Cold Turkey

anti-facebookNo this is not the story of what we did with all that turkey post Christmas, or about me stopping class A drugs, but rather about my radical decision to spend an entire week without going on Facebook. If anyone had asked me, prior to this experiment, what that would be like, I’d have shrugged my shoulders and said ‘no issues, I don’t spend that much time on there anyway’.

Well that is not quite true! By not going on Facebook this week I have noticed a couple of things:
1. Just how much time I actually spent on there and
2. Just how hard it would be not to…

I documented each day to understand how this affected me and so I would realise just how much of an addiction this had become, this is the story of my week living outside of social media.

Day 1

DSCF5821My old routine of logging into the ‘world’ first thing in a morning became blatantly obvious as I switched between pacing the floor and staring blankly at the Google search bar wondering what else this amazing internet could offer to pass my time. I was inexplicably attracted to the weather forecast although I could plainly see that it was snowing even though according to Accuweather it wasn’t. For some reason I get an insane pleasure from trying to catch it out, although if I’m honest it is rarely right so it is not really much of a challenge.

Time for another coffee….Dan surfaces and begins the day by informing me what is going on on Facebook which kind of defeats the object, so I have to ask him to stop and I go to water my plants, something I haven’t done in weeks and it shows…woops.

DSCF5730Then I remembered why I was doing this in the first place…to get this wasted time back. So I turned to my list, and began emptying my kitchen cupboards, which meant I felt obliged then to clean inside them (another thing I discovered I had not done for sometime…if DSCF5810ever), and removed them from the wall in order install my new splash-back. For those of you in Facebook world this was ‘Tick 6’ and I think it looks pretty funky and such a cheap method of tidying up the area.

As luck would have it this job didn’t take as long as I thought so I was soon back to twiddling my thumbs in front of the laptop. What on earth did I do before Facebook? I took the opportunity to clean up my formulas in my teaching tracker, something I’d been meaning to do for 6 months at least. I emailed a few friends to touch base as I felt unusually disconnected.

It felt strange today, I had to physically stop myself from just checking in … but I didn’t and I didn’t cease to exist because of it….although part of me feels like I did, maybe because I know that others are swapping stories and pictures of their day whilst I just did my stuff and nobody knows what….a strangely disconcerting concept – maybe tomorrow will feel better.

Day 2

chess2Despite my best efforts, today was just ‘one of those days’ when I just had to login. My friend and neighbour, Shirley, passed away yesterday in France and I had to let people in the village know. For all it’s faults, Facebook is great for getting messages to people quickly. This was such a sad event, but I was comforted by her messages the previous week. I had re-homed her beloved cat for her, for which she was so grateful and I had agreed to scatter her ashes according to her wishes, she was then happy that everything was in place to allow her to pass peacefully. So that is what we must do, so having passed on the information I withdrew once again from Facebook.

DSCF5796Being away from the medium of Messenger meant I had to actually gather some stuff together to help out my friend who had not been feeling too great but was finally up for some company, so I walked across the village in the snow carrying a heater and a silicon gun. It was lovely, fresh falling snow, the silence you only get when it is actually snowing and that special tinge of light in the sky, a kind of pink that says…there is more on its way.

DSCF5814On my return I felt pumped, determined and decided it was time to stop being a wuss and brave the camper to remove the wasps nests. Of course they are all dead at this time of year but it didn’t stop my heart from beating at twice the normal rate during the operation of unscrewing vent covers to pick out the nests, bag them and remove them from site…but I did it so this is ‘Tick 7’.

Day 3

DSCF5830So  many nice snow pictures and I can’t  do anything with them, I guess it is time to mention I dropped my smartphone down the toilet so I don’t even have any instagram…aggghhh…the urge to tell everyone about it is immense, but why, does anyone even care…are my pictures any better than anyone elses? Of course not, they are better to me because they show my life, my village, my dogs, my views and I’ve already seen them so why such a desire to share them? I can’t answer this but I do know that making these notes helped to stiffen my resolve.

DSCF5826It also helped that due to very low temperatures last night our water pipes froze (I forgot to leave the tap dripping DSCF5827overnight) and so I never really noticed the lack of Facebook as we were too busy defrosting snow in the kettle, hanging up a bottle of spring water to de-ice because we’d left it in the car, stocking up the wood piles and topping up fresh bottles from the spring.

DSCF5835This may seem like lots of hard work but it was a gorgeous day – beautiful scenery and we got dragged in by our neighbours for food and beer…my face was still glowing hours later as their house was so hot.

Then it was off to visit my Russian neighbours before they departed on holiday….how did I ever have time for Facebook LOL (that LOL was deliberate by the way…just to show  I miss it just a little).

Got some more stuff done that was long overdue – logged all future booked work in the van and sorted out my password list. I felt much more in control …oh and ‘Tick 8’ today as the picture finally went up in the lounge.

