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March 2010

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1st March 2010

Some sewing (jeans) and a bit of woodwork occupied the morning. After lunch the wellies went on and for the first time since injuring the leg I ventured into the garden. Pickle got hooked up by the gate, just inside the garden. I didn't chance taking her up to the second staging post. Stuff went on the current compost heap and got covered over with some fairly well rotted compost from one of the remaining heaps from the first year. Someone (they know who they are) mentioned elsewhere about not putting onions on the compost heap. I really don't think I need to worry - at a rough calculation the last year compost heap is somewhere of the order of twelve cubic metres. It will shrink, of course, but three or four onions on there is a drop in the ocean, a needle in a haystack.

Whilst at that end of the garden I had a play with one of my as yet unused new toys from Christmas - a pH tester. My previous thoughts were confirmed - I didn't even do a proper test as per the instructions, just stuck the probe in the ground. Acid - definitely acid. It is actually not surprising considering that the previous owners tried to make a business out of growing Christmas trees here. Nothing that a dusting with meszhidrat and an application of wood ash well dug in won't fix. Hobo has spoken to me about humusz, which translated into English is humus, and pronounced humus (but with the 'u's pronounced in the Hungarian fashion). "Put plenty of humusz in the soil" quoth Hobo. Well, yeah - I knew that. I'll talk more later about composting and what goes on here. I don't think you are quite ready for it yet!!

Back to the outhouse garden and I drilled four furrows with the pici kapa. I set about sorting out viable seeds from a carrier bag full. Big seeds. Well, nuts actually. Chest-nuts. I want forty nine little chestnut plants. OK - I'll spare you the mental arithmetic. √49 == 7. Now, at one metre apart that is just six metres square, or thirty six square metres if you prefer. Another drop in the ocean. Why? I hear you ask. Well, in almost two years here I have signally failed to source a supply of garden posts. It might be a bit of a long term project but the answer is obviously to grow my own, along with everything else. I reckon that in five years the ones in the middle of the square will be ready for cutting as posts. After that, my gods willing that I am still on this earth as a person and still physically able, I may just turn it into a little coppice. I can hear the neighbours now, when I clear a six metre square and put all my little plants in - "WTF is he doing???".

I managed three out of the four rows when Hobo appeared. He stocked me up with firewood again and then went off on one about my spade. I told him where it was and he retrieved it and disappeared up the village. About half an hour later he reappeared with my spade which now had nice ninety degree little steps welded to the bit where you plonk your feet. It won't split the soles of my welly boots now!

Later, in the pub (of course), Hobo was there and so was John. For whatever reason we got to talking about UK Saint's days and the stuff associated with them. Of course that started Hobo off about name days. We talked about leeks and roses, but somehow shamrocks and thistles got left out. When I lived in Lincolnshire I grew some ornamental thistles - you know, the type they grow in the gardens in Edinburgh - b*****ds they were - I used to have to take the hedge knife to them when they started to overhang the path. Seven feet high! They even featured in a local car club Treasure Hunt.

2nd March 2010

Not a lot to say about today. I finished off sowing the chestnuts - one row that I didn't get done yesterday. I had the good ones already sorted out and ready to go so it was a matter of a few moments work to get them in the ground. I went to Nádasd in the afternoon for a few items. One item was a new brass fitting for the outside tap. I had become fed up of buying the Hozelock-type plastic ones having got through three. Two Pickle broke and one she ate! As I was waiting for the bus back to Halogy (unusually it was very late) I watched the traffic on the main road. The road is one of the main north-south routes between Slovakia in the north and Croatia in the south. Lots of trucks, lots of car transporters. Like truckers everywhere they were indulging in the sport of tailgating. The speed limit through the village is (I think) fifty kilometres per hour. They have the flashing signs at each end of the village now to tell you to slow down if exceeding the speed limit. The locals were bimbling along at or near the speed limit and behind every one was a trucker. About three metres behind. It reminded me of when I worked in the car transportation business myself. One of our transporter drivers, with a full load of cars, overtook the local Area Traffic Commissioner in his car at speed on a two lane section of the A1M in the UK. Next we knew was an official request for his tachograph chart for that day. He lost his HGV license for five years for that stunt, and of course his job. I used to have a photocopy of the chart. If memory serves, the outermost calibration on the chart is one hundred and forty kilometers an hour. He almost managed to get off the edge. Eighty seven miles an hour in a fully laden car transporter. Deserved what he got!

Back home the dog was in a tanglement around a piece of pipework connected with the septic tank. How she manages it I don't know - it is only a couple of inches above the concrete coverings of the septic tank. That was when I noticed the hole in the fence. Damned dog! She continues to probe the security of the yard, and had obviously managed to breach it. Whether or not she had actually been next door to No. 72 I don't know, but there had been no repercussions - one elderly lady, one pussy cat and four remaining hens continue to go about their daily business. Pickle did get dragged over to the hole and severely chastised.

I managed a little woodwork after that.

Later, in the pub vas Layos turned up. He hadn't been there yesterday evening, which was unusual in itself. Vas Layos is not to be confused with fa Layos, who is the fa szakember. Vas Layos is the vas szakember. Quite obvious really. We had a little business to finalise - the cost of the modifications to my Hungarian spade. A couple of beers! You know, I reckon that a lot of what goes on in this village either is or could be done by barter. Of course the odd men out have to be the shop and the pub. Mind you, I do know that a couple of people exchange work directly for drink at the pub.

A picture missed from yesterday:
I mentioned on 18th February getting butter beans from the UK. I had decided to see if they would germinate. They were laid on wet cotton wool on a little tray thing, wrapped in a couple of plastic bags and stuck on what has to pass for my propagator on top of the tile stove. Here is the result. They sprouted like good 'uns. Pre-germinating Butter Beans

3rd March 2010

A cheery piece by Kurt Cobb on societal collapse. And, somewhat off the doom and gloom Sharon Astyk on the Independence Day Challenge 2010.

More work on patching jeans. I have to say I hate it. Detest it. It is soul destroying and mind numbingly boring. At least the leather work is creative and problem solving! As is the woodwork. After that I mixed up my stock of mole hill earth with an equal amount of the local compost. I get much better results with that mixture than with straight compost. The reason for that was to get my pre-germinated butter beans into plant pots to grow on. There is a lot happening on the gardening front at the moment. All indoors of course, apart from the chestnuts. My makeshift propagator on top of the tile stove is working well for most things. I have the board upon which I made the Turks Head mat on there, still with the nails in. Nail side down so that there is an air gap between the top of the stove and the board, with the seed trays on the top. It seems to maintain just about the right degree of warmth to get stuff started. Except the herbal smoking mixture which is proving just as big a disaster as last year. Hmmmm - I thought the seeds were supposed to acclimatise!

I made a bolognese for lunch with the last of last years tomatoes. I reckon on needing double or even treble the amount of tomato plants that I had last year. It will be a lot of work and I could always just buy jars of tomato paste from the shop, but it's not the same. It's a psychological thing, I'm sure, but there is just something about cooking up a meal in the middle of the winter and, whatever you put into it, being able to think "I grew that!". I put one of the little tins of mystery meat into the bolognese. It says pork on the label. I forgot to put garlic into the sauce. Another senior moment.

After lunch I decided that, in my state of continuing infirmity, something nevertheless needed doing with the little strip of garden from the front door to the gate:
Needs Sorting You see what I mean?

I grabbed the secateurs and a stool from the house, and with some difficulty managed to hobble my way with the wheelbarrow to where I wanted to work. I set about pruning the hibiscus first, with the intention of putting my very expensive (almost three quid) top of the range gardening gloves on later and doing the roses. I had done two hibiscus bushes when Hobo appeared. He disappeared and reappeared in and out of the house and woodsheds, then he came to help me (for help me read take over) the pruning. I stopped him at the roses though. I'm pretty sure he would not have pruned them as hard as I intend to prune them. We stopped and had a beer and a smoke.

Later I crutched my way to the pub. You know, I am a bad man. Right opposite the pub, at the last opportunity to take one of the driveways that go across the village drainage ditch without having to retrace my steps, there lives a yappy little dog. I doesn't like the crutches - not one bit. I'm a bad man. I wind it up by making sure that my left crutch is only about two inches from the gates behind which the dog is, on the way to the pub, and my right crutch on the way home. It goes ballistic. Tearing lumps of wood out of the gates to try and get at me. Sorry - has to be done.

When I got home I grabbed a handful of walnuts (I keep a ready supply in the kitchen to chop up for the birds) and, as usual, settled to the computer for a while. I got to thinking about my lifestyle and treats. Pickle and I used to share a bag of crisps at this time of night. It is rare indeed for me to buy any now. I used to get a daily choccy fix from the shop. Now, maybe once a fortnight. Same with real meat. Once a month when I go into Körmend. Enough philosophising for today! More to come. I did manage a bit of Arvo Pärt and Canteloube tonight. Much to the disgust of Pickle who disappears from sight if I even pick up the headphones.

