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

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2015/10
Monday 26th October, 2015
Category: 2015/10
Tags: elections

Yesterday the big day finally arrived: Local elections for mayors and councillors across the country. For me it all began way back probably in August with the realisation that I was eligible to vote and therefore needed to register. As with many official things in Bulgaria the information was often sparse or downright contradictory. It turned out that there was a very narrow window during which we could hand in our registration forms during September, dates which became even more narrow when I discovered I'd made errors on my form and had to fill it out again (twice in fact), when the date for handing it in was moved back, and when it turned out that the form had to be handed in via the village mayor and not direct to the town hall.

Well having jumped through all those hoops it was then time to sit back and ponder the candidates. For Gostilitsa there would be three newcomers: Nadya whose in laws live in the village, Raicho who has lived here all his life, and Tsenka who currently operates the village post office. Out of the three Nadya was most actively campaigning with several meet and greet events, as well as keeping us directly informed about the registration process and how to actually vote. Tsenka got me in the post office one day to state her plans should she be elected and to ask me to pass on the info to others. Of Raicho I only saw posters around the village and on Facebook.

For Dryanovo there were 6 candidates, the main one campaigning being Miroslav Semov who was hoping to defeat the current mayor Ivan who was standing again. Aside from the two sets of mayors there were also councillors to elect. For these we had the choice of 18 parties (would you believe that there were candidates from a staggering 74 parties throughout the country) and within a party you could then specify a particular candidate from the 13 available if you so wished.

The day of the elections came and with it quite substantial queues. I first turned up at about 11am but there were even people waiting out on the street, so I went off to do some work and came back after an hour when it looked much quieter. Inside the room a long table had been set up on which were all the blank forms and the sealed clear boxes for the voting slips to be put into. (Interestingly these boxes are known as urns in Bulgaria). The desk was manned by 4 villagers with two more in front of the desk helping guide people where to go. Against the other wall sat about 6 people some of whom sported badges saying 'зазтъпник' a kind of adjudicator to see fair play. In the far corner was a curtained off area - the actual voting booth.

There were a couple of elderly people in front of me so I sat to await my turn. It seemed to be quite a while as one guy was in the booth for ages but eventually my turn came. I handed over my ID card and passport and they found my name on the electoral register (on the last page with all the other foreigners). I was then given three folded sheets of paper, each of which was officially stamped in front of me. When the booth was empty I went inside to cast my votes. The forms for the mayors have the party written on the left, then a large square with the candidate's number, and finally their name on the right side. You have to put a cross or tick on top of the number in blue ink. Any other colours or marks invalidates the form. The councillor form had 18 parties and their numbers down one side, and then the numbers one to thirteen in circles on the other side for you to mark your selections. Having made my crosses I then refolded the forms (accidentally tearing the receipt bit at the bottom of one in the process) and went back out to hand them in.

The folded forms are stamped again and the receipts removed. I then put the three forms in one of the clear boxes and the receipts went in a different box. The second clear box was for votes on the referendum but I wasn't eligible to vote on that. Having done all this I collected my ID and passport and headed home.

The voting was on from 6am till 7pm and although the results for major cities was on the news as it came in, our local results weren't available till the next day from this site: http://results.cik.bg/minr2015/tur1/mestni/0712_17350.html

For both Dryanovo and Gostilitsa no candidate reached the magic 50% marker and so there will be a second round of voting on Sunday 1st between the top two runners from each place. Watch this space!

Thursday 15th October, 2015
Category: 2015/10
Tags: drainage septic tank

It's becoming an obsession I know, but all I seem to have been thinking about lately is rain and how to keep it out of my life. Well, maybe not quite that extreme, but at least how to keep it out of the house, sheds and septic tank.

We had an almighty downpour about a week ago, not long after I did the plastic bottle drain outside (which, touch wood, seems to be working) and I noticed that some water had come into the shed where Alfie has his kennel. It seemed to have run down the wall where the shed roof meets the house, so once it was dry I shimmied up onto the roof to see if I could see any gaps. Actually, since climbing on the other shed earlier this year to prune next door's tree I seem to have lost my terror of being on roofs - at least fairly low shed ones - so long as I stick to my climbing method which involves sitting down and scuffling along on my bum.

