Marrying the Old with the New

December 1, 2016

We feel incredibly lucky to have found our little piece of heaven in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains, a small but strong community village, frozen in a bygone era, and have embraced the old ways of living for health and happiness. Living a more rural way of life has many benefits but we’re glad we could bring our modern advancements to lessen the hard physical work and combine the two in peaceful harmony.

The yin and yang. In life there are always juxtapositions and we knew water would pose a challenge in this remote off grid village. Pipes had been installed to our village from a natural mountain spring back in the 1950’s. This pure and clean water, devoid of chemicals, would run dry in the dry summer months so we made a storage tank complete with pump. However, we learned this wasn’t big enough so have since added another 10,000 litre tank, mainly to aid garden watering and many of our neighbours are following suit.

The 4×4 Land Rover we brought from the UK is perfect for traversing the forestry tracks around our village to enable wood collection but now we also use a donkey for the steep off-roading it can’t do! The donkey has other benefits too and does a much better job of mowing the uneven lawn and providing fertiliser. Instead of fuel the donkey needs food and while we admire our neighbours scything their hay, we are too inexperienced to learn fast enough so have brought in our modern day machinery, a clearing saw. We still fork and bale by hand as most of the land is too steep to safely use vehicles on.



The old telephone lines, installed to our village in communist times, are redundant and too costly to replace but they’re surpassed anyway with Bulgaria’s fast advancements in mobile communication. A 4G mast is in clear view from the front of our house so we have excellent reception and for internet too. It’s also far across the valley, on the top on the mountainside opposite so not obscuring our view. Another bonus is video chats, meaning I see my parents more frequently than when I lived in the same country.

There is much to be said for the benefits of the internet. Seemingly anything you can possibly think of has a been put online and surfing the net helps as an easy research tool but not all information is correct and sometimes the best answer is only available by word of mouth. One such time is when an extremely heavy 120k barrel was accidentally dropped on Lee’s foot, the automatic response was, ‘Go to the hospital’ but we knew the foot is a very difficult part of the body to treat and he would just be prescribed anti-inflammatory and pain killing drugs. The swelling and pain can be subdued but only time can help… unless you have onions! On hearing about the injury, our neighbour finely chopped an onion and wrapped a compress around the injured foot to a miraculous recovery. Swelling reduced dramatically and normal colour returned. What at first seemed like a week of bed rest, became a few days of hobbling before being well enough to drive a long distance, play several rounds of golf and win every game too!

But the new can have benefits too. My chickens, kept for their tastier-than-shop-bought organic eggs, are targeted by large birds of prey, particularly golden eagles, and results in frequent losses. Scarecrows were tried but they were not enough of a deterrent and after hearing that birds were put off by the flashes of light from compact disks, I decorated my garden with a few. It seemed sacrilege to be hanging such modern items around my rustic garden but they worked. I suggested my neighbours should do the same, thinking maybe a tall order as no-one had CD players but obviously the word went out to relatives and soon other gardens were decorated with the spinning discs. One neighbour taking it a step further and hanging old shiny cooking pot lids extremely high up. Unfortunately they don’t reflect the rays on cloudy days but luckily Bulgaria has the most sunny days of all Europe.



Redressing the balance

October 13, 2016

At first glance, the view from our back garden is breathtaking. At second glance it’s still amazing but the heavy snowfall over 2 years ago caused lots of damage and is continuing to have an effect on this untouched area of outstanding natural beauty.


The large patches of brown are not the Autumn colours of deciduous trees but swathes of dead evergreens. This unusual occurrence is due to bark eating beetles, which have seen a population explosion as a consequence of mild winters followed by drought. These beetles live in dead pines, so the trees toppled by snow at the end of winter, March 2013, expanded the beetles housing and incubation area for the next batch to start feasting on the nearest alive tree. The following hot dry summers and mild winters exacerbated the situation. Healthy trees can fight off an attack but a thirsty tree is weak and vulnerable and the beetles take control.


It’s odd how they only attack the pines, trees that are not native to the Eastern Rhodope Mountains and have been planted by humans. Pine trees make up about 30% of the surrounding woodland. They grow fast and are perfect for building, furniture, fences, etc but not so good for wildlife as their canopies block light to the ground below. There is also the restriction on what can grow at ground level as pine forest soil is very acidic. So the natural flora & fauna is out of kilter and I like to think mother nature is doing her bit to reclaim the land.

