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Friday, 19 June 2015

Been a bit busy


I don't know where the time goes! I can't believe it has been over two weeks since my last post and there have been big changes here in Bulgaria, both in the countryside and in the garden.

The weather has been a bit of all sorts. We have had thunder and lightening, torrential rain...but luckily for us not the giant hailstones of other parts of Bulgaria. We have had a bit of wind, a lot of heat and some unbrearable humidity. We haven't had a lot of cool though! Phew.

In the countryside there has been a big change. The haymaking season is well under way, lovely aromas as you drive the lanes. The barley has turned from pale yellow to dark gold and some is being harvested already. The winter wheat is also starting to change colour. There are large fields of sunflowers at different stages, from just a foot high to already flowering, the heads turning to catch the sun...but of course that is often away from the camera. Our time will come. On the roadsides there is a smattering of pale blue daisies of the wild chicory, six foot high cow parsley, lots of poppies and other wild flowers. The mulberries are in season, and below each tree there are squashed fruits staining the road, black, white and red. Walnut and fruit trees are laden, though it seems it's a bad year for wild plums.
Golden fields

White and red mulberries.....

....and black staining the roads

The storks seem to have done a good job in raising their chicks, up to four in a nest. I don't know how they cope with the temperatures up into the forties. We didn't see any chicks in our local neststoday so maybe they have fledged...or maybe the unusually cool weather made them lay low.

In the garden we are in gluttage. Far too many cucumbers and courgettes, masses of cherry tomatoes and more potatoes than we can eat (and still the neighbour keeps sending them over) We have beans of all kinds, after eating a few of the baby borlotti beans the rest of them have had a spurt with the rain and warmth and the pods are swelling nicely. We have a glut of climbing French bean (Cobra) already and have some in the freezer despite only sowing about half the amount of last year. Both sorts of runner bean (White Lady and Achievement) are looking good and taste lovely. I have already started to press people into having some if they visit. We are eating lots of carrots which are really tasty. The beets are growing a bit big and I need to pickle some...and also the cucumbers. Not many plants and they are only a small, half sized fruits but prolific. We had some really horrible looking bugs on them which looked like orange ticks with mandibils dug into the flesh. But it turns out they are just harlequin ladybird pupae. We can spare those fruits to the chickens and ducks, as well as the large courgettes. How can three plants run away with us like this? The tomatoes are starting to turn red....but the row of pink beefsteak tomatoes, grown from seed, seem to be regular red ones, except for one plant. Very strange...I didn't sow any 'normal' tomatoes!
Miss a day and we have too many. Except raspberries of course, we wouldn't mind a glut of them but we get a regular small supply well into autumn

Tomato 'Chocolate Stripes' looking OK

A mini yellow pear tomato, grown from seed saved from a tomato given to us by our neighbour last year

Plum tomato 'San Marzano' for bottling for ourselves

Teeny red currant tomato, another from the neighbour. They use the tiny tomatoes in the bottled mixed veg

Regular sized yellow heritage tomato, can't remember which one but will find out

Green cherry plum tomato 'Green Envy'
Normal sized red tomato...a mystery how we got a row of these
Sweet potatoes, starting to run

Baby artichoke

French beans


Borlotti swelling

Elsewhere in the veggie patch the red cabbage have come to a standstill, broccoli is sprouting far too early, romanesco and cauli seem to be doing OK, kale has whitefly but that's normal. Down the end the sweet potatoes have started to run along the ground now that the sun gets on them earlier, as are the butternut squash and melons. The stand of sweetcorn is starting to flower, the artichokes are still producing small heads. Failures are the early peppers which seem to have been grazed on but on investigation is likely to be blossom end rot, and the aubergines are still looking poorly, though two are starting to produce fruit. There are a lot of ideas on remedies for BER, but scientific reports seem to suggest that a healthy plant will grow out of it, so we will wait and see. I would rather lose plants I am not keen on than spray or feed unnecessary chemicals. The overwintered onions which went to seed have all been pulled now, the small bulbs processed and frozen....only to be taken out next day because of the smell. They were turned into chutney! Apart from the ones I've used 'green'  there were three kilos of sliced onion, which only made nine jars of chutney. Rather expensive to make. I've given up on the peas which were growing well but are being eaten from below (ants?) and broad beans with their heavy black fly infestation. Definitely need to sow both early next year, and more of them, to try to beat the heat and the insects, There are more carrots, beets and salady stuff sown, with a fence round the patch to keep off playing animals...which of course means that the nice, friable soil is especially prepared for little cat, according to him.
Hopefully the peppers will grow out of their problem

