Monday, 18 March 2019

26. Bumps & lumps amongst other things.

I am a mahoosive 5'8" tall thats 1.73 metres for anyone not from the UK. Now I know am not the tallest person in the world but in the 55 years I've been on this earth I've never really had to worry about banging my head on doorframes. However move to Bulgaria and that all changes. It appears the majority of doorframes especially in our house are around 5'4"  the majority of you will already of worked out that that leaves a shortfall of 4 inches. I used to work with someone who was 6'8" tall and I asked him once how do you remember to duck when you go through a  door his reply was " you soon learn. Well I'm at that stage now.  I'm soon learning after banging my head about 50 times the last time I swear I saw stars. Feck me does it hurt and my head is still tender after 5 days.
Bulgarians are small people I stood in a queue the other day and towered above everyone, something I've never had the chance to do before it was quite nice really.

We have also purchased some chickens for eggs we bought three initially and another 3 a few days later. So far in 10 days we have had 10 eggs. Including buying the chickens and chicken food although they are also getting kitchen scraps they have cost 44 Levs so that's 4 levs 40 stinkies an egg about £2.20.... Bargain it is 20 Stinkies an egg in the shops. Obviously as we get more eggs we will be in profit.

Our first egg

Some of our girls in their coop
I don't know how old they are and were a bit straggly when we got them but they are being well fed and have free roam of one of our gardens and are starting to look a bit better.

In other news and as promised I bought a strimmer. I got everything with it a harness several blades little petrol pot to mix petrol and oil even a hard hat which I now wear around the house for going through doorways.

Me assembling said strimmer with instructions in Bulgarian 
It's made good work of chopping down our veg plot and top field and this also helps us keeps the snakes at bay as apparently they like long grass. It won't be long now till we get invaded by millions of snakes so I'm getting in early so they go next door.

Action shot minus my head, probably for the best.

In the veg garden I have been doing more digging and now have 5 beds dug but at times its hard going. It seems you have to pick your time of day to dig otherwise you get swamped by flies which take great delight in biting my forearms which now look like a map of the rhodope mountains.

Veg bed starting to take shape.

In the background you can see the cherry blossoms that are now out in force all over the village, spring is definately here it's gorgeous. We are having our wood burner on less and less and are able to have breakfast outside. We have had some gorgeous weather today is 25 degrees with clear blue skies.

Onion starting to sprout
Garlic growing 
Tomatoes from seed.
I have planted all sorts. Tomatoes, beetroot, purple broccoli, melons, leeks, peas, radish, broad beans, onions, garlic and strawberries. Not knowing much about gardening we will see how it goes.
We also got some more  fruit trees from Opaka market we bought 3 another cherry tree and two plum trees. The guy who had the stall also gave us three more smaller fruit trees but not being able to understand him I have no idea what they are. Also on Friday we got a nectarine tree all have gone in the ground in the land behind the house.

One day last week I was trying to tidy the front of the house up when I heard a car with what I would describe as boom box grind garage funk jazz shit music blaring out the window. It was efan our neighbour he is a lovely guy aged I would say in his mid sixties " I don't know where he got his shit taste in music from". Efan always stops to say hello and shake my hand, his favourite saying in English when he sees Julie is " COME ON BABY". Always makes me chuckle.
He abandoned his car in the middle of the road thankfully turning off his shit music.
He came into our garden to see what we had been up to. He looked at my grapevines which I think i have killed by trimming them back to nothing when we got here.
Shaking his head I said OK He said Dobre which means good so maybe I haven't killed them. He then gave me a masterclass on pruning some of my fruit trees which I had already pruned and told me my secatuers were crap. Then he was off back in his car up the hill to his house with shit music blaring out his window. I love how the Bulgarians will always help and are so friendly. I'm not used to it being from England but I like it.

Lovely cherry blossom

Today we saw the storks that have arrived in our village which signify the start of spring for Bulgarians. When you see the storks you hang your martinitsa on fruit trees for a productive crop. Martinitsa are red and white bracelets given out by people we even got one given to us with our shopping in Lidl. So we duly hung ours on some of our trees. Here's hoping we get fruit.

