Saturday, 10 October 2009

Are we farmers or not?

Part of our dream when coming to Bulgaria was to raise animals as food. Now I know some people don't want to know where the meat on their sunday lunch comes from but we did and still do.

Raising livestock for meat isn't for most ex-pats we used to buy our meat all nicely presented and usually wrapped in clingfilm with cooking instructions.

But how has the animal been raised? Did it have a good life? Was it's ending sympathetic or stressful? Just some of the questions we'd had.

We'd kept horses back in the UK and a goat plus the usual dogs and cats etc but that doesn't even come close to preparing you to raise animals that you'll eat. Plus there's the fact that I class myself as an animal lover and just a trip to the local market means I usually get suckered into buying something sorry looking!

It was decided we'd start with chickens, not just for eating but for eggs too. So off I went to the local animal market with a friend in tow to help translate. Returning home a couple of hours later I'd bought a foal! Ooops

Back to the market the following week and this time I did buy 10 young chickens - Yay! Oh and a horse....LOL

Another horse was bought the week I went to help some ex-pat friends find a donkey! So now I try and stay away from  markets if I can, otherwise we'll run out of space!

So we have a few small, scraggly chickens......a neighbour calls round to ask if we want to buy some birds, at this point I'm unsure if they're turkey's or geese - damn must improve my Bulgarian! David is off to the UK for a few days and while he's away I manage to buy 10 birds hoping they're turkeys. Luckily for me they are.

Next comes a pig, brought home from a friend of a friends house in the boot of our car. Lovely little thing he was too. We decide that's enough to start with, the kids are impressed and we're feeling good about things. We've talked to the kids about eating meat and that we're going to raise these animals as food (apart from the horses and donkey), they're ok with it and old enough to understand what's being said fortunately.

Being greener isn't always easy!

Back in the UK we'd had an allotment, grew some veggies and to be honest it was very worthwhile. So hey why can't we do that in Bulgaria?

Well we do, but with varying success. Fruit trees are in abundance here. We have plums, cherries, pears, apples, peaches, quinces, grapevines, walnuts, mulberries, elderberries, blackberries and probably more fruit than we can ever eat. Oh and there's a Medlar tree too, first time we've ever seen one of those.

Armed with packets of seeds bought in the sales in the UK I decided I'd make a start on a vegetable garden....the land hadn't been worked for around 5 years so it wasn't an easy task. Luckily we have a donkey who'll happily clear some of the weeds while fertilizing at the same time.

Needless to say it took me quite a while to make any good progress and it's still a battle during planting and growing seasons to get everything ready and then keep it growing.

What I didn't think about properly was how different the climate is here - planting instructions on English seed packets are no good and Bulgarian seeds packets can be a little vague. Mainly I think the knowledge of what to plant and when has been handed down rough Bulgarian generations, although they do use the seasons as a guide.

So the first year we grew peas, tomatoes, mange tout, cucumbers, onions, peppers, chillies, squash, cauliflowers, broccoli and cabbages. And on the most part were successful.

And then came more animals........which is another post of it's own!

Life here versus UK

Things are rather different here in Bulgaria, not that I'm surprised by that fact. We didn't move here to have the same lifestyle that we had in the UK. I'm not putting the UK down though, it does have a lot of plus points, but in our case Bulgaria has more to far!

We ended up buying a house that hadn't been lived in for quite a few years. With the house also came 2,400SQM's of garden. But being as part of our dream was to buy a property with land we ended up buying the 9 plots adjacent to us too! The whole place came as a job lot and when totalled up we have close to 20,000SQM's, 1 house, 1 bungalow and a variety of half demolished properties and barns.

Both the main house and the bungalow needed a fair bit of work and we've already made good progress with both of these. Most of the land has to date been left unworked, in hindsight we did take on rather more than we could handle but as time goes on we will do something with more of the land. The main house garden we have used for the last 2 years to grow vegetables, the rest we've allowed the animals to graze.

It's worth mentioning that the whole buying process in Bulgaria isn't easy. Firstly there's the language difference, secondly the Bulgarians are sticklers for paperwork and everything needs to be signed, notarised, translated etc. Finding a good estate agent can also be hard, there are no laws to govern who can be an estate agent and properties can be sold by multiple agencies at the same time.

I'd suggest that anyone thinking of buying property in Bulgaria takes the time to do some homework and have a look at the forums for expats which give a lot of helpful advice. and both have a lot of useful posts.

Friday, 9 October 2009

How did we get here?

The decision to move wasn't a hard one - finding what we wanted was the hard part..

We knew we had to move out of our rented UK house as it belonged to my father, when he died his properties needed to be sold off to pay debts. Now don't get me wrong we could've stayed there and bought my sister out, but with the current economic status in the UK we'd have still been working for low wages and struggling with the bills. So a complete change was needed.

After deliberating for a while we decided to look into properties abroad, France was our first choice and after searching the net we realised that the property prices there were over our small budget. next on the list was Bulgaria hmmmm..... well not knowing much about the place we again trawled the net for any info we could find. And there's plenty to be found if you look in the right places.

So armed with loads of print outs, information and some property details we took the plunge and booked flights to Bulgaria.

More about me

What can I say?

I'm Suzy - a 35 year old mum of 2 and housewife. Nothing wrong with that, but a couple of years ago I did think life was starting to pass me by. Back then I was working part time, making enough to get by, living in rented accommodation with my partner, the kids and some household pets. 

How things change! Right now we're living mortgage and rent free in a wonderful property we bought in Bulgaria with some money left to me by my father. I won't lie and say it's been easy but as you'll find out if you continue reading it's definitely different.

Bulgaria wasn't just an opportunity for us to own a house or live abroad, it was the start of something totally new. A true learning curve and we're still learning new things every day after being here for almost 2 years.

If you've ever had dreams of becoming more self sufficient and giving up the rat race please read on and enjoy.

Starting afresh

Well the last couple of years have been somewhat hectic so now that things are a little calmer I've decided to write this blog.

Some of the things that have gotten us to this point may seem a little far fetched, some just plain old comical and others have a tinge of sadness.

At some point I'll start going back in time and telling you about the last 2 years, the ups and downs and hazards along the way.