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Friday, 23 December 2016

What a year

Well what a year it has been, one I would not like to repeat in many ways, emotionally, but I have to thank family, friends and followers of the blog for their support through the tough times. There are far too many to mention individually, but you know who you are.

At last the legal issues that I have had to deal with since Sara died have at last been completed, so over the last two months my mind has been on overdrive contemplating my future. There have been occasions where I wanted to sell up and go back to the UK. Partly due to feeling I was stagnating and not going forward emotionally and partly due to frustration with the language barrier causing me at times to feel very isolated. Due to the daily lottery pick of emotions, another time I felt like selling up to then buy property elsewhere to then expand the goat herd to enable me to produce more cheese. Viewing a few houses made me soon realise, ultimately any profit made from the sale of this house would soon be eaten up with repairs to a new house, so would be a situation of 'cutting off my nose to spite my face'. So for the time being I will stay here for at least to the end of next year when I will need to renew my residency. possibly requiring me to create a company due to the UK deciding to pull out of the EU (Brexit) or that I am not in a financial position to stay as I have a few years to go before I will be able to get a pension, but for now I live for the day (with a little immediate forward planning) for know one really knows what tomorrow may bring.

So as the winter draws on and the winter solstice has passed meaning spring will be here before you know it, not much has happened in the garden. This being the case then I have been concentrating on jobs indoors or some jobs outside when the weather permits. We have had temperatures well below freezing at night (the lowest being -12) for a couple of weeks now and a little snow so the fire is constantly burning during the day which keep the cats and dogs happy and is very welcoming after working outside.

Partly due to the cold weather and partly because Isaac is very much an athlete and regularly jumping over into the girls stalls at night when I separate them for the night I have finished making the upper stable doors to each of the goat houses. What with deep litter and the doors keeping the heat in at night water buckets are not freezing at night and all the goats are keeping warm which is good as all the girls are now confirmed pregnant with Duchess due to kid at the end of February. Now that Isaac has done the business he has become a little bored and gets into all sorts of mischief as he is still less than a year old and seeks out attention. So I spend a little time training him to stand at various points in the enclosure on blocks and to start lifting his feet on command which he seems to enjoy the attention. Eliza on the other hand is very aloof and does not crave attention, which causes problems when hoof trimming. All the others once tethered will stand and allow their hooves to be trimmed, but Eliza she is like a bucking broncho and so at the moment I am not forcing her as she is at the stage she could abort. So each day all get their treat of bread which she now comes up for and even pushes her way in for. In addition to this wen she is separated at night with Duchess I sit in the stall with them as Duchess is very much a calming influence on her to try and bond with her.

Eliza is turning not a stunning goat albeit a little bonkers

Cheese production is very limited at the moment as Millie's milk yield as gone down, but I have started experimenting with semi hard cheeses such as Caerphilly and Roquefort.  The first Caerphilly has be tasted and even some sold after friends tried it and wanted some, so hopefully once the car boots start up again and tasters provided that will become as popular as the Garlic and Chive soft cheese.

Novo Nachalo Caerphilly type cheese
Novo Nachalo Roquefort type cheese in the making.

Grace the dachshund is at a testing time at the moment for each time I go out she is into disemboweling sofa cushions and the like. I do not think it is separation anxiety, I think it more that she is in her terrible teens stage and being a Daxie tends to dig a lot. The evidence in the garden is apparent as she has dug up newly planted bulbs and the like and so I think she is just doing the same when indoors. Still hopefully she will soon grow out of it, we had the same problem with Bella until she was eighteen months old and then she was fine (fingers crossed).
 Butter wouldn't melt - NOT

DISgrace - Crime scene
A morning foray on the bed pillow disemboweled 
and not that being enough she decided to chew a pen up
 so ink stains on a jumper.
Being colder and trying to move forward, I have started decorating the house in preparation for when hopefully my parents come and visit in May next year. So to brighten the place up, out with white and magnolia in with red and yellow in the living room and kitchen. Maybe I am reverting back to my youth for I remember my dad being a little more than annoyed when I decided to paint my bedroom wall pillar box red, but the paint was gloss paint. There are times when Bob Marley or Kate Bush is playing on my computer, with vibrant colours in the room, incense sticks burning I feel I am back in my teens. If only it was that easy to turn back time.  

 Living Room

 Living Room

 Kitchen to Living Room

Invariably the stress and build up to Christmas has been a bit much at times for me. Trying frantically to re-create what Sara and I used to do making gifts for neighbours, I took to making mince pies, biscuits and chocolates for them. 

