A Classic Bulgarian Misunderstanding

A Classic Bulgarian MisunderstandingCases of classic misunderstandings Bulgarians has caused all sorts of problems over the years and it still happens. There was one prime classic misunderstanding that wasn't realised until this week and reminded me that these misunderstandings will probably never end here in Bulgaria.

Just to give some background here, the previous owners of Skalitsa farmhouse and smallholding off where an elderly couple called Marina and Mitko. They moved in with their son to the town of Stara Zagora. Marina couldn’t wait for town life, but Mitko didn’t want to move, he loved village life and was in tears when we signed the contract. This is the case for many couple here, women want the town and the men want the country life.

Last year we were at the Skalitsa Farmhouse sitting out in the garden. We heard the iron garden gate creak as it always does to warn us of visitors. We waited a moment for the visitors to walk a short distance and peer around the corner as we all watched. It turned out that the visitors was Marina, the woman who used to live here with here son. They were in Skalitsa and though they’d pay us a visit out of courtesy as they were here.

And so the talking started. I wondered where Mitko her husband was and naturally asked. The answer given was that, ‘He is above us’ with a finger pointing to the sky. I was quite shocked with the though that he had passed away and gave my condolences.

The message that Mitko had died so much was passed on to my nearest neighbour the next day with mention that it must have been the heartbreak of having to move away from the village life he loved. No more was thought about it at the time.

A Classic Bulgarian MisunderstandingA year on and my neighbour Sacho told me that he was sure he had seen a ghost a couple of days before. It was evening and he was putting his goats in for the night and he saw Mitko wondering around his old home. There are many ghost stories in the village and this was another one that he though he saw. He told his wife Rosa what he had seen and again, they put it down to Mitko paying a ghostly visit to his old loved smallholding.

Sacho went on to say that Rosa went to work in the school the next day and told others of the story of Mitko’s ghostly figure wandering around the previous evening. She was duly informed that there was no ghost of Mitko around, but Mitko in real life who had come this year to see old friends in the village and went to see his old home!

Sacho said that he spoke to Mitko yesterday and he was very much alive. He then asked me who said that he had died. I explained that his son said that he was above us and pointed his finger to the sky. Sacho then burst out laughing saying that Mitko was up above us in the apartment block he was living in Stara Zagora. He didn’t come to Skalitsa last year but stayed at home – That’s where he was!

Well the misunderstanding lasted a year and I’m glad Mitko is still alive and kicking albeit still not very happy with town life. As for ghosts, well no recent additions recently, but lot so stories from neighbours of existing ones to be told on a cold and still winter night – That’s a long way off right now.

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A New Idea For Catching Bulgarian Rats

Bulgarian rats are like all other rats around the world, a pest and unwanted guests in many homes. There are many alternative to getting rid of them, too man to mention in fact, but yesterday another method was learnt as we still has to contend with the elusive rat in the garage that continues to eat our hard earned potato stocks.

A New Idea For Catching Bulgarian Rats

We were watching football with family guests with many beers to accompany when the subject of rats came about. I think it was the mention of Wayne Rooney that got the subject going. Rooney apart, catching rats was being discussed. Poison, caged contraptions, cats, dogs, and baited lures in other places to draw them away just didn’t work or were not practical in our situation and the rat has had the upper hand over the last six weeks and this continues right now.

A New Idea For Catching Bulgarian RatsThe idea of getting a bucket, filling two thirds of it with water and placing some sunflower seeds that would float on the top seemed a strange ploy to take when I first heard this being discussed. Added to this a little path was placed leading up to the rim of the bucket where once at the top the sunflower seeds could be seen but not the water. This began to make good sense to me at this point. The rat would see the sunflower seeds and of course it is too low to eat, as it is a third of they distance down in the bucket. The rat would have to jump in thinking that the bucket was full of sunflower seeds and pass through the top layer of sunflowers seeds into the looming water beneath which was deep enough to drown it with the vertical walls of the bucket.

A master plan had been born and we all looked forward to drowned rats as we set the system up slightly drunk after the feast of Sunday football and beer.

Monday morning and it wasn’t an early visit to the garage to check for drowned rats. When we did it was as it was the night before, but then no more potatoes have been nibbled either, no ratty visitors last night other than the half ratted trappers. Time is the essence, not only for catching that rat but for getting rid of hangovers!

