An update from a tardy blogger

Forgive me readers for I have sinned.  It’s been so long since I’ve written a post that I’m not sure where to begin so if this post is a little muddled I apologise in advance.  It is also going to another photo less post as Terry has the “phone with the photos” with him as he travels back to the UK

We have found homes for 9 puppies and little Rabbie is left with us.  He’s quite poorly and has been throwing up since yesterday but otherwise such a happy loving little mite.  I’m holding out on the vets because that is what my intuition tells me.  Terry is currently winging his way across Romania taking a friends ex partner back to the UK with her household goods and 2 dogs.  I’m at home with 3 pigs, 2 dogs, a sick puppy and a cat with a bitten tail and not to mention a huge plot to look after.  I have also started Bulgarian lessons in a small group.  The woman is super enthusiastic but is not a teacher and as an academic I notice these things.  However I am also a chronic over achiever so despite the lessons having way too much thrown at us it has made me spend at least 4 hours a week slaving over dictionaries and having nervous breakdowns on a regular basis.  I have however learned to write in handwritten cyrillic Bulgarian which bears little resemblance to the printed version.  Catherine and I go together and spend a little time in the Pavlikeni market buying Goji berries, Chia seeds, organic oats and nuts alongside beautiful fresh veg and fruits and as of late an absolute plethora of plants for our gardens.  Sometimes we are ladies that lunch too!  I really enjoy this whole experience and Catherines company.

As a warning to readers of a nervous disposition please be aware that you may not want to read all of the next paragraph.  At least 2 weeks ago we went around to Ilia’s house to participate in the slaughter of our lamb we’d dibbed a month earlier.  Terry still had his hand bandaged so I was the active helper.  It was all rather quick and efficient and as a pragmatist I had no qualms about the process.  And this is how it went.  We walked to the barn, Ilia led the 8 month old lamb out, pulled it’s head to the ground as I knelt on it’s back legs Ilia slit it’s neck open.  No fuss, no noise.  He then snapped the head of and we watched as the headless lambs legs juddered and it bled out.  No butchers knives, or chain mail gloves just a well used 6 inch knife that had seen a fair few sharpenings in it’s time.  Ilia made a nick in the back hock and motioned Terry to bring over the tyre pump.  We both looked perplexed until Ilia inserted the nozzle into the nick in the fleece and told Terry to pump like Billio.  What genius, as Terry pumped, the fleece blew up and separated from the body of the lamb.  Ilia and I then lifted the lamb onto a home made gambrel and he showed me how to make my hand into a fist with the finger nearest to the thumb extended but folded over.  In between the knife  separating the membrane and our ministrations with our fists the fleece was soon off.  The bladder, penis, testicles, urethra, anus and intestines were dispatched first to ensure there was no contamination to the meat.  Cheseara Ilia’s dog was happy to eat the penis, anus and urethra but the testicles and intestines were put to one side.  Ilia then eviscerated the remaining organs and set them aside whilst I emptied the poop out of the intestines!  Nothing at all was wasted and by the time we left we had a whole lamb cut in two and bags of sweet meats.  We shared many of these with Ilia who would in turn make us traditional Bulgarian delicacies and give us half of these.  I was about to post the images till I realised Terry has the phone the pictures are on and I know asking him to upload them to either DropBox or his email account will be met with a blank look.  Probably better for those of you with a weak stomach.  Both Terry and I were really happy to have been there and now feel more confident in being able slaughtering our pigs.  We hung the lamb for 6 days in out larder fridge then spent a hectic evening butchering it.  The second half of the lamb fared better than the first half in butchering terms.  We now have a freezer full of lamb.  We’ve eaten from it twice and it was delicious!  We also bought another 16 kilos of beef from the local Turkish herdsman Mehmet.  It wasn’t quite as good as the first lot we bought from him.  There was about 11 kilos of beautiful rump and if I’m honest another 5 that was suitable for stewing or mince.  You win some, you lose some but at 10 leva a kilo it was still an excellent bargain.  It has taken the place of the lamb in the “ageing” larder fridge before hitting the freezer.

Amalia came over just before the Easter break.  As with most University students she was overtired, frazzled and in need of a complete break.  She soon revived and all credit to her she went to her house and cleaned, painted and glossed the wood in the charming kitchen.  She choose colours that reflect her alternative view on life and it suits both her and the house.  She also bought a number of plants for her garden, including a Chrysanthemum to honour her Greek grandmother or Yiayia, who passed away 2 years ago.  Her name was Chrysanthi, as is Amalias given middle name.  She added roses, hydrangea, lavender, spirea and petunias to her patio bed.  Fortunately we have had a mixture of sunshine and thunderstorms so they are thriving.  It also relieves me from going around every day to water.  Her lovely neighbour, Baba Dimitrina is enchanted with Amalia and bought her a plate of the most wonderful handmade cheese.  Amalia in return maser her a fantastic Greek dessert.  As Amalia had left by the time she had eaten it, Baba Dimitrina caught me at the local shops to say the dessert was absolutely fantastic.  I don’t think she expected such a return of kindness.  One of the best thing about Amalia’s visit was that she introduced me to yoga and the youtube series 31 days of yoga with Adrienne.  I have never felt such immediate benefits and have continued after she left again for Brighton and academia.  It was also wonderful to share time with her doing something together.

