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March 2011

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1st March 2011

Another day like yesterday, and another morning like yesterday. Nevertheless, just before lunchtime I started on a job that I had been putting off maybe a week too long. Rudy had to have his toenails cut. I knew it was going to be a beast of a job, and I really was not feeling up to it but it had to be done.

I think that I mentioned it before, long ago, that when I first got the goats I watched some videos on how to cut their toenails. One was what I can only describe as coming across as poor white trash Appalacian hillbilly. He described it as a beast of a job as he threw a buck onto its back between his legs and tried to clip its nails as it struggled. Not for me! Rudy went into the trap on the milking table. It was struggle enough to get him there. I had another surprise. The trap would no longer close about his neck without constricting it. Blimey! I could not believe how much he had grown in the seven weeks since I last did it. I secured him and he had a little struggle but then calmed when he realised he could not escape. I had cunning prepared and put out the way two buckets of goat treats. I enticed the girls to the end of the corridor with one and trapped them there behind the door, then I put the food tray on the goat table and gave Rudy his. Enough to keep him quiet for a while.

After that it was plain sailing. He was actually more amenable to having his nails cut and hardly kicked at all. With job done in a few minutes, I fetched the rest of their food in - hay and maize stalks - and released the girls. Last off I released Rudy from his bondage where he had been still quietly munching. I really expected him to launch when I released him but he didn't. He took his head out of the trap, walked to the other side of the food tray and resumed munching.

In celebration of a successful goat foot trimming I had bit to eat and then went to the pub for one. It became two when one came over the bar on the house.

Back home I did a few bits here and there, but nothing substantial and as the day tailed away I did the firewood and the goats and that was that.

2nd March 2011

I had another similar sort of a day to yesterday. Nothing really much to report. Except that I had a minor victory over the post person. It was one of the relief blokes again. He is also apt to ignore my sign hanging out and drive straight on by. I had the sign out today. I needed to pay my Internet bill (which had gone up again by another four percent or so) and get cash. I really did not need to have to cycle to Nádasd. It so happened that when the dog food van arrived - of which I had plenty of early warning from Pickle, as usual - posta was within sight only a few doors up the road. I saw him return to his van and he saw me. Not much chance of him being able to drive straight past again! He didn't, so in a couple of minutes all was achieved.

It was snowing when I went to the pub in the evening. Business as usual in there, except that just as I was about to leave the village blacksmith returned my bits, finished. I asked how much. As usual he dismissed it with a wave of his hand.

I had done a bit of a double-take when I arrived at the pub. I cycled into the alley way to park the bike to find that there was what at first glance looked exactly like my bike. Not one I had seen before. I had no idea to whom it belonged. The handlebars were different. His were straight, mine are a bit bendy. I did the same double-take on the way out, as by now both bikes were covered with a fair layer of snow and were even harder to distinguish.

3rd March 2011

It was still grey when I got up but at least it had stopped snowing. It had not been a significant fall but was enough to warrant getting the snow scraper out and clearing down the path to the roadway.

It was still before eight when I went to the shop. I didn't want a loaf - a couple of the local bread rolls (zemle) would do me for the day. No zemle. Half a loaf? No bread. I had flour in, so asked for yeast. No yeast! WTF was going on? Not best pleased I paid for the rest of my stuff and went home.

Lots of housework followed and then a load of admin-type stuff on the computer. Then it was time to cut Suzy's toe nails. I neglected to say that when I did Rudy's back feet I was reduced to sitting on the amassed bedding/maize stalks that now make up the flooring of the goat yard. The goat table is within five inches of disappearing from view. The other thing - an upturned pig trough I think - more or less has disappeared from view. Anyway, I had to sit on the bedding. I was expecting a wet bum once I had finished Rudy's back feet, but when I stood up there was not a trace of damp on my behind.

Where was I? Ah yes, Suzy. It was a similar tactic to when I did Rudy, but different. I had a small amount of goat treats with which I enticed the goats to the end of the corridor. I allowed Rudy and Bözsi in, but collared Suzy and bolted the corridor door. Then I went and retrieved the milking stool, brought along for the purpose, put the milking stool on the milking table and sat on it, then sat Suzy down on her behind and did her feet. All quite painless. I was more convinced than ever that Suzy is pregnant. Her udder had swelled even more, and her teats were a good half inch longer than when I last noticed them, which was not that long ago. A thought came to me as I finished doing Suzy. The goat chains were well buried under layers of bedding and maize stalks. I decided to haul them free. You never know when you might need them in a hurry. What surprised me was just how warm the ends that had been buried were. And I do mean warm - not just not cold. Probably about eighty in old money. Mmmmm! Deep litter obviously works quite well, then.

The afternoon was filled with firewood stuff, and then feed the goats again. Rudy is now big enough that when he hears me approaching with the goat food he starts butting the tiles off the goat house roof. Every feeding time, once they have food and are quietly munching I have to rebuild a two by four section of roof tiles. Oh, why do not the Hungarians have roof tiles with a hole through so that you can nail them down? I know why, of course. They do not have to contend with Atlantic storms sweeping across the country as in the UK. A Beaufort force seven is cause here for a severe weather alert. It is rare that the news has to mention wind damage.

Pub in the evening. One of the items said that it is still winter but spring is coming.

Late in the day this from the Beeb about rising food prices. Well, there you go.

4th March 2011

It was a lovely morning - frosty but bright and once again I felt the warmth of the rising sun on my back as I trudged to the shop.

Goats, breakfast, cleared up the yard...

There was a doggy commotion towards the front gate. I poked my nose out, to see Marika with yet another big bucket of stuff for the goats. I went to the gate and accepted it with thanks. There was some chatting going on when the old lady at No. 72's grandaughter came along the road to speak to me. Pickle, chickens and fencing! We had quite a chat. The upshot of it was that the old lady was not concerned with the loss of chickens (I think the phrase used was God's will) so much as the fact that she is terrified of Pickle. I needed to do something about the fence. Well, I knew that and it was and is in my plans. Higher and stronger were the words used. My plans were to fence off the entire doggy accessible areas with weldmesh. It seems that my plans are now to do that. The grandaughter said it was urgent. I explained that it was no good doing it until the ground was thawed. The weldmesh will have to be concreted six inches into the ground. Marika stayed and assisted with translation throughout this. They both left happy. Marika happy to have helped and delivered goat food, and grandaughter happy that she understood that I understood the problem and had a solution for it, if not immediate.

Hobo turned up and did some firewood stuff. I did my goat toe nail trick again, but once again very different. The dogs went in the outhouse workshop under lock and key, and I got the toe nail clippers and the milking stool, then simply opened the door from the goat house into the yard. I did not open it very far with the result that the only goat that escaped was Bözsi (Betty). She remains very small. Nothing wrong with her - as with the other two the tail is up. She was no problem at all to catch, sit on the stool and hoist her into my lap. Clipping the hooves was a matter of minutes work. I returned her to the goat house, released the dogs, put Pickle back on the chain and resumed routine by feeding the goats.

The big axe had died. The handle, which was in poor condition when I first arrived here finally cried "Enough"! Fortunately it had let go whilst trying to lever the axe from a lump of wood that had stubbornly refused to split. Hobo cried "Enough", and I cried "Enough". We cycled on up to the pub for a beer, me with axe head on bike carrier and Hobo with big axe on one shoulder (he had brought it with him to do the firewood) like the mad axeman. We had a beer then I cycled to hundred metres to Lajos' place. He was not at home. His younger daughter answered the door to me. I presented the axe head and explained in my best pidgin magyarul that her father would know about it. I don't doubt that we would have got on better had I spoken English.

