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 🙂
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)
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).
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 …
Shower Room (again not us)
Paul basically rebuilt this little room for us while we installed the septic tank system ( a lot of digging)…
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)…
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…
Rebuild the barn wall – knocked down pens, cleared garden, removed concrete posts, built a dog pen…you name it…
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…
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 hope 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).
This 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!
We 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…
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…
Weather 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 bountiful…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.
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 🙂
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’.
First 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.
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).
The 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!
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).
We 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 keep 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.
With 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
www.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)
Everything 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,
As most of you are aware, I’m on a very steep learning curve out here in Bulgaria, trying to master the language, the culture and learn about growing my own food and keeping my own chickens…this along with renovating our small farmhouse and looking after my three dogs and the little stray cat that adopted us.
All this means doing an awful lot of reading, which I don’t object to at all … in fact sat with a cup of coffee in front of the fire, it is probably one of my favourite pastimes, but there is sooo much information out there and much of it contradicts one article to the next.
So when I came across this little gem “Chicken Hot Topics” by Jessica Lane, I was not only delighted but also a little relieved that I was not the only one that had been through this sifting process of information thingy and also grateful that she had decided to put pen to paper about what she had found.
It is not a great tome of a book, I guess I read it in about a couple of sittings, but it is one that you could have there up on your shelf and dip into as and when you feel the need…which for me (especially in the early days) will be frequent. It is well written, simple to comprehend and whilst it doesn’t cover every aspect that could possibly occur (or we would be here all day) it addresses the main issues and points you in the right direction to investigate each subject in more detail should you so wish.
Being someone that enjoys humour, in both my writing and in others, I was particularly drawn to the snippets at the end of each chapter called Fun Farmer Facts and Husbandry Hints, my head is full of useless information and these added beautifully to it … I was just a little disappointed more wasn’t made of this feature with maybe an illustrated cartoon or two (but that is just a personal thing).
As a complete beginner it was refreshing to find all my concerns, plus some I hadn’t even thought of yet, addressed in one place, giving me ideas for coop design and even for the type of plants I would include around it…herbals for chickens who’d have thunk it 🙂
My own chickens arrive in May / June this year, I have chosen Brahmas as they are both good for egg production and for meat and they are being bred for me by my friend in the next village so I’ve even met their parents! I am sure they will be equally grateful to Jessica for pulling all of this info together as I am.
If you too would like to benefit from her knowledge – you can get your copy here – light the fire, shut out the weather and enjoy.
Chicken Hot topics
The mysteries of Bulgaria continue to flummox us the deeper we delve…or rather the longer we stay here the more we learn and the more we love it (despite itself)!
Why the strange title you may think, well its a long story, but I’ll keep it brief. I had been having trouble sleeping, like someone was sitting on my chest (and no it wasn’t Dan or any of the animals) or as if I had really bad indigestion. This went on for several days and despite the instinct (when it comes to the dogs) to google the symptoms, I decided I would be more sane if I just listened to my body and gave it time.
Then sat on the steps outside I suddenly lost all feeling in my last two fingers on my right hand and that raised a flag in my mind so politely asked Dan if he could run me to hospital. Well politely might not have come into it…and run might have been more like – drive like a mad man in the ice while I try to keep calm in the passenger seat (note to self, an ambulance may be slower but in the long run….)
Anyway A&E here should be renamed A&WSCBA (When Someone Can Be A****) and queuing is not a word that is recognised in any language – so I pushed to the front (as you do … no you really do, its almost a sin not to) and once in the room they stripped me half naked, attached me to an ECG machine…whilst half of Bulgaria wandered through getting routine medical advice and a good look at my boobs!
They took my blood pressure, my pulse, listened to my breathing then gave me an injection in my butt and one in my arm… what these were is anyone’s guess as none of the 4 people in the room (or the passing visitors) spoke a word of English, but as I am still here I’m guessing they were more for show than actual function.
