Monday, 25 November 2013

Is Winter Just Round The Corner?

Well once again it has reached that time of year, and people are preparing for the onset of winter. It seems difficult to believe but the temperatures were in the 20s last week. Not so long back people were saying just how hot it was. Depending on who you give credence to, the coming winter is either meant to be the coldest on record or it is going to be freeze and thaw with the coldest weather in January. This will be our sixth Bulgarian winter and each one has been different. So far records have been broken, but that has been for the highest temperatures at this time of year. If you look at the forecast shown here you will notice a couple of things. The temperatures are expected to continue with their downward trend, and the dreaded s*** word is being mentioned from tomorrow onwards. The wind is now coming from a more northerly direction, and has a bit of a raw edge to it. We do know that something is going on with the weather as all three dogs and six cats are now indoors, which is surely a more reliable source of information.

So maybe today is the final day of sunshine, but who can try and second guess what the weather has in store for us. It is like the other day we were enjoying bright blue skies and sunshine, we had to nip into Polski Trambesh to get something for Yolanta. The weather was fine until we got to the other side of Orlovets. Then it was like driving into a cloud, and with the dampness the temperature plummeted. Fortunately we have got into the habit of carrying jackets with us in the car wherever we go, we even had a spare for Yolanta. We got our bits and pieces and had a coffee, but on the trip back the cloud of doom had reached Vinograd. Later that same evening that same cloud had swallowed the hilltop, and it was as though everything was wrappedin damp cotton wool. No wonder the animals wanted the fire lit. We are not doing too bad so far this 'winter' we have only lit it 3 times, and the rest of the time we have just used the gas fires to take the chill off.

When the fog eventually clears we have enjoyed blue skies. These have enabled us to continue doing the final few jobs ready for winter. There has already been one 'fatality' that I have to report, and that is my splitting axe. After more than five years of faithful service the head is rather loose on the shaft. I am still able to use it but I have to keep stopping and wedging the head back in position. I tried sealing it in position by using glue from a hot glue gun, but that didn't work too well, so I will have to devise another method of securing the two parts together. I do have an emergency backup axe, just in case my running repairs keep on failing. One thing you do learn is to try and plan for various scenarios, and how you will attempt to overcome them. One thing to bear in mind is that the sunshine will return.

Today has been a baking day here, and we have made sausage rolls, cheese and bacon puffs, apple turnovers and an apple crumble. Most of these are destined for the freezer, now that they have been officially approved by the chief taster. In case of power cuts they can be brought out and placed on a cake cooling tray on top of the petchka and heated up that way. We also have a camping kettle which will also fit there so we can always have hot drinks. It is quite surprising what you can learn from other people and how they cope, all too often they are simple little things that you hadn't even considered. One thing to keep in mind is that the Bulgarians have survived much harder winters than we would have been used to, and they did so without many of the modern gadgets that we take for granted. So we can all learn from our neighbours, which is one of the best things about small village life, there is still a community spirit. So everyone seems to look out for everyone else.

In the last week I have noticed that I feel more and more like hibernating, or is that curling up with a good book? Maybe it is just the thought of winter looming on the horizon, or the still lengthening night times. Often the night time sky is so clear that it seems as though a handful of diamond dust has been scattered on a black velvet cloth. Out in the middle of nowhere there is very little light pollution so it is easy to watch satellites and stars, it just gets a wee bit chilly. So for all of the readers of our blog I hope that your plans for winter are all on course. If you do have elderly neighbours, or those who are on their own, please keep an eye, or at least an ear, out for them. One of my next tasks is to make a seed cake for the local birds, I always used to buy them but this year I thought that I would attempt to make my own. Fortunately the cats have lost interest with trying to catch the pork skin that we have hanging up, so if I am lucky they will do the same with the seed cake. We have also said that during winter we will try teaching our nearest neighbours some English, they will also try to improve our basic Bulgarian, so wish us luck.

