I have committed the blogging sin of not posting in a timely manner but we have been working to the bone to complete our schedule before we picked up Amalia and slowed down for the Christmas period. We didn’t meet all of our targets but they were ambitious and stymied by a combination of weather, automotive problems and supplier mistakes. We managed to pick up enough furniture from storage to partially furnish our new rooms. We barely made a dent in what is still to be unpacked. We didn’t find my Christmas cards carefully stashed away in an unidentified box; one of 328 items. We didn’t finish the upstairs bathroom but we did fit a second pechka. What we have achieved is the satisfaction of taking a ramshackle 2 part house that had been uninhabited for over 10 years, had been stripped of anything that was portable including wiring, plugs, tiles and white goods and having almost transformed one part of it.
The roof to the barn extension was full of sunlight through the tiles, a ton of both rubbish and treasure with a packed mud floor and had not one matching measurement in any direction.
Terry not only dismantled the roof but raised the walls, built gable ends and a new roof, insulated and tiled it.
New joists, flooring and vaulted ceilings were fashioned. We now have a loft extension with a suite of rooms with only the bathroom needing a couple of days work. The great industrial purlings with their metal brackets and Frankenstein bolts remain uncovered as does the brick of the chimney breasts. Terry made a bespoke bed and bedside cabinets for our beautiful bedroom. The walk in wardrobe is a joy; open spacious with more storage to be added after Amalia leaves.
We eventually found a supplier of strengthened glass for the hallway landing and were overjoyed when we were told it would take only 2 weeks to have cut to order at an extremely reasonable cost. We received a phone call from Gerry, with her beautiful English, on Friday to pick up the panes. Overjoyed we set off for Pavlikeni and Gerry’s brothers glaziers. It is a family run business so when a translation is needed Gerry is called from upstairs to help us very grateful Brits. Having a smattering of Bulgarian for such a specific order would have been a nightmare of confusion and misunderstanding on both sides. We got home and carried the glass in and fitted it immediately. 2 panels fitted perfectly but as we turned to fit the large pane in the landing and the focal point of the stairway it was immediately obvious that it was both too short and too high. Honestly I cannot tell you how devastated we were to be so close to the finish and have this spanner thrown in the works. A phone call to a very apologetic Gerry actually calmed our fears, they hadn’t made a mistake cutting the glass but had inadvertently given us a part of another clients’ order. We arranged to exchange the glass on Saturday morning. On Saturday morning and with the temperature at -11 neither vehicle would start. We bought the batteries in and charged them but as we had an absolute deluge of other tasks we decided we’d leave the exchange till Monday. We finally picked up and fitted the final panel of glass to the landing balustrade on late Monday afternoon.
In the midst of our frenetic preparation for the up coming visit and both strung out to the enth degree Ilia popped around and informed us that Mehmet had slaughtered a young bull. Were we interested in rump meat at 10 leva a kilo and mince at 7.50. Were we interested? Yes, we were. We ordered 13 kilos of rump and 3 of mince. Ilia bought us round our bounty and it was a joy to perceive. Beautiful meat, no smell whatsoever, just the right amount of fat and glistening. The Bulgarians don’t age their beef but we are. We sharpened our blades and cut and sliced through this haematological mass of flesh. We cling filmed as tightly as possible them bagged each piece of steak, joints, fillet etc and then placed them in the freshly sanitised 2nd fridge and shut the door for a minimum of 2 weeks but preferably 3.
We have a working and equipped summer kitchen from something nothing short of a disintegrating external structure. We have a living room which we sustained as an area devoid of anything to do with the renovation. Well except the last 2 weeks when we had enough timber in here to open our own yard. Neither of us realised how this move affected our push to get finished. Our inviolate space was covered in dust, sawdust, plaster and wood. It is almost back to normal. We have transformed the proposed dining room from what has been an impromptu kitchen, guest bedroom and our sleeping quarters into an actual dining room with wooden floors.
We have double glazed every single external facing window and door in the property. We’re currently stripping the internal doors or in the case of upstairs Terry made doors and casements from scratch. We have rejigged the entrance to the barn extension and the downstairs bathroom to have a staircase and landing. Rejigged is understating the work here as steels and major building was involved. We managed to keep the bath/shower and toilet in situ but the washbasin space currently houses the washing machine. The awful hallway has been plaster boarded but awaits new floor tiles as we’re taking up the old water pipes and siting them deeper.
Terry has replumbed the household supply so that we are able to use well or mains water although we have run down the well plumbing. We have made the mistake of many not used to this continental winter; we didn’t dig the pipes deep enough for the consistent freezing conditions. That’ll be remedied in the spring. Terry rewired this part of the house and added external points for the well pump and lighting. That will also be overhauled and added too in the Spring to incorporate the animal pens, the producing garden, the pool area and Terrys proposed workshops.
We have, thanks to Ilia, a meat/bread oven and we’ve added a concrete slab in front of the summer kitchen patio and all around to the bread oven. This is where I planted the Roses, Lavender and Spring bulbs and grass seeded a small patch as both a walkway and a separation to the kitchen garden. The lavender will keep away mosquitoes, the roses will smell nice and the bulbs will bring some early colour. The kitchen garden was used as a mini grow patch but will have herbs and salads planted up towards the walled area with the animal pens. Spring bulbs, Hibiscus, Abutilon and what I mistakenly called Snowdrops are planted to create a green wall between the area outside the house and the pool area. I’ve put the Date palms in pots and under cover. How the Lonicera and Campsis Radicums will fare outside remains to be seen. Both were planted to provide cover to the external garden wall and the outside compost toilet. The fate of the Plum and Apple trees we dug up and resited in the heat of summer will be revealed in the Spring. We planted, with Yeorgie’s help, new fruit trees on the borders to our properties. We carved out a huge swathe of the impenetrable jungle and have been left with a ravaged landscape that we’re hoping the pigs will help clear. We’ve left, at my request, a natural line of trees, including an aged Apricot, some Plums and of course the prerequisite of any village garden; Walnuts. It is all too easy to clear a garden with little thought to the time required to replant it and gain the benefits of shade and cover. We’ve got garlic and onions planted and their almost lime green shoots poke cheerily through the snow, a gentle reminder that Spring is around the corner.
The pigsty and storage room are almost ready. Terry has installed a pulley system to the pig door because it is so robustly made of off-cuts that I can barely pick it up 3 inches. The thought of 2 grown hungry pigs pushing against the other side deems that a quick release mechanism is applied!
We’ve also fenced in our 2700m2 plot and dealt with so much rubbish and still more to go. We are very excited about next year and our plans to renovate the old and original house but for now we’re relaxing. Here’s some winter shots taken from Veliko Tarnovo at the Pavlikeni turn off, through Butovo and into Gradishte. They are taken through the van wind shield so are somewhat fuzzy. They’re taken between 4-5pm 3 days after a fairish snow fall and whilst being shaken like a Martini on Gertie’s hard seats on roads as pitted as the peel of an orange!
And as an addendum to this post, sorry earlier readers here below I present images of the Carp at the Absolut supermarket in Levski. I managed the first distance shot with a shaky hand and whilst trying to swivel my head 360 degrees to check for staff or shoppers seeing me. The second close up shot was taken mid jump. The coast remained clear for a smidgen longer so I crept forward, past the safety of the aisle end, mobile in hands and as I was trying to focus, Terry crept up on me and tapped my shoulder. I stifled hysterical laughing till we were outside the store only because my bladder situation was such that any additional pressure would have ended catastrophically.