Its time for my annual recap again but so much happened in 2018 that I can’t fit it all in! I’ll try and keep events brief and recount in more detail in future blogs.
Sadly the year started with my donkey departing this world. He was an old man but a real gentleman and I miss him so much. I’m glad that I helped make his last few years pleasurable and easy. He was gentle and friendly and I was lucky to have him in my life.
Next came extremely high winds that did a lot of damage to our roof with tiles being dislodged and heavy chimney covers flipped off. Our local builder was busy fixing everyone else’s roofs and rain forecast, so Lee had to get up there and do it himself. It was still windy so he was very brave but once again proved we can do more for ourselves.
In Spring we took a brief but long overdue trip to England, to visit my parents, who were both turning 80 but are more spritely and busy than ever, and see my brother, meet his girlfriend and catch up with a few friends who hadn’t been out to Bulgaria yet. I also served to remind me why I live in Bulgaria. People warned me my home town had changed a lot and I wouldn’t recognise it but I thought it was no different to 2011, when I left for a life in a remote retreat in the mountains. Of course, there was the increase in UK roads, cars, buildings, population and price rises but nothing more than expected.
Apart from the January winds, the last winter had been very easy on us, unusually warm and not much snow. And just as had happened before in 2014, the following summer was cooler than normal and rather wet, with a rain storm seemingly everyday. It reminded me of England, and judging by how the UK had a very hot summer, I think I left Bulgaria’s weather behind when I boarded the plane! The ever changing climate was not good for visitors who wanted to sunbathe but was great for me, helping to water the vegetables and flowers. It was also good for mushroom lovers with a huge number of tasty varieties growing wild for an extended growing period. The reduction in sunlight wasn’t great for fruits like plums and grapes but the extra water was great for apples, pears and quinces and I made my first batch of quince rakia, which has now won the place as the best fruit so far.
Though the wet year seemed ironic, as after many years of summer droughts, we had finally decided to search for water on our land and have a borehole drilled. There were so many cheshmas around us, natural spring fountains that are created by the water table finding an exit, that we thought we should be able to tap into it. Living on the crest of a mountain, we knew we would have to go a long way down so when a man and wife team guaranteed water at 30m, we agreed. A massive, almost prehistoric but impressive Zil was parked in our garden.
Unfortunately, the dig took longer than expected as the frequent lightening storms stopped drilling and they had to go down a further 10 meters. But was worth it, as now we are the proud recipients of 1,000 litres of water everyday. And to make life easier for us, we had a new water system installed, complete with automatic watering for the greenhouse and vegetable garden, which means the organic plants can be watered at night. This minimises evaporation in the hot Mediterranean summer we are expecting for 2019.
The guaranteed water source gave me a chance to have a pool I’d been dreaming of, and although it was only a plunge pool, it served as a feasibility test before we embark on installing a real one!
During the water explorations, we fitted in a spectacular garden party and it was a night to remember with Lee’s jazz band playing followed by a rock band, a drone recording amazing footage of Melanya, a host of people from Bulgaria and all over the world, including some great friends we hadn’t seen for ages and all the English with houses in and around my village, and their families. The population is fluctuating with elderly residents dying and returning natives, who are keen to escape the over crowded and polluted countries they had emigrated to. This, added to the influx of English has changed the demographics in Lyubino but it is still the same magical place I first came to 12 years ago.
The year has also been busy with visiting more parts of Bulgaria, exploring traditional cultures like the Kukeri Festivals where evil spirits are scared away (photos above), the coastal resorts on the Black Sea and experiencing modern Bulgarian music. We also managed to fit in 2 trips to Greece for sunbathing & sightseeing. All excursions were thanks to extra cover for my chickens, a decision to stop breeding rabbits, and an English friend who came to Bulgaria to enjoy her recently renovated house and have a long summer holiday. Lucky woman 🙂
The year started with refreshing the paint in the guest apartment and finished with a complete redecoration of our mountain retreat home, complete with marble woodburner surrounds. We now have a good dump of snow so we can relax in front of the fire for a while.