Archive for the ‘The Dogs’ Category

I know I was only away for four days and I had a great time in Turkey with Di, but I have to confess that when it was time to return home I felt just a little excited…I do love coming back here.  I had also left three people and Gina in charge and thought perhaps it was time to get back and relieve them of their duties.

Before I headed down to Turkey, a couple from Denmark ( Australia) came to stay.  Amanda and Di walk together in a walking group in Australia and so when Di was talking about coming to visit me, Amanda and her husband Stuart thought that Bulgaria sounded like somewhere worth visiting as well, so along they came.

They are terrific and it was a pleasure having them here.

Their start in BG wasn’t that great.  They came from Istanbul with a bus company called Metro, and even though the company says on their website that they come to Yambol, they don’t,  and have a very bad habit of dropping people off in the middle of bugger all…precisely what they did to Stu and Amanda.  I arranged to pick them up from Yambol but when Stu rang, they were clearly NOT in Yambol and had been dropped in a village called Zimnitsa, about 20 Ks from where they should have been. I headed out there and found two waifs looking slightly shell shocked standing in the middle of a place they probably had never thought they would visit. I bundled them into the car and so began a very enjoyable few days leading up to my departure to meet Di.

These two were here for some rest and recreation, a good holiday, so you could have knocked me over with a feather when, on their first morning with me Amanda asked if she could go and dig up the rest of my potatoes…” don’t be ridiculous’ I cried ‘you’re here for a holiday’.  But there was no stopping her, She insisted that she really wanted to spend time in the garden and who was I to refuse her.  She was down there for ages and, with some help from Stu, got another great patch of my spuds up, which was a terrific relief for me as I was already falling behind with everything that needed doing around the place.

The weather was incredibly hot and we had many a pleasant evening sitting in my fairy light garden enjoying a few cold bevies and some fabulous fresh food from my vegetable patch. And,of course, they won the heart of the resident tyrant (Gina, not me) and she managed to con many a walk out of them as well, especially Amanda.

I was taking them down the Sozopol for a day, so with Colin in tow, the three of us headed out for a lovely day.  The weather was still blistering hot and the place looked gorgeous. We had a beaut day of walking, looking, good food and sights like this

We were sitting in a great little restaurant overlooking the water on a stunningly beautiful day when this cruised past…fabulous.

When I was heading down the meet Di in Istanbul, Stuart and Amanda were moving off to tour through Bulgaria, intending to come back for a few days before Di & I headed off to France.  I was going to put Gina in the kennels for the days I was away…well, they liked it so much that they asked if they could stay in the house while I was gone and were perfectly happy to look after the old girl in my absence. I was very pleased.  It meant Gina wouldn’t be uprooted twice ( she was going to the kennels while I was in France) and I knew she’d be more settled and less neurotic at home with strangers than in kennels with strangers.  Don’t forget, in 2008 I put her in the kennels for 6 months and didn’t come back for two years…she gets very suspicious when I drive anywhere near the kennels these days.

Anyway, I did the Istanbul run and Di and I came back to Miladinovtsi to a very happy dog and equally happy house guests.  We had a couple of days before heading off to the other side of Europe. We took Stu and Amanda to Plovdiv, their starting point for an eight day walk through the Rhodope  mountains, and said our goodbyes there

Di & I headed back to Miladinovtsi to prepare for our departure to France.  We didn’t have a lot planned and figured a nice, easy restful time before embarking on a cross Europe journey would be good, but the best laid plans…

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Not me !!!   Baba marta!!…

Crikey, she really is grumpy.  We had screaming gales with snow on Sunday night and last night the wind howled like a Banshee all night.  And because my house is so high and has so many corners, the wind seems to scream around every one, so it can be quite disconcerting lying in bed listening to it.  Last night it was -10 degrees, the coldest night I think we’ve had all winter… even though it’s now Spring.

And did I say the wind was cold the other day ??? I clearly had no idea what I was talking about. I just went out to get some coal and kindling. I was rugged up to the nines including having a big thick pair of gloves on and by the time I got back inside the house, about 10 minutes, my hands were completely frozen and numb.   That is cold !!  Gina has already been informed that there will be NO walk today.

There is good news from all this though. Firstly, Baba Marta’s great gales are clearly blowing the last vestiges of winter away. Even though the wind is still screaming down from Siberia, the place is bathed in sunshine today and if you can find anywhere out of the wind, it’s really quite warm.

