Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Former Grass Lawn

Dear Family & Friends

It was one T-Storm week in late May, when clouds gathered up thickly, casting shade for us. As it builds it's rain clouds, my hard working husband couldn't resist the offer and timing. He wanted to fill up the former grass lawn which we turned into fruit and nut orchard last autumn, with more plants as understory.

lined up lavender row in between fruit and nut orchard

It's good that I'm always prepared with propagated plants. I quickly took hold of three dozens of Lavender plants to the delight of my husband. Yes, he have been asking me to grow more lavender. Now is the time he got his wishes. We planted three more long rows of lavender in between the orchard.

in between trees, are understory of gooseberries and goji berries

Planting rows of lavender is always a good idea over here. It grows very well, needs very little care as it is a very hardy tough mediterrenean plant, withstanding both the extreme summer heat and winter cold too. Of course, the abundance of very fragrant flowers all summer. It blooms twice in a season:)

trenches helps hold water

With alternate fruit and nut trees rows, which also grows gooseberries and goji berries in between, the former grass lawn is already becoming very productive for us. Wise husband is clever...there's no more grass lawn to trim either:)

grass lawn no more...it's now a productive food and herb galore

Although this orchard group is still very young to provide us with fruits, yet, the berries we planted in between, are already giving us great eating pleasure:) Another year or so, those trees will start to reward us and most important of all, I believe it will provide us the micro climate that I long for.

Summer is here. The best place to be is in the garden. We all come out and we all agree that its just so nice to be able to enjoy the ever changing garden sceneries, along with the company of so many happy birds and bees and all that lives within. Life is good:) Hope it is the same with you all:)

Yours


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Country lifestyle

Dear Family & friends

The past weeks we have been in our city apartment more times than usual, as there were a few public holidays to take advantage of. The city of Plovdiv is developing so fast...there's so many apartments going up. Even within our complex, the scenery seems to change from week to week as they progress in finishing and working on the buildings. There's lots of cranes and diggers around...it all adds up to the city noise! YIKES!

more apartments are being built

I'm a country mouse... although I join everyone whenever they arrange to go to the apartment, yet, at the end of the day, I always long for our village home - where everything is at a slower pace with just the gentle noise of the multitude of bees ad birds that fills our garden.


my assortment of harvest this morning: calendula and onions

Everyday, there's a lot of work in slow pace village life... but, I'm allowed to do everything slowly. If I don't finish my work, the next day is still there to accomplish it. Afterall, there's no end to jobs in a country life either.

more harvest: beans and young pea pods

Every morning while it is still cool, I gather as much food harvest that our garden gives us. Sometimes a lot more of this, sometimes a lot more of that! Everything seems to be growing so fast that I feel like there's no end to harvesting! I sometimes just have to pop them straight into my mouth while gathering to have lesser work;P 

my crochet project in between gardening breaks

By mid-day as the sun sets to full blast, I just have to sit on my neon green garden chair in the shade and enjoy another work. Surrounded with the entertaining noises of our garden friends, I race to finish my crochet project that I'm working on for the city apartment's use.

chopped buckets and buckets of comfrey plants to use as fertilizer

Oh yes, there's the unfinished garden chop n' dropping of comfrey plants that I was working on earlier on in the garden...it's still in one big file...now drying under the sunshine. I will get back to it later when the sun starts setting again. This mount of comfrey cuttings are very valuable for my garden plants - my best organic fertilizer which our veggies will benefit much:)

Perhaps city life is sometimes fun...airconditioned shopping malls, restaurants, fun clubs to join etc... but I'm all for country living anytime:) All is well when one is content in life. Have a good weekend where you are:)

Yours

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Starting my exotic veggie supply once again

Dear Family & Friends

We were doing our monthly food shopping in one of the big shop when I spotted a packet of lemon grass on the shelf. It's not a common thing sold here...thus the outrageous price of 15 euros/kilo! When I reached the cashier counter, I told my husband that I just have to buy this even though it's pricey...he asked: 'How much?' I said: '15 euros...'  and he immediately said: Do you have that much money to throw away? Look it's all dry as well! He was so shocked, he thought I've lost my marble already! What he didn't know was that the price was per kilo and I only took the smallest quantity there is. Still it was expensive for a few dried sticks of lemon grass. 


my dried lemon grass sticks are developing roots in a jar of  water

My plan was to grow and multiply them. I know they will grow in my garden, and I know it will take root even though it looks dry. I'm determined to keep this plant by bringing them in door during the winter as it won't stand any cold...If I'm vigilant, I will succeed in keeping this year after year. 

