The cottage in Halogy Banner image. The Hungary project Halogy Arms RSS Feed
[Valid RSS]

November 2008

Date 1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|9|10|11|12|13|14|15|16|17|18|19|20|21|22|23|24|25|26|27|28|29|30|

1st November 2008

Well, to my cost (not financial) I found out what all the wreathes were about. It was, of course, the First of November, and as we all know the First of November in the Western Tradition is All Saints Day. It is also another bloody Bank Holiday, so I was well caught out - again!! All part of the learning curve. At least here in Hungary we don't go from August Bank Holiday to Christmas without a break :)

With the shop shut, I just had to get on and manage with what I had, including no beer. Gave me chance to dry out a bit. Thank goodness I had plenty of coffee and kavetejszin!

Started out as a nasty day. Cool and overcast, which rapidly changed to a persistent downpour, so making or laying bricks was out. I started roughly smoothing (err - what??) the first half of the press. Well, that is to say, getting the surface from a sawn wood state to a rough planed finish. Quite a lot of work to do yet though:
Working On The Wine Press Here am I looking particularly stupid, wondering whether the self timer on the camera was ever actually going to work!
I did say that it was starting to get a bit hefty, so I did a few calculations. I weighed a piece of the oak used in the construction of the press, measured it and calculated its density (or specific gravity, as we are on earth). It came out to 0.722 grammes per cubic centimetre. The one half of the press is (roughly) twenty one inches by ten and a half inches by eighty eight millimetres thick (don't ask why the mixed measurements!). A quick calculation revealed that without the weight of the glue or the ironmongery it is somewhere of the order of 8.8 kilogrammes in weight (done long hand in the pub). And that's just one half! I drilled out and plugged the nail holes in it too. I'll get a picture of that if I remember - rather good, though I say it myself.

That was about it for the day. Apart from thinking about, mentally designing, and putting together a nice walnut drain hole for the press. Home early from the pub, and early to bed. Did I mention beer flies? If I did, I will mention them again. The whole village is swarmed out with them. You could see them drifting into the pub in swarms. Everybody (well, nearly everybody) puts a beer mat on top of the glass. It is so bad that by the time you pour a beer into the glass you will have four or five flies in there too. Just as bad at home.

2nd November 2008

Another cool and grey day - just drizzly today. Lit the stove as usual. I haven't used the cooker or the one ring hob since I got the stove working. Made coffee and had walnuts for breakfast, as no bread. I called into play my last remaining sachet of Sainsburys dried yeast to make bread. I also called into play my new stainless steel bowl - not without first causing Pickle to gallop round the yard by threatening her with it, of course :)

Once the bread was rising, I started on the other half of the wine press. I was busily drilling and filing and sawing away when there was a "Hello" from the front gate. I poked my head out to see the partner of one of the "vas" girls with one of their children by the fence. With a bit of conversation and a bit of sign language I elucidated that he actually wanted to borrow a saw. I showed him the bow saw and he indicated that that was what he wanted. I handed it over in the assurance that it would be back in half an hour. It turned out to be a bit longer than that, but it did come back, in one piece. It's rather a nice comforting feeling actually, that I can be regarded in the village as someone to turn to for a bit of assistance.

I put the bread to prove and wound up the stove. It got a bit hot in the kitchen - I saw 26C on the thermometer. Haven't totally got the hang of the stove yet though. The bread turned out a bit too brown on the top (black actually) and a bit pale on the bottom. Nonetheless edible and delicious. An excellent side effect of the stove is that whilst it is lit I have an endless supply of piping hot water, via the kettle. It is, of course, like stepping back to the nineteen twenties, or nineteen thirties, or even in poorer homes the early nineteen fifties. We had a coal burning "range" with an open fire, and a kettle on a "hob". I used the hot water to give the kitchen and hallway a good mop out! Once the cold weather really kicks in, I can see my clothes washing routine changing to little and often, and I can see me moving the clothes drying thing from the bathroom to above the stove!

After lunch I blowlamped as much as I could stand of the inside bit of the other window in the big room. Then went to the pub for a couple of quick ones. Followed by a quick dash home, a quick meal and a quick change to get back to the pub for the F1. Amazing race! Helper was in there to watch the race too, and he had with him a bag of the cheesey scone-type things for me from his mother. The landlord also stood me a shot of "Hubertus". I've no idea why, in either instance, but it was nice. At one stage yesterday I had that feeling of "What the **ck am I doing here?" but today was a good day!

3rd November 2008

Sharon Astyk on the numbers in the recently leaked IEA report.

Laid bricks and packed earth.

The postie brought me a package I have been long expecting from the UK. Now, it's a bit strange that I ordered the item in September, and when it had not arrived after three weeks I e-mailed them and (politely) asked where the goods were. I had a reply after a couple of days to say they had been despatched. Strange then that the package I received today was post marked the 29th October! To cap it off the goods were wrong! Hmmmm.

I can't rightly remember where, but I was reading on some web site about how much valued young Hungarians are as problem solvers in business. It doesn't really surprise me, as (certainly in a rural area like Halogy) this is the land of "make do and mend". If anything can be recycled or put to another use it is. I suppose that I regard myself as a problem solver too. That is one of the reasons in my past life that I became so involved with computers. My Batchelor's Degree is for "Software Engineering Management". I still have a bit of a problem with that. And that is the "Software Engineering" bit. To this day I don't see it as an engineering discipline. To me, writing code at the basic level is a craft - like knitting, or woodwork. It is just the mindset of being able to deal with the logic at the level of '1's and '0's. Did you know that there are 10 types of people in the world - those that understand binary and those that don't! I digress - again.

In the afternoon I beat the sh*t out of the rest of the wall - including the outside of the bathroom:
The rest of the wall that will need rendering is uncovered... Wall
Then I went to the pub. I find my habits changing again with the seasons. Instead of having a quick one about tea time (hehe) - five o'clock ish - then going home, doing a bit, and returning in the evening, I find myself going to the pub at about half past five and staying until about eight, then home for the night. So it was this evening.

4th November 2008

Mike Ruppert quote on Peak Oil - "We're all screwed! But not everybody has to go down.". Well, that's why I'm here!

I set out to make bricks and the end fell out of the brick mould. Ah, well, a little woodworking instead of making bricks. It was another delightful Hungarian morning. I was told that the weather would be like this - just a gradual transition from summer to autumn to winter. I spent most of the day in just tee shirt and jeans. Need a pullover on first thing, but as soon as the sun comes up off it comes.

Did a bit more on the other half of the wine press. Well, I say a bit more - like most of the rest of the morning!

Pickle is limping, which is a worry. I can't find anything obviously wrong with her front feet or legs. Speaking of which, I found out about the shooting dogs thing. It is apparently part of Hungarian law that you are obliged in rural areas to shoot any dog that is astray or wandering about. Nice!

Finally managed to get round to burning the paint off the outside of one of the front windows. The horrible brown stuff literally peeled off, just with a whiff of the blowlamp.

Slowly but surely light shows at the end of the tunnel. I have one more window to strip (and both to do with the caustic solution) and sand down. Hopefully, one of these fine days, helper will appear and do some painting. I reckon on about another twenty earth bricks and probably a whole day making good minor imperfections in the wall. It has been unremitting donkey work since I started on the house. All pretence of gardening vanished, except when I had visitors. But hopefully all this stuff is a one-off. Certainly the wall repair - I really hope that it will last me out!

5th November 2008

Fifth of November, and lots of bonfires! Only they are all of the garden variety, it being one of the mornings that garden bonfires are allowed in the village. Another beautiful late autumn day - I say late autumn because you simply cannot consider it to be winter, whilst still working out of doors in a single layer of clothes. Pickle is still limping, but is still happy to gallop round the yard at top speed, and I still cannot find any obvious cause for her having a limp. Perhaps she is just taking the piss out of me :)

Huge tractors with multiple huge trailers continue to pass, laden with maize. It is scattered in odd places all around the country roads, and in some places on the mainroads. I should have collected a load, then I could have sweet corn next year for nothing! Huge combined harvesters also rumple by from time to time. I do mean huge, too - they take the entire width of the road through the village. By the way, did I ever mention about the name of the street where I live - the main street in the village -Petőfi utca. It is unremarkable in that virtually every village in Hungary has one. There are apparently eleven Petőfi utca's and four Petőfi ter's (squares) in Budapest. It is a bit odd in that it can also go by the name of Petőfi Sándor utca - the mail will still find me!

