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Monday, 26 January 2015

Dull, damp and soggy

I don't mean the weather exactly, though that is the way it has gone the last few days. But things left in the garden have succumbed to the intense cold we had a few weeks ago. Being not long out of the UK we still think of plants such as sprouts and kale as hardy winter veg, But no, the thick stalks have become mush, the little sprouts have mostly browned and the kale, which is supposed to be a perennial, has flopped. Here and there there is a smidgen of green, all the cabbage stalks left in the ground are looking dismal, with just a couple having new little cabbagelets hiding beneath slimy leaves. Even the chard has given up.
These were caulis

Oh dear, sprouts

And the kale

Cabbages trying to re-srout

On a plus note, the lettuces are growing well, some carrots are holding their own and mini beets are showing growth. Even the chives have not given up completely, how mad is that?


You can't see them but the onions and garlic are growing

The roses that were still trying to flower before Christmas have mummified buds....full of sog! And if you dare to walk on the garden, well, it's soggy and a foot of mud will come in with you, ready to make you slip and hurt yourself.
One of the many rose buds which didn't get to bloom

But it won't be long before spring. A ladybird came out for a nosey and the bees have been active and come out for sugar syrup to top up their reserves. There is a bit of bird song and the woodpeckers are very busy protecting their territories. The owls are very noisy at night too. And some buds are swelling and self seeded annuals are vibrant.

Vine buds swelling

Looks as if we won't need to sow poppies in the herb bed this year
We have been having trouble with the internet lately, not what you need when you are restricted because everything outsde So despite the dismal light we make cards, or paint, or cook.
First ever pitta bread. So easy and I don't know why I have not made them before

With home made coleslaw, a sprinkle of cheese and some ham for Dave
Never mind, some are happy, the hens and ducks are doing a great job of clearing the half of the veggie patch they are allowed in, and hopefull eating lots of bugs too!
Now, do we have enough fencing to let them in to clear the cabbage patch..................

Thursday, 22 January 2015

I do try..... make sense of computers. It's no secret that I am a more mature person, I have worked most of my life with animals or in catering, with a few years home shopping and a two year stint, many years ago, in an office,  sales ledger clerk, inputting 'stuff' But what I was doing was not hard and there was no 'mouse', it was all set up and all I had to do was enter information when it asked, and look for records it wanted. It is probably the easiest job I have ever had, I spent a lot of time on my own sorting out the cockroach-ridden archive attic and the rest leisurely entering the information and chatting with others, drinking cuppas and smoking (which shows how long ago it was) Unfortunately when the company was taken over my leisurely life came to an end as one of the few who had been there under two years, so not entitled to redundancy pay, we went first. I was in good company, very few were kept on despite assurances and a cash bonus from the departing owners, all management were paid off with several managers buying the bit of the company the new owners were going to close down. Anyway, I digress. I went back to working with horses and tried to do a computer course at the local college. It was supposed to be for beginners but because it was a certificated course and most had been sent by employers to get their certificates and they knew what they were doing, they got all the attention. Because all I had done was data input I was clueless and no matter how I tried to get the tutor to help me with terminology and ordinary letter writing I was largely ignored. So I admit that after a few weeks I gave up.

Many years later, now married to Dave, I made tentative steps to do a little bit on his computer. This was mainly because we had become involved with a  labrador rescue and I wanted to join in on the forum. And that is how I started to learn a bit....once I had learned to control a goodness it was a very skittish mouse!! Eventually I was brave enough to join other forums and spent time looking for information on google and the like.But I am still very limited in my knowledge and easily confused, and the terminoogy that even beginners are supposed to know is beyond me.

The point of all this explanation is that, although I have been doing this blog for nearly two years, I still have no idea how it works, same with other sites such as facebook. So today I asked Dave to help me to sort out the information on here. He was the one who started the blog, but didn't really get going so I took over. As his profile was never updated this must have caused confusion, as it did me when I read it the other day (it seems I had a wife!),

So any readers out there who may be confused, I apologise and we are working at sorting things out. While doing this I realised that the setting for who could comment was set to those registered as followers,  (not many) something which I know has caused problems in the past as I got messages from people on forums instead of here. I would especially like to apologise to Trillium in Canada, who asked me to check my settings ages ago but I kept forgetting to ask Dave to show me how! It is now set to public (or something) which means anyone can comment I think. If I get any undesirables I may change it, we will see.

