How Generous are our Neighbours !

We really can’t get over how generous our neighbours are, always giving and never expecting anything in return. Today I wanted to prune our huge apple tree as the branches were being pulled down by the sheer weight of all the apples. I have already picked vast amounts off the tree the past few weeks and to be honest there is only so many apples I’m prepared to peel, we have even decided to try to make some cider. Anyway I decided to give some of our apples to our neighbours as a way of returning some of their generosity but by doing that, in return, they gave us a load of vegetables from their gardens, its becoming a vicious circle ! So here I am once again surrounded by loads more cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, etc. I was even given some lovely flowers. So it looks like I will be spending the afternoon making more jars of preserved veg, I wouldn’t mind nut I really don’t have a clue what I’m doing. It’s a case of making it up as I go along and hoping for the best but still, it’s a learning process and that’s part of the pleasure of living here in Bulgaria.
If anyone has any ideas for preserving tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers etc I would be more than grateful, but please keep it simple as I’m still wearing my ‘L’ plates haha. Please leave ideas in comment box.

20130731-124519.jpg. My lovely flowers.

20130731-124602.jpg. From my generous neighbours !

Our First Crops

Well here’s our first crop of cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers. I have so many cucumbers that still need picking except I’ve run out of fridge space!

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Doesn’t help when my generous neighbours insist on giving me some of there’s . I’ve tried giving them some of mine but I think I’m fighting another loosing battle. Still at least we won’t starve !

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Trying Our Patience

In the four weeks, on and off, we have been trying to do our bathroom and get water into our kitchen and back room (eventually going to be our winter kitchen). Well all I can say is its pushed us almost to the limit as far as our patience is concerned. As previously mentioned, when we bought the house there was no water inside, so we had to tap into the outside tap and lay drainage. We thought that was awkward enough but fitting drainage and water pipes in the house was a nightmare at times. Lets put it this way, we didn’t need the pool outside, we had so many leaks we could have gone indoor swimming! The t-joints would either not connect to the pipes easily or the seal would twist,ending up with leak after leak. The worst joints were the plastic to metal, no matter what we did we just couldn’t stop the leaks but after several attempts and rolls of PTFE tape plus lots of Loxseal we finally managed to stop the leaks. The toilet that we had installed about 6 weeks ago had to be taken out again as the floor need to be raised. Instead of raising the whole floor, we made a step which the toilet would be fixed on. The reason for this was because if we didn’t raise the floor the drainage wouldn’t flow correctly. 32 buckets of concrete later and we had a step. Once the concrete dried we were able to lay the Lino and fix the toilet and sink. At last we had water in the house, it was great not having to brush my teeth at the outside sink, while the neighbours walked by shaking their heads!
We decided to build some shelves around the toilet and a cupboard under the sink, after all a woman needs plenty of storage to keep her mountain of toiletries! It is amazing how cheap wood is here. It took us a few hours to buy the wood, screws,nails etc due to our inability to speak the lingo, it’s hard work playing charades all the time but at least it amuses the Bulgarians. We even managed to find a fully enclosed shower ( glass on all sides ). It had one big shower head, a hand shower massage jets and shower tray, all for the bargain price of 395 Levs. (£174). The final item to buy was the all important boiler, we managed to get an 80 ltr one that was on promotion for 170 Levs (£75).
As we were doing the pipework, we thought we might as well connect the sink in the kitchen and put a sink in the 2nd kitchen,as well as plumbing for the washing machine. We decided to tackle building a framework for the back sink with work surface/drainage board,also so that we could instal the washing machine underneath. It took us a day and I must admit we were pretty pleased with our end result. Ok the back room isn’t even done yet but just having a 2nd sink and being able to wash our clothes in a machine is a godsend. And I have to add we only connected the cold water as we hadn’t even fitted the boiler yet, but it was exciting for me. The washing machine is a cold feed anyway as it has a heater element . All t can say is I was like a child with a new toy, washing just about everything I could get my hands on, honestly you would think washing machines had only just been invented! The washing frenzy continued the following day in between building the shelving and cupboard in the bathroom. After hours of heated discussions due to the fact that we both had different ideas, we finally decided how it was to be built. On and off its taken us a week to build. The reasons it took so long is not only where we trying to do other things in between but because we changed our mind so many times as to the design. Apart from the tiling around the sink its now complete.
Over these past few weeks our ideas about how we want our bathroom to look has changed several times and all I can say is its a good job we are doing it ourselves as, if we had someone in to do it for us, they would have downed tools by now! We have changed our ideas, clashed over each others ideas, had tantrums, thrown tools in anger, shouted, sulked,etc,etc. everything we have done so far together, up till the plumbing/bathroom, we have worked as a team, but this has pushed us both almost to our limits. Most of it is frustration over the problems with the plumbing, some of it is just tiredness and the rest is ‘ battle of the sexes’ !
One idea we decided on was to build a platform to sit the shower on, partly because of the drainage pipes and partly as we thought it would even out the room better as the toilet was fixed to the step. To our surprise, it turned out well. Next was to assemble the shower, well all I can say is it was bloody heavy. All that glass made us nervous as it was a bit of a balancing act to start with. We had to build it on the platform, which made it more difficult and when we finished building it, it had to be left in the middle until we had connected all the pipes and were sure there wasn’t any leaks. Next came the boiler and electrics. We managed to mount the boiler with no problems. Electrics went smoothly, and as Andy was doing the electrics, he decided he might as well fit a few more sockets in the kitchen,bedroom and back room, plus fit a new light in the bathroom. It’s a good feeling when things start going smoothly especially as it had been hellish to start with.
Once everything was connected, it was finally time to move the shower into place, which is the back of the platform. Truth be known we were dreading it as it had to be lifted slightly in order to move it. One wrong move and it could have been a disaster but with a bit of patience we did it! Finally we had a fully working bathroom. It’s not completed yet, there is still the boxing in of the pipes, build a full length cupboard around the boiler and of course the tiling, but it’s such a relief to be near the end. Was it worth all the stress, arguments, frustration, tiredness ? Of course it was because, although we are far from experts, what we have achieved goes beyond our expectations. We have a bathroom we love, I no longer have to wash clothes by hand and I have a choice of kitchen sinks!

