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

To save space, the most recent blog entry will have relevant pictures in it, but after that the photos will be moved to Flickr for storage, and a link to them added to the blog post. If you want to see all the photos anyway then visit the Gostilitsa Flickr page here.

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There is now a separate site with information on living in Bulgaria, including:

  • An introduction to Gostilitsa and all it has to offer
  • Day to day practicalities of shopping, paying bills, banking, insurance
  • Healthcare matters for people and pets
  • Public transport and issues relating to car ownership
  • Becoming a Bulgarian resident and learning the language
  • Tourism, public holidays, festivals, places to visit, hiking routes

Click here for the link.


Unfortunately I've been having an increasing number of problems with storage on this site, so I've decide to continue the diary section elsewhere. Click here for the link to the new site.  The old diary entries will remain here for anyone wishing to delve into the murky past

Tuesday 25th August, 2015
Category: 2015/08
Tags: compost glass jar hiking holiday

How many times have I begun a diary entry with a thousand apologies for not updating sooner? Well add this to the list. The past few weeks seem to have been unbelievably hectic (though I'm not sure with what exactly) and just generally being out and about more often than normal has meant that the days at home are full of catching up on gardening, organising jobs being done and of course harvesting the veggies.

The prolonged hot weather has made for a great crop of most things, so I've been quite busy freezing, drying and canning things - mainly tomatoes it has to be said. I think I mentioned the straw bales recently and how the milkman said he'd look into it for me. Well when he came with the milk we had rather an odd exchange.

I asked if he'd enquired about the bales and he looked at me blankly for a moment and then said 'there aren't any'. This came as quite a shock, so I asked what about people with cows and horses, don't they need straw? 'Oh yes,' he said, 'people with cows and horses can get straw, but not you for your garden. You need to buy it earlier in the year.'  This wasn't quite how I'd imagined the conversation going, so blundering on blindly I asked when exactly I should buy the straw. 'In May,' was the reply. I smiled politely intrigued as to how I would buy straw in May next year before it has been harvested, and let him go.

A little bit of detective work indicated there were bales a plenty for sale in Sevlievo and then I struck gold when a good friend got a Bulgarian pal to ask at the farm in the village from where I can apparently have as many bales as I like for 1.50 each... and I don't have to wait until May! So, as soon as I return from my trip away I shall be chasing up this source of bales and can't wait to start arranging them into beds.

Yes, you read that correctly, I'm having a few days away hiking in the Rhodopi region in southern Bulgaria.  I've never been that way before but the thought of gorges, rivers, caves and mountain scenery is irresistible. It's been many many moons since I did any serious hiking and so I needed to borrow several items from the friend I'm going with, including a decent caghoul. The recent torrential rain provided a good opportunity to go and try it out, to check the waterproofing was still okay. So I donned the jacket, put on my hiking boots and set off with Alfie for a walk.  About twenty minutes later I felt an ominous flapping sensation under my right foot and was horrified to discover that the sole of the boot was peeling away. Blow me if a few steps further on the other boot didn't do the exact same thing!

Turning tail we headed back home, as I slithered about on the gravel path in my now soleless boots, aware of the creeping sensation of socks becoming soaked.

With only a few days to go I now lacked some vital hiking gear (thank goodness some higher power prompted me to try the boots before the real thing) so it was a quick trip into Veliko Tarnovo to a couple of sports shops to try and find some replacements.  The choice wasn't huge but I managed to find some decent looking ones which promised to be both waterproof and breathable.

I've been wearing them non-stop around the house and touch wood they seem very comfy so far.

As soon as the sunshine returned I decided to have a go at making my compost bin using my stash of pallet boards. It turned out to be a much faster job than I had anticipated and within an hour there it was complete with repurposed worn out flip-flop hinges:

I've transfered the current compost heap along with its fabulous collection of hardworking worms and plan to make the old compost area into a better butternut squash patch.

And to finish on a pretty note, here's my latest little decorative item:

Wouldn't it be extremely cool if I could find very small solar led lights, like a fairy light only with just a single bulb, which I could lower into the bottle of water to light up at night? Maybe I'll ask the milkman if he knows where such things can be had...

Friday 14th August, 2015
Category: 2015/08
Tags: DIY Alfie garden

Dear reader, you are to be congratulated for spurring me into action! The list of jobs is now being ticked off one item at a time and things are slotting nicely into place.

I was sitting in the side lane the other day (where even on the hottest days there's a lovely cooling breeze) watching Alfie play with his new friends. They are three chihuahuas of varying sizes (Topcho, Buxy and Suzy) who Stefan the mechanic brings along when he's fixing cars at his garage just down the lane. Alfie gets on particularly well with Buxy who is the largest of the three, and they bound happily up and down, chasing and barking and getting excited about nothing.


Well, as I was sitting there, Mitko the milkman came down in his car for some work doing, so as he got out I hailed him to ask if he knew anything about bales of straw.  As luck would have it he seems to know a source and asked me how many I wanted. I said about 20 and so he said he'd find out the price for me. Hopefully I shall hear something on this front when he brings the milk on Monday.

Yesterday I went into Dryanovo to get the car serviced. It turns out that the husband and son of one of the candidates for Mayor in Gostilitsa have a garage there and so in my mind I figured they must do a good and fair job otherwise votes will be lost, so I ventured along. I couldn't find the place at first, and cheekily asked in another garage where it was and was vaguely pointed in the right direction by a rather miffed mechanic. Still lost, I phoned the Mayor candidate who then got her hubby to walk up the street to meet me.  Anyway, they were able to do the service that morning so I left the car with them and went off up to the high street to browse the second hand shops for yet more net curtaining for the balcony mozzie net project.

