Archive for October 28, 2010

Ty Bach – (Welsh The Small House)

Translation from welsh: small house

This is a subject not normally discussed, however, in light of the recent news reports on squat toilets being introduced in Rochdale shopping centre and
subsequent discussions with colleagues, I think it is time. The reason for the introduction of the said squat toilets in Rochdale has been introduced due
to a cultural awareness course. This article is not about ethnic, religious rights etc. This article is a ‘bog’ standard article about the standard
Bulgarian toilet. Pun intended.

Now, I really do not see what the issue is. In some respects, the squat toilet could be considered the more healthy option. I mean exposing yourself
to bleach and toxic cleaning product to get that germ-free rim cannot be good for you or the environment. However, the sit down does have its
advantage – they are inside the house. This is particularly useful when it is pouring with rain/snowing and for the 2am wee stop.

Anyway, after years of use…. and the clay soil that surrounds our toilet (i.e. it is not draining away), it is time for Dominic and I to decide
whether to squat or not to squat. As I refuse to get someone (as it has been recommended by the locals) to empty our existing toilet with a bucket, we either
need to dig another pit or go for the plush flush system.

I started to write this article some month ago and was concerned about what the locals would think. Keeping with the traditions of how the locals
live was very important to me and did not want them to think ‘bloody english’. However, it has come to light that Dom and I are behind the times
and at least 2 houses now have the sit down toilet and they are very proud about it!

So the decision has been made. ‘Keeping up with the Hassan’s has hit the rural village of Bulgaria. Annie

 

Our toilet in winter

A Helping Hand

Bulgarian village life, along with good neighbours is a good way to live. There can never be two days that are the same. Coming up to the end of October, and there is little to be done in the garden, except to dig for next year. This can not
be done in a day and I typically set two hours aside each day to do a bit of digging. Yesterday after my mornings work in the garden, I was just settling down with a book when Ilyas came knocking on the door.

“Dominik, mojay malko pomosht” (Dominic, can you help a little)

“Da, mojay” (Yes I can)

I should advise that this should not be the default answer, I have learnt! So Ilyas and I set off towards his house but stopped outside our joint neighbour Ali. I should have realised then what was to come. It had just gone 2pm, the sun was still high in the sky.

Ilyas had a broad grin on his face as he said to Ali:

“Dominik, nyama robota, samo kaniga” (which roughly translates as Dominic hasn’t any work he was just with a book)

Ali was standing by a lagre pile of sand and 15 bags of cement. This was not going to be a little help at all!

Armed as we were with shovels and wheelbarrows, 4 wheelbarrows of cement to 1 50Kg bag of cement, lots of water = concrete with a lot of effort. Not a cement mixer in sight! I quite enjoy a bit of hard work as soon as I get started, and I suppose the best way to get going is just to dive in which is what we did.

Ali’s house is on a slow slant, which has meant the side of the house highest up is lower in the ground than that of the low side. Which when it rains has caused
a slight problem with damp, as the earth has built up above the damp proofing (if there is such a thing in Bulgaria. This has meant that he has had to dig out
all the earth and he is now lining this with concrete to stop it filling back up.

I am all for doing things myself, but I really do like efficency. No such thing for your average Bulgarian, rather than pay for a lorry load of premixed concrete
lets mix it all by hand. This may save about 85 euros, but you need a lot of volunteers to get the work done. It also takes an awful lot longer! We were kept
well watered by Ali’s wife with beer. I should point out that beer is not considered drinking as such. In fact it is not uncommon to see Bulgarians having
beer with their breakfast at 8 o’clock in the morning! That said I have seen some downing 100ml of Mastika (Ouzo) just as early!

By 7:30pm last night the light was fading and thankfully we were called to a halt. I stumbled home with every muscle aching.
Not thinking about what to have for tea as I was too tired.

Luck should have it that Ali soon came by and thanked me for my help with a large bowl of rice and half a roasted chicken on it! Does food always taste better when someone else has cooked it? Yes.

