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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

A bit of sun

Sorry for the delay in between blog postings. but as you can imagine things are still a little busy here in the BG smallholding. Each day has its moments where I still dwell of the loss my Sara and having to deal with legal aspects of informing the relevant persons/authorities in the UK of her death does not help in these circumstances. Various forms needing to be completed and sent to UK of which these now need to be seen as a priority especially as it is nearly two months since Sara's passing and that the garden has now pretty much been organised and planted for the growing season. I still am finding the strength to get through each day without her, but at times when I least expect it I hit periods of grief and can be set off by the most smallest of things. From going for a meal in town and being on my own, to trying to cut my hair alone, to watching TV when I have time alone to asking her advice as to what I should now be planting in the garden and where, to wanting to chat to her about the chicks and the eggs due for hatching all have their effect on me., but as I have said before and I will say again, I pull myself out of these periods by more work and keeping myself occupied. So now I am a slimline baldy as the combination of work and emotional stress I have lost a little weight and to avoid those embarrassing moments from where I have left tufts of hair from cutting my own hair and that 'the thatch' is receding I now shave my head.

Anyway now onto the events of the week and many there have been.

During the week and having periods of blazing sunshine and temperatures hitting the low thirties and that the concrete base now fully hardened I set about putting up the pool so that when I get overheated working in the garden I can throw myself into it to cool myself off.
Pool all ready for summer 

With the high temperatures the dogs and cats have more sense than me and laze around in the shade. The goats are going out daily, being collected by either Zhamboola or Galia at just after 8am and coming back on occasionsas late as 6.30pm.

Spud finding a shady spot at the height of the day
during the days of temperatures hitting the low thirties

One day last week Millie the goat was very listless and initially I thought maybe she had the start of bloat which she has had once since being here, but as the day drew to a close it became evident that this was not the case. Leaving her overnight and having a very sleepless night in the morning she was much the same not eating and looking very dejected. After a brief call to my friend where I got the goats from, myself and my niece loaded Millie into the back of the X-trail to take her to the vets in the next village to find out that the vet was away on holiday, so back home we went. Getting back home I shouted over the wall to my neighbour and when she appeared said "Millie bolen, stomach ne robota, mozhebe telephone vet Tamanoshka" (effectively Millie ill, stomach not working (a common problem when overeating other than bloat so my friend informed me) telephone vet Tamanoshka) . Tamanoshka is the lady who has previously dealt with our neighbours livestock when they were ill and ten minutes later Tamanoshka and my neighbour Venka were buzzing the bell at the gate. Tamanoshka elegantly dressed even after cycling to my house wearing a red beret to match her red bag that contained her veterinary equipment and drugs entered with Venka Immediately Tamanoshka checked Millie's temperature which I had stated to them but saying it was 104 they could not believe, but  then realising later they only quote temperatures in Celsius not Fahrenheit. no wonder they looked shocked when I said sto i cheteri (104) and continually kept saying ne, ne (no no). Anyway after Tamanoshka injected Millie with antibiotics and vitamins Venka and I then went about giving her (Mille, not Tamanoshka) a drench of bakers yeast and water. As I held Millie, Venka carefully spooned the pungent concoction into Millies mouth. The next day Millie was much better and had started eating again  and although easy to handle to allow Tamanoshka to give her antibiotics and vitamins, the opposite was the case when Venka and I tried to gve Millie the drench. On day two and more so on day three I think I ended up having more on me than what went down Millie's throat during the process, Thankfully Millie is back to her normal self going out each morning with Tilly with the goatherd and returning back late in the evening.

Tilly aptly named 'Tubby Tilly' has one thing on her mind FOOD, whenever she goes out she is always browsing along hedgerows along the lanes way at the back of the herd before they get to the main feeding area outside of the village. Her latest thing she has started doing at home is managing to get into the area which I had though was goat proof where I put the chicken and duck feed in. This area is designed to avoid the goats getting to it and risk them getting bloat from eating wheat grain. Having recharged the car battery to enable me to ensure the electric fence was running at its optimum as I thought she was jumping the fence, before I could set the fence up I caught her in the 'no go goat zone' and so chased her out and stood around to see how she manages to keep getting in. I now can say I am the proud owner of a Limbo dancing goat, somehow although she may be considered podgy, she manages to get through a hole no more than 40cms high x 30cm wide at ground level to get to her goal, the food dish. After a few quick adjustments Tilly is now officially on a duck and chicken free diet.
Millie back to her normal self

Tilly aptly named 'Tubby Tilly' as all she does is eat.


