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2016/08
Monday 29th August, 2016
Category: 2016/08
Tags: gourd festival Mindya rockfest

You never have to scroll far through a calendar in Bulgaria to hit upon a celebration of some kind, but this weekend we were spoiled for choice with events going on at Shipka, VT, Mindya and in Gostilitsa itself. I think I did pretty good at making it to two out of the four.

In the village it was the annual gourd festival, an event which is in its fourth year and going from strength to strength.  On Friday we had the chance to decorate dried gourds and there was a great turn out of people from very small children to... well, not so small children!

I found a little rounded gourd and did a cat on one side (which looked remarkably like a panda) and an owl on the other, proclaiming the theme 'night creatures'. Some of the gourds were absolutely huge, over two feet long ones which were decorated as snakes. I really must look into successful gourd growing and see if I too can make some of these whoppers. This year I couldn't even get the seeds to grow!

On Saturday it was the day of the concert - beautiful and sunny fortunately - so I turned up early to help get ready. The big tree in the square had its lowest branches trimmed back to head height and then it was festooned in gourds and also coloured papers with little anecdotes relating to gourds written on them. A big poster went on the central pillar by the entrance to the community centre, and there was a board with two holes for people to put their faces in for photos, with the picture being of a man and woman with gourds for heads. (I should have taken a pic of the outdoor decorations; once the community centre post theirs I shall nab a couple and add them in so you can see what it looked like).

At 10 o'clock (ish) the first performers began, and my job was to sit in the front row and hand out water to the performers as they left the stage (a simple job which was confused by some of the performers coming off the other side - and no, I wasn't going to run across the theatre dropping bottles of water everywhere chasing after them - and by the fact I was told only to give water to groups and not solo artists - what about duets??).

There were introductory speeches including from our mayor, Nadya

and then, shock horror, I heard my name being called, along with Angie and Andrea (who weren't there at that point) to go up on stage and receive a thank you letter and gourd medal for the work done on the new hall floor! I scuttled up and off again as fast as my blushes would take me, very surprised but also very pleased.

There were lots of performers again from all the surrounding areas: musicians, singers and a woman who told a long animated story which had the audience in fits of laughter though by gosh her words came out in an absolute torrent of which I caught very little! 

The mayor of Dryanovo got all caught up in the moment during some romantic music and had a little twirl with Baba Reina from our village:

More shocks at the end of the concert when there were certificates for some of the decorated gourds and my little cat/owl got one. I think it's the first art prize I've ever won!

Time then to dash home, have a bite to eat and a cuppa before getting ready for the evening event, the Mindya Rockfest.

This again is an annual event, usually on the last weekend in August and is apparently the most popular free rock festival in Bulgaria. I went for the first time a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it and had half thought about staying overnight at one of the camping areas the village has, but in the end I booked a taxi instead which was only 70 levs return (not bad for an hour's drive).

We got there about 5pm and the bands weren't due to start for a while, so we had a bite to eat and a drink before going for a wander round Mindya.  It's a great looking village with views to forest covered hills, and is full of really old traditional style houses, some of which were in the process of being renovated, others clearly in need of attention. One place with nice new windows which looked like a potential restaurant/guest house had an off-putting picture of a laughing Hitler on the door. Were they going to call it the Happy Nazi hotel?

As dusk fell the first of several bands came on and I released my inner rocker:

A steady stream of great food, wine, laser lights and music to dance around to all made for a brilliant night.

The atmosphere there is so friendly, even the children were up on stage singing along to the 'Volkswagon Blues'

and then an amazing little girl from Varna, who couldn't have been more than 8 or 9, got up with her guitar and harmonica and did a duet with the lead guitarist of one of the bands.

Here's a small taster of the night, but seriously, if you're ever in the region in August you must go... it's awesome!!

(Click for video)
 

Sunday 21st August, 2016
Category: 2016/08
Tags: diy cob oven bales of straw

I've been getting one or two things ticked off the to do list this week (though there are always more being added) including getting the winter wood ordered, well, sort of ordered. The guy says it's definitely 60 lev a cube but it won't be available till next week, so an actual deliverable order hasn't yet been finalised. Hey, ho...

