Friday, 23 January 2015

We love Winter!

As I was looking through my photographs on our Facebook page the other day, I realized that I had quite a few nice winter pics. Seeing as it's winter I thought I would collect them all up and share them with you on here. 

A view from near our orchard

This is our second winter in Bulgaria on our lovely little farm and as the title proclaims WE LOVE WINTER!! This is mainly because we get a nice break from those retched mosquitoes and flies and for me as an English Rose (more like sweaty Betty) I get a break from the very very very hot sun. 

Winter is quite a funny affair. Before we came we asked around to find out what the winters entailed and how we should prepare for them. We were told to make sure we have enough wood and this should be ordered well in advance. So as soon as we got here in the August, not long after we ordered 10 cubic meters of the stuff. We were told that in the summer when you harvest your veg make sure that you bottle it all for the winter. Well panic struck as I thought ahhhhhh what if we get snowed in and run out of grub? What will we do? How will we survive? So immediately I took a walk around the garden for a forage. We have an abundance of fruit trees here so that was my first port of call. We had just missed most of the fruit apart from our plum tree. So I collected them all up and popped them in the freezer. To this day just over a year on those pesky plums are still in the hidden depths of the icy abyss. I tried to use them the summer just gone by putting them in drinks as ice cubes....lets just say Mark wasn't impressed when he discovered something soggy and purple at the bottom of his beverage. I will most definitely be preserving our produce for the first time this year so I bet you all can't wait for a blog on that...I am definitely going to be wearing Marks Army safety goggle when using the pressure cooker!! 

we've got wood!

We soon found out that winter here isn't at all like trying to prepare for a zombie apocalypse. You just need to make sure that you have enough wood to keep you warm and if we did run out we went and foraged for sticks in the garden. In the end we only used around 5 cubic meters so we had plenty left for this winter. Shops do not close in the village when the weather is bad so if you own a good pair of wellies then you can easily get food. Oh and it is really important that you make sure you have things to entertain yourself with through winter as cabin fever sets in big time. I spent last winter making things, reading and using Jock as a hot water bottle. 


I love to venture out in winter especially when it snows as the landscape here looks stunning covered in a blanket of the white stuff. In our village we have a lake where people go to fish so I often trot up there to take in the silence and the calmness. My mum knitted me the hat that I have on in the picture, the lake is the perfect place to parade this lovely creation and Mark often says I look like a mackerel fisherman in it. I can't leave the house in it without him asking if i'm going fishing.

me mackerel fishing

Our land also looks beautiful in the snow, so when it gets to -30 like it has in the past I don't have to venture far to be able to appreciate mother nature in this season.

 Down  the garden path

I also love using the macro setting on my camera to take pictures of the wildlife. I love how when it's cold the snow and ice almost look like beautiful pieces of jewelry on the plants.

 This next picture reminds me of something from a Dr Seuss book. It's one of my favorite snaps

It's not only ourselves that we have to keep warm in the winter months but also the many animals that we have too. I got kind of obsessed with making cat beds last winter. I even went to the extent of putting up mini curtains in some of them to keep out the wind. They were like little kitty hotels and dotted everywhere. The little buggers still wanted to get in the house and found a much better abode

We also made a lovely snug room for the dogs by filling our little barn with bouncy warm hay but as you can see that didn't last long either

Our feathery friends are kept snug too as we create deep bedding in their coops. Each time we clean their coops out extra bedding gets put on top of existing bedding creating a warm surface for them to snuggle into. Unlike Jock and Rufus our two comfort pooches who will not let their bums touch cold concrete let alone snow, the chickens, ducks and geese love spending time in the snow 

So there you have it, a few pictures from the chilly winters here in Bulgaria. It's not actually that cold at the moment just 3 degrees Celsius but I am sure there are a few more colder snaps to come. Mark has even been working in the garden getting jobs done for the spring. I have been completing assignments for my permaculture course,making crafts and looking after little Lodewikus who we call Lode-vicious at the moment as the poor little mite is teething. 

I really am looking forward to spring because we get to start sowing some seeds, but right now I am enjoying snuggling in front of the fire and not scratching my arse every five minutes from mozzie bites. I hope that you are nice and warm wherever you are reading this from in the world and I will leave you with a picture of Jock in a jumper.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

A few of my loves.....

