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Sunday, 16 April 2017

'A quarter of the year gone already. where has the time gone'

Apologies to all the followers of this blog for not keeping everyone up to date with events here and it stunned me to think that I have not written anything in four months, but finding time in an already heavy schedule these days seems to be impossible.

The winter was long and cold here in Bulgaria with temperatures down to -20 for many weeks. It was the coldest recorded winter in sixty nine years and by gum did it feel it. Luckily the wood supply lasted, just, but my health could have been better for over the last four months I have colds or chest infection one after the other. I had taken antibiotics for the first cold and now wonder if the strong course that I took basically left me open for more infections, one being so bad that other than feeding the animals I returned to bed for three days. Still over the worst of them now with only the residual coughing fits from the last chest infection. The winter seemed even longer than usual for not having the company of Sara who I still miss sorely and visit her grave less frequently, but once a week without fail after speaking to family on Skype back in the UK each Saturday and lay fresh flowers on her grave.
We had a little snow during the winter!!!!

Th snow made it a tough trek to visit Sara's grave. 
I felt like being one in the Scott of the Antarctic expedition.

Mind your head!!!

To try and keep my mind occupied I continued with the house decorating and have managed to get the bedroom finished following the old windows being replaced with double glazing which definitely helped with conserving the heat during the coldest spells.
A place of tranquility after a busy day.

Due to the long winter things were slow getting off in the garden, but finally some planting has been done and preparing the ground for further sowing. As previously mentioned I plan to lay half of the garden to lucerne to give me additional fodder for the goats which I will talk about later.
Herb garden


Shallots and onions

Carrots and beetroot (note to myself, get weeding) 


Sweetcorn, yet to germinate

Runner beans, yet to germinate 



There will be tomatoes, peppers and aubergines planted in a couple of weeks which my neighbours are going to supply me with, bless them. Venka regularly appears at the wall and beckons me to either invite me for supper, coffee or has some meal in her as she still worries about me and that I am still losing too much weight. Admittedly I needed to lose a little weight, but having lost nearly three stone over the year I could do with not losing any more, but I suppose heavy workload, stress and grieving all has its part to play over the last year. Now that I have re-evaluated things over here and my capabilities hopefully things will improve. I must confess there have been many times I wanted to go back to the UK, back to the rat race and even now there are times when things go wrong I would 'shut up shop', Sara and I left the UK to come here to live a life, not as we had in the UK an existence of endless work to pay bills and keep a roof over our heads. When Sara died my life became an existence again without her, but like climbing Kilimanjaro back in 2010, I eventually sorted my head out and rose above the clouds and got a clear view of the way ahead. The hardest thing I find is motivation for much of what I did was for Sara and I, more so for Sara and without her it has been an uphill climb to motivate myself, but do it I did no matter how hard it was. Maybe the Bulgarian culture of when a loved one dies after a year a widower no longer dresses in black, black scarves are no longer worn and black bows are removed from the gate of the house beside the obituary poster of the loved one and they then get on with normal life, socialising and the like and so my life goes on now, but with the memory Sara's forever etched in my mind and of what we had and the good times albeit too briefly will never be forgotten and how special she was too me.

Anyway back to the Novo Nachalo (new beginning) smallholding.

Snowdrops and daffodils have been and gone and now the grapes are producing flowers and the garden around the pond are beginning to get established.
Peach blossom


Irises ready to beak bud

The citrus plants and geraniums housed indoors over the winter made it through.
Plants around the pond establishing

Buddha and tulips

Luckily for me, my bees survived the winter including the hive I created by splitting the main hive last year to create another colony as a friend lost over 50% of their hives due to the harsh winter. Now the bees are regularly flying to collect pollen from the fruit tree blossoms and the rape fields surrounding the village.


On the goat front a whole blog could be written just of its own and so to try and avoid boring you too much I will try and condense it a little. As everyone knows I have been having a go at making goat cheese with a modicum of success, but that has had to be put on hold over the winter and the next couple of months as all my girls were pregnant and now have kids.

The  gestation period for a goat is 150 days, but can kid five days either side of the aforementioned time. All females have now given birth successfully, but sadly one kid died soon after birth. Now get ready for the ahhhhs.

The first doe to give birth was my old Anglo Nubian girl 'Duchess' who was expected to give birth on 25th February and duly give birth to triplets(all girls) on the 27th February. Due to her age she does not have good body condition as soon as she gives birth and to avoid her reserves being reduced further two of the kids are being bottle reared although one does go in for a sneaky suckle from mum if she gets the chance.
Duchess's kids soon after birth.

