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

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Monday 8th May, 2017
Category: 2017/05
Tags: walking wildlife cats Finlay

Yesterday dawned clear and sunny, so after my morning stroll to check on the children I decided - wait, what? Children? I hear you exclaim with raised eyebrows. Yes, hundreds of them. I regard each and every plant, shrub and seedling to be one of my children, and my absolute favourite thing to do each morning (especially one such as yesterday when the grass is heavily damp, the sky solid blue and alive with the criss-crossing of birds which swoop from tree to tree, sometimes in tangly knots that crash into the leaves as if they too are wildly giddy with spring fever, and the sun flashes between the branches of the huge old walnut trees in the lane) is to take my morning cup of tea and walk along each and every flower bed, veggie patch and tub to inspect all the plants and seedlings. There are few things which make me as happy as the surprise of suddenly seeing a flourish of green shoots pushing through the soil, or that first developing flower bud, or even a completely random appearance such as the sunflower which is now dominating one of my tubs. And as I walk around followed by Bella and Alfie who listen avidly to my gardening wisdom, I make little tweaks here and there - a stone which might bruise an emerging stem is moved, a definite weed is eased out, a snail is swiftly despatched to the other side of the wall. It's a very soothing ritual and a most beautiful way to start any day.

So, yesterday, having completed this routine, I then decided to take the hounds on a longish walk to explore a way of walking from here to the Roman ruins without having to walk along the road at any point.

We headed off on our familiar route past the old munitions factory and then down the fields towards the snail farm/factory/processing place. What exactly do you call a place that does things with snails? And apparently the snails there are destined for medical and beauty products rather than for edible purposes. Maybe I should let the odd one crawl across my face as I go on my morning stroll.

Part way across the fields I spotted two long brown ears amongst the dense grass. Fold your ears down, Mr Hare, I thought, or a very excited Bella is going to have you as a snack. Luckily for Mr Hare the curve of the hill gave him just enough cover as he loped across the field and into the hedgerow. When we came to the spot where he'd been sitting, Bella caught the scent and flew across the field following his tracks. She'd make a great hunting dog because she zigzags back and forth everytime the trail goes cold until she picks it up again - fascinating to watch. Luckily the hare had a good enough head start to evade capture.

The fields are covered in spring flowers at the moment; lovely clumps of intense blues, yellows, pinks, whites...

After the snail place we crossed the road and headed along a slightly overgrown track. It's amazing how in the midst of all the trees and bushes there are suddenly little fields full of rows of crops all lush and green. Partway along the track we came across this little fellow who I was surprised to see out and about in the bright sunshine.

Maybe he was heading home from a very late party.

You'll notice Bella is on the lead in the photo. It's my new strategy to combat the two dogs vanishing off excitedly and refusing to come when called. If one of them is on the lead the other one doesn't tend to go too far for long, so now they take turns at having a bit of freedom. As our walk progressed we got to a section which was totally overgrown with nettles. At this point I let both dogs off the lead and found a nice stout stick to whack a path for my bare legs. The dogs followed nicely albeit at a safe distance, probably fascinated by the sudden wildness the walk was taking.

We broke through the jungle onto the edge of a field of sweetcorn and after following this we came to the old abandoned flour mill. Here we were back on a decent track and since we were going to start heading through open fields it was time for Bella to go back on the lead. Just in time as it turned out.

Not far along the path I suddenly spotted a beautiful fox further along. Neither dog saw it initially though Alfie was trotting along straight towards it. The fox was oblivious to us as it was intent on catching something and was staring at the ground, jabbing with its nose now and then. Alfie then caught sight of it, took a few steps forward and then looked back at me. At this point the fox saw Alfie and jumped back which triggered Alfie for the chase, and both of them set off haring across the field. Below is a little section of very wobbly video showing the fox running ahead and Alfie coming along later. (Bella was yanking my arm all over the place as I tried to film, desperate to get off the lead and join in the fun)

Fox video

After all that excitement (Alfie came back a few seconds after the fox vanished into the undergrowth) both hounds needed a well earned rest in the nearest spa centre:

For our return journey we followed a track along the edge of a field before meeting up with our earlier route, then it was back across the field to home. Just in time actually as the split second we got in the heavens opened and it rained for much of the afternoon.

I guess the chasing the fox or hare thing is an in built instinct in dogs. Cats too will pounce after anything that makes sudden moves, though Finlay can be more fiendish in his hunting techniques. Somehow he gives off relaxing vibes and just waits for the prey to amble up to him:


Sunday 30th April, 2017
Category: 2017/04
Tags: mayor village projects Parov Well

I've mentioned Mayor Nadya from time to time, and commented on the improvements she's been making to the village including cutting back all the overgrown shrubbery and weeds from the streets, and the recent work which has taken place down at the stadium. Well things are advancing quite rapidly now especially with the great news that Gostilitsa has been awarded almost 10,000 levs for one of the projects Nadya has put forward. I'll talk about it more in future posts once work is underway but I just thought I'd outline some of the things Nadya told us the other day:

Firstly there will be some renovation work to the boundary wall of the little park opposite my house, and best of all, the well there is going to be mended! I'm so excited about that as it was such a lovely feature of the park but fell into disrepair and had to be boarded up as the walls were so damaged. Once it's all done I'd like to gradually add some flowers to areas in the park (once which look after themselves more or less) and generally help keep the place looking beautiful.

Secondly there will be more play equipment for children in the park area next to the old school. This will be great for attracting young families to the village as it makes it look child friendly and not just full of the elderly.