We have already posted these small posters on the village website to start gettng people used to the different languages. Whether it will help or not remains to be seen.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A Walk On The Wildside

It is with deep regret that we have to announce the sad demise of Summer. Greatly loved by many, and will be sorely missed. In recent times Summer has defied the prognosis by experts and has lasted much longer than originally predicted.

Yes folks it seems as though the gypsy summer has finally come to an end. We shouldn't complain too much as it has lasted until nearly the middle of November. I dare say that many of us could only dream of such a thing happening in the UK. In the last few weeks I can only remember a couple of frosty mornings and they haven't been recent events either. I have to admit that we have had to resort to the gas fire a couple of times but we have resisted the temptation to light the wood burners.

The past couple of days have been rather gloomy looking with grey skies and no real hint of sun. I think that the official term is 'claggy'. Even today it looked as though we had a touch of mist up on the hill. When we went into Gorna we discovered it to be the top of a cloud. We couldn't see down over the hill towards Polski, and it was getting thicker the lower we went. It made me quite glad that I had decided to go for my walk round the village on Sunday afternoon, as this would appear to be the final blue sky day for a while. I was going to head off towards one of the lakes, but as it was only me I changed my mind and decided to see where a farm track heading off towards some woods would take me. I even kept my ears open in case hunters were out and about, in which case I would have revised my plans again. Fortunately I didn't hear anything apart from the sounds of children playing somewhere in the village.

I was quite surprised to see that both bees and butterflies were still out and about. Maybe they were doing the same as me and enjoying the last of the summer sunshine. In one way I will be quite glad for the temperature to drop for a few days. Mainly due to the fact that I have at least one wasp nest up in the attic, and I am hoping that the cold will keep the wasps sleeping while I remove their nests. I don't really fancy trying to do what some people might think of as dance moves or a ninja workout in a restricted area under the roof. Maybe I will be lucky and they will have all have left home, although I somehow doubt that.

Anyway as I was wandering about it suddenly struck me that over the past few days all of the leaves seem to have been stripped from most of the trees. So everything is looking very autumnal, and getting themselves ready for winter. The various forecasts have been murmering about how this winter will be breaking records. They haven't actually said which records, but to my knowledge they have also said the same for the last few years. This will be winter number 6 for us, and all of the previous winters have been different. We can certainly say that it will be cold, there will be snow, but we can't say just how much or when, or even how long it will last.

It is surprising the things that you stumble across when you are just out wandering around. This structure was at the edge of woodland overlooking the village. I have a feeling that it has something to do with the villages water supply as I have seen Nikolai the waterman returning from  this direction on occasion. Looking at the state of it though it seems to have been there for quite some time, but with the breather tubes it might be the villages emergency water reservoir. Although an old cold war bunker complex sounds just as likely. One day we might be able to find out more of the village's history, and others have also asked about this in the village's Facebook group.

Even the other day I found out that some of the woods round the village were part of an experiment to find out which planting method, and which trees, returned the best yield. I think that looking at the regimented planting here I might have found one of the trial areas. Even though there have been some trees which have fallen over the years no one seems to have ventured there to acquire them. Maybe that might have something to do with the fact that it would be quite difficult to get a horse and cart up to that area. It was nice and peaceful up there in amongst the trees, with the only sound being my own feet moving through the dry leaves.

Round about this time the sun had started going down, and as the sun went down it was taking the temperature with it. So I headed out from between the trees and out onto the heathland and headed for home and a coffee. Others must have noticed the temperature change as I could see smoke starting to corkscrew up from quite a few chimneys. The good news is that Summer will return, we might have to wait a few months but it will be worth it.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Tales From The River Bank

A Visitor
European Tree Frog
Firstly a word of thanks from me. Earlier in the year I set this blog a target of 25,000 hits by Christmas. Well here we are just into the beginning of November and we have already exceeded that figure. This is all due to you having taken the time from your busy schedules to read my ramblings and musings. The number of people who follow these blogs has also increased,  so a very big thank you to these kind people.

