Wednesday, December 3, 2008

December comes......

Well December has finally arrived and we retreat indoors to sit back and reflect upon the year and take time out to enjoy the fruits of our labour.

With Christmas on the horizon there are numerous recipes I like to try and help me utilise some of your produce. One of our favourite things at this time of year is to do something very traditional and make our own mince meat for mince pies! We have had success year after year with this, see below. It is so easy and quick because really there is no ‘set’ recipe. It’s great to experiment with the ingredients you have and have some fun.

Whilst we are fortunate enough to be able to come indoors where it’s nice and warm and dry our little garden ‘army’ cannot so lets notforget them.
There are some very simple things that we can do to help them over the next few months.

Most little critters and insects have already started their hibernation and with that in mind try not to disturb things like rocks or old garden waste piles, leave them if you can until the spring. If you have more than one wood pile try and leave one untouched as this makes a great place for numerous garden guests.

If you have a bird table great, if not why not try and erect something really simple. Take a large post, sink firmly into the ground, prop up with large rocks and attach a flat piece of wood on top. Although this is not ideal it will last the winter.
Birds are most susceptible at this time of year. In cold weather they may lose a lot of weight overnight and they have to try and make that up again during the brief hours of daylight.
In fact in winter the real killer is hunger not cold and a small healthy bird can die in a matter of hours without food.

Birds are not fussy eaters they will take what they are given, to a degree. They love stale cakes and biscuits, bread, old baked potatoes, cheese, fruit and meat scraps. The only things to avoid are highly seasoned or salty foods. But do remember once you start feeding them in this way you must continue. Availability of food to some extent controls their population in your garden; you will therefore be increasing their numbers and dependency upon us.

By providing food like this you are not only doing a good deed by helping them but you can use it to your advantage.
If you place the table so you have a good view of it from the house on the days when we cannot get outside we will be able to sit back, have hours of fun relaxing and enjoying watching them!

Mince Meat
100g each of any dried/preserved fruits you may already have-
Plums, apricots, apples, cherries etc
100g raisins/sultanas/red currants
100g prunes/dates
50/100g walnuts
100g sugar
2oz butter
I/2 tsps cinnamon & nutmeg.
Mix all ingredients into a bowl and top up with your favourite liquor, a good one is Amaretto. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate.
Do this a least a week before you make your pies to allow the fruit to soak in the alcohol and get lovely and juicy!

A very Merry Christmas to you all! …Enjoy!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Autumn comes to an end......November

Harvest home, harvest home!
We've plowed, we've sowed
We've reaped, we've mowed
And brought safe home
Every load."

- Harvest Home Song, Lore and Magick of the Harvest

It is hard to believe that November has come around again so quickly, and with it the end of autumn.
We have started tidying every thing away in the garden before winter steps in.
In the next few months temperatures may fall to -20 degrees or more and with this in mind anything that’s made of plastic or ceramic has been moved indoors as the frosts will inevitably damage them and this year we have remembered to shut off the outdoor garden taps!

The whole of the garden has been now be dug over but the small chick weed is still popping up everywhere! By leaving the surface soil in large clumps, not raked, the ground will freeze over and defrost again easily in the spring and this will hopefully give me refreshed, workable soil that does not have the texture of concrete!

I have still been taking rose cuttings.To keep them warm over winter I cover mine with empty plastic bottles. Simply cut off the bottom, place over the cutting and insert a small cane through the top large enough to secure it to the ground…and there you go…instant mini greenhouse. It is really easy and a great way to recycle too!

Top tip this month comes from my good friend and neighbour Mita who suggests 2 uses for the inedible horse chestnut (conkers) that are in abundance at the moment.
Apparently by placing horse chestnuts in the pockets of your clothes before packing them away for the winter you will lessen the risk of them being eaten by moths. I found this very interesting along with the second tip for them, which was to take a litre of Rakia, add about 40 horse chestnuts and leave in a sunny spot for a month or two. It is said to be very good for all your wintry aches and pains.

But be warned you DON’T drink this, you massage with it!
Sounds good to me…

Saturday, October 4, 2008

October ...and visitors.....

My Dad visited us for a week, much to the delight of Peggy.

The weather has remained mixed but we have had aother visitor this month....who we think is about to lay her eggs any day.....

Our wood is piled high, and we will soon be lighting the fire at night, routing out our slippers and getting all cosy…....but there's still plenty more work to be done yet in the garden.

October is another month with weather that can be unpredictable here and we have to work when we can, dodging the showers and cold spells. Remembering to keep wrapped up while working outdoors. At this time of year the sun can be deceiving and it is often not as warm as it looks.

In the veggie plot winter lettuce will be seeded out now and transplanted later next month and it’s also an excellent time to review the placing of our strawberry patch and to make a new one for next year.
Mid October is the best time for planting garlic and onion sets. In past years I have found for best results to make sure the latter are firm and about the size of a cherry, otherwise they can have a tendency to split as the grow.
We will be splitting and re planting our raspberry and blackberry canes now along with some new tree saplings.