Or look for trouble.... "Now can I get in through that chicken shed hatch"?

In the garden, things are now growing with gusto be it from the new shoots on the heavily pruned lemon tree (Sara never did things by half), to the Aqualegia and Heuchera and as for the vegetables!!!!

 Lemon Tree

 Heuchera 
 Overwintered geranium starting to flower again


Clematis Broughton Star first flower that is being trained up the wall near the gate.

  Aqualegia (Lady's Bonnet)

Currently I have now planted in the garden, beans, peas, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, beetroot, strawberries, runner beans onions, shallots, garlic, a few aubergines plants (as I am not overly keen on them), fennel and cucamelons (I eventually managed to work out what some of Sara's abbreviated labels meant). It will be interesting to see what the neighbours think of cucamelons as anything out of the ordinary they are flummoxed by, They could not cope with little green tomatoes last year thinking they were unripe until I ate one first. In the next few days after digging another few trenches I will plant peppers and hopefully by then the butternut squash and melon seeds will have germinated and grown enough to plant out. The potatoes having how sprouted and showing their tops above the ground have been earthed up today. Sadly the polytunnel gave up and  finally after sudden gusts of wind caused the already weakened frame from heavy snowfall to finally break so currently the garage stroke junk hole looks even more of a mess. A job for next week!!!.

 Onions and garlic (sadly no polytunnel)

 Strawberries

 Sara's beans and peas now beginning to flower

 Tomato plants and more and more tomatoes

 Runner and French beans

 Potatoes ready for earthing up


Earthed up potatoes

Shallots and more onions

Cucumbers

There are a couple of areas in the garden that I am now growing plants which can be prone to being invasive and hard to control. One area is beside the pool and had already been set aside by Sara for herbs, and currently it contains thyme, sage, lemon balm, Moroccan mint, and pineapple mint and as time goes by I will add more to it.
Herb garden

The other area is behind the outside toilet and is effectively a raised bed in which I have planted comfrey to use once it is established along with nettles to make an organic fertiliser as Sara wanted to to grow produce organically.   
Young comfrey plant

This week also saw the task of trying to split my existing bee colony to prevent possible swarming and create a new colony. After purchasing two new hives the colony was split and placed into the new hives. Although the hive is very strong with lots of larvae, capped cells, honey stores, drones and workers I still have not managed to find the queen as she is unmarked, but then I think in time and experience I will find her. With all stages of a healthy colony she has to be there, it is just she managed to evade me on this occasion. Fortunately I only got stung twice during the whole process, so using dried cow dung as the burning element in the smoker when dealing with the hive seems to work effectively. Being a relative newbie to beekeeping and this being my first time at splitting a colony all things seems good at the moment with activity occurring in both hives now five days later. As a precaution I am giving them additional feed to help establish both colonies fully, Time will tell as to if I have been successful, fingers crossed. Yet another massive learning curve in the process of trying to maintain as near a self sufficiency lifestyle. .

Two new and now very active beehives
(nothing occurring when the photo was taken as it was first thing in the morning and very cool)

At Poultry Central it is still ever expanding with the small outside run now covered around with pea netting for when I first put 'Bill and Ben' the two Indian Runner ducklings with the Light Sussex chicks they immediately went through the mesh. I have also had to cover the top with pea netting as Charlie the cat decided to try and run off with one of the chicks, but fortunately caught him in the act and saved the little chick and returned it to the fold unharmed.
  Bill and Ben the Indian Runners and 
the ever growing flock of Light Sussex chicks 




Now the warmer weather has arrived so have more of the migrant bird. Cuckoos are frequently heard throughout the day and nightingales singing at night at the bottom of the garden. Finally I saw and heard the first golden oriole singing in the huge walnut tree that stands in the middle of the animal pen, a bird so look forward to seeing and find the starling that perfectly imitates the oriole a bit of an annoyance when it sings like an oriole in March.

