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Monday, 23 June 2014

Counting our blessings.

It can't have missed many people's notice that Bulgaria have had a dreadful time with the weather just recently. The Black sea coast has been battered with at least eleven deaths, including two children, and at least three deaths in other areas. Our region was one of the worst hit, but we have been so lucky that all we have suffered is stunted and drowned plants and mud everywhere. Not far away a friend further in idyllic high ground has suffered repeated horrendous rain and hailstorms, her neighbours losing crops and animals which they need to survive.

There are appeals for aid but this is a poor country and a lot of people struggle. Many have no insurance, it is so sad. The sun is now out and it is very hot, but crops in the fields have mildew and are flattened so it is a bit late.


So although we are swamped with weeds and just can't seem to get on top of them with the rain, we also have planty of produce and if we knew anyone who could benefit from some of it we would gladly give our excess away. We have had to pull up the rest of the brown onions and put them to dry. Some of the stems are full of water and I have no idea how long they will last, but I have plaited the first lot and hung them in the barn to dry a bit more. Will keep an eye and freeze some if needed, and the very small ones have either been pickled or frozen for use in roast veges in the winter. The red ones are a better size and are still in the ground until we have space for them, or if it threatens rain.
The onion patch before.....

.....and after

Trying to dry some of the onion, they may be a lost cause and might end up dried or frozen

Pickled for Dave
Onions in the barn

Garlic in the cellar

The beans are going great guns and I have given quite a lot away, as well as other things, to people who were late getting thir gardens in order. The French beans, especially, seem to grow at a manic pace and we have lots in the freezer already. The runners are well on the way to being a glut and the borlotti seeds are swelling well. The ones I expected to do best are not doing too well at the moment, we are getting plenty off the yellow beans but as a local variety they are maybe not enjoying the wet weather as much as the others.

Runner, yellow and French, daily amount at the moment

Lunch for one, beans with skordalia, odd but yummy

The borlotti are swelling

Fancy squash, not sure if they are for eating but they look pretty

We have nearly finished the potatoes and will be putting more in later, but the ones Venka planted in our British neighbours' garden are totally stripped of leaf by Colorado beetle, Dave was quite horrified when he saw them and realises that picking the little blighters off was worth the effort. The cherry tomatoes in the tubs continue to give plenty of fruit and we have found that there are a lot more cherry tomato plants in the garden as it seems they have got muddled up with the 'normal' tomatoes. No problem, I will bottle some in tomato juice to use as a veg in winter. All the plants have plenty of fruit and the peppers, aubergines, okra and chillies have all recovered a bit now. The butternut squash are setting more and more fruits, we will be inundated it seems. The courgettes continue to glut and melons are forming small fruit. I have a fresh lot of beetroot growing, the ones we still have from the first batch we are using for pickling and fresh eating. I actually had to buy some beetroot to make chutney as it has taken off and I have used all my large beets. Where the potatoes were we have done a long line of leeks, they were getting so big I was thinking we will be eating them before we have chance to plant them out. The potatoes will go either in the pea/broad bean bed or onion bed.
Tasty toms


Sweetcorn, never grown it before

In the fruit line, the strawberries have thrown out lots of runners so we will be extending the bed for next year. They were a bit of a dead loss this year, plenty of fruit but mushy with too much rain. We will have to be more prepared next year and find some straw to put under the fruit. We have had our first raspberry...just the one...but the other plants are looking good with planty of flowers coming. The apricots are ripening and there seems to be plenty of usable fruit despite us thinking we wouldn't get any because of disease. The cherry plum tree has lots of fruit, but Venka can have them for rakia, we don't eat a lot and still have some in the freezer, bottled and jammed from last year. A large branch fell off the tree last week for no apparent reason, just weight of fruit and rain maybe. The black plum is shedding fruit but there is still plenty on. The small early pear has masses of fruit which are a good size for bottling, so will do a few small bottles later. The walnut is looking good. Our little Bramley apple tree is doing OK, but both cherry saplings have died. For what they cost we can buy enough cherries for years so not really bothered.
Apricots ripening

And the flower garden is still looking good. I have taken most of the poppy plants out today as they are turning yellow which is giving more room for the cosmos to follow through. The antirrhinums are continuing to give a great display with really lovely colours, the nicotianas are still flambuoyant and the sweet peas are giving just enough to keep the scent going in the house, despite being targetted by the geese. The roses are growing vigourously despite the rain spoiling the flowers. Perennials such as echinacea, gladioli, crocosmia and cannas are looking strong, but the hollyhocks have put on lots of leaf but no flowers.
This is dark red and velvety, but looks totally different with the sun shining through.

We have had to remove the self sown pumpkin, those laterals are one day's growth, far too much for the path.

Five of the oldest chicks have gone to their new home. We unfortunately have a lot more males than we thought, not sure what Dave will do about them. Today the Shumen broody is hatching her chicks (4 at time of writing) but we will not be doing any more in the incubator. If a hen goes broody we will let her have some as Cagney did a great job with her four, despite losing three to the weather and one disappearance. The ex-batts are all looking well and feathered, though Mandy has never really become sound. Dave can't tell the difference between them now as the second lot have at last grown good feathers, another reason why we might be getting less eggs if they are using their energy to produce feathers. They are a cheeky lot, always in your way. One of them sizes up to the geese still and has taken another shaking, not the brightest bird. But generally they all get out of the way when the geese are driven through to their pen. The geese look really well and are trying to get bolshy with Sevi. But Sevi comes into his own and can see all five off easily. The goose pen will now be shut off as the chicks are too small for their big feet and anyway I wouldn't trust them to not hurt the little ones. They like to taste absolutely everything...including cameras!

