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August 2008

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1st August 2008

And so we begin another new month. It was my middlist granddaughters second birthday today - ah, sweet!

I finished off the smallish block of scything at the top of the property (where the fire was). It was now just at a nice height for scything down. The dog escaped into next door's garden (twice) - that's two more holes blocked up. Speaking of which, my "wilderness" area, the edges of which got caught in the fire, is recovering nicely. Lots of stuff is six feet high, and one or two things are about eight feet high. Be interesting to see what happens to it in the winter.

I met a religious insect for the first time today - well the first time in the wild. Yep, there it was, a female stagmomantis carolina as large as life. Didn't have the camera with me, of course. The females are green, and the males have an unfortunate sex life! Strange piece of evolution.

Did a bit more knocking about of the house - the realisation begins to dawn that I have less than two months to get the windows and rendering sorted. Pictures:
All the unsound rendering has to be cleared from around the windows so that I can prep them for painting. Unsound Rendering Cleared
Rendering Wired to House There is a mesh of wires nailed to the house to which the rendering has been applied. Not a good idea, as everywhere that has got damp has set up an electrolytic action between the wire and the rendering.
All the rendering below the window sill level has to come off. It is cement rendering, and that is a definite NO-NO on a clay house. The damp gets behind the cement rendering and cannot escape. There is a tide mark up the walls inside the house. Delapidated
Ant Damage Damage to the earth walls caused by ants! This all has to be made good with earth and allowed to harden before rendering can be done. Filling it with rendering is also a no-no. As for ants, there were millions of them - hopefully despatched.
More ant damage below the window sill. More Ant Damage
Pickle Ah, bless!

2nd August 2008

Note from Carolyn Baker: I must underscore and explain Carl's remark about "flatlanders." Being a flatlander does not necessarily mean that one has come from level terrain but rather that one does not understand what it means to be a Vermonter. Flatlander is an attitude, for example, the assumption that in very cold weather, one is entitled to simply turn up the heat. Conversely, a Vermonter understands that we are entitled to nothing, and any creature comforts we have, we must work for or make happen on our own. It's an attitude of frugality, conservation, reverence for the land, cooperation, independent thinking, respect for privacy and tradition.

I was ill today. I got up blaming it on "one too many" on a Friday night, but as the morning progressed it became obvious that was not it. Cold sweats, a nauseous feeling, and quite literally "one degree under" - a temperature depressed to 97.2. Spent most of the rest of the day dosing on paracetomol, and dozing on the bed. Poor dog didn't know what to make of it - kept coming and making a fuss of me, "Daddy, I want to go out and play". Nothing stopping her, the door was wide open.

3rd August 2008

I was up by about half past four. It wasn't even light. Something to do with yesterday and all the dozing I did. I was out on the plot before six, and this is Sunday morning! I was hacking out a couple of nice neat little squares for the brassicas. I had already weeded the spuds, by hand. My next door neighbour saw me - she was collecting flower blooms for the church. After three hours and after yesterday I was, well basically, f****d.

I wizzed around the yard and the camping lawn in about twenty minutes with my new toy kézifűnyiró. Pickle goes ballistic at it - bark, prance, bark, prance.

Went to the pub and watched the F1. After that I had been summond to the local football match. which was, quite frankly, a boring match. Went home, ate, fed the dog, showered changed and out to the pub. I had a bit of a surprise in there as my next door neighbour and his wife were in there. It was a very pleasant evening, and I found out that they had been saying good things about me which is always a bit of a filip to the self confidence when you are in a strange place trying to fit in!

End of the day and a selection of video clips worth watching. And an excellent interview with David Strachan on the BEEB!

4th August 2008

Oh dear, no gloom and gloom this morning! Cleared a second patch for planting out the brassicas but it was seriously hard going. Very hot, very humid and my knee was telling me that it was going to rain! I stood a couple of hours of it and got beaten by the heat, and this was by half past nine in the morning.

The dog has developed a neat little trick for use either to avoid my ire or when we are playing games. She realises that so long as she stays on the opposite side of the well to me I cannot get at her for whatever reason - quite funny.

Cleared a bit more debris off the land, but everything is growing like mad still - roll on winter. I will be able to make some serious inroads into getting the garden under control.

Afternoon I had a ride to Bödő where I bought two more five litre fermentation bins, a decorator's scraper and a trowel - the whole lot less than seven quid! When I got home I had half an hour collecting fruit and set out to make what should have been two jars of blackberry and elderberry jam. But I had a disaster, as it boiled over big time. Ended up with a jar and a quarter. Shame, but you should see the colour of it. (All over the kitchen floor - but Pickle obliged and sorted out the worst of it).

True to my instincts - or rather the instincts of my knee - it rained. Oh, boy, did it rain. An inch in about thirty minutes. I need to sort out the storm drain in the yard, as this time I had a lake. I think it is supposed to drain into the ditch outside through a pipe under the fence, but there is no sign of pipe either in the yard, or into the drainage ditch by the road!

Rather short again, but I am trying to play catch-up.

