Saturday, 15 May 2010

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2010

I've just been reading about Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2010 and have decided to join in and show off some of the flowers currently growing in my garden.

To be a little different though I've taken photos of some of the beautiful things in and around my home that haven't been planted and are there because nature has decided that's where they should be. Sometimes just wandering about with the camera makes me realise how much we take our surroundings for granted. Do we ever see the real beauty in simple things? Nature is wonderful and what others may think of as weeds can in the eye of another be something truly marvellous.

To me a weed is a plant that just happens to be growing in the wrong place. What do you think?

If we all took a little time to see things properly now and again the world could be a very different place. Stand still for a moment, take a deep breath, look around and  listen to the sounds that we take for granted everyday - What can you hear and what do you see?

Hay Making

I'd love to one day be able to use some of our land for hay or lucerne which we'd feed to the animals over the winter months. At the moment though we've concentrated on the main house garden for vegetables and use the rest mainly for grazing the horses and donkey. Our neighbour also grazes her cows on 2 of our plots occasionally.

For the last 2 years we have bought most of our winter feed from the village corporation the same as most of the Bulgarians that live here. Everything is ordered by the decare (1000sqm's) and there are different procedures for different crops. It's a lot to get your head around when you've been used to phoning a farmer friend once a week to deliver round bale haylage as we used to do in the UK. But it does make me more aware of the work involved in hay making.

This morning I've been out with Neville - another ex-pat in the village, to check on the first cut of lucerne. It's looking a bit thicker than last year which is great as we had a poor crop in 2009. Hopefully it will dry out and the rain will stay away for a few days until we can get it lifted off the field. That's when the hard work starts as we have to turn, stack and load the trailer. We should get 3 cuts from the lucerne but have decided that we won't have it baled this year as it does cost almost a leva a bale and that money would be better spent on something else.

 Being out in the fields working next to the villagers is very reminiscent of older times, days before big machinery came along to do the job for us. It's physically demanding but everyone gets on with it. For me it's quite humbling, everyday there are people out with scythes cutting grass, horses or donkeys pulling carts laden with it, all to be taken home and dried for the winter. It's something you just don't see in the UK now but still very much a part of life here in rural Bulgaria.

The people here are so resilient, physically strong and hard working. They don't moan or find excuses not to do things and they can teach some of us a lot about life.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Do You Ever Wonder?

Whilst working today in the garden I found at least 40 small tomato plants nestled away in a patch I'd dug over a few weeks ago. They must have self seeded from last years crop and are doing quite well despite not getting any attention at all.

Now this started me off thinking that possibly nature was trying to tell me something - call me mad if you like but to me it's obvious that the conditions must have been right at some point for the seeds to germinate and grow into healthy seedlings without any help. The same goes for the mystery squash/courgette/pumpkin plants found in the muck heap yesterday. Do any of us try to work out what your garden would say if it could talk? Am I messing with nature by planting things that wouldn't normally be found growing here?

It's a big question and rather deep for this time of night after I've been working all day. What do you think? Have I had a little too much sunshine or do I possibly have a valid point?

I'll let you make your own mind up but feel free to leave comments on the state of my mental health ;)

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

No Dig Gardening!

I've been reading about no dig gardening for a while and like a lot of articles I read the interest is there and then I don't take it any further. But after spending more time today (between storms) digging over part of my veggie plot I'd decided that the least I can do is to try this no digging method - mainly because my back is killing me!

Luckily I managed to cajole the kids into helping me try to construct this new plot and at least one of them was even quite enthusiastic, which makes a change. So we set off with the wheelbarrow, a pitchfork and some ideas of what to do and where to do it.

First we used the scythe to clear away the long grass (and weeds), next we had to find some sides, the choices were stone (heavy), old roof timbers (heavy and long) or straw bales which we have plenty of, are not too bad to carry and can also be planted in - the straw bales won.

After building 3 sides with straw bales we started on the inside of the no dig plot with some old cardboard boxes we found as the first layer, then the cut grass, straw sprinkled over the top and some lovely compost from our muck heap - recycling or what! Better still we found that there are courgette and pumpkin plants growing on our muck heap - freebies from what our lovely porkers were eating last year.

The straw and compost layers were repeated again to build the bed up and over the next day or so I'll probably add a bit more. At each stage we watered everything to help speed up the decomposition process and we also soaked the straw bales so they can have things planted in them next week. All this watering was a bit of a waste though as we've had the most amazing thunder storm and loads more rain!

