Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Winter Essentials

Well winter finally landed here, although to be honest it's not that bad. The snow is making the garden look pretty and the woodburner is keeping us all snug inside. Bit of a change from last week when we were sitting outside in the sunshine in over 20 degrees C and now it's just about freezing.

The donkey is refusing to go outside now and some of the pigs are enjoying their last few weeks of life - not that they know they won't be here in the new year! So it's pork on the menu for christmas lunch and I'm really looking forward to it. The kids have been cajoled into decorating the xmas tree but as they're both now teenagers a small part of the magic seems to have disappeared.

As I'm typing this the village bells are ringing, such a shame as it means that one of the residents has passed away. It's a sound we'll more than likely hear quite often in the next couple of months as the harsh winters do tend to affect the elderly a lot more. Just last week a lovely man we know fell and broke his shoulder after slipping on ice, luckily he'll be fine but it is a worry.

So on to my winter essentials list, for anyone living or thinking about living in Bulgaria there are some handy items that can save a lot of hassle and help you survive the worst months.

Top of my list has to be a decent chain saw with a good chain. Unless you're planning on heating your village home by electric, which is expensive and we do have power cuts, you will have a woodburner. Of course woodburners are fantastic but unless you have a supply of dry, aged timber, cut to a reasonable size to fit in your fire then you may be in trouble. Having a chain saw is essential to keeping your winter wood supply going.

Next I'd have to say thermals - I live in mine almost and they do help. Although they are possibly not an essential they are definitely worth investing in, along with decent gloves and a warm hat. Try to wear layers rather than one or two thick items.

Snow chains and/or snow tyres are incredibly useful here. And best not left until the last minute as you may find yourself stuck!

Books, candles and a freezer full of food will also help if the weather gets so bad that you're snowed in for weeks. We've learnt from past winters to never underestimate how much snow can fall overnight or how long it can take to thaw enough so we can get the car out safely. Safely being the key word, if you don't NEED to make a journey why risk it? There's nothing worse than getting stuck or having to crawl home in dangerous driving conditions. Always carry a shovel in your car boot in case of emergencies and make sure you have a working mobile phone in case you need to call for help.

In the house there are things to do too - make sure your water pipes are lagged to prevent freezing. Switch off any outside taps and put those hose pipes away. Make sure your chimney has been cleaned, this will help your woodburner to work efficiently and also lessen the chances of a fire starting due to soot build up. Don't forget that animals will need access to water and shelter at all times too. Try to keep paths clear from ice and snow and don't forget to put antifreeze in your car!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Surprisingly Unexpected

Well what a difference in the weather this week! Yesterday it was 20 degrees C, the sun had his hat on and it felt like late spring. Sorry to everyone reading this who's got snow and freezing temperatures but it really was lovely. And today is fantastic too. So it's off with the thermals and outside I've been.

I've planted some garlic in one of the raised beds - it's a bit late in the year but we'll see what happens. Apparently garlic benefits from a cold snap and as long as I can keep the animals away from it, it stands a chance!

Speaking of animals if anyone is looking for a pig either as a pet of for eating we do have a couple still for sale. The piglets are now getting big and probably weigh in at around 35 kilo's each. Ideal for a small freezer or christmas lunch.

Christmas is just around the corner, although it doesn't feel like it here. I've not put any decorations up yet, the kids have asked for money instead of presents and I've yet to do a big food shop. Everything will be last minute as usual in this house. No christmas cards have been sent either as I don't trust the postal service after having so many returned months later. So there may be some e-cards sent to people and a christmas day blog post yet.

Well I'm off outside to do something - not quite sure what but there is still loads to do before the winter really does get here. Hope you're all having a good week.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Up in the Air

Life sometimes throws things at you that are not expected and that's what happened to us in the last 10 days. Routine gets turned upside down and there's absolutely nothing we can do about it apart from grit your teeth and go with the flow.

Unfortunately my father in law passed away quite suddenly last weekend which of course meant that hubby had to fly to the UK for the funeral. Now we don't usually plan to fly anywhere after December and through until March because you can just never judge the weather and we've always been caught out and had delays etc. The weather here is still warmer than normal and we've yet to have snow, although the poor UK has had awful weather lately and temperatures in County Durham, I believe, have been as low as -15 deg C, with lots of snow.

This time hubby had a 3 hour delay which wasn't too bad (I hope). But it could've been very different. He'd had an awful time trying to find a coach seat from town to Sofia (where the airport is) and ended up booking a seat at 4am which would get him to the airport about 3 hours earlier than he needed to be to check in for the flight. But due to a technical problem (possibly an alarm clock set wrong) we both slept in and he missed the coach. All panic then ensued as we ran around at 4.45am to try and get dressed without waking the kids, get in the car and drive to town to try and find another coach seat!

Luckily for us the ticket office was open when we got there at 5.45am and to be honest I really thought I was seeing things - There aren't many places that would have a ticket office open and staffed at that time on a saturday morning! So on the coach he got whilst I drove home in the rain. I miss hubby loads when he's away but know that he had to go this time. I'm already looking forward to him getting back next weekend. Life will just carry on as usual here with animal feeding, muck shovelling, horses and donkey in and out daily and the general household chores that need done.

All of the animals have extra bedding now as the temperatures continue to drop. I think nature is playing tricks on us at the moment because my spring bulbs are poking through the soil and the strawberry plants are flowering again. Hopefully the weather here will stay mild and we're not in for a huge shock in January and February, which are usually the worst months weatherwise. Still I know it will get colder and we will get snowed in at some point - it's just a matter of time. But when it happens we should be well stocked up and have thermals at the ready, fashion goes out of the window at temps lower than -8!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Catching Up

Over the last week or so we've been quite busy. Last weekend was daughters 15th birthday so we had friends over for a curry and a dozen or so teenagers here too. A nice mix of Bulgarian and English and I hope everyone had a great time. The weather, luckily for us was fantastic so we were able to sit outside until the sun went down. Hubby made a lovely curry for the adults and the kids managed to munch their way through pizza, pasta, crisps etc.

We're still setting and catching mice in the house and just now I can hear something scrabbling around in the roof too so that will have to be investigated at the weekend. There's not much more we can do apart from keep setting the traps and trying to see if there are any access points we can find to block up and stop the critters getting in. There seem to be a lot more rodents around this year despite the fact we now have 2 more cats. Although Fatty and Farty as they're affectionately named - Thomas and Purdy in reality, are not proving to be very good at catching or even hunting anything and prefer to spend their days sleeping or eating!

It's a hard life.........

The 2 boy dogs seem to be enjoying their new dog run and we've had no more escapes since I put extra bars on the barn window. But Fudge has decided that it's fun to bark and threaten the pigs through the window so I'm trying to nip that in the bud before it becomes a habit. Fudge is about to begin the process of injections and blood tests that should in around 6 months or so allow him to go and live in the UK with my sister in law. Fingers crossed that it all goes well and to plan.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Latest Pimp My Project post

Well it's that time again to try and raise awareness for someone working hard for a cause they believe in....and boy does this guy work hard.

This weeks Pimp My Project is Saving Rare Breeds a wonderful charity started and run by a twitter friend of mine. Based in Caithness, Scotland and working closely with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust to preserve endangered livestock and increase the numbers of those animals currently listed on the RBST watchlist of animals in danger.

Please take the time to have a look at their website Here to find out more about the work they do and details of their lovely sponsorship scheme, which would be a lovely christmas or birthday present for someone who loves animals. You can also help Saving Rare Breeds by registering with Every Click which is free to use or by joining their facebook page to try and help raise awareness.

I'm still asking for readers to get involved and let me know which charities they would like to see featured here and why, so don't forget to get in touch.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Snaps of Autumn

Yesterday I did manage to get out and about with the camera after the fog cleared, and took some pics of things I found interesting. I didn't go far, and 2 of the dogs came along with me for the walk. The sun was shining and all around me I could hear birds singing, everything was quite peaceful if you exclude the faint tractor noises and chainsaws whirring as the locals get ready for winter.