 Ginger biscuits

Mince pies

I have not made any hand made cards this year I just cannot get my head round it as that was Sara's thing, but with all this ups and downs of emotions through creating the gifts I will not be making them next year. It is not that I am letting go of Sara's memory that will never happen, but it is a thing we did TOGETHER and I have to create a new life without her by my side albeit in spirit or memory, I have to create MY new life of my own. 

I have not put paint to canvas for a couple of months now and have never considered myself a portrait artist, but one of the things I really want to try and do is do a portrait of Sara. So here is the start. A long way to go and it currently hangs in the bedroom ready for me to continue with it when time permits and when I am in the mood. At least it is hanging which implies I am relatively happy with it at the moment for I will never put a painting up that I am not happy with.   
Darling Sara

So I am up early this morning to write the blog (apologies it is so short) and prepare for the day ahead as I am making steak and mushroom pudding instead of doing turkey for tomorrow, the big day. A couple of close friends are coming round for although initially I just wanted the day alone I know deep down that would not be moving forward with life and be dwelling on what has been not what will be. It may be a tough day, but I have gone this far and there are certain to be more days like these but by the strength in me I know I can go forward, I have come this far already.

Anyway you guys have a really good Christmas. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support and kind words over the year. Be sure to cherish every moment not just tomorrow, but every day. Be sure to tell those loved ones around you you love them, not just tomorrow, but every day. You have one shot at this life, make it a good one. 

God Bless you

Love you always Sara xx

Sunday, 30 October 2016

I am still here

First of all I must again apologise for the delay in posting and thank you to Curly Cub, Snowdrops and many others who have contacted me to ask if everything is okay as I have not posted for sometime. It is now eight months since Sara died and on the eve of what would have been her 60th birthday I sit here trying to compose something of interest to my followers.

I suppose I ought to write firstly as to why the delay and then go from there.

As many of you are aware I have written before giving some insight to the grief that I have been going through and continue to suffer for there is not a day goes by where I sorely miss Sara. Many things or quite often a combination of things can take me to the edge and feel that I do not want to go on, but I do for many reasons most of all for Sara.

I am very much a perfectionist and when the workload becomes ever increasing it tends to put me on a downward spiral of negativity where it can be a major battle to overcome. Day to day life is a constant juggle of prioritising many aspects of surviving here on my own and other aspects can and do produce some very grey days, but somehow my inner strength gets me through to the next day. When Sara and I were living and working in the UK, life was as we used to say ''an existance'' working all  the hours god sent to pay bills and live a sort of semblance of life. Many aspects were material things which are not necessary in order to survive. but luxuries or what society would expect you to have. When we came to live our dream here in Bulgaria it became ''our life'' where frivolous luxuries were not necessary in order to survive and that simple things mattered more and that we as a team achieved so much together. Now without Sara it has become an existence once more for me due to the feeling of what is it all for. I used to get great pleasure from doing things for Sara, making her happy and without her here with me physically that pleasure is gone, but I soldier on.

Many things have and do cause me to teeter on the tightrope of life, many things out of my control, but ultimately they still have an effect on my day to day life. The worst has been that when Sara died she had not made a will and although we were married, under Bulgarian law a percentage of the house belongs to either our children, or Sara's parents, but as we had no children and Sara's parents have died that percentage of house ownership goes to her siblings. In the last seven months there have been numerous meetings with solicitors here in Bulgaria for compiling documents, emails being sent to solicitors in the UK, the Foreign Office and Sara's siblings and it now seems finally after a few issues I am at the home stretch to finally get sole ownership of the house back. Understandably at a time when least needed, when I was trying to grieve for Sara, I could have done without the additional stress, which after eleven years of not smoking I have started albeit temporarily in order to try and deal with the worry. As I have said alot of this situation was out of my control which at times made it worse as limited saving had to be used to for advance payments and that there were expiry dates on documents so there was an urgency to the matter which in turn created additional stress.

Life at times can throw up some weird coincidences which 'knock you for six' and at the last blog post there was one such coincidence. A new follower of the blog had asked to be included into my 'Google circles' which then informs followers that I have written another blog post.  On opening the request, the persons name and surname were the same at Sara's before I married her.

So with these aspects added onto day to day life and trying to re adapt, trying to develop my life out here on my own has taken its toll on my enthusiasm of life here, but also finding the time or the inclination to write, so once again apologies for the delay, but I hope you understand where I am coming from.

So what has been happening...