4th March 2010

I arose to a horrid morning. Grey, cold and trying to rain. So much for spring being here! The leg corresponded accordingly with the weather - it hurt. Life goes on. In my infirmity a load of washing had mounted up so I had put the boiler on so that I could do a clothes wash jumping up and down on it in the bath. Well, not quite jumping up and down.

I made bread, and managed to balls that up. Oven not hot enough. The bread was fine - just not crusty enough.

Hobo came round and did the firewood and later I went to the pub. I managed an early night, too. That's it!

5th March 2010

After my early night I was up and about quite early (for me at the moment). I was in the shop by seven and once home I had a very productive morning in and around the house. It was cool enough outside not to make for pleasant working, but bright and clear with a fair breeze. The one thing I did do outside was to get the washing out on the line. Back indoors to some (very) necessary domestic chores - washing up and sweeping right through. I know that I mentioned treats a couple of days ago. Walnuts instead of crisps! Well, in the mornings I hear Pickle move about on her chair and a suspicious rattle. Then I will hear her get off the chair. Next is the crunch-crunch of breaking walnut shells as she steals them from the computer desk and helps herself to an early breakfast. Only problem is that she has not learned how to clear up after herself. Walnut shells! At least I have her trained into an area of the room where I don't have to walk when I go to put the light on.

After that it was a bit of leatherwork, and cook lunch. Can't remember what - nothing spectacular. I had a new visitor whilst I was eating lunch. A greenfinch, as my Internet researches have shown since. Quite a pretty bird. I didn't get a picture. I'll have to set the camera up again and have it switched on and ready as I did for the hawfinch.

I did about an hours web site work for someone else. Then I decided to go and get some eggs. It was time to try the bicycle. I got out my walking stick - I am well-prepared for eventualities - and hobbled across to the outhouse. I secured the walking stick about the bicycle and, using the bicycle as support, wheeled it out of the yard. To my relief cycling was OK! I had to go down the gears more than I normally would to get up the hill to the place, but had no problem. The lady was very kind. She came to the gate and took my eggbox through the gate, returned and passed them through and took my money and returned again with my change. She didn't want me to walk up their steep yard as I would normally do. Hungarian consideration at work. I had a celebratory beer in the pub on the way home. When I came out, the wind had turned really cold and it felt round about freezing.

Back home it was already time to light the tile stove. Only a few days ago I was getting away with not lighting it until I returned from the pub in the evening. Not now. It felt like the return of winter. The activity in the village reflected it too. Those same few days ago people were starting to appear in their gardens, beginning to make their preparations. Now they were all hidden away indoors or just round and about in their yards. The only saving grace was that the washing was dry.

More computer work, a bite to eat, stoke up the stove and off to the pub for my evening stint.

6th March 2010

A fairly depressing report from Chris Nelder about energy and OECD economies.

Another frosty, cold morning. Mmmmm - I ask myself can you have a frosty morning that isn't cold? Upon reflection I think yes you can. If there has been a hard frost but the day dawns bright, clear and still and as the sun rises there is a little warmth in it, there you have a frosty morning that isn't cold. Maybe it's all in the mind! The leg didn't like the cold and it reminded me that I had been cycling yesterday - twice. Ibuprophen was called for.

Hobo turned up, did the firewood and was still looking for work. I set him on with a couple of bits around the yard. There are still bits of ironwork everywhere. I don't know where it comes from, but every time that an area gets cleared - even if it has been cleared before - more appears. Hobo cleared it away onto the ever-growing heap at the bottom of the garden behind the garage. He is waiting for the price of scrap to be right and it will all get disappeared. After that, under my instruction he mended the hole in the fence that caused a degree of disagreement between me and Pickle. The old lady next door came over to see what he was doing and they had a chat whilst he was doing it. Hobo and I had a chat and a smoke over a beer after that. He reiterated what I already knew - that all the village knows exactly what I am doing, at least whilst I am outdoors. I reiterated to him that I didn't care and if they were talking about me they weren't talking about anyone else.

He left, and I had lunch. I had another new visitor. I think it was a female chaffinch. Definitely a finch with that beak.

I went back to Internet work after lunch, but for whatever reasons was not in a good frame of mind. It remained with me for the rest of the day. Happens sometimes.

7th March 2010

We had had a dusting of snow overnight. Nothing to speak of and as the morning wore on it disappeared. But it shows how cold it still is.

I made a potato and bean soup for lunch. I wanted a nice thick creamy soup so the beans got cooked up separately, cooled off and all the testæ removed. How tedious was that? Then I cooked the spuds, drained them, put the beans in and mashed the whole lot as fine as I could get. I had set aside the cooking water to go back in. I had put a clove of garlic in with the cooking spuds intending to remove it. I forgot, so it got mashed in too. I let it down to the consistency I wanted then I made it creamy. Guess how?...

...with cream, of course :)

A kit check of my seeds germinating on top of the stove revealed that a number of them were ready to go onto the kitchen window sill. The beautifully hand crafted and embossed walnut labels proved a disaster. The moisture had travelled up the walnut and lovingly unembossed all my lettering. They were all but illegible. I should have known, of course. It is an old woodworker's trick for getting dents out of wood. Soak a bit of cloth in boiling water, and use another cloth to hold it to avoid getting scalded and press over the dent. Hey presto - no dent.

A little later I had a very pleasant interlude on Skype with the webcam working. The family (most of it anyway) had gathered to have a little celebration of one of my grandson's first birthday and we spent a very pleasant hour or so.

It was very definitely still winter. The pub shut at eight again. And it was cold. The forecast is for overnight temperatures for the next few days to be minus five or six and days zero or one!

8th March 2010

It continues to be winter again. I had started a practice of putting my seedlings on the kitchen window sill once the kitchen was warmed up in the morning, and in the early evenings moving them back into the big room once there was bit of heat in there from the tile stove. Most of what I have on the go is tender stuff so I am attempting not to lose them from getting too chilled.

I mentioned a few days ago about having difficulty getting a certain seed to germinate. Somewhen between then and now I had remembered a gardener's trick getting parsley to germinate and I had wondered if it would work with my seeds. I had nothing to lose as out of, I would say, several hundred seeds sown I had managed to get four tiny little plants. So I did. Watered the last lot that I had sowed with hot water. If I was washing clothes I guess I would describe it as hand hot. Probably about forty degrees centigrade. In my chagrin I watered the tray directly with the kettle. A surge of hot mud slid across the surface of the tray and the inside of the sink spattered with muddy water. I thought to myself "If anything grows in that I will eat my knickers". It's a good job I didn't say it out loud. It worked, and that tray now has thirty to forty little plants. It is one of the ones that I am moving about.

Fairly miffed with the problem with the plant labels I decided on stronger action with that as well. Aluminium. In amongst the stuff for eventual weighing in for scrap are a stack of what I can only describe as spun aluminium parabolic shaped containers about five inches maximum diameter and eight or nine deep. I suspect that their original use was something to do with chickens. Just what, I have no idea. I sacrificed one to the great god angle grinder and cut off a few strips, round the way, about five eighths of an inch across, and sliced them the right length for plant pot labels. With the edges all trimmed I set about stamping them with the various seed varieties. Now, let exposure to sunlight and rain get rid of that! Much later, in the pub, on the news was an item about a new record high price for petrol in Hungary.

9th March 2010 Updated

I was up and about quite early today, for a reason. I had had a re-invite to go up to Pickle's breeders and take photos of the birds. All the camera gear was packed and ready to go. It happened that I bumped into the lady when I went over to the shop and she asked me if I was still going to take photos. I told her that I was, just as soon as I had taken the shopping back to the house.

Which I did - cycle up to theirs with all the photo gear. I set up by the kitchen table, a beer appeared and I started taking photos. Most were the same selection of birds that I get, but the photography conditions were much better than at home. It was a new double glazed window with perfect modern glass! I'll do a gallery as soon as I have sorted out the wheat from the chaff. The lady of the house started preparing lunch. She had one of the great big pastry boards that are ubiquitous here. Mine was too disgusting to use - it is the thing that I made the mat on, and started curing the rabbit skin on (ongoing, by the way) and is now on top of the tile stove acting as a propagator. She put a pile of flour onto it, leveled it out and made it slightly hollow in the middle and cracked a load of eggs into it and made a flour and egg dough right there - no mixing bowl, nothing - just done by hand on the board. A hand machine appeared, she divided the dough into rough oblongs and then they went in succession through the machine several times, each time being rolled thinner and thinner, controlled by a knob on the side of the machine. When she was satisfied with the thickness (or thinness) of them they were laid out on clean cloths on what I think was a collapsible clothes airer.