I also walked away with a prescription – which it turns out were anti-psychotic / anti-depressants… if anyone had seen me when I discovered this, please note the tears were laughter… I am probably the happiest I have ever been in my life, no not everything is perfect, but then that would be boring, but I’m certainly not depressed…psychotic on the other hand Dan thought they may have a point, so I now have a drawer full of happy pills – enough to keep even Eeyore smiling.
Which is why I come to the title of my waffles – I had an occasion to actually take one of these pills more out of curiosity than anything and what a day that was! As you know we have a new member of the family called Shelby and he’s a puppy, but up until this day he had been a pretty good, cheeky, mischievous little soul – this day he turned into the devil incarnate.
He ripped the curtain of its brackets and into shreds, he chewed my dustpan and brush, tipped his water bucket over and threw the now nearly empty bucket around the kitchen, removed the handle from a new pot of paint, removed and hid all the tops of the solar lamps in the garden, ripped the zip off two of our coats, chewed Dan’s crocs until they were no longer recognisable and chased the cat, knocking a glass off the outside sink which duly shattered on impact.
How much destruction can one dog do in a day…well you have your answer and I’m sure I’ve forgotten some bits…all I can say is he was lucky I had happy pills and equally lucky that they work!
Until next time…
PS: The ECG was clear, BP normal…just a chest infection I’m guessing as it has now cleared one week on 🙂
1) Lose Weight
2) Save Money
3) Eat Healthier
4) Give up Smoking
5) Give up Alcohol
How many of us actually do what we say we’re going to do and how many of us just jump on the wagon with everyone else, not even sure if it is right for us…well I’ve challenged tradition this year!!
There’s a good reason for that – I’ve already dropped two dress sizes just renovating the house, I’ve moved out to Bulgaria so I can save some money (that’s working to a point), I gave up smoking six years ago and have absolutely no intention of giving up alcohol, that would just make me even more unbearable to live with than I am now!
So this year my resolutions are more like goals:-
1) Plan and plant my garden
2) Buy Chickens
3) Eat only my own vegetables for the year
4) Share the ups and downs with you guys
Its number three I’m worried about – we could be on a chicken and egg diet by June…but then again anyone that has watched my first video of the garden will know I have a fair few hurdles to climb just to get passed number one.
I’m going to be stepping out of my comfort zone too as I launch my new website Garden2Plate where you can follow my progress, offer advice (I’m going to need plenty) and share your recipe ideas for what I dig up out of my field. There will be lots of videos and hopefully lots of interaction and laughter along the way.
I ticked a lot of boxes in 2014, which is going to make it hard to beat, but I’m a girl who likes a challenge…so Happy New Year everybody…bring it on! 🙂
Christmas here is rather understated and that is what is so wonderful about it – there was a small xmas market in Veliko Tarnovo, which we visited and there were lights across the town, but the shops aren’t heaving and people aren’t shaking collection tins in your face and there isn’t even a hint of Slade or Wizard blaring out of the stores.
That also includes the ex-pats here – we have three Russians in the village, a part time Scotswoman and another English lady and we are all invited for Christmas dinner together…so we are breaking with our tradition of drawing the curtains and shutting ourselves away for the day and attempting to be sociable…I’m actually really looking forward to it – plus Helena is a brilliant cook!!
We also took part in a Secret Santa in the village so will exchange these gifts on the day too…all in all so far this is shaping up to be the best xmas ever.
PS if you go over to my facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/turningsimpledifficult you will get to see my first video of the outside of our house (while it is still a mess) – enjoy!
No that is not a spelling mistake – it has been one of those moments over here when you just have to keep focused on why you are here in the first place and just how lucky you are to have all that you have!! This picture epitomises why I am doing this – I lived this life as a child and would like it back and living here allows me to have enough land and the climate to make it happen, not to mention the availability of a lot of very cheap and nice wine of which I have plenty…or at least that’s what I started off with…
There are many positives about living in Bulgaria in fact way too many to list and they far outweigh the negatives, but sometimes you just want to scream and throw things…this has been one of those times, but as I generally don’t scream and however much I’d love to throw things, I just can’t help thinking of the consequences and the cost of the thing I’m throwing or about to hit…so I drink wine…
Reasons for the negativity…silly things really – like the quality of stuff you buy, the intelligence of the mice, the Bulgarian ‘good enough’ attitude and their wonderfully accurate weather forecasts.