As autumn fully takes hold with the last remaining leaves being blown from the trees, in the village there is a constant hive of activity with constant plumes of smoke from gardens as rubbish and weeds are burned along with the sound of tractors ploughing gardens before that wet weather sets in. Up until last week we were still getting temperatures in the upper teens and with the sun it made working in the garden pleasurable, if you can call weeding pleasurable so that I could rotovate the lower section of the garden ready for planting lucerne next year so that I can cut it as fodder for the goats.
Sadly due to time constraints I have not been able to get the garden ploughed as normal, as my neighbours son-in-law does all the gardens on the same day and I was not ready for ploughing at tat time. Still after a couple of hours at least half the garden is rotovated. In the next couple of days if te weather holds out and picking the last of the sixty cabbages I will get to rotovate the last half. By now I am sick of seeing cabbages and the goats are fed up with them too, but before rotovating that part I need access to te barn as another fifty bales of lucerne are due to arrive to stock up for winter feed for the goats.

On the goat front the young kids Eric and Ernie have grown well and both are now over twenty kilos and as they are now weaned are due to be collected next week to go to their new home . Now with the kids weaned, Millie their mother is being milked in the morning and producing between a litre and a litre and a half at each milking, but once the kids have gone she will be milked in the evening as well.

Eric and Ernie

I did not realise that billy kids were so quick in getting their act together as to mating for at a month old they were going through the actions and more so once Isaac my young billy came into rut. Being in rut has created him producing a lovely aroma especially on damp days that pervades around the garden. A lesson quickly learnt was do not trim his hooves unless in tatty clothes for when I did his hooves a couple of weeks ago I inadvertently had the stench of him following me around the house as it had become ingrained in my decent jeans and tee shirt, but after a couple of washes it is no longer there, phew. The aroma is caused by the billy urinated on his legs and face which induces the females to then come into season, so for the last month or so an active herd would be an understatement, requiring much management. Normally Millie her kids and Tilly (Millies daughter are housed in the same house at night, but when Tilly was in season the young billy kids were taking advantage that Isaac was not around and hassling her so for a few days it meant 'musical goats shed' moving one female to another shed or housing them with Isaac overnight when they were in season. Watching the herd it became apparent that each of the females has a different strategy when in a 'oestrus either to entice or avoid Isaac to mate with them. Duchess the old Anglo Nubian would press her butt against hay racks or corners to stop him mating with her, Tilly was 'a bit of a tart' and let him just get on with it, Millie was a little more quiet vocally than the others whilst Elisa his favourite even now after possibly now being pregnant has to be checked out each morning with the usually billy behaviour of sniffing her, tongue flicking and front leg kicking to assess her receptivity. At the moment both Duchess and Tilly have conceived as neither have come back into season and it is possible that Eliza had not caught the first time as she was being mated again a couple of days ago. Millie may be due back in, but oddly she was mated again a week after her initial mating, but they may be due to her only recently having kids, so the first kids will be due at the end of February next year so exciting times ahead.

Seems like I cannot get away from my animal record keeping days.

Isaac has been a challenge to manage when the girls are in season,
 but all in all he has behaved himself very well
 and has turned out to be a cracking billy albeit it stinky.  

Novo Nachalo cheese production seems to be taking off as sales have increased with repeat and new customers and with Bulgarian villagers trying it and with people from the other side of Bulgaria enquiring about it and buying it, but sadly sales will invariably slow down as the car boot sales have finished for the year. This will give me a chance to trail making new cheeses. Current best sellers are Garlic & Chive, Walnut & Honey and Red Chilli Jam and Yogurt Cheese all having been developed in the last three months since the product first was launched. Although not making a huge amount of money it does pay for the goats upkeep at least.
Ever popular Walnut and Honey Novo Nachalo cheese
Red Chilli Jam and Yogurt Cheese

As the weather has turned colder the pechka is being lit either early in the morning when I first get up or in the evening. After having the old windows and doors replaced with UPVC which although quite a big outlay they will in the long term pay for themselves by reducing the amount of wood I will need to burn or and electricity consumption to keep the house warm, but now that a rug has been placed in front of it I am lucky to get a look in. 

Is there room for one more?

The added advantage of larger windows is that they also enable me 
to be able overwinter te orange, lemon, lime, bougainvillea and geraniums 
upstairs as they allow more light in.

Not much is happening in the garden now as it goes into dormancy for the winter, 
but the last few figs cling on before the major frosts.

