We’re well into our 3rd year living full time, high the Eastern Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria and still loving it!
The guesthouse is going very well with lots of happy customers and notably, lots have commented on how likable our dog Jakal is. He accompanies everyone on their walks and is no bother, disappearing up steep slopes, gone for ages following boar and deer scents, then reappearing to scout ahead. He is a definite gentleman and one chap admitted he was the first dog he’d been able to get close to for years. He does have a bad habit though, of picking up tortoises and leaving them upside down – they can’t right themselves. Luckily most are found and assisted though a badly damaged one (we think more due to a fall) was brought back by a guest and I continued nursing him until I felt he was in stable enough condition to go back to the wild and feed himself up for hibernation.
My mother hen went broody in Spring, refusing to budge from her nest box even after I’d taken the eggs from under her. After rearing the 13 chicks she arrived with last year, I didn’t want anymore yet so I gave her a few cold baths. She got the message and returned to the harem but later in the year went broody again. I tried cold baths but she was adamant she was going to be a mum so I relented and put the other hens’ eggs under her. Only 4 though as with all the guests visiting, eggs were precious! As I expected, only 1 hatched and unfortunately it was a male. Though I have decided to keep him as back up, just in case something happens to my cockerel as my neighbour lost his to a fox. I also need more hens now as 1 of the youngsters from last year became egg bound and didn’t pull through. So as soon as Mother hen gets broody, I’ll give her a lot of eggs to sit on!
The first batch of rabbits were very tasty! Lee was happy to discover their meat is white like chicken. Wild rabbit meat is a lot darker and leaner probably because they spend more time running scared! The kits are exceedingly cute but they lose their magic when the males spray kick urine (they think this is a turn on to a girl!!!) and fight with each other. I segregate them but swapping them over to get their quota of daily exercise is quite time consuming! Unfortunately when it came to swap over time in the 2nd batch, a female was accidentally left out in the run! Brood no.3 followed unplanned though her mother helped nursing by going into false pregnancy. So I now have 2 breeding does to keep each other company and raise the next batch in Spring.
Sadly bind weed or Morning Glory, has become my worst enemy as 2 rabbits have been killed by it. I knew it was poisonous to rabbits so was removing from all grasses, weeds and leaves I collected for them but unfortunately it crept it’s way into their run. I am extremely vigilant now but it means I have to search through the winter hay and even the last sack of grain I bought is riddled with the seed pods. With such a large garden, it’ll take me ages to remove all the roots.
Wasps and hornets have been abundant this year and unfortunately attacked my bees. They tried to fight them off and even sealed up their hive entrance and entombed a hornet but alas they lost the battle. I did get some honey though, which was delectable and very dark – almost like molasses. When my neighbour’s bees have babies he will help me start again.
Our cat Muffin (mostly called Muppet) has been a valuable worker – she catches the mice that eat my animal feed and even turns up for duty at my neighbours’ house too! She still follows me everywhere and is adorable. We followed the advice of a local lad and instead of neutering her (an expensive and difficult to arrange operation when we live 90 minutes drive from the vet) we gave her a contraceptive injection. A year later and no kittens have arrived, even though the village tom is often around!
Sadly, my huge greenhouse has taken up a lot of this year as the roof blew off so needed recovering before Spring. We bought some stronger plastic and I spent ages making and pre-nailing rods to batten it down, with extra securing straps and jackets to protect the plastic from ripping. Why did I build such a big greenhouse? Also a greenhouse that is 8mx4m requires a lot of watering and although we have a natural spring and plenty of water most of the year, it’s in summertime the plants need it. The mountain water reduces to a trickle and although we have huge containers to collect rainwater, the greenhouse and garden can get through 250 litres in 1 day! And the dry summer can mean no rain for 3 months and hot temperatures of over 40°! So after another year of trips to the nearest watering hole with barrels, we decided to build a bigger reservoir – 10,000 litres of water should help me and my garden.
We had been seriously looking into alternative energy after last years 7 day power cut but had been unable to decide which to go for because of the initial set up costs and the feasibility in this remote location with dramatic mountain weather conditions. Them we had a lot of power cuts due to lightening storms and annoyingly when we had guests staying though we were prepared and dinner by candlelight was perfect for romantic holidayers! Luckily the electric company have since been renewing lots of cabling and we haven’t had a power cut yet this winter, so fingers crossed… I hope I haven’t spoken too soon!
Snow arrived early in November and again in December and it was cold enough to last until Boxing Day so we got our white winter festivities and had a quiet holiday season this year to recharge our batteries and get ready for next years bookings.
Lastly, shtasliva Nova Godina or Happy New Year.
Melly & Lee