Nový Mlýn

4km walking in, 4km walking out. The bookends of our two week workstay at the most excellent Nový Mlýn (new mill), 70 miles south of Prague next to the little Czech village of Černovice. Here is where we honed our proper scything technique, planted some broccoli and built a fence to keep the goat named Dijon off the roof. Here is where we cooked for (on a rotating schedule) and ate with a group totaling 11 - everyone upping the ante at every meal using herbs and vegetables straight from the spiral garden. And here is where we had conversation after conversation with those 11 on everything ranging from food ethics to superhero films, global politics to pocket knife sharpening.

Nový Mlýn, as the farm-in-progress is known, is just that: a farm property with a bunch of outbuildings ranging in age from old to really old. It's in the middle of nowhere, give or take, right on the border between the south Moravian and Bohemian regions of the Czech Republic, surrounded by rolling farm hills and beautiful tall pine forests that harbor a ridiculous number and variety of mushrooms. Most of the walks taken with the dog, Bunbury, were accompanied by a basket and a knife to harvest these, all of which were then put through a rigorous system of checks and balances (ie. unanimous vote of safety plus mushroom identifying book) before eating. This kind of teamwork, cheesy as that may sound, sort of seems to fit our time here well. The 11 of us got on from the start better than I would've guessed possible; everyone seeming not only capable but also willing to jump in on whatever needed to be done, be it building window boxes, digging holes, looking after the incubator...the list goes on and on. I'd like to think that we contributed as much as we gained, but I left feeling so much more motivated and inspired than when we arrived that it's a little hard to imagine. We have Mike, Nic, Rosie, Tom, Clare, James, Trevor, Maggie and Matt to thank for this.

On the more straightforward logistical side, Nový Mlýn is a pretty inspiring place. It is wood heated by a furnace that can take regular wood or the compressed pellets (for a more regulated heat, generally used in the winter). This process is human dependent, of course - the gathering of wood, starting of fire and maintenance of the furnace takes places when hot water is needed. The ash is then used to layer over the dry toilet which is collected in compostable bags and buried, fertilizing more of the land. As I mentioned, we took loads of produce from the garden for all of our meals, had wild mushrooms and greens, and a small (but growing!) supply of eggs from the hens. I'm not educated enough to describe the perfect system for this sort of thing, but it certainly seems that this is headed in the right direction.

Not to be too serious about it all, though: in between the daily work tasks there were some haircuts, some crafternoons (see our Learning Things post below), some high jumps into deep swimming holes, a night out in Tabor featuring a jazz musician who went to Berklee and honey mead at a medieval times pub, and a constant war effort against the strike-first wasp colony. I even got to indulge in a bit of guitar playing and (gasp!) design work, helping to put together labels for the upcoming line of Nový Mlýn Pickled Beetroot And Fennel, and other tasty things - something of a creative treat after being away for four months. We left on Monday the 29th after two incredibly short weeks, shouting a long goodbye as we began our 4km walk back to Černovice the same way we'd come in.

Location:Prague, Czech Republic