As Venka and Jordan are now in their mid 70's it is the least I could do for them after the support they have given Sara and I over the last three years when we first moved here, but more so the support they have given me since last week when Sara died. Normally they would have been out there in the garden with "chappers", similar to a hoe braking up the clods of earth and trying to level the ground in preparation for planting. Once there I embarked with rotavating the ground and as I went along, Venka followed me like a seagull follows a tractor when the fields are ploughed in the UK. She was not looking for any worms, just waiting for me to stop when the rotavator clogged up with old bits of string that had had been used for tying the tomatoes up the years before which had been discarded, but had not rotted down during the winter. In the evening I was invited around for a meal and the usual couple of glasses of rakia, their way as a thank you for my pomosht (help). Later in the week they had seen me busy working the garden and again invited me for an evening meal, maybe making sure I eat properly. In return I drove them to the market as a thank you, truly a caring couple.
On Saturday (nine days from when Sara died) as in Bulgarian tradition and as part of the bereavement process of Sara, family members go to the grave and have a meal with Sara. Fishing around the freezer I found a lemon drizzle cake and some cheese and onion bread that Sara had made. At 11am on the dot myself, Sara's sister and brother in law (Helen & Graham) and my surrogate parents in Bulgaria, my neighbours Venka and Jordan all got in vehicles and drove to the cemetery to be confronted by quite a few people and cars. Initially I was thinking why have all these people come, but it turned out to be the day the whole of Bulgaria remember those that have died in their family. Walking through the cemetery to go to Sara's grave many Bulgarians knelt tidying up the graves of their lost ones and placing flowers on the grave. Once we arrived at Sara's grave Venka provided candles which were lit and placed on Sara's grave and then Venka poured from a small drinks bottle wine onto the grave. I too then poured wine from another bottle which I had bought with me on the grave as did everyone else in turn. Then I gave each of those gathered a piece of Sara's cheese and onion bread with salami and then lemon drizzle cake and a little cola. After finishing we said our goodbyes and returned home. The final aspect of grieving will be held on the fortieth day of Sara's death where a ceremony will be held at her graveside by the priest and food is again handed out. This as Bulgarian custom dictates is seen as the day grieving ceases for the departed and Sara's spirit leaves this earth and goes to heaven. Going to her grave each day to have coffee with her and sit at the table each day having a meal with her does help me with grieving for her. I miss her so much, but life must go on albeit with her spirit in my heart, keeping myself busy does help keep me occupied and hopefully she will be thinking "you're doing good my darling",
As expected for the unpredictable weather in March, the day after I had rotavated the neighbours garden it chucked it down with rain, so not much happened other than shopping with Helen and Graham at Gorna Oryhovitsa as I needed to get more prunes to complete making brown sauce in memory of Sara for sale at the carboot at the end of the month. By the time ingredients were purchased and time spent making it as with most of Sara's jams and chutneys little if any profit will be made on them, but Sara loved making them and the carboots were a social event for her.
The next day was a trip to Polski Trambesh to pay the annual house and car tax at the municipality office. With the relevant documents in hand I tried to explain that Sara had died and so I would not need to pay her annual tax, but as her name was still on the house deeds and although I showed them Sara's death certificate they still she her as alive until I have the deeds changed. I must admit this knocked my dealing with Sara's death a little so I went to Veliko Tarnovo to try and clear my head and what happened, retail therapy, not good. I ended up buying a small oil painting to hang in the living room in memory of Sara as she loved her flowers and vegetable growing so it wasn't really wasted money if it helps me through this period of adapting without her. Even having a meal which although infrequent when Sara was alive, requires adapting now. To sit at a table on my own I find tough and events when both of us would be together now requires an inner strength in me to stop myself becoming depressed at her loss and making the next day tougher to deal with. The main thing is I had time with her, nearly eleven years of marriage, a time for me to make her happy and more so for her to make me happy and these thoughts actually do help me pick myself up when I start feeling a little low. Apologies for going off piste, but now to get back on track with other events of the week. On the way home I stopped of at friends who run a horticultural business to collect an order Sara had made 1 kg shallots (2 varieties), 500g onions (one variety) and 5kg of seed potatoes (5 varieties) and an apple tree (Sara must have been thinking more brown sauce in the future requires more apples). They had indicated I did not need to buy them if I did not want them, but as they are varieties that store well I felt it was worthwhile purchase, so maybe my winter meals will be onions, potatoes and brown sauce!!!!
Sara was always into recycling where possible and I even amazed her using things that I would have normally thrown away when we lived back in the UK, so I decided to use a wooden chopping board I had bought her as a Christmas present as a sign in the kitchen above the work surface area in her memory and as encouragement to continue making some jams, chutneys and day to day meals. The chopping board required some modification for although it was to made in the shape of a fish to indicate its use it looked more like a whale. With jigsaw and sandpaper and carving tool I adapted it to look more like a fish. I have yet to finish the writing (to be edged with white), but pretty chuffed with the end result and more so that I did not injure myself in the process (not to good with sharp tools).
