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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Having a block....



I’m having a bit of a block. We are still here and working away, so I’m sure we are making progress. But I am feeling it has all been said before and I have nothing to add.

Having read similar on someone else’s blog recently it seems I am not alone. One person went five years before re-starting and I have friends who used to write blogs and who just petered out. But I don’t just write it to keep friends, family and regular commenters informed, it is also a diary as my memory is not great and I like to see where we were last year and now, the year before. I am sure readers are getting bored too....one day I had only fifty or so  page views rather than the 150-200 on a normal day, and rarely get any comments which I really appreciate (special thanks to Jane, Mandy and Gill) So here I am, alone, stuck in the house as there is a cool wind and no good reason to be outside, no internet so, as Dave is out, only the animals for company. So for today I think I will write from headings to see if that helps.

IN THE GARDEN
As mentioned last time we are almost planted up. The only things left to put in are the sweet potatoes, butternut squash (I know I sowed some and no idea how I lost them!) melons and strawberry popping corn. Oh, and Brussels sprouts. The sprouts and corn are a problem. I want the sprouts where I can get to them in the winter without ploughing through mud, and had earmarked the small patch where the coldframe was last year. But it needs a bit of soil in there so I am unsure. The popcorn needs to be away from the regular sweetcorn and the only place is by the pool area, but I am not sure if it is sunny enough. I suppose there is no harm in trying it there, but the ground looks a bit hungry. Decisions, decisions
A strange looking thing, strawberry popcorn

New for us are artichokes, the globe sort not the tubers. We bought four new plants from Morgan's and David also gave us a bag with some well climatised plants from his own garden. With a bit of luck we might have a globe or two this year, weather permitting.
One of the plants from David's garden

And a bought plant

Elsewhere, the beans are all through and growing away, the tomatoes and cucumbers are all in, there are masses of flowers on the peas and lots coming on the broad beans. The potatoes have been earthed up and are already poking back through. The onions and garlic are generally looking good and bulking up well, though a few are looking a bit weak. The rest of the brassicas are standing tall and strong. I am not happy with the rhubarb. It was moved last year and has it’s own patch (with a few lettuce over winter) but has weedy growth. I have fed it and water it, but we have only had one pick and that was pathetic. It has had a lot of flowers on it, in common with most other people’s it seems so maybe that hasn’t helped. Nettle tonic is being brewed so that might help pick it up. We’ll see. I have read recently that moving it could set it back.
The first toms in now have trusses of flowers

The climbing beans are up....and now much bigger than these

Potatoes earthed up nice and neatly

Onions and garlic

First courgettelet
Peas

Broad beans in flower
Sage with huge flower buds about to burst

The thyme came through winter better than the UK, now flowering and the bees are happy
Not all great, radish are being eaten by something

Another problem we have is peach leaf curl on both peaches. Again, it seems to be a common problem this year, and although there is an organic spray you can use (Bordeaux mixture) before bud break (too late) and later in the year, we really don’t want to spray if we can avoid it. This remedy will become illegal on November 15 in the UK and there must be a reason for this. The apricot is looking healthier this year, but little sign of fruit. So it seems stone fruits will be in short supply this year. Hopefully the plums will be OK and raspberries and strawberries. Oh, and a few blackcurrants too.
Lots of blackcurrants

We have the first of the proper summer flowers open, the verbascum are putting on a great show of white spikes of flowers. The peonies are still doing well, we have masses of buds on the roses, the geum and lone delphinium are not far off, and the huge sage bushes I grew from seed last year are smothered in big fat flower buds. We still have to find space for some seed grown perennials and I’m hoping someone somewhere will be wanting to start a new flower garden, seems a shame to scrap them.
Our lovely verbascum, one of three

