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

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2015/04
Thursday 30th April, 2015
Category: 2015/04
Tags: fire teepee goats

Shockingly it is the last day of April and I am still lighting a fire in the evening! Admittedly I'm sitting in front of said fire wearing shorts and a t-shirt but still...

I think I mentioned recently that I have used up all 8 cubic metres of wood which were this winter's allocation, and although I have all of next winter's wood ready stacked and available I have been reluctant to start dipping into it. I had the idea of making use of the tons of branches which have been lying all around the village ever since the electricity board came and trimmed everything growing near any overhead cables last Autumn. I still can't believe that no one has been round gathering up what is in effect free fuel, and some of it proper tree trunks.

I found a good stash of it not far away on one of the walks I take Alfie on, so a couple of days ago I went back down there armed with a saw and trimmed up two nice long branches which I then tucked under my arms and dragged home.

Baba Ivanka caught me trying to sneak the contraband goods home and asked me if they were going to be poles for the tomato plants. No, I said, these are destined for the fire. Perhaps I should have taken her suggestion though because they burned dismally slowly amid much hissing and steaming, being of course completely unseasoned and wet inside.

Well luckily I remembered that I had two sacks of coal in the shed still and so these were dragged out and have made a cosy if somewhat smelly fire to take off the evening chill. Still my mind kept returning to all that lovely timber laying out there just begging to be used, but for what purpose?

Brainwave! I will make a teepee in the garden next to where the grape vines have been planted. Yes, you read that correctly, a teepee!

The corner of the garden I have in mind is quite sheltered and gets the sun right into the evening and so is an ideal suntrap for cooler spring and autumn days. There are two grapevine sticks planted there (courtesy of Baba) which, if they grow, can then entwine around the teepee poles providing a shady den. I have some rolls of reed fencing I can drape around the teepee to make it more sheltered, and in front of the entrance I will burn my garden rubbish whilst noshing toasted marshmallows and doing my best Dances With Wolves impression around the camp fire. That's what it looks like in my head anyway.

So today I went back down to the fallen trees and began selecting the longest, straightest branches I could find, before trimming off all the little side twigs, ready to take home.

It was pretty hot work under the sun, supervised by Alfie who came back to inspect my progress now and then in between his own explorations of the area. After a while I had 5 nice sturdy poles ready to take home.

After dragging all of them along for approximately two minutes I decided to take them in two lots. Who would have thought mere sticks would be so heavy! So the branches were dragged back through the undergrowth in stages, which seemed to cause Alfie no end of excitement as he pounded up and down the track beside me.

Eventually the sticks and I made it home in one piece and they are now laying in the garden ready to be used.

 They look so tiny here, but they are HUGE!

I think maybe three or four more should do it and then we will have a teepee construction party to fix them in place. Now, where did I put my bow and arrows...

A deliciously cutesy tale to finish on. New life abounds in the next village with the hatching of four fluffy chicks and the birth of little white twin goats. They are just over a week old now (I think!) and apparently doing very well. When I went to visit they had to be helped to feed as they were still very hit and miss (literally) about latching onto mum's udder and tend to stab around at random.

Like all baby creatures they're very sweet to watch as they half totter around and then give a sudden excited skip as if their legs are acting completely of their own accord. Here's the little male one:

Spring has most definitely sprung.

Monday 27th April, 2015
Category: 2015/04
Tags: Balkan Ecology Project Shipka garden

Had a brilliant day out at Shipka on Sunday when I went with some friends to visit the Balkan Ecology Project . The drive over the Shipka Pass was beautiful of course, as all the trees were beginning to develop leaves and made a lovely green canopy over the road as we wound our way higher and higher. Coming down the other side of the Balkans you can see the flat plains stretching away into the distance, dotted with some huge lakes here and there.

We arrived in the town/village of Shipka and tried to follow the sketch map I'd done but couldn't seem to find the place. I wound down the window and asked a passer by if she knew where the garden centre was.  There's no garden centre here, she said, just the monastery up that way. Hmm... well we drove down to what looked like the main square where I tried phoning, but I appeared to have written the number down wrongly as it was unavailable.  Back up the streets towards where we had started and I found someone else to ask. Ah, he at least knew where the street was and acknowledged that the Balkan Ecology Project did exist, and pointed us in the right direction. Well we were definitely on the right street because one of the dustbins had the correct street name on it, but still no sign of a place selling plants.  Round the block once more when suddenly we saw the banner hanging from the side of a garden wall. Success!

Walking in we entered a sunny little courtyard with various small pots of plants on sale complete with information. There were voices coming from the main garden so we went through the gateway where we were welcomed by Sophie who immediately went to bring us some much needed tea, telling us to just feel free to have a wander round the grounds.

It was a proper little higgledy piggledy paradise garden, full of hidden nooks and crannies with pathways winding round tiny ponds, beds of plants, trees, little sheds, chickens, rabbits... I fell in love!

