Sunday, 30 December 2007
Just New Year's Eve to go (meal at a posh restaurant with Us in France) then life returns to normal whatever that is.
For us late January will mean a trip back to the UK for a couple of months to earn some money to see us through another Summer in France unless someone over here is rash enough to give us some work. This means we really will have to get on with manuring the veg beds ready to get cracking with the garden the minute we get back and get the coppice cut for next year.
TS learnt a new skill yesterday he can now drive a tractor including picking up a bale of hay on the spike thing on the front. I'm sure the temp agencies in the UK will be duly impressed. I got to feed the pet sheep and make a cup of tea. I can't be trusted with farm machinery. These things are part of our friend Miranda's ongoing efforts to make country folk of us. Whenever we call up to see her we get dragged into some activity. Well actually we get organised and bossed into it. It's kind of an attraction of opposites we find her archetypal horsiness (think Princess Anne)amusing and she finds our Yorkshire accents and towny ways hilarious.
The Dinnerladies are going down the road to Us in France for the duration. No doubt they won't want to come back by the time they have been spoilt by Debra with pasta and cat food.
Sissy will get to use her passport which cost an arm and a leg if I can work out the logistics of getting her through the Tunnel not less than 24 hours and not more than 48 hours after a tick and tapeworm treatment duly certified by the vet and assuming her microchip is still working and all the other things that I'll decide to obsess about that could be wrong with her paperwork. In fact I am already working out what we will have to do if they decide not to let her through ie turn round and drive back here.
I'm not looking forward to the UK at all not even a little bit I'll just have to pretend it's not happening.
Sunday, 23 December 2007
They have tried. I've watched them inspecting every inch of chicken wire and gathering in the corners comparing notes. For two days now they have been stymied. It's great. No more climbing over the barbed wire to retrieve them from next door, no more walking up the road with a chicken under each arm.
In the fullness of time we will complete the moveable chicken house and Chateau La Chook will be retired in favour of Dunroamin (a nice little Swiss Chalet type design in my head) and then the Girls will get to do the gardening ready for next year's stunning crop of veggies. Optimistic? not really.
We are emerging from a horrible cold flu type of thing and one of the symptoms seems to be being really depressed and paranoid I'm sure it was the feeling of impending doom which finally motivated us to get on and get the run built.
It also motivated me to phone my mother. That and guilt. Now she hasn't got much of a grasp on why we want to be in France and do the things we do but she does like to hear about what the chickens have been up to as a rule. So I gave her a call "Hello Mam How are you?" "Martin's just brought me a fish sandwich" Clearly the conversation was over before it started.
So there you have it our life in France - slightly less interesting than a fish sandwich.
Thursday, 13 December 2007
The spooky pathetic lights are up on the tree outside and the holly and mistletoe and shiny things are up inside.
We have been invited out for Christmas Dinner so my proud record of only ever cooking one remains unbroken (even then I somehow managed to let the turkey go off and had to make an emergency dash to blag half of my Mum and Dad's).
Sissy is also invited out with us for lunch which means our hostess will be cooking and serving it not in her house but in their gite next door.
You see Sissy lives up to her name she is a dog who is scared of everything. The chickens, plastic bags, new blankets, the sweeping brush . . .
"Lurchers" someone once said to us "they chase and kill everything" Not Sissy. Sissy pretends she can't see things other dogs would chase, she suddenly finds a blade of grass unusually interesting while looking at the "prey" out of the corner of her eye. Once any danger of catching it is past she will spring into action and then look at us as if to say "damn if my attention hadn't been caught by that grass I would of had that!"
The last time we took Sissy with us their elderly cat chased her through the cat flap (it is quite a big one the cat flap not the cat) So dinner will be served next door to make sure Sissy isn't bullied by their cat.
As for Christmas just buying presents, sending cards and getting the vittles in then. Work of a moment! (I wish)
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
To make up for this I notice Debra has lights around her door and strange other side next door neighbour has had his madly flashing randomly strung lights up there since mid November. So tomorrow we will do our bit and put some lights up on the lime tree. Ours are allegedly programmable to flash and change colours in many interesting and varied ways but I seem to recall that they usually finish up fading in and out in a ghostly blue. Between us all we should get the traffic moving along pretty briskly I reckon.
The most popular exterior decoration appears to be Pere Noel Grimpeur (Father Christmas Climbing) these are in all the shops and range from about two feet high to larger than life size. We have seen them hanging from lots and lots of houses. Unfortunately hanging seems to be the operative word they all have the look of being strung up as a warning to other Santas.
We really will have to do something about christmas I suppose though as usual we are not in the slightest bit prepared. In my case I think it's due to having a birthday at the beginning of December not that I'm ever ready for my birthday either. Actually I'm never ready for any "days" or anniversaries or anything. Yes scratch the birthday theory/excuse I'm just not ready.
Sunday, 2 December 2007
This is how Mimo did everything.
Full speed with tail fluffed out.
This is how she died on the road outside on Wednesday. We came home to find her frozen in action, killed instantly.
In her short life she climbed everything she could climb and played with everything that could be played with.
She was a furry grey blur who pounced out of nowhere on bare feet, bits of straw, the sweeping brush, the dog. One minute she was there and the next she was gone.
Monday, 26 November 2007
In the morning we went to a fete at Chaptelas where there were stallholders selling oysters, sausages,wine, cheeses, liquors and such. We tasted wine, honey and cheese (well I didn't taste the cheese as I hate it but was assured that it was outstanding by TS and our friend Miranda) and bought some. Then had Moules & Frites for lunch along with a bottle of the wine we had tasted and bought in what looked like the village hall. This is the kind of foody winey experience I enjoy. Sitting at a trestle table on a plastic chair rather than in a posh restaurant, with your neighbours wishing you bon apetite and tucking into their food and throwing their moules shells into an old margerine carton in the middle of the table.