Storks have arrived

Martinitsa hung on one of our Apple trees
Well that's all for now
Take care
Mark n Julie

Monday, 4 March 2019

25. Spring might be springing hopefully.

Well we have now been in Bulgaria for two months and we love it. There are 3 things I miss from the UK.

1. Family.
2. Tomlins meat/pork pies (technically that's 2)
3. Bonani indian takeaway in Stockport.

Other than that I can cope fine.
I don't miss anything else. Although I was a bit jealous when my mum and dad video called me last week from the UK and they were sat in the garden and it was 20 C in February ! and we were here and it had been -6 overnight and was dull and miserable here. However I believe normal service has resumed in England now and it's miserable, on the other hand here we are now back to +17 and it's set to get hotter it looks like spring is possibly here.

Our local market is full of seeds and plants and I bought a cherry tree last week so probably by next week we will have about 20-30 lbs of cherries from it thats how it works isn't it ?

Fruit trees for sale 

Seeds for sale everywhere.

We bought a good few packets of seeds which we have some sprouting nicely on our kitchen window. Also we bought some onion sets and garlic which have been planted if it's on the market it must be the time to plant it, thats my theory anyway. Our bulgarian neighbours are out in force in their gardens which are all neat and tidy and perfectly ploughed. Meanwhile back at walnut cottage I stand and stare at our jungles and think to myself "what would Monty Don do in a situation like this ".
We will get there though.

I have also been working on the area immediately outside our front door which we want to have roses, flowers, herbs and a sitting area. We are planning on having half of it paved so we can sit out in the summer. I have been attempting to do some crazy paving where we can put a table. It will be crazy paving too as I've never attempted it before and had to Google which end to open the cement bag.

Craaaaaaàzy paving 

I have also managed to sort out my driving licence and I collect my new Bulgarian licence in a couple of weeks. This for me was a bit of a priority because if the UK leaves Europe on the 29th March without a deal I would not be able to drive here and would have to take a driving test again here and pass a theory exam written in Bulgarian.
But I'm sure Theresa May will sort it all out I have every faith in her ( read sarcasm).

This week I finally got round to sorting out our outhouse and found three x 60 litre barrels of wine that must of been here from the previous owners so it had been there for at least a couple of years. It didn't smell to good and even Julie refused to drink it.

3 barrels of vinegar

In other news I saw this cat in our village last week it looks like his mum has cut his hair for him

Basin cut cat.

So that's our latest update. The garden will take priority over the next few weeks so we should have plenty of plant photos to thrill you. Also next week I shall be buying a strimmer so stand by for an exciting update on that, and next month we have our first visitor my brother is coming over to see us.
Take care
Mark & Julie

Friday, 15 February 2019

24. A mixed bag.

What we been up to then. Well we've been our usual busy selves since my last post,  here in walnut cottage which is what Julie has decided to call our house as we have 3 walnut trees.
The weather (as a British immigrant) I feel I must mention the weather every now and again. Well we've had all sorts from +20 degrees to frost to thick snow and just dull cold rainy and miserable. Still its only February so what can we expect.

We took a trip to Ruse last week to sort a few things at the bank and had a nice lunch at happy bar grill which is a chain restaurant in BG I had a nice burger and Julie had some crispy pork dish but as most places in Bulgaria my chips weŕe only just warm, they don't seem to master getting everything ready at the same time. On our way back we called at Metro to do a big shop. We have never been before its a huge cash and carry and I can only describe it as like costco on crack, its feckin massive.

Costco on crack

Work has been progressing slowly on the garden and some things are beginning to look a bit better as if I'm making progress. Paths are looking tidied, jungles are slowly being reclaimed, my fire and woodchopping addictions have been in full swing and I've nearly gotten rid of all the shitty painted wood in my woodpile.

Slowly reclaiming the 

Tuesday's weather was a bit crappy for gardening so we took ourselves off to our local garden centre. We had heard about Morgan's plants but its in hotnitsa an hour and forty minutes drive. We set off nice and early to get there at 11am the time it said on the website it opened so we would beat the rush. We eventually found it to discover it was all locked up. Morgan's plants is a place set up by two english brothers im told. We knocked on the gate and one of the guys came out to say they don't open until the first week in march FFS.
Anyway as we had come so far he let us in for a look round but explained nothing was ready for sale yet although he did let us buy some roses so not an entirely wasted journey and he was very apologetic about not updating his website. It does look good though and we will definately be buying more from them although we may well get it delivered as it a right trek there. 
From here we decided to go for lunch in Veliko Tarnavo Bulgaria' s old capital. We have been before and its a lovely city with some nice cobbled streets and views.