Male golden oriole
    
Finally for this week the weather has also seen the appearance of masses of butterflies which whenever I walk up to Sara's grave flit constantly around the roads and up at the graveyard. On one of the daily early morning walks with the dogs I found a cold, but alive Swallowtail butterfly laying in the road. Picking it up I carefully carried it home and held it whilst it slowly became more active from the warmth of my hand and then placed it on the clematis to enable it to warm itself up further from the rays of the slowly rising morning sun. Checking later it had finally warmed itself sufficiently that it had flown away. My sister whilst she was over said that maybe Sara had been reincarnated as a butterfly for whenever we went to her grave a butterfly would come along. Well if that is the case on this occasion, Sara you gave me comfort albeit too briefly, God bless you my darling.




Monday, 11 April 2016

ново начало

Time is just flying away these days and before I know it I think to myself " I must get and write another post on the blog."

Only a week ago, I cannot be precise as one day seems to merge into the next, my niece and her partner arrived in Bulgaria and are staying with me whilst they get a feel of the country and may even in the future possibly move here and live a similar dream themselves. At the weekend her partner and I drove to Sofia airport to collect my eldest sister with her OH who were coming to help and give me support. The drive to Sofia was pretty uneventful and on arrival her plane had landed and so hiding behind a pillar in the arrivals lounge I waited and waited for what seemed like forever. Eventually she appeared through the sliding doors and she scanned the crowd of people who were waiting for friends and relatives themselves looking for Dimitar (the taxi driver I had told her would be picking her up). Creeping up to her all of us got a surprise, her that I had come to collect her, me because she had not arrived with her partner, but my younger sister as he had given up his booking to allow her to come with my elder sister.  I cannot write what the conversation, reactions were as there were too many expletives contained within it, but I am certain you can all imagine of the surprise, joy that a large part of my family were here to support me. It was a major thing for my younger sister as she had only flown once before, over ten years ago and had spent most of a day in London getting an emergency passport in order for her to be here to give her support .

Their main reason for them coming was that on the 5th April, the 40th day of Sara's death, in Bulgarian Orthodox tradition a ceremony is carried out at her graveside by the priest and is seen as the time that Sara's spirit leaves this earth and she enters heaven. The day before there was the dash down to the florist in the next village and we pretty much cleared her out of flowers to enable us to make up bouquets on behalf of myself, my sisters and my parents who sadly could not attend, but were with thinking of me at this time. Fortunately the weather was good and the service took place and was duly attended by family, friends, both English and Bulgarian. My Bulgarian neighbour and her friend had already asked beforehand if they could plant for me at the service pansies and forget-me-nots on the grave. After they planted them I carefully watered them in. As you can imagine the days leading up to the actual service were fraught with a helter-skelter of emotions, of joy that family members were here to support me, to periods of tension building up to the service and spells of sadness and grief of missing my beloved Sara. I had also got a little stressed as I wanted to read out a poem I had written in memory of Sara at the service, but was unsure if I could keep my composure at the service, but with the support of sisters by my side I read out a poem at her graveside to all.

A poem in Sara's memory

Bulgarian neighbour and friend planting flowers on Sara's grave

The mass of flowers bought by those who attended the service.

Family members had also brought with them painted stones with messages
 which were duly placed on Sara's grave in her memory.

After the service all the people who attended the service were invited for a meal that I had provided at the local restaurant, again part of Bulgarian custom is that after the service it  is customary to have a meal in Sara's memory.  After the meal that consisted of soup, then Bulgarian burgers (Kufteh) sausages and potatoes followed by the usual highly sweetened Bulgarian dessert before everyone left a necrolog (obituary poster) was handed to each to place on doors and gates in the village/home in Sara's memory along with a gift of food including biscuits, Kolivo (Bulgarian ritual food made from boiled wheat, sugar, milk and crushed walnuts and cheese scones made Sara's recipe were made by myself, my sisters and niece.

Sara's necrolog (obituary).

