A Peach Of An Idea For The Bulgarian Village Farm

Peach tree blossomsPeach Tree Blossom

It was a great idea today that sprung to mind when slaving away on the sticky mud trying to prepare the soil for the cold season that should have been on us, but the winter has been delayed for some reason with the warm weather that is set to continue this coming week.

Over the last few years the stress of living in the town and playing catch up in the village at weekends during the growing season has been something I have tried to eliminate. Growing crops that don’t need water every day was a tactic that didn’t work. I needed the help of my neighbour to bale me out in the really hot weather and they had their own crops to take care of. This was another stress I could do without.

So, today the thoughts were all about how to overcome this and trees were the answer. Peach trees were the answer to be exact. The area in which the produce is grown each year could take nine peach trees and of course they need no daily or bi-daily attention. Spaying is needed and of course keeping the jungle down around them, but this could easily be done each weekend without the need for assistance from neighbours.

Peaches are common in Bulgaria especially in this area and are eaten fresh, as a conserve in winter and used for rakia. The need for weekly watering in the summer is essential and they will be planted within reach of the well water so no worries there either, Once they are established after around 3-4 years, the shade they provide will quell the undergrowth and less maintenance is needed. The fruit will also be that much bigger.

The thought of planting vines took hold for a while, but event though the area is perfect and they are easily managed the cost of setting this up was too expensive for use. This made our decision so much easier, alongside the birds that would steal our crop each year with us not there for five days of the week.

We will seek advice from peach growing maestro when we get back to work as they have them there, newly planted last year. We hope to get some saplings soon and of course cheaper than what they retail for in bazaars. This is the Bulgarian way.

Working With Bulgarians For Bulgarians - And Happy To Do So

Woriing With Bulgarians For Bulgarians - And Happy To Do So

For an expatriate to work in Bulgaria it is common to assume that they are working for an expat owned company and therefore serving an expatriate community. I would say from experience that apart form the retired fraternity the vast majority of expatriates that come over here to make a living a re doing so on the profits out of other expatriates that are here or have plans to live here. It is a recently created economy in Bulgaria that is completely isolated from the real Bulgarian economy and to be quite honest is self destructed on the first sign of a recession.

The idea of coming over here and reaping profits from other expatriates is a plan that is doomed for failure. Only the poorest expatiates come to Bulgaria as a rule and they do so on a tight budget that doesn’t cater for services other than cheap Bulgarian prices even at inflated rates for expatriates.

Having worked for expatriate here a few years ago, Galia and I knew after a short time that this doesn’t work as greed and exploitation of our services at Bulgarian rates was taken advantage of and contract were not honoured on many occasion and we lost out financially. Basically we could not trust the expatriates that we worked with, moreover there was no one we could trust. So working away from expatriates was the only solution. We were only after an income for a basic living and as we knew right from start that this was the only way to live in Bulgaria.

So, I now work for a Bulgarian company catering for Balkan clients at a Bulgarian minimum wage and not an expatriate in sight. It is physical work and my workmates are all Bulgarians who don’t speak a word of English, but we work as Bulgarians do. You need to be here to know how they work of course. We sweat out a 45-hour a week and this really makes the weekends a real treat and relief. My hands are raw and sore from the manual work I am faced with, but somehow I feel the need for pain with work here, after all, all the other workers must have the same pains why should I feel sorry for myself and be the only one to complain?

The air of redundancy looms over us all the time here. Only yesterday two employees were shown their card die to lack of orders on the products we make, they were taken on after me as it is last in first out, I’m the next to go if this continues. We live on a knife-edge with our jobs here, but we are luckier than most who don’t have jobs.

For now we will work with and for Bulgarians at least you know where you stand with them. There have been lots of new experiences taken on board in this vocation something that I feel very fortunate to be a part of. I hope it continues for a while yet, but work could well end here at any time with the ways things are at the moment.
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Another Bad Experience From Expatriates In Bulgaria

Another Bad Experience From Expatriatres In Bulgaria

I bumped into a couple of expatriates the other day and just couldn’t avoid it. Normally this doesn’t happen as if a see an expat or expat couple I just keep my mouth shut and like ships in the night that pass by unnoticed. This normally happens in supermarkets where expatriates normally shop, I know an expat straight away by the contents their shopping trolley therefore I am forewarned. I will give you an example of an expat shopping trolley contents that I saw only yesterday and yes I do have a photographic memory, but I forgot the cuddly toy!