5th August 2008

I carried on with the bashing about of the house, removing all the unsound rendering. Fortunately the top bit, apart from a couple of nasty looking cracks, is all sound. I worked my way down, removing the hard cement rendering until I was about two feet from the floor, when huge pieces of wall fell away! Hmmmm - best stop now before the kitchen is in the yard! Picture:
Severe wall damage. Wall Damage
Time to seek expert advice! So I did. I had an exchange of e-mails with Ian at The Building Lime Co. UK, a company that specialises in restoring and creating new cob houses. He has suggested a course of action which I will follow. You will be able to follow it too! It will be a lot of work, but, given proper maintenance afterwards should fall into the category of "jobs that only need to be done once". But, bye-the-'eck it's a big un! I haven't used slaked lime (CaOH) since the nineteen seventies. The Romans used it in their concrete you know.

I must be doing something right, as I had food parcels from both neighbours - mainly fruit, with a few peppers. My tomatos are only just beginning to ripen. I should have some of my own this weekend. Interestingly, the plants came from four different sources, and does it ever show in the fruit! The ones that the lady at No. 72 gave me are the beafsteak variety, and they are huge. The smallest ones are going to be the ones from my own plants that I started when I first got here.

As a thank you, I baked Chelsea buns again and (as they turned out rather well) I passed four over to No. 72 - the old lady had her son/daughter(in-law which ever way round) and granddaughter there. I took two round to the other neighbours and got involved in a small drinks session, during the course of which Pickle, much to the confusion of Szultan, their Alsation, managed to join us. However she managed to get herself through the tiny gap in the fence I don't know. We had to make it bigger to get her back! (And promptly repair the gap!)

I ended up in the pub at about half past four in the afternoon, and it turned into a session. I left at about eight thirty. Oooops, not good! Picture:
Sunflower Here's a picture of a sunflower to cheer you all up. Thanks to Maureen alias The Witch.

6th August 2008

Nice to see the BBC on the Peak Oil issue. And Texas Blue has this hard hitting report.

I got up with a hangover! I said it was a bit of a session in the pub. To add insult to injury something has utterly decimated most of my brassicas - eaten to buggery. That will be those tan coloured slugs - it would only need one. And they are in a tray four feet off the ground. I really don't know what the answer is to them. I am contemplating growing all the salad stuff in troughs off the ground, putting aluminium sheet round the legs and getting some teflon spray to spray the aluminium with to see if that will stop the buggers!

I don't know how, but I can guess (Pickle), but my washing was absulutely full of hundreds of little wood chips. Another real pain.

I stayed in and around the yard, as I was supposed to cycle to Nádasd with helper to buy materials. So, following the advice I had received yesterday I carried on with stripping off the cement from the wall, and finally got down to ground level. I found a concrete (well, sort of concrete - very poor condition) footing about six inches above the level of the path. It didn't get any worse as I stripped off the last foot or so. Photo (800xwhatever to give a bit more detail):
Wall Completely Stripped to Ground
As you can see, Pickle is utterly distraught at the extent of the damage to the house! You can also clearly see the dark patches that are the wetness in the earth of the wall. This is all compounded by the fact that inside the house, the only place that the walls can breathe is in the hallway, as the kitchen has been tiled and the lounge and the small room are lined with foil backed polystyrene in the mistaken impression that it would supply insulation. Without doing complex scientific experiments I would hazard a guess that heat would escape through a wet earth wall at a rate compared with a dry earth wall that would far exceed the difference made by a half inch of polystyrene.

I started making a brick mould. I have never had to make bricks before either. Gonna need a lot of bricks. My first guestimate is four hundred! And my brick mould will make four at a time - hmmm. Never mind, I can only do a section at a time anyway, and I will be reusing the earth from the walls to make the bricks, with some chopped straw (which is conspicuous by its absence in the current walls, and just a touch of mészhidrat to give them a bit of extra strength.

My trip to Nádasd with helper got called off, and I ended up going to watch the local football team. I endured it until the opposition reached double figures (of goals) and gave it up. I had the camera right where I could get a picture of our team beating their goalie - huh, I think he only touched the ball three times in the second half, and one of them was to retrieve it for a goal kick.

Late in the day a recent Jan Lundberg essay on the forthcoming collapse.

7th August 2008

A rather disjointed day. Nothing wrong with that once in a while. I had another go at the outside of the house, scraping off the remains of x-year-old paint. It has suffered very badly where it is exposed to the summer sun virtually all day. It just falls off at the slightest touch. Elsewhere it is a bit tougher! The good bit is that the wood, apart from one little corner, is all very sound. I had a random geezer the other day offering me plastic double glazed windows. Why on earth would I want that when a) the plastic is obviously petro-chemical based, b) my house already has double glazing (albeit, in serious need of being made at least slightly droughtproof) and c) a decent bit of wood will outlast any plastic by at least one order of magnitude! Did you know that a roof made with good hardwood (oak) timbers will stand in a major fire far longer than a steel one? Well, it will. Not softwood (pine, etc.) but hardwood will simply char on the outside, whereas once steel reaches a certain temperature it simply loses all of its strength - a'la 9/11.

