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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Plodding on

How come we always seem to be so busy? It's not from having to tend the garden at the moment. All we can do is water but despite trying the heat just evaporates it and things are keeling over. Even the tomatoes are suffering now. The various cherry toms are not too bad but the larger ones, even the Chocolate Stripes, a large and juicy variety which are supposed to be prolific well into autumn, look sick. Those particular ones are growing and withering at the same time. The San Marzano (bottling whole for  using whole or in sauces) have been attacked by blossom end rot, which they are prone to it seems, due to the water problem. The Rio Grande (for chutneys and bottling in chunks) have stopped growing all together and will come out soon. The rest of the odd bods with no name and the yellow ones are being pulped for sauce if they ripen. I have started to dry the cherry toms in the sun as we have a good amount bottled in mixed colours.
I use the trays from the dehydrator to dry tomatoes in the sun, covered with fly mesh

The beans are going to be pulled out to dry for when there is no browse for the goats. All the brassicas look sick as mentioned before, which is annoying as all the caulis were forming heads but have stalled, the curds opening and going yellow. The cues are bitter, again because of the water, though if you catch them immature they are ok. The peppers and chillis are withering on the pants too. All the potatoes are dug and will be graded into sacks or processing piles. The leeks are just sitting there and the doing OK! Oh, and the courgettes have given up! Some might say that's a good thing, but the goats like them.

Now, you could say,,,why not water at least twice a day? Afer all we have a well. But it seems like a waste of water when it will just be for veg we possibly have enough of. I know the neighbours do but they need to be able to sell what they can to make a few pennies. Yes it might get boring by the end of the year to have little variety, but it won't kill us. It is looking like another month before we get rain so we are unlikely to be able to get peas, carrots and beets in as we were hoping. The ground is just too hard to work.
What to do with walnuts and mis shapen carrots? 

Cake of course. There was a bit much mixture in a new recipe and I kept having to get more tins out

Today when Dave was out buying a new printer (the other is not old, but not worth fixing) as we suddenly need a working one (sod's law!) and Bella was outside waiting for him, she suddenly shot in with tail between her legs which was a bit worrying, so I went out but couldn't see any reason for her concern so thought she had maybe seen a snake or something. When Dave came home and pointed to the grape vines all over the garden I felt a right fool. The 4x4'' stakes had snapped and the vines were on the deck flattening the flower border....and I hadn't noticed! He has managed to prop it up with added straps around the apricot tree and hopefully they will be OK for a few more weeks till the grapes are ready. There are just so many that the weight was too much. I would hate to be the one to tell Jordan the grapes he is looking forward to for his rakia have gone on the compost heap

Flattened border. These plants look healthy in the shade of the apricot tree

So I think the reason we feel busy is because everything is such an effort. I have never sweated so much in my life...and I spent most of my working life on a stable yard or in a kitchen! Dave is making very good use of the pool, but I am fussy...I don't like it too warm! But when it's emptied a bit (onto the garden) and filled from the well it's lovely, almost worth getting hot and sweaty. I will confess we have also allowed Bonnie a minute a couple of times, she so misses a good play in water and a minute of swim time perks her up no end. I know we shouldn't, but it's worth it to see the puppy in the old girl.

I have got into a habit of making yoghurt and soft cheese now, there is only so much milk we can fit in the freezer and there is a lot you can do with soft cheese, especially when you still have a stash of Lidl cheddar to keep the need for 'real' cheese satisfied. Our neighbour is quite impressed that we are using it so and feeding the whey to dogs and chickens (and the compost heap) During the quieter times over the autumn, and especially winter, we will be experimenting with making harder cheese, but first we need to get to a cheese shop on our up and coming trip home to Kent and stock up on one or two things.
I love all these home produced meals, some of our cheese with a dusting of paprika and celery salt, carrot and walnut salad, home made mayo, some of our really sweet Cheltenham Greentop beetroot, home made garlic bread. Still can't produce flour and oil though....

We have just taken some honey from the hive, not a huge amount but plenty to keep us going. We can afford to take a bit more as there is enough and excess to keep the hive going over winter. But they are looking after it better than we can so if we don't need it we will leave it there. Meanwhile what we took is being filtered for the second time and has been tasted and tasted again...very thick and yummy. It is lovely with the yoghurt and the cheese (no figs this year though) and the last of the frozen walnuts from last year, with the fresh season's walnuts coming up soon. Hopefully better than last year's, they certainly look it but there are a lot of old black ones falling at the moment.