So like the garden I will have to go into a state of dormancy, but it gives me the opportunity to slow down a little and reflect on the last few months, prepare for the next growing season, but more importantly have a little 'me time'. So still practising with my new camera and making butterflies to trial selling at next years car boots along with the now popular Novo Nachalo cheese I prepare for the coming winter and think to myself how lucky I am to have friends, family and followers looking out for me to make sure everything is okay.
Moon shots with new camera

Spirit of Sara butterfly decorations.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

I'm just a one man band

Hi everyone, I am so sorry for the delay in posting and thank you for recent messages from some followers enquiring if I am okay as it has been a while since I last posted.

All in all things are ticking along fine, well that is more of an understatement as much of the time it is more like speeding along, it does not seem that it has been over six months ago the day my beloved Sara died in my arms and now face the future alone albeit with her memories in my mind and her spirit by my side. I feel I like I am coming to terms without her and my loss, the weight I carry of her passing will always be there, but gradually I am building the strength to carry that weight. Some days I still stumble and trip so that the weight is heavy and other days my inner strength enables me to carry it as though it was as light as a feather, but that is the process of greiving I suppose. There are days when the slightest thing can trigger an emotionl meltdown of which there have been quite a few recently as the post will highlight and other days where I can almost feel guilty at feeling happy, yes happy which has been a long time coming. So now for the update....

First of all there will be only a few photos as sadly my computer decided to go up in smoke, literally and so before going on I had better apologise to those who also follow me on Facebook as many photos will be from posts that I had placed on there. So were to start.

The goat herd increased with the birth of two kids, sadly both billy kids. Pretty much on cue Millie gave birth to them at 6am in the morning just as I was about to feed the chickens and ducks before dealing with the goats. I had an idea that she was due to kid as the night before as she could not wait to get into her stall with Tilly. As I went out I heard her give an almighty bellow and there was the first kid, named Eric on the deck with mum cleaning him. Having kidded before (Tilly being her daughter) she knew exactly what to do . In the time that it took me to feed the poultry she then delivered the second kid Ernie all in a matter of five to ten minutes. The event was exciting, but also tinged with sadness, one that both were billies, but at least they were healthy and strong, but the thought of wishing Sara had been here to see the event and the kids. By the end of the day both kids were feeding regularly and all was calm in the stall and with Tilly taking no notice of them during the day.
In just a month they have grown at a phenemomenal rate and spend much of the play sparring with each other or getting up to miscief.
Millie and her kids on the day they were born.

Eric and Ernie growing on and causing havoc 

One of the chicken houses as I have downsized the flock has now been converted into a seperate stall
for my billy Isaac as soon it will time for him to come into his own when he is in rut. I decided to house him in the furthest house as when he is in full rut he will be a little smelly. Already he has started urinating on his front legs and has a certain fragrance of his own. It is hoped by housing him seperate his smell will not taint the milk from the girls. During the day he is housed with the girls and given access to the enclosure which I need to divide so I can choose optimum matings times with selected herd members. I plan to get Duchess and Tilly mated at the end of September so kids will hopefully be due at the end of February and then Naya and Millie mated in February all being well. This will enable me to one, have sufficient room for seperate batches of kids and more importantly two, have a consistant supply of milk for cheese making. The Novo Nachalo Goat Cheese production is going at full tilt to the extent that I am currently buying in milk to cater for orders as Duchess is the only goat that I am milking at the moment and her yield has gone down too the extent in the next week I will stop milking her to enable her to bulk up a little before she is mated. By then Millies kids will have been weaned and I will start milking her.

Sadly a major loss occurred the other day with the sudden loss of Naya, I must admit my favourite goat. The day before she died she was playing with the kids Eric and Ernie and at feed time was following me around as normal at the end of the day wanting her feed when they are locked in. Wen in her stall she ate as normal and then started eating lucerne and checking the stall at 6am in the morning she was dead. Immediately I removed her and Ducehss from th stall and cleaned it out wilst I waited for our local vat in the village who helped deal with Millie when she had bloat to arrive to carry out an autopsy. On arrival she carried the autopsy out and confirmed she had ded of bloat!!!! This amazed me as she died so suddenly and showed no signs as Millie did. Talking to friends who also ave goats they fee that possibly the stress of the inital start of bloat caused her to have a heart attack which may seem likely as during the night I did not hear her crying out and that where she died in the stall was where she normally slept. A huge gap left in the herd as she was such a sweetheart and will sorely be missed and as a founder herd member for the Novo Nachalo herd an even bigger blow.  There is a saying 'when working with livestock you occasionally have dead stock' but with the series of event to date over the year I had a feeling what is going to happen next. The rest of the herd are fine at the moment and so now there is a need to look for a new founder Anglo Nubian to reestablish the group for the future.  
A sorely missed Naya

Enough about the goats, so what else has happened.