Today I thought that I would give you a little glimpse into the world of me. I have many obsessions and loves. For example since I was a little girl I have always loved picking dust and dirt from things with a pin. It started with my brothers games controllers, the TV remote and then it got to the point where I was paying my brother 50p to get the dirt out of his toe nails. Yes yes I know he should have been paying me for this manicuresk kind of service but I did not have a gentle reputation when with needle. The picture below is of my brother, he also now has an obsession with needles, he is an amazing tattoo artist...I like to think I had something to do with that hehe

My one big passion is up cycling. As a child I would love to make things and I think I got that from my mum. I always watched her decorating the house with the simplest of things. I remember she rag rolled the wall with newspaper dipped in paint (ew) but at the time it was the fashion and fabulous. She also used to make all of the kids in the street necklaces from bits of velvet and buttons. She was truly my inspiration. One of my fondest memories was when me and my brother both wanted one of those cool little red an yellow cars. You must remember these, everybody had one. To move the car you sat in it and scooted your self along with your feet. Even though you ended up with bruised knees from them knocking against the steering wheel and covered in green fly because of the brightness of the whole thing, it was the best toy EVER. 

So what happened next is where my journey as an obsessive up-cycler began. I took our old skateboard and a big cardboard box from the veranda. I cut two windows into each side of the box. Me and my brother sat back to back on the skateboard and I popped the box over our heads....voila a car that we both can drive in both directions. I dread to think what we looked like at the time but it's one of my most favorite memories. Plus my mum bought us one not long after probably due to the sheer embarrassment of us riding down the street in a cardboard box bashing into ever lamp post in site.

One of my other loves is car boot sales. In the UK you get some mega car booties with lots of treasure and also lots of crap. The picture below is when my and my brother decided to take 'The Beast' to a local sale, so we filled the car up with all sorts. Some of the boxes hadn't even been checked and in them we found used rusty baking trays, dirty towels and even some old boxers. Yep they all sold thanks to my cheese ball of a brother. That boy could sell sand to an Arab! 

When we moved here to Bulgaria I was in heaven. The house had been left with so many treasures scattered about. Old boxes, chests, glass and wooden frames. My mind was all a buzz thinking of what I could to make these things look great. I found vintage materials and made cushions, painted old chairs and made candle holders out of old milk bottles. Here are a few pics of my makes

 A chicken hanging made from old fabrics

 An old mirror cleaned and painted

 The balcony area fixed up and decorated with old found jam jars, furniture, tiles and crates

 A dream catcher made from sticks, old string and beads

 A wind chime made from found spoons, keys and feathers

 A cushion made from found retro material

Shelves made from wood from the garden

Only problem is my husband tells me I take it to far.......hehehe

A sheep jaw found on the field spruced up with a feather and hung from the pear tree

Goliath and his mates

As I sit here in my nice warm bed I often think about the chickens in their coop and hope that they are warm enough. But then I think hang on a minute we have giganta fluffy chickens also known as Buff Orpingtons. For those of you that are not familiar with this lovely breed let me introduce you to our head Buff Goliath.

Goliath is such an amazing bird and quite a celeb. He now has his own portrait created by the very talented Dave Brunger. To check out his other work just click on this ..... dcbartworks

We bought over with us from the UK 24 hatching eggs, 12 from two different breeders, but because of our horrid journey only 3 survived. Goliath is the Don of the birds we have, the ladies love him, the ducks love him and even the other cockerels love him. Now it is very unusual for cockerels to live together in harmony but Goliaths best mate is Queen Elizabeth and he ( yes I said he! He just happened to look like Queen Elizabeth the 1st as a chick) is second in command. They have a funny old relationship when I watch them, it's almost like watching scenes from the karate kid, Goliath has taken him under his wing.... quite literally.  Now this behavior is quite common in the Buff Orpington breed, they are well known for their gentle nature and that is one of the reasons that we chose them. The other reason is that they are big birds so great for feeding the family. Did you know that in England before people had turkeys for Christmas dinner the Buff Orpington was the bird of choice because of their size.

