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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Phew...quick change

In just a few days we have gone from regular freezing nights to sun so hot it's burning your legs while you sit out in t-shirt and thin trousers. No matter how cold it's been the sun is always a surprise when it makes an appearance, so incredibly warm.

A few days ago the ground at the top of the garden had drained enough for Dave to start rotovating. Half the potential potato patch was done while Dave was followed by an appreciative thong of ducks and chooks, hopefully hoovering up the bad bugs as well as juicy fat worms which we would rather keep. Unfortunately we soon had to move the fence to keep the dogs off the next bit to be turned over as they were bringing far too much mud into the house with having the door open. So the poultry are banished to the half of the garden where the thugs will be grown (pumpkin, courgettes, that sort of thing) where the ducks waddle up and down, now also going into the centre, poking away at the mud to see what they can find, looking comical with mounds of mud on the ends of their bills. And it seems they are finding plenty, going by their dangling crops at the end of a busy day. They are not eating huge amounts of feed really considering there are seven large ducks and a dozen chooks. The chickens tend to stay off the muddiest bits, keeping to the edges more.

Happy man

Make sure those trenches are straight! hasn't been dug for you little man...remind me why I don't 'do' cais!

Unfortunately I put my back out just at the wrong time and Dave has had to get on with sowing a few peas and broad beans while the ground was workable. Bit of a telling off from the neighbours for being too early for peas, but we'll see, we may be lucky. We have a few peas in the cold frame to put out once the soil has warmed properly, we don't want to put them in and cloche them as we might need the cloches for the seeds if it turns cold again. It's hard being patient! We also managed to get some red onion sets at the market so a hundred or so of those have gone in. I think I have been here too long, I was shocked that at just over two pounds a kilo the red onions are so much more expensive than the white onion sets. We got half a kilo and used half of them, now feeling a bit mean!
The cold frame is greening up

The big after winter tidy up has begun, Dave has his pruners to hand and has attacked the grape vines, roses and perennials and weeded the borders. It has since rained and become soggy again so all that work was done just in time. The seedlings are all doing well and more perennials and veggies have been sown in their little mini greenhouses. It is time to get more tomatoes and cucumbers on the go so that we have nice, well grown plants for April, The corridor upstairs is proving a valuable space, with seedlings growing nice and straight due to all the light...admittedly not too fast as it has been cold up there, but we don't need to move seedlings away from the window at night any more.

The rspberries mulched and tidied with some spare stones

Supervisor Bonnie

The first batch of tomatoes and aubergines
Dave has also thrown some grass seed on the back of the chook pens under the walnut tree and around about. We can keep all the fowl off there until we need the space on the main veg plot and we are thinking of ways to protect the grass from being dug up within a day of allowing them back on. If we restrict access and lay some mesh panels (once used for the many chick pens we had) down so that they can get at the grass without being able to dig it all up. Not sure if that will work for webbed feet though, I suspect not. 

We don't have a great many resident winter birds here, but those that have twittered through the cold days are now singing loudly, trying to outdo each other. Regular visitors apart from the tree sparrows are great, coal and blue tits, black redstart, magpie, jay, collared doves, woodpeckers and the occasional goldfinch. There have also been hawfinch and sparrow hawk this year, but no sign of chaffinch or serin, but that might be because I have my back to the window!

There is also movement in the fields, new plants sprouting up everywhere. I love the changeability of this time of the year, every new bit of growth gives such pleasure and promise of things to come. Some of our perennials are also starting to move


The lettuces have perked up again
The bees are continuing to be very busy. We are looking foward to some honey this year, and in case of swarm or other emergency another hive is being got ready. It's lovely to hear the bees, a real summery sound.
Easter is not too far away and in Bulgaria Lent began last weekend with traditions of fasting. To celebrate this a tray of goodies arrived from the neighbours., this time a huge chunk of bread, spiced cake, halva, a couple of boiled eggs, cheese and a bowl of the most delicious, creamy rice pudding I have ever tasted.
And here are a few pictures of the animals enjoying the sun
Bonnie sunbathing...................

.....and the other two take over when she goes inside to cool down

Our boy Sevi strutting his stuff

Next door's cat. he's only young and seems to want to join in. but I'm not sure he would enjoy a game of chase with Bella!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

70,000 mark reached

First of all, I would like to thank all those regular readers and especially commenters (you keep me motivated) for sticking with me even though I sometimes struggle for something new to say. I really appreciate all of your support and today this humble little story will reach 70,000 page views. That's a big number! So thanks again.

Right, it really is time to get back to healthier eating. I have experimented with the duck eggs and found out what they are good for and what I am not keen on so there are no excuses to keep eating lovely, rich, yummy sweet and savoury goodies.....any excess eggs can be made into cakes and frozen for another time. A time when we are burning off energy in the garden. was Valentine's day last week. We are old enough to realise that this is just a day for the youngsters and courting  these days, all hype and making single unattached feel lonely. We agreed years ago that we are past all that, but despite everything there is always a card and token something. Dave managed to find a pretty card and put words from stock on the front and I had some cards made, not very romantic to give one I already had, but waste not.... He also found a box of Toffifee which I used to like but as he refused to share, I made a chocolate cake. Then of course, to make sure I got a share of gooey cake I had to decorate it with toffifee so he had a share of mine. Following?

