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Saturday, 28 November 2015

New additions...again

We have four new ducks. These are Indian runner ducks, a smaller and more upright variety that the blobby meat type we already have. They are rather charming and pretty. But we had to get two pairs rather than a trio as the breeder has so many males (we know what that's like!) The two boys get along fine and we would like to keep them both if we can.
Pretty little birds, I look forward to seeing them in breeding colours

Dave has been Facebook 'friends' with the breeder for some time. He is two villages away, a young chap who is passionate about his many birds. He proudly showed us both round all his pens (and many rooms in a derelict house) and has a great variety of chickens, waterfowl, pheasants, budgies, canaries, pea fowl and a good few species of small to medium parrots. I wish I could have taken photos, some of the colours were truly stunning, especially the parrots and pheasants. And the little white puppy and fluffy tortie kitten.....

I was a bit worried about whether the Grumpies (our other female ducks, Bobbie and Jemima) would get on with them. But apart from the occasional swearing match. they are not doing too badly at the moment. They have their own sleeping quarters and nearer the breeding season there will have to be barriers put between the groups to keep the original drake (Randy no-name) away from the runner girls....either that or find him a new home. The hunt is now on for some more girls and/or fertile eggs for next year. There are several people wanting youngsters.

Enjoying their first bath

Elsewhere in Poultry Towers we had a bit of a drama with on of the ex-batts. Dave noticed her walking oddly and when he picked her up for inspection we found we had a football on legs! She was so swollen she was round and her breathing was poor (not surprising with all that weight on her organs) After a quick look through YouTube Dave went off to the vet for a large syringe and he drew off about 60ml of liquid. She was soon breathing a lot better and was bedded on thick shavings in the dog crate and put upstairs in the corridor. In the morning a lot more fluid had drained out through the hole and the shavings were sodden, but by the end of the day she was back to her old self and could go back to the flock. Very odd...we will have to keep an eye on her...well we would if they didn't all look so alike. But now we know what to look for we should notice anything wrong.

Vernon the young cockerel seems to be doing OK. The hens are accepting him and he has grown and thickened out. He still has no long tail feathers but is looking quite splendid all the same. He seems to be good natured so far, maybe because he is the only boy. It's nice to hear the crowing again.
Vernon. Still odd looking, but with some really nice feathers coming through.

These two girls came with Vernon as day olds from the market

Cagney showing off her bald neck. She will soon look fluffy again, but will not lay till spring now

The goats were getting used to going out everyday, but then Tilly-kid came into season for the first time which stopped them for a couple of days, then rain stopped them going out. But today Millie's suitor (and a couple of his girls) came banging on the gate looking for them, setting Millie off into bleating and rushing about. There was no-one with them so either they were let out or escaped. But my, he pongs. You can smell him a mile away!

Bored goats look for trouble. They managed to get into the chicken shed and lock themselves in.

Pongy boy.....

.....but very handsome

I might have mentioned a desire for a poly tunnel before. I love my fresh veg but winter can be far too cold for much to survive. Well this week I have been given a polytunnel by a friend. How lucky is that?We (Dave) hasn't been able to get it up and running yet because of the rain, but the frame is together so that we can see how big it is. The cover needs a bit of patching but we should be able to get a new one (it's the green woven plastic coated mesh type) or even just use plastic sheet. We will only use it for winter and spring, the cover will come off for summer due to the heat. Properly pleased. My sister will be able to keep all her's now...I had been going to use some of her space.

I'm feeling a bit sorry for my sister and BIL. They were so excited at moving into their new home but after a month of mostly sunny and warm days while they were here and waiting for things to happen, not only has there been a week of rainy days but my poor sister has hurt her back/leg so is not able to do much physical stuff. And the rain has prevented the BIL getting a boundary fence up to keep the neighbour's sheep and turkeys out (they have got used to using the garden since it's been empty) never mind stray dogs, so poor Bracken can only go out into the garden under supervision. So frustrating for them.

