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Sunday, 30 March 2014

Cagney has gone broody...........

Just a few days ago I was thinking what a lovely relationship has developed between Cagney and Chubba since Lacey died. They were spending a lot of time together. Now all that has changed and Cagney has gone broody. We have worried and agonised over what to do about it, whether to break her broodiness or let her sit. But after the saga of the malfunctioning incubator we have decided to let her have some Shumen eggs to sit on. We then had to decide where. Ideally the nursery would have been the logical place, lots of space and quiet. We kitted out the dog crate (because we have babies in the room) and tried to settle her in there, but she was having none of it and squawked the place down, terrifying the babies and setting Sevi off as well! Moved the crate back into their shed and peace reigns. Now she has accepted that this is a nice place we have given her eight shumen eggs. She has plucked her breast so that it is easier to keep the eggs at the right temperature. She comes out (with a bit of help from Dave) for a poo, feed and water then fusses and bustles back to her eggs. As we don't have a lot of hens in the house we will leave the crate in there as things seem settled. We will worry about three weeks away later.
Cagney and Chubba

Which leaves Chubba needing a new friend to share her broken eggs with. And Mandy appears to be the chosen one. They are now sharing a dust bath. They are very fickle these ladies.

Chubba with her new friend, Mandy

Darcy with the twisted feet has joined the grown ups and started laying regularly bless her, and the way Pearl is behaving she will not be far behind. I am going to make some Scotch eggs out of her little offerings.
Darcy laying her first

Such a clever girl

Meanwhile the replacement araucanas have arrived and been set into the now behaving incubator. There are some shumen eggs hatching at the moment but they have been moved to the other incubator so that humidity can be maintained as turning the eggs not hatching yet dries the atmosphere. We have tried to order some more maran eggs but have not had confirmation yet. So far we have five shumen babies, one on the way and an araucana which was hatching but seems to have given up at the moment, so we'll see.

It looks as if we now have a home for the last remaining cockerel, the late developer who Sevi is now starting to resent. He will be going to the home of someone who's blog I read when I was researching Bulgaria, and who's warts and all story I found extremely useful. He will have some nice young girls who will hopefully ease him into the life of a young cockerel.

As spring progresses there is a very quick change to the landscape. Much of the blossom is fading and verges and trees are taking on a green hue and blocking the views from the car. The crops in the fields have put on a real growth spurt as we have had warm days and a little rain, and the rape fields already have a definite yellow haze over them as they start to flower.

Two stork nests

And the swallows have made an appearance! A real sign that spring has well and truly arrived. Their twittering is a pleasure to hear. There are storks everywhere, all trying to tidy their nests, and there have been reports of hoopoe sightings. We definitely heard an oriel sing when we were at the river yesterday morning and watched a magpie tidying a nest while his mate drew a marten away and harrassed it up the hill. Unfortunately it all happened so quickly we couldn't get the cameras out in time. Much to the amusement of one loal resident!
First swallow


Another sandpiper

Stork woz here!

Ha ha very funny.

We had a disaster with our shopping the other day, went to Kaufland for the monthly shop and found that the butter I buy was on offer, so decided to stock up as I plan to make some biscuits for car boot sales. Unfortunately when we tried using some we found that all ten packs were rancid, tasting strongly of blue cheese. We should have taken it back but it is quite a journey in a thirsty car and it just wasn't worth the diesel. They have had a bit of bad press just recently and their storage system has been questioned, so I think we may give them a miss for a while. There is nothing we can't get locally or in Lidl.

What I did get in Kaufland though was a pack of wild garlic. What a find. I did bring a few bits to plant from my sister's garden, but it seems to have died a death, so I was quite excited to find it sold in a supermarket. It has all gone now, added to pasta, omelettes, wilted with some of our own chard. How I wish I had bought more and made garlic butter and pesto for the freezer (though not with their butter!)

Today we went to the area's largest car boot sale to see what was available and suss out if there is anyone doing cards, which there aren't. There were a few really bad paintings but nothing decent. So now I have booked a pitch in the first car boot sale in the next village, which is next Sunday, and another a week later by the waterfalls. Dave will take some paintings, mainly to show, but with some he has done quite quickly which he can sell cheaper. I plan to make some biscuits to see if they will sell. We did buy some perennial plants there at a very reasonable price, and the chap who sells them might have a Bramley apple tree for us next week. I was tempted by a stall selling British foods, they had some Bisto gravy granules, but I resisted and told myself not to be lazy. At the equivelant of £3.50 it was steep to say the least!

