Archive for the ‘The House & Garden’ Category

and I’ve been so busy, I’ve hardly had time to scratch myself. Again my website suffers and this isn’t really a proper catch up either…just a little  teaser about what’s to come.

It’s been a very busy time indeed and a real mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly…actually, I have to add the very, very good and enjoyable to that as well.

The very, very good is all about trips around Bulgaria with both Colin and my cousin Kerrie….yep, she’s been with me again.  Might have to name one of the rooms after her.  🙂

The  good is a mixture of day to day stuff and getting the contents of my garden preserved.

The bad and the ugly is something that, at first, had me quite angry, but the situation has become so ludicrous that I’ve spent quite a lot of time having a good old laugh. It’s all about an Englishman in this village who needs to get a grip.  His behaviour has become so bizarre that I’ve enlisted a little help…more about it later.

And someone mentioned that I haven’t said much about Gina lately…..what can one say about a large black & white blob that spends her days reclining in luxury as she makes up for all the bad years ?  Not a lot really…she gets love, food, a daily walk and plenty of sleep. She’s happy, she’s content and that’s all I want for her.

I will be back…

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In my life I’ve done some pretty silly things and have been lucky enough to come out the other side mostly unscathed. On Sunday I almost spoilt my recovery record when I did possibly the most incredibly stupid thing I have ever done in my 56 years.

I had a very busy and hard day in the garden and the weather was very hot indeed. But wait…I have a pool now, somewhere to go and cool down and rest my often weary bones, so I finished up the work and spent a good hour wallowing in heaven.

When I got out of the water, I was sitting in the late afternoon sun drying off when I realised that the pump was making a strange noise. Can you see where this is going yet ??

I was soaking wet, wrapped in a wet towel, no shoes and a silver ring on each of my thumbs.  I walked over the the power point and unplugged the two ends of the power cable…one to the power point and one to the pump !!!

I can’t even describe the effect the next few seconds had on me and my body. I was trying to get rid of the two ends of the cable and it was like it was glued to my hands.  I could not, for the life of me get free of them. And I had blue ‘lightening’ arcing back and forth between the two thumbs rings I was foolishly wearing.  I felt like my brain was slamming on the inside of my head.  The only thought that went through my head was ‘please don’t let me die like this’ and someone heard me, because the next thing I experienced was the feeling that I was being lifted up off the ground and I was then ‘flung’ onto the concrete…SHIT !!

I hit the deck on my right side slamming my shoulder and my head onto the cement path…it was a thumping, painful moment but at least the pain of the electric shock had ceased.

I lay there for a moment and then the shaking started so I staggered upstairs, rang Colin and asked if he would sit with me for a while until I felt better.  I’ve never experienced anything like this and had no idea what effects it may have on me. My whole body was in shock, my heart was beating like a drum and I had the worst headache I have ever had in my life. I didn’t want to be alone just then.

When he got here I had a warm shower and he made me a hot, sweet tea and, of course, in no time and after a couple of painkillers, I started to feel much better.  I sent him home and had a reflective evening while contemplating the utter stupidity of what I had done.

And three days later I sit here with a sore right side of my head and a bruised and sore right arm and shoulder.  But what about the bruises all the way down my left arm ???  Apparently, electric shocks can do that, leave you bruised and battered.

I guess life is about learning and sometimes we need more than just a kick in the head to remind us about taking care and thinking before we rush in and do things.  I’d rather be buying a new pump for the pool than creating work for my family who would have to sort out my funeral.

Oh, and by the way, the pool pump is fine…just had a little air in the system.

Once again I sit here thanking my lucky stars and wondering for how much longer my incredible good luck can hold out.

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Last night, this is what was shining down upon me…

I’m talking serious moonlight here…you could almost ‘feel’ it on your skin

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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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