Grazia's 'Woman of the Year' 2017

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I was honoured to be invited by Grazia magazine to be part of the Woman of the Year event for 2017. The theme was 'Without Borders' and they made videos of the lives of six foreign ladies who live in Bulgaria to show at the event. The animals were all a big hit when they showed the film about the farm! 

It was great fun to be involved in such an interesting project and it was wonderful to see the great and diverse work being done by women in this beautiful country. It was also nice to get dressed up for a change and not be covered in 'farm debris' :-) 

A Blog by Pieter from his stop at Cottage Farm on his Motorcycle Trip

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In Bulgaria. I was kindly offered to come and help at a small holding, about one hour south of Sofia. As it was too far to drive in one day I decided to split the journey up into two legs. Close to Thessaloniki I found a cheap camping with a pool. It was the second time ever that I used my tent (after Albania).

The next day I drove to Bulgaria via Macedonia. The pass from Macedonia to Bulgaria is very scenic, so I took quite a few stops to take photos. Somewhere in the afternoon I reached my home for the next two weeks. Enter Tina & Kevin, an absolutely amazing couple from the UK who traded their hectic corporate lives in London with the simplicity of living off the land somewhere in the Bulgarian countryside. Anyone who steps out of the rat race is pretty much automatically on my side so needless to say we got along pretty well. They had bought a house and over the past few years they had turned the weed infested garden into their own back yard supermarket. Or vegetable garden as people sometimes call them. I’m somewhat of a ‘city boy’ in the sense that I grew up with all food always coming from the supermarket. So the notion of walking into your garden and coming back with a handful of ingredients to make a delicious meal without ever going into a store is so alien to me! So much different green stuff of which I’ve already forgotten the names (koriander is one I remember). And it tasted so much more intense than the things you buy in the supermarket! And not just veggies. There was milk and cheese from the goats, eggs from the hens and in the freezer they had meat from last years pig.

I really loved the animals, even though the pig, ‘Big Mama’, can be a little bit intimidating in the beginning but she just likes to rub herself against your leg when she’s itchy. So there were: Big Mama with her piglets, goats with four young ones, peacocks, chicken & cockerel, ducklings, goslings, one grumpy old goose and two Yorkshire terriers. Oh and a whole family of cats and kittens! They were all so cute, but the funniest ones were the ducklings and goslings. 

Kevin and Tina have become authorities on just about everything there is to know about self sufficiency and they are great cooks, so I have learned heaps of new things in those two weeks. I can also milk goats now! Herding them was a different matter though, I managed to split up the herd. Or actually, one half of the herd just walked back home without consulting me.

I made a few day trips to the capital Sofia, where I met my brother in law who was going to Macedonia with a friend for the weekend to attend a wedding and he was flying via Sofia. So we had pizza at a nice Italian restaurant where only one of the waiters spoke English. On other days, I went to Plovdiv (Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited city, almost 8000 years old!) and to Borovets, a local ski and mountain hiking area close to where I was staying. I took my paraglider with me to start from one of the ski slopes but I decided not to fly as I calculated my glide path and the distance to the landing zone. Worst case scenario (some headwind and more sink than usual) would mean that I wouldn’t be able to reach the landing zone and that I would have to land in a forest on a mountain side, so even though the conditions were thermic, I passed.

I’ve had an absolute blast in those two weeks in Bulgaria and I’m going to miss the telly shouting, the Masterchef Australia sessions and my own pancake making with hysterical background music! Tina & Kevin: Thanks a million! Hope to visit you again some day!

You can find Pieter's blog about his adventures here: http://www.rideandparaglide.com

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A Blog by Petia, Flying Raconteur, about her visit to Cottage Farm

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I had the loveliest lunch and afternoon today! Tina and Kevin, the gracious British couple who own and run Cottage Farm Alino, invited for me lunch. I found their web site several months ago and I have been following their updates about the farm, the animals, the vegetables, and the delicious food that are part of their lives and work ever since then. And today I got to meet them and spend several wonderful hours in their company.

It was a perfect day to make the one hour trip from Sofia. The scenery along the road was simply stunning in the late summer light. I got to the farm and Tina and Kevin greeted me warmly and invited me into the den. The house is decorated with an eclectic mix of traditional Bulgarian village and English cottage styles, very inviting and comfortable. I could already smell something heavenly being cooked but we went on a tour of the farm first so I can meet the animals. As we were making our way by the vegetable patches towards the barn, a whole bunch of kittens were following us pretty much single file, only interrupted by Queenie the puppy who would joyfully wrestle them while the two fox terriers were playing around our feet - it was a sight to savor!