I did a bit more on the wine press, complicated by the fact that the first facing piece I installed is not actually straight, so I had to plane the matching piece one side slightly convex and the matching piece the other slightly concave, which was a pain. I also planed off the bits of walnut that have been joined to make the drain hole for the press. Fitting that to the press will indeed be fun. It has to go through eighty eight millimetres of wood, and form a nice tight glue line at each face. Joy! That was about it for the day really. Still no sign of helper to do any painting!

6th November 2008

I woke up this morning in a sweat! No, it wasn't a panic that I had overslept or forgotten an important engagement - it was literally in a sweat. I had lit the stove in the usual manner last night, but this morning the big room was sweltering!

Breakfast - the kitchen stove is still a bit of a bugger to light! Then made bricks, and rammed the leftovers of the mix into the various bits of wall that need it. My repairs continue to attract interest and good comments in the village, sometimes from unlikely quarters. Just to give you a bit more flavour of what I am up against check out the workmanship of the brickwork that I posted for 3rd. November!

I set to and sacrificed two of my precious pieces of stainless steel to repair the lawn rake:
Lawn Rake Repair Now isn't that pretty? The nuts, bolts and washers cost about ten pence! In Hungarian a nut translates as near as I can get it into "mother screw"!

After lunch I did a bit more work on the chopping board. Just one of the projects that is slowly but surely reaching completion:
The light bits are low spots - getting them out is, quite frankly, just tedious but that's what happens when the only decent saw you have is a bow saw! The darker, stripey bits are the parts that are now planed smooth. The even darker spots are sweat! End Grain Beech Chopping Board

Towards the end of the afternoon, as the light was beginning to fade, I relieved the tedium of constant planing and sawing by clearing the leaves from the yard. I got as far as starting on the camping lawn when a) the rake tried to break again - this time the rest of the handle coming unfolded from around the shaft, and b) once again Pickle found a way into next door. I abandoned the effort, located where Pickle had escaped and retired to the yard where I knocked out three new palings from the dwindling pile of oak remaining from the firewood pallets. Once Pickle decided to return, she got a whack for her pains and locked in "the naughty shed" to think about her misdemeanours for a while! In the semi-darkness I went back to where she had got through and replaced a couple of broken palings. Not what I really needed!

I ate and went to the pub. When I left the pub it was persistently precipitating (pissing down!). I found a fair sized bag of paprika (sweet peppers, not the powder) on my bike rack. Good oh! Another job for tomorrow. When I got home, there was a dog barking in the yard. Pickle! How the hell she got out of "the naughty shed" I have no idea. There is one window in there with no glass in, but I have measured it since and it is four foot six off the floor of the outbuilding. That gets into next door's yard. How she got from there into my yard I simply have no idea, but there she was. I really couldn't be cross with her!

7th November 2008

The Wall Street Journal Blog on Peak Oil. Interesting quote from Barclays!

Horrible weather! Not cold, but still raining after last night. Reminds me of when I went on holiday for a fortnight to the Lake District. It only rained twice. Once for four days and once for six! It was obvoiusly not a good day for doing stuff in the great outdoors, so I decided on pickling the peppers that had appeared on the bike rack last night. I kept the stove going from breakfast and put on a big pan of water to boil for a water bath, then set about removing the seeds and pith from the peppers and slicing them. Of course, I counted them. There were fourteen pale yellow ones, two green ones and four red ones. How sad is that? Pictures:
Peppers Here they are, all sliced up in the stainless steel bowl.
Stuff into a jar, fill with pickling solution (basically vinegar, salt and a little sugar) and simmer in a water bath for twenty minutes. The stuff in the small saucepan is the pickling solution for the next lot... Pickling Peppers
Pickled Peppers ...and there they are, pickled. So if anybody asks you "where is the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?" you can tell them that they are in my cupboard in Hungary!

It got to 25C in the kitchen, and that was with the window and the cottage door both open. One of the best things about the stove is the temperature gradient. By choosing where you put stuff you can have it either gently keeping warm, or boiling a quite large pan of water, or heating up a frying pan to frying temperature. You can, with a bit of luck, or skill, or luck and skill combined, make toast on it :)

It remained rainy damp and horrid, so I did a few minor woodworking jobs, and that was about it for the day!

8th November 2008

It was my mate Steve's birthday today. Boldog születésnap, Steve.

Horrible day - not overly cold but murky, damp and drizzly. Another day for not doing too much al-fresco stuff! I started by re-repairing the lawn rake, which took another of my precious pieces of stainless steel. Bit of a story to how I came by them! I bought a Durst photographic enlarger, but it only came with glass negative carriers. For the life of me I could never get large, dust free enlargements off it, so I looked into making it into a glassless negative carrier. The genuine Durst parts were available - oh yes, at a really stupid price. So I thought to myself that I could do better than that. What to make them of? Stainless steel is ideal. Off topic, who remembers when it was actually called Firth Stain-Less Steel? Invented quite by accident, I understand and interestingly a Google search on "Firth Stain-Less" (with the quotes) comes back with a single result. Anyway, I thought about where I could get a couple of bits of stainless steel about seven by five centimeters and about a millimeter thick. Looked in Yellow Pages and there was a firm just around the corner from me listed under "Metalwork" (I think). I wandered round there to find that they were not, in fact, metalworkers as such, but builders of industrial kitchen equipment. I told them what I wanted, and in the best British tradition the bloke said it was no problem. He got a sheet of stainless (Stain-Less) steel, stuck it in a machine, hit the button and 'chonk' there was four feet by five centimeters of one millimeter stainless. He turned it around, and went 'chonk' 'chonk' 'chonk' 'chonk', etc. and I had a nice stack of perfectly sized stainless steel bits. I used four of them to make my glassless negative carriers - a pair for 35mm and a pair for medium format 645 negatives. Over the years various bits have been used for various jobs, but the remainder came here in the stuff I packed up from the UK. Cost? The bloke didn't want to charge me for it, so I asked if they had a tea fund - yes - so I chucked a couple of quid in their tea fund! Now, where was I? Rake repair:
Not as pretty as the last one! It also involved the use of my least favourite tool again - the angle grinder. Rake Repaired Again!

Still horrible weather, so I had a go at the scythe. You remember it broke and the bits got welded up for the price of a couple of halves of beer? Well, it didn't go back together too well, on account of the welding not being dressed off and the distortion of the clamping ring. There was a definite slackness (or "clonk") in use. Took it apart, dressed the weld on the blade (angle grinder again!) bashed the clamping ring about a bit to make it a better shape, and planed the wooden handle down so that the clamping ring would go where it was intended to go. I suppose that in the absence of electricity I could have used a file to dress the weld - maybe fifteen minutes instead of about thirty seconds. A few squirts of WD40 (yes, they have that here) and it went back together as sweet as a nut.

Still a horrid day, so I updated the blog.

Tail end of the afternoon I tested out the re-repaired lawn rake. At least it didn't explode or bend in the middle this time! By the time I had cleared the camping lawn of walnut tree leaves (which are amongst the last to fall) I was cold, wet and miserable. I retired to the kitchen to cook my evening meal.

I'll talk about my diet another time, but suffice it to say that what I cooked did require some quick cooking and then some slow simmering. The stove is very good at slow simmering - just so long as you are there to keep gently feeding the fire. Not so good when you want to get to the pub for a pint! So I cheated and did the quick cooking on the stove, then bunged it in the slow cooker whilst I went for a drink!

Pub, drink. Home to find the food perfectly cooked. That is only the second time I have used electricity to cook since I got the stove working. The other time was jacket potatoes - similar situation. Ate, showered and went back to the pub, to find that it was lots of blokes "Name Day". I think it is a Catholic thing, not uncommon on the continent. Anyway, there was this one particular man, whose name day it was, and whom I had never seen before. If you put about ninety eight percent of the population here into "The Sir Percy Florence Shelley", unless you recognised that they were speaking Hungarian, you wouldn't give them a second glance. But this bloke - one look, and you would say "Magyar"! Absolutely classic Hungarian looks - just like looking at the portraits on the bank notes.

9th November 2008

Today's dose of gloom and doom is from Der Spiegel on when countries go bankrupt. Interesting little section on Hungary!

All I did today was to wield the blowlamp. Of course I should have realised that having tackled the actual frames in the same order as the windows the last would be the worst, and so it was! By ten o'clock I had to take a good break, as I had lost the feeling in both hands through the continual gripping. I did a total of five hours during the day before I declared that enough was enough, and retired to the pub. On the way I saw the next door neighbour who gave me a gentle bollocking for working on a Sunday - in jest as much as in seriousness, as I have seen him many times working on a Sunday.

