Saturday, 24 December 2011

White Christmas

We've had snow this week and it looks like it might actually stick around for tomorrow so it's a white christmas here. Everything looks crisp, white and clean, but the temperatures aren't that low - Yet!

As it's only the 2 of us here we aren't making a big thing of christmas but will be having a nice home reared pork joint with all the trimmings for lunch and a quiet day. There's a possibility of alcohol being involved too :) I'm also making up 2 spare lunches for our friends Patrecia and Neville and will walk down with them on boxing day. Poor Neville was meant to be coming here for christmas lunch as Patrecia should have been going to the UK to spend the holiday with her grandchildren, but Nev took poorly and ended up in hospital having major surgery and is lucky to be alive. He's home now and comfortable so I thought it would be nice to make them a lunch too.

Unfortunately we won't be able to telephone friends and family tomorrow as Vivacom have recently renewed our phone. We now have a fixed wireless connection instead of the old analogue line, but it's not working properly and we cannot dial out at all. Not even to customer services! I'm hoping it may miraculously be fixed tomorrow but that may not be the case :(

I've not been riding as much this last week due to the weather, but have the last 2 days managed to get out on one of the ponies. Maya and I had a lovely canter across the fields today in the snow. Certainly warmed me up and I felt completely free. I'm leaving off riding Milka again until the weather clears a bit, as she's a bit more of a handful and I don't fancy falling off in the snow - what a wuss eh?

This morning we had a visit from Karen and Peter, friends who live in the village. Karen has made us a lovely Christmas cake and also brought me a pair of Mountain Horse riding boots, designed for cold weather. Plus a rug to cover the horses back during cold weather. Maya and I certainly appreciated them both today, my toes and lower legs were toasty warm. Thanks Karen.

Well I'll sign off now and hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas time. May all your dreams come true and enjoy the festive season. Love to you all xxxx

Sunday, 18 December 2011

So Much to Tell

Where to start? It's been a while since I last updated, and there have been a few changes around here yet again. I've been making the most of the lovely weather we've had recently and indulging getting out and about on the horses.

There's so much of the village we rarely see and it's lovely to be plodding around the lanes and seeing things from a different view. Driving in the village you tend to miss things, pass them by or just don't have the time to look properly. Riding the ponies gives me the chance to take things in more, speak to the locals as I pass and just enjoy the beautiful countryside around us. And the ponies have been fantastic too, much better than I could imagine. There's a story to how I ended up back in the saddle so here it is.

If you've followed my blog you'll know that we've had the ponies for over 3 years and I've never really successfully ridden either of them. Partly due to a total loss of confidence on my part and the fact that they were only really ever used for pulling a cart in their lives before we bought them. Now I'm an experienced horse owner and have ridden for 30 years, but got stuck as I'd tried what I thought was the right way to retrain them and to be honest it hadn't really had much effect.

I had taken them back to basics when in reality they didn't need that, what they needed was a confident rider to just get on and ride! So when my friend Laura popped over one day with her Bulgarian rider Anton, that's what happened. Laura competes at 3 day events around Europe and does very well. Anton is her stable lad, who helps out and also rides very well. So on orders from Laura, poor Anton was literally thrown on one of our ponies, straight from the field and told to ride. I watched and suddenly saw a riding pony, working well in walk, trot and canter and not the driving pony I've been looking at for 3 years! So the next morning I put the tack on and went for a ride, got back safe and exhilerated(sp???) and did the same with the second pony - well what's the worst that could happen? So I've been riding most days since and it's given me a new sense of freedom and some much needed exercise too. And my driving ponies are now enjoying hacking out and being riding ponies :)

There's more news to post but I'll wait for another time, off for tea now and to relax with my husband. Catch up with you all soon.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Dentist Time

Recently a horsey friend living not too far away recommended a mobile vet who was newly trained and looking for new clients in Bulgaria. He'd been to visit her horses and floated (rasped) their teeth so this week I've had him here to see our 2 girls and of course Maggie the donkey.

We've been asking locally for a couple of years to find a vet who had the right equipment and knowledge to come and make sure our girls were comfortable to no avail. In fact the locals just laughed at the idea of a horse needing a dentist! As time went on and hopes faded of finding someone our lovely donkey started having a bit of trouble eating her hay and keeping weight on, which usually mean there is a problem with the teeth.

So when Thursday arrived I was quite looking forward to meeting the vet and watching him work. I wasn't disappointed either. He was very nice, professional and kind to the animals. They were sedated and had probably their first ever teeth rasp done without any major hiccups. Then it was onto the cat - who was castrated on our dining room table!

All went well, everyone came round from their sedation and even the poor cat was back to normal within 12 hours and shouting to be fed again. I'm not even sure he's realised that certain parts are missing, but he's already in winter, lounge lizard mode and spends most of his days curled up with the dogs sleeping. Lucky animals!

Monday, 14 November 2011

And back to 2 again

We've had another busy week or so. First we had my sister in law and brother in law for a flying visit of 4 days, then another 2 volunteers arrived for a short stay too. Alex & Jodie popped over for a meal one night (with Yoshi the dog), and so for the last week there has been between 4 and 8 people here and never a dull moment.

Now life has returned to normal and I'm here most days on my own while hubby is off working. I'm back to cooking for 2 and we even have 1 less dog also. It was lovely seeing family again, meeting new people and getting together for a good laugh, a few drinks and the obligatory game of poker. But the silence here is now deafening!

Our latest volunteers were a lovely couple from Taranaki, New Zealand who have been exploring europe for some time and will have some fantastic memories. They helped with all kinds of things from fence building to dishwashing and collecting 1000 kilo's of loose maize from the village corporation. Great job guys :) And I'm glad you both managed to get a pair of Baba socks too.

Weather wise it's much colder now, but at least the flies and mosquitoes have gone. The fire has been lit most evening and some daytimes too, it's frosty on a morning and quite dull. We think there will be snow pretty soon although so far it's not forecasted on the local weather.

Yesterday was my daughters 16th birthday and I really missed being with her, even though we did speak on the phone. Where did all of those years go to? She seemed happy, is getting on well at school and has plenty of friends, the same as my son. I'm really proud of them both.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Lots to do and make

I've had a busy week again but don't seem to be achieving much when I look around the place. Yet the house is pretty clean, the stables are mucked out daily and I've been cooking and baking too, plus managing to fit in shopping, bill paying etc.

Paying bills and shopping usually means a trip into Gorna Oryahovitsa for me, apart from the electric and water bills that can be paid at the post office in the village. Yes we have shops here (approximately 9 of them) but they all sell the same things and cater for basic tastes. Which is fine for essentials like bread and lentils, but for anything other we do need to travel about a half hour in the car and hit the supermarkets in town. It's something of a mini day trip and I actually enjoy getting out and about for a while.

So today I've been to Kaufland and Lidl supermarkets and stocked up on a few items, plus the weekly village market this morning so a busy day. Home to offload the shopping and store everything away, then outside in the sunshine to shovel muck and get the stables all ready for the horses to come in for the night, and once all the animals were settled and fed I made a lovely brocolli and sweetcorn soup for tea.

We've had the fire lit every night for over a week now as it's much cooler when the sun sets. Daytime temperatures are still quite nice and we've had a flush of grass on the field and paddocks. I have a few late planted peas showing themselves and the lettuces and garlic are all in and ready to overwinter. We won't be having any of the vegetable patch plowed this year but will be starting to spread manure in the next week or so to try and further improve the soil.

My sister in law and brother in law are on their way to Bulgaria in a van and should hopefully arrive by Monday, so we'll be having a nice reunion for a couple of days before they have to leave. Then we'll be one dog less as Fudge is going with them to start his new life in the UK. He'll be missed, especially by his constant companion Butch, but will at least be back with his owners. I've also got new Wwoof volunteers arriving on Monday, a couple from New Zealand who are eager to do a bit of work around the place and learn more about Bulgaria.