The forecast from here on in is getting better and better,  Days with temperatures in the mid teens and nights around the 5-6 degree mark.  This means that very soon I can stop lighting the fire and get the house cleaned properly.  I love a wood fire, but holy mother of god they are dirty bloody things.  The amount of grey dust I clean up everyday around the living room and kitchen is unbelievable.  I want to wash all the walls down, but no point while the fire is still on every night.

But with good weather around the corner, I’m looking forward to getting to work again..

Secondly, I seem to be winning the battle to seal this enormous house of mine from the elements.  I have spent years replacing windows that have blown open and smashed during big wind storms. And during the big gales I also used to have little gales blowing in through all the gaps in the windows and the house itself.  I couldn’t even begin to count the hours I’ve spent wandering around this house armed with a tube of selastic, nails and various other bits and pieces for repairing windows and closing gaps.  I seem to be succeeding. The rendering of the house has certainly reduced the gaps in the brick work and the icy fingers of winter that used into sneak in through the windows have been reduced enormously following all the work I’ve done on them.

Today is Women’s Day here in Bulgaria and I’m supposed to be up at the bar with all the local ladies having another knees up. Sadly, I’m sitting at home writing this having pinched a nerve in my neck.  I’ve done this before and it seems to flare up about twice a year.  I just wake up and my hands and arms are numb. !!  Not a great experience, and even though I’m saying ‘numb’ the pain is excruciating. I took myself off the Yambol yesterday and had a massage and though things are markedly better today, I’m still in discomfort and figured that drinking and dancing probably wasn’t a smart thing for me to be doing, especially as the masseuse told me to go home and do nothing.

I took Gina with me for her yearly top up for rabies, parvo and all the other things she’s protected from.  It took me a while to drag her out of bed but once she was in the car, she was as happy as a sandman.  She loves a day out.  Now, Gina and I have had a pretty good ‘pasture’ this winter. I’ve certainly plumped up a little and was concerned that perhaps Gina was a wee bit ‘debel’ (fat) as well.  I asked Yanko yesterday if it was diet time for her, but he said No, that she is ‘perfect’ and I should leave her be.  He reminded me of the starved dog that he first met, around the same time as I met her, and told me she’s fine…though she wouldn’t want to get any plumper.

I did ask about the nipping incident. He told me she’s protecting me, this is what my dog should do.  I did mention that I had guests coming, but he thinks that because she’s living inside with me over winter, that she possibly perceives people who come here as a threat to me, especially if they are behaving in a loud fashion, which Donna was the day Gina nipped. I’ve already decided that she’s back out side as soon as the weather warms up, so I’m pretty confident there won’t be any problems with her. And as I’m sitting here writing this while she is flea-ing my leg, I couldn’t imagine her hurting anyone.

Because it’s really cold and I not up to doing a lot, I’m making yoghurt again.  My first attempt was pretty successful, though I only had fat reduced milk and it was a bit runny. So today, there’s no poncing around with stupid weak milk..I got me two litres straight from the cow.  It’s thick and rich and gorgeous and overnight it formed a 2 in slab of cream on the top.  At the moment it’s on the stove top cooling down before I put the culture in.  I foresee really nice thick yoghurt this time…I hope, anyway.

I’m also making bread, but this time without the machine.  I’ve been experimenting for a while now, making different things like bread rolls and pizza dough.

There’s a couple that I’ve become friends with, Mike & Mandy, who come here for holidays. He’s a baker and has convinced me that hand made bread is better.  So today I’m starting completely from scratch and if it works, the bread machine can go.  If it doesn’t, perhaps Gina will get a nice brick to eat with her dinner tonight and the machine will live to cook another day.  🙂

next mission…Cheese !!  I’m already on the internet finding out how.  I have no idea, so this could be fun…or not, as the case may be.

Some time later: Someone told me cheese was really easy to make. Hmmmm… I’m looking at these instructions and my brain is turning to mush.  I’m going to leave you now and direct all my brain power to the ‘art’ of making cheese.


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As I gazed out the window this morning – I’m snowed in, so doing quite a bit of that – I couldn’t help but notice a vehicle that was sliding it’s way up the road.  Actually, it wasn’t the masses of snow or the sliding car that  caught my attention, it was the sheer numbers of people in it. !

