Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Weeds, Weeds and more Weeds

Hello again.  I cannot believe it is just over a month since I last posted to my blog.  Apologies but life is so busy and the weather is great (too nice to sit inside at the computer) so I have been postponing this but at the same time feeling a little guilty.

At the bottom of this blog I will post two more videos taken on 31st May to show the difference between the video last month and how the garden has grown since.  Its mad....

A lot has happened since I last wrote.  The gates are all finished and we have since had our neighbours' "team" working on the drainage for our new kitchen, from the corner where the sink and dishwasher will be...

to the nearest drain in the garden
All sorted now but we have had a set back with the installation of the kitchen.  As the company we are using for the kitchen do not supply solid wood worktops, and that is what I wanted, we had to source them elsewhere.  Ikea came up trumps but their website is rubbish.  Little did we know that the two different sizes of worktop that we needed, and had picked from the selection shown, were actually different colours and finishes. They were both the same name but the two shorter lengths were not actually shown on the website with the same reference number so we assumed the different reference number was the same top but different length.  They arrived promptly (on a Sunday) and we opened the largest one, liked what we saw and didn't think to open the other two.  Whoops.  Installation day and the fitters opened everything only to find the differences.  We spent the rest of the day trying to explain the error to Ikea who don't actually do on-line sales of kitchen tops any more (probably had too many mistakes like this), and finally we had an agreement that they would supply two new tops and take the old ones back.  Unfortunately we will have to pay another delivery charge but we did actually make the mistake so fair enough.  At the moment we are still waiting for the new delivery and the kitchen will not progress until the get here. Humph!
We had a damp corner in the soon to be kitchen and on investigation, it seems that some sort of critter has been storing walnuts between the hardboard and the mud bricks (no breeze blocks here).  Brings new meaning to the word WALNUT!

GJ had to put in a new control panel for electrics in the kitchen because there was only light and plugs.  Apparently its quite challenging this Bulgarian electric system but being the clever chap that he is, he made it look easy.  See the smug look:

From the old
 To the new 
To the smug
Painting was the next stage and I decided that all the walls would be a nice clinical white and colour brought in with the tiles.  The floor is already tiled as are most of the floors in the lower part of the house and the bathroom upstairs.  Doors and windows are my department.
While GJ keeps himself busy in the garden as well - sitting down on the job!
A few pictures of the unfinished kitchen....
 The wide space down the middle will be where we put the kitchen table
Sink area and larder storage on left
We were invited to a day time party for St George's day (they celebrate anything and everything here) at Ivan's house.  Those of you who have read the rest of my blog with have seen me mention him quite a bit.  He is such a big figure in the village and looks and sounds like somebody from times when the Russians ruled this part of the world.  He made a Lamb stew that had simmered in his outside oven for quite a few hours.  His neighbour for some reason got involved with the serving up, bless her but she wasn't invited to the party.  A good time was had by all but I still find it hard to drink alcohol at lunchtime and you don't want to offend!!  The stew was yummy.

Ivan and his neighbour 
He cannot speak a word of English but we are sure he understands more than he makes out!
Apart from our Friday night meet ups in the local bar, we have been along to "The Pub" which is a bar in Polski Senovets.  This is the village where my sister lived and "The Pub" is run by an English couple and they had a pub quiz that we were asked to attend.  They were serving food which was typically British and so we enjoyed that along with the fact that we were on the winning team and came away with a nice bottle of wine.  It would seem from my ramblings that most of our socialising is with Ex-pats but our every day life involves Bulgarian folk in one way or another and they are certainly very friendly.  We seem to be recognised by most of the village now as "those weird English folk who walk their dog every morning".  Some of the locals even know Bracken's name. 
We have discovered a few suppliers.  One called "Terry the Meat" who is butchering meat the way us Brits are used to it.  The problem we have with the meat here is that the cuts are not what we are used to, the meat is sometimes hard to fathom (Pork, Veal or Goat) and all the minced products like sausages and burgers are made with mince that is quite "gloopy" and preserved with salt.  So Terry is a welcome change and we have had lamb from him (very rare here), minced pork and beef and various joints.  We have also had bacon and sausages from an English supplier via a friend of ours which although not quite what we were used to in UK (we prefer thick cut bacon) are excellent substitutes when there is little choice.
Another supplier whom we have used (and this will only appeal to the Brits reading this) is a company called "Curry Mania".  This is run by a husband and wife team who seem to have the knack of producing excellent "take-away" curries.
 Although they do sell onion bhaji's, your hard pushed to beat mine!
Next course was from Curry Mania, Chicken Sashlik, Bombay Potato and Tarka Dhal with lemon rice.  Excellent.  Although I do a good curry too, you cannot beat a take-away when it is as authentic as this.

