Day to day events mostly cataloguing my complete lack of understanding and common sense!

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There is now a separate site with information on living in Bulgaria, including:

  • An introduction to Gostilitsa and all it has to offer
  • Day to day practicalities of shopping, paying bills, banking, insurance
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  • Public transport and issues relating to car ownership
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Tagged with "veggies"
Friday 9th February, 2018
Category: 2018/02
Tags: Dancing garden veggies mincer

Do you ever find yourself feeling sort of antsy and dissatisfied with life for no real concrete reason? I sometimes get like that, and my instinct at such times is to shut myself away and get all hard done by and lonely - boohoo, poor me, nobody cares. Fortunately I can recognise the arrival of these moods and know from experience that giving in to isolation just leads to more intense grumpy bitterness, which prompts me to cut myself off even more, which leads to... well, you can see the spiral effect, right? My antidote now is to force myself to do something sociable (even if I really really really don't want to) and thus far the gods have rewarded my efforts with pleasantness.

One such instance was a couple of years ago when I was on my way to the pumpkin festival in Sevlievo and found Bella on the way. Rescuing her took my attention completely away from myself and made me focus outward on something else. Not surprisingly, the dark clouds soon lifted.

Well, last Saturday, in an effort to cancel a little pity party, I headed off to Kereka where a Bulgarian dance class was to be held. I knew at least one other Brit would be there (it was they who told me about it) but when I first arrived there were only Bulgarians there who all appeared to know each other. It took a huge effort to stay in the room and not sidle back out the door - I think sheer bloody-mindedness took over and I was determined to dance, even if it was in a corner on my own whilst this big group of experts whirled around.

The first dance began as a warm up and was thankfully a very simple one which I could join in with. The next one looked a bit more complicated, so I stepped back from the circle to watch, hoping that I'd be able to get to grips with it. To my delight, one or two others were also unsure as to what to do, and one of the girls leading the session took people to one side to try and break the steps down. Phew, they aren't the Bulgarian Olympic Dance Squad after all!

For the next couple of hours we did maybe four different dances, and then focused on the 'Tsigansko Horo' which I recall seeing people doing at previous events. No one knew how to do it so we learned a little bit at a time and did lots of repetition before starting to put it together in chunks. It was brilliant when it started to click and I was stepping and kicking along with the others. Tiring stuff though - definitely a great exercise workout!

Our teachers were so pleased with the results that they asked if we'd like to perform it in a couple of weeks' time at the village Trifon Zarezan celebration.

I'm going again tomorrow and really can't wait. Negative mood? What negative mood!

I think I've mentioned a few times about the lovely mild weather we've enjoyed this winter, and it's been really tempting to start the veggies off early, but I've been resisting just in case there is a sudden major freeze. I don't think that's going to happen now though, so this week I began some planting.

I bought some onions at the market the other day (hopefully they're ordinary onions and not shallots this time) and so far I've planted about 200 in the garden. 

I've also done some lettuces under a sheet of plastic, and sown individual parsnip seeds in little loo roll pots. These have been put in the greenhouse to keep a bit warmer while they germinate. Up on the landing there are yoghurt pots with various tomato varieties and tons of peppers (fingers crossed this year I'll finally get my own pepper seedlings to grow):

The manure pen in the garden is brim full and hopefully the stuff in the centre, where it's been warmer, will have started to rot down. I think it's been in there since October so by the time I start using it in March it will have had 4 or 5 months of rotting time. Last year the stuff in my raised beds was fairly fresh and it was amazing how the volume of it dropped as it decomposed over the year - literally halving in depth. I've been turning over the soil in the beds ready for topping up. 

There's a section at one end  where I've mixed in a lot of sand I salvaged from the street outside (when there's heavy rain, building sand washes down onto my street from where people have it heaped outside their homes for building works). I plan to plant some carrots here this year as I think pure manure has been too light for them to grow successfully before. I've already sown a few rows of radishes in this bed.