Not all great here either, sidalcea put in this year is looking sorry for itself

Dahlias up

CHICKENS AND DUCKS
They all seem healthy enough. The ducks are still laying well and giving us four eggs most days. On the other hand all the chickens we are feeding have dropped production. Whether that is due to age or they are hiding them I don’t know. We still have plenty of eggs but are not inundated. Dave is going to make a tall gate so that they can't get to the wood shed and bee area then they will hopefully start laying in the boxes provided again. Dave has set a dozen eggs in the incubator (yes I know, we said never again!) in the hope of getting some layers for next year who are not worn out. They will be a mix of brown ex-bats and Shumen so we will see what happens.
The ducks and chickens are enjoying the seeded paddock and so far are not trashing it
Baby in the big pool, with Cagney looking on


Little duckling is growing fast. He is now using the big pond for his dips, with Cagney keeping an eye out for trouble, but things seem much calmer generally since Spot and Spotty (now Hansel and Gretel) went to their new home.

CAR BOOT
Last weekend’s car boot sale was a very busy one again. In a different place (the camp site) again we have never seen it so busy with people having trouble finding a parking space. We were very quiet, sitting calmly in the sun watching other sellers being rushing around, especially the plant sales next to us. Then it all went a bit mad and we nearly sold out of jam and chutney, selling quite a few cards and all the duck eggs. So  good day all in all. I even got the first couple of bunches of asparagus of the season, being very kind I said I would let someone else have some and would take it if there was any left. I didn’t get the extra as it was soon gone! But it was delicious and thank you David and Graham at Morgan’s plants. David also gave me a bag full of artichoke plants from his garden so well acclimatised to Bulgaria, and I bought some pot grown ones too as mentioned above. With a bit of luck and favourable weather we might get a few globes this year.

We were given a sample bag of flour to try, but the chap who was giving it away was not the miller, who couldn't make it so no idea what it is. But it was very tasty and I made a loaf with half and half, even Dave commented on the flavour. I think it might have been unbleached stoneground. We might see the miller next time.



SOCIALISING
Yes, we did! We went into VT for a meal to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It makes a lovely change and it’s nice to catch up with people in a different environment. We didn’t stay late as Dave has never driven in the dark and was tired from working in the garden. The roads here are very dark at night, no lighting at all, not good with the pot holes and raised ridges on the main road, never mind the minor roads, so he took his time and we were glad to be home. It was the first night time drive in two years.

We are also going out in a couple of weeks for some friend’s 35th wedding anniversary bash which will be interesting. We should know a few people there as well.

IN THE KITCHEN
I’ve had to start to make all those jams and chutneys again. I have orders for the next sale so it can’t be avoided.

I am still making cakes for the freezer to use eggs, but have decided I much prefer to eat quiche fresh. On that note, we had a lovely smoked salmon and asparagus quiche tonight, so sweet, I think I had better order more bunches for next time, it’s such a short season.

It’s good to be using stuff from the garden, lettuce, chard,  herbs, radish, rhubarb, some carrots. I have designs on some of those fast growing pea and bean shoots too. But in the meantime the first tiny pods have been picked, and deciding there was not enough for Dave too, I tasted and Bella had the pods.

Not perfect, but a nice fresh crunch

Smoked salmon and asparagus quiche, with a bacon one for Dave's lunch today

The other 50g of smoked salmon went into some ravioli with wild garlic, on a bed of spring veg and a blob of home made low fat hollandaise. The little tortolini were me playing with the pasta

DOGS AND CATS
Splash is well and truly better now. He is loving hunting the crickets and turns himself inside out playing with them with no sign of any soreness. On warm, fine nights he often prefers to be outside and if the door is not locked he lets himself in by hanging off the door handle and sneaking upstairs quietly. With my poor sleeping I’m surprised he doesn’t wake me, but often there he is, snoozing away. Front door open to whatever creature wants to come in, dogs totally oblivious.

The girls are OK. They are enjoying getting warm sitting in the sun, as dogs do, and get far too hot before retreating to the shade. The novelty will soon wear off and they will spend more time indoors. After Bonnie keeping us awake with her panting last year we are giving serious consideration to an air conditioning unit for the bedroom, then we will all be more comfortable.