We have invested in a pool for the garden.  Its a fair size because Bracken loves the water and I didn't want him splashing about in a little one and ruining it.
We have however, had major set backs when trying to erect it.  we thought for this first year, we would just put it up on some wooden panels and maybe next year have a patio built.  Now trying to get 8 large panels to be even was proving nigh on impossible. Even though we had been given a supply of sand, every time we thought we were there, we'd put a little water in and hey presto! All down to one side again.  We have now bitten the bullet and asked our builder neighbour to put a patio down for us that of course must be level.  Due to thunderstorms and a bit of torrential rain, this has been a bit delayed but there is plenty of summer to come.  One thing I will say about the weather in Bulgaria, we seem to have a cracking hot day followed by a thunderstorm in the evening.  Fine by me because they don't last for long and the air seems to clear a bit ready for the next day of sunshine.
Is it me or can you see a face in this storm cloud?

If you saw my post on Face book, you will know that I had a tumble down our incredibly steep stairs - nothing to do with wine!  This meant a trip to accident and emergency Bulgarian Style.  I would have stuck it out but my ankle swelled up to nearly twice the size and I couldn't actually walk on it the following morning.  The hospital trip was an experience.  The emergency area was a bit basic and you are seen in the same room as everybody else without cubicles.  When they came to put a catheter into an old fella in the bed next to my wheel chair, no modesty was in evidence and I was close enough to him to look like I was visiting him.  Of course I looked away - he was an OLD fella but I felt all the pain he was going through.  Then I was wheeled up to x-ray which I must say was very modern.  After several pictures were taken, the nurses summoned me off the bed and asked me to take my top off.  Ay up I thought, what's to do here?  I obliged and was asked to lean against a plate with two circles on it where my best bits were to go.  So here I am thinking that I had some sort of mammogram but it was actually a routine check for Bronchitis.  I hadn't even been coughing.  Anyway alls clear and I was sent home with a CD of my x-rays.  All done in an hour or so - much more efficient than the UK NHS. 
While I was nursing the leg, I spent about a week sitting on my little "trug" weeding a long strip of land that runs along the back of the poly tunnel.  My intention was to plant lots of perennials along this strip to give a colourful background and to hide a dirty wall, so I went shopping!  There are a couple of English lads that have a nursery in our village, both of whom Sara and Dave were very friendly with, so I went to see them.  Went a bit mad spending more than GJ had in his pocket but when I got them home, the strip of land still looks a bit bare.
 See part of the dirty wall in the background.  I also bought some climbers (Honeysuckles) to ramble along the fence above the wall
I think there is a lot more to do here!
I have had a crash course on plastering!  GJ thought that because the repair was in the outside kitchen, it wouldn't matter if I messed it up.  I got the quantities for the mix of lime and cement from another builder friend of ours and I think I made a pretty good job of it.  Trouble is GJ now thinks that I can make good the surround for the new front door we have had put in.  When you buy a new door or window here, they come and take the old one out, fix the new one and then leave.  Its up to you to sort out the surround and dispose of the old door.
Before plastering and after decoration
Our Bulgarian neighbour, Elenor gave me two big bunches of herbs the other day.  Mint and Fennel, far too much for me to use in one go so I have finely chopped and added to an ice tray with a little water and now I can just get a cube out of the freezer when I need it.
When Elenor had seen my strawberries, she also gave me a bag full of hers but unfortunately we had just been to the market and obtained far too many strawberries because we couldn't ask for less than one kilo.  With this in mind, I decided to make some strawberry conserve and I gave one to Elenor and one to our other neighbour (Radko's wife) Pepa.
Following on from the trip to the market, we also came away with a kilo of red peppers.  I decided to char grill them and individually freeze them so that I can just take one out to add to a sauce.
 In the garden we are starting to reap the rewards of all my hard work (yes mine - not GJs department).  We have Mulberry trees all around the gardens which are so full of fruit that I had to pick, clean and freeze some of them for either jams or pies.  We also have three types of young cherry trees and I couldn't resist doing the same to them.  Unfortunately I have not come across the box which contains my cherry/olive stoning machine so I have had to freeze them with the pips intact.  Other harvesting includes Swiss chard (de-stalked, blanched and frozen in balls like spinach), Broad Beans, Peas, Sugar Snap Peas, Mange Tout, Runner Beans and Courgettes.  Small pickings to start with but I'm sure it will all go mad soon. 
 I have so many tomato plants at various stages of life so that I can spread the growing and fruiting season.  Trouble is that the young plants seem to be producing as much fruit as the older ones so when I get my kitchen up and running, I will be bottling, freezing, making chutneys etc.  It might sound sad but I used to dream about this when I sat at my desk and actually worked for a living!
We are getting to know all the local barks behind each of the doors on our morning walks with Bracken.  He doesn't seem to mind being constantly shouted at but I guess he cannot understand the language.  This little pooch must jump up onto some straw bales or something to hang out between the wall and the roof of his/her barn to bark at Bracken but the more we pass him/her, the less and less he/she seems to bark.

And this fella is nearly always at this spot just down the lane but usually he minds his manners!
Finally, the garden has flourished over the last month as I'm afraid have the weeds.  Its a constant battle but rewarding when you see a weed free bed even if it is only temporary. 
A few random Pictures:
My first picking

Rosemary, Sage and Lavender given to me by Silvi and Warren (more neighbours).  Drying in the outside kitchen
And when you've done all your jobs......Relax

I will try not to make the next one too long!
H, GJ and Bracken