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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A few days of warm, makes such a difference

But just as we start to think spring is well and truly here, it rains and gets really cold again. The trouble is everything puts a spurt of growth on, then they get a shock. At the moment it's not a problem, but if we get a frost it could cause havoc. Unfortunately the weather forecast seems to change daily so we don't know what to expect.

From the time I wrote the last blog the blossom in the garden The large and very beautiful pink peach blossom, daintier but no less beautiful apricot, and smaller still but very plentiful plum. All the perennials have put on a serious amount of growth, the daffs are at last out, as are the tulips which a week ago had no buds showing at all.
Stunning peach blossom


And plum
The rhubarb is growing.....

....and flowering, flowers now removed!

Red peony

And the tall pink scented one. Pleased that these survived the wet winter
Hydrangea budding

Tulips and daffs all came out

Progress as well in the veggie patch. The combination of damp and warm seems to have brought the first direct sown peas and broad beans on. The sweetcorn patch has been sown and the few I sowed in toilet roll tubes are out. Dave brought three courgette plants home from the market and they re living under cut-off water bottles. He also brought a couple of gooseberry plants which are now happily settled between the raspberries and blackcurrants. The raspberries are sending new canes up all over the place and need to be removed from the garlic bed. They are sporting flower buds already too.
Lettuce big enough to start taking leaves

Buds on the raspberries already

Coming up in the garlic
Peas and broad beans

 Courgettes, in a tyre to help with watering

The sweetcorn started indoors

We had a trip out to see a friend who lives in a mountain village with great views last week A stunning place but once again I was talking so much I forgot to take any photos. We had a lovely lunch and stayed as late as we dared before getting back to the animals. I just wish we lived closer.
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The 'road'leading to my friend's house

Looking down the valley from the house

On Sunday we had the first car boot sale of the year. This time the weather forecast was right and it was cool and occasionally damp with a bitter wind sweeping across the valley. It was nice to catch up with old friends but we left fairly early, though we did manage to sell 30 duck eggs and a good few jars of chutney. Most sellers, customers and browsers were Bulgarian and they left even before we did. A few ex-pats were dribbling in as we went, but most seemed to head for the bacon butties in the camp site cafe! Hopefully the next one in two weeks will be better, and certainly a little more sheltered.

It's all go for the art exhibition this week, Dave will be taking the pictures over tomorrow and we know at least three people who are coming, a long way for them and we are very grateful that they will be making the effort. Dave has been asked to write a short speech and deliver it as he has done presentations all over the world so it is not a major problem to him. So proud of him.

Splash has been lame this week. His latest game is to jump out from nowhere and grab your feet, but unfortunately he does this while you are moving and a couple of times he has been trodden on. Not heavily, but then he is still only little. He is no less active but has trouble jumping up on the kitchen unit....hopefully it will break the habit of doing that....and he lies down a lot. But today he has been on the go since early, without his customary five hour kip, chasing flies and other bugs. And playing in the peas, much to Dave's disgust.
You're not supposed to be in there\!|

Bug hunter

At rest

In Poultry Paddocks the ducks are still running in hope towards the gate when let out in the mornings, hoping to get to the veggie patch and all those lovely, buggy morsels living there. The grass in the back paddock has come through strongly but will not withstand any bird action for a while yet. The gate to the compost area and bees is open and they have done a good job of clearing the weeds from that area. The wood shed is also through there and this seems to be the preferred area for the chooks to lay at the moment.

The ducks are still giving four eggs a day and now the chooks are all laying we have a bit of a mountain. We have managed to sell quite a few, and are still giving some to the neighbours. I have made quite a lot of cakes and curds and used some in bread and Yorkies. But we are feeling a bit pressured to find edible ways we can enjoy. Chips made things better yesterday and today we had a curry. Good job they are packed with vitamins and minerals. I very much doubt we will be having any tomorrow!
Rhubarb and vanilla curd....delicious

Dave has been growing wheat hydroponically as an experiment to see if the chooks and ducks would like it, greens are important for egg layers, helps them absorb calcium needed for the shells. The ducks were a bit reluctant at first, but the chooks politely tucked in, Sevi claiming to have found all this loveliness for his girls. When broody Cagney came flying out she soon showed them how to get stuck in! Eventually the ducks realised it was edible and they were soon all enjoying the feast. I was worried there might be a bit of over-indulgence, but in fact they had a feed and wandered off, coming back at regular intervals for another snack.
the wheat starts sprouting within a couple of days

Gets water washed through it about three times a day

And grows very fast

The root mat after about six days

Excitement as Dave puts the cut mat out

Hens straight in there, Sevi telling them he found it for them

Bewildered ducks

But they soon got the message

We had a long power cut yesterday. Not generally a problem but of course we have the incubator with twenty eggs in it. This ended up in the bed to keep warm so it's fingers crossed that we might still get a few chicks. We are not over hopeful, candling after a week seems to show only three, maybe four, fertile eggs. If we do get three they can stay upstairs rather than try to change all the outside accommodation around. We have already put the two white ducks with the others to free up their shed in case we need it for Cagney and her ducklings.
Power cut lunch, a salad with the first proper pick of salad leaves and herbs, with our own picled onion and beets, our own chutney and tzatziki in lieu of mayo

Monday, 23 March 2015

A strange week

We seem to have been here, there and everywhere this last week. But try as I might, I can't remember why for some of it. All I know is I seem to have trouble fitting in such routine tasks as making bread.