Uncapping ready to spin in the new honey extracter. The cappings go back to the bees after the honey has dripped out. They will take any honey left and the wax can then be cleaned ready to this space


We worked fast before too many bees came to see what we were doing. They came and started to take the honey back

We only have one more car boot sale to do now so I have been able to cut back on the jam and chutney making. I am still making cordials for our own use as we need to keep the fluids up. Blackcurrant is definitely favourite, followed by gooseberry and strawberry. I like gooseberry and rhubarb as it's a bit lighter, but the peach I made last week (they being about 40p a kilo) I don't fancy and even sweet toothed Dave is not that keen on. I have some peach and raspberry which might be better but that is not being opened till this lot is drunk. The pepper and pear season is not yet over, with apples and quince to come too. We have not had any red peppers donated to our cause this year which is a relief, we had far too many last year (and green ones earlier this year) and if the neighbours can get a few pennies for their excess I would rather they did that. I know a lot of people make sauces to bottle ready to just grab, but I would rather just bottle the tomatoes as a base for the other veggies going in fresh, I prefer the just-cooked flavours...and anyway we seem to have acquired enough for emergencies!
The second half of the pantry is done, filling up with preserves very quickly.

The animals are now starting to get fed up with this weather. There has been a lot of moulting in the poultry pen with feathers everywhere but most are coming through it and are starting to lay...except the ducks who have almost stopped for the year. I have to say they have done very well, they have been laying consistantly since february and we have sold enough to pay for the food and some of the chicken food too. But we are going to have to do something about the boys. The older drake (looking rather washed out after a 'busy' summer) is harassing Ducky who is looking splendid, no doubting thet he is a boy with his curly tail feathers and squeaky voice. He still shacks up with the hens, but I think if the drake went the ladies would accept Ducky as the successor.
Picture for Mandy, the three amigos

Little grey chick will get a heck of a shock one day doing this!!!

Hot birds at bed time....notice the two naughty swallows above doubt spreading their parasites! Cheeky pair

Ducky starting to look grown up

And the drake fading to look like a girl

The goats have really settled now and though sometimes they can't get into their house as it's full of feathered friends, they are happy in the shade of the walnut and pear. They are hilarious when they start playing with each other, Mum Milly being gentle with young Tilly, who is not so gentle back! Dave takes them for walks most days and they are slowly getting used to people and dogs suddenly appearing and the odd car or tractor. Foraging amongst the wild growth means they pick up allsorts and the variety has to be good, and of course, being ruminants, they can enjoy it all again later at their leisure (who knew goats burp so much?)

The cats and dogs are flat out all day, usually with legs in the air but sometimes they still want to cuddle up which is uncomfortably hot. I wouldn't have thought a small cat could generate so much heat! The two cats are playing a lot in the evenings and early mornings, getting on really well now with just the odd reminder that Splash is top cat. The boy occasionally visits us upstairs at night but the grey cat doesn't. It is far too cool for cats with the air con going full blast. Bonnie is happy with it, Bella hides under the bed.

Fascinated with the printer

The 'easy' apricot is abandoned for a game of chase in the big plum tree

Cuddle with Bonnie....

...and Bella

Splash checking his territory. He sits and watches the babas at night when they go out and sit on benches for a chat. They think he's hilarious

And finally, an early morning visit to the river revealed a couple of animals we have seen but have been rather camera shy. There was a lone jackal hunting rodents in the stubble, unfortunately a quarter mile away but fun to watch (there were buzzards and a hare in the same field)

The other thing was a terrapin basking on a log. We've caught glimpses before but this was the first picture on 'our'  stretch of the river.


  1. I do enjoy reading your blog and love how you describe what is happening with your animals and crops and your neighbours. It's fascinating to read about your life on the other side of the world! Keep the wonderful posts and excellent photos coming! Cheers, Nanny Anny in Canada

    1. Thank you for your kind comments Nanny Anny in Canada

  2. No summer at all here in Northern Ireland so it is strange to read about all the heat with you! I love the photos of the cats and dogs lying together. Both cats are so pretty. All the animals must keep you busy. Another very enjoyable update.

    1. It must be so disheartening after last year's good summer. I've been reading posts from friends in the UK taking hot water bottles and wearing winter clothes to watch the meteor showers, and here we are with air con at night because it's still too warm to sleep.

      The grey cat is a sweetie and has attached itself to Dave with super glue! As you know cats are not my thing but happy wit my little ginger boy...who loves a cuddle befor getting the teeth and claws out! Typical hand reared manners. Naughty boy! Now then, which one grew up disadvantaged? Ah yes, the nice one...........