The smattering of rain has really got the garden growing. The peas and broad beans are growing away well, Dave's sweet peas are making an appearance, the potatoes are just breaking the surface and the lettuce are taking some keeping up with. It is so nice to be eating stuff from the garden, the chard is growing really strongly and it is now easy to pick a big bowl rather than scratching around to get enough, we have had planty of fresh herbs and some spring onions planted last year. Today I have transplanted some land cress and am hoping for a bit more rain to get that going. We have some more plants flowering, the larger anemones and some really cute scented narcissus. I am so glad we didn't spend any money on spring bulbs...apart from anemones. We have planted up troughs with flowers and tomatoes to place around rather ugly garden structures.
Strawberry flowers


...and a huge juicy bowl full
Our next door neighbours have been worrying about their cats coming into our garden and being chased by our vicious hunting dogs....but I don't think they need worry..................That's Flopper their ginger cat against the wall.
Behind Bonnie's head

Wot's up Flopper?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Flowers and chicks

I know I keep banging on about Spring, but it is continuing to delight us both. The garden is a picture with all the spring bulbs and blossom, and a quick trip to the supermarket reveals a landscape absolutely covered with blossom, colours of all shades of white, cream and pink, as far as the eye can see, prominsing another abundant fruit harvest later in the year. As well as the fruit blossom there is loads of forsythia along the main road and breaking buds with acid green through to bronze in new leaves emerging. It is simply breathtaking and cannot be captured easily on my little camera, but I try.

The tulips are coming into their own, the first coming out amongst the fig

Not generally a fan of vinca, but this small one is stunning



The far hedgerow in the middle of nowhere is just as prolific as the roadsides

Forsythia amongst the blossom

On the way home we came across three storks hunting in a field on the outskirts of the village. There have been sightings of huge flocks of storks accompanied by birds of prey returning from Africa. They make our sighting of around a dozen seem insignificant, and that was breathtaking enough.

The 21st was the official first day of spring, and as Bulgaria has a celebration for everything, on 22nd there was the annual light show around the old castle in the old part of Veliko Tarnovo. Venka and Jordan went to VT during the day at the start of celebrations and Venka brought me back a spring gift of a pair of knitted slippers, a bar of soap (?) a tiny roll on perfume (Kylie Minogue) and a bunch of scented spring flowers from the garden. Maybe I should shower more!!!!
My presents from my lovely neighbour

                                         Video of the lightshow

As well as the natural beauty of our surroundings, things continue to progress in the garden. The border Dave dug has now been planted with tiny seedlings of antirrhinum, nicotiana and poppies and seed has been broadcast on the dry ground where herbs are planted by the 'pool' area. The main bean frame is now ready and sweet peas are sown at the base of their tripods. As well as potatoes and roots there are now cauli and purple sprouting broccoli plants in, and seeds for more cauli and broccoli, sprouts, swede, Tuscan kale and romanesco broccoli. The tomatoes, peppers and cucumber are growing well in the greenhouse.

The bean structure and the apricot tree

We went to a nursery the other day where we were tempted by a vast array of summer bedding plants. We did buy a few million bells petunias and some very dark purple ones, plus some geraniums as they love the heat so much here. Today we bought some cosmos seed and gladdies which were going cheap, so there is no excuse for us not having a colourful cottage style garden amongst the veg and fruit, better than the jungle of weeds last year!

All five of the chicks seem to be thriving. The tiny Shumens decided that they wanted to join their three week old cousins next door and found a tiny gap to squeeze through. They soon set about putting their huge new friends in their place, and being docile the marans accepted the tinies and they have all become firm friends. (Unfortunately the cute little Poland didn't make it) This leaves a pen free for any that might hatch this week. We are not holding out much hope for the araucanas but there should be some shumen chicks. The chap we got the araucana eggs from has kindly said he will send us some more to replace the infertile ones, so they will be going in after this hatch, with another batch of marans from another producer. We are planning on keeping marans and hatching our own eggs next year as there seems to be a demand for them and at least that way we are not wasting money buying infertile eggs.

The other chickens are doing well, the ex-batts are continuing to improve and one of my little pullets, Pearl or Darcy, has laid her first egg. I have a feeling it is Darcy with the twisted feet, she has been running around making a lot of noise for the last few days. Yesterday Dave rotovated the bit of temporary run which will be my salad bed, sheltered from the hot sun by borlotti beans, and dug up (and slightly damaged) a mole cricket. These are large creatures, about two and a half inches long, which burrow under the ground destroying plants from below, just what we don't want in the garden. This one, though still very much alive, was damaged so it was thrown into the chooks and quietly picked up by Millie who sneaked off for a protein hit on her own. Sneaky. Usually the others make a fuss if they find something tasty and a chase is usually the result. But Millie managed to keep hold of this revolting creature despite Molly noticing the final morsel going down.
Ugh, I like bugs generally, but this is UGLY!
                                           And scoffed

Saturday, 22 March 2014

A day at the river

Yesterday was the first day of spring, which seems strange when we have had so many days of hot weather already. We needed to go into a local town to get some stuff for the beehive we are getting in May, so decided to stop off at Dave's favourite spot on the river and see what we could see. It was another glorious day and the difference in just a few days was astounding. All the dead brown trees have either bursting leaf buds or blossom, the fields are either freshly ploughed or vibrant green and the grass and weeds are growing fast and covering the brown verges. The gypsies are everywhere with their carts and very sweaty ponies or donkeys, with their winter coats all curly.
Blossom everywhere, the white van in front is an X reg British one.