Day 4

IMG_20170109_111948Sitting for three hours in a freezing office to try and resolve some classroom issues with technical support (based in Thailand so considerably more comfortable) tends to take your mind off social media…currently -15C outside and not many degrees warmer in the office space.

Cold water has finally come back as Dan spent about the same amount of time with a heat gun on the pipes in our small bathroom…still no hot water yet so I still smell…and somehow I managed to trap a nerve in my shoulder whilst sleeping, so took some time out to sit and watch some crap TV – and organize these notes. We are now watching Designated Survivor and so far so good.

I had a lesson with a regular student early this evening so I lit the fire up there so I didn’t suffer for another hour.  My desire for a bath right now far outweighs my desire to log on to Facebook…it is all about priorities.

Day 5

What should have been a nice day in Vt with my long suffering friend turned into me being held hostage in Technomarket (the Bulgarian equivalent to Curries) for nearly an hour while they decided whether to give me a refund on a set of headphones I had purchased. Eventually I got a considered and ‘polite’ decision of ‘voucher or nothing’…I took the voucher and then proceeded to just miss my friend in every shop we went to, until it was time to come home.

I do now have a new phone though, so lets see how long I can keep this one alive.

DSCF5836We still have no hot water, yet temperatures have been well above freezing today with bags of sunshine and melting snow, frustrating!

Dan has changed the diff on his BMW back to the welded variety and I have acquired a new clutch for Brian (my lada) so at some point I may well be mobile again.

Friday the 13th pfft…

Day 6

DSCF5829I had an early night last night to try and be fresh for today’s teaching…however my hot water had other ideas. At 4am the bath suddenly spurted into life as I’d left the tap open in a desperate bid to try and convince it to give me some water…then of course my ‘worry-brain’ kicked in and I had to throw on a sexy pair of wellies and a coat and check out the other taps downstairs just in case we had left these running too….we hadn’t, but that was the end of sleep for me so lit the fires and got myself a coffee and made some notes in preparation for today’s lessons.

I got two pieces of good news today, I got a Christmas card from my best friend in the UK who plainly needs to organise herself a bit better and my sister finally got connected to Whatsapp – this will change my life. Currently I ring her weekly standing up the hill in all weathers as we don’t have signal at home and she was still living in 1976. Now I can call her and stay warm….the best present yet.

This ironically got  me thinking about a post I saw on Facebook a little while ago, in the run up to the new year, where the suggestion was to take a jar and put a note in of any good things that happen. Then at the end of the year, no matter how hard it has been, you can empty the jar and remember the good times.

So I took a note of all the good things that happened this week and got to 11 before I stopped noting them down…I think I’m going to need a bigger jar…unless that is we can remove one every time something goes a little awry….it turns out the microphone on my new phone doesn’t want to work in Whatsapp so it looks like I’ll be back to freezing my extremities off in the snow. I will try again tomorrow.

Day 7

hoorayRight this is my final day away from Facebook and to be honest the weekends are not usually such an issue as I work anyway and only rarely would  have time to check in ….today I won’t be checking in, but I am strangely excited about getting back out into the cyber world of my friends and acquaintances across the globe, but also there is a weird sense of dread. Not because of what I have missed as I’m sure I’ll soon catch up on that, but of what people will think of me.

Do they think I have been rude for not responding to their messages, has anyone ‘unfriended’ me, or spoken ill of me, well I guess only time will tell and as I sit here in the real world I am unaware of any of these things, they are not affecting my life now, so why should they be allowed to influence my life once I return to Facebook.

Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.
Maybe ignorance is bliss.
Maybe I will care slightly less.

Dreams

DSCF5362Isn’t amazing how different we all are. One person’s dream is another’s nightmare. But and here’s the thing, we all have dreams, ambitions, fantasies, call them what you will, but we all strive to be somewhere different, doing something differently, but few of us think about what it will take to get there and interestingly not many (if any) of us consider what it will actually be like once we arrive at our destination.

I certainly didn’t!

21. Our villageOh yes I was more planned than most – that’s what I do…planning…I drive people crazy with it, but it’s what makes me, me. But what I didn’t do was think about what it would actually be like. I travelled through the country and looked at what seems to be a million houses to decide which one fitted the bill (by the way I bought three that didn’t) and this is where I ended up…but I didn’t talk to people living here to ask about the place, no, I just drove though this village one day and stated ‘this is where I want to live’ and so live here we do!!

DSCF3437I had great plans before I left the UK – we were going to offer adventure holidays, maybe team up with someone who did something similar that we didn’t offer, to help promote both our businesses. We brought our go-karts, our kayaks, pottery wheels, soap and candle making equipment and know how…we had such great plans to run workshops and outings to make people’s holidays something to remember, but we needed to make the house and gardens inviting and habitable first….and this is where we had to be both adaptable and patient.

