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Monday, 11 July 2016

Adapting and changing like the season

Once again sorry for the delay, but once again not enough hours in the day seems to the ongoing situation in getting things done at Nova Nachalo Ranch.

As I have already said I have realised things have to change in order for me to continue living here and yes there may need to more changes in the future on the legal side for me now that the UK has decided to leave the European Union, but I will deal with that when the time arrives. It is pointless worrying things that are out of my control and governmental decisions as to future plans for the UK and how it affects me are currently and wasting time worrying about what the future holds as there is more than enough to worry about now trying to get varying jobs done whilst I change and adapt to my new life without Sara.

Well much of the garden produce has been frozen, ranging from peas, broad beans, and 10kg of beetroot cooked and diced in preparation for making chutney when I get chance. Sadly many of the tomatoes have been affected by blight due to heavy rain and then high temperatures causing humidity which has caused the blight. I had dug up some of the potatoes only for my neighbour (bless her) to give me getting on for 20kg of potatoes so the rest of my potatoes I am leaving in the ground and digging up as and when I need them. The biggest problem I have at the moment is finding the time to not only pick produce but also cook and preserve it as most meals consist of salads or omelettes from the glut of eggs that I am having at the moment and due to the high temperatures we are currently having in Bulgaria. As my neighbours tomatoes have failed I have said to them they can have my excess as I will not have the time to cook the/preserve them and it is a way that I can replay them for their continuous support they have given me over the last few months.  

The pool provides a welcome relief when I have been busy working to cool off briefly before working again. My neighbours and her friend are regularly calling round for an evening meal as they are concerned I am working too hard and long into the evening and continually say "Dave slab" which after checking Google translate mean Dave thin. I have told them I am eating and am not losing excessive amounts of weight, but no matter how much explaining they still want to feed me up. If only more neighbours around the world was like them maybe there would not be so much hostility in the world. Ultimately I see them as my Bulgarian mother and father and they which I feel as a privilege they see me as their son.

There has been much thought and decisions to be made which has resulted in many changes in the livestock over recent weeks. I have found that breeding pure bred poultry and ducks is not economically viable and when there is no income coming in other than what I can produce, cost effectiveness is a priority in making decisions. The cost of rearing poultry to the stage that they are large enough outweighs the money that is recouped and actually I lose money in producing them. Yes the hens and ducks lay eggs, but I can only eat so many omelettes a day and again keeping the hens for selling eggs is not cost effective as the cost of the feed would outweigh and money recouped in selling the eggs. When Sara was alive and she was cooking she could use them up in making many of her delicious meals, but due to time limitations I cannot spend hours in the kitchen making attempting to make them. Unlike many who appreciate food I sadly see it as a means to an end, eat to survive and so cooking is not a priority for me.Any surplus eggs I currently have go to my neighbours who in payment every so often hands me "eggy bread" for m y breakfast so at least they are being used.
The ever expanding menagerie

Young Light Sussex flock
The trio of Indian Runners I will be keeping as they are good natural pest control in the garden without demolishing it.
The last three ducklings reserved and ready to go.

So at a time when at last I have managed to achieve a reasonable success rate in hatching Indian Runner ducks after reducing the incubator temperature and increasing the humidity in comparison to chicken eggs, I now am no longer going to breed them. I have found also that after initial orders that people then decide they no longer want them which is not so much of a problem with the ducks which were sold unsexed, but with the Light Sussex chickens has become a slight problem. Holding onto them until they are sexable now I have a large flock of young roosters which at the moment there is no fighting going on as the top rooster ' Storming Norman' is pretty laid back, and so I will grow them on and then finally they will go to the freezer as even at a low price no-one wants to buy them. At least I know I will have organic, no mass produced chicken for Christmas. Some may be horrified that I would kill my own birds that I have raised from day one, but at least they have had a good life, free range integrated with other hens living a 'normal life' and ultimately that is part of the process of self sufficiency. Sara hated that part of self sufficiency, but is it fair to keep them once they are in a situation where fighting, resulting in stress to the birds and then their condition deteriorates so resulting in the risk of them becoming more prone to illness, simply no and if the market is not there and they are not cost effective realistically I have to reduce the amount of breeding. I intend to still keep a couple of ducks and hens for my own purposes for eggs and to possibly hatch and rear some chicks for my own needs or 'on order' in that they are sold at a week old.  So sadly, but realistically many of the ducks have now been sold with just a trio of this years birds remaining and one of the incubators I have also sold which will cover the cost of lucerne that I have had delivered and now is safely stored in the barn, more on that scenario later.