I love the clarity and detail of this bee on the chrysanthemum flower, I hope you like it too.

And this is my favourite walnut tree looking rather bare now.

Finally something a little different. I was sent this as an e-mail today by my friend Shirley, who often comments on my blog and is a fantastic lady. I'd like to share it as I thought it was very sweet and tugged slightly on the old heart strings. Thanks Shirley, your e-mails are always enterrtaining and brighten my day.

Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels.  I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her.  I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn't be afraid.

As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage.  I didn't want her to know that I hadn't been walked today.  Sometimes the shelter keepers get too busy and I didn't want her to think poorly of them.

As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn't feel sad about my past.  I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone's life.

She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me.  I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship.

A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well  Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms.  I would promise to keep her safe.  I would promise to always be by her side. I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes.  I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor.  So many more are out there who haven't walked the corridors.  So many more to be saved.  At least I could save one.

I rescued a human today.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Digging For Gold

I've hit the jackpot, struck it rich, found the treasure! Yay. Unfortunately it's not actual gold, but for me, better than gold. Three years of keeping animals and shovelling muck has finally paid off and I have a muck heap full of the most amazing, totally organic compost that you've ever seen. It's fantastic even if I do say so myself.

Yesterday I filled a wheelbarrow with this gardeners gold and today I plan to do something with it. I've started planting bulbs to flower in spring, but because I'm so forgetful I've planted them in pots so that I won't dig them back out by accident at a later date. Hopefully we'll see a riot of colours next year with hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, Iris and chionodoxa, plus the usual snowdrops and daffodils.

I'm also starting to plan what to grow vegetable wise next year, and so far I have a few things I'd like to concentrate on and grow more of. And again I'm asking you readers to help me. I'm very interested in growing lots of different varieties of chillies but the seed choices here are somewhat small. So if you see any seeds that you think I might like to try out I'd love it if you could post me a few (I'll give my address to anyone wishing to participate). Now I'm not asking you to run out and buy packets of seeds - If you have any chillies at home (shop bought or home grown) just deseed them, let the seeds dry out for a few days and pop them in the post with a note telling me which variety they are please. I'll plant them in my fab compost and post pictures if and when anything starts to grow, then rate them when we eat what they produce. What do you think? Sounds like a plan to me so lets get started.

This morning we woke up to thick fog, a real pea souper. You could barely see in front of you and as soon as I'd put the horses out I'd lost them in the fog. Luckily about an hour ago the sun started to break through and hey presto, the fog has gone. So I'm off out now with the camera to take some lovely autumnal photos which I hope to include in my next blog update.

One of "Those" Nights

Why is it that I tend to get a bit deep and meaningful at this time of night? Maybe it's because I have the peace and quiet and knowledge that everyone in the house is asleep and I won't be disturbed. I'm not sure but sometimes I just feel the need to try and make sense out of my jumbled thoughts and maybe now is the time to do it.

So....... in my head today I'm wondering if we all make too much of a fuss about the past? Surely what's past is past and we should be looking to the future and not wondering what could have been different? It's nice to remember good times and friends lost, but is it healthy to be asking yourself how life could have worked out if only you had done something a different way? Yes we all probably have regrets about various things and I'd like to think it's not good to dwell on them for too long. If you're happy with your life then enjoy it, on the other hand if you're unhappy then change it.

Fate surely needs a helping hand now and again. It takes courage to think outside of the box and take a leap into the unknown, but there must be times when it's worth the risk. How will you know until you try?

Well that's the latest rant over and I'd like to remind you all to get your thinking caps on and send me your suggestions for the next Pimp My Project! page. Oh and I took a small leap into the unknow on friday and actually went to the hairdressers for the first time in 3 years, and I quite liked it too! I even brought about 6 inches of hair back in a ponytail as a momento for hubby ;)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


Now that the mice have stopped running around the house so much we've got a plague of another sort, oh but quite a nice one. Ladybirds or ladybugs, whichever you call them and we have plenty. They'vre taking advantage of the autumn sunlight and basking on the house walls during the day, but a certain amount of them have found their way inside and are congregating in the bathroom of all places.

I don't think I've seen so many in one place at a time and there are lots of variations on the red coated, black spottted ladybugs that we all know. There were yellow with black spots, black with red spots and some just plain red with no spots at all. I wish there had so many around earlier in the year to eat the aphids that attack my garden during the warmer months. Maybe it's worth looking into the habits and habitats of ladybugs and seeing if I can encourage them to come to the garden earlier.

Now I'd be lying if I said I hadn't tried to take photos of the ladybugs, because I did, but the light, my camera skills and the fact that they were moving rather fast didn't produce anything good enough to be shown publicly. But hubby managed to take some rather nice pics of this spider I spotted next to our front door.

Apologies to anyone arachnaphobic (spelling???) but we thought it was pretty amazing and rather large too. That's a Bulgarian 1 stotinki coin next to it (slightly smaller than a british penny) for comparison.

And lastly for Jak and anyone else who was wondering what baba socks are, here is a pic of my prized posessions, loved for keeping me warm throughout the winter and also because they fit inside my wellington boots too! Hand knitted, usually by older Bulgarian ladies and sold at our local market. They come in a variety of colours and are worn by both men and women.

P.s if you'd like some I'm sure I could post them to you :)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Things that go Squeak in the Night!

It's that time of the year again when the rodents try and move indoors and the war starts as we try to keep them out of the house. Not that I have anything personally again the furry little critters but I just don't want them running around the house while I'm asleep.

A couple of weeks ago we'd started seeing signs of rodent activity inside so off I went and bought more traps, baited them and waited. Within 20 minutes I'd caught a mouse and was half hoping that we were of top of things, but over the last few days we've noticed rodent signs again and this time there wasn't just 1, but what seemed like a whole fleet of the buggers! So armed with a small amount of lard we set 3 traps last night in areas we'd seen droppings and within 3 hours we'd caught 5 mice and another overnight.

All seems quiet tonight although Molly the cocker spaniel is still on mouse watch. She's become obsessed with trying to catch them (but not suceeded as yet), Snotty the cat is not interested in the slightest and prefers to spend his days snoozing and waiting for a human to feed him! What a life eh?

This weekend I've managed to pull all of the pepper plants out, collected the last of the green tomatoes and make a start on preparing the raised beds for the winter. I'm hoping to turn one into a hotbed to try and extend the growing season, although I've not yet decided what I could grow. We'll see, I'm sure there is plenty of information available on the internet if I do some hunting around, maybe that will help me make my mind up. Hubby and I also sorted out the feed room today and moved all of the sacks of corn and barley further away from the house in an attempt to try and keep vermin away. This also meant moving little Butch, the Bulgarian bitsa back into his "winter" house where he'll be warmer when the temperatures drop.

Lately we've had some rather frosty mornings but today the sunshine was glorious and I had to remove my baba socks as I was getting a little warm while working. The washing dried well, spirits were lifted and we've had a quite nice, relaxing sunday with a lovely roast leg of our home reared pork for tea mmmmm. How has your weekend been?

Friday, 22 October 2010

Your Favourite Season

Ok then readers, what is your favourite season and why? I think mine is probably spring, even though it's usually quite muddy and wet here I love to see the signs that life and plants are starting to grow again. As with most years I start planning my spring planting over the winter months, this year I have some bulbs to plant as I'm feeling the need for some colour in my small flower patch earlier than usual. And true to form I'll more than likely forget what I've planted and where and get a lovely surprise when the bulbs start to make an appearance!

Tomorrow I'm going to read the posts I made last spring and try to learn a few things from any mistakes I made with the garden. I do find it a bit odd reading about my own life here and much prefer to read blogs by other people, but think it will give me a small reminder of what spring truly is here in Bulgaria again. Do you ever read your own blog or diary? And how does it make you feel?