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Stray Dogs

Bulgaria is a beautiful country,the scenery is breathtaking, fields of poppies and sunflowers, roadsides lined with wildflowers, vast green pine forests, hills and valleys that take your breath away, rivers, lakes and streams flowing in all directions, it truly is a beautiful country except for one thing…….stray dogs!
I have never seen so many stray dogs (and cats) roaming the streets, sometimes in packs. Wherever you drive there are dogs wondering on the roads or hanging round petrol stations looking for food. Whenever we go into Vidin, they are either laying on the pavements or asleep in the bushes or hovering near the cafes. A lot of them have green tags on their ears and I’ve been told that those with tags,have been neutered/castrated and been treated for flees,etc. Its a sad sight to see and really does pull on the heart strings. One day, when we were in Vidin, a dog kept following us around, everywhere we sat, he would find a spot a few feet away and just lay there, dozing but keeping an eye on us and if we moved away he would follow us and then lay down near us when we stopped. He had such a sad face and I really struggled not to take him home with me. We already have 2 of our own dogs so, if we were to take in a stray, we would have to consider the affects it might have on them, but when you see stray dogs, I can’t help but feel, one more dogs wont hurt, but sometimes you just have to walk away. To be honest half of these strays do look relatively heathy. They don’t look undernourished or dehydrated and , dare I say without being shot down in flames, they do look fairly contented, but there are also those that are in a poor state, very undernourished and extremely sad. I’ve come to the conclusion ( rightly or wrongly), that the healthier ones must have either lived on the streets since they were pups or are strays from strays and it’s all they have ever known, hence that’s why they have managed to survive and the dogs that are malnourished and in a really poor state, are the ones that have been abandoned. Either way it’s a heartbreaking sight to see and one that I struggle with.
Only the other day, again in Vidin, we had just come out of a supermarket and I was putting our trolley back, when I spotted a puppy, no more than about 8-10 weeks old, laying under the trolleys. Someone had kindly left a handful of dried puppy food on the floor for it but the pup didn’t seem interested in the food. He was in a very sorry state, dehydrated, quite thin and weak. I didn’t know what to do, take him home or leave him. So many things run through your mind when faced with that sort of situation and the reality is that you can’t save them all,so I walked away.
We started driving home but I was so upset about leaving the pup we ended up turning round. We went back to the trolley park but I couldn’t see him so we drove around the car park and waste area around it but still no luck,but then I spotted something moving slightly under the trolleys, it was the pup. I tried for ages to coax him out but he just wouldn’t come and I couldn’t reach him as he was in the centre of 4 rows of trolleys. People kept looking at me as if I was a crazy woman but nobody helped. No matter what I did I couldn’t get anywhere close to reaching the pup, in the end sadly and feeling extremely guilty, this time i had no option but to walk away.
Since that day I have thought about that poor pup and prayed that he has survived and maybe he would have if only I hadn’t walked away in the beginning….but ‘if only’ won’t change a thing except next time I won’t hesitate. I can’t save them all but even if I save one, its one less stray on the street. I know there are a lot of people in Bulgaria, individuals, vets, rescue centres etc,that are doing all they can to help these poor strays and they are doing an amazing job under the circumstances. This is a problem worldwide not just here in Bulgaria and sometimes you have no choice but to learn to live with it but that’s not to say you can’t do something to help ease it a little, even if its just something as small as giving food to a stray.

