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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

A roller coaster of ups and downs

I am so sorry for the longer periods of time between posting, but at the moment it seems like one thing after another along with the workload and the list of jobs that need doing ever increasing.

Well he new girls have arrived the ones I have been hinting about for the last few posts. A friend of mine offered to drive me to close to Burgas to go and get them and after an uneventful journey we arrived late in the evening. Fortunately my neighbour had already put Millie and Tilly to bed in the back room of the goat shed so it was quite easy to get the new girls bedded in for the night. I have always been keen to get Anglo Nubian goats to hopefully improve milk yield with a higher butterfat content to enable me to make cheese in the winter when things in the garden slow down. Duchess and Naya were fine overnight, but in the morning Naya as she has only recently been weaned started yelling every time she saw me. There was I thinking Milly could not be surpassed, but Naya bless her all in all was a little scared of the larger goats as she had been bottle fed in a creche system. Fortunately it did not last long and now she has settled into the herd fully, the only problem being she is very adept at limbo and manages to get through a tiny entrance designed to give the chickens and ducks access to their feed without any risk of the goats getting to it so preventing them getting bloat. So fir the time being the poultry feed has now been placed into the chick pen as the young ducks and chickens have now been successfully integrated with the main flock.
The Duchess

Naya (Hindi for new)

When it came to integrating Milly and Tilly with Duchess and Naya it put me straight back to zoo keeping days when integrating new animals into existing herds. Surprisingly after a good hour and a half of head butting and exaggerated posturing Milly has lost her crown as herd leader to Duchess. Milly tried to use Tilly and me to try and avoid conflict with Duchess during the last stages to the dominance tussle. No major fighting occurred and in the end Duchess just followed Milly around to show she was boss.

Milly is definitely pregnant and will be due to give birth at the end of July and as I am currently milking Duchess will have a good supply of milk at the end of the year to enable me to make cheese. I am potentially looking to get Duchess and later Naya mated using artificial insemination as a company north of where I live imports semen for Anglo Nubians and other breeds from the Netherlands, but that will be a while yet.  


Until Naya is a little larger none of the goats are going out with the goat herd and as Tilly has now fully recovered from her miscarriage and that all the girls are now settled I am taking them all out for brief excursions for grazing and browsing in the nearby fields. Again it one of those situations where an extra pair of hands are needed just to get them all out from their enclosure and through the garden. Subsequently many times the roses, hydrangeas and chrysanthemums have been pruned as the girls walk past, even when I have the three adults on leashes. During the walks I am keeping Duchess on a lunge line as she had decided after a couple of days when I had let her off during feeding to want to go the other way and with her being the boss the other three decided they were going with her. Hopefully by the end of next month I intend to get them to go out with the goat herd, but will initially go out with them to keep a check on the situation and collect them earlier due to Naya's age




  .  Goat walking pics

As already mentioned the young chickens and ducklings are now integrated with the main flock, but hopefully will be sold in the next couple of weeks. The broody duck is still sitting and there are Indian runner ducks eggs in the incubator due to hatch at the beginning of June.



  

In the garden other than continuous hoeing due to the sporadic showers and thunderstorms the weeding scenario is like painting the Forth Bridge scenario, you just finish and then you have to start again, but the veggies are coming on a treat with tomatoes, courgettes and cucamelons all setting fruit.
 Tomatoes
 Courgettes
 Tiny Cucamelon
                                         Blackcurrants but not enough to make a pot of jam.
 James Grieve apple again not enough for the now famous brown sauce

 My neighbour decided I need fifty pepper plants

The peonies have pretty much finished flowering, but the roses are now coming into their own. Sara loved her roses and after a period of rain always was out trying to capture raindrops on the petals of a freshly opened up flower. I am experimenting at the moment drying the petals to make potpourri, well it will make a change from incense sticks. 




I have now started harvesting some produce, namely peas and strawberries. As I do not have enough strawberries to make jam I will be buying them from the weekly market when prices are low as now I am getting regular orders for jams and chutneys.