I'm keeping this post short and sweet as I'm tired tonight and have to be up early for market day. I missed it last week so have some catching up to do with the ladies. Night all and I hope you have a great weekend whatever you do.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Bloggers Block

Do you ever get stuck for something to write about on your blog? Some days I just don't feel like writing, others I don't get the time and occasionally I feel like I must be droning on about all sorts of rubbish, and hope that my readers don't get bored.

I know it's impossible to be entertaining all of the time and to be honest we don't live an excitement filled life here, but that's through choice. But I do like my life here and wonder if we hadn't moved abroad what we'd be doing now if we had stayed in the UK. I very much doubt life would have changed much but who knows? I don't have a crystal ball.

Recently I've got back into reading and am currently working my way through a stack of books sister in law couldn't take back to the UK with her, some good, some not so good. Once the winter really sets in here I'll appreciate the not so good ones more and I hope there are enough books to see me through the quieter months. I'd love to have a go at reviewing new books so if any companies would like to send me some through the post I'll gladly do a write up once I've read them!

Animal feeding time is a little quieter now without Vasko barking at the window for his tea, and as the weather is cold and wet again I'm glad he's at rest and not suffering. His kennel has already been moved into and Baba the dog, has claimed it as hers! Makes a change from the cat sleeping in it lol.

Today is wet and windy although the weekend has been quite mild. The donkey has spent the last 3 hours shouting to be brought inside as she hates the rain, in fact she hates most of the seasons and can be very vocal when she wants to. She's a great alarm clock during the winter and shouts every hour from first light until you feed her. Not that we get to lie in that often anyway. This morning we were all up and out of bed at 5am due to my son deciding he wasn't going to school and he was set on having a huge argument about it and how unfair life is to him etc etc etc. Teenagers grrrr, sometimes they drive me mad! So it'll be an easy tea and early night for us all hopefully.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Goodbye Vasko

I'm a little emotional today and had a terrible nights sleep too. Vasko had been getting slightly worse day by day and struggling to get on his feet, mainly due to the colder weather, his age and the fact that most of his life has been lived without proper care. We can only assume that he's been neglected quite badly and his body has taken enough so this morning I took him to the vets in town to be put to sleep. Everything was done quietly and quickly, he was sedated first then the lethal injection given and I stayed with him until the end, stroking him and talking to him. Then he was brought home and buried in our garden.

To be honest I'm glad it's over and that he won't suffer any more but inside I'm totally gutted, distraught and prone to burst into tears at any moment, in fact I'm crying now typing this and the tears are more anger than anything else. I know we did the right thing but still can't accept the blase attitude to animals and suffering here. We were not to blame for this poor dogs bad life and hope that at least his last 4 months with us were full of kindness and compassion. He's been fed, cared for and loved even though he wasn't really a dog you could cuddle.

I'm not naive enough to think I can save all of these poor animals, but even a few moments of kindness can, I hope, make a difference to some. On a brighter note, our neighbour's goat, Marta, gave birth to triplets this week, but hubby has already said we can't have one lol......he knows me too well!

We are having a new phone line installed hopefully next week that should make it easier for friends and family to keep in touch with us. Our current service See my earlier rant Here is rubbish and the phone line rarely works so we're having a fixed line installed that isn't dependant on electric and shouldn't go off in a storm. Although it will only be for the telephone as there aren't any digital lines/cables this way yet and may not be for some time.

That's enough for today and I'll be back to blogging when I feel a little more positive. Luckily I don't usually stay down for long and something happens to put me back on the right track. So I'll end this post with a simple goodbye and god bless to my Vasko, who's no longer in any pain and can't be hurt anymore. RIP little lad.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Going with the Flow

Today has been relatively busy again and I've been into town to sort a few things out and buy pig feed. Charlotte and her bunch of hooligan piglets have also been busy and managed to break the partition wall separating them so once again all of the pigs are in together. It does seem though that Charlotte's milk production has dried up and to be honest she's not overly interested in her offspring now and is shouting for the boar. We'd already decided that she needs a break from motherhood so won't be taking her to the boar this time. She'll have at least a few months off to get back her figure!

The chickens are moulting right now so egg production is almost nothing and their run is looking a little messy to say the least. Hopefully we'll get in there and give it a right old clean up and sort out before the winter shows itself. This week the weather is much warmer again, the sun has been shining and autumn is going ahead as it should be. Last week we hit a low of 3 degrees C during the day but today has been somewhere close to 18-20 degrees C.

I've still not managed to get out and about with the camera (probably because I have no idea where it is) and would like to go off on a wander to see if I can find some sloes. Last year we made sloe gin for the first time and it was lovely. Despite not being a gin fan I really did enjoy it and would like to make some more for christmas time.

Hubby is due back in a couple of days and I'm really looking forward to seeing him again, it seems like weeks since he left although I know it hasn't really been that long.

Vasko dog has been given a small reprieve for the next few days and is moving about a bit more again since the weather has warmed up. But I know it's only temporary and no matter how much it upsets me he has to be put to sleep or he will suffer. People keep saying that I've done my best and at least he's had a good few months, which is true, but I also feel so annoyed that his previous owner let him get in such a state that it's come to this. Even after 4 months of regular food and attention, being cared for, treated, bathed and had some comfort it's not good enough. We'll never know exactly how old he is and I'd guess he's not far from 8-10, which by Bulgarian standards is ancient but by mine is still middle aged. Maybe one day things will change here regarding animal care and treatment. There are a few rescues trying to help and doing a great job but it's not enough and animals are still suffering from neglect and cruelty. Vasko is by some standards one of the lucky ones, but I think we are just lucky to have him here........even if it has been only for a short time.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Snails Pace

I'd planned to blog today about autumn and the changes it brings to a Bulgarian household. Some of the wonderful sights and usually quite mild weather. I may even have included a few photos of the garden and scenery, but no, I'm sorry I've changed my mind and am gonna have a rant instead!

Don't get me wrong, I've not had a bad day at all. In fact it's been an ok day. The rain stopped, all the animals enjoyed their time outside, the kids helped with feeding etc and I even had an online chat to hubby. But tonight the internet is driving me mad! Unfortunately living in a rural Bulgarian village has it's downsides at times. We're 22km's from the closest town and surrounded by fields and hills. It's quite olde worlde where we live which also means that unfortunately technolgy here just hasn't quite caught up with the rest of the modern world.

In all the cities and towns internet speed is very good, wi-fi is offered in a lot of places and life goes on at a rather hurried pace. Here things are slightly different. Our internet currently runs at less than dial-up speed and that's on a good day. We're limited on options as to how we connect to the internet and have to use a dongle which to be frank is absolutely pants! We curently use a M-tel homebox which is supposed to supply our internet and home phone service via wireless and works very much like a mobile phone. Of course that is when it wants to work - the internet is usually ok (apart from being slow) but does get affected by the weather, the phone part rarely works and people get tired of trying to ring us and to be honest I understand why. We also have pre-paid mobile phones with the same company and they work great if you want to stand in the middle of the field with one leg in the air, shouting like a lunatic because the person calling can't hear you and freezing your backside off in the colder months...........grrrrrrrrr. Maybe it's time for a change I can hear you all saying, but the truth is we haven't found anything else that works for the kind of money we have to spare (not a lot).

Well that's my rant over for today. Hopefully the god's of internet will allow me to post this quickly then I can drag myself off to bed with a book. Night night x

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Winds of Change

Whilst catching up on Twitter tonight I had a slight relevation...or maybe it's the sour cherry liqueur I'm drinking. A fellow twitterer (is that a real word?) has changed his username as he felt that he needed a change after posting under the same name since 2004. What it made me think about is if we ever realise how we're constantly changing and what we want from life is possibly changing too?

Back in 2004 I was quite unaware of how much my life would change. Going from day to day living in an ex-council house and working enough to pay the bills and not much more. I had animals then too, they've always been a large part of my life as far back as I can remember. Our first family pet when I was small was a goldfish called Chips, who ate any other fish we tried to put in the tank with him and lived until a ripe old age (well for a fish he did). When I left home the first dog came along (and stayed with me until she was 19 years old), then cats, followed by horses, goats and anything else I could fit on a rented 5 acre allotment plot.

