Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas in the UK....Floods in Bulgaria!

Last week we were under water....almost! , I popped over for a few was going to be longer!

A few days after this news report a road 50 meters from my house was washed away....water approaching....., the factories and houses seem ok but things are very wet still, we are ok but I tried to drive through Stara Zagora via a village near us  Yagoda and it was impossible due to water the local river ( i think ) Tundza had flooded, the car only has 3 inch ground clearance and the water was far more than that...more like 3 foot, we returned to my other house in Vidin as we could not get into the usual house from any direction as most roads were blocked

So again, back in the UK for a couple of weeks over Christmas, next trip near the end of January probably in a 7.5 ton box van with trailer

It is a good excuse to sort things out here a bit more, time to get things ready to go in the lorry before its nearly time to drive

I have just had a few more trees delivered for my `orangery` in Bulgaria  ( when its built...., I think it will be a diy geodesic dome? but not sure! ), a Variegated pink lemon, a Kaffir lime, Ponderossa lemon , an Australian finger lime and another large size lemon tree, all quite healthy , the only ponderossa lemon I could get is just a small rooted cutting that lost its leaves in transit due to the cold, small buds are growing now its under my grow lights with the rabbits....I have grafted some small bits of each of the mini trees onto the new 6 foot lemon tree

The strange background of the pictures is the rabbits enclosure...half of the living room.....I used it to take photos of the plants, they used to have a rabbit hutch but they didn't fit in for long...after a few weeks the doors were taken off and now its somewhere to hide in and they live bouncing round the room.....

Panache fig tree
Kaffir lime
Ponderossa lemon with no leaves due to cold in shipping

Variegated Pink Eureka Lemon
Limon lemons!
Limon rosso top of tree, loads of flowers ready to open

Australian finger lime
 The rabbits I rescued are growing rapidly....., in bursts....taking turns being the biggest, When lying down the brown and white one is now nose to tail is about 60 cm long....... they now have half the living room of the house in Liverpool, doesn't look like a house anymore....more of a stable, 3 inch of straw, rabbit bowls and toys over most of it.
When one first did the strange bunny flop ( as its called! )  I thought it was dead!.....Honestly! , they will be standing there eating food and......Bang!....they are flat on there side feet sticking out looking like they have had died.....Apparently its normal

Bunny flop.....not dead!....unless you have had rabbits you wouldn't understand!
Demon rabbit...
Rabbit tunnels

Sulking...... waiting for shredded wheat.....

Time to go to bed, in the middle of the floor

Who would think a rabbit plays with a tennis ball...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Un-planned trip back to the UK

Well.......It is now over 2 months since I wrote anything on here, I have been very very busy!

So...what happened in the 2 months away from the blog....

I have learned a lot.....

How to harvest the walnuts , using the worlds most impossibly straight and long sticks of you get such a straight , thin, strong branch of wood? I have no idea!
How to preserve things in jars
Rakia.....(not that I have made any) , but I now know how!

How to get onto the ridge of the roof and stand there without falling off....

A lot of work has been done on the house, new roof, new floor in kitchen, plastered all the kitchen, new electric wires in walls for the 12v system, all the solar wires tidied up and safe!

In September I decided the time had come to continue with my roof.....I didn't get far! , I slipped and fell off the ladder and with my already broken ribs....they became.....`kind of  more broken!` , I could move the third rib at the front on my left hand side up and down, it was very unusual to look at, and very painful to do anything!

The next day I heard a knock on the gate, a man who I sort of know as a local who does building work wondered if I needed a hand doing it......after some discussion I got a price....a rough one anyway!

It took 10 days of work.... many trips to Dubrovo for materials, Kazanlak for metal bits , Zimnitsa, Maglizh, Kazanlak, StaraZagora, Gurkovo etc to pick up what seemed like more and more workers for different bits here and there and the roof was eventually finished, not just the barn roof but the whole roof on all barns and house, garden tidied, loads of rubbish from the barn moved....around 5 cart loads at least from in the barn alone!

Horse and cart in garden

Filling another cart with weeds this time

Some of the wood removed

I kept all the wood, old tiles etc , even the mud from under the tiles is retained for repairs and construction in the future

It had been raining lightly all the time...most of the time anyway!.....all year!, far less than it was before I decided to get it fixed earlier in the year! , just after completion it was bucketing down with rain......

I found myself at 2am, in the loft checking.....sitting there as the rain bounced outside......
Waiting for drips.....Waiting and waiting for drips.....It was fine!

Front part painted with new gutters
Back of house and large barn
Front of house from on my.... old mini market roof.....

Small barn

Up on the top it mainly needs the fascia boards painting now, and the chimneys rendering.

The end of September I had a few problems that meant I needed to go to the UK

28th of September I decided to tax the van......on it was running out, It was not working, I needed to do it quickly as it was parked in the UK outside the house so it needed to be taxed. I could not tax it , it wouldn't work due to the new on line tax system not working.

29th of September at 5am I checked the emails and found one saying that our UK factory had been broken into and I was needed as I was the only person who would know what should be there.