I grew lemon grass last year, and we enjoyed it so much because it gave wonderful aroma to our steamed rice and as seasoning to other cooked food. It is also very good as herbal tea. This time I must remember to take some roots over the winter for this precious commodity. 


my kang kong plant is now growing in the pot as the weather warms up

Besides lemon grass, I've introduced another exotic food to my family which they love as much as I do. Kang Kong or water spinach is another exotic veggie that grows very easily in the tropics. But not as easy here...although it is possible to grow it for a very short period of time. Thus, this is another very precious commodity in our home.

took a few cuttings to propagate and have more plants to enjoy

Every year I take great patience to grow this. I think it is worth it. It gives me back some wonderful memories as I love this veggie when I was a child and my children loves this too. No, we can never buy any of this here either.

kang kong will easily develop roots in a jar of water too

My precious brother gave me some seeds long time ago...and with it I start this plant in spring. Once it sprouts, I can easily get cuttings to take root in water. Another very worthy plant to be patient with in my book. 

Just some of the most precious and silliest thing I do for my little family. I think my little family is so special and they deserve every special thing that I could think of and do:)

From here, I've got to join the madness frenzy in our garden. Plants, birds and bees are all going mad in numbers. Hope you have as merry a garden as we do here too:)

Yours

Friday, 9 June 2017

Fava bean leaves and chinese style risotto

Dear Family & Friends

Remember I planted some Fava beans in early spring since I was given some seeds by one village grandmother? Well, the past weeks, we tried it's leaves as part of our meal. Cutting the green tips for it's leaves will just bush out my fava bean plant even more. The bonus of course is that we are enjoying it's delicious taste too. My big girl described it as: 'taste like McDonald' - whatever she meant... was only for good.

fava bean greens - delicious as stir fry or simply steam it for a minute

I always pre-plan a balance hot meal to serve my little family everyday. Sometimes my brain just get stuck. So, I ask the girls' opinion... they say they just want my chinese-style rissoto. It's one of my made up recipe - by recalling how my own grandmother makes it and invites me to have it with her. She usually cooks a pot and send it to our house for our whole family too.  It's always a hit! 

chopped up variety of fresh herbs to throw in to a meal at the last minutes - makes a difference

It seems like my girls are sharing my childhood fond food memories:) I can't share you the recipe because I don't have one. I just make things up my way... even the ingredients are not so accurate as some of the basic I couldn't even buy or obtain in this country.

precooked chicken breast always comes handy for a quick balanced family meal

My grandmother uses half sticky rice (of which we can't get here) and half ordinary rice. She stir fry pre-soaked dried shitake mushroom, onions, and dried shrimps (which is also unobtainable for us here) and in goes the pre-soaked rice for a quick stir fry along with all other ingredients. Later, it is topped up with water or broth to cook till rice soaks all the liquid. At times, it also includes dried chinese sausage. It's a comfort food and the best in the world!

cooking my chinese style risotto with shitake mushrooms and onions - variation is easy to incorporate

If I can't get the ingredients to make them, at least I am grateful that I've got the fond memories to replicate it my way, the best I could come up with and I pass this on to my children too:) Life can be good if we are grateful with whatever we have. Make do and be creative...that's the best way:)

Wishing you a blessed day.