I cycled home, had a latish lunch and then went for a walk in the garden. It had thawed about half an inch, was still like concrete beneath. I had a several-fold purpose for having a walk up the garden. Firstly for the pleasure of having a walk up the garden on what was a lovely afternoon. I had a look at the onion patch. I fear few have survived the winter. The few remaining leak stumps, seriously ravaged by goats, stuck up forlorn. I strode on up the garden (meadow?). Beneath the big chestnut tree was a veritable feast of crispy brown leaves for the goats. Alas there was no way that I could get goat tethering posts into the ground. I paused for moment to look around and to savour the late winter air. I plodded on and reached my objective. I managed to retrieve the two remaining goat stakes from the ground and to retrieve the little ladder, still leaning against the apple tree from my attempts at pruning.

I was more purposeful on the way back, with small ladder in one hand and two (cold) steel goat stakes in the other. Back at the house it was indoors and do a bit of blog updating.

I found this article about Hungary being the third ranking nation in the world for alcohol consumption. Later, in the pub I told Hobo about it. He was quite affronted. Only third? We need to drink more.

5th March 2011

It was another bright but cold morning, but with a stiff breeze from somewhere between east and north east. It was difficult to tell as it was gusty and tended to swirl around the houses. I was up early enough to light the stove before I shopped and breakfast before I did the goats.

When I let the dogs out halfway through breakfast (I do like my toast and jam, coffee and a pipe of tobacco afterwards in peace) I noticed an axe just inside the front gate. At first I thought that maybe Hobo had showed up to do more chopping, dropped it off there and gone to the shop. I retrieved it and inspected it. It was my axe. Complete with new acacia handle. It takes me back to what I said long ago about priorities here. To be without the big axe with which to chop up firewood is obviously a priority job, and Lajos had also obviously treated it as such. He had also given the shapr end of the blade a bit of TLC in the form of running it by his belt sander. Much gentler than using the angle grinder on it as Hobo does, which tends to just take the temper of the steel out of the edge. I prefer to use a whetstone even if it does take a bit longer. A couple of pictures:
Here is the refurbished axe. It is my grandfather's axe. It has had one new head and four new handles. Think about it! Big Axe
Wood Stack The acacia that was strewn across the yard then stacked as kugli has now become this. There is about three cubic metres of wood there. Small beer. Most households that depend upon wood fires have maybe ten times that stacked away. The old lady next door certainly does. I still have maybe another cubic metre on the yard that has come from various tidying up operations on the estate.

One of the reasons for retrieving the short ladder from the garden yesterday was to get into the loft above the garage. I went up there and dragged down what I strongly suspect was an ex-chicken feeding trough. It turned out to be about seven feet long. Good! The reason that I wanted it was to turn it into multiple two foot long seed trays. Why two foot long? I hear you ask. Well, I have made a discovery. In previous years I never put seed trays straight on top of the tile stove. I feared that it would be just too hot. The discovery was that the area on the top of the tile stove with the cream coloured tiles did not get that hot. I know not the internal construction of the tile stove but the area in question is two feet by eleven inches. The vertical surfaces of the tile stove get hot enough that you take your hand away pretty sharpish. Not so this area on the top. It has taken me three years to discover this but the benefits are already apparent. Cabbages, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, paprika, basil... All germinated with ease. I do need to turn most of the kitchen table into a nursery. Anyway, I knocked up two two foot long seed trays. I may need more yet. Recycling in true Hungarian style!

After lunch I went for a beer. It became two when Hobo came in and bought me another. We were about half way through when Hobo's phone rang. It was Lajos to say that there was somebody with wood parked outside my house. We abandoned everything in place and cycled on down to the cottage. Acacia posts, two and a half metres long. For vines. Dogs were secured and the pickup backed in the yard and tipped them. They were a lot more money than I bargained for and the carriage was very expensive. Seen off, I think the saying is. Still, several will split down and make two posts and the biggest ones will make four. They still have the bark on. That has to be removed. Whilst there Hobo set about repairing the fence between yard and garden which Pickle had been in the process of pulling down. I began stacking the acacia in a sensible place, instead of on top of Pickle's running wire. I started with the biggest. It was heavy! I managed to get it on its end and pushed it over to fall more or less where I wanted it. Unfortunately it just caught the edge of the one remaining acacia firewood log and set off at a smart roll down the yard, nearly collecting Blackie in the process. I rolled it back and put it where I wanted it which was considerably easier than getting it on end. I got the second one in place and by then Hobo had finished the fence repair and we did the other eight together which did not take long.

We returned to our abandoned beers in the pub. Hobo's half brother turned up and one beer became three.

By then it was time to go home, do the goats, cook, eat and square myself up for going back to the pub. In the pub Hobo and I had an animated discussion about what tools should be hit with what. It all started because I had been hitting the blunt side of the big axe with my hammer, which I have to say it not really suited to the job. It was all light hearted. We lingered late. There was some sort of skittles do on and it was almost ten before Láci closed up.

6th March 2011

It was one of those days when I was busy from beginning to end with lots of little jobs. I did have a lie-in. Half past eight. The goats got done first. Still no patter of tiny hooves. I had breakfast after that.

I had to repair and refurbish the tray that goes on the front of the goat table. After I had done his feet Rudy managed to disassemble it. There's gratitude for you. I found longer screws for it and planed off the chamfer that allows it to sit snugly on the goat table. The wood had swollen with being constantly in the goat house. I finished off the second seed tray, which still needed drainage holes drilling in the bottom. Here they are:
The drilling of the holes was the most tedious part of making them. Hobo tells me that this is exactly the technology that Toni uses only quite a bit bigger - he is a market gardener - for his seeds. If you want to sow more than one type of seed you just knock up a divider and slot it in. Home Made Seed Trays

I had three jobs lined up that all required epoxy resin, the goat tray being one. The other two were prepared and ready to go, so one mixing did the lot.

In the midst of this I was making bread, can you believe. I put lunch in the oven first. Hurka and potato wedges - lovely. I ended up multitasking. Eating hurka and potato wedges whilst having to check the bread and turn it north/south/east/west as necessary.

I went onto the Internet for a while in the afternoon. My favourite Norwegian weather forecasting site was assuring me that spring will arrive promptly on the tenth. As I write the Hungarian telly weather forecasts are confirming that. Good-oh! Get the ground thawed and a bit of green about and the goats can go out.

It was soon time to get the firewood in, feed the goats and go to the pub. I heard an interesting conversation from one of the regulars that was sat at our table. He is not normally about in the pub i the evening. He was saying that he knows of acacia posts that have been in the ground in the village for a hundred years and are still standing. Wow! My own research suggested that they were good for forty years. I'm reckoning on forty years seeing me off anyway ;)

7th March 2011

After the normal start, I started on a major spring clean of the big room. Oh boy, did it ever need it! It's a waste of time trying to complete it until a) the dogs have finished moulting and b) the tile stove no longer needs to be lit. At least I made a start.

One of the glueing up jobs yesterday was a modification to my pair of compasses:
Compasses They came from what I have found is the most expensive shop in Körmend - two quid for a black roller ball pen - ouch. The compasses were of the type that just have a little holder for a separate lead. I managed to drop them in the workshop, the lead broke and they were thus rendered useless. I was not about to go back there and buy more leads. With the aid if angle grinder, a little bit of walnut stock, a wood screw and some epoxy resin I converted them into a good old fashioned pair of compasses into which you fasten a modern hi-tech pencil.