I never did find out the result. By then I had spent about two hours, mostly on my feet, and the leg said "enough". I took my leave, but before I left I was presented with a food parcel - thirty pullet eggs and a little bag containing two kolbas from their last pig killing. The leg was so bad that I freewheeled back down the hill and had to take a break in the pub before I could continue to pedal home ;)

After lunch I did some actual gardening. I needed the space on the kitchen window sill and the fokhagyma simply had to go into the ground. Including the limp up the garden (with dog), sticking them in the ground and the limp back down to the yard it took all of - oh - fifteen minutes. It was still seriously cold out there though. You know, I never thought of fokhagyma as being a hardy crop but my gardening calendar (thanks Becky) says to put them in the ground in February. We'll see how they fare. At least this year they won't get walked on, I hope.

I knew that Hobo was working up the road and I didn't expect to see him, so, painfully in fits and stops, I topped myself up with firewood. I have done a deal on another load of firewood - a lot of wood Hobo assures me - but at the moment it is bogged down by the weather. Apparently they got a tractor stuck trying to get the first load out. It will have to wait until the weather turns and the ground hardens up a bit.

Later, in the pub, a chap who I knew by sight came and asked if he could sit at the table that me and Hobo occupy. Of course. We had quite a lot of conversation about all sorts of stuff. Hobo helped a bit by translating some of the guy's questions into magyarul that I could understand. He bought me a beer and I bought him one back. It was a very pleasant evening and I rolled home quite late.

At home I had quite a long Skype chat with a friend and business associate. Which was good. We generally have e-mails to exchange daily, or weekly, but it was nice just to chat for the fun of it.

10th March 2010

It has been a long haul but finally the leg has improved to the stage where I can manage to get to the shop and back without crutch or walking stick. I was discussing it on-line with someone and they agreed with what I said about the biggest problem being how rapidly muscle tone disappears. I know from personal experience with my knee problems, and from advice that my physioterrorist gave me at the time that the way to alleviate the problems caused by osteoarthritis is to have a support (round the joint) and to maintain muscle tone. Almost a month now, and the muscle tone is just starting to return. In a way I am pleased that winter returned. At least when spring does finally, properly appear I should be fit enough to start digging, scything, mattocking...

Speaking of which, spring was definitely not here today. Cold and grey again. I satisfied myself with another load of housework (boring) and some more indoor gardening. Five garlics really aren't enough, so I potted up another ten. Still not sure that that's enough.

After lunch I spent a long while on the Internet downloading and archiving a web site (not mine) and uploading an update. Hmmmm - ADSL. The uploading took the time.

As the afternoon wore on I felt worse and worse. Streaming nose, head like a balloon. Bugger, another head cold. I still went to the pub though. I had a nice surprise (not) when I left. It was snowing - again. The bike was white over and the road was white over. I cycled carefully home and once there walked equally carefully up the path to the house. I really cannot afford to fall on the bad leg again!

11th March 2010

Not Peak Oil perhaps, but this staggering indictment of American finances by Stewart Dougherty is worth a read.

It had snowed quite a lot through the night. Wet, heavy snow like you get in the UK - not the dusty powdery stuff that we had earlier in the winter. I swept my way to the gate and out to the road, and then the other way up to the woodshed. With the same amount of care as I had taken last night on the way home I made my way to the shop. I wasn't that early - just gone eight - but for some reason the shop was packed. It took me a good quarter of an hour to get served, and I had not even litten the kitchen stove yet. Eventually I got served and made my way equally gingerly home.

Stove, coffee, toast. In between I drew off another pint of water to drink. I don't think I have ever said, but I drink at least two pints of water every morning when I get up. Hangover cure! I had taken two or three good swigs when I realised that I was drinking brown water. Oh no! WTF? Surely not yet another water catastrophe? I carefully made my way out to the viz akna, swept it clear of snow, and lifted the lid. It took me a fair few seconds of fuddled consternation to figure out why I could not see the dials on the water meter. The new one still had its black plastic lid and it was closed. The brush I had used to clear away the snow was just long enough for me to flick the lid up. I had the dread of seeing the dials whirring round and round, but all was well. Why the hell was the water brown, then?

Over breakfast I noticed a couple of police cars go by. Hobo appeared to stock me up with wood, in some agitation. He had, apparently, cycled down the back way from the football field in order to avoid Mr. Plod. He did not have his ID with him. Five thousand forints on the spot fine, it seems. And I thought that I was the only careless so-and-so to wander about the village without ID. John's "Culture Shock" book back-handedly indicates that Lake Balaton is easy pickings. The canny ones slip their ID (plastic) inside their trunks/bikinis before venturing into the water.

Over a beer and a smoke I asked Hobo about the brown water. They had, apparently, done some work to the main water main for the village. Nice to be told! Anyway, as I write some days later, I suffered no apparent ill-effects from drinking the brown mains water, and it soon returned to its normal coldness, clarity and deliciousness. Hobo left and I did some leatherwork. And fed the birds again. They got through thirty walnuts today! All peeled and chopped by me. My chopping board has two sides - obviously. One side I reserve for flour-type stuff, the other gets used to chop anything else. The flour side is still a nice pale beach colour. The other side (where I chop the walnuts for the birds) is stained to a lovely mahogany red by the walnut oil.

I had sausage and chips for lunch. Well, sausage and chips most definitely Hungarian style. I washed, peeled and cut a couple of spuds into wedges, dried them off and then brushed them with oil and put them in a baking tin. Ditto the kolbas. I sprinkled them with basil and stuck them in the oven. Wonderful. Fit for a king!

In the afternoon I settled in, lit the stove early and did a load of Internet stuff. Forewarned, I knew that the pub was shut all day. They were having their own private pig killing. They happen all the time - just family events. The only public one is the village one featured in my gallery and paid for by the football club (plus sponsors - including me). Gallery? What gallery? Well, one person has spotted it!

12th March 2010

A small prize for the first to identify a (supposedly) archaic word in yesterday's blog. Well, if you think that the nineteen seventies in Lincolnshire is archaic, then yes. I don't think they would agree with you, and that is where I heard the word spoken in current usage.

I have no idea why, but I was up and about by half past six. By ten o'clock I had done loads of little jobs, too inconsequential to enumerate. Hobo appeared. With a food parcel from the pub, by way of apology for being closed all day yesterday. You begin to understand my feelings about this village and my relationship here. In the UK the attitude would have been "Tough s**t, mate - if you don't like it f**k off and drink elsewhere!". The only clue that I had as to its contents was "cabbage". Hobo did the firewood, we had a beer each (mine!) and had a smoke and he went on. I made up a little parcel for the UK and hung the sign out for Posta.

In the fullness of time Posta arrived and I paid for my little parcel. It was not until I returned to the house that I realised that I had had a senior moment. Bugger! It was a bank holiday weekend, and I was seriously low on cash. Well, what I had would just have to do!

Back in the house I lunched on the "cabbage" thing from the pub. It was much more than that. Lots of bits of dead pig floating about in it, and so on. And there was enough for me for two days.

I have to say that it got to me. Within a couple of days I had been the recipient of bountiful largess from established families of the village. I determined to repay in some small way. What did I have? Well, lots of eggs and lots of walnuts. The Persian walnut cookie recipe sprang to mind. The last time, there were three of us doing it and I didn't cook them long enough. This time there was only me. Nonetheless, I shelled and chopped about a hundred walnuts and whipped up egg yolks until I had w**ker's cramp - worker's, worker's - not what you were thinking! I cooked them, cooled them and tried them myself. And declared them good enough for distribution. I put half a dozen in the washed out jar to return to the pub, and another separate half a dozen to deliver to Pickle's breeders, from whence came the eggs. I went there first. The lady of the house was a bit surprised to see me. I could not possibly want eggs so soon. She came to the gate and I handed her my little bag of goodies. She just had to try one - and declared it good.

I cycled back down to the pub, where I returned the jar that had contained the offering from them, now washed out and with a little bag of my walnut cookies inside.

I lingered in the pub rather long. One of the items on the news was that petrol had gone up - again. Hobo said that petrol in Hungary was now the most expensive in Europe. Well, in comparison to the UK, versus cast of food and drink, about three times more expensive.