Yours

Monday, 5 June 2017

My vegetable garden - has yet to be filled

Dear family & Friends

Let me show you my vegetable patch area. I have made about 10 long rows of beds to grow our vegetables every year. It's just a rustic mounds with alternate trenches as walkways. I have no wood to spare to make a nice neat border to define a bed...so we planted chives as edging to hold up the soil. It looks so packed to date,  but I have yet to transplant and plant the vegetables in!

purple balls of flowering chives in my vegetable beds

Vegetables that have over wintered like the brassicas are left to flowers so I can collect my next seed to replant. There's also lots of existing walking onions which are always there. The garlic, planted in autumn last year, will be harvested around June this year. So far, the first spring planting of fava beans are taking the space, but I can still find a lot of spaces where I've planted my potatoes, tomatoes and other greens beans recently. Leafy veggies are also scattered here and there amongst it all.

My vegetable garden beds

It's one jolly vegetable place. I walk around and try to memorize where some of the plants are growing so that I will know where I can harvest our next meal.

brassica coming to seed, garlic, self seeded granny's bonnet fills some of my veggie beds

It will get more chaotic once summer is here as more heat loving plants will be planted in as well. There's Okra, aubergine and sweet pepper still waiting to get in once the weather warms up even more. Cucumber and courgette will probably snick in too if I ran out of space! The more the merrier! 

these chives were planted as edging of my veggie beds

In due time, some of the plants will be taken out once they finished producing their seeds and there will always be spaces for other late comers. This also changes the outlook of the vegetable garden. everything changes so quickly...thus gardening is never a boring task.

I hope you are having the joy of gardening where you are too. There's nothing better than this. Have a great day:)

Yours

Thursday, 1 June 2017

beautiful village scene - our very own

Dear Family & Friends

We've lived here, we've lived there...we were given the chance to move around the world, mostly not by choice..and I must say: what I love most of all the places we've been is - right where we are living at the present time.

precious - they are the experts of life

It's peaceful here...things are not hurried. Life is real. Nature is beautiful and God is good.

another beautiful day

Mornings when my husband opens the bedroom curtains and announces: 'OH, another beautiful day!' It seems to me he says that everyday...nothing new:) But yes, it is another beautiful day! We mustn't take it for granted.

life is good

Most of the time, we place monetary values on everything, and that dictates the ranking order. Not so in my opinion. We see our hard working villagers with clothes that are visibly patched over the years, They all seem to wear the same sort of blue overall uniform of yesteryears...Does it really matter? No, not at all. The proof is the smiles on their faces. It is constant as well.

the sun rise and the sun sets each day

I don't claim life is easy here. After all, every work needs effort of some form or sort. I must admit that I do occasionally hear villagers' conversation over our garden walls...mostly it's about work to do or that money is hard to come by these days... yet, after their small chat, they bade each other goodbye to go forth and do some work that they do each day.

peaceful and calm

It's not about being so busy with work, nor is it about all indulgence in life that we must aim for. Life is about balance. We work because we eat. Because we have worked, we can enjoy the fruit of our labour. As for peace and contentment ... that's the added bonus.

unhurried village living

Life is a journey. Take it and make it good. Wishing you all the best there is for this coming weeks:)

Yours


Sunday, 28 May 2017

Establishing new gardening area

Dear Family & Friends

Hope you had a good weekend. Mine was packed with muscle pains but altogether very rewarding and enjoyable as we worked on establishing our garden.

The south facing gardening area was once seeded with grass seeds...it was a bad move. I'm not a fan of grass lawn and it just doesn't work well here either. High maintenance and not very productive. So, I'm slowly reclaiming the area.

Part of it is planned for berries. There's raspberries growing and I'm hoping it will spread itself because when I try my best to plant them on purpose, they just won't take on! Since I've given up, they are now spreading, along with few strawberries, goji berries and blue berries all thrown in together.

using part of the berri allotment to plant more tomatoes on temporary basis

As the berry patch is taking it's time, I decided that this year I still have the opportunity to use the area and put some of my extra tomato plants...so up goes the stakes. I need to plant a lot of tomato this year because my fifteen year old girl wants to sell tomatoes, so I offered to be her supplier:)

understory planting of gooseberries in between trees in orchard

The main grass lawn area is now turned into fruit orchard with about 12 different fruit and nut trees planted last autumn. We dug trenches to catch rain water to the area. In between fruit trees, I also planted under story plants of goji berries, gooseberries, sage, and rosemary. These will act as ground cover. All these are mere cuttings from our existing plants and if you notice, they are all perennial plants too. For the moment, the dug out grasses serve as mulch.

my stakes are sprouting!

