Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Embarrassment of riches

The apple tree at the Krumlov house has been shedding 2-3 big bagfuls of apples daily for the last 3 weeks and there's no end in sight. In fact it is as if the apple tree was one of those magic trees that no matter how much you take, they always grow exactly the same amount overnight! I am one of those people who can't stand waste so I can't just throw them away - so I've been baking strudles and pies and other apple delights, anything that is bruised goes to the horses, but no one wants my apples or apple pies any more because EVERYONE has their own embarrassment of apples so they are in the same position! And still they come....
Same with the beans - broad and runners. Back in April I innocently stuck a few beans in the ground, here in Krumlov and at the Lake house. Now I have kilos of beans every day. Help - what to do? The freezer was already full to bursting with the harvest of berries and currants, and of course, mushrooms from the forest. So, at a risk of sounding completely bonkers, I admit I bought another freezer. In go apples and beans. But what to do with all the mushrooms that I am still intent on picking (can't stop, too much of an obsession) ? Will I have to have a third freezer? Well, then you'd all have to come and visit in the Winter to help us eat all these goodies.
I suppose the most entertaining bit in all this is that the local Tesco is still stocking its shelves with apples (and beans and marrows and all that) from foreign lands - which sadly sit there unwanted, as most Czechs have their own plentiful harvests. What's more, the countryside is full of fruit trees growing along the paths and on the edges of the forests that are there for any passer-by to pick freely. How come? That's a subject for another blog sometime.

Friday, 15 August 2008

New roof at Forest House

It was going to be the last week in July, but better late than never: finally the roofers have arrived to start the dismantling of the old roof structure.
As you can see from the photos, the new timbers are all here. All the old timbers that are in good condition and will be re-used, are stored in the garden, and will be covered up for the Winter. The rest is for burning.This is the first phase of the house reconstruction - the barn will be done later, possibly next Summer.

Monday, 11 August 2008

lake house works

At last the Lake house works have progressed to the point that the first stage of clearing up of junk and rot is over, and we are actually renovating. The poor house looks like a bomb's hit it and I wish we could at least give the facade a face-lift but of course that will have to be the last job! We've also decided that we'll leave the roof to later: we are working from the inside out. It will be slow progress (finances permitting) but it is VERY exciting.
The first renovation job we did was to install some strengthening rods that will hold the house together: the house was first built, of stone, at the time when the lake was created (see*below) and later added to. One of the later additions (probably around the end of 18th century judging by the roof timbers) were brick vaultings to the north half of the ground floor. These were not tied in very well, and as the house has no cellar, the pressure of the vaulting has been pulling the walls apart. The vaults are in extremely poor condition, with gaping holes, and currently supported by several props. So the strenghtening rods are installed to prevent any further movement. We'll now have to see whether it will be possible to save the vaulted ceilings - hope so. There were vaults in the cowsheds, too, but they were mostly fallen down and not really worth saving, but the ones in the house would be good to keep, fingers crossed.The next job is to create floors for where the downstairs bathroom, pantry and hall will be. (that's where we found the treasure - see earlier posts) These were spaces with just earth floors, but on the whole dry so the challenge is to create floors that suit today's bathrooms but let the house breathe and don't insult the overall feel with some horrible new tiles.

So the guys who are working there are creating floors that have breathing channels around the walls and consist of a sandwich earth-shingle, with unglazed brick-type tiles laid into a thin layer of specially mixed concrete that's got lots of lime and sand, on the top. All the piping for water etc is laid in the shingle layer. Hope it works!

We won't be able to go much further for a while, but what excitement to be going even the first positive step forward.

*the lake is a 138hectare man-made pond, created in the early 15th century by the local aristocrat for fish-farming, on the site of a boggy valley, by building a large retaining wall which is still there today. From 16th century it belonged to the Zlata Koruna monastery, a well-to-do cistercian monastery near Cesky Krumlov, later it was part of the Krumlov's aristocracy, the Rozmberk's, estate, later still by the Schwarzenberg estate. Now it's owned by the Czech Army, lying right on the border of its vast training area, Boletice. It is the highest-lying pond in Bohemia, at the altitude of 731m.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Summer camp, Czech style

Our little Anna is coming for the second year to the Summer camp, organised by the wonderful riding stable we so love. Am I right in thinking that only the Czechs could be so relaxed about letting the children have a real experience of living in totally close proximity to the animals, in very basic tents and facilities but fully engaged in the daily care of the horses, learning to ride but also just letting go and being free to enjoy nature, the Summer and all the fun that goes with it?Actually, it's not just the kids that get given a fabulous time as you know from my previous posts. Only this evening 6 of us adults with 9 horses (3 foals that simply came along with us) went for a five hour ride, ending at 11pm - which meant a moonlight ride home. What an experience, one of a total trust with the horse, as you, the rider, see nothing of the terrain you ride, simply let the horse fly across the fields and try not to be in its way. And as to mad trots through totally dark forest paths, where you see absolutely nothing at all, just have to bend right down to the animal's neck so you don't get decapitated by overhead branches - well, I would love to know which other stable would allow such a ride and not get scared by some health and safety regulations! Thank god for sanity still prevailing - needless to say we all got home in one piece and much envigorated - best thing for one's health, I'd say.
Sorry no photo, understandably.

Riding stable recommendation: