I really enjoyed the last couple weeks. They were two of the best for a long time. (Almost exactly 1 year, actually :). Lot’s of fun, sun and, well, lots to do as well. But no blogs, no flogs and no clogs. No XML, no UTF-8, no Python, even no HTML or Outlook (well, outlook, yes, but not Outlook).
Holiday is such a great thing – and I needed it as much. The best thing about this holiday was obviously the fact that I was completely hooked-off for 8 full days. I don’t remember when I last didn’t think of my work or my office or any other, career related thing for more than one day or so. 8 full days without a glimpse of such thoughts. I don’t know how I managed this, but I did.
The kind of “resort” where my wife1 and I spent our holiday at certainly helped a bit. If it wasn’t for the cowbells’ ringing during the night or the black redstart (Phoenicurus ochrurus) breeding in the arbors of our dwelling then it was certainly for some of the other aspects:
- No electricity (Serious!)
- No computer (Obvious)
- No tap water
- Lots of uncut firewood
- A rustical smell everywhere ;)
- An old, charming alp cottage
The images below are some impressions taken during the holiday. I added some comments as well. Don’t expect them to be of any use, tough! (Click the images for a larger version)
A heap of wood I cut for starting the fire. The goal is to use one match, some paper and wood alone. No combustibles or so allowed. I reached the goal, which means we had warm food :). About 20% of the time in an alp cottage is spent on cutting wood. Follows an introduction to cutting wood in an alp. Consider it a chapter for novice wood-cutters. And be warned: If you’re about to cut wood yourself, you will expose yourself to get axed.
Cutting Wood - An Introduction#
When cutting wood for the kind of stove you see in the image to the right, you basically go through 3 phases.
Rough Cut You get ordinary tree’s cut into trunks of about 30cm long and occasionally split into thirds or halves. With a rough cut you cut them down to 30cm long, and 5-8 cm thick bricks. These fit nicely into the stove and can be used once the fire is really burning. They will produce a certain amount of coal and blaze.
Medium Cut The rough bricks are cut down a second time to a medium cut. The length is still the same but you produce thinner pieces of wood. Approximately 3 by 3 cm. These medium pieces are used to grow the fire once it has begun burning from the fine cut. The image shows medium cut wood.
Fine Cut These are solely used for lighting the fire. The fine cut is 1 by 1 cm in diameter or even finer (It depends on the risk you’re willing to take with the axe). In the ideal case, you could light one of these with a single Swedish match but usually, you’ll have to light some paper that produces a flame that is big enough to put fire to the wood.
The Stove where we cooked our food. As mentioned above, there’s no electricity so there’s no regular stove for cooking as well. There’s no gas (brit.) neither. As you can see, there are two places to put a pan at. It’s actually holes whose diameter can be changed by a set of iron rings, depending on the size of the pan you’re about to use.
The tricky part with these stoves is the fact that you want the wood to take fire. This seems obvious but there are some pitfalls:1. The entire cottage is made out of wood 2. The chimney is an open chimney. That is, the smoke (and blaze, if there is any) will end up in a fume hood that is – well – made out of wood.3. The floor is made out of wood, obviously4. There’s a haystack above the kitchen5. The haystack’s floor is made out of wood6. The cottage is old (Over a 100 years)7. There are plackets in the floors
Well, actually it is still quite easy. You’ll just have to pay attention that you don’t leave the stove open during an absence (You have been warned!).
If you have a cozy, burning fire, you’ll make sure it burns as long as needed (But not too long either, because of the water needed). The part about cooking on wood that is actually different from cooking on gas or electricity is, that you don’t have a heat regulator. Well, you have one: It consists of putting the pan to the hole of the stove that is farther away from the actual fire in the stove. You can also let the fire burn down, i.e., not putting any more wood into it for some time. Obviously, you can also add more wood. The problem here is the latency. Imagine a
ping with a latency of some minutes … :)
Despite this, we could prepare some excellent food, including a Fondue. It was plain delicious. Rustically, smoky taste added for free! Oh, and yes. About 15% of the time is spent cooking (including heating water for washing the dishes, cleaning, tooth brushing etc.)
As I said before, no tap water. The only source was a fountain outside the cottage where you could get some water. If you had too much fire, you needed more water because you couldn’t let the stove without some kind of “heat sink”. If you decided to “regulate” the heat by putting the cooking pan to the colder hole of the stove, you had to add a pan with something else (aka water) in it to dissipate some heat. Otherwise you would’ve risked that the stove broke completely. I like fire, so I had too much fire all the time, which means I always needed some more water. 15% of the time in the cottage was spent moving water in buckets from the fountain to kitchen. The water quantum was either 10 or 15 litres, depending on the strength of your forearm. Luckily, I could bear the bigger burden :)
On an average day, you will use around 50 litres of free, fresh, delicious mountain water. No chlorous taste, no ozone taste, nothing.
One of the reasons to go for a holiday in the alps is the landscape, the fauna and flora. We had the cows, calves and black redstart before, so here we go for some flowers. Here we have “Blue Gentian” and some other flowers.
The remaining 60%#
While my wife was learning for some exams she will pass in September, I was more occupied with cutting wood, getting fresh water, cooking and reading. Reading accounted to the remaining 10% of the time. Sleeping was another 50% (You see, no electricity!) and so we end up with activities that use 100% of the available time.
More from the alp#
One day, my wife saw a fox, approaching her as near as 2 metres, probably in search of some birds (aka food). He seemed to be curious as he wouldn’t flee but only walk away in a calm, almost fashioned manner.
Then, there were the cows and calves. They used to stay outside over night, avoiding the gnats and gadflies during daytime. Their cowbells would make a nice good-night sound, much more gentle and natural than the cars and honks and trains and whatever suburban life offers for that time of day.
Especially the calves were good for some fun as well. First, you could fool them with a faux “moo”, they would search for other calves in the surroundings. Second, they managed to trespass a fence put between them and the house. I somehow had the impression that night of a little cowbell that was doing its “ding-a-ling” too close to the house. Well, the next day we found a calf on the wrong side of the fence – and a vandalised garden. :) I guess they conspired because we’d fooled them the days before.
Now I’m back and feel just plain good. There’s plenty of stuff to catch-up (I already digested the 800+ articles that accumulated during my absence) and there will be some busy-time just before I leave again for 2.5 weeks of “Military Service”.
Update: I also saw my second life version of my almost new car :)
As a sidenote: I always asked myself why most bloggers speak of “The Wife” or “She” or “The Girl”. But that’s something for the philosophical post to follow someday. ↩︎