Archive for the ‘The House & Garden’ Category

old visits and new

on the subject of days off…

I’d promised my friend Stefka that I would have a few days tripping around Bulgaria with her while she was on summer holidays.  Stefka is a teacher and works hard and long and doesn’t really get a lot of time for herself.  I heard about a village north of here called Etara and asked Colin if he wanted to see it and if we went, could I take Stefka along as well. ‘Not a problem’, he said. It gave him a chance to see more of the country and gave me a chance to spend some time with Stefka.

It turned into a BIG day out.

Stefka’s daughter, Ina, came along as well and as we set off I suggested that as we were going past it, perhaps Colin might like to see the Russian Church in Shipka.  The Shipka Pass was where the Russian army, with a band of Bulgarian freedom fighters, eventually defeated the Turks and drove them out of Bulgaria after a 500 year occupation.  Russia donated the church to Bulgaria in honour of the battle at Shipka Pass. This whole area is very important to the Bulgarians.  I’ve been to both the church and the Shipka Pass before but on the two or three occasions I have been there, either the church wasn’t open or the monument on top of the Shipka Pass wasn’t open…this time I got to see it all.

It’s summer, the Bulgarians are holidaying and seeing the Russian Church in all it’s summer glory was wonderful.

It’s a beautiful monument set in peaceful and tranquil gardens and even though there  were a lot of people wandering around, the place was still very calm…made you want to whisper.

I got to photograph the inside this time and it really is spectacular

and the outside of the building still took my breath away with it’s intricate beauty

Soon it was time to press on and we wound our way up the mountain towards the Shipkas Pass.  We made the decision on the way up to also spend time at the Shipka Pass monument.

Given his love of history, I figured it was something Colin really shouldn’t miss and I’m glad we did stop and spend time there…nearly two hours in fact…but it was just so interesting to see everything this time and to get inside the monument and read what happened and why.

We climbed the five stories of the monument and the views were amazing…standing on top of the world

Clearly I’m not very good at joining pictures, but this will give you some idea of what we were looking down over from the top of the monument …it was breathtaking.

Inside the monument was so interesting.  At last I got some information about what transpired on that mountain.  I had the time to have a good look around outside as well and there are smaller monuments dotting the landscape, all constructed for a different participating country, including Poland, &  for various Bulgarian and Russian heroes of the day.

and all through the hills, cannons are dotted around

and though the site of horrific battles and terrible bloodshed and loss of lives, there’s a certain air of reverence and peace about the place

Certainly my best visit to both sites to date…

And as if we hadn’t squeezed in enough, we headed even further into the mountains to the lovely village of Etara.

It’s not just any village. It’s a living, breathing museum to artisans and craftsmen.  Every building has someone in it working away at their craft or specialty.

And how much do I want a ride in this ?

This is a terrific place. It obviously ran on water and there were operating water wheels and other water driven facilities all around the village

and what better way to wash your rugs than to skoosh them around in here

and then let the water run away naturally down here

and one of my favourites was the Bulgarian bagpipes made from a very natural fibre, an entire goat skin

and be damned if later on in the day, I got to see the bagpipe maker starting a new set from scratch

a little value adding going on here…

There was a lot to see and something else that caught our attention was the roofs on the buildings

They are great slabs of granite interlayed all over the roof.  They must weigh a tonne and yet everything looked very sound.

Sadly, time was by now agin us. We hadn’t quite planned on such a big day and Colin and I both have animals that need attention, so just slightly reluctantly we started out journey back to Yambol and Miladinovtsi.

A terrific day in terrific company

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And so it came to pass that as quickly as Storky came into my life, he left.

He continued to come for food for a few days and to return to his family nest at night then, one morning, I looked out and all the nests were empty. It’s amazing how they all just get up and go once they’ve mastered the art of flying.  I’ve been watching the storks around the area get more and more proficient with every flying attempt, and this included my little mate as well, and now they are all apparently about 3-4 kilometres away feeding up in preparation for their long haul to Africa for the winter.

My cousin Kerrie was here for their arrival in April and she returns in two weeks…she’s hoping to see them before they leave and I thought she might, though now I am having some doubts about that.

