I hardly know where to begin. The abundant sunshine and azure blue skies have caused such a flurry of activities; at home and around the village. The quiet and solitude of winter is banished to be replaced by bird song, bulbs, the rhythmic thud of spade on earth and villagers voices calling over fences and offering good wishes for an abundant harvest to come. Wisps of smoke rise up not from chimneys but from small fires outside the residents houses where the debris of winter is offered up to the skies in ethereal ash ribbons.
The common ground in front of James’s house is home to the only goal post in the village. It has stood like a stoic soldier in the centre of the green net less and forlorn through the freeze. However for the past 2 days the green has been literally writhing with kids playing one sided football and young adults sat atop the single plank benches outside their garden walls. Bent over their handhelds and chatting simultaneously the look nothing more than a line of birds chirruping on a branch. They are so obviously “borrowing” someones wi-fi to remain connected with the very people they are sitting with. The square, the shops and the cafes are vibrant with the villages shaking off the torpor of the dark months and noisily catch each other up on their familial goings on. The village is fair thrumming!
The poly tunnel is up, secured and has a central bank of sloping metal shelves that have been populated, albeit scantily, with my first sowings. There is enough room around the shelving to have ground planting and a small walkway. The corners of the entrance end will be kept fairly clear for compost etc. Terry’s going to run water up as our already ridiculously long hose pipe only reaches to the animal yard. Ilia has been everyday of the build to inspect Terrys work. “Hubovo” he says whilst bringing his fingers to his mouth in that innately Italian gesture of appreciation. He also bought Stefan to see our work and then a jovial chap called Marin. Whilst walking around the garden Marin gestured to the property directly in front of us. It’s been empty since we’ve been here and the garden looks like it hasn’t had any attention for decades. He turned to us and asked if we’d be interested in buying it. As I’m the main translator between Terry and the Bulgarians I gently told him in a very quiet voice what had been said. Taking my lead we tried to maintain a conversation that disguised our bubbling excitement. We have been asking whose property it is for months. We agreed to stay cool until we found out 2 things
- were the legal documents available including a current Skitsa (house and land plan similar to Land Registry)
- how much was he looking for
I turned quietly and asked my two questions. I looked at Ilia to see if what I had asked was understood. Marin smiling widely actually bought out the Notary Act for the house and told us he was detoured by Ilia on his way to order a Skitsa. Ilia had mentioned our interest and so Marin had diverted to us. I then smiled and asked how much. He stood back, shaded his eyes with his hand and looked thoughtfully for a moment. There then followed a rapid fire exchange between Ilia, Marin and Stefan. Terry’s repeated “what are they saying” made it almost impossible to follow the conversation but I did pick up that they were talking about the standardised price for land. I actually held my breathe because this is significantly lower than the price of land with utilities and a dwelling. He looked at us and said “xilia de chetiristotin leva”. “1400 leva” I said to Terry, he’s asking for the price of the land only. Then Terry stood forward and took the show on. He gesticulated that he wanted to look at the land together to clarify exactly what he was offering. We set of as a fivesome to recce the place. In 8 months we’ve barely been inside it. There is an unspoken rule of privacy in villages. Even if a house is derelict it is deemed polite to ask permission before entering. Apart form having to stand on the land for the fencing we’ve only ever looked over the fence and lusted after the additional land.
There is an old traditional house with a wide entrance hall with just 2 good square rooms either side. Nice oak beams and with only a little damage down the chimney from the flashing. The windows and doors are missing. There is a well that would probably need reboring and to our absolute surprise a run of 3 or 4 animal pens under a ceramic roof. The garden has a fence that has fallen on the southern boundary which we can, for the moment, reinstate. The west boundary is fenced but only ranch style and the east boundary is a block wall and of course the last boundary separated our properties when we installed fencing. I’ve identified an apple tree, a walnut and it’s a hope and a wish on the others. Marin is away on business till the 10th March when we’ve said we’ll be ready to buy the property. He also negotiated with Terry for some work clearing his garden in the centre of the village. He also gave us permission to enter the place he’s selling whenever we wanted to. Terry has done a couple of jobs recently and the clients have been quite embarrassingly effusive about his work ethos and prowess with the urban giraffe. Work is coming in as word spreads around the village. Terry worked 1 day together with a local man with a tractor and a trailer. Terry collected and loaded rubbish from the groundwork he’d been asked to do and the other chap drove it to the tip and disposed of it.
