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Monday, 26 October 2015

It's all go!!

A while since my last post, but life has been a bit hectic around here for one reason or another.

Back in the summer we booked a flight to go and see Dave's parents in the UK. Pet sitter was booked to look after the animals, Venka agreed to milk Millie every day. All organised for a break in the chores. We had wanted to go at the beginning of the month before the threat of frost, but someone else got in first  with the sitter (and later cancelled!) so our trip coincided with the time my sister and her husband started their journey through the UK, visiting friends and family, then through Europe on a leisurely drive to Bulgaria to suss out whether this could be the place for the start of a new life, just as we did two and a half years ago. I hope I haven't given too rosy a view with my tales of living the good life.

Preparations for leaving the homestead clean, tidy and easy to manage were slightly hampered when Dave as suddenly asked to help with the apple picking which had been delayed due to the weather, which meant we lost a day while he was off with his of whom can, and did shin up the trees like a ten year old, singing as she went. I had made a quick batch of rock cakes for him to take s the timing meant lunch would be late and I'm glad I did as the others had taken food too and they had a picnic there in the field, newspaper table cloth and all. There were pancakes, banitsa, meats and the cakes

Dave was given apples...and paid.... but they will not keep as they are not perfect. But they can wait for now!

 It was lovely to see Dave's family, though packed days were the norm, Exhausting! We travelled to Sofia the day before the flight after going through the various animals' feed routines, and introducing the sitter to Venka. The whole street were there to wave us off (we only went for six days!) The journey to Sofia was uneventful and the scenery so pretty with the trees in their autumn colours. The hotel was spotlessly clean but rather noisy, the food a bit bland and the wrong meal delivered, staff (apart from the girl in the restaurant who was lovely) were surly, breakfast odd and Dave had a dreadful cough and cold. Why does that always happen when you have something important on? Lesson not go for a value hotel who has ideas it can't deliver.

Dull weather when we woke and that was the order of the day. Easyjet flight was as normal, friendly crew and no problems. There is usually more leg room for Dave's long limbs on their flights. But he did feel rough bless him.
It's a pretty drive to the airport nearly three hours away

The changing colours of autumn

Sofia on a dull morning

A break in the clouds just as we passed over a brilliant stretch of water

Dull again in the SE of England, but the familiar bright green patchwork of fields is such a contrast to the straight lines of the European fields. So British

Gatwick, making our more familiar Manchester Airport seem so small and intimate.

We were picked up by Dave's brother in law, a taxi driver, and was I glad to see him...and Dave's sister of course. Gatwick is an awful airport for those of us with dicky legs, it seems like we were rushing down corridors forever. Every time we thought we were nearly there we started again, then had to queue for ages at passport control. And Dave feeling worse all the time. But it was so good to see the in-laws, and they were so overwhelmed to see their son from so far away.

One day we made a visit to Howlett's Zoo where Dave used to work in his younger days, and where his nephew now works with the big cats. It was a nasty wet day but we met some lovely cats and Dave caught up with some people he knew, as well as some he didn't but who were happy to hear the tales of how life was for keeper and animals in days gone by. He really does miss working with the animals.

Dave's nephew with one of his beloved tigers


Having a Dave ear scratch

Because of the weather we used zoo transport to get about...which only had the two seats. poor Dave drew the short straw!

Snow leopards, beautiful

Leopard, aloof

No, you can't come out to play!

My favourite antelope, bongo

There were huge borders of hydrangeas, they must have been stunning in the summer

Must have been stunning with the amount of flower heads

Good year for ornamental crab apples

So after a hectic round of visits and visiting, shopping and eating all those foods we can't get over here in Bulgaria (like fish and chips and Atlantic prawns) we set off back to Gatwick with overweight suitcases, and what a horrible experience, we have to do most things ourselves and there was no direction as to what we should do or where we should go. So then it was another mad dash to get to the plane. It was lovely to see everyone but great to be home. To hugs and kisses from all the'd think we had been gone years!
Dave's great niece made us some sweet and sugary cup cakes

Lunch in Canterbury, starting with cheesy garlic bread
. We don't see many steaks in Bulgaria so Dave had to have at least one

We were right by the cathedral gates

But not excited enough to pay a huge entry fee

Fish and chips at Papa's in Wincheap, freshly cooked and so delicious I actually ate most of my chips! Dave went for the large size

Lunch in Canterbury, this time with the in-laws at Panteli's

Better weather for the return trip

We even saw some mountains

And a sunny drive home

While we were away my sister and her husband had been making their way across Europe in their camper van, Kevin, and were taking a break at Camping VT where we often attend the car boot sales during the summer. So a day later they made their way over to us where they are going to stay while hunting for a potential home. They have a large labrador called Bracken who has never met a cat (but does know Bonnie and Bella)  and was a bit bemused when Charlie decided to do his 'I wanna be your friend' loving bit, but when Charlie turned his back Bracken thought the chase was on. Charlie just gets out of the way and continues to make the occasional attempt at winning Bracken round. Spud, on the other hand, after being quite happy to have this very large dog around if it was OK with us, has now become rather scared after being chased a couple of times. It's early days but hopefully time will sort the situation out. It might even do Spud some good to realise he can't always be in charge
Kevin the camper van outside our house, he is too big to fit where the car goes