Buff Orpingtons with ex battery hens

To bulk out our stock and because we wanted more eggs we popped to the market to buy some ex battery chickens. They were fantastic apart from the fact that the cockerel skip escaped out of his box in the car and ended up crowing at passers by. Many of our chickens got taken by stray dogs and foxes at first but now we have two fantastic secure coops thanks to Mark and Jez who came to volunteer last summer.

Last year we went on to incubate two more sets of eggs. The second batch was a success even with our electricity being cut off our dear friend Jill saved the day as we risked the very bumpy journey to her house. The third batch was not such a triumph as only one egg hatched we named her Pock. Pock spends the evenings chilling with Jock and Rufus our dogs in the kitchen in front of the fire. It won't be long now until she can go into the coop with the others. Big relief for me as I kind of feel bad when there's a chicken watching me cook a chicken.

Nugget one of the survivors from the trip over

As well as keeping chickens we keep a few other feathery friends but we have also lost a fair few. At the moment we have one Indian Runner Duck called Sir Francis. He did have three ladies but sadly they got taken by a fox. He is a rather funny chap and now hangs around with four other ducks that we got from the market. They spend their days in the pond and foraging for spiders in the grass.

Sir Francis having a mooch

We also have 9 very cheeky geese that like to spend their day tormenting everyone else! With keeping all of these animals you also get Poultry Politics, The Ducks refuse to sleep anywhere other than with the chickens. The latest batch of chickens includes about 4 cockerels that team up, hunt for the geese in the garden and drop kick them. The red Bulgarian chickens are feisty and chase the dogs often beating up poor Rufus and all of them are very sly and plan trips to the kitchen door to steal the dog food.

Geese in the snow

Although sometimes keeping the chickens, ducks and geese seems like a lot of hard work, there is nothing like collecting fresh eggs in the morning, having a lovely supply of poop for your veggies and even having a laugh being chased by the odd bird. It really is heartbreaking when one of them gets taken but it really is satisfying when you rescue one. Two days ago Mark opened the front door to go and get something from the car when he noticed a stray dog running down the street with one of our chickens in his mouth. Luckily the dog dropped the chicken when Mark shouted but boy was that one lucky bird!

Monday, 19 January 2015

A not so very nice journey

So as I said I was going to tell you about our very very eventful trip over here. At the time it broke us, but when we think back about it all we can't help but laugh. So here goes.....

We set of in our Toyota Hilux Surf 1996 lovingly named 'The Beast' and there she is below when we took her on holiday to Wales

The Beast

We absolutely jam packed the car. It was full of things that we were told we could not get over here in Bulgaria and as a self confessed hoarder In went bags of my clothes even though I had eliminated half of my wardrobe already. We were not the only souls about to partake in this journey of a lifetime oh no, we had three furry family members in the back. Jock (A.K.A Commander Pooch) our Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Sir Vladimir and Maud our two black cats. So we waved our sad goodbyes and off we went......

We made it down to Dover safe and sound after many pit stops (yes I have the bladder of a walnut) and onto the ferry. Anxiety hit a high when we had to leave the animals in car down below. We discussed on the upper deck what we would do if the boat started to sink and that was of course go down with our furry loved ones! Finally we arrived in France and all was fine. We decided that I would not be driving at all on the trip as I would struggle with doing so on the other side (wrong side ahem) of the road. Mark was used to driving on the other side as he lived in Germany for a few years whilst in the military and oh what a military mission it turned out to be! We did not sleep for three was epic and I think you will agree when you read on....

After devouring a constant supply of Monster energy drinks and pro plus we made it to Germany. Many of you will know that in certain countries you need a vignette to drive on the roads and these can be bought in petrol stations and at the borders. Well little miss organised here made a list of which countries we needed to get them in. Well turns out I wasn't that organised as after driving around for three hours to find one and lots of funny looks we discovered in the AA book sitting right under our noses that in Germany these do not exist. So off we go on our way but maybe got a little to excited and got pulled over by the police for driving over 100kph with a trailer on the back, but luckily they let us off and so we carried on...

In Austria something very strange happened, we still can't explain it to this day. We had just stopped at a service station. We had lunch and set off again. As we were driving along the lane that merges onto the motorway another car was driving incredibly fast along the road next to us. So we were somewhat sandwiched between a huge lorry on the motorway and a car the other side. Well there would have been a full on collision and we both even braced ourselves to be welcomed into the arms of death!!! DUH DUH DUHHHHH...but then it felt like a huge air bubble between the two cars stopped us from colliding....we sat in silence for about an hour after that had happened!