What a big pompom for a little head!

The first animal we saw was a jackal crossing the road ahead of us. The birdsong was loud but with not much variety (we have a great tit constantly singing in the garden, so monotonous it drives you mad!) It was quiet by the river, we beat the anglers to it. We were hoping to see hares, but not this time. Dave enjoyed a dip, the first since the snow melted, and it brought a huge smile to his face. As he rose from the water a kingfisher was just landing on a perch behind him and if I had not been videoing I might have caught it on camera. As it is I had to tell him what was happening which sent the kingfisher on it's way. You can take snaps while videoing at the same time and I managed one with a small flash of blue over Dave's head, and when we looked at the photo there was another kingfisher on a perch in the distance, only visible if you zoom in. What might have been eh?

Female pheasant

You can just make out a tiny flash of kingfisher blue above Dave's head. The other kingfisher is on the perch in the distance...honest!

Dave drove the car into the river and rinsed off a couple of months worth of dust while we were there while I tried (and mostly failed) to get some more photos. There was an unidentified woodpecker close by, larger than the usual spotteds, which Dave thought had a crest. But we were looking into the sun and photos impossible so maybe another day. There were flocks of noisy jays and something we rarely see, lots of blackbirds. We even heard a thrush, but couldn't see it. It is still quiet on the bird front as a lot of the migrant birds have not yet returned. While I was waiting I also saw a waterbird we haven't seen before, since identified by Mike, my bird identifier, as a green sandpiper. We also saw suslik there for the first time.
Green sandpiper

The site of the bee-eater nests. Looking forward to seeing them back

Greater spotted woodpecker
Mr blackbird


We left for the shop, and on the way home saw a flock of ten or twelve white storks circling above us. It was frustrating but we couldn't stop for a photo till they were almost out of sight. It is a memory to be treasured though, an amazing sight. We needed to call in at another village on the way home so decided to explore the river here, a new site for us. A little way along the track we were disappointed that it seemed to be the village dump, with mounds of rubbish and animal bedding everywhere, a lot of old ones covered with vegetation. We carried on regardless and were glad we did as we saw the most incredible black stork, something which is so much more majestic in the flesh than in any photo. As I made my way to a pit there was a lot of splashing as frogs and terrapins crashed into the pool. It made me jump as I hadn't expected it, though it explains why a stork and heron were resident. These seem to be where sand and gravel have been dug out, and the resulting pits are naturalised with reeds and other water plants making the water crysal clear, frogs, toads and snails as well as terrapins/turtles. None of which will be visible once the vegetation grows up again, though the noise will give the game away. How can such small animals make so much din? There were also many butterfies, white, yellow and darker, a feature we first noticed when we moved here last year. They wouldn't pose though!

Grooming a prized Shetland pony at the side of the road

While Dave was in the shop, this cob was driven past, you rarely see cobs in this area, usually ponies or donkeys....

Like these waiting outside the feed store. They are tethered with a rope around a hoof and stake driven into the ground

Gypsies going through the bins to see if they can find anything useful
Undulating mounds of rubbish and excavation, now grown over

One of the pits alive with animals

Sand and gravel

Black stork

And off he goes....

We left reluctantly as we had food in the car and it was very hot, but we will return soon, before the reeds grow and cover everything up.
Buzzard just outside the village

Back at home, two newly hatched shumen chicks were moved out to the nursery, leaving a rather weak poland chick which had just emerged, we thought we had lost them all. It is the cutest little mite, but there is no future for him if he doesn't get up off his hocks. The shumens looked minute next to the marans, who are now over two weeks old, and much prettier than them too.

Today the marans have gone out for a play in the sun, and they have taken it completely in their (long) stride. Totally unfazed by nanny Bella and the two young shumens wanting to know what was going on. The older hens were not bothered, the ex-batts only wanted to know what food they had, and Cagney and Chubba have seen plenty of chicks before and don't care.
Bella and Darcy finding the small things interesting

They look a bit like mini ostrich
Bonnie would rather keep out of it

I have started my new summer routine of going out and doing some weeding first thing. I know we could still have bad weather, but I want to keep on top of the weeds from the beginning so that it doesn't become a mammoth job. The tulips are coming out now giving another splash of colour to the garden, and the plum trees are blossoming. The pear is showing leaves before blossom.

Venka came round the other day to see if we needed any tomato plants. and when Dave said I already had dozens we got a 'Bravo!'  Dave says the ones she had were smaller than mine so we must be doing something right. Planning on pricking out aubergines and peppers tiday, into large modules. We have not seen any small pots over here, but are going to a garden centre tomorrow so will see if they have any.
Turn your sound up to hear the bees in the apricot blossom.