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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Harvest season and new faces

Last Wednesday was the first market day of the month and a significant one. In the town (Polski Trambesh) there were many tables set up in the shade under the trees in the square. These tables were from various villages around the area displaying items of the harvest and products made from the seasonal goodies. There were pies and sweets, oils and honey, carved veggies and ornaments made from various goodies, wine and cakes. We had been to the neighbours' the day before and she had shown us one of the stunning celebration breads she makes which she said was being taken into town next day. This is our third September but we knew nothing of this. Although we (or rather Dave) go every week we go early and get what we need and go. But Dave has been taking the neighbours who are on the look out for broilers so going later and lingering in the cafe for chat and coffee.
Venka and Yordan coming for coffee

The fountain is quite new and changes all the time, lovely to watch on a hot day, sipping coffe

So Venka took my arm and guided me around the tables. I have to say the one from our village looked lovely and the lady behind it stunning in her traditional clothes. There was no sign of Venka's bread so I am assuming someone had bought it.
Our village table
An award?

This was an award (diploma) for the excellent table for 'Golden Autumn' Unfortunately translation  is not really helpful, but the jist is there

I was given a dough mushroom


And from other villages

Hedgehogs seem quite popular

Amazing carving

All from the garden

The next day we were called around next door and there was a plate of various goodies from the table and other friends came round to sample. With the weather being so hot it was not surprising that cakes and doughnuts were past their best! Venka, great tester of cakes I make from whatever is in season, has asked if I will make something for next year...I have told her I will need a few days' notice but of course, what an honour!

As to the new faces...well, it's not very exciting. Some of our ex-batts are slowing down and laying fragile eggs so if we want to avoid an eggless winter like the one before last we needed a few more hens. I would have gone for back yard hens but there is no guarantee they will lay through the winter, none of our's have, or the Shumens. Commercial hens tend to keep laying even if there are not quite as many eggs, once they have been through a moult. And anyway, I love to give them a bit of a chicken life after they have been discarded, and they will be vaccinated against nasties too. So now with the four new girls we have 15 hens, 6 youngsters and apart from the new ones who we don't know about yet (though one has laid already, she came to the window in agitation asking where the box was! As soon as Dave showed her the hole in the wall she settled down and produced) only four are laying (we think) and of course. our most regular layer, Chubba, who is still laying fragile eggs which she breaks! But we are doing our bit by giving them a good retirement, payback for all those shop bought eggs we have consumed over the years.
Bless them, they weren't as shy as some are when they get here

Some of the others coming for a look
Their first egg!

Of course there will be a bit of  squabbling as the pecking order is sorted out, but chief hen Cagney is not too nasty. She will have to try to keep things in order with Sevi gone, but the main pain will be the three amigos, now all confirmed as boys. The white one is mating with the hens, the rumpless has a bit of an identity crisis and has been courting the ducks who have given him an ear bashing and chased him off for his impudence, and the small one, who is crowing properly now, is biding his time. They are boistrous teenagers and there is a scuffling at night as, despite there being three long perches, they are trying to muscle in on the hens' patch. The three up and coming chicks are on a big perch with Cagney but tend to get knocked off occasionally and picked on. We have no idea what sex they are yet, they are all very different but are feathering up now even though they have no combs there should be some telltale hackles coming through if they are boys...but getting close enough to check is another matter.
One of the 'babies'

The three remaining ducks, when they are not shouting at Rumpless, are rarely heard now and it's much quieter generally. We have heard from the people who took Ducky and the two girls and he has settled in well so that's good.

The goats are doing well, Dave takes them for a good long browse in the mornings and Venka is leaving food on the wall for them. Unfortunately Milly has now sussed this out and starts shouting when she sees Venka, who is often there as that is where the fire for her cooking and preserving is.

We bought a football to see if Tilly would play with it as she loves a game of chase. But after a few days we gave up with that. Bonnie begged for it and although we knew what would happen, she popped it within ten minutes of play and shook it till it fell apart....all the time puffing like a train bless her

In the garden we are starting to see a difference since the all too brief spell of rain. We are seeing lots of new butternuts and courgettes, kale and even some beans. The romanesco we are eatin as sprouting broccoli as it has not formed a proper head, and very nice it is too. We are still using chard but the leeks are still in limbo. The roses are blooming well again and the cannas are at last flowering. The morning glory is still doing really well, a joy every morning, but the peas didn't show...maybe the beets and carrots will grow, but we need rain or they will just wither. The raspberries are coming off in bits but that doesn't really matter, we have plenty to keep us going till next year and the bits are going into the rough rakia we have been given with sugar to make a tasty liqueur for winter.

The morning glory...still glorious on the dunny

The grape leaves are starting to turn lovely colours

Hopefully Yordan will be coming for the grapes before they all fall off as raisins!

New flush of flowers

This pink Veronica is not supposed to flower till next year

Sage gone mad, despite taking loads out

Canna, at last!

The second lemon grass plant, the first has been lifted, cuttings taken and stems frozen for future use

This canna is almost out

Teeny crab spider

Veronica in full bloom yet again
A door to keep the weather off the hay

We managed to get some small onions on our monthly shop for meat and flouretc so Dave;s new love for pickled onions has been fed. We are continuing with cheese, but there are some times when it just plain goes wrong. One of these times was when I was making mozzarella and it just wouldn't come together. So I shaped and salted it and forgot it for a week. When I eventually remembered it I tasted it to see whether it was worth using...and it was delicious. Really smoothe and creamy in the middle wit a firmer crust around it. Lovely. So made some little cheesy puffs which were delicious with a drizzle of our honey. It is lovely to have such good food, even by default! I made a chicken pie, chard and cheese flan, borlotti beans with runners, onion, wood roasted pepper and mustard dressing, saute potatoes wit onion and raspberry trifle with good egg custard for afters when we were expecting a visitor. Unfortunately due to car trouble she didn't make it and we had to stuff ourselves! Such a hard life. Good job the weather had cooled!