So the van tax and the break in I needed to change what I was doing, instead of just driving back for a few days here and there near the end of October, I needed to go early and stay a bit longer

Quick on line flight booking for the next day..... £600 to return by easy jet! to the UK leaving the next morning

I had to leave in about 3 hours later , bus to Kazanlak then to Sofia then stay overnight to get the morning flight to Manchester
I tidied up rapidly ( I hope I moved enough food, I wonder if the open milk is still there???.....) , all the citrus trees are in the house as the greenhouse isn't finished ( so for now they are in a bedroom upstairs! ), locked the doors, had a word with a few people in the road outside and I was off , no time to finish what I need to do.

One of the citrus trees is still outside as it is so heavy....I hope it didn't snow on it too much last week!

After around a month back in the UK , 5 UK and 1 German trade shows to fill in the time!,  I am going back in to Bulgaria in a couple of weeks, last exhibition for this year is a wood turning and power tool exhibition this weekend.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Checking on the fig tree air layer rooting

Today I remembered about the air layering on the fig trees back at the end of July...I thought they must have dried out and died in the last month or more at 30 degrees C , with no more water......since I first attached the cups....

Anyway, on one of them, I took the cling film off....... It seems fine! , I will add a larger pot and a support for it, and leave it attached for now, but roots are growing fine and it all looks healthy enough, just the one I have unwrapped was a small plastic cup , far too small! , the branch is about 25mm wide

The roots are climbing out of it at the edges, I always find it strange that roots know were to go, most of the roots are growing upwards top of the cup towards the bottom of it....the branch is pointing downwards so upwards is the right way to go!, the small end of the pot has roots coming out up the branch as well

All the branches I have done this on are full of figs, and are mini trees on there own, between 1 and 2 meters high, I left the fruit on every branch and all seems well.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

More work in the garden with weed control fabric....And DIY biting insect control

It seems so difficult to do much at the minute, 35 Degrees C outside,  out of direct sun, in the direct sun its much hotter the thermometer showing 40 to 50 C most days , middle of the day is the only time to work and its just so hot, working early morning or evening there are just too many biting insects round!
We have the usual mosquitoes and bigger black biting flies.

But worst of all we have an invisible pest that has now been identified!....I thought it must have been fleas from all the animals around.

No....I eventually caught one! , looked it up on the Internet and its..... sand flies....
Minute transparent flies that look like a small aphid size mosquito , almost clear in colour and so so small....they bite and bite and bite and you cant see them and don't feel it till 10 minutes later, they go up the inside of your trouser legs, shirt sleeves , even found them inside my socks! , You can look and not see them, go to the other end of the same patch of ground and look and there will be great balls / mini swarms of them flying round.

DIY biting insect control.... that works!!
After days of being bitten, I found an answer on the Internet...
90% olive oil and 10% Neem oil ( great as a pesticide on plants as well, I have used it on plants for years ),
It stinks, but strange not that bad and not very strong, and it works very well!
I went from 50 bites a day to a couple of bites in the last week, the flies are still there, they just don't land, nor do the other biting and non biting flies!
As an anti itch factor ( Neem already does this a bit ) , if you already have bites you can add some tea-tree oil, it cools the itching from the bites already there.

Weed Control Fabric
After having to remove so many weeds every day, I am trying some weed control fabric , it looks a little thin so light can still get through it, so I don't think it will work.....but it may slow weed growth a bit.

I bought this fabric a few years ago in Asda , reduced to 50p for a sheet 6m by 3m , I bought a load of packs but have never tried it, I thought I would try it today.

I dug over some of the area the potatoes had been in, removed more and more weed roots, watered the area and placed the fabric over the area, held down with broken roof tiles from the barn roof removal the other week.

After putting the fabric down, I watered it again and stamped it into the surface of the soil till it was muddy, now water will run through it when it rains.

I cut a 6 inch hole for each plant to go in and stamped it lower in these areas so water would run off the fabric to pool around the area of the plants.

Then the broccoli, butternut squash and ridge cucumber seedlings were planted, maybe less weeds this time.....
Weed Control Fabric Down, A Bit Untidy....
Squash...or Cucumber! , 2 types mixed up....I think its the squash!
Cucumber???? , 2 types mixed up....I think its the Marketmore ridge cucumber!

Purple sprouting broccoli
Air Root pruning pots
They seem to be great!,  I plant to use them for everything eventually.....but not that soon s I have hundreds of standard plant pots.
In root pruning pots, plants have no circling roots , many many more roots, a massive amount of roots inside due to continuous root pruning and new roots growing, once a root in a normal pot grows around the pot it will always grow round ,in an air root pruning pot you only get straight roots, so when you change pot size or plant out , every root is straight and ready to grow outwards, no damage to roots is needed unlike with a `normal` plant pot.

