Don’t let the B*stards grind you down!

As you know we ended up with four houses in Bulgaria  – this is a little about how that happened!

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Like our friends Andy & Marie who run The Good Life Bulgaria blog we bought our first house off ebay, basically because it was cheap and I fell in love with it (see pic above). We flew out to bulgaria for our first visit and when we saw it in real life we were even more smitten – right on the edge of the village and our neighbour ‘Nidelka’ and others in the village made us feel so welcome. There was plenty of work to do but our dream was taking shape!

During our visit we heard of another house in the same village for next to nothing…it would have been rude not to and it would have given Dan somewhere to put his cars (we have lots of cars) – so we bought that too (see pic below) – not the best picture but it was so overgrown it was the best we could do… 🙂

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Our thoughts were that we would spend the 9 months of spring / summer / autumn farming the land and enjoying village life but in winter we (more me actually) would like a mountain hideaway where I could get away from it all – I’m a bit of a secret hermit and enjoy the isolation for small amounts of time anyway 🙂 So on returning to the UK I set about finding us our mountain house…this is what I found and what we bought…completely off grid with a view that you couldn’t buy…bliss (see pic below)

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We set to putting in a gravity feed water system and our good friend at Sewage Solutions put in a septic tank for us – all we needed was to make it warm and comfy…our winter hideaway was taking shape. I transported over a log burning sauna heater and a load of log lap wood to build a cabin (unbelievably cheaper in the UK) and a load of tools to do the work – we were so excited! And this is where it all started to go a bit wrong….

When we returned, all our tools had gone – the house is about 2km from the nearest road and they took everything except half a cement mixer and a couple of log burners (obviously too heavy)! This clearly wasn’t meant to happen, but things got worse, when we visited our village house all our mature fruit trees in our orchard had been cut down to stumps.

The tools were a hard lesson but we could at least understand the motive, our beautiful trees were something different, it felt personal even though there was no reason for it to be, but more than that it felt utterly pointless. I sat on the steps of my wonderful house and sobbed .. someone had just ripped my magic carpet out from beneath my feet.

If I’m honest, I never thought I’d be back…but in the words of Janet Street Porter – “Don’t let the Bastards grind you down” – so I didn’t, but we did decide to start again in another area (hence house number 4). And this time we did things differently, this time we travelled the country, viewed around 30 properties of all sorts of prices until we settled on our future home, we took nothing to the house, left nothing in it (therefore nothing to steal) so when we arrive in April we will be starting from scratch and we could not be more excited, we have so many plans and we will share our successes and mistakes (please let them be few) on here so that friends (old and new) can share in our journey to the simple life! This is our future home (pic below)

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The Planning

The last five years have all been about planning – getting the right house, in the right location, for the right price, deciding what we’ll need to:

1. Renovate the house

2. Survive without income for a period of time

3. Integrate into the village life

4. Create an income for when we do need it

And of course building a pot of gold to take to the end of our rainbow – easier said than done sometimes!

I’ve read lots of forums and blogs and facebook posts about if you are a capitalist and work in the city then the only way you think is “how much things cost”, well this may be true to an extent but there is a limit to what you can do these day without a little bit of paper in your pocket.

We intend to do most things ourselves so we have been reading up on “how to rewire a house”, “installing solar power”, “building a natural pool”, plumbing, building, plastering all sorts of useful skills that we may or may not be successful at but we sure will give it a go! We will however need help and hardware at some point and that will require some cash…there’s a limit to what you can barter, even in Bulgaria.

Also we plan to be a self sustainable as possible but there are certain things that we cannot expect to provide for ourselves, at least not instantly anyway (we have a lot of learning to do).

Vegetables – oh yes we will grow our own, but they are not instantly available so we will need to buy or barter for a time.

Fruit – this is instant as we have mature fruit trees (apple, sweet cherry, plum, apricot, peach and nut) in the garden and grape vines (red and white) so this means alcohol is not a problem either  (damson and elderberry wine will be brought from the UK to keep us going our first year)

Meat – we’ll start with chickens (for eggs and meat) but if we kill one a week we’ll soon run out of eggs … we need to breed and rear some more (this again is not instant) – later in our adventure we may expand to include a couple of goats too 🙂

Toiletries – we will need to buy.

Other – sugar, flour, cheese (until we get goats), tea, coffee, milk etc all need to be bought

So you see unless we plan to live in the woods in a cabin build from the the trees around us and hunt for a living (and smell a bit), we are going to need some money to survive – probably more the first year than subsequent years.

Right so we have set ourselves a budget to renovate our house, doing much of the work ourselves – all the high level stuff we’ll have to pay for though as neither of us are good with heights! We have estimated what it will cost to survive the first year having to buy most of our food from shops (heaven forbid) and pay for registering cars, ourselves etc etc etc

We have (well I have) started to learn Bulgarian “I learn it from a booook” a la Fawlty Towers star Manuel…I’m not sure it will translate into relevant when I’m there on the ground but at least it has given me a grounding. This should help us integrate into the community but it is only part of it – being part of their traditions, part of their community, helping and being helped, taking time to talk (or wave arms around)…all this will help.

And now we come to how to earn an income….so many ideas, so much preparation…I think this needs a whole blog of its own, I’ve got 4.5 months to make the right choice!

The great thing is I know we are going to make mistakes, some big some small and I am inviting you guys to witness these along the way – for goodness sake we have already made plenty!!

 

 

TSD – The Idea

“I want a house in France” – this had been my mantra for many years, but I never seemed to have enough money to make it happen…it felt like the French were deliberately moving house prices just out of my reach on purpose, I can almost hear them saying “L’ordinateur dit NON” 🙂

During one of my many internet house searches I drifted a little outside of France and found myself in Sicily (virtually you understand) and stumbled on a wonderful little mountain village called Cianciana and bought a house there, since this day I have never looked back!

I now own this house and four houses in Bulgaria…FOUR I hear you say, well yes this was not my intention, it just kind of happened and I guess it is a lesson to those thinking of buying abroad. Curb your enthusiasm, visit the country first and research your area before you buy.

I have no regrets I love all of my four houses and the villages where they are, but one is just that little more suitable for my plans than the others, so that is where we are moving to….in April 2014.

I want the simple life and it has taken nearly five years planning to finally see that light glinting at the end of the tunnel…and you wondered why I called this blog ‘turning simple difficult’ – all will be revealed.