In the pub I met up with helper, who was playing Hungarian cards with another of the regulars. One of my visitors had commented that she thought they were playing "Snap". Well, not far off, as in Hungary the name of the game is Snapszli. It is, however, a fairly complex game that I haven't got my head around at all yet. Almost like a combination of whist and cribbage. I found this page after a bit of looking, that describes the game well. Also this page that actually describes the cards quite well too, only "Zöld" means green, "Piros" means red, and "Tök" seems to mean pretty well anything spherical or hemispherical (including parts of the male and female anatomy!).

Pickle is having "a blonde moment". As she moulted her all blonde undercoat first, then the black-tipped outer coat, obviously the undercoat started growing back first, and various parts of her are much paler at the moment until the outer coat grows back. Speaking of which, I forgot to mention that there is a coloured chap in the village. Not that there is any problem with that - just unusual here in Hungary. Apart from one other who I saw strimming in Körmend, the only others seem to be professional sportsmen. And speaking of that, there is a Scottish guy coaching one of the major soccer teams here in Hungary.

10th November 2008

Reuters on Brazil's upcoming oil industry problems.

I had arranged to meet helper at half past nine to go to Nádasd for some materials, so morning time was a bit limited. I managed to empty the brick mould and do a bit of planing up for the next woodworking project. After that it was off to the pub to meet helper. Now, if I go to Nádasd, either by bike or on the bus, I can be there and back home in about an hour. Hmmmmm - four hours and five beers later I did manage to get home! I managed to purchase some high expansion foam to seal round the windows, some assorted nuts and bolts, a drill bit, and the ultimate sadness:
Green Wellies Green wellies. Dunlop, no less! Made in Portugal. However, you will notice that they don't have the little straps at the side. Perhaps that is on account of the lack of sheep here in Hungary. (Think about it, think about it!!) Pickle regards them with deep suspicion and apprehension. She is actually terrified of them. Can't think why!

A bit of wood work, and finally finished with the blowlamp for this year! I have no intention whatever on starting on either any of the interior woodwork or the remaining exterior woodwork!

There has been, over the last couple of weeks, a sea-change in the attitude of a few people towards me. There was a certain corpus of blokes (mainly local tradesmen) who regarded me with total indifference, in a couple of cases almost hostility. I don't know why, but all of their attitudes' have changed and they now make small talk with me in the pub, or at least actively greet me and exchange the daily pleasantries directly. Which is good!

Much later, I was updating the blog when something definitely went "bump". Sounded like something heavy knocking into the outside wall. Pickle went ballistic, and even I, in my deafness, heard it. I went outside with the torch but could see nothing. Back inside I had a good thump on the wall from whence the sound had come, to be rewarded by the sound of falling debris. Oh-oh, not good. In trepidation I carved out a section of the polystyrene insulation with which the interior walls are clad (in the mistaken impression that they will help keep the place warm) to discover that the falling debris is the old plaster finish on the wall coming adrift and falling between the polystyrene and the earth of the wall. As before, it nicely matches the area on the outside that has been rendered with cement! Shit!! I really didn't want to have to start on that at this stage, but it looks like I may have to. There are tide marks reappearing where the debris has obviously filled the space, and is just soaking wet, like the wall.

A BBC report on drinking. Why can't the Brits get their head around drinking? There have to be just as many alcoholics here in the village as anywhere, but there is never (well, hardly ever) any problem.

11th November 2008

Some conversations regarding my wine resulted in me being in the pub at half past seven. I had mentioned it to helper and he had summoned me there. Quite a few of the regulars were in (this was half past seven in the morning!). He was having a beer. I was a good boy and had a coffee. Eventually we drifted out of the pub and walked on up to Pickle's breaders house. There was a bit of toing and froing, but in a few minutes a couple of demijons appeared, complete with protective cages. In another couple of minutes a sample of this years wine appeared too! Very young, raw, and still cloudy, but quite palatable nonetheless. At least as good as Beaujolais Nouveau (sp?) which normally tastes of iron filings! By the way, did you hear about the Irishman that has a warehouse full of vintage Beaujolais Nouveau? Anyway, me and helper handballed them back to my place. I also got a wee jar of sterilising powder. I've seen it in the village shop, but not known what is was. It is all so commonplace here where grapes grow by the ton, and everyone who has grapes makes wine at home. My dog breeders have six hundred litres on the go!!

Once home, the demijons got tipped on the yard, where they still sit, even as I write:
Demijons. By the way, in Hungarian they are "demijons" - not sure about the spelling though. Demijons
Not a lot of point until the wine press is functional - I did a bit on it when I got home, but it will need about another half a day's work.

I can't find anywhere on the blog that I have spoken about shopping bags. Everybody here uses shopping bags. Or baskets. Or baskets on the front of bikes. I have had a shopping bag for many years, that never saw the light of day. I hung on to it for sentimental reasons. I went out to Glastonbury in Connecticut, being a member of the Glastonbury, Somerset band as part of their bicentennial celebrations. I never imagined actually using it, but it is now in daily use, and much travel stained:
Glastonbury CT Bicentennial Glastonbury CT Bicentennial shopping bag.
It promised to be a nice morning, but by lunch time the temperature was down to seven Celius! I spent an hour chopping firewood and kindling. Should last me a couple of days.

Later, in the pub, helper presented me with yet another carrier bag full of paprika - at least a morning's worth. Speaking of which, did you seen the Paxman thing about whether the apostophe should be abandoned? My own reaction is that it would be good if English teachers actually started to teach English, and as far as I am concerned "The Parents Association" should still be "The Parents' Association", the apostrophe indicating "The Association of Parents". If that is not the meaning then they should change their name! Sorry, going off on one!

By evening I was too tired to even think about updating the blog!

12th November 2008

Tom Whipple.

Another cool, grey morning. Lit the stove and made my coffee as usual. I forgot to mention that another big carrier bag full of peppers came my way last evening. I happened to mention that I was out of jars to put them in. This was overheard by an old boy in the pub, who said he had some at home. His life seems to be the pub! "I'm seventy eight years old, and I've got nothing and nobody" is one of his stock phrases. He totters up to the pub, and totters home three, maybe four times a day. I thought nothing of it, expecting him to forget all about it, but no. At about ten o'clock there was a hail from the gate, and true to his word he had with him two five litre storage jars - much in need of a good wash out, but two good jars nonetheless. I thanked him, and he tottered off to the pub - probably for the second session of the day. It doesn't cease to amaze me, the amount of simple assistance that is forthcoming in the village.

I did a bit of earth brick laying, but it was really quite cold. I retreated to a bit of woodwork, putting the last two pieces of wood to the top of the wine press. Then, in view of the way the weather is going, I returned to a long abandoned project - the dog kennel. In an hour or so I had the outer skin of the back on it, having dragged it across the yard to where it can live. I have chosen a spot where it will catch a bit of sun in the morning (if any!), but will be in the shade in the heat of the day. Just need to persuade Pickle to use it, now.

Did my normal early evening trip to the pub, where I somehow seem to have managed to purchase two apple trees. Nine hundred Forints each - about two pounds seventy! They will be a useful addition to the orchard, and once I get my fruit collecting act together, another source of cider, apple brandy and various conserves.

Once again there was an item on the television about the price of energy here. It is a matter of concern here, just as in many other corners of the world. I got to thinking about my wood stove. I am hoping that I can at least halve my electricity costs. The immersion heater only goes on a couple of times a week now, and all my hot water for washing up, washing clothes and so on, and all my cooking is via the wood stove. It is costing me zero to run, as it goes best with quick burning softwood, of which there is still a small mountain lying around various parts of the estate that is only fit to burn. I suspect there is at least one more tree destined to be felled - maybe two. One is the old apple tree which really is in a very poor state, and another is a walnut tree, which on this season's showing appears to be barren. It is not a young tree either - it is about nine or ten inches in diameter, so a number of years old. There will also be a constant supply of small wood supplied by fruit tree prunings. This years prunings can dry out in an outhouse and be used in the kitchen stove next year.

13th November 2008

All was normal when I got up. Dressed and made coffee and breakfast and did one or two bits and pieces. Just after eight I struck up the laptop to check the BBC news and do my quick daily trawl for gloom and doom. Hmmmm - no power! Clicked the light on - no light! Went outside and checked the fuse board. All the green buttons were in, and all the red buttons out, just as it should be. All was revealed when I went to the shop. It was in darkness too, and the lady pointed out to me a little notice from E-on that I hadn't seen saying that the power to the whole village would be off from eight until four in the afternoon both today and tomorrow. I wonder what percentage of the village that caused problems to? Didn't really affect me, except that I had to reschedule some of the stuff I intended to get done which does at the moment rely on power tools.

