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(Updated January 2021)
A few years ago we settled in a beautiful village in the Rose Valley at the foot of the Sredna Gora range in Central Bulgaria (50 km from Plovdiv), where we are realising our small organic herb farm. When we bought the deserted house, it was completely overgrown and needed a total renovation. Now we have completed the majority of repair works and are turning our attention to preparing our lands, which is currently 2 acres divided over 3 nearby fields and our garden. One of the fields is already planted with different herbs (lavender, chamomile, Californian poppy and many others), while we prepare the other plots to make it plant ready, and we also installed an herb drying shed so we can start producing herbal products.
We are Laura, an ethnobotanist, Andreas, a journalist and translator, and our little daughter Maxine (January 2020). Originally from the Netherlands and Germany but we have made Bulgaria our new home.
We care about environmental and social justice and try to implement a more sustainable life-style, although we strive to move away from dogma and towards a better understanding of life in al its diversity and complexity. While we have our hands pretty full with work in and around the house and lands, in our free time we like to explore the lesser-known parts of Bulgaria and the surrounding countries.
Our farm ‘in progress’ is situated at the edge of the village and surrounded by hills and mountains. We are still at the start; don't expect big fields of herbs just yet. We are the last village for 40 km (in one direction), so there is plenty of free space for hikes and just to clear your mind.
We grow vegetables and fruits in our garden and love cooking, baking bread, making preserves, herbal syrups, herbal teas and spice mixtures. Laura has many years of experience with herbs and has a lot of knowledge to share about it. At the moment, the majority of the herbs we use are collected from our ‘wild’ surroundings, and there are plenty of wild-edibles growing here too.
While we welcome kind and fun spirits of all backgrounds and interests, our place probably best suits people who have an interest in plants and/or herbs, or want to start their own small-holding, consider living in a remote village, or those who have an interest in Bulgaria/Balkans.
Couples or two friends are very welcome. Solo travelers are also welcome of course! But, sometimes we need to tend to jobs and cannot always be available to go to places together, especially because we also care for our toddler :-) So, it is probably best if you are fine with spending time by yourself. We usually work together (with one of us) during the day and spend time over dinner, and there is plenty of time for exchange. Sometimes we try to accommodate more Workaway guests if there is enough accommodation free, for example if some come in their own van or like to sleep in a tent.
Our beautiful and somewhat dilapidated village is set in the middle of hills and mountains and the highest top is about 1230m. It is quaint and friendly, with many little streets to explore. On our village square you can find a small shop selling essentials and drinks, there is also a little bar, a post office and a bus stop. For anything more substantial the nearest larger village is Brezovo, about 15 km away.
*Corona update: the current situation is tough and affected all of us in different ways.. Last year, we decided not to welcome any volunteers and guests. But, this year we would like to start again slowly. However, we do take COVID-19 very seriously, not only for us as a family, but especially for the mainly elderly population in our village. If you come to stay with us, we expect that you are following the current safety measures before you arrive and while staying here, or tell us if you don't want to take measures. In Bulgaria it is currently mandatory to wear a mask in public spaces and shops. Please let us communicate openly about this so we can all make an informed decision on how to proceed.
Help with Eco Projects
DIY and building projects
Creating/ Cooking family meals
Help around the house
This project could involve children. For more information see our guidelines and tips here.
We will be happy to share our knowledge about self-sufficiency, plants and wildlife in our biodiverse region and Bulgaria in general. We are also happy to talk about the process of making a move to a remote place, renovating an old house and setting up a small farm. Volunteers can experience how it is living in a remote village and at the same time explore Plovdiv with its interesting cultural heritage (European Capital of Culture 2019).
Our busiest times of year are from April to early July. During that time we really appreciate help with preparing for the growing season and especially to stay on top of weeds, as well as general gardening and maintenance work. This can involve irrigation, building plant beds, dry stone-walling, but also painting/sanding and so on. We usually have several odd jobs or building/renovation projects going on.