Then in the afternoon we went over to another friend's for champagne and cakes to celebrate her birthday. The company was a mixture of French and English as was the conversation. Mine mostly English with the odd French phrase thrown in, some peoples mostly French with the odd English phrase and a few clever people fluent in both bridging the gaps.
Only the one glass of champagne, unfortunately I was driving, but lots of cake to make up for it.
Thursday, 22 November 2007
The gifts included fleecy pyjamas, thermal long johns and woolly socks, all bought following the minus 9 degree days of last week. A man who will buy you thermal long johns and fleecy PJs is far more precious than one who arrives with silk lingerie I feel.
He brought our Christmas decorations (can't think what gave him that idea!), some pictures and of course more books.
And some things just because they were ours and left behind like the iron (that's the only reason I can think of for bringing it).
He is now sleeping the sleep of a man who has driven for 16 hours to get home and the house is warm again and it's nothing to do with the temperature outside or the logs he split for me after driving all that way. The fleecy PJs help too though.
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
Here you have them then left to right:- Scary Santa, Terrible Tree, Pathetic Penguin and actually I quite like the snowman I think I'll call him Snowy.
The more observant amongst you will notice that I forgot to make a hole to hang them up. (As if they are going on display anywhere!).
Anyway I have loads more dough in a plastic bag in the fridge and will refine my modelling skills . At the least we could have many many snowmen hanging on our tree this year. A trip to buy cookie cutters may pay off but would defeat the no spend objective.
On the plus side we have big bunches of mistletoe in the apple trees, lots of holly and ivy, pine cones and some little pine saplings one of which will do for a Christmas tree. Good job Mother Nature knows her stuff.
Sunday, 18 November 2007
Well I absolutely completely and utterly was going to give it a rest on the subject of the chickens. But every day their little bird brains dream up some new way of winding me up.
This afternoon I went out and there was not a chicken in sight. I checked next door front, side and back. No no chickens. Checked the woods and the chemin. No chickens. Came in found cat ball with bell in and got jug of tasty chicken treats. Checked next door front, side and back, woods and chemin shaking jug of food and ringing bell in cat ball. While keeping an eye out that I wasn't spotted by any passing French folk as explanations would of been quite difficult in English.
The bell by the way is what we thought we had trained the chickens to respond to by ringing it when we fed them treats. Normally it brings them running (and there is nothing funnier than the site of a chicken running towards you) but not today.
Anyway I was looking out of the bathroom window torn between worry and thinking well good riddance I've got a fridge full of eggs anyway when I spotted them. In the other side next door neighbours garden. So I was out there again trying to get their attention with bell and jug peering through the hedge. Of course I could of just gone in there and got them but this is strange next door neighbour. The one with an electric fence instead of a gate whose cat wears a collar and is chained up outside a kennel. Honest. (Before you start worrying about the cat I have to say that it looks perfectly happy and healthy and quite often roams through our garden and scares Mimo) So no I was not about to knock on the door and say please mister can I have my chickens back that is the kind of job I normally send Tech Support to do.
I decided they would come back of their own accord round about treat time which Dolly and the two Jeans did but Anita didn't. So many more forays into the woods peering through hedges shouting bup bup bup ringing my bell followed. Strange next door neighbour is probably reading this now and thinking yes the words pot, kettle and black spring to mind (but in French obviously).
About an hour later Anita was spotted next door (the other side) and reunited with the rest of The Dinnerladies. So we still have four chickens and I don't have to go buy another four before TS gets back.
No more now on the subject of chickens
Thursday, 15 November 2007
It is COLD today. I can't tell you just how cold because the thermometer is under the lean to and now I've thought about looking it's too dark to see it. But when I brought the washing in it stood up by itself which is usually the way it is before I wash it.
More so now because the wonderful clothes washing machine has decided not to be wonderful anymore and won't go round and round no matter how much I slam the door or kick it or twirl the programme thing or switch the plug on and off. I think it's dead.
I have checked the obvious things like fuses and sockets and I'm reluctant to experiment further. Not least because it's in the cellar and it's dark and cobwebby down there and I keep hitting my head on the beam. All in all it's the kind of job you need Tech Support for. I shall put it on his list right after the new chicken run.
After weeks of cursing them I felt really sorry for the chooks today, they just didn't like the frozen ground at all. In fact it depressed them so much that they only escaped once. They got pasta and tomatoes for tea but even that didn't cheer them up and they went off to bed half an hour earlier than usual.
Tuesday, 13 November 2007
Eating rock cakes the other day with Debra in France started me off on a craving for buns that I remembered that were just like rock cakes but without the currants and with jam in the middle. You know the ones. We made them at school.
Delia was no help. This set me off surfing the net (as we say in the trade) for a recipe. My problem was that I couldn't remember what they were called. The only name that sprang to mind was Barbaras and I knew that wasn't the proper name. That name comes from a rather flat chested canteen lady's unkind colleagues.
Well after many a fruitless search with the terms jam, cakes and rock cakes with jam I finally found a recipe that sounded more or less right under jam buns. The next thing to do was of course make some to try it out.
The left hand picture is my first sad attempt which morphed into Super Size Me jam bun. Of course it still had to be eaten and there was only one person around to do it. After all you can't give something like that to a guest now can you? And the chickens are still being little Bs so they weren't getting any.
Because I'm a bit of a trooper I tried again tonight and the right hand picture is today's effort. A little bit more like I remember but if I was Barbara I would still be worried. When I have bravely eaten my way through this lot (by bed time I reckon). Then I shall try again, in fact, I shall eat as many as it takes to achieve perfection.