  • 10 kg Pedigree Chum
  • 3 x Tins of tomatoes
  • 3 x Tins baked beans
  • Countless Amounts of crisps and crisp type snacks
  • A variety of English Tea
  • Frozen chicken
  • Frozen mince
  • Tomato sauce (Heinz)
  • 2 Boxes of tinned beers (Becks)
  • A couple of bottles of wine (Bulgarian)
  • Three loaves of bread (two for the freezer)
  • 10 sachets of instant soup (Maggie/Nestle)

This was the I have no grievance or hatchet to bury with most expatriates over here, but when I see things like this in their shopping trolley I wonder why the hell they are here. Cheap comes to mind straight away, they certainly have no desire to eat Bulgarian food other than the wine (which is cheap as well.) The thought was that apart from the wine, everything was what you could buy in Sainsburys or Tesco in the UK and even here it is roughly the same price and not a comparative equivalent! So the food is the same price as the UK in that respect.

The people I met had seen me a few times working in a Yambol office as a website administrator and they approached me and I just couldn’t avoid them even though I knew they were British. Like I said, I don’t have anything against expatriates here, some I know are very nice people, but I am here for Bulgaria not expat communities. As long as they respect where they are and don’t try and force their own culture on Bulgarians here that's fine. I was approached without any introductory politnesses being passed. The first introduction comment was “I know you, you’re English aren’t you? Why haven’t they got PG Tips here?"

Well two questions put to me and not being one for being rude I answered both calmly with “Yes” and “Because this is Bulgaria,” respectively. They took offence with this ssecond answer and began their attack on everthing here not adapted to the English culture, food, services etc.

I wanted to get away as I knew what was coming and I was right. Next, all I got was complaints and moaning about how Bulgaria is way behind the times and it was not good enough for Brits coming over here. It was as if they were blaming me for the lack of progress here as they commented on the work I did promoting the country to potential expatriates in my work, then letting them down when they take the bait as it wasn’t as perfect as is was made out to be. Far from wanted to argue with this aggressive couple, I was with Galia and out of a kind of respect for this couple didn’t talk Bulgarian but gave a signal that I “wanted out” here. She took the signal straight away and pushed our shopping trolley forward and on beckoned me to move. I made my excuses and followed her willingly. “Blagodahriya Gal,” were my next words as I thanked her for getting me out of the situation. Oh how I hate people like that was the instant thought in my mind and no matter how hard I tried to block it it was there fermenting all evening.

I just wish we didn’t have to shop in supermarkets, but we have to in our financial position, as certain things that are on promotion are far cheaper than elsewhere. That is the only attraction for us both here and of course it is directly en route to the way home from work.

Another very short moment in Bulgaria spoilt by non-Bulgarians. I will carry on my policy of non-communication with the expatriates I see here.

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More Time To Write At Weekends In Bulgaria

Winter warmth

I have found that weekends in the village farmhouse have become more relaxing right now. Not work on the land is needed and it is dark at just after 5:00 in the afternoon. Once the wood burner is lit and we have vacuumed and dusted the place there is nothing else to do other than chill out after a hard week of physical work. I forget sometimes how to wind down and now it is taking a bit of getting used to.

This is the festive season now approaching, not really with Christmas in mind at all, but for the village folk it is a time also to recover from the long growing season here which covers spring, summer and autumn, in fact in some parts harvesting is still going on, leeks, cabbages and even grapes are still lingering on. Only last week I helped a family member with their grape harvest. The distilling for rakia for which they are intended is booked for the 26th December!

So what does an active mind do for 5-6 hours in the dark winter evening at the weekend without Internet? I certainly am not into Bulgarian television, not because I don’t understand it, but because it is the worse form of television, it rubs me up the wrong way completely with Nestle adverts accounting for 50% of products on the interludes! I must admit I like the Bulgarian comedy and music programmes. We just the three main ‘free’ channels namely, BTV (who celebrated 50 years of broadcasting last week), Nova and Channel One. Everything else is mainly junk. We do not have cable or satellite due to the cost. Galia likes most that is on television, so it is on all evening and I just get more and more annoyed with the invasion of ‘bad’ products being washed into her head throughout! I certainly do not rule the roost in terms of what Galia wants to do in the evenings, and if she wants to watch television that’s fine. There isn’t anything else for to do and as we are both online with the Internet Sunday evenings through to Thursday evenings it is good that we both have a break from this. I have to add my most hated adverts apart from Nestle, that come from Coca Cola and Pepsi already doing their Christmas themes!

So what do I do now in the evenings at the farmhouse? It is a passion for writing that still begs to be done and that is now what I do. I have plans for another book to be written, this time on the recipes that I have tried and tasted in Bulgaria. It was touched on in my first book, but needs to be focussed on entirely in a book in it’s own right. I must have drawn up some 50 or so recipes already here and there, the only thing missing are the pictures that I have to work on, a bit difficult without a digital camera, but hopefully one will come to hand at some point. I’m sure it will sell better than my ‘Simple Treasures In Bulgaria’ as it is more geared towards a food loving public.

