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Thursday 14 September 2017

146. Autumn love, preserving like a boss, and a trip to the Rhodopes

Autumn is my favourite time of year – specifically that dreamy early September period when the evenings are cold enough for a sweater but the days are hot enough for shorts and flip flops, and the leaves are *just* starting to turn. And the food! Oh my, I love squirrelling away food for winter while we’re still eating tomatoes warm from the sun and checking the chilli plants for ripe fruit every day. It really makes you enjoy the last of the hot weather, you know, when you’ve got half a mind on the winter ahead.

As well as our epic pesto batch, we’ve got a freezer full of passata, plums, blackberries, beetroots and courgettes. (Our courgettes are still coming, by the way. We’ve harvested quite a few this week. They will never die.) I’ve made a batch of tomato chutney, even though we’re still working our way through 2015’s spicy chutney. Plus some jams and tomato ketchup. Next up on the preserving list is quince jelly, from the one quince tree in our garden. And there’s still a tomato and herb jelly recipe I’ve been meaning to try, which sounds gross but the book assures me it adds extra depth to tomato soups, pasta sauces, etc.

Also, *pins chufty badge to chest* we made our first attempt at canning. It was just a few jars of peaches in syrup from the neighbour’s harvest, but it seemed to go well. We might even buy a big batch of peaches from the market to make more jars (our own peach tree is still too young to offer up any fruit). So if I disappear from the blog sometime this winter, it’s safe to assume we’ve died of botulism. Either that or we’ve been swallowed by a sink hole – you never know.

But, so far, the very best thing about September has been our trip to the Rhodope Mountains (Родопите in Bulgarian) earlier in the month. God, it’s gorgeous down there. Stunning, wild scenery. Diverse walking trails with not a soul on them. Dramatic gorges. Rivers. Woodland. I know I’m just listing stuff, but I don’t care. Cool caves. Amazing food. There was even a village folk festival thrown in for good measure. We can’t wait to go back and explore further.

Are you ready for the holiday slideshow? Sitting comfortably? Good. Pass the mini gherkins, Margo…

Wild flowers and mountains. It must be gorgeous here in early summer.

Quite a few villages have mosques.

So many mountains.

Eagle Eye platform.

The platform from below. Yes, it's that tiny thing jutting waaaay out from the edge.

Trigrad Gorge.

Sun streaming into the Devil's Throat Cave as we climbed the 300-odd steps out of the cave.

And now for the bear-related portion of the slideshow. Sadly, there are no photos of actual bears, so don’t get your hopes up too much. Tuna vol-au-vent?

Big ole bear paws.

Bear hide.

Runny bear poo.

Bear scratches on the tree.

More bear tracks. 

Solid bear poo. You're welcome.

We did some mushroom hunting. Mmmm, mushrooms. Even without the help of our guide, we guessed this chap wasn’t edible:

And now comes the random, über Bulgarian section of the slideshow. You know, the kind of shizzle you only see on hols in Bulgaria.

Some Bulgarian guys made us eat half their watermelon. I was weeing all afternoon.

Watermelon Man and his big axe and big truck.

At the folk festival in Yagodina.

Gals dancing the, er, afternoon away.

Lada 1.

Lada 2.
Finally, nothing to do with mountains, bears, mushrooms or anything, but I’ve got major polytunnel envy after a visit to a plant nursery in Hotnitsa last weekend. Look at it, it’s not wonky or anything! And it has a FAN for Christ’s sake! I am literally biting my own fist in envy.