Archive for the ‘The House & Garden’ Category

Today is the day before a very important holiday in Bulgaria.  Tomorrow is Cyrill & Methodius day…yes, they of the Cyrillic alphabet have not only created the most difficult alphabet in the world but given Bulgaria an official holiday…probably because they have to use it everyday.

Anyway, I’ve been slaving away in the garden pretty much everyday and thought I’d be spending the rest of this week there as well, until yesterday when Hristina reminded me that an official Praznik ( holiday) was coming Tuesday and there would be no garden day then.  The part of me that aches a lot was greatly relieved and very much looking forward to a day off.  This morning that achy bit of me…my back…isn’t very happy and I’m sitting here writing this with a TENS machine strapped to me hoping that later today I might feel up to a few hours toil…if not, it looks like I’ll be having a pre praznik praznik….though I’m sure I can find plenty to do inside.  If the weeds didn’t grow while I watched, I wouldn’t be so worried, but a couple of days here can be the difference between a lovely garden and a small jungle, high enough to hide the Goosey & Lucy.

…speaking of whom…

Like a lot of life’s simple things, they are bringing me small moments of amusement and joy.  Lucy is all very sweet and lovely and does little else besides eat and lay eggs…more about the eggs in a minute.

Goosey, on the other hand, is a bad tempered SOB, but that can be funny as well. He is highly protective of his ‘girl’ and you’re well advised not to get too close to her, especially with all these eggs she’s laying. He’s not so aggressive to me anymore. I guess he’s got used to me being around, but even then, if I get too close to their little house ( where said eggs are) he still hisses at me and takes attack position. I have learnt to take an offensive position with him and he tends to settle a little but watches me like a hawk and I know if I turned my back on him in their pen, he’d have me.

I also learnt a valuable lesson from Hristina and I nearly wet myself laughing when I saw what happened. I told her about the number of eggs, 17 to date, and she walked into the pen for a look..Goosey was not happy and came flying at her. She promptly gave him a back hander that sent him tumbling and left him standing there shaking his head and looking completely stunned while still trying to hiss and look like the boss.  Hristina didn’t miss a beat…that was when I learnt not to run away from him, but to stand my ground and he & I get on much better now that I do.

They don’t stay in the yard during the day anymore.  They are true free ranging geese and they head off out the gate every morning and spend hours grazing around the streets.  Of course cars and buses and trucks and people go by and Mr Agro often flaps his wings and hisses at all of the above.  The funniest is the buses…it’s real David and Goliath. The buses don’t take a blind bit of notice but it’s always funny to watch him asserting himself.

And it was in the street that Hristina made me laugh again. When Goosey hisses at people, they tend to cross the street looking very nervous. The other day Hristina was walking down the street and Goosey did his usual wing flapping and hissing.  This time she grabbed him by the head and sort of ‘threw’ him away and again, he sat there looking stunned, trying to figure out what had happened.  She’s got him completely baffled…

They have got so used to me now that often when I’m working in the garden they come and graze near me, which is nice.  I always have my Ipod on when I’m working so often don’t hear what’s going on around me and sometimes I’ll look up from what I’m doing and the two of them are very close to me, just helping me with the weeding.  Geese are great…they don’t touch the veges, they just graze around and under and it’s nice that they trust me enough to get close without any aggression, well, at least until I go into their pen.

And in there Lucy has laid 17 eggs.  Now I don’t know a lot about poultry and incubation times or anything like that so I’ve watched her adding an egg every few days, but not sitting all day.  There’s sex in the streets in between eating, honking and hissing. She and Goosey are at it all the time…but I’m thinking maybe the eggs are all duds and she just hasn’t figured that out yet.  Got online to find out how these birds operate and apparently they lay all the eggs they are going to and THEN she will sit longer every day, but they usually only lay about ten eggs, so are hers duds ?  I have no idea.  I always thought birds kicked dud eggs out of the nest but she’s caring for these, covering them when she’s not there and sitting, for periods that are becoming longer, every day.