Getting them to feed from mum first to get them to take much needed first milk that contain colostrum then two onto the bottle the next day.

Next to kid was Tilly one of my first goats and first time mother (she did abort last year at two months due to an incident when out with the goatherd, one of the reasons they no longer go out with them. She was due to kid on the 4th March and gave birth on the 1st March to twins (both girls).She has been a fantastic mum and both are piling the weight on for as before she kidded food is her priority and even now is a 'Tubby Tilly'.
Milly in the process of kidding, first kid successfully born. 

 Tilly out in the sun with her kids the day after they were born.

Next on the list was Tilly's mum Milly. She was due to kid on 20th March and gave birth to twins (both boys) on the 21st March. Sadly one of the boys died soon after birth, but the other kid is doing fine. I am taking some milk from her each day to reduce the amount of milk I am currently having to buy to bottle feed two of Duchess's kids.
 Milly with her single surviving kid 

The little lad enjoying a bit of sun

Last but not least Eliza, my young Anglo Nubian was due to kid on the 13th April and gave birth successfully yesterday, the 15th April to two kids (a boy and a girl),
 Just after birth Eliza's kids

Eliza started labour and in an hour both were born and the first already up on her feet.

Duccess's bottle reared kids at around a month old.

So all in all it could not have gone better, other than the loss of one kid and Duchess getting a uterine infection soon after kidding, but fortunately not caused by a retained placenta. Although I have limited goat keeping experience it seems my days working at the zoo record keeping and picking up on changes of behaviour all went well. At three months old the kids will be weaned and hopefully sold (fingers crossed) and then cheese making can get into full swing once I am able to start milking the girls. Hard work but from the video below it makes it all worth it.

Sadly through my own fault and possibly due to total fatigue a major catastophe occurred only the other day. Having been up at 4am and working all day preparing a limited supply of goat cheese for the car boot to keep people interested in my goat cheese that I have been making I collapsed in a heap on the sofa to watch a bit of television (a treat these days) and subsequently fell asleep and woke up at 2am. I trundled off to bed in a daze and then got up at 5am to start the next day. 

One of the first jobs as soon as I get up is feed the goats and bottle feed two of Duchess's kids. Going out then it was just beginning to get light I thought to myself 'I don;t know the goats didn't eat much of the cabbage I gave them the day before' as I saw what looked like chopped cabbage, but it was not it was bird feathers. Having fallen asleep on the sofa watching television I had forgotten to lock the chickens and ducks in and a fox took almost all of my flock of chickens and my remaining Indian Runner ducks (a pair). To say I felt upset would have been an understatement not only because of the loss of the birds, but that it was my fault for not locking them in the night before.  I have two female Sebright bantams survive the massacre as they roosted high up in the goats hayrack, a hen with two chicks which I had locked in a cat carrier box earlier in the evening before falling asleep and one Old Dutch bantam hen which has gone broody and nested out of the main hen house. So all my Light Sussex flock which it had taken two years to source and set up have gone, my Indian Runners are gone, and it is times like these when I think ' what is the point', but it is those times you have to pick yourself up, brush yourself off and have learnt a lesson the hard way, 

Sebright bantams hens

Mother hen with her two chicks

On a slightly better note I have got a dozen Indian Runner duck eggs in the incubator at the moment and a friend sold me a pair of Old Dutch bantam and three female turkeys which hopefully I will be getting a stag at the end of the week.
Newly acquired turkeys 

Old Dutch bantams

So as I close this update on my life here living in Bulgaria, with some sad and some good notes, each day seeing views and places like this just make it all worthwhile.

Krushuna Falls

Balkan mountain range

Take care guys and hopefully it will not be another four months before I post again.

Friday, 23 December 2016

What a year

Well what a year it has been, one I would not like to repeat in many ways, emotionally, but I have to thank family, friends and followers of the blog for their support through the tough times. There are far too many to mention individually, but you know who you are.

