In nature, Off the beaten track. on May 28, 2012 at 10:14 am
Two of my three weeks away were spent in the beautiful country of Bulgaria. A place of beautiful nature, unspoilt countryside, Christian Orthodox churches filled with beautiful icons like the one above which is in St. George’s monastery in Pomorie and so much more….
An abundance of produce which grows easily in the long hot Summers. The Winters there are short and sharp. Every house has a garden and lots of fruit trees. Plums, Peaches, Grapes and Walnuts seem to grow everywhere. Tomatoes here taste like nowhere else…so sweet and delicious.
The land here is open…no fences. The animals are taken out to graze daily by a shepherd who gets paid a fixed amount for each animal in his care. At night the Cows, Goats and Sheep are milked and kept in the yards behind the houses. It’s lovely morning and evening to hear the bells the animals wear tinkling in the distance before you see them.It’s a long day for the shepherd…7.30 in the morning to 7 in the evening. Each shepherd has 3 or 4 dogs to protect and herd the flock.
There are about 5,000 pairs of Storks in Bulgaria. Their arrival at the end of March is seen as an indication of the beginning of Spring. Bulgarians have great fondness and respect for Storks…they are associated with good luck and fertility.
Nests are never interfered with and it be considered very bad luck to kill a Stork. They have a great fondness for nesting on top of electricity poles. To protect the birds and stop them causing power outages special nesting platforms have been placed on top of the poles.
Small villages are dotted throughout the countryside. Always the same…stone and brick houses with red tile roofs. Most of the houses were built in the 50s by the Communist Government. Sadly many of the houses are now needing repairs but rural poverty means that the living conditions are less than we in the west would find acceptable. Bulgaria is now an independent republic.
Every town has a fruit and veg market. This one in the town of Elhovo is held twice weekly. The stalls are run by locals selling fresh local produce. Cherries were in season when we were there…so delicious. I bought a kilo for 6 leva. A lev is worth about 50 cent. Also on sale is the traditional drink Rakia. Made from Plums or Grapes it packs a punch but is delicious as a hot drink with honey. A brought home a couple of bottles for medicianal use in the Winter. No pleasure of course!!! The local honey is gorgeous too. Raw and unpasteurised…straight from the hives…just as Nature intended. I suppose that’s what I like most about Bulgaria…it is still pure and unspoilt…a bit like Ireland was 40 or so years ago.
Click on pics to enlarge.
In Garden, sustainable living on March 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm
As the temperatures rise I like to have a fruit breakfast. I find it hard to eat cold food in the Winter but once Spring comes I change from my tea and toast or porridge to smoothies. May not have one every day but certainly a couple a week.
This morning I had a Banana and Avacado smoothie made with soya milk and a little honey for a bit of extra sweet. I did’nt use all those Bananas…just two. To make: just put the peeled fruit in the blender. cover with soya milk and whizz. A couple of seconds and it’s done.
Forgot to say I also add Spirulina, hence the green colour. Spiriluna is a microscopic fresh water plant packed with goodness. It contains antioxidants, trace elements and all the essential amino acids. It is available in powdered form from good health food stores. I use half a teaspoon in a pint of smoothie. That gives me energy for about 6 hours.
After my power breakfast I was ready for some hard work. This old residence in our back field has some lovely cut stone. All the old cottages would have been built from stone. This was inhabitated up to 60 years ago. Hard to believe isn’t it! These lovely stones are ideal for making raised beds. I can carry about 3 in the wheelbarrow…2 if they’re very big. Andy can carry more but he was away today. Thought I’d show off while he was out!
After some lighter garden work, pricking out seedlings and training Tayberries my thoughts once again turned to food. What to have for dinner? We still have a few Squashes left so I decided to use one of them to make a soup. These have been stored in the spare room over winter and are still perfectly sound. Last Summer was’nt great for Pumpkins as it was cold and wet. Only the indoor ones produced anything. That fine Butternut in front was the only one from 5 plants. Don’t know what the grey skinned one is called, I saved seed from a Pumpkin we had in Bulgaria. Over there they grow to 3 times that size.
As you can see they are still perfectly sound. The skin does become very hard so a good sharp knife is needed to peel. Together with Carrots and Lentils this will make a delicious soup for our evening meal.
Hope you had a good Spring Equinox day!
In Gardening, sustainable living on June 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm
Despite the weather it looks like being a good year for fruit. This plum tree, it’s a Victoria, is already laden down. If a drop does’nt occur I shall have to thin out the fruits. Home grown plums are nothing like the horrible shop ones, these never ripen fully and have no great flavour. They are probably irradiated and full of chemicals too. A home grown plum, ripened by the Sun, is a different experience. They have a scent, beautiful flavour and are full of juice. Yum yum, anticipation building!
In the polytunnel Peaches have put on a lot of growth. They look inviting already even though they won’t be ripe for some time yet.
Lettuce just coming into flower, I really want to save seeds from this one. Don’t know the variety but it’s grown from seeds I got in Bulgaria. It is similar to Little Gem but a lot bigger. It can be hard to save Lettuce seeds in Ireland’s damp climate. The seeds are tiny and mould has been a problem in the past.
The Escallonia has just come into bloom. The flowers are small but there’s loads of them. This is a really hardy evergreen shrub which is easily grown from cuttings taken in Summer. The flowers last until early Autumn.
In Gardening, sustainable living on April 1, 2011 at 10:13 am
Is the world gone mad? Irish government is putting aother 25BILLION into saving Irish banks. Madness! Keep the rich people rich. What is rich? For people with a brain cell left it’s not about property portfolios and huge amounts of useless paper printed by Mickey Mouse governments. Of course I know we need some money but if it’s the be all and end all of your life, I consider that a sad and wasted life. For us richness is living in the country, looking after the little bit of the Planet in our care, growing our produce, caring for our animals, respecting other people and their views. Simple living, high thinking.
An insight into the current global thought process was given recently by Larry Kudlow, host of a nightly financial programme on American tv channel CNBC. Speaking about the horrific earthquake in Japan he said, “the human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that.” That leaves me speechless, and that does’nt happen often. To save my sanity I will return to garden topics!
Growth has really taken off now, lots of planting and pricking out to be done. The Lettuces pictured above are in serious need of moving on, a job for today I think. I got the seeds in Bulgaria last year, it is one of the varieties everyone there seems to grow. I don’t know the name but it is a really crisp lettuce with a good flavour, like Little Gem but much bigger.
The Hellebore seedlings were planted last Autumn, I had almost given up on them when they emerged. They have put on good growth and I will pot them individually in the coming days. They should be ready for planting out in the Autumn. Hellebores are useful plants, apart from their beauty, they do well in shade and provide early Spring flowers.