Thirdly there will be a series of information boards at places along the main street with information of interest to tourists such as the history of Gostilitsa and information about the Roman ruins at Diskoduratera. There will be benches placed along this street too for people to sit and chat.

Fourthly, a small park area just to the side of the community centre is going to be tidied up and then turned into an outdoor museum with items of historical interest (e.g. farm machinery) on display along with seating and information.

That's as much as I can remember but it makes me so excited to be part of this phase in Gostilitsa's existence and very hopeful that new life will be injected into the place.

I discovered all of this on Friday when a group of us met up in the square to help clean up a place known as the Parov Well.  I'd never even heard of it and couldn't begin to guess where in the village it might be, so I was intrigued to go along and discover something new about the village.

We all met in the centre under glorious blue skies and sunshine, armed with various gardening tools and kitted out in old work clothes.  Nadya told us it was up past the church and would be quite a walk, but luckily there were enough people with cars for us all to be driven up there. We headed past the church and then up the rough track opposite the Ioanna Guest House, round a small bend and there it was.

It's set down from road level with a path leading to a wall where spring water flows out. In front of that wall is an area of stone slabs and then the water runs off to one side into the stream which flows down the right hand side. This then runs through a big tunnel under the road and presumably off down the village.

The place was all overgrown with weeds and of course strewn with rubbish. There was a long washing line strung across some trees so I guess maybe the Roma people come here to wash clothes. Undeterred, we smild for the group photo then set to work.

A friend and I crept into the tunnel to begin collecting rubbish and soon filled several sacks with bits of plastic sheeting, bottles, broken glass and rags. After that I pulled some fallen branches out of the stream so that the water would flow more easily, helped rake up the weeds and take them to a big compost area, and then collected more rubbish from further up the stream. Others dug out the stream where it was silted up, pruned back the trees and shrubs, strimmed all the grass areas and cleared all the dirt and weeds from the paths and the area round the fountain itself:

Cutting back the trees

Nadya with the youngest volunteer

The path cleared and the steps down to the fountain uncovered

It was a great morning. Everyone worked hard but with time to chat to each other and to get to know some new people. I met a young Bulgarian couple - Victoria and Krasi - who live in VT at the moment but are renovating a place at the top of the village which they want to make their permanent home. They're artists and can't wait till they can finally live in their home here. There were also some German men who have a place at the top of the village. They've lived here for some time now, and Alec spoke perfect English and Bulgarian as well as his native German.

By lunchtime the place had been transformed. The path and steps were all clear, all the dirt was gone from in front of the fountain and not a scrap of rubbish to be seen. I think the plan is to get the water tested to ensure it's safe to drink, and to have some benches put there to make it a place where people can meet and picnic.

Lunch was provided for all the volunteers courtesy of an organisation called Time Heroes, so after a clean up and change of clothing we all met at Dida's bar/shop for some food and drink:



Friday 21st April, 2017
Category: 2017/04
Tags: bottles door DIY garden

I know I'm always banging on about the weather, but... it snowed! Again!! How can this be happening - it's almost the end of April. Thankfully it was just a flurry and so far the extra that was forecast for today hasn't appeared, but it feels bloomin' cold. So pleased I buy my winter wood a year ahead in order to stockpile it because these past few days I've been dibbing into the spare logs to get the stove blazing again.

Most of my plants are still in the greenhouse with the light bulb on to warm them (Molly now spends 90% of her time curled on top of the greenhouse enjoying the extra heat) and a lot of the outdoor ones still have plastic sheeting to shelter them.

The beetroots seem to be holding up alright and the newly sown leeks are beginning to sprout. It's a bit hard to tell what's what because it turns out there was a lot of crop seed in with my straw bales which is busy sprouting. It looks like a crop of grass but the internet assures me it's probably an annual crop which won't take over the beds. I just need to investigate how to use wheat or barley or whatever it is I'm now growing.

I'm hoping the cold snap won't have damaged the tiny fruits on my trees, and the beautiful redcurrants which are developing for the first time:

Also, very excitingly, I think my new raspberry plant might have survived as there are little raspberry type leaves appearing through the ground:

The stick in the top right corner is the actual plant I put in last autumn, so the leaves might be an unrelated weed, but they are now being carefully monitored and fingers crossed will be the raspberry plant.

I've put quite a few flowers around the side garden, and they seem to be managing and putting out some true leaves now, so unless they get totally baked I might have some nice colourful beds this summer.

Despite the icy conditions I suddenly decided to crack on with making the door to my balcony. For the past couple of years I just had a bottle wall along the entrance, mostly to stop the rain blowing in at that end as well as a bit of privacy for when I sleep out there, but it was just a fixed wall and meant I couldn't use the outside stairs at all. A week or so ago, Alfie and I had a little bonding time together to try and counter his wilfulness when out walking where he just looks at me disdainfully when I call him and runs off wherever he likes. As part of this I let him sleep on my bed for a few nights, but to do this I had to carry him up and down the inside stairs as he refused to entertain them. So, long story short, if I can once more access the house using the outside stairs, Alfie can come up and down via that route, hence the need for a door. Well, apart from being a bit wet and cold during construction, it turned out to be rather simpler than I'd thought and is now neatly in place and operational:

Door open....

... door closed!

I'm so proud! It needs a little tidying, and eventually the three columns of green bottles will be replaced by clear ones (courtesy of some lovely friends who pass on their empty tonic bottles which are much stronger than other kinds) but it's there and it works.

With all the vast numbers of bottles employed as walls and doors, I've built up a huge stash of bottle caps and cut off bottle bottoms (no, it's not hoarding) and today I found a little use for some of them:

Bloomin' marvellous.


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