Rooney Image by Getty Images via Daylife

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Expatriate Bloggers Are Decent People

Location of Bulgaria within Europe and the Eur...

It dawned on me the other day that one of the biggest reasons for coming to Bulgaria was getting away from British culture and British ways. As it happens my time here has been spent in total isolation from everything British and that included British expatriates.

The strange thing is with this in place is why on earth I blog and extensively communicate with other British expatriates or other non-British expatriates in the UK? I didn’t have to think too hard to find the answer it was quite simply to figure out.

There are a couple of factors to the reason for this. One is that most of us have the urge to tell the story we have to tell about our adventures abroad to all that want to hear about it. That also includes many eyes and ears from their abandoned countries. This might also have a little poke to those there who still endure things there.

The other reason is to share our thinking and common goals with others who are also telling a public the stories. To me the thing that we have in common is the comradeship of writing about our foreign adventures. Alongside support and pats on the back reaffirming that we have all done the right thing, not that many need it, but some do. This is what pulls expatriate bloggers together.

Many expat bloggers may well have a language barrier to overcome in their respective host country and the writing is a form of communication that relieves a lot of frustration and is a good way to let off informative and daily or weekly steam that comes from this.

Expatriate bloggers in the main are people who have got away from their homelands for many reasons. Most, if not all I communicate with have the same ideals as when it comes to setting up or joining regular expatriate communities in the land they are living in now.

There is one massive difference between me wanting to associate and communicate with expatriate bloggers and that is all down to what they get up to in their new homes. It is plainly obvious that bloggers have lots to say about the culture and the people they are living with as opposed to those who tend to just mix with their own expatiate communities and have nothing to say other than idol gossip, scandal and backstabbing other expatriates in their little vicious circles.

Well with this realisation, it is no surprise that there are so many decent expatriates blogging.

Image via Wikipedia

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A Bulgarian Easter 2009 - A Joyful Family Occasion

There are so many things to write about this last weekend I am really quite confused as to which should preside. Perhaps just a run of events might just fit the bill this time round.

A Bulgarian Easter 2009 - A Joyful Family OccasionIt was a sulky Lada that stood in the street last Friday as I mounted my bicycle to ride the 37 kilometres to the village farmhouse just to water the crops, get a rat trap and bring some gherkins seedlings back. The ride was fantastic, why I don’t ride more often it a complete mystery! Without Galia who was preparing for the Easter weekend it was a night on my own with howling wolves no longer scaring me as sat outside well beyond sunset before retiring to a rakia and well earned sleep.

The next morning, another bicycle ride, this time slightly faster than the day before back to Yambol. There is an increasing amount of traffic on the roads these days. Three years ago I could have travelled 20 kilometres and not passed any cars, maybe an occasional horse and cart. Now every few minutes a car zooms past, it is quite a depressing thought that this will get worse as each year goes by.

Many of these vehicles are 4x4 motors and of these many are expats or Brits on holiday here right now. The only problem I had with traffic today on the bike was the inconsideration of a Brit driver that came too close causing me to have to swerve into the grass verge. What I normally do in these cases is spit on their car window screen as they go past, it make me feel better that a message has been delivered. It may sound disgusting, but for me their total disregard and inconsideration for me is far more disgusting – A worse thought was that they must have thought it was only a Bulgarian cyclist.

That aside I got back to Yambol safely and the gherkins and rat trap intact. Oh yes, the rattrap is for a rat that ran across my feet as I entered the garage for my bike the day before. It had been eating our stock of winter potatoes. The trap is now set and we hope to drown it at some point in the future.

Saturday evening and barbeque mackerel was on the menu. The reason for fish was that today was meant to be the 50th and last day of fasting from meat (fish not included) as tomorrow spring lamb was planned to be eaten by most Bulgarians to celebrated the end of the fast and Easter.

A Bulgarian Easter 2009 - A Joyful Family OccasionSunday, and a walk to the St Nikolai Church with Galia and Baba (pictured) to light candles, say a prayer and pay our religious respects to the occasion. You will find that most Bulgarian families attend church on these special religious days and a queue to get in is quite normal. As we purchase the candles and get blessed by the priest as we enter the grand church.

