It started to snow just before New Year and we haven’t seen the garden since. There were a few days where the temperature managed to stay above 0C just long enough for all the snow on the roofs to melt and where it had melted turned to a muddy mess, but the snow has returned so it’s back to digging the car out and clearing the paths. Apparently according to the news this has been the longest, coldest winter in 69 years and it doesn’t look like spring is going to arrive any time soon. This year the pipe supplying water into the kitchen froze; when we renovated the kitchen we couldn’t get any insulation between the pipe and the outside wall but hoped the warmth of the kitchen would stop it from freezing. This has worked for the previous 2 years but this year has been a lot colder and for a longer period. After 3 days we managed to get the pipe defrosted and have stacked up straw bales against the outside of the wall for extra insulation and this seems to be working, this will do for now but later this year we will have to sort out a more permanent solution.
The ducks have been laying really well over winter which is a good job because the chickens have gone on strike! We didn’t expect the the ducks to be so productive in the cold weather so we are really pleased we decided to add ducks to our smallholding. We had a couple of warmish days so decided while the temperatures were warm enough we’d check on our bees and top their feed up, the good news is we still have 3 hives, the bad news is that one of our hives isn’t looking too good, there are not many bees left in it even though they had food left so only time will tell if it manages to survive till spring but given the winter we’ve had we will consider ourselves very fortunate if any of the hives survive. We also made a load of fat balls for the wild birds. We had a lot of lard left over from last year, so made some balls with seed mix from the chicken food. Joe took loads round to our neighbours for their wild birds. Our Bulgarian neighbours seemed most bemused by the idea of feeding birds!
Joe has spent the last few weeks servicing all of our power tools and stripping down the chain saw and strimmer ready for when spring arrives as well as making salamis, dried sausages and processing the hams and bacon that have been curing. We now have about twenty ‘nadenitsa’, which is a heavily spiced dried sausage, and another twenty country-style salamis. Four legs of ham have been cured and sliced up in the freezer, and lots of back bacon, streaky bacon and pancetta. Joe has also been continuing with woodwork when the temperatures in the workshop area have been warm enough, but now we’ve run out of wood and need a trip into town to get some more.
We have had a problem with rats in the cellar since we came here but I think I’ve finally managed to beat them, they were getting in behind some old shelving so this has been removed and all the holes have been filled. The last of the old cob plastering has been removed and any loose clay has been removed from between the stone work and re-pointed by re-hydrating the clay that came off the walls. I don’t normally work with wood, that’s Joe’s department, but I decided while he was busy with other things I would make some new shelving out of bits of wood we had lying around and more shelves will go in as materials become available. We have now had food in the cellar for 3 weeks and still no sign of a rat so hopefully that’s the end of them.
The dogs have become a bit lazy over winter, preferring to lounge about in front of the fire rather than running around in the garden and Joe was complaining of not getting enough exercise so he is now taking them for a couple of long walks each day and it’s doing them all good. So in the morning while Joe walks the dogs I’ve taken over chopping the firewood. I’ve tried chopping logs a few times since we’ve been here but never been very successful, but now after a few weeks practice I’m starting to get the hang of it. It might take make half a dozen hits to get though a stubborn log but I get there in the end 🙂
We have also been doing a lot of thinking about this years projects, I’m keen to get the main part of the house finished and Joe wants to build a workshop in one of the barns. The workshop has won, I might not get a decorated living room and bedroom this year but at least the hallway, freezer room and walkway will be cleared of wood and tools. But before anything can be done in preparation for building the work shop the barn needs cleared and a home found for all the junk ( that’s me ) things that might come in handy sometime ( that’s Joe ) stuff.