Lets start with the mice – we have mice, everyone here has mice in their lofts and in their walls, we are not alone so you would think they would have some decent methods for dispatching of said rodents, and to be fair they do have a variety of choices – snap traps, sticky traps, cages, poison…cats. We have a cat and she is so tiny (and young) that most of the mice and baby rats here just laugh and point when she starts stalking them – to the point of eating her food out of her bowl while she sleeps…but she got her own back last week and caught her first one! There was nobody more delighted than me…well maybe Cookie the cat…but we can’t rely on her clearing the house as one week on and this was the one and only catch…
Poison we can’t use due to said Cookie monster, sticky traps are just cruel so we started with snap traps and the first night caught one, I was nearly as excited as the cat…but I am starting to think he was just a sacrificial mouse, one sent to check out how the new contraption, the humans had provided them with, worked as now they have figured out how to get into the trap remove the bait and not trigger the death snap, so we bought some cages and as advised by our neighbours duly baited them with pieces of apple. Once again the first night we caught a baby rat and the second night a mouse – we were on a roll so bought a couple more cages and baited them up…it became abundantly clear that they had had enough of apple and wanted something more interesting so I smeared the apple with sticky hazlenut and chocolate spread and pushed cat biscuits into said chocolate…I’d have got inside the trap myself if I could it smelt so good.
The mice appeared to think the same and as I lay in bed I heard one scurrying about and fell asleep sound in the knowledge that by morning he would be safely tucked up in my cage…oh how wrong I was! Oh yes he liked the chocolate and cat biscuits, so much so in fact that he had got in the cage removed the biscuits and licked off all the chocolate and then just simply left the cage…it had not gone off, which to me seemed impossible as you so much as breathe on these things and they spring shut.
Suffice to say we have now declared war with the rodents in our house and have thought of more and more ingenious / sneaky ways of getting them to trigger the traps, including removing the bait from the hook and placing bait behind it so they brush the hook and BANG they’re trapped….only trouble is the little mice we haven’t trapped yet appear to be able to fit through the bars so just go in for a feed and then wriggle out…this is just the beginning – we will continue the quest to free mankind from insulation eating, pipe and wire chewing beasties…or possibly drive ourselves mad in the process or just continue to feed the family we are keeping warm over winter whilst partaking of plenty of vino.
Now lets take a look at the quality of the stuff you buy – yes things are cheap and there is always a more expensive option, but there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme nor reason as to which is the better product, price is definitely not a reliable indicator.
We bought a toilet and cistern package from a large National chain of DIY stores – it was on offer and we were delighted – obviously because of the other renovations we are doing it has sat for a number of weeks before we finally got around to putting it together. Now the positives here are that unlike in the UK the cistern comes with all its internal workings and the pan comes with a seat so you buy the package and have everything required to put it together…the negative part being that when you eventually come to put it together you find that the holes in the pan are 14cm apart whilst the holes in the cistern are 16cm apart….another bottle of wine was just opened!
We of course went back to said shop, but without original packaging (thrown away weeks ago so we had room to store it) and without the receipt (similar issue) it was a lost cause….to a point I understand this, but what I don’t understand is that when I try to explain my problem the response I got was “all holes are 16cm” – well they clearly aren’t, but do you think we could find another toilet in the whole of the shop to prove us right….of course not. What we did find though was a shop selling some more tasty, cheap wine …
You have probably all seen the picture of the Mondeo water pipe that we installed into our central heating system as after three separate compression joints failed to actually work we resorted to pipe and hoseclips…so far no issues. We have also put together a large floor frame upstairs and a celing frame to match to house the insulation and to attach the plasterboard to…which obviously required a high volume of screws (unless you are Bulgarian then you use 12 inch nails) – unlike the UK where you can just buy a box of screws, here you buy them singly or by weight….and imagine the frustration after watching the woman behind the counter count out 300 of one size and 200 of another, only to get home and find that approx 250 of them are bent … now where did I put that decanter…but we managed and the bedroom is coming on a treat!