After giving me the food, he invites me up the pub and buys me beer all night as well. Unfortunately as I was so tired I only managed 2 before I started to fall
alseep in the chair.

Dig Chop Rake

The rain has helpd of for a couple of days som I have been busy digging, chopping logs and raking where I have dug. I have created 3 deep beds for trial next year. Just haven’t decided what I shall test out compared to normal beds. The obvious choice would be root vegatables of some sort as these will surely do better in a very well dug out bed. That might be making the results a bit bias though.

So I have think I shall have to go with 1 root veg., 1 peppers, 1 french beans. That should give me a good idea as to whether the extra work involved
reaps a greater yield. I used to hate digging, but after you get in to your stride and begin to see the results, it can be quite a satisfying task. Plus
it saves going to gym. I could do with a massage but Annie is back in the UK, so will have to suffice with a few beers up the pub, it is the weekend and I haven’t seen the boys from the pub for a few days.

As well as digging I have been doing a bit more chopping of wood so have had a really good workout. I could quite easily give this job up though. Not quite so satisfying especially when you see how quick the stuff burns. Putting three logs on the burner in one go, might well have been 10 mins work on some of the logs I have got as they are full of knots and don’t half take some chopping. However I have no choice as I have no other means of keeping warm, which works wonderfully as an incentive.

Here for those that like pictures, one of my deep bed freshly dug over and raked, and another of a pile of logs. Picture paints a thousand words. But does
not describe the toil that went into creating them!

Preparing For Winter

As the days shorten and the weather starts to turn, quite a lot of time is spent preparing for the
short but very sharp Bulgarian winter. Last year we managed day time temps of about -15C for a about a week and for those that don’t know how cold that is.
It put off several brass monkeys from coming to visit me!

Annie my other (and better half) has booked her flights to come over for christmas. This has conicided with ski season and school holidays in Bulgaria
so Easyjet has taken advantage of this and has more than doubled the price of their flights. One advantage of Annie not being here for the whole winter, and it
is just a small one. Is that my motorbike gets to occupy its own room for winter insetad of being cold and lonely outside on its own!

So today I am clearing a space, and will be making moves to move it indoors until about April next year. Last year I was still using it right up until the end of
November, but this year has seen some unseasonal weather. In fact it has rained for the last three days here which is quite unheard of.

The rain has brought about a glut of mushrooms, but as when it rains here it really rains. Has shown that my garden really does need some drainage trenches
dug. That on top of my double digging for my deep bed experiment next year should keep me busy until the frosts come.

I have planted a few rows of broadbeans, not so much as I like them but more so to tease my neighbours. Ilyas caught me sowing seeds, and asked what I was planting.
When I told him I was planting beans he laughed and rolled his eyes at me, and told me that winter is not a good time to be planting beans (with a look
that said ‘you stupid English!’). To which I responded
that these were special beans that came from England and could be planted before winter and so be harvested early next year. Not to be out done he took a few seeds
away from him to plant in his garden. I have no doubt that his crop will yield much heavier than mine. We shall see!

Feeding Your Bees

At certain times of the year you may have to feed your bees, either when they have run out
of honey and there is no nectar to collect, or to supplement their stores in autumn after you have robbed their honey.

I use a syrup form but it can be bought in ready made packs or even fondant icing can be used. The syrup is half water to half white sugar. The syrup
is placed in a feeder, I use a plasitc conatiner with some cloth coming out of it which acts as a wick in drawing the syrup up from the conatiner. This stops
the bees falling in and dying. Professional feeders can also be purchased.

Winter Feed

You can make your own feed is solid form by using 500ml of water and 2.5kg of sugar, first bring the water to boil, and slowly add the sugar a little at a time.
When the whole mixture is boiling remove from the heat but continue stirring until the mix begins to thicken. Then pour in to your moulds and allow to cool. Thes are then
ready for use during the winter months. Solid food is much better in the winter months as the bees will prefer to store this rather consume direct. If your bees need
feeding in the early spring when there is not much flora around a syrup mixture is probably best. If you have any left over solids just dissolve this in water to make a syrup.

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