Pine forests have suffered from this kind of epidemic before and America has been battling for 30 years. Huge areas of plantations have been lost and with them the shortfall in wood trade. The only way to eradicate these beetles is cut down and remove all infected trees or wait for a really harsh winter. As many of the forest slopes here are sheer, a harsh winter is actually preferable! But the Forestry commission are not resting on their laurels, they are actively removing the dead wood and getting a little help from inhabitants of the Eastern Rhodope Mountains. Central heating does not exist in these rural parts of Bulgaria and even in the towns, wood fires are the main heating source and wood deliveries are a common site in the run up to winter.


However in the villages the wood is bought on cheaper self service rates which means ‘go and cut it down yourself’! Everyone mucks in to share the stockpiling, usually one man with a chainsaw and either sons, dads, wives or neighbours. Plus a donkey to carry the load  back to the house in several trips. The steepness of these forests make the work physically tough and even though pine logs burn very quickly and coat the chimney flues in sticky resin, its better than nothing and to boot, helping a worthy cause. One day the whole area may return to broadleaf and will be an even richer environment as a result… though probably not in my lifetime.


Responsible Forestry

March 15, 2016

The lack of human interference in these mountains is a charming quality. Wild animals make tracks us humans can use to explore the undisturbed scenery. The flora and fauna is rich in this biodiverse area, with many wild flowers, butterflies, birds, mushrooms, reptiles and animals.

Before the car age, these mountains were inhabited by lots of humans and the tracks were used frequently by man and beast and thus kept open. Retaining walls were built to prevent landslides, in the seemingly most inaccessible places on these steep mountainsides, and many natural spring watering holes built and maintained. Melanya is close by the old trade route used for thousands of years and there are black and white photos of town traders arriving on camels from the other side of the Mediterranean. A time forgotten but not that long ago.

The current road to our village was made in the 1950’s and only tarmac’d in 2014. Up until then the old trade route was very busy. Modern times and and machinery have led to an ‘easier’ life but there is a good feeling about living a step closer to nature. Surrounded by trees we will never be short of firewood but getting it from the forest to our woodburner takes a lot of effort. As residents we are allowed to take dead wood from these mountainsides but for the quality burn we can buy living oak trees. Lee is selective in his choosing to lightly thin a patch, instead of clear felling. As we’re only harvesting for firewood, opting for misshapen or poorly developed trees enables pristine trees to fully develop into quality timber in years to come. There are lots of self seeders but we also collect split acorns to nurture and plant on, to both replace the trees we cut down and prevent soil erosion.

Wood & trailer

Having worked in forestry and being an expert with a chainsaw, Lee has earned lots of respect here. In fact his abilities meant that when a forest fire was caused by a precarious fallen tree on the electricity cable, the onlookers (including the mayor, the police, the fire service, the head forester and the electricity company) all gave Lee the ‘honour’ of cutting down the dangerous tree. Of course the fire had already been contained and the power shut off!


Though nature is beautiful it also is ever-changing. The paths that were clear in early spring, when all the branches were bare and the ferns had shrivelled up and dried, are soon only useable by 4 legged animals with thick skins. Traversing these mountains becomes more extreme because of the evil thorns. So instead of wearing a suit of armour, I always go walking with my secateurs and regularly cut back the relentless bramble runners and rose hip tendrils.

The other benefit is we are free to manage the tracks and mark these routes, without red tape and politics, arguing over where we can or can’t put signs or stipulating what colour and format they should be. We have always been conscious of aesthetics and keeping harmony while making more accessible for visitors. Resident villagers and the mayor have been very welcoming of the idea and are keen to help promote the area. They have all lived here for so long they do not need them but when they use the routes they also help to keep them open. The villagers joke, saying now it’s ‘Melly’s mountains’ but all in good humour.

Fallen trees and landslides also keep me on my toes, plus every year I open up and mark a new route and I don’t just hack my way through like Indiana Jones! Branches are cut cleanly to lessen the impact on the tree or bush and stop diseases having easy access. There are so many tracks snaking about our village but the marked ones are human friendly so tourists can follow them or use the signs and maps as reference guides. Once you have got your bearings, a mountain that looks a great distance away can be reached in a few hours. The biggest plus-side for me is you can go wherever you like without being blocked by fences and ‘no entry’ signs. Nowhere is out of bounds in the Eastern Rodopes🙂


Breeding like rabbits

January 17, 2016

It was after reading John Seymour’s, ‘The new complete book of Self Sufficiency’, that the idea of farming rabbits was born. I had enjoyed the taste of wild rabbit meat and disagreed with the way shop bought rabbits live in the same, or worse, conditions as battery hens. With a large garden full of organic dandelions and clover, and all around us mountainsides covered with pesticide free supplies, I designed a house and pen system for breeding, to meet their physical and mental needs, as well as mine looking after them, to raise healthy, happy, organic rabbits.