DSCF5053Unlike many out here we are not pensionable age, we do not have a static income so we have to make our own way and do most things for ourselves, as although things out here are cheap, they are not free.  This is our little piece of paradise, but it has taken a lot of blood and sweat to get to the point DSCF5377where we are now, please note I didn’t say tears as these were notable in their absence – but if you want to live differently or change your life so dramatically then you have to be prepared to work hard for it.

DSCF5447But we didn’t do it all by ourselves, we have had help from some people and great advice from others. We have met some wonderful characters and travelled most of the country delivering people’s treasured possessions.

IMG_20160930_143300I go to bed every night with aching muscles, I roll out of bed in the morning groaning and stretching to motivate myself for the day ahead, but everything I do, I do for us, for our new life. It is invigorating, frustrating and oh so tiring but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Even though I do utter the immortal words ‘I’m too old for this sh*t’ on an almost daily basis….

DSCF5258I say to friends. ‘Why struggle so hard’, ‘why work such long hours just to pay your bills’, ‘you can do this too, this is freedom’…but as I said at the beginning, this is my dream and I am so very lucky to have someone to share it with as I am starting to understand that this is not everyone’s dream, in fact for those dreaming of wealth, fancy houses and yachts and parties where the elite rub shoulders, this would be their worst nightmare.

horses3The only shoulders I rub along with at parties are three legged chihuahuas,  immigrant horses and a whole host of insects and rodents that I’d rather not meet…oh and the occasional new human I’ve decided to interact with…and who incidentally drives the organised, planner in me absolutely bloody crazy…but I love her!

DSCF5277Well after all this hard work and the mad ‘Sybil Fawltyesque’ decision to take the barn down and move it a little to the left, we have taken another momentous decision…next April we will stop! Yes that’s right this woman that found life here too slow, that couldn’t switch off from the pressurised career of herding cats, is finally going to find out if she actually likes living here as well as working here. In April we will have been here three years, and we both think that’s quite long enough. It is time to start enjoying our choices.

DSCF5413We have taken a broken house and fixed it to the best of our ability, we have a comfortable lounge, dining room, a kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a shower room. We have taken down a garage and a stone barn piece by piece and will have built a new garage. Of course there is still more to do – I want a craft studio, an office to teach from (that let’s me feel like I’m still outside not locked in an office), a roof terrace, a natural pool, a sauna, an outdoor cob oven, some internal stairs and a number of different smaller projects…but they can wait. First we are taking a break.

5954259oI’m sure there will be a book run on how long it will take me to get bored, but I warn you I have a long list of fun stuff to do, so much so it may not look like I’m taking any time off at all…one of those things involves an old lady Lada called Brian. Yes that’s right a girl called Brian. She was born in 1979 and has lived all her life with one family…until now, now she will be my companion while we explore the country we have chosen to call home.

DSCF5339So if you are thinking of visiting us, I think 2017 may be the year to do it and if you are thinking of changing your life (however that may be) then there is never a better time than now. I came across a great quote on the internet (of course) that you should listen to…’don’t be defined by your past…make a brand new ending!’

A Positive Spin

These last couple of weeks I’ve been on my own so I’ve had TV on in the background while I’ve been working to keep me company (or drown out the barking dogs)… One thing I’ve noticed is how depressing the news is and how it is always ‘bad’ news. The obvious reason for this is that ‘good’ news doesn’t pay, but then I thought maybe there are two sides to every story so I started looking closer to home…and this is what I found!

Dilbert and PennyThis week I have lost two chickens to our local fox. One of our chickens was sitting on 5 eggs and the fox took these too. Now whilst this may be annoying for me and pretty disasterous for the chickens, there are however some very well fed and cared for fox cubs enjoying fresh chicken and protein this spring…and I have less chickens to feed.

So it got me thinking, for every bad story there is a good story alongside it, it all depends on perspective and it does require a bit more detachment from the emotional involvement. So I thought it might be a good idea to see things from another view point and try to put out some good news each month…read at your peril.

So let me start by saying that I am not going to go into contentious issues like Big Ben’s lack of bongs, or doctors striking to get a bit of a rest or global warming or the UK referendum on the EU..although as an aside does Brexit mean we don’t have to suffer coming last in Eurovision anymore and having to pretend it’s because ‘people hate us’ and can just accept at long last that our songs were crap!! No I’m going to keep it local and personal (or try)…

DSCF4822So since Dan went to England where it rains for 90% of the year, it has done nothing but rain here – it’s like he pinched my sun and took it with him to give the poor Brits a taste of what they could’ve won. Meanwhile I have been permanently dressed in wellies and a silly hat, one and half wellies to be fair as one of them was eaten by Kia 4 years ago and I still haven’t replaced them. Actually I lie, I did buy a new pair and they were unceremoniously cut up to act as rubber washers when bolting the new roof to the dog pen this spring….while I was out somewhere….say no more! So where is the good news I hear you cry… well in the three weeks he’s been gone I haven’t had to water the garden once, I  must have saved myself a fortune in water rates (at least 10 leva by my calculations) which means I must be nearly able to afford those new wellies.

