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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Much needed rain

Here in mid Bulgaria we have had too much rain but not dangerously so, unlike the coast who have had red flood warnings again. With the rain and cooler temperatures everything is turning green...apart from the trees which turned prematurely brown during the drought. The garden, especially the weeds, has gone emerald...and flowery much to the delight of the insects. Roses are enjoying a new flush in the cooler weather, our amazing dahlias are loving it, despite being 'pruned' by the goats in passing. Tomatoes are swelling again, beans are growing, butternuts...well I hope they don't swell too much again and split. I would love to see if there is anything under the sweet potatoes but if not, I will be claiming some from our friend who got his plants from us, put them in a polytunnel with his tomatoes, and claims he has a bumper crop. Hmph. Meanwhile I have given up hope of prize leek specimens and have started to use them from the garden. We will leave them in till the end of October as the weather is looking settled from the middle of this week. The cabbages, who suffered from heat and flea beetle, have started hearting up. Of course the neighbour's cabbage plot looks like a show bench. Never mind, we'll catch up. Most of the summer cauli and broccoli plants have gone to the goats now but there are some winter ones in...just in case. We might get some sprouts before the frost turns them to mush. The sprouts have sproutlets forming and the kale is still going strong, as is celery and chard.

The buzzards are easier to see on dead branches

The fields are going green with rape and winter wheat

Lots of flowers with insects

Dave came home with a buddlea after I was coveting on at the wedding, covered in butterflies. Roll on next year!
This leek doesn't look too bad...but to be hones the board is very small
Bunched herbs for drying...just in case
I thought the rhubarb has finished and planned on leaving the last half dozen leaves on each, but it's taken off again.

The beets and carrots are doing OK amongst the weeds...honest!

Land cress coming alive, a nice peppery addition to soups and salads
Sproutlets complete with aphids...job for tomorrow

Hearting up.....Naughty snail bottom left

As soon as it's dry we will be putting in some perpetual spinach, onion sets and garlic to over winter, as well as a couple of types of lettuce, and iceberg and a butterhead. Maybe even some red... The perpetual spinach is a new try, a variety you can use in salads or cooking.

Still managing plenty of nice salads with the ricotta, this time with radish leaves, pickled carrots, peas, figs, walnuts and tomatoes, and honey mustard dressing

Yordan has at last taken the grapes. the three vines yielded four plastic crates of fruit so he is happy with that. Once it's dry enough new, stronger posts can be put in in case we have another decent crop another year. I used some of the ones I dried in a fruit cake the other day and several of us thought it was OK! Wish I'd done more now.

So, with the rain comes another problem....animals! Not really a major problem, but the dogs come in with the very sticky mud we have and spend their days sprawled out wherever you happen to be. I am forever tripping over them, they are rather large to be flat out in the kitchen. The cats have decided it's knee time and Spud is usually curled up on my knee (or spread out on my chair if I move) and Charlie on Dave's. If Dave is not available he claims Bonnie's chair...or more accurately the warmth of Bonnie's snoring body, but she will soon move off bless her. Bella switches between wanting to join in with cats playing to pretending to be terrified if she feels a claw. Charlie has discovered where we all go at night and has claimed a spot on the bed...which means Spud sleeps on a blanket on the day they might share. Once the fire is going they might stay downstairs, we can but hope.
We thought we had cured Bella of this when we got the new chairs

Out in the paddock the goats are very put out at the rain...they don't like getting wet! So they stay in while it's damp...but the rain might bring down walnuts and if they hear one fall they forget and charge out to get it. I didn't realise they ate the nuts whole, I just thought our's were later than everyone else's. So that is another job for Dave , before he lets the goats out he picks up walnuts.
Fresh, juicy walnuts
Yum..walnut and Cheshire cheese (yes really!) bread
Walnuts in waiting

There have been changes to the chickens. I'm afraid the three amigos, who all turned out to be boys, have had to go to freezer heaven. I was hoping to keep one as I like the sound of a cockerel, but they were all giving the poor hens a hard time. the ex-batts have had a hard enough life without having three strapping teenagers landing en masse to claim their rights as men. Two of them were really bad and the rumpless one, after a very rough duffing up of the hen, would stand on her and look around, not letting her get up till he felt like getting off. He was also attacking the ducks. A thoroughly unlikable chap. The white one was also rough and growing quite big, and the one I wanted to keep (stupidly naming him Sonny...Son of Sevi) was chivvying the hens too. We considered keeping him in the hope that he might calm down and be more like his gentleman father, but given that so many of his sons had doubtful temperaments and the fact that the girls weren't keen, well.... Now peace has descended, and we wait with bated breath to see if any of the three smaller chicks start crowing. They don't have 'proper' combs like the others so it's harder to tell, but one definitely looks as if it has rounded neck feathers so possibly a girl. You can't tell with the other two, one is fluffy and one is white speckly.

We went to the last of one of the car boot sales on Sunday. We had stopped going to this one as there is an entrance fee and diesel costs for a longer drive plus we never sell much there, but as it was the last one we thought we'd go along. We should have stayed at home (except it's nice to catch up with friends) as the weather was totally miserable, heavy with drizzle. One more to go, closer this time, and hopefully we will get rid of some of the chutney and free up some space in the store cupboard...and I have a couple of orders from people panicking that they might run out over winter, even though they are Facebook friends and can always ask.