Naturally, I have since made amendments to their housing, learning more about them as I spent more time with the fluffy bunnies. Using the internet as a guide but watching and observing, I have been able to feed a very varied diet without the need to buy stock, except for the depths of winter! Knowing which leaves and bark they like and at what time of year I have found many places nearby to keep them happy. No-one else in our village breeds rabbits and I thought my neighbours would think me mad, collecting huge dock leaves and always coming back from a mountain walk with a bag of Acacia leaves, but instead they were supportive, especially when they realised the unwanted weeds from their gardens were wanted by my bunnies. And my rabbits eat different wild food to their cows so everyone is happy!

In Autumn when everyone is readying their wood for winter, they bag up the sawdust for me. It’s a better absorbent than hay, makes a much better deep litter in winter and is good for my compost structure too!

The hot dry summer is a challenge for most humans, even those who have climate controlled housing, so having a thick warm fur coat is not ideal but perfect for sub zero temperatures, so against advice, our first brood was born in the middle of winter. Unbeknownst to my neighbours, my rabbits had a luxury hutch made from thick stone walls with wooden doors, deep litter, insulated water bottles and exterior rubber curtains to insulate and keep the worst weather out. They really were the luckiest rabbits for miles around and the first group of kits snuggled together in their nest made of mother’s fur, kept each other warm and a month later they were playing outside in the snow.

Domestic rabbit is different from wild rabbit. The meat is whiter, more like chicken, though still very tasty. Unfortunately, rabbit husbandry is not as easy as it sounds and the saying ‘breed like rabbits’ was wrong. After 2 years of successful breeding we sadly lost the stud rabbit, who we tried replacing with a male from the last litter, only to discover after 3 phantom pregnancies, he was incapable! So I decided to wait until Spring and in the following March, a male rabbit was loaned to try and mate with my resident female. However, she was in no way, shape or form, going to let him get near her and became quite savage, aggressively biting him. After a week of trying to help nature work for me, I gave up, sent him home, and resigned to restarting our breeding programme with a new pair of rabbits.

When the new pair arrived, I integrated the young female with my older rabbit for company until she was old enough to start breeding. Oddly, a month later, the small one was seen attempting to mount the larger… so I double-checked and found she had become a he! But the chance for babies was slim as the older female still wasn’t putting out, so I went back to the source and came back with an older, and definitely female, rabbit. She was mated with the other male, who was from a different gene pool, and 31 days later, 6 squirming, blind and hairless, kits were born, the dad’s colouring of white with black patches, being the most prevalent.

Cremio's kits in nest


Meanwhile, the original female had been put out to pasture and had the run of the whole garden until, by accident, she encountered the sex changing rabbit (who I hadn’t decided what to with) and to my surprise she let him mount her and even groomed him while he regained his stamina and had another go! Perhaps the other pregnant female had put her ‘in the mood’…

Whatever the reason, it was a lucky stroke as sadly, the first mother died when her kits were only a week old. She overdosed on wild carrot of all things, which I had read on the internet was safe but subsequently found out, is toxic. I didn’t know yet if our original female was definitely pregnant and we needed a breeding female so I decided to hand-rear the kits. It’s a very difficult task as they are such fragile creatures, the mother’s milk being so rich that she only feeds her babies once a day. Luckily my neighbour’s cows milk was abundant so I was able to give my orphan bunnies the thick, rich, creamy ‘top’. Getting them to drink the milk and not wear it was a different story but I persevered, twice a day, to give them as much ‘goodness’ as I could. After a few days their eyes started to open and bundles of fun emerged…

6 orphan bunnies

It was now mid July and the daytime temperature was soaring. I was worried about the orphan kits overheating so moved them indoors, into our cool stone house and my bumper harvest of watermelons kept them hydrated and happy. Bunnies are extremely entertaining and so cute, especially when we let them exercise in our kitchen and the tiled floor meant they were skidding around like Bambi on ice!