DSCF4873Also for those of you fortunate enough to live in this incredible country, and clever enough not to go out in the garden when it rains, we are not all that clever. For those of you that don’t live here or have never had the pleasure of Bulgarian mud, well it is sticky and that is putting it lightly so after running around the land pulling things under cover to save them from the downpour I can now say I have finally achieved my teenage dream of being the required 5’10” of a catwalk model. This may however be the only grade I make….

DSCF4832So did I mention he’d left me on my own for three weeks – three weeks I tell you, so I’ve knuckled down and worked my socks off finishing off the lounge-dining room for when he gets back, only to DSCF4874come down one morning and find the fridge light didn’t come on when I DSCF4861opened the door….I did the thing of opening and shutting it a few times, waggled the little lever that does the business, to no avail…for a little while there was stunned, exhausted, infuriated silence and a couple of coffees while I thought of a plan.

I have a little beer fridge so I emptied the important stuff into the little fridge and threw some not so important (for that read I’ll make something out of it one day stuff) into the bin and the frozen stuff into the chest freezer. Job done…only although in my head I’d already picked out and chosen a new fridge and mentally placed it in a different location in the kitchen…I still couldn’t resist trying to find out why it had stopped.

What I found was the wire had been chewed through in two places…which renewed my frustration about the rats getting into my kitchen and by now I was jumping up and down holding a plug with 5 inches of flex attached to it shouting …’why don’t they die’….over and over again. It’s a good job I don’t have any neighbours but seriously if I chewed through a 220w cable I’m sure I’d be at least tingling :-)

DSCF4887Anyway getting to the good news, I managed to fix the cable so I now had a clean, uncluttered working fridge and had renewed my passion for rat catching. It is a great sport if you have time and patience, I  have neither but I do have a DSCF4877Shelby – he caught two in quick succession and I caught one in my rat cage…I know there’s more somewhere but they are playing hard to get but to quote the great John Goodman as Delbert McClintock in Arachnaphobia “would anyone mind if I tore this floor out” ….

Bucket List

DSCF4675I came across a friend’s post on Facebook a while back that got me thinking. It was a list of interesting places to visit, incredible events to attend and extreme things to achieve and the idea was you went through the list and ticked off what you had done and what was left was your bucket list …to do before you die.

DSCF4676I’m not usually so obedient but thought it would be interesting to see what I’d done and what I had left to do…. Now when you take these sort of tests you can be left feeling two things: 1) Excitement for all the things left to do in the world or 2) Disappointed at not having done that much with your (in my case) 50 years on this earth. That is if you let the internet dictate how you feel about yourself…I don’t, I just don’t…so I started thinking of some of the things I’d done.

locostI have show-jumped in Europe (and won), I have learnt a new language, travelled to five out of seven continents, I have raced cars at most of the major tracks in the UK, have drunk champagne in the pits with famous race drivers, had media access at Le Mans for several years, worked as a DJ in a club, been to a baseball match in the states, climbed all of the mountains in the Lake District, hitch-hiked to the Isle of Skye, learnt to ski in Canada, driven a team of huskies across the arctic circle, scuba dived in exotic places, swum with dolphins in Australia and turtles in Barbados, played basketball in the World Corporate Games at Chrystal Palace, climbed Sigiriya, seen the Exmoor beast, rounded up sheep on horseback, seen some really good bands live in concert and some rubbish ones too and I’m sure many other things that I forget …but you see I  have lived, I have done a lot (not all of them well) and yes there are still things I’d like to do but …

DSCF4572I arrived in Bulgaria two years ago this Wednesday and now I’m not limited to the four weeks a year prescribed holiday and can (if I wanted) go anywhere, anytime I want, I find myself finding more and more reasons to stay home.  There is a contentment to be found in the dust of my house, in the muddy garden that is out of control, in the crumbling outbuildings, the biting insects, the aching DSCF4661muscles, the nosey neighbours that don’t understand I am still learning their language, the vegetables that seem to need different soil to the abundant weeds that grow so rampantly, the scorching heat, the snapping cold, the power cuts and lack of gravy granules.

DSCF4561It just depends how you look at life, I have a vision for my house so in time the dust will not matter, I will take control of the garden and rebuild the outbuildings, the insects will become less as the garden is not so wild, my muscles will train to DSCF4719take the activities I throw at them, my neighbours will become my friends as I learn to converse with them more effectively and they will teach me how to tend to my vegetables so they out grow my weeds and the weather….well I love the four wonderful seasons we get out here and the spectacular thunder storms that mean we  have to live without facilities for a while.