Well due to the continuous long spells of high temperatures being in the upper thirties constantly for the last six to eight weeks it has taken its toll on the vegetable patch.  At th moment potatoes that have now died back and are still in the ground as my neighbour decided to give me a crate full. The pepper plants are producing well, but again my neighbour provided me with a bucket full of them, so now after placing some on the barbeque and char grilling them several have been skinned and de-seeded and placed in the freezer for soups in the winter. Others have been finely sliced and then sun-dried in a box covered with aluminium foil and stored in jars again for soups. The tomatoes and cucumbers have pretty much gone over now and although plenty of produce most of the tomates were small cherry ones, not the large tomatoes which are good for making the traditional Bulgarian Shopka salad. I could have bottled them as Sara used to do, but frankly I simply do not have the time or the inclination. I know placing everything in the freezer is like putting all your eggs in one basket, but many days for me start at 4.30-5am and I do not actualy sit down for something to eat until sometimes 9pm and the meal regularly is salad or omelette or simply a sandwich for as unlike Sara who enjoyed cooking and enjoying the fruits of her labour, eating to me is a means of surviving.

The amount of weeds growing in the garden is phenomenal and thank goodness my sister and her husband were over for the week and they avidly helped clear weeds and help out with other jobs especially help construct dividing fences so that I can seperate Isaac my billy gota from the girls as required to have him mate them at appropriate times so kids are not born when the weather is still very cold.

I have managed to construct a garden pond in the garden, a thing that Sara always wanted, but sadly I never got round to where at the end of the day I sit with a beer and contemplate and try to 'chillax' before going to bed. A friend provided me with a water lilly which will come into its own next year hopefully and will attract a bit of pondlife.

The dogs Bella and Grace are fine and during the heat of the day along with the cats Charlie and Spud are flat out indoors trying to keep cool and in the evening then are regularly playing in the garden with each other.

The chicken flock is gradually reducing in numbers as many are cockerels and now that they are maturing are causing problems in the flock. Many will end up in the freezer as I have had no buyers when trying to sell them and so next year I will not be breeding them. At the moment I have a broody hen and so purchased some Seabright bantam eggs to put under her so will be interesting to see what comes of them.

Goat cheese production is still going well and at the last carboot sale sold out of a new variety Chopped Walnuts and Honey (all home produced). The bees have not produced as much hney as expected after extracting it simply due to the long periods of heat and lack of flowers for food and so in order for them to prepare for winter they have been removing honey from the upper frames were te honey would have been extracted and placing it in the brood chamber.
Crushed Walnut and Honey Goat Cheese

Now where is that honey.

So as the year draws on I would be lying if everything is good. Some days I just want to give up and not exist. The hardest part of all of it is that before Sara died I had an incentive to do what we were doing for her as well as myself and now it is very hard on occasions to maintain that incentive. I have suffered from depression before in my earlier years where I felt alone and had no self value feeling I could not go on and so realise times where it is essential for me to avoid going to such places and no matter how hard it is I have to pull myself up and go on, but from recent events as already decribed and many more that lifting myself up can be very hard at times. Along with other ongoing issues that are out of my hands there have been times when I think to myself  'why am I putting myself through this torture' for at times that is what it is, but life has to have its ups and down for one to appreciate the good. I try now to not dwell on things that are out of my control and concentrate to the positives, but when at a low even such things as the dog not wanting its food can cause me to falter along the road ahead. I have become stressed because with the amount of work that requires doing and the ever expanding list of jobs that need doing continues to grow and I think when will I get them done, but slowly, but surely I have begun to accept that I have to let things go and that next year food production will be reduced as I cannot manage the garden alone and so half of the garden will be put down to lucerne for feed for the goats. 

They say 'real men don't cry', but long hours, lack of sleep through worry of what lies ahead, limited funds, where should I go and what should I do along with missing Sara so much, crying for me is pretty much a daily event, but I question any man to say that I am not real or strong. 

Whilst my sister and her husband where here we managed to temporarily put a fence around Sara's grave. The process of constructing it was emotional to say the least and I still go up there as rgularly as possible for a coffee and 'time out'. 

So as this one man band continues on with life I also know that Sara will be with me as I struggle on through daily life for as frivalous as it may seem I have moi angel pazitel (my gaurdian angel) with me every day and know that she will be with me until the day I die. 

God Bless you Sara 

Take care guys and I am sorry for the delay in posting recent updates at Novo Nachalo Ranch.  

