Saturday, 28 July 2007

I want that hour back right now!

Today we went out to see friends and I came back laden with magazines of the kind that tell you how to loose ten stones in ten days and are full of pictures of celebs doing celeb stuff and "ordinary" people who have slept with their sister's/mother's/best friend's husband. Well they were free and I thought I might have a bit of a read.

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

Random 7 Garden Facts

Memes flying in from all directions now it's Adekun and seven random garden facts.

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

I have discovered purest white

It's a rubbish day today and I'm wasting it by looking round the Internet and blogging, alternatively I'm just chilling out.

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

Homework and Working on the Home

Hedgewizard asked for a review of How to Store Your Garden Produce by Piers Warren and I thought OK why not, but then it felt a bit like a homework assignment and I worried about my grade. So I'll just tell you about it and leave reviews to reviewers.

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

Breuilaufa Dolmen

Almost every time we go out in the car we pass a signpost for the dolmen at Breuilaufa. We keep promising ourselves the slight diversion to go see it but somehow in three years we never have even though it's only about two miles away.
Today we did.
And here it is stood standing there about twenty yards into the field.
Inside on a ledge was a small sheaf of wheat.
We'll go again soon I think.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

The fruits of our labours

Left to right gratuitous french beans, apricot jam, apricot pie filling, apricot chutney

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Apricot Day

Today 14th July Bastille Day in France but in this house it is henceforth proclaimed Apricot Day.

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

Why was it we wanted any pets?

Just when you think you can put your feet up and relax. The dog who has been snacking on the contents of the litter tray pukes all over the cat. Deep joy.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Why was it we wanted a kitten?

My hands are decidely manky at the moment I look like I have some sort of weird skin condition. Can you guess who's responsible?

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

I'm Not Worthy

And I don't mean that in a self depricating Wayne's World kind of way. I mean I am not one of those serious worthy people who march and sign petitions and organise protests and raise awareness. I may admire those people (from a safe distance) but I'll run away if I see them approaching. Telling Tech Support how to live his life is a full time lifelong job and I have a contractual obligation there.

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

Working for the Man

Our web site gets a surprising number of visitors. Some arrive via very strange searches “Lifestyle France The Olden Days” springs to mind as does “Mr Stripy Tomato Picture”. But generally stick one of the subjects we cover alongside Limousin France in your search and there we are amongst all the estate agents and gites.

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

You Say Potato I Say What Now?

Only one bed of blighted potatoes left in the ground now.

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

And still it rains

Except it's not raining today at least not yet but it does look like rain.

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).