I do believe that being able to get so close to a stork, one of natures loveliest creatures, was a huge privilege for me. I consider myself to be extremely lucky and even if he never returns here I will always remember the pleasure of having my very special visitor standing at the front door looking for breakfast every day and learning to fly in my garden.

And the rest of my days ?  Busy, with some nice distractions in amongst it all.

I know I said I would never, ever get one but look what’s now occupying half my side garden

It’s just been so hot and I’ve been working so hard and for a bit of cement and a few hundred levs I now have somewhere to rest my aching body after a big  (hot) days work around the place. And god, it’s fantastic !!

And what changed my mind ?? One very hot day I dropped in on some people and they had one sitting, glistening in their yard.  I was so hot and sticky and uncomfortable and I just looked at it, asked how much they were and went off the following week to Bourgas and bought one.

There’s been a bit of phaffing around getting it set up, but with a lot of help from Colin it’s all coming together beautifully. The queen of fairy lights has acquired a few solar lamps and lights and it looks particularly lovely at night

I’ve done some brick paving around the edge of the slab…and yes, I’ve done it all myself and now there are only two little corners  that have to be sorted.  One will be a little lawn area, which I’m working on, and the other, on top of my emergency water supply reservoir, is being sorted by Colin. He has already put in a little water feature for me

and it’s lovely to sit down there at night in amongst all the twinkling lights with the gentle tinkling sound of water in the background.

I realised one day that all I was doing was working to make the place lovely but not spending any time enjoying it… so now I have been making a point of pouring myself a big glass of cold wine and going and sitting in the garden in the evenings, both right down the back looking back towards the house and down by the pool, just enjoying the peaceful little corner that I have created.

The vegetable garden continues to  produce at a huge rate.  I have been bottling tomatoes, making relish and giving baskets full away…and still they come.

Some of them are HUGE, the size of a dogs head, but they’re so sweet and delicious.  I’m getting at least this many of the bigguns every day and my cherry tomatoes and Roma tomatoes have only just started to ripen, so I’ve still got plenty to do before winter.  I got my hands on a large quantity of raspberries and blackberries and now have a good supply of jams and stewed berries for winter. And I’m STILL working in the yard in amongst it all !!

But this is me you’re talking to so, of course, there’s been days off and days out…more about that soon.

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Last night I sat in my ever improving garden, now a tranquil place with lots of twinkling lights and solar Chinese lanterns swinging in the gentle evening breeze, and realised as I sipped my glass of chilled Bulgarian wine, that my surroundings were almost at the point I had envisaged them all those years ago when I purchased this property.  Something I have honestly thought at various times would never, ever happen.

I always had a loose picture of what the house and garden would look like and feel an enormous sense of pride that I’ve managed to achieve what I have. I don’t always believe in myself and what I’m capable of, but looking around me now I’m thinking I can do just about anything.

This place had given me both great joy and some sadness, but as I sat there last night I knew that it was worth every little bit of what has occurred…the best of times and the the worst of times.

Colin is still doing work here and has almost finished all the architraves on the doors and windows throughout the house, done metres and metres of painting for me and yesterday I press ganged him into sorting out the goose pond, and that is now a more attractive area…rather than just being a bath stuck in the ground, he’s sorted out a leak it had and put nice rocks all around the edge, so even the geese have a nice corner to relax in.

So, it’s not just the outside that’s looking terrific but the inside is, at last, getting that nice ‘finished ‘ look about it.

And there’s even more happening that I’m not quite ready to show you yet…

And for all of you who are emailing me and asking about Storky, he/she is fantastic. Eating like a , well, stork and starting to do a bit of wing practice, which I’m hoping is a sign that the bird is preparing to go back out to the outside world where it belongs. Of course, like every animal that comes into my life, Storky only likes the expensive food.  Fish and chicken are very high on the list and liver is just ignored !!  The bird now realises that I’m a meal ticket and greets me when I appear with the food and I now  even get a little noise everytime I put the food down.  Not sure if it’s some kind of feeding sound, but I get a healthy squawk as soon as the luxury food hits the deck….and no, I’m not chewing it first and regurgitating.