13th March 2010


It was a little better morning, weatherwise. I was up and about and had the stove lit and coffee cooking and was still in the shop by half past seven. Strangely, it was not as busy as yesterday. I expected more people in there this morning, it being a bank holiday weekend. As mentioned yesterday I was in a state of not exactly impecunious, but having to be a little careful to make sure that I did not run out of cash over the weekend. Normally on a bank holiday weekend I would get a case of beer from the pub. I settled for two litres of white wine - they had no red - and a two litre bottle of sparkling mineral water so that I could at least have a fröccs instead of a beer. I have to say that the stocking in the shop does tend to be a bit hitty-missy. I did play a little trick on the shop lady. For the first time this year they had fresh tomatoes in the shop. I had grabbed a couple of what they call mandarins - no matter what species they actually are - and a single tomato. I handed them to her and said (in Hungarian, obviously) "Three mandarins". She just stuck them in a plastic bag and weighed them. Before she could ring it in the till, when she handed them back, I said "Nem jó" (not good). She looked perplexed, and it took her a couple of seconds as I handed the bag back to realise that there were in fact two mandarins and one tomato in there. She laughed, and said "Ah, Steve, Steve", chuckling, and weighed them again. My particular brand of humour does seem to fit in quite well here. At least, I haven't been punched on the nose yet!

Back home, having breakfasted, I did a bit more indoor gardening. Hungarian paprika. Seeds extracted from a dried one from my stock. A bit of a rundown for those whom I know are interested. I now have on the go, either as seedlings, in the ground or recently sown: I finished off my share of the cabbage thing for lunch. Later, I decided that I really did want a beer. I had had a couple of fröccs as I went through the day, but it was not the same. As I cycled up the village I saw two police cars outside a particular house and an unmarked one parked just round the corner from the templom. I have no idea what had gone on, but it was a lot of police presence. I had my one beer in the pub. Hobo was there and I told him I had no beer at home. I mentioned the fröccs and that it was white wine, not red. Instantly, he went off to do a little business and on his return informed me that I was going to buy two litres of Laci's (the landlord) own wine for five hundred and fifty forints. Oh well, I suppose that was a deal then.

I had my one beer that I had promised myself and took myself off home. The last piece of oak went on the patchwork quilt lump of oak. All I have to to now is to get it planed down something like smooth and put some edgings on it. I can't say that I was looking forward to the planing down bit.

I had a problem with the camera. I tried all ways to set the autofocus mode to the centre of the frame. It would have none of it. I swapped lenses back and forth - still the same. I have had the camera for some while - years. It was not until some while later that I had a "d'oh" moment. The camera body was still set to manual focus which I had used on the bird photos. I all that time with the camera I had never realised that switching it to manual focus turned off the autofocus options in the menu. D'oh!

I went back to the pub in the evening. No sign of Hobo and no sign of John, who I hadn't seen for a day or two. For the first time in a while the table by the fruit machine was fully occupied by the young people of the village. It was nice to see them there. Two of the girls ended up playing chess. In spite of the lack of company at my table it was rather a pleasant evening.

14th March 2010

I wasn't up early. Well, it was Sunday. I just about was eating breakfast as the local church goers were walking up the street for morning service. I have to say that I fell into a mood of contemplating my navel. It happens from time to time. I have a bad habit of thinking, of which I must try and cure myself. The end result was that I got bugger all done all day.

I got as far as the pub in time to see the last few laps of the first Formula One race of the season. Consummately boring. Millions and millions of dollars/pounds/whatever to see a procession round a track. For that amount of money they could afford to pay some independent company to build twenty-odd (however many) identical cars. On the Sunday morning they could draw lots and say car No. 5 and car No. 11 were Ferraris, and so on. Make them slightly different for every race, and give the drivers just one hour of practice as a qualifying session. I reckon that would soon sort out the best drivers. It reminds me of when I used to race sailing dinghys. There was a certain class at our club - not the one I raced in, and a relatively new member simply threw money at it. A new and better cut of sails - buy them. A new and better mast - buy it. The rest of the pack was always trying to play catchup. Whenever the guy went on the water with his new cringle outhaul or whatever he would win all the races for a couple of weekends on the trot. Not really what it is all about. Ditto F1, but that's just an entertainment business. And that reminds me of the young couple that turned up at the club with a really beaten up old Fireball. Every time they went out in a race something broke. They would go away and come back the following weekend with it fixed. Then something else would break. Eventually everything on the boat that was going to break had broken and had been replaced. They started winning races. Very unusual combination - the girl helmed the boat and the guy crewed. By heck, she did look sexy in a wet suit too!

Sorry, went off on one there. I went back to the house, and it was cold so I lit the fire early. I returned to the pub later, of course.

15th March 2010

It was cold and snowing. Not a lot you understand - just a dusting. Still snow though. I did some leatherwork after breakfast. I'm not sure if it is going well. You know, I used to be indecisive but now I'm not so sure. Think about it!

Hobo turned up, with "How Do You Do" Laci. With chainsaw. They busied themselves and within an hour all the trees on the plot were felled and cut up into firewood. Well, that should see me OK for the next five years or so! I jest, of course. They only tackled the stuff in the kitchen firewood store and some big wet stuff outside. All destined to be burnt. Bugger, and I was so much looking forward to sawing that lot up by hand with the bowsaw. Well, once they have made their minds up to it, the Hungarians will help you whether or not you need help. For a price, of course. In this case a couple of thousand forints and a large piros fröccs. Whatever!

I made pizza. I don't know how or why, apart from the fact that the kitchen stove when correctly stoked up is a wonderful pizza oven, but it turned out to be one of the best home made pizzas that I had ever cooked.

I started on getting the sawing marks out of the now complete slab of oak. It was seriously hard work and I didn't really enjoy it.

Went to the pub later.

16th March 2010

After a bit of housework it seemed to be settling into a reasonable sort of morning, so for the first time this year the brick mould came out to play. The brick earth was wet enough that I didn't need to add any water. Making the mix was problematical, firstly on account of the wetness of the earth and secondly on account of the fact that the meszhidrat was, err, getting a bit past its sell-by date. I resolved to get some fresh, but continued with making the bricks. If they turned out bad they could just be recycled anyway. I started packing the mould, and the smell of the earth mix assailed my nostrils. I really does have a smell quite of its own. Like the smell of earth, but somehow different.

I was half way through packing the first brick when postie called in response to the sign hung out. I needed cash. It was a disaster. Half way through printing out the first slip - the one I was supposed to sign - the machine ran out of paper. It is till-roll type paper and when getting near the end should have had a red stripe down it. It had none, therefore postie was completely unaware of the fact that it was going to run out. Postie tried to cancel the transaction. That didn't work. Then she tried to put it through again. As the first transaction had in fact gone through - minus paperwork - that left my forint account with little in it until my transfer of Sterling cleared tomorrow. So that didn't work either. A succession of phone calls followed, with her scribbling down more phone numbers each time and calling them. In the meantime a vicious north easterly wind had blown up and it was spitting with rain. Finally she ascertained that there was a certain form that needed to be filled in. She dragged out various folders and went through their contents. A repeated search eventually showed that she had none. After about forty minutes standing in the freezing wind she finally made me sign the half a slip of paper that the machine had printed and told me that she would return with the necessary forms to complete. I had my cash finally, and was glad to return to the kitchen which was at least still warm, and it was by then lunchtime anyway.

After lunch the weather improved. The rain stopped and the north-easter died down as quickly as it had blown up. I finished off making the bricks and then attacked the house, preparing the places where the bricks I had made would go. To my surprise, postie reappeared in her own car. I found out later that she actually lives in the village, and (if I got it right) she is married to the guy that I call the village factotum - the one that drives the red village minibus. Which would make her Hobo's next door neighbour. She had the right forms and filled them in, in triplicate. I signed and she kept two and I had one.

I went to the pub later. There's a surprise!

17th March 2010

I was up bright and early for once! Half past six. A grey and cold morning and it had rained overnight. After breakfast I did a load of housework. An ongoing nightmare; as fast as I clean it up it gets mucky again. A chain of thought occurs to me. My next door neighbour has a sink in his yard and has a quick swill down - I presume in cold water - before going into the house. It came to me that I never saw him do that in minus five or six! That brought to mind a news item on the telly that I had quite forgotten about. Some random geezer spent an hour in water that was at freezing point. Nutter! They showed a couple of guys breaking up the surface ice before he went in the water, and they had to keep it moving for the whole hour to stop it freezing again around his neck. I suppose there is some odd biological reason that he didn't get hypothermia, but it was not a scientific experiment. As far as I could tell he just did it for the hell of it. Or to get in some sort of record book, I suppose.

At half past eleven precisely somebody threw the switch. There was no mistaking it. Spring sprung. Within a matter of minutes I had gone from working in three layers - a fleece, a pullover and a teeshirt - to just working in the teeshirt. I had started again on the little bit by the side of the house which featured in the 3rd March picture and working upon which I had abandoned due to the return of winter. My first job was to remove a tree stump. The heavy, recently sharpened by Hobo mattock came out to play. It was not a big tree stump - maybe four or five inches in diameter - but by heck it was a tough little so-and-so. There was a perverse sense of satisfaction in using the entire extent of my puny strength with the sun on my back, pausing occasionally to draw breath, until the stump finally succumbed to my tender ministrations. In all this time I have to confess that I had never even noticed it before until I started on this little tidy up job.