We went for a little stroll through Yambol after church and treated ourselves to a little ice cream from a stall. This is something we don’t normally do so it was a very special moment sitting in the flower borne park with an ice cream. There were many little stalls open today with bouncy castles, balloons and sweets as this was a weekend of Easter family celebration with many families out walking the city centre after church on this warm and sunny day.

A Bulgarian Easter 2009 - A Joyful Family OccasionWe arrive back home to find that family guests were waiting outside out yard gate and we had the keys. From there on it was a further nine hours that elapsed with eating drinking and talking throughout. I am tempted to get on my Bulgarian food wagon again and detail the menu that was made up this evening, but will leave that for another time in another post. We had the egg knocking competition and one family member had brought his own decorated eggs that had been treated with varnish – He of course won with an unfair advantage. Within this time we also saw Everton knock Manchester United out of the English FA Cup as Ivo, Galia’s son (a Manchester United fan) and I commiserated together as Arsenal were knocked out by Chelsea yesterday.

A well-slept Sunday night led to today where this evening we are due to go to another house to spend the evening with friends instead of family. There will be another long session of eating drinking, berr and Skalitsa rakia and talking. In these instances you just can’t get enough of a good thing.

A Bulgarian Easter 2009 - A Joyful Family OccasionAs I pause slightly between each celebration, I reflect on my past in the UK and the total lack of activities such as these. Family and friend gatherings, no expensive gifts expected, no commercial chocolate eggs, no need to entertain children who are well behaved and do as they are told. Food and drink that is all natural, homemade and produced locally. Simple things are the answer here, things that are not swayed by commercialism and high expectations. But the biggest joy here is the family unit where you can communicate on all levels, talk about anything and everything, there are no secrets in the family here. Nothing is held back and nothing taboo in conversation and this applies to all four generations that attended the celebration.

It really is a privilege to be here and be accepted as part of this family. It has opened my eyes to so many things I never knew existed in family life and I’d better stop writing now before I start breaking down with joyful emotion!

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Car Insurance Rip Off For Brits in Bulgaria


My Lada car insurance is due for renewal this week and I know that it would be more expensive than last year, this is normal on a worldwide basis now. It's called a 'Rip off' in case you were wondering. Car insurance is mandatory, even in Bulgaria (well in town areas anyway) so my hands are tied and the only way to avoid it is get rid of the car, which is something I am now considering.

Last year the premium was 140 Bulgarian leva, this was just for third party on a Lada that was valued at only 500 Bulgarian leva. The year previous to this was less than 100 Bulgarian leva! I expected the cost now to rise to the 200 Bulgarian leva mark, even though the value of the car has depreciated and no claims have been made since living here!

But there is another factor involved here when it comes to car insurance and like many other things it really does make my blood boil. When I first came here on my own with limited Bulgarian you rely on English speaking advisors. I was advised to go to a car insurance company in Yambol city centre that had English speaking staff. That's what I did and thought no more about it. Every new expatriate that comes here was directed to go to this company for car insurance, no other options are given. This particular insurance company as I was to find out, was the most expensive around and took advantage of foreigners coming here. This is normal of course.

This week I got information off the Bulgarian grapevine so to speak of other insurance companies and one in particular that had just opened a month ago and a friend of the family who ran it. They provided all the insurance for Galia's brother's boiler factory vehicles. I was told to try them and I did.

We arrived to find the place shut and the shop owner next door who was smoking outside told us to wait while she rang the insurance clerk to come and open the office up. 20 minutes later Katiya the owner, an old friend of the family, greeted us. We were invited in throuoh the cracked glass door, wind damage not vadalism, and spent the next half an hour catching up with family news.

The office as as basic as you can inagine with just had one desk and chair with PC placed on it and an empty shelving unit behind against the wall bar one plastic bound folder and a PC printer place on it. The customer area in front of the desk had a well used, dusty sofa and a second or third hand coffee table with blistered varnish and splintered wood alongside. This single plastic bound folder was taken off the shelf, flicked through and a third party quote was given for the Lada. It came to 128 Bulgarian Leva along with a big apology as it was explained that company owned vehicles (and mine was just that) had risen substantially over the last six months. I can believe that with inflation rates here at the moment and wondered what the other insurance company would be offering. Well I didn't need to wonder for long as I found out later. They were asking for over 200 Bulgarian leva as enquiries were made by telephone. I am absolutely certain this is because I'm English as they know because have my company record on their database!

