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 ! 🙂

Time To Reflect

Well it’s 6.30 in the morning, Andy and the dogs are fast asleep, outside the sheep are getting herded up to the field, i can hear the village cockerels crowing, dogs barking, the odd car going down the road and I’m sitting with my cup of tea, reflecting on our life so far, here in Bulgaria. It’s only been 16 weeks since our arrival, yet it feels so much longer! Looking back, I can’t believe how much we have achieved in such a short space of time. Ok, it’s fair to say that the work we have done is far from perfect in places, but our house is liveable and comfortable and almost ready for the winter. Apart from the bathroom and the small guest bedroom,( which we are tackling at the moment ), all the rooms will be done again, the outside of the house needs rendering, new windows need to be fitted, the garden needs a complete overhaul, etc, etc, but we will tackle all that next year, but by then we will have a lot more time and a better knowledge of how to tackle things. Some people think we are crazy doing it ourselves, but aside from the tight budget, we enjoy learning new skills and it gives us a great sense of achievement when we manage to do something we have never done before ( when it turns out right of course ). Ok, renovating a house yourself with limited funds and only a small amount of building knowledge is not exactly a bed of roses at times. We have had our stressful moments ( the plumbing !), our arguments over the best way to do things, ( I’m stubborn so I don’t give in easily haha), tools have gone flying due to frustration ( mostly by Andy !) and a few tears have been shed ( all by me because I’m a woman !) but even through all the difficult times, there is a positive side. We have learnt new skills and we are improving all the time, we are learning to work as a team ( important when your with each other 24/7), a sense of achievement and satisfaction ( the best feeling in the world ) and last but not least, and just as important, especially on a small budget, finding ways to use what we have to make things, rather than just buying it .
So next on my moment of reflection,is our life here. It’s strange how after only being here for a short time, it already feels like home. We live in a lovely village with wonderful neighbours, surrounded by beautiful countryside, great weather ( at the moment anyway! ), met some really nice people and met a lovely ex-pat couple that have become our dearest friends, life doesn’t get much better. Do we miss the UK, not in a million years. There is only one thing we miss and that of course is our families. That is the hardest thing to cope with here, not being able to just pop down the road to see our parents, I became an Auntie recently but it will be a while before I get to see my beautiful niece. It was my Sons birthday the other day and i missed not being able to wish him properly. The last few days have been a struggle for me as I have felt homesick, not for my previous life in the UK but because I really miss my children more than anything. That’s the only downside of moving abroad, having to leave loved ones behind but at least there is the Internet and mobile phones, makes the separation a little easier.
We still haven’t been able to master the language,although we have learnt a few words but we are becoming experts at charades! One of our neighbours keeps telling me off, saying I need to learn Bulgarian and then laughs at me because I keep saying ‘sorry’. Another neighbour and his wife are trying to learn English a little,so they can talk to us, which we thought was sweet of them. More and more of the villagers are starting to talk to us, I think it’s because they have now realised we are not here on holiday but here to live and therefore more accepting of us. Ok, so it all sounds so lovely and rosy, most of the time it is, although to be truthful, at times, it’s hard to work out what is the right thing to do or say so as not to offend, or to understand their ways, but these things take time and I think we are slowly learning to appreciate their ways, as I’m sure they are learning ours.
Looking back to a few weeks before we were to embark on our new life here, I must admit, I was scared and unsure if it was the right thing to do, after all we we moving to a country we had never visited, into a house we bought but had never seen,apart from photos. Yes, I suppose we were stark raving mad but in all honesty,I’m so glad we took that risk. Granted,it has been difficult at times and yes it’s bloody hard work. I’m sure we will have several mountains to climb, battles to fight and a few tears to shed, but if it means we have our little piece of heaven, it will be worth it.
Well as much as I’d like to sit around all day reflecting, I cant, I’m afraid my glamorous life awaits me……..time to go weed the garden !!!!

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 !

Adjusting To Village Life

It’s been over 5 weeks since we arrived in Bulgaria and yet it feels so much longer. We haven’t really had much relaxation time as there is so much to do and to be honest it’s not always been easy. Don’t get me wrong, we love it here and it’s one of the best decisions we have ever made, but it can be a struggle at times. Anyone who is thinking of moving to Bulgaria needs to think about it long and hard, as life here is completely different to life in the UK. In order to enjoy living here, you have to embrace it with an open mind, respect the Bulgarian ways and try to integrate as best you can.
Buying a house that needs renovating and trying to live, even a partially self-sufficient life, takes a lot of hard work and determination. We don’t have a toilet or water inside the house, so it’s a bucket for a toilet and dishes, clothes, etc is done outside at the moment. Most of the time I don’t mind, but there have been days that its wore me down. Take the other day, my sheets and towels needed washing, trying to wring out king size sheets outside from a bucket is no mean feat, then trying to hang them on the line without dragging them on the floor is even harder. I failed miserably and the bottom of the sheets hit the dirt, I just wanted to cry! It takes 20 minutes and 5 boiled kettles to fill up our big bowl with water for a bath, which is placed inside a small, dry paddling pool and a cup is used to pour water over ourselves. It does the job but its time consuming and a little awkward.
Then there’s our neighbours that regularly invite us around last minute for something to eat. The other day we had been working all day painting and fitting our little kitchen, I was just finishing making our evening meal, when our neighbour invited us around to eat. Andy tried to explain that I had just cooked, but they wouldn’t take no for an answer, so he told them we would be round in 10 minutes. Well I must admit, I threw my teddy out the cot ! After ranting to Andy that I wasn’t going, I wasn’t going to waste our dinner and I’d had enough, I gave in as I didn’t want to offend our neighbour. I wasn’t trying to be mean, I was just so tired, my hands and back was hurting and all I wanted to do was eat my dinner, have a bath, then go to bed as we had another hard day ahead of us. Turns out we had a lovely evening and ended up a little worse for wear ( too much drink! ).
In all honesty, despite my one moment of acting like a spoilt child, I love our neighbours. They are a kind, generous couple who have welcomed us with open arms from the first day we arrived. They are one of the reasons why we love Bulgaria .
Living in a village is like going back in time, 50 or 60 years. Most of the food that the villagers eat is grown and reared. Not much is thrown away, it is kept and recycled. They use what they have around them to make repairs on the house . Nothing seems to be wasted, everything seems to be put to good use, right down to a branch that has been pruned off a tree! Even though we have only been here a short time, watching our neighbours has taught us to use our imagination more, if its broken we no longer throw it away and go buy a new one, instead we try to find a way to fix it. If we can, we try to use whatever is in our house or on our land to make things. Some things we need to buy but if we can avoid it we can. To us it’s a more positive way to live as it makes us appreciate things more and gives us a sense of pride.
I admit, I can’t wait to get water into the house so I can have a flushing toilet, a shower and a washing machine, these are the luxuries I miss the most, but I don’t miss the ‘throw away nation’ that we lived in, in the UK. Although its hard work, it’s good to go back to basics, to learn how to live of the land as much as possible, to create things by your own hand, to take the time to know your neighbours and learn from their vast knowledge, to do things the ‘ old fashioned way ‘, these are the things that are lacking in the UK and what makes us so glad to be living in Bulgaria. I know that in the future we will be faced with difficult times and have moments when we might want to give up, but we will overcome those moments because this simple, basic life we have chosen will give us the most satisfaction and happiness than we have ever had and you can’t put a price on that…….