The goats got new bedding in the styes. That was fun. The dogs had to be secured in the outhouse workshop. I retrieved the barrow from the garden loaded it with the new bedding and let the goats out into the yard. They were a pain. All they wanted to do was go back in their little house. The girls managed to find their way in and out past the barrow, impeding my progress of trying to fork the new bedding in. Rudy was just a general pain. He butted everything in sight including me, the barrow and the stack of acacia logs on the yard. I really should have let Pickle out so that he could have had a proper go. He sprang on and off the wheelbarrow - with extension - upturning it in the process. I was quite pleased when I got it done and ushered them back inside. Rudy still wanted to come back out and play some more. Capricious, I think the word is.

Speaking of Rudy butting the new acacia posts here they are:
You can gauge the diameter of some of them by the fact that they are two and a half metres long. All the bark has to be stripped from them. Acacia Posts
Firewood I also mentioned in a previous post the stack of wood that has come off the estate. Here it is. The red coloured stuff is pear wood and the white coloured stuff is beech. Plus lots of other miscellaneous crap.

In the evening in the pub I became a sugar tourist. There had been mention of it on the TV news not long ago. It was possible to buy sugar at less than half the price it is in Hungary in various of the EU surrounding states. Like ciggies and booze in the UK they are shipping it in by the van load. I bought four kilogrammes of sugar for less than the price of two kilogrammes in the village shop. Speaking of which, my older readers might remember the great sugar shortage in the UK in the 1970s. I knew of a bloke that had the wherewithall to do it that knew that it was coming. He rented an aircraft hangar from the RAF on a disused airfield quite near to where I lived. And filled it with sugar. The shortage came, the price went sky high and it made him a lot wealthier than he had been to start with.

8th March 2011

It was still cold - about minus six first thing - but all the weather forecasts were still predicting the arrival of spring on the tenth.

All a normal boring sort of a day with nothing really to report. Shop/breakfast/goats/chop some more kugli/two lots of woodwork...

I had a beer in the afternoon and Hobo was in the pub. He volunteered to come and do the firewood whilst I did the goats. I hadn't cooked at lunchtime so was determined to do so in the evening and did.

Eaten, washed and changed I went back to the pub. Hobo was distinctly unhappy - financial matters. Somebody had failed to pay him for about half of a five or six day job he had been doing. I think I would have been unhappy too. Another new record for the price of petrol on the news, with quite an in-depth analysis including the effect of the Libya thing on oil prices. I check the crude oil price every day, and now at over a hundred dollars we are back in the realms of the costs stifling economic recovery.

9th March 2011

As I came back from the shop somewhat before eight I saw Hobo approaching with two strange tools over his shoulder. We exchanged pleasantries and he explained what the tools were all about. A penny dropped. Last evening when I went to the shop one of the locals (magyartarka!) had tried to explain and signally failed to make me understand what he was going on about. Now I understood. The tools were T-shaped, with wooden handles and sharpened steel blades about a foot long as the top of the T. A crude but effective tool for removing tree bark, destined for use on the acacia posts Hobo told me.

Hobo left the tools just inside the gate and went across to the shop for his breakfast. I suspect a little bottle of pálinka, and I know a bottle of beer. He lingered over his breakfast outside the shop chatting to the locals and did not return until about ten. In the meantime I had got through the normal morning routine.

We started on the acacia, post by post, Hobo working from one end and I from the other. I tried the bark peeling tool and did not get on with it. I reverted to using the small axe which was sharp enough and narrow enough to get under the bark and peel it off about an inch and a half wide.

Hobo had reckoned on getting the posts stripped in a couple of hours. Ha! It was another of those jobs similar to when we dug the trench across the yard. By one o'clock we were having to pause and recuperate for a few minutes, and grin at one another. By two we were bushed. We had managed six poles between us. Plus one that I had already done left three. There are still the three to do as I write.

We retired to the pub for a beer (or two). Back home I had plenty of firewood in so I only had the goats to do at the end of the afternoon. I was determined to have pizza, so I set to and made one.

I went to the pub early and returned home early. I did manage to watch the seven thirty news. Petrol went up again - yet another new record. And Devecser, which had almost fallen off the radar here, let alone in the rest of the world, featured with distressing scenes of the demolishion of over a hundred houses in the heart of the village that were deemed too poluted by the toxic residues to be inhabitable again.

10th March 2011

"Spring is here, the grass is riz..." Well, spring is most certainly here but the grass is not quite riz yet. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the day until...
... I was chopping kulgi and had had enough until a particular piece of wood caught my eye. It was the bottom of the trunk of the pear tree wherefrom all the other kugli had come. About two feet long and about a foot in diameter. I had been putting off dealing with it, with the thought that I could not possibly chop anything that size with the axe. My experience of chopping the other kugli had taught me that pear wood splits cleanly, truely and easily. Oh well, give it a go. I rolled it the short distance to the old firewood house, most of which is destined to become firewood quite soon. I stood it on its end in a suitable position and gave it an almighty whack with the big axe. To my astonishment it cracked from top to bottom. It did not quite split, and I had to resort to the hammer thing (tut-tut). About half a dozen blows and it fell cleanly into two halves. Pear Wood

Sorry, the narrative rather overtook the picture. Six more blows with the axe and the pear wood split right down each time, and I now had seven short but substantial pieces of pear wood that were not destined for the fire. I carted them over to the workshop outhouse where they will remain until seasoned. Except that I had to plane off one particular piece, wax it, and take the photograph you see above. It is a thing of astonishing beauty is pearwood. The darker flecks of the medullary rays and the variation of colour between the summer wood and the winter wood. I can assure you that my little photo above has not been Photoshopped (or Gimped!). Those are the colours.

Strangely, I had an e-mail from one of my regular correspondents today, mildly berating me for chopping up pear wood for the stoves. Ah well, the Hungarian way. I will return to that.

The same correspondent asked me to write in a bit more depth about my finances here. I don't normally comment on money, other than to say that I bought this for x or that for y, but here goes. I have a pension. A very small pension. At the moment some £168 per month. I have a small residual income from a tiny business venture that has been on the go for many years - I host web sites, for a fee. The remainder of my income has been from drawing down savings. Almost gone, alas. I pick up a little extra by doing odd bits of web site work and other related computer stuff. I also get the £250 Winter Fuel Allowance. The firewood that I have to buy here amounts to about five cubic metres over the winter in the tile stove. The Winter Fuel Allowance pays for that comfortably, but don't tell the government that. All goes into my UK bank and I transfer money as and when. I took a huge hit the first year I was here when I was with OTP Bank. I was in the situation of simply having to transfer money and in the six weeks it took to happen the pound plummetted against the forint and I got less than two hundred and eighty forints on the pound. Ouch! Much better now that I have the two accounts with Raiffeissen. I get exactly what I transfer from the UK into my Sterling account and can watch the exchange rates daily to decide (up to a point) when I transfer money into the forint account. If I get the order in before 1 p.m. I get that days exchange rate.

I will be sixty four in July. A year after that I will have three more pensions kick in - my UK retirement pension, which will be by then I expect about £105 per week, plus two other work related pensions. Now, in context, my UK retirement pension alone will put my income here well above the national minimum wage, which was about £260 per month the last time I looked. The house and land cost me four million forints, which at the time was about £10,600 equivalent. There are a number of good houses still for sale in the village for similar sums.

In terms of outgoings I pay my water and electricity annually (although the water bill is still problematic). Water is about £1.20 a cubic metre (1000 litres). I get through - barring plumbing disasters - about twenty three to twenty five cubic metres a year. Electricity costs, of course. If I recall correctly my last bill for the year was about £130. I wish I could get it down more! A thing that I have never mentioned before is that there are two electricity supplies to the house. The normal one, which is 230v AC that runs most things including the electrical stuff I brought over from the UK, and also a 380v AC supply. My water heating boiler (when I have it on) runs off this latter supply. It is also "Off Peak". When I first noticed that that included the hour between nine and ten in the morning I thought that was a bit odd, but it later came to me that in an area such as this there are few people doing anything in their houses. They are all outside working.

