Winter has finally arrived

The weather has been unusually mild for the time of year. In fact we’ve had the hottest October on record and along with the high temperatures came no rain. That has all changed and all though it is still mild for the time of year we now have some rain. We have taken advantage of the nice weather and got all of our preserving finished along with all of the alcohol. Last years cider wasn’t our best so we have distilled it into apple brandy, it isn’t calvados because we only distilled it once but it is a nice brandy. We’ve made 40 bottles of grape wine and 20 litres of rakia. We’ve also got another batch of cider bottled up but that needs to sit until summer.

We’ve finished all the butchery for this year; two pigs and four ducks all in the freezer, or being cured for bacon and hams. The outdoor fire pit has been heavily used while we’ve made brawn, pork stock, lard, plucked ducks and water-bathed the pork stock. It’s been a lot of work, but we’ve got rid of loads of the scrap wood from tree pruning so the garden looks a lot tidier now!

With the vegetable garden emptied and the good weather we have started building our new beds. The old ones have served us well but they were getting full and with them all being different sizes it made crop rotation and planting awkward, so the new beds are all 3m x 1m which will mean in the future we will know exactly how many beds we need for each crop. The plan was to get 3 beds made for some of our winter crops but we ( with help from a friend) have so far got 9 finished. Personally I think the new beds look a bit too uniform but the practicality of them will out weigh their aesthetics. We’ve planted up garlic, onions, peas, beans and lettuce for spring, and some of these are covered over to get an early crop.

The woodland has now all been cleared and tidied up. So we got some more trees put in the cleared area and replaced a couple that we had lost. We didn’t anticipate the dry weather would last so long so each week we were loading the trailer with a couple of large barrels and filling them from the spring to water the trees.

All the wood is now in the barn and the gateway ready for winter and our kindling supplies are all ready. We’ve insulated the water pit and the kitchen wall where the water supply comes in although there’s no sign of it getting really cold at the moment we know how quickly the temperatures can drop here due to being caught out in previous years. It looks like the cold weather will finally get here this week, so it’s good to have got these jobs done!

Dance classes have started up again which we are both still really enjoying, we had been doing 4 hours a week but at the moment we are taking time off me with a bad ankle and Joe has hurt his hip. Both a sign that we are not as young as we used to be.

We weren’t planning on finishing the walkway this year, but have decided to try and get the last bit finished. Before the windows can go in and because we’ve changed our plans, again, two of the original uprights we put in had to be removed and replaced with new pieces of straight wood. That area is now as finished as it can be for now, so we have a cosy area to smoke in winter.

Christmas has passed enjoyably, time spent with friends, and now we’re relaxing a bit and enjoying having all the year’s work completed, at least for a week or two!

Happy New Year to you all, may it bring you happiness.

  6 comments for “Winter has finally arrived

  1. Katt Thomas
    January 5, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    Greetings to you both and a very happy ,healthy and wealthy (ish) New Year. Now I need to pick your brains and learn from your experience. In a past post you mentioned rat holes in the floor of an adjoining building or something. Well we have a large summer room joining our house part of which buts directly onto our basement kitchen. We noticed before we closed up for the winter last September that we’d got mice and so started trapping and killing them but they are coming in from the summer room. So please tell me how did you go about filling in the rat holes (ours is an earth floor ) and did you concrete it? I hope this makes sense as we’re back for a couple of weeks in February and would like to make a start on doing the same as you did .
    Regards
    Katt

    • Joe
      January 6, 2020 at 2:52 pm

      We had rats getting into the cellar, I just filled the holes back up with mud/cob and they haven’t found their way back in. We had one or two pine martins that made a home in the roof space and I think they originally kept the population down and now have 2 cats that have access to the roof space. So sorry not much help, I have heard of people putting shards of glass into the holes before sealing them up but don’t know if this works. We have another house which we don’t use very often and the old owners have plastered chicken mesh into the walls to stop the mice getting in so that could be and idea to consider.