Instead of that, I tackled the peppers. Took most of the morning, and I only got as far as slicing them up preparatory to pickling them. I had to abandon it then and go to town. That in itself is becoming an increasingly rare event, and will continue to do so. My aim there is that it should only be necessary to go to town in the event of having to deal with official business there, or the occasional trip on market day. I got cash and tried out a new dohanybolt (tobacconist) in the town, where I found a good selection of pipe tobacco (no English though) and was served by a friendly and very presentable young lady. I'll probably go back there again! I also bought in the gardening shop some corks for the demijons and fermentation locks:
Fermentation stuff. Fermentation Stuff

On the way home on the bus I noticed a combined harvester abandoned at the edge of a field, just begind some shrubbery. Its paint dulled, pale green and pale ochre, it lurked like some primordial dinosaur; slumbering, or waiting patiently for an unwitting victim to be pounced upon.

I spent rather long in the pub on the way home. There was a fair amount of good natured bantering going on. I don't know why! Eventually home, and was in bed by nine fifteen.

14th November 2008

Promptly, the power went off at eight o'clock! Apart from the lack of the elctric drill to finish the wine press it didn't affect me, once again. The stove was lit and the coffee was cooked. I kept the stove going, packed the peppers into one of the old boy's jars and ran out of ecetsav (acetic acid = vinegar). It is a bloody big jar! Popped over the shop and replenished the supply. I used the first bottle to neutralise the caustic soda solution used for paint stripping on the wood. This one was the third bottle. Somewhat less than a pound a litre, and it is twenty percent acetic acid - you wouldn't want to put it on your chips! Anyway, I managed to complete the pickling of that lot of peppers. I need recipe suggestions for pickled peppers, potatoes and walnuts - not separately, all in one recipe! I sealed the jar in the traditional (?) manner, with cellophane and elastic bands. Strange stuff! I had never used it before. Almost sticky, but not in the same way that cling film is. It doesn't try to stick to itself, but certainly clings to the glass top of the jar. Also (I believe) biodegradable! Indeed it is!

I started on roughly smoothing the other half of the wine press and at about midday I just ran out of energy. Utterly exhausted! Had a bite of lunch and did some updating of the blog, with the laptop running on battery. Much pressing of <Ctrl> and <S>!

By mid afternoon I had recovered a bit of energy, so Pickle and I had a little adventure - we actually went into the garden! I don't know whether I said, but I hacked down the hibiscus that was preventing me walking up my own path. The cuttings were still in the wheelbarrow, so I took them into the garden and laid them out for dew retting. I also rescued the hay fork, which has been abandoned on the garden for weeks, and a bucket which had lain where it was when I stopped collecting chestnuts to try and get Pickle back from next door. The chestnuts were submerged in rain water, but otherwise seem fine. I'll know when I try and cook them! I noticed that there are still grapes to be picked on some of the vines. I'll have to try and sneak out when Pickle isn't looking and get them. I'll make a separate little batch of wine from them, and see how it turns out. Remind me someone - can't be bothered to look it up - there is a wine (German, I think) where the grapes are not picked until they have the first frost on them. On the way back down the garden I passed by the very prolific apple tree (the one on the east side with the very dark red apples) and noticed that there were loads of perfectly sound ones on the ground, so I filled the bucket to the top with them. I know what I said, but I want to try it on the kitchen stove, so they are destined for apple jam! Pickle was good. She didn't escape next door! Still went and had a nosey at the fence though.

I returned to the woodworking project (the press), worked away at it for a little while, and then had a look out of the outhouse to check on Pickle (it's like having a kid, honestly). Nowhere to be seen. Not on the doorstep, not in the woodshed, not in the front garden, not by either of the fences adjoining No. 72! Where the hell is that dog?? Bless her - she was in the kennel!

15th November 2008

With a good nights rest, I recovered my energies from yesterday, and was up very early for me on a Saturday (it is normally the day I have a lie-in, until about eight in the morning). Full of vim and vigour I attacked the outstanding jobs. I made bricks, packed earth into the wall and finished roughly smoothing the other half of the press. The next job was to ensure that all the nuts and bolts are well recessed so that when I finish smoothing the two halves off I don't take a chunk out of the blade of my precious new smoothing plane! I got three quarters of the way through that and the electric drill went bang. Literally! I saw the sparks shoot out from the bottom of the rubber bit that leads into the handle. It had been a bit "iffy" a couple of times before, and I suspected the wiring, as giving it a bit of a jiggle made it work again. It didn't this time. Oh, whatocks! Choices were: abandon any work on anything that needs the drill for whatever length of time it takes to sort out under warranty, or fix it, thereby invalidating whatever warranty there was. I have come to the conclusion that there is a market in Hungary for what I might term as "grey goods" - substandard stuff that they know they won't honour the warranty on anyway. So I fixed it. The problem was obvious - it was incorrectly assembled and the cable clamp had severed the live lead. A bit of work with side cutters, leatherman and the soldering iron and it was better than new, invalidating the questionable warranty! It worked like a good 'un after that, but cost me a precious hour of work.

Whilst I was doing that, a strange yellow glow appeared in the sky. Good grief, the sun! Hadn't seen it for days! It came to me then that I could have a problem with one of the important bits of the project - twelve volt wind generator and LEDs for lighting run off batteries. Unfortunately we had been sat for days on the edge of a strong high pressure area. Wind speeds had for those same days been, maybe, two - three metres per second. A decent, reasonably high-tech setup doesn't kick in until about four metres per second. There is a way around it, of course. To use an alternative source of power to run the charging alternator. Me! Ah, well, rambling!

Having sorted the nuts and bolts on the press I started on the drainage channel that will collect the liquid from whatever is being pressed. I managed to drill the main drainage hole though the walnut wood insert that goes all the way through the three plies of oak. Not perfect, but it will do. Then I marked out the rest of the drainage channel.

Have I ever mentioned the lorries? I don't think so. I'm not talking about the stuff that runs up and down the main routes. I'm talking about the little local trucks that run from village to village. Many of them seem to be modelled on the old Bedford three tonner, much used way back by the army. Four wheel drive, huge ground clearance, very short wheelbase. It was one of those that delivered my wood. They come in various states of decrepitude. I don't think any of them would pass an MoT test in the UK! I see them limping along, lame in one quarter! Even lower down the scale is the Trabbant lorry. It has that same dreadful two-stroke engine as the cars. The breeders of Pickle have one. It obviously has a high-low range gearbox, like a proper Land Rover. He has to engage low range before it will go up the drive to his house!

The light started to fade, so I stocked up the wood baskets and retired to the pub, where I met helper. I believe I have five kilogrammes of cabbages coming this time! The weather forecast is "cold"!

16th November 2008

Sunday morning, still grey, but now with a distinctly cold feel to it. I thought to myself that maybe winter has actually arrived in Hungary. It remained cold and misty all day. At one stage I checked the temperature outside - it was six Celcius! Definitely not warm.

I did a bit at the wine press, and a bit at the dog kennel but kept having to retreat to the house for a warm. The big room with the tile stove remains warm and cosy. Wood consumption is creeping up, but the fire still only gets lit once a day. If the weather is cool, or cold even, the fire is lit at about three or four in the afternoon, otherwise at six or seven in the evening.

I had promised to go to the village football match, so I went. I wore my new thermal socks and my summer motorcycling gloves, but my feet and hands were still cold! I suppose it was worth it as it does my 'street cred' good, and the village team won five - nil. As soon as the match was over I retreated to the pub, along with a fair section of the village! I think the landlord had quite a good early evening. I managed to get a decent photo of the framed copy of "Székely Himnusz":
Székely Himnusz
I left it at 800px wide so that you can read the words :)

When I got home I painstakingly copied it to Wikipedia - how sad is that? I was still in bed just after nine!

17th November 2008

I have no idea why, but I was wide awake at five in the morning. Maybe it was because I knew I had a big job to do before lunch time. I was up at six, stove lit, coffee made and in and out of the shop by half past. Did I ever mention that they tell the time the other way round here? Half seven (literally - fél hét) means half past six, three quarters means a quarter past the previous hour, and so on. For the first time in a long while the farming boots went on.