Monday, 11 July 2016

Adapting and changing like the season

Once again sorry for the delay, but once again not enough hours in the day seems to the ongoing situation in getting things done at Nova Nachalo Ranch.

As I have already said I have realised things have to change in order for me to continue living here and yes there may need to more changes in the future on the legal side for me now that the UK has decided to leave the European Union, but I will deal with that when the time arrives. It is pointless worrying things that are out of my control and governmental decisions as to future plans for the UK and how it affects me are currently and wasting time worrying about what the future holds as there is more than enough to worry about now trying to get varying jobs done whilst I change and adapt to my new life without Sara.

Well much of the garden produce has been frozen, ranging from peas, broad beans, and 10kg of beetroot cooked and diced in preparation for making chutney when I get chance. Sadly many of the tomatoes have been affected by blight due to heavy rain and then high temperatures causing humidity which has caused the blight. I had dug up some of the potatoes only for my neighbour (bless her) to give me getting on for 20kg of potatoes so the rest of my potatoes I am leaving in the ground and digging up as and when I need them. The biggest problem I have at the moment is finding the time to not only pick produce but also cook and preserve it as most meals consist of salads or omelettes from the glut of eggs that I am having at the moment and due to the high temperatures we are currently having in Bulgaria. As my neighbours tomatoes have failed I have said to them they can have my excess as I will not have the time to cook the/preserve them and it is a way that I can replay them for their continuous support they have given me over the last few months.  

The pool provides a welcome relief when I have been busy working to cool off briefly before working again. My neighbours and her friend are regularly calling round for an evening meal as they are concerned I am working too hard and long into the evening and continually say "Dave slab" which after checking Google translate mean Dave thin. I have told them I am eating and am not losing excessive amounts of weight, but no matter how much explaining they still want to feed me up. If only more neighbours around the world was like them maybe there would not be so much hostility in the world. Ultimately I see them as my Bulgarian mother and father and they which I feel as a privilege they see me as their son.

There has been much thought and decisions to be made which has resulted in many changes in the livestock over recent weeks. I have found that breeding pure bred poultry and ducks is not economically viable and when there is no income coming in other than what I can produce, cost effectiveness is a priority in making decisions. The cost of rearing poultry to the stage that they are large enough outweighs the money that is recouped and actually I lose money in producing them. Yes the hens and ducks lay eggs, but I can only eat so many omelettes a day and again keeping the hens for selling eggs is not cost effective as the cost of the feed would outweigh and money recouped in selling the eggs. When Sara was alive and she was cooking she could use them up in making many of her delicious meals, but due to time limitations I cannot spend hours in the kitchen making attempting to make them. Unlike many who appreciate food I sadly see it as a means to an end, eat to survive and so cooking is not a priority for me.Any surplus eggs I currently have go to my neighbours who in payment every so often hands me "eggy bread" for m y breakfast so at least they are being used.
The ever expanding menagerie

Young Light Sussex flock
The trio of Indian Runners I will be keeping as they are good natural pest control in the garden without demolishing it.
The last three ducklings reserved and ready to go.

So at a time when at last I have managed to achieve a reasonable success rate in hatching Indian Runner ducks after reducing the incubator temperature and increasing the humidity in comparison to chicken eggs, I now am no longer going to breed them. I have found also that after initial orders that people then decide they no longer want them which is not so much of a problem with the ducks which were sold unsexed, but with the Light Sussex chickens has become a slight problem. Holding onto them until they are sexable now I have a large flock of young roosters which at the moment there is no fighting going on as the top rooster ' Storming Norman' is pretty laid back, and so I will grow them on and then finally they will go to the freezer as even at a low price no-one wants to buy them. At least I know I will have organic, no mass produced chicken for Christmas. Some may be horrified that I would kill my own birds that I have raised from day one, but at least they have had a good life, free range integrated with other hens living a 'normal life' and ultimately that is part of the process of self sufficiency. Sara hated that part of self sufficiency, but is it fair to keep them once they are in a situation where fighting, resulting in stress to the birds and then their condition deteriorates so resulting in the risk of them becoming more prone to illness, simply no and if the market is not there and they are not cost effective realistically I have to reduce the amount of breeding. I intend to still keep a couple of ducks and hens for my own purposes for eggs and to possibly hatch and rear some chicks for my own needs or 'on order' in that they are sold at a week old.  So sadly, but realistically many of the ducks have now been sold with just a trio of this years birds remaining and one of the incubators I have also sold which will cover the cost of lucerne that I have had delivered and now is safely stored in the barn, more on that scenario later.

