Our lives out here are completely affected by the seasons and the various events and changes which happen within them, far more so than if we lived in an urban environment. Autumn brings with it the crazy rush to get wood in and prepared for winter, both day and night Red Deer stags cry out across the valley as they rut, and the colours of the trees explode into reds, yellows and oranges.
As Autumn draws to a close, it’s time to prepare for Dusicky (All Saints’ Day) when every Slovak visits the graves of the deceased, tidies them and places new flowers and candles. This means a trip for us to my wife’s ancestral lands in the mountains of the Pieniny National Park, to the completely remote village of Lesnica.
It’s also the time of our final evening walks for the year as darkness gets earlier with each passing day.
This year I was stunned to discover a bird I’d always hoped to see one day, just sitting outside my kitchen door – a Spotted Nutcracker. Unfortunately, my Jack Russel, Sandy, also noticed it and scared it away before I could get a clear shot with the camera.
When it’s not raining, it’s also a good time to get some final miles under the wheels of my motorbike, Scarlet, before ice and snow precludes it. While I do try to ride even throughout Winter, quite often it’s impossible just to reach the road in order to start riding.
Because we have almost zero light pollution, and some of the cleanest air in Europe, it’s fun to brave the chilly night air to see the stars, the Milky Way, and the Moon:
And then the temperature plummets with the onset of Winter, and maintaining the three hearths becomes a daily chore of necessity:
On the 24th of December we celebrate Slovak Christmas with other family members at their home, but we also make the traditional Kapustnica cabbage soup at home for ourselves – sauerkraut, sausage, cep mushrooms, and homemade pasta, cooked slowly on our ceramic stove so it becomes infused with wood smoke:
Our family then celebrates proper British Christmas on the 25th and the kids get presents under the tree, brought to them by Father Christmas and not little baby Jesus like the locals think…
As the year ends, the outside world is frozen and bleak, and we only brave it to visit the nearby town to shop or for the multiple trips to the newly built wood shed to stock up:
But my Gods it’s beautiful and, living like this, if but for a short time, massively reconnects one to the ways our ancestors understood. It makes me feel alive and eternally grateful for having been given the chance to spend a life on this amazing planet. Happy New Year to everyone!