The car itself was absolutely packed to the gunnels and to top it off, there were four people sitting in the boot, crammed in like sardines, lid up, legs hanging over the back and all of them having a merry old time.  Let’s not forget that the road is so dangerously slippery just now and it was also snowing quite heavily as, with engine roaring, they slid off up the road. Heaven help them if someone had come around the corner in the opposite direction.

And I know I shouldn’t say it, but it was hilarious to see. They just didn’t have a care in the world and were as happy as anyone could be.

I was relating the story to Mitko later on and he told me they were on their way to the cemetery because it’s one year since their mother died. I commented that perhaps they all had a wish to join her…  🙂

I desperately wanted a pic, but couldn’t lay my hands on my long range lens…by the time I found it, they had slid around the corner…damn and blast.  I must start leaving the camera and all its bits on the kitchen table. I often look out and see bizarre things happening in the streets below me and as they can’t see me, it really is a chance for good shots. I just need to get more organised.

This isn’t the first time the guys that own and drive this particular car have stopped me in my tracks. They obviously have a gas conversion on the vehicle and  a couple of weeks ago, I was walking up to the village centre when I came across one of them doing some repairs to it.  He’d pulled the tank out of the car and was sitting on the ground doing said ‘repairs’ ….mainly with a hammer !!

They just make the best of what they have I think and do the best they can with what they have and all the time they appear to be pretty happy and relaxed about it all.

And what else am I doing to amuse myself while the snow falls ?  Besides making the living room and kitchen lovely and warm for myself and Gina, I’m having my first ever go at making my own yoghurt.  I never realised how easy it is. Well, in saying that, the technicalities appear simple but I won’t know for another 6-7 hours if it’s actually working.  I may just end up with a large dish of sour milk, which Gina will love…so nothing wasted.

And Gina is still insisting on her daily walk.  We’ve just got back and again the snow was falling and the air was bracing, but I actually love it.  I feel great when I get home. There’s been a very nasty flu doing the rounds of the village and one of the women reckons I haven’t got it because I go for a walk in the freezing cold every day. I doubt that’s a correct medical opinion, but I’ve certainly managed to avoid it…so far.

Slightly worrying occurrence last night…Hristina’s sister Donna has been here many times and yesterday she popped in to see if I wanted to buy some Martinitsa’s…they’re the red and white wristlets that people here give on March first. You wear them and when you see your first stork, you hang them on a tree or place them under a stone. In winter when there’s no leaves on the trees, you can see loads of them from previous years hanging on the branches.  Anyway, Donna came up the stairs and Gina and I were waiting for her at the top.  As she walked past Gina, madam took a sly little nip at her backside !!  Fortunately, she only made contact with Donna’s very thick coat, but I was stunned & Donna was frightened because she thought ( and possibly, rightly so) that Gina was going to bite her. I called out ‘Gina !!!’ and she immediately let go and sat there looking deeply ashamed, but none the less, this is not something I want to see happening.   I’m worried that it might be a possession thing with me…she doesn’t want anyone coming here…but I have guests coming and if needs be, she will be banished to the dog house whenever I have people here.  She’s strong and has very big teeth…I don’t want any problems.

And yet, as I look at her here, fast asleep on her luxurious bed with her best ‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’ face, it seems hard to believe that she would do such a thing.

I wont lie, she has bitten someone.  When she was having her pups one of them died and she was distraught.  I very carefully took the dead puppy away, but she was not happy about it and she even growled at me.  I had people staying downstairs at that stage and I told them that under no circumstance were they to go into the garage because Gina was beside herself and I couldn’t guarantee how she would react to people going in there.  Unfortunately, the woman who used to breed dogs, thought she knew best and went into the garage as soon as I turned my back.  I was at the front of the house burying the puppy when I heard a god awful scream and a terrible commotion ….Sure enough, Gina had sunk her large teeth into the woman’s calf.  I felt terrible that it had happened, but I had been very clear with my instructions.  I always advise people to approach her gently and not to suddenly lunge at her…she doesn’t like that at all.  A hangover from her beatings, I’m sure, so she does need a little understanding, but she’s been so good since I came back that she really caught me off guard yesterday….something to watch for I guess. And she was fantastic with the guests I had last year, so maybe she was just having a bad day.

She’s still my girl and I love her.

