Wednesday, 12 December 2012

It's December Already!

This year has gone by so fast and I'm not sure if that is a good or bad thing!
Almost mid December now and we have snow, looking out of the window the sunshine looks warm, but it's bitterly cold with a awful wind so the woodburner is on and my socks are dry Alan!

I still can't get over the fact that 1 week we can have 20 degrees C and then the next it's -7 degC. All gardening has finished for the year and the last of the volunteers will be heading on his way at the weekend probably. We've had such a fantastic bunch of people here this year, over 40 in all, and the work they have done is amazing. We've laughed, celebrated birthdays, ridden ponies, shoveled muck, pulled weeds and had some great times.

Today is 12.12.12 and the last of those kind of numbers we'll see. Oh and who can forget the mention that the world will end on 21.12.12 according to the Mayan calendar? Well to me they are just days, and no different from any other day here in rural Bulgaria. there are still animals to feed, water and clean out and I still have to make the evening meal. Plus keep the fire going and make an attempt at keeping the house clean.

Keeping the house clean in winter is pretty hard with all the dogs and cats going in and out, snow and mud on boots and the dust that just never seems to stop. But I can ignore all that for a while and do some writing work or watch a movie. And we do have our fast internet now so that makes blog posting easier (but doesn't mean I spend less time in front of the computer!).

Here's hoping that where ever you are, you are warm, happy and content with your life.

Ciao for now :)

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

As September Draws to a Close

Another very busy month has almost escaped us. More volunteers, more work done and I'm still riding the horses too. So pretty happy all round. Well, apart from waiting the last 3 weeks for a new internet service via Vivacom........Fingers crossed tomorrow is actually the day they WILL turn up, unlike the last 3 appointments they've broken. If all goes well, we will be joining the 21st century and have broadband in less than 24 hours time.

For most in the UK, broadband is the norm these days I'd expect. But we have waited over 5 years. So when I heard from a lovely friend that someone she knew in the village had broadband installed, we both went into town to enquire. "Yes" said the sales assistant, who speaks very good English, and the following week my friend did indeed have broadband installed. Alas they didn't realise how many people here would want the same so after the initial rush apparently the system couldn't cope with demand and has had to be modified by the engineers.

In other news, my garden has been wonderful this year. My plan for using less water, more mulch seems to have worked well and the straw bale plants have flourished. We've had a bumper crop of tomatoes and many other things and I'm still picking vegetables daily. Really makes a difference to our food bills, especially when, at times, we've had 8 or 9 people here to eat daily. There are more straw bales in place for next year and I'm hopeful we can continue to make improvements.

The ponies are looking well and continue to improve in their ridden work. I've been hacking out a lot with a friend and it makes such a difference to have someone to chat to while riding. I feel fitter too, which is a good thing as I do tend to be on the lazy side. But with the weather finally cooling off it's so much easier to go riding. It's already getting dark earlier and every day we notice more leaves falling from the trees and the temperatures drop slightly. I've already emptied the pool as it hadn't been used for 2 weeks, it just needs put away somewhere rodent-proof for the winter.

Regular readers might notice a new widget on my blog - I'm also writing articles and publishing to so please feel free to click and have a look. The link should open in a new window.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Time Flies!

Whoa there, it's almost the end of August and our summer has been rather hectic to say the least. We've had horrendous heatwaves, family visiting and I made a quick trip to the UK to see family. Plus all the usual jobs in the garden, arranging winter animal feed and finding things to do with all the produce we've grown.

Riding with Michele, a volunteer who came and helped with the ponies.

Life goes on in Bulgaria and although it seems to move at a less frantic pace it can still be tiring. Luckily we've had some wonderful volunteers this year and have achieved more than expected. Still, there's plenty to be done and more volunteers on the way. We also have 2 kittens now, Treacle & Trixie. they're bundles of fun and growing fast!

Today we're having a break from the extreme heat of the past week where the thermometer was well over 40 Degrees C. It's presently raining, windy and overcast, a lovely change. Early this morning I've been out for a hack on the ponies with a friend and thoroughly enjoyed it. Especially after the ponies had a 2 week intensive training course this month and are now much more sensible, responsive and nicer to ride. 

Here's a selection of the latest photo's taken here by some of our volunteers.