My kids went to school locally and were doing ok, life was passing me by at an alarming rate and then I met hubby whilst I was working in a hotel. We were friends for quite a while and each went about our usual lives, until one day, when he felt sorry for me (it was my birthday) and invited me to an impromptu dinner party he was having at his house. And I can honestly say we've barely been apart since. It's strange how fate can suddenly take hold and alter your life forever.

Moving to Bulgaria was something that really came out of the blue too. Of course we'd talked about moving away but to start with it was little more than a drunken conversation after a night out, 6 months later we were on a plane and heading into unknown territory! Oh and it feels so long ago. We went from semi rural (supermarket 10 mins away, fields just outside) to the middle of nowhere really. And to be honest I much prefer the life we have here, maybe it is what we're meant to be doing with our lives? Who knows? As long as we do the best we can then we aren't letting anyone or ourselves down. I read somewhere once a quote that said "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO- HOO what a ride!".

How has your life changed over the last 10 years? and maybe more improtantly how much will it change in the next 10 years?

Monday, 4 October 2010

Are We Nearly There Yet?

I've not heard from hubby today so will presume the drive back is going ok. It's not easy to cover 2500 miles in a couple of days with a car full of stuff and an 8 year old but unfortunately that was the way it had to be done this time. Here at home we've managed to move everything that needed moved and now just have a big tidy up to do. I've no idea where to put half of the stuff we're storing but will work it out at some point. At least now I have an excuse for having an untidy house!

Weaning the piglets is going well and they've all settled into their new arrangements and seem quite happy, feeding times haven't changed so that makes them easier to handle in theory. Vasko is having a bad day today and has fallen over a couple of times, the colder weather seems to be affecting him quite a bit and I don't want to leave him to the point when he'll suffer so I have decided that he will be put to sleep in the next 2 weeks which makes me sad and also angry, angry because his former owner let him get in such a state in the first place then wasn't bothered about having him back when he turned up here. We've heard that the first person to ever be prosecuted on animal cruelty charges went through the Bulgarian Justice system last month so hopefully that marks a step in the right direction.

We've now got both of sister in law's dogs here and her 2 cats also. The dogs have settled nicely and are asleep in their new kennel in the garage overnight. Hopefully one will be going off to a new home in about 2 weeks time and the other will also find a permanent home soon. I think the 2 cats may end up staying here though, the little female has started adjusting nicely and sneaked onto my bed last night, but the tom cat who only arrived today (he'd gone off outside when I went to collect him yesterday) is still hiding behind the sofa so needs a little more time. Another week or so and I expect they'll be used to everything and acting like they've always been here :)

I'm missing hubby but manging to keep myself busy and know he's gone for the right reasons, at least I know he'll be back too and then everything will seem better. For now though I'll have to make do and snuggle up to a hot water bottle in bed until he's home.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

To Blog or Not?

I must admit to being a bit haphazard lately and my blogging has taken the brunt of it. Hopefully I can get back to a regular routine and on a much more even keel soon. Some days I just can't find much to write about and I'm sure this happens to other bloggers too. Today is not one of those days!

Hubby and I have both been down to the weekly market/coffee in the village cafe this morning for a change. Usually he doesn't come along due to other committments so it was nice to see him chatting with one of our neighbours over a strong espresso even if they did sit at another table away from "The ladies".

As usual there were bargains to be had at the "Drip Shop" or nearly new clothes stall and today I bought us all something to wear. Hubby got a lined fleece jacket, daughter a pair of jeans, son a winter jacket and I bought myself a padded waistcoat. All for the pricely sum of 10 leva (£4.29ish) brilliant! They'll come in handy as the weather continues to get cooler and the nights are drawing in. And as Autumn is officially here we've started draining the pool today so it can be cleaned and stored for the winter.

My remaining crops are due to be harvested this month and the plants all pulled out so the garden will be looking bare again. I made a start at removing the dead flowering plants today and already the garden is looking very different. I need to decide whether it is worth trying to plant peas at this time of year and have bought a packet just in case, but may hang onto them until spring. There are the house plants to bring back inside and find space for, a lemon, olive and avocado tree (ok so they're only small trees) and lots of geraniums that I'm going to butcher for cuttings to plant next spring. I WILL have a beautiful garden next year!

Another job for today was to vaccinate and seperate the piglets from their mum. Poor Charlotte has lost a fair amount of weight now feeding 10 hungry babies and is starting to look a bit poor, plus she seems to be slightly under the weather (although that could be due to a food change as our usual pellets were out of stock) so we've moved her into the back of the barn and let the piglets in with their older female sibling. There has been a good amount of squealing but everything is quiet now and hopefully within a couple of days they will all settle down. Charlotte will be getting extra attention and rations to help her gain some weight.

The chicks we were given a few days ago are not doing well either, in fact they are dying and I've no idea why. They're warm, fed, have water and a clean box to stay in but one by one they are getting poorly and very quickly dying on us. Tonight we have only 4 left and it's quite upsetting. Vasko is also a little under the weather, as I've said before he's an old Bulgarian hunting dog and not in the best of health. He has more than likely been abused/mistreated and never fed correctly for his whole life and although he has made improvements since coming to live here we are worried how the winter and cold will affect him. He's already opting to spend longer in his kennel during the day than last month and is not eating as well as he has been. In fact he's barely even putting on any weight and I'm quite worried that a lifetime of neglect is finally catching up with him. Maybe it's kinder to have him put to sleep before the bad weather really appears and while he's relatively pain free. What do you think?

Arggghh so much to think about and what with hubby and sister in law heading off in the next few days I'll be stuck home on my own for a large part of the day with too much time to dwell on things.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Change is in The Air

Since the rather wet car boot sale on Sunday there have been some changes here, quite dramatic but necessary at this point in time. Hubby's dad (and my father in law) has had swelling on the brain following a stroke and had to undergo emergency surgery and is currently in Intensive Care. This has brought forward my sister in law's plans to return to the UK, which is completely understandable in the circumstances, but also means that from the weekend I not only lose her company, shopping partnership, wit and fabulous cooking but also that hubby will have to go with her as co-driver and to see their dad.

I'll really miss her and little madam, her daughter, and will also miss hubby for the time he's away but know I can cope and will be fine here with the children and animals. It's rather hectic this week trying to sort out various things, clear sister in law's house and close it down and also deal with everything else going on.

Yantra the new dog is a total escape artist and opens the front door when she feels like it - twice in the last week I've woken up to find her gone and the front door wide open! She comes back but I find it unnerving that she just disappears and worry each time she goes, especially as she's not spayed yet. Next step will be the vets although we have no idea how old she really is, just that she's young and has her adult teeth. Sister in law's 2 dogs will be coming to stay with us until she can get them back to the UK and her 2 cats will also be staying with us, so once again we're full to the rafters with animals!

The piglets and Charlotte their mum refuse to be separated, each time we try there's pandemonium so we've left them all together in the large barn until they're ready to wean themselves. We still have one older pig from the first litter left but she is earmarked for our freezer at some point over the next 3 months. Our friend and neighbour, Yordani, arrived with 11 chicks a few days ago and left them on our dining room table in a banana box! 11 has become 9 today as the 2 weakest died unfortunately but the remaining 9 are snug in a bigger, better box but still on the dining room table where the temperature is quite steady and warm enough for them. I'd imagine they'll be bantam or bantam X's but as our laying hens are getting on and egg production is dropping they will stick around to supply us with fresh eggs next year.

Well I best get off now and have a shower as I need to be up early for a meeting at the school around 7.30am! Hope things are ok with you and I'll be back in a few days to catch up again.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Worn Out

Well what a week we've had! Friends and family have been here for a holiday so it's been busy non stop and we've had some great laughs. There have been birthdays to celebrate, drinks to be drunk and some hilarious times to boot, it's been lovely seeing them again and I hope they all had a great week. Some people think we live in a town and can get quite a shock when they realise how rural it is here and how far it is from our old lives.