I'll blog again soon and let you know how we're all getting along :)

Thursday, 20 October 2011

A Funny Old Week

After the rain and dull skies last week I'd half hoped the weather would be nice, and so it has been today and yesterday. But we woke up to snow on Tuesday morning and boy was that a shock! Yes, it had been colder than average but that's when the realisation that winter is coming actually hit.

Every year it's a battle to try and stay ahead of the weather. And each year we seem to get a little better at it thankfully. The central heating system is up and working correctly, the barn is full of straw and hay for the animals and we have plenty of firewood chopped but not all split yet. That doesn't worry me though as it's good exercise and can be done even on cold days.

In other news, I've been a bit poorly, but think it was just a bug and I'm almost back to full strength now. Plus one of our dogs bit me during a fight so I've had a sore leg too. Nothing serious and she certainly didn't mean to bite me.

Hubby has some red wine fermenting from grapes he was given by a lady he recently did some work for. We're not huge wine drinkers but I think it will be nice to have something different for a change.

And we have another workaway volunteer arriving at the weekend too. So more help for me and someone to ride the horses for a while. When our last volunteer left I joked that she should write a blog post about all of the new foods she tried while travelling - but I bet yorkshire pudding and scotch eggs wasn't to be expected in Bulgaria.

Fudge, the dog above, will be leaving us in a few weeks to start a new life in the UK. He's my sister in law's dog and has been staying with us for about a year until she got settled and his passport and paperwork were in order. A strange but funny dog (in the nicest way), who was used to being pampered and living in the house until he came here. Since he's been here he's adapted very well and loves to live outside with one of our other dogs, Butch. It'll be all new to him in the UK but at least he'll be back with his owners and little miss will be delighted to have him back.

Fingers crossed the weather holds out a bit longer. I've been trying my hardest to get the horses and Maggie's (the donkey) feet into shape and this morning managed the donkey's 2 front feet on my own - I was amazed at how well she behaved! Tomorrow morning is village market day (and also the mayoral elections) so I'll see if Maya will be good for at least 2 feet trimmed then. Slowly does it, but I am making progress and they look better than when the village so called blacksmith comes :) I'll post some photo's when I'm finished.

Monday, 10 October 2011

A Change of Pace

I babble on about the weather in most of my blogs posts and this one is no different! We have had rain, and a fair old amount of the stuff - just what the garden needs after at least 8 weeks without it. Hopefully as temperatures aren't that cold we may even get some grass starting to come through as the field has been looking pretty bare and parched.

We have filled the central heating system back up and had the fire burning, luckily all of our winter wood supply is indoors and nicely seasoned so should burn really well. There is still a fair amount of logs to split but that can be done over time, a little a day and soon it will be all ready for the winter.

At the moment we have 2 workaway volunteers with us and they are really nice. We've enjoyed having both lots of volunteers stay and help and I think we'd be hosts again, but probably not this year as there is less to do now. Next spring we'll probably start accepting volunteers again to help in the garden and with a few projects that we haven't got round to doing this year.

I'm quite looking forward to winter, snuggled up with a book, fire roaring away and not worrying about whether or not my clothing matches as no-one will see it anyway. There will still be the animals to take care of and the usual cleaning and cooking but there should be more time to chill out and relax too.

My garden is looking a bit bare since the pumpkin harvest and now most of the other plants have been pulled out too. I do have garlic, peas, lettuce and radish planted so we may get a late crop of a few things. If not at least the garlic should grow well and be established before winter arrives, then have a head start in the spring. This year's garlic bulbs were wonderful and pretty big, the best to date. I have saved a couple of chilli plants and potted them up to come inside for the colder months, this week all of the small potted trees, flowering plants in pots and a few other bits and pieces will have to be brought in to the house until spring. Every year the number of pots in the house grows and I struggle to find places for everything!

Well I'm off to find something to do, woke up this morning with backache and have had a headache lingering on since around 10am - I doubt looking at this pc screen is helping!

Ciao for now :)

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Autumn has Arrived

The leaves are falling from the trees, we've had cooler weather and even a few spots of rain! Autumn is definitely here. The horses and donkey are starting to get their winter coats and the nights are drawing in now.

But it is now October and the cooler weather means I can get outside more comfortably and work in the garden. I've sown a few seeds as an experiment and need to pull the tomato plants out next week to make space for garlic. All of the pumpkins have been harvested so we know what we'll be eating this winter! Lots of pumpkin recipes needed so please feel free to send me some :)

We have new volunteers arriving this next week, Workaways this time. So hopefully I'll get back into the swing of things and make progress again. It'll be fun to have new faces around and some help too. Plus I get 2 new guinea pigs for my cooking skills, or lack of depending on how you see things!

I'm off to hang some washing outside to dry while the sun is shining. Already I'm sorting the autumn/winter wardrobe out and starting to pack away the shorts, but not all of them yet.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Feeling a Bit Lost

I'm struggling to get back into a routine now that the Wwoofers and our guests have gone. Seem to have lost the urge to really do much but I'm muddling along as usual in my own time and thinking that it's far too quiet here again.

Meanwhile my garden is struggling too, we've not had any rain for about a month and the constant sunshine and lack of water is weakening the plants. It's almost time to be pulling out the tomatoes and thinking about clearing the plot to make way for overwintered stuff like garlic. I'd like to plant lots more garlic this October and have the space for it, we use it almost every day so would save money by growing more.

I'm also going to overwinter lettuce and try growing a late crop of radishes this year. Work has started on a polytunnel(ish) structure but until it's finished I might make a couple of small cloches to extend the growing season slightly here. Not that it's cold enough for them yet - it's still mild and sunny most days with temperatures quite high during the day. Nights are cooler though and I'm actually wearing a cardigan tonight :)

Poor little Baba dog has learnt a lesson tonight, the hard way! She loves to come with me when the horses go out or come back in for the night. They usually tolerate her quite well and are used to seeing her following me around. Tonight she got a little bit too close to Milka's back feet and ended up getting a quick warning kick! Luckily for her she's fine and wasn't hurt, but it might make her a little more wary of getting too near a half tonne animal with big hooves.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


A selection of photo's taken by our lovely Wwoofer's Michele & Agnes in their time here :)

You'll both be missed when you go!

Michele moving straw bales for the eco summer house

Archery time

Maggie posing!

Waiting for the rakia to distill, in style

the end of rakia making

Ivan our local beekeeping guru & friend
Agnes finally caught on camera, with Michele building raised beds for spring use

Michele riding Maya

Artwork on the barn partition and one of our lovely girls lol

Monday, 5 September 2011

Steady Progress & a Houseful

Well we've gone from being just the 2 of us rattling around in the house, me on my own during the day, to having a houseful of people and it's really nice to be honest.

Not only have we had 2 guests staying - a lovely young couple who are buying a house in another village and needed a place to stay for a few weeks. We now have 2 lovely and hardworking WWoofer's here and over the last week they've helped out so much. I'd recommend anyone who has a small holding or large garden growing vegetable etc to take a look at the Wwoof site (you'll find a link here on my blog), read the information and if you feel you have something to offer volunteers, enrol as a host farm.

This is the first time we've had volunteers stay and I can't praise them enough. They are energetic, polite, helpful and eager to learn new things plus great company. The problem with hubby having to work when he can is that I get left to my own devices and quite often end up sidetracked and don't finish jobs I have to do. Then the garden starts looking a mess and I get down and do even less. With help here though I've found it easier to stay motivated and jobs have been done properly. So now the herb and raised early vegetable beds are all clear, the straw bales have been stored away in the barn and a very neglected corner of the garden has been given a new lease of life.