Assessing whether a female rabbit is pregnant or not is very difficult as she hides it well but when the older female starting nesting, pulling fur from her belly to line a nest and expose her teats, I knew immediately and moved her back to the brood hutch where she increased the number of little bunnies! I considered smuggling the orphans in with them but had read how females will kill anything with another smell and also, because of the age/size difference, I decided it was best to carry on hand-rearing. Plus this poor woman had enough to deal with, with more babies than nipples!

I had hoped that the warnings on the internet wouldn’t apply to me but it was not to be. One by one the orphans died for various reasons until only one was left. It had been nicknamed Tubs as was the ‘fattest’ of the lot. It weaned itself off milk the earliest, was bigger than the others and whenever new food was introduced, it was the most cautious. Tubs probably had the best start in life with the first of the mother’s milk but survival seems also due to intelligence. I nurtured this remaining bunny and supervised playtime with the other rabbits to socialise but Tubs had always been independent and seemed very happy to be on her own. She is the spitting image of her dad, with extremely soft fur, loves being fussed – which she gets daily, and boldly touches noses with our resident donkey.

Tubs & dad

The original female has been retired and we are very grateful to her as now have a new breeding doe, her daughter, who is nurturing her first brood of kits with the help of her sister. All my rabbits get their segregated exercise time in the larger area we have created and it’s great to see them ‘binky’ (run, jump into the air, twist their body and flick their feet). What’s even better is when I want them to ‘go to bed’, they all happily return to their safe hutches at night🙂


2015 yearly roundup

January 1, 2016

Another year has passed in the mountains and I’m pleased to report that after the wetter 2014, this summer was the expected ‘hot’ mediterranean heat that lasted for 3 months. Blue skies, bright sun and 38°C everyday. Lovely🙂

Yes it was dry and a few times our mountain spring did not cope with the village requirements but our back-up supplies held out. The vegetables survived the heat, thanks largely I think, to my improving the land with home made organic compost… which was a lot of hard work!

The trees were laden with fruit and we had a bumper harvest of walnuts. Pears were the most abundant we’d ever seen here and we made our first rakia with them. Harder to produce but very tasty with a lovely aroma and so far, definitely the best fruit we’ve made rakia from. Next year we’ll try quinces.

In complete contrast to our wonderful summer, and probably why it was so good, was the heavy overnight snowfall in March, causing thousands of trees to fall. There was a huge abundance of timber available and we took advantage of this by partitioning our large garden with inner fencing and encircling the animal enclosures. All for a number of reasons:

  1. to stop the chickens decimating my flower beds
  2. to protect the chickens more from predators
  3. to reduce the hazard of guests walking in chicken poo
  4. to give the rabbits more room for more exercise
  5. to let the rabbits feed themselves!

It does mean there are more gates but it makes so much more sense having the working part of the garden contained.

Fenced garden

At the same time we took the financial plunge of changing the greenhouse roof. We had had enough of risking life and limb, up ladders in gales, trying to hammer new patches into place and decided to make a better job of it. After the temporary repairs in March, the roof was in urgent need of replacing or the next windy weather would rip it off completely. Our regular builder knew exactly what we wanted but having an 8 metre by 5 meter roof meant it wasn’t cheap. They removed my old roof first and as expected, the sunny weather changed to strong winds meaning they couldn’t finish. But I covered all beds so everything survived the exposure, and the next day I had a permanent fix. Thanks to Lee for insisting we upgrade and getting up there, hopefully for the last time, to help secure it in place🙂

This year our guesthouse has had a few firsts – first guests to get engaged here, first travel writer, first guest to stay here 3 times in 1 year, and we were 1 of ’20 Remote Escapes in Europe’ in The Times newspaper.

Rabbits – too much has happened this year so I will be devoting a whole blog, just about them! Concisely, we have successfully breeding rabbits and they are a pleasure to farm. They do suffer in the Bulgarian summer heat but I keep them cool with bottles of iced water. I’d read it was a good way to keep your bunnies cool and at first they were a bit sceptical but soon they were stretched out alongside, resting their backs on the ice pillow. They love to be fussed and are so soft, especially the one I hand reared…

Chickens – a few more losses this year and birds of prey have been the main culprit so I made a scarecrow and my garden is decorated with cd’s – shiny discs to scare the birds. We still have lovely rich eggs, though never quite enough and my hens did not get broody to expand my stock so when a neighbour had 3 birds sitting on eggs and not enough housing for them, I volunteered and divided up my large hen house. When they were grown up, we shared the chicks. Village ethos!