The dog managed to batter down what was supposed to pass for a fence between me and No. 72. Fortunately her chickens were in the other bit of her garden, otherwise there could have been a bit of a kerfuffle! I was in the yard, so she called me. I had to hop over the excuse for a fence and manhandle Pickle back my side! Then I had to make a temporary repair with a sheet of aluminium. (I have a number of those. I have plans for them too!)

The plans to go to Nádasd finally came through. We cycled to Nádasd and he bought (and I paid for) a hundred kilos of mészhidrat - about a tenner, and then we went to Bödő where he bought (and I paid for) the materials necessary for us to be in the Hungarian Olympic team - fencing, of course. Interesting ride home (via two pubs) with a section of one-and-a-half metre chain link fencing crosswise on the bike carrier. The worst bit was getting my leg over!

We dumped the stuff at mine, caused a bit of chaos with the dog, then went to the pub for a beer. Next thing I knew, I was invited for food again. Not one to turn it down, of course! After that I went home (via the pub), fed the dog, and went back to the pub! Interesting day!

8th August 2008

Tom Whipple again. He really does write with simplicity and thoughtfulness on the Peak Oil issues.

I was out on the land by seven with the scythe. You know, it still is my tool of choice. Unless you can get on and ride something powered by oil the scythe will beat it. And we know where stuff powered by oil is going, don't we? In an hour I had beaten back about four hundred square metres. I had to go to the doctors then!

Not because there was anything wrong with me, but it was time I registered. (long past time)! I went to the Faluhaz, where he holds court twice a week. It was much like a waiting room in England - a room, with seats. The only difference was the lack of stuff (notices/advices) on the walls. There was no queuing system, other than politeness. I was there a while. The politeness tends to override the queuing system, as in if a young woman with a baby comes in she is automatically promoted to the front of the queue. Eventually it did get round to my turn. The only difference between here and England is that they don't speak English! No, seriously, the difference is that doctor, receptionist and nurse are all together in one room. I think they were expecting me - not on this particular day, but in general. I said "Good day" and told them I was English. There were knowing glances between doctor, nurse and receptionist, sort of "Ah, the Englishman has turned up" type glances. The doctor said (in perfect English) "I'm sorry, I don't speak English". With the help of the trusty szotar I was able to communicate that I wanted to register. The doctor asked to see my EU card, which he passed momentarily to the receptionist lady and that was that. He did ask me if I had any problems and I told him I hadn't. No form filling, no examination, nothing. In and out in a couple of minutes.

Something struck me whilst I was in the doctor's waiting room. I really had not taken that much notice before, but it suddenly came to me how common green eyes are here. In fact I would go so far as to say green is in the majority, followed by hazel, blue. Dark brown eyes are really quite unusual here.

I did a bit more scything, and decided it was time for a beer. I got to the pub just as the Olympic opening ceremony was starting. You've got to give it to the Chinese - they know how to do spectacular! My helper was there too, but he suddenly shot out when the vilage bus stopped outside. Ah! Mészhidrát! Sure enough, when I got home, there were four twenty five kilo bags just outside my gate. Twenty five kilos of mészhidrát is a big bag - about the same girth as fifty kilos of cement, but about six inches longer. Strange stuff, mészhidrát. You take limestone and burn it which turns it from calcium carbonate into calcium oxide (quicklime) releasing carbon dioxide, you then add water which turns it into slaked lime (mészhidrát). The best bit is that given the correct drying conditions it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turns itself back into limestone.

I mowed the yard and the camping lawn. Pickle went crackers at the mower as usual. We both get a bit of exercise using the mower. And I picked my first two tomatos. Here is one of them (I ate the other :) ):
Tomato. Tomato
The old lady next door came over whilst me and helper were talking about the fence and offered to pay half towards it. I turned her down of course - after all it is my dog that is causing the mayhem!

I have three pictures of Halogy on Google Earth!! It took long enough - I submitted them weeks ago. And to round off the day we had another thunderstorm. Not as bad as last time - it didn't flood the yard this time.

9th August 2008

I was cracking on with making a brick mould and starting to sort out repairs to the wall when helper arrived and promptly started ripping out the fence between my place and No. 72 where the old lady lives. That's the one Pickle broke her way through a few days ago. Not before I got a picture of it though! (Later) Of course as soon as a gap in the fence appeared, Pickle appeared in No. 72's garden, and I had to chase her out. Several times! It rather put payed to my work efforts for the morning, as I had to stand guard to stop her getting through. We even had a game of football at one stage:
Pickle Plays Football See. But technically, if she is using her front feet is that not handball, and therefore a foul?
By late lunchtime the new fence was in place, or at least sufficiently in place to be dog-proof, so me and helper repaired to the pub for a quick one, which turned into three, as we got caught there by a sharp prolonged shower. Pictures:
This is what passed for a fence between me and No. 72. Old Fence
New Fence New fence.
Notice the hi-tech reuse of ex-grape vine posts New Fence
At least when I got home I was able to finish off the couple of jobs I had started earlier, i.e. the brick mould and some making good to the earth wall.

