Saturday, 30 April 2016

Busy Retirement

I haven't caught up with my blog in a long time because I seem to have been so busy.  We have had some glorious weather so needless to say I have been getting the garden in order. (see the video at the end of this post).

Sad news from the hen house, one of the ex-battery chickens has dropped off her perch.  We didn't know how old she was but she actually looked healthier than the other one.  She sat on her own for a couple of days and wouldn't eat so I decided to put her in quarantine which seems to have paid off because the others all seem OK.  Our neighbour came to see us with two small packages which she had written on and we subsequently translated, the contents of which were some sort of powder which we had to add to water and we had to make sure the remaining chickens drank both lots.  Anyway it all seems OK and we still get about 3 eggs a day which is enough for us.

We have been doing a bit of socialising, we had afternoon tea (and Rakia) with our two friends, Stewart and Barbara.  Barbara had made some lovely scones and the sun made it a lovely afternoon.
And one evening we were invited around to Warren and Sylvi's house for drinks and nibbles along with a few more ex-pats and a jolly good time had by all.

Karen having a giggle and Sylvi looks quite perplexed

Chris tucking into the nibbles

We have finally had the gate erected (see last blog for the start of the project).  The big test came when we tried to get Kevin the Kontiki into the garden.  We had asked Radko (our neighbour who manages a building company) to put down some stones so that if we didn't want to bring the car in at any particular time, we could park it on hard ground.  Unfortunately, trying to get the camper over this ground without 4 wheel drive was difficult because it just dug itself in.

Radko arrived home from work as we were trying to get out of the stones and he offered to drive the camper whilst Graham towed it through with the Range Rover.

Graham just explaining the controls on a UK vehicle
As the Range Rover burnt rubber trying to move the camper, I noticed that the back wheels were not turning on the camper and Graham thought perhaps the brakes had seized.  On further inspection it seems that Radko hadn't removed the hand brake................ well we did laugh.

 Very happy with our beautiful gates and now Bracken has the full run of the garden again.

We have been having some trees cut down.  This particular one was a rather large walnut tree that was actually growing into the back of the wood fired oven (just behind GJ on the picture below).

Chris, Ivan and GJ

I go them to fell a few more.

Chris and Ivan also arranged for us to have a delivery of wood.  This meant us agreeing with our other neighbour to clear the area behind the barn so that the wood truck could get in.  They were very obliging and even said we should go over for a meal with them sometime.  No dates and times mentioned.
Waiting outside the barn for the wagon (nice picture of the fence)

The wagon was able to back into the barn thankfully because otherwise we would have had to carry it all in.

Looks like a lot of work to do before winter...

Other news, we have ordered our kitchen from a supplier in VT.  They came and measured up and after a decision was made on what I wanted where and what colour and design I wanted, they are now building it and it should be in within the next four weeks.  We have a little time to bring in water to the room and a drain, (Radko again) and GJ has to do his thing with all the electrics.  We are due to have a few days of rain next week so we will make the most of that and do some decorating in the room and the sitting area adjacent to the kitchen area.  The company that is supplying the kitchen do not supply solid wood worktops so we have had to source them from somewhere else.  The easiest place was Ikea.  We checked on their website and after a conversation with somebody who spoke English, the worktops were delivered a few days later.

We have also purchased some nice garden furniture and a plunge pool.  This is apparently a necessity for summer.  When pottering around the garden in these and higher temperatures, you definitely need somewhere to chill so we have decided to place it beside the straw bale house and close to the well for access to the water.  Both Bracken and GJ are missing being by water.

Some more random pictures:

 The lilac bushes that follow the path down to the new gates
 The rapeseed is maturing well.  It appears to be grown in abundance here but would you believe it, we cannot get rapeseed oil.  It all seems to go abroad.

 My first harvest......