This is paradise waiting to  happen….except the gravy granules, I’m not sure I’ll ever learn to live without gravy granules!!

So back to the online bucket list, there were things like – ride in a hot air balloon, sky diving, visit the Great Wall of China, go to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans…you get the idea. Out of 100 items I’d done about 10 and the others, although could be fun, are not really something I feel I MUST do before I die.

DSCF4729Heaven forbid I kick the bucket tomorrow, but if I do you can be safe in the knowledge that I’ve had fun and I’ve found my bucket…it is here in my garbage ridden garden, it has a hole in the bottom where I’ve planted something in the past and one of the dogs has chewed off the handle….but it’s my bucket and I’m happy I found it.

Reflection

I think the question I get asked the most out here, by other expats, those thinking about moving here and the Bulgarians themselves is, why Bulgaria. My answer is probably very similar to everyone else’s, ‘because I always wanted a house in France’.

DSCF3430This is the truth, since returning to the UK in 1989 from Belgium, I always wanted to go back across the channel and Provence had a wildness about it that appealed to my nature, but then it became popular and out of my price range. So I saved a little more and the French just kept putting their prices up, it was like they were trying to tell me something and despite my belligerent nature, eventually I listened and looked further afield.

sicilyWe found Sicily and fell in love with it, we bought a cheap do-er-upper and had a good friend and French architect complete the renovations for us, only to find that while we’d been busy plastering, painting and cramming a MkI Mondeo full of furniture, the Italians had cottoned on to the South of the island and suddenly the cost of living might as well have been in Kensington.

So on the search went for somewhere we could afford to live as well as buy…voila…Bulgaria. So you see the reason we are here at all is because the French didn’t want us and we couldn’t afford the Italians.

I did do some research on costs out here and estimated what we would need annually to survive and sparks started to fly about what we could do to make this a reality. You see most people that emigrate either do so on a corporate contract or are on a nice little pension, we had neither. So the result was we brought our imaginations, our willingness to work hard and adapt to the situation, packed up all our worldly goods (and a great deal of crap) and well here we are!

DSCF3375The ‘pot’ is not bottomless, in fact you could paddle in it, but we are doing most of the renovations ourselves where possible and learning so much about ourselves in the process. We have had some help, Barry rewired our house, Paul build us a little shower room while we dug our own septic tank hole and drainage trenches, Richard supplied our septic tank with instructions and support and a local guy built our barn wall for us …the less said about that the better!!

But the point is Dan has built floor frames and laid floor boards, rendered walls, built walls, fenced, dug holes, concreted floors, built a chicken coop, fitted a kitchen and I have plumbed in hot and cold water and central heating, laid a stone floor in our kitchen, tiled, painted, designed stuff, planned stuff, mixed 100s of barrows of cement by hand, fought off marauding ants, sanded, stained and varnished till I was high and all this cost us just the materials and a bit of imagination and effort.

DSCF4132Oh and we have so many more things to learn, the garden being the biggest challenge for me. We have the land I always craved, we have the opportunity to provide most of our food for ourselves, but have little to no knowledge on where the hell to start. This year I will be focusing more attention on learning these skills, how, what and how much to grow, when to plant and how the hell to use all the bounty I hope to harvest.

DSCF3812Then there’s the language. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in a bit more to learning that. A garage to build, a sauna and cob oven to design and build out of alternate materials, a terrace, a natural pool….everyday I look at this site that we chose to  move to and my head burst with ideas, sometimes these have to flex and change as other’s ideas are added to the pot or roadblocks are put in your way, but this is just part of the excitement.

DSCF3769It hasn’t all been sweetness and light though, we have lost some treasured members of our family and new ones have joined us in the madhouse, but this is life and I’m just glad I came and found it instead of waiting for it to find me.

A friend recently said ‘to be honest I thought you’d be back by now, but your resourcefulness knows no bounds’. When we left England I was the gorgea Project Manager and Dan was a forklift driver so if we can do this so can you! It’s not clever, it’s not brave, it’s not even resourceful, it is just seeing that life is not infinite and sometimes taking a chance to get the kind of life you want is the right thing to do. Succeed or fail, either is better than regretting not trying!

You see the question should not be ‘why Bulgaria’ but more ‘why now’…that would get quite a different response!

They said…

DSCF4028Have chickens they said, chickens are easy they said, fresh eggs they said…

They, whoever ‘they’ are may be need to tweak their enthusiasm somewhat so that I can manage my own expectations sensibly!

DSCF3793Yes I love my chooks, I have named them all for goodness sake…some of them twice, but that’s another story…and I have to admit that on the whole they are pretty damn simple most of the time, but they do have their moments too!

