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Friday, 7 June 2013

Is this really our garden? 26-5-2013
When we arrived all exhausted and wanting to just get in and unpack the car, put up a temporary fence to stop the dogs going next door and frightening them to death (they don't like big dogs) and collapse, the last thing we needed was to socialise, especially me, being an anti-social old trout. But our new neighbour, Venka, wanted to welcome us with a big hug as if we were old friends. Very strange to us reserved Brits. There were gasps from her and her friends when we managed to extricate ourselves and let the dogs out. I don't know where these friends materialised from, but they were all very welcoming.
I couldn't believe the growth in the garden, When we had last seen it in mid March it was a ploughed field with a few dormant trees. now in mid May it was a jungle! I knew there would be weeds but the growth in just three months was amazing. But that was just half the story. There were, to our surprise, a mass of vegetable plants in one half, and several trees bearing fruit and nuts. The agent had assured us that he had told Venka that we were going to want the garden to grow our own food, and she had been using the land for years as the people who had it for a holiday home were not around enough to keep it under control, (It used to belong to Venka's mother) Next thing the lady herself appeared, and as she has absolutely no English we had a to-and-fro about what things were, with her saying in Bulgarian and me saying in English. She has planted tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, aubergines, fennel, pumpkins and sweetcorn. She also wanted reassurance that it was OK to use the water from our well. We have been told that the Bulgarians are very generous with their plants and advice, but this left me a bit speechless. 
She also told me what fruit trees we have, more than we first thought, There are an apricot, plums, a pear, a peach, a couple of medlars, a walnut and a couple of others which will become clear one day. The girls came to say hello and poor Venka was truly frightened, so the fence went up straight away to keep the dogs off the veg till we could establish ownership. We realised when we were looking around that the falling down woodshed had disappeared.
We were so tired we covered a couple of beds with a mattress topper and fell into bed early, determined to get to the bottom of veg ownership another day. The dogs were properly tired out after having the time of their lives exploring the jungle after being cooped up in the car and hotels for four days.
We had a good explore again in the morning, a bit overwhelmed by the amount of work needed before we could do any planting of our own, then got down to cleaning before doing our first shop. Made lists and everything, then left without them. We just got some food to keep us going for a while, and a scythe and wheelbarrow to make a start on the weeds, and mop and bucket to see us through till our stuff arrives in a few days. Dave tackled our rather smelly bathroom which we have decided was suffering from lack of use. It smells much better now, but I am looking forward to putting the frosted film on the window to give a little privacy from next door.
Venka came over with her grandson to invite us for a meal and give us each a bunch of roses and hosta leaves.
 Happily for us the grandson speaks English and is keen to practice on Venka's friends. We thought this would be a good opportunity to clear up plant ownership, but I am even more confused! She laid on a feast, with salad to start, with rakia (even for this non-drinker, a very smooth brew) followed by roasted mini potatoes, vegetable rice, and chicken, sausage and meatballs, plates of ham and mini salami, bread, followed by a huge bowl of yoghurt with strawberries, followed by cherries. Stuffed wasn't the word. And being a non meat eater I had less than others.....though to be honest I think the rice might have been cooked with the chicken, and was delicious. But the veg in the garden, it seems, was planted to stop the weeds taking hold on the plot. It's very difficult to ask outright who is responsible for the watering and upkeep, never mind who is to eat it. Venka's husband, Jordan, says he will be emptying his rubbish from the barn and mending the hole in the wall which they use to come into the garden. We will have to see. Whatever, they are generous and warm people, and Venka has offered to take us to the market to look for chickens, though how that will work with the language barrier I don't know, One thing she did mention was that our side neighbours are English, but are away for a few weeks. We are hoping they can advise us on such things as internet providers etc

Clearing a path 28-5-2013 -

We have both come down with very nasty viruses, with sore throats, a dreadful cough and lots of gunk. (Sorry) I had a fever for a couple of days too, but Dave didn't, just a worse cough than me. Although Venka's son has offered to cut the weeds down for us, Dave has had to start on the ones hiding the gates and path as our stuff is being delivered tomorrow. I am sifting through the three foot high grass (the dogs think it's their play area) and finding old grape vines that have been chopped down with the weeds on earlier clearings, along with roses and hostas which I would like to keep, so this area will not be mown down. The long grass I am putting aside to dry for using in the chickens' nest boxes. Waste not want not! We have no tools until our stuff is delivered tomorrow, but Dave has a sickle, a scythe and brute strength and I have a large pair of scissors, Marigolds and less strength. Meanwhile Venka is tying in tomatoes and courgettes, watched by the evil dogs, and lucky for us is happy to exchange greetings but does not intrude on our time.
Someone has very kindly offered us some chickens for eggs so we have inspected the old chicken house and it seems very secure from night time predators. The wire of the run needs replacing eventually, but we have brought some electric poultry netting with us which we intend to use to move around the garden so the chickens can help to keep weeds and bugs down. Dave is having his pure breds in a separate area, but we don't know where yet. He has set some eggs in the incubator, but they got a bit shook up on one of the local roads, so at the moment we are unsure if they are viable.
 We will know in a week. We really need to find a feed supplier very soon, so once the viruses are cleared we will have to get down to some serious sign language!
The girls are loving their new life. Now they have stopped running about with excitement, getting too hot, Bella has found the long grass under the old apricot tree a great place to lie in the cool and watch what is going on through the long stems. Bonnie wanders from the warm outside to the cool of the kitchen tiles and back again. Any time you feel like it, they will play hunt the squeaky snake or even better for Bonnie, the squeaky tennis ball. She will search the long grass for ages, tail going vigorously, meanwhile Bella watches with the thing in her mouth!
The natural life in the garden is a delight to us, though no doubt it will soon be just an ordinary part of life. We have always wanted a regular woodpecker, and we now have one which is not worried about us being in the garden, and is spending time on the floor of the hen run, which is under a walnut tree, tapping away at last year's nuts, or in the plum tree opposite doing who knows what. It also has a good look at the tomato posts, though I doubt he will find much there. There are also lots of crickets of different colours, grasshoppers and spiders, and fireflies at night too.
 Some of the birdsong is very unusual to us, and there are lots in the garden, but the only ones we see, apart from the woodpecker, are great tits and swallows. We hear buzzards too, and saw a hoopoe on the road outside the village. There are lizards and snakes, but not in the garden as yet, and dragonflies..... There is also something visiting our roof space during the night. Not sure what, but Dave saw an animal, fleetingly, running up the walnut tree, which had a bushy tail. If it's a marten we will have to watch the chickens. We don't think it's rats as we have experienced them before, while on holiday, and they have a routine. This thing comes in and clatters around making a heck of a din, any time between eight pm and three am. Thought we had a burglar the first night!
Dave went off to the post office to introduce himself and see if there is any post. He is keen to practice his Bulgarian. And very well he did too, coming back with a card from my sister in Windermere. He enjoys a challenge and can't understand that the more he tries to push me the longer it is going to take to get over my shyness to have a go myself.
Venka called over for us to get a bucket of lovely small new potatoes she had just dug. Lovely, I was going to do pasta but not now. Potatoes all the way.


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