So today we have been showing my sister around the area, seeing what villages feel right to them. There will now be a series of viewings and we will see what happens later.
Autumn at Hotnitsa waterfall

Meanwhile the weather here in Bulgaria, though there was rain while we were away, has now settled down to sunny days and cold nights. Great for sitting outside at meal times but it's taking it's toll on tender plants in the garden .Though I have to say the runner beans have flourished and today's pick yielded quite a few foot long, tender beans, with more to come, frost permitting. We are going to be digging up the sweet potatoes and attempting to cure any decent ones for storing. The onions and garlic have sprouted, carrots and beets are growing and the kale is lovely. The two mild chilli plants have been potted up to see if we can keep them going long enough to ripen the fruit but we can't do much about the peppers. Lots of fruits but all green.

Meanwhile the walnuts keep falling a lot faster than they can be processed and we are hanging bags of them in the cellar to see if they will last. We have also picked some late raspberries, chard, leeks and celery. All good stuff for hearty soups for four.
You'd think these dogs were starved!

Hearty home grown veg soups are the order of the day rather than salads now, first of many for our visitors

The chickens and ducks haven't noticed us being away of course. As long as they are fed they are happy. We are getting plenty of eggs for us all from the hens, the cockerel chick is looking...well...strange, going through and odd looking phase but also growing some beautiful, glossy gold feathers and the drake is colouring up after a drab spell.

The goats are happy to have Dave back. They have put some weight on and look set for winter. Milly is giving more than enough milk for us all but it has to be said that my sister is not a fan of goat's milk in tea...but fine as custard! We had some of the blackcurrants I bottled in summer in a crumble, they were lovely with custard. Well pleased.


  1. I like this post, thank you. Love the two dogs on the sofa, but can't help feeling sorry for the zoo animals behind bars.

    1. I understand and wish there were no zoos myself, but this isn't the place for a debate only to say that this zoo is a non-breeding site and the residents will live a happy retirement being adored by their keepers. They are all captive bred too and have never known any difference, Anyhow....

      My girls are so overspoilt....Dave thinks nothing of sitting on the floor if they want his space. However, I am not so accommodating. haha

  2. What an exciting time you have had, and how wonderful that you may soon have family close by. Seeing how Dave misses working with animals, I can imagine you opening a local animal sanctuary!! Great post, best wishes to you both, Michele from Somerset

    1. Sssshhhh.....don't tempt him. He has to make do with his goats which he is threatening to add to.

      More about that soon

  3. It seems that no matter where we go we're always glad to be home. It will be so nice for you if your sister and BIL buy somewhere close to you.

    1. Yes indeed Janice, but not too close...I'm sure she'll agree!

  4. Lovely read thank you, but you do bring out the "green eyed monster" in me. I'm still awaiting the estimate for work to the little hose I want but in my heart of hearts I know it will be beyond my means. But a lovely post from you as usual. Kath

    1. Thank you Kath. I am hoping that the house you want works out for you.

  5. Glad you had a nice time in England despite Dave not feeling well. It's always good to have a binge on those foods you can't get where you live! I'm envious of your sister and hubby with their camper - I would love to have one and be able to take off like that, but like you, with animals and a garden it's not possible especially during the growing season, and we need sitters to look after the menagerie too, and they cost a lot. One day! Great that you are still harvesting plenty of food.

    1. Thanks Mandy. The only thing I didn't have and really wanted was a nice piece of natural smoked haddock but I can live with that. I had prawns twice! Back to veggies now.
      Kevin the camper is huge, but it looks as if we have found them a home for him.....and them of course! We've seen a lot of houses an all shapes and sizes over the week...but you always know 'the one', and even though it's twenty minutes away, it looks ideal
      Our sitter was not expensive luckily. I used to do it in the UK years ago and would certainly have not bothered for what he charged! If Bonnie wasn't so decrepit the dogs could have gone to kennels where they are quite happy and Venka could have done the rest (seems she did a lot anyway)

  6. Happy Birthday Sara for the 31st, have a great day, love Cindy XX

    1. Aww thanks Cindy, and thanks for the card

  7. I do yearn every now and again for smoked mackerel but otherwise I don't think there is much (other than my family) that I miss in the UK. Still, I do enjoy seeing the photos of the autumn colours... our olives are evergreen of course and the figs just turn instantly yellow and then drop so there isn't really much of an autumn show on the finca... except for the mushrooms that spring up! Glad your trip went well and I can just tell that you were glad to get back.

    1. I suppose if it was important there is nothing you can't get, there are plenty of suppliers on line. But having to wait an indefinite period really makes things special. We can get smoked mackerel in the German supermarkets but rarely do. As you say, it's easy to do without when we have so much good, home grown food.

  8. I enjoyed this post and all the photos. Looks like you had a lovely time away.

    1. Thank you Joyful, it was lovely but exhausting...almost looking forward to winter for a rest!