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Friday, 23 August 2013

Checking the chimneys

We don't have a clue how woodburners work, only that they need a chimney. Most rooms here have a chimney, which has a round hole plugged with a cast cap, presumably for a flue, and lower down what seems to be access for cleaning. Our's are all painted over as the house has no heating due to it having been doneup to be a holiday home. We are wanting a small burner upstairs to keep the worst of the cold at bay, and one downstairs with oven. There is a chimney in the small living room/ktchen for the stove, and any excess heat can be directed into the new extension and up into our bedroom. We are struggling to decide how to do things upstairs. There is a large landing so although the freezer is there at the moment there is no prblem with space for a small stove. But as in most Bulgarian houses it means directing the flue across the room as the chimney is on the outside wall. No doubt someone will put me right, but I assume these flues act as radiators, using waste heat effectively. But they are not very pretty.

Anyway, to find out if the chimneys are open Dave had to open the lower door in the chimneys in the spare rooms. He got a bit of a shock though, as this is what faced him!
It looked as if a chicken had a secret nest! So out came the gloves and Dave gingerly started to empty it out.
The first egg on the left was a shell with a very neatly removed top. The second was whole. There were a couple of dessicated rodent bodies, then a couple of.....chicken legs! Lots of bits of mortar and dust. Then a pair of black feathered chicken wings. It seems that some carnivore had been using the chimney as a stash. Gruesome. We are presuming pine marten as there are plenty around. It must have smelled sooo bad when it was festering, no wonder they had difficulty selling the house! So, interesting find even if yeuch!

I made my first batch of lemon curd yesterday, a tasty way of using surplus eggs. I had made a sharp lemon and yoghurt cake and the lemon curd was to enhance the flavour. And very delicious it was too. I even managed to scoop a little cream from the milk to have with our first slices. Well, the cake was low fat!

The milk doesn't last long, it is straight from the cow, still warm in it's coke bottle. I left a jug full out overnight to start some cheese experiments, added a squeeze of lemon juice next day and strained it, salted it and put it away for a while. No idea what it will be like, but with all this cheap, fresh milk available it is a good time to try things out. I wouldn't presume to make sirene, the local feta like cheese, but I might try making halloumi one day. I do like a nice bit of grilled cheese. Now, where to get some sheep's milk for that authentic taste.....

We had a visitor in the garden last night. Bella was being a pain and 'huffing' at the neighbours, who were out tending their preserving fire after we went to bed. She settled after a while but at 12 ish suddenly barked and jumped on the bed to look out of the window, waking us and Bonnie. We (both) told them to settle down, which they reluctantly did. We often hear animal sounds in the garden, screeching, squealing or squabbling, and the dogs usually ignore it now. But if there is a dog in the garden they both react. But at around 1am we were woken with the sound of a small dog yapping, very close to the house. Dave shone a torch and there was a dog in the garden. He went down as it seemed to be stuck in the chicken pen, to find it was entangled in the electric (off) mesh, held fast by it's collar. Of course it panicked and made things worse, and Dave spent ages quietening it down so he could free it. It must have been struggling for a while as the whole side of the fence had been pulled up. A lot of the dogs around here are un-socialised and spend their lives on chains, and the heavy leather collar and D-ring on this dog suggested it was used to being tied up, so it is a worry that he might have got bitten. I handed him some scissors and he reluctantly cut the mesh to free the dog, who by now was quite happy with Dave and decided he didn't want to leave! There are several ways he could have got in, but we had never seen him before so we had no idea which way to send him. Eventually we heard him yapping a little way off, so we knew he had found his way out. Dave saw him in one of the gardens behind us this morning, and there was a lady out there too so we are assuming he lives there. Some hole blocking is needed today though, something we were planning on doing in winter when the foliage had died down. We are both zombied today. Could have done without it.

We seem to have got the mouse problem sorted for now. The gap under the door where a piece had been sawn off to accommodate the wonky floor tiles has` been plugged. A new piece of timber screwed over the threshold and a draught excluder on the filled and no sign of mice since.

