A sheepish hello from the Plains

Insomnia is so undervalued, when you don’t have to get up for “work”.    At 3am I awoke feeling chilly.  A quick look at the orange glow of the LED told me it was 3 am and only 18 degrees!  You reader might be thinking, cold?  But when the temperatures are so deliciously hot during the day 18 degrees is chilly.  Terry and I can be seen out and about around  6am wafting jointly around the garden wearing towelling dressing gowns discussing the work plan.  We have an extended early morning together because at 8 am his lads arrive and at 8:30 am he’s off building.  As soon as he’s home building work starts on our house.  It is an endless but satisfying circle.

So what bought me back to writing the blog?  A few very pointed comments from the fam were the precipitators of that dreaded feeling; guilt.  But what spurred me into action was the joy I vicariously experienced  when I met a friends, friend who was visiting Bulgaria for the first time.  She also very kindly has given me permission to use her wonderful photos.  So an ‘uge thanks to Marie Searle Marks for getting me back blogging and Michelle for inviting her to Bulgaria.  So here ladies and gentlemen are some shots of Gradishte in early May.

The laws in Bulgaria allow for free grazing of animals on all common land, including the common areas on the tracks between houses.  Horses and donkeys are almost entirely work animals and a means of transport.  The old chap with his donkey and cart would have made the 7 kilometer trip from Gradishte, to Levski, where he is pictured and returned again.  It is a subtle reminder that motorised transport isn’t necessary.

What I absolutely love about Maries photos is that she has encapsulated the whimsical beauty of a Bulgarian village.  The Heath Robinson benches can be found outside almost every Bulgarian home.  At this time of the year, at 10am the invalided are precariously placed on the benches, heavily wrapped in wool and put out to air whilst the housework is completed.  At 6pm these benches are almost rent usunder with the weight of the village “Baba’s” or grandmothers.   Every trip to the shop is noted, every vehicle that passes receives “the nod”; which is a very clear signal that you’ve been entered into their database of daily comings and goings.  I kid you not, nothing is secret in the village and I mean nothing!

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When Marie produced this shot it really touched me.  It was my first landmark when we arrived and signified to my beating heart that I was in the right direction for Levski rather than Pavlikeni.  It has and continues to be the object most likely to make me smile.  The steam punk structure with it’s cheerful colours is upkept by an elderly woman of indescriminate age. She walks with what can only be described as a pre jesus prambulator the 4 kilometers there and back, every single day of the year.  I would love to be able to take a picture of her face.  It falls into either impassive or serene but is of such beautiful composition that I find it hard not to stare.  I have never seen the woman in conversation with anyone.  I have never seen her in the village shop but I see her foraging all the way to her hives.  I would love to walk with her and see what she forages.

And who doesn’t love flowers?  Whilst growing for eating is predominate every house has a dedicated flowering area.

So what’s has been happening with us?  Terry, who happened across a national holiday and 2 weekends has designed and built a woodstore, an enclosed parking and is beginning the external kitchen.  He is somewhat of a phenomena.  I can honestly say he completed 90% of the work himself, including buying, delivering and unloading the materials.  The woodstore is 3.5 sided, tiled and with a barked exterior.  The minute it was up all wood/timber on the land was collected, chopped and stored therein.  We have other piles that are for chipping and mulching.  The “OK coral” parking is hidden by 1.8m high barked planks and are a continuation of the woodstore.  Finally the crumbling boundary mud walls have been replaced and the property boundary is now secure. The external walls are pot blocks topped with roof tiles.  We had thought about putting chuckle stone down as a surface but we’ve decided on concrete.  The war on weeds is something there are simply not enough time to waste breath on.  It is an ongoing problem, that and years of self seeded walnut saplings and wild mimosa.

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I’ve had to come back and add this sentence because whilst I’ve been writing this Terrys designed and made a 3m long, 1.8m high sliding door for the parking lot.  It’s engineering simplicity is admirable.  Angle iron frame, bark paneled it has 4 wheels on the base and a further for on the receiving wall space.  The gate runs in an inverted angle iron set into concrete.  The weight of the gate keeps the lower wheels in the runner and the upper wheels hold the gate in position and helps with rolling the weight of the gates.  Slick.  All the external projects are coming together but as always the finishing is done in snatched mements till the weekend hits.

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In the meantime and whilst I was showing recent newbies around Pavlikeni I returned home to the makings of an external open air summer kitchen!  About 18 months ago Antony Croft, a very talented arbouroculturist, felled and slabbed the pine in front of the house.  It was a difficult decision to take it down but the path along the house was lifting and so the house too.  The great slabs of pine have been resting since that time, drying out.  It was with absolute joy that I saw these great slabs positioned atop the built area of the kitchen.  Terry started and I am continuing with the long job of sanding the slabs down for kitchen grade usage.  Terry in the meantime is rebuilding the old roofing stucture in front of the old summer kitchen patio and replacing the metal and sheeting with timber and tiles.   The kitchen is built to bar and counter level with pot blocks.  The external facing walls are to be clad in barked planks (so you see the pattern developing?) and the internal facing walls are under discussion.  I’m thinging Var or limewash.  It is easily reapplied, cheap and has excellent insectacide properties.  The second option is gloss paint.  Either way I want the surface texture of the blocks to be evident but also manageable to keep clean.  Really it’s a play off against painting or scrubbing!