The gorgeous Charlotte


Maya after a bath

Milka waiting for a bath.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Latest Photo's

I wanted to share with you some photographs of our latest volunteers and the work they've done. Five out of six are leaving this weekend to continue their travels and we're so lucky to have had them stay with us.

So this Blog post is dedicated to all of the volunteers we've had over the last year, who have helped, created, laughed and enriched our lives. Thanks guys and girls!

The ladies off to work. From left to right : Joanna, Allison, Cheryl, Camille   &                           Dee.                                                  

Nick having a go at Archery.

Dee & Antoine at the archery range.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Changing Times

May has been a strange month so far. We've had higher than average temperatures and lower rainfall, until this week when all of the rain seems to have fallen over 2 days with more forecast. So today was an indoors, quiet and pretty dull day.

Maybe it's because hubby filled the above ground pool? a freak weather pattern? or possibly just global warming/cooling? Who knows for sure? But please just let me have a little sunshine during the day and rain after 8pm :)

Our volunteers are getting along well and working very hard. They have a few projects on the go and some are staying longer than planned as they'd like to see things through and complete tasks they have a part in. I really must say that they're a lovely bunch of folk, from a variety of places and with many skills and ideas between them. Plus they will eat almost anything so I'm getting to try out a few new recipes, which seem to be appreciated.

The vegetable garden is starting to produce again and is almost fully planted. New raised beds have been built and there are a few experiments on the go using old straw, compost and whatever I could find around the place. I'm glad to say that the last 3 years trying to improve areas of soil seem to be paying off nicely.

We have some lovely new artwork done by some of the volunteers, more planned for another rainy day and hopefully they will remind us of the fun we had when they were here. The sewing machine has been getting regular use, new cushion covers made, garments altered or repaired with some fabric leftover for more projects.

Our orchard area is now clear of the many young, wild fruit trees that were dominating the area, new fencing has been erected and a stone wall rebuilt. Hopefully soon the weather will break and it can be finished. Then the horses can enjoy grazing without being tethered.

I'm off to bed soon and hope you are all enjoying life, but before I go I wanted to answer Michael's comment from my previous post.

There are a fair amount of British expats in the VT region, and differing reasons for moving to this area. Some may find solace in the fact that there are others close by that they have things in common with, others because property is cheap here. Personally we moved here because we loved the scenery (and did look at other areas of BG before VT). Plus we could find what we were looking for - which was a structurally sound house (in need of renovation) with more than the average amount of land. Truthfully the British residents in the area are pretty well spread apart and do not live in each other's pockets. We are 1 of 4 expat families living in this village (10 people in total including 3 children) and a very small proportion of the village inhabitants (at the last census 806). We all live in different parts of the village and have Bulgarian friends and neighbours.

Keep posting the comments folks :)

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Volunteer Season is Here

What a lovely month this is turning out to be - in fact, the last 4 weeks have been fabulous. The garden is coming along nicely, animals all happy and shedding their winter coats and we have volunteers staying with us again.

All's good in my little world. We're enjoying life again and winter is definitely behind us. There have been some lovely nights in and out with friends, my birthday, beautiful sunshine, temperatures rising and everything is green and healthy looking.

Hubby surprised me and bought a new camera for my birthday, plus tiled the kitchen walls. Once I get a new memory card I'll be out and about taking snapshots of my daily life for you all to see.

Keep posting the comments folks, I really do enjoy reading them and wanted to say thank you to anyone who reads this blog for sticking with it.

Back soon with an update on what's growing well and any other news from my corner of rural Bulgaria.

Todorov Den at Arbanassi

I've just noticed that I wrote this blog post and didn't publish it.......oopps!

On Saturday  March 3rd I headed off to Arbanassi, which is a village about 30 minutes drive from us that is very popular with tourists and holidaying Bulgarians, I met up with 2 expat friends and we had a great afternoon.. Arbanassi is a beautiful place, very traditional looking but also full of stalls selling souvenirs. There are some lovely looking restaurants and hotels, a large castle-like place that is very over the top for my tastes and also riding stables where there are a lot of sport and competition horses kept.

Todorov Den is a celebration of the horse, loosely translated it's St. Theodore day. Horses have their manes and tails plaited and wear red & wed bands to follow the tradition of Baba Marta and then there's a parade through Arbanassi village to the centre.Where the mayor, priest and a large crowd are gathered to celebrate and watch the proceedings. There are prizes for the best turned out horses and each rider and horse are blessed by the Popa (priest).