The tulips and daffodils were taken over by white iris

 The blossom on this tree is actually staggering in 'real life'.  Not good with trees so I will have to wait and see how it develops 
Even though the above photos have been taken over the last month, the change in the poly tunnel garden is amazing.  I have included a short video which will help me to remember what was where this year so I can rotate my crops next year.  Today being the last day of April (Happy birthday Anna), I thought it significant to show me how things should be developing by now, for next year.
Til the next time................
H, GJ and Bracken x

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Spring is definately here

I am finding it increasingly difficult to find time for my blog as there seems to be so much to do.  Because we were not used to this glorious weather in the UK, we still think that when it is sunny, we must be out in it and doing something in the garden.  In actual fact the summers in Bulgaria are long and so in time, I will learn that you don't have to grab every minute of sunshine but chill in the middle of the day when the sun is at it's hottest.  Because our lounge come kitchen (as it is at the moment) was originally the cellar, it stays very cool during the hot days so I will attempt to set aside time during the hottest part of the day to catch up with things like my blog and cook our evening meal etc.  Its teaching an old dog new tricks!

The chickens have settled in well.  The head of the bunch is a young cockerel called Dandy.  I haven't named any of them but they were Sara's chickens and she had, so his name I remember.
The plastic cup was designed to attract his attention!

The next in the pecking order would appear to be Cagney who Sara talked about in her early blogs. see   She is a very broody bird so if I ever wanted more, I'm sure she would oblige.

Then comes my favourite because she has beautiful markings and appears to be a good layer - No 3

Then lower down in the pecking order are the two ex-battery hens that clearly love their free range life

And finally, the little runt who gets all the other birds (except Dandy) pecking at her, poor thing

On my first full week of having them, they gave me 17 eggs, so not bad!

Our first three eggs.

Most Friday nights, quite a few of the ex-pats in the village meet up for a chin wag in the local bar.  Now compare a bar here with a pub in the UK - well there is no ambient lighting and no typical pub memorabilia.  There is an outside area with an old coca cola sun umbrella attached to a little table and a bench style table that is frequented by the locals especially during the day.  Inside, the bar is down at the far end but if you can see what you want in the fridges, you just help yourself and grab a glass if you want one and pay the lady, who does everything, when you see her.  The toilet facilities are a little whiffy but seem clean enough but my trick is to make sure I have been before I leave home.  There is always a meal on offer cooked by Ivan - a huge man who when he speaks, the earth moves.  He features in my Christmas blog wearing knickers but that's another story.  He was a chef in the Bulgarian army apparently and seems to cook OK but a bit "stick to the ribs" fayre.  Most things include potato even Moussaka but the meat they use here is highly salted and a bit chewy by UK standards so mostly we eat before we go out.  The long term ex-pats have shown him how to double fry chips though and to be fair they are very good.

One Friday at the end of February, there was a box of letters on one of the tables and it seems the Postmistress decided that because most of us went to the bar on Fridays, we could pick up our rates bills!  No where else in the world.  We found one for GJ but, as we are all assessed separately, we couldn't find mine.  So the box went all the way down the tables with my glasses, and after a while everyone decided that mine was not there.  One of our friends, Sue took us along to the Mayor's office to pay our bills and sure enough there was one for me.  It cost us pennies compared to the UK but the biggest cost is for your vehicles and because ours are not registered yet, the bill was low.  Our next step is to sort the vehicles out.

Before we can sort out the car registrations, we need to obtain our citizenship. For this we needed to open Bulgarian bank accounts.  GJ picked the bank that aspired to have the best reputation for Internet banking so off we trotted with our passports and house documents (presumably to prove we live here) and thankfully there was one chap who spoke English that sorted us out.  We were asked to come back in a fortnight to collect our Debit Cards but when we did, they had moved - nice of them to tell us!  Eventually we found their new swanky open plan offices - seems to be a lot of trust here or no bank crimes because they actually dealt with all the cash on the table in front of you without screens - one woman was just counting wad after wad!