In the flower garden I have started taking up all our delicate bulbs and tubers like Dahlias before the frosts begin. As they finish flowering I am taking them up and place them in sacks or boxes in the basement, remembering to label them for ease in the spring.

We have found ourselves with surplus amounts of Rakia this year and so we will be looking out for the Sloe bushes again.....
remembering to wait for the first frost improve the ripeness and therefore flavour of the berries.

I use this same recipe as is given for Sloe Gin, for every empty 1 litre bottle:

1) add approx 400g sloes (to occupy about half the bottle). Remember to cut or prick the sloes before bottling.
2) add approx 150g ordinary white sugar.
3) top-up with Rakia.
Shake gently everyday for two weeks to help dissolve the sugar and allow the berries to work their magic. Then set aside in a cool place and leave at least 2 months before drinking.

This has to be one of the most delicious drinks I have ever tasted. If you make it now it will be ready for Christmas and I guarantee this will definitely keep you warm!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vladi...from unknown to 07:09:08

In memory of little Vladi who unfortunately passed away today 07:09:08.

He will be greatly missed by all, but we know in our hearts he is in the right place now.

Sleep well our little fellow
Love always

Monday, September 1, 2008

Autumn Approaches

If you ask any Bulgarian gardener they will tell you that Autumn is truly here because of the ‘ври’ (vree) in the month, Септември (Sep-tem-vree), Октомври (Ok-tom-vree)…..
True to form this morning, the 1st September, was noticeably chillier!
Because September brings much cooler mornings and evenings.I love septemberI like to make a start on clearing up in the garden and getting organised.

In the next few months I will be planting out onions, garlic, early lettuce, fruit bushes and saplings so I have started thinking and planning for next year as to where I want these to be. The onions and garlic for instance may not be fully harvested until June next year so this, along with a suggested 3 year crop rotation, will probably decide where they will go this year.

It's also time to start thinking about the grape picking again.It is said that the beginning of September is the best time. We were lucky enough to make over 200 litres last year which kept us going through the winter....hopefully this year will be equally as successful.....this year I am going to photo the process as we go watch this space.....

The first frosts did not hit until October last year but who knows what Mother Nature has install for us this year so wherever possible I have been pulling up veg and picking the fruit and been busy freezing, pickling & drying.
If an early frost is forecast I usually watch what the neighbours are doing.
Last year I hung onto some more susceptible plants and veg by covering them with blankets or cotton sheets, it felt rather like ‘tucking’ them up for the evening with a bed time story.
Then in the morning when all signs of the frost had gone I removed their ‘bedding’ and checked that they have all had a good night.
One good thing though.. they didn't expect tea and toast for breakfast!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hi all,

The following is the wording of a petition we received from the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation.

Please take a few moments to read it and then visit and sign the petition at;

Let’s say NO to the changes in the Hunting and Game Protection Act and the prolonging of the waterfowl birds hunting season!


The President of the Republic of Bulgaria
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria
The Chairman of the Parliament of the Republic of Bulgaria
The Chairman of the State Forest Agency
The Agriculture and Forest Commission of the Parliament of the Republic of Bulgaria
The Commission on Environment and Water of the Parliament of the Republic of Bulgaria
The Anticorruption Commission of the Parliament of the Republic of Bulgaria
The Commission on Prevention and Combating Corruption at the Council of Ministers
The Prosecutor General of the Republic of Bulgaria
The Parliament Members of the Parliament of the Republic of Bulgaria

The European Commission
The GD Environment of the European Commission

Dear Ladies and Gentleman,

I am seriously concerned that the proposed bill for changes of the Hunting and Game Protection Act, which have been developed in complete lack of transparency and without any public participation, do break the established principles of sustainable use of the game recourses, thus creating environment of corruption and non-democratic practices.

I insist strongly that the Bulgarian Parliament sends back this bill for revision to the respective Commission!

I strongly recommend that a new bill is developed by a task force involving experts of all stakeholders and keeping up with the principles of complete transparency. I believe that a bill developed by such a group would not allow for:
1. Prolonging of the hunting season for waterfowl birds from January 31st to February 29th, which represents a serious breach of the Birds Directive, the national Biodiversity Act, as well as of the Bern and Bonn Conventions ratified by the Republic of Bulgaria;
2. Hidden privatization of the state game breeding stations in the form of concluding contracts for joint management and the unprofitable leasing of the state hunting grounds;
3. Providing exclusive rights to a single hunting organization placing it above all other hunting and nature conservation organizations working for the protection and management of the Bulgarian wildlife in complete discrepancy with the democratic and the non-discrimination principles.

With this letter, I would like to urge you to support actively the elaboration of an adequate and contemporary Hunting Act that meets the expectations of the Bulgarian society!

Thank you for taking the time to show your support for this very worthwhile cause.


Monday, August 4, 2008

August...still in the high 30's!