I'm not sure how long the volunteers are staying but with so much help here we may even get that bl**dy paddock fence done and hope to build a small polytunnel this week too. I'm off now to make lunch, have a rest and then get back to work once the weather has cooled down a little and will post photos another day :)

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

It's a Northern Thing

Pease pudding that is! A favourite of many people from the North of the UK and brilliant with ham. Easy to make and tastes just the way I remember it from my childhood when my grandma used to make it. So here's the recipe, of course all the ingredients can be found in Bulgaria

  • 250g split yellow peas
  • 750ml bacon stock, you can use shop bought stock cubes (or OXO) but homemade bacon or pork stock improves the taste so much.
  • salt and pepper to taste.
 You can soak the split yellow peas overnight but I find this isn't really necessary.
  • preheat oven to 150C, 300F or gas mark 2.
  • Place split peas and enough stock to cover the peas (they will swell during cooking) in an ovenproof dish, season and cook for up to 1 hour, adding more stock if necessary and checking every 15 minutes. 
  • Once the peas have started to disintegrate remove from oven.
  • Top up with any leftover stock and mash or blend with a liquidiser.
  • Leave to cool and chill in fridge or if you prefer eat it hot!
Tip - homemade stock is easy to make, simply boil any bones or leftover meat for at least 1 hour with seasoning, then remove meat. For pease pudding you can leave small pieces of meat in the stock, or if using packaged stock simply cut up pieces of ham/bacon and add them to the pease pudding as it cools.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

No Complaints Here :)

I can honestly say I've really enjoyed the last week. The weather here has been fantastic, my garden is producing and we have some wonderful friends around us that make life in Bulgaria even better. What more can we ask for?

Some people want to win the lottery, others want the latest gadgets etc but we're happy with life. It may not be everyon'e cup of tea living in rural Bulgaria, but I still say it's the best move we ever made. Yes, it's not perfect but I seriously doubt that a perfect place exists.

I'm still missing the kids and guess I always will. This week is also the 11th anniversary of my youngest sisters death and what would have been her 30th birthday so a bit of sadness and memories going on, but onwards and upwards as they say. I was very lucky to have her a sister and will never forget her. Anniversaries and birthdays of loved ones can be hard when we're so far away. Even the postal system here isn't very reliable so now I tend to keep in touch more with facebook etc.

We have people staying with us at the moment, they're house hunting so are trekking around the area with various estate agents looking for something that says "Home" to them. I really hope they find what they're looking for, but if not I may know a few properties in their budget so we'll see what happens.

Temperatures are set to rise again by the end of the wek so the garden will need more watering, but I'm happy with the way things are growing. We will hopefully have our first WWoof volunteers arriving soon and i'm looking forward to having some help with things. We might even get the paddock fence done! or at least the straw bales stacked away for winter. Either way it should be fun :)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Great Escape

And this time it wasn't the animals - for a change!

My weekly pattern doesn't alter very often, but when it does sometimes it's for the best. I'm usually pottering about in the garden or kitchen, or online and of course there's the animals to take care of too. Apart from the odd bill paying and shopping trip I rarely go out of the village and don't need to.

Yesterday though, we were invited to a birthday party and although hubby thought he wouldn't make it due to other committments he did manage to come along later in the day which was lovely. Friend's picked me up at lunchtime and off we headed through beautiful countryside to the party. The drive was nice and pretty straightforward with plenty of friendly chatter. When we arrived at our destination there was a lovely welcome and new people to meet. Most of us had chatted before on the internet at some point but just never met so it was great to meet new friends.

Welcomes and introductions over and we all settled down around a large table to chat and have a few drinks (soft drinks and coffee for me and a few others, beer for the birthday boy and a couple of the men folk). Conversations were wide ranging and about many different subjects. The thing we all have in common is we are expats in Bulgaria and belong to a facebook group set up for expats and friends. We all were served a lovely meal and dessert too mmmm. it was a fantastic day and we really enjoyed it. A big thank you to our wonderful hosts and new friends for making it a great day :)

I'd planned a rather quiet day today, but fate has made it otherwise and the 120 bales of straw I ordered and paid for on Friday have been delivered, so now need moved and stacked in the barn. But it's still too hot so I'll leave it another hour or so and make a start, after I've had a quick dip in the pool.  August is the month when our above ground pool normally comes into it's own and gets regular use. It's great to jump in and cool off to escape the heat. Hubby keeps it very clean and makes sure the chlorine levels are correct etc. So it's ciao for now and I'll be back with another blog post soon.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Rain Dancing

This week has flown over and it's not because anything overly exciting has happened, in fact it's been a rather quiet week, where we've managed to get a few small jobs done around the house, I've made more stuff for my winter freezer stash and hubby has been busy with a woodwork project that is now finished.

We've had 20 hours of rain, so watering the garden hasn't been on the evening job list as much as usual, and although the rain was much needed it did get a bit monotonous and slightly reminiscent of a UK summer. But the ground is drying now and the plants look refreshed after a good drenching. My pepper and aubergine plants are producing well and the cherry tomatoes are being picked by the bucket load almost daily. Unfortunately the other varieties of tomatoes are showing signs of blight. The pumpkins and squash are doing really well and should make up a bulk of our winter diet. Along with the freezer full of  home reared pork we already have.

I'm still missing the kids dreadfully and hope they're doing ok. I speak to them on the phone when I can and look forward to catching up with them on facebook too. I'm finding facebook more and more useful now especially for keeping in touch with family and friends and also keeping up to date with what's going on in their lives. I've also made a lot of new friends via groups etc and love to read the jokes and see photo's of other expats enjoying their lives here in Bulgaria.

My daughter has finally started to learn how to cook, despite refusing every time I've asked her. It was somethging she said she wasn't interested in although my son quite enjoys spending time in the kitchen. Just shows how much things can change over a relatively short space of time. Hopefully they will find out over the next 3 weeks whether or not they have been accepted into school and then the fun will start in September as they get used to English education again.

Finally, just to let you all know that I am reading your comments but am having problems commenting on my own (and other people's blogs). I'm not sure why but hope this will work itself out soon. Oh and Alan, I'm just about to try and add a subscribe by e-mail button just for you :)

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Oh So Quiet

Today our friends and family left for their flight back to the UK and it's been lovely seeing them again. Hubby has taken himself off fishing so I'm home alone and it's really, really quiet. So quiet that I'm actually bored and don't know what to do with myself. I've settled all the animals down for the night fed and watered them, watered the garden and made some lovely plum and ginger jam but now I'm twiddling my thumbs.

We've had a great week here and I'm feeling a lot more positive. A friend painted me 2 wonderful abstract paintings for the lounge wall and they look fantastic. The house in general is starting to look more like a home and even the summer house now has most of it's roof done. Still no paddock though!

The 2 Spaniels have had another hair cut as temperatures are set to rise here over the next few days. Our little Cocker Spaniel looks hilarious but she's happy and must be feeling much cooler. Poor Charlotte the pig is very hormonal again and refusing to eat, she's pacing the doorway looking for a mate and wanting attention from hubby lol of course he just strokes and she's all a fluster. In a couple of days she'll be back to normal but while she's like this the smaller pigs think it's great as they get all the food!

Well i'm off to see if I can find something to do. maybe i'll go to bed with a book or watch TV. Hope you're all having a wonderful weekend and the weather isn't too bad where you are

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Some nights it's so peaceful here and you can forget there are other people around, not that they're close by, but there are 807 residents in the village some of which we've probably never seen or met. Just this morning I chatted to a lady I have seen in the village but never spoken to and she was lovely. We talked about her dog which was called Suzy!

The sound and light show at Veliko Tarnovo

Lately though there have been some noises during the night and when we have investigated it turned out that our 2 horses have taught themselves to open the stable doors. Milka in particular has now learnt that if she leans her backside on the door hard enough the bolt will slide from it's keeper and she's free to roam around the yard and lick the feed buckets clean! This morning I found Maya waiting at the yard gate for me and whinnying hello as she had broken the bolt on her door. Luckily they are both ok and cannot get out of the yard so quite secure.

Milka in the winter

Tonight has been noisy too, but it had nothing to do with the horses. For some reason tghe village dogs have been barking like mad, which of course, set the 3 dogs we have outside off and I've had to go out and tell them to be quiet. Maybe there's a fox roaming around or something. At least they've gone to sleep now - and so am goodnight all and sleep tight :)

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Piggin Lovely

Once again we've been busy, and now there are a few more small jobs finished in the house and they can be ticked off the evergrowing list of things to do. The tiling in the living/dining room and on the staircase is finished and what a difference it makes. I've still got to grout some of it though but that's the easy part!