In other news, the kids are going to school again and never missed a day. I think it was more of a lack of language and communication on all parts but am glad it's now sorted out. The piglets are all ready to go to new homes and we have had some enquiries and reservations already. Charlotte is due a well earned rest from motherhood and time to pit some weight back on and chill out. Maggie the donkey is now back home after going for grass cutting duties to a friends house for a few weeks. All of the animals are starting to get their winter coats in as the nights draw closer and temperatures drop. Soon I'll have to bring the houseplants and cuttings indoors before we start to get overnight frosts.

Sister in law and I are off to a car boot sale again tomorrow, and hopefully coming back with an empty car as she tries to sell of the last things she needs to get rid off before returning to the UK. I'll be sad to see her go and will miss her loads.

Hubby has some work to do over the next few weeks and I need to sort out winter accomodation for all of the animals, get everything mucked out and fresh bedding sorted and make sure they'll be snug and dry for when the colder weather comes. This year all of the manure is going onto the top of the garden to try and help improve the soil. I'll spread it out and let the frost break it down ready for the growing season next spring. The pool needs emptied, cleaned and packed away this week as it's not warm enough now to use it. Another summer over and done with!

Right now it's raining and the ground desperately needs it, everything is parched and very dusty. Let's hope it's stopped before morning otherwise we'll be wearing wellies to the car boot sale lol

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Downright Fugly!

The last couple of days have gone past in a bit of a blur, time seems to have speeded up and as we have friends and family here on holiday for the week we don't seem to have had the chance to get on with "Normal" things inbetween. It's been one long round of cooking, catching up, running around picking up this and that and shopping to feed an extra 4 adults!

Things have at last quietened off a little tonight and I've had the chance to get onto the pc to check mails etc and have a little "Me" time. It's lovely having people come to stay but you tend to forget how hectic things become when they're here, what didn't help was me being ill for 2 days last week and not being able to get the bungalow all sorted before they actually arrived. But we're sorted now and everyone has a bed to sleep in. My usual pottering around in the kitchen has become a bit more permanent as I try to cook for 8 each day - big change from cooking for 2 last month and we seem to have amassed a few empty vodka bottles from the last couple of nights, although I've yet to get a hangover thankfully.

Back to normal business and what's been happening here lately......we decided to wean Charlotte from the piglets as they are old enough now to be separated and all of the babies are eating well and look incredibly healthy, Charlotte on the other hand is looking a bit too thin so feeding 10 babies has taken it's toll on her. All went well for the first hour, apart from Charlotte removing the door of the stye, and things were ok but noisy, after a while everything quietened down and we thought they'd all gone to sleep but after checking I found that Charlotte had jumped over the barn door and put herself back in with the babies so we need to have a re-think on what to do next.

Yantra the newest dog has settled in well and loves to be around people, so much so that if we try to leave her inside when we're busy in the garden or around the yard she has taught herself to open the front door and let all of the dogs out! Vasko seems a bit low but is eating well and I can't find anything wrong with him, maybe he's just confused as to why there are so many people here at the moment.

There has been a few changes again at the new school the kids are attending and today we were told that they will have to stay home and study to complete years 3 and 4 to catch up and then they will be welcomed back to school. The director seems a lovely man but speaks no English (although other staff do speak English) and tried to explain why this would be better for them but at the moment we're a little confused as to why things have changed since last week. The kids are ok about it and both knew they'd have to catch up so they will just have to get on and do it. I'm sure the school will continue to help and support them but I'll have to ask in the morning when I go in.

The weather has been nice again but was a little cooler today. Autumn is on it's way and soon we'll be having to light the woodburner at night times. Luckily we have a fair amount of firewood chopped and stored already with more to be done when there's time. Most of the timber we have is dry and well seasoned so should burn well. We're still using up old roof timbers too and although it seems a shame to burn old oak beams they really are past their best and most have woodworm. They are ideal for keeping us warm and toasty in the colder months though. I'll be harvesting the last of the garden produce soon and that means chutney time mmmmm. I am hoping to plant a few vegetables for overwintering too but we'll see how the weather goes before I make a firm decisison.

I'd love to find out from any readers what they've been up to, so please feel free to leave comments on this blog. I'll be back in a couple of days to update and maybe there will even be some new photos to post if I get the chance to go out with the camera.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Achieving Things

I must have mentioned somewhere on this blog about things taking forever to sort out here in Bulgaria, and it is true, although occasionally the opposite does happen. Today I've been into town with a friend to see if we could enrol her children and my 2 into the school there. Now my Bulgarian language skills may be fine for chatting to the neighbours and ordering some building supplies etc but I still have a long way to go before anyone could accuse me of being fluent! So to say I was not looking forward to this task was a bit of an understatement. But I need not have worried as everything seemed to fall into place, an English speaking teacher was there to help out when conversation got a bit stilted and all 5 of the children are going to school tomorrow - Yay :)

I'm happy, the kids are happy (the school is newly refurbished and has good facilities), my friend is happy and the director was lovely to us all. Result! Yesterday was also a good day and hubby, Yordani and I went out to meet some lovely people in an area we hadn't visited before. The drive there went well and the scenery was fantastic and reminded me why we chose to move to Bulgaria. We spent a lovely afternoon chatting about lots of things and then drove home to find the animals had all been fed and tucked away for the night, the house had been cleaned up and the kids hadn't broken much - only the sweeping brush lol.

There are an abundance of creepy crawlies around here right now, spiders, beetles of all shapes and sizes and hundreds of moths. Last week I saw the biggest caterpillar ever too, it was amazing. Our new hallway in the extension has a double height ceiling and it's covered in moths at this moment, quite an amazing sight but something that won't happen for much longer as I'll be ordering the glass for the window we've recycled and used in there. I've actually been to see the window guy today for something else but forgot to take the measurements with me - Doh.

Well I best keep this short and sweet as I need to be up and ready early tomorrow for the first day of school activities. I hope all the children have a good time and make new friends easily.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

What a Whopper!

Well a busy time it has been lately and progress on the extension is good. All in all life is great at the moment, the weather is nice and I feel like we're actually getting somewhere. The extension is looking great and we found time for other things like giving the 2 spaniels their last haircuts of the year and bathing poor Vasko. I must say that he didn't really enjoy the occasion but smells a lot better now. His coat feels much less greasy too but he will always look scruffy.

 Sunday was our first wedding anniversary and although we didn't do anything really special it was nice just spending some relaxed time together. I was positive that hubby would forget but he didn't and to my surprise even managed to present me with a gift..........not the usual kind though, and something I didn't need but still nice all the same. Another dog and she is called Yantra after the river near us where she was found and hubby was fishing at the night before our anniversary!

So here she is, a very sweet little girl probably about 6 months old and very bright. She's been staying in the house and never made any mess, has got used to the other animals quickly and become Molly's new best friend and playmate.

I must point out that he's not in the habit of bringing stray dogs home but since they were fishing quite a way from any villages decidede that he couldn't leave her there to fend for herself.

So now back to the original title of this blog entry - What a Whopper! we had English friends from a nearby village come to visit last week, it was great to catch up and have a chat over coffee. Each time they visit the lady brings me seedlings, seeds or cutting which I really appreciate, and this visit was no exception. Also in the boot of their car were a few butternut squashes which we love and 2 huge pumpkins! Out of curiosity I weighed the pumpkins yesterday and was amazed at how heavy they are - a repectable 24 and 25 kilo's! So any pumpkin recipes readers have I'd be glad if you could send them my way lol. Here's a pic of one of them on our bathroom scales

Well that's my lunch break over so I best get on with a few jobs I've got lined up for this afternoon.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Blown Away

The weather here has taken a huge turn for the worst, it's been really windy and much cooler than you'd expect for early September, in fact we're already back into long trousers and long sleeved tops! The wind is playing havoc with my garden and some of the plants have been totally uprooted, I've just had to fetch the lilo for the pool from across the garden too lol. The forecast says it will warm up again in a day or so and the temperature this morning is a cool 16 Degrees C, big change from last weeks 36 Degrees C.

