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:
- to stop the chickens decimating my flower beds
- to protect the chickens more from predators
- to reduce the hazard of guests walking in chicken poo
- to give the rabbits more room for more exercise
- 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.
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!
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!
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 🙂