Yesterday evening we had friends around and roasted a half pig, it was such a beautiful sight and enjoyed by everyone who came along. Each person brought along a side dish and none of us really knew what the other would bring so that added an element of surprise too. The table was laden with food, drinks flowed nicely and all 6 of the children that were here managed to behave quite well mostly. The rain stayed away and although there was a slight breeze the weather was nice. I'm sure we'll have another pig roast (this was our second) or BBQ at some point this year as it's really nice to be able to enjoy an evening with great company. The only downside to last night was when hubby decided to have a quick dip in the pool and forgot to remove his full pack of cigarettes and lighter from his pocket, they're ruined but it was rather funny.

My garden is looking a little crowded, as admittedly I've not done any weeding for some time. But we are picking ripe cherry tomatoes daily and everything else looks well. Apart from the young onions that I grew from seed and the last chilli plants that went in as the dog has dug them up overnight in her attempt to stash leftovers from the pig roast! Poor Baba the Bulgarian mongrel is looking a little sorry for herself today and I can only guess that she may have eaten too much pork last night. Hopefully she'll perk up tomorrow and be back to her usual, happy self. Neighbours and friends have been giving us bags of cucumbers so we're eating a lot of salads.

Tomorrow we have to go and collect the barley from the village corporation that we ordered earlier in the year. We never know until it's been harvested how much we will get as you pay by the amount of land so some years the harvest is better than others. This year we have 2 decares of land and the harvest was 320 kilo's per decare, so we are collecting 640 kilo's of barley tomorrow which will help feed the pigs and horses over the winter months. There's still straw to order and maize to collect when it's ready too. We just need to sort out some storage for everything now.

I've already started on stocking the kitchen cupboards for winter but am finding it really hard to cook for just two of us, instead of 4, so the plastic freezer tubs are starting to be filled with things I've made that we can just reheat later in the year. Soon I'll be in preserving mode and I'm just waiting for the victoria plums to ripen fully before I turn them into jam. This year I will make less jam and simply freeze some of them for crumbles and puddings over the winter. I won't be making chutneys this year as we still haven't eaten all of the last batch I made. However, I will be turning a lot of the tomatoes, peppers and aubergines into sauces and soups again mmmmmm.

Well I'm off now to sort out leftovers for tea, feed the animals and spend a quiet night in front of the TV.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Hidden Treasures

Over the last few days we've been busy catching up with long overdue jobs around the house and I'm pleased to say we're making good progress. It's great to see things finally coming together and some rooms looking almost finished.

The garden fence is now finished so we can have a totally animal free area (apart from the cats of course lol) and looks lovely, but the star of the show are our original oak beams in the living room area. We uncovered them when we first moved in, they were hidden by years of muck, tongue and groove boards that had been painted and awful shade of green and above them small oak planks with mud as an insulator. What an awful, dirty job it was clearing it all out of the way but it was well worth it as the beams now look fabulous. They've been woodworm treated, cleaned and varnished, which brings out the wonderful rich colour and gives them even more character. To think that they have been hidden away for years is amazing.

So a few more tiles on the living room floor (hubby's job for tonight), skirting boards to add and a coat of paint on the ceiling and that's a room done. I have tried to paint the ceiling in the living room but it's so hot that the paint is drying instantly and giving it an awful, uneven finish so that is a job for October time when it should be cooler.

We've had more wood delivered for my paddock fence so fingers crossed it will actually get done this time and I can ride in safety. For now though the wood is outside of the garage gates and will be fine there until we need to use it. Once the paddock is done we can remove the temporary wire fence that is currently there and re-use that elsewhere.

Our family and friends are still here and so far enjoying their stay. there's the half pig roast to look forward to on Friday and the kids are having fun in the pool as I type this. Although by the sounds of it one of them is getting told off at the moment lol I'm sure hubby's new BBQ will be getting some use and the chilli vodka went down well too.

Lastly, Alan left a comment on my last post with a youtube video, unfortunately my internet is so slow that I can't watch any videos online. Thanks for the thought Alan, maybe you can tell me what was in it?

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Plodding Along

Changeable weather here again with more storms thrown in for the dramatic effects, in fact we were sat outside last night watching the lightning flash across the fields with the rumbling, rolling thunder right overhead. It was fantastic and again I got off from garden watering duties as the hevens opened and did it for me.

We had friends and family arrive on Tuesday who will be staying for a couple of weeks, so things are a little less peaceful here and it's lovely to see them again. I hope they enjoy their holiday.

Today has been breezy and cool so I managed to get in the garden and clear another raised bed ready for other things to be planted. I have some carrots, beetroot and chard that need thinned out so they'll be transplanted later on once the sun has gone down. We've eaten our first cucumber and tomatoes from the garden and they were lovely. Hopefully there are plenty more to come.

We are having a half pig roast next week and it will be lovely to have more friends around and catch up. As there are a few kids coming I've decided that they will have their own table and picnic food - I'm not the most patient of people and like to eat my meal without a lot of fuss and kids grabbing at things so this seems the easiest option. Plus they can get in the pool and have fun while the adults chat etc. let's see how it goes, I may even take some photos for this blog as it's lacking in a bit of colour lately :)

Monday, 18 July 2011

One Day at a Time

Such a lot seems to have happened in the last week and I'm not sure where to start!

Firstly the trip to Burgas wasn't as bad as expected, ok so I did get lost in the city centre looking for my accountants office but the 3 hour drive there was goos, the roads were good and the scenery was lovely. Friends had given me easy directions as I'm a bit geographically challenged and that made the drive even better.

It was nice to finally meet the guy who does our company accounts too. I usually wouldn't use a company so far away but he is very, very good on price and helpful too, should have our company re-registration done and dusted before the deadline at the end of the year.

The airport was our next destination and I found that easily too, again thanks to directions from friends. Found a parking space, and unloaded the huge amount of luggage the kids had and set off to find their dad, who was waiting for them under the shade of some trees. I stayed with them for a while chatting but left before I got upset. I felt a bit of a coward on the drive home and was quite emotional too but would rather leave a situation where everyone is happy rather than sad. By the time I got home it was dark and hubby had cooked a lovely meal, all the animals had been fed and watered and tucked up for the night too.

I've been trying to keep busy and stay positive but I do really miss the kids, even though I can still chat to them online or on the phone - it's not the same. As it's too hot to work outside for most of the day now I've painted the living room and even made a start on making the curtains I'd promised to do over the winter months. My sister in law, her daughter and a friend with her children arrive Tuesday afternoon so they'll help to keep me busy.

We've had an amazing storm tonight which has saved me watering the garden, even the horses were happy to stay out in it as it kept the flies from bothering them. But the forecast for the next 10 days is hot, hot, hot so I think we'll be using the pool a bit more and maybe even having a siesta during the hottest part of the day.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Blues

Not a lot of blogging going on this week and to be honest not much of anything else this week. The weather has been glorious but I'm feeling pretty blue. Down, disparaged, discouraged and unable to look to the future at the moment.

The daily teen angst, arguments and everything else that parents go through isn't helping but what's worse is that I've been watching my kids packing their cases to leave on Monday. Instead of having a nice week together, there have been shouting matches, bickering, pettiness and nastiness, plus one or 2 threats of violence. It's all wearing me down and I'm constantly fighting back tears. Maybe I feel worse because I'm not letting the tears flow - I don't know?

And to top everthing off our fridge freezer broke down today and one of the dogs got stung by a wasp! Let's see if tomorrow is a better day. We are actually going out tomorrow afternoon as it's the yearly horse fair in a villge not far from us. Normally it's quite a big event and I do like to go see the horses too.

Speaking of horses, my daughter has ridden our 2 girls (on the lunge) a couple of times in the last week. All was going great until Maya spooked as daughter got on and deposited said daughter on the floor. Poor thing has hurt her wrist (nothing serious) and not been back on since. But at least it's given me a better idea of ghow they react when ridden and I've seen things from a different view (ie the ground) and noticed how they move etc.