Other than that all is quiet. We went out to a do one evening as it was the birthday of the friend who was best man at the wedding and he paid for food and drinks at the bar. He very kindly ordered a vegetarian plate for me as the pizza and plates of cold meats and cheese are not really suitable for veggies, and I was a bit embarrassed when I not only got veggie pizza but a plate of tomatoes, cucumber, cheese and cheesy potatoes. Luckily there were plenty of people to help me out!
My embarassing plate of food.

So it's back to mostly basic cooking now, which means when I get bored I start to make those comforting meals to warm us up....all the weight lost over summer will return and the cycle begins....
Soup time, lots of variations on our garden veg 

Tried the caramel popcorn...Oh yum

We had visitors one day, one of whom used to bake, and I managed to stink the house out scorching the bread...not once, but twice....

...and not one, but two pancake cakes (now names biscakes)

And my seeds came today....wonder what I can sow now......
Now, you wouldn't think I would need any more....but I still haven't got sweetcorn, squash, pea or flower seeds

Two varieties of tomato to try. The one on the left is great and I have saved some seed (Can't remember the name) but the Black Russian I will not be growing, it's OK but quite acidic and I already grow an acidic tomato

Thursday, 24 September 2015

A magical wedding

We didn't know what to expect of the ceremony or the events leading up to it, though we had been given an outline. It was hard to visualise it. I was told that there has not been a traditional, all in costume, wedding in the village for decades, most brides opting for a white wedding. If this is the case I think they are missing out!

We were a couple of minutes late to the groom's house, we got the time wrong. As we approached there was a donkey and cart coming towards us, with the groom (Steve) dressed in traditional costume, on the back and attendants plus musicians. The street was lined with villagers, but as guests passed us in cars festooned with balloons, we tagged on to the end. Going at donkey walk pace we made our way to the village centre (all the time accompanied by drums and accordian) where there were even more villagers and donkey had a break before carrying on, the convoy of cars stopping all traffic. As we got to the end of our lane there was Venka with her friends and our neighbours, Violetta and Baba Danke. We followed the donkey the longer way round to the house of friends (he was best man, she best woman) where his bride was waiting. (the neighbours were there before us!) Many people piled into the yard to see the groom meet the bride, lots of music, laughter, sweeties and just sheer joy and community spirit. Out they came and had a bit of a dance before getting back onto the cart for the journey back to the village square. We piled our neighbours into the car and off we went. There were even more people on the square and there was lots more dancing and handing out of sweeties (as on most occasions) The happy couple must have been melting in their heavy clothes, and at one point Tatiyana broke free from the dancing looking extremely hot. Venka and another of her friends (her husband's cousin) were two of the first to start dancing. She has just had her 70th birthday but once she starts, she skips like a youngster.
The groom on his way to fetch his bride

Not much sign of the villagers...they were all to the right of our car sheltering under the trees

Cavalcade stopping the traffic

Some of the young lads borrowed a rotovator with trailer
Piling into the yard to meet the bride
The bride looking lovely in her traditional wedding dress (Ann's photo)
(Ann's photo)

So patient

Dave with some of his favourite ladies, Venka and Baba Danke

Steve and Tatiyana

(Ann's photo)

On their way back to the village square

Straight away there were people dancing. It looks simple but apparently is very difficult to learn

Tatiyana was a bit warm in her gear (Venka in red, with Stefka in yellow, no stopping them!)

Withe the best man and best woman

Donkey rested it was time to make our way to the house so loaded the neighbours back up. The actual ceremony was in the garden, the Mayor being the official, with another in attendance and an interpreter for those British amongst us. But first the couple had to eat bread dipped in honey before entering the garden and have a sip of wine, followed by many villagers. The mood was so happy.
Venka found my sat-on-and-shopping-squashed sun hat and played the fool. They are like giggly teenagers sometimes, bless them. With Violetta

Baba Danke
Bread, honey and wine at the gate of their home (Ann's photo)

Waiting to get into the garden

Saying their vows

The Mayor, Tatiyana, Steve, Mayor's assistant (Ann's photo)

All very informal and touching

After the ceremony the villagers left and we eventually sat down to a great spread and chatted to Bulgarian music, made new friends and reacquainted ourselves with some we hadn't seen for a while. It was hot but I managed to find a seat in the shade, lucky me. The bride and groom were by now in cooler clothes! There was plenty of drink, though there was soon a shortage of soft drinks, and the obligatory bottle of rakia on every table.
The tables looked lovely with their simple decoration...and rakia! The bees thought the sunflowers were there for them. The bowl was veggie beetroot nutty balls for me....

....but there was plenty of other veggie stuff too. Lovely to be so looked after

The ladies of the village had made a huge bread heart, baked in the village bakery, and this was passed around for everyone to take a piece and dip it in honey. Unfortunately some didn't enter into the spirit of the thing but that always happens I suppose. But it was lovely and very heavy!
This bread heart must have been so heavy

Dave dipping his bread in honey
Cutting the cake..a modern one this time (Ann's photo)

We had to go home to milk the goat and I stayed to wait for the chickens to go to bed, but Dave went back for a proper drink and a dance and more traditions. I eventually went to sleep with a smile on my face. I feel priveleged to have been included and we wish Steve and Tatiyana the very best of heath and happiness in their new life together. I don't know the ins and outs and no doubt missed a lot of what was happening, but the spirit was there and I missed none of the good, warm community feeling.

(No photos of the hilarious night time capers...the photos are on facebook and it's playing up!)

And thank you both for allowing me to do this blog.

I'd like to thank best woman Ann for the use of some of her photos.