It has been fortunate to have family members over for the week as many jobs that needed doing, but had not been able to be done due to the typical March/April weather of one moment blazing sun to the next day heavy rain. So early morning was set aside to get the troops together to prioritise what needed doing and setting to get some of the tasks carried out. My eldest sister enjoyed hoeing in the garden morning and evening. My niece assisted with planting tomatoes in the newly dug trenches that I had made for them that helps with watering them later in the year. My nieces partner sorted out removing dead and diseases wood from some of the trees in the garden as he is a tree surgeon and my younger sister and I sorted out concreting the base for the pool that will sooner than later be put in place to help with cooling me off during the day when I am working away in the garden. 
Tomatoes, runner beans & cucumbers planted. 

Courgettes planted (old tyres used to assist with watering)

Concrete base for the pool completed

Along with the reduced risk of night time frosts and the increasing day time temperatures earlier sowings are now beginning to emerge.


 The peas and broad beans that Sara had planted a couple of days before she died.

Beetroot seedlings emerging

Carrot seedlings with the occasional weed seedling

 Broughton Bride clematis in flower (I bought Sara this as a present last year as we were married at Hawarden, Cheshire a couple of miles along the road from Broughton)

Lemons getting bigger and enjoying the sun


On the livestock front the eldest batch of Light Sussex chicks have been sold making way for now 20 plus Light Sussex chicks of varying ages now being housed in the outdoor shed and being given access to the outside pen during the day. Sadly with the first batch of Indian Runner duck eggs only two hatched, I think partially due to extreme daytime temperatures (a couple of days 30C +) and the problems with one of the incubators the eggs were initially in being a little temperamental. They seem to be healthy enough and eating well and on a better note I candled the next batch of Indian Runner eggs which are in a more reliable incubator and of 24 eggs, 23 are fertile and are due to hatch at the end of the month.
 First Indian Runner ducklings of the season

With more coming along nicely

The goats Millie and Tilly are now regularly going out with the goat herd during the day and coming back around 5pm totally exhausted whereupon they immediately have a drink then lie down and ruminate the days browsing/grazing so feed costs are down a little with them. It would seem that both are likely to be pregnant as neither have been back in season for nearly two months so there may be possible kids at the middle and end of July. To increase milk production I have been searching for Anglo-nubians which also their milk also contains a higher butterfat and have managed to find a couple, one only a kid the other an adult which will enable me to produce more cheese with the possibility of selling some at car boot sales next year.

After one day of being up at 4am until 10.30pm making jams and brown sauce, my niece and I attended the first car boot sale at Hotnitsa for the year and pretty much sold everything including cheese scones and quiches my sister and niece had made for me to sell. I am only going to attend one car boot sale a month at Hotnitsa as literally there are not enough hours in the day to get everything prepared what with increased amounts of livestock and now maintaining the garden.

Whilst my sisters were here we did mange to get out for a couple of days and visited a couple of local spots and check out some of the local wildlife and I had the opportunity for a swim in the river 
Hotnisa waterfalls  

 Time for a cooling off period

                             Surrounding landscape                               The storks are back in town

Local flora

Now my sisters have gone back to the UK and much of the garden planting has been completed, I now have time to sort out other legal aspects following Sara's death. I have managed to get her death certificate translated so that I can inform relevant people in the UK (banks, work pension, and pension/tax office) and have also arranged to see a solicitor in Veliko Tarnovo to assist with changing the house deeds into my name, all part of the process and all things I do not relish having to do, but necessary. 

I thank all my Bulgarian and English friends for their support since Sara's passing, but more importantly over this last week to my sisters, niece and her partner who have been a source of strength, comfort and help to me whilst I go through these last days of the period of mourning as is seen in Bulgarian custom. They have known when to back off when I just need "my time" to reflect on the situation, they have been there for that all important hug of comfort when the going for me just gets that little bit too much, and have been there to take a little of the pressure off me in getting the backlog of tasks in the garden carried out.

As I sit out each evening and light the candle in the lantern that was decorated and given to me by my sister, I think of what I had in the all but too short time I had with Sara (two days after the 40th day service would have been our eleventh wedding anniversary), but more importantly knowing that by having that time with her and carrying her memory with me of her that I can continue my journey and see it as a new beginning (ново начало) and not an end of a journey.