The Ist of March. "Baba Marta Day" is celebrated here in Bulgaria as the arrival of a new spring with Bulgarians frantically racing around trying to get their gardens prepared for the oncoming growing season after the ground has lay dormant over the winter period. For me it is a sign that I must also start a new life, still here in Bulgaria, but without my beloved Sara other than in spirit by my side. If I were to give up the dream that we had created together and all that we had achieved, Sara would have hated that and never have forgiven me.
So here we go a new chapter of the dream ....
As tradition goes on Baba Marta Day. martinitsas made of red and white thread are handed out to friends and are worn on lapels of around wrists until the first stork is seen whereupon they are then placed hanging in a tree. Part of my daily routine at the moment to find some solace is to go to Sara's grave and sit and have a coffee with her and tell what I have been doing the day before. Where she lays at rest she is at the edge of the cemetery and immediately behind her is open countryside. Each morning I have gone there skylarks are wheeling in the air and singing and her grave faces the rising sun which is s apt as Sara loved to see the sunrises in the mornings and would walk up the path with camera in hand to photograph it. That camera now comes with me everywhere I go and I take snapshot of flowers, bugs and the like just as Sara used to. Yesterday I placed a martinitsa on her cross for her and once the first stork is seen I will place it in the trees that surround the cemetery boundary immediately behind her and so the tradition Sara loved will continue on for her.
Each morning after all the beasts and birds in our small holding have been fed and watered and the goats go out for the day with the goatherd I then go to visit Sara. I plan if the weather is bad to at least sit at the kitchen table and have a coffee with her before I get on with the next job, When I went to her grave on Sunday whilst walking up the road to the cemetery as I came to a junction who did I meet up with but the goatherd and was confronted as she is now herd leader my goat Milly and her kid Tilly (now aptly named by a friend as Tubby Tilly as she is a bit of a barrel to say the least). Milly has always been very vocal and as soon as she was me she started bleated. Staying silent as if I spoke that would be it Milly would follow me , the goatherders, both women started frantically jabbering away at me. I indicated to them "I keep quiet" and pointed to the cemetary and continued on as they, one with bicycle in tow weaved across the road to stop the goats and as Milly is lead goat the rest of the herd along with a mottely crew of sheep. Finally they managed to get the herd back on course and continue onto the fields whilst I continued onto the cemetery.
Annoying. it seems that Milly is not pregnant as she came into season on the Sunday they went out, but fortunately the have a new billy in the herd and virile is not the word, so hopefully there may be kids at the beginning of August. Once the kids have been weaned, around November I can start milking her, a good time actually thinking about it as no gardening so I can get on with cheese making in the winter.
Tubby Tilly - one track mind, munching in the hedgerow as she goes along
In order to allay some fears from friends inquiring "you do know how to cook?" for as everyone knows Sara was a maestro in the kitchen and more importantly other than having a sandwich in three days I decided to push myself to get on and bake something. Before I married Sara I had lived on my own many years so had a basic idea of cooking, but luckily I found her recipe books where she had written down some of her most frequently used recipes. Her last posting on Facebook was about that she had made some cheese scone so book in hand I proceeded to get on and make some. It was a bit of an effort firstly because Sara had lent her sister the kitchen scales, but also that the recipe did not indicate how long they were to be left in the oven. I ended making two batches, firstly so that I had some which although not burnt had been left in the oven too long but also so that I could hand out some to close friends we had made over at Hotnitsa a village where Sara's sister and husband on baba Marta day in her memory also handing them a martinitsa. Well they must have been OK as no-one has called to say they have belly ache or the raging squits!!!! Sadly by the time I diligently handed them I ended not having any myself. Oh well I always wanted to lose the slowly increased girth from eating too much of Sara's creations. Since producing these each day I prepare a meal whether it be an omelette. cauliflower cheese, last night salmon as in part of Bulgarian tradition is to prepare a meal for the departed as for forty days they are still here on earth going to places they knew and around you. A good tradition I think as it ensures that the one left behind continues to adapt to their life and ensures that they eat which up until the scones had been made I really was not inclined to make anything to eat.
