The end of the summer started off as a bit of a challenge. I spent nearly two weeks by myself at the project house in the second half of August. It was great at the beginning to have a whole house by myself and to spend time in different rooms according to mood but after a few days I did start missing human contact. Luckily I had the cats to keep me company: Mario became my sweetheart and Masha’s kittens (I hadn’t mentioned it, she had four in mid July!) provided plenty of entertainment.
It wasn’t all rosy in animal company though. Since the beginning of August, Natasha and me started looking after a mother hen and her three chicks. It was great entertainment to watch them walk around and look for food but one day I heard mother hen’s upset calls: one of the chicks got taken by a cat! This happened in their little chicken enclosure so I thought that letting them roam in the garden, in company of Mario, Masha and the kittens, might save the other chicks from other cats’ attacks but I was wrong: whilst chilling in the east room a week later, I heard mother hen’s upset calls again and as I looked out of the window, a rather small cat was making its way out of the garden with the ginger chick in its mouth. As if this blow wasn’t enough, when I went down to check on the survivors, I discovered that one of Masha’s kittens had suddenly died! It was one of my worst Mondays ever (for the last six months I didn’t really know what day of the week it was but I remember this day as it was the day after my birthday)!
Masha started to look really unwell soon after. After discovering that she had parasites (I’ll spare you how I found out…) I gave her an anti-parasitic to see if that would sort her out. She looked worse by the day and I was getting ready for another burial…until saviours Sophie and Kata came round and decided to take her to the vet and the treatment sorted her out!
Yes, cats became a big part of my life. But luckily Balkan Ecology Project’s ‘Regenerative Landscape Design course’ brought some new people to Shipka and new human life to the house at the beginning of September. Kata came back to help with the cooking for the course and the last weeks of the project were enriched with lovely Susan and two skilled Dutch guys.
And no, it wasn’t all about cats in the last weeks of summer. It was time to reap the fruits of our labour (and the pollinators labour): we had a bounty of tomatoes, beans, elderberries, cornelian cherries, figs, apples and grapes, ready to be eaten and processed through various mediums into different shapes, combinations and consistencies: preserved chopped tomatoes, chutney, juice, cake, syrup and jam, all very tasty and all too many to be packed into an already heavy suitcase…sigh!
Harvesting, processing, group dinners, walks, cake and bread making, people-hugs and cat-cuddles, all these were part of the unforgettable last days at the Balkan Ecology Project.
When I now look back at the day before I came to Bulgaria, amongst the nerve-racking feeling of going for six months to a country I practically didn’t know anything about, less about the language, I knew deep-down that if I went somewhere with a “blank-canvas-mentality” this could only bring me an extraordinary experience. During these six months, I met lots of travellers visiting Bulgaria, some loved it, some loathed it. I went through different phases of ‘love-hate’ myself but it is like that with most things in life, isn’t it?!
Bulgaria is different to lots of other countries, which doesn’t make it any better or worse, just different and unique. I can say for sure, the more you get to know a place and its people, the more you discover the hidden secrets and all the jewels that make it so special.
This is the last chapter of season one of permaculture in Bulgaria but who knows, just like on TV, season two might already be in preparation…