We continued to talk and catch up with more news. Katiya then asked me if I could spread the word on my blog to other British expatriates who want car insurance, green cards to travel in Europe etc. Now I don't normally have much to do with other Brits in Bulgaria, but being ripped off by insurance companies hits a nerve and obscene profits made from innocent parties is something I hate to see. So with Katiya now offering non-decriminate rates and based on my own insurance over 64% cheaper I feel it is my duty to stop others being taken to the cleaners. So if you are a Brit in Yambol give me a call and I'll pass on the details unless you have money to throw away.

Image via Wikipedia
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Countryside Holiday Homes - A Dream Undone

The idea of a holiday home in the Bulgarian countryside paints this lovely picture of living in a beautiful unspoilt part of the world with an abundance of nature around. Wake and get real, it is a major headache for many who fall into this trap of 'The Garden of Eden' waiting for them.

It's not so bad in towns and cities without gardens, perhaps just a yard, but in the villages and rural areas, it can be a nightmare with the land that comes with the property. Nature being nature takes over is left to run free and invade the land turning into a jungle and breaching the property with their wedge affect roots, lifting cement based foundations with ease. The vermin and insect community take residence there and eat their way into every nook and granny. Ants actually enjoy picking up a grain of mortar and storing it elsewhere, so even if you think you property is sealed, think again, eventually, a maze of tunnels will give access to more insects and vermin if left unattended.

My brother has a house in Bulgaria some 15 kilometres from Yambol City, right next to the River Tundzha. To be quite honest you couldn't get a better setting. It is a dream house in a dream position and bought and renovated at a dream price. It is only used for maybe two or three weeks a year.

It is left for up to 6 months without anyone living there and the problems with this are dream shattering and soul destroying. We went there recently to find that apart from all the overgrowth in the one acre of land that surrounds the place, the pathway had been decimated with couch grass roots, a massive outbuilding have collapsed and was in rubble, nicely kept flower beds where shrubs had needed pruning in the autumn were ruined. Quite a few vines had toppled down during the winter; some will no longer produce grapes.

In the house the rats had got into the kitchen and had eaten away at the fridge door, the food and utility cupboards had been breached with big dropping and electric plugs and plastic gnawed everywhere. To the side of the house, a big crack had appeared where a small leak had been left unattended, which had frozen and defrosted. To get the electric connected again you needed to pay a fee on top of the last bill and this would take three days to get switched back on. So when he arrives there would be no electric for that amount of time. Luckily this year we had insulated the water mains garden shaft and drained the system to prevent bust pipes, this is what happened last year and the year before so we knew. The list of problems goes on.

Many holiday homeowners have exactly the same problem and maintenance and a weekly check on the house is essential to keep in check of the problems of absent owners. The biggest problem is finding someone to do this without taking on specialist expatriate companies and paying extortionate prices. Local Bulgarians can usually take care of security in the villages, they are around all the time, but the foreign styled garden and modern house maintenance is a major hurdle and headache for all.

We were away from our village home for six months the year before last, but we knew all the problems that are involved with being away and we made sure our time away was in the winter when the growth in the garden is minimal. When we got back everything was in order. We had our neighbours to pay our electric and water bills throughout so no need pay and wait to reconnect. We even put the Lada car battery on a trickle charge on a sunny windowsill with a solar charger - It was fully charged when we got back.

These problems with countryside residences are not restricted to Bulgaria of course, anywhere where nature can take hold is a headache.
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Bulgarian Family Trip to the Yambol Cemetery

There was a clue yesterday evening as I got back from my labours on the city farm. Galia had been to the shop and brought back with here lots of sweets, biscuits, cake bars and fruit. I know that these are given as gifts to people on special occasion and tomorrow was one of those days.

Early tomorrow morning we were to go to a Yambol cemetery to visit Galia's Baba's grave. She died 22 years ago and each year the family visit on this anniversary to tidy up, place new flowers and shrubs, give a blessing, light candles, water and give Baba a drink of wine.

Our 86-year-old current Baba was to come with us; we missed the occasion last year in the UK.

We loaded up the Lada with all the flowers and shrubs, that were picked from our own garden rather than being bought. A good supply of water, a bottle of home made wine, some Bulgarian gardening hand tools and the food bought the day before packed in five plastic bags to be presented to today's family visitors to the grave were also loaded up.

