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

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Monday 17th April, 2017
Category: 2017/04
Tags: Easter

Bulgarian homes are full of beautifully decorated boiled eggs at the moment, and no matter how many you eat or give away to neighbours, the fridge is always still packed with them. The reason? It's Easter.

One of the beautiful things about Bulgaria is how much traditions seem to be an accepted and celebrated part of everyone's lives, regardless of how religious or otherwise a person is. The calendar seems to leap from one festival to another, some with clear pagan roots (as many Christian traditions are), some historically based, and others linked to the Orthodox faith.

Last Saturday, for example, was Lazarovden (the day of Lazarus who, according to Christian belief, was raised from the dead by Jesus). In Bulgaria it was a chance for young girls of marriageable age to dress in their finest clothes, adorned with flowers, and to go from house to house singing praises upon the householders in return for gifts of eggs and money. It was said that a house visited by these 'Lazurki' would be prosperous that year. Of course if said household had an eligible bachelor son then it was also a cracking chance for a little matchmaking.

Part of the modern day celebrations include prizes for things like the best dressed girl and the best decorated easter basket. The event always ends with a giant 'horo' in the town square with everyone joining in to make a huge circle for a folk dance.

On Thursday we decorate eggs ready for Easter, using coloured dyes (available in their thousands from supermarkets along with huge trays of eggs). These eggs are then kept until Easter Day when you tap yours against someone else's and whoever has the unbroken egg will have good fortune in the year. A kind of Christian game of conkers. The first egg should be dyed red, and this is used by the oldest member of the family to mark everyone's forehead and wish them good health. The red eggs can be kept in the home until the following Easter. I must admit I do like decorating the eggs, especially the ones where you wrap an egg in a thick layer of onion skins before boiling it and then dipping it in coloured dye. The result is a gorgeous marbled effect which looks even lovelier when polished with a little oil.

On Sunday I invited some friends round for a little Easter get together, and despite the sudden downpour and crashing of thunder just as people were arriving, it went really well. There were 13 of us (spookily like the last supper) but that number was okay is it's one friend's lucky number and also the number of my house. Two joints of lamb were sealed in the clay oven at 10 o'clock the previous night and by morning they were deliciously tender and juicy - a pretty fool proof way of cooking meat, as long as you keep an eye on the oven to start with as the flames were licking over the top several times!

Everyone seemed to have a great time - I certainly did - though this is now the reason I have a fridge full of boiled eggs as a couple of people brought some along, in addition to the ones I'd done. No matter. Over the next few weeks they will be eaten along with the chocolates and hot cross buns after which the dieting will begin yet again. Well, until the next celebration that is!


 

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!

 

Monday 13th March, 2017
Category: 2017/03
Tags: weather snow dairy snails

I have completely and utterly jinxed the weather in so many ways: shaving my legs, wearing shorts and vest top, boasting in the last blog entry...  So now I'm sitting looking towards the nearby hills which are completely enshrouded in mist and watching slushy snow settling on the grass and feeling all cut off and miserable. I have high hopes for the weekend onwards though as my daily scrutinisation of the weather forecast promises sunshine and warmth, ahhh.

I shouldn't be surprised really as every March so far has produced a flurry of snow at some point, it's just that those early glorious days of sunshine lull you into a false sense of 'summer's here' and I so want to be able to sit outside again.

My early planting schedule may have hit a bit of a setback, though the planted areas (leeks, parsnips, carrots and radishes) are all covered over with plastic sheeting and, aside from the radishes, have yet to germinate so maybe they'll come bursting through once the temperatures rise again. The indoor planting is faring better with the tomatoes all looking strong and healthy and peppers just beginning to come through.

I'm not at home very much these days as I'm looking after other people's pets whilst they're away and tend to just pop down to mine to feed everyone and sometimes light the fire to keep the house warm (Alfie and Bella enjoy a prolonged sniff at my shoes and trousers each time I come home whereas the cats just want to fly indoors as if there's some kind of banquet being laid on in there) .

It was during this past week that I learned something new about the dairy down by the Yantra river. It was a dairy for many years and then seemed to shut for a while (during which time I availed myself of the broken pallet boards to make my compost bin). A while ago it seemed to be back in business and I assumed as a dairy. Apparently not. I've been told that the business there is now snails of all things! I don't know if they're breeding them or if it's just a processing plant for ones found in the locality, and my informant seems to think they must be headed for Spain or France as there isn't a huge demand in Bulgaria for them. It makes me think that I should stop slinging the huge beasts I find nibbling my flowers and veggies over the fence and start driving them down to the ex-dairy to turn into stotinkis. This time next year, readers, I'll be a millionaire. Lovely jubbly.

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