Charlotte, aka Charlie, aka Christmas!
Charlotte, aka Charlie, aka Christmas!

And EGGS…well I’m still buying them from the local farm shop so you work it out. Some of this lack of egg production I must admit comes from the fact that Charlotte and Delia have now officially been renamed Charlie and

Delia aka Dilburt
Delia aka Dilburt

Dilburt after they were caught having a right old ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ one morning…I guess I’ll wait a while for some double yolkers from them.

I also have some doubts about Amelia and Babs who if not cocks, they are awfully butch ladies with lesbian tendencies.  It is only a matter of time before they become Alan and Brian (after my friend at The Real Housewife of Snohomish County).

And then of course comes the time when they get a bit fatter and I have to get out my traffic cone and broom handle…I’m hoping no more detail than that is required by my switched on audience. I was hoping for Easter roasts, but it looks like Christmas may claim one as I’m not sure they’ll all make it through winter without calling each other outside for a fight.

Alice
Alice

The good news is Alice, Jojo and Penny are still my girls, but its about time they started earning their keep. They are a

Penny
Penny

talking point though as they free range around the walnut grove and as the lady up the road picks her walnuts she chats to them and they ‘chuckle’ back.

 

A local puppy scattered them far and wide the other day and the locals all delivered them back, one by one. Since starting this blog Jojo has now been claimed by said puppy so I was then  down to six, then said ‘walnut’ lady asked if I would swap a cockerel for a hen of hers…I readily agreed and the newly named Alan went to a new home up the road and Rachel joined the flock…

DSCF3753Alan has stayed happily in his new home, whilst Rachel too has returned to her old home…several times! I have now been offered four smaller hens in springtime in repayment for Alan…great more chickens to name…twice :-)

One day we found a random chicken in our front garden, we caught it and passed it to some random passing children with the Bulgarian phrase, “this is not my chicken” – try finding that in a phrase book…I think you’ll be looking a while…amazing what you learn keeping chickens!

So get chickens they said, fresh eggs they said, they’re easy they said – I say get chickens, they are hilarious, fun, with or without eggs and yes they may be easy but never uneventful!

Chickens the gateway drug to bigger animals ….

Time & Tide…

Shepherds pausing for lunch outside our house under the walnut trees.
Shepherds pausing for lunch outside our house under the walnut trees.

Well that’s my year off complete so I better get back to work and start earning some money…no, no, no I’m not giving up and coming back to good ol’ Blighty…not unless someone drags me kicking and screaming, but I have decided it is time to stop the pot draining and do a little something to earn my keep! So I’ve started teaching English as a Foreign Language online, just for two days a week – it’s great – and I get the rest of the week off to renovate the house and tend the garden. At least this way my muscles get some time off and so does my brain, win win :-)

DSCF3193This change of lifestyle has been an adventure in many ways, figuring out how to bring in a few quid to keep things ticking over while trying to save a few quid doing the work yourself …we are not lacking in desire, determination or in our ability to learn and adapt, the only thing we are lacking in is time! Where does it all go…one minute it’s Monday morning and I’m all fired up about cracking on with one project or another and then suddenly it’s Thursday and somehow Tues & Wed didn’t show up.
Funnily enough it’s not the time it takes to empty a woodshed or remove tiles from a roof or build a chicken coop or tile a floor…it’s what happens in between that buggers it all up! Shopping to do, documents to sign, deliveries to pick up, get-to-gethers to attend, cream to be shoved up one of the animals butt,  tools not working like they should or a hailstorm hitting out of nowhere.
DSCF3220We have people coming to visit this year so we’re also trying to get a bedroom ready for them…strangely not everyone wants to bunk in with me and Dan, so I’ve started tiling the spare room, until the ants hit…yes suddenly out of nowhere thousands and thousands of tiny little TERRIFYING beasts started stomping across our bathroom ceiling and dropping in the bath…they make my skin crawl, but you can’t run away when it’s your house they are invading so out came the hoover! An hour of constant hoovering and still they came…so out came the DE … that slowed the buggers down, but has made a right mess of the new bathroom, which will now have to be painted again. I used to be frightened of ants, but had a certain respect for them…now I just hate them so I guess that’s progress of sorts.
DSCF3240They must have known something we didn’t as from a beautiful sunny (32C in the shade) day, a sudden massive clap of thunder and synchronised flashes of lightening and then the heavens opened…not just rain, but hailstones the size of marbles…Dan ran outside to close the greenhouse down and me to get the dog food bowls out of the pen…we looked like we’d been swimming fully clothed and the temps dropped rapidly. I took a video, it lasted only about 10 minutes but I don’t think my lettuce will ever be the same again.
DSCF3237So the chickens are hatched and waiting for me to claim them as their new Mum, but they are having to wait for us to get this coop built. We are half way there, we have all the materials, the basic structure is built, half the roof is on…then it rains…then the shop doesn’t have the guttering we travel half an hour down the road specifically to buy…breathe Jane breathe! On the plus side the chickens could be laying by the time we get them :-)
DSCF3238Meanwhile our wonderful neighbour decides that her health is too bad, so she will leave here and go to live with her son in France and offers me the rest of her wood pile as she will have no further use for it. Well this was too good an offer to turn down, but I only want to move it once so I needed somewhere to put it and those that have been paying attention will DSCF3243know that my mini is now in what was last year’s woodshed…time to brave the black hole of calcutta where we stored all of the dismantled, scrap and destroyed furniture that was in the house when we moved in. There are all sorts in DSCF3247this shed, including two lovely little units I want to restore…but mostly crap pieces of wood, bags of rock hard cement, smelly old rugs and stacks and stacks of chipboard. Needs must and a couple of days work I cleared the lot…it was a distraction from what we were doing but a necessary one and yes my yard is now covered in rubbish piles of wood ready to be cut up and stacked neatly inside…once I have the good stuff in first!
DSCF3246And once we have built the coop, tiled the spare room, ordered more wood for this winter and restored the two little pieces of furniture…actually that maybe classed as fun so that may have to wait…
Until next time…
JD

