Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pre-winter update

Due to not concentrating Tracey shrunk a mohair cardigan that her gran made her over 30 years ago.   After her initial upset ideas for repurposing  were considered, so far some has been made into terlitsi and a hotwater bottle cover (with rest put in material pile)

After hearing from  a French guy  in Macedonia with no place to move onto, we agreed he could come as a helper.   Unfortunately he was a lot better on paper than in person, didn't like making decisions, had no opinions on anything and showed no interest, apart from when he asked why something had been done a particular way long after the job was completed and our thought process had moved on to other things.  A couple of days after he arrived we heard of a couple of Bulgarian guys who were hitching to a nearby music festival and stranded about 10km away, so Paul went to collect them so they would be dry and fed (it was raining heavily).   Luckily I'd made a big batch of veggie curry that night which was consumed with vigour, in exchange we had an evening of stimulating conversation - mixture of Bulgarian and English.   Both the lads spoke good English but were happy for us to practise our Bulgarian on them, although they were surprised we were taking the effort to learn it.

The gates were completed and  installation took two visits as the customers orchard and piglet field needed the gate posts concreting in, and allowed to cure.   Paul still isn't totally happy with the finished article,  but then again as an engineer  building rustic was always going to be frustrating for him.    Payment for the gates paid for the animals winter fodder which we needed to buy in as our fodder field failed terribly, with not being ploughed.   It was a wonderful sight seeing them being ploughed this year.  

Paul came to bed a while after me one night, got in and promptly leapt out shouting at me to put the light on.   Something had 'stung' him and he was concerned it was a wasp (yes I react to their stings as well)  luckily it was just a praying mantis so trip downstairs to get the camera was needed, he stayed in the bedroom for a while before unfortunately getting caught in a spiders web (possibly Sybil's).

Sybil the Spider
Percy the Praying Mantis

We have obtained a  lot of extra vegetables, honey and rakia, from the assorted neighbours, over the past couple of months in exchange for Paul planing wood to size for them.   We never realised how popular having a planer/thicknesser would make us.   We also had our pumpkin and cabbage mountain added to when Paul repaired a neighbours roof, a job he wasn't happy doing as they wanted a cheap (materials wise) job doing rather than a proper repair.     It doesn't bear thinking about what we'll be inundated with when they realise Paul now has his mig welder here.   We love it really, the sense of community spirit and being able to help your neighbours is what life is about.   With these vegetables given to us 'in payment' and what Tracey grew the jars of preserves is not only an impressive quantity but also the variety is wider than in past years, we eat much better than we we ever did in the UK.    Because our grapes are not seedless they are not great for cooking with or dehydrating but Tracey finally found a use for them - grape juice, after which she dried the pulp (pomace) and ground it for flour, not something she will be repeating unless VERY bored.

Some none Bulgarian friends were going up to Ruse (builders merchants, lunch and homeware/giftshop) and invited us along.  We don't see the other two couples as often as we possibly should.  T'was a nice day for all concerned Paul got to indulge his tool fix habit and Tracey picked up some pretty fripperies for the house.    It's always nice to spend a relaxed day but still achieve something, however minor.

Tracey kills house plants so is being brave this year and as well as splitting and transplanting herbs in the garden she has potted some up for inside the house over winter, as well as some of the hot chilli plants.    We don't have a lot of confidence on any of them being alive in spring but they do have a chance with being edibles.

The goats, which we got in April, weren't proving to be a great success.  Yes they were amusing, they were friendly - too much at times following us every where like dogs, but trying to build and entertain goats was possibly too much for us.     We protected the trunks of the fruit trees we didn't want killing but in September we found a fence between the compound and garden broken resulting in loads of stolen green tomatoes, other tomato plants with snapped stems, raspberries 'pruned' and Krava had lost her collar again (we still haven't found it).  Fence got repaired and we kind of accepted it as part of having goats and then the little darlings found out they could open the kitchen door, they also developed a liking for cement bags ripping them open, spilling contents everywhere.   Eventually discussions were had about selling or freezing (after killing) so Tracey put an advert in one of the livestock groups and the goats went to their new home the following day.    We had the goats 7 months, we sold them for more than we bought them for, Paul had always wanted goats but now we know we will stick with the smaller animals until closer to completing the building works and when we obtain more big animals they will be sheep.

It was mentioned earlier that we needed to buy in winter food for the animals this year and Illiya, our elderly BG neighbour located a source and offered to come with us to ensure we got charged locals price.   In exchange he needed to do a few errands on route, that suits us fine - all part of the barter system.    If only life were that simple!   The errands were numerous and spread out, possibly Illiya felt he got the better deal because although Tracey had bread, meat and rakia for when we got back  Illiya refused ours putting his meat, bread and vodka on our table.  Tracey really needs to learn how to look like she's drinking without consuming alcohol, 2 glasses and she needed a pochifka (rest, aka nap).   Our method of grain collection seemed to fascinate the Bulgarians - normally you take shovels and bags, filling the bags yourselves, they are then weighed and you pay.   The only time the staff normally get involved is with the weighing and paying but if instead of shovels you take buckets, to scope into the grain mountain, the staff are intrigued and want to have a go at this 'weird' method - we did get nods of approval so it may become a more widespread practice.    We unfortunately  had a bit of an 'issue' with our gypsy neighbour who seems to have lost the saw she borrowed last year, she came round asking if Paul would go and chop wood for her (no idea where hubby is), she would pay for the chainsaw fuel.    Normally this would not have caused an issue but Paul was in the middle of a job that couldn't be left, so Tracey suggested she return in a couple of hours when Paul may be finished.  2 days later she returned, again at an inconvenient time, and was very put out that she was offering to pay cash but we wouldn't go and do it immediately.   We think  she expressed her unhappiness to our local Baba who seems to have explained things to her as everything is now back to normal.   We also had an interesting discussion at the door with another Bulgarian who had snapped his cars fan belt and seemed most surprised we didn't have the means to repair it, or a spare just sitting around.