As with the poultry the goat herd has changed in recent days/ After last months successful sale of the first goat cheese that I had made and that my neighbour even gave the cheese the 'thumbs up' even though Venka was reticent about tasting it as she does not like the smell of goat cheese I now intend to concentrate in making cheese. Sara and I were going to make it in time, but due to limited milk supply we had not got to the stage in experimenting and making large amounts of it let alone sell it to cover the costs of keeping the goats and providing a small income to pay for basics.

Nova Nachalo garlic and chive goat cheese 
(Yes I need to change the label it is not not goats cheese - I was never any good at English grammar)

So with my limited DIY skills and a little help from friends in laying concrete foundations I have now constructed an additional goat shed in which Milly and Tilly are now housed and the original stall Duchess and Naya. Adding a roof has giving me a place where I can store a lilted supply of fodder for when access to the barn at the other side of the garden is restricted due to bad weather in the winter and will keep the heat in for the goats  during the winter.
Goat shed  - No. 2 
(Well it should be No. 1 on Kozi Lane the way houses are numbered in streets as it is the first in the row) 

Millie and Tilly happily settled into their new house

After buying the Anglo Nubians Duchess and Naya I had planned to get them artificially inseminated with Nubian semen that a company about an hour away imports and then inseminates them for you, but after initial contact and no reply, I decided to go another route. Part of the problem with my limited Bulgarian vocabulary it is frequent with such enquiries that no responses as received, but that is part of the process in obtaining good stock and possibly why many do not try. Admittedly with a little help from an English friend who speaks very good Bulgarian where he made the initial telephone enquiry, Thursday of this week off I drove a couple of hours away and returned with a young billy Anglo Nubian in the back of the X-trail.  How chuffed was I in that not only did I find the place but I also conversed in Bulgarian with the sellers father and friend as the seller was at work and was having a good laugh about various scenarios which are a little riske to discuss here. I assume the father did not have much to do with the goats for as we walked amongst a good thirty goats he would get any that are sitting down to get up a he peered between there back legs to confirm what sex they were. Anyone with any goat experience will now it is not hard to know a billy even before he is sexually mature and from the smell of them when they are in rut and so after further limited 'chunnering' due to the language barrier, Isaac as he has been named was loaded into the back of the car and transported home. He was put int the back stall in the old house before the girls came home from their daily walk with the goatherd, but in the night decided to introduce himself with Duchess and Naya by jumping over the dividing gate and some part of the night with them.

Last thing I wanted was a chain smoking billy goat

 Checking out the pen on his day of arrival before the girls come home.

First day with the girls - why bother fighting there is plenty of food to go round.

I intend once the poultry flock has been reduced further to move the ducks and chickens to the house where the chicks were reared and alter the old hen house next to the other goats houses into a holding stall for Isaac, one so that he is isolated from the girls at night especially when he is in rut to hopefully prevent unwanted pregnancies (potentially Naya for this year), but we all know what raging hormones can do, but also so that at the height of the winter all goats can be easily accessible during inclement weather.

So as the goat herd gradually increases so subsequently does the cost of sending them out with the village goats and sheep each day. I know that my fees give the village goatherder some income, but as with them I need to also look after my finances and assets of which my goats now are. The Anglo Nubians were expensive, but produce superior quality milk in comparison to the hybrid breeds in the village and less milk produces more cheese due to the high butterfat content and the Anglo Nubian milk does not have that distinctive 'goaty' smell that some goats milk has. It is not that I do not trust the goat herder, but I feel that in order for me to make this new venture in my aim to self sufficiency work I need to manage them myself. After discussions with goat keeping friends I feel I can take the goats out myself in the morning for a good four- five hours foraging in the surrounding 'common land' and then work the garden in the afternoon. I feel that will be manageable as next year I will not be growing so many tomatoes and the like and part of it I will put down to growing lucerne for the goats. Many Bulgarians feel that British ex-pats are 'bogat (rich) which in comparison to them most are, but many have UK pensions in which they are able to live a comfortable lifestyle out here, but I am not in that position at the  moment and will not be for ten years and so every penny, or being in Bulgaria every stotinki counts and so I feel it is best and more cost effective that I become the pastir (shepherd) for my own goats.This being the case I think there may a few tales to tell in the future of my goatherding experiences as they do have a blinkered attitude on occasions "I want, I run"!!!lol

