Archive for August 31, 2010

The End of August

The BBC’s promise of rain has yet to materialise, and I have been without
water for two days. I should point out that this is not a rare occurence in Bulgaria, and normally I would not even mention it. However
this month I have been without water for 10 days in total and since it hasn’t rained my crops are not coping well.

My second lot of beans have shown themselves, they really do grow very quickly. They are also in need of water. I am planning a water collection and
storage device for next year, as we get a metre of snow every winter so just need to collect and store it. Swimming pool perhaps?

New beans coming through!

I have also been busy making repairs to the roof for when the weather turns colder. Or rather I should say I offered Osman a bottle of Rakia
to get on my roof and fill in a few cracks that had appeared this year. He weighs less than 50Kg I don’t!

Osamn on The Roof!

I have just picked todays peppers and found an aubergine in the midst. The typical recipe for aubergines here is to stuff them and bake them and
has the rather nice name of ‘exploding Imam’. It is too hot to bake anything at the moment though so this Aubergine will get put on a barbeque in the
coming days.

Fresh From the Garden!

See you all in September!

I Want Rain

It has not rained at all this month, which is quite typical for southern Bulgaria, although for a whinging ‘pom’ the novelty of 35C ‘hot and sunny’ everyday is starting to wane. I am not the only thing that has had enough of the sun. My garden (apart from the parts that get watered daily) is starting to resemble a desert scrubland, and the slightest spark would set it of in an inferno.

My two cats Dave & Alan think it is great, they lie around snoozing all day, which in the afternoons is pretty much all I am capable of. I have put the BBC’s weather widget on the home page so you see the weather in nearest town from me – It at last is showing cloud with maybe the possiblity of RAIN in after this weekend! Coming from Swansea, it is quite strange wanting it to rain!

As part of my self reliant living in Bulgaria, this is the time of year to be harvesting the tomatoes, peppers, and cucmbers and pickle, bottle and preserve in any way whatever you can from the garden. Before I came here, this always appeared a difficult task, and one with a large initial outlay. How wrong I was. If you have never bottled tomatoes before, do not be put off thinking this is an arduous task, or that you will have to buy expensive ‘Kilner’ jars to achieve any success. You old dolmio jar will work just fine.

The traditional recipe here is quite simple but works well. First you pass your tomatoes through a mill, which removes the skin and seeds (A juice machine would be perfect if you have one), the tomato juice is the set in a large pan and put over a high heat until boiling. Then simmer slowly as you prepare the rest. Peppers are cut into strips and lightly fryed until softened, as are onions and aubergenes, in what ever quantity you have spare. Add some oil, salt and pepper to tomatoes along with you peppers and pour into your jars whilst the mix is still very hot! Invert the jars and cover until cool (overnight).

I made over 100 jars last year, which when needed are heated and mixed with an egg which makes a creamy tomato base, which can either be eaten direct or used as a sauce with a meat of your choice. They successfully store for upto two years with no problems. Out of my 100 jars only 2 went bad. Not a Kilner in sight!

Beans, corn and lentils are dried (see weather above) in matter of days and then stored in jars (mice proof – much to the cats dislike) until needed. The only thing I have in my freezer is meat!

The Mosque in Fotinovo

As it is Friday and the middle of Ramadan, I thought it would be
interesting to attend the local mosque in Fotinovo with my good friend Hussain, who just so happens to be the Hodja (Imam). I
suppose this is like visiting church as a non believer but being brought as a guest of the vicar. I recognised a few of the attendees
from around the my village. All were keen to say hello – and ask for a lift back. It was just me and Hussain on the way out but I would
have a full car going back.

The morning started at 9 o’clock when we set out for Fotinovo. I didn’t know at the time that the service didn’t start until 12:30. This
appears to be a full morning, which had it not been the month of fasting would have been spent in the restaurant, and visiting the many cafes
of Fotinovo. Hussain, was adamant thogh that I would not miss out. Buying me coffee in two cafes, and trying to get me to eat wherever food
was available. I took the coffee but thought it might be a bit insensitive if I started filling my face with food when everyone else would be
waiting until the sun goes down before eating. Although I was quite tempted.

Before the service started there was plenty of time for me to have a guided tour of the mosque, which I was informed had been insitu for the last
450 years, and was still secretly active during Zhivkovs time when religion was not the done thing. He even had time to show me how to write my
name in Arabic. No I won’t be able to it again, too many squiggles no enough vowels. My name Dominic would be spelt D-M-Y-N-K. And I though Welsh
was bad!