Fast Forward….part 2

As we had been working so hard,it was time to take a break from it all, so we decided to head to Lom for the day to see Sue and Paul. They had arrived in Bulgaria a day before us and we hadn’t seen them since the day we met them in Vidin , a couple of weeks after we arrived, so we thought it would be nice to catch up.They live 10km outside of Lom and according to the sat nav it was going to take us 1 hour 20 mins to get there, wrong it took us just over 2 hours! We’ve worked out that where ever you travel in Bulgaria always add extra time on your journey because of the roads. The scenery, as always is beautiful, and we travelled through a lot of really lovely villages but oh my god the road was horrendous ! At least half the road there was quite narrow, full of potholes and to make matters worse, some of it was cobbled. Considering its a main road, full of lorries may I add, it’s pretty shocking. Having a high top, LWB van is great when your renovating a house, for picking up building material, but not for long journeys on roads like these, a 4×4 would be more suitable. It doesn’t help, I suppose, that I’m a terrible passenger, always putting my foot on the break that isn’t there or shouting at Andy to ‘slow down’, even though he’s only doing 40 Kmh, or ‘ watch out for the car,old lady wandering on the road or the stray dog’ . In my defence, it’s not much fun watching artic lorries trying to avoid the potholes and they are on our side of the road, heading towards us. It’s not as if the road was wide enough to move out the way. To top it off,as we were driving out of Lom, there is an extremely long, steep hill to climb which was cobbled all the way up! The view at the top was amazing, to be fair, but all I kept thinking about was the journey back!
It was great to finally get to our destination and see Paul and Sue again. They had settled into life in Bulgaria and loved it as much as we did. Their houses( they have 3 on their plot) were lovely and since they have been there, they had done quite a lot of work. The village was lovely too and so peaceful. After catching up for a few hours, we headed into Lom for a bite to eat. They took us to a kebab place they had found that did the most delicious food and it was so cheap. It’s so nice just to be able to sit outside, eat lovely food, relax with friends, sun beaming down and watch the world go by. Life is good.
Eventually it was time to head home but this time we went a slightly different way. We still had to go on the stretch of cobbled,narrow,potholed, heart attack road, but then we turned off towards Vidin and the road was a lot better. Even though it was supposed to be the long route home it actually only took us 1hour 25 minutes. It was a lovely day and so nice to have a break from renovating and I can honestly say that although I moan about the roads, every where we go here, it’s alway an adventure one way or another and always a memory to look back on with a smile 🙂 ……