We arrived at the same time as the sun that was now beating down on us. Now our Baba insisted we park the car outside the cemetery grounds, as we would have had to pay one Bulgarian leva for entry. She would much rather buy a loaf of bread with this money that she felt would be ill spent. It was nearly had a kilometre to Baba's grave as young Baba stopped every 100 metres to draw breath.

Now I have done this before over the last two years with Galia who attends her late husband's grave each year. I knew the routine and the rituals so nothing surprised me today. The fact that no one felt sad or slightly morbid with lots of talking joking and generally normal bouncy behaviour was normal and I felt quite at ease with this mood this year.

All the graves have pictures of the deceased on the head stone, many is not most with the husband and wife in the same grave, some with whole families of up to five or six. Some graves have sculptured masks of the dead on the headstone, usually a more important figure, but in general in true socialist style every grave area is the same with slight variations of headstone style. All done in a reserved and respectful manner and always understated, no extroverts allowed here.

Beneath each headstone is a base stone with a cavity cut out. This has a glass front and a metal door at the back, which is padlocked entry to a cavity. This is a space for personal possessions and effects are stored, for instance a photograph of the family they had left behind or a book etc., which is probably why it is locked. tis can be seen through the glass at the front. Also the candles that are lit each year is usually placed in side a little hand built shelter to protect from the wind, but most are of an old oil can with one side cut out as they site permanently on the grave browned by the years of rust.

We finally got there and all three of us set about tidying the grave up, it took a good half an hour of graft to get everything looking spic and span. Just as we finished other members of out family turned up - 'Well timed!' we said as we wiped the sweat of our brows after slaving away with weeds and planting in this now blazing April sun. We all exchanged the bags of food goodies, each of us lit a candle and placed it in the freshly dug soil on the grave and said a prayer as we watched the candles burn lower.

We then each took bottle of water and poured it over the grave in a cross motion and exactly the same was done with the bottle of wine saying another small prayer whilst doing it. A few minutes of talking over the grave, again very happily and joyful conversations about when young Baba was going to join her mother whereas we all agree that she would have to lose weight before she passes away as she wouldn't fit in the grave for one and her pension wasn't enough to cover the cost of a tractor to lay here to rest. Like I said, there is no sorrow involved on these occasions, it is almost like another celebrations and of course food and drink involved.

We talked our way out of the cemetery grounds and took Baba for the first time in her life to a big supermarket, Kaufland. She pushed a supermarket trolley for the first time in her life, knocking quite a few people out of the way during the learning process. We only got a loaf of bread there, but spent over an hour talking to people we knew who worked there, this is normal.

So back home and the day is half gone as we tuck into the bag of goodies presented to us including some lovely home made cake on of the family had baked yesterday (riddled with local home grown walnuts!) Mmmm!

Why no photographs taken you might ask? It has nothing to do with respect, as you might be thinking. I took the camera only to find that the batteries were dead when getting there; perhaps I should have buried them and said a prayer while I was there!
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Recession Hits Bulgarian Family Business

Recession Hits Bulgarian Family BusinessThe recession continues to hit the world hard and here in Bulgaria we are all feeling the pressure of an economy that was frail to start with.

Up until her operation, Galia worked for her brother who owns a boiler factory. He started his business repairing boilers in his garage and then got his own premises a few years ago. He designed his own boiler systems which are wood burning/electric combination shower units and started manufacturing them with a small workforce.

It is very much a family business with his son, daughter, and sister Galia working there as well as having taken on Galia's son for a short spell last year and has even offered me work there before now.

Over the last few years the business had flourished, the workforce grew to employing over 30 people and they are the sole supplier of these units to every major town and city in Bulgaria as well as export to Greece. Romania and Russia. Over the last 18 months the business had build a new factory premises, a brand new warehouse with the aid of a 6 figure bank loan to cope with the increase in demand, this was completed just before Christmas

Recession Hits Bulgarian Family BusinessToday, there are worrying times for this business, the orders have diminished and the workforce is down to around 5 people. Galia, who was due to return to work this month, now has no job to go back to. Even though she is family there is no order for here to process and administer. The loans to the bank still have to be paid for the new factory and although there is still a trickle of business things are on a knife-edge.

We just all hope that things turn around and that the orders pick up again later in the year. the factory needs business to pay for the loans and of course employ a local workforce who now find themselves struggling with no work.