Hubby is looking for work here in Bulgaria at the moment and has a few small jobs lined up. It would be nice to find more though. Luckily he has great references from past jobs and word is starting to spread that he's good, reliable and doesn't charge the earth. Unlike some, who are not even trained builders trying to make a living by doing skilled jobs they don't necessarily have the expertise to do.

I meant to post this yesterday but just didn't have the heart, today I really enjoyed getting out to the horse fair even though there were friesian horses there that I couldn't afford (my favourite breed). It was nice to do something different but the yearly horse fair is turning the same way as Appleby fair in the UK and there are far too many stalls selling clothes, melons, bedding etc and of course not forgetting the beer tents that seem to expand every year. One thing different this year was the cordon stopping people from driving up the narrow, cluttgered street near the fair and it was an improvement. The police were there and making their presence known too. 

But, like every other market that goes on where animals are sold (and not just here in Bulgaria), there are always the "Poor" looking animals. Most I have to say were in good condition and there were plenty of people ferrying water to their livestock. Still there were a few that looked emaciated, ill and generally awful and my heart goes out to them. I'd love to bring them all home and make whatever time they have left full of kindness, but I can't. It breaks my heart, but I did notice more people stopping to comment on the bad state of one horse in particular so at least they can see what a horse shouldn't look like.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Internet Madness

Firstly I'd like to say thank you for the recent comments mad on this blog. I have been trying for days to reply to them and have no idea why I can' eh?

Maybe it's just our almost useless internet connection or this old pc which really should be retired. Please bear with me while I try to sort this out and in the meantime I'll reply to comments here.

Pat & Nev, I'm so glad we got the hay in on time too, makes a huge difference to winter feed stocks and I'm really happy that it's done now. And who knows with all this rain and cooler weather we may even get a second cut of hay. Don't worry about the pectin as I have a load here that probably needs used up. Enjoy your marmalade

Alan Fenn, thank you for your nice comment - ordinary yet extraordinary makes total sense to me and I shall take that as a compliment. I've enjoyed browsing through your blog too and have added you to my blogroll too :)

Jak, please do come and visit us if you have the time - we'd love to meet you. Any day except the 11th July and 19th July would be good. Also if you need any help while you're in Bulgaria please let me know and I'll do my best to sort anything out - house hunting here can be rather frantic!

That's all for today folks. I'm off for another coffee

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Where's My Wellies???

Ok so it's now July and usually we have fantastic weather and are starting to wilt in the heat. Siesta's are taken during the heat of the day and it's a mad dash before nightfall to get the animals in, settled and fed, the vegetables watered and tea cooked for us humans......or maybe not at the moment, as we've had awful, and I mean awful weather. Thunder, heavy rain and barely any sunshine, certainly not enough to dry my washing (that is still no the line by the way). Just pretty darn miserable to be honest, but spirits are high here despite the weather.

The kids are having a bit of a party tomorrow and have invited friends round, I've no idea how many and will probably just spend most of my time trying to keep out of the way, not embarass them too much and making a fool of myself with my pigeon Bulgarian.

Hubby is off out tomorrow to give an archery demonstration at a charity event held at Camping Veliko Tarnovo they are having a whole hog roast and I hope the weather is better for everyone attending. Although I'm sure it will be a great event and hopefully raise money for a very worthy charity. So it's just me, the animals and a bunch of teens at home! Should be an interesting day to say the least.

I've had some kind of bug since last weekend and have been suffering migraines, something I rarely get any more but hate having. I expect anyone that has had migraines or prolonged headaches would say the same, but it hit me hard as I felt so sickly with it too, aching and hot and cold. All in all though we've been fairly healthy since living here and I think it's due to the climate and better diet. The lack of takeaway foods has helped a lot! But I have put on some of the weight I lost when we first moved and really should be making an effort to get a few pounds off again. I'm happy though so will worry about it another day :)

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Once again we've had a busy week. Our tractor driver finally turned up so the large paddock was cut for hay, only 2 weeks later than originally planned but at least he did get here in the end. This morning we've been out and forked all the hay into piles to be loaded onto the truck later today when it's a little cooler.

We rarely work during the middle of the day now as it's too hot and there's a high chance of getting sunstroke. This week we've also managed to get 100 kilo's of pork into the freezer, of course this meant that one of my lovely ladies had to go but at least I know she had a very nice life. You really can't beat home reared pork, supermarket pork just doesn't have the same depth of flavour or even texture. Some of the pork will be made into bacon and gammon and possibly even ham. Plus hubby has decided to try making pepperoni and salami too.

I've spent 2 days trying to add this blog post as our internet has been playing up as usual. One day we may get broadband here but none of the companies will or can say when. In the last 2 days we've managed to get all of the hay stored in the barn, and it's lovely just knowing that it's done for another year! I even had time to go food shopping although the garden has suffered a little and needs a really good weeding. So at least I know what's on my job list for the next week or so!

In the garden my pea plants are ready and I've been harvesting them over the last week, also ready are the garlic and onions and I still have a few lettuces to pull up too. The tomato plants have gone crazy and are flowering well, but the pumpkins are trying to take over and have to be pushed back so they don't cover up the aubergines. I've spotted flowers on the chick peas and the galia melons so our diet should be a little more varied soon.

This week we've also made a a start on getting our bungalow ready for family and friends who are coming for a holiday. The water and electric is back on and the few small jobs that needed done have been sorted out. I've been tgrying to evict the spiders that have taken residence there over the winter but may need to do it again - only next time I'll be armed with the hoover lol, then it's a good old clean out, beds to make up and a few more pieces of furniture to add and we should be ready for people arriving :) Better still they are coming with gifts of marmite ......yummy!

Hubby and I are off to a car boot sale tomorrow morning, not to sell or indeed buy anything but just to have a look around and catch up with friends new and old. Let's hope the weather is nice as it has been very windy today, overcast and threatening to rain. On the plus side if it does rain at least I won't have to water the veg plot

Friday, 3 June 2011

Busy Bees

This week seems to have flown by and now the kids have broken up for school holidays too. Summer is truly here but we're still having thunder storms almost every day and there's been a lot of rain too.

Luckily it stayed relatively dry yesterday as we were busy helping lay an above ground pool concrete base. Boy was it hard work lol, the concrete wagon turned up at 10.15am and delivered almost 4 cubic metres of ready mixed concrete onto a large tarpaulin then a team of us had to load it into wheelbarrows and move it to where it was needed. In the UK we'd have probably got a concrete wagon with an extending arm that might have reached the 30 metres or so to the site, but not here, so it was all dumped as close as we could get it and the hard work then started.

Thankfully there were 9 of us, with 6 wheelbarrows and shovels, and we managed to get it all moved and in place before it set. On the downside the company it was ordered from delivered less than they were paid for so the last 8 wheelbarrow loads had to be mixed by hand with hastily borrowed sand and cement. But it's done now, smoothed off and level and just waiting for the pool to be set up once the cement has cured for a few days.

We were hoping to have one of the larger paddocks cut for hay this week too, but the tractor driver has yet to show up despite promising he would be here on tuesday. Maybe the weather this week has put him off as we've had lots of rain and storms so the grass has been quite wet. Hopefully he'll turn up at some point and we can get a good crop of hay ready for the winter.

There are lots of seedlings now in my flower bed, some of which are probably weeds, but they can wait for a drier day to be pulled out. We seem to have an abundance of pumkin plants this year and they are still popping up through the soil. So I'll be looking for recipes later in the year! I'm trying to grow swedes this time and so far they are doing ok. I do miss swedes but the Bulgarians don't seem to eat them and have a variety of different radishes instead. Mostg of the tomato plants are now in their final places, beans are doing well and the peas are starting to fruit now so I shall be picking them in a few weeks. Yet again we'll have a load of plums from the trees and might get round to making wine with some of them.

