Snow!

For a bit more than one week, snow really came back to Kuterevo and volunteers have enjoyed the beauty of the village covered with white, the morning cleaning of few paths to be able to go to get some wood or just to go to the toilets (forget about showers, we just stay smelly!), and of course they’ve been delighted to go back to childhood, sledding in the streets and making giant snowmen/bears 🙂

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Insulating Postaja

Last week the temperature dropped to – 20°C. We then noticed that we use a lot of wood for heating each day, while Postaja still stays a bit cold, so we decided to improve the insulation. This is what we have done so far:

Window

As one of the windows is old and doesn’t close properly anymore, we decided to add some extra insulation. We built a wooden frame and as ‘glass’ we nailed a piece of an old, transparent plastic bag to it. Then we fitted it on the windowsill and stuffed hemp fiber in the gaps around to create an air-insulation.

Old stove pipe

We still have an open pipe from an old oven, which is in ceiling above the place where now our new oven is. Unfortunately, it leads the warm rising air directly under the uninsulated roof where it can escape easily. As we were losing a lot of warmth through it, we stuffed it from both sides with paper and covered it with a cloth and carton to stop the warm air from flowing.

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Attic

The wooden slide door to the attic let through a lot of our generated warmth, so we nailed sheets of carton to it from above, which makes a noticeable difference. We are anyway still losing heat through the ceiling to the attic, and the attic is very badly insulated. We started to close some of the biggest holes in the attic, to keep some more warm air there.

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Doors

Cold air from outside was coming in from under the doors, so we fixed some old bags which contained corn for the bears under the doors, to close the gaps.

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Curtains and shutters

A very simple way of insulating windows is to simply put up curtains. We made some nice curtains for the Postaja bedroom, and we will probably soon make curtains for the big room as well.

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Floor

At the moment we are attaching planks to the beams at the bottom side of the floor (from the ceiling of the basement) and filling bags with wool. Later we will put them in the space between the floor beams and the planks to make the floor warmer.

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Although the techniques we used are primitive and used materials are all recycled, I think that it makes quite a difference and that we will all profit from these few, easy measures when the temperatures get colder again – and the environment as well.

Dominik

Preparing for Winter (Food, Wood, Booze and Bears)

As Marco has already told you in colorful details, winter has arrived in Kuterevo. In the Netherlands, winter just slowly comes and life goes on as usual. We simply wear some more clothes and sometimes clean the streets from a few centimeters of snow. But in Kuterevo, you have to prepare yourself for winter. Actually, we have been preparing ourselves for winter all through autumn. In this article I will give you some examples of what we have been doing to make sure that we and the bears will have a happy, healthy and warm winter.

Food

During winter, we cannot grow our own vegetables. We do not want to buy too many products that are shipped from far-away countries, so we have to preserve food that we harvest or collect in autumn. This year, we´ve collected and dried wild mushrooms, we made jam from healthy sour dren berries, we´ve conserved paprika in oil, vinegar and in a very tasty spread called ´ajvar´, and we’ve dried herbs and berries for healthy teas during cold winter days in Postaja.

Drenjula jam

One bigger ´food conservation project´ was making sour cabbage. Sour cabbage is easy to prepare, it can be kept for a long time, and it is very healthy! Did you know that when Columbus went on long expeditions, he filled half of his ship with sour cabbage, so that his men would stay healthy during the travel?

We bought about one hundred cabbages from a farmer in the next village, and on one evening when we had a lot of guests (helpers) from another EVS project in Croatia, we invited two experienced ladies from the village (Teta Dragica and Teta Kaja) to Postaja, where they helped us with preparing the cabbage.

Cabbage evening

We cleaned the cabbages and we grated them with a special big cabbage grater (which had to be done with two people together). We put the grated cabbage in huge barrels, together with water, salt and spices, and we crushed them with a big wooden tool. Now, some weeks later, we have an almost infinite amount of healthy and tasty ´kiseli kupus´!

Wood

We don´t have gas or central heating in Postaja, so we cook and heat the house with a wood stove. And wood does not come through pipelines… We did not cut any trees ourselves, but we did move a lot of wood around, with tractors, wheelbarrows and our hands, and we´ve been chopping wood into smaller pieces and into fire starters. Eventually we stacked big amounts of wood neatly around Postaja.

Wood

Having a wood stove makes you very aware of what you use to create heat. When you have a central heating system, you are very far away from your real energy source, and your energy consumption can only be expressed in abstract numbers. When you heat with wood, all day long you put pieces of trees from the forest around you into a stove, where you see them burn and feel their warmth… It has to be said that burning wood is not the most environmentally friendly way of heating, but I hope that it is also helping me and the other volunteers to become a bit more aware of the fact that we are using energy sources all the time, and that we are thereby having an influence on the rest of the world.

Booze

In Kuterevo, making ´rakija´ seems to be almost as essential as preparing wood and food for winter. Rakija is a liquor made from fermented plums or other fruits, and it is very popular in Croatia. Every autumn, many families in the village prepare their own rakija from their own fruits. We have been present at a few rakija making evenings, where we learned about making rakija from people in the village. Basically, after letting the fruits ferment in barrels for some weeks, they are boiled in a pot and the steam is guided through a pipe. This pipe is cooled on one end, and this makes the steam condensate into drops, which flow down into a bucket. This condensed ´fruit steam´ is rakija. We also made some rakija from our own fruits, so now we have a small supply for the coming year.

On prepare la rakja, eau de vie locale

Bears

Bears don´t have to plan things to prepare for winter, they just follow their instinct. In autumn, their instinct tells them to eat as much as they can! We´ve been feeding the bears in the refuge a lot of energy-rich food in the past months, so that they could store enough fat for the cold winter, when they hibernate. Our youngest bear Marko is now almost completely round, very fat and fluffy, and also very cute. 😉

Furthermore, we gave the bears some bales of straw that they could use to build nests from for the winter. The bears seemed to really appreciate these gifts, playing with and even hugging the straw…!

Hugging straw

So now it is winter. We have worked hard and now we have food, wood, booze and fat bears, and I feel well prepared. At the moment, we are preparing ourselves even more against the winter cold by insulating Postaja better, to lose less warmth. You can read more about this in Dominik´s article, which will be posted on this website soon.

Kim from the Netherlands