And finally I've been making my own minced meat (ground meat, not Christmas pie filling!) this week. All the mince I buy over here, be it from a butcher or supermarket, tends to become one big sticky lump in the pan, and always has some kind of weird herby taste to it, which affects the dish you're trying to make. I'd wondered for a while about the possibility of making my own mince, and then a few weeks ago a friend lent me a mincing machine exactly like the one I remember my mum using when I was a child. I finally got round to buying some pork this week and had a go at putting it through the mincer. It sure wasn't as straightforward as I remember it seeming.

The mincer kept getting clogged up and I discovered that the sinewy bits were getting tangled round the blade and were blocking the holes in the disc the mince comes through. So I got into a routine of cutting the pork into smaller bits first, and every so often taking the disc and blade out to scrape the sinews off. 

I fried a few bits of it and was thrilled to have mince that actually stays in separate bits and tastes of meat. Bolognese and chilli are back on the menu!

Click here for photos from today's post.


Monday 31st July, 2017
Category: 2017/07
Tags: Mazalat hiking veggies weather

At this time of year the veggie patch starts to bear fruit, and I develop an ever stronger urge to patrol the rows of greenery several times a day to chart progress, harvest crops and urge on the stragglers.

After a slow and troublesome start earlier this year, the raised beds are doing a fantastic job, with the only weeds being the ones sprouting from unrotted manure (mostly grass) and these are very easy to remove.

I've just done a mad photography session with the new camera (practising with different settings to see which give the clearest results) so here's a quick round up of what's currently growing in the garden: Turnip; beetroot; mange tout; kale; chillis; cucumber; 4 kinds of beans; potatoes; spinach; peppers; parsnips (sadly only a few); butternut squash; sweetcorn; asparagus (not to be harvested until next year); white and green courgettes; 5 varieties of tomato; lettuce and rocket. Add to that the garlic, onions and shallotts which have already been harvested - I'm beyond thrilled! The potatoes are much nicer this year (last year's were savaged by underground slugs) and as soon as I get any sprouting bits I shall pop them back in the soil to see if I can get a late autumn harvest too.

We had some mad weather late last week, with torrential rain, thunder, lightning and even a hailstorm. Luckily there was no damage to anything in the garden.

I was really luckily that the stormy weather didn't hit a day earlier because I was away at that time hiking in the mountains with a couple of friends!

We'd gone up to Uzana and then along a lane to one of the hiking huts (Partizanski Pesen) where we'd left the car. From there it was about a three hour hike to the next hut - Mazalat.

It's a lovely place with dormitories holding around 10 beds, proper toilets (always a luxury), plenty of hot water for the shower, and inside and outside seating/dining areas. The scenery round about was, as always, stunning.

We checked in and then left much of our baggage in the bedroom before continuing our day's walking westward along the trail. Our first target was a place known as the Singing Rocks.

They get their name from the sound they make whenever there's a strong wind blowing up from the south, but unfortunately for us we were there on a hot calm day and the rocks didn't make a peep. (I bet they were belting out some songs in the next day or two with the storms!)

There was plenty of noise from the insects around though as all the moorland was full of wildflowers of all kinds. One insect we saw a lot of were huge grasshoppers:

They were all actually on the narrow walking path and didn't hop out of the way when you walked by. On closer examination they all had their long rear spike wedged into the ground which made us wonder if they were all laying eggs.

At one point as we climbed higher and higher we passed a large herd of horses amongst whom were several gorgeous little foals.

I must admit I found the hike a struggle which surprised me because last year's walk to Botev involved a much higher climb and carrying a large pack, and I don't recall huffing and puffing half as much. This time I found myself stopping ever more frequently to catch my breath and foolishly didn't take anywhere near enough water to drink and so had to ration it a bit. Maybe it was the heat that made the walk more tiring, but we continued onwards until about 4pm (hoping to reach the Thundering Forest) but by that time we were a good 3 hour walk from the hut and so turned about and headed back.