One thing which did get delivered was 10 beautiful bales of straw ready for next year's veggie patch. Tisho came along with his trailer and stacked them all nicely next to the garage, so now I have an excellent heap of mulch material to top up the courgette and tomato areas but also with plenty more left over which I can use on the raised beds to help keep the soil moist (speaking of which, a lovely new trailer of manure has just been booked for tomorrow morning, even as I'm writing this!)

Some of the straw has already been diverted to another project though: the repair of the clay cob oven. This is the third time I've tried mending the smaller of the ovens (which had its roof broken when the house was initially renovated). The first time was during my first stay in the house in 2006 when my clever sister and niece found a heap of clay down by the river and brought me lots back. The repair at that time was just to make the oven look whole rather than actually be usable, but it did the trick until 2012 when the electricians smashed it whilst putting lighting in the sheds.  Cue the second repair in 2013 though I just used pure clay at the time (having no knowledge) and unfortunately it just kept cracking as it dried.  Now having read up on the subject I learn that straw is needed to give the clay a little flexibility which prevents the cracking.

I've had a massive bowl of clay wrapped in plastic for well over a year now, all nice and squidgy, if a little stagnant, and now with the arrival of the straw it was all systems go.

I cut up some of the straw into smaller pieces and then took a ball of clay and stuffed it with the straw:

A bit more reading said to add as much straw as it will take so the balls in the photo were stuffed even more. I was also supposed to add sand for strength but didn't have anywhere near as much as they said, so left out that stage. If I have workmen near the shed again I'll just put a massive cage over the oven!

Once I had a stack of strawy clay balls it was time to build up the oven. I'd already moulded the shape with rocks and what sand I did have, and put a layer of wet newspaper over the top to separate the sand and clay:

The wood at the front was to try and keep the entrance flat so it will be easier to seal when cooking.

And this is it finished. My only worry is that I built on top of the remaining walls of the oven, and after a few days there were fine cracks along this join making me think my new clay isn't blending with the old part. I've since added a fresh layer of clay directly over this join which I hope will be enough to seal it. Now I've got to wait for the clay to dry properly and then it will be time to light a tentative fire inside.  If it works it will be brilliant because I can use it in summer to cook joints of meat and bake bread rather than using the more expensive to run electric oven.  You might notice the lack of chimney. We'll worry about that later...

Yesterday I fixed the bolt of the double shed door which has never closed properly before. It was always sticking out slightly and when the weather was hot it would catch against the other door, so much so that sometimes I just had to leave it open.  I always thought it was because the bolt was a bit bent out of shape but yesterday I suddenly realised it was because the installers had put it too near the top of the door and so the bolt wasn't able to go fully into the little hole in the frame. The frame has metal inside so it was out with the drill and a short while later a nice deep hole was made which the bolt now slides fully into.  No more trying to slam the door shut!  I love it when little inconveniences like that are sorted out.

Another thing that got tackled was the bulging stone wall just near the clay oven. It's been bowed inwards for a couple of years and I think it's because as the rain from the neighbours side used to woosh out of the downspout off their porch roof it would hit the wall and gradually dissolved the clay mortar which then crumbled out causing the stones to start slipping position a bit. (This water was also running eventually into my wood store shed and coming through as a literal river when it was raining heavily, so last year I kindly installed a drain pipe all along the wall on their side to take the water further down the yard away from my wood shed). Anyway, to shore up the wall a bit I used some old cement and lime/sand mix to repoint in between the stones. Not a tidy job but it might stop any further collapse of clay infill, otherwise the whole wall will need rebuilding which will be a major job (not to mention it might collapse on the poor old clay oven!)

Alfie has had a playmate here this week, a little dog called Foxy who is due to travel to her new permanent home in Manchester at the beginning of September. She was just here to help give Emma, who currently fosters 20 dogs and does amazing work neutering and treating strays around Dryanovo, a break while she had visitors.  It was great for Alfie to have someone who could play chase around the garden for hours on end, followed by friendly wrestling and mouthing at each other. The friendship didn't extend to sharing accommodation though, and the nearest Foxy got to the kennel was a blanket on the ground just outside:

I think I'll offer to foster a dog another week as it's nice for Alfie to have a canine ally, even though the cats all made it clear that they are definitely still the bosses of this property!