BLOG
This is the 200th post, and last week there was another milestone when the page views went through the 80,000 mark. So thank you all those readers, old and new...especially on the day it nearly reached 600! I really do appreciate all comments too.

I feel much better now!

35 comments:

  1. good to hear from you and you have tons to say. Glad things are growing in the garden, that you sold everything at the car boot sale and you were out and about after dark! I could not survive without a/c here in Canada, it gets to hot and humid for me. Congrats on your 200th post, and here's to many more from you!

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    1. Thanks Gill. I did catch your post the other day but got caught up and called away. It was that which made me get down to it. I have to admit that it was the humidity that got to me last year too, we had such unusually wet weather with the high temperatures. Hoping this year will be a little drier.

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  2. I do hope that you won't stop blogging. I like to compare your life with ours as the season changes... sometimes I am jealous and other times thankful that we live here - I hate the cold and couldn't cope with your winters - I envy you the soil you have... so rich compared to ours... Reading your blog is like inviting a friend round for a cuppa and finding out how things are going ... it might seem mundane to you but I don't find it boring at all. x

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    1. Aw thank you Jane, and I enjoy your's too. As you say it's interesting to compare. Although our summer weather can easily be as hot as your's, I think it might be shorter and the country is certainly greener than some other countries. I have these blips sometimes as I'm sure everyone does. At the moment I rarely go out so all I can do is report from home.

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  3. Aw gosh, I've only just found you and am wading through all your old posts, fascinating. I really envy your wonderful fruit and veg garden, everything looks so lush and beautiful. Are you fluent in Bulgarian yet?

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    1. Hello Sue and welcome. No, Bulgarian is a very difficult language! A friend who has had Bulgarian speakers working for him since he came here took five years to be able to converse easily, though not entirely correctly. As I very rarely see anyone I've got no chance. However, anything to do with garden and family we can manage between us with a lot of laughing and blank looks. You only have to get your inflexion wrong and a word means no sense. Dave is better as he spends more time with the neighbours one way or another. We try and that is appreciated. We have good relationships with all our Bulgarian neighbours.

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  4. Oh, Please continue with your lovely blog, I found it by accident and then went back and read all your blog years. It uplifted me so much, I really admire all the bloggers who regularly let us know what is happening in their lives. I feel that you and your chap have done so well, especially being in a different country. Your neighbours are helpful and so funny at times and your animals are a delight. I am pleased you ended up with a cat. Since being married I have always had a cat, and they make great pets and perhaps just a little less needy than dogs, although I like dogs too.
    Keep up the good work and I shall keep on reading and maybe add another comment or two. Love Andie xxx

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments and welcome Andie. Yes, my animals are a delight...mostly. I am not a cat person but this little mite has weedled his way into my heart, a real character. Goats next!

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  5. Absolutely love your blog so please keep posting. It is rude of me to pop by and not comment. I think what you have done is absolutely brilliant and love hearing about your life.
    Maggie xx

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    1. Thanks Maggie. No, not rude. Sometimes there is nothing to say. I'm glad you're still reading

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  6. I always enjoy reading your adventures in Bulgaria - a different world, a different climate. Hope you'll reach your 400th post soon.

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  7. I read your blog but don't always comment. I am jealous that your growing season is ahead of ours. I am fed up of waiting for my little plants to come up.

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    1. I know, it's great as it means cheap, fresh veg for a lot of the year. And so much more reliable than the UK. I am a bit competitive and some things I try hard to be first in the lane with, like cherry tomatoes and courgettes...the neighbours are well impressed sometimes.

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  8. I wonder what Mama Chicken thinks of her swimming "chick" . Probably that she has hatched quite the strange young one! Your garden is looking wonderful. I've had success with artichokes in my Far North garden and I'm sure you will in your climate. I've also raised strawberry popcorn and found it takes a LOT of those little ears to make enough to eat. Colorful, though.

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    1. Hi Janice. After the first time she seems to have accepted it and happily follows him to the plastic pool so he can swim and she can dustbathe nearby. The only time she gets anxious is when the rabble all pile in there while he is paddling, he's very small still.

