Spring 2010—Growing our own Full Monte
Spring 2010—Growing our own Full Monte—‘Naturally’ Magazine—Internaturally
Growing our own Full Monte
We are Steve & Denise (late 40s & 30s respectively), an English couple who, inspired by our experience at Quinta Da Horta in Portugal in the summer of 2005, dared to follow a dream & begin a new life in a country we’d never even heard of!
Our decision to change our lifestyle was driven by the value we place on happiness. We traded property ownership, working long hours for someone else and regular incomes and opted for a little cash and time & space to be together. This gave us freedom to make different choices. We are practical people – we have limited talents and funds – so we had to choose to do something that played to our strengths and gave us enough money to live on. Our combined talents (cooking, gardening, home maintenance and entertaining) led us to aim for opening a resort of our own. Having enjoyed naturist holidays for over a decade, we knew we also wanted to provide a space where folk could get their kit off in the sun if they felt like it.
The fantasy of running a small naturist resort was a compelling one – the key question was where? We had a comfortable life in the UK but finances were not bottomless. It had to be cheap. Enter a friend of a friend, living in the Balkans for years who charmed us with tales of Montenegro (“Where?!”) and the old stone ruin he’d bought there, with stunning views – all for the price of a used car!
A visit to Montenegro (south of Croatia, on the Adriatic coast) confirmed it had all the key ingredients: a long tradition of naturism, a paradise of flora and fauna and all in a Mediterranean climate. We returned to the UK to crunch some numbers and decided to sell up and move out in pursuit of our ideal lifestyle. By May 2006 our house and most of its contents were sold. Remaining essentials were packed into a Ford Transit van. We were homeless and on the road to Montenegro.
Within a couple of weeks we had found a spacious apartment to rent, made a whole bunch of friends & figured out the essentials (how to ask for a beer in local language!). Finding the right piece of land to build our dream was more difficult. Deals fell through, promises were broken, “dead certainties” failed to materialize and all the time prices kept rising… But by then our love affair with Montenegro was fully developed, and we couldn’t think of anywhere we’d rather be.
After 12 months, we finally bought a beautiful chunk of land that ticked all boxes. It had road access; clean papers; and a private and secluded location. It was remote enough to be peaceful and “away from it all” whilst still only a short drive from the nearest naturist beach and major town. It wasn’t enough land for us to build a resort big enough to sustain us, but it was a start and after over a year of searching for the right piece of land we were just keen to do something! We set about clearing the land and uncovering its beauty. We built a rough track off the main road as an access route onto the plot for our trusty Transit and that’s when the trouble began. Turns out another member of the family owned small strips of land bordering ours and technically we had built across their plot.
What started as a disaster with lots of angry shouting, in fact had a very happy ending. We set up a meeting between our solicitor and the land owner to agree on access rights and smooth everything over and in the middle of the conversation our lawyer turned to us and said “You’re not going to believe this. He wants to sell you the disputed land, but only if you buy the other 4,000 square meters too!” It was surreal – this was exactly what we wanted, double the amount of land and all the ownership-access issues cleared up! We were now the proud owners of eight hectares of gorgeous land that included oak woodland, terraced meadows, a natural spring and stream.
Our original dream was for a naturist resort with wooden cabins & a pool. We were getting concerned about spiraling costs when the next disaster struck. The architect working on our latest design saw an early draft of the proposed Adriatic Highway, which showed a motorway and junctions going right through our land! We were devastated. All the checks on the land had been carried out at the point of purchase but this was a totally new twist we could not have anticipated.
With heavy hearts we consulted with lawyers & business people who reassured us that the road may happen but not any time soon & anyway the compulsory purchase deals were generous. Experience had taught us that things move very slowly here but even so, it was too great a risk to hope we could recoup all our investment & more. Time for a major re-think.
“Camp Full Monte” was born. If someday our hard work would be trashed by a road then let’s keep it cheap and simple… a clothing-optional campsite! What we love about camping is its simplicity. All the material trappings of “life” fall away as you erect your simple home, build a fire and then sit around it absorbed by the magic of the flames and the sights and sounds of nature. And this would be no ordinary campsite.
