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2014/07
Tuesday 22nd July, 2014
Category: 2014/07
Tags: cheese goats garage

Sunday was a great day, not least for the fact that I got to milk a goat!  I'd arranged to go through to see a lady in the next village who keeps goats and sells the milk, as I wanted to have another go at making cheese. She suggested going through for 8.30am and we'd sort the milk out first and then go for a walk with her dogs.  She has three adult goats and one beautiful little kid who is 2 months old now and much bigger than when I last saw her.  We prepared some bowls of food for the goats which consisted of a small scoop of mixed grain and a surprisingly large amount of fruit.  Today it was chopped apples and some banana skin.  The goats were all excitedly awaiting their feed and tucked in straight away, then it was time for milking.

Vallia, the more amenable of the goats, was up first, affording me the chance to try my hand at milking for the first time.  I was shocked at how hot the udders were, and how squidgy - literally a bag of milk!  I was instructed to make a ring with my forefinger and thumb partway up the udder to pinch off a small section, and then with my other fingers to squeeze the lower part.  Success! Milk came squirting out (splashing out of the pot somewhat) and as I released the pressure with my thumb the little bag refilled ready for the next squeeze.  It was an amazing experience sitting there on the bench, resting my shoulder against the goat, watching the steady stream of hot foamy white milk rapidly filling the plastic tub I was holding. 

Once one bag was empty I moved onto the second and repeated the process.  I watched as the second goat was milked (she's apparently a little more feisty and liable to kick the pot of milk if you're not careful) and then all the goats were let out to spend the day in the field.

Once I'd returned home later that day, armed with 3 litres of milk, I decided to have a go at making cheese.  I'd read that to do this you first heat the milk till just before it boils and then stir in some natural yoghurt which separates the curds and whey.  I had some homemade yoghurt ready which I'd made using kefir grains, and proceeded to heat up the milk.  When it was steaming I poured in the yoghurt and stirred it gently.  I then put the pot to one side and waited excitedly for tons of cheese curds to appear:

Some curds began to appear but nowhere near the amount I'd imagined.  Still, undeterred, I left the pot overnight, hoping that by morning it would all have separated. 

The next day I strained it and had a little mound of creamy cheese curds:

The remaining whey was still very milky coloured so clearly a lot of curds hadn't separated.  A swift bit of googling said that more cheese could be made by reboiling the remaining whey and then adding something acidic - they suggested vinegar.  So the pan went back on the stove, was duly boiled and then a couple of glugs of vinegar thrown in.  Once it had cooled I strained it again and was pleased to see another little mound of curds appearing, and the leftover whey was much clearer.

The two lots of curds were put into muslin netting to strain:

Never one to wait I decided to have the vinegar one (on the right) for lunch.  I added some salt and a sprinkling of herbs and mashed it all together.  It's texture was quite powdery and you could still taste the vinegar but I didn't care - I'd made cheese!

I think next time I will leave the yoghurt longer to get it more acidic (or add a bit of lemon juice which will taste nicer than vinegar) and I'll make sure the milk is much closer to boiling point.  Hopefully then I'll get a lot more curds forming the first time.  Once I've mastered actually making cheese I can then start experimenting with flavours and maturing it.

The electrician came on Sunday afternoon to finish putting the electrics in the garage.  I've got a couple of sockets including an outside one for the pool filter pump, and two light bulbs which made a huge difference when I pulled into the garage after dark the other night.  The cable runs across the garden to join the main electrics in the other sheds, and he was trying to cut some plastic protective tubing to wrap around the cable before it gets buried.  I was happily lounging on the balcony when suddenly I heard him groan and looked down to see him standing with his t-shirt up and blood trickling down his chest.  He'd managed to stab himself with the stanley knife!  In a panic I flew down to him, grabbing a handful of tissues to stem the flow.  The wound looked quite deep but remarkably stopped bleeding quite quickly.  Cheerfully he told me that this was a great test to prove he didn't have diabetes, as people with that would bleed for far longer.  I went in and got some big strips of plaster and some more tissue to pad the wound which made me think of a little shark tooth puncture wound, after which he swapped the Stanley knife for some seceteurs (probably regretting coming to work today altogether).  The plastic tubing proved much too stiff and rigid to work with so he'll return another time hopefully with something eaier to work with.  Note to self - never rest the item your cutting against your body!

