Well we only had 12 days in Alekovo (via Bucharest) before going to the UK for a family wedding, but it was wonderful and we were really amazed at the fantastic weather we had – we even got a bit of tan in mid-October! Only one day of gentle, persistent drizzle and almost no perceptible wind at all during the whole period – quite remarkable.
This is quite a big update (no apologies) which will save writing several different posts!
I’ve only just discovered the word “glamping” but we thought that our experience this time in our house suited the term! With the addition of a small fridge and a new bed and two prong chairs from IKEA in Bucharest we were much more comfortable than last time – no airbed to collapse in the middle of the night! The weather was so good that we only sat inside one night, and the rest of the time we were outside up to about 10pm when it started to get a bit damp.
One of the biggest pleasures on this trip was eating our first home grown produce!!! Fresh mushrooms – one morning we discovered some huge oyster type mushrooms and some horse mushrooms in the field. So the next day, accompanied by some gloriously fresh eggs given to us by Sasho (one of our labourers) and some fried bread cooked with olive oil and butter (very healthy, NOT) we enjoyed a fantastic brunch which went down REALLY well!
Building the boundary wall on fencing has been the biggest job since we put the new roof on the house and nearly as expensive, especially as it involved a lot of earthworks and clearing trees and bushes that had grown, self-seeded and unmanaged, over the past 12 years since the place was last inhabited. We reckon we have taken out about 30 trees in all. Most of the trunks and branch wood has been partially cut up for firewood ready to go in the woodshed when it is finished. But there’s a big pile of tree stumps that still needs to be cut up and turned into logs at some time – but they can wait until the spring as there is too much else to do. So as a result of cutting down all those trees we want to plant at least 40 new trees including a small orchard of fruit trees, some nut trees as well as wood and forage species – maybe even a couple of walnuts a chestnut and an oak as investments for our kids and grandkids.
Pictures of the walls (North and West boundaries)
We had to take on a couple of extra workers to lay the foundations for the fencing and install the fencepoles. Hopefully the chainlink fence will be up before Christmas. While we were there they finished building the walls and supporting pillars. So that leaves the rendering, the pillars for the side and main gate and then tiling the tops of the walls. The gates will hopefully be made during the winter and installed in the spring.
Pictures of the fence (only on the East boundary this time)
Our lovely (elderly) neighbour Nyedelka asked us to put a gate in the new chainlink fence between our properties. We smiled lovingly at the suggestion but it’s not going to happen! Instead, where we removed the old mudbrick wall that was between us (and had dissolved/fallen down) we went onto her land a little bit and cleared some of her old trees (at her request to add to her firewood). Once the fence is up, we will rotavate roughly 1m on her side of the fence and then plant some fast growing bushes and shrubs that will hopefully cover her side of the fence, provide some fruit and flowers attractive to bees and wildlife etc., and help to provide a living screen between our properties – for no other reason than it will look a heck of a lot better than a bare chainlink fence between us.
Bobbie turned up on our first morning in Alekovo, wagging her body furiously and full of warm and affectionate greetings. She does look skinny and seems to have lost a lot of hair (although not bald) most likely as a result of being treated with diesel fuel by her owner to get rid of tick infestation! Thanks to Nigel giving her dose of flea and tick treatment she was pretty much tick and flea free when we saw her – although it’s not really the tick season. We brought 6 months supply of frontline with us and gave her a dose on the first day. Nigel’s got it in his calendar to do it every month now and we will take additional supplies in March.
Apparently after we left last time she didn’t leave the site for a week. But thankfully she seems a bit less “connected” to us this time although she did sleep on a pile of straw bales under our stairs on a couple of nights. She also got a good feed from us twice a day while we were there though LOL and we (Nick) watched her catch an escaped chicken from one of our neighbours who hadn’t bothered to repair their chicken coop fence. Bobbie’s owner still refuses to have her spayed which is very disappointing. When Nick moves over in August next year she will have to be banned from the site (which will be totally enclosed anyway) as we don’t want her mixing with our own three dogs – we will have enough challenges getting them used to the place and then, as we go on, introducing them to having livestock around. Hey ho!!
Topping up the raised beds
As expected, the raised beds that we built earlier this year and filled in June had dropped their levels quite a lot – two had dropped by two bricks height and the other three by more than 3 bricks – one by nearly 5 bricks. This was very reassuring. When I stuck my hand into them the top 5cm was warm and dry. But I was able to push my hand down with almost no effort, right up to the elbow, and feel moist friable soil that was very clean and sweet smelling.
Every bed had the healthy presence of some worms in the top 10cm and a couple of them even had some skinny mushrooms growing – not ideal but not a bad thing either. The heavy pill bugs (woodlice) presence that Nigel had reported a few months ago seems to have gone away, hopefully they are much deeper in the beds composting and incorporating the rotting wood, green waste, etc. to build the soil. It was clear that the beds are pulling up moisture from ground level which is great.
We ordered several bales of straw and 5 loads (kerutchka [local horse cart] loads) of well composted cow manure and then Nick put two layers of each into the beds to bring them up to the top level. This was the most physical labour that I (Nick) have done for several months so it was a good workout and after the first raised bed I was not out of breathe and learned the skill of using the long-handled shovel! Hopefully, with the rain and cold and frost, etc. in the coming winter the beds will not only settle even more but also be better prepared for planting some first crops in March when we get there again.
Out and about
We only left our village twice during our stay – once for a trip into Svishtov, our local main town that we really like and which has pretty much everything you could ever need, to do some shopping. How (or why) expats still crave (in some cases desperately) for UK food favourites we just don’t know. After 14 years in Egypt where traditional UK foodstuffs were rare even in the best supermarkets, we can’t quite understand why UK expats would still be whingeing for Bovril (even though it is def one of Nick’s most favourite foodstuffs) or “proper” baked beans. Nearly every supermarket we have visited in BG has a version of foods that UK expats might want – not always the brands, but they are there.
The other trip out of the village was to a nursery (garden type) in Pavlikeni where we purchased our baby christmas tree which we hope will grow into a monster for our children and grandchildren. The nursery, next to the main road to Veliko Tarnova, was well set out and had a fantastic selection of trees and shrubs in excellent condition. There were some wonderful young trees including some beautiful young beech trees that I really wanted but were too big for the car… maybe another time :-). There was a large selection of shrubs in very good condition and we made some notes of what might look good outside the new boundary wall. They also had Paulownia at various ages – a very very fast growing species that can be harvested every 3 years for wood and the leaves are fed (in Asia) to pigs, cattle, chickens and horses – and it can be dryed, baled and stored like hay. We also met another expat couple on this trip, Annette & Eric, who have lived in BG for a few years now and we had a nice lunch in Pavlekini town with them and Nigel.
During one of our daily walks we visited a “cafe” (the inverted commas are because I am not sure whether you would call it a cafe or not) in the village centre. Totally unimposing. Dingy but clean, Noisy from the elderly rakia drinkers shouting. Friendly proprietor who after we said good morning in Bulgarski tried to answer in English 🙂 and while we were eating she wrote out a list of their cooked “menu” and the prices. The place was busy from a constant flow of people coming in to buy freshly prepared food and/or a glass of their preferred rakia (any time of the day!). We enjoyed some fresh cooked kebapche (like a kebab) and kyufte (like kofta) in warm bread rolls (pitka) – apologies if my phonetic spelling of anything bulgarian varies from yours!!
That’s all we can think of to write about for now but below are a selection of miscellaneous pictures that don’t fit into what we have written about above 🙂