Perhaps after another half a dozen goes Debra can come round for coffee.
Sunday, 11 November 2007
Saturday, 10 November 2007
Tuesday, 6 November 2007
Monday, 5 November 2007
Actually it's "An ephemeral guide to Broadstairs with black and white drawings and advertisements for local businesses of the period" but it was the name I loved it conjours up (for me at least) heroines of days gone by, a mix of Joyce Grenfell and Margaret Rutherford striding round the countryside. I did want Joyce Grenfell playing WPC Ruby Gates in St Trinians to illustrate my point but alas I couldn't find a clip of her. You'll have to make do with the This
Thank you Mousie for Breezy Broadstairs she has given me hours of fun today while I chopped wood and chased chickens in my new persona.
Well TTFN chaps off to make coffee and put some more wood on the bally old fire what ho
Try the game you'll like it
Friday, 2 November 2007
Verbs, nouns and adjectives are about the limit of my grammar words the rest seem to of passed me by somehow. Probably while I was writing "I must remember to bring the correct books to my English lessons" 500 times for most of a term in high school. Except for infinitive but only because my english teacher was always going on about Star Trek splitting the infinitive in "To boldly go" and mentioning Star Trek would get my attention.
This leaves me trying to learn two things at once - the words and the words for the words. If we just knew at school which stuff was padding and which stuff was going to come in handy it would save so much trouble later. I can still remember how ox-bow lakes are formed and that little bit of knowledge has never ever done me any good. In fact it is probably taking up brain cells that I could be putting to some useful purpose right now.
So I listen to that man on the CD
"say give me 13 euros"
"say I have some"
"say will you buy me some wine"
"listen and repeat"
"say how much do I owe you"
on and on with the words that never spring to the tip of my tongue because that bloody river making that bloody ox-bow lake is meandering through my mind.
Geography teachers, they have a lot to answer for.
Thursday, 1 November 2007
Sunday, 28 October 2007
Chestnut and Celery Soup
1. Look up lots of chestnut soup recipes on internet and find that you don't have ingredients for any single one so get a general feel and go with what you've got.
2. Go to barn and jump up and down to reach sack of chestnuts hung just out of reach by absent husband
3. Weigh out a pound and half of chestnuts as detailed in only recipe that didn't measure everything in cups. (what is it with these people that they can't use proper weights and measures?)
4. Cut X in each very slippy chestnut with dangerously sharp knife while cat "helps" by batting chestnuts all over kitchen floor
5. Roast chestnuts in oven for twenty minutes then peel while still hot
6. Put chestnuts back in oven to get hot again and peel some more
7. Repeat 6 till you loose the will to live and finish up with a whole 8oz of mangled chestnuts and give the "leftovers" to chickens
8. Make a sandwich for lunch this soup will never be ready
9. Sweat the vegetables in pan then add chestnuts after you have probably discarded the bit that the cat tasted and spat out.
10. Simmer for ages then puree and taste.
11. Give to dog and make another sandwich for tea
Thursday, 25 October 2007
Yesterday I had to retrieve them from next doors garden twice, the second time I got caught in the act. Luckily Tuesday I had given Madame a dozen eggs so she was feeling kindly disposed towards them. Nothing will persuade them to come out of there on their own as the bloody daft things can never seem to remember how they got in there in the first place.
I tried shaking the can of sweet corn but all they did was jump up and down and squawk that they couldn't possibly get back and they would never get to eat that corn and they might die. So in I went after them narrowly avoiding a well placed bit of barbed wire, did they squat down like they do for The God of Chickens ?
No they kept just out of reach under the sprouts and crapped and pulled off the odd leaf just to make sure next door knew they'd been. Or ran round and round the pampas grass.
In between the two forays into next door Debra down the road knocked on the door to say she'd just chucked one of them back over the fence as it was out the front near the road.
So I put the chicken run back up, we had been letting them range round the garden now that there's nothing much left for them to ruin.
I obviously did a bang up job because this morning they got out and when I got back from walking the dog I could hear one in the chemin. Again she'd got out there couldn't remember how to get back in the garden and was in a right tiz because she absolutely had to lay an egg right now. I love walking down the road with a chicken under my arm it makes me feel so sophisticated and cosmopolitan.
I was going to round them up again but they promised to be good and just potter about and sunbathe next to the house so I relented. Now at least two of them are next door again, little Bs.
Time to go chicken wrangling then hide round the corner and see how they are getting out. I feel like Mrs Tweedy.
To think I promised not to eat them while TS was away.
ps Got caught again and now all the chooks back in their run jumping up and down looking over longingly at next doors garden Oh and something has eaten all my leeks so it looks like only the brussels sprouts left. It'll be a windy winter!
Wednesday, 24 October 2007
Still waiting for TS to confirm that he has got to Leeds and is crashed out on my brother's sofa watching Stargate and eating chicken tandori pizza washed down with a pint of really hoppy beer.
I've not managed to kill myself by falling down the stairs, off ladders, chopping my arm off with the chain saw, starvation or hypothermia. But it's early days.
Tuesday, 23 October 2007
TS is currently driving back to Leeds to flog the UK car in the UK where they prefer the steering wheel on the right hand side and do some work for money. He will be staying with my brother who rashly offered to put us up anytime and is happy to be paid in the dark chocolate with raspberry bits in.
A month to six weeks he'll be gone unless by some fluke of fate we win the lottery without buying a ticket.
So today we have both been outdoing each other with the warnings and the cautions and the general fussing.