As with the poultry the goat herd has changed in recent days/ After last months successful sale of the first goat cheese that I had made and that my neighbour even gave the cheese the 'thumbs up' even though Venka was reticent about tasting it as she does not like the smell of goat cheese I now intend to concentrate in making cheese. Sara and I were going to make it in time, but due to limited milk supply we had not got to the stage in experimenting and making large amounts of it let alone sell it to cover the costs of keeping the goats and providing a small income to pay for basics.

Nova Nachalo garlic and chive goat cheese 
(Yes I need to change the label it is not not goats cheese - I was never any good at English grammar)

So with my limited DIY skills and a little help from friends in laying concrete foundations I have now constructed an additional goat shed in which Milly and Tilly are now housed and the original stall Duchess and Naya. Adding a roof has giving me a place where I can store a lilted supply of fodder for when access to the barn at the other side of the garden is restricted due to bad weather in the winter and will keep the heat in for the goats  during the winter.
Goat shed  - No. 2 
(Well it should be No. 1 on Kozi Lane the way houses are numbered in streets as it is the first in the row) 

Millie and Tilly happily settled into their new house

After buying the Anglo Nubians Duchess and Naya I had planned to get them artificially inseminated with Nubian semen that a company about an hour away imports and then inseminates them for you, but after initial contact and no reply, I decided to go another route. Part of the problem with my limited Bulgarian vocabulary it is frequent with such enquiries that no responses as received, but that is part of the process in obtaining good stock and possibly why many do not try. Admittedly with a little help from an English friend who speaks very good Bulgarian where he made the initial telephone enquiry, Thursday of this week off I drove a couple of hours away and returned with a young billy Anglo Nubian in the back of the X-trail.  How chuffed was I in that not only did I find the place but I also conversed in Bulgarian with the sellers father and friend as the seller was at work and was having a good laugh about various scenarios which are a little riske to discuss here. I assume the father did not have much to do with the goats for as we walked amongst a good thirty goats he would get any that are sitting down to get up a he peered between there back legs to confirm what sex they were. Anyone with any goat experience will now it is not hard to know a billy even before he is sexually mature and from the smell of them when they are in rut and so after further limited 'chunnering' due to the language barrier, Isaac as he has been named was loaded into the back of the car and transported home. He was put int the back stall in the old house before the girls came home from their daily walk with the goatherd, but in the night decided to introduce himself with Duchess and Naya by jumping over the dividing gate and some part of the night with them.

Last thing I wanted was a chain smoking billy goat

 Checking out the pen on his day of arrival before the girls come home.

First day with the girls - why bother fighting there is plenty of food to go round.

I intend once the poultry flock has been reduced further to move the ducks and chickens to the house where the chicks were reared and alter the old hen house next to the other goats houses into a holding stall for Isaac, one so that he is isolated from the girls at night especially when he is in rut to hopefully prevent unwanted pregnancies (potentially Naya for this year), but we all know what raging hormones can do, but also so that at the height of the winter all goats can be easily accessible during inclement weather.

So as the goat herd gradually increases so subsequently does the cost of sending them out with the village goats and sheep each day. I know that my fees give the village goatherder some income, but as with them I need to also look after my finances and assets of which my goats now are. The Anglo Nubians were expensive, but produce superior quality milk in comparison to the hybrid breeds in the village and less milk produces more cheese due to the high butterfat content and the Anglo Nubian milk does not have that distinctive 'goaty' smell that some goats milk has. It is not that I do not trust the goat herder, but I feel that in order for me to make this new venture in my aim to self sufficiency work I need to manage them myself. After discussions with goat keeping friends I feel I can take the goats out myself in the morning for a good four- five hours foraging in the surrounding 'common land' and then work the garden in the afternoon. I feel that will be manageable as next year I will not be growing so many tomatoes and the like and part of it I will put down to growing lucerne for the goats. Many Bulgarians feel that British ex-pats are 'bogat (rich) which in comparison to them most are, but many have UK pensions in which they are able to live a comfortable lifestyle out here, but I am not in that position at the  moment and will not be for ten years and so every penny, or being in Bulgaria every stotinki counts and so I feel it is best and more cost effective that I become the pastir (shepherd) for my own goats.This being the case I think there may a few tales to tell in the future of my goatherding experiences as they do have a blinkered attitude on occasions "I want, I run"!!!lol