The horses are enjoying the break from the heat and the wind seems to be keeping the flies off them too, they were both slightly over excited this morning when I put them out and jumping around like idiots. The piglets are coming on in leaps and bounds and thoroughly enjoying the larger space they have in the barn now. Last night I gave them a huge pumpkin which they devoured in about 15 minutes whilst mum ate her tea. We have to make up 2 feeds now as they push poor Charlotte out of the way, the plus side is that they are now much less dependant on mum and she can get a little rest while they play.

Other news this week is that hubby has been working away in our extension that he built last year and has now opened up the wall that was keeping us from getting into it. We left the wall in place until we had the time and money to do the internal works on the extension and now it's almost done. So we've gained a beautiful hallway with double ceiling height and an extra bedroom which we needed for my daughter. When the kids come home next week there'll be a lot of sorting out to do as they can finally move into their permanent bedrooms and we will move into the large room they've been sharing. Hubby has worked long and hard on this project and it's a lovely space, I'm so proud of him. In the future we'll add a staircase to the extended hall so access the huge loft space we now have after altering and renewing the roof last year. We're on the home straight as far as renovations go now and I'm looking forward to seeing the house completed. This was my view from the computer desk last week.

I'll post a pic of how it looks once we get some paint on the walls and tidied up etc. Typical that when I started trying to clean up the demolition dust the hoover decided to blow up, 2 minutes work, a puff of black smoke and now it's an ex-hoover! Oh well, at least I have a sweeping brush and plenty of cloths. The dust is everywhere and will take me a few days to clean up. Until we're ready to break through the bedroom wall into the planned ensuite bathroom we have no more major work or demolition to do and can concentrate on finishing off jobs slowly over the winter. Or that's the plan anyway!

What do you have planned for the colder months?

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Something a Bit Different

Today sister in law and I have been out of the village and done something totally different. For the first time in years we've been to a car boot sale and actually sold things instead of buying! Years ago I used to quite regularly attend car boot sales in the UK, but probably haven't been to one now for over 10 years and had forgotten how hectic they can be.

When we headed off this morning the weather was overcast and breezy and just a nice temperature. We found the venue which was a lovely camp site run by British expats. The website for the campsite can be found Here and the scenery there is fantastic. There were already quite a few cars lined up along the road and a few sellers set up. We parked and got out of the car and were suddenly surrounded by a large amount of people (mainly Bulgarians) trying to see what we had to sell. A manic 20 minutes follwed while we tried to get things out to sell and answer questions on prices etc in Bulgarian and English, there were a few hand gestures (nothing cheeky of course!) and we were struggling to get things out before people were wanting to buy!

Phew....this went on for at least an hour, the table we'd taken along got sold before we managed to actually get anything onto it and there was almost a rush when a microwave came out of the car! It was a lot to take in and a lot of people to try and keep track of, but eventually it did start to calm down and things were a little easier. It appears that the Bulgarians are actually quite good at haggling and looking for bargains but I must admit my language skills deserted me a couple of times lol.

Still it was lovely to do something different and to chat to a few people we recognised and some we didn't. Everyone was good natured and polite and the coffee Nev, our friend who had helped bring along some of the things to sell bought once the rush had died down was really appreciated. All in all a good half day out and something we'd do again, although next time maybe we'll try and get there earlier to get set up before the hoardes descend! There really is a good ex-pat community in the area, and we need to try and keep in touch with some of the lovely people we've met a bit more. It always good to know there are others with similar tastes or ideals living not too far away.

Hubby stayed home and set to work on reinforcing the barn door. Charlotte broke the bottom panel some time back but her and the piglets needed to be moved into the barn as they've outgrown the pig sty. So now we have all of the pigs sleeping in the barn which should make life a little easier and gives the 10 rowdy babies much more space to play, they seemed very content when I fed them all at tea time and were enjoying the bale of straw that was put in for them to sleep on. Tomorrow I'll clean the small sty out and hose the floor down ready for Charlotte to go back in there when weaning time arrives.

After the excitement of the day I've had a lovely quiet and very peaceful night, hubby is out fishing so I've caught up with a few things on the internet and chilled out. Back to work tomorrow as there are still a lot of jobs to do before winter arrives and the extension to finish hopefully before the children get back next week :)

Friday, 27 August 2010

Normality Resumes

I'm feeling much more settled and less emotional again, which is a relief. In fact I'm feeling rather positive and looking forward to seeing the kids when they come home in about 2 weeks time. Hubby has been working here this week mainly and it's great seeing the house change, jobs being done and some of the things we've been dreaming about starting to happen. Tomorrow we should finally be able to knock through the old house wall and have access to the extension that hubby built last year. It should make a huge difference to our lives and finally the kids won't have to share a bedroom! The house and ourselves have gone through so many changes in a relatively short time and I'm really glad we took the plunge and moved here.

Molly has been out in the yard today trying to play with the piglets, but she's not too sure about them and is a bit wary. The piglets on the other hand are not fazed at all and really enjoy the time they spend outside and rooting around in the barn. They've discovered the delights of apples, cucumber, pumpkin and tomatoes lately and are all eating well and gaining weight. At just over 3 weeks old they look really well and are very boisterous.

Vasko is once again having minor health problems, I discovered a burst abcess a couple of days ago and have been treating him with antibiotic spray and making sure it's kept clean. Today I gave him a brush and found he also has a skin complaint so I'll have to get some medicated shampoo and give him a wash while the weather is warm. He's very patient now and allows me to handle him, and even sometimes decides he wants attention. It's great to see his personality emerging and tea time is still his favourite part of the day.

Lastly, I can't believe I've managed to ramble and rant my way through 210 posts here! Thanks to all of you who continue to read the blog and share parts of our life story with us.

Monday, 23 August 2010

A Funny Old Day

Maybe it's just me not feeling quite right or possibly I'm slightly over-emotional today but it has felt quite strange, my usual routine got slightly altered and hubby worked at home which makes a change too. To be honest though I'm just feeling a bit blue, low and run down, missing the kids and thinking about loved ones lost or living in other countries.

My youngest sister would have been 29 today, but was taken away from us 10 years and 3 days ago by cancer. I still miss her dreadfully and always will. She was an absolute darling and I don't know of one single person that ever had anything bad to say about her. I also learned a couple of days ago that a relative who spent 27 years of his adult life caring for his mother, never married and has always been so unselfish has 3 months to live. Why do bad things happen to good people?

Is there a master plan for all of us that dictates when our lives will end? I'm not sure, but then again neither am I a believer in heaven and hell and being truthful I'm not so sure about religion at all. I was brought up in a catholic family, through catholic schools etc but still am not totally convinced what I was taught was right, but I can't say for definite that it's not wrong. I'm happy for others to have their beliefs and know some people who get a sense of calmness or something from what they believe - there's nothing wrong with that, if it helps them then why not? Life would certainly be dull if we were all the same and shared everything.

Writing things down in this blog has a calming effect on me, it helps me put life into perspective, and although sometimes I rant, moan or go off on a tangent it's kinda like a religion for me. Now that my I've said what I was feeling I can get on with more day to day things.

In the kitchen today I've made cucumber chutney, but held off from tasting it until it's had a few weeks to mature in the jars. And inspired by Sue from Our New Life In The Country I made the most amazing slow roasted aubergine, pepper, tomato, garlic, herby mustard sauce to go with the other things rapidly filling the winter stockpile. I even managed to sly some of our ever present cucumbers into the dish and you can't taste them at all. Thanks Sue, it really was a very nice and easy way to make a wonderful sauce.

Well my day is almost over and tomorrow I shall wake up feeling different again, in a good way. Negativity doesn't hang around for long when you have a good life.

Friday, 20 August 2010

You Can Take The Girl Out Of The Village.......