On the way back from the car service I passed the old dairy where I'd seen all the lovely pallet boards. Summoning courage I pulled in and peered over the gate till the security guard came out. I explained I was interested in the pallet boards and would it be possible to have a few. He told me that unfortunately the decent ones are not up for grabs (even for a price) but I could help myself to as many of the damaged ones as I liked. Brilliant! It turns out that a lot of the damaged ones are in fact still pretty sturdy and just missing the odd slats here and there. Unfortunately my little car isn't wide enough for some of the bigger ones but after two trips I had 6 decent looking ones and a big bunch of oddments of wood for patching up the pallets. Certainly I should have enough for the compost bin project anyway.

Blow me, when a delivery of goods I'd ordered from Praktiker came, there was a shiny new pallet at the bottom which was mine to keep too! Bonus.

All fired up with action now I decided to tackle next door's tree which had now grown so large that the branches were dangling on my shed roof and clonking quite heavily on the tiles whenever there was a breeze. If there should be a strong wind I envisaged tiles being lifted right off, so some pruning was in order. It's not a fruit tree or anything (at least I hope it's not and that a summer trim won't kill it), so I propped the ladder up against the dividing wall and climbed up onto their garage roof, loppers in hand.

Now, I could get so far along just walking on the flat roof of the garage, so began to clip back the offending branches, but then I got to a point where I could reach no further. Only one thing for it - to climb up onto my sloping shed roof.

I have no head for heights at all, and to me my shed roof looks as steep and slippery as Mount Everest so no way was I going to attempt to actually walk on it. Instead I scuffled along on my bottom, inching my way further across and higher up until I reached the summit from where I could lop off the rest of the branches.

Straddling the ridge tiles I even felt confident enough for a selfie... sort of.

Look at me, mum, no hands!

Having safely scuffled my way back to the ladder, I threw all the trimmings down into the garden and then climbed back to terra firma.

 Some of the trimmings

Looking up at the now tree free shed roof I felt quite proud of my achievement. Let's hope the neighbours are equally happy when they see what I've done to their tree.

I hate throwing anything away and was thrilled several weeks ago when I obtained about 30 old water bottles which I plan to use for storing excess rain water (if it ever rains again) and for mini incubators for seedlings next spring. Unfortunately the plastic carrying handles are quite weak and often snap after a while making it awkward to carry the bottles especially when full of water.  So here's my solution - a new set of string and wood carrying handles:

So far it's working pretty well.

Keep sending positive thoughts my way everyone, there's still much to do!

Tuesday 11th August, 2015
Category: 2015/08
Tags: garden veggies vet

Alfie got to try out his brand new car seatbelt harness yesterday when we had a little trip to the vet for his first set of vaccinations. The poor thing shivered and shook in the vet's room (possibly recalling his last visit there when he returned home sans balls).  He has to go back once more for the second set of jabs and then he's all clear for another year.

Getting this done is just one of an ever increasing list of jobs I seem to be facing and not tackling. I need to get the car MOT'd (cue the dreaded drive across the pit of doom), renew the car and house insurances, order firewood for next year and arrange to have it chopped up, source and buy straw bales for the next phase of operation 'never weed the veggie patch again', see about getting someone to make a firedoor for my open fireplace to make it a bit cleaner and more efficient, organise someone to come and feed the animals whilst I'm away in a couple of weeks time, give the car a well overdue service, investigate buying or pinching the big stack of pallet boards which have been loitering outside the closed dairy building down the road...

Maybe my list is too big, though I suspect the real reason behind my current inaction is that many of them involve the daunting task of phoning/walking up to unknown Bulgarians, attempting conversation and risking looking like a complete wally. Instead I fritter the time away in the much less stressful surroundings of my garden, picking veggies and trying to find new and exciting ways of stashing them for winter.

The tomatoes are doing great so far this year thanks to the hot weather and lack of torrential rain which last year caused so many of the plants to just wither away and rot. There are already several bags in the freezer and I'm now experimenting with drying the cherry tomatoes using the little greenhouse:


 ... after


So far one rack has been done and the second lot are currently out there shrivelling nicely.

The onions are all hanging in bunches in the shed though I need to investigate ways of preventing them from sprouting in early spring. This year many of them became unusable from around March time as they sprouted green shoots and the onions themselves became soft. I've got some thick paper bags which I might tape around the bunches to keep the light out though no doubt a bit of Googling will give me more ideas.

The shed became a bit of a blood bath the other day when I processed some of the remaining beetroots out there. The other week I put an experimental bag of raw grated beetroot in the freezer to see what it would be like when defrosted, and happily it didn't turn to complete mush but retained it's texture and flavour. So yesterday I peeled and chopped another half dozen beets and put them through the food processor to grate them before squeezing out as much fluid as possible and then bagging them up in single portions.

The courgettes seem to go from being cute little four inch veggies to giant marrows in the blink of an eye if you're not careful.


I've used some of the bigger ones to make tagliatelli type ribbons which are quite tasty with a pasta sauce, and have several batches of a kind of frying pan sized courgette fritter made by adding eggs, flour, oil, onions, cheese and ham to the grated courgette and baking in the oven.

Ah well, enough blogging. Time to go and tackle the wretched list of jobs. Wait a minute though... is that a ripe tomato I spy in the garden?


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