November is always a busy month as the work getting ready for the winter continues. Our firewood has now all been cut up into 'cheeses', we have been out splitting a fortnight's supply. It might sound a bit odd only doing enough for a fortnight, but during the depths of winter splitting more wood gives me some exercise every day. So what was previously split will have dried nicely, and will be replaced by the freshly split stuff. I don't know if this is the best way to do it but it seems to work for us.

The garden has been stripped, and made ready for the winter. The veg plot has all been turned and fed, the garden has been weeded and partially turned. The majority of the trees have finally shed their leaves, and now look so bare. This has meant several bonfires, especially with the amount of leaves which always seem to accumulate. I have even been up ladders sawing branches down from a walnut tree as they could potentially have damaged the power lines coming into the house. I even checked that it was ok to do so with the Kmet. Normally E-On would have done this but since they sold out to Energo Pro our village seems to have been ignored for such matters. While stood out the front talking with one of the neighbours and the Kmet, it got round to the internet and they both seemed surprised that we also use Facebook. They were quite eager that we sent them friend requests, I did enquire if there was such a thing as a village Facebook group. There wasn't, but there is now and it now has over 60 members. Mind you I haven't a clue who half of them are, but they do seem to know the village and like the photos which have been put up. We do try to post in both languages. Maybe not everything we post in Bulgarian is grammatically correct, but we do get plenty of Brownie points for trying.

However, we have still managed to find time to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the countryside. The weather, up until today, has been glorious. Supposedly it has even been breaking records for temperatures in November. So we make the most of it when we can. Several of us decided that it would be nice to go out for a Sunday afternoon Ramble. We had often passed a track on our way into Polski Trambesh, and so we decided that would be a fine place to explore. Despite the fact that we haven't experienced any rain for a while it was surprising the amount of water which was still sat in some of the potholes. One of the good things about walking alongside a river is that the going is normally quite flat. Also rambling gives you the chance to see things that you might otherwise have missed, like dragonflies. Although Sod's Law did mean that by the time I had my camera sorted out they had buggered off. Unfortunately we also got to see several piles of building rubble spoiling the countryside.

So to make up for it here is a photo of some cows, who were also enjoying the autumn sunshine. Fishing is definitely a popular pasttime over here, and you will often see them lining the river banks, or fishing from the various bridges. The people that is, not the cows as they seem more content just mooching along eating grass. I don't know if anyone else has noticed but herds seem to be getting bigger here. Not only cows, but also sheep and goats.

For the most part we were able to enjoy the silence, apart from three lads who passed us on a quad bike and a couple of trail bikes. Thankfully that noise was short lived, but we did see them when we drove home coming down from Orlovets. So there has to be a way through to there, maybe we will discover that another time. We were all quite happy to enjoy the peace and tranquility. The gnats and midges we could have done without, but they are to be expected along the rivers. Heading away from the river there was plenty of sun scorched yellow grasses climbing the gentle slopes of the hills. This surprised me as I didn't think that this summer had been as hot as last year. Mind you, for all I know this grass is possibly meant to look like this.

At the top of a hill there was a rather curious structure made from wood. Have American Indians decided to pitch their teepees in the middle of rural Bulgaria? Perhaps Giants have been using it as an easel. Or perhaps it is just something to do with hunting. Whatever its purpose none of us really felt like traipsing up to the top of the hill just to have a closer look. Idle speculation seemed a much better idea.

Once the sun started sinking the temperature soon begins to drop, so all to soon it was time to retrace our steps and head  back to where the cars had been parked. None of us had over exerted ourselves, but we all felt much better for having a little bit of gentle exercise in the fresh air. We enjoyed it so much that we have decided to have another similar ramble at the weekend. That is providing that the weather picks back up, which it is forecast to do. Temperatures in the 20s during November are not to be turned down, and although the shorts might have been packed away the t-shirts are still in use. Some of the things that we saw made me wonder if Mother Nature wasn't a bit confused by this warm weather. So is it Autumn, or have we bypassed Winter and gone straight into Spring?