What a Difference a Year Makes

It has been exactly one year today since we arrived at our little piece of heaven in Bulgaria so I thought I’d do a quick before and after blog to show everything we have done (and still to do)

front
Before
After
After

We had the place rewired completely, new windows and doors installed and the roof checked over and repairs made (we didn’t do  any of this ourselves).

Lounge

We gutted the lounge ceiling to floor and rendered the walls – this still needs sanding and painting and the floor still needs tiling but it made it at least useable over the winter months …

Before
Before
Before
Before

 

 

 

 

after
after
lounge
During

 

 

 

 

 

Shower Room (again not us)

Paul basically rebuilt this little room for us while we installed the septic tank system ( a lot of digging)…

5. shower room

shower
Before

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kitchen

Again this was gutted, rendered, painted, and the fireplace opened up, new oven put in and it did us through winter but we have a stone floor to put down and units to build still (and I’m still using the outside sink)…

Before
Before
kitchen
After

 

 

 

 

 

Upstairs

Gutted floor to ceiling again – new floor frames, new floorboards, new render, opened up new doorways, installed central heating, installed a new bathroom and built a new wardrobe – still work to be done up here but it was and is perfectly liveable while we do other things…

After
Bathroom wardrobe After
Bathroom before
Bathroom before

 

 

 

 

Outside

Rebuild the barn wall – knocked down pens, cleared garden, removed concrete posts, built a dog pen…you name it…

Barn after
Barn after
Barn before
Barn before

 

 

 

 

This probably only covers about a 5th of what we have really done but it gives you a flavour of the changes we have made and maybe you can start to understand why we call this home :-)

One year down, many more to go…

JD x

http://www.tsu.co/Penelopef1

Spring has Sprung…

If you follow my facebook page of the same name you will know that my good friend and neighbour came back from a stay in France…she is the perfect neighbour – we chat over emptying wheelbarrows (she with grass cuttings, me usually with rubble of some sort) and laugh and moan about our own incapabilities for one reason and another.  I never thought though that she paid too much attention to my ramblings, but on her return she brought with her a gift for both me and my Dan. For him an old oil can, I don’t think anything more appropriate could be found on this earth as lets face it if the choice was between me or his BMW all I can say is, I DSCF2919hope they’ll be very happy together …and for me…she brought cheese, lots of cheese, something tells me she was paying attention!! You see Mr Royce all those lessons on ‘learning to listen’ and all you needed to do was bribe me with Camembert and I’d have listened for hours (probably with my mouth full though).

DSCF3067This lady has now gone back to France to stay with her son for a while as she is not very well, not that she’d ever admit it as she is a stubborn old fool and I’m sure I’ll be just like her (well I hope I will), if I make it to her age!! She left me with a small painting by a friend of hers of the back of our house seen from her garden…how lovely is that, I will cherish it always and make sure I get it in a frame and up on the wall before she gets back and tells me off…hurry home Shirley!