Sleep at the moment for me is a little erratic, but when I do sleep it is sound although it may only be for a couple of hours each night. Two days before Sara died she had asked me to buy some apples and some onions at the weekly market at Polski Trambesh for her to make some brown sauce for selling at the first carboot. By the time she had made produce, selling them at the carboot she effectively made no profit, but she enjoyed making them, but most of all she enjoyed going to the events a a socialising event. The amount of friends she made was evident by the sheer number of them who attended the funeral service which in Bulgarian tradition took place the day after she died.
All through the turmoil of the last few day the apples and onions sat in the kitchen and so at 4am on the morning of Baba Marta Day I diligently went through the process of using some, I say some for in my wisdom I doubled the amount she asked me to buy thinking that Sara could bulk produce. The recipe required 3 apples (effectively 225g) and I had bought 4kg. Oh well I had better get some more prunes tomorrow to make another batch. After what seemed like eternity I completed the first batch for sale with slightly amended label that Sara used to use I was very pleased. I am looking forward with some trepidation to the first carboot where I will still sell her produce albeit in smaller quantities as there is only myself dealing with the garden and cooking and living our dream now.
The newly named produce from Sara's Kitchen
(thanks to my niece for the suggestion of the new name)
On the poultry front things are a little manic with ten eggs a day being laid. I can only eat so many omelettes so surplus are being sold which at least covers the cost to feeding the birds. I had and will still continue on breeding the newly acquired Light Sussex chickens which the first hatching of chicks that had hatched in the incubator 5 weeks ago are due to go to their new homes today. Although I paid a premium for the adults, the speed the chicks were sold as the breed is a good all round utility breed they were a good investment.
Five week old Light Sussex chicks (fortunately one male and three females)
along with one of Sara's ex battery hen cross bantam chick
As soon as these have been sold, their indoor pen needs cleaning and the next batch of chicks (five Light Sussex and three ex battery cross bantam) which are now a week old will be moved there. Currently in the incubator there are another fifteen Light Sussex eggs which is good for from the one sale of the first chicks I already have three requests for some.
The Indian Runner ducks have at last started laying now as again these were a big investment. As with the Light Sussex chickens the duck eggs will be incubated and reared to around five weeks old (once they are off heat). They will be sold as unsexed as they take longer to be able to be sexed accurately and so would not be cost effective to keep them until they can be sexed . In addition to this unlike the Light Sussex which can large enough to rear for meat, the ducks are a little slim, but are the clowns of the duck world and really good for natural pest control in the garden which Sara was keen for, avoiding using pesticides and chemicals in the garden. Like the Light Sussex I already have a waiting list fro chicks. maybe I should have bought another incubator as the chicken and duck eggs require different incubation setting so cannot be incubated together, so at the moment I have to decide which to incubate. At the moment it is not a problem as the ducks are not in full flow laying and I am currently getting two eggs as day from them.
First Indian Runner egg of the season
There is another option that I sell surplus eggs from the Light Sussex and Indian Runners for hatching as the price of one egg is ten fold to what I can get for basic eating eggs from the ex battery hen or other duck breeds.
I have so much more to say, but I wanted to at least start n the normal vein of Sara's writing of letting everyone know that that 'Life goes on' here in a slightly different paradise, but still a paradise. In order to continue I will have to change adapt processes and procedure for I cannot do what we did together before on my own now for I will not be returning to the UK unless they drag me for not that I must but I want to continue on here in our new home. I know as sure as the sun rises each day, some days will be better than others, but I find comfort knowing that Sara was happy in the short time we had together out her, that she lived the last years of her life to the full. I was proud to be husband for nearly eleven years, and am pleased I helped her fulfill her dreams and that she was was an inspiration to so many people. We only have one pop at this life and Sara 'you did good'
Although I have already said thank you for all the messages from Facebook friends and followers of her blog, I must thank Sara's sister Helen and her husband Graham for their support here in Bulgaria along with many of her friends living their dream in Bulgaria, but more importantly thank goodness for modern technology which enabled family members, my mum and dad, sisters and brother to grieve themselves , the support that they have given me via Skype which enables them to see that yes at times I my falter, but I am OK.
Anyway enough of this babbling lots to do and the most important thing each morning go and have a coffee with Sara.