Illiecho tells me that it ‘should’ be ready to start flying in 10-15 days and that’s what I’m hoping will occur and I won’t have to take it into the open yard and show it what to do.

It is lovely to have it in the garden.  It’s a truly lovely thing and a joy to watch.  The locals have suggested that it might come back next year…Colin reckons it will tell all it’s mates about this fantastic place with great food and I’ll end up with a garden full. Let’s hope not.

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All the time I’ve been working in the backyard, I’ve had to walk across an area behind the house where I’ve been parking my car.  Everytime I’ve walked across it I’ve despaired about the bloody awful mess I had there and wondered at the best way to solve the problem.

Enter from stage left the idea of blue metal…cheap, easy and does a great job of covering a myriad of sins…

A friend from another village, Dave, the man who did all the earth moving down the very back of my yard, delivered  three tonnes of blue metal to me on Tuesday. It was dumped in the driveway and I admit I did stand there sighing and looking at it for some time contemplating the enormity of the task of getting it spread.

But, I got up on Wednesday full of energy and feeling up for the task. Some hours later I had three tonne of blue metal shoveled and spread, well, 2.5 tonne.  Colin arrived as I was nearly finished and he  convinced me to let him finish the job.  I have to admit, I didn’t take a lot of convincing.  I was just about on my last legs when he appeared and quite happily handed over the shovel to him. Perhaps 56 IS too old for shoveling tonnes of stones. ! But what a difference it has made to the area immediately behind the house.  It was just a bloody awful mess there of huge weeds and broken cement and now it looks a hell of a lot tidier.

Look at that…120 levs, a few hours hard labour and a whole new look…I’m happy.

And come with me just a few steps down the back yard and have a look at my latest purchase.

No, I’m not going into donkey and cart rides, though Hristiana did ask if I wanted a donkey, but it will be painted up in bright colours and become part of the garden decoration.

And, what of my garden ?  I’ve been pulling out baskets of veges almost every day

including my first crop of spuds

I have bottled and frozen enough fresh beetroot to get me through any siege anyone wants to throw at me and there’s bag after bag of frozen peas nestled in the freezer downstairs.

And if we walk a little further down the yard to around about here and stop and listen,

you can almost hear the hundreds of tomatoes on those vines ripening in the hot, hot sun.  Even before mine will come online, I’ve been given two huge bag of frozen tomatoes which are, as I write, turning into sauce for pasta.

I was also the recipient of a couple of large bags of frozen plums and as my mint patch went nuts, I got to work in the kitchen and produced this lot

I’ve got Chinese Plum Sauce, Plum Jam and Mint Sauce, bottles and bottles of beetroot, bags and bags of peas, frozen spinach, fresh beetroot and coriander + coriander pesto and various flavours of tomato sauce for pasta and the garden hasn’t even really kicked into gear fully.  By the time I finish, I’ll be too tired to eat all the food that’s gathering in my freezer and storage cupboard. !!

But wait…it’s all worth it especially when I get to sit on my balcony at night and look at this

And I took these both on the same night…that was the change of sky that I was treated to as I sat on the balcony escaping the heat, sipping a icy cold glass of yummy Bulgarian wine

And a little later on the same night, this was shining down on me

I can also take a little stroll around my garden and just enjoy my garden lights

which I reckon are looking really pretty now.

With a little help from people like my cousin Kerrie, I’m gradually phasing out the electric garden lights and going over to solar.  The backyard is looking spectacular but I can’t seem to get a good night picture of it in all it’s lighted glory…one day I might even read the instruction manual that accompanied my camera !

There’s even more been happening and even more going on, but it’s late and I need food…and wine  🙂

ciao for now

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Not only have I been out enjoying a little Bulgarian culture, but I’ve also had a couple of lovely days out of the house with one of my new friends…

not this one

this one This is Colin, who for reasons I won’t go into is hanging around Miladinovtsi until he can return to the UK in November.  He’s been doing some work around here for me, which has been terrific and has taken a lot of pressure off. The combination of trying to keep up with the house and the garden has been a little more difficult than I thought it would be…I’m clearly not as young as I used to be, so he’s been a bit of a godsend really.