      I had my first artichokes ever from David and Graham plot at the nursery last year and they are good value in that by the time you have ploughed through ripping the leaves off and getting to the heart you believe you have had a meal! The other I will wait and see, there doesn't seem to be much return for the space. Popcorn is big here, a cheap snack.

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  9. Always read your blog, please don't stop. That loaf of bread looks awesome, you and your husband are a talented pair and a great team. What type of yeast do you use?

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    1. Thank you. We just use the single sachets of instant yeast (7g) as that is the norm here. You can get single fresh yeast too in most places, but stock rotation is not always the best so we find dried more reliable. It works fine if you give it the time it needs

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  10. I'm guilty of always reading your blog (you're in my blog reader) but not commenting. I find that when I read the comments I think-well they've all said what I was going to say- so I don't bother. I'll have to make more of an effort. Love reading about your life, all your baking and preserving and your beautiful cards. Not to mention Daves amazing art work. I would definitely miss your blog if you stopped.

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    1. I know what you mean Janice, and thank you for the lovely words

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  11. I don't always comment, but I have followed your blog pretty much from the start. I am also an expat living in Bulgaria (with my English-born husband), so I can relate to you and Dave. We have a village house and a garden. You have such an enthusiasm for your garden, your animals and your cooking. Since I "grudgingly" help in the garden, have no animals and am a very "basic" cook, I get vicarious satisfaction out of reading your posts LOL.Can identify with your experiences with your lovely Bulgarian neighbors too.

    Please be encouraged by all the replies you have received. Keep writing and posting those super pictures of your life.

    CountryGirl

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    1. I can't tell you how encouraged I am by everyone's kind comments. We absolutely love our way of life but still have trouble believing so many people are interested. There are sometimes things you can't get off your chest which can spoil a day or week, as you know, but this is not a place to air those things. What I can say that without the garden, animals and interest in cooking this would be a very different life, and without being able to share it with others I would burst!

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  12. Like the other comments don't stop, like you said it's good to be able to compare from one year to the next. I found your blog a couple of months ago and have dipped in and out, but never leaving a comment, sorry. will do better next time. we are looking to move over from the UK in the next year or so. started planning since last year. We are on location finding mission in July and probably again in September. May I ask how large is your garden, as the sizes advertised are metre sq. We have an allotment at home but are looking forward to just stepping outside the front door to collect our fruit, veg and flowers. Are you allowed to bring in plants from the UK, are the likes of Blackcurrant plants readily available to buy? Anyway keep up the great blog. Looking forward to the next one. Rosemary

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    1. Rosemary, thank you. Most village properties have around 1,500 square metres, our's is 1,650 so I think that's just under half an acre including buildings. They also usually have their own fruit and nut trees, a great start to the larder. We find there is plenty of land to grow enough of most fruit and veg for the year, bottling, pickling, freezing and chutney/jamming with plenty of the latter over for selling. We even give loads to the neighbour to make rakia...and get rakia back through the year. So buildings and....errr....lawn.take up a quarter of land, chooks are lucky enough to have a quarter, the veg the rest. When we get goats Dave will be taking them out daily to browse unless we can find a shepherd who will take goats (the neighbour's shepherd only takes sheep) for pennies every week. There is room for pigs too if you want them, but you need to be tough to deal with the end of pig/beginning of pork. There are different ways of doing things and it's all at home.

      You can get most fruit and veg if you look hard enough, our blackcurrants actually came from the equivelent of B&Q, but the markets sell most fruits which grow well here, very cheaply. We also have Morgan's who are not only great for perennial plants but good friends, and who will ship all over the country by courier, COD, which is a great service and costs little.

      Any questions, feel free to ask.

