The winter was long and cold here in Bulgaria with temperatures down to -20 for many weeks. It was the coldest recorded winter in sixty nine years and by gum did it feel it. Luckily the wood supply lasted, just, but my health could have been better for over the last four months I have colds or chest infection one after the other. I had taken antibiotics for the first cold and now wonder if the strong course that I took basically left me open for more infections, one being so bad that other than feeding the animals I returned to bed for three days. Still over the worst of them now with only the residual coughing fits from the last chest infection. The winter seemed even longer than usual for not having the company of Sara who I still miss sorely and visit her grave less frequently, but once a week without fail after speaking to family on Skype back in the UK each Saturday and lay fresh flowers on her grave.
We had a little snow during the winter!!!!
Th snow made it a tough trek to visit Sara's grave.
I felt like being one in the Scott of the Antarctic expedition.
Mind your head!!!
To try and keep my mind occupied I continued with the house decorating and have managed to get the bedroom finished following the old windows being replaced with double glazing which definitely helped with conserving the heat during the coldest spells.
A place of tranquility after a busy day.
Due to the long winter things were slow getting off in the garden, but finally some planting has been done and preparing the ground for further sowing. As previously mentioned I plan to lay half of the garden to lucerne to give me additional fodder for the goats which I will talk about later.
Shallots and onions
Carrots and beetroot (note to myself, get weeding)
Sweetcorn, yet to germinate
Runner beans, yet to germinate
There will be tomatoes, peppers and aubergines planted in a couple of weeks which my neighbours are going to supply me with, bless them. Venka regularly appears at the wall and beckons me to either invite me for supper, coffee or has some meal in her as she still worries about me and that I am still losing too much weight. Admittedly I needed to lose a little weight, but having lost nearly three stone over the year I could do with not losing any more, but I suppose heavy workload, stress and grieving all has its part to play over the last year. Now that I have re-evaluated things over here and my capabilities hopefully things will improve. I must confess there have been many times I wanted to go back to the UK, back to the rat race and even now there are times when things go wrong I would 'shut up shop', Sara and I left the UK to come here to live a life, not as we had in the UK an existence of endless work to pay bills and keep a roof over our heads. When Sara died my life became an existence again without her, but like climbing Kilimanjaro back in 2010, I eventually sorted my head out and rose above the clouds and got a clear view of the way ahead. The hardest thing I find is motivation for much of what I did was for Sara and I, more so for Sara and without her it has been an uphill climb to motivate myself, but do it I did no matter how hard it was. Maybe the Bulgarian culture of when a loved one dies after a year a widower no longer dresses in black, black scarves are no longer worn and black bows are removed from the gate of the house beside the obituary poster of the loved one and they then get on with normal life, socialising and the like and so my life goes on now, but with the memory Sara's forever etched in my mind and of what we had and the good times albeit too briefly will never be forgotten and how special she was too me.
Anyway back to the Novo Nachalo (new beginning) smallholding.
Snowdrops and daffodils have been and gone and now the grapes are producing flowers and the garden around the pond are beginning to get established.
Irises ready to beak bud
The citrus plants and geraniums housed indoors over the winter made it through.
Plants around the pond establishing
Buddha and tulips
Luckily for me, my bees survived the winter including the hive I created by splitting the main hive last year to create another colony as a friend lost over 50% of their hives due to the harsh winter. Now the bees are regularly flying to collect pollen from the fruit tree blossoms and the rape fields surrounding the village.
On the goat front a whole blog could be written just of its own and so to try and avoid boring you too much I will try and condense it a little. As everyone knows I have been having a go at making goat cheese with a modicum of success, but that has had to be put on hold over the winter and the next couple of months as all my girls were pregnant and now have kids.
The gestation period for a goat is 150 days, but can kid five days either side of the aforementioned time. All females have now given birth successfully, but sadly one kid died soon after birth. Now get ready for the ahhhhs.
