweeping the chimneys was something that I had asked our previous builder to arrange for us before we came out to visit Novy Mlyn before we lived over here. It didn’t happen. I didn’t think about it… one of those someday soon jobs.

So, when I went up to the attic to see what was going on there were flames coming out of the access hatch. Mike et al put out the old boiler fire & Zdenek called the fire service, then we used wet blankets to block up all the access points we could find for air to get into the chimney.

When the fire service arrived they carried sand up onto the roof and threw it down the chimney. It did cross my mind that we could walk away from the house at that point. Leave Novy Mlyn and the problems there contained and simply walk away into the forest – it was strangely calming. The fire is now out, but the fire inspector said that the chimneys hadn’t been cleaned for many, many years. We need to get them all swept and inspected before we can light the fires again.  There is a risk of reignition over the next two or three days because of the heat still in the chimney.

George – last seen on the 5th September 2008


Our gorgeous cat, George, has gone missing.  He ran away while we were away in the UK. We are all very sad. Pavouk, in particular, is pining. We are devastated at the loss of such a fine character.

So that our lives are not completely dominated by computer work (such as our project for language learners), all four of us normally go for a walk together in the forest every evening. Once, while out walking, both cats decided to explore the hunter’s cabin (essentially a shed on long sticks with a window). I was lucky to get a picture of George actually looking out of the window of the cabin. What a fine hunter he is. 

I have put up posters in the local villages, but people don’t seem to care very much about cats here. Our last builder expressed surprise when we told him we planned to bring our cats over from the UK – “Why don’t you just get them put down and get new ones here”. The single most unappealing Czech habit I have come across is that if a cat is run down on the road, nobody will stop to remove the body.

I really, really hope that George found new owners, and more than that, I hope he will find his way home some time. But the snow will be here soon – he’s running out of time.

Life isn’t the same with just the three of us.

Mortgage problems


We thought we had it sorted… after a ridiculously long process we had agreed the mortgage and drawn down the first payment to cover the cost of the roof and rewiring… until a call today.

Apparently, we have some buildings missing.  Because of this, the Czech government register of property will not enter our mortgage on the property register.  Potentially this means that we are not meeting our side of the mortgage agreement. And this means… that the bank could ask for it back. After all, banks need money at the moment.

We’re totally stressed out at the moment, with George missing and the house in such a mess. Extra pressure is the last thing we need. With my doom-mongering head on, I think they’ll take the house off us and sell it.

The missing buildings have been gone for years – but somebody should have let officials know about it. Let’s hope we can get this sorted out, and quickly – unlike the water permit, which took 18 months.  My positive motivation is nearly completely destroyed.

Surviving mushroom season


We came, we saw, we copied. In this case, the great national pastime of the Czech Republic, mushroom collecting, indulged in by 80% of the population here. We’d been watching people walking past the house with overflowing baskets for some 3 months before we decided to give it a go ourselves. As with the apples, we nearly missed the boat.

Now the temperatures have dropped and the season has finished, I’m really missing it. It was lovely to take 1/2 hour or so every day to meander through the forest together & I now feel like I know my locale that bit better. I wonder if the start of the hunting season is also a push factor to the conclusion of mushroom picking here – as some varieties still grow now… if you’re wondering around in the forest, there’s a risk of being mistaken for something else (two easy ways to die through misidentification in mushroom picking). Read the rest of this entry »

Altitude & temperature calculations


I’ve been working on our project plan today, and thinking about heating. One very useful website I found today is called Gaisma, the data from which I should be able to use to calculate what will be the most effective way of heating our home.

Nový Mlýn is at an altitude of 540 metres above sea level. It is this factor which is the main influence on our climate. We’re about 90 metres higher than our nearest town, Tábor, but close in altitude to a neighbouring town Pelhřimov. The average temperatures are likely to be above 10 degrees c for six months of the year (that includes night time temperatures).

Our approach to heating is decidedly ‘suck it and see’. This winter we will use the traditional heating method for this area – i.e. wood burning stoves, and see how successful this is. Will we manage to keep warm? How much wood will we need? Will the daily work of setting fires become a grind? There’s one way to find out.

We’ve moved our bedroom so it’s above the dining room & kitchen, which we keep warm during the day. The bedroom is now adjoining the room upstairs with the super efficient barrel shaped stove. So far, so good, but the temperature outside is a mere 0, and it has much further to go.

Why do something when we’re not sure?


Rock Bog – how to make an effective low flush female friendly urinal


Make your own Rock Bog, it will save loads of water and is really simple, and best of all free.

Convert one of your toilets into a Rock Bog by putting one or two large stones in the bottom of the pan, then reducing the amount of water in the flush with stones or bricks so that you have just a 1 or 2 litre flush.

Why? You’ll have a super efficient liquid only loo which can be used by men AND women (no not so mellow yellow splash back for the ladies). You will save water and money AND it will look nice (a Zen garden in your loo!).

A free idea for you from Bog – the accessible eco bathroom Read the rest of this entry »

Project Management for beginners


We have been drifting. Drifting, and meeting new friends, and slowly figuring out how Nový Mlýn works, and appreciating our good fortune to be here and now, however, drifting. It’s time to take charge of our destiny & put the Nový Mlýn show on the road.

When I lived in London, I wanted to do an MBA (masters in business administration), but there was no way in hell that my employers would commit to this. Instead I researched the syllabus of a decent MBA & studied each area in turn, using resources such as the library system. I don’t have the kudos of the qualification, but what I learned has been incredibly useful.

So… I will employ the same technique to learning about project management. I’ve project managed before – market research, events & playschemes, but I’ve had an inkling that there must be more method to complex projects than a business plan and a Gantt chart. Read the rest of this entry »

Eat local… but who’se heard of Cep mushrooms in Britain?


Something has happened in my brain… I seem to have lost the ability to hazard a guess at English pronunciation of unfamiliar words. My pronunciation has completely czechified, as a result, I shall now be teaching people here the Italian word for Hřib mushrooms: Porcini. I think that very few British people would know what Cep were, or that they are the very same thing as those very exclusive Porcini mushrooms:


Read the rest of this entry »

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