The only other thing that I have to pay annually is to get the dogs vaccinated against rabies. Compulsory. Last time, three thousand five hundred forints per dog.

I have a couple of bills that come in twice a year. One is the council tax equivalent. Eleven hundred forints! It makes me cringe to think that I rented a tiny flat in Bournemouth and my council tax was about £60 per month. The other one is for emptying the bin. About £6 each half year.

I have one monthly bill, which is also my single greatest expense here, and that is for the Internet and telephone. It costs me £24 a month. I could get a cheaper connection but it would be bandwidth limited and with some of the stuff I do I simply cannot be doing with that.

I have no weekly bills as such. I shop daily of course. A litre of milk in the shop is two hundred and eighty forints - about eighty eight pence - which is not cheap. A half loaf of bread is a hundred and sixty forints - about fifty pence. Again, when you consider the difference in pay here to in the UK that is also not cheap. Produce does tend to be cheap though, and also most people in the village grow much of their own. My daily shop in the village is anywhere between three hundred and round about a thousand forints.

My only other regular outgoings are dog food - two thousand forints every week, but not every week if you get my drift - and the goats have probably cost me about fifteen thousand forints to keep over the winter. A couple of sacks of barley and the rest in paying for labour to get in the maize stalks. Believe it or not, by the time the goats go out to grass they will have gone through about ten thousand maize stalks!

Then of course there is booze and baccy! Fortunately both are relatively cheap here. Pipe tobacco, which I am still having to buy, is a quarter of the UK price. Cheap red plonk can be had for seventy five pence a litre and a half decent bottle of local (i.e. Hungarian) can be had for little over a pound. A half litre bottle of beer in the shop is forty two pence, and in the pub seventy three pence.

I will talk a little bit about my diet. I have occasionally commented on making this or that but not really filled in the gaps. I eat heartily and well, but what I would call plain fare. As much as possible comes off the garden of course. Last year was a disaster, but not just for me. Meat is another topic. On the borderline of being a luxury item for me. Pork and chicken are the cheapest, and beef quite expensive in local terms. Of course many (most?) families in the village raise their own pigs. Some of the extended families in the village have quite a few pig killings a year. Fortunately I happen to like liver and that is cheap. Four hundred and odd forints a kilogramme. Half a kilogramme does me two serious meals, plus the gristly bits left over for the dogs.

Well, that was quite a ramble and has taken me three days to think about and write. There is more to say but that will do for now.

11th March 2011

With spring well under way I had a bash at getting the final touches done to the current woodworking project, then in the knowledge that they will very soon be needed set about the metalwork for the other two goat posts. I know not why, but they needed a lot more work with the angle grinder than the last two. Maybe by sheer coincidence I found the easier ones first. In the process I managed to inflict severe damage on a work pullover. I melted three holes in it, caused by the sparks from grinding. By the way, the Hungarian for pullover is "pulóver". Thought you might like to know that.

With grinding complete I decided to cycle up the village and see if the blacksmith was about. He was, and in about a couple of minutes I was cycling back down the village with the posts welded up. The price was the same - a couple of beers! I celebrated a successful bit of work and business with a beer on the way home. It became two when a freebie came my way.

Back home, goats, lunch and back to the indoor gardening. Lots more seeds got sown. For the first time this year I managed to do most of it sitting on the doorstep with a beer by my side. Nice!

Did the firewood (still cool enough at night to need a bit of heat in the stove) and goats, and cooked a spag. bol. and ate it. Enough sauce left for another go tomorrow.

I had a quick look on the Internet and was horrified by what was happening in Japan.

I went to the pub as usual. "Our" table was already occupied by a group of five blokes, none of whom I knew. Four out of the five were rat-arsed when I got there and became increasingly more so as the evening progressed. The fifth grew more miserable as the evening progressed. He was a younger man, and I think the duty driver. The spiritual leader of the bunch got to the stage of wandering about in the pub and invariably managing to pump into the pillar in the centre of the pub. And had a little accident of the trouser wetting variety. I considered it hilarious until he took an interest in the fact that I am English and came and sat at our table. He proceded to spout pidgin German at me in the mistaken impression that he was speaking pidgin English. Hobo and Lajos, on my flanks, fended him off admirably for which I was grateful. Fortunately kicking out time arrived so we all had to leave. I beat a hasty retreat on the bike.

The telly was on all evening in the pub. Considering what was going down in Japan, what did Láci have on? Football!

Late in the day but this transcipt of Richard Heinberg's talk in Guernsey is worth the read, if rather long.

12th March 2011

I have no idea what I did, except that it was all routine.

Once again in the evening Láci had nothing on the telly except football. I found this a bit surprising considering the events unfolding in Japan. It might as well have been on the other side of the world as far as Halogy was concerned. Ah! Well, it is on the other side of the world. I might talk about insular in a couple of days time.

13th March 2011

Sunday. Goats/breakfast/sweep through the house. Rivetting stuff. I got on with my little woodworking project. It was almost finished but I had to make up some test pieces for final tuning. A royal pain they were too. Anyway, I made them, tested them, selected the best and then had to make another one because the test pieces were just rough. Mind you, the whole thing is quite rustic. I made a proper one, glued it in and left it for the glue to set. One hole left to drill and some final finishing work and it will be done.

I would have loved to have been out in the garden, it was such a pleasant day. Not a chance. The ground was still frozen solid about three inches down.

After lunch I took the tape measure out and measured round the fenced areas of the yard. It goes back to the conversation that I had with the old lady's grandaughter. I was hoping to put it off for a while but I fear that the bullet has to be bitten. Weld mesh all round, concreted in at the bottom.

More boring stuff after that. Firewood/goats/pub. The only thing that I would say on that is that the house seems warmer again this year. I really cannot comment on the ins and outs of why it should be so other than to say that the house is now lived in having been empty for so many years.

14th March 2011

Right then. I am going to march through the next few days a bit sharpish in the main. For a reason.

Sawed chopped and stacked a load of the firewood still lying in the yard. Only about another cubic metre to do.

The back brake cable on the bike was binding so I decided to have a look at it. Buggered! Design fault. It has an outer cable at the front and a short one at the back. The one at the back is where the design fault is. It loops down and then back up to the actual brake. Moisture gets in no matter how much lubricant I apply. In winter it freezes solid. I have tried to make it loop up the way instead of down but the carrier gets in the way. I attempted to lubricate it again and the inner cable started to break up. I had to remove the whole lot from the bike and use the side cutters between the front outer cable and the back outer cable. Well, I now had no inner cable but I managed to clean out and lubricate both of the outers. Small mercies.

With just a front brake I cycled up the village for eggs.

Pub in the evening.

15th March 2011

A normal day for me until the early evening. It had almost completely passed me by in the two previous years apart from the fact that it was a bank holiday. This year I had had both an invitation and a personal reminder from the Faluház lady to attend (and take photos of) the local parade marking the Anniversary of 1848 Uprising Against Austrian Rule a.k.a. Petőfi Nap.

You know, there is scarcely a village, let alone a town, in Hungary that does not have a Petőfi utca. Those with my address will recognise that.

Yes, they had a parade. They formed up outside the faluház and walked up to what they call the park - the village green if you will. A car followed behind with windows open and sound system playing suitable solemn music. I alternately cycled ahead and positioned myself at stategic points to get pictures of the procession as they made their way - church, pub... - you get the idea. More and more people joined the procession as it made its way to the park.