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Chilly Air, Chilly Dog

And so the weather has taken a turn for the dreary. After all that superb weather, there’s been a little snow and quite a lot of rain.

Gina has made another move, this time from the bathroom to the living room.  And why has she done this?  Well, I think it’s because she’s cold…and before you say ‘don’t be ridiculous, she’s a dog’, I do have a reason for thinking this…besides the fact that she has been shivering since the weather turned cold again.

Let me tell you a little story…

When Mia died it was late December and the weather was very cold.  As you know, Gina was badly affected by the death of her daughter and one of the things that happened was that she started to mault.  This concerned me a little because she was losing that very thick woolly hair that Karakachans have under their normal coarse hair during the colder months, and it was coming out in great big handfuls.  I did mention it to Yanko, the vet, and he said that if she was living inside it really wasn’t a problem because she would be warm there.  Of course, at that stage she wasn’t living inside…she hadn’t made the move and was still in the kennel.

Anyway, as you know, she did move inside so I wasn’t as concerned.

This house is huge, so I’m only warming the areas that I am living in and the downstairs gets really cold during winter. One day I found Gina sitting down there in the corridor (I have no idea why she was just sitting there) and she was shivering…a lot.  But she was by this time, living inside, so I shooed her up the stairs into the nice warm kitchen.

I don’t warm my bedroom as I have an electric blanket…warm bed, warm me.  I put Gina’s bed in my bedroom and she was perfectly happy there while the temperatures were a little warmer, but when the weather chilled off, she moved to the next warmest room, the bathroom, which I keep heated. She couldn’t always get in there though because I keep the door closed so as not to waste heat, so she’s moved into the living room, which has a lovely fire going from about 3pm onwards and the room stays warm overnight.

Could she be any more comfortable…and happy ?  I don’t think so…




And do I care if she is taking up half the living room with her luxury bed and rather plump figure ? Not at all. By the time my guests start coming, the weather will be warmer and she’ll probably move back outside…or I may kick her out if she becomes a bloody nuisance.

For now, she’s happy, I’m happy and we’re both warm and comfortable.

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After all the warnings I got about what a terrible winter this was going to be, we start the month of February bathed in sunshine.  OK, the nights and early mornings have been mighty cold…minus 7, minus 9 etc but the days are just glorious.  The air is still cold enough to keep a little snow unmelted on the ground and there’s no way you could dig that ground just now, as it’s as hard as nails, but it certainly hasn’t been a bitter winter by any means ….so far. And the forecast for the next fortnight is ‘fine’ with temperatures in the early to mid teens, and Spring is just 4 weeks away.  Fingers crossed there isn’t a nasty (late) surprise around the corner.

Even Gina has actually got out of her bed voluntarily and let herself out of the house to soak up a few warm rays.  She may love the snow, but she also gets great pleasure out of baking her old saggy tummy in the warm sun.

And this weather really fills me with energy and verve, so rather than wait until March to start my cleaning blitz, I kicked off over the weekend. I’ve started tearing the house apart cleaning. I’ve taken down all 75 curtains, for that is how many there are in my house of windows, and they’re with the local laundry becoming beautiful and clean, and I’ve got a young local fella coming here tomorrow to start cleaning the windows.  I’ve got walls to wash and walls to paint before my first guest arrives in late March…

From then on in, at least through April and May, I’m going to have to juggle guests and gardening.  I’m going for a much bigger vegetable garden this year and have had the very back area of the yard prepared for that. I also have to get lawn and fruit trees planted in the areas closer to the house, so holes to dig and ground to prepare.

What was that ?? Why didn’t I do this when I was 35 instead of 55  (nearly 56)??  Good question, and one I ask myself every day after a hard days work when I can hardly stand up straight…but  hey, it’s better than being dead.

So I shall continue to put myself under intense strain, at least while I still can or until something goes ‘POP’  🙂

And then, when I’ve done all this, what shall I do ?? I have to admit to a certain restlessness in my soul again.

Perhaps it’s  time to look for another project…perhaps something a little smaller.

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soft touch

I figured with guests coming I had to get Gina off the furniture.  Not a good look for the guests to find my old tyrant languishing on the downstairs couch.