The weather was sunny, but cold and very windy. Despite that, the horses all behaved really well and a good day was had. Some years there is shojumping back at the stables but this time the ground was too wet to be safe. Some people did get to ride the horses around the yard and the children present all got to pet Gina the Shetland pony.

So a much needed afternoon out with friends, a few laughs and beautiful horses was just what I needed. Here's a photo of the carriage horse pair.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Big Thaw

Hubby has been home just over a week now and life is slowly returning to normal. It's lovely having him back but I do really miss my 2 kids. For them, life has improved by going back to the UK. They're both doing well at school, have lots of friends and seem happy. That's waht counts at the end of the day, I'm just a little sad that I don't see them every day.

In other news there was a huge thaw over the weekend, temperatures rose, the sun shone and the snow is almost gone thankfully. We can finally get the car out again so headed out on Saturday morning to collect bales of hay for the ponies and donkey as we'd run short. Luckily we bought some in the village so didn't have far to go, only to arrive home to find water rushing under the garden gate and a river flowing down the garden! The water level got so high that at one point we started moving electrical goods and furniture upstairs as the water got into the house and kept rising. A few hours of baling out, moving things around and trying not to panic were had, until the water slowed down and started dropping......phew :) So nothing ruined, some wet floors and socks but we're ok. Now there's just the mud to cope with.

So fingers crossed spring is now really on it's way. This week (1st March) we'll be giving and receiving martenitsa's again. They're the traditional red and white wrist bands or pins that we wear to appease Baba Marta in the hope of good weather. They're worn until you see the first storks of the year, then tied to a tree or placed under a stone for luck. The 3rd of March is Todoroff Den, a day to celebrate horses, this year I'll be heading out to meet friends at Arbanassi and to see the parade of riders there. Also coming up is International Ladies Day on 8th March, and that's a day out for the ladies of the village, should be fun as they're a comical bunch once you can understand the Bulgarian language. So a busy month for me and if the ground dries up enough I'll be starting my Spring planting outdoors also, onions and radish mainly. I have a few seedling in pots inside already, garlic and peas overwintered in the garden but I think the lettuces have been eaten by snails so I'd best plant more.

Hopefully I'll be back to riding shortly too, it seems like years since I last went for a hack out. I'm just waiting for the ground to dry a little more and I'll be off exploring again. The ponies and donkey haven't had the easiest of winters and were really bored when they couldn't get out. Maybe this year we'll have time to build a small turnout paddock with a shelter which is much needed. One of the ponies had colic the day before hubby came home so a visit from a local vet was needed and a very stressful night was had by me. Luckily she's fully recovered now but cannot have any straw bedding as she will eat it and that could be part of the problem.

I'm off to my bed now, but hope you're all having a good week. Leka nosht :)

Friday, 17 February 2012

Bring on The Cabin Fever

This week hasn't been my best. We are still snowed in and although it's certainly not -20c something now it's still cold and there has been fresh snow overnight. Yesterday I felt really rough and could have quite happily gone to bed and given up on the day.

It's like living in Narnia without the fun adventures. Yes, the garden looks beautiful in the sunshine, all shimmery and clean. But I'm tired of the inactivity now. The poor animals are bored too. Bored animals usually means more repair jobs in the Spring and this year will be no different as the pigs have managed to demolish half of the barn wall. Having a bout of cold hasn't made thinsg easier for me and I'm still sniffling and coughing and short of breath at times but I'm getting better and since I decided to give up coffee I'm also sleeping much better than I have done for a while.

On a much more positive note, hubby is now a grandfather. His daughter gave birth to her first child, a son, on valentines day. The new arrival is named Ethan Jay and both mum and baby are doing well. Hubby flew off to the UK last weekend in the hope that he could be there when the baby was born and his wish came true. He's due home tomorrow though and it will be lovely to have him back and some company again :)

We had a slight mishap here last week. Eon turned up at the door and announced they were disconnecting our electricity. Apparently we should have had a letter to remind us that November's bill hadn't been paid, but to this day that letter has not arrived. There was nothing we could as they went direct to the electricity cables outside the house and cut them. Luckily we rang a friend, Dimitar, from Veliko Tarnovo and he went to Eon, paid the bill and the reconnection fee. We spent a strange night by candlelight and within 20 hours EON were back to switch us back on. Lesson learned, never miss a bill! Even though December and January had been paid they are well within their rights to disconnect the supply if there is a bill outstanding for 90 days.

