Italy 2018

via Italy 2018

We are in a process of uploading our 2018 Touring Gallery. The journey took us from  Ferrara in Italy through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia to Bulgaria. An incredible experience it was.

Follow the link Italy 2018 if you wish to see the images from our brief yet beautiful Italian journey from Ferrara to Gorizia, before entering Slovenia. Enjoy ✌🏼🚵🏽‍♂️🚵🏽‍♀️

 

Conflicting Emotions

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Rain by Don Paterson

3.5/5

A mixed-bag, within which I feel there is a little something for everyone, but I am uncertain how satisfying the overall package is. My relationship, not only with the whole collection, but with individual pieces, is in constant flux – not only from mood to mood, but from moment to moment. 

Sometimes a piece and I sing at at complementary frequencies; at others, the same piece lies flat and lifeless upon the page.

And then I don’t know: am I being overly generous because such-and-such a piece was there for me at the right time? or overly harsh because it wasn’t the right moment for it? I think it’s only fair to go with the latter, with the caveat that many of these pieces are fair-weather friends: there to reflect a mood, but not to influence or alter one.

With that in mind, if you do hit upon that particular piece at that particular moment, I’m sure you’ll find some moments to treasure. I’m similarly sure that sometimes you’ll find nothing worth your while.

Despite the low moments, it does hit some heights and there is some genuine feeling here that makes it worth visiting despite the misses – and leads me to feel that this is a slightly above average collection worth a qualified recommendation.

 

Compost, Mulching, and Preparing the Garden for Spring #2

Green Matter and Brown Matter

At the moment we keep compost in two places: a (420L) compost container and a compost pit.

The container provides enough drainage so that last year it was possible for us to experiment on producing moist (not soggy) fertile soil. During the minimum 6-8 months it’s resting, it is turned over two or three times. We then cover the beds, preferably before Winter, using it as both compost and mulch. In Spring, without any digging, we can plant vegetables directly in it, using a small dibber.

Compost in the form of freshly made fertile soil is already a properly balanced mixture of green and brown matter. Green matter is only plant-based waste and coffee dregs. Brown matter is egg shells, cardboard, paper, straw, sawdust (untreated wood), and manure – also called by some “an activator” (more information about how we did it last year and why will appear in a separate post). 

The pit is a place where, in a more traditional Polish rural household, people would put their scraps and other organic waste. In the end, although well rotten, due to relatively poor drainage, the organic matter unfortunately remains rather wet and is therefore smelly. Access to the compost is also quite difficult as most of it remains deep in the pit.

However, making use of resources already available to us before introducing any bigger changes or potential improvements somehow seems a natural thing to do. So, although soggy, smelly, and difficult to retrieve, the compost is a very good source of nitrogen – produced by green matter (mainly grass clippings and fresh leaves) breaking down – and we are more than happy to use it in the garden; any excess liquid is then used to feed the fruit trees and bushes.

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Over the course of the last two weeks, we’ve cleared one of the two long vegetable beds, which we then covered with cardboard (brown matter) collected from local shops and markets. The (green matter) compost from the pit has now rotted well enough, so we put a 5cm layer on top of the cardboard. Last year we placed the compost directly onto the soil and it worked pretty well.

As we’ve gained more experience, we know that the soil and earth-worms absolutely love the addition of brown matter, so it only made sense to add it to the beds. The green-matter-plus-brown-matter combo brings many benefits to the garden:

  • adding new layers of soil
  • feeding the soil
  • protecting the soil and the life in it from too much exposure
  • reducing weeds
  • retaining moisture
  • providing drainage
  • and more

Around March, that once soggy, green matter will be much drier. We’ll then break down and reduce the bigger, harder pieces and remove anything that still needs further composting. By then, the cardboard will have started decomposing nicely. After that, the bed will be ready for direct planting – without any prior digging. We will add some dry pig manure at some point, and as the plants are growing we’ll feed them with our home-made nettle slurry.

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Wonderful

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Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann

4/5

I found this review difficult to write because, whilst I absolutely loved the majority of this book, I began to lose a little patience with it near the end, which initially left a sourer taste in my mouth than I think its wonderfully told story deserves.

‘Wonderfully’ because, despite any hesitations as the final part drew to a close, so initially captivated was I by the main characters’ lives, and such was my interest in the telling of their stories, that the momentum gained was more than sufficient to keep me involved until the end – and now, only a short time after completing my journey with them, an overall feeling is beginning to be felt and this wonderful connection to the whole story realised.

