500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

Eating the weeds


Over the last few weeks since Joann left the house has seemed very quiet.  We’ve been outnumbered by the animals. Jaakko has been concentrating on building the hen house, and I have been moving rubble out of the garden by the wheel barrow load. I’m really happy that reinforcements arrived yesterday in the form of American Chris and Hollander Michiel – it’s great to have the house busy again and hear interesting stories of other lives.

Slowly things are becoming green, but as yet there are no leaves on the trees. Some of the seeds that we planted inside have germinated – the broccoli, onions, wild rocket and sorrel have made an appearance, but none of the others… it’s possible that they didn’t react well to the cats climbing in the boxes. Today we’ve transplanted broccoli, and companion planted Nasturtiums with it (another edible plant). Michial has built a sturdy frame to protect the puny seedlings, and we’ve experimented with a few different techniques of plant protection using the cuttings from the apple trees and old net curtains. Read the rest of this entry »

The big spring melt…


… is under way. This is the longest winter I have ever experienced, and now, at the end of March, we still have snow on the ground. It first fell in mid October – so that’s a fair few months of sub zero temperatures. It rained the other day – wetness falling from the air is a completely new experience for our 5 month old puppy – who we seem to have inadvertently snow toilet trained.

Last week Joann and I went on an expedition to collect willow switches with which to plant a living willow fence at the bottom of our land. It became a bit of a mission when we had to clamber through soft snow of more than a foot deep… carrying our bundles of sticks with our lively pup either pulling on the rope tying the willow together, or wrapping me up very effectively with her lead. But – it was a rare day of winter sunshine and it was beautiful to be outside nonetheless. The area we were gathering from is now completely flooded with melt water. Read the rest of this entry »

Nový Mlýn Menu


We’ve shared some great meals with visitors over the last six months, and each person who comes to us brings with them food ideas from their own family and culture. Here is some inspiration for when we forget what we could have for dinner:

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What will we be?


Our experience of living at Nový Mlýn so far has made us realise that it is essential for the house to have visitors. It’s way to big for two people, and we are happy to share our good fortune. We are only going to be able to invite multiple volunteer visitors if we can find a way of covering costs, and we need to begin to think about how the house can be income generating in the future. Initially we thought that we would eventually have some kind of hotel or guest house. When I think of a hotel – I think of strangers visiting and not interacting with the house or the community, and who really feels ‘at home’ in a hotel?

When we have volunteer visitors, Nový Mlýn feels very much like a fairly tightly organised house-share. Everyone contributes to the running of the household in terms of cooking meals & clearing away afterwards , as well as other household chores (we have discovered that this works best with a timetable).  One great thing about the workaway visitors is that they make themselves at home… anyone can have a look in the fridge for something interesting, bake a cake or make a round of tea –  when we have paying visitors, I don’t want to lose this feeling of house-share rather than service, though how to make it work?

Well, how about it being available as a short term house-share for long term travellers?  People can rent a bed for a night (including simple breakfast), with full board available for a slightly higher fee. We can build up to the vision of a sustainable country house hoštel in time, now that we’ve realised that we’d probably never want to run Nový Mlýn as a hotel.

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


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


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.


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


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 »

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