Afterwards I pruned the roses. Carefully, with my new top of the range gardening gloves on. The prunings all went into the wheelbarrow, destined for the first garden fire of the year. I pruned them hard. They never were done at all last year. I had to take the saw to one of them. After that I started on removing a patchwork quilt of rotten concrete that had, for some reason, been added to the side if the main concrete path to the house. Why, I don't know, and all the cracks in it were just a harboring place for weeds.

After a lunch of the rest of yesterday's bolognese I went back and finished off getting the concrete out. I just lumped it into a heap on the yard. I wanted a break and a bit of company after that, so I went to the pub and had a beer. Just the one, and back home. I wheeled the barrow up the garden with the assistance of a bit of pulling power from Pickle, and tipped the rose prunings onto the stack of stuff for burning. I noticed my next door lady at No. 68 giving a little tree a haircut. I enquired what sort of tree it was. Peach. Ah-ha - now I know what to do with the peach trees. We had quite a little chat about jam. Apparently Tibi will just eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon. She was quite surprised when I told her that I had made jam from some of the pumpkin that she gave me.

With the assistance of taliska I started on the task of rescuing all the posts which were still lying about from when I untangled them from the fallen down mess of grape vines. It was a hard going sort of a job, but I got them back to the yard. My intention is to cut all the bad stuff off and make them all the same length and to use a bit of English technology to put them back in the ground and join them up with wood. It will only be three feet or so off the ground, but three feet off the ground has got to better than on the ground as far as the vines are concerned.

After a sit down and a beer the heap of concrete was moved, too. Two barrow loads consigned to the ever diminishing hole in the garage floor. Much pain to the leg it caused me getting it there as well. Once I had tipped the second load the barrow was dropped right there and I limped back to the house. That was it for the day, but I was quite satisfied. What's the saying? "When the going gets tough, give up!"

Later in the pub there was an article on the news about some Charlie Windsor geezer being in Budapest.

18th March 2010

Two years to the day since I departed the UK. Mmmmmm! I won't dwell on that. As yesterday, by eleven o'clock it was another lovely warm day. I set about stripping out the earth bricks from the mould. Amazingly, having sat outside for however many months most of the nuts undid with just finger pressure. There were a couple that I had to take the pipe grips to but they too undid with the fingers once loosened on the thread. I remained to be convinced about the bricks. They didn't fall to pieces but they were a little - how shall I say? - delicate. I did mention my doubts about the meszhidrat.

I pottered along with the bit of garden by the house. It's amazing. Where I removed all the rotten concrete is basically just gravel underneath. It still grows weeds well enough. Many, many years ago and far, far away I used to work with a very keen gardener. He taught me everything I know about lawns. His attitude was always "If it will grow weeds it will grow plants". I just did my best with getting rid of the weeds.

Hobo turned up. He spent quite a while bashing bits of wood, and when we finally went into the house for a beer and smoke break I found that he had managed to pile about a weeks worth of firewood onto the baskets in both kitchen and the big room. I daren't use any of it. If I take any off the top the rest will cascade all over the floor. Afterwards I set about the job of sorting out the posts I had painfully dragged from the garden. Well, pushed in the wheelbarrow actually. I sawed the rotten bits off the top, turned them and measured six feet. Regardless of whether it was good wood or not, it was sawed off at six feet. Deeply engrained, I think, my liking for working in feet and inches. I mean, what is a metre? About twice the distance that old Louis' head dropped into the basket when they guillotined him! It was one ten-millionth of the length of the earth's meridian along a quadrant. Now, how artificial is that? And, apparently, they got it wrong by 0.2 millimetres. Anyway, I sawed them off at six feet. Then I marked round them at two foot six. That is how far into the ground they are going. After that I took my brace and my largest Jennings pattern auger bit and made three parallel holes near the top, which were then chiselled into a slot. Bear in mind here that we are talking four inch thick acacia wood. I have to say that a one inch Jennings pattern auger bit takes a bit of driving with a hand brace. Mind you, I reckon my twenty five millimetre spade-type bit for the electric drill would have died after a couple of holes. I managed two posts and that was enough for the day. Never mind! My plan to do something about the vines this year proceeds. Pictures will follow.

Later, in the pub, we watched Fulham versus somebody or other in some random European thing. There is a local interest. Well, not that local to here, but one one the Fulham players is called Gera Zoltán. Guess where he is from? You would know that it is him who scores a goal as he always does a handspring followed by a back somersault. Hobo and me were joined at our table by a guy that I knew well by sight. Always been friendly, but not an every evening customer in the pub like some I could name :) He bought me and Hobo a beer, which was nice. I reciprocated.

19th March 2010

Short and sweet today, and I'm sure that I am leaving a load of stuff out. I'm also sure that I have several pictures in the camera for you to see. You will, once my "round tuit" arrives. All my readers should order one too - immediately. Then we will all be able to get "a round tuit" almost simultaneously.

The planes needed sharpening. So did some of the chisels. So I sharpened them. One of the chisels - one of the cheap and nasty ones that I bought in Tescos in the very early days - needed a bit more than just honing on the oil stone. An angle grinder job. Then honing. And after that it was still crap. They all are - that set that I bought from Tescos. I might just oil temper one as an experiment to see if I can get it any better. I doubt it. They are simply not high enough carbon steel.

With the planes sharpened I had a go at the slab of oak. I happened to get the little shoulder plane set to perfection. It was taking off shavings about the thickness of a cigarette paper. It took some while, but with the aid of that little tool and a degree of patience I finally had all the low spots out of the oak. It is not exactly flat. There is a small but definite hollow towards the middle - maybe a millimetre. That suits me fine actually, as once in place with the carcase set level I will be able to put an egg on there in the certain knowledge that it won't roll off onto the floor.

In the midst of this I had a delivery of four bags of meszhidrat, courtesy of Hobo and Toni (Pickle's breeder bloke).

After lunch I did three vine posts. It was too much. I paid for it later. Pectorals, I think - just by the shoulder joint with the arm. I did go for it, and certainly raised the pulse rate for a while. Must admit that I can think of more enjoyable ways of doing that ;)

I had had a flier the previous day, delivered as usual by one of the young people in the village, that there was to be one of the little markets at the Faluhaz between three and four in the afternoon. I wandered down there at about quarter past three. There were only two rows of tables, one of which was all ladies stuff. There was nothing at all that I wanted or needed, so I popped across to John's which is just opposite to lend him something that we had spoken about whenever I saw him last. I did the whole trip by bicycle. The Faluhaz is still too far to walk!

Back home I did a bit more on the little garden strip by the side of the house.

Pub in the evening, of course. Oh! And today it was Pickle's second birthday. Boldog születésnap Pickle!

20th March 2010

Two years to the day since I moved in. Where has it gone? So much remains to be done, but considering the leg problems I suppose I am happy enough. Parts of the house are immeasurably superior to when I moved in. All the windows and doors now shut for one thing, and at least most of the outside woodwork is painted. Parts of the garden are better too. The camping lawn needs a bit of TLC and I did not get anywhere near what I wanted to last year with creating a path from top to bottom of the garden and clearing out around the fruit trees. I'll get back to it.

At the moment it is what you would expect of early spring, though spring does tend to arrive here in some style. But thinking back to two years ago at this time I had absolutely nothing done. This year I have a whole load of winter digging done, compost dug in and trays of little plants on the go. I have only managed to have (literally) cold feet a couple of times this winter, and thanks to cserepkalyha and konyhakalyha the house has been warm enough all winter. I remember having a good moan about the cold when I first moved here. Of course, I didn't realise at that time how long the place had been empty.

Nevertheless, it was a normal day. Some boring stuff, like washing clothes, a bit of woodwork and after that Pickle and I ventured into the garden where I planted some more garlics and another third of a row of peas. I remember the lesson of last year with the peas - plant little and often. I intend to jar up some fresh ones this year as well as drying some. The drying of the peas was a bit of a mixed success. Some were dried to perfection, but some got a bit too hot and, well basically, cooked. To hard little round pebbles.

It was Saturday, and acting upon long established tradition I fancied a pint in the pub after lunch. Well, half a litre anyway. I cycled up there. There was only one other customer in there and he left by the time I was about half way down my half a litre. The landlady was serving - I don't know where Laci was. We had quite a conversation about the fact that I had been here two years, and how I was getting on and did I still like it in the village, and so on and so on. I finished my beer and took my empty glass and bottle back to the bar, and the landlady presented me with a large pálinka on the house. In retrospect of how large pálinkas can ruin your whole day I declined to knock it back in one but took two swigs at it, chatting in the meantime. I told her about the fact that on one Saturday night, within a couple of hours and within a kilometre of where I lived not long before I left the UK, that there were three separate killings. Not pig killings you understand - humans. I finished my pálinka and left. There were no other customers in there and the landlady bolted, barred and locked the pub after me.