10th August 2008

A report from Relocalise.Net

I put the brick mould into service today. I was surprised by how long it took. It wasn't the making of the bricks that took the time, it was getting the mixture of earth, mészhidrát and straw to a consistency for packing in the mould. I made it as dry as I could, which made the mixing that much harder. Pictures (lots of):
Brick Mould Here is the high-tech brick mould ready to go into service. All the threaded rods had to be individually filed out of one metre lengths (filed as I don't have a hacksaw, and it makes a nicer job anyway - the nuts thread on easily). Thanks again to Leatherman!
Another view of the brick mould. Brick Mould
Making Earth Bricks Starting to pack the mix into the brick mould.
The brick mould packed with three bricks. (I got the quanities wrong, and ended up with 3.25 bricks-worth of mix. Ah well, all gets recycled! Making Earth Bricks
Climate Control Climate control added. Hi-tech plastic bag prevents the mix from drying out too quickly. I will need to do similar when I render the walls. Ian at The Building Lime Co. UK recommends an old carpet, soaked twice a day, with plastic sheeting on the outside and kept in place for a fortnight. Hmmmm! Going to be a little while before that happens though, as I need to make good this kitchen section, and paint the window frame before I can render. Too hot at the mo anyway.
Thought I would check out the tomato situation. The big one will get cooked - not a great lover of beafsteak tomatoes, but it will go in a homemade Bolognese sauce well enough. Tomatoes
Footings On my clearup of the debris from removing the cement rendering, I found that the earth wall has a concrete (of sorts) footing. It is very rough - probably just thrown down by shovel, with no tamping down at all. It has also crumbled away with the wall, so that needs to be made good too.
The wall below the window sill is now made good. I will cast myself a slightly sloping cement sill. Earth Wall Below Window Sill Made Good
I had a quick one in the pub after lunch then cycled into Körmend for cash and a quick shop. I got a lot of cash (relatively) as I am expecting a delivery of 60,000Ft worth of firewood. That's my winter heating allowance, that I still get from UK Gov. for being over sixty. Well, the last time I checked the rules, anyway. Five cubic metres - that is a lot of wood! Imagine a tree trunk 1.2m in diameter and 5m long! (Hell, I hope that's not how it comes!)

I called into the pub on the way home (of course) and the Manchester United vs. Portsmouth game was on, so I stayed for a while. Once home, I changed the remaining working 40w (and a very underrun 40w at that) lightbulb for an 18w energy efficient one. Wow - I can see the keyboard to update the blog!

11th August 2008

Boring day - short blog!

I spent all day stripping paint from the kitchen windows. Well, the outer ones anyway - not too worried about inside for this winter. I'll just make it so they close. I reckon on another days work to be ready for painting. Photos when I get to that stage.

The only other thing I did was to take the strimmer to the front verge and do mine and the neighbours at No. 68. Keeps the village happy if they hear a lot of noise being made (except on a Sunday).

Landlord shut the pub at nine o'clock on account of it being in chaos due to redecoration - which was a bit of a B seeing as I didn't get there until eight thirty.

12th August 2008

An article from the BBC about food and energy. And a couple of good articles from The Energy Bulletin. Especially interesting is that Admiral Hyman Rickover spoke about oil depletion in May 1957. It's coming, people, it's coming!

Cleared up the debris from scything down that last bit of where the fire was. Loads of bits of sawn down trees, which I am gradually working back to the yard. I didn't see the religious insect again!

After that I made another lot of earth bricks. I feel a bit like an Egyptian slave. I made the mix a bit wetter than last time, and I increased the climate control with the addition of a well-soaked hessian sack.

Afternoon I bottled up the last brew of ginger beer, and cooked the excess tomatoes into Bolognese sauce. I went back to the pub evening time but they were shut. Bugger! Someone suggested I cycle to Daraboshegy, but I revoked on that, having quite enough alcohol available otthon.

13th August 2008

Here's one that sneaked by a couple of days ago - just look at the originator of the piece, the URI! And another interesting piece from Kyriacos Zygourakis. Just look at Figure 2 for a preview of what is to come.

Knocked back another area with the scythe, but the garden is getting seriously neglected. Same old thing, whilst I am doing (hopefully) one-off restoration on the house, I can't be gardening. The dog was a PIA also, escaping to next the door garden twice! That is two more holes in the fence blocked off!

After a couple of hours I went back to the house jobs. I shuttered up and made good a section of the house footings and did a load of paint stripping on the kitchen window. It really is soul destroying donkey work, but then again using the home made paint stripper is a) cheap and b) not petrochemical dependant, and after all my labour is free. I was washing some stuff down (and generally tormenting the dog) with the hose when I noticed that, because it had been lying in the sun all day the water was undoubtedly warm enough to shower with. Must try that. Seymour actually suggests it in his book. I'm also thinking of getting a couple of metal buckets, painting them matt black, filling them with water, covering them with flyproof mesh and standing them on a sheet of polished aluminium. Just to see how hot they get. Some of the modern clothes washing detergents are formulated to work at thirty degrees - I can easily obtain that. It would be step one towards going off grid. Speaking of which, the soap thing failed this time round. Too much miscallaneous crap in the wood ash, I think. The "lye" that I got was blood red in colour, and I'm fairly sure it shouldn't be. There are lots of different chemicals produced in various stages of burning wood, from methanol to turpentine and tar. I think it will have to wait until the stove comes back into action, where the wood is absolutely reduced to pure white ash.