I have seen this develop on a day to day basis as I used drop Galia off to the factory in the morning and pick here up in the evening and even now as I work on the factory farm on a daily basis.

Recession Hits Bulgarian Family BusinessFor someone who has worked all his life building up a small business from scratch, then to find that the carpet has been pulled from under his feet is hard to accept. We all hope and pray that the business pulls through - people do need boilers, boilers repaired and replacements. The products they manufacture are fantastic contraptions although mainly used by Balkan countries. There will always be a demand so hopefully the smaller sales won't drop further and may be enough to see them through.

It is not good news at all and just highlights what is happening not only on our doorstep here in Bulgaria, but worldwide, that fact is no comfort to anyone though.
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Skalitsa Springing Into Action

Skalitsa Springing Into ActionIt seems quite unbelievable that now from worrying about not being able to grow crops this season to now having two plots and other that I can take up if I wish. There is now a never-ending supply of food making resources at my disposal.

The Skalitsa farmhouse is a weekend project well under way, the Yambol town plot is also in progress, but the third offering was from my brother who has a home in a village 15 kilometres from Yambol. I have pruned all his vines this week, but had to decline managing the rest of his extensive grounds as this is too much for me as well as the time and cost of travel is not practical.

Skalitsa Springing Into ActionSo this weekend arrived and the forecast was warm and sunny and the forecast was right for a change! Galia and I arrived to a display of colour that just made us gasp. the tulips where now in full bloom and a carpet of red on the fringe of the garlic bed under the vine trellises. What a difference 5 days has made as the greenery had now come into play on the field and the onions and garlic now clearly visible on the plot that was planted not so long ago.

Within ten minutes I was in my blue village outfit and working away on the land preparing for the sweet corn, melons and carrots. In my element was an understatement as Galia looked on at this crazy Englishman sweating away with his labours breaking up the soil in preparation for the honey melons that were laid a few hours later. These were sown and plastic bottled put over the top weighed down with a brick creating mini greenhouses and will probably remain for a few weeks until they greet the hotter weather towards the end of the month. This is the Bulgarian way and now mine.

Skalitsa Springing Into ActionThen two beds of sweet corn were prepared, both had to be square to aid cross pollination and set regimented with enough space between for the weeding that will be needed throughout the season. Again, this was quite hard work and that was the buzz for me and the mystery for Galia who again thought I was possessed with my eagerness.

Skalitsa Springing Into ActionGalia helped with the sowing after the groundwork had been completed, three corn seeds per hole as an insurance; the strongest on germination will just remain. Again, all these crops don't need daily watering and should survive 4-5 days without any supplementary water.

Carrots were sown at the back of the strawberry patch and watermelons at the front of the house where a bit of space was found. The soil isn't too good there so I don't expect a bumper crop, but there's nowhere else now with all the farming areas filled.

In the summerhouse the tomato and cucumber seeds had germinated with this warm weather and they would be taken back to the Yambol plot with their thirst for water. All is under control and it feels great.

Skalitsa Springing Into ActionThe vines are now weeping as we sit in the sun under the trellises being dripped on, we just move to avoid them never every getting annoyed, this is spring, this is nature starting another cycle gathering up momentum, this is a wonderful feeling watching it happen before us.

Galia loves flowers as she gathers bunches to take back to Yambol for Baba. What a treat and all for free! That’s the beauty of it all, no reliance on anyone but ourselves and nature.
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The Worms That Turned To Bulgaria

The Worms That Turned To BulgariaWhen I first decided to move to Bulgaria it was never my intention to just have a home there as a holiday home. What is the point of having a farmhouse with land for crops and animals just for a couple of weeks a year - Totally impractical, many others people do though and it has brought about major headaches and inherent problems which I plan to talk about in another post.

In my case all that knew me in the UK thought this was a crazy idea and that I should carry on teaching, then retire like any other normal person. The thought of delaying this for another ten years was not something I felt that I could have managed. I knew within myself that reaching pension age and remaining sane and in good health was bigger risk than taking my chances moving now.

With this view there was only one or two close friends who knew that knew I had to do this. Everyone else, including most of my family thought differently the my closest allies. The idea of buying a home in the Bulgarian countryside was mad, even a ridiculously low prices and to actually move the permanently was even crazier.

