Home-Grown Food – From Meadow to Veggie Patch

Creating a garden, or a veggie patch to be precise, from scratch isn’t a picnic… it’s a whole load of hard work but it is work which at the same time as being hard can also be surprisingly satisfying.

Creating a garden, or a veggie patch to be precise, from scratch isn’t a picnic… it’s a whole load of hard work but it is work which at the same time as being hard can also be surprisingly satisfying.

When we were buying our new house we knew that a part of our land would be made into usable garden space with eatable thingies growing in it. As it ended up our new home had no dedicated garden space at all. The former owners of our place didn’t grow anything besides tons of beautiful flowers including about 100 bushes of roses. They did, however, support the local bee population by having some well-developed wild meadow… All good but we needed to make the room for our veggie patch 🙂 The plan became obvious, we had to turn part of our meadow into a veggie patch!

Our preparation work began in autumn. Luckily for us, a local man in our village called Ivan owned a mini tractor and plough and was kind enough to come to us with his tractor and plough our designated field. Then nature and the harshest Bulgarian winter in 65 years did their job. Over the winter months under piles of snow, the soil began breaking down and all the wild plants and grasses turned to mulch… super, everything so far was on course for getting ready for spring.

Once the snow melted it was time for step two… rotovation. But things aren’t always going to go according to plan. The snow melted, the sun came out to play but with it came also the rain. We were told that Ivan will be able to come on the 4th day after the last rain, so we waited… One day with no rain, two days with no rain, then the rain came… and so the countdown resets and begins again… after waiting for almost 2 weeks without the needed 4-day dry stretch we decided to start to clean up the soil by hand. It was a hard task, especially for two unfit people who have never done any gardening and had spent most of the last winter chilling indoors by the fire recovering from all of last years’ stresses. But day after day, meter by meter we slowly progressed… Until finally last Thursday at about 9am the doorbell rang, it was Mimo with the good news, Ivan is on his way as today was the 4th day pass the last rains. Around an hour later of precision driving and our entire patch was all turned and cultivated.

Time for step three – root removal 🙂 After Ivan had finished rotovating the soil this task became much easier. It took us a further 3 full days to finally finish our patch. We stood at the edge and looked upon our huge area of lovely brown crumbly soil set within a backdrop of wild meadow and marvelled at the transformation and felt deeply satisfied, it was a good life moment.

At this point, we were ready for marking the veggie plots out and the essential pathways. After some arguments and lots of running about with a measuring tape, a giant ball of string and an armful of marking sticks we had completed the task and created 9 even(ish) plots plus a 10th designated for root vegetables. Happy times!

One would think that this was it, but evidently no… after we marked out our plots, it was time for the final clean-up of the soil. I was not convinced and must admit to a fair amount of whining about unnecessary extra work but Mark started turning the soil over with a spade in one of the plots, I sank to my knees and started picking up anything that shouldn’t be there. I still mumbled about the stupidity of our actions till I tried to tug a root that wouldn’t move. I blamed my exhausted arms for their lack of power and asked Mark for help. He couldn’t pull it either, so being a bloke and refusing to be beaten by a mere root he started digging, and digging and then more digging. Turns out my little root was attached to a medium sized root that was in turn attached to a giant root that finally ended in a tree stump! 2 hours of digging and pulling and just a hint of swearing and the root was out. Mark turned to me and simply said: “A waste of time hey…” I resumed picking up old roots and didn’t mutter a word. Then, at last, all the remaining roots had been picked, we raked until all was flat and smooth and we were done! All we have to do next allegedly is plant our seeds.

I don’t know if you have any experience with gardening and growing veggies but if you do, please tell me, does it get any easier? Because right about now the concept of going to the local supermarket and buying a basketful of veggies is making an awful lot of sense. We were told this is the hard part and that now until next spring it is easier, but at this point, it is really hard to believe in it.

Moving Abroad – Do’s and Don’ts

For some moving abroad might be out of necessity for others a planned choice. For some, it may feel like a nightmare, for others an adventure, a new beginning yet whatever your reasons or feelings there are some basic DO’s and DON’Ts which will apply in any situation.

DO your research

Even if it is only basic research, as some is better than none. Moving abroad on a whim isn’t a good idea, no matter how adventurous you are. A good basic knowledge about your new country, its people, traditions and customs is a must before you pack your bags.

DON’T talk, do

I know quite a few people who talk and talk about making a move but never actually get around to the moving part… Well, we’ve been there… we talked for three years or so before we actually took the plunge but we did do it. If you want something, take a deep breath and act on it. Life is way too short to just talk about the changes you want.

DO invest in a lawyer and /or translator

All countries are different and some can be vastly different to what you are used to. They will have their own laws and procedures and without a person on the “inside”, it can be really easy to get caught out with something you will come to regret in the future. Even if you do extensive research beforehand and you really know all the basics, you will not possess all the knowledge about local unwritten laws, laws which are in use but can’t be found within any written Acts. Getting the proper legal advice is really important, it will give you piece of mind and potentially save you a lot of money. DON’T skip it.