Fast Forward….part 1

Well I’ve been reading my own blogs and realised I’m a little behind with the updates, so thought I’d best write an update on what we’ve been up to the last couple of weeks…..
As I’ve already mentioned, the weather has been very hot and it’s been a struggle to get things done. Andy kept saying we should put the pool up so that we could go for a dip every now and then to cool down,but I kept saying that the back garden needed to be done first as it was a mess and also needed to be flattened in order to put the pool up. I eventually gave in as the heat was getting too much and our eagerness to get things done was waning. After gathering all the rugs and blankets we could find,( that came with the house and we were going to dump), we laid them on the grass and preceded to set our pool up. It took 3 hours to fill and, although it was slightly lopsided because of the garden, it looked very inviting. Hot and sweaty by this time, we decided to jump in to cool down……oh my god, it was bloody freezing! We had bought a couple of inflatable rings to sit and float in the water, word of advice, ‘always read the label ‘. They weren’t exactly adult size as we thought so trying to sit on them and stay afloat just wasn’t going to happen, Andy’s just sunk to the bottom as soon as he sat on it and I just tipped over into the ice cold water! Suffice to say they were flung out the pool. After about an hour we decided to get out as a dark cloud had descended upon us, a storm was coming. Just our luck that when we finally decided to put the pool up, it decides to rain! It had been 35 degrees so we thought the storm brewing would just be the usual thunder, lightning and rain for about an hour….how wrong could we be! Before we knew it the heavens opened and not only did it chuck it down with rain but we were pelted with extremely large hailstones! Freaky weather or what? It was coming down with such force that we were sure the windows were going to be smashed. The thunder and lightning was above us and hovered over us for a good few hours. Quite spectacular to see as it was evening by this time and the sky was lit up by the cracking of the thunder and lightning, a bit like watching a firework display. Because of the storm we ended up with a power cut. Not usually a problem except it was extremely muggy (29 degrees) and as it was late we decided nothing else to do but go to bed, only we couldn’t have a fan on, so trying to get to sleep was a struggle. It was so hot and sticky and opening every door in the house just didn’t help. The electric did eventually come back on sometime in the early hours and it was a godsend, finally we were able to cool down and get some sleep.
We woke up to a very disheartening scene. The storm had left a trail of destruction in the garden. Our vegetables had been flattened, our huge apple tree that was full, was now only half full, the other half were on the floor,the buckets that I leave outside for the garden and hand pump were now colanders, our newly laid drainage pipe had a big hole in it, etc,etc. the garden looked like a bomb had hit it. We found half a brick on Andys van windscreen which had fallen off the chimney, luckily it hadn’t caused any damage. We were lucky compared to some people, one person we knew, his car had dents all over it and we felt for our neighbours as they are fully reliant on their crops, so it must have been soul destroying to see some of their crops ruined. It took us a day to clear up all the mess and to sort the veg plot out. It was now a case of just waiting to see if they survive. It’s funny how just a freaky storm like that can do so much damage but can also make you appreciate things more.
Since the storm we haven’t really had a chance to enjoy the pool again, in a way it’s given us the motivation to get back to sorting all the things we need to do before winter descends. Our next chore on the list is to get the bathroom completed…..finally
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Our slightly lopsided pool!

Working In A Heatwave…..

The weather has been so hot just lately, some days reaching 37 degrees centigrade and at night only going down to 26C. Even though it is only June,we still had to get our supply of wood in for winter, so that we could get it all chopped and dried in time before the cold weather sets in. Our friends were kind enough to order some for us, as they had to order some for themselves, which meant they were able to get the wood at a slightly cheaper price. They ordered 10 cubic metres for us, as that’s roughly how much we would need to see us through the winter, all we had to do was collect it from their house, which is about 25 minutes away. Not a problem…. Or so we thought!
We decided to go early in the morning as it would be a lot cooler, so we set off at 7.30. It was a relief to wake up to a cloudy morning, although it was 22C, but at least it was cooler than it had been. The wood had been piled on our friends drive, they even parked their car on the road so we could get our van as close as possible. They had family staying, so were really apologetic that they couldn’t help as they were going out, which was nice of them, even though we weren’t expecting them to help. The pile of wood was big but not as big as we thought it would be. We thought maybe a few trips, we should be finished by lunch time…..wrong!
The logs ( more like trunks ) were oak, cut to 1 metre lengths and weighed a bloody ton! I struggled to lift the big ones with Andy, so I had to leave him to load the big ones while I searched for smaller ones. Even the smaller ones were heavy and I’m no wimp, but I was struggling. Poor Andy had to do most of the loading while I tried to help stack them in the van. Because of the weight we could only load a quarter of the van or we would be over loaded and would struggle to get off the drive,as it was on quite a steep slope. The realisation that it would take us about 4 trips suddenly sank in, it was going to be a long day! When we arrived home, we then had to unload it all and stack it in the barn. The first run took us 2 hours and we were already getting hot, sweaty and tired. After a 10 minute water break, it was back to do it again. By lunch time we had done 2 loads, the sun had come out and the temperature had risen to 34 C, we were shattered.
We decided to stop for lunch as we hadn’t yet eaten. Our agent popped in which delayed us a little, so our lunch break lasted an hour. Watered and stomachs filled, it was off to load the third lot of wood but it didn’t take long before the heat zapped our energy. Sweat dripping, hands sore and aching, we just wanted to be finished, but the more we looked at the pile of wood, the more it just seemed to never go down. We were so tired that by the time we returned home with the third load, we decided to just push them out the back van door, straight onto the garden. When we finally went to pick up our last load, our friends had returned home and were kind enough to help us load the final lot, I have never been so grateful as I was then. We final returned home with our last load at 6 pm, it had taken us just over 10 hours including our water and lunch break. As you can imagine we were knackered, dirty and sweaty. Its funny but looking at all the wood now we had it home, 10 cubic metres is a hell of a lot of wood. All I can say is, next time we will be buying our wood in March when it’s cooler and we will order it already chopped !