Cobbled steets

The main street in VT

There is a lot of graffiti art in VT
Julie the tourist dont ask about the hat
Me having a brew in our favourite bar. Just look at the size of Julie's wine glass
A friendly stray.
We had a good lunch a look around I like VT its nice and its nice to get a bit of city life but its too busy for me the traffic is busy and last time we stayed it kept me awake.

The next day we woke up to this
Bailey and Daisy enjoying playing in the snow
The snow lasted a day and is now gone.

Next winter we are hoping to use our barn as our living room but there is currently no heating in it. So we bought a new petchka the other day we plan to use the petchka from our living room as it is too big for our current living room so we bought a small one and have took out the one from our living room to eventually go in the barn.

Shiny new petchka 
Anyway theres our latest update
Take care
Mark and Julie

Monday, 4 February 2019

23. Time flies

Time flies cant believe a week has passed. I honestly don't know where the days go. I'm starting to wonder how I ever had time to go to work although I am not missing it one bit.
This week started with us going to collect our residency cards from the police station in Targovishte.  They base the length of time on your residency card on the length of, time on your E111 health card from the UK. As I had just changed mine before we came over I got 4 years and Julie only got 3 so she better watch out. If your planning on moving to Bulgaria its a good idea to get a new one before you come.
From here I went straight to Popovo and got my van insured with a day to spare as my English insurance would only give me one month in Europe as it is a van, a car usually gets 90 days.
Tuesday at 9 am i met Tanya my interpreter in Popovo and we drove to Targovishte again this time to the KAT office where they do all things relating to driving and vehicles etc. I have heard all sorts of stories about KAT and registering vehicles onto Bulgarian plates but as it turned out it was quite painless especially with someone who knows what to do and is bulgarian.
I was concerned about my headlights as they are UK ones with stickers on Tanya assured me they don't even bother with them. She said they just check the engine and chassis number match the V5 and check the brakes, handbrake and vehicle emissions then give you a 12 month MOT (Preglet).
I had to pay 350 BGN eco tax (no I don't know what it is either) the man checked my chassis and engine number off to get it stamped by an inspector then get bulgarian log book issued they changed my number plates and that was it. I think i blinked cos I didn't see them do an MOT check and we were off back to Popovo all within 2 hours.
So Vladdy the Caddy is now Bulgarian.

It doesn't have a black squiggle on in real life
The rest of the week we have mostly spent at home it has been nice not running round everywhere.  Everyday I have been working non stop in the garden and everyday it looks the same either im doing something wrong or its a big job hopefully its the latter.
I have built a raised bed for the first plot that i dug. Although it's not that raised as i couldn't explain to the lady in the builders merchants how deep I wanted my wood so i just settled for what i got.

Not so raised bed
I have filled this with strawberry plants there was a bed near our cottage that is really overgrown but there were strawberries in it so i have transplanted them to my dug bed. Time will tell if they produce fruit this year but we hope so.

Bed full of strawberries
I have also started to dig another bed and when i get the wood for it I will try to convince the lady in the builders merchants to let me have some deeper wood, I will pay for it honestly I will.

Next bed in preperation
They look like graves when i dig them !!!
How long did I say Julie got on her residency card ?

Talking of wood I think i have a chopping obsession I am slowly working  my way through our woodpile and am forever chopping logs and kindling. But all the wood we have is inherited and a lot of it has paint on which is not good to be burnt in a wood burner as its toxic, so i have slowly been burning this in the garden. Julie always knows where to find me poking my fire.

One of inherited woodpile with a shit load of painted wood in it.
We have another woodpile that is out in the open some of it has got saturated so i have been transferring the wet stuff to an old chicken house we have to dry out. The rest we have covered with a plastic sheet we found lying in the garden hopefully all this will be usable next year when it dries.

