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 permaculture, sustainable living on April 12, 2012 at 10:13 am
Having recently been given a bunch of rooted Willow we decided to use it to make a fedge to form the outline for a new permaculture bed. A fedge is a cross between a fence and a hedge, usually constructed from Willow. Spring is the best time to do this as the Willow will root easily at this time. If you have plants or rooted Willow it can be done anytime. We spaced the rods the length of Andy’s foot apart but they can be as little as 6 inches apart if you want a more solid barrier.
It was grey and showery when we did the fedge last Sunday but we persevered and got it done.
After inserted all the rods we just bent the tops over about a foot from the ground and wove them together. There are many designs you can make, arches, diamonds etc. As this was our first fedge we decided to keep it simple. The whole thing was a bit fragile at first but when all the weaving was done and a few strategically placed bits of string were used the whole thing stabilised. A website with lots of ideas and more comprehensive instructions is www.willowkits.co.uk .
Next step was to make the permaculture bed between the existing path and the edge of the fedge. The sod does’nt need to be turned… on top of the grass just lay down several layers of newspaper and cardboard. Make sure they are overlapped well so no grass or weeds come through. Remove any staples and plastic tape which may be holding the boxes together. On top of this layer we put a good thick mulch of rushes. Straw can also be used.
When the mulching is finished planting holes can be made in the cardboard/paper and plants planted straight in. In other beds we have made this way plants have been planted first, then the cardboard and mulch layers placed around the plants. On this occasion we will let the mulch settle a little before planting. There is already an established Damson here and a small Amelanchier has also been planted. In true permaculture style everything in this bed will be perennial food crops…herbs and fruits plus a few flowers for colour and for the insects. Willow itself is a great plant for biodiversity as it supports over 250 species. Over time this mulch will rot down and provide nutrition for the plants and improve the soil. It will need renewing each year.
In Cooking, Gardening, sustainable living on April 21, 2011 at 9:57 am
Was asked for a recipe for peach jam yesterday by someone on Twitter, so here it is:
Ingredients: 1kg peaches 1kg sugar juice of 2 lemons
The peaches I used were destoned and in the freezer since last summer. Some recipes say to remove the skin by immersing the fruit in hot water but I left the skins on. When fruit is frozen I find that the juice runs from it when defrosted again. This is good for this recipe as no water is used. Put the fruit into a large pot with a thick base, mash it lightly to release all the juices. Bring to boil, stirring all the time, add sugar and lemon juice. Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes. A hard set will not be obtained as Peaches are low in pectin. Pour hot jam into jars heated in a low oven, seal immediately. Another alternative is to use Sure-set sugar. This has pectin added. You just add the Sure-set to the heated fruit, bring to a rolling boil, keep boiling for 3 minutes. Then pot as usual.
Meanwhile in the garden some renovation work was done on the small polytunnel. The plastic has been on this tunnel for 11 years so it had a few holes in. These were repaired with a special tape usually available at garden centres, it is expensive at 16 euros a roll, but it’s the only thing that works. Cheaper than new plastic! All the polytunnel sellers will tell you that polytunnel plastic must be replaced after 5 years, rubbish, I know someone with the same plastic on their tunnel for 15 years! Andy also made a new door with this membrane which we got in Tipperary for FREE. New door from polytunnel company, about 100 euros for this size.
The door is opened by rolling it up, there is a stabilising board in middle and bottom. A cup hoop and yes, the good old country reliable, baling twine keeps it open. Cheap as chips, everything hunky dory again!
In Cooking, Gardening, sustainable living on April 11, 2011 at 7:31 am
This little Saxifrage has just come into flower, the blooms are small but so numerous they make a big impact. The Saxifrages are a great choice for a difficult area. This one is growing under a tree on dry, stony ground. They can become over invasive but easy enough to pull out what you don’t want.
Rhubarb, the first welcome fruit of the season is classified as a vegetable in all gardening books. To me it will always be a fruit, usable in jams, chutneys, cakes and crumbles or just plain stewed. ITS A FRUIT! Nothing was harvested from these plants last year, they were planted the previous year and left to develop. We can reap the reward this year. Mulched well with farmyard manure in the Winter they have produced a great healthy looking crop of thick chunky sticks. Rhubarb contains vitamins A and C plus calcium and iron. The leaves are poisonous but can be composted. A natural insecticide can be made by boiling the leaves for about 30 minutes then using the resulting brew against aphids and other pests. 1 and a half kgs of Rhubarb leaves to 3 and a half litres of water.
In the polytunnel yesterday morning, before it got too hot, I pricked out the Cabbages into modules. They will be kept in these until the roots fill the spaces then planted into the earth. By then they will be a good size and less likely to be damaged by slugs!