Despite their poor state, the aubergines are producing

Onion chutney

The garlic pulled a while ago is plaited and finishing drying, not a bad crop

And the potatoes are doing well, the Colorado beetle has had no effect on the plants mainly due to Dave doing the beetle run twice a day. It only seems to be a problem on the earlies. We have tried both lots of first earlies. Louisana (which is a French variety) is supposed to be very early but was no earlier than Arran Pilot. We were a bit disappointed that the Louisana fell apart when boiled, peeling their skin off. They are a lovely earthy flavour though. The Arran Pilot hold together well and are more of a waxy potato which is what we like in a new variety. Not as strong flavoured but delicious and a larger potato but not a uniform shape (who cares?) We have far too manyof course, and really don't need the ones sent over by our neighbours.
Arran Pilot potato

Things are happening in the flower garden too. Everything moves so quickly and there has to be time for dead heading to keep them going. We are pleased with the sweet peas, they seem to like being in the shade and are still flowering strongly. The little ones in tubs gave up a while ago as they were in the sun. Newly flowering are the zinnias, new to me and lovely colours and forms, rudbeckia Cherry Brandy, more dahlias and some little alliums in a pot we didn't know about....we thought we had planted mini iris! There are also yellow geums, monarda and some newly bought coreopsis, always good value with their cheerful yellow flowers. Dave also bought some more canna lilies and red hot pokers...not a favourite of mine but the insects like them.
This Zinnia looks wishy-washy next to the bright colours of others

Little alliums...they can go into the border for next year
Dahlia and friend

Free flowering dahlias

A wet dahlia 'Chat Noir' amazing colour
Rudbeckia 'Cherry Brandy' 

Our carnation grown from a cutting 

Absolutely no idea where the nigella came from

Plants were pulled out to make way for the red hot pokers which will grow large

One of the two surviving echinacea, others have died due to a virus

Morning glory
Dog keeping cool


....and another variety
Geum and friend

I have to admit that the insects are causing me a bit of bother. We have many insect loving plants which is great as there is always something to well as the nasties like aphids in many colours and weevils. But we also have a lot of biting ones and I am getting lumps on my lumps, going through anti-histamine gel and tablets (so I can sleep) like nobody's business, good job they are a lot cheaper here than in the UK! I am hoping next year will see more of a balance in the insect department after all the care we are giving them
No idea what this is...but ugh!

Harlequin ladybird pupae...looks like an orange tick...ugh again

In birdlife, we have seen little of the orioles this year, they have deserted our walnut but we can hear them all around. The hoopoe have suddenly gone quiet too. But we do have two songbirds battling it out to be the best voice. The nightingales are still singing but are being out-sung by a blackcap which has a sweeter tone and has been singing non-stop all the daylight hours for over a week. As I write this, though, all I can hear is a chicken, a duck and orioles in the walnut...everyone making me out to be a liar!

Dave has not been well, he had the same bug as I had a few weeks ago and it knocked him out. It must be a virus going around as if he had caught it from me he would have been sick earlier. It means we have got a little behind in the garden, and with the heat as well we are both feeling a bit drained. The paddling pool which sprung several leaks over winter despite being in the spare room has been discarded so there is no-where to cool down. But Dave is in the process of building another, larger and more substantial pool. We didn't realise it was so big (two feet bigger doesn't sound much) but it looks enormous. We were going to put it on the lawn but at that size he has made the old pool standing larger and spent yesterday levelling the area and moving plants. He is now lining the base with foam boards designed to go under laminate flooring in the hope that he can get it up and running while the weather is cool. Unfortunately we will have to use some chemical purifiers with this one as it will not be practical to empty it often like the little one, but these will be kept to a minimum. We have looked in to alternative systems but they are way beyond our means.
Building his birthday present