The decision was made and I was effectively 'blacklisted' and labelled a 'madman' by many. Funnily enough though, all the strongest critics where those who knew nothing about Bulgaria let alone have been there.

'What the hell are you going there for? What happens if you're ill? How will you survive without money? You can't speak Bulgarian! You're be back in a few months, wait and see! These were some of the comments made to me before I left. Yet one of my brothers is an expatriate in Cyprus and that was considered a wise move. It wasn't the fact that I was moving abroad that was wrong to many, but moving to Bulgaria was wrong and that was judged purely on ignorance!

The worms that turned is the only way I can described what happened once I was here. Most people who have had the courtesy to come to Bulgaria to see me have now seen what I saw and dreamed of. Some of my most fierce family critics have now bought homes here both in neighbouring villages and in my home village of Skalitsa. Two of my brothers have bought houses in the same street, one is now a direct neighbour of mine and they both want to live the home growing village life next to me.

It is so strange that now I have family from the UK that want to live right next to me, this is how much they were impressed with the lifestyle and the people here. They have also seen a changer in me, less stressed not only from a good woman by my side but the slower lifestyle. Before I moved to Bulgaria, some of my family were hardly on speaking terms with me, now we may be living as a bigger family unit here in the near future. How strange it has come to this and Galia is part of that reason.

Apart from some of my family who are so narrow minded that they think that unless you have money you are no good, they all love Galia to bits. They often tell me how lucky I am to have her and how unlucky I was with money oriented and material based women in the UK in the past. My previous partner I realise now, didn't really care for me, but just the money I earn to maintain an unsustainable flamboyant lifestyle.

Well the die is cast and my thoughts turn to whether I want my family living next to me here. I didn't leave the UK to get away from family that's for sure, so I'm quite at ease with that. It's not as if Galia and I are going to be living with them after all. We will just have to see how it goes.

Photograph from http://12121.hostinguk.com/

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Skalitsa Village Farm - Planning Crops

Back to the Skalitsa farmhouse and jobs on the farm were waiting. There had to be potatoes sown (yes more). Not knowing what the weather was like we knew that generally it is always different from the Yambol weather even though just 35 kilometres away and we never usually know until we get there.

Arriving is always exciting here in the village, it had been six days since I was last here and the onions and garlic were making a move skywards already, the tuliups had began to open their head and the bird life was deafening around us. A stork had already taken up residence in a local telegraph pole and the whole scene was about to burst into life. Galia now having seena stork placed here Martenitsi on a lilac tree with the others we had put there from the past years.

Looking at the ground, there must have been a lot more snow yesturday than in Yambol, it was too heavy to work with even though the very warm sun had been drying it out for a couple of days. Therer wasn't much I could do as far as planting and digging was concerned to my attention fell on the black covering that had lay on an extended part of the land for a year.

The plan was for each year to cover a section of land each year with the black nylon material to stop the grow of lucerne and couch grass, then each spring uncover it and another section will be ready for putting crops effectively the area for growing will be bigger each year.

As I uncovered the strip on turned it over for another strip to become ready next year, the area left was perfect now for digging over and planting, but far to wet, it would have to wait another day or so to dry out. Now this method is my own English method and looked upon as very strange from neighbours who query what I do. All they would do to prepare fallow land is plough it up with either a tractor or a horse and plough prior to winter, and another session prior to April, the frost would have also done the business and it's ready for planting in spring. I suppose I should succum to this method which was used in my first year here, but it's about getting this system organised and only being here a couple of days a week makes that quite tricky. Besides which, my neighbours would have certainly taken over telling me that the whole area should be farmed - Not what I want, but as usual they always know what is best for me.

By the end of the weekend and a little drier all the working areas were prepared for the sweetworn, two melon varieties and pumpkins. All these could go without water for up to a week and less stress on my part. Also the strawberry patch was weeded, there was a 70% success rate of the newly planted seedlings from the autumn, not too bad. the runners that form later in the spring will fill in the gaps so no worries there. Again, they can survive a while without water in the summer as they have established quite deep root bases now and they will be under the shade of the vines leaves overhead that will form a canopy by the end of spring.

It is all about organising and choosing the right crops for the right growing environment. Hopefully the thought that has gone for the Skalitsa farm will make me sleep better in Yambol knowing that the crops have a good chance of survival this year with minimum maintenance.
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