Meanwhile thank you to all those who have persevered and posted comments, they are much appreciated. And anyone still reading this particular entry, well done for getting this far.

Meanwhile there is not a lot to report from our small corner of Bulgaria. We are in waiting for spring, we are unable to do much outside as the ground is still sodden and we are due some more bad weather, too wet to weed and too cold to plant. Dave is sorting out any jobs he can which don't cost anything, like moving the compost heap (again!) and re-jigging the fences. The cold frame is ready to go too, after the next bout of weather. By then the lettuces and onions and any other bits sown indoors will be able to go out. I am being careful not to sow any more tender stuff than we can accommodate on the window ledges and small table in the porchy bit. Some things, like peppers and celery, are tender but need a long growing season so will be accommodated on the table with a foil backing to try to keep them straight. Any that don't work will be replaced when the weather picks up.
Hopefully the snails will stay away and the plants will get more attention with it being close to the house

Our beautiful old lab Bonnie has been having problems, and after trying to get a vet out, who had been highly recommended, we gave up waiting and took her to a local vet. He seems confident that she has some kind of herpes virus which has caused a couple of worrying lesions which wouldn't heal. She had a jab with another to come in two weeks and they are already drying up.I have to admit it is hard to have confidence in a new vet when we used to live across the road from our's in the UK and had used them for many years. The mobile vet who was going to come could at least speak English. With the best will in the world sketchy Bulgarian is a worry when trying to explain.
It was a miserable day

Our terrible teenager is continuing to test our patience. but Bella is actually letting him know when he is too rough, and generally he is keeping his claws to himself. He will still leap on one of us occasionally but it is getting less. Bonnie has accepted that he is here to stay and though she gets fed up of him hanging off her tail (a lab tail, always wagging with good humour, soooo tempting to a half grown cat) she does actually sniff him and accept him cuddling up to her.

He is practicing his climbing skills in the apricot tree, determined to catch a sparrow, or better still the woodpecker. I haven't seen his friend in the garden recently, but he spends hours outside at night, despite me anxiously opening the door periodically to see if he will come in. I can't help worrying, he's still quite small and the pine martens take no notice of the electric fencing.

We watched a programme about pets this morning....accompanied by Splash who was determined to get to the squeaking puppies inside the computer....and found out that the scratching that they do is actually more to get rid of the old claws so that a nice strong and sharp claw can come through. I never knew that, but it explains a lot. Daft programme, but useful.
I know they're in there!

I'll just sit and wait
We think he had a double whammy of happenings the other day. He came in afer a play session, catching all sorts of whatever on the lawn, and was shaking all his paws so we think he found some new nettles poking through. He was getting over that when he started to attack one paw which started to swell, so possible one of the sleepy bees objected to being played with. It went down without us having to resort to piriton. he wasn't happy!
Chew chew chew....

...shake chew chew....

I am NOT happy!
And the ducks made us giggle the other day. They are funny, especially when they argue with Sevi (he wins) Dave diligently fills their bath up with fresh water daily, but do they appreciate it? No, of course not. They are much more interested in paddliing around in the slurry resulting from the old water being emptied! Ah well. We are on the look out for a few more in the hope of getting some duck eggs, not sure if these will ever lay as they are meat birds really, but they are still moulting so who knows. We are happy to have them as pets, but they really ought to have names, other than Spot and Spotty!

Totally ignored clean bath water!

Finally, regular readers will remember our friend having her horses stolen back in summer. We went to our local market every week to check that they weren't there, but eventually searches had to stop, a hearbreaking decision but inevitable. The poor couple have had so much bad luck with their animals this year losing other family friends too, that they have decided to sell up and return to the UK, once the farm is sold. She has now gone home and hopefully will heal with her family around her, while her husband stays to try to sell the property. We will miss them but wish them the best of luck and hope her family around her will help to heal her sore heart.