Anyway, he hasn’t seen a lot of Bulgaria and I have been lucky enough to see quite a bit so, in between working, we’ve agreed that a few days off here and there will be a great opportunity for me to drag him around to a few places before his return home.

His daughter was here a few weeks ago and we had a really pleasant day on the coast at Sozopol.

The weather was gorgeous, and because it was just before the tourist season really got underway, the beach was almost deserted.

The fishermen were fishing

The flower boxes along the old fortress walls and boardwalk were ‘blooming’ gorgeous

And though the skeleton had been removed, I got a good look at the archeological dig on the medieval church this time

Unfortunately, we were a day too early for an exhibition of everything they had dug up from the site…maybe next time.

I had a lovely day in good company. Colin is a very easy person to spend time with and Chloe, his daughter is lovely. We roamed around, we chatted, we ate and drank and for me it was a big fat relax day, something I need to ensure I do every now and again.

Because…everything else is still lurking in the background, the veges, the housework, the garden in general and all the other things that gobble up my days, including the making of a driveway and parking area for my car. But that’s for my next entry. It’s extremely hot and I’m going to have a large cold drink and perhaps a wee nana nap !!

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I really have been very busy.  I’ve had some really lovely guests and now I’m just having a little rest..

To every one who’s asked ‘where the bloody hell are you’..I’m here, I’m recovering and I promise I’ll be back.

As always, there’s lots to tell and some beaut pics as well…

see ya soon

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New friends

I appear to have a couple of new friends.  One’s an English guy called Colin and the other one is this little fella/girlette

This bird turned up in my backyard about two days ago.  Colin,  who’s been here doing some work for me, noticed the bird on my garage the other day and asked who it belonged to.  I have no idea and really didn’t expect to see it again after that day…wrong !!

I actually don’t even know if it’s a pigeon or a dove.

Whenever I am working in the backyard it turns up and is really very sweet.  Has no fear of me whatsoever, so I’m guessing it’s used to people and has taken to following me around.

Today I was getting something out of the kitchen cupboard and heard a tap tap tapping on the window.  Remember, I live on the second floor here and this cute little bird was sitting on the window sill trying to get my attention

It’s a gorgeous little thing and very,very tame.  It’s got lovely markings around it’s eyes, like little tear drops, and I suspect it’s been blown off course and someone’s out there wondering where the hell their best bird is. It’s in my yard making friends with Goosey and just generally hanging out.

I’m really not sure what to do, but while it’s here I’ll enjoy it’s very gentle company.

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I’ve got a lot going on just now but am still managing to take a few moments to enjoy what’s happening around me, like the wonders of the storks. I have my favourite just up the road and whenever I gaze towards the West, there she is, day

and night

Busying herself with the constant maintenance of the nest and taking care of her new babies.  Yes indeed, the babies are appearing everywhere and seeing their little heads poking up over the edge of the nest is delightful.

I also have countless swallows nesting around the house. When they first started building their nests I thought I might try and stop them this year, but as time went on I realised that they don’t do any damage and having them bustling around the place is terrific. And when I step out onto the balconies where they have built nests, I see their rather cute little heads poking out of the mud nests and they are just lovely as well.

This little bloke was just sitting on the wire outside my lounge-room the other night when I was photographing the stork

Not the slightest bit afraid of me, just happy to sit there and have a bit of a look around and check me out.

And of course, the gods rarely let me down and the stunning evening skies continue

The gardening also continues, though I do confess to getting a little help yesterday.  The growth is just remarkable and I found myself falling further and further behind.  If I was just maintaining the damned thing, I think it would be easier, but I’m still trying to knock the great backyard mess into shape and I suddenly became aware that I was starting to run around with my head up my backside and the garden was winning.  I enlisted the help of three local girls and today I sit here feeling ever so slightly less pressured…mind you, the beetroots are coming online and I bottled my first this morning, and the peas are ready for their first harvest, so there’s still plenty for me to do.

I’ve got an English guy from here who’s doing some work for me as well. He’s done the repainting downstairs that needed doing before my guests arrive at the end of this month and he’s also finished off the architraves around the doors and windows, a job Ivan never finished, and it’s looking really good. He’s a terrific fella and you have no idea how good it is to see these jobs done and know that I don’t have to worry about trying to find the time to do them myself.  And never underestimate the simple pleasure of a little English conversation.