Finally, I don’t know why I was so hyped up and in a panic about not having the time to dedicate to writing a few weeks ago. This was of course during the most busy season of harvesting where there wasn’t enough hours in the day and then finding work which took up 45 hours a week just was a straw too much on the camel’s back (forgive me Kamila.) Right now I find myself having the time to post once a week, perhaps twice if I feel prolific enough and work on the new book planned in tandem.

Image by *Susie* via Flickr
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Still Picking Daily Produce For Lunch In Bulgaria

It is quite a bonus that even in mid November I am still picking fresh peppers and tomatoes from the factory farm daily for my lunch. Even though the main crops of tomatoes and peppers had been harvested and now stored for the winter, the growing continues alongside aubergines that are still being picked. How long these free lunch treats go on for I guess is in the hands of the weather. There is no forecast of sub-zero nights this week, so it will carry on I suppose – To Christmas? Who knows?

Cabbages have now been preserved are in a 240 litre barrel of salt water and some cut up peppers, green tomatoes and carrots and local herbs for salads through to April. A new batch of grape rakia was made last Tuesday, it took all night to distil with me loosing a complete night of sleep, but it was worth it with over 40 litres of 58% rakia now sitting. This should be ready to drink after being diluted with spring water once thirty days have passed, also with the addition of submerging mulberry wood for colour and cut apples dangling in a pair of tights. The quantity should therefore rise to around 45-47 litres. With the addition of the remainder of the previously distilled sliva rakia (30 litres) the rakia stock will be sure to last a year. So much for the taxing of home made rakia that exceeds 30 litres! I don’t know any Bulgarian who makes less that 30 litres and none who pay tax on excess of this.

Just in case you are interested the cost of making the 45 litres of 44% rakia is made up as follows:

  • 150 kg Grapes 45 leva
  • 20 kg sugar 28 leva
  • Rakia house fees 15 leva
  • Wood for the kazan 3 leva
  • Salt 0.15 leva
  • Bicarbonate of soda 2 leva
  • Sweets 2 leva
  • Flour for sealing the kazan 0.50 leva
  • Apples 3 leva

I bought the grapes from a friend at work and used raspberry flavoured hard-boiled sweets instead of coriander as an experiment. The total cost was 98.65 leva, say 100 leva with a little gas for transportation. This works out that one litre of home made rakia cost 2.22 leva which is about £1 or $1.50! The cheapest rakia in shops at 40% is priced at around 6-7 leva three time the cost and in most people’s opinion inferior. With this in mind you can see the appeal and why Bulgarian oppose the EU for trying to take this wonderful tradition say more a ritual, that remains in Bulgaria for the time being.

Perhaps this post is more pertaining to my Rakia Site, which has a poll running on whether tax should be paid on home made rakia.

In the meantime I hope to enjoy this last batch of rakia with family and friends with the stock of salads over the festive season and beyond. It is of course the life and soul of the Bulgarian kitchen table.

Sorry no pictures, still no digital camera right now.
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Tampons - An Inventive Bulgarian Alternative

Tampons - An Inventive Bulgarian Alternative

I know smoking is bad for you but here in Bulgaria it is considered normal to smoke and unusual not to. This will change as the EU grips Bulgaria by the throat and forces the people there not to smoke by raising the cost of cigarettes tenfold.

The cost of cigarettes has double in the last couple of years and is due to increase by another 43% in the New Year, so Bulgarians being Bulgarians find a practical way of dealing with this. The answer they have now is to roll their own cigarettes, which works out at around half the cost of factory made smokes. My partner uses filters in her rolled versions and this is where the tip comes in.

This weekend she ran out of filters so being a practical women she looks for something that could replace it as we were in the village with no shops that sold roll up cigarette accessories. It was that time of the month when potential baby producing women bleeds and she had some tampons in here handbag that dealt with it. Sunday morning I woke up and found one of these tampons cut into pieces. She had used her tampon as cigarette filters!

Well this is how it is in Bulgaria, such a practical people as ever with no scruples about dealing with a problem in whatever way works that lay in front of them. I must add that the tampon in question was unused! (In case you were wondering.)

It worked so well that my partner has decided to use tampons instead of conventional filters as it actually works out cheaper and works just as well. My advice of course is to give up smoking all together which would be a bigger saving, but this is Bulgaria and the smoking goes on.

Image via Wikipedia

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