Stop for rests
Don't stop for rests in Paris on your own in the middle of the night
It's not going to rain so you'll be OK but watch out for ice
Have you got your ferry confirmation, passport, euros, pounds etc etc etc
All the numbers you need are on the phone
Look I'm packing this in here
Look I'm writing this down for you
Don't go up any ladders
Don't use the kindling except to start the fire
Bring enough wood in don't stumble about in the lean to after dark
Don't use the chain saw, drill or any other power tools
Don't walk in the woods after dark
Lock the door
Lock the shutters
So of course I shall be spending the next six weeks locked in the house eating breakfast and TS is bound to be driving towards the ferry at 50km per hour.
It's probably not worth your while popping back for a bit
Wednesday, 17 October 2007
As for the idea of making soup WHY?
That is until last week when the supermarket had an incredibly good deal on leeks. They were such good value that I just had to buy the 3kg sack (you know one of those stringy sack things that just look so farmy and vegetabley).
So I got Delia down from the shelf and looked at the pristine pages of soup recipes (the pudding pages particularly are piratically scratch and sniff, actually that should of been practically but the spell checker preferred piratically and so do I now).
Leek and potato soup what a success. Now followed by pea soup and vegetable soup. In fact there is a pan of soup on the stove as I type. It's easy and you make it out of just about nothing. Why did no one tell me or why did I not listen?
Soup is hereby added to list of things I have never made till I got here along with omlettes and pancakes.
Don't laugh I was sixteen before I learnt to fry an egg and married several years before I could make chips. At this rate we'll be having yorkshire puddings. Now they really are pointless.
Monday, 15 October 2007
We've been here since March and while we can understand lots of what is going on and what people are saying our spoken French seems to be stuck at the two year old stage. We can say lots of names for things but somehow sentances are something that happen to other people. As for conversations well they feel like being on the loosing end of a tennis match. The French speaker is effortlessly batting comments my way while my head runs all over the place trying to muster a reply. It's exhausting.
The tv has been good strangely enough for spelling and numbers. This is down to quiz shows like the French equivalent of Wheel of Fortune and Countdown. It's also good to watch the local news and get a bit of an idea of what is going on. Not that much does go on which is nice.
So anyway we decided progress had to be made and went to see a French teacher to get assesed for what level we were at and book some lessons. We are "wrong beginners" by that she means we have lots of words without having the grammar rules to put them together.
So we are waiting for her to get a few more English signed up and away we'll go being right beginners.
Friday, 12 October 2007
October is my favourite month here so far. When it gets back round to March I'll let you know if it's my favourite of all months here I suspect it will be.
We first came to the Limousin in October to look for a house working on the basis that it would be grey and miserable and if we liked it then we'd like it any time. What we didn't know is that the Limousin is golden in October. I really don't know how to describe it to you other than by saying it is golden. It's a sort of quality and softness to the light and air combined with the sweet earthy smell of fallen leaves and chestnuts. So if I was poetical or a painter or something like that I could make you understand why I fell in love.
Saturday, 6 October 2007
Tuesday, 18 September 2007
Yes the real world is breaking in so money has to be earnt or is that earned? No wonder I'm so useless at it I don't even know how to write it down.
Neither do I know how to put one of those you tube thingys in the blog cos I know a song about this so you'll have to put up with a link
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
I am making the most of the weather and the fabulous clothes washing machine to wash quilts and blankets.
We have accepted the fact that we've neither the time nor money to convert the attic into a second bedroom and have laid down insulation and boards to close it up. This has had the stunning effect that for the first time ever it is warmer in the house than outside. Yes the first time ever. Plus no need to worry about the mongoose any more
The chimney is swept and the heatproof board up to keep the warmth from the Rayburn disappearing up the chimney and bits from up the chimney falling in our tea.
We have sold our trailer, bought a chain saw with the proceeds and surveyed our bits of woodland. The patch at the bottom of the garden, the bit down the lane and the Woods that Legend Spake Of. There are enough fallen trees to keep us in firewood this winter and maybe next. We reckon that if we cut the coppice in the bit down the lane during the winter that should do us a winter too. All in all we're well sorted in the heat and cooking department.
The only drawback is we will have nothing to cook. We have managed to produce enough food to eat something of our own every day but alas just about no surplus.
This of course means we shall need money. Bugger
Thursday, 6 September 2007
Visiting friends we mentioned our theory that French tv would help us with the language and they promptly produced not one but two tellys surplus to their requirements. We chose the smaller of the two. As my grandma used to say it's not what you come with it's what you go home with that counts.
Now we just need to get some kind of televisual signal to it (I'll leave that to Tech Support). Yes the theory is that watching things like quiz shows where a formula is repeated and where the conversations go "Hello, who are you, what do you do" etc etc should boost our command of the language no end. No doubt I will become profficient at phrases like "come on down". Whatever, it will beat asking for socks of apples at the bakers when I mean apple turnovers.
In fact thinking about it "come on down" could of been useful the other day at the DIY having ordered and paid for our roof insulation we went round the back to the collection point where I boldly pressed the buzzer on the intercom (being the person in charge of communicating in an official capacity with French people) then said "aaahm bonjour aaahm je aaahurrrrm" and then got a fit of the giggles . Luckily the warehouseman was fluent in useless English woman trying to buy stuff and came out to get my receipt.
Seriously though I would like to extend my conversations with Madame next door beyond "yes isn't it a nice/horrible day you are welcome to the eggs yes the chickens are laying very well what? your dog is on the roof?" I have been watching various DVDs in French with English subtitles. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of my favourites but I don't seem to be picking up much vocabulary, anyway to my knowledge we don't have a big vampire/demon problem round here.
So if we ever get more than snow on the tv I shall teach you some useful catch phrases for your holidays.