I've plenty of cucumber, squash, melon, peppers and aubergines growing now. Plus onions, lettuce, garlic, sweetcorn and fodder beet (for the animals). But haven't used all of the garden this season as much of it is in desperate need of being plowed and of course the plow our neighbour has developed a problem and needs repaired. Still there should be plenty of produce to eat and freeze down for winter. I may yet plant a few more things but we'll see how it goes. I'm in charge of the vegetables and don't get any help and there is only so much one person can do!

Since we're rained off today hubby has been in the kitchen and by the aromas that I can smell we are having a curry for tea - mmmmmm. So I'll leave you all now and wait for my plate of top nosh lol

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

I Hear Thunder

This weather just doesn't quite know what to do with itself it seems. We've had fabulous sunshine most days and some fantastic storms too. Thunder, lightening and even hailstones yesterday. It rained so much yesterday afternoon that our pool overflowed, but then the sun came back out and today is bright and warm again.

Hopefully by the end of the week we should have our first crop of hay cut from part of our land, which we've not done before. All the rain we've had and sunshine has meant that the grass (and weeds) has grown wonderfully long and thick and it seems a shame not to use it as animal feed for the winter. We aren't buying any lucerne (alfalfa) this year from the corporation as A) it's expensive to have baled up and B) seems to make one of our mares quite tense and at times aggresive when they're stuck in during the worst weather. So we'll have to try and get as much hay as we can stored and ready for when we need it.

Other news is that the kids are now definitely going back to the UK to finish their schooling. Education here is good but they aren't progressing enough to be able to finish their education at the right ages. Son hit the nail on the head when he said "At this rate we'll be 25 by the time we leave school" I'm really going to miss them and am so proud of what they have achieved here in Bulgarian school, but I have to give in and say that them returning to the UK is possibly for the best. Best for them, but upsetting for me!

Hubby's broken rib(s) are almost healed and there are a few jobs waiting for him when he feels up to it. Mostly for other people though as renovations here have drawn to a halt again due to a lack of funds. At least the good weather gives me plenty to do outside and the animals are much happier now that they get to spend all day eating. Some of my vegetables are growing really well but others are struggling with the increased temperatures. The radish and onions are now trying to bolt, whilst the lettuce seems to be wilting with the heat. But I have pumpkin plants popping up all over the place so the pigs will be happy when it's harvest time!

A local charity that helps Bulgarian children and orphans is having a whole pig roast on July 2nd and one of our piggy's is the main course. Bookings are going well and I'm sure the day will be a huge success and raise much needed cash to help more children.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Taking The Smooth With The Rough

Things weatherwise have been very up and down here lately. Rain one minute and sunshine the next and it's driving me mad - yesterday I managed to get outside and do some much needed weeding and caught the sun, today I'm indoors with a jumper and long pants on again. Grrrr hurry up summer!

But at least the time we're having to spend indoors is helping hubby recover from his broken rib/ribs. He's feeling much better but not totally healed yet. He's sleeping a bit easier and right now is in his workshop doing something - sometimes I worry that I married the mad inventor lol. At least he is much happier though and has a few jobs lined up soon. While he's been laid up he has been experimenting with making smoked bacon, ham joints and gammon which have all been a magnificent success. It's lovely to have some really good tasting pork products as that's one of the things we really can't buy here.

I've started tentatively planting things outside and all of the flowering plants have been evicted from the house too. I'd planned to get the tomato plants in the groundd today as they really need a larger space but the weather seems to be playing a few tricks today and we're having sunny spells interspersed with quite heavy rain. We've already had a few meals with some fresh produce from the garden - just radishes and a few baby lettuce so far, but it's a start and there should be plenty more over the coming months.

There have been some tough decisions to make this year so far and it looks like the kids will be heading back to the UK to finish their education. It makes me sad that they won't be here but it is probably the best option for them. The education here is good but the school really isn't pushing them enough and they seem to spend half of their class time asleep, drawing pictures or reading books. It's not fair to try and keep them here when they aren't really making any futher progress at school. The finer points haven't been decided yet and we're not sure when they will be going.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Anyone For Waterskiing?

It's rained and rained and rained again this last week or so. The ground is waterloged outside and the sky is dull. Temperatures have fallen so we've had the woodburner lit most nights, it really doesn't feel like May.

Tomorrow is a national holiday here in Bulgaria so the villagers will be celebrating with friends and family for Georgiov day. It's a bit like St George's day in the UK. This is the time of year when usually you see more people out and aboutg but due to the weather most are staying indoors. I don't blame them either, even the chickens are looking pretty miserable and egg production has dropped too.

I finally gave in and bought a new keyboard for the computer, unfortunately it seems to have a minor problem and occasionally throws an extra 'G' in when I'm typing, it's not too bad but does mean I have to check anything I've typed for mistakes a little more carefully than usual. But it does have it's plus points as I now have the Bulgarian alphabet on the keyboard too - just in case I ever manage to learn enough to type a message or e-mail!

There have been a couple of trips into town this week, more than usual and tomorrow I'm off out for an hour or so to go meet someone who is interested in buying one of my saddles, fingers crossed all goes well. Hubby has some beautiful longbows and one flat bow for sale that he's made over the winter and I have to admit they are wonderful things. Almost makes me want to take up archery, although after my last attempt I think it's wise that I just be content watchingand let hubby get on with it lol

Hubby is feeling a little better but still won't take any notice and not try to do small jobs like splitting logs. It drives me crazy but there's nothing I can do and I do realise that the inactivity is getting to him too. It was probably worse today as the satellite tv had been disconnected because I hadn't paid the bill - easily fixed and after a short trip to town to pay a few bills it was back on within 3 hours. It's not the best system in the world but it does give us something to do when we can't get on with jobs.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal Wedding Day

We've spent a fair amount of today in front of the television, apart from my weekly trip to the market this morning and the normal rounds of animal feeding, watering etc. The kids went off to school this morning and are at a party in town right now to celebrate Gorna Oryahovitsa's holiday so it's been really peaceful here, although I have to go and pick them up soon. We've channel hopped between the royal wedding and the semi finals of the world championship snooker. So it's congratulations to the happy couple and I'm hoping that Judd Trump gets into the snooker final!

Hubby injured a rib or 2 over a week ago and is still in pain so should be taking things easy at the moment. He's not enjoying the enforced rest I must add and keeps trying to do small jobs even though he's in pain. Hopefully he'll start to feel a bit better soon and things can get back to normal here.The neighbours have offered their advise and told me I should be massaging his back every day to help the healing.

Yesterday I managed to get the shopping done, paid some bills and also the car insurance. The weather was wet so it wasn't a wasted gardening day. I also did a good deed for a neighbour and found one of his pigeons that has escaped, caught it in hubby's fishing net and took it home for them, job well done and an extra round of coffees this morning in the cafe by way of thanks :)

Temperatures are still quite low for the time of year so my vegetables, with the exception of the garlic, aren't doing wonderfully. But there is plenty of time for things to catch up luckily. At least the grass is growing well which means the horses and donkey are stuffing themselves every day and coming in at night happy and full.

We're hoping to leave one of the paddocks for a hay crop this year to help cut down on our winter feed costs. I must admit that feeding the animals here costs a lot less than the UK but only if we buy at the right time of year and in bulk, plus of course it's all dependant on the weather. If the hay crop gets ruined then everyone else is having the same problem too.

Ticks??? Yowl

Most of the animals are settled at the moment and it's lovely to see them enjoying themselves. The cats and dogs are spending much more time outside, but we have to check them every day as there are a lot of ticks around at this time of year. The cats seem to be affected the worst and daily come home with at least one tick attached, despite having flea and tick drops put on less than a month ago. I'm not keen on putting collars on cats in case they get stuck somewhere so will just have to keep up the tick watch and remove any I find. we find hat Kiltix collars work very well for the dogs and also keeping the 2 Spaniels coats short makes it easier to spot anything that shouldn't be there.