Went to the pub, where we are still relegated to drinking out the back as the decorations are ongoing. They are doing a complete makeover! There was some discussion about what I am doing at the house, and some about the state of the garden! Goats were suggested again. And to end a wonderful day </sarcasm> they kicked us out at 7pm.

14th August 2008

I was thinking about my lack of progress learning Hungarian. Having said which, I am not worried about it. I am getting by with day to day stuff, and the winter will be the time to have a serious go at the language. I'm confident of many days stuck indoors - nothing to do outside once the ground is frozen except saw logs. Just as a frinstance, I was watching the TV news (in the pub, of course) and I try and at least sort out the headlines, with the aid of the trusty szotar. It stuck me as I was looking something up how much stuff begins with "meg" so I checked it out. Bear in mind that it is only a little pocket szotar but there are twelve pages of words that so begin!! Hmmm - small problem.

Spent the morning on paint stripping - boring.

Went into Körmend for various things. In anticipation of actually having the kitchen window stripped, I bought a tin of primer. Expensive!! Over £11 for 0.9 litres. Very noticable here that wood or metal objects (tools, whatever) are very cheap compared to the UK, with lots of little manufacturers based in many towns, whereas petrochemical-type stuff (petrol, paint, plastics) are more or less the same price as in the UK, which, of course, makes them very expesive items locally.

It was the village meeting this evening, so I dutifully tripped on down to the Faluhaz in time for the six o'clock start. My presence was a bit of a three-way split. One, to show the flag and indicate my general interest in the village. Two, to comply with the notice that came round expressing the importance of attending. Three, to be there in case my name got mentioned in despatches. I was actually asked outside before the meeting started whether I was interested in getting involved in the village politics. I politely declined, indicating that I am not a political animal! The meeting itself turned out to be run-of-the-mill. I was fortunate to be next to an English speaker, so was quietly informed of what was going on. Out of a village population of three hundred and odd (including children, of course) there where thirty two residents that bothered attending the meeting. It was noticable that they were, for the most part, what I would call regular village people - people who both live and work here, or elderly residents that have probably lived here all their lives. My neighbours were there.

After that, pub. Still banished to outside, but at least they stayed open until 9pm.

15th August 2008

Short blog. Nothing worthy of note on the doom and gloom front. Stripping paint again in the morning. In the afternoon I had a session in the kitchen, having been given yet more pears by the lady next door. I racked off the cherry wine, did a raid on the garden for apples and pears, then spent about an hour with the hand mincer pulping them to make a cider/perry mix. That's it. Except I have a load of fruit left, and stacks of good windfalls still to collect, so I can feel a session of making apple jam coming on!

16th August 2008

We had another huge thunderstorm last night. Woke me up twice - once the thunder, and once the rain hammering against the shutters.

I carried on with the two jobs of paint stripping and making good the walls. Photos:
Rebuilding the Earth Wall Here you can see the start of the wall repairs, and get a viewpoint of the extent of the work that is going to be involved. I plan to use a single course of real bricks on the repaired footings and then earth bricks above. My second batch of earth bricks are much more successful than the first. I made the mix just a little wetter, and they are a much better match to the friability and compaction of the earth in the house walls.
I decided that the patch just by the window frame was bad enough to use an earth brick to effect a repair, cemented in place with lime mortar. Rebuilding the Earth Wall
I had a hilarious incident with Pickle! There was a bowl in the yard - a work-type one, not one of her food bowls. It had about three inches of water in it, complete with various bits of muck and grot that had bounced from the ground with the force of last night's rain. Pickle found that by using her paw she could set the contents of the bowl spinning like a centrifuge, and then proceded to put her entire snout, including nostrils, right in the water. You had to be there! I have no idea what that was all about. Of course the camera was indoors, and the game came to an abrupt end when she got too enthusiastic with the paw, and upskittled the bowl, very nearly giving herself a good drenching in the process.

I had a lucky escape myself. Part way through the morning there was a hale from outside the gate, a couple of blokes and a teenager in a white minibus. Did I want my guttering replaced for two thousand Forints. Now that is seriously cheap (about seven quid), and I can't say I wasn't tempted. Fortunately for me, my next door neighbour saw them off big time. Fortunate, because later in the day they were collared by plod - dodgy gear. I would have been right in it if I had let them do the job!

I went for a beer at lunch time, and no sooner had I got in the pub than it started tipping down again. There was no way I was cycling home in that. I could see it was just a shower. Yeah, right! Three hours and several beers later it eased enough for me to get home. Write off the afternoon! Never mind, as I have said before every silver lining has a cloud, and it just so happened that I saw three of the four Olympic events where we won gold - the two cycling events and the rowing.

I don't think I have ever mentioned before about the village church bells. Yes, I know I have a recording that I have yet to put on the blog, but this is the fact that bar one time they always sound on the hour. Not every hour but always on the hour. Except at half past seven in the morning. I must try and find out what that is about. I wonder if it is because that is the time that it is expected that all good men and true should be at work?