Sunday, 2 September 2007
But back to the clothes. Today took me back must be oh more than 35 years, to the day my mum got her first automatic washing machine. Like most families we had a twin tub. For anyone who doesn't know this was a washing machine that had, well twin tubs, one for washing the clothes in and one for spinning them. You moved the clothes from one to the other using a giant pair of wooden tongs (because clothes were boiled to within an inch of their lives in those days and yet my school socks were always greyish not like those girls who always had brilliant white socks and the elastic was always a bit shot probably due to the boiling I still have issues with white clothes) anyway when I say spinning boy do I mean spinning. It certainly got the water out but you then had to peel your creased beyond all recognition clothes off the side of the drum and they would have all the marks from the littles holes permanently in them.
I had a twin tub when I first got married. The spin on that was so vicious that it would come dancing across the kitchen to get you disconnecting the hose on the way and flooding the kitchen.
So anyway, mum got an automatic washing machine and we all sat mesmerised watching it go round, even the dog. It was a day of firsts actually because we also tried instant mashed potato that day (not a success).
Today we did the same except for the instant mash and the washer is in the cellar not the kitchen and the cat watched as well as the dog. After six months of hand washing we are the proud owners of a new to us washing machine. My life is transformed.
No, seriously it is. Honest. I don't know how my mum felt all those years ago but after six months of hand washing everything I really really appreciate having a washing machine any washing machine. I draw the line at a twin tub though.
Thursday, 23 August 2007
The local wildlife is continuing it's invasion attempts. Last night we were watching The Land of the Dead (not a bad zombie film as zombie films go) and a bat appeared from somewhere (the windows were shut) and flew off upstairs. Perhaps it was just trying to enhance our spooky film viewing experience.
The cat thought it was her birthday oooohhh mouse AND bird combined and ran up the stairs after it with TS in hot pusuit. The gardening gloves were found but the bat was out of reach on one of the beams. We got the step ladders but Mimo thought they were for her to reach the bat so the gardening gloves were used to hold on to her while TS opened the bathroom window to let it out.
Sorry no pictures we never think of the camera in moments of drama.
Anyway are you sure it's Thursday?
Friday, 17 August 2007
Today TS decided to paint the metal plate at the base of the hearth (round the Rayburn that wasn't moving).
The kitten was playing outside. Now she has had all her jabs we've rigged up a plank so she can come and go from the kitchen window.
Our first mistake was not to lock her out of the way in the bedroom.
Our second mistake was not to lock her out of the way in the bedroom when she came to see what TS was doing.
Our third mistake was not to lock her out of the way in the bedroom when she came back for a second look having been pushed away.
Our fourth mistake was to make a grab for her when she decided to go tripping across the freshly painted hearth.
Mistakes one through four resulted in a kitten with green paint not just on her feet but all over her belly from when she crouched down.
Now mistake number five was to try soap and water. It didn't work and did nothing for kitten human relations.
It was time to appeal to a higher authority (thanks to whoever posted info on unpainting cats on t'internet)
This is the secret of unpainting a kitten
1) get sturdy garden gloves (wet from soap and water optional)
2) get bottle of sunflower (or other vegetable) oil
3 get kitten
4) apply oil to affected areas (your clothes, walls and ceiling optional)
5) rinse off oil and paint mixture with warm soapy water
6) rinse off soap
7) spend the rest of your life atoning
Saturday, 11 August 2007
"What is a mongoose anyway?"
"You've never read Riki Tiki Tavi?"
"You have! Rudyard Kipling. It kills snakes "
"We could Google some pictures"
"No that would spoil it"
Perhaps I'd better rewind a little.
There is something or some things that visit our attic. We can hear it/them at night tippety tapping about. During the day the only evidence is bits of beetle carapace and little droppings but not mouse droppings.
TS says it's a mongoose. I had been working under the assumption that he knew what a mongoose was.
When Mimo starts venturing up the attic steps he tells her to watch out for the mongoose. When we can't find things the mongoose has taken it.
The mongoose is up there now as I type.
I don't quite know what mythical beast the word mongoose conjours up for TS I only know he doesn't want to know what's in the attic. He's happy for it to be a mongoose
I'm happy that we've got a door on the bedroom. I'll be even happier when Mimo is of a size to go mongoose hunting.
Thursday, 9 August 2007
We decided to have a random drive round and sightseeing trip today cos we never go anywhere and we felt we should for a change.
First new place was Mortemart a really pretty village. They have a country market Friday mornings apparently. So of course we rolled up on Thursday when the tumble weed was blowing down the main street.
Seeing a sign for megaliths we followed it to the Menhir de Ceinturat. Sissy and I are in the picture to give some idea of scale. Set a good way along a track, just when you think you've gone the wrong way you see it looming through the trees. Excellent place.
Then we followed the autre megaliths sign to the Stone of Sacrifice. Quite frankly I think it was just the baldy bit at the top of a hill but an interesting looking stone for all that.
Then on to Confolens mainly because we've never driven in that direction before. It looked quite nice but I'm afraid our appetite for sightseeing was on the wane by this time. We were seduced by the aroma of Le Chippy where we had pie, chips and mushy peas washed down with a can of pop. Sissy was particularly impressed by the chips. Then we came home.
Tuesday, 7 August 2007
While the other veg has been swooning and demonstrating that it can’t possibly perform under these conditions especially with amateurs like us in charge. The cucumbers have been quietly getting on with it. Hiding their harvest under their sprawling leaves. Providing us with tasty little cucumbers in the face of adversity.
Even among this doughty crowd there is one little chap/ess who stands out. Barely half a dozen leaves have escaped the slugs but undaunted it has made it’s contribution.
Ladies and gentlemen I give you . . The Little Cucumber That Could
Thursday, 2 August 2007
Saturday, 28 July 2007
So I have sat here for the last hour checking out the cellulite of people I have never heard of and comparing the merits of diets I will never go on. I have already found the perfect way to loose weight, you move a long way away from shops that deliver chicken tandori pizza and chunky monkey ice cream.
