Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Logging On For Winter

So September is drawing to a close, the nights are getting longer and the days are getting shorter. The temperatures during the night plummet from where they sit during the day, but at least it has stopped raining for the time being. So all in all it is much the same as when we first arrived here, six years ago. Now we have been here for six years and two days, and I am still more at home here than I ever was in the UK. At this time of year thoughts start to focus on the up coming winter, and what preparations need to be made. Some might think that we are a little bit premature in our thinking, but we are not the only ones. In the village the walnut trees are being raided, any fruit and vegetables that the ladies in the village can lay their hands on are being compoted and stored away in jars ready for winter. We would compot too, and one day we will learn how, but in the mean time our fruit and vegetables from the garden are going into one of the freezers. Living in a small village does get you used to adopting a siege mentality, and everyone is like a proverbial squirrel stashing food away for the winter while we still can.

Even the people responsible for the power lines have been busy in the village. Each year they go round in their truck with the cherry picker on the back and cut down tree branches from around the power lines. Each year they seem to forget us, so we sit here reading while they have turned the power off and we don't get the benefit. So the following day risking life and limb I have had to get the ladders out and sort out the offending branches of the walnut tree out the front of our house. I wouldn't mind so much but I could actually see where branches were pushing against the cables. So if we were to get more strong winds we might well have ended up with a broken power line. Also with the weight of snow on branches above the cables there is another possibility of damage being caused that way. So defying death and nose bleeds I am perched at the top of the ladder 'trimming' the offending branches out of the tree. maybe scalping one side of the tree might be more accurate, but I am hoping that it will do for next year as well.

The next thing on our list of things to do was to sort out firewood. Now seeing as how we have wooded areas all round us, and the wood lorries are constantly shuttling backwards and forwards, I didn't foresee there being any problems. After all there has been no problems in previous years. So yesterday I went round to the mayor's office to arrange a delivery. I spoke with the mayor's secretary and explained what I wanted, and one of the village women started saying about documents. So there is me a bit baffled, wondering what on earth this document is. So the woman goes off and gets her document. So I have now seen a document, now I wanted to know do I need a document and if so where do I get one from. Maybe it was a new thing that I was unaware of, so I had the mayor's secretary talking about something in one ear and this other woman talking about something else in the other ear. Their voices were going up and up as they tried to make themselves heard over the other, and I'm stuck between the two getting more and more confused. All I wanted was to arrange a delivery of some firewood, why was that so difficult?

Knowing that the secretary's son lives opposite to us, and his wife speaks some English I thought that it might be easier if Emi got involved. At least that way I might actually get wood organised this side of Christmas. So after locking the mayor's office up we wandered down to Emi and Said's house. After shouting and hollering over fences and walls, and rattling the gate they decided that Emi wasn't there. Looking at the time she might be at the pensioner's club waiting for the school bus. So the secretary returned to the mayor's office and that left just two of us to head for the club. Thankfully not only was  Emi there, but also Petya. Eventually it turned out that the document the woman was ranting on about is for those who claim some form of social benefit, so why on earth she thought I ought to have one is beyond me. Maybe she wanted to sell me her document. For the life of me I couldn't understand why if a document was actually needed, how come none of the foreigners in the village were made aware of the fact. Anyway Petya and Emi explained that in the morning I was to go and see the mayor and order the wood. Much the same as I had done in previous years, and pretty much what I thought that I had done until the 'woman' began mentioning documents.

So this morning I return to the mayor's office and actually speak with the mayor. I explained what I wanted, and checked on the price. The price was the only thing that tallied between yesterday and today. The mayor, bless her was straight on to one of her many mobile phones sorting it all out for me, explaining where I lived, how much I wanted and what price she had quoted. My next question was when would it be delivered, today or tomorrow? The answer was about 10 minutes. So thanking the Mayor I returned home, and opened up the drive way gates to await the delivery. I had managed to do some of my daily 'poo-patrol', when a tractor and trailer full of logs turned up driven by Ivan. The first thing he did was shake my hand before speaking on his mobile, the gist of it being that he knew who I was, he has known me for more than five years and if he had been told who the wood was for he would have known where to bring it anyway. Once I had handed over the cash the wood was emptied into the driveway, and Ivan was off making more deliveries round the village.

The price of wood seems to have gone down this year, or maybe we are slightly earlier ordering it. Last year it was 55 Leva a cubic metre and this year it was 50. This wood is still quite fresh, and as you can see the leaves are still green. This will all be cut into cheeses and go up under the barn to dry out ready for next year. Previously I have left it in metre lengths to dry out, but the chainsaw seems to prefer cutting the logs at this stage rather than when they are drier. Also some of the bigger logs are a lot easier to move in cheeses in a wheel barrow, rather than trying to wrestle with the full metre length. Our neighbour Said once again came and gave me a hand moving the logs up the drive and stacking them out of the way. It certainly makes things a lot easier for me, and he didn't want paying for his help either, I did insist that he had money for a packet of cigarettes though. Many people will leave their logs stacked outside their houses, and I am often surprised that no one ever goes and helps themself. Fortunately we don't have anywhere flat enough, where we can leave a pile of logs maturing, so we stack and dry our logs up under the barn where the dogs and the cats can keep their eyes on them.