Although Tracey would have liked parts of the house finishing before starting the barn rebuild nearly half the barn had been designated as Paul's new workshop which would be necessary if he were to build a stable door (replacement for the burnt backdoor - currently a heavy blanket) and other items necessary to get our home finished.    So breeze blocks were purchased to build the east wall - this wall will be between the animal part of the barn and the workshop, breeze block will be a more effective fire break than a timber wall (Yes Tracey is still paranoid)  We were progressing slowly and then Miki & Laura arrived from Barcelona, wow did their enthusiasm move that job along.    It also helped that neither of them had a problem with heights, so were able to be more help to Paul than Tracey, who will now go up ladders but is in tears after the 3rd rung.   This couple have joined the small bunch of helpers we are pleased entered our lives, NOT for the physical help they provide (we appreciate that from all helpers) but their personalities are such they bring a new lease of life to projects (rebuilding our home) that survive long after they leave.     We are not just rebuilding it for us but also for them, not literally but helpers like this show so much faith, in us, and admiration for what we have achieved we can't give up, however tired we sometimes feel.    Although now the temperatures have dropped Tracey has discovered her hip (dislocated summer 2014) is still causing her pain and restricting the weights she can lift/carry, so no doubt work will slow down considerably for the next few months.    The barn/workshop is now at the stage where electrics are going in and whilst the tools need mains, or an excessive amount of batteries, the lighting will be supplied by LEDs, mainly for their quality of light but they have the added benefit that we can solar power them.

3rd October 2015
8th October 2015
13th October 2015

17th October 2015

18th October 2015
4th Novemeber 2015 (South side of roof still waiting for us to locate tiles)
21st November 2015, Paul not happy about tiles being a different colour but we can possibly sort that at a later date

Unfortunately we couldn't keep Miki and Laura but while they were here the workshop roof started being tiled, we had to wait a month before it could be finished as we had problems locating reclaimed tiles.   Those we got weren't exactly the same but close enough to give us a leak free workshop roof, and far enough away to give Paul some more grey hairs.

Some of our winter clothes have come down from the attic and while up there Tracey decided to bring down some pictures for the kitchen/diner walls, there is a rumour she's going to turn into a girly girl.   We also got round to ordering double glazed units for the east wall windows, that weren't in the original plans, but we loved the light that came through before we got round to boarding them up so decided more windows.    Because of their none standard shape we expected to have to wait a week or so, but no we were told they would be ready for collection the following day.

Many more to come down from attic

Each pane roughly 20cm by 100cm 

We have  obtained a  cooking pechka for the extension, and although that means Tracey has a comfortable temperature for her cooking and other potterings, the lack of a back door, and corridor ceiling/floor, means we are sleeping in the main house again this winter, rather than the above kitchen/diner mezzanine which will be our normal bedroom.    On a positive note the giraffe wall is acting as a fantastic heat sink, if we have the pechka kicking out loads of heat, or on for more than a few hours in the evening, it's still got some warmth in it the following morning.

We also had a friend who lives a few hours away come visit with her son.   Because we have local friends who originate from the same country Tracey invited them and another couple to join us for dinner.   It wasn't her finest meal but, nobody died and, the company was more important than the food.     She did refuse to tell them the ingredients of the cake (green tomato) until they had tried it, probably just as well, as all said they would have been reluctant to taste when in fact it was a nice cake.

Before the decision to get rid of the goats was made Tracey had started digging trenches, so she could use some of the old beams to fence off the garden.    This action was triggered by the fun the animals are having with open access to all areas of the property, not just the compound.    Even though the goats are not here anymore the fencing will continue as the birds can also be destructive, especially with newly planted seedlings.    The plan is to have protected areas that will only be accessible to livestock when no crops are planted but the areas between these areas will be available for free ranging livestock.   Unfortunately, rain has stopped play, with these projects although we may be able to complete before snows arrive, and if not they will be finished before planting commences.  Talking of crops we had an unexpected crop of oyster mushrooms growing on wood we have stockpiled in previous years.    Another decision Tracey made, regarding the gardens was to weed and cover (mainly old lino) areas she is unsure what is happening with.   Helping Paul, with building works, and managing to stay on top of the demands made by the garden has proven difficult and whilst this may not be an ideal solution it prevents her getting disheartened by a mass of weeds.

You can also tell it's approaching winter as Tracey has switched from preserving to baking, although we seem to be getting a number of vegetarian burgers made for the freezer.  Burgers are a nice way to store vegetables for winter usage, as not only can they be the main part of the meal but they also go well with meat - much to Paul's delight.

No pictures of cakes and biscuits because Paul eats them too soon.

1 comment:

  1. An enjoyable read as you'll miss those goats though!
    Love the use of fruit and vegetables in your bakes. I should try to be more adventurous.