There was a brisk cold breeze, and for the first time in a while it was not a grey day. I loaded the needed tools in the barrow - scythe and stone, spade, mattock, hay fork and several spare pieces of wood as palings in case Pickle tried to escape. I trudged my way to the top of the land to my chosen spot, for today was the day the new apple trees were to arrive! My helper had told me they were quite big, so in my appointed spot I started on digging two bloody great holes. The arrangement was that he would ring me, and deliver them to the top fence so as not to have to carry them too far. With a few strokes of the scythe I cleared the area chosen for the first tree. Then I had the foresight to clear an adjacent area upon which to pile the diggings from the bloody great hole. I sighed in disbelief as I started to use the spade to dig the hole. Forget it! It was a mass of deep rooted weed roots. Well, I didn't care - this was where the first tree was going! Out came the mattock, and it took me about half an hour of severe grafting just to get to diggable soil. Within ten minutes, in spite of the cold breeze, I was just in a tee shirt. I went in about a spade and a half and hit the hard subsoil (which is what I think the house is made of). Time for a break - beer break, of course. Suitably refreshed, I went back to the task. Best part of another hour saw me three spades deep, with the bottom of the hole nicely loosened up to receive a big root ball. I took another break, and hung out a load of washing. With a big effort, all my clothes, apart from what I stood up in, were at least washed, if not dry. Drying had been problematical all the time we had that dull, grey, still, overcast weather.

I went back to digging the second bloody great hole. My heart sank as I chose the spot - huge tussocks of grass all over. I didn't even bother with the spade, just went straight in with the mattock. To my amazement they yielded with a single stroke, and the soil beneath was soft and diggable. Even when I got two spades down it was easy going. In short order I had a suitably impressive hole for my second new tree.

The appointed time for the delivery of the trees had come and gone. I had had no phone call from helper. Just as I was finishing the second hole I espied him walking up the land. Carrying the trees under one arm! Not two trees, but three - a case of BTGOF, as opposed to BOGOF! I looked at the trees and their pitiful little roots, and I looked at my impressive holes, and I thought "Oh, ****". All that effort! Ah well, at least it would be easier putting it back than digging it out, and I would be able to give them a nice deep mulch of rotted compost. We stuck them in one of the holes and threw a bit of earth over them to keep the roots moist and went back to the yard. Turned out that his mobile was flat.

Helper was playing with Pickle - they are good friends, he has known her longer than I have - and she was galloping at top speed around the yard. I was checking on the washing, and I took a half turn just at the wrong instant. Pickle crashed into me at top speed, taking my legs from beneath me and catching me with her full weight right on my bad knee. I went down like a sack of spuds, jarring both wrists. Shit! It hurt!

Helper left, and I recovered for a while, then went and planted my three little trees. A lot of shovelling of unnecessarily dug earth! And I had to dig a hole and plant the third one. Took about two minutes, but it didn't get the well rotted compost thrown in the hole. It will have to take its chance.

Ate, and it was pub o'clock. There was a lot of talk about "minus" (in Hungarian "meenoosh"). Big talking point - a heavy frost forecast. Well, I did say that we had splipped quietly into winter! I had quite a chat to helper about the winter climate. Apparently back in the 1990s they had one week here when it was minus ten by day, and minus twenty by night. Eeek - I thought I had better start thinking about "winterising" the house!

18th November 2008

My knee was still sore after the Pickle incident yesterday, so I determined a moderately sedentary day. There had been a hard frost overnight, obviously well below dew point and the moisture had crystalised on everything:
Frosty Morning Frosty Morning.
In the kitchen it was ten degrees Celcius when I first went in there. It seems to have stabilised at about that overnight, irrespective of whether I have the stove going or not. Still not too bad considering that there is still only one layer of glazing fitted, and one of the the windows won't catch so there is a quarter inch gap straight to the outside world.

I did a bit on the kennel before I was driven off by the cold, so I withdrew indoors and found a job that has been irking for a while. The big room door would catch with difficulty, the kitchen door not at all (hence the bit of string Pickle proof lock!). I checked them out, and in both cases it was the plates on the door jambs that was the problem. Well, actually, I think the doors have dropped, hinges worn - whatever. Out came my favourite tool - the angle grinder. Zip, zap and using my rough screwdriver as a chisel (wasn't about to use my actual chisels - they blunt easily enough anyway, just in wood, without chancing them contacting metal) I had both doors closing properly. The handles and escutcheon plates are brass - you have already seen them on photos. I suspect that the escutcheon plates are cheap and nasty pressings, but the handles themselves are a thing of beauty. They are (I suspect) solid cast and polished brass. They were dull and lifeless when I came here, but with the constant handling of opening and closing the doors they have come alive. I have never polished them. I thought I would share one with you:
Hungarian cast brass door handles. Hungarian Cast Brass Door Handles
They are, of course, held onto the square that connects the handles either side of the door by nails!

When I returned to the great outdoors I witnessed "a phenomenon". I actually saw clothes drying! Now, I may have seen it before, but it doesn't spring to mind. So I thought I would share that with you too:
Clothes Drying The sun was out, and the wind speed would have been less than a metre per second. The water vapour was curling in laminar flow off the clothes - a bit like a miniature of the pictures you see with the snow, or cloud, curling off the top of Mount Everest!

Too tired for more update now, but there is more to come for today, so look out for part two.
Part Two:
I stocked up the log baskets, and did a bit of sawing up of the tree roots that came out of the ground when I first got here. They are ideal for the kitchen stove, as are the bits of sawn-up conifer felled by my son and me. They don't burn too quickly, but a lump in the stove every hour or so just keeps it ticking over and keeps the heat in the kitchen. As I was carrying the basket back to the kitchen the old lady at No. 72 called me over and gave me a bag of apples. I get the distinct impression that much of the village thought that once winter set in I would quietly disappear back to the UK. Well, they got that wrong then! Unfortunately, I don't have the grasp of the language yet to go into why I am here. I managed a halting conversation with the old lady about my new apple trees and it was understood on both sides. I'm not even sure just yet that I want to burden them with my "Peak Oil Doomer" beliefs. The issue has become even more complex with the collapse of the global financial system. Was it caused (at least in part) by the spike in oil prices? Was that spike caused (at least in part) by the early stages of Peak Oil? To what extent will the global recession help to postpone Peak Oil? And what effect will the shelving of investment in exploration of marginal oil reserves due to the recession affect the subsequent onset of Peak Oil? It will come! No matter what, this is a finite world, and those who talk of infinite creation of oil are obviously talking nonesense - there are only so many atoms of carbon and hydrogen on earth!

There was supposed to be a market in the Faluhaz this afternoon. I went along just after two - nothing happening, nobody there. Several other people came, looked and went too.

I was going to tell you about what is on this weeks Tesco flyers, of which for some reason I receive two, but today's blog is starting to get a bit long. I'll save it for another day.

I returned home and did a bit more on the kennel - did I say that I am insulating between the inner and outer skins with straw? Well, I am.

I withdrew to the kitchen after that. I found I had a "stuck" fermentation in one of my brews. The bane of all home brewers! The brew gets down to a gravity of 1020 to 1025 and the yeast stops working. Can't bottle it as, if the yeast starts working again, you are looking at lots of exploding bottles! The only answer I have found is to start a new yeast culture, and add, little by little, some of the stuck fermentation until you have enough to pitch the yeast as a new starter.

Going back a couple of days, I mentioned about the apples that I found lying. I spent two hours coring and peeling apples before I ate and went to the pub, leaving the apples to gently stew in the slow cooker. When I returned from the pub, quite early, I realised that I had no choice but to make the apple jam. Well, it might have been alright to leave it until the next day, but in that alcohol hazed state of optimism that we encounter from time to time I determined to do it now! I fired up the kitched stove. Fortunately, I had plenty of combustibles at hand. I got a good blaze going and put the big jam boiling pan on. In went the apples from the slow cooker. In went the sugar, and I stirred until it was dissolved. Hmmm, coming up to the boil but oh so slowly! I bit the bullet, pulled out the circular ring immediately above the fire, and put the pan straight over the hole. Within a minute it was boiling merrily and every time I stirred splashes of boiling liquid errupted within a foot radius. The kitchen smelled of a mixture of cooking fruit and burnt sugar. Quite homely in a strange way. Anyway, I ended up with eight more jars of jam. The kitchen got up to somewhere around thirty Celcius! I haven't tried the jam yet.

Gloom and doom! An article from ASPO-USA reported on Energy Bulletin, which criticises the recent IEA World Energy Report.

19th November 2008

Short and sweet today! Very cold and frosty start to the day, but bright. I worked on and off on the wine press, but kept being beaten back into the house by the cold. That was the morning.