Since I received lots of long straight wood stake gift from my beloved husband, I treasured them and had them scattered in the garden proudly. No more plants to crawl on the ground! The stake looks like bamboos - straight, light and thin...but it's not bamboo and we don't know what plant it is (he harvested them from the village forest)...the interesting thing is that it is sprouting!!


peaches on peach tree

Our garden is an interesting place that's full of surprises and challenges. We love peaches and got two trees planted. The past years it struggles with us, attacked by pest and curled leaves. I concluded it need extra loving care of comfry tea to make it strong. This year my big girl even took a broom and literally swept the aphids off the tree. It's promising us with lots of fruit buds for the first time and we will keep vigilant and give it all our support. 

As with life, there's always something to learn and go for each day. ...When in doubt, just take the next small step forward with a grateful heart - always. Hope you have a great week ahead:)

Yours


Thursday, 25 May 2017

Life need not be a struggle

Dear Family & Friends

We've noticed two months ago, a daily loaf of  bread in our village cost 30 cents Euro, it increased to 35 cents  a month ago, and now - it is 40 cents euro!! It's very cheap compared to other european countries..but the point is: food and commodity prices are FAST increasing!! I fear for many. My advice is to start being wise...life need not be a struggle. Basic food and shelter shouldn't be a burden.

If it is possible for us...it is possible for everyone. Eversince we bought our first family home in the UK, we never opt for loan, nor got any help from any institution nor people for that matter. Our ONLY help is our Almighty and Faithful God. We choose to live within our means. We are just a one income earner family, because we believe a stable home and a happy family is the biggest investment we could invest in. The concept works! We bought properties and kept them all. We grow some of our food, some of which are not sold in shops but we are privileged to enjoy. With just being wise in our ways...and it is easy for all to do the same.


All the village property map you could check from the municipal office

Some years ago, a village grandfather who lives on his own in a  property home next to ours died...a sad thing but he was not the same old man who enjoyed the presence of our little girls harvesting sweet cherries from his garden, during his last years. Sadly, his house is now deteriorating as nobody seems to come and do some care..another sad thing. We thought perhaps we could have the opportunity to buy it.

Interestingly, in Bulgaria we just go to the municipality office to locate the property deeds for more information. There's no property agent to approach but we were told that the village mayor is the person who could do this role.

And this is the corresponding further informations - all manually recorded

It's a good exercise for our CEO....he is loving the challenge and he practices his local language with even more greater challenge. How far he will get to...?? we don't know... but, we never let this worry us...In life, we just walk forward to each day:) and always choose a wise lifestyle. Hope you have a good week ahead too.

Yours

Friday, 19 May 2017

Gardening wise...

Dear Family & Friends

My journaling seems to be about gardening these days...but this is the time of the year...and I really can't help it. I hope that you will join me in this enjoyment - for it's just pure joy - being out in the greenery.

Our entire village population is now busy with growing food in their gardens. I'm constantly amazed with all the hard work they do...putting me to shame because most of them are old people. Retirement is not a concept. Today I'm going to show you just one photo of Baba Maria (grandma Maria) garden when my daughter visited her yesterday.

THIS IS NOT MY GARDEN. This is Maria's garden - a typical garden in our village

Baba Maria lives on her own and like many, she manages her garden herself without any garden machinery - just hand hoe tool!! Yet it is all neat, everything in straight line, and very productive too. There's a lot of planting because this production will be food for the entire year. But sad to say, to achieve this...they have to use chemical spray. Now.... that's a big No NO for me:(

THIS IS MY VEGETABLE GARDEN.  A vast difference from our neighbours' one


Most of them are not impressed with my chaotic gardening style...and they think it is because I'm a foreigner and I do things differently, or don't know how to do it right??! 