But not the village out of the girl! I've been into town shopping today and while it's lovely doing something different from the normal I do miss the peace and quiet of home. Some people live their lives entirely in a town and thrive on it but to be honest I don't miss the hustle and bustle. Yes, it's easier to find things you need, public transport is abundant and there's plenty to do and see, but for me it's not what I want or need in my life right now. I'm happier at home or even down in the village cafe chatting over coffee with the local ladies.

The village centre is always kept clean and tidy, at this time of the year it's full of flowers and most mornings is quite busy with people buying bread, meeting up and generally doing their morning chores. Friday mornings are the busiest since it's market day and everyone seems to be in a good mood. A lot of the villagers have no transport apart from donkey/horse and carts so rarely go out of the village, they survive on food grown in their gardens and basic necessities that can be bought in one of the many shops.

When we first moved here I did find one or two of the shopkeepers quite blunt but now that we know them all better things are great, and they're used to me asking the bulgarian names for things by now! They do appreciate that I am trying to learn Bulgarian even if sometimes I struggle with things I don't usually buy.

I'm not sure I'll ever be totally fluent in Bulgarian but do enjoy being able to have a conversation with the lovely friends we have here. Reading and writing Bulgarian is something I find very hard and admittedly I don't really try. Place names, food items and road signs I can manage but that's about all. Maybe I should add learning to read and write Bulgarian to my winter things to do.

The piglets are growing up so fast and are hilarious to watch as they dart around the yard and will play with anything they can get hold of - tonights game involved an empty feed bag and they looked like they were having a great time. Mum is totally unconcerned when they are in the yard and usually carries on munching at the bits of grass growing while they play. They are so unfazed by us being around and enjoy a bit of a scratch. We still have 3 of the older piglets here too and they are getting rather big and have been busy making themselves a wallow by tipping their water bucket at least twice a day! They're filthy but happy and that's what counts.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

A Task A Day

Today I feel like I've not achieved much, I've felt too hot to do anything outside so have pottered about indoors for most of the day, not really doing anything in particular but doing something! The washing is done and hung to dry, another load on the go. The bathroom and kitchen have had a quick whizz round and tidy up, the animals are all happy and I've sorted out collection of barley for 2 of our friends.

Yet still I feel like nothing much has been done - so off to the kitchen I went to make pease pudding. While there I got to thinking that if I could set myself a task to cook/make something for the winter every day then it would soon mount up and I'd start to feel like I've achieved more. So that's my new challenge and I'd be really grateful if you could help me by sending recipes that I could try and I'll let you know how I get on. To add to the pease pudding today I've also roasted peppers for the freezer, pureed a load of chillies we were given (these will be frozen in ice cube trays) and am busy right now making fresh tomato and bean casserole which will also be going into the freezer for the winter (and tastes fab I must add!).

I've finally managed to take a photo of a hummingbird moth in the garden. They're wonderful to watch but dart about very fast and so are hard to catch on camera. Their wings make an amazing noise as the pass close by and they love the flowers I have growing. The vegetable garden is a bit of a washout this year as it was so wet for so long. I'm not going to stress about it though, just need more careful planing for next year and to try and preserve/freeze as much as I can from the produce we do get. The neighbours have been bringing cucumbers, tomatoes, aubergines and chillies by the bagful and I'm very grateful for anything they can spare. Hubbys sister has had a great crop of pumpkins and courgettes, and some of them are already frozen or made into chutney.

Just a quick thanks to new readers and those who continue to read my blog. I'm loving the comments and it's great to know people visit and comment.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Straw Bale Building

Over the last 2 days our straw bales have arrived for animal bedding over the winter, we've moved and stacked them but have run out of space in the barn so some will have to be under plastic until we need them. It has renewed my interest in building a straw bale structure at some point in the future though. It's something we're both interested in and would like to try. Unfortunately the bales we get here are not all of uniform size or shape, probably down to the old machinery used by the village corporation. They are cheap though and would be fantastic insulation for a timber framed house.

So far we have the hay, lucerne, straw and barley all in and stored for winter feed. Still to collect is maize and corn, plus maize stalks if we can (they're free so go quick). Hopefully we're well prepared for this winter. The freezer is already full of food for us to eat and we could possibly need another freezer. We have to be aware and remember that if the weather is really bad we may not be able to get out of the village to the supermarket for a few weeks. But fingers crossed the winter won't be too bad or long.

I like all of the season here in Bulgaria and even when the weather is really cold it doesn't feel as low as the thermometer is telling us. On the flip side though the summer can be just as harsh with high temperatures, humidity and no rain for weeks. In the summer we sometimes moan we're hot but in winter we moan about the shorter days! Maybe this winter I'll get round to some decorating or finally sorting through the things we still have stored in boxes.

Hopefully I'll muster up the courage to get back on with riding Maya when the autumn gets here, although we've still not had time to build a fenced in paddock. I miss riding horses and still miss my lovely Sol, that I sold before moving here. He was the perfect horse for me but there's no reason why I can't have a similar relationship with Maya. Milka on the other hand prefers to be handled by men, she tolerates me but is always better for hubby. Admittedly neither of them have done much work this year and it shows - as they're rather podgy right now and so am I!

Well it must be animal feeding time as Vasko is barking at the windows - he's quite impatient and does love food. It's the only time of the day he gets excited so I best go get them all sorted and settled for the night. The piglets are already stealing mum Charlotte's food so will be getting their own meals from tomorrow.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Preparing For Winter

Yes, I know it's only August and the weather is fab, but we have to start preparing for winter already. Hopefully we'll have another 8-10 weeks or so of really nice weather but you never really can be certain so it's always better to be prepared. We still have lots to do before the winter arrives but luckily autumn is usually quite mild here.

Our "To do" list goes something like this :-

  • Chop and stack firewood, remembering to keep the older, drier logs at the front
  • Finish off gable ends of house and roof tiles
  • Get barley, corn and maize milled for animal feed.
  • Thorough clean out of barn and stables
  • Re-attach central heating pump and re-fill the system
  • Defrost and clean the small freezer then re-fill
  • Plant trees and winter vegetables in October
  • Drain down boiler and water pipes in Bulgalow, check lagging on all other pipes and replace if needed
  • Clean out woodburner and flues thoroughly
I'm sure there are more things that could be added but I'm tired now so can't think! In between trying to sort all that out, keeping up with the everyday jobs and taking care of the animals we'll have to collect the rest of the animal feed that's been ordered, unload and stack the 120 bales of straw (when they arrive) and fit in a week off from other work when hubby's oldest son and his friends arrive for a holiday.

Today we collected and bagged 660 kilo's of barley, tomorrow it's bags of mixed grains for the chickens and over the next 2 weeks we'll have to collect and bag the maize and corn. We're fast running out of space but will find somewhere for it to go. For the animals we should have enough feed, hay and straw to manage through the winter and at the moment there's still enough grazing to keep them happy through the day.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Run Piggy Run!

Today has been a rather busy one but there have been a load of laughs along the way. This morning I was up bright and early, horses out to graze, washed and dressed myself in decent clothes and off I went with the ladies for our usual Friday morning jaunt to the village centre and a chat over coffee. I also needed to find the guy who turns and bales our hay/lucerne as it had been cut last weekend and is due to come off the field. Unfortunately this time he can only bale it so poor hubby and our friend Jordani have had to go row and turn it all by hand this afternoon.

No sooner did we get settled at the table than the electricity went off, which is not uncommon here (and we don't get any warning either). Luckily we already had our coffees by then, so normal chat resumed with the table filling up fast as other Bulgarian ladies piled in.

I had to nip off during the chat to help an english friend order winter provisions for his donkey and chickens, and that sorted headed back for my coffee. I am getting better at understanding the conversations going on and sometimes even get a joke or 2 in Bulgarian. The ladies gently ribbed me about not charging for translation services but in reality my Bulgarian isn't that good! So off we went to pay bills and bargain hunt, luckily for me there was no water bill this month and the electric isn't due until next week.