Back home I returned to the sorting out of the little strip of garden by the house. Little and often, little and often!

Back in the pub in the evening I made a point of buying a round for those of the regulars that had helped me in any way over the last two years. Mmmmmm - that's the food money for two days gone then!

21st March 2010

It was a day of not getting that much done. I don't know why, but it was. I managed to take a brick out of the house - on purpose - clean down, make a mix and lay the four bricks that I had made. I planned what bricks I needed next, too. They are all nine inches long and three inches deep, but I make them in three different thicknesses, according to the degree of making good the wall required. I don't take any more earth off the wall than I have to.

After that I went back and did a little more at the garden by the house.

After a late lunch it was time to wander up to the village football match. Hobo had said that if I went to the pub (as if I wouldn't) he would get me a lift up to the football ground to save me having to cycle. I managed to misunderstand the timings and ended up having to cycle it anyway. I have to say that it was quite hard going up the hill. It was a beautiful afternoon with a brisk but warm southerly wind blowing. The local team won.

Back in the pub I met up with Hobo and lingered in there. It was gone five anyway, and I foresaw an early closing. We only had three beers each, and indeed as if by some unspoken signal the four regulars that were in there made their preparations for leaving as it was approaching half past seven. Before we all got out the door Toni and Eva (Pickle's breeders) turned up, causing some mirthful comments, probably along the lines of "What time do you call this, then?". I insisted on paying for the beers they had, as they were not there when I got the big round in last night, and I rightfully count them as being amongst the people in the village that have gone out of their way to help me. It was a small, brief gathering but with a mini-party atmosphere. I have no idea how, but two large pálinkas came my way during this interlude. Oh dear!

22nd March 2010

It was a rainy day, but not particularly cold. That suited me fine, actually, in the knowledge that I needed to go into town anyway. I was going to talk about garden stuff, but as I write it completely escapes me about what I was going to write. I contented myself with a sweep round in the house. Sweep round being the operative phrase. Nothing got moved, I just swept round it.

I went for the bus crutchless, walking stick-less. By the time I got to the Faluhaz I knew it was a mistake but I did not have time to get back to the house for walking assistance and back to the bus station in time. I limped into the bus station where I met John, also headed for town. On the bus we chatted about this and that. One of the things was that the snow fences on the road between Daraboshegy and Nádasd were being removed. Winter must be officially over, then. I mentioned the Spar shop and John suggested that I go to the other one which is on the main road through town, not far from the back way into the castle. When we alighted we went our separate ways. I think he was headed for Tescos. I had to stop and rest twice between the bus stop and the main road. Not good! Really not good. I bumped into John again by the main road and we went together in the direction of both the Spar shop and Tescos. I had to stop again, and I let John get on his way. At the fourth stint of limping I got as far as the Spar shop, only to find that it was closed. Not just closed, but gutted to an empty shell. A notice on the door said that they would be reopening in May sometime.

Bugger! I limped my way back into town, resting from time to time. There was absolutely no way that I could contemplate getting to the other Spar shop. I managed as far as the sandwich shop, as I would call it, and went in and bought some delicious delicacies for lunch. I limped back to the seats by the water feature, only some twenty metres or so. The seats were wet from the rain, so I took the back pack off, sat on it and ate my delicious delicacies. At least it had stopped raining.

I hobbled the thirty metres or so to the bank, and then the next twenty metres or so to the Presszo bar. A beer and a proper sit down. Well, I say a proper sit down but in all the little bars the seating could not be described as over comfortable, the Halogy pub included. Somewhat refreshed I set out again. I bought a Hungarian-type electrical plug in Zenit. God, I hate that shop. They are the most miserable set of people I have encountered. Not a please, thank you, good day, goodbye - nothing. Then Trafik for dohany - mine will be ready in May, I reckon. Then to Gazdabolt, which could not be more different to Zenit. I bought a couple of bits in there including a packet of seeds over which I undoubtedly had a senior moment - completely the wrong thing. Never mind. I will find a space for them in the garden by the house and they will add a bit of colour, and a bit of colour in the house too, later. Any guesses? By the way, nobody came back to me with my question about the supposedly archaic word that I used in the blog. It was "litten" as in litten the stove. My on-line dictionary says that nowadays you would say "lighted".

I made three more shopping calls: an item from the haberdashery, an item from the decorating shop and a few bits from the little Real minimarket. I just had time to limp back to the cellar pub and have a beer before catching the bus back to the village. Much stuff on my list went unpurchased.

Back in the village I went all the way to the bus station, revoking on the pub. By the time I got home I was shattered. I sat for a long while and contemplated in a melancholy mood, Pickle at my feet. Where do I go from here with the leg in this state? To the pub, of course. I only had a couple, with Hobo as usual, and then went home.

23rd March 2010

I spent the whole morning on a computer job. I do it three times a year, and every single time Micro$oft Worm causes me grief. It did this morning. Its handling of tables is simply dire. I wonder if they actually ever employed a usability expert. Example: I have a number of tables - various numbers of columns and various numbers of rows. The table cells contain names of people. Sometimes, because the people are no longer there I have to do a bit of rearranging. So I [Ctl-X] the contents if this particular cell, highlight the contents of another particular cell and [Ctl-V]. All the tables are the same. All the names are in Palatino Linotype ten point font. Oh No! When I go [Ctl-V] it comes up italicised. If I use the little drop down box and choose "Match destination formatting" it uses a completely different font. If I highlight the offending text and press [Ctl-I] the italicising disappears but the text becomes emboldened, which it was not before. I had an erstwhile work colleague in the same office as me who was condemned to work with Micro$oft products - Worm, Visual Basic, etc., etc. He would mutter - no, wrong word - exclaim in no uncertain terms "F**king Microsoft heap of sh*t" at regular intervals. I have to confess that I did the same today.

I continued over lunch, and then it got to me. It was a lovely warm spring day out there - this would just have to wait until tomorrow. I went outside and did two more posts for the vines:
Some are four inches, and some are five but they are all solid acacia wood. Sawing Acacia Wood Posts
Boring Acacia Wood Posts I went on to bore the posts. I just went on and on at them about Micro$oft Worm, and eventually they just surrendered.

By the way, in the little shed are all the tree roots that got taken out of the ground when I first got here. They are nicely dried out now - ideal for the kitchen stove. But they have to be seriously bashed about to be made into stove sized lumps.

In the tail end of the afternoon I finally finished off digging and weeding the bit by the house. I went over to the Faluhaz after that to attempt to copy a couple of files from a very long ago backup onto an even more long ago floppy disk. It didn't work, of course. Casting forward, I dealt with it via the Internet.

John's parents were over for a visit. It was good to see them.

24th March 2010

I got a load of washing out on the line first thing and it was dry by the middle of the afternoon. You can guess what sort of a day it was. On my travels I noticed another two posts that I had missed before - one still stuck in the garden and one leaning by a fence post. The one still stuck in the garden was one of the only ones in the whole sorry mess that was actually upright. There was a simple reason for that. Nothing was attached to it. No vines, no wires, nothing. It was a big, tall post but, as with all the others, it yielded to the touch, once again only about a third of a metre into the soil. I'm surprised the wind hadn't blown it down.

I settled down to finish of the computer stuff that I started (and moaned about) yesterday. Today's stint was somewhat easier and I e-mailed both halves off to the recipient in the UK. By the way, did you know that computer in Hungarian is "Számítógép" which basically means calculating machine. Which is also quite right. That's all they do - crunch numbers. Noughts and ones, actually.

With the computer job out of the way I mopped through the house. Another waste of time, as it will need doing again tomorrow, and the day after and the day after that... Never mind, it made me feel good.

The whole village has come alive in the last few days. Everywhere I look there are people working in gardens. I suspect that most of them have the luxury(?) of having nothing other to do than look after their gardens. Unfortunately, I also have to fit in restoring the outside walls of the house, getting my head around multiple various skills that I think may be needed in the future and using some of those skills to improve my own comfort and amenity around the house.

Since my painful trip into Körmend I have been doing some serious contemplation about my own situation. I don't know how far the injury to the leg will improve, or how long it will take. Recent days have shown that I can manage pottering about in the garden. I can manage digging. I can wield an ax. I can, at the cost of some discomfort get a barrow load of heavy posts from A to B. As I am situated now, it appears that what I cannot do is to go swanning off into town and walk the six or eight hundred metres to the Spar shop unaided. Well, I surmise that if I really do need to get to the Spar shop that badly I will just have to accept the fact that (for the present at least, and only time will tell) if I need some sort of support, then so be it. Otherwise, the answer is quite simple. Do without.

