5-4-3-2-1

Every morning, I’m up early, not through choice but because my spaniel Twix seems to have a built in alarm clock ! 6am and he’s awake, which in turn, as far as he’s concerned, means I have to be too ! So the morning ritual begins, let dogs out, put kettle on, feed the chickens and pick up the dog mess in the garden ! Glamorous I know !
Anyway on with the point of this blog, chickens ! We acquired 10 chickens by mistake in April, (misunderstanding in communication with our neighbour ) and as they were only around 6/8 weeks old, we hadn’t a clue as to how many were cockerels. Turns out we had 5 ! Beautiful as they were and as much as I enjoyed hearing them practice their cocker-doodle-dooing every 5 minutes, they were fighting and attacking my hens. Didn’t know, never having chickens before, just how aggressive they can be. Well this particular morning they we being extremely aggressive, so much so, one of my hens was getting a right bashing. Nothing for it but to get rid of 4 of my cockerels. Not a decision I made lightly but one that had to be done I’m afraid.
As Andy or I had never killed a chicken before, we had to ask our neighbours for help. To be honest I didn’t want to be a part of it but my neighbour left me no choice as she insisted I help her catch them, not Andy, me !
Our 5 hens and the remaining cockerel were put inside and the remaining, doomed cockerels were put in the run were my neighbour ( 80 years old ) and myself preceded to catch them. Easier said than done ! They were certainly not going to go quietly ! It took about 10 minutes and a few scratches to finally round them up, then we all set off to our neighbours where the dreaded deed was done.
It was very quick and humanely done but, for me, still not a pleasant encounter. I tried hard not to look but as I was holding 2 of them it was difficult not to get the odd glimps. I felt pretty bad as I was the one that took care of them every day but it had to be done.
Once the worse was over, we all sat on little stools whilst we plucked the feathers. Andy didn’t quite get it right and ended up pulling half the skin off !
Our neighbour did all the gutting etc, not the easiest job, but she did it with expertise and I was quite impressed ( also glad I didn’t have to do it as it was pretty rank !). Every part of the birds were saved and bagged up in their own individual bags ready for the freezer. My face must have been a picture as my neighbour included the head and feet in the bags, I’m afraid there was no way I wanted a chicken head to end up on my plate ! They also gave us all the intestines etc for us to feed to dogs but I’m afraid that was definitely not going to happen either. Those parts were eventually disposed off discreetly so as not to offend our neighbours.
When we eventually finished we tried to give our lovely neighbours one of the chickens as a thank you but they refused and thought we were crazy ! The following day I made them some jam, a cake and gave a bucket of plums as a way of thanking them which seemed to make them happy.
As much as I didn’t feel good about killing our cockerels, we did enjoy our day with our neighbours, not just because we enjoy their company but because we always leave with a little more knowledge and understanding of everyday life in Bulgaria .
As for my frozen chickens, well it took a lot for me to eat one but I did and it was tasty but I think, in future , I’ll just stick to eating their eggs ! 🙂

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.