Once there a ceremony took place, clearly in praise of Petőfi Sándor who kicked it all off. There were a series of narrations, with suitable pieces of music interspersed. The narrations were all made by the young people of the village and from what I saw later on the telly this was clearly a national characteristic. They have long memories do the Hungarians, and they do not allow the younger generation to forget the shaping moments in the history of the country. The polgármester made a brief speach, they played Himnusz, and that was that. Everyone there, including me, had pinned on some representation of the red, white and green of Hungary.

Later, in the pub, Láci had the Duna TV news on. A specially extended edition. Fifty five minutes of coverage of the Anniversary of 1848 Uprising Against Austrian Rule and three minutes of everything else. Japan got about thirty seconds! There you go. That was the bit about insular. Insular they may be. Xenophobic they are not. I have to say that attending that ceremony made me realise that I am part of the village, and I was greeted by and shook hands with many that - how shall I say? - well I suppose, used to treat me with indifference.

A report on the Aj Jazeera website on the effects of Middle East and North Africa troubles on the world's economies.

16th March 2011

Another lovely morning. On my way to feed the goats I tested the soil with a goat post. Still frozen hard five inches down!

Indoor gardening and then some woodwork which did not go well.

After lunch I went to Nádasd for brake cables. Plural. The front one turned out to be nearly as bad as the back one. I left it alone. At least it had not parted company yet.

I had another go at the woodwork when I got home. Almost as bad as the last lot, but not quite.

Pub in the evening.

17th March 2011

The gardening boots went on, and I have to say that they are now as comfortable as old boots, as the saying goes.

I forked the sorry mass of half rotten walnut leaves onto the outhouse garden. Ah, Hobo, if you had only listened I could still be feeding them into the goats. If you need something doing right do it yourself springs to mind. It will this year. I reckon on about six cubic metres of walnut leaves (dry) going to waste. They aren't of course. They will still rot down in the soil of the outhouse garden and enrich it. But they would have been better going into the goats.

The camping lawn needs a serious makeover. So did the goat house. One of the unintended effects of deep litter was that not only was Rudy able to butt the tiles off the roof but he was also able to dislodge or break the timbers. I had to confine Rudy, remove some twenty-odd tiles, find suitable timber for repair (oak!) and repair the roof. As I write, Rudy has not broken it yet. No doubt in time he will.

18th March 2011

After shopping and breakfasting the gardening boots went on again. It immediately came on to rain and rained more on than off all day. It was raining hard enough that I needed the goat hat on when I went out to feed them. It rained all day, sometimes heavier and sometimes lighter.

I returned to woodworking and the next of a long, long list of outstanding projects. I was cutting (supposedly) forty five degree mitres. It did not go well. What I could have done with was one of these. Yeah, right! Only nearly a grand in pounds. I had in the past used such a machine. What a delight. Powered only by the right arm it would cut an absolutely true and straight mitre in seconds. I struggled on for a while with what I had. I stopped when I had one good one, not wishing to push the luck.

I was doing some Internet stuff when the dogs did their ballistic bit. John's dad was at the gate and wanted to skav a bit of sand which I willingly provided. I quite deliberately neglected to mention that John had been back to the UK for a while. The whole village knew, but there is absolutely no reason why world plus wife plus dog should know. There are bad people out there that might take advantage.

With it still raining I murdered some more woodwork.

With the light fading fast on a dull and grey evening I got the firewood in, fed the goats and cooked up something simple and wholesome to eat, like haddock chips and mushy peas. Only not. Oh, I could quite willingly murder for haddock chips and mushy peas.

I changed and went down to the faluház where I uploaded my pictures from March 15th onto their computer.

Pub as usual after that. I asked Toni about barley - running short for the goats. None was the reply. Mmmmm!

19th March 2011

I was up early enough that I had shopped, breakfasted and was out to do the goats not long after eight. As usual the bucket containing their treats went over the fence out of the thieving black dogs way as did their morning ration of hay. I went over to the garage for their maize stalks and as usual Pickle was by the gap round the door into the yard going ballistic. Also as usual I had a look through the gap to see where the goats were. Suzy was not in her normal place but was standing in the doorway of the sty nearest the garden. She moved out into the corridor. A moment later, to my absolute delight, a new little face appeared round the edge of the door hole. Such was my delight that I actually exclaimed out loud "Oh, what? What have we got here, then?".

I got the stalks and rapidly made my way round to the garden entrance of the goat house. I had the usual tustle with Rudy, he threw a strop and got thoroughly sat on for his pains. When I released him he turned his attention away from me and tried to have a go at the new-born. I was having none of that and he got man-handled to the end of the corridor and bolted behind the door. By good luck Betty was in there with him.

After that I had to have a rethink about feeding arrangements. And check on the baby, of course, who turned out to be a little boy:
New Born Goat Kid Here he is. As you can see, black all over except for grey nose and ears.
And here are mother and son. Suzy and Kid

After feeding them, which turned out to be a lot easier than expected I confess that I went to the pub for a celebratory drink.

As you might expect, their welfare preoccupied me for the rest of the day. I knew from my readings on the Internet that it was vital that the kid got collostrum as soon as possible. I had already put him to the teat, and he obviously knew what to do, but I had a check for myself to make sure that Suzy was in fact producing collostrum. She was. My first venture into milking a goat at the age of sixty three. I spent some time too making sure that he was going to feed for himself. He was doing that too.

Satisfied I retired to the house and had a good bash at blog updating.

Serendipity, although I don't know if it is quite the right word. 19th March. Three years to the day since I arrived in Hungary and three years to the day since Pickle was born. What coincidences!

By the time evening feed for the goats came I was happy enough that all was well, and once darkness arrived there was little that I could do to ensure the welfare of mother and son. I ate and retired to the pub.

20th March 2011

I went to feed the goats first thing and check on the welfare of all. It was a lovely bright spring morning. Panic attack. I went in via the garden as usual. Suzy was wandering about in what was now her end of the goat house. No baby goat! I lokked in the other end of the goat house wherein Betty and Rudy were confined. There was no baby goat there either. I looked in the sty. No baby goat. I looked for holes from whence he might have escaped. There were none. Suzy seemed unconcerned. I had another check round. Bear in mind that it was a bright shiny day and the light levels in the actual sties is minimal at best. I stood in the sty doorway and let my eyes accommodate to the light level. There he was. Hiding in the big stone pig trough that still resides there. Like looking for a black cat in a coal cellar. I carried him out to Suzy and watched with delight as he fed whilst she fed. He was much steadier on his feet today.

After some domestic stuff I started on what should really have been underway since before winter. Remodelling the goat house and big garage. I really did not want Rudy and Betty locked in just the little bit of corridor and one sty for the foreseeable future, and not even until they go out to grass which by the looks of things will not be many days.

I armed myself with hammer, tape measure and my makeshift chisel angle ground from an old gate hinge and went into the garage. First I had to remove the remaining maize stalks that were still in there. Enough for about a fortnight I reckon and if needs be there are many more salvagable leaves on the huge pile outside the goat house. I returned to the garage and measured up:
Turning a Garage Into a Goat House I marked the rendering where I wanted to go through and used the makeshift chisel to scribe a line.
I used the hinge freehand to chip away the rendering in the garage. I found where the brick courses ran and identified a suitable place in the bonding either side to start removing. I bashed away with hammer and chisel at the joints and eventually a half brick came out my side of the wall. I really wanted it all to come out my side of the wall. This was not a sledge hammer job resulting in a cascade of bricks. After all I had two precious goats just the other side of the wall. Another half brick came out, and another. All on my side of the wall. Bugger. I needed a whole brick out right through the wall so that I could figure out what I was doing. I chose the next course down and a likely candidate brick. A few minutes of work and I was rewarded by a whole brick coming out in my direction. After that progress was rapid:
It was not long before I could see Rudy through the hole. Turning a Garage Into a Goat House
I continued and quite soon Rudy could get his head and shoulders through the hole:
Turning a Garage Into a Goat House Like this.
He took a lively interest. I managed to remove about another three courses and he joined me in the garage. I had to keep removing his head - well beard - from where I wanted to chip out bricks. It was not long before Betty joined us. The inevitable happened and Pickle managed to open the garage door from outside. Rudy investigated. I watched for a little while. Rudy had his head with horns locked under Pickle's chin and was driving her around the yard like a bulldozer. Betty sensibly stayed inside. I continued working in the knowledge that Rudy could look after himself. Until there was a single "Meah" from outside and Rudy trotted back into the garage. What he had not bargained on was that whilst he had his horns under her chin his ears were within range of her snapping jaws. She had managed to put a tiny nick in the edge of one of his ears. Big coward - he ran back to safety.