The first doe to give birth was my old Anglo Nubian girl 'Duchess' who was expected to give birth on 25th February and duly give birth to triplets(all girls) on the 27th February. Due to her age she does not have good body condition as soon as she gives birth and to avoid her reserves being reduced further two of the kids are being bottle reared although one does go in for a sneaky suckle from mum if she gets the chance.
Duchess's kids soon after birth.
Getting them to feed from mum first to get them to take much needed first milk that contain colostrum then two onto the bottle the next day.
Next to kid was Tilly one of my first goats and first time mother (she did abort last year at two months due to an incident when out with the goatherd, one of the reasons they no longer go out with them. She was due to kid on the 4th March and gave birth on the 1st March to twins (both girls).She has been a fantastic mum and both are piling the weight on for as before she kidded food is her priority and even now is a 'Tubby Tilly'.
Milly in the process of kidding, first kid successfully born.
Tilly out in the sun with her kids the day after they were born.
Next on the list was Tilly's mum Milly. She was due to kid on 20th March and gave birth to twins (both boys) on the 21st March. Sadly one of the boys died soon after birth, but the other kid is doing fine. I am taking some milk from her each day to reduce the amount of milk I am currently having to buy to bottle feed two of Duchess's kids.
Milly with her single surviving kid
The little lad enjoying a bit of sun
Last but not least Eliza, my young Anglo Nubian was due to kid on the 13th April and gave birth successfully yesterday, the 15th April to two kids (a boy and a girl),
Just after birth Eliza's kids
Eliza started labour and in an hour both were born and the first already up on her feet.
Duccess's bottle reared kids at around a month old.
So all in all it could not have gone better, other than the loss of one kid and Duchess getting a uterine infection soon after kidding, but fortunately not caused by a retained placenta. Although I have limited goat keeping experience it seems my days working at the zoo record keeping and picking up on changes of behaviour all went well. At three months old the kids will be weaned and hopefully sold (fingers crossed) and then cheese making can get into full swing once I am able to start milking the girls. Hard work but from the video below it makes it all worth it.
Sadly through my own fault and possibly due to total fatigue a major catastophe occurred only the other day. Having been up at 4am and working all day preparing a limited supply of goat cheese for the car boot to keep people interested in my goat cheese that I have been making I collapsed in a heap on the sofa to watch a bit of television (a treat these days) and subsequently fell asleep and woke up at 2am. I trundled off to bed in a daze and then got up at 5am to start the next day.
One of the first jobs as soon as I get up is feed the goats and bottle feed two of Duchess's kids. Going out then it was just beginning to get light I thought to myself 'I don;t know the goats didn't eat much of the cabbage I gave them the day before' as I saw what looked like chopped cabbage, but it was not it was bird feathers. Having fallen asleep on the sofa watching television I had forgotten to lock the chickens and ducks in and a fox took almost all of my flock of chickens and my remaining Indian Runner ducks (a pair). To say I felt upset would have been an understatement not only because of the loss of the birds, but that it was my fault for not locking them in the night before. I have two female Sebright bantams survive the massacre as they roosted high up in the goats hayrack, a hen with two chicks which I had locked in a cat carrier box earlier in the evening before falling asleep and one Old Dutch bantam hen which has gone broody and nested out of the main hen house. So all my Light Sussex flock which it had taken two years to source and set up have gone, my Indian Runners are gone, and it is times like these when I think ' what is the point', but it is those times you have to pick yourself up, brush yourself off and have learnt a lesson the hard way,
Sebright bantams hens
Mother hen with her two chicks
On a slightly better note I have got a dozen Indian Runner duck eggs in the incubator at the moment and a friend sold me a pair of Old Dutch bantam and three female turkeys which hopefully I will be getting a stag at the end of the week.
Newly acquired turkeys
Old Dutch bantams
So as I close this update on my life here living in Bulgaria, with some sad and some good notes, each day seeing views and places like this just make it all worthwhile.
Balkan mountain range
Take care guys and hopefully it will not be another four months before I post again.