A link to their blog, showing pics

We enjoyed our evening out last week. But I had such trouble with the menu! There was so much interesting stuff on a very extensive menu that we couldn't decide what to have. Then I forgot photos. It was nice to be with friends and we had a good chin-wag, but the meal was not altogether successful. I had a lovely starter, opting for a simple salad of shredded carrot, courgette, apple and tarragon with a lovely lemon and honey dressing. Gorgeous. Unfortunately the cod I ordered was not available, so I opted for salmon done Mediterranean style. Hmm. These menus are so confusing. Some come with veg, some don't. This was literally a piece of grilled salmon with a single roasted cherry tomato. It was enough, but I have that regularly at home, only with two veg and some potatoes! It costs me the equivalent of two quid to make the whole meal at home....not sure how much we paid for the piece of fish on it's own....but it was a hell of a lot more than that! Dave had a cream cheesy, veggy starter, huge it was, I couldn't have eaten it but he enjoyed it. His main was a disappointment too. He ordered chicken with capers and potatoes (and a cherry tom) but after eating half he was capered out! There were capers inside as well as in the sauce, e just couldn't cope with them all. Puddings were a bit nondescript too. But on the plus side, everyone else enjoyed their meals, I have to say the plate of mish-mash, a sort of scrambled egg with onions, white cheese and tomatoes, was delicious. But it was a lovely evening and we will certainly go again. We just didn't make quite the right choices.

This week we have received some wine and rakia 'for Christmas' from Venka and Yordan. Well, we are not really drinkers....I should imagine a gallon of rakia and a couple of gallons of red wine will last a bit longer than that! Now we need to find some glass bottles to decant at least the very strong rakia into. Like I say...we don't drink so it might be a bit difficult.

In the kitchen we are back into comfort food mode. Having the fire lit is so handy for simmering stews and beans, roasting veg and making would be a shame not to use all that heat...wouldn't it?
Dave's came with beef stew and our own sprouts

But to counter that I have made the first batch of sauerkraut. The cabbages are delicious, but the hearts are not hard so two large cabbage, along with an onion and a couple of carrots for added interest, made only just over half the large kilner jar. Never mind, there is more to come. The new tunnel stretches over most of the greens but there will be some that need picking by the end of the year.

We have also started to make the Christmas cards so that we can get them sent out. We are only making for friends and family this year, I feel I need a break from them, my own fault, I am letting them stress me out by doing personalised cards. Most people will give you an idea of a theme for a card, but others will leave the decision to me, just giving a vague description of the recipient's interests which is a headache when you don't actually know the person. I don't make any money from the cards so there is no point in getting stressed out. So a break is needed....for now.

The work table (kitchen table by the fire) ready for action. It gets a lot messier than this

And finally, we have had a little breakthrough with the cats. Spud is still very stand-offish with the very friendly Charlie, and though they enjoy a game of chase around the garden, indoors Spud likes his space (my knee or the best spot by the fire) Charlie is very happy to share his space and loves to cuddle up, but gets sworn at for taking liberties. This week however, we have not only had them sharing a double bowl with a tablespoon of milk on each side, but I had both cats on my knee together. Admittedly I think Spud was asleep when Charlie came up and movement doesn't really register with him, he is used to me being fidgety. Of course the camera was out of reach and the ones I took with the computer only fit to show Dave.
You can just about make Charlie out, snoozing behind Spud


Friday, 20 November 2015

Slowly getting back to normal

Yes, our visitors have left to take up residence in their new home. And for all those who are waiting for news, you will have a full update once they have the internet connected next week.

No matter how much you love your family, when you have never really lived together, and certainly not for forty years, having someone in the house is hard on us and them. But we did it and would do it again and it was so worth it. But we live very different lives, as do the animals, and finding that middle ground takes time. The dogs and cats are now back to being total couch potatoes, and my sister's dog is loving his new space and getting back to being the only pet. So it was so worth it in the end, but we are glad to be back into our routine. More another time.
Chilling (it's not cold, the cats like a blanket)

Not sure that is the best place for a kip!
My sister mader her first smoked salmon and chard and goat's cheese ravioli. The machine broke so some pasta (tortolini) is a bit thick