Fish chopping board - before surgery
After surgery fish
Well they say keeping busy helps!!!!! The next day I was up at 3am, yes 3am I kept myself busy preparing brown sauce, pretty close by the bucket load as I needed to use the 4kg of apples that I had bought for Sara to use to make it. Using the little gas cooker that we used to boil water or char red peppers and cheaper than using the electric oven the huge pot bottled for what seemed forever as the contents slowly reduced to the right consistency. During this time using another new skill, using a sewing machine, yes a sewing machine I made a curtain to screen the waste bin under the counter of the unit I had made for Sara a couple of years ago and then put up a new roller blind on the kitchen door window.
Not only screening the waste bin, but a great play area
for the cats to ambush me as I walk past it
No, no not another brown sauce
Time to stop for a snack of, wait for it, omelette, a regular snack as the hens are laying eight to ten eggs a day then to get more some gardening done as once again the sun has been out and dried the ground up sufficiently to get some planting done. This time of the year peas, onions and garlic are being planted and checking though the plan Sara had put in one of her books I got to work. Having rotavated the ground a couple of days before all that was required was to close the garden off from the hens and the ducks who hopefully will have dealt with any wintering pests. As we have always striven to grow vegetables organically relying upon companion planting or hand picking any pests that appear, namely Colorado Beetle or Cabbage White Butterfly caterpillers. I hope once crops are established to allow the Indian Runner ducks access to the garden as they are good natural pest control without causing damage to the plants or ground. I have tested this a couple of times giving them access to the flower section of the garden and unlike the hens that scratch around and uproot flowers the ducks seem to just forage for bugs.
Trial test of testing how destructive ducks would be in garden once vegetables are established by giving them access to flower section of garden.
After a couple of hours all the shallots and onions purchased a couple of days before had been planted. Sara in her wisdom had decided to place the plant labels for future identifying of varieties away where I cannot find them so disposable plastic spoons have been used for this purpose and are actually cheaper than buying the conventional labels that we normally used.
All in a days work
Checking the rest of the garden things are now appearing at a pace, from the peas that Sara planted two days before she died now sprouting to tulips and daffodils now in flower and the bees now are active now as the peach and plum blossom is out,
Sara's newly sprouted peas
Plum (Sliva) blossom - humming with the sound of bees
Peach blossom just beginning to break
Daffodils a plenty
Overwintered onions and garlic weeded.
Worrying Sara had sown many seeds indoors and transplanted some to larger pots, namely tomatoes, but some I have not a clue what some are as Sara had used abbreviation on some of the pots that make no sense to me and why did she so onion seeds????
At the market today I bought a couple of almond trees and a cherry (all bare rooted). Sara had wanted to plant them this year to provide more home grown produce in the future. All have been planted along with the recently purchased apple tree and I look forward to them becoming established and cropping in a couple of years.
On the poultry front finally a couple of the Indian Runners are laying and the Light Sussex hens are laying regularly which is good as I have waiting lists for chicks from both breeds. So much so I have had to re-instate an old Hovabator incubator until a new incubator arrives as the old Hovobator which requires the eggs to be turned manually and does not have a humidity control/sensor. My Light Sussex, 'Storming Norman' and his girls currently have eleven fertile eggs in the incubator and I have managed to purchase fifteen Light Sussex eggs from another breeder to increase my flock later with unrelated stock to my existing birds. The plan will be to outplace the ex-bat hens and only concentrate on the Light Sussex and Indian Runner ducks. The ex-bats will be going to Sara's sister in a couple of weeks and another friend, a tough decision I had to make as they were Sara's birds, but I think is the right decision as I need to make my living here more streamlined and financially viable. Sara being the cook in the house was able to use the eggs her birds laid, but for me on my own it is not possible to use them all. At the moment there are eighteen Indian Runner ducks eggs in the other incubator, so in a few weeks time I think there will be a chick explosion, and bound to be loads of photos of them, so beware cutie overload due soon.
Duck eggs on the go
Light Sussex eggs being incubated.
So a week has gone by some good days, some not so good as I try to deal with the loss of Sara, but life goes on and work in our smallholding needs doing before it builds up and becomes too much. I know that I cannot continue at this pace, but at the moment it has a purpose of enabling me to deal with my life without Sara being here other than in spirit. Each day I think to myself "well you have got through today" and this gives me the strength to deal with the next day. My niece only said today "give me strength," I think if you dig deep enough and you will find it in yourself.
All this works has made me hungry so time for me to sign off and have my late evening meal - my own homemade butternut, red pepper and onion soup with crusty bread. Okay the crusty bread is not homemade, I have yet to master that skill.