The snow has finally gone and even though this is our 3rd spring here it is still a surprise how quickly the weather the changes, one minute there’s snow on the ground and a couple of weeks later your gardening in tee-shirts. It’s still a bit chilly early in the morning before the sun comes up and in the evening when it goes down so we are still lighting the wood burner most evenings.
Unfortunately our bees couldn’t hold on till the warmer weather arrived and we have lost all three of our hives. We had a friend come round and we have done an autopsy on each of the hives and come to the conclusion that one hive for some reason had lost their queen and for the other two we just didn’t have enough bees for them to stay warm enough till the weather warmed up. They had plenty of food but because of the cold weather they couldn’t break from their cluster to access the food so they starved to death. With having a very dry summer we think the hives just didn’t build up to be large enough, we got them late in the year after most of the tree blossom had gone and with the dry conditions there just wasn’t enough pollen around for them. We did a varoa mite count on all the hives and the mites were present in all of the hives but not in large enough numbers for them to have been a major problem. Some of our frames were only 3/4 the size of the ones we are using, these came with the bees and queen we got last year, so we have stripped these down and harvested the honey and processed the wax. The rest of the frames we have left intact to give our new bees a bit of a head start when we get them. After doing a lot more research on hives especially from places with cold long winters we have decided to remodel our hives and change them to having screened bottom boards and hopefully we will have better success this year.
The duck pond has had a spring clean and repairs done to it. Over winter the liner had blown into the pond and where the water had leaked out the ducks had eroded the bank away, we have now reinforced the sides of the pond with concrete rubble that had come out of the kitchen when we relaid the floor so the ducks can’t get to the inner edge of the bank, this will then be covered with soil to hide all the concrete, just so it looks nice :-). We now have seven IBCs ( 1,000 litre water containers) plumbed into the gutters so the water from these was used to fill the pond back up, so now the ducks are really happy to be able to have a bath again after a couple of months of having a frozen pond.
The mild weather has seen us working mainly in the garden, all the beds are now ready for planting and we have got our beans, peas, winter onions, spring onions, lettuce, radish, garlic and parsnips planted outside and most of our other vegetable are growing in trays ( empty milk cartons) inside. Last year our squashes did really well, a bit too well they grow every where and were difficult to control so we have built a squash tunnel out of some metal rod and thick plastic pipe we had lying around. The idea, if it works is that the plants will grow up it rather than across the garden, time will tell if our plan has worked or not.
Last year while helping a friend move house we noticed an old wooden ceiling rose lying in the garden, it was a bit battered and broken in places but we said we would like it. He offered to repair the broken bits and a couple of weeks ago we got the call it was ready. He had done an excellent job at restoring it, making new pieces that had been broken and we noticed he had taken it all apart and strengthened the backing. All it needed was a good clean and a coat of linseed.
Maintenance wise this winter has been kind to us at our house but has caused a couple of problems at our other house. We had a leak in the water pit but this was easily fixed. The other problem was with the part of wall that surrounds the garden that is made of cob, some of the wooden supports had given way and the tiles had fallen off exposing the cob to the elements which is not good because over time we would end up with a pile of mud instead of a wall ! It was only a small part of the wall that was affected but we decided to get all the woodwork replaced and all the tiles relayed. Even though a few of tiles had broken when they had fallen off we had plenty of spares lying around.
The end of February, beginning of March is a busy time for socialising firstly there was forgiveness day which involved the building of a bonfire and everyone jumping over it, then came Baba Marta day which this year also involved a television crew coming from Sofia to film us foreigners being shown how to make Martinitsas and Joe got interviewed about the tradition, needless to say while he was being interviewed I was nowhere to be seen :-). On Liberation day we spent the afternoon at a neighbours, it was supposed to be just for an hour, where we were wined and dined. We’ve also had women’s day which involved another evening out with the pensioners club and then I got invited to another women’s day afternoon at the bar, all of these events came with the usually supply of home-made wine, rakia and food, so I think we need to stay in for a while :-).