We went into the garden in the afternoon to finish off the planting of the little apple trees. There remained an amount of soil to rake back into the two bloody great holes that I dug. I was into the second when Pickle decided to escape again. Onto the road at the top! I managed to get over the fence that I had made to fill the hole at the top, at the cost of personal indignity and possible serious injury in a tender spot. She hadn't gone very far, and, bless her, every time I said "Pickle sit! Pickle down!" she did - just nicely out of arms reach. Fortunately, by degrees she managed to work herself about three doors up the road where she found another dog (nasty little bugger) behind the fence to that house. A barking competition ensued, in the midst of which I was, literally, able to collar her. Dragged kicking and screaming back down the lane and bundled unceremoniously back over my fence, I faced the same indignity and risk of serious injury on the way back into the garden as I faced on the way out. I can understand why paling fences are such a good deterent against animals getting in or getting out!

Pickle was banished to the yard. I finished the bit of gardening and then collected the remaining grapes from the vines. They had had a couple of good hard frosts on them by now. Back in the cottage I made a small separate brew of those grapes. It will be interesting to see how the two vintages turn out.

The forecast for the end of the weekend and early next week is minus seven at night!

20th November 2008

Normal routine first off, then I started on lashing the remaining caustic soda mix onto the front window frames. I stuck at it right to the end, by which time I couldn't feel my fingers. Cold work! To thaw out I implemented my new regime of washing clothes little and often, after all I have a constant supply of piping hot or even boiling water so long as the kitchen stove is on. Two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks and a tee shirt were soon out on the line in the sun.

I think I might have mentioned in the very early days about the clothes drying thing in the bathroom, and how stuff just didn't dry on it. Well, I took it down from the bathroom with the intention of putting it at a suitable height above the stove. That meant that I had to drill two holes in the brickwork at 965mm centres, nice and level. I have a problem with that. Apart from the not unusual long-sightedness which comes with advancing years, I also have astigmatism which is the inability to simultaneously focus lines at different angles. One of the side effects is that I simply don't have a clue when stuff is level. I have to use a spirit level just to put a picture up to make sure it is straight! Problem! I don't have a spirit level. Solution? Make a plumb line and square off from the vertical. Now what had I got from which to make the plumb bob? Well, if the warranty on the dead battery drill wasn't invalidated before, it is now. I used the chuck for a plumb bob. It's nice and weighty and holds the plumb line perfectly centrally. By the way, totally off topic, did you know that they reckon that the increasing long-sightedness as you get older is actually a primitive survival feature? The theory is that the young and fleet of foot do not need to see nasty animals that would like to eat you quite as far away as the older and less fleet of foot. Read it somewhere! Where was I - ah, yes. So I dropped a vertical and squared off to get the horizontal and made my two x's on the wall. Drilled the first hole - fine. Drilled the second - straight into a mortar joint. No good at all, as the screws are quite meaty and have to stand a bit of tension in operation. Moved across a couple of inches, and this time it was fine. Brick in both holes.

Quick bite to eat and it was time to pop out to the Posta in Nádasd and pay the Internet. After that I called in to Bödő and got a couple of needed bits and pieces. I really am quite a good customer there! Called in the pub on the way home, and stayed way longer than intended. I had five! Best of it was, I only paid for the one I got for myself when I first got in there. Helper bought me two (he must have been well in funds). A generous young man bought another - he generally does get a round in when he has a good win on the fruit machine, and a total stranger bought me the last one. No idea what that was about!

Eight months since I moved in to the cottage!

21st November 2008

I was up reasonably early for me - six thirty. In and out of the shop before seven. Nasty day - cold, grey and raining on and off. Helper had supposedly sourced a number of metres of the wood for the little triangular fillets that hold the glass in the windows, but he had told me that it wasn't forthcoming. He didn't know why. I had told him that I would make some, so that's what I did. It is a pain of a job - the opposite and adjacent sides are nine millimetres each (making the hypotenuse 13.49073756323204147mm, of course), so a deviation of, say, half a millimetre in the sawing is quite obvious. Difficult when you are using a jigsaw!

I had kept the kitchen stove going, for which I was thankful when I was driven indoors by the cold. I had a general, much needed blitz of the kitchen and hallway, including a general reorganisation of where a lot of stuff lived. I put up the clothes drying thingie in its appointed place. In the absence of Rawlplugs I fell back on a trick I was taught many years ago - match sticks. Chop the heads off and stick them in the hole. Make sure the screw goes in between the match sticks, not between the matchsticks and the brickwork. At least as good as a plastic Rawlplug if not better. The screws went in good and solid, and I had myself a clothes drying device.

In the midst of that "Reveille" sounded from outside. Wasn't the normal post lady, but a young man who does the round occasionally. Something to sign for. Oh dear - APEH (Hungarian tax man!). It turned out to be the demand for the land tax, which I had last paid when I bought the place last September. It's the biggest single bill I have to pay - eighty thousand forints (£253.371, as I write), or two percent of the value of the house and land. I had been expecting it, just didn't know how it happened. Just think - in fifty years the Hungarian government will have had off me the entire price of the house and land! Just think - by then I would be one hundred and eleven years old. No, doesn't bear thinking about!

I braved the cold to put another couple of bits on the kennel. I'm just over half way up the front now - the most difficult bit, it having a hole in it so the dog can get in and out! I'll do a picture once the front is finished. Did I say I was insulating it with straw between the inside and outside? I may have.

I had a major cook after that, but before I did that I gave the cherry wine its second racking. I couldn't help but rack a drop into my tiny wine glass that I "bought" from "The Sir Percy Florence Shelley":
Cherry Wine Isn't that delightful? Clear as a bell and a lovely rosé colour. Very dry - final gravity less than 1.0, and quite strong enough.

Cooked apples and knocked up some pastry and made a dozen apple pies, and whilst that was going on started a pizza. Made me realise how utterly badly organised the kitchen is. Lack of working space, and I haven't removed any! All to be fixed over the coming months!

How to cheat at pizza - well, partly. Make the dough and set to rise. When risen open a small tin (tube) of tomato puree. Spread over the dough with a knife. Gently fry an onion and a bit of garlic, then sprinkle onto the tomato puree. Sprinkle some mixed herbs on top of that, then grate cheese on the top and bang it in the oven. At least as good as some of the bought ones I have had! Unfortunately, eyes were definitely bigger than! It was exactly the size of one of my Denby dinner plates (big plate) and was certainly deep pan. I managed two thirds of it. Pickle helped me out with the rest. There are no "left overs" of course!

Went to the pub quite late, had two and home to bed.

22nd November 2008

It was a beautiful sunny morning once day broke, but cold - very cold. I was quickly into my new routine with the kitchen stove. I can usually get it going first time these days. Maybe it is with getting a bit of heat into the chimney so that there is always a little updraught. It is amazing the amount of routine that heating and cooking using solid fuel imposes on you. We are used to just turning on the electric or gas cooker and away you go. I think I mentioned the article on the local news about people turning back to wood burning appliances because of the cost of energy. When I was a young man I used to chat to elderly people - coming up to retiring age or retired - who had been "in service". Probably many of today's young people don't know the meaning of the term. I know that cleaning out the grates and getting the fires lit was what many people had to do at 5:30 in the morning, day after day.

I gave the front window frames another dose of the caustic soda mix. It took me two goes. I had to retire to the kitchen to warm up after the first one! That's the end of it for this session, and I only have two much, much smaller windows that will need that treatment next year. I rinsed the bucket out and left it to soak. One more job ticked off the outstanding list. Plenty left though!

Did a bit more washing to warm the hands up. By the time I came to hang it out, the weather had turned grey, and as I was hanging it out there was a small flurry of snow. It settled, but the covering was so sparse it was not worth a photo.

I went back to the jigsaw and replacing the glass in the windows. I am now in a race against the elements as winter tightens its grip. Working in the outhouse I had to resort to my warmest footwear. Guess what that is? Wellies with two pairs of socks, ordinary ones first and thermal ones on the top.Snow is forecast in a couple of days time. Those windows are going back - painted or not! I also need to sort out the lagging where live cold water pipes that serve the bathroom run through the outhouse. I ask you! And the door to the outhouse which was off its hinges when I came to view the place needs at least wedging in place so that cold winds cannot wreak havoc with the plumbing in there. Helper has been conspicuous by his absence. I still see him daily in the pub and we are still best of friends. Don't know what is going on there!

Speaking of which, that was the day, except for pub, home, bed.

23rd November 2008

Very cold, with a blustery, biting wind. The Hungarian Meterological Service gave warning of winds gusting to sixty kilometers per hour! Simply much too cold to work in the outhouse, both for me and for things like the acrylic filler I was using to bed the glass and the wooden fillets. Time for a major reorganise.