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I have been spending as much time as possible in the garden.  Terry says I can be seen at almost anytime of the day, wandering the garden with a 3 pronged fork or digging with said fork.  Shorts are derigeur now as are stretchy bra tops.  Nothing else is bearable and even digging is undertaken with flip flops.  In clearing the area next to the old house for the woodshed and parking lot, Terry also cleared some of the Walnut saplings and wild Mimosa’s and whilst he was about it he cleared the patch in around the mature Walnut tree at the top of our first piece of land.  We can’t plant edibles under the tree because the leaves and nuts produce a toxin that kill them.  So we are going to just try and keep this area strimmed down to develop later.  We’ve discussed seating and fire pit with a natural green area with wild flowers maybe a chamomile lawn.

This year I’m growing spuds on our own plot.  I have 6 lines in and about to put in another 2 for a later crop.  I am growing from seed, tomatoes, scotch bonnet peppers (muchly excited), kale, cauli, brocolli, coriander, swede and mustard, all in various states of growth.  The 20 strawberry plants I bought in our first year are now an absolute forest and heaving with fruit.  But this year I’ve had to buy cabbage and sweet peppers and not even my parsley came through, well 1 lone plant out of many.  I wasn’t so lucky with my fruit trees.  I lost the cherry saplings but as I discovered we already have 2 massive mature cherry trees ig wasn’t too bad.  In fact only 2 peach trees, a pear tree and another apple tree sapling survived last year and the demise of the almonds, cherries and apricot saplings are soley my fault and a complete lack of care.  Ilia my neighbour gave me 2 apple tree saplings that are thriving.  At last count we have every variety of plum imaginable, mulberry, elderberry, walnut, apple (not fruiting yet), apricot (aging and probably dying but I can’t give up on it), cherries, peach (not fruiting yet), pear (not fruiting yet) and I think sloe berries.  We also have what is called wild pear or Sliven.  It is only good for shade and the fruit for Rakia.  It drops a payload of fruit on a minute by minute basis that self seed in a matter of days.  Our aged and much damaged one is coming down.  It is beyond help with it’s raggedy broken limbs and creaking gnarled trunk.  The timber however will heat us for a winter some 2 years down the line.  Fruit wood is extremely hard and therefore excellent for burning.

I am beginning to extend my flower beds to further along and up the garden.  Last Autumn I lifted my Canna lillies and Dahlia corms and stored them.  I collected seeds from Zinnias, Dahlias, Coreopsis and Nicotiana and it is with joy that I planted them and all are coming through to begin the decoration of what can only be described as  an immense expanse of brown earth or overgrown vegetation.  Denise, a friend, had very kindly given me lots of poppy seeds and some wildflower seeds that celecbrated her friends wedding.  I have scattered these seeds along the edges of the woods.  And I have researched what classifies as a copse/coppice and grove and what is a wood.  Copse/coppice or grove are horticultural designs that are planted (shrubs/small trees) in such a manner that the canopy aloows sunlight through and there is space between trees for perambulation, for example.  A wood is a natural habitat that has a thick canopy and has unregulated growth which is what we have!

The flowers above are all in flower right now and a few more that got lost in the ethernet.  I think the most surprising garden event this year was when my prized blousy old trout orange climbing rose flowered.  It is now completely white with 1 single orange bud on the lower branches, as seen in the picture below.  I’m flumoxed!  It smells divine though.

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And a quick shot of the village car boot which I germinated, as an idea and a friend Michelle helped facilitate.  It is a small, but hopefully growing event. Marie is the photographer behind the lens of the picture at the Garden Restaurant in the village.  Marie, Michelle, her girls Axie and Dani, Terry and I met up on Friday evening for a bite to eat and to chew the cud.  And I really must dash because my brother and his wife are arriving today and I’m muchly excited!

4 thoughts on “A sheepish hello from the Plains

  1. Hi Simon and Irena! I have just had a quick look at your blog. I see you are familiar with the acerbic wit of Auntie Bulgaria too! I was also an avid reader of other Bulgaria centric blogs! Move to Bulgaria on blogspot with Minty and Pete was another favourite. Now we are here living our dream I’m afraid my posts have become rather sporadic. Really very best of luck with your move!

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  2. What a lovely post Corinne. Beautiful pictures of your flowers in the garden, a sight for sore eyes.Glad to hear your fruit and veg doing so well. your renovations and new buildings are really coming together now. you and Terry work so hard but when it is all done you will appreciate it and hopefully relax a bit. Even though its hard work it doesn’t take a genius to work out that you both enjoying it.

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