Category Archives: Random

Russian Visa and a Georgian Bakehouse

We returned to the farm in the Georgian countryside after handing in our Russian visa application. Jean-Jacque was determined to get the bakery finished to make loaves ready to sell at market the day after we would leave. That gave us 8 days of work and a Sunday off before returning to Tbilisi to collect our Russian visa (hopefully). First off was the thermal mass retaining wall. I infilled with sand while Sam got to work on the natural plaster – a clay sand mix. Once the wall was completed I continued to work with Jean-Jacque making nice the ceiling, levelling the floor and adding a gutter to the roof, all the time Sam was smoothly finishing the interior walls. We put up shelves for the baking tools, cleaned up the ancient fermenting pots in the floor and every day made a bigger fire inside the oven to slowly increase the heating power. Looking forward to seeing some pictures of the first loaves on the Movavlis Mitsa website.

There were plenty of other jobs to do around the farm. Nina, Inken and Angelina did a huge amount of compote, jam and chutney making, preparing nuts for market, baking amazing cakes for the team and more work in the garden. We had sunflower oil to press and add in the excitement of finding the pigs when they escape, dodging Jean-Jacque’s hap-hazard rock throwing, being the intriguing foreigners at Jean-Jacques house which equated to regular visits from melon boy, fig boy, bread lady and pig man, and we had ourselves a really enjoyable, hard working and interesting time at Momavlis Mitsa. We left with some of the infamous grain that Sam hopes to plant in China. Next stop Russia…

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Beglika Live

Live set recorded on Saturday night at Beglika Fest, Bulgaria… Enjoy.

And a few pictures from the festival…

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Surfing the Crisis

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Nina and I have been in Greece for six weeks now, certainly longer than we expected. True to our travel design we are keeping spending to an absolute minimum – the only way to prolong the trip. People have been asking how we afford to travel for so long, it will soon be six months since we left England, and how can we afford to travel in Europe especially. Greece has been the perfect example of how.

We paid for our first 3 nights in Greece when we arrived in Corfu from Italy. It was €64 in total, about £50. Since then we have not parted with a penny for a bed. Maybe we are bad tourists, given Greece’s current financial situation, spending on average £1.20 a night for accommodation during our 42 days here. We had the good fortune of friends with an empty house for two weeks, we camped between trekking days, we were offered a free room in a hotel and we slept under the stars in our sleeping bags when we missed the last bus out of the city. But how did we have four days seeing the sites of Athens, four days in Greece’s second largest city and the same amount of time in the student hub of Ioannina without parting with a single euro cent? Enter our remarkably kind and trusting new friends that we met through Couch-Surfing.

Greece has been the first place that Nina and I have bounced from couch to couch. It took a bit of forward planning, mostly by Nina, but the experience has been totally humbling. If you are new to the Couch-Surfing concept then I will explain quickly – firstly sign up on their website then once you know which places, cities or towns you are visiting search the database for like-minded (or non like-minded, if you are interested in a more eye opening experience) people and contact them to ask if their couch is free. Their profile states the type of couch. sometimes you get your own room or it could just be a space on the floor. The point really is not about the standard of accommodation but the fact that complete strangers are willing to take you into their homes. It’s an exchange network with the purpose of helping out budget travellers and making connections and friendships whilst learning about local culture.

Nina and I have had nothing but warm, kind, trusting welcomes into to each of the homes that we have stayed in here in Greece. We have been hosted by some very interesting people and learnt a great deal about Greece, the current “crisis” and home traditions, mostly involving food.

Xenofan and Maria were our first Couchsurf hosts in Greece. Both psychology students in the cosy and vibrant lake-side city of Ioannina. They were busy with studies but made time to show us around with a visit to the local produce market and a fundraising event for the immigration support team that Xenofan works with. We cooked together and planted their balcony garden with our expanding collection of seeds taken from various wwoof hosts and seed swappers. Self catering is also high on our priorities. It makes our cash go further and all the Couchsurf hosts we’ve stayed with so far have let us use the kitchen, it’s been a real place to connect and share.

We hitch-hiked (free transport) from Ioannina to Thessaloniki where we were welcomed by Spyros, a professor of political science at the university, active politician with Greece’s far left anti-euro party, writer of books on eco-feminism and public speaker on anti-facism. Spryros’ apartment was a haven for anyone interested in ism’s. Floor to ceiling bookshelves filled with English written books on everything from anarchic primitivism to eurocentrism. We spent the first evening talking about the financial situation and trying to understand what it actually meant to people on a street level. We were joined by a friend, an independent journalist and felt very removed from their struggle yet very welcome in their home. We would have liked to have spent more time with our host but he was tied up with public presentations and lectures most of the time. He very trustingly gave us a set of keys, apologised for his absence and wished us a nice time exploring the city. I’m glad we got to exchange pdf books and documentaries over lunch before we made way to Athens. You can read Spyros’ latest article for the Guardian here.

We arrived in Athens after a sleepless night train and were kindly met at the station by our host Mitsos. He had offered to come and collect us at the crack of dawn on his day off and drove us to his apartment where we met his partner Emily. This was our third back-to-back Couchsurf and we were becoming overwhelmed by the hospitality of the Greek people. We rested for a while before setting off to a beach a little drive from the city. That evening Mitsos and Emily had a family bbq and we met friends, drank home-made red wine, sat up late and put the world to rights. It felt like we had known them for years. If it wasn’t for our hosts we would have never found cafe bars in the city, making use of abandoned buildings in a sort of pop-up cafe, festival way. Emily worked in the tourist area and on our second day she whisked us round the famous landmarks and helped us get a sense of the huge city, 5m in total, half of the Greek population. Emily also worked for a theatre group who happened to be presenting a one man show of Socrates Now on our last evening. It followed a debate and brainstorm about what to do in Greece’s current “crisis”. I thought about what Cuba did when their imports were severed. Made me wanna stand up and quote Geoff Lawton – “All the world’s problems can be solved in a garden”.

Nimby nature

Recent objections to our planning application reviewed in a few short videos…

Somerset to Wales

After leaving the Burrowhill Cidery we visited the Willows & Wetlands Visitor Centre for an insight into the ancient craft of growing and harvesting willow for crafts and charcoal.  Another National Trust property later and we were in Wales to visit more friends, Gerd, Camilla and Lea.  They happened to live quite close to the Centre for Alternative Technology and so we also spent a day there…

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Devon

After leaving the New Forest and spending a few days on the Jurassic coast we came to Devon.  This amazing county has so much to offer.  We visited victorian walled kitchen gardens, did a bit of basic cider making, toured around Martin Crawford’s Food Forest demonstration site, picked more mushrooms, visited travelling friends and explored Dartmoor with them.  We checked out the last remaining working water powered forge and Lydford Gorge… amazing times.

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The Internship – Water Harvesting Project…

Following the PDC Michelle hosted an NVC introduction before we started the internship project.  Due to the urgency of water needs on site we decided to direct our efforts there.  A structure was designed and built using mostly natural or recycled materials and with the help of all the folk who stayed on to help in a matter of days we had the beginnings of our water harvesting system.

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We decided on a green roof, partly to fit more into the landscape but also to make use of resources we had on site.  This will slow the water collection down but should make little difference once at saturation point.  The multi functionality of the structure offers protection to the secure storage facility whilst allowing some space for shelter when outdoor workers need it.  It also provides a wildlife habitat and cuts down on rain noise.  Finishing touches have been held up due to a planning enforcement notice.