Though, speaking of English people…I had a very strange thing happen the other night.  I was in the bar having a wee beer on a warm night when a certain very unpleasant person who made my life hell here before and ruined my business and my Bulgarian experience with his toxic tongue, had the audacity to come to my table and try to talk to me.  Apparently he wants to ‘ put everything behind us and build some bridges towards friendship’.  I tried not to laugh. I got up from the table and calmly informed him that ‘I was particularly choosey about the people I spent time with’ and walked away .  Clearly, he’s confusing me with someone who forgives and forgets !!  Not a chance. !!

And he’s not the first…I’m astounded that people who thought it appropriate to tear me apart a few years ago now think we should all kiss and make up.  I’ve  had emails, personal approaches and messages through third parties asking me if we can get together and be friends.  Some have received carefully chosen responses, some I’ve just ignored, for that is all they deserve, none are welcome back in my precious life.

Anyway, to much more pleasant things…Lucy continues to sit and Goosey continues being the big butch bodyguard.  He’s stopped being so aggressive towards me but I still get a little hiss if I get too close and when I sneak in for a look at Lucy, he gets very agitated.  When she comes out for a quick bath, he waddles up to the pen and escorts her out into the yard.  He watches her while she bathes and then escorts her back to the eggs…it’s very sweet and lovely to watch.

And to things social…I had a great day out last week and as soon as I find time to upload the pictures I’ll get a little something up here…

Right now, I hear the peas calling me to harvest and another few kilogrammes of stones begging to be raked up and added to the enormous pile in the backyard. And that will be my next challenge, how to get rid of that bloody huge pile of  bloody stones !!

for now


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sleeping beauty

She looks like she’s dead, doesn’t she…

She’s not…

She’s just the best sleeper god ever put breath into AND she moves for no one.  Trucks, buses, cars, donkeys and carts come down that road and she moves for nothing.  The fact that she doesn’t even stir when a bus or truck rumbles past her head never ceases to amuse me.

Her luck has held ever since I came here in 2005…let’s hope it continues

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Aren’t they glorious !!

The fruits of my labour are starting to ripen.  Given that I have been mocked openly and called ‘black thumb’ on more than one occasion for not being able to grow anything, I’m starting to feel very proud of myself indeed. My roses were a mess when I returned from living in Australia so I pruned them to within an inch of their lives…it’s paid off. This is just the first blooms and I expect the blossom to continue through until about September/October as they have on previous years.  And the perfume almost makes you light headed when you walk past them.  They are gorgeous.

And don’t be thinking this is a one off freak year for roses.  The vege garden is growing crazy as well. I have cut, washed. frozen and turned my coriander patch into pesto three times now and still it grows back

and that’s cucumbers, pumpkins and strawberries you can see behind it

And the tomatoes and everything else are also reaching for the sky at a great rate of knots

And in amongst it all, I’ve found a good brick path that leads from the beginning on the garden right down to the back

This really is hard labour. It’s been covered for I don’t know how many years, but I’m gradually scraping the weeds and dirt back to reveal the path, then I just have to try and keep it clear.

And just to be sure that I don’t have a spare minute to my life, I’ve also been organising things for winter. My first wood had arrived and thanks to a couple of local blokes from down the road, Slavi and Ivan ( and one of their daughters) my garage now has this in it

I thought it would be plenty, but Hristina said perhaps I will need ‘oshti malko’ …a little more…if the winter is very, very cold.

I’m working myself to death keeping up with the garden, but I feel terrific.  I have guests coming soon so next week I have a room to paint and a few other things non garden to do, but with the speed of growth here I’ll have to keep a bit of an eye on it anyway.  There’s a guy in the village who’s cooling his heels before returning to the UK and I’m going to employ him to help me get some stuff done around the house.  I could use the help and I know him being around for a while will really take the load off me.

My geese got their new bath today and I have some lovely pics but for now, I’m away.  I’m actually going to a BBQ tonight and having a bit of R&R…that’s rest & recreation if you’re wondering.

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