I had a sort out in the hallway, and a reorganisation of tools and the kitchen table. It will have to double, for now, as a kitchen table and work bench. In the hallway I used an old crate as a workbench - not the best for creating superb workmanship! At least I organised it to that the use of power tools was in the hallway, where the spread of sawdust and drillings could be confined.

That done, I returned to refitting the glass to the windows. I stuck at it far too long, and inevitably the end result was that I got careless. One window pane (window No. 4, I think) was already in two pieces when I removed it. One corner was cracked off. It is now in five pieces, but I don't care, as at least they are all seated nicely in the frame. Not a job for now!

Normal routine with the log baskets before dark. Inside the house is still warm, although day by day I have to advance the hour of lighting the fire in the big stove. I suppose they have had many years to develop those huge great stoves, but I still marvel at its ability to store and radiate heat for fourteen or sixteen hours.

When I went to the pub, it was cold enough to take your breath away. Helper and I left at the same time (kicking out time, of course - no change there then). It's groan time folks. I asked him about the weather for the time of year. He told me it was Tom Jones weather... "It's not unusual"


24th November 2008

Another day of racing against the elements. Made fillets for, and replaced the glass in two more windows. I had the sense to stop when I had had enough, so no disasters today. Had a nice long on-line chat with one of my daughters too.

I finished off the bottom half of the wine press, except for a final fine going over with the smoothing plane , sanding down and drilling the holes for the threaded rods that will do the pressing. It will get plenty of help from gravity anyway with the top weighing about ten kilogrammes! Finishing the top won't take long, as it will be just flat. It needs epoxy filling, and also needs final smoothing and sanding down.

In the midst of that, Posta arrived - water bill. Eleven thousand-odd Forints - About £38. Well, that's not too bad, considering that I know for a fact (I checked the meter) that my disaster with flooding the cellar when I first got here went through about twenty five quids worth!

I forgot to mention about mending (bodging!) the front door. Many months ago (March/April) I wrote about getting it to close properly. Unfortunately, in spite of my best endeavours, it remains bent. I went for the easy option. Leave the door as it is and fill the gaps up with wood fillets. So I did. Took about an hour and a half in the freezing cold, but eventually I made it about ninety percent more draught proof than it was before. It needs a good slam now before it will catch, but I reckon that without any other measures the temperature in the hallway has risen five degrees. I don't much mind about bodging the doors as they are destined to replace the ones on the summer kitchen.

The weather forecast remains not good. The local telly is talking about minus ten!! Having said that, I tend to disbelieve it, as here in Halogy we don't seem to get that kind of extreme weather.

25th November 2008

Peak Oil activists conference reported on Energy Bulletin.

A cold but bright and clear morning. I managed to do one bit (i.e. a single piece of wood) to the dog kennel. Pickle actually uses it quite often - especially when she knows she has been naughty. In the dog house - haha!

I finished the bottom half of the wine press, apart from drilling the holes for the threaded rods that will do the actual pressing. Pictures:
Bear in mind that this is all oak reclaimed from the pallets on which the firewood was delivered. Inevitably, some of the pieces had nail holes. I had to chop them out (there is a staining reaction between oak and iron) and plug them. Nail Holes Repaired
Good Glue Line Some of the glue lines were excellent...
...others less so! Bad Glue Line
Spout I finished off the spout thus. Hopefully, all the liquid will drip/pour where it is intended to go!

After lunch I tackled the last window, cutting the fillets and replacing the glass. No disasters! Helper was supposed to come and seal round the windows with high expansion foam. All the frames are braced to prevent it from bowing the frames inwards so the windows won't fit (again). He never showed. Told me later it was too cold to use the foam. I have to say that the Hungarians are as much fixated on the weather forecast as are the British. They have a thing on the weather forecast about "fronts" (in Hungarian "front") and the weather forecaster always says whether there is no front, a warm front, a cold front or an occluded front on the way!

26th November 2008

I didn't put the alarm on last night. I woke up late this morning, and got up even later. Very tired. Tired to the core of my being. I could quite happily have rolled over and stayed in bed until noon. But then the neighbours would have been talking! There was no kenyer (bread loaves) when I got to the shop, so I had to make do with zemle. Eventually I got into gear and finished off the wine press. I had eight large (16mm) and long (88mm deep) holes to drill. I went to drill the first hole, and the drill nearly jumped out of my hand, and this was a brand new bit! I held the drill up and let it revolve slowly. The point of the bit was describing a circle of about two millimetres radius. I tried everything I knew to correct it: putting it in the chuck the other way round, whacking it, whacking it again. Nothing worked. It is one of those bits that has a hexagon ground on the end for the drill chuck to grip. Eventually I found that by opening the chuck up and gripping it on the circular part instead of the hex, it was perfect. Hmmmm - Hungarian workmanship strikes again! I set to to drill the holes. In spite of drilling at lowish speed and frequently stopping to let the bit cool down it still managed to run hot enough to "blue". But then, I am talking about drilling through solid oak. The trusty angle grinder came into play to divide the two twelve millimetre threaded rods into two lengths of half a metre each. I don't mind using the file to split six millimetre threaded rod, but bugger doing that with twelve mil.! The threaded rods were positioned, the top put roughly in place, and the threaded rods tightened up:
Wine Press The finished wine press!
With both halves together it really is a substantial lump to lift!

During one of my breaks I continued Pickle's training:
All I need to do now is to get her to hold the bottle herself :) Dog Training

Late in the afternoon, with temperatures plummeting, I bit the bullet and removed the bracings from the window frames and replaced all the windows. It was dark by the time I had finished, and the big room was quite cold with the constant in and out, and opening the inner windows to replace the outer ones. I lit the fire, retired to the kitchen and ate, changed and went to the pub. The forecast for the evening for the north of Hungary was minus fifteen. And to think that the Tisza Lakes area was one of my chosen possible destinations ... maybe fate took a hand. They have also had serious flooding this year!

When I got home the big room was literally sweltering. What a difference the extra layer of glazing made. Strange thing is that in spite of all the hard frosts the road surface has always remained frost free. Can't work that one out.

27th November 2008

A day I had been looking forward to for a while; the fruition of a fair amount of work in planning and putting together the wine press. It was to have its first road test today. Would it work or would it be a disaster? No way of knowing until I tried it. I did my early morning ritual. Light the fire, put the coffee on and go to the shop. If I buy fresh bread, which doesn't happen every day, breakfast is a good thick slab of bread with Flora and lashings of my home made jam. I'm on the first of the apple jam at the moment. It turned out really well, with a perfect jammy consistency. I think flavour-wise, though, my favourite has to be the pear, lemon and ginger jam - that is quite extraordinary. I followed my newly acquired routine - washed dried and put away the pots (previously I would only do it when I ran out of knives!), and washed out a pair of jeans and as it was by now a beautifully sunny, if cold day, hung them on the line.

Time for the press! Here's how it went:
Pressing Country Wine Remembering to put a clean, sterilised bucked under the spout, I laid a clean cloth on the press.
Using a slotted spoon, the pieces of fruit were hoiked out of the fermenter and piled onto the cloth. Pressing Country Wine
Pressing Country Wine Once all the fruit was on board the cloth, with the addition of a second was folded over to completely enclose the fruit.
On went the lid. Notice that the nuts are not yet on the press top, and see how much liquid was obtained just by the weight of the top. Pressing Country Wine
Pressing Country Wine Pressing complete, nuts wound down as hard as I could get them, and then the top removed. This is what is left. It is a solid wad of almost dried fruit pulp, which peeled cleanly off the cloth and went straight on the compost heap! It is difficult to see from the photo but it is somewhat less than a centimetre thick.

The press didn't perform flawlessly - there are a couple of places where a very minor amount of liquid is finding its way out where it shouldn't, and the rods at the back, which are supposed to be locked to the bottom by nuts top and bottom, turned with the nut when I really had some poundage on them. The ones at the front did too, but I was able to fix them where the press stood. I just couldn't get at the back ones. On the whole very satisfactory - the drainage channels and spout worked just as intended. When I get to the grapes I will simply pack more cloths with fruit and stack them up.