Back to the tale. It was whilst up on this particular roof that I had a little peep over into next door's and spotted a drain spout coming off their roof right next to our shared wall. Could that be the source of the river running into my septic tank every time it rains? Certainly it would fit in with the water which was coming through my wood store when I emptied it earlier this year.

Well anyway, after a few days' dithering I plucked up the courage to go round and mention to the guy there that possibly the water from there was coming under the wall into my sheds and would he mind if some sort of guttering was fixed up. To be fair it's not even his house, it belongs to his mother-in-law and her sister, neither of whom live there or have the funds to do any non-essental work, so he happily said to go right ahead.

I bought 8 metres of pipe, some brackets and a little jointed section and went round armed with stepladders and drill when he was there. We used string to mark a direct line from the down spout along to the guttering on a lower shed, and then action woman got to work drilling holes in the stone wall for the brackets.  It was hard going I can tell you! The only way I managed was to use three drill bits, making a narrow hole first and then gradually enlarging it, because the big drill bit just wouldn't go through the stone right away.  It took a couple of hours but eventually it was all fixed up, and now the rain should flow from their roof into a proper gutter and away through the channel at the bottom of the garden, instead of just pouring onto the ground.

Feel free to go and make a refreshing cup of tea or gin before the saga continues...

Having hopefully diverted a lot of rainwater away from the sheds, I was still intrigued as to why it should pour into the septic tank so easily, and wondered if maybe the concrete lid was cracked or something. So my next task was to start shifting the foot of soil from the lid of the septic tank in order to examine it. After a few spadefuls I'd cleared a little space on the surface and began working my way along it in the direction of the path. It was at this point I spotted an unexpected plastic pipe hidden in the dirt. Scraping the soil away I suddenly realised this was the waste pipe coming from the shed which had been installed three years ago when the sheds were renovated.  As I cleared the mud it became apparent why water was getting into the septic tank so easily:

The silly sods hadn't sealed around the hole they'd made! I poured half a bucket of water over the pipe and it flew down the hole and into the septic tank within seconds. So I cleaned around the pipe as best I could and then put a few big dollops of terraflex cement all around it. I'm not sure how well it will set being as the surface was still quite dirty, and it's not a waterproof filler by any means, but it may slow the flow of rainwater somewhat for the time being.

Well, all that remains now is to await the next bout of heavy rain which will see me climbing ladders to peep through into next door's to see if the guttering is working, and standing with my ear pressed to the stink pipe on the septic tank to see if I can still hear water running into it.  What a life, eh?

 

Monday 12th October, 2015
Category: 2015/10
Tags: garden preserves

More rain today so I couldn't play out. Instead I went and tackled a little project I've been planning in the shed. You might recall last winter when I had a rat take up residence in the attic, and how said rat completely decimated the stash of fruit I had in the shed. Well since then I've had in mind the idea of creating some sort of rat proof food storage out there where future fruits and butternut squashes etc could be kept.

I bought a stack of thick polystyrene boards a couple of months ago and a big roll of chicken wire, and the plan was to use the polystyrene to make an insulated box big enough to take my storage baskets and then to cover it in chicken wire to hopefully keep rodents out.  Here's the result:

  

Someone gave me a big bag full of pears, so these are the first things to test the storage box. It's also put to use all those apple trays I hoarded when I was still in the UK!

Having plenty of polystyrene left I thought I'd also make an insulated box for my jars to go in. I experimented last winter with a box roughly put together from scraps of insulation board and a jar of apple chunks in water, just to see if they'd freeze solid when the temperature got below zero. Well the jar survived just fine so hopefully all these will too:

  

This box is built into an old table and hasn't been covered in chicken wire because all the food is in jars, though I suspect I'll need to do regular checks to make sure Mr Ratty doesn't make a cosy nest in there anyway. Then again, I guess his body heat would provide extra protection for my jars.

I forgot to update you on the comfrey compost tea. It's still all out in the bucket and has been topped up with more leaves and water since this photo was taken. It's turned into a very dark foamy sludge which stinks to high heaven though I believe this is a good sign.

I'll keep it in the bucket until there's a danger of it freezing, and then strain the liquid into a big plastic bottle. Once I have the straw bale/raised beds filled with horse manure compost I can use the comfrey tea to add extra nutrients to it and then sit back and wait for courgettes the size of canoes next summer.

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