Such a hardship, but we didn't eat it all. Venka came round late in the day with a tray full of goodies, they were remembering Mama and Papa. We had been having trouble with a leaking pipe in the garden, which we didn't realise actually was a water pipe (just a random pipe sticking out of the lawn) and Dave asked Jordan if he would advise on how to fix it. Mad dash to the hardware shop for a joint and a promise to return next day to fix the leak. So, having their brave pants on, Jordan and Venka came in for cake and coffee despite the dogs milling about. I hope they are starting to realise that the girls are quite harmless (after two years) but Bella doesn't really help with her being wary of strangers, plus her habit of staring and huffing at them through the fence. They are fond of telling everyone that Dave climbed Kilimanjaro five years ago so he put the video the climbers had put together on the computer for them to see....but Jordan's eyesight isn't too good and it must have been a bit boring just starting at the small screen. After inspection and approval of the seedlings off they went.

Our little feast, some cheesy bready stuff, wheat pudding, wafer biscuits and a couple of sachets of three in one coffee so popular here.
We missed pancake day! We didn't realise until people started posting photos of their creations on Facebook. But we made up for it yesterday, having them with fresh lemon syrup, simple is always best. Yum.....and now back to healthy eating! Honest! Duck eggs are good for pancakes!

I have been having a spot of bother with my little notebook. It has served me well (and I am using it now) but it doesn't have much power and has no battery so needs plugging in all the time, also I have been getting mini shocks, but not sure if they are coming from the notebook or the fleeces. Whatever the cause, we decided to go into the city of Veliko Tarnovo to get a new one with the money built up from my mini pension. And we didn't get a bottom of the range one either, for a change. I don't know how we didn't notice that the keyboard is furnished with the cyrillic alphabet as well as the 'normal' one, but it stands to reason that it would. It will take a bit of getting used to, some of the cyrillic letters are similar to our's, but in a different place as they have different meanings. I know I should know where the letters are by now, but I am still very much a novice in terms of hours spent using a keyboard. The computer is bigger and easier than my little mini so I will soon get used to it.

A dull day and dirty windscreen (frozen washer) but thought I would take a few pics of the approach to the city, the cliffs are pretty spectacular and so different with the seasons

We are still in our cold spell, with temperatures well below freezing every night and the odd scattering of snow. Yesterday, when the sun came out we had a visit from a sparrowhawk. Thank goodness we had no chicks about! But what a beautiful bird.

Dave has had a new project. With having all those  damned lovely ducks now a solution had to be found to the problem of getting rid of the water twice a day rather than just tipping it out. Fine in summer when we need more water out there, but it was making everything soggier than ever. So he has dug out under the 'pond' and chucked in a load of rubble which was hanging about to make a soakaway, then made the little darlings a patio with some spare bricks. Bless him, he is happy with a project!
A mad dash, they hadn't had a bath for hours!

 We have a bit of a problem with our lovely old apricot tree. Dave noticed the woodpecker having a good go at it and when he looked found lots of little holes, like woodworm. Not sure what it is but a trim is in order and we will try to save it, the garden in front of the house will be bare without it, never mind the lack of privacy, shade and the fact that Splash loves his tree
We have been given the first martenitsas of the year, by Venka's friend Marika. These little symbol of spring come in all shapes and sizes, from a couple of strands of cotton to little dolls, all in red and white. They are worn from March the first until you either see a white stork or a fruit tree in blossom (our cornel is already in blossom!) then it is hung on a blossom tree to bring good luck and fruitfulness in the coming year. Our's from last year are still in the cornel tree.

Smug cat

Friday, 13 February 2015

Looking forward

Ten days since my last entry. Things are pretty quiet here, but we are looking forward.
We've had a few sprinklings of snow this last week
But also some brilliant sunshine for the animals to bask in

I have pricked the first of the tomatoes and the aubergines into their own vending machine cups. It is early, I know, but I have only done two of the six varieties, the early cherry and large pink types of tomato, and if they should fail it's not the end of the world. I have been very restrained and only kept ten of the pink ones and ten aubergines, which means I have had to throw many come a pinch of seed grows so many plants, but a pack of something expensive yields just a couple? I was going to wait until the nights warmed up, but it's going to be a while so I went ahead. Dave has put the garden table in the corridor upstairs where they will have all the available light from the door and window. Until I put things up there I didn't realise just how light it is. They are moved away from the window onto the freezer when it's dark, the small heat from the motor keeping them from chilling. The worst of the cold is hopefully gone now so we will get more seeds on the go. When the sun is out there is certainly enough light.
Two types of tomatoes and aubergines