Well its been hot and I must admit even after 3 years living here I still find it very difficult to find the energy to garden in this weather.
But I look at the plants doing their best to keep growing and cropping and I must admit I get a terrible feeling of guilt!

So I hang on in there, make a list of my chores and get out there between 7.30am-9.30am and after 7.30pm...

The morning glory seed I picked up from last years trip to Shabla on the coast puts out a fine display every morning at the back gate before the sun gets to hot..

...the colour is matches the house.....

The other flowers too are great first thing in the cool of the day....won't idea what either of these two are but they do well in this heat!

The cherry tree we had to hack back severely a few months ago has come back to life thankfully. it was touch and go there for a while.I have been feeding it once every two weeks with a homemade horse manure liquid feeder and it seems to be doing the trick!

The bougainvillea is still happy enough in its pot really needs potting on now but it's started to flower again so I will leave it for a while...

The veggies are doing incredibly well again despite the dry heat.The soya beans although did not come up 100% are fruiting beautifully.I do water them though twice a week now that the fruits have appeared...

and the peppers and aubergines are ready to eat now....though no tomatoes for me this year year I shall definitely have a small greenhouse for them.

Although the sweetcorn I planted a little late will be another two weeks or more.I have been sampling the neighbours though and its delicious...can't wait for ours to be ready! I would definitely grow more next year's easy ...low maintenance ....looks attractive and is yummy too!

I am still remembering to feed and water the birds every day and Vladi still wants to get out and about ...while Peggy ....

well she's Peggy.....

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Oh the heat!

"We go in withering July
To ply the hard incessant hoe;
Panting beneath the brazen sky
We sweat and grumble, but we go."
- Ruth Pitter, The Diehards

Well if the last few weeks are anything to go by , 35 degrees in the shade!, then we are in for a real scorcher of a July and we need to think seriously, for the garden and ourselves, of how to beat the heat! A few small steps can make all the difference.
Watering now everyday or second day can be tiring, time consuming and more importantly, costly! The best advice I can give is to water your plants deeply and less frequently. Regular hoeing and mulching will help retain moisture all over the garden and in your pots and tubs too.

We have a large plastic tub outside the kitchen door and every time I need to empty the washing up bowl I do so into it .Then at the end of every evening I water the flowers in turn with it. Water butts like this are a great way to conserve water and it’s a good idea to place them beneath your overflow pipes so when you are blessed with rain you can capture as much of it as possible!

Water at the coolest part of the day ideally around 8pm in the evening. Not only is there less chance of evaporation but it gives all the plants time to recuperate overnight and feel the full benefit of the water.
We also need to look after ourselves.
Some of you may have heard of the old Ozzy saying ‘Slip-Slop-Slap' slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat". Drink plenty of water. On average the recommended daily minimum is 2 litres but add another litre for each hour that you work out in the heat of the sun. Also remember we are all different and a high metabolism requires a higher intake of water. Take regular breaks in the shade to relax and sleep if your body tells you to.
Remember we need to keep cool and refreshed as we too can lose moisture rapidly and start to wilt!

Dry and hot it maybe but it's business as usual in the garden.....and still having to find time to harvest the crops...
The haricot beans have been picked and are drying out with the late onion crop.

I just love the colours of these beans...

The blackberries are ripening...we picked 5lbs of fruit yesterday and that's just first pick...

Peggy and I taking time in the shade...don't know which one of us looks the most exhausted!...


..and Vladi well he's more sensible, lying in the cool of the house....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

June...Just Pics......

Well it's got hotter earlier this year than it is set to be 36 plus!
It amazes me time and time again how the garden hangs on in there...while we hide in the cool indoors....
Here are a few pics ...

The flowers ...some planted by me....

and others by the birds...I think....

The Bourgainvillea is on it's second flowering already.....

The sweet pea seeds my brother sent me from the UK are struggling a little in the heat ....they are just coming into flower but I am not sure if this heat keeps up if they will survive.....

The first year roses I took cutting of myself are blooming nicely.Out of the 15 or so about 9 made it which I am very pleased with.This Autumn I will try taking double the cuttings I want ....

The fruit garden is really doing well this year......

The second year fruit trees are fruiting well this year already.We are really pleased with the apricot, some great fruit on that this year...

The second year plum tree has also surprised us.....

It's not all rosy though....the tomatoes are struggling again this year.It appears the whole village, possibly region , is having a bad time again with viruses this year.Even the seeds that claimed to be 'Anti virus'...50% of them have already died...

...but the courgettes, brussel sprouts, leeks.........


..three types of broccoli.....

and parsnips all doing well...........

The big experiment for me this year was with Soya beans....they are slow growers but are looking OK at the moment......

Some things are ready to harvest this month.We have already taken up all the Mouli and made a wicked relish with it! Yum !!will do that agian next year.

Now the Khol-rabi is ready to experiment with in the kitchen.........

The Haricot beans are also ready for eating.....

And most important of all the grapes......what a bumper year this will be.
If we carry on like this it won't be long before wine making time again!!!!!!