Romania was an experience. We needed a Vignette ( yes I was sure this time) so Mark stopped at the nearest, what we thought, service station. He got out and got followed but made it back to the car safely and we zoomed off to a bigger brighter place....but I was still scared and whilst he was getting the Vignette I found no shame in taking a wee in a bottle.

Finally we made it to Bulgaria! Our moral was so high at this point as we were only a few hours away from our new home UNTIL the bloody sat nav took us down an old dis used road. This road was fine at first but then became steeper, narrower and full of pot holes that were more like craters. As we had the trailer on the back we could not turn around so had to carry on, until we drove into the biggest crater of them all and got the axel stuck on a mound. We could not move..then panic set it!

We took a look around and found that we were in a huge sort of valley full of ganja plants almost 6 feet high. The air was thick with biting insects and there was not a building or road in sight. We were two kilometers down this old road with a tiny amount of water which we gave to the animals. Mark decided to dig out the mound with his bare hands and this resulted in him digging out a wasps nest...ouch! We tried putting rocks under the wheels and even an old antique wooden frame that I had collected but this got shredded to bits. We called the AA as we had breakdown with them and they arranged a Bulgarian company to help us. To cut a long story short we waited seven hours and they did not turn up. Mark decided to walk for help. As we had no water he checked some old animal troughs but they were all dried up. We were both hallucinating at this point and Mark said he felt like Russel Crowe in the film Gladiator when he walks through the field at the end touching the grass with his finger tips, but this time it wasn't that type of grass if you know what I mean! Eventually he found a house with an old man sitting in his pants, he luckily had an old Russian Military truck and came to the rescue pulling us out. 

By now it was past midnight, pitch black and every tree on the way back to the house looked like a giant squirrel. We didn't recover from this trip for many weeks. We both got sunstroke and only 3 of the hatching eggs that we carried in the car with us from the UK hatched and to top it all off Mark lost his wallet whilst being pulled out of the crater BUT we feel very very lucky to have got here in one piece even though it felt like all the odds were against us...ahhh how lovely 

So here it is, my first blog....

So here it is, the blog that I have been attempting to write for over a year now. Life kind of got in the way but in a good way of course. It's been one heck of a journey so far over the last year and now I am ready to spill all and tell you about our new life here in Bulgaria.

My name is Sam, but the majority of you reading this blog will already know that because you lovely lot gave me the final budge to do this, so thanks for that! I have just turned dirty thirty (hmmm but not in that sense of the term, rather a covered in soil and chicken poop kind of way) and I am originally from Wolverhampton, yes I am a Yam Yam and I do love a bit of chips and gravy! The majority of my life I have spent working in bars and admin to put myself through education. I have a BSc in Geography and International Development Studies and then I went onto complete my Masters Degree in Environmental Management. All of my life I have felt that I needed to be surrounded by nature and then I met my amazing husband, who being from South Africa loves nothing better than the great outdoors. Lets just say If I had never of met him then I would have been quite happy with lots of cats as my companions (I'm not joking). We also have a new little addition to the family and that's our gorgeous baby boy Lowe.

This is moi 

So why did we decide to move to Bulgaria? We decided to make the huge move from the UK when Mark left the Army. Zimbabwe was always the place where we were going to move to but due to turbulent times over there we looked elsewhere. We came across Bulgaria online and saw that cost of living here was relatively cheaper than other places around the world. Our main reason for the move was so that we could eventually become self sufficient, we wanted to grow our own food and be self reliant. When looking for a property we wanted a large amount of land, one or more wells, a South facing plot, good accessibility to roads in bad weather and of course WiFi so that we can share what we are doing. In no time at all we came across the house we now live in, it had all of the things we were looking for and more. So we snapped it up and for the past year we have began our new journey.

Our house from the bottom of the garden

So that is the first blog. I have left it simple as I have lots of things to talk about. The next one will be about our long drive over here. It was the most awful journey but looking back now it was also the funniest so I must share it with you. But for now as they say in Bulgaria Ciao Ciao