She started the process herself by recently deciding to sleep in my room again, which is where she used to sleep when I first got her back in 2007.  She would sleep in my room for a little while and then sometime during the night, move back downstairs.  I decided to encourage her to stay upstairs and she seemed quite happy to do that. She set herself up on the very thin mat next to my bed, and that’s where she’s been the last few nights. I did notice though that because she’s a wee bit creaky in the morning, not unlike myself,  when she slept on the hard floor she really was stiff and sore in the morning.

I decided to go to Yambol and see if I could find a slab of foam rubber for her to sleep on. I called into the vets to see if they could point me in the right direction…Did they see me coming ? can they read me like a book ? Am I a bit of a soft touch ? Oh yes indeedy. I went in for a slab of foam and came out with this :

It wasn’t very expensive…this is Bulgaria and it only cost  me about $60aud.  I could have had the Italian version for $350, but I declined on the grounds that she is, after all, only a dog.  The vets were joking that if she decided to move onto my bed, I could sleep in hers…..it’s certainly big enough !!!

And if you’re wondering what the words around the bed are, it says ‘Love’ and No, I didn’t choose the fabric but thought it was very sweet when I picked the bed up because, as strange as she can be, I do love her.

Does she love it ? What do you reckon…she’s hardly left it since I bought it home of Thursday.

There’s just one other small problem to sort. Those of you who have been with me since way back in 2005 will know that when Gina came to me and decided to sleep next to my bed in the old days the biggest problem was the fact that she snored like a bloke…she still does. It’s almost like having my husband back. (EEK)  You should hear her !!

But it’s also strangely comforting to wake during the night and hear her, when she’s not snoring and just breathing very quietly next to my bed.

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are just getting on with it… well, I’m getting on with it, Gina is sleeping and having a thoroughly lovely time.

There’s been a few rather dreary days …grey with fog, which I hate, though it has dawned bright and sunny this morning.  It may have been a little dreary but it’s been a good opportunity for me to try and get this damned website for the Bed & Breakfast sorted.  Tim has saved me again ( all hail Tim) and got the bones of it up for me, but I’m sitting here struggling to do the simple tasks that I have to complete.  Hmmm…

Because I’ve been sitting here for so many days and only moving to do simple things like clean out the fireplace and get wood in for the day or make a coffee, I was starting to feel just a little too sedentary, so yesterday I dragged the old girl out of her bed and we headed off for a day out in Yambol.  She  got off her bed, the couch (reluctantly) but as always, once in the car, she was as happy as a sandman. I took her to visit the vets, just to have her looked over and to check when she needed her injection top ups for rabies etc.  I may have lost her daughter, but all the vets said Gina looks great.  Yanko commented that people keep telling him if you sterilise a dog they get fat.  He said Gina clearly proves that wrong because she really does look great and make no mistake, she loves her food.  And madam just stood there in the surgery wagging her tail, the whole time I was there…she loves ’em all at the vets.  She’s a strange beast sometimes.

We had a lovely day out…she’s filled my car with hair and there’s dribble all down the back doors and windows, as she has her head hanging out all the way in and all the way home, but I really don’t care. She’s happy, I’m happy.

The weather continues to be very mild.  No more snow and not particularly cold day temperatures.  Nights still warrant a small fire, but the days have been mostly fine…except for the few days of Magla (fog).  My bulbs are all starting to poke their little green tips up from beneath the soil. I’m really hoping for a glorious display this year…I planted so many bulbs, tulips, daffodils, crocuses and lots of others who’s names I can’t remember, and I’ve just done the rounds of the garden and there’s loads coming up.

I adore Spring here…even if we get more really cold winter weather now, Spring is just so close now and it really is something to look forward to.  You know the place is going to burst into life and with any luck by mid summer, my garden will be glorious with bulbs first, then roses, vegetables, grape vines (with grapes) the trees in full bloom and fruit and everything looking just wonderful.

Speaking of wonderful, I’m going to extract myself from this desk and go take advantage of this wonderful day…time for the two old girls to go for their walk…but only one of them will be wee-ing and poo-ing around the countryside  🙂

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From hell to paradise…

The people one meets when out walking. I think I met Gina’s abuser.

Firstly, for those who don’t know, I’ll give you a potted history of my Gina.