 A tyre pond

Sophie came out with the tea and we went and sat at the garden bench to ask her about the project. The link above will take you to their site, but basically it's about gardening in harmony with nature; using natural means of providing nutrients, pest control, watering etc. Paul, her partner, came along and he is an absolute mine of infomation on all things to do with plants and gardening. (I wished I'd taken along a notebook and as soon as I got home I scribbled everything I could remember into my gardening book and quicky filled three pages with information and ideas).

One of the main things I wanted to ask about was how to improve my clay soil and we talked about 'double digging', use of manure, mulching, crops which will break up the soil etc. He also explained about nitrogen fixing plants, including clover, so I shall be including some clumps of this around the veggie patch from now on.

Their big project at the moment is the polyculture study which Paul took us down to have a look at. It's situated on another piece of land at the edge of the village and includes an irrigation system of channels and raised beds into which beans, tomatoes and squash will be planted together to benefit each other. Planting this way apparently helps prevent infestation of bugs because it takes them longer to travel from one plant to the next in which time they are more likely to get eaten.

 The raised beds

There will be trees and a pond added to the site and they will be keeping records of the amount of work which goes into this system and how much produce they get back from it to see how efficient it is.

Back at the home garden we had another drink, this time herbal tea with a big dollop of fresh honey, and then bought a few plants. I got bugle, penny royal, comfrey and lily of the valley. Before leaving Shipka we went up to have a look at the monastery, which is very impressive with its golden domes and intricate coloured patterns on the walls, and then headed back up the hills towards the Shipka monument where we stopped off for a late lunch - delicious.

I finally remembered to buy a pot of buffalo yoghurt whilst I was there and have tried some of it today. It's very, very thick and creamy.

So, all in all a very full, informative and fun day out. I've noticed that the people from the project will be taking part in the Uzana Polyana Fest which I think happens in late July, so I've already made a note of that in the diary. My head is buzzing with ideas and information now - exciting stuff!

 

Saturday 25th April, 2015
Category: 2015/04
Tags: waterfall Alfie garden

Alfie had his first proper walk since the operation a few days ago and the first thing he did was to find the wettest, smelliest cowpat and roll all over it! I imagine he was trying to remove the last traces of vet smell from his body. Needless to say the poopy dog got no cuddles that day.

 Poopy side

 Poopy neck

On the walk I discovered another little path which follows a small stream (the one where I found the lovely glass bottles a while ago) down to the bottom of the valley where the lake river is. The next time we went out for a walk, we headed down that way again to see how far the path went, and discovered an amazing little series of cascades in the river at the bottom. You would not imagine there could be such beauty so close to the village.

Click for the video

The pools between the cascades were quite deep - deep enough to submerge in on a hot summer's day. I really hope we get some blazing weather this year now that I've found all these little watering holes, though it'd be my luck that in summer they dry up to a muddy trickle!

I've been doing a few little jobs around the garden during the lovely weather of late. One of the main jobs was barrowing all of the firewood I bought last summer down to the small woodshed near the house ready for winter. I've actually completely used my current wood supply and I'm trying very hard not to start on the next lot as a matter of principle; it's nearly the end of April... I shouldn't need to light fires!

There's an astonishing amount of logs scattered around the village from when the electricity board trimmed everything away from the overheard cables last winter, so I'm sorely tempted to have a little handsaw in my rucksack when I take Alfie for a walk, and to return with a couple of trimmed logs each time - just enough for a little fire in the evening.

Yesterday I bought some chicken wire and today I used some of it to make a sort of hammock in the garage. No, not for me, but for some bags of bedding which up till now have been piled in a heap in the shed.. I noticed that the bedding itself is undamaged but a few of the bags have had holes eaten out of them by my old tenant Mr Ratty. Hopefully the garage, with its lack of tasty stored fruits, will be a rat free storage place. Anyway, I tacked up the hammock today and piled the bedding on it, and so far it hasn't fallen down. Result!

The seedlings in pots have finally started developing this past week, so I am now hopeful that I will have tiny tiny tomato and pepper plants to plant out before I leave in May.

Today I dug up the beetroots which had sprouted (despite sowing the seeds at evenly spaced intervals, they had all somehow congregated together in three or four big gangs) and replanted them in neat little rows, filled with some nice soft compost instead of the brick like lumps of dry clay they were previously struggling to emerge through.

I bought yet another packet of leek seeds and have sown them in some trenches too (third time lucky for the leeks I hope) and have planted out the runner beans, courgettes and the four cucumber plants I cheatingly bought at the market the other week.

The hay seems to be doing its job as the soil is nice and damp underneath and so far appears to be weed free. As I planted things I tucked the hay around them to make nice cosy little nests for my veggies to flourish from... I hope!

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