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

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Tagged with "veggies"
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. This pic shows the build up of storm clouds one day:

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.

This photo was taken sitting amongst the rocks which are part of a cliff edge overlooking a steep wooded valley. 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 these 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.


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!


Sunday 10th April, 2016
Category: 2016/04
Tags: hospital Finlay garden compost wigwam veggies

A great adventure looms on the horizon for me as on Wednesday I will be going to hospital for the nose operation! Dobrina phoned the doctor for the fourth time last Wednesday and finally got things organised. I have to arrive at the hospital in Pleven at 8am having had nothing to eat or drink, and will be in for a maximum of three days. According to the surgeon I only need to take pyjamas, toiletries and my ID card but Dobrina said to take a plate, cup and cutlery as some hospitals like you to use your own, and apart from this the hospital site says about taking your own sheets and pillow cases, so I shall arrive armed with everything.

I'm a bit nervous of course but only because I'm worried that I might not understand something, or that I might forget to take something essential (like food perhaps?) but regarding the operation itself I have faith in the surgeon not to remove a limb by mistake. Who knows, maybe he'll tighten up a few wrinkles here and there whilst I'm asleep!

Finlay had his second trip to the vet last week too after the recurrant limping only this time it turned out he actually had a sizeable wound right on his ankle. The area around it was devoid of fur so I can only imagine it had been festering inside for a couple of weeks, causing him pain, and has then burst whereupon he's been licking it clean. So, thankfully no operations or x-rays needed, just an antibiotic jab and some tablets which he's just finished taking, and so far no return of a limp.

The garden is getting a much needed soaking today (and last night) with some fairly heavy rainfall which will do all the little seedlings a power of good. I've been a bit annoyed to see some deep weeds pushing up through the floor of my raised beds - apparently the sheets I put at the bottom rotted pretty swiftly - so in autumn when the veggies are done I shall empty the manure out and put plastic sheeting over the ground instead. Who would have thought that a plant could fight up through a foot and a half of darkness!

I spent some time this week first thinning out the peppers and tomatoes and then transplanting some to yoghurt pots from which the final strong ones will be selected for the garden.

It always feels such a waste to me when I have a little heap of perfectly good seedlings cast to one side just because I have too many.

The big plastic bottles made for great incubators but it was very hard to tip the plants out because of the ridged walls, especially the big things like courgettes which were ready for the garden. Next year I think I will line the pots with small plastic bags which I can then lift out when it comes time to transplant seedlings.

I've been throwing flower seeds in all over the place and was lucky enough to be given some clumps of lilies which I've put along the bottom of the garden where they can spread.

The comfrey plants are all growing like crazy ready to make more compost tea so I decided to improve upon the bucket I used last year for the leaves to rot in. I bought a big dustbin with a lid for 8 levs (about £3) and fixed an old tap into it.

The problem was though that all the sludgy bits of plant material quickly clogged up the tap and I had to keep poking the hole on the inside to let the 'tea' flow freely. Not something you want to be sticking your hand in each time because it really, really stinks! So I then came up with the idea of an old pillow case with some wire mesh inside to act as a filter. The new leaves and water go into the pillow case and then just the liquid filters through which runs freely out of the tap. Job done!

Last Thursday in the village they celebrated the feast of the Annunciation. The usual date for this is March 25th, but it can also be celebrated on April 7th as an alternative. It recalls when Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel and told she would give birth to Christ (arrgghh this means it's only 9 months till Christmas!!). Traditionally on this day the housewife gives the yard and house a good sweeping and burns all the bits whilst a big old pot is banged to frighten away any snakes which might be lurking. (No doubt there's symbolism of good and evil in here somewhere). People leap over the fires three times for luck and it is said that any wound will heal more quickly on this day (should have sorted my operation a bit sooner!)

In the square they made a small fire from some sticks and baba Reina went round banging on a big tin can after which everyone present took turns at jumping over the fire.

We then did a little folk dance around it whilst the babas sang (would you believe the steps to the dance were yet again different from the ones we've been learning at our dance classes. Will there ever come a day when I can join a 'хоро' confident that I'll know the moves?).  After this some girls volunteered to have their ears pierced with a needle and red thread because on this day it won't hurt as much and the holes will heal more quickly.

Don't worry - it was all done as pretend.

It always amazes me how faithfully they maintain these ancient traditions and I think it's wonderful that they do so. I can't help but note the age of the participants though, most of whom must be in their 70s, and wonder if these events will fade away in the next 10 to 20 years. Maybe I should don a long black dress and embroidered pinny, and help preserve things for future generations too.

Another mini project came to fruition this week and my garden now sports a wigwam! I collected several long sticks last year from where the electricity board had done a major pruning job on all the trees in danger of damaging the overhead wires, and since then they've just been propped up in the garden, but now that my two lovely little grapevines are starting to sprout leaves I decided the time had come to build the frame I hope they will eventually grow over.

The sticks were tied together (using the plastic bottle string of course) and then rolls of brush screening were draped around them to provide a little shelter. (The brush screening has been stashed in the shed since moving here. It was one of the many last minute impulse buys I made before moving over, thinking at the time it might make a nice screen for the wire fence at the bottom of the garden though never had the heart, or nerve, to use it to effectively block out my neighbour).

As well as a frame for the vines to grow over it's also a very cool sitting place to catch the last of the evening rays of sun. I defy anyone out there to say they wouldn't still love to play at cowboys and Indians. Naturally all the animals were the first to investigate it and give it the paws up seal of approval. Molly, being more experienced in den making, noticed that the entire structure would not be waterproof and so built her own little shelter inside, out of the bags the screening came in.

Clever little cat.

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