From the outset, this story makes its inexorable way toward its conclusion with a certain sense of inevitability and fatality. There really are no other directions the paths these characters are on can lead. This is not to suggest that the story feels predictable; merely that they inhabit a living, breathing, dynamic world, where each action and decision has real-world consequences and effects. You become so drawn into their lives, particularly in the earlier parts, that you find yourself emotionally invested in and caring about every decision and choice they make, and every step they take; feeling optimism when they go one way, or dread when they go another; and sharing in the sense of justice or injustice at the fruit that these paths may bear.

All of the main characters are sympathetically-not-sentimentally drawn as fully-rounded human-beings, and are infused with love by the author. As such, their motivations are clear and understandable. Subsequently, you find yourself able to empathise with them all, even in the face of behaviour that may appear disagreeable – and you really do care and do become emotionally invested in the outcomes of their well-meaning if misguided choices and actions.

It is these living and breathing people that populate the story that make it such a joy. This book is a lesson in characterisation. They are drawn so well, within and without, that we feel able to see how they are seen, and feel how they see – and are, therefore, able to empathise with, appreciate, and understand all of these points of view. This gives us a fully-rounded, fully-realised, believable cast inhabiting a generally fully-drawn believable world.

For those that enjoy getting invested in lives populating a convincingly told human drama against the backdrop of a realistic and generally relatable world, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I doubt this a book that will affect your worldview and, although a beautifully framed story, its structure and telling don’t break any new ground – hence the four rather than five marks. However, that’s not what it’s here to do: it’s here to tell the story of this family and various members within – and this it does wonderfully. It therefore receives a hearty recommendation from me.

Made Up Things

Île de Ré and Back [Part 1]: Sunday 20 August 2017

14:55. Mixed emotions today. Beautiful get up and hop to the coast. Top breakfast again – as the sea discreetly reclaimed the shoreline. Great stretch. Some chat with some local dogs and local folk – and away we went!

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Over the three-kilometre bridge linking mainland France with the Île de Ré. Pure exhilaration. Couldn’t get the smile off my face – don’t know what it is about crossing expanses of water on my bike, but I am usually so full of emotions that I have no idea how to express them.

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And the island that awaited was – beautiful!

Maybe I was always going to flatten out a bit after that – I was still high, but didn’t know it in comparison to the earlier buzz.

And though this clearly isn’t lowest-common-denominator holidaying or breaking, it’s still entertainment-by-numbers: paths to be followed – although many you’re not strictly allowed to (?!), restaurants to be sat at, and donkeys with trousers (?!) to be ridden. Beautiful place, for sure, but devoid of heart, and designed only to part people from their hard-earned on things.

Spontaneity channelled down predictable tourist tunnels.

I can’t see the light!

I can’t see the light!

Even touring round the coast is mapped and therefore a little depressing, as I just feel like I’m on one of those farm trails – rather than one of my own design. For the first time since we set off at the end of June I feel a word rumbling to be used, one that I thought I’d kind of forgotten about: ‘bored.’

I felt bored.

I did find €10 though.

And leave the poor fucking donkeys alone!!!

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Compost, Mulching, and Preparing the Garden for Spring #1

Sunday 05 January 2020

Last Winter only seems like yesterday: coming back to Poland after two years of bicycle-touring, taking over my parents’ garden and beginning our 2019 No-Dig Gardening Project. Here we are again, one year later, with a bit more knowledge and experience – more than ready to start gardening once again.

It’s 05 January 2020 and the weather has been ideal to spend some time outdoors. Geoff’s been fixing tools, and I’ve been mulching the beds (laying well-rotted, green, organic matter on cardboard (brown matter)).

The soil we managed to produce as part of the 2019 Gardening Project only covered about a fifth of the beds, so the rest of them will have to be covered as described above. We will, however, try and produce more soil this year – now we know how to approach the matter 😉 

As you can see in the photos, despite it being Winter, the garden is still producing some vegetables: cavolo nero, kale, beetroots, carrots, spinach, rucola, celeriac, parsnip, parsley, and garlic (some of them covered with fleece).

The process is: as we pull and eat them, the patches of soil left will immediately be covered with the cardboard-and-organic-matter combo, so no beds remain bare. Feeding and protecting the soil also leads to fewer weeds later on.

These are some of the principles behind No Dig Gardening and Permaculture.

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