What have you been up to today? Did you get to watch the wedding?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Spring Photo's

As the weather is a bit cooler today I'm indoors and have some free time to post the long promised spring photgraphs of things around the garden. I'm still experimenting with the camera but do like the photo's I take so I guess that's what counts :)

I have a few small experiments going on in the garden this year too with one or 2 of the raised beds, lots of old straw bales and copious amounts of well aged compost. The neighbours still shake their heads and think I'm mad but at least they laugh about it now and occasionally agree that some of my methods do actually work. Mind you it's just occasionally, the rest of the time they just can't make their minds up about what I'm doing at all. It's fun to keep them guessing though :)

The daffodils and snowdrops are all finished now but there are signs of life in the flower garden again, small seedlings are popping up everywhere and the peony roses are getting taller daily. Some of the seedlings may well turn out to be weeds but it's a waiting game at the moment. My vegetable seedlings are still indoors as the nighttime temperatures haven't been great here, they are rising but slowly so hopefully in a couple of weeks everything else can go into it's final place in the garden.

And finally a lovley photo of some of the local girls (and my daughter) in tradtional Bulgarian costume, going round the village singing and dancing for Lazaren day. They had a great time and came home with loads of sweets, some money and 2 dozen eggs each!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Catching Up

After a few awful, wet, cold and quite dreary days and the meterological people issuing a code yellow for bad weather, the weather today has been lovely so we've spent the whole day in the garden catching up with things and dong what seemed like small jobs but are the type that really make a difference.

The dog proofed fence and gates are now finished and look very nice if I must say so myself,  it certainly makes the garden look different and now I don't have to worry about big Spaniel paws trampling on my vegetables. Baba our little Bulgarian dog is not too impressed though as she can no longer go up the garden to bark or disappear off down the field unless we're out there with her. Not that she goes far or runs away but it's just nice to know she can't come to any harm.

Also finished is hubby's new BBQ, oh how he does love a good BBQ as many of our friends will confirm. When we first moved here he built a very nice BBQ in the corner of our yard that has served us well for 3 years but was looking a little tired and really wasn't in the best place so it was time for something different. After demolishing and recycling parts of the old BBQ he got straight to work and built a new, improved BBQ in our animal free garden zone, and boy is it a sight to be seen, very nice with lights and everything plus a few special we just need to start using it!

I've spent time today weeding the vegetables and flower bed, plus generally pottering about. The kids have been into town for a friend's birthday so it's been lovely and peaceful here too. There are still a lot of flowers to appear in my garden hopefully but the vegetables so far seem to be doing ok. I have a whole load of tomato, pepper, chilli and other things to plant out soon but need to put a bit more work into the raised bed area and find enough space for everything. My sister in law left some vegetable seeds last year when she returned to the UK, which had gone out of date, so thinking that they wouldn't germinate very well I put the whole lot in the soil and left them to it, now I have an abundance of swede, cabbage, broccolli and various salad leaves popping up everywhere! But if we don't manage to eat or freeze it all I'm sure I can find a few pigs that will help out.

Speaking of pigs, they are all doing fantastic, putting on weight steadily and getting up to mischief as usual. Hubby built yet another pig feeder today, so let's see how long this one lasts before they dismantle it!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Blossom Everywhere

I love this time of year, all of the plum trees are blossoming and the bees are busy pollinating the flowers. The smell is fantastic, even my small lemon tree has burst into flower. As the weeks go by other trees open the leaves and petals so the landscape is constantly changing from one day to the next. The garden is coming to life and soon it'll be madness trying to get everything planted and keep it watered.

We've had a busy few days and got a lot of jobs sorted out. The small trees and weeds have been cleared from the back of the barn, hubby's lovely hammock hanger is having a makeover and will become a much more useful thing over the next few month (more on that another time). The posts are in for my paddock, so I may get some riding done this year hopefully. I'd like to get back in the saddle but need to build some confidence first in an enclosed area.

I've added some old straw bales to the vegetable garden 1) as a border between different areas and 2) because some plants can be grown directly on top of the bales. Means less bending to weed and although the bales will only last around 2 years, once they have finished being used for planting the should be broken down enough to benefit the garden as compost would. Many barrows of our lovely compost have been added to the raised beds and new areas that I'll use later in the year.

I've been planting herbs and more tomato plants (cherry tomatoes this time), weeded parts of the flower beds and also netted the strawberry plants to try and keeps the dogs off them. Last year our strawberries were eaten by the bantams but since we don't have any loose chickens now (they're only allowed out to roam under supervision and spend the rest of the time in their large pen) hopefully we'll have a nice crop of strawberries to eat soon.

Last week I did take some photgraphs to post here but alas I'm yet again on the slow old laptop as our keyboard has mysteriously been broken on the pc! So bear with me and I promise to get some piccies uploaded sometime in the next week.

Easter will soon be here, but before that is another small event - it's my birthday tomorrow, another year older and possibly, maybe a little bit wiser.....or not, who knows? We're not doing anything special (unless it's a secret) but may have a wee drink or 3 to celebrate. The weather isn't wonderful this week and has been windy and much cooler, so we're still lighting the fire on an evening and eating lovely comfort and warming food. Roll on summer and salads!

I'm off back to the garden now to wheelbarrow more compost for the raised beds - lucky me :) But if you get a chance I'd like you to have a look at one of my friends blogs It's not what it sounds like but amusing, well written and truthful, I like it anyway and hope you will too.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

From A Different View

For the last week or so we've been without internet. A problem with the supplier meant we were disconnected and needed a new contract. On the plus side it meant more time to get jobs done around the place and on a rainy day I rolled up my sleeves and got baking. Hubby has been busy creating things and we almost have a dog proof garden fenced in just for us humans to enjoy. He's built a water feature from recycled items and it's working really well, he's also made a lovely frame for our hammocks that reminds me somewhat of a maypole, but looks very nice. A little more work to level the ground below it and we'll be almost set for summer :)

The kids have been on spring holiday from school but are at the point where they refuse to help with anything and I end up frustrated and shouting at them, which turns into an all out war sometimes grrrrr. Being a parent is the hardest job in the world and there are times whether I wonder if I'm doing it right or making a complete hash of things! But at this point it's much easier to walk away from a teenager who's shouting in your face and go dig a patch in the garden - certainly helps with anger management and it's good for the garden too. Occasionally they will do small jobs but are now much more interested in music and eating judging from our food bills.

I now have onions, fodder beet (for the pigs), peas, sweetcorn and a whole range of other things planted in the garden. The over wintered garlic is shooting away and I wish I'd planted more of it (note to self for next October - plant more garlic!). Tomatoes, peppers, chillies, aubergines and courgettes are starting to show themselves, whilst the radish and lettuce are growing nicely and should be ready to start harvesting in a few weeks. I'm really looking forward to preparing a meal straight from the garden. It's going to take a bit longer to get the main growing area into shape this year as our neighbour's tractor has broken down so he's unable to plow for us, such a shame but it does mean I should hopefully be able to work off some of my excess weight digging and turning the ground over.

Sometime next week I'll get out with the camera and snap new pictures to put on here, I had planned to sit outside and blog today from the laptop as our new internet connection does not need to be tied to a electricity supply but the signal was not good and I kept losing the internet, still it is nice to be back outside in the garden most days and even better to be able to see new life growing everywhere. My favourite plum tree is just about in blossom at the moment so by this time next week we will have a confetti look everywhere. It's amazing how much plants and trees can change in such a short time and it gives us something different to look at almost every day. Well that's break time over so it's time to head back into the garden for an hour or so before the animals decide it's time to come in for the night.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Waiting For The Storks

We're still waiting for the first glimpse of the storks returning so that can finally remove our  rather tired looking Martenitza's. This signifies the start of spring, although the official date for spring to start is today 21st March First Day of Spring in Bulgaria. Unfortunately the weather has cooled off considerably and been a bit overcast and showery for the last few days, so back into the drawers the shorts have gone and the woollen socks are firmly back on for now!

