Following solid progress earlier in the year, an autumn visit allowed us to start furnishing Breg House, finally creating the cosiness I knew it was capable of.
As ever, the trip came with some new problems. After almost ten years of Breg, I’ve come to realise that there’s almost always a problem. But there’s also normally a solution. On this occasion, after a week of being in the house, the water pressure dropped, before the taps finally ran dry altogether.
The house’s water supply comes from a spring, some 500 meters up the mountain. The spring fills two tanks, which then provide enough pressure and volume to serve the house’s H20 needs. There have been sporadic supply problems in the past, but not for some time, so when the taps ran dry this time, it caused me some worry.
I was unable to sleep properly as I ran through possible problems: blocked pipes, dry springs and silted water tanks, and I woke early the following morning, armed myself with a penknife, shovel and mattock, and headed up the hill to see if I could find any obvious cause of the drought.
I walked up the narrow path that leads away from the house. To one side there’s forest, the other a meadow. I passed piles of perfectly stacked firewood, now silver after years of seasoning, though grass heavy with morning dew. Upon reaching the area where the spring feeds my tanks, I was pleased to be able to see the cause immediately.
The pipe that connected the spring to the tanks had become disconnected; my tanks were not being refilled and had run empty. It’s possible that the pipe had been disconnected for some time, so it’s nice to know that my tanks will provide enough water (for a couple of people) for about a week.
But now came the problem of how to fix it. Having watched Keith – my plumbing expert – install various water pipes, I had a good idea of what to do, and after measuring the pipes I went in search of a new piece and a couple of connectors. Returning from Inpos with the required components I set to work cutting pipe and reconnecting the supply. At first I had trouble with leaking joints, but after some re-tightening I succeeded in a leak-free connection, and then – music to my ears – the sound of water re-filling my tanks.
The joy was premature though; it was the end of the summer, a time when the flow of the springs in the area are at their lowest, and my spring was little more than a sporadic trickle. Even after a week of being re-connected, the pressure wasn’t sufficient to feed the upper floor of the house, although the lower floor did have a basic supply.
Having left the newly re-connected section exposed for a day to check no leaks appeared later, I hacked away at the rocky ground and buried the pipe as deep as I could – which I fear may not be deep enough to avoid the winter freeze. We’ll find out soon enough.
The biggest visible progress was buying and constructing the furniture required: two new beds and mattresses, a sofa, two arm chairs, plus various other bits and bobs. The effect was instant; rooms transformed into real living spaces after being building sites for so long.
There’s still much to be done, most importantly getting the wood burning stove in place before winter, but Breg House is finally looking like somewhere you might want to actually visit.
Pivo at Pikovo
One of my favourite spots in the area is Pikovo, a mountain inn found on the tiny mountain road up from Breg to Črna na Koroškem. Here, my friend Rajko runs the joint, serving cool beers and hot food in what is a beautiful spot with chunky log seating overlooking the valley, and adjacent to the beautiful church of St Helena (for which Rajko also has the keys – if you fancy a look just ask).
Vanja, Rajko’s step daughter, was also around and kindly agreed to play the role of interpreter between myself and Marso, and two of my neighbours, whom I’m always interested to learn more about – but am severely hampered by my lack of any in-depth Slovenian skills.
The Schnapps Stockpile
We spent a lovely evening sitting outside with the neighbours, being fed their homemade cured sausage and schnapps – and learning more about their lives. Poor Ančka had been quite seriously electrocuted whilst milking one of her cows, and she showed us the black, electrical burns on her arms. Ančka’s one tough woman though; she laughed about the incident and I noticed her eyes had a beautiful quality of wisdom, mixed with mischief.
I was particularly interested to learn about how they make the sausage and schnapps but was dismayed to hear that this year, due to a late frost which nipped the plums in the bud, no new schnapps will be made.
However, my fears of any type of schnapps shortage were quickly allayed as Ančka and Štefka explained that they had been stockpiling their schnapps for years. She chuckled when I asked about the amount of schnapps one is permitted to distil each year, suggesting that government quotas are perhaps taken with a pinch of Piranske sea salt here.
So it seems that though I may run out of water from time to time, there will always be a reliable schnapps supply. Na zdravje to that.