I would have taken some pictures, but I was standing out like a swa thumb as it was with my blonde hair, attaching a camera to my face also I
thought would have been a bit rude. If you want to see the mosque from above though search for Fotinovo in Google earth (41’23’11’N, 21’25’17 E)
and you should be able to find it.

As I was the guest of the Imam I took a seat on the upper floor at the front, right in one corner so I wouldn’t stan out too much.
Until that is my neighbour Ilyas turns up! Ilyas unfortunately has two volume settings, loud and very loud! After announcing to
congregation that I was there (200+), he sits behind me and tells me what is going on. I can here the rest of them mutter ‘…Ingleez….Ingleez…’
It is one of the few Turkish words I can understand ‘ English……..English….’ Ilyas was nearly in hysterics at hearing this. And jokingly told me
that he would be security if needed!

The service which lasts about 35 mins is quite a work out compared to Christian services that I have attended, and thankfully no singing, except
for Hussains prayers, Which for an Octagenarian he certainly still belts out.

I have now been to Mosque twice since I have been here which compares well with my church attendance back in the UK (Weddings, Funerals only).
Being a physists I still don’t believe in supernatural powers and visiting places of worship will not change that. However, I have found with all
religious places of worship that those that do attend seem to get something out of it, and those adminstering the service, be they vicars, Imam’s,
or Buddhist Monks all do the religion proud and are very welcoming to believers and non-believers a like. Anyway it is Saturday tomorrow, so
perhaps I should go to a Synagogue to cover all angles!

French Beans Mark II

My crop of French beans this year has left quite a lot to be desired, I think I have probaly only
managed to harvest about twice of what I actually planted. This sort of ratio does not really make any sense especially the work that goes into planting, weeding
and growing the things. I have been aound the village to see if it is just my crop that has failed to work, and unfortunately this seems the case.

What I did find out though is that due to the long summers we have here and due to the speed that beans grow it is quite possible to get a second crop in
after the first has been harvested. I have therefore planted a second test crop to see if this practice is worth while. Due to lack of rain in August though
I shall have to be water the crops quite frequently. So to see if this complies with my self reliant lifestyle I have grown a 3 square metre patch
I will let you know the results when they get harvested in two months or so.

The added bonus is that I will get two lots of fresh green beans to eat as well the ones I dry and store (as above)

Window Shopping – Dimitrovgrad

I shall never again complain about Annie dithering when she goes shopping.
Yesterday I experienced my own personal hell and I had actually volunteered for it.

First a bit about Dimitrovgrad though as it has quite an interesting bit of history concerning its creation.


The town it self is quite new and was first built from the three villages of Rakovski, Marijno and Ghernokoniovo in 1947.
The town was built by 50 000 members of communist brigades who came from all over Bulgaria. Many of these workers then became its newest residents.
From 1948 to 1950 they worked in an independent brigade called Mlada Gvardia (Young Guards). Their motto was:
We are building a town – the town is building us! It is located at the junction of the North-South, East-West rail lines, with the initial
purpose to be an industrial town. Many large factories surround the outskirts, and there still remain today a cement factory, and unfortunately
the health problems that are associated wherever asbestos has been manufactured.

Today it is the home of a very large Sunday market that specialises in second hand cars. This was the purpose for my visit.

So back to my hell. I suppose I could be described as a typical man when it comes to shopping. Have something to buy. Go to shop.
Buy it. Go home. Anything else in my mind is a complete was of time. This unfortunately was not how our day was to be. We first went to the
market and viewed about 150 cars, we were after a Opel Vectra Diesel no more than 10 years old and within our meagre budget. We located several cars
that matched our decription but all were rejected by Hikmets son as not quite what he was after. Some for very frivolous reasons. Like small scratches
on the paint work. I did point out after the fifth refusal that cars which are 10 years old rarely if ever are in mint condition, this though seemed to
fall on deaf ears!

After all cars at the market were rejected we then stopped at every car dealer on the way back Kardjali. This route took us
through Haskovo though, and we visited 13 such dealerships. Again cars that matched the description were located only to rejected
again (I don’t like red!), and again (there is a small crack on the indicator), and again (speck of rust on the body work).

Because no car was bought, Hikmet is going back next week to try again, think I might be a bit busy that day!

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