On the plus side there was a rather nice picture of George Clooney in one of them and I could read my past horoscopes to find out how my life should of been going in April had I only known that I should hold back on my Sagittarian frankness and not tell it how it is.
To think I could of been in the garden strimming and getting a face mask of grass cuttings and mashed slug.
Now I shall hand them on like a glossy chain letter to someone else. That person will probably wonder why they read them and who all these shiny celebrity people are and so they will continue on their journey till someone has the strength of will to put them in the bin.
Thursday, 26 July 2007
Since the brain is not really functioning any better than Monday I'll give it a whirl.
1) I want Sweet Williams, mint and rhubarb in my garden because that's what I remember about my Grandad Bill's garden. The sweet williams he had me convinced were named after him, there was always mint sauce he used to have this with his Monday breakfast which was fried belly pork and leftover yorkshire puddings and bubble and squeak from Sunday dinner. We used to sit in the garden with a bowl of sugar and dip freshly pulled rhubarb in. Yes we knew all about healthy eating and balanced diets in them days.
2) The first flower I grew was Candytuft
3) My favourite herb is rosemary but I never use it in cooking just for the scent. TS hates it. There is a saying that in a house where rosemary grows well the woman wears the trousers. I did have a theory on the go that it was because men don't like the smell which is based on a totally scientific and representative sample of three men.
4) I like Alan Titchmarsh
5) If I wasn't worried about them raiding next door's garden I would let the chickens roam round ours at will and accept a bit of damage because they make me laugh.
6) I hate chopping things back and thinning things out because it feels ungrateful when stuff has made the effort to grow. Then I go over the top.
7) I chopped down the onions with the strimmer by mistake (see 6 above) and blamed the chickens.
That's me then I will tag
Hedgewizard (revenge moi?)
Us In France
Tea and Cakes (she's been far too quiet of late)
Jen (because she never mentions a garden)
and Mousie because I want to know more about her
Still didn't get up to seven then ah well here are the rules
Each player starts with 7 random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged need to then report this on their own blog with their 7 random facts as well as these rules. They then need to tag 7 other garden blogs and list their names on their blog. They are also asked to leave a comment for each of the tagged, letting them know they have been tagged and to read the blog.
Monday, 23 July 2007
It's raining (again) outside and it's generally too damp to do my main inside job of the moment which is painting stuff white so it looks like we've done more to the house than we have.
This (painting things white) is strange as for many years I have hated white paint. I like colours. White is cold and casts cold shadows but suddenly I find I quite like it. You don't have to match colour schemes, it looks clean, it's the cheapest colour to buy. Hurrah for white paint.
There could be a number of reasons for this change of heart
a) We can only afford white paint
b) I'm turning into my Dad ("what you want is nice white paintwork")
c) I've got a life
d) I'm a lazy cow
Or a little bit of all four except really I think it's my brother that's turning into my dad or at least I hope so.
I was going somewhere with all this I think I was going to explain how I no longer care that much about having a "perfect" house and buying all the stuff to go with it that will make my life complete. I am turning my back on the consumer society.
But I've got the attention span of a goldfish today probably all that internet browsing and anyway the shops will be open soon.
Friday, 20 July 2007
It's not one of those coffee table books that have you drooling over luscious pictures of chutney taken in a designer farmhouse kitchen.
It's a small paperback about 100 pages illustrated with fairly simple cartoons and it's in two parts.
Part One is an overview of preserving methods. What I like about this part is that things are reduced to their most basic principles eg jam requires 60% sugar by weight to inhibit the growth of bacteria. This gets me past the confusion as to what I'm doing for flavour and what is actually preserving the food and also past the wondering where to get various exotic ingredients and what you call them in French.
Part Two is an alphabetical list of commonly gown fruit and vegetables along with the best ways to store each one and where applicable a recipe for wine, jam etc for that fruit or vegetable.
So there you have it. Whether it would contain enough new information for someone well versed in all this stuff I don't know, but when you compare the £4.95 price tag to say the cost of a magazine it seems a reasonable price to pay to have all the information in one place.
One of the major problems we had in our preserving efforts was our cheap crappy LPG cooker and the things that hold the pans above the gas flame (as we call them in the trade) collapsing under the weight of large pans. All in all it's not very satisfactory.
Now we have a solution or we will have tomorrow for we have aquired a Rayburn (second hand at a v reasonable price). We used to have one on our narrowboat and it was an absolute treasure. It cooked our food, kept us warm, heated the water and even I couldn't break it. It did give the boat a slight list but that was a small price to pay. The big price was paid to get it on the boat. That took four men over an hour and was decidedly hairy at times.
I'm just glad I won't be involved in moving the Rayburn tomorrow. Now that's definetely a Tech Support job.
Monday, 16 July 2007
Sunday, 15 July 2007
Saturday, 14 July 2007
Yesterday I took delivery of my 10kg of apricots from the grocery van.
Today we have been working subtle and cunning transformations upon them. Have we turned base fruit into gold? Yes sort of, for now we have (dadadadadadadaaaah)
Apricot Jam - the finest (and first) jam I have ever made
Apricot Chutney - the finest (and first) chutney I have ever made
Apricot Wine - the finest (and first) wine TS has ever made
OK strictly speaking the chutney won't be ready for a couple of months and the wine till next year, but apricots have been processed. If the wine and chutney are rubbish then they will never be mentioned again and you will be none the wiser.
The day started with panic looking at too many books and too many web sites. In the end we settled on How to Store Your Garden Produce by Piers Warren, got an idea of proportions ,then winged it. So the jam is simply 40% apricots 60% sugar. The chutney is apricots, onions, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar(didn't have enough cider vinegar), raisins, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and ginger plus two spectacularly large but completely mild chilli peppers out of the garden. By the time it got to the wine I'd lost track but I'm sure TS almost definately won't of.