25th March 2010

Washing, another couple of posts for the vines and a set of earth bricks occupied the morning. After lunch I finalised the computer stuff I had been doing for the last couple of days and then contacted the recipient on Skype. There were, of course, several last minute amendments. We know from experience that it is always the way. People get ill, or cry off unexpectedly. That took about an hour.

I went back to the patch of garden by the house. I was within a couple of spadefuls of finishing when I disturbed a little frog. Only to the extent that it hopped off, and I let it get on its way. I like the frogs. I actively intervene if Pickle attempts to molest one. I have to say that she is more interested in the flying stuff of the insect variety. A more challenging target, perhaps. Anyway, I finally finished off the digging:
All I need to do is to get some plants in here. However there is another motive. I still need to beat seven shades of something out of the cement rendering on the wall that you see. I dread to think what I will find! I think the plants might have to wait awhile. Garden By House

I cleared all the miscellaneous bits of dug out concrete and large boulders into the barrow, tipped it into the ever-diminishing hole in the garage floor and went for a beer.

I only had the one, and upon my return home went back to work. A couple of big piles of dug out weeds went into the barrow. So did the little gardening trowel and the two half bags of meszhidrat from the outhouse. With Pickle assisting I limped my way with barrow up the garden. The two half bags of meszhidrat came out and the weeds were dumped to become the base of this years compost heap. Aside, one of my correspondents remonstrated with me about putting onions on the compost heap. I actually thought about it quite a bit. Then I got the calculator out. I really don't think that three onions in twelve cubic metres of compost heap will be that much of a problem.

It was a windy day, which was the reason that I had taken the meszhidrat up to the garden. Smart-arse that I am. I thought "Just hurl it in the air and it will spread itself". Wrong. Well, sort of. I hurled it into the air. Most of it just came back to earth in a lump. (I typed limp then - Freudian slip!). The bit that did get into the air just swirled about and headed for the next county. I resorted to just generally hurling it about. I looked up liming the land on the Internerd. I had a surprise. Meszhidrat (Calcium Hydroxide) is forbidden in organic gardening. Why? Powdered dolomite is allowed (Calcium Carbonate). But since Calcium Hydroxide, given time, moisture and carbon dioxide will become Calcium Carbonate I fail to see the reasoning. Whatever!

26th March 2010

Tom Whipple has written this article about the fact that the UK government has apparently finally woken up to the possibility (probability?) of Peak Oil effects being felt within the next four to five years. I notice that, as I write, oil has been bumping around $85 for the last few days. How much higher will it go? And how high does it have to go to plunge the world back into recession. Green shoots, anyone? Plenty in my garden :) Most of them weeds :(

More of the same stuff this morning. Washing, restoring posts and making earth bricks. The earth bricks thing has not gone unnoticed in the village. It gets back to me that people have commented when a few more go into the damaged area of the house. I think the attitude is still "What's he doing? Why doesn't he just bulldoze it?".

After lunch I set about emulating my next door neighbour and giving the peach trees a bit of a haircut. I have to say that they were seriously in need of it. They were all very "twiggy" and a lot of the twigs, and bigger stuff too, were just dead wood. I tackled the two by the well first. I have them almost standing up straight now. You may recall that when I first got here they were pretty well lying on the floor. A couple of wheelbarrows of prunings went into the little lean-to outhouse where I am putting stuff to dry out for the kitchen stove next winter. Hopefully all these little prunings will make good kindling. It was another first for me. Well, almost. I did prune the vines last year and I suppose they sort of count as fruit trees, even if they do just want to lie on the floor or smother everything else. But in terms of pruning actual hardwood trees with a view to increasing their fruit production and longevity, definitely a first.

27th March 2010

It was a nice sunny morning, but everywhere was wet and we had obviously had a good shower of rain overnight. I went to the shop first thing, as usual. It wasn't until I had actually got served and the shop lady rung it all into the till that I realised that my money was still at home in my good jeans that I had worn to the pub last night. It was not a problem. In fact, having seen various transactions take place it would not surprise me if she did not run a book. Not in the turf accountant sense, you understand, but in the same way that the lady who owned the corner shop when I were a lad ran a book. If you wanted something and didn't have the money to pay - so long as you were a regular customer, of course - she simply used to write the amount you owed in her book. Hence running a book. On payday people would settle up what they had "in the book". I remember my dear old mother - not that she was that old then - sending me down to the shop for one egg, and having it put on the book. Of course I went straight home, got the cash and returned to the shop and settled up. When I did go back to the shop the shop lady's husband was busy putting netting under the eaves all along the front of the shop. I noticed that all the swallows nests had been knocked down, and the netting was going up so that they could not rebuild. Ah well, they are welcome to come and sublet off me. My potting shed doors are already open night and day, and there is one nest in there already. I do hope they come back, and more are certainly welcome. After all they eat flying insects. Speaking of which, I have already collected my first few mosquito bites of the year. On the elbows where they are the most irritating.

Yesterdays washing went on the line. Very short paragraph to make up for the last one.

On my travels I had noticed some little plants growing in the grass between the front of the house and the fence. I really can't call it a lawn. Picture:
Primroses Primroses. They certainly weren't there last year. I was not about to let them get strimmered once I start, so I found the gardening trowel and dug them out, separated them from the grass which inevitably came up with them and replanted them in the front bit of my newly dug bit of garden by the house. As I write they are doing well in their new home. I think I know where they came from. They have a little patch of cultivated garden between their front fence and the drainage ditch next door at No. 68, and there are primroses of the same type in there.

Back to the boring job. Acacia posts - another two. Then it was lunch time. After lunch it was back to haircutting trees. I did the little one that is by the front fence and used to be lying in the drainage ditch. It too is almost upright now. With the ground so soft after the rain I also managed to get it another couple of inches upright with the aid of a bit of old electrical flex tied around the fence.

I went for a beer after that, it being Saturday. I only had the one, and returned to start on the bigger tree that overhangs the front fence. I managed about a third of it but it came on to rain. I withdrew indoors and did some blog updating.

It was still raining when I went to the pub later, and cold. Enough that I wore the leather biker jacket and a hat.

28th March 2010

Sunday, so I had a tidy round the house and the yard whilst the faithful were at worship. He must have given them a good talking to today - it was almost half past eleven by the time the congregation was let out. I was busy dealing with the branch of the bigger peach tree that overhangs the fence. It was quite deliberate and blatant on my part. They know I am not a churchgoer anyway and I think it does my street cred. in the village some good if they see me beavering away. Oh, before I got to that tree I had to deal with a deceased one. I might have mentioned it on the blog last year. It quite suddenly, before fruiting time, simply lost all its leaves. I left it, in the hopes that it would show some life this year. A forlorn hope - there was not a bud on it. I sawed it off just below where the first branching occurred and then sawed the trunk off as near to the ground as I could get. A right job it was too! Whatever internal stresses there were within the wood caused it to close up the kerf, and I ended up fetching one of the axes to use as a wedge and the hammer with which to drive it in. The trunk - not very big - was waxed where I had sawn it to seal the end grain and put into my woodworking store. You just never know when you might need a little piece of peach wood for something. The reason for waxing the ends is that it is supposed to help prevent splitting as the wood seasons. The moisure content has to find its way out of the sides.

Back to the story after that aside. My next door neighbour, who I was basically copying with my pruning, could not resist coming over and giving me a little instruction. "Cut it back!" she said, indicating a far more vigorous pruning than I was giving it. After that I did. It had a serious haircut and it has ended up with just two main branches, both within arms reach from the ground, the one out over the fence and another pointing in towards the yard. We will see how it fares.

I did two more vine posts after lunch. By then it had warmed up considerably and I deserved a beer when I had done that. So I had one.

After that I had to reorganise the kitchen firewood shed. Good chaps that they are, both Jozsi and Hobo had piled up all the chopped wood against the door to the actual outhouse to which the firewood shed is attached by way of a cat slide roof. Unfortunately, with the work on the posts coming to an end, I needed to get into the outhouse to get at some decent wood I had stored in there which will be used for the next stage of getting the vines off the floor. I reckon I shifted just topside of a cubic metre of firewood, carefully stacking it into four different piles: hardwood, softwood, tree roots and kindling. I didn't quite get all the wood moved at that, but at least the outhouse door now opens. I was whacked and the leg was telling me that I should have stopped about half an hour before I did. Never mind - it was done, or done enough for now.

Later, in the pub, I was sort of absently watching some random football match on the telly. You know - moving wallpaper. The word mushrooms caught my eye. I did a bit of a double-take. Did I really see that, or was it my imagination? I paid a bit more attention after that, and sure enough it turned out that Scelta Mushrooms sponsor one of the sides. They lost, as I recall.