At last the legal issues that I have had to deal with since Sara died have at last been completed, so over the last two months my mind has been on overdrive contemplating my future. There have been occasions where I wanted to sell up and go back to the UK. Partly due to feeling I was stagnating and not going forward emotionally and partly due to frustration with the language barrier causing me at times to feel very isolated. Due to the daily lottery pick of emotions, another time I felt like selling up to then buy property elsewhere to then expand the goat herd to enable me to produce more cheese. Viewing a few houses made me soon realise, ultimately any profit made from the sale of this house would soon be eaten up with repairs to a new house, so would be a situation of 'cutting off my nose to spite my face'. So for the time being I will stay here for at least to the end of next year when I will need to renew my residency. possibly requiring me to create a company due to the UK deciding to pull out of the EU (Brexit) or that I am not in a financial position to stay as I have a few years to go before I will be able to get a pension, but for now I live for the day (with a little immediate forward planning) for know one really knows what tomorrow may bring.

So as the winter draws on and the winter solstice has passed meaning spring will be here before you know it, not much has happened in the garden. This being the case then I have been concentrating on jobs indoors or some jobs outside when the weather permits. We have had temperatures well below freezing at night (the lowest being -12) for a couple of weeks now and a little snow so the fire is constantly burning during the day which keep the cats and dogs happy and is very welcoming after working outside.

Partly due to the cold weather and partly because Isaac is very much an athlete and regularly jumping over into the girls stalls at night when I separate them for the night I have finished making the upper stable doors to each of the goat houses. What with deep litter and the doors keeping the heat in at night water buckets are not freezing at night and all the goats are keeping warm which is good as all the girls are now confirmed pregnant with Duchess due to kid at the end of February. Now that Isaac has done the business he has become a little bored and gets into all sorts of mischief as he is still less than a year old and seeks out attention. So I spend a little time training him to stand at various points in the enclosure on blocks and to start lifting his feet on command which he seems to enjoy the attention. Eliza on the other hand is very aloof and does not crave attention, which causes problems when hoof trimming. All the others once tethered will stand and allow their hooves to be trimmed, but Eliza she is like a bucking broncho and so at the moment I am not forcing her as she is at the stage she could abort. So each day all get their treat of bread which she now comes up for and even pushes her way in for. In addition to this wen she is separated at night with Duchess I sit in the stall with them as Duchess is very much a calming influence on her to try and bond with her.

Eliza is turning not a stunning goat albeit a little bonkers

Cheese production is very limited at the moment as Millie's milk yield as gone down, but I have started experimenting with semi hard cheeses such as Caerphilly and Roquefort.  The first Caerphilly has be tasted and even some sold after friends tried it and wanted some, so hopefully once the car boots start up again and tasters provided that will become as popular as the Garlic and Chive soft cheese.

Novo Nachalo Caerphilly type cheese
Novo Nachalo Roquefort type cheese in the making.

Grace the dachshund is at a testing time at the moment for each time I go out she is into disemboweling sofa cushions and the like. I do not think it is separation anxiety, I think it more that she is in her terrible teens stage and being a Daxie tends to dig a lot. The evidence in the garden is apparent as she has dug up newly planted bulbs and the like and so I think she is just doing the same when indoors. Still hopefully she will soon grow out of it, we had the same problem with Bella until she was eighteen months old and then she was fine (fingers crossed).
 Butter wouldn't melt - NOT

DISgrace - Crime scene
A morning foray on the bed pillow disemboweled 
and not that being enough she decided to chew a pen up
 so ink stains on a jumper.
Being colder and trying to move forward, I have started decorating the house in preparation for when hopefully my parents come and visit in May next year. So to brighten the place up, out with white and magnolia in with red and yellow in the living room and kitchen. Maybe I am reverting back to my youth for I remember my dad being a little more than annoyed when I decided to paint my bedroom wall pillar box red, but the paint was gloss paint. There are times when Bob Marley or Kate Bush is playing on my computer, with vibrant colours in the room, incense sticks burning I feel I am back in my teens. If only it was that easy to turn back time.  

 Living Room

 Living Room

 Kitchen to Living Room

Invariably the stress and build up to Christmas has been a bit much at times for me. Trying frantically to re-create what Sara and I used to do making gifts for neighbours, I took to making mince pies, biscuits and chocolates for them. 

 Ginger biscuits

Mince pies

I have not made any hand made cards this year I just cannot get my head round it as that was Sara's thing, but with all this ups and downs of emotions through creating the gifts I will not be making them next year. It is not that I am letting go of Sara's memory that will never happen, but it is a thing we did TOGETHER and I have to create a new life without her by my side albeit in spirit or memory, I have to create MY new life of my own. 