In September 2007 when Ivan (my ex-builder) arrived at my house asking if I could help him with a dog, I didn’t know what to expect. He took me to a shed at the back of a house and there I saw one of the worst cases of animal abuse I’ve ever seen. A starving skeleton covered in sores and the most frightened eyes I’ve ever looked into. This was Gina. I asked Ivan what had happened to her and he told me that a shepherd in the village had her and he had gone to check to make sure she was OK and found her in this most appalling state. He took the dog from the man and asked if I could help feed her back to health, something I couldn’t refuse.

So, to the now…

Today, we were out having a lovely walk in the crisp winter air but, because of the icy roads, I made a few changes to our route. Gina, as always, was as happy as a sandman, sniffing everything and weeing everywhere and plunging her entire head into the snow (I still haven’t worked that one out). I heard the sounds of sheep bells and a few seconds later, a flock of very bedraggled and dirty looking sheep appeared around the corner. Gina stopped dead and sat down, looking apprehensive. Remember, she’s a Bulgarian shepherd dog (Karakachan) and normally she reacts well to sheep.

Then a man, who’s sheep these clearly were, came around the corner and she backed away and pressed herself very firmly to me. This is Gina, a dog not that keen on close physical contact, and yet here she was hard up against me, ears back and tail between her legs. He started shouting at me and pointing at Gina and saying she was his dog !! I replied, in Bulgarian, that no, she was Gina and she was my dog. He kept pointing at her and then pointing at himself…and then it dawned on me who he might be. Even though I wasn’t actually sure and was going on assumptions, albeit very strong ones, that he was the ‘one’ who had nearly killed Gina, I found myself getting a tad angry. He kept shouting and pointing so I walked up quite close to him, pointed at him, while giving my filthiest look and said in loud and very clear English “this dog will never ever go anywhere near your property again, not while there’s breath in my body you F*****g Pr***….now F*** off !!!!” He looked a little taken aback, to say the least, and I know he didn’t understand a word I said…but I think he might have got the message. I then stormed past him with my Gina firmly in hand.

I called into the bar on the way home to ask Mitko what he knew about this man. Dida and Mitko both said that he was crazy and was known for treating animals very badly, so I think my assumption about who he is was correct.

And Gina clearly remembered him…for all the wrong reasons.

Anyway, she’s with me now and boy, has she adjusted to the luxury lifestyle.

Remember I said that when Mia died, Gina moved into the house and has been a little difficult to extract ever since. Well, my old tyrant has taken it one step further. I went downstairs to check on her last night and things were very quiet indeed. When I turned on the light, I discovered why

Who’s a very sleepy (and comfortable) girl ?? Yes, she’s discovered the joy of soft furniture…

Then she saw the camera

There’s that look again…

God, she makes me laugh.

I’ve had a few emails asking after her and how she is. She’s so much better. Like me, she still has her little Mia moments. She came upstairs today and could clearly smell Mia. She did the rounds of the room and then left. And sometimes when I sit quietly with her, she makes her little whimpering sounds, but in general, she’s getting back to her old self..as I am. I said to a friend yesterday, that for the first time since Mia died I was actually feeling ‘properly’ happy again, if you can understand that. The ‘heavy’ feeling I’ve been experiencing has lifted…it’s good. I’ve got lots to do.

And I’ll talk about that later on…maybe tomorrow. For now, ciao

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So much for getting my blog up to date before the New Year clicked over.!! Join me now as I step into my time machine and go back to 2010 and finish up a couple of bits and pieces I’ve been trying to do since before Mia became so ill.

Ah yes indeed…..even before the first snows started to fall this winter, the pig killings got underway.

I had noted a few happening around the place when I was walking to dogs….and that’s something I’ll mention in passing.  Never take two large, strong dogs past a place of much blood !!  Bloody hell, I literally have to drag them away and that’s no mean feat.  They go a little nuts when they see all that meat and blood and none of it appears to be coming their way.

Anyway, it was with great pleasure that I accepted an invitation to Hristina and Volchos for their first big kill last Sunday.

When I first went to a pig kill I was too squeamish to go early for the actual killing and cutting up. I did get a little braver and started attending a little earlier and saw bits and pieces of what  transpired. I’m not saying I’m brave enough even now for the actual killing, but I did get myself over there to catch the process of what happens after the death blow.

When I got over the road the pig was dead and the head removed and the hair removed from the skin. The process had reached this stage…..prepare yourself if you’re a little squeamish

While this guy took care of the cutting up of the torso, the innards were being cut up into small pieces by two other men for ‘Barhoor’, a sausage made mainly from offal

and here’s Ivan cleaning out the entrails for the Barhoor

They wash them out thoroughly and after the bits are all chopped up the process of making the barhoor begins.

