Archive for October, 2011


21 October 2011

I’ve not developed a fetish in relation to bugs and beasties but with my family away I have to turn to other animals (hee hee).  However, this specimen found dead in the bathroom, it was probably eating the washing powder!  What does amaze me is… how did it get there?  A new house, the bathroom window closed, and the outside ground 6 or 7 meters below!  Sabrije said that there are not so many in Kaçanik – so don’t be put off… however, I might be checking my shoes from now on!

Kaçanik Palms

8 October 2011

There has been a lot of debate recently about the ‘Kaçanik Palm Project’.  For a week or two a digger has been digging out the rough earth and rubble of the grass strip between the Kaçanik cafe road and the River Nerodime, preparing the ground for something.  Speculation in the newspaper teased the Mayor, about the palms, what was the plan, how will they survive?  Then they appeared: a fine row of 22 palm trees 2 metres high spaced along the riverside.  I like them, but I am worried!  It would not be the first ‘greening of Kosovo’ project that ended in dead sticks because of the lack of care and maintenance.

On Friday I trundled into work with Mentor as a travel companion.  He explained that the Skenderbeu Gymnasium students had started the project.  Seeking to improve the Kaçanik environment what would they propose?  The riverside is THE place in the evening and all the town promenade or pause for a coffee… the avenue could take some trees….  then there was research, what place in Italy, for example, would have a similar climate and also palm trees?  The type of palm was chosen on this basis and with the opinion that they will survive winters down to minus minus, even -40C.   Others express scepticism as to whether the 550m altitude of Kaçanik and severe winters (certainly to -20C) will permit the survival of palm.

From my little research the palm looks like the Trachycarpus species, a native of China but now spread widely across Europe and North America.  If they can be kept above minus 10C for a few years until they mature then they have a chance.  Ironically they may find the summer tougher going than the winter.   Mentor told me that an underground watering system has been included in the project so that should really help.  Plus I suppose the river creates a slighter-warmer-than-everywhere-else micro-climate.  I am hopeful of their survival.


No longer for cows!

4 October 2011

After a few short days at home to meet baby Evangeline I was transported back to Kosovo.

With this a leap back into the developing world of Han-Gjik and the wonder of stone, lime mortar and wood.  The mjeshter is delighting in the opportunity to build again in the old style.

The materials for the ‘house based on the old cowshed’ have not been easy to find.  Nazmi had a break-through when he was offered the stone of a ruin in the village of Krivenjeva high in the hills.  Examination proved this to be a rich find.  However, the lorry man trundled once up the hill and once down and then phoned Nazmi (stranded in the hills) and said ‘I’m not doing that again’!  He got 4 cubic meters of stone down to Runjeva but decided the risk to his truck was not worth any gain.  Next, a neighbour in the village offered another ruin.  Examination proved this to be a rich find, and so it has proved.  However, the tractor man jump started his tractor with a full load of stone behind and the momentum drove the pistons round too hard before the ignition kicked in.  However, he has come back… ( a costly repair later).

Next wood, we need around 15 beams five meters long and 5 six meters long… the old pleme (cowshed) and the village ruin had some, but not enough, too much damage on most from years of open exposure… so Nazmi and Ylber and the cutter-man wandered up into Nazmi’s forest looking for suitable trees.  Nazmi has not been cutting his forest (although bits of it get stolen) and after 3 hours of searching he concluded that all his trees were too fat.  Well, good for the trees and the forest, but not so good for the building project.  This unsolved and with autumn closing in further progress looks doubtful this year.

Finding adobe bricks is also difficult… they don’t survive if unprotected.  There is a guy in the village making adobe bricks using a compression mold and he brought us some samples.  He mixes mud and packs it into a box and then uses a compressor arm to squeeze out water whilst compacting the brick.  This is the technique that has brought a revival to adobe in America and Australia.  Unfortunately his bricks are larger than traditional adobe (qerpiq) and they look wrong.  So, we are in discussion.  I would love to use locally made adobe.  However, now this year it is also late… they dry in the sun… and although today hit 24C the days are shortening and cold and rain may come.



Evangeline Sarah

4 October 2011

Oh so difficult to choose a picture!  How to catch someone who is changing moment by moment?  So, here, Evangeline Sarah, not many hours after she came from the hidden world to the revealed world… and, unknowing of all that is really out here, she delights in what is close…. and she sleeps… good news this princess!