Once back in the garage he resumed his insatiable curiosity about what I was doing. Enough! In the knowledge that all the goats now had plenty of room in which to move about I knocked it on the head for the day.

I locked it all up and, covered in lime mortar dust from head to foot, went for a beer. Hobo was in the pub. He bought me another. I mentioned barley and he disappeared for a few minutes and came back with the phone number of the dog food man, who had supplied my first bag of barley. He even phoned him up using the pub phone. Twenty five kilogrammes of barley sorted!

Back home I still had to do firewood and feed the goats. Whilst feeding the goats I happened to see the old lady at No. 72 doing her firewood. I called her to the fence and went and fetched junior from the goathouse. She was delighted. She gave him a stroke and we chatted for a moment before I took him back to Suzy. You know, it gave me an inordinate amount of pleasure that she should be the first human being to touch him apart from myself.

I did have a bit of a swill down and remove the lime dust before I went to the pub.

21st March 2011

Usual start. It was still spring.

After the removal of the walnut leaves from the camping lawn it needed a bit of a makeover. The moles had had a field day under the walnut leaves and many areas had been invaded by moss. Now, how does moss manage to grown and remain green under a carpet of about a foot of walnut leaves? Well, it had. I raked it out as best I could, levelled out the mole hills and more in hope than in anger scattered a load of grass seed about. I just hope that visitors are not destined to a humpy arid camping plain!

I limed some of the dug garden. The newly winter dug bits were done plus the area where I hope to grow tomatoes this year had another dose. I had already had tomato bottom rot. Don't want that again. Nasty - unpleasant. Some neighbours watched as I limed the garden. It was a bit quizzical as in WTF is he doing now? Acid soil + Calcium deficiency == Application of Lime.

I started on pruning the vines. I managed all the ones on the eastern side by lunchtime. I still have no idea what I am doing, but I did manage to get double the quantity of wine last year from the previous. There are two vines up that side - towards Telek utca - and they will send canes five metres each side along the fence. Nightmare to prune. Off topic I can't remember whether I mentioned that I have another fifteen cuttings planted. Last year they came to nothing because of the dreadful weather conditions.

Even more off topic I came across an article on the Budapest Times web site (no link - sorry) explaining why there had been so much flooding in both the unseasonal rains of last year and over the winter this year. One word answer - neglect. Much of Hungary is very flat, being as it is in the Carpathian Basin (Pannonian if you prefer). There is supposed to be a three tier defence against flooding. Tiers one and two are the big stuff. Tier three is local and has simply not been happening. Local ditches between fields and between fields and rivers have not been maintained and have in cases been deliberately filled in.

I fed the goats at lunchtime, as usual keeping an eye out for how the little one was doing. Today Suzy went for a wander outside and had a good nibble at whatever bits of new greenery were available. All good. I did not discourage it. Junior was hiding in the pig trough as usual.

John's dad appeared at the gate - I can't remember what I was doing - and asked if I had a bit of stove pipe. I asked the size, said that I had and would look it out. Ah, firewood was what I was doing. I finished that, found the bit of stove pipe exactly where I knew it was and wandered down to John's with it.

The goats got fed - minus barley (there was just one helping left that I was reserving for tomorrow) - and I ate and went to the pub.

22nd March 2011

Another bright spring morning but with a bit of a chilly wind. Light the stove, cook the coffee and on with the farming boots.

Fed the goats and then went to prune the vines down the west side of the estate. As the barrow was at the top end, still replete with the prunings from yesterday, I emptied it on the heap destined for burning and started at the top.

The pruning went well until I got to the one nearest the goat house that totally defeated me last year. I was a bit more determined this year. It turned out to be three large vines growing off one root. The whole lot was gnarled and twisted and knotted together. Two of them came off with the saw. The other one got pruned into, I hope, a survivable state.

After lunch I started in to dig over the new ground that Jozsi had roughly winter dug for me back whenever. Oh, it was hard going. I hear you asking "Why not put a rotovator on it?". Two reasons. Number one is that my neighbour John has a very good Honda rotovator. The roots of the twitch grass - whatever you want to call it - just bind in the blades until the rotovator no longer works. The second reason is that using a rotovator is actually not a good idea. It breaks up the microstructure of the soil too much. I'm told.

I was preparing my evening meal when there was something going on at No. 72. Blackie was going ballistic. I ignored it. Whatever it was that was going on at No. 72 stopped. And Blackie was still going ballistic. I finally had to concede and go outside and investigate. What Blackie was going ballistic about was a huge pile of firewood that had arrived next door. Now, Blackie will always go ballistic at the unexpected. Particulary large things that do not move. Almost as if to say "What's that doing there? It was not there before. Why is it there? I don't like it!".

I had a catastrophe of the horticultural kind during the course of the day. Last evening I entirely forgot that I had a particular set of seedlings outside. It got down to minus three overnight. By the time I came to look at them they were ex-seedlings. Meghalt. Brown Bread. Oh well, start over once again.

23rd March 2011

Another lovely spring morning. Just a couple of weeks ago everything was sere, but now new green life is springing up again with the turn of the seasons.

After shop and breakfast I went to feed the goats. Suzy went for a wander outside, and junior joined her. I took the opportunity to drag out a barrow load of the floor litter. It is just a bit deep now - I stopped dragging out the spent maize stalks about three weeks ago. It will be a bugger to clean out and will need to be done soon. I reckon a days work for two blokes. Here is a fairly staggering statistic. I reckon that the goats have gone through about ten thousand maize stalks over the course of the winter.

I did some housework. I managed to get as far as sweeping out the hallway. The house is in disarray. It is a tip. I mentioned starting on spring cleaning. Mmmmm! Finding the time is the problem.

Digging. Still not good, but slightly better as the soil dries out a bit.

My next door neighbour Tibi had dug out his drainage ditch, then carried on and did mine up to the culvert pipe under the driveway. Oh blast! That meant that I would have to do the other half of mine, and there really was not much point in doing that unless the ditch by No. 72 was done as well. I spotted the old lady and tried to explain that I was offering to dig out her drainage ditch. I made a dog's breakfast of it and she did not understand. Oh well, I would dig my bit out and if necessary get help with the translation.

Barley arrived for the goats. I made a sandwich and ate it perusing the Internet.

I started on clearing out my drainage ditch. The mayor came by on his bike - twice - once in each direction. He nodded and smiled as he saw my progress. A young man of the village cycled by with a "Szervus, Steve" and a thumb in the air as he saw my work. Little things like that make it all worthwhile. I got about half way and knocked it on the head for the day. I sat on the doorstep in the spring warmth and had a beer.

After that I had a wander in the garden with the tape measure. Twenty five. I reckon that I will need twenty five cross members for the vine posts. Fifty five metres of vines, including lots of spaces to be filled in with new vines that I hope this year will grow.