 Freshly picked and podded peas
Strawberries

Sadly just as I beginning to get to grips with my life without Sara and adjusting to my new work schedule for each day the end of last week brought another major blow in my life as our beloved Labrador Bonnie had to be put to sleep. Over the last few weeks her mobility had got worse and all she was doing was sleeping which can hardly be expected for an old girl of nearly thirteen. I had got Bonnie for Sara when her horse Tosca that she had for twenty six years suddenly died to give Sara a purpose in life and Bonnie was always 'her girl'. On Thursday when Bonnie got up to let out for her morning toilet instead of coming back in she just lay at the door. The previous two days she had not eaten, the last time when she ate I had to feed her by hand and so things were not looking good for her. I have always felt it is important not to let a pet suffer for your own emotional needs, but broke down in floods of tears as I knew Bonnie's days were drawing to a close. As she lay there I encouraged her indoors where she staggered to the water bowl and she drank its contents. I refilled it and she drank another half bowl. To try and make sure what I needed to do was the right thing, I took her for a walk along the road, but unlike normal days where she would waddle ahead tail wagging she just staggered behind me whilst Bella ran ahead. As a final try to encourage her to show some of her 'joie de vivre' I took her to her favourite haunt the river, but as she lay on the back seat of the car not wanting to move I realised she had had enough and so the painful decision to take her to the vets had to be made. I had previously called them to discuss the situation and so sadly I drove to Veliko Tarnovo with Bonnie and Bella. Upon arrival at the vets I asked if I could to bring Bella in with me so that she could say her final goodbye to Bonnie and in the hope that maybe should would understand where Bonnie had gone. The vet confirmed that I was making the right decision, but still it was a very hard decision to make. With tears streaming down my face and an assistant vet holding Bella, Bonnie left me. As she took her final breath I whispered to her "Go find Mummy" a saying I would always say to her when I returned from a walk as we entered the gate and she would run to find Sara. 
                                     One of the few photos I have of my two girls together.

That evening as I went to Sara's grave, my daily ritual, I took Bonnie's tennis ball and placed it on Sara's grave and think to myself they will be together again both free of any pain, but my pain is still raw. I will continue on facing the daily challenges that lie ahead of me generally keeping myself occupied with work, but to provide me with a little 'down time' a time that I can remember my days with my girls I have constructed this in memory of Sara and Bonnie as Sara particularly hated the heat of the day and getting bitten by mosquitoes in the evening. As I light the candle in the lantern that my painted for me I will look up to the stars and hope that my girls are looking down on me.

                                    My 'down time' zone for remembering the good times
  
Anyway sorry to cut it a bit short, but I have a bellowing goat saying "come on grub time and I need to be milked". Don't you just love routine and no time to get bored. Take care everyone and live your life to its fullest.        

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Easter comes and goes and then back to the ever expanding list of tasks.

As it is raining today I thought I would take this opportunity to try and get up to date with the blog to let readers know what is going on, but more so that I am doing OK.

In the Bulgarian year, this week was a major period as the Orthodox church celebrates Easter (1 month later than in the UK). So a couple of days earlier I was frantically boiling and decorated eggs to hand out on Easter Sunday. As part of the celebrations on the Sunday, the greeting of the day to friends and neighbours was "Hristos vozkrese" ("Christ has risen") and the answer "Voistina vozkrese" ("He has risen indeed") was given back. During the greeting eggs were handed out along with easter bread called "kozunak". The collected eggs are then used in a ritual of tapping the eggs (a bit like the game of conkers) and takes place just before the main meal of the day. Each person selects his or her egg. and then tap their egg against the eggs of others.The person who ends up with the last unbroken egg is believed to have a year of good luck.

 Painted eggs and Kozunak

During the last two weeks, yes two weeks from the last post (where does the time go) lots of things have been going on and things in preparation for the forthcoming arrivals.

Last year I lost a few bales of hay from a leaking barn roof so with a little help managed to strip off all the tiles and battens and then place a waterproof membrane beneath the battens and tiles when they were replaced. Once that was completed I then managed to replace the piece of plastic at one of the entrances to the barn with a new more substantial door, Well I say a door but more a piece of plywood painted and battens with spacers inside the barn to hold it in place so hopefully the hay and lucerne I will get this year will stay dry (fingers crossed).

  Note to myself - replace the plastic on the other door to the barn.

In the garden with a little warmth and now a little rain things are suddenly beginning to hide the once bare soil. Within the next month the garden will not look the same. Sadly I had almost an OCD regarding weeds and even with hoeing regularly (almost on a daily basis) the little blighters still appear. I have just got to accept that as long as I can keep them under control, but not out of sight totally that will have to be the case. I refuse to use weedkillers and grow everything organically as Sara had always wanted to do. Space is now becoming limited in the garden now that the last plantings have occurred mainly pumpkins and melons. Earlier plantings now need regular tying up and managing in order to get them to crop to their maximum.