Anyone out there geese experts ?  any advice gratefully received…

And then there’s the coriander and the spinach, both growing like weeds.  I’ve already frozen down batches of both, but they’re growing faster than I can eat or freeze.  I’ve made coriander pesto, which I wasn’t that sure about when I found the recipe, but let me tell you, it’s delicious.  I had some on pasta last night will certainly make more from my masses of coriander BUT I’m also looking for other ways of keeping coriander, besides eating, freezing & pesto. Again, any advice gratefully received.

The day is dribbling away and I’m feeling a little work coming on. I’m starting to make such big inroads into the back yard now that I really am reluctant not to get out there as much as I can and, hey, the TENS seems to have done it’s job so I shall bid you farewell for now…

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Here I sit, very tired indeed with muscles that I never knew I had aching and great ugly blisters on my soft office worker hands !!  What was I saying about my ability to manage this massive garden.

Two days of hard Yakka and I’m absolutely knackered.  I awoke this morning to another glorious day here in Miladinovtsi and figured another day in the garden was on the cards..Ha, Ha, Ha.

I swung my legs out of bed and realised that I could hardly stand and my back is killing me. I then went to put on my dressing gown and realised that I couldn’t used my hands very well..they are very sore.  I had a coffee and decided that a day off might be a good idea, so that’s exactly what I’m doing.  I’ve been puddling around the house today doing bugger all really…bit of washing, bit of cleaning, bit of cooking …and lots of talking to Gina, who seems very happy to have me around rather than outside doing whatever it is I do out there  🙂

And here’s some of what I’ve been doing…

This is my brown onions and garlic centre…

and down behind it is a small patch of lawn that’s establishing with a couple of fruit trees in amongst it + a small patch of strawberries closest to the camera.

Take a stroll a little further and you find, much to the horror of my Bulgarian neighbors, this:

Yep, my first crop of coriander.  In fact, I’m heading out there in the cool of this evening to harvest and freeze my first batch for the year.

And then we get into the really serious end of the garden:

Potatoes, peas, beetroot and red onions which sit in the garden next to the

tomatoes, red & green peppers and cauliflowers.

And though the spot to the left of the spuds might look a bit like weed central, it’s actually home to Parsley, Roma tomatoes, pumpkins, watermelons, beans, rockmelons and spinach

Oh, and let’s not forget the dill patch

which needs a damned good weed, but not today.

Jesus, it makes me tired just looking at all of  it !!  And I’ve had help from Hristina…

And to add to the toiling, there’s the tonne of bricks, stones (large and small) old roof tiles, old shoes and various rubbish that I’ve had to pick up as I’ve worked my way through the entire yard.

I have to admit to feeling some pride in the results so far though given that not that long ago you couldn’t even see the back of the property for the jungle I had for so many years.

I should have this place finished just in time to retire…  🙂

And how much more is there to do ??

There’s many, many days of work to go. I started mowing out the front yesterday…that’s between the two lamp posts

The bit in the middle is done…all the rest is about half a metre tall and as tough as old boots. At least another half a day of solid mowing.

And back within the fence boundary of my property, the piece of ground on the right is where I’ve planted lawn seed and it’s going quite well. The piece on the left is solid weeds and has to be dug out and lawn planted there….that’s gotta be at least three days slaving in the hot, hot sun.

And let’s not forget the inedible end of the garden.  The front of the house is looking pretty good and when the gardens blossom and the roses flower, it will be lovely

And, just when I think there might be some time off, the veges will be ready and it will  be time to harvest and start preserving, freezing and bottling everything that hasn’t been eaten…now I’m really, really tired.

I think I feel a cup of tea and a lie down coming on…

ciao for now…ZZZZZZZZZZZ

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I had a lovely birthday…well, the night after my birthday actually. I made the decision to have a little soiree on the Friday night and it was a  completely Bulgarian affair with friends from Yambol and my neighbours, Hristina and Volcho and friends Ivan and Donka. It was fairly low key, which suited me just fine, and I got to spend it with people I wanted to be with.

I didn’t drink a lot (surprise, surprise) as I was the host and maybe it was the turning over of another year, but I awoke the next day feeling every second of 56 years and didn’t really get back on top until yesterday afternoon.  I thought I might have been coming down with something but around 1pm I suddenly felt better and headed outdoors and spent a very hard afternoon in the garden…again.