17th August 2008

Apologies to avid followers of the blog - I know, updates are long overdue!

This is on account of family arriving tomorrow. As you can imagine, with the exterior looking like a building site the interior is not much better. That's one thing I am not short of in the house at the moment - dust! I can barely read the letters on this ketboard.

The consequence was that I had a really dull day, dusting, sweeping, mopping and generally trying to make the place a bit more suitable to bring young children into. Interspersed with the odd wander up to the pub, of course.

Still boring, although I did manage a bit of paint stripping too. That's boring as well. I did manage to find them directions to a cheapish hotel in Salzburg, which was their final stopping off point before reaching here - they are driving from England.

18th August 2008

I managed quite a good mornings work, hacking at the house and finishing off tidying up inside before it was time to go into Körmend to do a shop. I had at least to make sure that there were enough staples and the makings of a decent meal and be back in Halogy to be sure that I was home when the family arrived.

It was a walk to Tescos job, and as I had been on my feet all morning the walk back was a bit of a drag. I have to confess that I took advantage of the Hálászcsarda and had a pint. It dawned on me whilst I was sitting there that I don't have enough crockery for five people - ooops. So I had to do a quick turn round and go back into the town. I bought five very expensive bowls - they were 280Ft each! At least with large shallow bowls you can eat anything from a sandwich to soup, via fish and chips, off them. I had sent a text to the family asking their E.T.A. and had a reply that they had not long left Salzburg and they expected to be with me at about six in the afternoon/evening. Ah well, at least I didn't have to rush about to get back.

I got home, and, having started a meal in the slow cooker, in the absence of anything better to do I did a bit of paint stripping from the kitchen windows. Whilst I was doing this I had a panic phone call from the family. They had missed the turn to the village. I gave them directions how to get here via Körmend, and sure enough, about twenty minutes later, they arrived outside - from the other direction!

I shut Pickle in the house whilst I opened the big gates to let them get the car in. Once in I gave them a quick Hungarian lesson before I let Pickle out. Now, whilst Pickle is to a degree bilingual, there are certain words that she responds to better in Hungarian than in English - one of them being "No". I was not without misgivings, as Pickle is a fine, big, strong young five months old dog. She had never encountered young children before and I had no idea how she would be with them. So before I let her out I taught them to say "Pickle! Nem!" at the top of their voice. Of course, when I did let her out she went ballistic with excitement, which made the children scream in terror. Not surprising, as she is at least twice the weight of the elder grandchild. The more they screamed, the more Pickle barked and bounced about. Much to my relief it was sheer playfulness and excitement - she showed absolutely no inclination to bite, or be malicious to them. Her tail never stopped wagging all the time. It all calmed down a bit eventually. Relief all round!

19th August 2008

I went to the shop for breakfast rolls and the shop lady reminded me that tomorrow would be a holiday and the shop would be shut. I indicated that I already knew that (one word answer "Igen" equals "Yes"). Interesting to note is that in Hungarian, as in English "Yes" can be either a question or a statement. The difference is exactly the same as in English - the inflection of the word. It is a bit more complex when more than one word is involved, as Hungarians rarely use pronouns. So, the sentences for "He is English" and "Is he English?" are exactly the same. In this case the inflection is essential to differentiate between a statement and a question.

Having a car available was useful - I bought a wheelbarrow. A length of chain link fence on the bike is one thing - a wheelbarrow is quite another. As with most other things, a Hungarian wheelbarrow is just a bit different. Superficially like a typical British builder's barrow, the body is a fair bit smaller and the handles longer. The wheel does not have a blow up tyre - it is broad with a flat profile and made of plastic. It is ideal for an "old boy" like me, with the longer handles making the lifting that much easier. You couldn't get top side of a hundred bricks in one like you can a British one. (Oh yes, you can - I know. I've done it. A hundred and twenty if I recall correctly)

I the afternoon we did a Tescos, again making use of the car, and making sure that we had enough to last over the bank holiday. (Plus another ten kilos of dog food to save me strapping it on the bike)

In the evening we went back into Körmend, as there was supposed to be a big programme of entertainments including a firework display to mark the evening of the national holiday. We were fortunate to find a parking spot not too far from where it was all happening. We waited and waited for the fireworks, and by the time nine thirty came we were tired, fed up and hungry and the children were fractious, so we decided to give it a miss and find some food. As it happens we found a kebab stall nearby (which also sold beer :) ). We were just eating (drinking) the food when the fireworks started. So all was not lost after all! Pictures:
Ooooooo... Fireworks
Fireworks Ahhhhhhh...
Reasonable, considering I didn't get chance to use the tripod. Fireworks

20th August 2008

By the way I actually had a tent on the camping lawn! They bought it with them and put it up but managed to actually sleep in the house. Of course, dough-ball here never took a photo of it - d'oh!

After a bit of gardening and demolition (during which my helper turned up, with a bottle of wine and a little Hungarian flag (much the worst for wear, having been partying all night)) we changed and went into Körmend, expecting there to be a lot happening, it being the National Day. Err, nothing - it was absolutely dead! We had a walk round the castle and then the arboretum, where, much to the delight of the children, we found swings and slides. Of course I had to be forcibly restrained from going on them.