Filling...and the sun is coming out so just in time

In the hen house we have chicks due to hatch soon, Cagney being a diligent broody as usual. Ducky has now settled in to life without Mum and she is independent at last. She (we think it's a girl) still sleeps with the hens. The three amigos (month old incubator chicks) are doing well, at the rather ugly stage and two are looking decidedly boyish. They are perching in their little pen and are out there running about while the ladies are still stretching and deciding what they are going to do all day.
The three amigos chilling out

After a bout of rain we had a carpet of snails on the weed patch known as the lawn. They were awful, like a scene from a horror movies. So I made a couple of movies of my own....feeding the ducks and chooks with snails of many sizes. It's amazing how Ducky knows to dunk the molluscs to get them to come out to say hello...and get chomped! I'm not an evil person, just giving the poultry some environmental enrichment!

Dave is hoping to get some Indian Runner ducks, which he was hoping to get when we came across the five we have now (they are not common here) and if he does we will try to home the drake and two ladies as we will want to keep an Indian runner drake for pure eggs next year.

And finally, some wildlife
Bit blurred but it was large.....(chafer?)

Tiny butterfly on a dull day

Even I can't find any of them

Cool though


  1. gosh a lot going on over in your place. Basically everything happening at once; but great the garden is producing. The flowers are also looking good, love the Dahlia's.

    1. Thanks Gill. I am trying to get as much done as I can before the tomatoes really start as processing them, whether bottling, chutneying or drying, will take a few days a week...especially if, as last year, every time you think you've caught up the neighbours send round more buckets of stuff I don't need but they think I do!

  2. Hello from south Louisiana, in the States! We use ground up egg shells against Blossom End Rot, when we're planting out, or a little gypsum dug into the soil around each plant, and watered in at a later stage. The gypsum makes the calcium present in the soil available to the plant. Have loved reading your blog almost from the beginning; it and you are very uplifting! Thank you for continuing it !Best regards, Laura

    1. Thank you Laura. All our eggshells...and there are a lot of them...go onto the compost heap and we use wood ash on the garden during winter as well as the compost. I am hoping it's just the wildly fluctuating temperatures and water which is the norm at this time of the year that has caused it. Having read a scientist's report it seems the plants may grow out of it if they are healthy If not I will have to use the bucket loads the neighbours give us...they spray so I don't like using them, but don't like waste either

  3. Loved reading your post. Have you tried burning a citronella candle near where you are sitting to keep the insects at bay? It's horrible being bitten.

    1. We don't really sit outside, it's either too hot or there are too many flies. Yes, we have tried the candles, and repellents. But you are in and out all day and to keep re-applying takes organisation and neighbours who will wait while you apply. I use them once a day if I remember.

  4. I'm slowly catching up, but you're making me feel tired again!! So much going on in your garden - I'm actually glad I'm having a year off from the veggies, mostly.

    Now before I forget, the last bug pics are.... Rose Chafer, a Skipper (don't know which one as you'll have some different ones there) and an I have no idea micro moth. Why don't you like the ladybird pupae? I think they are cool! The thing above it is a chafer grub - if you find them in the soil they are cock chafers and eat roots so feed them to the chooks, but if you find them in the compost they are probably Rose Chafers and they are good as they help break down the compost, so leave them be.

    Love the flowers, loads of lovely bright colours. Hope the pool is up and running now!

    1. There's certainly lots to do Mandy, we have had a nice bit of rain lately which the garden...and

      Thanks for the IDs, we are definitely having trouble with roots disappearing in the top plot, and have some of the grubs in the potatoes. We will have to hope that next year will be a quieter year for them, pest control is not an option. We had the similar ones in the compost last year and had great compost this year! Trouble is, pumpkin seeds seem to survive and people have told me they have pumpkins coming up with plants we have given them. I tell them it's a bonus!

      I have seen the moth before, it's super cool and runs. You can almost hear it's feet tapping.

      Pool's great, but as the sides are higher than my inside leg I have to use a ladder to get in...not elegant but worth the effort on a hot day.

    2. I used to get self seeded pumpkins too! :-)