Autumn has finally arrived, not that you would notice apart from the leaves dropping from the trees and covering the ground. The weather has been very mild apart from a touch of frost on the morning of the 1st November that finished off our peppers, aubergines and fig tree for the year. The temperature drops when the sun goes down but during the daytime it’s still mild enough to see the occasional butterfly in the garden and the bees out and about collecting the last available pollen of the year from the flowers still blooming in the garden.
We have now finished our preserving for the year and all our wine has been bottled and even our peach rakia turned out pretty well, especially for a first attempt. This year we have been fully self-sufficient in fruit and veg ( apart from the odd treat of things we can’t grow ) and we have worked out we have spent around 50 leva ( about £23 ) on seeds and compost for growing our crops. This should be less next year as we have managed to save more seeds this year. So the garden is looking really bare with all the plants removed, the beds have been composted and mulched ready for winter and our onions garlic and spinach has been put in. Just the trees to prune, limewash and mulch, then we will be finished for this year.
Joe has built a bench in the walkway which has come in really handy for storing our outside plants for the winter, ripening off our squashes and for drying our walnuts out on. These have now been bagged up ready to see us though to next years crop. He has also reinstalled some of the original beams, which will come in handy for drying herbs next year. The step into the freezer room originally had been made of limestone but the past owners had cemented over the original step and I’ve been desperate to get the cement of it and get it back to more of an original state, so I’ve cleaned off all the stones then re-cemented them into place. The cement steps down to the cellar had a damaged cement lip at the top of them, so I’ve removed the lip; I was hoping to find some limestone steps down to the cellar but no, they are all cement, so I’ve re-cemented the top step so it is now level with the path. When this has all cured I can carry on painting the floor.
Joe’s workshop has now been fully weather proofed ready for winter, the only thing left to do is to install the wood burner along with a chimney.This probably would have been finished if he hadn’t dropped the chimney he was removing from the potting shed onto his foot. I don’t think he broke anything but it has been badly bruised so he’s been laid up for a few days. This downtime wasn’t wasted though, he has spent his time designing the summer kitchen and outdoor eating area that we will, all going to plan, be building next year. He has also been working on ways to store all of the tools better so they are easily accessible rather than just all dumped in a tool box. As well as the tools in the workshop he has also built a hanging system for our gardening tools which are usually just dumped in a pile in the corner.
The front of our house needed some work done on it as the mud plater was starting to drop off in a few places and although I love working with mud I really didn’t have the time to get the job done before winter so we got one of our friends in the village to do it. He is really good at cobbing and mud plaster and in 5 days he had all the old plaster off, the new plaster on and a final finishing coat applied, it would have probably taken me 5 weeks 🙂 The great thing about cob buildings is that the building materials to repair them are almost free; the clay for the bricks and plaster we can dig up in the village and for the finer clay finishing coat we only have to travel a couple of miles to the nearest village and dig it up there. The clay needs to be mixed with some chopped straw which we would normally have to buy, but for these repairs we all ready had a sack full in the barn which was here when we bought the house. I have been getting my hands dirty though on a smaller scale, I have clay plastered the duck and chicken coop and finished it off with a lime wash. They were ok last year but this year they will be even more cosy in their newly draught-proofed home. After watching how Mustafa did the kitchen and barn wall I have now had a go at mixing up the final coat which is made from a fine, grey clay with finely chopped straw and applied that to the wall I repaired earlier in the year next to Joe’s workshop. It’s only a small strip but you’ve got to start somewhere.
We’ve spent a bit of time working away from home. One of these occasions was helping out at a jumble sale. A member of the local Rotary Club asked us if we would like to help out, so of course we said yes. As they say a change is as good as a rest 🙂 So for 2 days we were sorting out clothes and setting the stalls up ready for the sale. No one was sure quite how successful the jumble sale would be as it is a new concept to the Bulgarians, even the Rotary Club weren’t sure it would work but by the end of the day of the sale we managed to raise 1400 leva which was nearly half the money they needed to build some children’s outdoor fitness apparatus in Popovo. Since this sale went so well we are doing another one in December and donations of items have all ready been given so things are looking good.
The Summer house is now all ready for winter, the water has been drained and all the bedding and soft furnishings have been removed. Last year we planted sunflowers there which will go towards feeding the poultry this winter, and for next year we are growing wheat. We got the land ploughed and rotivated, and scattered the wheat by hand. After some light rain it has started to grow and is looking quite good even though our scattering skills need perfecting as it’s not that even but at least it’s growing.
It’s not all been work; this year we decided to have a Halloween/bonfire party and of course for the party you need decorations so me and 3 friends took a trip to the big city ( Ruse) to stock up on decorations and costumes. While there I also bought 2 dog beds with the intention of them sleeping in the beds and not on the sofa. The plan sort of worked, Sol loves his bed but the other bed has been taken over by the cats other than the odd occasion when the cats decide Sols bed looks more comfy and they kick Sol out. Sheba on the other hand has shown no interest at all and prefers to sleep on an old rug we have put down for her.
We were given a bag of washed fleece earlier in the year so we have been using the dark nights to try and learn some new skills. Firstly it needed carding and then spun into wool, we have some hand carders that we have been using but have also been given a Bulgarian carder by a neighbour which we haven’t tried out yet and Joe made a drop spindle for making the carded fleece into wool. The videos on Youtube make it look so easy and our first attempts weren’t brilliant but we are getting better and the winters are long here so we have plenty of time to improve our techniques :-).