I admire their neatness...but I don't agree with keeping the soil bare and exposed. I like to work with nature and I have to respect and keep my environment from any poisonous chemicals. My style of vegetable garden bed are very different from theirs. Although I maintain veggie beds, I don't grow them in a monoculture way. I mix and match different veggie in several group with a bit of flowers here and there. This deters and confuses the pest from attacking the plant that they are looking for. 

my walking onions, is starting to produce little onion bulbs

In contrast, my garden is also very full all year round with various plants. Most of my neighbours have their garden all cleared up once summer harvest is done. ...perhaps a few winter veggie in autumn but mostly everything is put to rest with clean soil - not even a weed in sight, till spring. Although I don't work as much as they do - strength wise, yet growing as many perennial plants and leaving plants to self seed keeps my garden looking busy all year long.

a closer look of the top head - I think they look like the Medusa 

Talking about perennial plants, I must show you my favourite onion: the walking Egyptian onion. These grows all year round...they survive winter freeze and at this time, they are producing little bulb onions, not underneath but on top! They look like Medusa:) If I don't harvest the bulbs, it will bow down to touch the ground and grow more onions!! Just one of my garden secrets...having free food from the garden without doing too much work is to plant plants that grow themselves:)

Let's be wise in all our ways. Then, we learn to enjoy the free gift of life:) Have a good day!

Yours

Monday, 15 May 2017

Enjoy a good life

Dear Family & Friends

Our CEO, who is also my garden Assistant, always enjoy his part time gardening works. He normally does the things that I'd find too heavy and hard to tackle. He finds gardening relaxing and Saturdays are the usual free days for these.


another beautiful day to get to the garden and work some fun

Lately, it has been hectic for him to fit in Saturday gardening into schedule as  he got another project that he focuses on. But when he finds a few free hours during his week's schedule, he couldn't resist the garden visit.

except for our persimon tree (still just about budding) all other trees are already filled with lots of new leaves 

A garden shouldn't be seen as a chore...it is something to be enjoyed. So long as we plan it well and work with nature. Perhaps we notice that in a forest, no one does the gardening, yet it maintains just as well - if not better.


tiling needs precision with level as you work your way up

These days, our CEO is busy with finishing the bathroom works for our city apartment. He works on our apartment decorating project only on Saturdays or when free days present itself.

we didn't realized that subway tiles would take more time and effort because of their size.

It's a good little project because it gives him some challenges as he learn to do things that he never thought he could do! His confidence and skills grows in leap and bounce:) He is happy and we are all happy for him too!

it's almost there... but we never rush ourselves. a day at a time:)

Our two girls never cease to admire their father's hard working character. It's always a good testimony to other people around us. It sets as a role character model in our own family. The important thing is that at the end of the day, when you achieve something through honest good work, you feel like you met life with satisfaction and joy.

Life is too short, so enjoy it. Enjoy your day and stay happy:)

Yours

Thursday, 11 May 2017

May Gardening 2017

Dear Family & Friends

We had T-storm almost every day for a week: Sunshine, then the wind blows, and in comes T-storm, sometimes the rumbling comes in with a drizzle or a torrent of rain, at times just dark clouds which clears up again to welcome back sunshine! I still say it is a perfect spring weather. No complaint whatsoever. I love being in our garden - protected in a bubble world full of plants, and so with the rest of our family crew:) Here's why - as I share with you some photos to cheer your day too:)


Granny's Bonnet (aquigelia)  shooting it's flowers skyward

The perennial Granny's Bonnet are left to self seed where they want. I noticed they like being closed with the Lavender plants. These flowers are beautiful. They come in many forms and colours but I only have pink ones, some darker than the others. Nonetheless, all beautiful:) Some seeds landed in my vegetable patch...I don't have the heart to pull them out even if I want that space for my veggies...After all, they attract many bees to the veggie patch too!


