So where's the snow?

Muddling through in Austria; God, life and a small black dog


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Home or away?

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Regular readers will know that many times I’ve used the view from our kitchen window,here in Austria, in snow and summer as I waste many idle minutes pondering on life, talking to God and just watching the birds and the weather.

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When we were in Swanage, we rented a small cottage on the High Street. Completely unexpectedly we found the most incredible view over Swanage.  To the right we could see the sea over the rooftops, in front all the lovely grey stone cottages and the Swanage Railway and bus station. The hills behind the town beckoned me to walk them again. We could even sit on the loo and watch the trains steaming in and out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was a view to engross and always something new.

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Then it struck me.  Here out of my window, I see and hear no sounds of life apart from the waterfall, nor see people apart from cars on the road. Here, as I sat in the garden was the noise of trains, buses, cars, but most of all, LIFE.

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I could hear people in the street talking as they walked past, people going to the church over the road, people pottering in their gardens, doors banging, birds singing. And people are life. Suddenly my home seems like an empty wilderness.

Jeremiah 29, v 10-14


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The siren

Not an alien on the roof!

Every Saturday at Midday,the siren on our roof goes off in one long blast, and it’s quite deafening.  It always makes me think of film ‘The Time Machine, when the Morlocks call their victims in.  I suppose it was installed during the war years as an Air raid siren, but has remained.  When we asked Tony why it still goes, he says that although the Fire and Police service have bleepers, often there is no reception in parts of the mountains, or if he leaves the bleeper in the kitchen and where there is a siren in every village, very few areas don’t hear it.  It’s then a rush to the Fire station etc to man the wagons.

In October, there is a testing day.  Besides the normal, we get three blasts with a small pause which is calling, Fire and Police and maybe the Mountain Rescue. A long extended one means somethings really up and you need to put your tv on and find out what the national disaster is. 

It doesn’t go off that often.  We like it when we have visitors and don’t tell them and see how they react and of course the joke never palls of asking someone the time as it goes off on Saturday.  It even once went off just after we’d told some friends all about it and they weren’t really believing us.  If we don’t know what the call out was for, we can always go to the Pub on Sunday and ask Tony.  One occasion it was that someone hadn’t gone home from the pub and a search was initiated – he was found in a ditch!  Last night it went off twice in five minutes which we’ve never heard in five years, we are now wondering if no one turned up to the first one………..


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Turracher Hoehe – ugliest resort in Austria?

Benidorm, pagaoda and bunker!

Dave and I took some time to do some walking and coaxed the Fiat Panda up the hill to this resort.  We’d seen it in winter and with the lake frozen and snowed over it looked ok.  However, this spring with little growth   and grass I wasn’t too impressed.

It seems that in Austria there are no coherent planning policies, just look at the eyesores of the ski lift housings that scar the hillsides, but that’s ok – its making someone money. Of course, all of our landscapes are products of the land being used and worked, and we look at the old stuff and think its cute – and maybe people in a hundred years time will think our contemporary stuff cute.  We have an argument about a wind farm on a hill-top in the Lungau, but no one murmurs about large banks of solar panels in the valleys – but as I say all signs of our time.

So, here in a major resort as Dave so rightly points out, we have Benidorm in hugely extended older hotels, a concrete bunker trying to be a Hotel, a chinese pagoda with a copper roof, tele tubby land (doesn’t show up in these shots but is a buried fitness centre) and plain purpose-built bland hotels.

My view is YUCK!  Couldnt someone have created a policy for the look of the resort, diversity is attractive but! I suppose though, most of the visitors are only concerned with burning down the snow as quickly as possible and getting drunk afterwards………..


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Garden time; Cow bells and early summer

Now the Ice man has taken himself off, its like summer is advancing rapidly.  The dandelions have turned to heads and the air is filled with them, along with willow seeds.  The Margarita daisies -(probably the wrong name) are coming into flower with great drifts of white. Yet it’ll be  two or three more weeks until the flowers start showing their heads up in the Alms. 