One thing which has been on both our minds is that Dave's Dad was poorly and in hospital. It seems it was a combination of drugs fighting each other, the aftermath of his virus and pneumonia in one lung. He was soon stabilised and is well on the way to recovery, but it does bring home to you that family are a long way away. He will soon be home being fussed over by the family. Get well soon Bert, summer is on the way, something to look forward to.

Yesterday was mostly taken up with replacing a tap in the kitchen. Why do these things always happen on a Sunday? Dave got up at 4am because he couldn't sleep and found a flood in the kitchen. Luckily we have tiled floors, and the leak from a perished hose was small. But on removing the tap Dave found a broken hose so it was off into the city to a big DIY store to get a new mixer tap. The day had started cool but sunny, and with so much to do we could have done without it. However, I do now have a nice, shiny and practical tap to go on my caravan sized sink, which means I can get a bucket under it...great stuff. It even has a directional tip. All for about forty quid. Of course, it wasn't as simple as driving all that way and picking it up. All boxes are opened in Praktiker and checked for contents, everything was there, hoses, washers etc, and we left with a five year guarantee. But when Dave came to attach the hoses, the nuts where they attach to the pipe were a different size! Grrrr, didn't think of that, assumed they would be standard. By this time we were hoping there might be a shop open in our local town, ten minutes away, and so there was and the hoses bought (though a little short) and tap fitted. Time for a bit of sunshine.

We had made a small detour on the way home from the city. The river we used to visit so often when we first arrived has been flooded for a lot of the last twelve months and we have missed out trips to see the kingfishers and other bird life. Yesterday we went down to have a look and were surprised that the water levels are still so high. The lines of small and large trees in water well up their trunks, parking places we usually use to take photos inaccessible. But despite all that it was lovely to hear thrush and blackbirds singing their hearts out, flocks of squabbling jays (never seen them in such large groups) tits, cormorants, ducks and waders. The susliks, a small ground squirrel, were darting about everywhere,  The blossom is breaking and there is a haze of green. Lovely. And of course, Dave couldn't resist a quick dip, with instructions from Horrified Wife to stay in the shallower, slow moving flooded bits.
Approaching the first tunnel on the road into Veliko Tarnovo, overlooked by the Yantra Hotel

A track at the side of the river now runs straight into the water

Tyre tracks in the water

Trees which used to form a boundary on the bank

We used to park at the end of this bank, and Dave used to wade across a shallow stretch of water to see the bee-eater colony. No chance of that for a while

Pussy willow

Yet another blurry picture of a buzzard...but it was a long way off!

Suslik, very common around here but numbers are right down to critical levels in Europe

The roads, with their lining of fruit and nut trees as well as the usual hawthorn and dogwood, are bursting into leaf and flower, and every so often there is a bright splash of yellow where forsythia is almost in full flower. And when we got home we found the sun had brought out the daffodils at last, and the peach blossom and mini plum blossom has also started.

Today there has been a cold breeze but good weather for getting some sowing done. Hedging my bets as we have no idea what weather we might get this year, I am trying to plant drought resistant, cold tolerant and a local variety of some veg. Hopefully one of them will do well. We have sown more peas and broad beans, different varieties to the first lot, three varieties of carrot and beetroot, spinach and chard, and planted the peas we brought on in the cold frame. Tomorrow we are planning on planting out some bargain dahlias and some cannas Venka gave us when she found out we had let our's rot. Then we can decide where we can put some of the perennials I have grown from seed collected last year. I'm hoping the neighbours might want some, there seem to be plenty. Despite being drowned out from being underneath a down spout in all the wet weather, peonies, day lilies and geum are up and looking healthy. there is going to be a shortage of flower border space this year! We have annuals to put in too. We will have happy bees I think.

Despite deciding not to raise any chicks this year, Dave ordered twenty blue araucana eggs for hatching. We are hoping for a bit of a better result than the twenty last year which resulted in not one chick, most were infertile. These are from a different breeder. We thought at least one Shumen was going broody in which case she could have had some but she can't make her mind up. No doubt she will want to go broody as soon as it's too late! So the eggs are in the old incubator which has actually proved to be the best of the three we have had since being here.

Meanwhile, Cagney continues to sit tight to her duck eggs. The new ex-commercials are starting to lay and the Shumens are both laying regularly. The ducks are still giving four eggs nearly every day. Today they are all a little miffed as they have been excluded from the main garden as we start sowing, so Dave rotovated a patch of the run and that has kept them happy for hours.
Happy fowl....except the new girls who haven't cottoned on to the sound of the rotovator

We are not seeing much of Splash now the weather is better. He goes out early, comes in for a nap and is then out all afternoon (maybe having a game of chase with the dogs) and most of the evening till bed time. Lets hope he is discouraging the rodents.
Put a vet bed out so Bonnie's old bones could be cushioned. No hope!