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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Thawing at time for the new generation of chickens

It has been bitter over here with temperatures regularly below -10 c and as low as -20 c. The days have not been above freezing for weeks although with strong sunshine you were easily fooled and it actually felt quite nice in full sun. But at last we are above freezing and the snow is shrinking as you watch. We have glorious sunshine and I want to get on!

My sister and BIL came back from the UK where they have been sorting their goods ready for transporting to Bulgaria. They were not too sad to be leaving the Lake District where they have lived for many years, the weather was not brilliant, the food poor and flooding threatening. They were happy to be heading to their new home. It was a bit touch and go when it was reported that Sofia airport was shrouded in thick fog but actually the plane was in good time...even early (yes, it was Easy Jet!) But it was a bit of a shock to the system to feel how cold -20 really is! They knew about the snow though as they had seen photos that the neighbour had kindly put on Facebook of their motorhome, Kevin, in his snowy duvet. Though we said that they could stay with us a couple of days, they had their taxi driver take them straight home so that they could look for the cover of their water stop-cock, lying somewhere beneath two feet of lovely powdery...and very cold...snow! They had turned the water off before leaving after watching the long range forecast and luckily it worked fine once they found it.

So next day we braved the roads to take Bracken home. We had been told the roads were clear but there is a difference between 'clear' and 'passable' I think. Most of the road to the village were white sheet ice! And it started snowing as we went. Luckily there was not much traffic and what there was came from the opposite direction, a couple of lorries which didn't slow down, a few cars and a gritter, who stopped and pulled over for us. There are some factories in one of the villages so their road was far as the factory, then it wasn't. But we made it without incident, not that we were worried about us as Dave is careful, but it is not always the case with others and at one point we did have to pull off the road as a 4x4 tailgated us on sheet ice on a single track. The snow came down in earnest as we approached the village so the pie I had made was handed over, with shopping and dog, and we came back...through bright sunshine! There was nowhere to park anyway, all the lanes having three foot high snow lining them where the snow plough had been.

Resen railway looking surprisingly clear

I did tell Dave we had time if he wanted a swim....he declined

The factory car park was cleared! A huge mound of snow!

The village

Our village main road

So we went back in to hibernation and carried on freezing for a few days, but at last it is thawing and we have warmer temperatures, up to 5 c today, feels tropical!

The chooks and ducks have coped quite well, they are lucky to still have a place to scratch about and dust bathe, though the pond re-froze good style and is only just back in action. The goats have had bits of the fallen fruit branches to nibble on and seem quite happy, not shouting and happy to see us. We are getting six or seven eggs a day, though one of the Sussex girls has stopped laying. Mr Sussex has had a touch of frost bite and the three of them were moved to what will be the nursery, which is smaller and not as cold, but they have now taken themselves 'home' and Mr S looks none the worse after the scare.

We have ordered a water feeder for the chickens so that the ducks don't muddy the dishes by trying to bathe in them. We have had several cheapies over the years so have gone for a big one this time and hope it will work for longer. And inspired by this, Dave has fashioned a feeder based on the water bottles which are accumulating in the cellar. A sink plug plastic thingy and plastic tray from a seed sprouter and we have a feeder they can't get into and the bottles can be changed regularly. Happy chooks.

There's always one who takes it's time getting the hang of a new regime

Hairy Mary and Susie, the two pullets, are looking really well now

Lucky chooks to have somewhere to play, outside but sheltered

We have had the first chicks of the year hatch. So far there are two ex-batt x Dandy chicks with hairy legs and two Light Sussex with others pipping. They have a cardboard box in the spare room, fire lit and a bedside lamp as they don't really need the big lamp up there. Bella, as usual, wants to play mother and is very excited, and we are being extra careful about the cats! Hopefully they can go outside in a couple of days when the rest have hatched and got their strength. Dave is liming the walls and ceiling to kill off any bugs...using another water bottle to hold the wash, saving the few buckets we have.
There's more on Dave than the walls!

Bella was desperate for a look...and Venka's been up too

Weeelll, it was very cold up there.....