I have not put paint to canvas for a couple of months now and have never considered myself a portrait artist, but one of the things I really want to try and do is do a portrait of Sara. So here is the start. A long way to go and it currently hangs in the bedroom ready for me to continue with it when time permits and when I am in the mood. At least it is hanging which implies I am relatively happy with it at the moment for I will never put a painting up that I am not happy with.   
Darling Sara

So I am up early this morning to write the blog (apologies it is so short) and prepare for the day ahead as I am making steak and mushroom pudding instead of doing turkey for tomorrow, the big day. A couple of close friends are coming round for although initially I just wanted the day alone I know deep down that would not be moving forward with life and be dwelling on what has been not what will be. It may be a tough day, but I have gone this far and there are certain to be more days like these but by the strength in me I know I can go forward, I have come this far already.

Anyway you guys have a really good Christmas. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support and kind words over the year. Be sure to cherish every moment not just tomorrow, but every day. Be sure to tell those loved ones around you you love them, not just tomorrow, but every day. You have one shot at this life, make it a good one. 

God Bless you

Love you always Sara xx

Sunday, 30 October 2016

I am still here

First of all I must again apologise for the delay in posting and thank you to Curly Cub, Snowdrops and many others who have contacted me to ask if everything is okay as I have not posted for sometime. It is now eight months since Sara died and on the eve of what would have been her 60th birthday I sit here trying to compose something of interest to my followers.

I suppose I ought to write firstly as to why the delay and then go from there.

As many of you are aware I have written before giving some insight to the grief that I have been going through and continue to suffer for there is not a day goes by where I sorely miss Sara. Many things or quite often a combination of things can take me to the edge and feel that I do not want to go on, but I do for many reasons most of all for Sara.

I am very much a perfectionist and when the workload becomes ever increasing it tends to put me on a downward spiral of negativity where it can be a major battle to overcome. Day to day life is a constant juggle of prioritising many aspects of surviving here on my own and other aspects can and do produce some very grey days, but somehow my inner strength gets me through to the next day. When Sara and I were living and working in the UK, life was as we used to say ''an existance'' working all  the hours god sent to pay bills and live a sort of semblance of life. Many aspects were material things which are not necessary in order to survive. but luxuries or what society would expect you to have. When we came to live our dream here in Bulgaria it became ''our life'' where frivolous luxuries were not necessary in order to survive and that simple things mattered more and that we as a team achieved so much together. Now without Sara it has become an existence once more for me due to the feeling of what is it all for. I used to get great pleasure from doing things for Sara, making her happy and without her here with me physically that pleasure is gone, but I soldier on.

Many things have and do cause me to teeter on the tightrope of life, many things out of my control, but ultimately they still have an effect on my day to day life. The worst has been that when Sara died she had not made a will and although we were married, under Bulgarian law a percentage of the house belongs to either our children, or Sara's parents, but as we had no children and Sara's parents have died that percentage of house ownership goes to her siblings. In the last seven months there have been numerous meetings with solicitors here in Bulgaria for compiling documents, emails being sent to solicitors in the UK, the Foreign Office and Sara's siblings and it now seems finally after a few issues I am at the home stretch to finally get sole ownership of the house back. Understandably at a time when least needed, when I was trying to grieve for Sara, I could have done without the additional stress, which after eleven years of not smoking I have started albeit temporarily in order to try and deal with the worry. As I have said alot of this situation was out of my control which at times made it worse as limited saving had to be used to for advance payments and that there were expiry dates on documents so there was an urgency to the matter which in turn created additional stress.

Life at times can throw up some weird coincidences which 'knock you for six' and at the last blog post there was one such coincidence. A new follower of the blog had asked to be included into my 'Google circles' which then informs followers that I have written another blog post.  On opening the request, the persons name and surname were the same at Sara's before I married her.

So with these aspects added onto day to day life and trying to re adapt, trying to develop my life out here on my own has taken its toll on my enthusiasm of life here, but also finding the time or the inclination to write, so once again apologies for the delay, but I hope you understand where I am coming from.

So what has been happening...