Our dog is becoming an old man, slowing down and not venturing quite so far anymore. He still chaperones me wherever I go walking and I designed him a new kennel, which he loves. It even has a loft apartment for our cat!

Jakal's new kennel

Sadly our favourite neighbour’s wife died this year and it was a great loss. She treated me as one of her own and was always extremely generous. Mumum has since sold his cows, at the insistence of his kids, and he has gone to Turkey to stay with them for winter. The village is very quiet without him though he is still very much felt as I am at his house, 3 times a day, looking after his chickens. Our menagerie has grown too as I’m also looking after his donkey who I bring into our garden everyday and he is excellent at mowing the lawn! He’s very sociable and frequently comes to see what I’m up to. He’s intrigued by the rabbits and mischievous but generally an adorable guy!

Meko the donkey

My animals constantly entertain me with their antics and I have been in stitches over comedic moments, wishing I had my camera ready. Being with animals daily has given me the opportunity to study their behaviours and expand my knowledge of caring for fluffy/furry creatures. And its a lot of work but the rewards are great. I really notice the yin and yang of life here in the mountains and how cruel yet how beautiful mother nature can be.

Wishing everyone all the best for 2016🙂


It’s better than it seems….

October 4, 2015

This year has been another busy year and the late snowfall and the devastation caused to my many walks at first seemed like a huge burden. So many trees had fallen in March that many of my marked routes were impassable and the usual clearance after winter was intensified. Every year the pine trees suffer on this steep rocky mountain, the winds topple them as do landslides, but the huge weight of snowfall in just one night was immense. Many trees had literally snapped in half and clearing the road was the most important thing so routes for hikers had to take a back seat. When I was able to make a start, I had to reroute in a lot of places meaning extra markers to be made, fixed in place and maps changed.

One walk was using a timber track where a whole row of pine trees had fallen across it. I managed to climb over and under and counted 40 trees in one stretch of about 10 meters. Lee is very handy with a chainsaw and can tackle most things but after working on the roadway, tackling forest fires and clearing other walks, it was summertime and attempting this one in high temperatures was decidedly crazy! So I gave up the idea of trying to clear it and completely rerouted a large section of the walk.

It wasn’t until today, while out mushroom picking Saffron Milk Caps and Slippery Jacks nearby, I though I’d take another look to assess just how much hard work it would entail. Thankfully the fallen trees are now over 6 months dead and have become very brittle so I could easily snap branches off and break my way though. You still need to climb over and under but the dead wood is also lighter so when Lee tackles it with his chainsaw, I will be able to help drag them out of the track. Then rerouting can begin again, though as our season is nearly over, maybe I’ll wait to see what this winter brings…

Triangle walk


Winter Wonderland

March 28, 2015

After a very wet 2014 and not much snowfall by end of February 2015, we were beginning to think we’d got off lightly this time and winter was over when suddenly a huge snowfall occurred. Overnight 60cm of snow fell and kept falling for the next 3 days adding up to over 1 meter and over 1.5 meter in drifts. The gigantic amount of snow in such a short space of time meant trees and electric pylons were toppled with the heavy weight. Power was lost the first night though we were prepared for this as we often lose electricity in stormy weather so had plenty of candles, but this time the power cut lasted 16 days. What?! I hear you cry, but life without electricity is not as bad as it sounds – at least not here at Melanya Mountain Retreat. I cook on a wood burner throughout winter anyway and due to Lee’s forestry skills we had plenty of wood in, so just had to reorganise meals to fit in with daylight. Having dinner early and the fact you can’t do much by candlelight meant going to bed at 9pm was natural and as a result waking up at dawn wasn’t hard either!

Melanya in heavy snow

Getting around wasn’t easy though and if it weren’t for our animals I wouldn’t have gone out at all. The first day I could just about walk in the knee-deep snow but the next day I had to concede as I sank in up to my bum! It was more like trying to move through quicksand so snow shoes are on the list of ‘must haves’! Using shovels, we dug down half way so I could reach their houses, check on food and water levels and remove any eggs. The chickens poked their heads out but soon changed their minds and the rabbit attempted digging but must have got cold feet as she soon gave up! The next day I dug down further so they could stretch their legs a bit more and give the laying hens some privacy and also making my access a bit easier. The apple tree over the rabbit house was so laden I had to crouch down low and I couldn’t just knock it off as the snow was frozen to the branches and needed shovelling off. I was scared to let the rabbit out as the snow was so high, having visions of her hopping over the fence and disappearing into the surrounding white, never to be seen again… so I dug out the whole pen! Phew – hot work!