I am guessing that like most people, when I was living in the UK, I never had any reason to use a chainsaw. So once we moved out here it was a new skill which I had to learn. Most of what I learnt is through watching the locals, and learning what not to do. One thing you do learn by living in a village is how to look after your chainsaw. This is now my 4th one, surprisingly the electric version outlasted the other two petrol ones. I have been told that the fuel is quite bad here, and when you mix the 2 stroke oil in you do it into 4 litres of fuel and not the recommended 5 litres. This helps to prevent the piston overheating.

Every so often you will need to sharpen the teeth on the saw, and most people do this with a round file. There are various files that you can buy, but the cheapest ones might just as well be made of cheese for all of the time that they will last. It is a lot more sensible to buy your files from either your local Stihl or Husqvarna shops, they might cost a bit more but at least they will do the job. An even better option is to have a couple of spare chains, which can be swapped over is you are doing a lot of cutting. They do say that googles, gloves and hearing protection should be worn, and that safety flip-flops are not ideal footwear. Most things are common sense, but if in doubt get someone who is used to working with a chainsaw in to do whatever needs doing. If it is some of the village lads it is probably best not to watch.


  1. Thanks for your recent blog. Good to get information from the chalk face. Hope we get to meet up sometime soon, been resident in BG 3 years and I always look forward to the winters

    1. You are most welcome Liz, I hope that you find some of these blogs useful and informative. One thing that I will say about winter is that so far no two have been alike, and no-one knows what the coming one holds in store for us

  2. A very warm welcome to Donald, another follower of the Blog. Thank you for taking the time to read these blog articles, hopefully you will find some of them useful, and you are most welcome to share them with friends and family :o)

  3. I've just returned to Blighty after the epic drive to and from our house in Burya. Thankfully the house is still standing and just looking a little sorry for itself after 6 years neglect. Neighbours all seem tremendously friendly. Now planning on moving over full time next spring, fingers crossed it survives till then! I may have to purchase a firearm of some sort however and stake out the attic, the rodents sounded like they were break dancing up there. Spent most evenings walking up and down bashing the ceiling with a broom and shouting.

    Can I ask roughly how much wood you go through in winter? I know it depends on many factors but I've no idea what to expect. I'm thinking of buying 2 years worth first year so there's time for next years to dry. I suppose too much is better than too little.

  4. Sometimes the quantities that they are sold in varies too Tom. In this village wood is sold by the cubic metre, elsewhere it is by the metric tonne. By weight is more reliable as you are not paying for empty space. As for how much we use per winter you are correct in saying that it varies, normally on whether its a mild or harsh winter.We have yet to experience two winters the same.
    One thing that we did when we first got here was buy 20 cube, and as we used part of it through the winter, the next year we only bought 7 cube. The remaining wood lasted about two winters and the additional 7 cubes topped it up nicely.
    The visitor in your attic might be a member of the Marten family which are all over the place here. They are vicious little buggers and if you intend keeping chickens you would want to get rid of it. Having said that at this time of year it could also be squirrels up there.
    Spring is a good time to move as you then get the remainder of Spring, some of summer (before it gets too hot in the day) and autumn to sort yourself out

  5. Hmmm I see, thanks. Will order plenty then. We have a couple of walnut trees in the garden, one is particularly huge and taking over and I must admit to looking at it and thinking firewood...wrong I know!

    I think there's probably numerous species visiting the loft. I did think something bigger than a rat was up there as it seemed to come in with a fair crash bang wallop one evening, as though it had taken a couple of roof tiles with it. Noticed also that most of the windows upstairs had little paw prints under them on the plaster, as though something had been looking for a way out. Might be able to start a wildlife documentary when we're there! With the ritual bedtime bashing and shaking of bedding to make sure there's none of those blummin centerpedes, along with the mammals upstairs, could make for an interesting first couple of weeks! :-)

    1. All part of the joys of living over here Tom. We found that the hardest thing to get used to was the change in the pace of life. Even everyday things like walking to the shops we would be forever walking into the back of people as they sauntered along. Taking the slower pace of life means that you do get to notice more, and you might actually get to spot your attic lodger

  6. Funny you mention that. I noticed the sauntering. One occasion I met a chap on my way out for a walk, and then overtook him again on the way back. The locals probably wondered why I was in such a hurry. I also learned it's impossible to sneak about after dark without setting the entire village dog population off :-)

    It was the first time I'd properly experienced village life and it was wonderful. Not many cars, apart from a neighbor who was still running an old Trabant, whose cats would run off down the road to greet him at the sound of it coasting down the lane. Introduced myself to a little Turkish chap who walked his goats past the house every morning. That's about as busy as it got. Can't wait to get back :-)

  7. I live in southern Bulgaria, near the small town Harmanli. I come from Finland, but moved here from Greece last November.
    My heart is bleeding as all logs are made to firewood. So I will build a small log-saw and take out those boards that I can and make some furniture. The rest will be firewood and the saw-dust will go to my outhouse toilet. Great stuff for that purpose!
    Here they sell these 1 meter logs per metric ton. So 1.000 kg:s costs 50 lev.

  8. Thanks for your blog. Good to get information about the chainsaw. There is another information that I would like to add on. Instead of using ladder, we can actually did the work using truck rental servicesso that it is more convenient and safer for us to trim the branches and we can use the truck to transport the branches for disposal as well.