There has been a plethora of visitors through the house.  Keith and Caz came over for the Easter break to relax at their beautiful villa in the village.  We spent a wonderful evening in a local Mexana in Pavlikeni.  Unlike many eateries that have succumbed to a European style and food this little gem retains a traditional Bulgarian feel and look with an excellent wine cellar and even better food.  We had arranged to go out and eat on Sunday but we’d forgotten that out of season, most restaurants close on Sundays.  After trawling Pavlikeni and then Levski and with our stomachs growling we decided to pop into the supermarket Absolut to buy food to cook at ours.  As Terry had picked them up and their Ikea purchases from Sofia they insisted on paying for the victuals and drink.  I love cooking for people so as Terry held the fort in the dining room I spend a frenetic 30 minutes in the kitchen before laying a relative feast out on the table.  We sat and talked and laughed till 01:30 before calling it a night.  It was a truly enjoyable night with good friends.

Shinina and Carlos, whom we’d met last year in their charming traditional Bulgarian house nestled in the hills of Devetaki, also contacted us.  They are making the move here and wanted to know if Terry would barter work on their sewage with the mini digger in exchange for Carlos’s plastering skills.  Terry agreed with alacrity and after meeting us at our house to peruse our latest work we shot off to Perfecto in Levski for a lunch and a more complete catch up.  I was really impressed with the amount of Bulgarian they have already picked up!

Poor Terry, after an absolute barrage of nagging, despite the fact that he works like a Trojan, finally gave in and got the digger out to start on the piles of rubble and building rubbish both inside and outside the garden.  Terry is goal driven and methodical, whilst I am a cloud catcher, moving from 1 job to another before bringing it all together.  But if I am honest the debris was getting me down.  So after he had built a fabulous connecting wall between the old and new property, levelled the gatehouse plot he began work with the digger.  We dismantled a partial dry stone wall and painstakingly moved the stones to a temporary home around the chicken run.  Then is a feat of absolute brilliance Terry managed to save the wooden drying structure (or Williams treehouse), weighing in at just under a ton, he lifted it off it’s struts with the digger and placed it on the trailer.  He then painstakingly dug in 4 more struts and manoeuvred it to it’s new home next to the new house and to the side of the gatehouse.  It was a days work and kudos to Terry because it would have been much easier to demolish it.  But I love this original structure and when William is not using it, it will become a drying area for sun dried tomatoes, dried peppers and maize for the animals.  Gotta love that man and his ingenuity.

Terry has completely flattened the gatehouse area by digging an immense hole and burying the hardcore.  This will also give us a much firmer base for whatever we decide to cover the area in.  That left the almighty pile outside the gatehouse on the pavement outside the property.  The pile that has caused me so much grief.  Finally the local man with tractor and trailer came on Easter Sunday so that with Terry on the digger the pile was reduced to a level after 3 trips to the tip.  The man declined any money but asked for Terry to dig out his drain away and sewage pit when he’s ready.  It felt like Christmas when that horrible pile went.  I have now started, between storms, to weed the pathway in the hopes that I can begin planting along the pavement outside the property.

On to the weather – what can I say?  Having spent most of March and the first weeks of April in shorts and T’s the weather threw a spoke in it’s meteorological wheel and has delivered us of epic thunder, lighting and downpours of torrential rain.  Last night snow fell at 3am and this morning it is just 4 degrees having reached 27 degrees just days ago!  All I can say is the planted garden is benefitting immensely but so are the weeds!  It matters not because slowly, slowly or malko po malko our property continues to improve it’s appearance.  I know have a number of tomato plants on the go, onions, both Autumn and Spring planted, garlic, kale, cabbage, peas, pole beans, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, pumpkins, strawberries, blueberries, goji berries, a solitary honey melon and a plethora of other seedlings chuntering along in the polytunnel.

Yeorgi, our neighbour very kindly cleared a massive area for me to plant potatoes in.  Of the 5 rows planted, 1 will return the potatoes to Yeorgi and his family in exchange for the use of his beautifully tilled land.  I was allowed to place  the potatoes in their trenches but the digging and covering was completed by Yeorgi with engineering precision.  I was forever grateful because I am horribly caghanded and can’t plant a straight row to save my life, even with guide lines and my best efforts.  He did allow me to dig and plant 3 rows of sweetcorn and true to my usual efforts the lines are wriggly and nowhere near as neat as Yeorgis – what can I say?  It has never stopped me from growing and getting good results.

Well we’re just back from the vets with the puppy.  What a morning!  Rabbie has Parvo virus and it is touch and go if he will live.  Ian our friend very kindly took us and then drove back to pick up Vinnie and Bodie to get their booster shots done 1 month early so they are safe against Parvo.  Poor Rabbie has had intravenous drip, antibiotics, anti vomit and anti diarrhoea pumped into him.  His hurt rate is through the roof and he is 1 sad little pup.  We have to take him back tomorrow for more of the same – if he makes it through the night.

Terry has reached the German border after horrendous weather, 3 traffic grid locks and very little sleep.  Sue’s dogs bark constantly and he’s very frazzled.  We travel very well together and our dogs are perfect car travellers so it has been trying for him.  I’m pretty sure I’ve missed lots of events but for now it’s another apology for the lack of images and hopefully the next post will hold good news and lots of images.  TTFN or ta ta for now!

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