  2. Anonymous
    February 23, 2020 at 7:03 pm

    Well you two, we got back from our latest trip to our Bulgarian house last Monday and the weather there was a lot better than it has been here “up north ” in the UK.
    It was warm and sunny during the day and cold at night. We re-arranged the bedrooms and moved into the one with the wood burner in and am I glad we ordered the wood, the logs stored in the summer room where dry and ready to split so besides having a warm bedroom we also got the wood burning stove in the kitchen going so I was able to cook on it and heat water in a large kettle to wash the pots as we currently have no hot water in the kitchen.
    As for the mice, because TB husband was with me we had a car so we picked up a couple of bags of ready mixed cement (3lev 60 stinkis for a twenty kilo bag) and some wire pan scrubbers to lock the holes up in the kitchen and in the summer room which they were using to get in from. The first night they tried to get in again but after further repairs and finding a couple of tiny holes in the summer room we didn’t hear or see them again. that’s not to say that they’ve gone for good mind you.
    We now have temporary residents permits but will return early next month to have our photos taken and hopefully pick up the proper ones but although we’ve applied for five year permits we have no idea how long we will actually get them for due to BREXIT ,,, god dam it.
    So we’ll be back for just a week early next month but now question for you two, what two things did you bring from the UK that where a waste of space and what two things did you wish you’d brought?
    Katt

  3. Katt
    February 24, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    Well we’re back from our latest visit to our Bulgarian village home and thanks to your advice Joe we’ve successfully dealt with the mice, well for now anyway.
    I’m currently slowly clearing out stuff from the flat because like most people here we’ve acquired far too much of it, I’m, recycling, taking stuff to charity shops and using freegle , managed to freegle two large bags of kilner jars yesterday because who needs to take them to Bulgaria when even the smallest village shop sells jars and replacement lids?
    So a couple of questions for you both to get your “little grey cells working” what three things do you regret bringing with you from the UK?
    And what three things do you wish you’d brought with you?
    Well all I can say now was that it was considerably warmer during the day in Bulgaria than it is here and at night we had the wood burner to take off the chill.
    Katt

    • Joe
      February 28, 2020 at 5:42 pm

      We are pleased to hear you are getting sorted at the house. We are pleased we brought over a selection of decent gardening tools especially the spades and forks and all our decent power tools. Wasn’t worth while bringing over any of the cheaper tools we had they are just not up to the job of renovating a house. We also brought over 2 pine bed frames not realising that Bulgarian mattresses are sized differently to UK beds so these are slowly getting repurposed as shelving. We brought over a lot of gardening books which because they are UK based haven’t really been worth the shelf space, we tend to use the neighbours advice or good old google for anything fruit or veg related we need to find out. Bring your board games unless you fancy playing scrabble in cyrillic 🙂 I don’t think there is anything I regret not bring, we can get everything we need here. But if I was to pick anything, I used to have a large oil painting that was just far too big to transport over here and I do miss that. Julie

  4. Katt
    February 28, 2020 at 7:20 pm

    Good to hear from you, its still freezing here “up north” in the UK and the river that runs more or less in front of our tower block is very high luckily there’s a large car park, a road and gardens in the way of the water.
    I looked for gardening tools while in Bulgaria last year and didn’t see much of use then our neighbour gave me a mattock and showed me how to use it, the damaged handle was repaired by another neighbour an elderly man who’s taken over the annual pruning of our grape vines and tree’s and now I’m hooked on using this instead of a spade, mind you its not worth planting veg until we’re there full time because the weeds take over so quickly.
    I’m packing a carry on bag for our journey back early March but to me the house is much less a “holiday home” and more home a feeling that I didn’t expect to kick in until much later but there you go.
    One thing husband wants is an internal stair case and I’m more and more inclined to agree with him but that will have to wait awhile yet because it won’t be an easy or cheap job.
    Anyway you two keep warm xx
    Katt

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