  3. Just found you! Where are you living in Bulgaria? I'm hoping /returning to a village near Varna in September to take another look at a village house this time with a builder. But will not be living there full time for a while so no live stock for me.

    1. Hi Katt
      We are in Central Bulgaria, north of VT. Good luck with finding what you want, there are many houses loking for love!
      Just a small thing to think careful if paying builders to renovate a house as it is often more expensive than buying already renovated. I know of two builders who have renovated their own so no wages paid, but have spent more than the house is worth. What you spend is not what you will get back if you decide to sell. Also make sure the village you buy in is a safe one with good infrastructure as it is not unheard of for new boilers/kitchens etc to disappear from empty houses. I'm not trying to alarm you or put you off, but this is a very poor country and if the opportunity to sell something to feed the kids or pay the electricity bill arises.....
      As long as you are aware you should be OK. The people here are lovely (make friends with your neighbours and they should look out for you) and not everyone's a crook as some would have us believe. One day you will also be tied down with animals!! haha

  4. enjoy your blog--so interestingly normal : )
    why not a good heavy mulch to hold in water? it's a proven way to keep things moist during drought--I've had to use it here in Alaska this summer especially as we've had a terrible drought year and water just doesn't stick around long...

    1. Thanks Laura. Yes, a good mulch would work wonders....if we had any to use. We use all our compost trying to improve soil structure but have done the raspberry and strawberry patches with mulch. We have a limited supply and we can't afford to buy's the sort of thing newcomers would buy, never Bulgarians, so would be at a premium price. The locals burn all their waste, or dump it. We will have more next year with having the goats now

  5. Zdraveyte! I just discovered your blog. First thing I wanted to know - and sorry, if the information is somewhere in the blog - are you originally from Bulgaria or what was it to make you decide for Bulgaria?
    Mnogo pozdravi ot Germanija ! Jana

    1. Hi Jana
      No, not from Bulgaria, we've only been here two years! I had been growing my own on a small patch in our garden, with three chickens in a residential area of North Wales, trying to get an allotment for years. Decided to try to sell up and move somewhere more rural but even renting somewhere would have meant us both working full time which is not a good thing when you want to become more self sufficient, not enough hours in the day and at our age, not enough energy either. So we were looking for cheaper alternatives and Bulgaria came up. We had no idea then what an amazing country it is, how we would be welcomed into the village. We know it's not perfect, there are many who move out here with rose tinted specs and find it's not quite paradise then stick together in little communities of their own (rather like those who move to the UK) but they are missing so much by not integrating (or trying to) into village life. It's hard work doing what we are doing, but you only get one shot at life and for the moment we are loving doing what we have wanted to do for years. With no mortgage, debt or 9-5 jobs to worry about, it is what we make it. And we're doing OK!

  6. Yet no scab that I can see on your potatoes! If we had your temps I wouldn't even bother trying to grow any veg at all, or flowers for that matter. But I have shallow sandy soil over porous granite, and no well, so I reguarly spend 200 euros a year watering my garden with mains as my 7000 litre capacity of stored water doesn't last long. But my flowers are more precious to me than any veg....

    You certainly are doing well with everything however so I understand not watering any more. With the goats and cheesemaking, and the hives and honey, you've added to your workload!

    Glad new kitty is settling in but are you going to give the poor lad a name? :-)

    I had no idea you had jackals there! Love the roller picture, lucky you.

    1. We have had a tiny, almost forgettable bit of scab, but hard to remember where. It seems tis is the hottest summer for thirty years (last year was the wettest for 50) so it's not normal. It's usually a very easy country to grow their traditional veg, it's our British varieties that can't cope. Opposite to you, our flowers have to cope!

      But yes, always busy but running out of things we can do indoors.

      The cat was called Mishco by the rescue centre and that is what is on his passport. But best pal Dave has been calling him Herbert after Herbert Lom as he came from Lom. (Who is this Herbert?) Splash, when we call him anything nice, is more often referred to as Spud.

      Plenty of jackals (shouldn't they be in Africa?) all with a bounty on their heads so they must do well. Plenty of rollers this year, fewer orioles.

  7. Hi there, my partner and I have finally bought our dream home in Gradishte near Levski. Sadly we can't move out till next April but your blog has been inspirational as we intend to follow your lead - cheers for all the apposite information

    1. Hi Corinne and welcome. Thank you for your kind comment, and good luck in your move. I hope you enjoy living here as we do