 

Saturday 13th August, 2016
Category: 2016/08
Tags: decorating community centre

It started with me looking at the dusty beams in the living room and thinking I really must get a cloth and bucket and give them all a good wipe down. Now, a month later, those beams have all been revarnished, the walls repainted, window ledges tiled and the floor completely transformed, and I just love it!

I think I probably said before about how it always looks dark in my living room, especially since having the porch extension outside which really cuts out the light. One option was to have the ceiling plaster boarded in between the big beams, but I just love all the wood so much I couldn't bring myself to do that. So my other option was to lighten the floor which is made of the big old irregular stone slabs.

I guess some might look upon the idea of painting a traditional stone floor with the same distaste as someone boarding up a Victorian fireplace, but I say a home is a home, not a museum piece, and should be entirely to the comfort and taste of the current occupier.

Had I been in the UK I would have headed off to B & Q, or some similar DIY place, and bought some cement paint and concrete sealer to do the job, but unfortunately over here such things are not so easy to come by.  After lots of pondering, asking opinions and of course consulting Mr Google, I decided to first put down some sort of primer to make a smooth, non-dusty surface, then slap on tons of emulsion, and then top it all off with some protective clear varnish.  Having made the decisions it was then time for action.

I guess it was a little bit scary because there'd be no undoing it once I started, but I consolled myself with the thought that if it was awful I'd just hide it all with rugs and then save up to have the place tiled.

Naturally I couldn't do the entire floor in one go because of all the furniture, so I began along the southern side of the room.

As soon as the first layer of paint went down I knew I was going to love it. I used up some old cans of exterior and interior paint for two layers and then did a bit of research for the top layer. I wanted something hard wearing but preferably with a bit of sheen to it, and, having told Boris my language tutor all about vinyl silk paint during my lesson, he came across some vinyl paint on the Baumarket website (a DIY store in Sofia). It sounded ideal and even had anti-mould properties, the only problem was the delivery charge would double the cost of the tin of paint. On the off chance, I went to the paint shop in Gabrovo and asked if they did vinyl paint and lo and behold they sold the very one I'd been looking at! Well, not the anti-mould variety, but still the same brand of vinyl paint. It was only when I used it that I realised it was actually vinyl matt and not silk, but at least it would be hard wearing for the final layer.

What a difference from the old dark stone!

In the same paint shop they also had varnish for stone which claimed not to yellow with age, so I bought a tin to use as a final layer which would give the floor a sheen and hopefully make it easy to mop over.

Some of you may already be thinking, what about the wood burner and all that lovely white paint? Well I've sort of planned for that. I've marked out an area around the burner and I'm going to paint the floor black there but do a little fringe border all around it to make it look like a rug, just for fanciness.

Hopefully that will contain the mucky bits and still keep the white areas clean. No doubt I'll be a bit more careful when cleaning out the stove and have some old towels down around too.

As I neared the end it became hard to tell which bits were finished and which had just been varnished, so I grabbed the nearest thing to mark out the safe pathway.

Yep, the nearest thing happened to be spoons!

A bit of touching up of the odd patch which wasn't coated well enough in paint or had missed out on the varnish and then it was all done, and what a difference. It just looks so much brighter and cosier.

I'd like to get some nice bright yellow material for new curtains, and invest in a bigger rug in red or deep orange, and of course now there's the kitchen to start on...

The other major transformation that's been going on has been the community centre hall. Last year they got some funding for materials for a new floor and Angie and Andrea from the village volunteered their time to do the tiling.

Snezhana's hubby got on with putting down the laminate flooring on the stage.

And Raicho, Natasha's hubby, has started putting up the new curtain poles.

Then over the space of about 5 days, Angie and Andrea put down all the tiles including cutting all the bits to fit neatly round the edge. I went in a couple of times as unskilled labour to help mix up the tile glue for them! (And to have fun playing with the big boy tools)

Once all the tiles were down we had a bunch of volunteers to do the grouting, and we managed to get it all done in a day. Even Nadia the mayor came along and did her bit.

A lot more tile glue was needed than previously anticipated, but so many people dug deep and contributed money that within days we'd collected over 500 levs which not only paid for the glue and grout but will also be enough to do a nice stone border all around the edge of the walls too.

It's hoped that everything will be all cleaned up and finished in time for the gourd festival on 26th/27th August when the new floor will be properly Christened. Can't wait to use it if we have our winter dance lessons again too!

 

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