Got a heap done but once again, I’m sitting here at my computer feeling like someone has given me a beating. There is a part of me that is really wondering if this backyard might be just a little big for me and just how many years I can keep on top of it.  I realise that a lot of what I’m doing now is the actual ‘building & design’ of the garden and once it’s established the work may become easier, but jesus wept ! right now I feel about 156 years old !!  🙂

I guess I could turn the whole lot over to lawn, but it wouldn’t be very exciting, would it…and I don’t really want to eat grass.

Just now, there’s more food growing that you can poke a stick at. To date I have various varieties of potatoes, four types of tomatoes, peas, red onions, shallots, brown onions, garlic, spinach, beans, lettuce, leeks, pumpkin, cucumbers, cauliflowers and red & green peppers in the vege department. Two varieties of  mint, dill, coriander and basil have put in an appearance in the herb department and yesterday I discovered that 8 of my 10 raspberry canes have sprouted, my blueberry is looking very healthy, as are the grapes and most of my fruit trees. The apple and plum haven’t sprouted yet and I think perhaps they might be duds, but I thought that about my almond tree as well until yesterday when it sent two shoots out…so I’m going to wait and see with the others before I pull them out.

My grass areas are getting established and starting to win the war against the weeds but bloody hell, it grows so quickly.  I only mowed last week and am going to have to do it again today.  It’s already about 6 inches long !!

And make no mistake, everything I’m doing is being closely scrutinised by everyone that walks past the place.  I think some are coming this way especially just for a look at what I’m up to.  Plenty of suggestions coming in and if I do anything differently than how they do,  it causes a flurry of comments and even more suggestions.

Hristina is still helping me so I take notice of her …mostly…

She really is just such an extraordinary friend and neighbour. She works like a navvy and still comes over to help me.  I have suggested that perhaps she has enough work on her own garden and she just dismisses that and gets helping. I have to be honest…I’m not really sure if I would be managing all this without her.

And speaking of my friend and neighbour, I just spotted her down the back finishing off the weeding I started yesterday in the potato patch.  Time for me to get to work.  I’ll get the place looking fabulous and then post some pics…it really is starting to look like a garden, rather than an unholy mess at the back of the house.

ciao for now

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Hells Bells !!

Hells Bells!!!

I’m 56 today…I’m actually staggered that I made it this far.  🙂

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In 2007 I returned to Australia to attend the wedding of my gorgeous nephew James to his gorgeous girlfriend, Laura.

Early this morning, Western Australian time, this terrific couple

added to their family with the birth of their first child and daughter, Madison.

Congratulations James and Laura…I wish I could have been there.

So that’s another grandchild for Tony & Enid and three times that I’m a great aunt…though I guess I’m not that great as I hardly ever see the children because of where I choose to live.

There are times when I do miss Australia and joyous family events are those times.

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My big day in the garden today has culminated in a huge spring thunder storm and a massive downpour of rain.

Is there anything in the world that smells better after a rainstorm on a warm day than the smell of freshly mown grass.

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and so a great peace descends upon the big house…

I’ve packed all the guests off to their next destinations and now it’s time to try and catch up, not just with this but with pretty much everything around the house and garden…..sometimes I wish I had a few more sets of arms.

Firstly, let’s step back to my cousin Kerrie’s visit…

There was a lot of chatting, a lot of laughing and a bit of working and, of course, the great love affair between Kerrie and Gina.

When Kerrie was here on previous visits we had a tendency to eat our way around Bulgaria. Hey, it’s impossible to avoid with the fabulous food that you get here.  I took her to Jeravna and on the way we stopped at a terrific restaurant that I know about in a small town called Gradets.  Even though the weather wasn’t that warm, it was sunny and clear and sitting next to a crystal clear, running brook eating wonderful food, was, well, wonderful !!