So you can see why we have a little whinge now and again and why that leads inevitably to rather a lot of wine…and I haven’t even mentioned the radiators that are some white, some off white and the astonished look on the sales guy’s face when you say you want them all the same colour…or the fact that we are constantly expecting snow that never materialises or the infuriating inability of people (not all of course) to properly care for and give food and shelter to their animals…on the plus side of this it means we have now filled the enormous hole left by Diesel with a little devil dog called Shelby. He is the cutest, cleverest and most energetic dog ever invented – two days in and we’re shattered while he is just waiting for the next adventure!! Seriously though he is fab and settling in really quickly so good can come out of bad and inevitably does out here…usually after a glass or two of red!!
Whinge over – onto the wine – well it is xmas …. nearly 🙂
I returned to being a five year old again this last week as the first snowfall hit our village – we had around 10 inches in total, some areas had more and all they predicted was snow flurries…I’d hate to see it when they predict a blizzard!! Well it made the house and garden look lovely for a while as it covered up all the crap we have lying around, but also broke a couple of trees at the bottom of our field, which still need to be cleared up properly – they were plum trees of which I have lots so no big loss, just I probably wouldn’t have chosed those ones to take down. The dogs (especially Kia) loved every minute of it – jumping through it, rolling in it and chasing snowballs, generally being a puppy again (even though she has just turned three) – after the sadness of losing Diesel it was nice to see the others having so much fun.
Oh and then there is Barney – remember him, the little bedraggled, matted and emaciated fellow that turned up on our doorstep – well he has had all his vaccinations, been castrated, transported over to the UK and is now on trial with his very own family. I am so pleased I was able to do a little to help this lovely little guy and cannot thank Twitchy Noses enough for doing the rest…now its up to Barney and I have every confidence in him settling in just fine.
As you know we are still living out of boxes and bin bags here and until our rooms upstairs are finished this will continue to be the case and that is just fine until you get invited to a Halloween party (costume required) and having spent all the run up to it running backwards and forwards to vets surgeries (there’s nothing like the loss of a pet to make you completely paranoid about the ones you have left) giving yourself one hour to get bathed and dressed…as what?
I did wrestle with the idea of going as a pumpkin as I had a particularly nice orange skirt that I wanted to wear – an orange “kangaroo poo” t-shirt – and some sort of mop on my head. I figured nobody would know what I was supposed to be so canned that! My neighbour had already mentioned she was going as a ghost so that ruled out throwing a sheet over my head (and once I saw her effort I could never have competed anyway) so in the end I opted to go as a witch – I got to wear my orange skirt (which incidentally I have not been able to wear for some time due to excess baggage in the tummy and thigh area (for that read – being too fat)) so I was extrememly happy about that. I put a long flowing black thing over it to represent a kind of cape and then shoved a funnel inside a beanie hat to great effect (even if I say so myself).
What I wasn’t expecting was the absolutely incredible effort that Olia and Vlodia had gone to in all aspects of the evening. They had dressed their house brilliantly with cobwebs, spiders, balloons, rats and mice. They had created spooky food – severed fingers (sausages and nuts), worm ridden sausages (black spaghetti wound through them), eyeballs, worm infested pudding, rat infested cheeseboard.
Christine brought over games to play, which took me back to my childhood as we dunked for apples then snuffled for chocolate treats in a tray of flour – the picutres speak for themselves, the costumes were fantastic, the food and decorations amazing and the company just perfect.
The evening was rounded off by watching The Addams Family – amazed I’d never seen it, but it was just the right amount of gruesome comedy to finish on – all this washed down with a fair amount of wine and vodka and a short walk (stagger) back to my own house.
And to make things even better this week – Dan set off back home yesterday – I can’t wait to see him, it has not been the easiest of times since he left, but I hope that things return to normal once he’s back!!