Peas

Sara's peas and beans that she planted two days before she died are now flowering profusely and beginning to fruit so soon there will be daily pickings of produce to be added to the daily tasks

The tomatoes now need regular checks for removing side shoots and tying the rapidly growing plants up. Even with recent low temperatures some flowers have set so not long before the first tomatoes.


At last the runner and french beans have got going 

All the five varieties of potatoes are now growing well and after being "earthed up" are reappearing again.

Shallots

More onions. The pre winter ones will need harvesting next month

The sweetcorn beginning to come through. The cobs will be used not only for freezing, but also some for the livestock and the spent stems used for the goats, 

Beetroot for more chutney making

Carrots are on a go slow and do not seem to be growing as quickly as other produce

Lettuce which I can see many will end up bolting and have to be fed to the ducks and chickens

A regular supply of strawberries now and seem to be earlier than my neighbours possibly due to the heat generated from the weed suppressant I have used.

The garden flowers now are begging to grow and some already in flower and at last providing a little colour in the garden.
 
Scented Peony

Rose bud with a spattering of raindrops (Sara loved fresh rainfall on flowers and would be dashing around the garden with camera in hand to capture the images).

Rose

Dahlias appearing

Blue delphinium (shame the raspberry canes are only in focus)

Self seeded Nicotania (will create a headly scent along the path at the side of the house) and yes a rogue weed.

Yellow Geum

Flowers on the grapevines


Much has happened with the goats this week to prepare for the new arrivals. More DIY creating a dividing gate/wall to enable me to house the new arrival/s separate from Millie and Tilly until they get used to each other. It has been in place for nearly a week now without it falling apart so my DIY skills must be improving.
  

Galia the goatherd lady had informed my neighbour a few days ago that Tilly had fallen in a hole whilst out her daily walk with the rest of the herd. Galia had to lift her out of it and then wash her down as she was caked in mud. Now whether this had anything to do with it or that it was just coincidence, but sadly Tilly aborted two months into her pregnancy. It is quite common for goats to abort around this time so as I have already said it may be just coincidence. She is now fine after a couple of days being grabbed to clean her up and is back to herself happily munching browse, hay and grain and living up to her name of 'Tubby Tilly' as food is the only thing on her mind. Still fingers crossed that Millie will be past the two month time in a couple of weeks and will go full term and kid at the end of July.

  

Tilly convalescing after her aborting.

Part of the two month goat foetus that Tilly aborted (damaged as Millie or Tilly had trodden on it)


On a slightly better note the 'juniors', the flock of Light Sussex and Indian Runners chicks and duckling are growing really well and hopefully should be ready for new prospective homes in the next couple of weeks. I think they should be gannets not chickens or ducks as they are eating me out of house and home. Still they are doing really well

Sadly partly due to an error on my part only two of the latest batch of twenty four Indian Runner eggs hatched. Humidity is important in the latter part of incubation along with not turning the eggs and what with my mind on other things (mainly dealing with legal paperwork reported Sara's death in the UK) I got muddled up with dates

Latest Indian Runner ducklings

The Indian Runners are still laying on a daily basis so much so that some eggs have been send to friends for them to place under broody poultry they have. Even better is one of my Indian Runners has decided to go broody albeit in the most inappropriate place, slap bang in the middle of the chicken shed where the flock of ducks has also now decided to roost. She is currently sitting on eight eggs and keeping herself occupied whilst brooding by keeping the nest tidy around her so much so that she had now managed to move the nest into the corner of the shed, basically moving it around 60cms.

The beehives are still looking good after the split and much activity from both hives as they go out collecting nectar from the surrounding acacia trees that are now in flower and an important source of food for them. 

In preparation for the coming car boot sale I have now put my hand to making beetroot chutney along with more raspberry and apple jam as at each car boot sale I have sold out of it. So before Sunday I need to make more brown sauce along with cheese scones amongst other things.

                                          

Finally before I sign off I would like to thank my niece and her partner for their support over the last few weeks when on occasions I have a bad moments trying to deal with the grief of losing Sara, but also their help physically with some of the tasks in the garden. They are now on their way back to the UK, but hope to return soon. Now once again I am in a period of re adjustment occurring with being on my own again, but being busy and positive is helping me with each day and ensuring that looking forward to new ventures in the smallholding here knowing that Sara is beside me in spirit helps with part of my grieving process.

Well I must go now as tomorrow is a big day for me of which you will hear about in the next post. Once again thank you everyone one of my readers in not only reading about my life out here, but more so the many messages of support that helps me go on continuing living the dream that Sara and I had together out her in rural Bulgaria.