We were staying the night in Jeravana and though Ivan and Ivana’s guest house was open and we got rooms there, the rest of the village was still in hibernation. We had a lovely wander around the place and then had to go back the the guest house for a nana nap…not as young as we used to be.  When we got up and decided it was time for food we realised that the place was empty and nothing was open. We wandered around for a while and then spotted a fellow sporting a rather large tummy, standing outside what appeared to be a little cafe.  I asked him if he had food and wine and he ushered us in the door with great promises. In fact, he had no wine but in true Bulgarian style he went out and found some…where??  I have no idea, but he came back with a bottle of reasonable Sofia Chardonnay, which we bowled over rather quickly and off he went for another…no questions, no extra cost to what I would pay if I had bought it in a shop.  He also spirited up some food…kebabche, koifte, chips and bread. Not the greatest meal I’ve ever had in BG but it hit the spot, went very well with the wine and was pretty good for what had turned into a very cold night.

It was back to Miladinovtsi the next day taking the alternative route over the mountains and coming out in Sliven. I had often heard about a Carandila at the top of the mountains behind Sliven, but had never worked out how to get there. I know now. As we wound our way up and over, suddenly there was a sign ‘Carandila’ and the ‘Бял мечка хотел’ ( White Bear Hotel) so we decided to investigate.  A decision I almost regretted as a thick, heavy fog rolled in on us on this rather narrow and windy road. Mind you, when we reached the summit, I was glad I had continued.  We found the White Bear and popped in for a little breakfast.  They made us a yummy omelette…what was I saying about eating our way through Bulgaria ?

After breakfast we took a drive around the whole area and found this…

I’m thinking once upon a time this was a luxury communist hotel and what an ugly thing it is. However, that entire wall is made of the local stone which is in fact very beautiful, but I’m thinking they might have got a little carried away and gone a tad overboard. The place was also surrounded by boundary walls of the same stone…way too much.  And it’s set in the most beautiful country…bit of a blot on the landscape to be honest.

We wound our way back down the mountain and headed home. Gina had spent the night in the garage and was a little miffed when we got back, but the sight of Kerrie certainly cheered her up…no loyalty for me from my dog  🙂

We were sitting at the table later that evening having a bite to eat and a small glass of something cold when madam poked her head around the door.  The first person she saw was her new love, Kerrie, and she put on her best ‘ please feed me I’m starving’  face

I was sitting behind the door where she couldn’t see me and cleared my throat to get her attention

She knows she’s not allowed to hang around when there’s food on the table, hence the slightly jaundiced look in her eyes when she realises I’m there…and I’m watching.!!

I still made sure I walked her everyday and Kerrie managed to get some pics of her excitement that happens every single time I say ‘walk’ or ‘rozhotka’.


and the whole time she’s throwing herself about, bursting with excitement she’s doing this ‘talking’ that she’s started doing. It’s very funny and she’s becoming more ‘vocal’ all the time.

And who was a miserable, miserable dog for a few days after Kerrie’s departure ?? She roamed the house looking for her…even made the trip upstairs to the room Kerrie had slept in. It was amazing for Gina. She’s just not an overtly affectionate dog…usually.

Kerrie also gave me a hand with some work in the garden. The guy next door to me just won’t clean up his yard and it’s an eyesore. Take a look behind Goosey & Lucy.

Anyway, I decided it was something my guests didn’t need to see so headed to Mr Bricolage (the European Bunnings Hardware store) and for very little money got myself some screening.  Kerrie and I got to work and now things look much better

Good, isn’t it  🙂

Little by little the place is taking shape.

As always, these terrific visits I get must come to an end and all too soon it was time for Kerrie to leave and return to Australia. And what better way for her to go out than a night with friends in Miladinovtsi.

It was Hristina’s birthday and we were invited to join her, Volcho, Ivan and Donka for a get together. It was fun and the strange thing was, I was translating for Kerrie…my Bulgarian IS getting better.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, but when I have to be the translator, things must be improving.

We ate too much (surprise, surprise) we drank to much (no surprises there then) and just had a fun evening before Kerries departure

They say laughter is the best medicine and I certainly get my fair share of that here.  This rate I’ll live until I’m very old indeed.

