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- Day trips on a hot day...
One amazing benefit to living in northern Albania is the ability to take a day trip to the Albanian Alps. We did this twice in three days. Why? Because of the beauty... And because it's hot in the valley and it's cooler in the mountains. Added bonus some extended family was staying a few nights at cute little place called Peraj Guesthouse. They have room for campers, camping vans, and these four cute cabins with modern bathrooms. The food served is farm to table fresh and delicious. We hiked north from here following the road to a trailhead. And the views never disappoint. The remains of one homestead was the home of a seven foot tall man who protected the valley of Vermosh from the Ottoman Empire. And he touted as is the reason the tip of Albania remained part of the country. And it wouldn't be an Albanian hike with out a little bunker action! You really can't hike here with out spotting one. On the trails... In July it's a little brown but we have been here a few times over several season. Art's favorite hike... Early fall.. And in February... The road to Vermosh is in part inspiration for a scenes in the latest book Recover or Yield. Even the signs pointing to the locations noted in the book. And I even wrote a few chapters on this trip so you will have to stay tuned for the third book in the Ember in Time series coming later this year.
- Our Food Forest!
Summer kicked in with a major heat wave. We had three days over 100° F and more in the forecast. Is this our usual summer days? No, not quite. We are usually topped out at 95 and sunny everyday but there are more triple digit days in the ten day forecast. Watering the garden has become an evening ritual. And our veggie rations have reached near overwhelming status. The squash and zucchini alone could feed a village. So far we have grilled, fried, baked, and made pizza crust with a the bounty. The peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, green lettuce, carrots, yellow romano beans, strawberries, blueberries, and fresh basil are picked and prepared almost daily. We are pulling the fresh garlic and onions as needed. So that's just in the garden. On to the rest of the property. We have four giant mulberry trees still in season along with our spring pears and figs. And that's just what's primed for picking now. In the next few weeks will we have okra, eggplants, watermelon, cantaloupes, blackberries and plums plus more the above. Hungry yet? So with added watering and irrigation this year means the additional weeding is required. The triple digit weather has restrained this until late evening hours. I started weeding the tomatoes around seven the other night and finished around nine when the mosquitos were out and the sunlight was beyond gone. Fun times! The vines have tripled in the last few weeks. Check it out! June 1st and June 27 Other projects started includes two hammock stands and two well covers. Art is becoming quite the welder. Now we can move the hammocks to any part of the vineyard. Orchard is surviving the start of the hot summer season. The shade the vine trellis has provided is a great spot in the late afternoon to retreat and recharge after writing all day. Speaking of writing. I've started the third book in the Ember in Time series and a standalone mystery set back home in Missouri. Inspiration is a funny thing. A seed of story starts and grows, matures, wilts and then comes back to life much like our homestead. We have added the following books and journals to our publishing catalog in the last two years. Stay cool my friends!
- In the Garden
We have officially started to reap the rewards of the garden. Sure we had salad greens, spinach, and strawberries earlier but now the squash and cucumbers are ready in regular intervals. Tomatoes, carrots, beans, and peppers are nearly ready. The potatoes are almost ready to pull. Melons, eggplants, okra, blueberries, and blackberries are still coming in. The progression from March to June is always incredible for me the non gardener of the family. We had ample rain this spring which has assisted with the production. What is in your garden? Our fruit trees are full of bounty. The four large mulberries are ripe and we are picking. The spring pears are big and beautiful. What's up next? Figs and plums. The quince, apples, kiwis, pomegranates, persimmons, and Cornelius cherries are still very much work in progress. The pomegranate orchard has shown signs of life but there are several trees that haven't caught yet or may be dead and will need to be replaces but overall it's going strong. We have installed the irrigation and have enough pressure to water half of the orchard at a time for a few hours using the second well. We also planted some squash and melons in the loose soil next to the new trees near the house and have already collected some squash. And the vineyard!! We completed all the vine clean up which basically removes the lower leaves and lighten the load on overcrowded areas. It has really taken shape and the grapes nearly doubled in size since last week. And we installed a new hammock to take advantage of the shade. March vs May vs June Two weeks growth left to right. We celebrated Art's birthday with a coffee down by the lake and he tested out the new hammock. Cheers to homestead life.
Stock the Library & Support the Classrooms We (Art and I) partnered with Int'l Book Project to bring over a shipment of books for the near empty school libraries here in Bajzë, Albania. We toured the school libraries with the local school administration. It was very sad some scholastic books were decades old, tattered, covers and pages missing and the shelves were barely stocked. The nearest community library is in the capital, Tirana, 2 hours by car and most would have to take a bus to travel that far so closer to 4 hours. Reading is the weakest subject in Albania, the EU Ministry of Education and Sports in cooperation with UNICEF, is promoting the ‘Albania Reads’ initiative to improve the country’s performance in reading. As many people have transitioned to e-readers or the Kindle app on a phone, access for the 450 school aged children is very limited. Most households don't have a working computer, internet or cell phones for the children. So books in hand are crucial to swing the learning curve in a positive direction and inspire the next generation. While Albania’s economy continues to grow, its total government expenditure is the lowest in Southeastern Europe with only 3% of its budget allocated to education and 3.7% to health. Our local teachers furnish everything for their classrooms including desks, chairs, computers, projectors and scholastic materials. The teacher's dedication to the youth is astounding, they provide so much for their classrooms and students. Our fundraising goal is $6,000 this breaks down to: Approximately 5,941 Books donated by the Int'l Book Project Donated Book Shipment from US to Albania = $4627 Port fees, taxes and shipping in Albania = $100 New shelving, two rolling book carts and paint for the libraries = $1,273 We are actively looking for local businesses and community leaders to assist with fundraising but I hope my friends, family and neighbors back home can help support literacy and our rural community teachers. How can you help? Donate today: PayPal VenMo @HomesteadAlbania Our goal is to have the project fully funded by May 30th. Thanks in advance for your support!
Arti Malaj Author/12th generation Albanian Head of all things vineyard, orchard and garden. Master of the art of raki and wine. Amazing craftsman and engineer. Kim Malaj Author/American Head of all things tech, blog, photography, and drone. Retired at 36 to enjoy hiking, gardening, making wine and raki in beautiful Albania.