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    2. We love to have chooks, ducks even a couple of pigs (they like company) but it's looking after them if you are away. I really want to get into bottling and pickling when we move. We make chutney/jam etc at the moment and have just got back into making my own bread again. (Sourdough starter). All will become clearer in July I think as to location, can't wait, nervous and excited all rolled into one. Rosemary

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  13. Look, loads of comments! I think we all have that problem of repeating ourselves, because if your blog is about your home life, gardening, livestock etc it's going to be quite samey year in year out. I've found I seem to get new readers (or at least commenters) each year, so maybe some of the old readers got bored but new ones have taken over. And like you, my blog is my garden/nature diary and it's great to compare back to previous years.

    I enjoy seeing what you are up to because you are in a country I know nothing about and I admire how you are coping and fitting in. And I never tire of pics of Splash, and the duckling with Cagney as its mum is just adorable. :-)

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    1. Thanks Mandy, we have similar interests it's true, and France and Bulgaria are different but similar.

      By the way...we have bee-eaters haha They're back!

      Hope you are OK.

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  14. I do so enjoy your blog. You do all the work and I just sit here and read about it, imagininh what it would be like to live like you do. Better than any tv-soap and still pure escapism. Do go on!

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    1. Haha. We are very lucky to be able to do what we want, though it doesn't feel like it at the moment as the well pump has just packed up for the third time! Poor Dave has had to water the plot with watering cans....I filled them for him though.

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  15. I am one of the lurkers who regularly contributes page views but doesn't leave a comment. Writing doesn't come naturally to me -that's why I seldom comment on any blog or article. I wish this was not the case but we are all different. That being said I feel compelled to assure you that it's a delight to read your posts, look at your pictures and admire the products of your creativity. I look forward to every new post and check your blog regularly.
    I also have a personal reason to come to your blog. I am Bulgarian from VT. I've lived in Canada for decades now and your blog takes me home every week in a very vivid and fun way. Your perspective is very different from that of my peers and I find that very interesting and relatable.
    I hope you will keep writing for many years to come. Sorry, can't promise many comments but you can count on the page views. Thanks for everything.
    Maya

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    1. Maya, what a lovely, and special comment coming from a Bulgarian from this area. I can see that Bulgaria would seem very different through my words, there is so much we are struggling to understand with still having limited understanding of the language. But you don't need language to understand the beauty of this country and it's people and the generosity and kindness we have been shown over and over again. Unlike some ex-pats who come here just for cheap living, we feel priviliged to be able to do what we do for as long as we are able,

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  16. I do so hope you do not give up on blogging. I love reading your posts and find that I am truly jealous of your life in Bulgaria. I often share your experience with my husband. Living in a townhouse in the suburbs in Minnesota, we have very few interesting adventures, so find reading about your home life in Bulgaria very fulfilling. I have so much respect for you and your husband and your bravery of starting a new life in a country where you still have a language barrier. Please keep sharing. Ranee

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    1. Thank you Ranee,I'm hoping my enthusiasm will re-awaken once things start happening. Lovely comments

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  17. Hi I am another who reads regularly but has never left a comment. Sorry!! I love reading what you're up to please don't stop. We have been coming to Bulgaria for a few years now but only on holiday maybe 3 or 4 times a year. We have a small house near Vratsa and hope to be moving permanently in the next few months just waiting for our son to be more independent. We learn a lot from yours and other peoples blog and are picking up lots of valuable tips for when we are in the same position as you and we'll be keeping ducks and chickens and planting our own fruit and veg. You are so busy every day I'm surprised you've run out of things to say and as you can see from all the comments you've had this time people are certainly not bored of hearing the same things sometimes. Keep blogging. xx

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    1. Thank you Ann. I also started reading blogs when I was looking into moving here, never had before. I found some of them really helpful, especially when they wrote accounts of what went wrong. One blogger even became a good friend and I feel I owe her a lot.

      I hope you enjoy Bulgaria as we do. Hard work but so rewarding...and no debt to anyone, no getting up to slog for someone else (though we are still up around 5!) I have been sitting in the sun today, birds and insects distracting me from making cards, listening to the neighbours working companionably in their gardens, making bread...washing which is dry in seconds and giggling at duckling and cat. Such a hard life. Haha

      And yes, I am very grateful to all those who have commented. I am very lucky on so many fronts

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