The weather is continuing warm by day, chillier by night but altogether...not right! 20C day after day in November causes confusion in plants and animals. Our garlic and onions are still galloping away, with the onions having so much leaf they are bending over. I am glad we only put about fifty in after losing so many last year when all the autumn planted sets ran to seed We will be putting more in in spring along with some seed sown long ones and shallots. The garlic we bought in the UK is just poking through so hopefully they will be OK.
Onions, too far grown to cope with a harsh winter maybe

Garlic and lettuce

Dill or fennel? Sprouting up everywhere

The brassicas are doing well, the kale has recovered from it's caterpillar attack and the sprouting broccoli is showing shoots. The sprouts are good this year compared to last, but they are lying down and I am reluctant to stake them in case it affects the sprouts. I have taken off any resting on the ground and they will need some fleece under them before it rains but hopefully they will continue to grow. The cabbages we are continuing to eat, they are lovely, and I would like to make some sauerkraut next week. We have carrots and beets of a usable size but we will leave them in a bit longer yet. I have pulled and frozen the celery as it was suddenly looking a bit tired so it's all ready for soups and stews. We don't really eat it fresh, but I did try some and it was really nice, strong flavoured but sweet too.
Recovering kale

Broccoli sprouting

Love sprouts, these need some frost though
Sprout 'thinnings'
With cottage pie and braised fennel

Elsewhere in the garden the leaves have fallen and grass has stopped growing, but we have a flush of self seeded annuals come up and some perennials and roses are still flowering well. The rhubarb is also still growing. I picked some ripe figs yesterday and made a fig and almond tart....crazy! Also still using fresh herbs from the garden. The cornel tree by the gate is bursting bud. They form their blossom buds in the summer for the next spring, but there is a definite flush of yellow where confusion reigns. As for wildlife, well there are still hedgehogs about, and butterflies, plus other insects and flipping flies...will they never go this year? I have spent the past weeks assuring my sister that the flies are not usually this bad for so long. Not sure if she believes me!

Loads of scabious still coming out

Lush new annuals

The cornel thinks it's spring

Scabious plus bug


Fresh nicotiana




The woodpecker can be seen now there are no leaves

November figs

Fig and ginger jam, almond sponge and fresh figs. Yum

We did socialising last week. Only to the local bar so that our visitors know what to expect and to meet some of our friends. We had food out in town too while waiting for contracts to be signed, but had a look at a nearby menu and it looked really interesting for those veggies amongst us, plenty of variety. On a visit to my sister we passed a friend who had just had a load of lucerne delivered so stopped to help (or more accurately, I stopped, Dave helped) and were invited to a birthday the interesting restaurant i had been looking at. Looking forward to that! Report next time.
We found a special place to take photos while wandering around Veliko Tarnovo

The platform goes right over the river Yantra, goodness knows how they built those houses on the cliff

Amazing graffiti

Looking up from the cafe

We took the dogs down to the river early one morning. We didn't expect to see much there, but there were herons and great white egrets, cormorants and LBJs, and on the way home, a distant pair of hen harriers being buffetted by the wind.
Great white egret, so elegant and graceful


Crested lark

I really must get some lens cleaner!

The rubbish by the river, which was flattened in spring, has grown massively, an eyesore and bad for the river and wildlife

Hen harrier

Sheep and lambs in the village

Our village in autumn

The girls, and Dave, had a great time by the water. It was nice and shallow for Bonnie and she and Dave had some quality wet time together. Bella is not so sure although she is usually OK once wet. She would much rather collect plastic bottles.

One madman and his dog
Is it cold?

I want to join in! I don't

I'll stick to watching!

A happy pic...18 November!
But it was Bonnie's day and was perfect for her.

Millie came back into season this week so her previous mating was a failure. After clearing up the charges for taking them out every day with the shepherd (someone who shall remain nameless trying to charge again) they will now be going out, weather permitting, till Christmas. I hope the boy did a better job this time. The girls have a touch of separation anxiety, not wanting to leave Dave, running back so that he has to hide behind the gate. At home time there is no need for the shepherd to come to the gate, the girls come galloping on their own.
The brown one is Millie's suitor
Exhausted girls