Bella and Grace are totally besotted with each other to the extent that although Bella has been spayed she even lets Bella try to suckle on occasions although she has no milk and most times during the day the two of them are fast asleep on the sofa. Surprisingly although Grace can be a 'little madam' and yap at them the cats Charlie and Spud seem pretty cool with her as well having seen them both come up to her and greet her in typical cat fashion without belting her, They do put her in her place when the need arises and stop her with a quick cuff with claws retracted. As her name suggested she is Bella and my saving grace and the two of them chasing each other through the tomatoes or up the rows of carrots. Every time I see Bella with a stick in her mouth waiting for Grace to run after her and when she does Bella then runs away for her to chase her it cannot but put a smile on my face.
Sadly the Grace is at her chewing stage the tall now flowering Vibernum bodnariensis that Sara had grown from seed in January is regularly being pruned by her. I must admit it amazes me how hardy they are after seeing my sister when she came over in April after they had just been transplanted in the garden she was going to hoe them out and now this yet they still keep going!!!!lol
Time for a nap and totally besotted with each other 

And the two of them always seem to find the wrong time to get under my feet.  
(Well in this instance I was making my supper so food was in the equation).

The bee colony is working overtime collecting nectar not only from the flowers in the garden but also from the surrounding fields full of sunflowers and luckily a friend of mine lent me a couple of supers to provide more space for the bees to store honey so potentially expecting a bumper crop of honey this year. The newly created colony I made is growing well, but am not expecting to harvest honey from them this year as checking them many of the frames in their super are not yet filled with honey, but there is a definite queen on there and many eggs being laid.

All this potential honey 

Sunflowers as far as the eye can see.

In preparation for the winter wood has been delivered barrowed round the garden and then stacked and then this weekend I went with a couple of Bulgarian men who work for a friend as they had managed to source good quality lucerne for me as initially my neighbour and I were going to rent two decares of land from the farmer on which there is lucerne and her son-in-law was going to cut and bale it for us, but due to the regular bouts of rain that we have recently had the farmer was no longer going to rent land this year as he needed the lucerne himself. Normally they get three to four cuts a year and they have only just done the first cut now so is unlikely that the full amount of cutting will be achieved hence his reasons for no longer renting land this year. Anyway after delivery of a hundred large good quality bales along with the remainder of last years hay the barn is now packed to capacity and should see the goats through the winter.

Sadly during the stacking I not only clouted my head once, not twice, but three times as doorways seem to be designed for hobbits and being six foot one the need to remember to duck must be considered. well it must be an age thing as I didn't and subsequently suffered for it. The neighbour saw the injuries and said "dom rakia" (house rakia) so round I went thinking I was going to get a drink, no her and her friend Marika gently bathed the wounds with neat rakia. Oh well good drink gone to waste!!!!lol They regularly kept asking "Dave boli" (Dave hurt or ache) o I think they were anting to know I was OK and not dizzy or concussed. Sadly it now means I cannot shave my head for a week or so, oh well Sara would approve on that one.

 Maybe I need to buy myself a hard hat.

Finally the garden is getting a little overgrown with weeds as I cannot find enough time to keep them under control, but hey ho as long as I can get and maintain the veggies that is the main thing. I'll make the excuse that the weeds keep the ground from drying out too much!!!lol I know next year there is no way I am growing the amount I have this year as I do not have time to preserve it and far too much has been grown for just one person. Many cucumbers have gone too far to eat so are given to the animals and beetroot. garlic, red onions, peas, broad beans have been harvested. I have left to the potatoes in the ground as my neighbour has provided me with a huge bucket of them so need to use those before I use of of mine. Rather than waffle too much here are a few photos.
 The raspberries are just beginning to produce fruit. Autumn fruiting variety, hacked to the ground at the end of the year and new growth up to five feet high that bears fruit in the same season.

 Sadly not butternut squash, but will do for winter soups.

 Some of the decent tomatoes,

 Freshly harvested red onions ready for cleaning and storing.



 Sweetcorn which has grown really well even after being flattened
to the ground in the storms a few weeks back

 A solitary red cabbage

 Grapes, sadly like every ones they have been affected by the rain and then the humidity.

My one and only peach but at least the ree has not suffered with leaf curl this year. 

 Canna Lilly

Canna Lilly bed


Nicotiana border - all self seeded

 Day Lilly

 Day Lilly


 Another flush of roses.

 Vibernum bodnariensis





Monarda (Bee balm)


So all in all things are good here and the end of each day I sit in the garden that is heavily laden with the scent of the honeysuckle and nicotiana and with a well deserved beer in hand look up to the sky above and search for the first star of he night and say God bless you my darling Sara, I love you.