Kerrie was flying out of Sofia so we headed up there to spend a last night before saying goodbye. We did what we do best…we went to a fantastic Bulgaria restaurant, the “Pri Yafata”, and had a spectacular last meal, our last big chat and a few cold vinos to say ciao…

Next morning she headed for the airport, I headed for the bus station and a very enjoyable fortnight came to an end.

I still hate saying goodbye…

Back home I came and back to work I went.  I had guests coming and was still painting their bathroom…

That’s another story for another day.

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I’m not dead, just busy.

The house has been ringing with the sounds of Aussie accents..which has been very nice and a lot of fun.  The last of the guests headed off this morning and as soon as time permits, I will step into my time machine and go back  to when Kerrie was here and do my best to catch up on events of the last few weeks…mind you, Hristina is lurking in the background waiting to give me a hand catching up with the garden.  It’s frightening how much growth, good and bad, has occurred in such a short time.  There’s much to do and more folk coming in a few weeks.

It’s been busy…it’s been a lot of fun and I will be back here very soon

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Have been very busy indeed.  A fair amount of play in the company of my cousin Kerrie and a fair amount of work preparing the house for her arrival and with her help, getting a wee bit done in the garden.

Kerrie came here with me in 2004 on my house hunting trip and when I moved here to live in 2005, she was my very first visitor, a visitor to a house that was barely livable.

She was coming into Sofia so I headed up there with Mitko, my friendly taxi driver, to pick her up. As soon as she cleared customs I piled her into the car and off to Yambol we headed.  I almost felt sorry for Mitko as we talked without a break and very few breathes all the way home.

I was very excited about her seeing the house and all the changes that had happened since her last visit, so after a quick shop in Yambol and armed with a good supply of wine, we headed home to Miladinovtsi.

The first thing that happened was the start of Gina’s love affair with Kerrie.  I warned her to be careful and approach her gently because I wasn’t sure how she would react to a stranger. I needn’t have worried…Kerrie walked around the corner of the house, Gina stood up, silly look on her big silly face and tail wagging madly.  I was really surprised…her reaction to Kerrie was instant and very positive, not even the usual sniffing and checking out she tends to do to strangers. And that was the tone for Kerrie’s entire visit, Gina gazing adoringly at her whenever she walked into the room and when she wasn’t getting her way with me, she was going to Kerrie, just like a naughty child.

Anyway, we got Kerrie settled and then we both settled in for a glass or two of some fine Bulgarian wine and a bite to eat.

It was a long first night, let me tell you…lots and lots of chat and similar quantities of wine.  Before we knew it, it was past 1.30am and the old girls tottered off to bed…

The next day Kerri was up and waiting for the shepherd to come by.  She saw this the last time and was happy to see it was still happening.

The villagers still seem to enjoy the whole early morning process

as do the sheep

And the other fabulous occurrence that coincided with Kerrie’s arrival was the arrival of my other great favourites…the storks !!  Yes, they’re back and coming into town in vast numbers.  We were out driving one day and a cloud appeared above us, a cloud that was drifting through the sky in a large, circle, ebbing and flowing across the sky.  It took a while but I suddenly realised it was storks, hundreds of them.  I stopped the car and jumped out to try and catch them…I kinda did, but by the time I got my big lens on the camera ,they had drifted quite a way from us.

but we didn’t need to worry about not getting close enough to them because when we were watching the shepherd that night, we got to see this as well


They’re rebuilding the nest just up the road from my house, so hopefully I’ll get to see them right through from the nest building to baby storks this year.

There’s a lot more to tell you, but time is marching on and nana wants a bite to eat and a glass of something nice…she’s working hard at the moment getting the house ready for incoming guests. Because of the great flood of 2011, I’m also having to repaint one of the rooms, so my neck and shoulders need a few hours on the massage cushion, so it’s ciao for now and I’ll be back as soon as time permits.

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Who’s my little flower amongst the daffodils ???


It’s amazing that I actually managed to entice her away from her luxury bed and out into the fresh air, but I did…though not for long.  She’s such a slothful creature these days…

I will be back soon with proper entries.  I have Kerrie, my cousin from Australia, with me at the moment and we are having a wonderful time…far too busy to be sitting at a computer writing stuff.

Ciao for now

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