That done and our next step is to hire a translator who will take us through the proceedure of becoming a Bulgarian citizen and from then on we can register the vehicles.  We have heard horror stories about this and we have been warned that there will be a lot of head scratching over the camper van.  When you consider many Bulgarian homes don't even have an inside toilet, how will they be able to assess a vehicle that has it's own bathroom?  Watch this space.

We had a bit of dull weather a few weeks ago so we cracked on with our bedroom.  Its vertually finished and we have moved in.  It feels very Scandinavian although there is only one picture from Ikea. 
Lots of wood
The Ikea picture

View of part of the garden from one window

We went to our first car boot sale a couple of weeks ago on the outskirts of our local town Veliko Tarnovo (VT for short).  It was such a shame that the days leading up to Sunday were great but on the day it rained so there wern't too many sellers by the time we arrived.

Dave uncovers his stall so I could take a picture.

Sara and Dave were regular stall holders at the car boot sales, Sara would sell Jams, Chutneys, Cakes, homemade cards etc and Dave would exhibit his paintings.  To keep up with tradition, Dave made quite a lot more cards (I had one for my brother) and he has been making Raspberry & Apple jam with some raspberries that he found in the freezer and Brown Sauce which was Sara's intention - pretty good it is too.  He also made tea light holders with spare jars and acrylic paints.  I had two of those for our outside kitchen.  Apart from my purchases he said he had had a good day as you can see from the near empty table.  We also bought a nice honeysuckle plant for Sue so that she could fill the hole we left when we had some strawberry plants from her.  Everyone helps each other out here, almost like it used to be in the UK.  The next car boot sale is this Sunday in our village and is apparently very well attended.
One of our neighbours with their book stall

Work has started on our gates.  Technically this is our back entrance.  Our front entrance is supposed to be through our barn but we have another neighbour who has his poly tunnels either side of our  shared drive and now thinks he owns the strip of road and the turning circle in front of the barn gates as well. He parks an old van out there and there are some rolls of chain link, a big water butt and goodness know what else. 

Our shared drive apparently, with our barn at the end!

 We have explained that we will need to get some wood delivered soon and he has said he will let us through (good of him) so we decided that we don't need that entrance other than for the wood delivery so we would get our lovely neighbour Radko and his building firm to extend our gates so that we can drive the vehicles into the property.

 This is how the back entrance looked...

This is how we want it to look.....

This is the working in progress......
Ready for the concrete edges

Bringing the "big guns" out
Mind the camper?
As you can see, Radko was having work done on his entrance at the same time - most economical.

And I will show you the results next time.

The garden is going mad now, the blossom has given way to unfurling leaves, daffodils have made way for tulips and the sowings I have made are galloping along.

See the rapeseed in the distance, almost ready for harvest.

I have planted onions from sets purchased down at Trambesh market, Early Potatoes from David and Graham our local nurserymen, and from seed directly sown - Radishes (various) Beetroot (various) Asparagus (friend gave me some seed) Cabbages, Broccoli (various), Sprouts, Carrots, Swiss Chard, Spinach and Kale.  From seedlings, Tomatoes (various) first sowing and Peppers - first sowing,  Plenty more to go in yet!

On a final note, Tuesday was the 40th day after Sara passed away and in Bulgaria this is a significant time celebrated with an event to mark her passing on to the heavens.  There was a ceremony at the grave side with the priest and 40 or so friends assembled.  Dave recited one of his lovely poems and we all lit candles while their neighbour placed offerings of food and wine and then planted some flowering plants on the grave.  When the ceremony had finished, we all went to one of the village bars where Dave had organised for us all to have a meal and we were sent home with a bag full of foody goodies as is tradition.  We, as family, traditionally put a poster on our gate (when we get one) for 6 months, to celebrate her life.  Like me, Sara didn't like having her photo taken  - the camera always lies, but Dave managed to find this one from their wedding. Here is the poster

Anyway I must stop rambling and get out into the sunshine (oops! sorry for those of you in Blighty!)

Speak soon
H, GJ and Bracken (he was 9 years old yesterday!)