Outdoor woodpile

Beginning to stack damp wood
After we had snow a few weeks back the weather has improved massively this week I have been in the garden in T shirts. Today was 21 degrees Celsius it has been gorgeous and I started the day sat outside with a nice glass of orange juice.

Getting my vitamin C and D in one hit.
I have also planted some seeds, I have planted black tomatoes, yellow bell cherry tomatoes, bulgarian tomatoes, chilli and coloured chillies and put these in my potting shed with a plastic bag over the pots to act as mini greenhouses. However the weather is due to go colder this coming week so fingers crossed they grow.

Future food.
Today we also took Daisy to the vets for her first jab she has to go back in two weeks for her 2nd one we also got some calcium tablets for her and another worming tablet 
All in this came to 28 BGN about £14.

She is cute but im sure she has doubled in size in the last fortnight

Well that's all for this week, take care
Mark and Julie

Sunday, 27 January 2019

22. We have broken new ground

It's been a busy busy week. Monday was spent chilling and working in the garden as we have done so much running round lately. Tuesday we went to Popovo to get some shopping in as we pulled up near to the butchers shop there were 3 abandoned puppies, also a man with a stick shooing them away. Julie jumped out of the van even before I had stopped ran over and grabbed one of the pups the other two ran off a bit and with those "can we eyes" she has said we must have it. So enter our world Daisy the dog. All the time im looking at her massive paws thinking she might be small now !!!
We had always planned on another dog only I hadn't planned on one so soon.
She is small, cute and a dynamo for something so small she can cause havoc. But she will grow out of that and be loved and have a much nicer life than she expected when she woke up that morning.
So it was straight to the vets with her flea dropped and wormed and go back in two weeks for her inoculations.

She looks like butter wouldnt melt in her mouth

Wednesday we had arranged to meet Monica our estate agent she was going to help us sort out our residency cards at the police station in Targovishte. First we had to call at our local municipality offices to collect a document. We needed a document that had both our address and parcel number of our property on as our title deeds only have the parcel number on.
The municipality offices are in nearby Opaka and Monica had spoken to the mayor of our village on Tuesday who had told her they would issue said document in Opaka.
We went into an office with several middle aged ladies and after a while with all the conversation in bulgarian we went to another office where a man was a bit more conversation in bulgarian then back to the first office. I dont speak Bulgarian but im pretty good at body language which confirmed to me there was some problem as Monica was becoming more irate with the ladies in the office.
We came out of that office and Monica explained to me that they wouldn't issue the document and they didn't know who would.
From here we went straight to the top. We went to the Mayor lots more fast bulgarian talking and shaking of heads Monica even phoned a lawyer who told them to issue the document but nobody seemed to know who issued it. After about 90 minutes of in and out of offices we finally got the document that would suffice. This was my first encounter of bulgarian burocracy at its finest.
Then it was off to Targovishte me following Monica. When we first started to look at properties Monica drove us around all day and I had forgot she drives like Lewis Hamilton.
On the way there we were in a line of about 5 cars as we passed some police, which car got pulled you guessed it ME. Monica stopped as well thankfully and after a quick conversation in Bulgarian the policeman told me to put my lights on. My lights were on ? But I just said "Da" and off we went.
At the police station there was lots of form filling done and after paying about 80 levs we were told to come back the following day to collect our temporary residency cards and have our photos taken for our official cards.
On the way home I stopped to pick up some new petchka pipes as we have been slowly being smoked out of our front room when we light the petchka. Full set of flue pipes about 8 quid so not worth sweeping them.
When we got home I decided to put the new pipes on. It turned out to be one of those jobs you wish you hadn't started.
I don't think our chimney had ever been swept the old pipes were in a terrible state and the house chimney was almost blocked.
I should of taken a photo of it but forgot, but here's one showing the old pipes I took off.

A horrible blocked flue

It took me about 3 hours to clean the chimney it was that bad I finally did it with a brush tied to the mop  handle. All in going to say on the subject is that it's a good job we will be decorating.

Thursday was back to the police station and we got issued with our temporary cards and we go back on Monday for our official ones.
Having now got my temporary card I thought on the way back I would try and insure the van. Not to be as my temporary card doesn't have my unique number on BOLLOCKS.