As autumn fully takes hold with the last remaining leaves being blown from the trees, in the village there is a constant hive of activity with constant plumes of smoke from gardens as rubbish and weeds are burned along with the sound of tractors ploughing gardens before that wet weather sets in. Up until last week we were still getting temperatures in the upper teens and with the sun it made working in the garden pleasurable, if you can call weeding pleasurable so that I could rotovate the lower section of the garden ready for planting lucerne next year so that I can cut it as fodder for the goats.
Sadly due to time constraints I have not been able to get the garden ploughed as normal, as my neighbours son-in-law does all the gardens on the same day and I was not ready for ploughing at tat time. Still after a couple of hours at least half the garden is rotovated. In the next couple of days if te weather holds out and picking the last of the sixty cabbages I will get to rotovate the last half. By now I am sick of seeing cabbages and the goats are fed up with them too, but before rotovating that part I need access to te barn as another fifty bales of lucerne are due to arrive to stock up for winter feed for the goats.

On the goat front the young kids Eric and Ernie have grown well and both are now over twenty kilos and as they are now weaned are due to be collected next week to go to their new home . Now with the kids weaned, Millie their mother is being milked in the morning and producing between a litre and a litre and a half at each milking, but once the kids have gone she will be milked in the evening as well.

Eric and Ernie

I did not realise that billy kids were so quick in getting their act together as to mating for at a month old they were going through the actions and more so once Isaac my young billy came into rut. Being in rut has created him producing a lovely aroma especially on damp days that pervades around the garden. A lesson quickly learnt was do not trim his hooves unless in tatty clothes for when I did his hooves a couple of weeks ago I inadvertently had the stench of him following me around the house as it had become ingrained in my decent jeans and tee shirt, but after a couple of washes it is no longer there, phew. The aroma is caused by the billy urinated on his legs and face which induces the females to then come into season, so for the last month or so an active herd would be an understatement, requiring much management. Normally Millie her kids and Tilly (Millies daughter are housed in the same house at night, but when Tilly was in season the young billy kids were taking advantage that Isaac was not around and hassling her so for a few days it meant 'musical goats shed' moving one female to another shed or housing them with Isaac overnight when they were in season. Watching the herd it became apparent that each of the females has a different strategy when in a 'oestrus either to entice or avoid Isaac to mate with them. Duchess the old Anglo Nubian would press her butt against hay racks or corners to stop him mating with her, Tilly was 'a bit of a tart' and let him just get on with it, Millie was a little more quiet vocally than the others whilst Elisa his favourite even now after possibly now being pregnant has to be checked out each morning with the usually billy behaviour of sniffing her, tongue flicking and front leg kicking to assess her receptivity. At the moment both Duchess and Tilly have conceived as neither have come back into season and it is possible that Eliza had not caught the first time as she was being mated again a couple of days ago. Millie may be due back in, but oddly she was mated again a week after her initial mating, but they may be due to her only recently having kids, so the first kids will be due at the end of February next year so exciting times ahead.

Seems like I cannot get away from my animal record keeping days.

Isaac has been a challenge to manage when the girls are in season,
 but all in all he has behaved himself very well
 and has turned out to be a cracking billy albeit it stinky.  

Novo Nachalo cheese production seems to be taking off as sales have increased with repeat and new customers and with Bulgarian villagers trying it and with people from the other side of Bulgaria enquiring about it and buying it, but sadly sales will invariably slow down as the car boot sales have finished for the year. This will give me a chance to trail making new cheeses. Current best sellers are Garlic & Chive, Walnut & Honey and Red Chilli Jam and Yogurt Cheese all having been developed in the last three months since the product first was launched. Although not making a huge amount of money it does pay for the goats upkeep at least.
Ever popular Walnut and Honey Novo Nachalo cheese
Red Chilli Jam and Yogurt Cheese

As the weather has turned colder the pechka is being lit either early in the morning when I first get up or in the evening. After having the old windows and doors replaced with UPVC which although quite a big outlay they will in the long term pay for themselves by reducing the amount of wood I will need to burn or and electricity consumption to keep the house warm, but now that a rug has been placed in front of it I am lucky to get a look in. 

Is there room for one more?

The added advantage of larger windows is that they also enable me 
to be able overwinter te orange, lemon, lime, bougainvillea and geraniums 
upstairs as they allow more light in.

Not much is happening in the garden now as it goes into dormancy for the winter, 
but the last few figs cling on before the major frosts.

So like the garden I will have to go into a state of dormancy, but it gives me the opportunity to slow down a little and reflect on the last few months, prepare for the next growing season, but more importantly have a little 'me time'. So still practising with my new camera and making butterflies to trial selling at next years car boots along with the now popular Novo Nachalo cheese I prepare for the coming winter and think to myself how lucky I am to have friends, family and followers looking out for me to make sure everything is okay.
Moon shots with new camera

Spirit of Sara butterfly decorations.