Today there is brilliant sunshine, but a nippy wind. I've been to the village centre this morning for a cuppa with the ladies and a few essentials. If the weather forecasters are correct we're due to start thawing out over the weekend, so I'll have to try and finish the new ditch that hubby started, which should help drain the snow melt from the garden quickly. There's only a small bit to finish but I couldn't even see the ditch earlier today! It's time to check drainage areas in the hope that our garden doesn't get flooded. I'm looking forward to better weather, riding the ponies again and getting to work in the garden. I'm missing the long days, my shorts and flipflops and eating fresh vegetables that I've grown. What are you looking forward to this year?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Snow, Ice and Yet More Snow

Winter has totally hit us, and we've been snowed in for about 2 weeks now. Nothing really unusual in that to be honest but the temperatures here plummetted and were below -20 degrees c for quite a while, making any outside jobs truly miserable. The whole of Eastern Europe is in the midst of a polar winter and parts of Bulgaria are snowbound, roads closed and without power, while others are flooding terribly. This winter has been declared to worst in 100 years.

So far we've had snow, then a day of thawing, followed by more snow, freezing rain and snow again, falling heavily for the last 2 days. The animals are bored being cooped up and the cat has taken to sitting on the hall radiator to warm himself up - between shouting for food, sleeping on the sofa or screaming for attention! He's even learnt how to open the bedroom door and gave us both a fright a couple of nights ago when he appeared hanging on the door handle! He's been called a few names lately but I won't post them here to be polite.

Hubby's off to the Uk at the weekend, only for a week but I'll be alone with the animals. I've had a short dose of flu but am feeling better today and we finally managed to get out and do a small shop yesterday, stock up on dog food and pay a few bills. I was really quite worried that the internet would be cut off as it's one of the bills we can't pay in the village and I knew it was overdue.

According to the Bulgarian news this polar winter will last until 20th February and then the temperatures should rise and stay above zero. Let's hope it gently melts the snow, otherwise we'll be waterlogged - even living almost on the top of a hill we have flooded once. Luckily we've managed to add more drainage ditches at the top of the garden so they should help drain water away from the house.

Heere's hoping spring is soon here and work on the garden can start again :)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

300 Posts & Happy New Year to all

Double whammy - Best wishes for 2012 and my 300th post here. So what does the future hold for us all? I'm not even sure I'd like to know if it was possible. Much easier to take things as they come and work out any problems on the way.

Speaking of problems - we've had no phone line now for 16 days thanks to Vivacom, their inept customer service and even worse, their ability to actually listen to clients and get off their backsides and fix the problem. How many e-mails and phone calls will it take to finally get sorted? I hope they don't expect to be paid for this month either.

Did you make any New Year's resolutions? I will admit to not making any at all this time round, nor even really thinking about it. Christmas and New Year have been a very quiet one for us and my days have been much the same as normal. Animal feeding, mucking out, riding the ponies and not much else. But the weather has been good, bright and sunny even though we've had a fair amount of snow.

I've figured out that Maya really likes snow, and loves to go out hacking in it. Instead of being quite laid back and happy to plod she can get quite exciteable but does calm down after 10 minutes or so. The snow has almost melted now but we're due more at the weekend but hopefully if all is well on saturday Karen is going into town so I can hitch a lift and stock up on provisions again. Karen has been over today so we managed a nice leisurely hack out with both of the ponies. It went well apart from Milka getting a fright when my dog Baba ran up behind her twice. Baba doesn't usually come with me but must have decided she fancied a change of scenery!

The 2 dogs we have been caring for over the holidays will be going home this weekend. Their owners Alex and Jodie are due back from Texas and are looking forward to seeing their pets again. It'll be a little quieter with 2 less dogs and a cat and great to see our friends again.

I'm already thinking about what to plant this year in the garden, but will have to wait until the ground dries up before I can really do anything. I'm hoping we have more volunteers too as there are plenty of jobs and I really do need the help. Plus I enjoy having friendly, interesting people about the place. It's always lovely to hear their stories, swap ideas and generally have a laugh.

Our friend Neville is back in hospital unfortunately as he has an infection. He's been rather ill again but hopefully is on the road to recovery. Get well soon Neville xxx