So if we don't die of food poisoning there'll be no stopping us now.
Only 5kg of apricots to go
Thursday, 12 July 2007
Wednesday, 11 July 2007
Not that cute itty bitty kitty? Who should be featuring on greetings cards and chocolate boxes surely not.
I've tried everything I can think of to impress upon her that throwing herself at me and biting as hard as she can while holding on with all her claws is not fun. She begs to differ. I don't know if this is because she's a feral kitten or she's just a little b******
I've tried stopping the game (bit tricky this when you didn't start it in the first place)
Putting her on the floor and shunning her.
Distracting her with toys
Making hissy spitty noises at her.
Holding her down by the scruff of her neck till she squeaks (it used to work for our cat Walter when we introduced pesky kittens into the household)
The latest is a squirty bottle of water. This at least has made a slight impression so I have had no fresh wounds for a day now. She bites gently and taps my fingers with claws in. Success? I don't know. She does it with one eye on the bottle and a look that says Mr Squirty won't always be here.
Petty revenge today. We took her to the vets for jabs.
She yowled and carried on all the way there. We warned the vet she can be a bit wild.
"Moi?" says Mimo gently patting the vet on the tip of her nose. "I'm just an ickle bitty chocolate box kitten"
Tuesday, 10 July 2007
Anyway not content with doing lots of stuff like wormeries, edible hedges, brewing and preserving and talking about it on his blog and giving me so many ideas of things I'd like to do that I am left frozen with indecision not knowing what to have a go at first (pause for breath here) Hedgewizard has kindly tagged me with the Bloggers for Positive Global Change meme
It works like this
1. When you get tagged, write a post with links to up to 5 blogs that you think are trying to change the world in a positive way.
2. In your post, make sure you link back to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Leave a comment or message for the bloggers you’re tagging, so they know they’re now part of the meme.
4. Optional: Proudly display the “Bloggers For Positive Global Change” award badge with a link to the post that you write up.
So anyway I tag
TS aka Arnold the Methodical
Irene aka Hardworking Hippy at La Ferme de Sourrou
TS because I can and Irene because she is worthy (but not in the making me want to run away kind of way). Being a bit of a Billy No Mates or as a symptom of my worthyness avoidance in that I tend to look at blogs but fear to comment that's all I can think of.
Monday, 9 July 2007
In the past we have created web pages linked to the site as a favour for friends. Now I’m being paid real money for doing it. I’m sure my creditors will be pleased.
The problem with being paid money in France is that they like you to say you’re going to be self employed before you start but once you say you are then you have to pay social charges. Fair enough you say and so do I because I have this strange socialist streak from somewhere that says it’s right to contribute (obviously pre Thatcher’s children vintage then). Except that you can finish up paying social charges without actually getting any money in.
It does apparently even itself out in the end i.e. over a three year period but frankly we don’t have three year period money.
So I’ve taken the easy route I’m working via a portage company. This means I go find people who want me to do some work for them but the portage company bills them and pays me less their commission and my social charges.
They get a commission
I get to pay my social charges on a PAYE basis
France gets some money out of me
It’s a win win win situation.
It’s like working for a temp agency but you find your own work so no phone calls from them offering assignments doing things you’ve never done before.
“We’ve got this brain surgery job the rates really good”
“I’ve never done brain surgery”
“Oh you’ll pick it up easily and they’re really nice people”
Plus TS gets to be a kept man his lifelong dream.
Friday, 6 July 2007
We dug up one bed of maincrop Desirees this morning. It's not a happy story, about the best we can say is we got more spuds out than we put in. Could of been worse we could of got less or none I suppose. The Charlottes have been great we'll definately do them again next year seems like they nicely beat the blight and the colorado beetles. Perhaps we'll also try another early variety.
My consolation is that everyone else feels sorry for us and donates food courgettes, cucumbers, redcurrant jelly and lettuce this week. Thank you Miranda.
So what now? I have no idea. Time to hit the books again. Clearly the time I thought I was spending aquiring knowledge I was really just feeding my day dreams and when I look in my head for facts on what I could be growing there I just find a film clip entitled "Heroine Swanning Round Potager Gathering Produce".
It's going to be a long hungry winter at this rate.
We will have an ample sufficiency of apricot conserve though (touch wood). Tired of waiting for our cherries to ripen and despondant over the spuds in a fit of retail therapy I've ordered 10kg of apricots from the grocery van man this morning. Now I'm sat here thinking that's an awful lot of apricots.
More research required "Heroine With Shining Shelves of Bottled Produce" film clip is no use.
Thursday, 5 July 2007
Our friend Miranda was talking to a French farmer who says this weather is down to the moon and that it won't improve dramatically till after the 14th. So roll on the 14th - Bastille Day, fireworks and good weather.
It's all a bit disappointing in the garden at the moment but some stuff seems to be coping with the wet weather. The brussels sprouts, the red cabbage (we bought seedlings in of that just to add a bit of colour really), the french beans are still going strong as are the peas and the sweetcorn is still looking good.
I wish I'd planted more peas now as I didn't expect them to be quite so nice and we haven't really got enough plants in to get two portions of peas for a meal. We are having a tiny portion of peas and a huge portion of French beans. The long term stuff that takes up a lot of space like potatoes are definitely going in the Orchard next year to give us chance to try lots of variety and so get some insurance against the weather.
We have been consoling ourselves by retreating into science fiction watching Stargate DVDs every night. We had an all too brief interlude of Firefly (why did they axe that series?) and a couple of Dr Who's as well.
