Since we moved to Bulgaria there have been a lot of trials but none have been bad enough to count as tribulations. We researched ‘in depth’ before we embarked on our self-sufficient lifestyle, using books, internet, family and friends’ experiences and advice, even taking education courses but there’s nothing like learning hands on.
When we decided to keep chickens we found that the weather here changed a lot of our preconceived ideas. Living 2500 feet (755m) high on a mountain made largely of sand, granite and slate, with a climate that is very hot and dry for most of the year, we assumed the chicken house we were building didn’t need a floor. But after it had rained for 3 days it turned into a swimming pool. Even the local builders didn’t believe me until they saw it for themselves. Luckily the bird’s feet were dry as they had a ‘floating’ grill floor their droppings fell through. So a drainage pipe was fitted and the problem was forgotten about until the following autumn and the first heavy rainstorm. The same thing happened and I couldn’t understand why until I dug up the pipe to find it blocked by sweetcorn (maize) – a food the chickens love, but being messy eaters their overspill had been washed through the filter (that mice had destroyed) and accumulated in the pipe. Though maybe there is nothing lucky about that!
Being self-sufficient also means trying to exist without much shopping. Of course there are many things we can’t provide for ourselves (such as toothbrushes and toilet paper!) and thinking ahead we set ourselves up here with a good start, brand new household items but these days things are not made to last. So when the bagless vacuum cleaner started making a high-pitched whining, so bad that I couldn’t use it, I resigned myself to the ‘old fashioned’ dustpan and brush. But after 3 months I couldn’t get my rugs pristine clean anymore and really missed my labour-saving device, so I decided I’d fix it myself. Using the internet, I researched and decided it needed a more in-depth clean so took it apart. Lee didn’t believe this to be good idea and questioned if I knew what I was doing! I wasn’t sure myself but I’ve always had the attitude that nothing can be that difficult so I unscrewed and prized apart the casing to find everything coated in thick dust. I am also a believer in the sentiment, ‘If a jobs worth doing, it’s worth doing well’ and I wasn’t going to stop there. More parts inside were methodically taken apart and marked so they were reattached correctly and everything washed and dried thoroughly. When everything was reassembled and no screws spare, Lee joked he wanted to be far away when I plugged it in but I did anyway and we’re still here with a quiet machine!
There are also the times we go walking in these mountains to find new routes for hikers. We can see for miles but a lot of terrain is steep gradients, only mountain goats can transverse. There are tracks but most are just made by animals and disappear into dense undergrowth. With no maps to guide us, we often follow a trail until it ends at a sheer cliff face or impassable ravine, so have to double back but we are always pleasantly surprised by what we eventually find. Like today, the section of river we could see from our house that looked perfect for fishing but very hard to get to, in fact had a winding path to it and we were rewarded with sunbathing on a secluded sandy beach in March. We saw lots of bird life such as black woodpeckers, black storks and golden eagles and felt sure we were the only humans to have been on that beach for a very long time.
It was magical and coming back we followed a different track that was seemingly more direct and so a steeper climb. I always find going uphill much easier and looking back I could see we were making it harder and harder to retrace our steps. The ground was covered in dry leaves so the steeper the angle of descent, the more likely to slip and hope a tree broke our fall! We pressed on, hoping we were right in our guess-timation and luckily we were.
We’ll both feel that climb tomorrow but what luckier way to live life on a Monday 🙂