I met Big Mama and her piglets, the goats, the chickens, ducks, guinea pigs, and the two latest additions - the peafowl. All the lovely beasts as Tina calls them looked so happy. We then embarked on our lunch - and it was truly remarkable. I devoured two generous helpings of panzanella salad that was so delicious I could have been perfectly happy if that was the only dish they served. But no, there was more. The salad came with freshly baked crusty bread with homemade goat cheese. Then followed the most flavorful roasted chicken with white beans puree. And to top all this scrumptious deliciousness off, Tina and Kevin served a freshly baked upside down plum cake with homemade plum ice cream. Let’s just say this was a meal I will daydream about for months to come….

By the time we were done with lunch and coffee, nearly four hours had gone by! Tina and Kevin are not simply wonderful hosts but great conversationalists, too. It was so interesting to hear about their life - back in the UK and in Bulgaria, which they have been calling home for ten years now.

Tina and Kevin host regular Farmers’ Table Lunches/Meet the Animals as well as private lunches and events and trips to Alino Monastery. Visiting them is a fabulous way to spend a day in the beautiful Bulgarian countryside, which is particularly lovely this time of year. 

[This is Day 63 of my “92 Days of Summer” series - as I travel Bulgaria and a few other parts of the Balkans this summer, I am recounting my experience across the region. Flying Raconteur - Bulgaria Travel Inspiration www.facebook.com/FlyingRaconteur/]

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New Pup

We have a new pup here at the farm. She was abandoned in the village (a common problem here) and we couldn't bear to see her on her own, searching for scraps.

We have named her Queenie and so far she has been making friends with the other dogs, our Wire Fox Terriers, Maisie and Noel, and the kittens (although, in fairness, the kittens seem less keen!). She is incredibly friendly, happy and playful and has a voracious appetite. She looks like a Karakachan cross, so we suspect she will be growing into a rather large dog soon! 

Growing Season

Summer has well and truly arrived here at the farm. We have had some scorching temperatures, mixed with spells of heavy rain - perfect growing conditions for our veggie crops. Salads and beetroots have been superb already, along with the first courgettes, and we're  eagerly awaiting our first tomatoes and cucumbers. We're growing mixed varieties of tomatoes again this year, including early Rila, Italian plums, tiny cherries and the prolific Japaneses Black, that were so successful last year - exciting times! The aubergines are looking great too, with a wonderful display of flowers. 

Come and join us at one of our events and enjoy the fruits of the harvest with us! 

Spring Fever

It's been a fantastic spring so far here at the farm, with a bumper crop of babies - goats, piglets and kittens! We have been full every weekend with guests coming to meet them, it's been great fun. Easter week was a great success with super weather on most days, making the egg hunts around the blossom-filled garden a real pleasure. 

Come and visit for Elevenses or Afternoon Tea and you can meet the animals too and see the garden gathering momentum - the flowers are on their way! 

Goosey Goat Herd!

The first baby goats were born at the end of January and we now have three lovely new girls and a little boy. We're waiting for some more now! It has been pretty cold here and the pond has been frozen, so we have put everyone together in the barn to keep warm. Our goose, Lucy, has since become very attached to the goats and won't let anyone but us near them! She knew when Kelly and Prudence were close to giving birth and became very protective and now she grooms the babies and herds them back into the barn when they venture outside! 

It has been fascinating to watch but it means we need to move her back outside when anyone comes to visit - it'll be great when we have the big thaw and she can get back onto her pond full time! 

Happy New Year!

We hope you all enjoyed a wonderful festive season - here's to a fantastic 2017! We have lots of events coming up here at the farm and we hope that we get to see lots of you here. This month, we will be running our popular pig course, followed by a celebratory Burns' Supper at the end of the month. In February we are running a competition to win a Bed & Breakfast stay here, to coincide with our Valentine's Dinner. Have a look at the events pages and get booking before they fill up! 

We are awaiting baby goats right now and are working hard to keep the animals warm and well fed in this snow. Looking forward to Spring when we get the seed box out again and start planning what delicious things to grow for the year ahead. The changing seasons are so well defined here and it makes it very exciting to have so much to look forward to. 

So, cheers to 2017 and come to visit us soon!