We had lunch at the Hálászcsarda, and whilst there the local fire service band turned up. Just before we left they formed up and marched into the castle. Two more bands also went in, marching from different spots in the town. The musicianship was, shall we say, varied! We would probably have stayed, but helper had invited us round to meet his mother and father at four o'clock. As we reached the car the massed bands were just playing "Himnusz".

We went to the pub where we had arranged to meet helper at half past three - no sign. Still no sign at quarter past four, so we took a flyer and walked round to his house anyway. We were made very welcome, in spite of not being expected! (He had crashed out and neglected to tell his mother!!)

21st August 2008

I forgot to say how quiet it was in the village yesterday. Not a tractor or chainsaw, not even a motor mower or strimmer to be heard! Obviously a holiday that they do take as a complete holiday.

My family took the day to go to Lake Balaton which is Hungary's main tourist area. All through the summer, after the news on TV would be a report on the Balaton Season. It is the largest lake in Europe (by area anyway) but very shallow, so the water warms up quickly. I have only seen it from the air - takes a while even to fly the length of it. Property prices within about ten kilometers of the lake are probably about three times what they are here.

I carried on with the house repairs, and when they returned we had a meal and then, it being their last evening in the village we went en-famile to the pub, where my grandchildren were duely made a fuss of. (The Hungarians really do love children) The tent came down off the camping lawn and was packed away. Still didn't get a photo!

22nd August 2008

The family went home today, so we were up early. I let Pickle out and she promptly went ballistic. WFT is that dog barking at? It was only a strange dog behind the gate into the garden. A sign of things to come, I think. Didn't recognise the dog, and I have no idea how he got into the garden! I saw him off with the hose :)

We tried to catch the neighbours at No. 68, but for the third time no luck. Such is life! So they packed up and went - only about ten minutes behind time. As before, I felt quite emotional at their departure, but then us Cancerians are like that. I put in a few hours of putting the house back together, then, would you believe it they thunderstorm that I hoped would happen whilst the family were here happened! Had to use the remains of the brolly to get to the pub!

23rd August 2008

A good link from the Seeking Alpha site.

On account of the fact that I have been inundated with pears from the neighbours I had to cook. Pear, lemon and ginger jam. Good job I like jam. I particularly like this one!

24th August 2008

A thoughtful article by Peter Goodchild on the CounterCurrents site. Yes, this is how bad it will get! Also a set of talks and slides from Chris Martenson. I wonder why there is always so much good stuff early on a Sunday morning?

Candle It seems it gets quite warm in my kitchen window - either that or it is a message about my drinking habits :O
Made some bricks and went to the pub to watch the F1. Apparently they have to incorporate some kinetic energy fuel economy measures for next season.

25th August 2008

A good spoof of a typical excentric Uni lecturer talking about Peak Oil.

Nothing special to report, and desperately trying to play catch-up!

26th August 2008

This from Matt Savinar's LATOC site.

Spent the day juggling my time between making bricks, stripping paint (which is a slow and painful process using the caustic and wallpaper paste method - very thorough, but slow), and more cooking of jam. I have somewhat of a surfeit of riches in the fruit department, thanks to the neighbours. Next year I will know what to expect from my own, and (hopefully) with a proper pruning this autumn the trees should bear fruit that is a) easy to reach without replying on windfalls and b) a decent size. Because the trees are so neglected they bear lots and lots of fruit - dozens of apples and pears on each tree, but they are all very small fruit. One of my neighbours over the road has a few young pear trees in his garden by the side of the house. I suppose the trunks are about three inches in diameter. None of the trees are more than five or six feet high, but they are laden with no more than a couple of dozen pears, but what pears - about five inches long and three inches in diameter.

27th August 2008

On a lighter than normal note I came across this video of Grocery Store wars on YouTube. Quite an amusing spoof of Star Wars, but with a serious message about food miles!

I have to confess that I have pretty much given up on the garden for this year. The last straw was when all the brassicas were ravaged. I may sacrifice one of my sheets of aluminium and make enough slug fence to go round a nursery bed for next spring over the winter. Got the idea from a web site in the UK who are manufacturing them and selling them, made out of galvanized steel. Simple idea - the top of them is bent over outwards with two forty five degree angles leaving a gap between the upright and the bent over bit A bit like a number 4 with most of the horizontal missing. Apparently slugs cannot negotiate the two closely spaced bends. Hmmmm. We'll see.

I had a quick go at the front of the house today. Pictures:
I did all this in about an hour, using nothing but my hands. The saving blessing is that although there is quite a bit of damp damage to the wall it is limited to about two inches deep, and the rendering is lime mortar - not cement! Rendering Removed
Crack in House Wall I did find this crack in the house wall, though. It wouldn't surprise me if it went all the way through. No big deal, as it is beneath the window.
Having said that I have given up on the garden, I did collect a load of tomatoes - ripe or almost ripe. They will get cooked into some bolognese-type sauce - too many to eat! As with a lot of other stuff this year, I just bunged them into a bit of space I had already dug. Mistake! The locals space everything out far more than I am used to. This allows for getting in between and dealing with the formidable growth of weeds. If left, the weeds can be two feet high in about three weeks! All part of the learning curve.