Gone wrong cheese? Yum

Mozzarella salad and garlic bread

I feel our friend missed out on a nearly home grown feast...

Trifle, a rare treat...and no jelly!


  1. I am salivating as I type this, you re making me so hungry, what delicious looking food. I really wish I could make cheese here. We can get sheep milk from the local Pastoralia but I can't control the temperature in the house and I doubt it would make cheese successfully. As always your post is egging me on to try harder!

    1. Hi Jane, we have been having the same temperatures for a couple of months too, but the sun can't get in the kitchen so as long as the oven isn't on it's bearable. The curds can cope with the temperature over night if they need the time for draining and some people will leave the curds out to develop a tang...not brave enough to do that yet. We have bought a new fridge recently so the old one can be used at a higher temperature for ripening cheese. Our cellar is certainly too warm to keep anything! Give it a go when you have time, sheep milk will be like goat though, it will need using very fresh to avoid too strong a sheep tang. We have had sheep milk yoghurt from our neighbours from mild and creamy to very strong as she only gets a cup of milk at a time. Have a play, what do you lose?

  2. I am so glad to have found your blog its really interesting, the village harvest event looks fantastic I wonder if its and idea we could adopt in the UK :-)

    1. Hi Dawn and welcome.
      I suppose the nearest thing in the UK is Harvest Festival in the churches. It would be lovely to do something similar to here with any money raised going to a good cause, anything local and home made seems to go down well wherever you are. You may have to do it under cover though!

  3. I know you work hard for your dinner but rarely has the payoffs from work looked so tasty. You really deserve the plentiful harvest!

  4. Another very enjoyable read, the harvest here north of Manchester has been pathetic this year, I've had no courgettes! In the past I've had to give them away and the tomato's in the greenhouse just aren't ripening. In fact the best harvest for me this year promises to be the Blackberries there's loads around but again not ripening quickly. I've picked about four pounds up to now but only because I seem to be the only one harvesting them, here in the UK we seem to have lost the knowledge of how to gather free food which is a shame still you can buy Blackberries in M&S for only £2.50 a punnet so why pick your own? Anyway I'm traveling back to Bulgaria for a week tomorrow and someone said that rain is expected, I hope you remember our little bet. Kath

    1. Kath it's been raining here today and hopefully a bit more tomorrow, but after that temperatures are set to climb again so hopefully you will have decent weather when you are here. Whatever it is will be warmer than the UK!

      If it's any consolation many people have had the same problems as you with growing in the UK this year. Our own harvest has been totally different to the wet of last year....but we are already thinking of next year's planting. something will do well, whatever it is!

  5. Just found your blog and am totally inspired. I need to go back to the beginning and read it all. I was drooling over small holdings in Bulgaria on a website yesterday. I wish that I was brave enough to take the plunge and do the same as you.... I am tempted.

    1. You know what they say Cherie, you only live once! It's not exactly retirement but unbelievably satisfying. But your situation needs to be right for it to work. I'll be interested to hear what you think when you have read more.

      And welcome to our little world.

  6. What a beautiful market! So wonderful to see that craft skills are still thriving in some parts of europe. Just hope they get the chance to pass them on to the techno savvy generation. Glad to see you have decent sized grapes, as here in sunny Somerset mine are about the size of petit pois! Squashes are growing to mammoth sizes though so I guess we cant have it all. Happy Harvest, best wishes Michele x

    1. Hi Michele. Like every year, you win some, you lose some. It makes it more interesting, wondering what will or won't grow next year!

      Unfortunately the village crafts are dying out. Most young people leave the villages when they can, they see a whole new world on the internet and they want part of it. You can't blame them, it's a hard slog in the villages with little work locally. But they don't always realise that what they see as huge wages (as in the UK) means living costs are also very high, something we have explained to youngsters here. They find it hard to believe that house tax can be as much as a whole year's wages here.

      Our grapes are for wine really, we were given some by a neighbour the other day which would rival any in a supermarket, huge and juicy and very sweet, but with seeds!

  7. Wow, that decorated food is absolutely amazing! I guess those round maps are made from seeds? Just as well you heard about this market and a shame you missed it before.

    I do wonder how many eggs you get through needing so many hens! I've only got two laying and that's enough eggs for my neighbour and us...not that we are using many eggs at the moment. I'm glad to hear that my mate Ducky is well and I laughed at the video of Bonnie popping the ball, she looks so puzzled! Everything looks good in your garden and your meals look delish!

  8. Hi Mandy. Yes, seeds and beans. We are gradually learning what is what, but they have so many public holidays and celebrations of events past and present it's hard keeping up with things

    We don't get many eggs through winter, but last year managed to keep ourselves and the neighbour supplied, then we sell most of the duck eggs and any surplus from the ladies to pay the feed on the ones who have retired. We try to use all the fragile ones and if there are too many I will make cakes and pasta for the freezer, or lemon curd for car boot sales. But we need lots of hens as we have quite a few who have retired and living the life of Riley! There is no such thing as too many eggs with our neighbours only raising chickens for meat. They do occasionally get eggs but if they aren't there to catch them they are eaten...due to the conditions they are kept in I suppose, clean but cramped.