It was close to lunchtime by then, so a quick bite to eat as I needed to go into town. Once there I got cash and went to the Posta and paid the Land Tax bill. I couldn't face the one kilometer walk to Tescos so I legged it to Lidls, which is only three or four hundred metres from the town centre. Bought a few bits in there that I cannot get in the village, then legged it back to town. Walked round the corner to the bus stop. Bugger! No people. That means the bus had gone. And a bit promptly! By the way, did I ever say about the bus drivers in Hungary? If there are more than, say, five or six people to get on the bus, they stop the engine. They also coast as much as possible in neutral (Shock, Horror) but only on gentle downhill inclines. They wouldn't coast down the hill into the village. If it was not for the bend at the bottom I would be doing over forty kilometers an hour on the push bike! Anyway, the bus had gone. I lingered for a moment and filled and lit the pipe, but the bus had undoubtedly gone. With an hour to wait I had a gentle wander back round the corner and headed for the cellar bar. I sat quietly in there and had a little write in the Black Book, carefully watching the time. I remembered an item that I had neglected to get in Lidls, so, with time to spare I went in to the local mini-supermarket to get it. Still with plenty of time I walked back around the corner. Oh, WHAT??? No people! Once again the bus had been and gone - well early! Bollocks, that meant another two hours before the half past five bus!

Casting my mind about for something to do for the next two hours I recalled that I had the window measurements for curtains in my Black Book. I had another wander back into town and went to the Textilbolt. I was greeted in pidgin German by the lady in the shop. I obviously still stand out like a sore thumb as a foreigner. "Nem, nem német - angol" (No, I'm not German I'm English). We managed a conversation by means of which, with the aid of the trusty szotar I was able to indicate to her that I was after curtain material. She immediately went to the large stock of net curtaining. I manged to get through to her that that was not what I wanted. I was after curtains for the kitchen window that can be drawn to stop people seeing in! She showed me what she had, and I chose one. Not as heavy as I would have liked, but OK. We talked about the length and width and she reeled off what was needed. Then she did something I have not seen for many, many years. She pulled a thread and puckered the material and used that as her guide to cutting the length off the roll. Then she had me hold the material doubled over in tension much as you would do when folding sheets, and whizzed down the resulting crease with her scissors. Instant pair of curtains. I tried to indicate that I needed sewing thread to stitch them up - there was none to be seen in the shop. She immediately pointed me to another shop just across the way. I paid her and went across the way. Hmmmm - didn't look like a shop at all. I think it was a sewing establishment. I can only conclude that Hungarians buy the cloth in one shop and then take it elsewhere and have them made up. I'll make them up myself, thanks - even stitching every inch by hand.

By now it was almost closing time for the shops (4pm) so as I was vaguely headed in that direction I plodded my weary way to the Halászcsárda Panzió (the small hotel I stayed in twice, by the Raba river) to await the time for the next bus. I lingered in there over a single beer, and left early enough to ensure catching the next bus home. I watched the National Geographic channel on the telly. At least it made a change from football! By the way Halászcsárda means either "Fisherman's Inn", or "Fisherman's Piss Pot" depending upon which translation you rely upon.

28th November 2008

It was a bit cold this morning. Not in the house you understand - outside. Distinctly nippy when I went to the shop. By the time it got properly light it was still cold, so I stuck the thermometer on the kitchen window sill outside. Minus four at eight in the morning!

I had a go at the faults with the wine press, doing a little more sealing with epoxy resin, so that put it out of use for the day. Then I started on the other side of the chopping board. In theory both sides should be equally difficult to get smooth and straight, but this side does seem much worse. One hour a day of that is enough, so after that I reorganised the kitchen again. It's the bloody walnuts! They are in the way wherever I put them. I had managed to squeeze both the big baskets under the kitchen table, only to realise that with both baskets there I couldn't slide the table out to get at the windows.

The cold reminded me that I still had a couple of urgent outstanding winterising jobs to do. The first was to lag the live cold water pipes that run through the outhouse to feed the bathroom. Why they run through the outhouse I don't know! Fortunately I found a load of lagging doing nothing. Believe it or not, the outhouse used to have a radiator in it, and the hot water side of the feed for the non-existant radiator was lagged. Why? Why, why, why? Why on earth would anyone lag the hot feed side? I removed it, and nasty, dusty, dirty work it was. Then I lagged the exposed cold water pipes with it, which was equally nasty, dusty and dirty. After that I hooked the outhouse door back on its one hinge. It was off when I viewed the property. It doesn't open or close, but at least it will stop freezing winds getting in there later in the winter!

When I left the pub, later, it had turned to a very cold brisk rainfall.

29th November 2008

A thoroughly horrible and depressing day - freezing rain! And on top of that some so-and-so has given me a cold! Not the sort of cold that makes you feel ill, just bunged up and snotty. The cappings on the fence pillars had a fringe of tiny icicles, and the grass on the yard, whilst appearing just wet, was crunchy underfoot.

An indoor sort of a day, so, with the kitchen stove well stoked up I continued for another hour planing the chopping board. At an hour a day I reckon on about another weeks work. I promised you a picture of the kennel once the front was finished:
Back and front are now on the kennel all insulated with straw. The rest is straightforward apart from trimming up the clinker edges, but that can wait. Notice particularly the fine workmanship around the opening where the dog gets in and out ;) Part Built Kennel

I started on cleaning, and cleaning up the big room windows. Well, cleaning all twenty of them, and cleaning up the outer ones. What's the diffference? Cleaning them is what you expect. Cleaning them up is removing old (and new!) paint at the edges of the glass, and trimming off excess decorator's filler from both sides of the glass. Quite time consuming. I found a secret weapon in the cleaning department. I had heard about its use on my travels, but never used it before. The local strong pickling vinegar is superb for cleaning the glass - doesn't need anything else.

After lunch the press came out again and I pressed the cider. I found that it is definitely a law of diminishing returns. The vast majority of the liquid is recovered just by putting the top on, and screwing the nuts down a bit at a time by hand, finger tight. By the time you get to really wanging them up tight with a spanner there are only a few drops of liquid pressed from the pulp. Again, the pulp went straight on the compost heap. As I was doing it, a thought sprang to mind. Where had I done this shaking stuff off cloths thing before? Then it came to me - Terry nappies, of course! More detail than you needed, I'm sure.

The weather continued horrid, so I continued in the kitchen. A bit more organised than last time - mainly by cooking something that just needed one pan, and only occasional attention, I managed to cook myself a meal and make scones at the same time.

30th November 2008

Just as a quick doom and gloom reminder this article from The Brattleboro Reformer. Nice to end the month on a cheerful note ;)

I was up early even for me on a Sunday. Helper was to come round and seal round the windows with high expansion foam. I had a quick sweep round, then removed all the outer windows (again) and put back the bracings to prevent the foam from bending the window frames inwards. The appointed time of eight o'clock came and went. I had just got round to making coffee. Drank the coffee, and started back on the cleaning and cleaning up the windows. Nine o'clock came and went, ten o'clock came and went - no helper. At about eleven o'clock an unexpected visitor appeared outside in his white car. No, not Plod!! The local cabinet maker appeared with his home made Hungarian sausages (kolbász) They are, I'm told, much better and much cheaper than the ones you would buy in, say, Tescos.

No sooner had I paid and stored away the sausages than helper did finally turn up. We had arranged to meet in the pub at noon anyway. By the time he had done the ten minutes or so of sealing the windows it was about half past eleven and he suggested we go straight to the pub. He set off, and I followed him about ten minutes later. We had a couple of beers, then it was up to his mothers place for lunch.

On the way up there I noticed that the village centre, where the flagpoles and commemorative stuff are, was decorated with Christmas lights. Must get a photo! We wound our way up the hill to his mothers house. I presented her with a little jar of my apple jam. She busied about putting it away, and came back with a jar of the pickled chicken stuff for me to try. She did warn me, and she had some kitchen towel handy to use as a hankie. Bloody hell, it nearly took my head off. My eyes watered, and my already snotty nose ran. By the way, if your feet smell, and your nose runs you were built upside down! Sorry!

Food was served, and in the light of previous experience I realised that it would be soup, stew and cake. And sure enough it was. The last time I dined I thought that the soup was it. I didn't make the same mistake this time. In the interim, I asked about where I could buy sewing cotton. Discussions arose and maps were drawn, and then from nowhere two big bags and a drawerful of reels of cotton appeared. A rummage ensued, and the result was that I was presented with a bloody great reel of (about) the right colour of cotton. I was given a guided tour of the treadle sewing machine too! Replete with soup, stew and cake and by now equipped with a goody bag of cotton, pickled chicken and tök, I eventually managed to leave, along with helper. Of course we had a beer together on my way home. Once again I encounter the splendour of true Hungarian hospitality.

At home I knocked the bracings out of the window frames, put the windows back and lit the fires. And so November subsides quietly into December...


March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
November 2012
December 2012


Photo Galleries