The only surviving pelargoniums have come out of the garage

All the wizened chillis need removing. This plant will be enough for us

The last of the squash. A few didn't make it and a lot given away

The seedlings in the cold frame are doing OK, not growing much but not dying either

Things are changeing in the garden too. Chickweed is growing, much to the delight of the chooks and ducks. The tulips, snowdrops and daffs are growing like mad, we have several types of snowdrop/snowflake and they have a long season because of this. The tiny ones in the lawn you would miss unless you were looking at them, but the next size are now showing beautifully. The cornel by the gate is bursting it's buds showing little yellow flowers. The tree will grow slowly yellower, the first blowsy show of spring. it will soon be time to prune roses and any perennial plants which need it, as well as trees and fact the fruit trees need doing asap.
The larger snowdops coming out

You can just make out the yellow of cornus bursting out. Another photo affected by the sun. giving a whole new meaning to point and shoot....blind!

In the veggie garden the lettuce have shrivelled in the frost again, but will come alive with a couple of days of above freezing temperatures. Nothing else, just the onions and garlic growing well. The ducks are digging away looking for bugs (hopefully) and worms (we can spare a few to repay them) while the chooks spend more time close to home, getting fed up of huge clods of mud on their feet. The ducks just have baths when they get too bad. They have been on the lawn too, 'mowing' the weeds, with Dave and Bella keeping an eye and making sure they don't see the lettuce.

Farmer Dave on watch

The ducks are continuing to lay well. They are very keen to get out in the mornings, well before it is light enough to send the martens to bed they are bashing on the doors and yelling to be let out. I don't think it helps that Sevi starts crowing at 3.30am...and yes, I know because I am awake and often downstairs. Many people seem to like ducks more than chickens, and they certainly seem to be nicer to each other generally. But I reserve judgement. They are mucky, costantly muckying the chooks' water bowls, no matter how many there are, and noisy. They have yet to win me over, though I can see they can be quite pretty. Dave thinks they're great, much better than my chickens who he can't tell apart. And to be fair, the ducks are laying better than the hens with all this cold weather. The original white female is trying to get into the small nest boxes (she is far too big!) so maybe she will lay too one day. Spot and Spotty desperately follow the big group hoping to be part of it, but remain just on the fringes.

Clever duckies

Not even properly light, but an early morning (very cold) bath is a must

Spot and Spotty have to wait their turn. I like these two

Looking on in horror....
I am experimenting with the eggs. They are a lot thicker than hens' eggs and the yolk is much bigger so they do give different results. I have found that a mix is better for Yorkshire puds, but duck eggs make a lovely, rich yellow, moist cake and great custard for Portuguese tarts. Also nice rich coloured pasta and quiche. But quite a few have gone to people who want to try them and of course, to our neighbours, who had expressed doubt that they would even lay.

Cheese and onion and meaty little quiche

Lemon drizzle buns...they cool quicker than a cake for hungry husband

Winter warmer, toad in the hole with mash, veg and thick onion gravy

Cheat's donuts

 While in the kitchen, I have to mention the beans. I think I have told of the small beetles which rose to the top when I soaked the beans Venka gave us. In an old life I would have chucked the beans out, but the new me doesn't like waste. So when I saw one of these this morning I had to go all through the soaked beans to find the affected ones...and enjoyed a beany ratatuille with the rest. It seems you can only see them in the beans when soaked...who knew? Haha

Bonnie's nasty lesions seem to have dried up at last. She seems happier in herself but whether that is the reason or just that spring is in the air I don't know. She seems to be finding the stairs a bit easier and even tried to jump up this morning, something she has never made a habit of. Bella is Bella, a bit put out that she is no longer allowed to take up half the bed, still playing with the cat and getting clawed for her trouble. The cat has not calmed down yet, but having more bed to sleep on seems to have stopped him moving around so much. He has started to try to follow Dave and the dogs on their morning walk if he manages to get out, a worry with the ever expanding pack of feral dogs in the village, but he seems to take no chances. The feral dogs are being very noisy all night, something we are not used to, possibly as the bitches are coming in to season. I am not sure the villagers will be as tolerant of them when they are outside more and have their windows open at night.
Bella....wanna play....

....come ON......(bite, chew) then
I had a bit of a fright one night. Dave was out and the cat came in from hunting and settled by the fire. Suddenly he sat up on his haunches like a meerkat, trying to see through the door. I thought Dave had come back, but no. He sat very tense for ages, even Bella wanting to play couldn't distract him. I put the outside light on and looked out, but decided to leave well alone and the cat relaxed after about 15 minutes.

Play cat, c'mon....Wassat???

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And finally to a frustration. I have mentioned before that, though my camera takes quite nice pictures even on auto, the screen is impossible to see in sunlight and there is no view finder. This is so annoying and today was one of those times when the woodpeckers were frolicking in the walnut tree but with sideways brilliant sun I couldn't see anything. So here are the 'best of the really bad photos......oh dear oh dear.
Can you see it? Just taking off...behind a forest of twigs......

....and this one? Bottom right, that really was a woodpecker posing nicely haha Rubbish!