DON’T forget about your income

When moving abroad especially to a cheaper country a lot of people forget that they still need money to live off… yea life may be more affordable but it isn’t free; even if you decide to live off grid you will still need some cash. Depending on your abilities you might move and think about work later but if you don’t have any transferable skills, it might be hard or nearly impossible to find work, so DO remember to find a realistic plan on how you can feed your bank balance.

DO pick the right place to move to

I am not talking about the right house, I am talking about the right part of the country, district or even street. When we were searching for our house, some offers seemed too good to be true… well, once we actually visited the once in a life-time deal we would discover why… the house was just as advertised, borderline perfect but no one mention anything about its neighbourhood, or the giant factory just across the street or the subsidence, the mildew and damp etc.

DON’T remodel your house right away

The chances that your new place will be perfect are slim. Once you move in or even before you move in, most people feel the urge to make it feel like theirs, renovating before actually living in and bonding with the house never works well. All that painting, decorating and putting your own mark on the place hardly ever works in the long run. Move in, live in the house for a few months, get a feel for it and then make more informed decisions about what or how things need to be changed – this approach will save you a lot of nerves as well as money.

DO insure your new house

House insurance is always a controversial topic; if you are buying a house and you have a mortgage you have no say in that matter, insurance is a must but what about buying it out right? A lot of people don’t pay for building insurance thinking that nothing will ever happen to them… well, in 8 years in our old house in the UK, we claimed house insurance twice – a burglary and a leak in the roof… needless to say, our monthly payment for house insurance paid off.

DON’T be a hermit

You moved to a new country so go mix with locals and become a part of your new community. It’s quite scary to see Brits living here for 5+ years with no real abilities to communicate with their neighbours or having any local friends. I know people are different but I personally don’t get it. Why move 1000 miles away and mix only with other expats?

Oh and most importantly DO enjoy yourself!

Have you ever considered moving abroad?

Following the Dream

I don’t want a perfect life; I want a happy one!

Just like the quote says, we are on a mission to have a better quality of life… but let’s start from the beginning…

Following the DreamAll of this started about two years ago. We were getting fed up with living in UK, it was all work, work, work (more commonly referred to as the “rat race”) and there never seemed to be a lot of time for anything else and even if there was time there was never enough money no matter how hard we worked; couple that with the endless gloomy weather and seemingly daily rain resulting in it always feeling damp and meaning a lack of sunshine. There was also the issue of a growing hatred of the ever encroaching nanny state with the 1%ers amassing total control over, what felt to us as every aspect of our life in the end led to a level of dissatisfaction that resulted in us one evening deciding that it was time for a change… so we took the giant map of Europe out and started to look for a new place to live.

Yes, I know this might sound a bit extreme but life is short, we aren’t getting any younger and frankly it felt like the right time for our next start.

After going through all the obvious suspects aka favourite spots for Brits to emigrate to such as the south of France, Spain, Italy maybe even Switzerland but they were realistically outside of our budget, we were shortly running out of places to live… all we wanted was an affordable for us country with sunny weather, good food, friendly people and you know what… we found it…. In Bulgaria!

I can imagine that most of you at this moment are either thinking good for them or as is usually the case sat there thinking WTF! Well, trust me when I say we have kind of gotten used to this reaction from people by now. Most people can’t understand why on earth we would want to move from such a well-developed Britain to an underdeveloped country like Bulgaria… well, at the heart of the matter we just wanted a simpler life and after extensive research we truly believe that we can achieve our dream here.

It took us a long time to get to this stage. Four months ago we sold our UK home and by completion day we had managed to move all our belongings into my parents’ house/garage/garden shed in Poland.  From there we filled the car with diesel and started the long drive, 48h later we arrived in Bulgaria. The search for our new home began in earnest…

We came prepared with a long list of houses that we wanted to view. After a few weeks of driving around and viewing properties with endless hours of discussions about all the pros and cons of each place we had whittled the original list down to a short list of three favourites. At this time we enrolled the help of my dad… He desperately wanted to come, probably as much out of curiosity as wanting to make sure his daughter wasn’t about to buy a disaster and from our side it’s always good to get the opinion of someone more sensible than you may be. So we had him fly over just to check out our potential list of a new home. As it ended up all three passed the “dad inspection” and it was time to start making offers… long story short last month (yes, we have a small mini anniversary today) we become the happy owners of our new Bulgarian home.

I have to say it was a real roller-coaster… up and down and up again… so many new experiences, so many things to learn but you know what… we are for the first time in a long time truly happy. We own a lovely house with a garden big enough that we could hire a man with a tractor and plough to plough a section of it in order to get it ready for being a veggie patch next year, we are surrounded by kind, helpful people (no, we can’t understand them most of the time but no one seems to care), we are eating simple but real food, which tastes amazing but most of all we are debt free, we have no mortgage, no loans, no worry… I wake up, brew my morning coffee and go out to drink it in my warm sunny November garden (yes it’s the middle of November and it’s still warm), looking around and thinking to myself: “this is all ours”! This makes me happy!

I know we haven’t been around much lately (and thank you for the many emails checking up on me) yet as I sit here writing to you all with this update I can hand on heart say that all boxes are unpacked, the house is taking its final shape and we are now on the mission to do what we enjoy most… cooking, baking and blogging about it 🙂

Take care, speak soon and remember it’s never too late to follow your dreams!