I decided that I needed something with a bit of power to paint strip. By one means or other I managed to find the Hungarian for blowlamp. It's not in any of my dictionaries as blowlamp. I had a ride to Nádasd to buy one. I went my usual way out of the village - up the road by the church and then intending to take the track that goes by the cemetery and comes out at the water tower. It saves the drag at the end of the village. Unfortunately the track was closed off for some reason. I contemplated going back down the hill, but as I was already half way up I decided to take another track that comes out at Daraboshegy. I had used it before, so I knew it was cyclable. I got to the top of the hill and no more than thirty metres away was a deer grazing on the track. I don't know whether it was a small variety of deer or a fawn of one of the big ones. It was a few seconds before it realised my presence, but when it did it took off into the fields like the clappers, of course.

I went to see the guys in Bödő, where I successfully managed to buy a blowlamp, and also fire cement as my tiled stove needs a little TLC before winter. Speaking of which, the swallows have started to gather on the phone wires in the morning. Autumn just around the corner, methinks!

28th August 2008

Still desperately trying to play catch-up with the blog - apologies!

Work continued on repairing the cottage and preparing the woodwork for painting. I also found time to mow half the yard - mainly for the amusement of Pickle, who continues to bark phrenetically at the hand mower. I really don't have a clue why! It may be the sound of it, as she carries on the same way even if there are no grasscuttings shooting out the back of it.

I had visitors expected tomorrow, and as a result arranged to meet the estate agent who sold me my house, with a view to arranging some views of property for my visitors. I arranged to meet him in the pub, but, as usual, he was well early and stopped by the house. He had a look at the repairs I am carrying out to the house and spoke with authority about the preservation of earth houses. His explanations corresponded exactly with the advice I have already spoken about that I had received from the UK. In fact he told me that he had had to do similar repairs to his own house in a neighbouring village that had been built in 1960. Comforting to have confirmation that I am doing right!!

Situation normal in the evening - couple of beers in the pub. I sat on the step with the dog for a while when I got home. I don't know, but I think the atmosphere was particularly clear tonight. Although we have street lighting, there is no other light pollution at night. We are surrounded by a minimum of three kilometers of complete darkness. The clarity of the evening was such that I had a view of the night sky and stars that I have not had for many years! All a bit odd, as nothing is quite where I would have expected it to be. It's strange - there is only a four degree difference between here and Bournemouth. Having found Ursa Major I easily found Polaris, and it may be imagination but it definitely seems lower in the night sky.

29th August 2008

I spent the morning carrying on with repairs to the kitchen wall. The house still has not fallen into the yard, which is a small comfort! I also derive a degree of reassurance that having rebuilt about eighteen inches up, with my home made earth bricks, it won't fall in the yard, in spite of the treatment I have handed out. Picture:
I'm scraping away the earth of the wall. Here the earth bricks will be the thinnest ones I will make. 2.5 inches deep. Chipping Out Earth Wall
As normal, I had decided to go for a lunchtime drink at the pub, and I was just wheeling the bike out of the summer kitchen when I heard a crack. Not a big crack, just a little one. On investigation I found that the glass in one of the kitchen windows, which were by the summer kitchen wall, had decided that it didn't want to be one piece of glass any more, and had trisected itself. No reason - no reason at all. I didn't hit it with the bike, and it wasn't Pickled! Just happened, and I happened to be nearby.

In the afternoon I prepared for my UK visitors and managed to cook and jar another batch of tomatoes. The past few days I have just had too many balls in the air. Repairing the house, and trying to keep on top of what my own plot is producing and what I am being gifted by the neighbours really has stretched proved very time consuming.

My UK visitors arrived, somewhat behind schedule due to flight delays. After a short break, they went to the village pub to book themselves in for B&B. Whilst I was preparing to go and join them, our estate agent arrived at my house, so I went with him to the pub to make the necessary introductions. Arrangements were made for him to show them several suitable properties the next day.

After that I went with my visitors to the Berki Hotel in Körmend where we had a rather pleasant meal.

30th August 2008

Another James Kunstler piece masquerading as a film review. The comments behind it are typically Kunstleresque, having a poke at the American way of life, and suburbia in particular.

My visitors went out looking at houses for the day, and I carried on with the house. Picture:
Severe Wall Damage Caused By Ants I found this horrendous area of wall damage. The whole structure has been eaten away to a honeycomb of earth that simply crumbles at the touch. I had to go two bricks deep with this bit - that's creeping on towards fifty percent of the wall thickness - not good. The white stuff is insecticide powder.

31st August 2008

Today my visitors set to and did a load of the gardening that I have been neglecting whilst so involved with the house repairs. The was much scything (until the scythe blade broke where it attaches to the handle!), and much weeding. One row of potatoes got dug too:
The first row of potatoes is dug... Krumpli
Krumpli ...yielding this amount of potatoes, and very fine potatoes they are. There are three more rows to dig yet!! Maybe I won't go hungry this winter.


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