So far in the garden there's been a good show from the flowering bulbs, who are getting bigger every day, not that I can remember what they all are. Some though have perished and got frost bitten after the warm spell we had in January. I'm not sure they'll do anything at all now and there's a possibility that they will never flower again. I'll just leave them be and wait to see. But we do have radishes growing in the garden and the fruit trees look ready to sprout into life again. 

The grass has made a huge leap and is starting to look green and lush in places, which of course doesn't last long when one of the horses or donkey gets at it, but in all the animals are really enjoying the longer, milder days and making the most of it. We've made a few changes in the chicken house and they've been spending more time free ranging in the garden. Gone is our "Spare" cockerel, new roosts and a nesting box are in place and everything seems calm in the hen house. In fact so calm that the hens have started laying again which is great news. Maybe we'll even get a broody hen this year and hatch some chicks.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Getting Some Garden Time

For the last 4 or 5 days the weather here has been fantastic, sun shining, barely a cloud in the sky and temperatures above 20 degrees C. What a total difference from last week and a very welcome sight.

It's meant that we could finally get outside and start on the garden. All winter you try to plan and imagine the changes you'd like to make and now's the time to get busy. The locals obviously agree and instead of hearing the whirr of chainsaws we've been listening to tractors plowing and some of the neighbours have plowed their gardens the old way with horses.

Our animals have been making full use of the good weather and there's been some sunbathing done too. The horses are shedding their winter coats and enjoying the first signs of grass coming through while the donkey has just been pleased to be out and really looked like she appreciated having a roll in our sand pile again.

The neighbours think we are slightly mad to be wearing shorts before the official start of spring (which is March 22nd) and have passed a few comments about the mad english but it's all in good fun and our tans are already starting to develop nicely.

The kids have been taking tests in school and have done really well. So much so that the director said he's very proud of them and they didn't expect them to do as well. Now they can be moved up a year and get closer to the class they should be in for their ages. We are so proud of them too, learning a new language is not easy yet they seem to have become almost fluent. Pity we haven't really done as well! Oh well I'll keep trying lol

Friday, 4 March 2011

Drum Roll Please

Ta Da! I've just realised this is my 250th blog post! Doesn't time fly quickly when you're having fun? or at least it does when you're prone to waffling on in a blog.

Admittedly I haven't been blogging as much lately but there's only so many times you can write about the weather (oh and we've had more snow overnight!). But soon things will change, I'll be able to get outside more often and fingers crossed I may even be wearing my shorts in the next 6 weeks and can pack the winter wear away for at least 6 months.

There will be an influx of people to Bulgaria over the next few months, holidaymakers, sightseers and those looking to buy property. Property prices are still cheap and I'm always being asked to sell property in the village for the locals. Just this morning a woman stopped me and asked if I knew anyone looking for a nice house. 

There are literally thousands of houses and plots of land for sale in Bulgaria and almost as many estate agents too. It's really confusing and can be trying buying property here, especially as anyone can be an estate agent and there is no governing or regulating body controlling estate agents. Plus properties can be advertised with as many agents as the owner wants and not always at the same price.

Hopefully we'll get a bit more renovation work done this year and have time to sit back and enjoy life. I'm already looking forward to having another pig roast, spending evenings sat outside chatting and having a dip in the pool when it's really hot. But before all of that there's the yearly house taxes to pay, the company accounts to be submitted and a load of other things that can't be put off until another time.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

National Liberation Day

Today is a holiday in Bulgaria, much like a bank holiday in the UK as most businesses will be closed and the schools are off. It's National Liberation Day,  celebrating the end of 500 years of Ottoman rule under the treaty of San Stefano.

More information about this holiday can be found Here.

Bulgaria has some lovely customs and the people do like to celebrate their holidays in style. Over the last few years we've managed to be involved with most of the village celebrations and it's great to be included. My favourites are Easter and also Baba Marta which was also celebrated this week  and we're wearing our martenitza's until we see the storks come back to nest.

Easter is lovely here and nothing like the commercial holiday it's become in the UK. Chocolate eggs are not given, but instead we paint or dye hens eggs and eat lovely sweet bread called Kozenak. I'll blog more about it at the time.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Chestita Baba Marta

Once again it's the start of March and for the Bulgarians that means Martenitza's. Lovely red and white bracelets or broaches given to friends on the 1st of March to appease Baba Marta.

I really do like this tradition and so do the kids, who were busy last night making red and white plaited bands for all of their friends at school. Last year I blogged a piece about the day so here's a link to it for anyone that would like to have a look. Baba Marta

We still have snow on the ground despite a week's reprieve and higher temperatures. Just goes to show how unpredictable things can be here weather wise. One day we were out in the garden working in T-shirts in +17 degrees C and the next the snow was back again. Temperatures have been pretty low and rarely above freezing for the last week, even during the daytime. And according to news reports we're to have a week of higher temperatures mid march then back down to freezing again. Best not put the thermals away yet!

Still spring is only just around the corner then the hard work will start again. We've got fence building, gardening and planting to do, a compost heap to spread and various other outside jobs that need attention this year. Sounds like it will be a busy year and I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Yantra's Day Out

Thanks to friends I've been out into town today, the roads are mainly clear but since we live off the road getting the car out isn't as easy. So off we went with Yantra the dog too. First stop was the vets, poor little Yantra was pretty scared and didn't really enjoy the journey either. She's a timid dog and doesn't trust strangers at all, being in town was a totally new experience too and I'd imagine all the different smells in the vets waiting room was quite terrifying too, but she had to go.

Fifteen minutes and one injection later she was looking very chilled about things - that's what sedatives will do! Another 2 jabs 5 minutes apart and she was totally asleep, shaved and on the operating table when I left her. I did mean to take her to the vets weeks ago but then we had fresh snowfall and couldn't get the car out at all. So while she was being spayed I headed off to go to the bank, pay the phone bill, buy a vignette for the car and stock up on bread and other essentials.

My friends had headed off elsewhere and had arranged to pick me up on the way back, and Yantra too of course. So an hour later and with my jobs done it was back to the vets to pick up a rather sleepy and bedraggled looking dog and pay the bill of 64 leva. To give a comparison of the price car tax (vignette) for one year is 67 leva. But it's done now and Yantra is spending the night downstairs in front of the fire where she's been since coming home. She's had a small tea of leftover casserole, ventured into the garden for a quick toilet trip and looks rather sorry for herself but not totally unhappy.

There are enough unwanted and homeless animals here without us adding to the problem so most of our pets are neutered/spayed. Just yesterday hubby went on a mission to help save a stray dog in the next village that had been seen running on the road frequently. Our friend Pat who is an animal lover had been stopping and feeding the dog and was getting increasingly worried about it being on the road and out in the cold. Hubby and Pat's husband set off, found the dog, managed to get hold of her and drove her to a new home with another expat friend all in the space of an hour - good work lads!

The dog who has now been named Ella finally has somewhere warm and dry to live, regular meals and has even had a tidy up haircut and bath. Lucky Ella should now have a great life and it's great to see what a little bit of teamwork can achieve.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Bright, Snow Filled Days

We've got snow here again but at least the sun is shining and the animals can be outside in the fresh air. The kids on the other hand, are spending the days inside as they're off school for a week on flu alert. Having the kids at home during the day has muddled my system up and I've lost track of the days - my brain has been on weekend mode all week and I have to keep reminding myself that it's only Thursday.

At least the Bulgarian government is being proactive in the spread of flu, a lot of the schools are off around the country and it should hopefully help with keeping flu sufferers to a minimum. I do worry about some of the older folk in the village when the weather is bad. This winter has so far, been better than last and we aren't hearing the church bells ringing every day which is a good sign.

February is almost here so it's time to start garden planning again. Soon I'll be sowing chilli and pepper seeds indoors and also getting a few other things ready. I'm still undecided as what to grow this year but will be checking this blog to remind myself of what has done well in the past before I make any firm decisions. I'll be watching the weather too and hoping for a good, not too wet spring.

What will you be growing this year and why? I'd be interested to hear from anyone growing organically. Oh and I'm looking for more charities for the Pimp My Project pages I started a while ago, so if you know of a worthy cause please get in touch.