Also with the chooks, we have always had a problem with Chubba eating her eggs, she lays thin shelled ones which is a bit annoying as she is a regular layer of large eggs. Our most reliable in fact. But she is big and clumsy and once she realised they were good for breakfast when she broke them there was no stopping her. However, one of the ex-batts decided to have a go at her egg so Dave got his DIY hat on again and made yet another new bank of laying boxes, this time from plastic tomato crates bought for pennies from the market, built a frame so that the crates tip forward slightly and the eggs roll into a covered trench at the front, lined with a soft towel. After a slight modification (the egg was sticking on the ridge in the crate) and the addition of a piece of cardboard which seems acceptable to the ladies, there was soon a queue to give it a go. It works really well except for Chubba's egg, broken before it could roll.

C'mon girls, these aren't bad

Chubba having her say egg in the catcher (with the top open) from Milly

We seem to have a lot more birds in the garden this year. At the moment there are loads of swallows as the first of the year's chicks have fledged. Which means another battle to keep the adults from building a new nest in the chick house. We are still seeing toads, they like to live under the courgette leaves wher it is cool and damp at the moment. There are martens around, neighbours both side have had them in their gardens and I have heard them during the night. We saw one cross our lane one morning and enter a garden to an empty house. Bella lets us know when they have been in the garden, frantically searching for them, up on her hind legs trying to see over the (8 ft) wall and refusing to come in. It is a worry but the chickens have a good life and I am not inclined to shut them up in hot weather during the day. The houses are secure at night. The dogs are out most of the time so hopefully that will keep them away till lock-up time.

What a beauty

Chatter, chatter, chatter
In the kitchen, I have eventually tackled the almonds given to us recently. I have to admit I put it off as almond shells are traditionally very hard and the arthritis in my thumbs is playing up at the moment. But what a revelation they were! The first surprise was the softness off the shells, too soft for Dad's old nutcrackers but a bit hard for arthritic thumbs. While I made tea Dave took over and just used his fingers. The other surprise was.....they taste of almonds! I have always liked almonds but they never really tasted of almonds, just sweet and rather pleasant. But the flavour of these are wonderful. So thank you Wendy. They are blanched and residing in a bottle to keep them for special occasions. I was planning on using them for almond and ground cress pesto but that would have been a waste so I used bought ones instead.
Lots of lovely almonds

Ground cress

And the very tasty pesto frozen in dollops

The neighbours are trying to feed us up. In the last few days we have had two lots of food from Venka, a share of a neighbour's birthday meal and a thank you of doughnuts and ice cream from Baba Danke for Dave helping to put her hay away. Poor Dave banged his head on her gate, then came in and smacked it on a protruding branch on the apricot tree and made a bit of a mess. It's a good job there was a small table there to catch him. I think I need to cut off some leg, he is always banging it on the outside sink and the door.
Venka's famous pizza, hot from the oven. One with meat, one without

Scar-head, poor Dave

Cut that stump off!

Not happy


  1. I left a comment yesterday but it seems to not have arrived in Bulgaria! I will try again.
    Poor Dave's head! That must hurt. I was hoping to see a post from you after hearing the news of the storms. We, too, have had way too much rain with serious flooding on the rivers, in the farm fields, and on the roads. I only have a bit of dampness in the basement and my garden is doing all right.
    That is a smart eggshell-saving method. Dave is very clever.
    Not sure what the birds on the electric lines are, but it looks like they have lovely tails.
    Have a good week!

    1. Hi Cynthia. Thanks for the comments. The birds are barn swallows, summer visitors and rather sh***y little devils. But they chatter away cheerfully all day and we are always sorry to see them go at the end of summer. They are now thinking of having a second lot of babies.

      I will pass on your comment about Dave, it will cheer him up no end!

      Glad you were not too affected by the rain.

  2. Poor Dave! Hope his head heals well and soon. I felt so sad about all the tragedies in the wet weather and glad you are doing OK. Hard spring and start of the summer in your part of the world. Hope you start getting some good weather soon. All your harvest and putting up look beautiful.

    1. We have had a few lovely days Tana, but just as I finished anwering Cynthia a wind came from nowhere with thunder and lightening, took the umbrella, a tile from the roof landed where we had been sitting, the little greenhouse, which I filled with red onions today, to dry, is shredded and the onions are all over the garden, a window broke scattering glass all over the bedroom floor, there are fruits and nuts evertwhere. The little chicks hatched today will be wanting to get back into the eggs! Poor Bonnie is in a state bless her, and we won't be able to make a friend's 60th birthday bash....he had arranged a barbie. And Dave has bashed his head again! We are still better off than some though.

  3. What a frightening storm. I hope you can get your window repaired before the next one comes along. Dave, not again! I think you need a helmet like construction workers use!