DSCF3063We have been busy on the house as always, although the weather and a broken toe (mine) has slowed us down a little, but we have finally got all the posts concreted in place for the new dog pen and have started filling in the gaps. It is massive and will incorporate a sandpit, a covered lockable section and lots of open play space so they can have some freedom whilst we potter about the garden without us worrying about them escaping over the wall and killing the local chicken population…

Oliver in the sunshine
Oliver in the sunshine

Our family had increased by one as another kitten decided to move in – he was in an awful state, but we fed him up and he slept with us every night snuggled under my armpit (he must have been really desperate), but after just a few days this little boy we named Oliver decided to stop eating and just upped and left…he was very weak so we assume he has gone off somewhere to die as despite hunting high and low there is no longer any sign of him. So sad but also at least he experienced some love for his last few days…

DSCF3033Weather wise we have had it great to be honest, there have been days where we have been working in our t-shirts in the garden and others where we have lit the fire and snuggled up in front of it waiting for the pipes to defrost, but all in all it has been a very mild winter and spring should soon be here! I can’t wait to spot my first stork just so I can remove my martinitsa (little red & white bracelet) and hang it on a tree…oh yes this is Bulgaria where this sort of thing is quite normal and not only am I playing along, but I’m actually afraid to take it off in case my fruits are not DSCF3053bountiful…read into that what you will…(since writing this I have been informed that I can remove it also if my trees are in blossom and since my big old plum tree is doing the honours, I am now martinitsa-less)…

Spring has finally sprung!!

Until next time.

JD x

PS. A winner for the Chicken Hot Topics e-book has been selected and will be announced in my Garden2Plate.com end of March Newsletter – if you’re not signed up yet…you need to be :-)

Drunk & Disorderly…

Well what has been happening since my last blog? I think you can safely say that whatever it is, it has mostly involved drinking some form of alcohol. It seems that the Bulgarians need no excuse for a party although they seem to dream up all sorts of ‘reasons to be cheerful’.

honey-bee-469560_1280First there was a party to celebrate the bees and their honey, which we missed as we were busy rescuing a puppy from up near the Romanian border and bringing her home to her new family. Lily is a Standard Poodle cross Old English Sheepdog and her current family couldn’t keep her anymore, friends of ours jumped at the chance to offer her a new place to stay and so she has joined their St Bernard puppy and Golden Retriever…it is great to see them together now, Lily is the boss and loving her new found freedom and being spoilt rotten…

One good deed deserves another as they say and when we got home our beekeeper neighbour popped round with a large jar of his own honey as we missed the day…how lovely.

festival of wine2

Secondly on the 14th Feb – Valentines Day…I tend to be a tad cynical about this day, to the point that I’m actually not sure it is a day at all and more created to help global economic recovery :-) However all that has changed, no I have not fallen madly in love with a tall, dark, handsome stranger (I already have one) it’s just that the Bulgarian’s do things a little differently here. Valentines Day here is the day when the villagers are traditionally supposed to open their homemade wine from the previous year…now we’re talking my language!! Although I’m sure they didn’t all wait for this day to arrive, I’m equally sure that they still had enough to go around as we started the celebrations at midday and by two o’clock I was dancing on the bar! That was one helluva party and we suffered for it the day after, well I say we…for that read – I had a hangover to challenge all hangovers, Dan was fine (but then again he wasn’t on the bar…I blame the altitude).

IMG_20150214_122719The 1st March comes along and yet another party – Baba Marta – Granny March…a great name for another excuse to drink copious amounts of wine and rakia and dance the afternoon away, while believe it or not the sun shone brightly outside, I’m starting to really love this country, its traditions, its weather and most of all its willingness to include us (two simple Brits) in all their fabulous celebrations – thank you Bulgaria!

DSCF2987

In more sober news, the wardrobe is just about finished, just needs some name tags for each of the sections – am thinking of burning the names into pieces of reclaimed wood from inside the house as it was…think they will look funky and fit with the overall design…this is assuming of course that my aptitude for imagination is not too much greater than my talent (I fear it may be).

IMG_20150221_141622We have also started work on the dog pen, we have sourced the wood for the panels…in fact we are using the outside strips of bark that the woodyard would normally scrap – again I think this will DSCF2977keep the rustic feel – the fence posts have been painted in old engine oil, that we managed to blag from a local garage for free, that will perserve them against the weather. They have been placed in the holes but have yet to be concreted in place – our next task.

 DSCF2972With the beautiful weather we have been having it has been full steam ahead with the garden, trying to get at least a small part ready to plant up once the last frost has disappeared off the weather forecasts – all this news and progress is on my sister site 

g2twww.garden2plate.com go take a look if you haven’t already – oh and there’s a caption competition in this month’s newsletter where you can win a copy of Chicken Hot Topics that I reviewed last week…get your entries in before the 21st March to give me some time to choose a winner…which will of course be announced in March’s newsletter (you see how important it is to be signed up)

Lunar_Halo_037Everything here seems to take longer than it should and time seems to go quicker than it should so I’ve stopped planning and started to try and go with the flow, it is a massive step away from my corporate life, but I’m finding it refreshing…although I do drift back occasionally, like as I write this I have a little guy on my shoulder saying “you’ve got visitors coming…gotta get the bedroom and kitchen finished” then the sun shines and I find myself inexplicably in the garden…what I really need are visitors that can tile…

Until next time,

JD

Join us on our journey to the 'simple' life in Bulgaria, not always as simple as it seems!