We have had a quote through for the extension. It was more than we hoped it would be, but still a lot cheaper than it would be in the UK. Work will start at the end of September. Unfortunately it means we will not be able to afford a kitchen, so Dave will have to hone his skills so he can make me an island so I can get some work surface. Then, though he doesn't know it, a full size sink can be fitted and the splash back tiled and gaps filled, cupboard doors sanded and painted and....and........ lots to do over the winter.


  1. Hi,

    I also use woodburners so can offer a few tips. The stovepipes that stretch across the room do indeed heat up considerably when the fire is on, so it would seem logical to assume that they contribute in some way to the heat output of the unit.

    When you chop you wood, don't chop it all too small. Have a mixture of smaller logs for starting the fire and for cooking, and larger logs that'll burn slowly throughout the night without you needing to keep getting up to fuel the fire.

    If you are thinking of installing a woodburner, if the budget allows get terracotta ones rather than metal ones. The metal ones will kick out heat quickly, within an hour, but won't maintain the heat in a room once you've stopped fuelling them - the room'll be cold again within the hour of the last log burning out. They are good for the kitchen (where you want to heat the stove up quickly to cook on it) and ok for a living room, where you're likely to be on hand to chuck another log on as and when, but they're not so good for the bedrooms, unless someone is willing to wake up every 30 minutes to put another log on.

    Terracotta stoves, although expensive, act like storage heaters. You'll need a few hours of fuelling to get them up to heat, but once they're hot, they'll keep the room hot all night. Last winter, I'd feed the stove for 2-3 hours before bedtime, get the room up to about 24C. In the morning it was sometimes 29C as the stove continues to heat up the room overnight. Even by the time I went up to the bedroom the following day it would still be 18C or so (-10 outside) giving me a headstart on heating the room the following night.

    1. That's great, thank you. It will be a case of trial and error the first year I think. It's nice that someone has advice which doesn't include two radiators in every room! As for wood, we got the first 10 cubic metres unchopped and Dave chopped it, some may be a bit small. But the second lot we got ready chopped and most of it is chunkier so it looks as if we (he) have done something right!

      And thank you for reading the blog.

  2. Hi Dave & Sara

    Just to say I am enjoying your blog it is Jackie from Lab Rescue UK:) I have had a good catch up today, it is so interesting to read how you are getting on out there. Hope you got some sleep after the dog break in!

    Take care both of you, I will no doubt post again at some point.
    Jackie xx

    1. Hi Jackie, and thank you. It's lovely to get feedback, especially from someone you 'know'. The dog has been back, would make a lovely friend for Bella........haha

  3. Romfoody is quite right about different sized logs. Ideally the smaller pieces to get the fire going would be softwood (pine for instance) and the chunkier, burn all night pieces would be hardwood (something like oak).

    If you get a flue and take it across the room try not to make the angle too shallow. Also, get a flue damper. When you go to sleep you can restrict the flow of air and the wood should burn for longer.

    A couple of links for you (or more likely Dave):

    I love reading your blog and so does my OH, I'm still very jealous.

    1. Thank you, and thank you. Dave has had a look at the websites mentioned and has found them really interesting. I haven't had time, the internet has been down (weather)

      I know you dream of having your own place, and if you really want it you will. We waited a long time and it has taken nearly all our capital, but we love it so far and hope we will be able to carry on for years yet. Thank you for reading the blog, it means a lot.

    2. If you can get past the sheer madness of some (most) of their views (some type of armageddun fear)then prepper sites and videos are really good to see how people have overcome lack of power etc in their "retreats", how they store food without refridgeration (mineral oil on eggs for instance) and lots of other (I think) pretty cool stuff.

      has lots of links to other sites and blogs.

      I have your blog bookmarked and come back at least once a day!

  4. Im buying my first property in Bulgaria in 2 months, and i love reading your blog its like a really good book and packed with loads of information :) thank you :)

    1. Thank you Ian and welcome, I have to say, though, that I am struggling to find something new to write after two years!

      Good luck in finding your niche in Bulgaria