This is going to be another image free blog. It is a labour intensive job and often means I do not get the time to write as much as I would like. I will start with water and the respect I now have for it. When one is forced into switching systems between mains and the pump or having to use buckets and barrel for water it is difficult not to see how much water is quite literally and pointlessly spilled or poured away. I find myself marvelling at the propensity of the earth to keep replenishing its bounty. I am, on a daily basis, aware of exactly how much water we use and have honed the amount to a very reasonable amount. Probably half of what we were using.
My other preoccupation are the seasons and the natural cycle of sowing and harvesting. We don’t eat out of season fruit and vegetables here. Ducks are available in the hunting season. Chickens are not culled during the broody month. Venison, hog, boar, partridge and other wild meats are also only available in the hunting season. Rabbits and chicken are the staple of most households with pork a very close second. Lamb and goat meat can only be found at Easter. Each and every supermarket has a butchery counter that includes chicken necks, bones, feet and every type of offal and they are never on the counter for long. Eggs come in all shapes and sizes as do the fruit and vegetables. Fresh crusty bread is only found in the International supermarkets, otherwise the small shops hold it. Pensioners are entitled to a number of free loaves a week and it is possible to order and pay for a months worth of bread in advance. This is because Saturdays are the pinnacle of bread sales days and there is often a kurfuffle if the natural supply and demand is stretched due to celebration or family visits. For people living in a small village with a once a day bus service it could mean losing out on the staff of life!
The salads in the restaurants also tell a tale. As the seasons change so do the salads and that reflects the produce being currently harvested. As a Brit I am, of course, always preoccupied with “the weather” but here it is fast becoming obsessional as I feel ancient and pagan stirrings in my old hippy soul. Whilst it is possible to see an extended weather forecast of a month at a time rather than a pretty sketchy three day forecast I was used to in the UK, there are subtleties in each and every day that forecast more than the state of the skies. The luminescence of the light when I wake up, the degree of chill on the sheet, whether I need a robe as I rise, whether my hair is already stuck to my neck, what time the cocks are crowing, the degree of dew on the ground and whether the strays are sprawled out on the dirt or tightly curled is some corner. If the the whine of the mosquito or the buzz of the fly is the first sound I hear on opening the door. If the insects are abroad before I am. All these indicators tell a story and inform the careful observer of what the day will bring.
The landscape of Bulgaria is quite simply breathtaking and I’m not sure if it is an age thing or whether my eyes have been opened to the beauty of the world I live in. There is something of the charm and beauty of Britain but on a larger scale. There is an abundance of panoplies and a plethora of microclimates. In an hour journey one is continually taken by surprise by the changes between villages, between mountains and even between agricultural fields. I feel almost as if I were blind and have been gifted my sight again.
These revelations have been coupled with the growing realisation that I am a happy introvert with occasional extrovert tendencies. Terry has found his place at the Friday night ex pat gathering in the local bar. I have given up making myself feel guilty for enjoying the few hours of solitude I get, the complete and utter silence I revere in those hours. I have stopped fighting the urge to conform to the mountain of “shoulds haves or should do’s” I have beaten myself up with over a lifetime. However on the occasion when I willing and want to go I am touched deeply by the genuine care of the handful of Brits that make up the ex pat community in our village and the neighbouring Butovo. If I can drink just the right amount of alcohol I delight in the ease in which my usual starchy exterior falls away. We are all animal lovers to a man and woman. We are all here because of a need to live an alternative lifestyle whether that falls into the permaculture circle or the ability to live a dream life that wouldn’t be possible in the UK or as part of the holiday home community. It matters not, the minutiae of our daily lives provide hilarious stories and the ability to raconteur about our previous pasts in a way that binds us all together indelibly in our new lives. Terry, a happy drunk, comes home late on a Friday night totally relaxed and full of bonhomie and I smile gently at his pleasure.
Our Bulgarian neighbours, both those close to hand and those further away in the village have become more and more curious about our renovation. A woman of my age and her mother rolled up on bicycles yesterday. In a mixture of Spanish, Bulgarian and English I learned that Peppa had been living in Spain for the last 30 years as a school teacher and had returned to Pavlikeni and an apartment in a noisier part of the town. Her mother lived in our village and could not understand why her daughter wanted to leave what she sees as the comfort of an apartment for the village life. Therein lies the dichotomy of those who have travelled and those who have not, of those who have lived in the city and those who have not. Peppa wanted nothing more than the tranquility of the village and the ability to grown her own food where her mother wanted nothing more than the ease of a small apartment and the proximity of shops and supermarkets for her daughter. They had stopped by to ask about the renovations and I could feel their want to see inside so I invited them in. Peppa was amazed at the degree of work we had completed and my ability to speak a degree of Bulgarian. When she asked how long we had been here I said just over 2 months and she laughed and said you mean 2 years! As I showed them around the house and despite the fact that we only have 2 rooms, a summer kitchen and a bathroom as functional they were slack jawed in their appreciation of what is transforming from a shell of a house to a home. I could almost hear Peppas brain ticking as she asked about the house prices, the cost of the renovation and Terrys skill sets. It was an hour before I left them out of the gate.
We have also begun to receive interest in Terrys digger via the blog. We have been contacted by a couple transitioning to life in Bulgaria in the area where the wonderous Eyes of God caves are situated. We have met a couple who’s dream matches our own but for whom the garden and sustainability has come before the house. We are at different ends of our dream but now we are able to swap the kind of information that we are missing from our own projects. Whilst our social group expands it is in a state of undulation finding natural rhythms in the way we see people. I am losing that very British need to feel guilty about not seeing everyone all the time. I have begun to relish the times I meet with my new found friends whether once a week or once a month. On that note and as I hear Terry working away I am going to end my machinations and fix up a fried breakfast. Fortunately bacon is always in season and Terry has made his own adjustments by accepting the beauty of the grilled Rozen tomato to baked beans and gurt chunks of crusty country bread to sliced of plastic wrapped bread. The eggs here are almost orange and the whites firm. If I were to have one observation it would be the butter; it is of the unsalted variety and that took some getting used to. I have also moved to lard for frying. I am reliable informed by the quiet country folk that using oil at high temperatures is extremely unhealthy and that animal fat should be used. I haven’t put on an ounce since making the change and the animals simply delight in having the ends of the bread wiped around the pan!