From where we were walking we could see across to Uzana, Buzludzha, Gabrovo, Sevlievo and Mt Botev at various points.

Back at the hut we showered and had a much needed drink, and then later on had some dinner. We chose Shopska salad and a hearty dish of shredded cabbage in a sauce with a massive chunk of tender pork. We took it out to the shelter to eat, where there were benches and a huge fireplace. A group of Bulgarians next to us were cooking a mixture of tomatoey beans and sausages in a huge pan, and when it was done they brought us a bowl and some bread to share. Boy was it tasty!

We sat in the shelter playing cards and talking till night fell, and then I headed up to bed.

The next day we had a breakfast of French toast and jam before hiking back to the car. From there we drove back into Uzana and had a quick look at one of the new stone shelters which have been built down one of the tracks. It's a big stone structure, open on one side, with wide wooden benches down two sides, a wooden table and log seats, and a massive stone fireplace at the far end. Apparently anyone can turn up, light a fire and spend a night. So our plan is to pick a warm night, bring our sleeping bags and some food etc, and then spend the night there in front of the fire (which should keep any hungry bears at bay!) Always love having an adventure to look forward to.

Click here for the link to today's photos.



Wednesday 29th March, 2017
Category: 2017/03
Tags: garden veggies

Fear not, spring has now most definitely sprung, the skies are blue and the air is full of the heady scent of plum blossom from the hundreds of snowy white trees which cover the landscape. Every tree hums with the buzz of bees, and the lightest breeze sends thousands of petals cascading like confetti. It truely is a beautiful time of year as nature becomes a mass of fresh bright greens and birds sing from dawn till dusk.

I'm back home now and for the past couple of days have been busy nurturing my seedlings, and sowing and re-sowing the ones which haven't appeared yet. (The usual yearly panic sowing in other words).

There's still no sign of any carrots, though there's a good chance they maybe started to germinate but got roasted under the hot sun, so I've now sown lots more seeds in two pots which I shall keep in a shadier spot, and, if the carrots grow, I can transplant them at a later date.

The leeks are all springing up but so is a weird fungus which has spread along the raised bed (probably enjoying the water and shelter the leek seeds were getting).

Normally I don't mind the odd toadstool growing among the veggies but this seemed quite dense and had spread for several feet, so I've pulled out as many chunks as I could find. Hopefully it's not disturbed the seedlings too much.

The onions are all growing nicely, though I think the batch I planted back in November are actually shallots.

I've transplanted a few of the cabbage type seedlings and lettuces out and so far they're thriving but are still only small.

Indoors all the tomatoes, peppers and aubergines are growing, so they get to go out in the greenhouse each day to get an intense dose of sunlight, but come back in at night as it's still been a touch frosty first thing in the morning.

I noticed today that my courgettes are just starting to grow but no sign of the cucumbers yet. I might resort to buying some from the market!

My biggest thrill was seeing that the two asparagus plants from last year have made it through winter and are sending up spindly shoots.

They won't be picked for a couple of years though to give the plants a chance to get established.

Elsewhere I've planted a few shrubs as I want to break up the look of the bottom of the garden, and I'm also shaping the little flower garden beds as I get more things to go in there.

Later on in the year I might have a go at sowing a load of grass seed on the lawn bit because I want that area to be a nice shady sitting place full of flowers and nice scenty herbs. One day!

I've been doing a few additional bits to the wigwam - enclosing part of the front entrance, making the walls thicker with some discarded pine branches, and adding a few decorative bits and bobs.

It's a lovely little sun trap in there but with a nice bit of shade too, and the animals are often found curled up in there. They don't seem to mind the macabre selection of skulls which adorn the outside.

It's all getting a bit Dances With Wolves!

To see pictures of the garden from today's blog, click here.


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