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

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2017/07
Monday 31st July, 2017
Category: 2017/07
Tags: Mazalat hiking veggies weather

At this time of year the veggie patch starts to bear fruit, and I develop an ever stronger urge to patrol the rows of greenery several times a day to chart progress, harvest crops and urge on the stragglers.

After a slow and troublesome start earlier this year, the raised beds are doing a fantastic job, with the only weeds being the ones sprouting from unrotted manure (mostly grass) and these are very easy to remove.

I've just done a mad photography session with the new camera (practising with different settings to see which give the clearest results) so here's a quick round up of what's currently growing in the garden: Turnip; beetroot; mange tout; kale; chillis; cucumber; 4 kinds of beans; potatoes; spinach; peppers; parsnips (sadly only a few); butternut squash; sweetcorn; asparagus (not to be harvested until next year); white and green courgettes; 5 varieties of tomato; lettuce and rocket. Add to that the garlic, onions and shallotts which have already been harvested - I'm beyond thrilled! The potatoes are much nicer this year (last year's were savaged by underground slugs) and as soon as I get any sprouting bits I shall pop them back in the soil to see if I can get a late autumn harvest too.

We had some mad weather late last week, with torrential rain, thunder, lightning and even a hailstorm. Luckily there was no damage to anything in the garden. This pic shows the build up of storm clouds one day:

I was really luckily that the stormy weather didn't hit a day earlier because I was away at that time hiking in the mountains with a couple of friends!

We'd gone up to Uzana and then along a lane to one of the hiking huts (Partizanski Pesen) where we'd left the car. From there it was about a three hour hike to the next hut - Mazalat.

It's a lovely place with dormitories holding around 10 beds, proper toilets (always a luxury), plenty of hot water for the shower, and inside and outside seating/dining areas. The scenery round about was, as always, stunning.

We checked in and then left much of our baggage in the bedroom before continuing our day's walking westward along the trail. Our first target was a place known as the Singing Rocks.

This photo was taken sitting amongst the rocks which are part of a cliff edge overlooking a steep wooded valley. They get their name from the sound they make whenever there's a strong wind blowing up from the south, but unfortunately for us we were there on a hot calm day and the rocks didn't make a peep. (I bet they were belting out some songs in the next day or two with the storms!)

There was plenty of noise from the insects around though as all the moorland was full of wildflowers of all kinds. One insect we saw a lot of were these huge grasshoppers:

They were all actually on the narrow walking path and didn't hop out of the way when you walked by. On closer examination they all had their long rear spike wedged into the ground which made us wonder if they were all laying eggs.

At one point as we climbed higher and higher we passed a large herd of horses amongst whom were several gorgeous little foals:

I must admit I found the hike a struggle which surprised me because last year's walk to Botev involved a much higher climb and carrying a large pack, and I don't recall huffing and puffing half as much. This time I found myself stopping ever more frequently to catch my breath and foolishly didn't take anywhere near enough water to drink and so had to ration it a bit. Maybe it was the heat that made the walk more tiring, but we continued onwards until about 4pm (hoping to reach the Thundering Forest) but by that time we were a good 3 hour walk from the hut and so turned about and headed back.

From where we were walking we could see across to Uzana, Buzludzha, Gabrovo, Sevlievo and Mt Botev at various points.

Back at the hut we showered and had a much needed drink, and then later on had some dinner. We chose Shopska salad and a hearty dish of shredded cabbage in a sauce with a massive chunk of tender pork. We took it out to the shelter to eat, where there were benches and a huge fireplace. A group of Bulgarians next to us were cooking a mixture of tomatoey beans and sausages in a huge pan, and when it was done they brought us a bowl and some bread to share. Boy was it tasty!

We sat in the shelter playing cards and talking till night fell, and then I headed up to bed.

The next day we had a breakfast of French toast and jam before hiking back to the car. From there we drove back into Uzana and had a quick look at one of the new stone shelters which have been built down one of the tracks. It's a big stone structure, open on one side, with wide wooden benches down two sides, a wooden table and log seats, and a massive stone fireplace at the far end. Apparently anyone can turn up, light a fire and spend a night. So our plan is to pick a warm night, bring our sleeping bags and some food etc, and then spend the night there in front of the fire (which should keep any hungry bears at bay!) Always love having an adventure to look forward to.

 

Wednesday 19th July, 2017
Category: 2017/07
Tags: pickles electrical problems fancy dress

It's been a busy couple of weeks and several things are already being slotted into place: ordering the winter wood, lining up some renovations, stashing food for winter... ah, it's a hard life. It's not all work though, there are plenty of opportunities for a bit of fun and last Saturday a lovely couple in the next village hosted their annual fancy dress barbecue party. This year's theme was Hawaii and after a bit of lateral thinking I came up with this:

Luckily most people spotted the link with the theme straightaway as it had been a lurking dread that I'd spend the entire evening explaining my outfit. Even better than that... it won! I claimed first prize out of the girl entries and came away with a beautiful bag from Australia and a 'stubby holder' which is like a padded cup holder just the right size for a can of Fosters or in my case a glass of fizzy cherryade.

Despite the constant unseasonable rain it was a great evening even if I spent much of it in a tipsy haze - all for medicinal reasons of course. Let me explain.

Wednesday evening I'd felt the first hints of a developing sore throat and by Thursday morning every swallow felt like I had a brick stuck in my gullet. I dosed up on painkillers and lemsips thinking that it was just a summer cold, but by Thursday evening my lips had started to burn and were looking really red and sore on the inside.