2 days later Iyvelo, a local man who spent a year in Manchester and who sounds like a drunken Mancunian popped around with Marin and Ilia. Marin wanted to be sure we had understood everything and were happy or if we had any questions. We clarified, with our impromptu translator, that we had understood, were happy to move forward with the sale on his return. He would have to have all the relevant documents to present to the Notary who in turn checks their validity before the sale moves forward. This includes up to date water, electric and taxes receipts. When we had completed our talks Iyvelo said the the guy with the tractor was his neighbour and had mentioned to him that he’d been really impressed with the way Terry worked and that he noticed the digger was missing a bolt. Terry is using something heath robinson in it’s place. He told Iyvelo to send Terry up and he’d make him replacement with his lathe. How very kind. In the conversation it turns out that the tractor owners son is a mechanic. So we arranged to go up and see Iyvelo and meet his neighbours.
Let me tell you folks we had such a lot to talk about that evening as we realised that we’d now be able to redesign the garden space and the outbuildings. The second property will give Terry a workshop with minimum of work (famous last words) and the cost of buying the property will negate the money we would have had to use to either rebuild the old outbuildings on our property strong enough to be used as a workshop a or build a new wooden barn. It also means we can move our pig operation off our property and have space to grown Lucerne, which I believe is Alfalfa and has a triple rooting system and crops 3 times a year. Excellent winter fodder for a very small outlay.
On reflection we’ve decided that our 2 crumbling outbuildings are 1 too many for the moment. To that end we’ve cleaned the inside of the first outbuilding of the crumbing mud, trees and debris then used the digger to get it all out of a pretty precarious structure. The edges had to be done back breakingly by hand. This actually precipitated the decision keep only 1 building. Terrys going to try building 1 with the mud bricks from the other. This is his first attempt at mud brick building and using mud as muck. His first attempts are looking very acceptable. There will also be surplus mud bricks to repair the back garden wall. The footprint of all our outbuildings are on our skitsa so we are able to rebuild or reinstate at any time without any kind of permission.
I can never seem to take a straight shot – we don’t live on a hill in case you are wondering!
We’ve also begun sifting through the building rubble and hardcore. Terry moves it and I pick it. We’re stacking all the large building stones separately as we have a stone wall idea in our heads on the back burner. Hardcore and rubble in another and then plain old rubbish that we’re going to ask the tractor guy if he’ll pick up for us in exchange for helping him out. It would take so much off our minds and allow us to move forward much more quickly. We’ve also done a first rotavation of the area by the walnut trees for spuds and beets. I’ve also cleared the edges of the newly rotavated kitchen garden, dug over the scant flower beds and replanted any number of bulbs growing in the path of machines.
This morning as Terry and I began clearing the yard and moving and sifting rubbish Ilia popped around with 2 apple tree offshoots. He also confined without any suspicion or doubt that the apple and plum we’d transplanted last year are both dead. Lesson learned, trees can only be moved Autumn or Spring not in August. And yes I am cringing inside. We love our neighbours very much but sometimes it seems like there is an interruption every 5 minutes and they’re never short. I could see Terry twitching with impatience – time was getting away with us! I was left with Ilia as he oversaw my planting, then we detoured to the wood piles so he would inspect the wood, pointing out which wood should be used in the range and which in the petchka. As he left Violetta called me over to our boundary grass track and asked about the poly tunnel or as it’s called here an “orangerie”. She very kindly told me all the sowing dates for the garden and the orangerie. It seems 20th-25th March is D day for the majority of outside planting followed by 4th April. I am learning so much. I should also have planted my peas by now!
And as the final visitor of a very busy day Sani popped or I should say weaved his way into the garden as we were tidying up for the day. I grabbed his hand as if he were a princess and guided him in the direction his body was taking him. It turned out he didn’t know where he was going but was simply being propelled forward by quantity of alcohol and quality of upper body tilt. He was about 50 sheets to the wind and what I finally worked out was that he’d bought us a bottle of his famous homemade whiskey. We thanked him and then I led my “princess”, hand held aloft to the gate and watched him wend his wobbly way home.
I’ve chosen to finish with what Terry refers to as my sappy animal shots – here’s a selection. The puppy shots were taken last week so they are now mobile, with eyes open and extremely vociferous!