I was pretty well knackered after that. I went to feed the goats. Suzy went walkabout. I eventually had to collar her and drag her back kicking and screaming to the goat house. Junior never ventured outside.

Ate, washed and changed and went to the pub where Hobo and I had (another) animated discussion about the cross members to support the vines. Normal rustic Hungarian solution - nail them up. I was equally adamant. No nails!

24th March 2011

Yes, yes - I know I am a week behind but don't you know it is spring here and all hell has broken lose in the garden?

After the usual start I put in two solid hours of digging and weeding the stuff that Jozsi had winter dug for me. Seriously hard going. I retired to the house for a beer - on the doorstep.

Posta arrived with an envelope for me. I went to collect it from her with bottle of beer in hand. I was not about to leave it on the doorstep for the black mastiff to knock over and drink. He would, you know. He has this one endearing character flaw. He is a thief. Anything! Food most certainly, dog food especially, but goat food if avaiable! Gardening gloves, firewood - all fair game to him. Unlike Pickle he is not predisposed to chase goats, next door's chickens or whatever - but he does like to steal whatever he can get his jaws upon. In the main I find it amusing. Petty criminal. Magistrates Court and borstal, or maybe a little community service. Unlike Pickle, who if she transgresses again will be facing an Assize Court judge with a black cloth over his head. Posta lady grinned when I approached the gate with bottle in hand.

I cleaned up the yard, had lunch and went to the pub for a beer. After that I continued digging out the drainage ditch. The old lady at No. 72 approached me whilst I was doing this and, obviously having considered my pidgin magyarul, told me that, yes, she would be happy if I did her bit as well.

I happened to look in the mirror in the kitchen. I don't have a lot of call for mirrors. Reminds me of when I was in my local and one of the drinking buddies said "Mirror, mirror on the wall who's the ugliest of them all?" - about ten voices immediately responded "You are!!". Ah, left the plot for a moment then. Yes, looked in the mirror and was distinctly sunburnt. And it is only March.

Nothing happened with the acacia posts. I fed the goats and me and went to the pub. Hungary vs Holland. Unusually they played the whole of Himnusz including the intro and the outtro. Even more unusual was that Hobo doffed his baseball cap for this. Didn't stand up though.

25th March 2011

Digging, digging, digging! The house was once again in disarray. It would just have to wait.

After lunch I started on No. 72 drainage ditch. Being me, I was going to make a proper job of it so I put a line down where one side of the bottom of the channel should be. Today I just spaded out the bottom roughly to depth. There was about eight inches to come out, then the banks to remodel. I was about two thirds of the way through when the old lady appeared at my side. I litre of her wine came my way. It was a certain amount of relief as I had not been entirely sure that she understood and wanted me to do it. I received her gift graciously and we exchanged some small talk. I think it may earn me some Brownie Points in the village, too.

Speaking of which, there has been a subtle sea-change in the attitude of many people in the village towards me. Now, right since my arrival most people in the village had been politely friendly towards me. That has changed. Many in the village are now actively friendly towards me. They go out of the way to (at least attempt to) chat to me. How are the goats doing? What was I doing in the garden? Type of thing. A thing happened in the pub that reminded me. Two of the landlord's grandsons were around and he made sure that they came and shook hands with "Pitubacs" - "Uncle Steve"! In Hungary all older friends and neighbours are honorary uncles and aunts. The younger generation (including Hobo) call the landlord Lácibacs - Uncle Láci.

Lajos stopped off and told me that he would pick up two of my acacia logs a bit later to take away to be sawn up. By the time he returned I had secured dogs, selected logs and rolled them out to the roadside so that on his return he and his friend just had to lift them into his trailer and off they went. He abandoned a daughter at my place - "Go and look at the goats!". So she did, and took loads of pictures.

Jozsi turned up at the gate looking for work. I did not have my thinking head on, and sent him away empty handed. It only occured to me later that I have definitely a full days work for him, possibly two. Sods Law indicates that, as I write, I have not seen him in the village since.

Pub in the evening. I wanted some information from Hobo. What were staples - the sort that you hold up wire mesh with - called in Hungarian. Elegantly simple - U-nails!

26th March 2011

More digging. Green is starting to show everywhere more and more, so I put Suzy and the kid out as an experiment. She stayed out about half an hour but was not happy, so back in the goat house they went. It was starting to be an issue. There was not that much goat food left that was fit to put in the goat house.

I encountered a tree stump in my digging. Jozsi had kindly overlooked it when he did the winter digging. I soon found out why. I went back to the yard, had a short break, and went back with the heavy mattock. The stump proved a so-and-so. Eventually the head fell off the mattock. Well, not so much fell off as remained embedded in the tree stump when the handle came out of it. Back to the yard again. I knocked the head back on and banged the wedge in tighter. Back to the garden. The head came loose again. It needed another wedge. Back to the yard yet again. In disgust I went for a beer.

Back home I made an additional wedge for the mattock and banged it in. The stump eventually yielded. It was big, wet and heavy. I finished off the digging around where the stump had been and went for lunch.

After lunch I did an hour on the next door drainage ditch. I was going to go and do more digging but it came on to rain. I lost the plot for a while and sat in a reverie for about half an hour. I roused myself eventually and did a bit on one of the current woodworking projects. There are many outstanding and more in the pipeline.

Firewood, goats, ate, pub.

27th March 2011

The weather was not good. My mood suited it. I fed the goats and breakfasted.

Time to do something about the house. At least at floor level. It was thoroughly swept out - and I don't mean swept around - throughout, and mopped throughout. It took me the best part of the day. Satisfied, I made myself a pizza.

Lots of people are asking about the kid. Some have asked his name. My answer is always the same "Kolbász", accompanied by certain movements of the right hand as if winding a handle. I'll let you look it up for yourselves. Quite a few have immediately come back with "Nem szabad!". I'll let you look that up too.

Pub in the evening.

As I write I think that that evening was the last that I lit the tile stove this year. I have not felt the need of lighting it since.

28th March 2011

Digging, lunch, next door's ditch, digging and sowing some seeds indoors.

That's it, apart from pub in the evening and...

The Beeb says walnuts are healthy. Well, there you go then! And late in the day this utter crap from By 2050 there will be very, very few people who can afford to run any kind of ICE propelled vehicle.

29th March 2011

It was a very pleasant morning and everywhere in the garden was green over. Today was the day for all the goats to go out, I decided. So that's what I did. After shop and breakfast out they went. Discretion was the better part of valor and I put Suzy and the little one out first, not too far away, leaving Rudy and Betty in their half of the goat house. Next I opened the dividing door just enough that Betty could get out but Rudy could not. Out she went. Finally it was Rudy's turn and I will confess that I was not looking forward to it. He had become quite wild over the winter. Sure enough, it was a wrestling match all the way to his post. I did win! I can still best him.

I know that I will forget to say if I don't say now, but since then I have found a new (and better) way of handling him. He obligingly stands on his hind legs and looks over the dividing door when I go to get him and it is but the work of a couple of seconds to clip his chain on. Whilst I take him out I keep him on a very short chain - about six inches worth. I hold his head up when he tries to put it down (the charge), and I hold his head down if he tries to rear up on his hind legs (the precursor to the charge). He seems to accept the fact that I am in control and trots along - quite briskly - to where the girls are and I stake him out. Much, much easier.

I got straight on with the digging and weeding for where the early spuds are going this year. It gives some idea of how much more ahead of the game this year than I was last. I checked back on the blog and last year I did not get the first row of spuds in until 20th April.