My veggie patch beds edged with flowering chives on each sides. A trench is in between as my walkway

There's also clamps of chives which  my two girls planted in rows two years ago. We lined them to act as veggie beds' edging. Now the strong big clamps holds the soil of the beds up and it also attracts many bees. 

I was transplanting some plants onto the bed this week and it was a bit too crowded for us all. Bees and butterflies were also working in the same area and they were all at my backside - literally!!


Row of rustic looking wooden stakes are placed in the middle of the beds for my tomato plants

At the end of the veggie patch is the area where the chickens are. They are my curious audiences whenever I garden. This week I ramp in some rustic looking A-frame wood stakes for my tomatoes in the middle of most veggie beds. Every time I hit the metal tube with the hammer to created a hole for me to put the wooden stake in, the chooks make a corresponding noise...the good fun we all had!


Can you see some green sprouts shooting out of the recycled wooden stake I used?

In my kitchen garden, I also placed a few wooden stakes which I'm growing some climbing green peas and later on I will plant in my cucumbers in the same row. I usually just pick up leftover long stems of fruit trees for my stakes. I also use some long cut stems of a plant which our big boss took  steal from our village forest.  Lately, I noticed that the stakes are all sprouting with green shoots!

My lavender bush edgings

The perennial lavender bushes are all growing very robust and are already shooting out lots of flower buds. From two parent plants I bought almost five years ago, I have succeeded in growing rows and rows of lavender from mere cuttings to fill our garden with. Even the two mother plants are still going very strong and are now so big a bush! I probably could fill up big pillows with dried lavender flower this year. The CEO is still insisting that I propagate some more! More??!

old frying pan recycled to house a stonecrop/hen and chick plant

By our water well...which have kept me so busy lately, as I manually draw water by throwing bucket down to get free water for my new seedlings, a sedum plant was growing where I had to stand on...so I took it out and planted it in a frying pan. Then, I sat it on top of a cherry tree stump. It will be beautiful once the pan has fill itself. I'm sure it will bring me some pleasure in due time:)

So, that's how part of our garden is looking for the moment and all the fun that had been done. I hope you get encouraged in your garden too. It's good for physical exercise and good for the soul:)  Wishing you a good weekend ahead:)

Yours

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The rowing canal of Plovdiv City

Dear Family & Friends

Our little family enjoys living in our village home, yet, we also like to visit our city apartment every week...it's not the city buzz we are after...it's that piece of oasis where peace and quiet prevails. Five minutes walk from our apartment complex is a little forest area that leads to a big 8 kilometers open air, oval man-made rowing canal.

the hanging solid concrete bridge mid-way the oval rowing canal

It's an oasis for city dwellers....many people takes refuge to enjoy a quiet walk, cycle around on specified cycle lanes. Others would do roller blading as it's all flat and paved for that sort of activity too:) A good family destination.

cycling and walking lanes around the canal

Recently, the city of Plovdiv have invested on cycling lanes in the city centres, making it all very attractive and safe. We are a great fan of this idea:) I feel so proud of this city. 

the vast water content of the canal, where fresh water fish resides as well

From time to time, there's local and international rowing competition in this canal. We often see rowers doing their practices while their coach cycles around the oval canal, shouting some encouragements to their trainees. There's a rowing school in the area and other sports in the vicinity.

All very peaceful, quiet and safe -  sitting in bench and watch people goes by

Our little family finds it therapeutic to do cycling fun. Some of us, except me, cycles a complete circle of 8 kilometers at least twice, making it 16 kilometers without puffing!! I like sitting on a quiet bench and watch them pass by:) It's very entertaining too;P

the abundance of clear blue skies is one of the pluses here

In five minutes, we're all back in the apartment, replenishing food calories. We live a good and simple life of which we are thankful of each day. I'm so blessed with this little family...each one very happy and content, without bitterness in life. I pray it is the same with you all too:)

Yours