Friday, 16 January 2015


It's that time of the year when things are changing and growing, warming up and cooling down, causing you to look forward then reminding you that winter is still very much here with more to come.
Bella checking out a new fall of snow, luckily wet stuff which helped to thaw the rest

Then back in for a warm

The best news is that the boarding chickens have departed to their new home at last! There was a delay because of the weather but we can now move on. The ducks have now been given their own sleeping quarters, where the visiting chickens were, much to the relief of our lot. We had let the ducks sleep with the hens as that is where they seemed to want to be, but since they arrived they have slimmed down a bit and become fitter and more confident. This has caused problems in the morning as they got frustrated waiting to go out aand ended up chasing the chooks around the room, causing a kerfuffle and upsetting the less confident. It's difficult to explain to a duck that they can't go out till light because of the pine marten.
Slimmer ducks

So the hens only have Sevi to avoid in the mornings now. He's feeling a bit frisky of a morning now so as soon as the door opens, rather than being the last to get up in the morning, he stations himself outside by the door and jumps on the hens as they come through the door. I have to feel a little sorry for the girls, you can see them gearing up to try to shoot past him.
Sevi and one of his Shumen wives

And with favourite Chubba

Egg production has gone up, Chubba is back laying like a good 'un, but even after a break over winter her eggs are still too fragile to resist her clumsy feet. We have had a few fragile eggs, so we are back to roasting shells to feed back to them and greens (which we have to buy!) to help with absorbing the calcium, and a vitamin supplement just in case. Someone is laying a very pale egg but we are not sure if it's Cagney or one of the Shumens. We are still not sure if the ducks are girls, but we have had no eggs yet, they are still shedding feathers.

The weather has been lovely, but cool, the last few days. We are still getting a sharp frost every night, enough to give a good sheet of ice on the pond, but the days are all blue sky and sunshine. It seems shepherds around about are predicting heavy snow next week, but till then we are enjoying the bright weather.
Ermmmm is someone going to get rid of the ice?

Only a couple of cms now

Things are happening in the garden. The brassicas are more or less dead after the very low temperatures, but now the snow has gone we are finding little signs that spring is not too far away. We have tiny snowdrops appearing and daffs poking through. There are California poppy seedlings which seem to have survived. Unfortunately the pot of mini iris (and whatever else might be on there) have a touch of frost burn, but hopefully that won't affect the flowers.
Californian poppy

Tiny snowdrop

Frostbitten bulbs


And in my little plastic boxes things are happening. The lettuce are well and truly up, land cress is just poking through and the onions are starting to germinate. Dave went and bought the plastic for the new cold frame yesterday. You never know what will happen when you buy things in the village shops. Some things are sold by weight (screws), some by each (nails). A sealed pack of dog 100 chews must be opened and counted. The polythene was measured and then weighed.....5 metres for less than two quid. Can't complain at that! I can feel some nice big closhes coming on.....

Land cress....honest!

And Dave has done another commission, this time a Buff Orpington cockerel ca;led Goliath. A very good looking lad and Dave did a great job of his portrait. His owners are thrilled and the painting has pride of place on the wall. Because of this I have told Dave there is no excuse for him not to do a new one of Sevi, so that is his next job when the weather changes. At the moment he is outside knocking in posts and re-arranging fences and whatever else he can do outside. It makes him happy!
The lovely Goliath

Back in the t-shirt
Splash is being a stroppy teenager! He has managed to work out how to get onto the kitchen units and because he knows it's out of bounds he wants it all the more. If you try to shoo him off he just stares at you defiantly. If you insist his ears go back. So out with the syringe of water and a quick squirt does the trick. He is learning to be sneaky and going behind the cooker where he can't be seen, and jumping very quietly (so hard for him, he sounds like a herd of horses!) I feel if he was ignored and there was no food on top he would get bored, but I DO NOT WANT A CAT ON THE UNITS! I don't do cats, everyone knows that!
Teenager....he needs a hoodie!