I got the bike out after that and cycled down to John's on a twofold mission. First objective was to retrieve a hurka from his freezer and the second was to tell his parents that the goats were out. They are over on a visit from the UK for a while. John's mother had been saying for a while that she wanted to come and see the baby goat. It happened that they had already set off for my place, so I did not linger. They had already been primed to come through the gap in the fence at the top so as not to have to run the gauntlet of marauding dogs.

As I got home I could see them advancing down the garden. I took the time to put the hurka indoors out of multiple harms way then went to meet them. Lots of photos were taken and we spent a good while chatting. One of the things John's mother asked was why I so much like it here. I looked up at the azure sky, circled my gaze around the garden and cocked an ear. The only thing to be heard was occasional bird song. No words were really needed.

They departed, and I had lunch. Then returned to the digging. I paused and looked at the goats nearby. The little one was gambolling about. The others were panting. It was not that hot, but at this time of year there is little shade. I went to get them water, which they do not need in the morning as everything is bedewed. I decided that I could do with a drink as well, so cycled up to the pub. I met Hobo on the way. He was headed to mine to see if there was a bit of work needed doing. There was, but he needed no encouragement to about turn and go to the pub also.

After the beer we went back to mine. With goats out I set Hobo on completing knocking through the new doorway between goat house and garage. I did a bit more on the drainage ditch next door. A bottle of beer appeared from the old lady - always welcome.

Hobo and I took a break. We sat on the house step in the glorious weather. Hobo noticed that the beer from the old lady was a year out of date. Whatever! And I don't much go on expiry dates anyway. It was drinkable - nothing wrong with it. We both did another stint, Hobo on the chipping out and me doing a minor clearout in that end of the goat house. The big clearup is still to come. Hobo dragged me over to the shop where he bought the beers and we sat on the flower troughs outside the shop with the rest of what seems to be an ever-growing band of village p*ssheads. A young man of the village cycled up to the shop for something, just looked at us all and shook his head.

Hobo headed off after that. I had early evening ritual to attend to. Plus I had to get the goats in. That proved problematic. I adopted the usual routine - get the girls in first, then Rudy. Once back and in the goat house Suzy was determined to have quite a vicious go at Betty. I had to separate them and get Betty back in her end. Rudy was no problem until I got him in the goat house, then he was determined to have a go at everything. I eventually got him back in his end of the goat house. And Betty escaped, whereupon Suzy had another go at her. Oh joy!

I was well ready for a little evening pub session after that. John's dad told me that the UK Winter Fuel Allowance had been cut by fifty pounds in the Budget, which had escaped me. Thinking about it, I reckon that that is the thin end of what may well have to become a very long and very broad wedge.

30th March 2011

It was another nice day. A gardening work day. The goats went out and I finished off the last of the digging for where the early potatoes were to go.

I returned to the yard and had a sort out of the acacia posts. The subtleties of the Hungarian language made themselves apparent. A post for vines is láb (leg). A post, e.g. for a fence is an oszlop, and a post to which you attach a goat is a karó. Mmmm. Anyway, I marked some candidate pieces of acacia from which I hope to get two lábs. Then I got as far down the stack as the second thinnest. I set about augering the holes through the same height as the reclaimed ones which were still leaning against a little outhouse building. In fact, I think they are holding it up. I got half way through the first hole and there was a shout from over the fence. Tibi. Why was I not doing it with an electric drill? Well, two good reasons. One was that drilling through that thickness of green acacia would almost certainly bugger either drill bit, or drill or both. The other is that, from experience, once you get beyond a certain depth a spade-type bit in an electric drill will go off at just what angle it wants to. At least with my one inch Jennings pattern bit, my carpenter's brace and the strength of my left (or right) arm I knew that I could bore a nice, straight, parallel hole all the way through. If successive holes went in the wrong direction that would be operator problem, not equipment problem.

Posta arrived with an envelope. I guessed what it was. It was a copy of Riders Digest magazine which included a few very old photographs of mine, and some narrative about the Dragon Rally. I read and enjoyed it over lunch.

After lunch I was planting seed potatoes when Tibi appeared again, armed with post hole boring tools. He wanted to know where the lábs should go. I fetched the tape measure and explained depth and distance. He set about it with gusto. I finished planting spuds. I mentioned yesterday about when I got the spuds in last year. What entirely escaped my mind was that at that time I was still seriously suffering from my fall in the snow.

With Tibi having bored random holes in the land, and with my two rows of spuds in the ground I retired to the pub for one. Whilst there I seem to have sold the kid. There was some discussion about whether the kid should have testicles attached or detached. There was also some haggling about price of which I would have none. I paid six thousand forints for each goat, so I reckoned Suzy's kid was worth that and there I stuck.

Back home I went into the garden again and out of pure spite filled in the gaps in the several rows of peas that I sowed late last year.

The goats went in and were fed. I got a bit of firewood in and cooked a Lajos hurka and potato wedges, ate them and went back to the pub.

Back home I had occasion to boot into the dreaded Windose system. It screwed up my time server and my Skype connection. Mmmmm - wonder why I prefer Linux?

31st March 2011

Another fine spring morning and I was up and about early. Well, early enough to encounter the customer jam in the shop. I breakfasted and the goats went out. Rudy threw his usual strop.

I did as much as I could in the garden then back to the house to prepare to go to Körmend. Washed and changed I caught the bus. There was an arrangement in place with Hobo that I would ring his phone when I caught the bus. He would meet me in the Cellar Pub and he had said that he would arrange transport to the Vasiviz office to sort out my water bill. In true Hungarian fashion it did not happen. I got to the cellar pub. No Hobo. I lingered over a beer. Still no Hobo. I texted him and lingered more. Still no Hobo. Whatever! I had various other calls and shopping that I needed to do, so I went about them quite briskly. First call was the bank. No money! Oh well, I would have to do with what was in the pocket. Second call was what I call the sandwich shop where they sell all kinds of delicious delicacies including bread. I bought lunch in a couple of paper bags.

I lunched on the hoof to the third call - the bicycle shop from whence came my once pristine bicycle. Of course the guy in there knew me - once seen never forgotten. I announced in no doubt less than perfect magyarul that I needed a new inner rear brake cable, mountain bike style. Well, the magyarul could not have been that bad as he strode into the back and returned with exactly what I wanted in about ten seconds. I needed some bike oil as well so I bought that also. He asked for the money in Hungarian and I found the exact amount. I paid him. We exchanged the normal civilities and I left. I could not help but notice that as I left he was smiling from ear to ear. Sea change!

Did a Spar shop and topped up with margarine, coffee beans and one or two other bits. Then back into town. I stopped off in the Presszo bar for a beer, as you do. Hobo was not in there either. I left myself enough time to make a last couple of calls and be sure to catch the half past three bus home. One was in Zenit, the ironmongers and the most miserable shop in town. Fortunately I was served by the lady assistant who is at least half friendly. "Van üvegező szeg?" (have you got what they call here glaziers nails?). "Van!" (yes we have). She led me to them. "Menny kell?" (how many do you need?). "Harmincs darab." (about thirty). She looked askance at me and started to count them out. "Nem, nem!" (no, no!) quoth I, and indicated a small handful. She took a small handful and showed me. It was enough for my requirements. Fifty grammes. Seventy eight forints. I selected one other item and went to the till and paid. Not a please, not a thank you not a "Good day". You know, I really do hope that one of my Hungarian readers of this blog - and I know there are a few, via Google Translate I think - passes on my opinion of them. They really do need to lighten up a bit and observe the social graces. They are the only business that I use that are like it. What a contrast with the bike shop!

I made one other call and caught the bus back to the village in plenty of time. I paid the bike parking fee, cycled home, changed and went out to the garden and did as much more digging as I had time for.

Goats in, ate and went to the pub. No Hobo! Unusual.


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