After a very restless night I headed off to the doctor to see what was wrong. I explained about the sore throat and burning lips and as she examined the inside of my mouth she kept nodding and smiling and saying 'efta' (at least I think that's what she said). It turns out I had a mouth infection and there's a bit of an epidemic of it at the moment. She gave me a prescription for a cream called Daktarin which I needed to apply to my lips three times a day and to also swish a small amount around my mouth at the same time. She said it would clear up in 3 or 4 days.

I bought the cream and slapped it on while still sitting in the car, hoping it would bring relief, but it just stung like mad. The next couple of days were awful - I'd literally feel like my mouth was on fire for half an hour every time I put the cream on, which would then die to a throb the rest of the time. I couldn't bear to eat anything remotely savoury so had chunks of cucumber and mushrooms, and all drinks had to be sucked through a straw (the kind woman at the village shop gave me a bunch to use). I was determined to go to the party though, so dosed up on painkillers and smothered my lips in vaseline and then proceeded to work my way through a bottle of wine (sipped via a straw of course).  Dancing drunkenly in the cooling rain kept my thoughts away from my infection and the evening was thoroughly enjoyed.

Thankfully the cream has indeed started to work and I'm now pain free with just the odd tingle in my lips, though I shall continue to use the cream until it seems 100% cured.

Being unable to tolerate any stingy foods has meant I've not yet sampled my very first try at pickled onions, although to be fair the recipe did say to wait at least a month to let the flavours infuse.

My onion harvest has been plentiful but mostly from the shallotts I planted last winter and because they are fiddly buggers to peel I thought pickling them would be a faster way to preserve them. I found a recipe and gathered together the ingredients for the flavour:

The onions were then soaked in boiling water for a while so that the skins just slid off, and then they were all soaked in salt water overnight:

And here they are after adding the flavoured vinegar and processing in a water bath:

The black bits aren't dirt, just some of the spices!

I have a small jar in the fridge and when the month is up (and the mouth normalised) I shall have a sample. If they're okay I might do a few more jars as I've still tons of small onions I can use.

Sadly my skills in the kitchen don't transfer to other areas and last week I had a thoroughly blonde experience with the kitchen lights.

When I returned from the UK I found that neither of the two sets of lights in the kitchen were working and presumed an electrical surge after a storm had blown the bulbs. Unfortunately after putting a new bulb in, the light still didn't work, so I asked Mitko the milkman (who's also a trained electrician) to come and sort it out.

After putting up with a temporary extension lead and light bulb draped across the kitchen for two weeks, Mitko arrived with tool box and proceeded to check the socket. All the connections in the light switch were fine so he got up to examine the fitting. He took out the new bulb I'd put in and declared it broken (damn you Kaufland and your dodgy bulbs for sale). Luckily I had one more new bulb and as soon as he put it in, the light worked!

Ah, but what about the light over by the stove, I asked. After two seconds fiddling around he discovered a switch round the back of it and turned it on. Unbelievable. Luckily, unlike in the UK, I wasn't stung for a massive callout fee. He merely asked for a token 2 levs for his time (about 90p) so I gave him an extra one to keep quiet about my stupidity!

 

 

Thursday 6th July, 2017
Category: 2017/07
Tags: garden

Exactly this time last week I was on a coach from Sofia, just pulling out of Sevlievo bus station on my way into Gabrovo, on a sweltering hot afternoon. I arrived back to temperatures hitting 40 degrees for a couple of days though it's now dropped to much more manageable 30 somethings.

When I get back I always love to see what has and hasn't grown in the garden whilst I've been away, and this year held some great surprises.  For one, the little fig tree which was a very dead looking bare stick when I left it has now produced a big bunch of leaves from the base and has clearly survived the harsh winter. It was also great to see that my redcurrant bush was decorated in big juicy clumps of fat red berries (which I'm currently sprinkling on my cornflakes each morning) and the loganberry still has quite a few fruits on it. After a quick mental tally it seems I've got quite a selection of fruit available in the garden at various times of the year: strawberries, loganberries, redcurrants, gooseberries, figs, apples, plums, cherries, peaches and grapes. The guys who kept the garden tidy while I was away also picked and froze two trays of my cherries, so for the first time ever (after having the trees for 9 years) I can see what the fruit is like!

The new plants all seem to have thrived and a couple of them are quite huge with big yellow flowers. Madly, a lot of the seeds I carefully planted don't seem to have come up at all, but there was a big bunch of self seeded cosmos in the middle of the gravel path believe it or not, so I've gently pulled them out and transferred them to the flower bed. Maybe I need to scatter seeds like cosmos and marigolds in the autumn and just leave them to it, to simulate how the plant sheds its seeds naturally.

The veggies are mostly good though none of the okra seedlings made it, and the raised bed designated for winter veggies (various cabbages, beetroot, leeks) just has a few wilted beetroots and some very small nibbled cabbages. Undeterred I've sown some more kale and turnips which are already sprouting - just need to protect them from sudden bursts of unbearable heat now.

A friend gave me a dozen or so pepper plants to add to mine, which was great, but then dear old baba next door turned up with a bucket of about 10 tomato and (no exaggeration) over 100 pepper plants! Needless to say they got shoved in rather carelessly.

The golden orioles and bee eaters are kings of the sky at the moment and it's brilliant waking up on the balcony to see and hear them swooping around in the early morning coolness.

I haven't caught up with the community centre to see what's been happening in the village but I saw a post from Nadya the mayor saying that a brand new water fountain has been put down by the cemetery. I went and had a look at it this morning and it's a proper work of art.

Hopefully this will mean people won't have to carry plastic bottles of water down there for tending the graves, which will cut down on the amount of rubbish building up.

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