29th March 2010

The clocks had gone on an hour yesterday, of course. It did not bother me yesterday as I had turned off the alarm for Sunday morning. I compromised by setting the alarm half an hour later than its customary six o'clock. That way I only lost half an hours sleep. I will put it back to six in a week or two. I don't worry too much about it now, as I know that I can only do four, maybe five hours gardening work in the day. After that the leg says enough, and I turn to something more sedentary, like pounding earth bricks. Ha, sedentary! Well yes, I do do it sitting down.

The last post (for the present) was bored and chiselled out. Hobo turned up and did a load more firewood whilst I was doing that. He was careful not to block off the outhouse door - bless! We completed our various tasks more or less simultaneously and withdrew to the doorstep for a beer and a smoke. (It was a doorstep sort of a day, rather than a sitting in the kitchen sort of a day) That was an hour gone, of course. I don't begrudge it, actually. The company is good, and daily it helps me to improve my meagre grasp of magyarul. I really must find time to do some proper studying of it. Once he had gone I pricked out one seed tray of tomato plants - the Hobo ones, funnily enough. They had grown very "leggy" and needed to go in some deeper containers with a little more stem in the medium. I have to say that I had grave doubts about the survival of several of them. Mind you, all the tomatoes now have nice deep pink hairy legs, which I always consider is a good sign.

After lunch it was onto the next stage of the vine restoration. It was probably a little late this year but I got on with the pruning of the vines. Interspersed with that were sessions of wielding the broad mattock to get rid of as much weedage as possible along the length of where the vines will run and around the main stems. I need to bone up on my pruning technique. Quite willy-nilly I sometimes left one bud on a cane, and sometimes went right back to the basal bud. Hopefully I will be able to see which fare better in grape production. The lady at No. 68 came over to the fence and looked at a vine I had just done. She declared it OK. A little while later and further up the garden the old lady from No. 72 looked across at what I was doing, and gave me a smile and a wave. As far as I could see, to left and right, everyone was out in their gardens. It was a lovely afternoon for it. After two hours or so of snipping with secateurs and bashing with the broad mattock I was, in magyarul, baszást. The Hungarian readers of my blog will know what that means - the rest of you can either look it up, or guess. I went for a beer.

When I got home I made some more aluminium seed tray labels. In the tedium of doing that I got to thinking about the yard. It is not a good yard. I'm fairly certain that the lowest point in the yard is just a little way from the well, before the start of the drainage channel. My plans are to make a fence from the house to the outhouse, with a brick path alongside starting level with the concrete path by the house and going to a suitable level at the outhouse. I reckon that with a bit of landscaping it can be made to slope gently all the way down to the front gates. A lot of work though, including bashing down through the hardcore-type stuff that me and Hobo had to do when we put in the new water main pipe. Only needs a couple of two foot by two foot areas I think. And it doesn't need to come out, just be bashed loose. Not this year!

Later, in the pub, there was no Hobo and no John. Miklos came and sat with me. Miklos is the one that always said he would come and work and never turned up. Or otherwise, if he did turn up, did what he thought needed doing. Not that he is a bad worker. Indeed, he will work his whatits off. Just needs to be told in words of one syllable "Do this!". We actually managed a fair bit of conversation tonight, amongst which it transpires that the whole village knows that I am pruning the vines. Good! He left quite late for him. I was about to go home when a programme came on the telly about a string instrument maker. I think in Italy, but everthing was dubbed, of course. I showed a lot of him working and a lot of his work in various stages of production. I was quite taken in with it, so I had an extra beer and watched it to the end. There was a guy that I know by sight - something to do with one of the skittles teams - and he was obviously taken with it too as he watched it to the end as well. At least he had the benefit of understanding the commentary. Much discussion about carving double bass scrolls and positioning of "S" holes and such. Some of my family understand.

30th March 2010

I was in the shop before eight, and there was no bread. Whether she had sold out I don't know. It would be unusual at that time of day. Anyway, she said that she would have bread after ten. Home, breakfast and back to the pruning of vines and bashing out weeds. After ten I went back to the shop, and sure enough there was lots of bread. I went back to the vines and had a small natural disaster. I was hacking out the weeds when I purely accidentally chopped the tail off a snake. The snake was not happy, and the tail continued to wriggle. I took fate in my hands and grasped it at the back of the neck. I tossed it gently to where I knew I would not be bashing about with the mattack. The next time I looked it had gone. I'm sure one of my correspondents will know - do they grow new tails?

I had lunch. Just a sandwich, and I got to thinking about bread. In particular the local bread. I have mentioned before as one of my annoyances the paper labels that they stick on the bread. At least in Tescos they stick it on the end of the bread, not in the middle. I don't have a problem with that, because, of course, I cut the bread from the other end. By the time I get to the end with the label on it is only fit to go into Pickle. The bread at the local shop always has the lable in the middle (ish). If you ask for half a loaf it is pot luck whether you get the half with the label on, the half without the lable or a half with half a label on. The labels are intriguing. If I buy a small loaf at the weekend the lable simply says "Kenyer" - "Bread". Other times I get a loaf (or half a loaf) that says "Fehér kenyer" - "White Bread". Then odd times I will get a half a loaf that is "Fél barna" - "Half brown". The bread inside the crust is always white(ish) bread. I have no idea how they come across the taxonomy of the naming of the bread. The one that I cannot get my head around is the one that is labelled "Rozslanggal keszult kenyer". Quite delicious, but I hope that one of my correspondents can actually tell me what it means!

You know, for some obscure reason it takes me back to my Nottingham High School days when, for whatever reason they decided that I should be enrolled in the school's Cadre. One of the very first things that I had to do was to draw a subject out of a hat and talk about it for one minute. The subject that I drew was jam. How unfortunate. I struggled through the minute. I daresay that right now I could talk about jam for thirty minutes without stopping for questions.

I was back attacking the vines:
Vines and Weeds Once they are sorted these will be very productive vines. They produced a lot of good grapes last year, but unfortunately a fair few were spoiled by lying on the ground.

I was attacking them when Pickly dog went ballistic. I turned to find that I had visitors approaching up the path through what passes for a garden. It was Eva and Vitus. They had come to lend me a plant that Hobo had told me about. Strange plant. By the looks of it some sort of fern. Absolutely dried up and dead. I was assured that once I watered it it would come to life. Rapidly.

Over my early evening meal - can't remember what - I managed to locate a web áruház that sold acacia vine posts. Bookmark that for later, then.

Yes, I know I am seriously behind! I'll pick up as and when. If it finally rains, I would think. As I write, they have been forecasting rain since last Sunday for every day this week in the Szombathely area. Ha! Guessing game. You always know when it actually does rain here cos I mention it on the blog.

31st March 2010

Prof James Lovelock on the Beeb with some really cheerful stuff. And on the Peak Oil front I don't think I have ever seen this source before.

I was a rainy day today, but not cold. Fresher than it had been, but not cold. They apparently have no differentiation here between cool and cold. The words that mean the one also seem to include the other. The shop lady had a moan about how "hideg" it was today. I would translate that as cold. I have been spoken to on the street and had the weather described as "friss" (which also means fresh) when it was absolutely bloody conkers - minus ten or something.

I did some Internet work, then retired to the kitchen where the stove was still going. I made one of my pizzas for lunch.

It stopped raining around lunchtime, so I headed back to the garden and continued attacking the section of vines and weeds in yesterday's picture. I had got as far as having one of the two vines pruned and about a third of the area cleared of weeds. I managed to get the other vine pruned and then it came on to rain again. I retired us to the yard.

I left Pickle unchained, on trust. I was doing something in the kitchen, I can't remember what, when there was a doggy commotion from the yard. I glanced out of the kitchen window to see four German Shepherd-type dogs hurting round the yard at top speed. I knew who the dogs were. I had no idea how they had managed to get into the yard. I also knew that two of them were dogs, and Pickle was still in season! (I neglected to say, but late March and late September, regular as clockwork). I hurtled out and shouted in my most ferocious magyarul "Nem!" and the three interlopers high tailed it out of my yard. I saw where they went and it was but the work of a few seconds to find out how they had got into my yard. Sherlock Holmes was not needed. In the outhouse which is now the firewood store there was one window that had no glass in it. I had sometime previously tacked a bit of chicken wire over it. I may have mentioned it. I had already repaired one hole in it, but now there was a great gaping hole at one corner. I found some suitable bits of wood and patched it up temporarily. You know, I think that the only way to make the boundaries absolutely secure would be to buy two or three inch square weld mesh about two metres high and concrete it in at the bottom. Not going to happen, of course. I cannot afford that. And having seen Pickle go over (and under) one and a half metre chain link, I remain to be convinced that she would not get over it.

I mentioned the acacia posts to Hobo in the pub later. He didn't know whether they were cheap or expensive.


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