10 minutes later and I'm home, still no electric but a few things sorted out and still lots to do. Hubby went off to sort the lucerne, and I went inside to get changed. There was lots of noise coming from the barn/stable yard so I had to go check things were ok, expecting to find Charlotte had decided to remove the sty door again. Nope, but the older piglets had broken through the barn door and were having a great time helping themselves to a 20 kilo bag of feed! Grrrr, no chance of getting them back in the barn since they've broken the bottom half of the door, demolition pigs have been at it again. Oh well at least they were secure in the yard and seemed to be having fun.

Back inside I did some housework, hubby came home, then friends came to collect their 2 pigs. Now in theory the "We'll let them out of the yard and they'll follow food to the trailer" should work, but not when the pigs have been stuffing their faces for the lst couple of hours! So we arranged people at various "Pig stopping" points, backed the trailer right up to the gate and tried to coerce, force, push, chase and generally get the pigs in the right direction.  So after half an hour in 35 degrees C and much amusement we finally had one pig in the trailer - the other had gone off for a trip to the bungalow garden but was swiftly rounded up by me, attempt 2 saw us making slow but sure progress with a fresh cucumber and a feed bucket and after some squealing (by the pig) and a bit of swearing (me) the second pig finally joined number 1 in the trailer for their short trip to their new home. Phew, happy days and filthy legs!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Busy Bees

Once again we've had a few busy days so my internet time has been shorter than usual. We had friends arrive in the village last week who have finally made the move here full time and I'd forgotten how much of a pain and time consuming it is trying to sort bills, materials and other stuff out. A short trip into town quickly becomes an all day thing, nothing gets done quickly here and paperwork mounts up fast. The heat doesn't help either, summer is truly here and the temperatures are set to be in the high 30's for the next few days.

Charlotte and her mob of fantastic piglets are doing really well, the babies are starting to investigate everything and each time we open the sty door they make a run for it! They're extremely friendly already and have realised that humans are great for getting tummy rubs from. I've already stocked up on starter feed as they'll be getting their first taste of solid food next week. They seem to be bigger daily and have already at least doubled in size since birth, mum looks well still but is getting extra rations to help keep her milk production up.

We have yet another new addition to our menangerie, well to be truthful not so new but different! When hubby's sister bought her house in the village she "Inherited" a rather sweet mixed breed dog, who was promptly named Baba. The dog then gave birth to 4 puppies, one of which is our original outside dog, Butch. Well after 2 years living here, sister in law is returning to the UK and needed homes for all of the animals she has. Baba does tend to spend half of the week here anyway and seems to like to be here so she's moving in for good. She will be living outside with Butch as that's what she's used to. There will be no more puppies as she was neutered last year and she's not a bother to have around at all apart from liking to bark at horses and carts.

Vasko is doing much better and we seem to have the fly problem under control. I bought a spray from the vets that seems to be working well and also has antiseptic and antibacterial in it so that is helping him heal quickly. We're being extra vigilant and also making sure that all of the animals have clean water at least 3 times a day to help them cope with the heat. Lucky for us there is a water spring just outside with an abundance of fresh, cold and best of all free mineral water, makes life so much easier!

We're donkey free at the moment as Maggie has gone to our friends place for a few weeks to help control their jungle of a garden, I'm sure she'll enjoy the attention she'll get (and extra food rations) and be home before the winter sets in. Tomorrow we have 2 pigs going off to their new home which will help free up some barn space for Charlotte and her babies to move into next week. As the piglets are growing so fast they'll enjoy the large part of the barn and will be able to run around a lot more.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Quick Update

We've had a pretty hectic couple of days and I've not had the chance to update my blog - Shame on me! Not only have the days been busy we have been out 2 nights in a row to friends houses for a meal and it's been lovely catching up. Tonight I was thinking that hubby and I would get some quiet time together to chill out, watch tv and enjoy an evening together.....until our friend Marian (male) popped round and hinted that he was going fishing - hubby looked at me, waited for a yes and then shot off to get his gear together and into the car! Humph so I'm a fishing widow tonight, but at least I have chocolate to keep me company lol

As the weather is very hot now the above gound pool is becoming a godsend, somewhere to cool off, relax and have some quiet time lounging on an inflatable lilo. I'm not much of a swimmer so a quick dip usually suffices, hubby likes to have a swim and although the pool isn't huge he still enjoys it. I must point out that I can swim, just don't really feel the urge to. We have to remember to put the filter on every day and clean the bugs from the top of the water but it doesn't take long.

Vasko has had an eventful day, he's all recovered now from his accident and is back to normal apart from the flies. So hubby and I have given him a trim around the face in an effort to stop the flies laying their eggs on him. He was so patient and didn't try yo bite us once, it's as though he knows we are trying to help. He's had his face washed, and any red areas checked. Fly eggs (and a few maggots) removed, had a clean with an antiseptic wipe and been sprayed with fly repellent a few times today in an effort to keep them at bay. Hopefully now that the area can get more air to it we should be able to alleviate the problem and he can sleep soundly in the shade during the day without being plagued by flies.

The piglets are growing fast and getting more playful and inquisitive by the day. They're quite happy to have a little stroke now too and like to investigate anything new. Mum Charlotte is so chilled out this time and happily leaves them alone for a few minutes at a time to have a wander round the stable yard. They're all looking healthy and happy and will be starting to try solid food in about 10 days time. We have already had people enquiring about when they will be for sale so hopefully they'll all go off to nice homes in 6-8 weeks time. Also moving off to a new home is one of the older piglets, she'll be joining another that we've had here for a friend until she could move into her house, so at least they'll be good company for each other.

A last littel thing I wanted to say was a huge thanks to English Mum for offering to send things for Vasko dog if we can't find the necessary things here. I'll be popping to the vets when I go to town to see what they suggest and fingers crossed we'll have him in tip top condition in no time :) If you click the link you'll find a lovely site with great pictures and whole load of humour thrown in.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Poor Old Dog :(

Vasko is having a bit of a tough time lately, poor thing. We now think he was hit by a log falling off the pile a few nights ago, making him sore all down one side and not too good on his legs. He's improving every day and is managing to get around, eating well and even got a little excited at tea time yesterday so must be feeling better. Since he arrived here his life must be very different, but hopefully in a good way. He's a quiet dog that likes to lie in the shade all day and sleep, not very boisterous and slowly learning that he can trust us. His skin is clearing up well, fleas and ticks are gone and he has new hair growth on the leg that was covered in tar when he arrived.

But since he's been a lying about more lately due to obviously being sore on his side he's been plagued by flies. They swarm all over his face and beard and have been laying eggs beside his mouth! Over 2 days I must have washed hundreds of them away and I assume they can't be good for the dog. So I'm trying to find a natural fly repellent to help Vasko.

Flies and mosquito's are abundant here this year due to the amount of rain we've had and Vasko isn't the only one being affected. Hubby is constantly bitten on the ankles by what we call "Stable flies" and I've got some rather huge and sore mosquito bites in places that are luckily never seen in public! We're on tick watch with the horses and donkey as we have a different village shepherd(ess) at the moment and she insists on allowing the goats and sheep to graze the field outside our house for large parts of the day while she has a snooze in the bushes!

Mafia, the cockerel and his harem are of course enjoying any bugs that stray into their pen, the girls are looking a little tatty at the moment so Mafia must be enjoying his time with them! Not one of them has been broody this year, which is fine by us as we keep them as layers only now. The silly turkey hen however, is sitting on rancid eggs and won't let me take them away grrrr. Admittedly with the losses we've had due to foxes or beech martens this year we won't be breeding any more turkeys for the table. When you work out the cost to feed them and time taken to care for them properly it's actually more economical to buy them from the supermarket, although I doubt they'll taste as good.

The piglets are getting more confident and energetic by the day and all wanted to come and investigate who I was at lunchtime when I went to give Charlotte some apples as a treat. Mum is much more chilled out this time and has no problem with either hubby or I being around or handling the babies........but she still doesn't like our friend Jordani and I doubt that will ever change now. I'll try and get some new photos of them all tomorrow.