All my citrus plants seem to be growing away well, but best results are in the air root pruning pots, like this mini Meyer lemon.
As the roots hit the bottom....they don't!, they are guided out and pruned by the air,
The root branches and continuous new roots grow straight outward  and never circle.
You can see the root `funnels` on the side with roots just visible, no circling roots 

Sweetcorn seems to be growing fine, not many yet, but a second crop is growing as well

Sweetcorn cobs swelling, 2 to 4 per plant so far 

The only work on the house today will/may be to finish plastering the kitchen

I plastered half of the kitchen.......Then I got distracted by the cut off saw and pillar drill in the corner of the room....wondering if they would run off the inverter (due to the start up load on the motors and only being a 1500W inverter.....) . If it would it would get rid of the 3 meter long bit of banister wood I bought 2 years ago , it has been in the kitchen ever it was getting covered in plaster....If i made the banister it would be gone!
So....In testing the inverter and the tools,  I made a new wooden banister for the outdoor stairs, doing that I noticed the mildew on some of the grapes so tried full fat milk powder on the grapevines to see if it works this time.
By the time I went back to the plaster I couldn't be bothered with doing any more

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Almost another month off grid.. staying that way!. and more goings on in the garden....

It seems to be quite easy here in Bulgaria to live off grid , well for water, solar panels for electric, generator for backup ( soon to be converted to run on bio-gas ).
We have nothing installed I don't know were to put it yet or if the systems are as  correct as they need to be.

Thee well is connected to a 240v inverter driven well pump, to use water i flick the mains switch and then turn on the tap, the drop in pressure triggers the well pump that pumps through a multi stage filter system that cleans bacteria using UV light......great setup if it was installed and not in a heap on the table with water hose and wires everywhere.

Hot water is on the same system, using a propane gas bottle water heater ( will be replaced by biogas , wood or solar heating )

The solar electric seems to be working fine , no problems with anything going flat we are always showing more going in during the day than we use , even including what is used at night, but it wont be so easy in the winter when the light levels drop, more batteries and panels needed and the generator as a top up will be needed in the darkest months

Even running another inverter to charge the laptop for a few hours a day , no problems the electric still charges the battery and volts rise on the battery even when charging the laptop through the rather larger than need be 1500w inverter

The citrus trees are all coming along fine, the one that had no leaves when it got here, has sprouted new growth at almost every bud about 2 weeks ago, now every bit of new growth is about 4 inch long and growing quickly.
7 foot tall lemon tree, all old leaves fell off when left in van for a week, now new growth everywhere
New growth photo taken 2 days ago, now almost twice as long as this.

A few of the trees still haven`t started growing any new shoots, they are on a root growing cycle at present as they were re-potted just before bringing them here,

Today I have started assembling the winter greenhouse for the plants , made from a 20 foot by 10 foot marquee style garage bought at Costco about 10 years ago, I have about 8 of them in the UK as we used to use them at outdoor exhibitions as trade stands, I have only one here for now as an experiment to see if it works.
The bars are 2 inch steel tubes, I plan to dig down into the soil a bit ( maybe ) and concrete the bars in, wooden frame will be added and polyethylene cover pulled over, wooden frame doors at the end will be added as well

The last week I have been potato harvesting, the yield was not as good as it should have been due to Colorado beetle eating the shoots while I was in the UK , Still I have 100 KG so far, and only half dug up , mostly very small varieties such as Pink Fir Apple and Red Duke of York , some supermarket ones have given a low quantity of large ones and very small ones as well, 3* or 4* 5 inch long potatoes and maybe 10* 1 inch potatoes these are Bluebell and another I forget what it is.

Potatoes...Pink Fir Apple....mainly

Some more citrus photos taken today

Small Aldi lemon tree variety has much larger lemons than my large trees, not as nice though

Meyer lemon cutting , growing in 1 litre air root pruning pot

Bears lime mini tree

Smaller lemon tree

Large Calamondin, just starting to flower

Loads of lemons....

Mini limes on Tahiti lime tree
Tomatoes are doing quite well, they had early blight but after a spray of copper/lime they are OK now, they are all twisted together in some weeds....but plenty of tomatoes if you can find them!

The beans I planted a couple of moths ago are full of pods, just twisted into weeds so hard to beans are now planted!

Fig tree, bigger every year
Lots of figs

Air layering plants is a favourite technique of mine, things root while still connected to the parent plant, so are easier to get established, I am currently doing a few air layers on the fig tree and the trumpet vine.
The fig tree is fully hardy , no protection and it gets very very cold here, so I am trying to root a fairly large branch for another tree, as well as a couple of smaller ones

I cut a strip of bark about 20mm high from right around the branch, dust with rooting powder and then pack damp compost around it, holding it in place with a plastic cup or bag, its then made airtight with cling film , 4 to 6 weeks later you will be able to see roots in the cup, when you can , cut the branch off and remove the cup etc and pot it up. Easy!

Air layering in a plastic cup of compost in cling film...

The next crop of plants is ready to go in, this time I am using weed control cloth!

Broccoli ( purple sprouting )  marketmore cucumber ( probably long enough season to get some still ) , and some squash....maybe long enough season here in BG , rainbow chard and beetroot

Purple sprouting broccoli

Chard on the left, cucumber,squash, beetroot on the left bottom to top