However when i was in the insurance office the lady that works there doesn't speak english so she rang a lady that does and in about 30 seconds she turned up with her husband . He is Scottish and she is bulgarian. She explained to me to go back on Monday after I get my official card and I can sort my insurance. Hurray cost of insurance is 260 levs about £130 per year.
Tuesday I go and get my van onto Bulgarian plates then call back in the insurance office for them to change my policy then that's another job crossed off the list.

After all this running around we finally had 3 days at home this has been spent tackling the jungle of a garden I think i can actually see some progress.
Today has been a lovely sunny day and I have been in the garden all day. And what's more I have actually started to dig what will be our veggie plot.
The first bed is dug and the next thing will be to put a frame round it as we have decided to have raised beds.

The first dig 

Have a good week im off to put roast potatoes on for our Sunday dinner and have a well earned beer

Sunday, 20 January 2019

21. We've been busy

We have been here now 3 weeks tomorrow we have been busy everyday and we love it. So far we have no regrets. We have had a fair amount of snow and we have had some gorgeous days, days where its t shirt weather outside brilliant.
What have we been up to. Well I have been in the garden as much as possible tackling the various jungles we have around the place, it will take time to tame it but we will get there bit by bit. What garden waste I can i am burning but a lot of it is still too wet to burn so i am now stockpiling it to dry it out to burn I think i am becoming a bit of a pyromaniac as you can mostly find me at the bottom of the garden poking the fire I have going in half an old oil drum.

We have been in to Ruse to open a bank account for Julie only to find we can't open one without a bulgarian phone number. So we has to obtain a bulgarian phone and another trip to Ruse sorted that out. I have never seen such paperwork than at the bank everything was stamped signed stamped again signed in triplicate then stamped the stamp signed for then countersigned and stamped again for good measure i think you get my drift.

We went to Popovo our nearest town about 10 miles away to try and sort our van insurance out to bulgarian insurance but we couldn't insure it as we don't have our residency cards yet. We have some time left on english insurance and we are hopefully getting our residency cards this coming week then we can sort the insurance. However the next hurdle will to be to get the van onto bulgarian plates but we will sort that as it occurs lets get it insured first.

Our new washing machine is up and running although I need to get a rubber mat to go under it the room its in has shiny tiles on the floor and every time it spins it sets off across the floor like Usain Bolt!!!!.

Usain the washer

Wanda the wheelbarrow has seen some action this week and I have got her wheel dirty ferrying garden stuff and logs around here's an action shot of her in operation obviously not to overloaded as im still running her in

Still running in 

We have been out driving in the snow which was fun at times as we had snow that froze then had more snow so we had snow on top of ice. We drove to Opaka a couple of villages along to get some money from the ATM as we don't have one in our village and it was snowing it was OK going but coming back it was snowing heavy. I think when we get proper snow in just not going out.

A snowy drive back.

On the subject of driving we keep coming across a road sign which is a warning sign for an animal. I now know what it is for but if i ever see one that looks like this I will be doing my own washing machine impression and doing one as fast as Usain Bolt . I put this picture on my Facebook and got some strange answers as to what it is from my UK friends answer is at the bottom of the page just to keep you wondering.

Wild cow rabbit mooseapotomus

We are looking forward to starting the garden and are planning and preparing what to grow.  I think i am going to put some raised beds in the vegetable plot to save digging every year things are already starting to grow and there a spring bulbs already coming up. I have been clearing the area immediately outside our cottage door where we hope to have herbs and flowers and a place to sit out other than our concrete courtyard this area also has grapevine which  will provide some shade if I haven't killed them when i trimmed them not having a clue what im doing.

Clearing up in progress

Friday brought a beautiful sunny day and a temperature of about 12 C as we sat outside having a brew I saw a wasp bloody hell a wasp in January followed by another and another and another.  Shit we must have a wasp nest somewhere after frantically searching the area I couldn't find anywhere where it could be. We found out later they weren't wasps but were honey bees and the temperature had brought them out. I wondered why all these wasps were so interested in my multi coloured striped smalls that were on the washing maiden drying in the sun they must of thought the colours were flowers.

Any way thats all for now we're off out shortly as we have been invited out for Sunday lunch at our neighbours.

Take care and the sign is for Wild Boar !!!!!

Mark and Julie