Melly off up neighbours

Melly attempting to get to neighbours house

We ate well for the duration as we always keep a good stock of food. The hour drive to the supermarkets means we are always at least 2 weeks in hand. The fridge was kept cool and the freezer more or less frozen with regular containers of ice from the garden, though our meals were decided by which food started thawing first. I bake my own bread and made extra for our elderly neighbours. The chickens were still laying delicious eggs and we had plenty of beer, wine and home-made rakia🙂

The elderly and ill were also very well looked after as on day 4, a helicopter flew over and lowered a Doctor into our back garden, complete with medication for patients. The winchman’s first question was “Where are the old people?”. They were obviously running on a tight deadline with so many stranded to get to and unfortunately, they had forgotten to drop off all prescriptions for the Mayor’s wife in upper Lyubino. Lee was given the nearly impossible task of trying to battle his way up there, only a mile away but with snow so deep he couldn’t walk and felt like he was swimming against the tide, making very slow progress and exerting lots of effort. But when he eventually got there he was gratefully received as otherwise she would’ve run out of insulin the next day.

While Lee was on his epic adventure, I was also having a physical day, digging out my greenhouse. The overhang of snow was almost to the ground and looked more like a frozen wave. Pleasingly, there was minimal damage. Unlike others in our village, the structure itself was still upright and only a few panels of roof had torn with the weight but the snow was still holding together so I covered all beds below and with the help of a ‘younger’ neighbour Rick, shovelled off as much as possible outside so only a few lumps caved in. All vegetables were fine in their giant igloo. Temporary repairs held for the next fall of snow and we had time to make extra reinforcements before the weather turned to rain.

Greenhouse with overhang

Greenhouse mid overhand removal

There is only one road to Melanya Mountain Retreat and without a means to communicate with the outside world, we were unsure as to the state of the road. Usually after snowfall, the snow plough reaches us the next day but 8 days later we were beginning to worry! After intrepid explorers braved the deep snow to be faced by a wall of wood, it was realised why they hadn’t reached us and plans were drawn up to attempt a start with chainsaws. As if by magic, the next morning, 3am on a Sunday, the snowplough trundled past, thanks to the army of nearby villagers who had already been cutting their way to us along the 5 mile stretch of forest track. It was amazing to see a black tarmac road after so long of nothing but white so the plans to start clearing turned into a race to town to juice up the mobile phones and contact anxious loved ones.

Tree down

Trees blocking road

Unfortunately the full devastation was sad to behold. Hundreds of trees snapped in half or completely uprooted and landslides of mud and boulders – some twice as big as a car. Last year, we were upset by a bulldozer knocking down trees to make way for the tarmac road, removing the romance from our dirt road access, but content that mother nature would soon cover up the mess. This time, the vast destruction put humans into place as only a war could have had an equal impact. It will take a long time and a lot of hard work to clear up.

Road cleared

The same day, power was reinstated to the village opposite with the nearest mobile phone mast but without power ourselves, batteries didn’t last long. Surprisingly the electric meter reader came after a few days and said we’d be another 5 days before reconnection… I must admit I felt better when he said he still didn’t have power in his village and no water either. Most towns and villages in this region were on State of Emergency as, apart from losing electricity, the water stopped too. People couldn’t run taps, flush toilets and shops ran out of bottled water. Luckily for us, our village water comes from a natural spring and unlike our first 2 winters, the pipes didn’t freeze.

My dearest neighbour Mumun, whose wife is ill, has seen many winters like this before but his 75-year-old back was playing up and it’s hard staying upright, taking buckets of water to his cows, across icy snow that has a tendency to belie it’s real depth until you lift the other foot! So he appreciated all assistance, especially when milk production reduced because of food shortages and hay levels got critical. I collapsed my own hay cock and we helped him reach his, digging paths to them across fields of deep snow, loading up the donkey or physically carrying up the steep slopes. A big thanks to Rick for his help.

Melly & donkey

Moving hay with Mumun’s donkey

So we survived and the snow has melted to reveal how much garden fencing needs repair. Of course, now power is back on, there’s a mountain of laundry to catch up on and computers soak up so much time, but I had relished hibernating and even finished reading a book! We will get a generator though, so we can keep in touch via our satellite internet, have lighting in the evenings and recharge camera batteries🙂