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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Rakia with the neighbours.

We were thinking of locking the chickens up and going to bed the other night when we got a call from the other side of the fence, and an invitation to go over for rakia. We went round in trepidation, knowing things are never that simple. And we were right. There were seven places laid at the table in the garden, where Jordan was nodding off in the heat. Out came Venka with plates piled high with tomatoes and a scattering of olives and grated home made cheese. The best rakia was dished out (grappa) and toasts given, plus some sickly sweet strawberry(it said on the bottle) pop. We normally eat fairly early, about six thirty, as I don't sleep well with a belly full of dinner. We are sick of tomatoes now, with having to deal with so many every day, and also eating them at lunch time every day, but it would be rude not to eat them. We tried to eat slowly, spending time chatting (!) to neighbours. One did speak a few words of English, which helped things along a little. She has a son working in England so is keen to improve her language skills. Her mother lives over the road to us, a lady known as Baba Danka, who insists on talking to us in fast Bulgarian, but luckily doesn't seem to need any answers. She is quite a characterful old lady, very bent and arthritic, though still very active and can throw a log with the best of them, and who always wears a scarf and drab clothes. For this evening, though, she had got dressed up and uncovered a lovely head of dyed, healthy shiny hair. She presented us with three dahlias as a welcome to Bulgaria gesture, in a colour Mum would have loved.
By this time Dave and I had finished our pile of tomatoes and this had been replaced by....another pile. Oh dear. They are lovely tomatoes, but this was a struggle. Off Venka went and brought out the usual beautifully arranged meats. I thought I had got away with not having any more food, but she suddenly dashed in and brought me two roasted green peppers, icy cold from the fridge. Interesting. They still had the seeds in but were very sweet. By this time another lady had arrived, someone who works in a coffee shop, and a lively night was in full swing. Then out came watermelon, after that, yellow melon, then the courgette and chocolate muffins I had given Venka earlier, and if anyone wanted anything else there was a box of chocolates! By this time the pop had turned to beer. We had to call a halt to the evening when our hosts looked as if they were about to drop off, and as it was 12.15, so were we! A lovely evening though and it's nice to get to know a few more of the resident Bulgarians. They are such friendly people, and seem to appreciate that we are trying to communicate without expecting them to speak English, though they find it amusing to try out some words, usually British football teams.

The builder has been out to see what can be done about putting some internal stairs in. At the moment we have outside stairs to the bedrooms and bathrooms, which will be awkward in winter. It looks as if we can make do with a small extension to the kitchen, making the bedroom window into a door (there are two large windows) and moving the kitchen window out. We will see what the estimate says.

The weather is very hot now. The dogs are finding the nights uncomfortable, as we are, but we don't whine and pace and pant! Putting the fan on helps, but only if you stop pacing. Bella is not keen on fans, when it suits. In the garden many of the plants wilt alarmingly during the day, but we are being trusted to water now, so we know most of them are OK. The most alarming ones are the pumpkin/squash, but they don't get water at all. It is amazing that they can look so dead when we go to bed, but come alive over night.

 The cabbages are growing so fast you can almost see it! The leeks are doing quite well too, though Venka insist we keep nipping the tops off. The tiny broccoli and kale plants we put in last week are holding their own. We have lost a couple but they are planted a bit close anyway, and are more than we need if they survive. Time will tell. We are getting lots of French beans now and my next project is to try salting some....once we are tired of them. We will freeze some too, but some books say salted beans keep their texture better. We'll find out soon enough.
We are about half way through the tomatoes now. I made a year's supply of tomato ketchup yesterday. Only 1.5 litres, but enough for us. It took forever, but used up loads of tomatoes. We have bought another set of shelves to store all the bottles in the cellar, but there is only one shelf left to fill. We have enough tomatoes to last years, but when scrabbling around in the food cupboard found two tins which came out from the UK with us.
We have arranged to pick up our trio of pure bred Shumen chickens today, so depending on age (Dave forgot to ask) there may be a new cockerel voice added to the dawn chorus in the morning. I hope he's friendly, I am not going to deal with him if he isn't, and I don't fancy his chances of a long life if he has a go at Dave too often!

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