The main period of herb (wild) harvesting is from mid-May to July. During that time we will gather herbs from the surrounding fields and forests and fill-up the dryer. Once the herbs are dry they will be garbled and stored away until the tea mixtures are prepared at the end of the harvest season. Maintenance of the herb field and garden will also still be ongoing.
In August the work dies down a bit because it often gets too hot and it's mainly irrigation and making preserves then. It is rare that we take people in August but drop us an email if you like, especially if you have IT skills (website and design), or there may be an opportunity for a house-sit.
From September to early November the work mainly involves processing harvest, clearing land and preparing for the next growing season, as well as some other maintenance.
If you like tough tasks, then late October or November (if the weather allows) is ideal because during that time we can clear away vegetation, which involves a lot of cutting and burning. We also chop the firewood during that time.
We normally work together if the task allows it, but we have a toddler in tow and either Andreas or myself will be with her. Write to us if you like to know about what we are currently doing/planning.
We usually need help with:
- Maintaining the garden (digging, planting, weeding, compost turning, irrigation etc.), and there is quite a bit of soil/stones that need to be moved/used to make beds.
- Harvesting herbs and preparing the plant material for the dryer.
- In the summer/autumn we will also be processing fruits and vegetables in all sorts of conserves for the winter.
- In the (late) summer we will prepare the firewood for the next winter.
- Any other building/preparation work that can arise such as sanding, painting, demolishing and re-building.
This host offers a language exchange
This host has indicated that they are interested in sharing their own language or learning a new language.
You can contact them directly for more information.
During the last year we have built a small cordwood cabin. This is a type of ecological building using pieces of wood, coloured bottles and mortar. Volunteers can stay in the cabin, which is situated in our garden and equipped with a double bed, electricity, internet and a simple kitchen area with a small fridge. Unfortunately, there is no running water in the cabin but we have a large canister with a pump there (you can wash the dishes in our house). If there are two friends coming, we can also add an extra bed. The bathroom is in the main house but is easily accessible from the garden.
You can also camp in our garden if you like, and we can provide a tent, mattress, blankets, pillows, everything you need.
If you come in your own campervan, we have one spot just outside the garden where you can park, which is the only large spot that's flat :-) There is a water connection there too should you need it.
After working together outside, we ourselves have several jobs to do in our home office (not always but frequently), which we usually do in the afternoon, and we need some quiet time then. In the evenings we we will often retreat with our daughter and have some time to ourselves.
Food is provided three times a day. We usually take our main meals at breakfast and dinner. Lunch is DIY (do it yourself) using the produce available or leftovers from dinner. On your days off we won't be eating together but you can use our produce and anything in the fridge, and cook your own meals in the cordwood cabin. You can also prepare your own breakfast if you prefer, we can discuss any kind of arrangements to make things suit all of us :-)
It would be nice to sometimes cook together in the evening, but this is not a must. We can accommodate diets such as vegan or vegetarian, or if there are certain things you don't eat/are allergic to. Just please do let us know in advance.
If you are vegan, we can provide some plant based milk and cream, but we don't really use substitute products when making vegan meals. Of course, you can bring your own if you wish.
I know it is probably needless to say, but we do expect help with washing up/ laying the table etc. and appreciate the mutual effort to keep communal areas a little tidy, it makes it easy to live together if everybody chips in :-)
We are an hour’s drive away from Plovdiv and there are three busses a day going to and from the city. More bus connections are available from a larger village nearby and we can take you/pick you up.
There is plenty of space to go for nice hikes, for example, to the Bratan Peak (1230 m). Several places of worship dated to the Thracian time have been discovered in our area; there is a Thracian sanctuary nearby, a sun gate, several monoliths, etc. There is also one of the very few remaining “revival style” villages about 10 km away over the road or a nice long hike through the hinterland. The peaks of the Balkan Range are also within reach for day-trips if you have a car. We have two (old) bikes available but I wouldn't recommend taking them for a long adventure :-)
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
We have fiber optic internet in our village, but sometimes during heavy rain or storm, we have power cuts or the server stops responding.
Our place is situated on a slope, but there is one spot just outside the garden where you can put your campervan. There is also a water connection there. The bathroom in the main house is easily accessible.
More than two
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week
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