What do you think this might be ? and no, it’s not a torpedo launcher…

Well, it’s this, the sausage maker, made by Volcho probably or maybe one of the other men there

The bits are all mixed together and the Barhoor making begins

Keep in mind, this is all being done in freezing temperatures…

And while the men are kept out of mischief making Barhoor, the women have plenty to do as well.

Hristina and her sister, Donna were meanwhile cooking up what has become my favourite winter dish. It’s pork with sour cabbage. It’s delicious and warming and perfect on a cold winters day.

Firstly the pork is fried up until it’s fairly crispy. The cabbage is bubbling away in another pot and when the pork is ready, the fat is drained off, a good scoop of paprika is added, along with the drained cabbage and then it’s all well combined.

When everything is cut up, sorted out, cleaned up and packed away it’s time to sit at the table and enjoy some of the fruits of their labour.

It’s the depths of winter, so no fresh salads. It’s time for potato salad and pickled vegetables, green tomatoes and carrots. And plates of ‘cherin drob’ are placed on the table for you to pick at. This is the liver. Now I’ve had some that have been bloody awful but Hristina cooks hers like mum used to make liver and bacon. It’s has a lovely rich gravy and tastes fantastic, and the locals will tell you it’s all part of keeping healthy over the cold winter months. Everything they eat seems to have a purpose and different things appear on the table at different times of the year. The other things that appears at this time of the year is minced garlic with oil and salt and in between picking at the veges and liver, the odd shovel of garlic is taken as well. It’s delicious. !! A small rakia or two is taken with this part of the meal.

Then comes the (usually) enormous plate of pork and cabbage. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I can’t believe how much the Bulgarians can eat while not getting fat. There’s a few plumpys, but you don’t see the enormous people that you see in the west.

So there I am with my plate of pork and cabbage, a few slices of nice fresh bread, a large glass of Volchos terrific red wine and great company in a really warm room…a perfect winters day.

Even the chickens get in on the act…

No wonder the eggs are so rich and wonderful 🙂

And there’s still one to go…this will be part of the family celebration at Christmas. Hristina and Volchos children live and work overseas so they don’t get together all that often. When they do, it’s reason for much joy and celebration, and as part of that this year, this fella will meet his maker…all 300 kilograms of him !!

And the main question I was asked during the day by different people: ‘Why don’t you do this in Australia ?’
Hard to explain that we’re not allowed to…I know it’s a tradition here and one that even the EU won’t knock on the head, but as the younger generation come through, I doubt they’ll want to do it. They’re all more than happy to come to their parents and grandparents in the villages now and leave with a car full of fresh meat, rakia, wine and other produce, but will they take up the traditions ?? I doubt it….far too busy buying shiny things and getting into debt. A shame really. One day Bulgaria and all the other eastern European countries will be just like everywhere else and I don’t think I want to be here when that happens.

On a lighter note…there was one very busy fella when the pig was being cut up…Volchos very fine looking rooster. And here he is…just because

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To say I entered the 2010 festive season completely exhausted and a miserable bastard is probably an enormous understatement.

I bought Mia’s body home and with the help of three local men, Mitko, Gernadi and Mitko’s stepfather Nanno, I buried her on Thursday. I’ve placed her in the area where I intend to plant new fruit trees this coming spring and she will have a cherry tree to shade her.

As distressing as the whole sickness and death has been, I really wasn’t prepared for the devastation that Gina is clearly feeling. I figured she’d be upset because Mia was her baby and in three years, they have never spent any time apart. They have lived together, eaten together, slept together and played together and suddenly Mia is gone.

Since returning to Bulgaria I haven’t been able to get Gina to come and live inside. During summer she would come in and lay on the cool tiles but since the weather has turned cold I haven’t been able to get her through the front door…even when I was nursing Mia in the downstairs lounge-room, she would not come in.

On Friday she just rushed into the downstairs room and could clearly smell her daughter. At first her tail was wagging but then she just stopped and started sniffing and then started licking all the places Mia had lain. I had a blanket there for Mia. Gina has commandeered it and I now cannot get her off it. I can hardly get her out of the room for a wee. She will go, but reluctantly. Last night she went out for a wee and was gone for quite a long time. I went out for look for her and found her standing on the grave, looking really hang dog…she is very distressed.