My son decided he'd snap a couple of photo's of me wearing my "Garden gear" as he thinks I look stupid! Maybe I do but at least I'm comfortable and who cares what I wear in the garden anyway lol. See for yourself.............

That whole outfit, not including any underwear that I might (or might not) have on cost me 2 leva - which is under £1 at today's exchange rate! The wellies were my dads and the clothing came from our lovely secondhand stall at the village market every Friday morning. Although if you check out the photo of my son you'll find that he's actually wearing my gardening shoes!

Here's another pic of me in action filling the no dig bed with compost.

We'll see over the next few months whether the "No Dig" plot can be as productive as my usual plots are. What do you think I should plant in it?


We've had one or two amazing storms over the last week or so which have been keeping my garden wet but also watering the plants I have managed to get in the ground. Last night we had fantastic lightening although apart from me everyone in the house was asleep, it must've rained overnight too as my poor wellies were wet when I put them on to get the horses out.

So after my breakfast and customary coffee kick start to the day I headed off (in my wet wellies) to do some more digging in the garden, 2 SQM's later and the heavens have opened again forcing me and the dogs back inside, whilst the wind blowing is at least keeping the dreaded mosquito's at bay for a while. At least I didn't arrange for the lucerne currently growing in my sister in law's garden to be cut today - we need at least 3 clear, dry, hot days to get it dried, turned and stored for winter.

The thunder is rolling in now and doesn't sound far away. I've left the horses and donkey out as they don't seem to mind and are too busy eating! I'm hoping the village blacksmith will come over the next couple of days as the horses really could do with a hoof trim, once that's done I'll be getting Milka back on the cart and enjoying a few jaunts around the village. Both of the horses are looking fabulous now but the poor donkey is still a bit raggy and hasn't lost all of her winter coat yet.

Here's a pic of something I found on my knee yesterday while out in the garden - excuse the hairy legs lol

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Changing My Routine

As the seasons change and the weather warms up my daily routine needs to be altered to help me make the most out of the cooler parts of the day. Gardening can be hard enough without having to do it in high temperatures.

The last few weeks I've been going to bed earlier which means I wake up earlier, and can get the animals sorted by 8am, then into my garden to do some weeding or planting before noon. By lunchtime the kids are generally home from school so we have sandwiches and try to sort out a couple of jobs for the afternoon.

Today I decided after lunch to go back and do some more digging in my garden, mindful of the fact that it's still not totally dry and that time is running short for planting. After 20 minutes of digging though I was shattered.......break time it was and a decision reached - no more trying to work outside during the middle of the day! The kids have gone off for a swim in a local lake so I may even have a short nap this afternoon before I start making tea.

The camera has been out again quickly today and I took a couple of nice shots of some of the lovely flowers in my garden for you to see. My beautiful peony roses only usually last around a week once they bloom but are fantastic to see.

Can you see the tiny grasshopper on the orange flower? It's that time of year that we start to hear the crickets and grasshoppers's a lovely soothing sound to fall asleep to.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Two Steps Forward.....One Back!

This afternoon I have managed to plant out my chillies as they were getting too big for the pots they've been in. I cleared some of the winter patch, weeded and sorted where they were going. The 5 or so that I had kept to overwinter inside seem to be doing really well and are flowering already, so hopefully we'll have fresh chillies soon. I do still need more though as we do use a fair amount in cooking and chutneys etc.

One day next week I'll probably pop down to town and buy more chilli and tomato plants and have a browse to see what else is on offer. There's usually a good selection of fresh vegetables and fruit, plus plants in spring and summer and woollen socks in winter. Going into town is not something we do everyday so can be a good break from routine and a chance to get out of the gardening clothes for a couple of hours....although I'm always pleased to get back home again!

There's no escaping the fact that rural life in a small, Bulgarian village is not easy at times. The language still puzzles me, shops here stock only essentials and even though there are about 10 shops in our village they all sell the same stuff and mostly at the same prices too! Working the land without the aid of modern machinery is back breaking in any weather yet the older people here don't moan, they just get on and get it done, it does explain why a lot of the baba's are bent almost double constantly though. So maybe I should bite the bullet and either spend 1200 leva on a rotovator or borrow a donkey drawn plough, pick up my mortika and turn this garden into a productive vegetable patch again.

First though I'll have another coffee!