Saturday 19th July, 2014
Category: 2014/07
Tags: summer cinema pool beetroot balcony

I'm watching the weather closely at the moment hoping that the clouds and thundery rain will shift by tonight as it's Dryanovo's turn to host the free summer cinema.  It's an annual event sponsored by the BTV television network, where they travel to different towns all over the country and have a free outdoor screening of a film.  Remember when the TV ad breaks during films used to feature a little village with a big sheet strung up in the square and everyone would abandon their day to day chores to go and see the film? The ad was for Stella Artois but the image of the sleepy village with cobbled streets and a hot summer's night serenaded by the chirp of crickets stuck with me and was just another facet of my 'home in the sun' dream.  Hence the desire to head into Dryanovo tonight and sit under the stars to watch a film.  I've no idea what the film will be - no doubt some Bulgarian classic - but the atmosphere will hopefully be something pretty special.  That's if the storms hold off.

I think I thoroughly jinxed the weather when I put up the paddly pool last weekend.  I'd cleared and levelled the area where it was going to go and had initially intended to put the pool up at the start of August, but last Sunday was particularly scorching and I could no longer wait.  I put a little layer of sand down first, just in case there were some sharp stones in the area, spread out the ground sheet and then got the pool in place.  I actually bought the pool about 5 years ago, but due to all the renovations in the garden this has been the first summer when it's been practical to use it.  Slight hiccup when the pump connectors didn't fit properly (different brand to the pool) but I began filling it anyway and so far no leaks.  It's only about 8 feet wide but just enough for me to lay down full length and ricochet off the sides.  Ah, blissful coolness.  That was Sunday.  Since then it's either been raining, or there have been workmen here.  The one other time I tried to have a bathe I'd literally just sat down in it when there was a knock at the gate announcing the arrival of the electrician to put the wiring in the garage.  Ah well, at least the extra rain is helping to top the pool up for free.  I have secret plans for moonlit bathing once the summer heatwave hits, with Molly nearby of course to ward off all the mice and other night beasties which might be around.

Yesterday I had a go at bottling some of the beetroots which are now pretty much grown.  Funny how it's called bottling or canning when neither bottles or cans are involved.  It should be called jarring.  I made the vinegar liquid previously as it was a bit of an experiment with spices and I didn't want to cook the beets until the preserver was made.  I must say I was quite pleased with the result (vinegar, sugar, all spice, red pepper and cinnamon) which should add some colourful cheer to cold winter nights.  The kitchen looked a bit of a blood bath but the result was seven and a half beautiful jars full of chunky beetroot. Tasty!

  

 

 

The guys have been hard at work on the balcony the past couple of weeks, having finally got enough spells of decent weather to start installing the roof extension over the balcony. 

 Putting up the main beam framework

 Adding tongue and groove covering

 All ready for the fascia boards and metal roofing

 

I'm actually sitting up here at the moment and loving every second.  I was a tiny bit worried about the noise from the metal sheeting I'd chosen as a roofing material, thinking that it might sound like an angry steel band rehearsing when the rain fell, but it just hammered it down an hour or so ago and there was no extra noise at all.  I've still got to treat and paint the wood for the new balcony rail (at the moment privacy is via an old blanket) but the whole area is perfectly dry from rain and shady during the day.  I hooked up the mozzie net yesterday and slept out last night.  It did the trick at keeping the bugs out, though Molly was rather disappointed that she couldn't take up her usual position in the crook of my knees and opted instead for laying on top of the netting.  This was after half an hour launching herself at the base of the curtain and sliding across the floor tiles tangled up in it.  At this point I told her in no uncertain terms that if she tore it she would be in serious bother!  Today I may get the proper pine bed assembled (as opposed to the little camp bed I've been using) and sprawl out in princess like luxury, festooned in netting, lulled by sounds of nature.  I may never use the house again :D

Friday 11th July, 2014
Category: 2014/07
Tags: storm lightning

Last night was the most amazing thunder storm!  It had been building on and off all day with grumbling thunder in the distance and the humidity was incredible.  I went into Veliko Tarnovo in the morning to get a few DIY bits and while standing in the queue at the checkout could feel a literal river trickling down my back (very nice for the guy standing behind me!).  At about 11pm the thunder and lightning began properly - not so much thunder I suppose but absolute constant lightning, some proper bolts you could see and others just lighting up the whole sky behind the clouds.  I spent a while on the balcony watching it (and enjoying the very cool breeze) and managed to get a few shots:

By the power of Greyskull...

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