Bella and Grace are totally besotted with each other to the extent that although Bella has been spayed she even lets Bella try to suckle on occasions although she has no milk and most times during the day the two of them are fast asleep on the sofa. Surprisingly although Grace can be a 'little madam' and yap at them the cats Charlie and Spud seem pretty cool with her as well having seen them both come up to her and greet her in typical cat fashion without belting her, They do put her in her place when the need arises and stop her with a quick cuff with claws retracted. As her name suggested she is Bella and my saving grace and the two of them chasing each other through the tomatoes or up the rows of carrots. Every time I see Bella with a stick in her mouth waiting for Grace to run after her and when she does Bella then runs away for her to chase her it cannot but put a smile on my face.
Sadly the Grace is at her chewing stage the tall now flowering Vibernum bodnariensis that Sara had grown from seed in January is regularly being pruned by her. I must admit it amazes me how hardy they are after seeing my sister when she came over in April after they had just been transplanted in the garden she was going to hoe them out and now this yet they still keep going!!!!lol
  
Time for a nap and totally besotted with each other 

And the two of them always seem to find the wrong time to get under my feet.  
(Well in this instance I was making my supper so food was in the equation).


The bee colony is working overtime collecting nectar not only from the flowers in the garden but also from the surrounding fields full of sunflowers and luckily a friend of mine lent me a couple of supers to provide more space for the bees to store honey so potentially expecting a bumper crop of honey this year. The newly created colony I made is growing well, but am not expecting to harvest honey from them this year as checking them many of the frames in their super are not yet filled with honey, but there is a definite queen on there and many eggs being laid.

All this potential honey 

Sunflowers as far as the eye can see.

In preparation for the winter wood has been delivered barrowed round the garden and then stacked and then this weekend I went with a couple of Bulgarian men who work for a friend as they had managed to source good quality lucerne for me as initially my neighbour and I were going to rent two decares of land from the farmer on which there is lucerne and her son-in-law was going to cut and bale it for us, but due to the regular bouts of rain that we have recently had the farmer was no longer going to rent land this year as he needed the lucerne himself. Normally they get three to four cuts a year and they have only just done the first cut now so is unlikely that the full amount of cutting will be achieved hence his reasons for no longer renting land this year. Anyway after delivery of a hundred large good quality bales along with the remainder of last years hay the barn is now packed to capacity and should see the goats through the winter.

Sadly during the stacking I not only clouted my head once, not twice, but three times as doorways seem to be designed for hobbits and being six foot one the need to remember to duck must be considered. well it must be an age thing as I didn't and subsequently suffered for it. The neighbour saw the injuries and said "dom rakia" (house rakia) so round I went thinking I was going to get a drink, no her and her friend Marika gently bathed the wounds with neat rakia. Oh well good drink gone to waste!!!!lol They regularly kept asking "Dave boli" (Dave hurt or ache) o I think they were anting to know I was OK and not dizzy or concussed. Sadly it now means I cannot shave my head for a week or so, oh well Sara would approve on that one.

 Maybe I need to buy myself a hard hat.

Finally the garden is getting a little overgrown with weeds as I cannot find enough time to keep them under control, but hey ho as long as I can get and maintain the veggies that is the main thing. I'll make the excuse that the weeds keep the ground from drying out too much!!!lol I know next year there is no way I am growing the amount I have this year as I do not have time to preserve it and far too much has been grown for just one person. Many cucumbers have gone too far to eat so are given to the animals and beetroot. garlic, red onions, peas, broad beans have been harvested. I have left to the potatoes in the ground as my neighbour has provided me with a huge bucket of them so need to use those before I use of of mine. Rather than waffle too much here are a few photos.
 The raspberries are just beginning to produce fruit. Autumn fruiting variety, hacked to the ground at the end of the year and new growth up to five feet high that bears fruit in the same season.

 Sadly not butternut squash, but will do for winter soups.

 Some of the decent tomatoes,

 Freshly harvested red onions ready for cleaning and storing.

 Peppers

 Cucumbers

 Sweetcorn which has grown really well even after being flattened
to the ground in the storms a few weeks back

 A solitary red cabbage

Figs
 Grapes, sadly like every ones they have been affected by the rain and then the humidity.

My one and only peach but at least the ree has not suffered with leaf curl this year. 

 Canna Lilly

Canna Lilly bed

Sunflowers

Nicotiana border - all self seeded

 Day Lilly

 Day Lilly

 Echinacea

 Another flush of roses.

 Vibernum bodnariensis

Dahlias

 Dahlia

Dahlia

Echinops

Monarda (Bee balm)


  

 
So all in all things are good here and the end of each day I sit in the garden that is heavily laden with the scent of the honeysuckle and nicotiana and with a well deserved beer in hand look up to the sky above and search for the first star of he night and say God bless you my darling Sara, I love you.