We’re now getting lots of drizzle, so I’ve put out all the geraniums and the terrace flowers.  It looks complete chaos until I get them sorted out, but they’re all getting a good watering!  The Peas have got their sticks and the courgettes are showing the odd head, I’ll have to plant my indoor reserves if they don’t get a move on!  The carrots are showing and the occasional parsnip – I wonder if we’ll beat last years astonishing crop!  The brussels and the kohl Rabi are slowly recovering from the frost.  The garden centre where Dave works, lost all of their tomatoes.  Before the frost they lost 300 due to a virus and afterwards all had to be chucked.  It’s still manic there, with people queuing up to buy veggie plugs and geraniums, I just wonder where all these people went before, the centre only opened three years ago.  We’ve bought one more cucumber plant, and have clipped the damage off the old ones, hopefully they may recover, they’ve got fruit on.

BUT most of all, the cows are going up to the alms, the tractors with the open top trailers are heading uphill with the cows sniffing and sticking their noses over the top.  Some cows are turned out here in the valley, ready kitted with their bells, heavenly music. I must be daft, this I love but a windchime, I can’t stand!  Not everyone here likes the bells, someone I know stuff their neighbour’s cow’s bell full with  loo paper to stop them dinging in the early morning and waking them up – and these are local people not incomers!!!!!


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Wood

Heap to wheelbarrow to shed

We burnt so much of the stuff this winter that we had to order more, first time we’ve been caught out.  However much work the wood is, I wouldn’t be without our wood stove in the living room and my old wood cooker in the kitchen – I’d much rather burn the food on this than anything else! For all you eco-warriors, this is carbon neutral as its from a managed, replanted wood!

Wheelbarrow to stack

Stacking the wood, had me pondering on Austria and its wood. I think the country runs on it – well most houses are built from it, a lot are heated, and its a major industry, as someone said, our first class wood goes to make poor quality furniture for Ikea.  We get a mixture of  Pine, Ash, Willow and Birch, there’s very little Oak or Beech here at this altitude. Most of the woods are managed and all our owned and form some of a family’s wealth.  The amount of wood you had stacked outside was seen as an indicator of your wealth, we even see it now where it’s beautifully lined up outside someones house but has been there so long, it’s all grey and rotting – there must be a parable in that! One of the houses we looked at in Rauris, we were told the tale of how an old woman had lived there, but in the middle of winter her nephew saw the windows were all frozen – she had no money for wood and was ashamed to ask for help.

From shed to kitchen to stove!

It’s so managed here, every branch is owned and the more responsible owners replant straight away after felling.  There was a huge storm here in 2006 and there are places on the hills where all the trees went, and most have been left to re-generate, but apparently if this has not happened in ten years they have to replant.  The trees are cut into metre lengths and then stacked for a year, then cut into smaller lengths and either sold or re-stacked and dried more.  We buy ours from a local farmer  as ‘fertig’ in that its in little bits, dried and ready.  He delivers that to us, dumps it in a heap and we have to then re-stack inside, or some do it outside with a cover. Then we have to carry it indoors.  It must be the most handled and expensive fuel in the world when you consider how much carrying of the stuff  and waiting for it to dry goes on before you can burn it.   

I’ve certainly not got the Austrian wood stacking preliminary certificate yet,but I’m getting there!


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Paggy’s Home

Stripey Lungau

For all you Paggy fans, I’m pleased to announce he’s home.  After three weeks in hospital, a chest infection, a kidney infection not to mention the diabetic coma he’s home and back to normal. 

Dave had remarked that we needed to get all the jobs at the front of the house done, so we could work in peace, as shown as when the wood delivery arrived.  It had come early so instead of having it put right in front of the shed door because it was only a couple of metres, it was over the yard as usual.  It was Friday, and it was already 6.30, so no way were we doing it then and there, so we fetched a tarpaulin.  Voice yells, it’s going to rain get a move on and it’ll be done by seven.  I told him in no uncertain terms we were covering it, so he quoted some proverb at me about lazy people,so I went back to covering the heap. Dave asked why we were ever worried about him!

A couple of days later we went for a visit – he’s now getting daily care, which maybe means the doorkey issue may not arise if his health is checked up on, he wont get in a coma a gain.  The stubborn old bugger isn’t going to give anyone a key, it’s a shame his insurance will pay for the broken window, he might think differently if he had a large bill!  He told us he now has to have diabetic injections, and the doctor has told him not to drink beer as there’s too much sugar.  His response – to drink a smaller bottle.  He’s been told a little wine is ok, but he needs his beer.  He’s looking very thin, but maybe that’s down to hospital food, and he had a fall when he came home twisting his knee – poor old git!