We have seen a bit of wildlife in the garden...well, birds actually. As well as the great and blue tits and the usual woodpeckers, the jays and rooks have been coming close to the house, taking the walnuts still on the tree. We have had a few little yellow serins and the usual tree sparrows and chaffinch, but the not-so-welcome are the sparrowhawk which we see quite often and a buzzard, no doubt moving into the village after finding food hard to come by. On the way to my Sister's, we saw quite a few blackbirds....I wish we had some here, I have seen one but it was very shy, not like the ones in the UK villages.

The bird table is getting plenty of use

Wondering where the branch went




Great tit come down for a drink
Buzzard watching

I am getting fed up of comfort food. I never thought I would say it! We always look forward to stews and Yorkshire puddings, cakes and pies at the start of winter. But now I want fresh veg (all our's is still in the flattened polytunnel) salads and new potatoes. We have had a few yorkies recently both to use up eggs and to eke out potatoes till we go out again. We will be going out this week and salad is on the list, fresh veg and fruit. It goes against the grain when we have stuff still in the freezer and bottles, but a healthy indulgence is not it?
Orange and lemon drizle cake and curd, mincemeat slice for the neigbours' morning coffee

We broke into the fresh garlic and parsley goat cheese yesterday. I didn't want to keep it too long with having additions. It's quite surprising really, nice and sharp, quite strong, you can taste the garlic, and it's dry and easily sliced, slightly crumbly. Very slightly goaty as you would expect. We are looking forward to having some with a fruity salad and a friend suggested topping it with chutney and wrapping in filo pastry...or it would be great with beetroot. The cheddar style cheese has had a salty wash to get rid of any sign of mould and is forming a nice rind. The next step is to oil it to stop cracking.

So that's us. Nothing going on really.

And as we have just had a visit from the serins again, some more of them clearing up under the bird table, their sleek appearance supporting the fact that it's warmer


  1. When are you going shopping and where?

    1. Don't worry, we won't leave you behind!

  2. Nice looking cheese! We make our own cheese as well, with milk from our two Jersey cows. Love the thought that it is DIY cheese, and therefore tastes nothing like the shop bought cheese.
    And all that snow! Lovely to look at in photos, not so good when it is melting into slush. Although we live near the Pyrenees in SW France, we don't get any snowfall, but we suffer from flooding when the snow is melting up in those mountains!
    Nice blog, and a very interesting read.

    1. Thank you very much Vera.
      I would like to get hold of some fresh cow milk again this spring to make more cheese. But I feel a bit awkward about asking the lady we had it from before since we stopped having it when we got Milly, she only has a couple of cows.
      We don't really have much slush here, it's so dry that the snow just sort of melts into the ground, very odd but good...apart from the mud!

  3. What is the population of your village? The snow photos are beautiful! Do most people have animals? As always, enjoying your blog!

    1. There are about 700 people, which is quite healthy for a rural village. There are a lot of empty houses, but also some owned by wealthy Bulgarians as holiday homes. We are lucky to have a good few under 60s! There is always something happening in the village centre. We are lucky to have a 'living' village with plenty of shops, bars, bakery, etc. Most of the older residents have a few animals, but not like years gone by. Few ex-pats, (immigrants)British, Russian, Italian, French, keep animals and then it's only chickens usually if they do.

  4. Enjoying these snow photos as it's not me having to deal with it! We get very little here. Lovely photos of the birds specially the Serins. Thank goodness you didn't lose your electricity for long so the incubator was ok. The chicks are so cute. :-)

    1. I have to say you never get tired of snowy scenes when the sun is shining and blue, blue skies.
      Six chicks so far though one looks a little weak. Not bad as we were just trying out the new incubator so we know how it works. They eggs are from pullets too.

  5. Hi, great photos. Can't believe how the weather has changed so much. In t shirts again today?! Suspect winter is not over yet though.

    1. T-shirts this morning, wet and cold this afternoon. That's Bulgaria. But at least we don't get those constant grey days for weeks on end. A few days and the warm weather will be back. You'll get used to a good way