The site was not connected to mains power, water or sewerage so we started thinking “off-grid.” By now we got really hooked on the environmental benefits of doing things differently. We researched green technologies, picked many brains, visited green projects & generally went “eco-loco!” We designed the facilities ourselves because there was no local expertise for overcoming our particular challenges. A great builder, recommended by a friend, agreed to take on the job, and in January 2009 the construction finally began.
The first priority was a water tank on the highest point of the land to store the 45,000 liters of water needed to get us through a season. The builders then began work on the structure that would contain toilets, urinals, showers, basins and a communal kitchen area. We had made the big decision to install composting toilets to save water and the foundations of the building had to be built around the 3 large composting chambers that would sit under our loos. Within a week or so of construction, the rain started and did not stop. The land excavation was already problematic: ours is not an easy site for earthmovers to access; the land is mainly clay and hard to shift, and there were some huge rocks to contend with too. But as the water poured off the road onto the land and the clay held the water and the natural springs around the land filled up and flooded, the foundations collapsed and there was a devastating mess.
Mišo, our builder, was amazing. Completely unfazed by the collapse he simply started pumping the water out. He excavated the entire footprint of the building and built a complex framework of wooden shuttering to contain the foundation walls. There were a few other dramas like a wall in the wrong place, but overall things went smoothly and the rough construction phase was completed on time.
Meanwhile we focused on our garden and planting all the soon-to-be vegetables we had lovingly raised from seed. We put together a planting plan putting companion plants together and interspersing with herbs such as garlic, dill & rosemary to prevent disease. Our raised beds are a triumph, lovingly constructed from recycled railway sleepers and we couldn't wait until they were bursting with life. Our compost, home-grown from recycling fruit & vegetable peelings, is the only thing we put onto our soil – no pesticides or harmful nasties in our organic gardens! We watched with wonder as the tiny plants grew strong and flourished.
Unfortunately, during a short period of absence whilst on a trip to the UK, a greedy cow came to visit… The bed with all the tomatoes, cucumbers & chillies was totally trashed. All the plants were trampled and eaten to within an inch of their little lives. Even more disheartening were the brassicas… little stumps of green were all that remained of the plants we had so lovingly nurtured.
However, we had more urgent concerns. We (the 2 of us plus a dear friend) only had 6 weeks to complete the second fix electrics, the carpentry, the plumbing, the tiling & the painting before our first guests arrived! It was DIY madness – from installing a solar photo voltaic system to building a grey water recycling system from scratch – we did it all ourselves, racing to meet our deadline. There were dramas along the way – the UK shower fittings didn’t fit the Montenegro plumbing; the kitchen sink leaked, the solar battery boiled over – and it was like living in some bizarre reality TV show!
It was a joy watching nature repair itself and here’s what we ate straight from its earthy bed: sweet corn, lettuce, onions, radish, rocket, beetroot, beans, peas, marrow, garlic, dill, rosemary, coriander, parsley, chives & basil! But a couple of weeks before we were due to open, the greedy cow came back. It waited until we left one Saturday morning. The fence was in place and all the gates were locked so unless it had a key cut during the week we are not entirely sure how it got in! It’s possible it was a Ninja Cow and parachuted in! The neighbors had always said the cows come up stream, but with the size of the terraces and stream-side to climb we didn’t believe them. Maybe they were right after all…
The brassica, which had made a stunning recovery from the last ravaging, were gone, gone, gone. The tomatoes were properly totaled this time – trampled and most of the fruiting stems munched. We were beyond gutted. The bugger also got to the pear tree that was an anniversary present from our friends – it survived on, but all the pears were gone.
Nothing for it but to pick ourselves up and get on with the task of opening the campsite – however sad the loss, the show must go on! Those last 2 weeks were a blur of frantic activity. Four days before our guests were arriving; we really could not see how we were going to get everything done. The kitchen was simply a shell with no facilities or furniture; the compost toilets were still not operational, neither was the shower; we had not even pitched tents on the actual campsite or used the space at night to see what the hazards and issues were, where the solar lights should go etc. Still, we had come this far, we had to keep trying to move forward. It was time to start scrubbing and cleaning and making good what we had in the hope it would compensate for all the stuff not completed. Amazingly, somehow, we got everything done with literally minutes to go…Even more amazingly, despite all our concerns, our guests did not take one look at the place, turn tail and run.
Phew! We had done it. Our home grown, naturally wrapped campsite was at last more than just a dream and others were enjoying it too…