And when I sit with her she buries her head in my lap or under my arm and whimpers, so softly you can hardly hear her, but it’s there. That usually sets me off, so the two old girls cuddle up and have a little cry.

She’s my old war horse and she’s been to hell and back in her life. I know we’ll both get over it, but it’s been a tough few days…

Now, as you know I have some wonderful friends here, and in Hristina and Volcho, the best neighbours anyone could ask for. I really didn’t feel like Christmas but the invitations started to come in. On Friday I had to go Yambol and pay the vet. My friend Stefka contacted me and asked me to join her and her family for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

I already had invites from Hristina, so was able to decline her invitations. In all honesty, the thought of trying to be all festive and happy just made me feel worse. I was trying to think of a way to get out of any invites I had, but I guess that’s the thing about only having limited Bulgarian…I can’t ring up and make excuses 🙂

Anyway, Stefka then said I should come to her house for lunch while I was in Yambol. …again, I just didn’t feel like going and didn’t feel like being social at all. But she convinced me, and I’m so glad she did. I had a lovely few hours with her and her daughter Ina. The fed me, chatted to me about all sorts of things and listened to me in my misery. I left their apartment with a slightly happier heart. The pain didn’t seem so bad, so maybe some good company was just what I needed and that’s what they gave me.

Hristina bailed me up when I got home and reminded me about Christmas eve at her house. I had a Christmas present for her and Volcho, so figured that maybe I could just duck over, give them the present and then make my miserable excuses. Did I even get a chance to escape ?? absolutely not !! and again, I’m so glad I stayed. Christmas Eve here is all about family, so I felt very honoured to be included. One of the daughters, Velichka, and her husband Boris were there, the other daughter, Marina, was still trying to get over from the UK and some friends of theirs from Mila who don’t have any children, Ivan and Donka were also there.

I had a lovely evening. Velichka made a huge effort to speak nice slow Bulgarian to me and I can actually conduct a slow Bulgarian conversation now, so I had plenty of chatting, loads of food, and plenty of rakia and Volchos very good red wine to cheer my heart. I left there some hours later feeling much, much better.

On Christmas day I had young Mitko and his wife, Veska coming for lunch. Once again I awoke with a huge dark cloud over me and the thought of preparing lunch left me cold….but I did and I had a lovely day with them. They have a young baby, Rosen, and it was kinda nice to have a wee one in the house for Christmas.

And have you ever seen anything quite as cute:
Mind you, when they left, I had a little time with my old Gina and then hit the couch with a packet of mince pies and a bottle of Tia Maria…..a nice way to end the day.

And just when I thought it was all over and I could clean my house, which hasn’t been done since Mia got sick…..it’s a disgrace….Hristina rings me to invite me over for a pig kill. They had intended to do it on Christmas day, but as Marina and her husband Gorgie only arrived yesterday, they postponed it until they got here.

Well, what an evening I had…It was terrific. This is a happy family with good village friends as well, some of whom have been at their house this holiday. Hristina clearly was not going to allow me to stay here wallowing in my misery and has included me in their entire festive celebrations.

This is just a few of the people that made my night so happy

I think you can see that there was a lot of happiness in that room and it was so good for my slightly battered soul. And they even got me in a pic:

That’s Ivan next to me who cuts the hair of all the local men….I’d just told him I want him to cut my hair and he’s contemplating whether cutting women’s hair is something he really wants to do. Not only have I neglected my house while caring for Mia, but I’ve neglected myself as well….I look like crap and I’m told he’s a damned fine hairdresser…so I’ve convinced him that he has to give it a try. 🙂

So, my non Christmas actually turned out to be very enjoyable..thanks to Hristina’s generousity and kindness. I know life will settle back to normal soon and after the last few days with so many good people, the hurt inside is ever so slightly less. Gina just gave me one of her famous jaundiced looks, so I think she’s on the road to recovery as well.

Before we click over into a new year, I will get the last few entries for 2010 up on here and hopefully get 2011 off to a good start.

To all you incredibly kind people who have contacted me through this blog and through my email since I lost my girl, a huge thank you. Again, I’ve been touched by the warmth and kindness of many strangers and the support and sympathy of friends…thank you.

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