In between that we are rescuing Sissy from the kitten. That dog is such a wimp. Tasha has put paid to kitten pestering by a very serious snarl in the kitten's face. Sissy always moves away which gives the kitten a hugely inflated idea of just how tough she is leading to a swaggering kitten walk (think Ryker on Star Trek while we are on Sci Fi).
Saturday, 30 June 2007
The sun is shining and everything seems possible today. Optimism replacing the creeping mardyness brought on by the cold miserable weather.
We're rediscovering the back door of the barn.
It faces onto the little track that runs down the side of the property. The huge bushy stuff is bamboo. It likes it there but it is taller than the barn and it's knocking the tiles off the roof. Plus it's a nice bit of wall to grow something more useful on. After all how many pea sticks do you need?
Friends want bits for their gardens or for pots on the patio but it's not that genteel designery type of plant. It sends up spears, not shoots, which rapidly grow to 15 or 20 feet tall. I can see us engaging in jungle warfare for some time to come.
I think the tomatoes have had it but it's too nice a day to care.
We have peas, carrots, french beans and spuds, next cold day I'll try making soup. Tomorrow judging by the forecast.
Thursday, 28 June 2007
Monday, 25 June 2007
Today I felt something that I've only read about in books or heard about on tv.
When I went to get some spuds for dinner the soil was really warm compared to the air temperature. Yes I have read about the soil warming up as in "waiting for the soil to warm up to plant things" but this is the first time I have actually felt it. Suddenly with my hands in the mud I thought "Ah this is what they mean" and I felt a bit like a gardener.
Only a bit though because my tomatoes are a disgrace. Its the weather I think. We've had one hot sunny day in the last week , less than a handful all month. They keep flowering but nothing ever comes of it and now they're looking decidedly ill. Maybe I'm just not cut out for tomatoes but I have some replacements waiting in the wings should the summer decide to frame itself. Otherwise there's always next year.
Yesterday (our hot sunny day) we went to the vide grenier at St Sornin Leulac. It looks deserted because it's lunch time. We bought chips, a sausage sandwich and a beer. We already have enough rubbish.
Wednesday, 20 June 2007
Friday, 15 June 2007
Every now and again I am overcome with "My life would be complete if only I had ..." For the last two years it has been "if only I was at my house in France" now I'm here it's moved onto consumer goods.
I don't want to come over all maudlin, sentimental and platitudy but really my life is complete when we're walking the dogs in the woods, grazing on the raspberries and peas in the garden (yes we have raspberies and peas! but not enough to make it to the kitchen yet), playing with the kitten, having a drink and a laugh with friends etc etc none of which is available at the shops.
So I have reconnected with my inner yorkshirewoman and today it's checking out the barn to see if we can make owt for nowt.
You see the barn is stacked up with all sorts of odds and sods left by the previous inhabitants mainly wood but also old tools with handles that have been completely eaten by wood worm, an old woodburning stove that we can't get to for the wood, all sorts of things that could make my life complete.
Monday, 11 June 2007
All this marvellous food and drink for free!
No it bloody well isn’t.
For I shall have to buy big pans for making jams and chutneys even if I do without thermometers and funnels and tongs for lifting jars out of water and cherry stoners and apple corers and sieves, I shall have to buy jars. I shall have to buy storage tins for storing dried food. I shall have to buy a freezer to freeze food. I shall have to buy baking accoutrements like tins and rolling pins and pastry brushes and weighing scales. Brewing supplies like buckets and demi-johns and bottles and caps.
All this is before I start buying food to add to the food, things like sugar and vinegar, spices, flour, baking powder, yeast.
Admittedly much of the stuff is “an investment” and will be used many times. But it could all go horribly wrong and I will have all the possessions but no food. I could buy a lot of jars of jam, frozen peas, tins of tomatoes and sticky buns for that money all made by experts in their field, and have change for a recliner, parasol and a good book.
So at the end of the day I can’t produce food cheaper than I can buy it. All things considered. Unless I consider food miles, freshness, quality of life, job satisfaction and all the worthy green stuff, but I just wanted to moan about all the stuff that has to be bought so I won’t go into all that. I'd only be leaning on an open door or boring or both.
Friday, 8 June 2007
We've graduated from sandwiches to hot meals. From dinner to tea (or lunch to dinner if you're posh) in the self sufficiency stakes.
We now have the makings of a meal. We dug up our first few Charlotte potatoes today. (Not counting the one we dug up a couple of weeks ago to see what was happening down there)
No I didn't make chips (just how common do you think I am?) We have had them boiled in their skins with lots of butter and they were yummy and potatoey. I even went so far as to cook duck to go with them in a hastily concocted marmalade sauce (which is far indeed for someone as domestically challenged as I am). But the potatoes were the stars.
And yes we have had them at tea time
Potatoes! The official food of the Breezy Break!
ps Do we leave them and dig them up as we want them or dig them all up now?
Thursday, 7 June 2007
Wednesday, 6 June 2007
Tasha wants her for her very own puppy despite the hissing and growling. Sissy thinks she's spooky "she's small but she's not far away!"
Saturday, 2 June 2007
They were doing chicken stuff mainly scratching at the soil and stepping back to see if they'd unearthed anything and chasing the one who managed to get the biggest bug. This got me to thinking about how free range chicken legs are meatier and tastier because they get to do that too rather than being crammed into a barn where they can't move around.
Do you know where I'm going with this?
Yes I'm afraid so. I began to look at "our girls" as food. Not that I would ever eat them no of course not perish the thought. But I might consider eating a chicken that I owned. In fact I might feel more comfortable doing that than eating a chicken that hadn't scratched about in the sunshine and fresh air and had a chance to be a chicken.
Scarey thought for a townie.