Enjoying the sun, a real outdoor boy

Sunday, 11 January 2015

And so the year starts

Dave has done another painting for his exhibition in April. This time an Irish Setter. He thinks he has enough now but who knows, there is time for more lock-ins yet. He is now concentrating on a portrait of a friend's rooster. But he has also done a cartoon of our friend Helen and her setter Missy....I believe it will be going in the loo! Missy is being a bit of a challenge to train and Helen has had a couple of hairy moments when she has been a bit enthusiastic, so Dave thought a picture of Helen and Missy in a chariot might give her a giggle...well, it would be one way of getting rid of some energy!

Helen and Missy
We went out for the first time the other day. Dave was unsure about the roads (with good reason) but as snow has been given for tomorrow we thought it best to go out for animal food and flour so off to the supermarket....
Brrrr....but he's convinced there's something there

The pond ice solid in the morning
Frozen, wilted and faded romanesco

Oh dear

Dave had been having trouble keeping the battery charged. It probably wouldn't have been noticed but for the very low temperatures helping to drain it, despite the car being in the garage. So we needed a battery, better safe than sorry. The temperature the night before had been down to -18c so bitterly cold, but we daren't have the heater on any more than necessary to keep the windows clear, and it's law that we have our lights on. It was COLD! The roads were still pretty bad and snow drifts from Christmas were still around four feet deep, so the odd few hours of sunshine hadn't helped much, though the fields weren't too bad. The road we travelled for chicken feed is fairly busy with several large villages and a few good sized industrial businesses along the way so we thought they would clear the road. Anyway, we made it to our usual garage and arranged for a battery. While we were there he pointed out another problem but said it was up to us if we fixed it, but it would affect performance. There's no rush, we rarely use the car any more so we'll see.
Pretty sky

Plenty of buzzards watching over the road

The main road through our village

And outside the house
The animals thawing Dave out....favouritism!!!!

Yesterday was the day when next door's steer met it's maker so Dave was round there helping out all day. He came home at lunch time to pick up a large fig and almond tart to help feed the workers, and Dave came home stuffed as usual. Venka having produced another huge meal. So the garden was adorned with huge chunks of cow, though this time I knew what to expect and there was no shock value.

Then today....well, what can I say. The temperature has risen, the sun came out and it was like spring! I managed to get three loads of washing dry, including towels and jeans. Warmed our backs. The animals absolutely loving it, basking in the warmth both inside and out.

Someone got too close to Dave's paintbrush
Can you see what it is?

Wanna be a labrador......

Even the bees came out to play. Dave has made them some sugar syrup in case they're hungry
 Dave was desperate to get into the garden and sort the compost heaps out, but they are still solid frozen under the surface. But he managed to find enough to give to me for sowing seeds. It may be a bit rich for seedlings but they will be potted on as soon as I can so hopefully they will be OK. So the sowing of seed has started, but only things that we know will be OK around the house if (or when!) the weather turns back to winter. (Snow forecast for tonight) Dave has built a new lighter weight cold frame and positioned it against the white house wall, he just needs to get some polythene which you can get anywhere out here. All very exciting but I have not sown many of each variety, I can do more later if I need more, or any don't grow. I am still waiting for an order of seeds which are more difficult to find.

Dave has also been ferreting around in the open loft above the outhouses and found a few crates of bottles. We are thinking of making some fruit juices next year and small bottles would be ideal, While he was up there he had a good scout around to see if he could find out why one of the hens keeps going up there, but can't find any hidden eggs. A mystery, but we have both seen her coming and going and she knows which logs make the best ladder.

As usual small cat has to get in on the act....

Splash is spending more time outside...when he's not sitting in the sunniest spot on the sofa. There is another ginger and white cat hanging around and I have to say I have mixed feelings about seeing him with another cat. I worry that the local feral toms are going to be fighting over the ladies soon and he is still entire till he is seven months old (another month) but on the other hand another cat will show him some manners and he should interract so that he doesn't think he's a dog!

To end the day we have had the most amazung surround sunset sky, just lovely and I wish we could reproduce the colours as we saw them.