Saturday, 30 June 2007

The Old Bamboo

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

Flaming June Get Your Act Together

Flaming June continues to be anything but in our neck of the woods. Still from what I can gather I would have been worse off in Leeds regarding humidity.
A trek down to The Woods That Legend Spake Of (spooky music) has revealed this tree fruiting away. Some kind of crab apple? or something else altogether ?
Plus a handful of cherry trees round the edge so a bit of sun and who knows they might even ripen. The lack of sun is really getting a bit beyond a joke now. We never expected to be lighting the woodburner past the middle of May. I take solice from the fact that I could be queuing in the rain on the M62 instead of getting splattered with chopped up bits of slug when I am out wielding the strimmer.
The crap weather has brought out the books (sod the DIY) and I am perusing recipes for stuff that can be cooked at gas mark inferno, homebrew things to try, in fact generally having a day of planning to do stuff. It's kind of like winter.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Hands On Experience

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

Finding Mimo

Busy doing nothing. One of my favourite songs and our theme tune for this week
Except TS has made these rather good shelves from some planks he found in the barn we are debating whether to paint them to match the rest of the kitchen or leave them woody. Inertia will probably win out.
But in general we haven't got much done. Today for example we spent two hours looking for the kitten. Downstairs calling Mimo Mimo, upstairs Mimo Mimo, in the attic, in the cellar, in the garden, in the barn (no she doesn't go out but we were getting desperate). No she wasn't in the basket all the time we looked in the baskets ten times at least. But she appeared from that general vicinity.
When we weren't looking for Mimo we were putting the chickens back in their run. Four times if it was once (eventually we just took them down to the woods and left them to it) or scraping the cremated remains of meringue off the bottom of the cooker.
The meringue seemed to be the ideal way to use up the five egg whites left from the creme patisserie that took five egg yolks and use up the left over creme patisserie. In fact to generally concoct something sweet and yummy. Instead I concocted a previously unknown substance that resists all attempts to remove it. The settings on the cooker are only notional it seems and the choice is actually gas mark blast furnace or gas mark inferno. Yes it is definitely the cookers fault the cook is blameless.
The oven has only just been put into commission, it needed the burner changing for LPG but we couldn't find the burner until we took the back off the cooker. It's taken two months for our desire for pizza to overwhelm our desire not to bugger about pulling the cooker out and taking it to bits. Then we couldn't find the replacement burner which we'd put somewhere safe. In a box. But where was the box? That was three hours searching then.
The box had been turned into kitten proofing blocking up a hole in the bathroom. So although we looked and looked it was no longer the box with the cooker bits in it was kitten proofing and we just didn't see it.
Oh and we're blighted our beautiful spuds blighted. This is what happens I guess when it's either raining buckets or 28 degrees and the veg growing advice is based on the UK weather and the gardener doesn't use her brains. So since they've all flowered I'll follow "The Vegetable Expert" advice and cut off the haulms, leave the spuds in the ground for 10 days and then dig them up. Unless anyone has a better idea.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Back to Reality

I've calmed down now about the whole preserving thing so I won't be rushing out to spend money or anything equally rash. Thanks to everyone for bringing me back down to earth.

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

Stuff I have to buy so I don't have to buy stuff

Now that we are getting potatoes from the garden my thoughts naturally turn to storing and processing the bounty of produce to come. So of course I will make jams and chutneys and bottled fruits and tomatoes and store dried beans. I will freeze peas and green beans and fruits. I will dry walnuts and hazelnuts and chestnuts and make things with them that I have drooled over on the internet. There will be cider and homemade beer and wine.

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

Self Sufficient Egg and Chips


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

Fairy Elephants

We've spent most of the day kitten proofing the house ie blocking up all the kitten sized holes in the floor so she doesn't fall into the cellar (she needs to paint a few fences before she's ready to take on those mice).
Tasha is still besotted and it still isn't mutual.
Given the freedom of the living room. Mo has mastered the running about like a fairy elephant (as my mother would say) so we can look forward to some sleepness nights listening to the thud of tiny kitten feet.
She has killed miscellaneous bits of fluff and invisible enemies and is now sleeping the sleep of the victorious under the sofa.
Don't you hate it when people go on about their babies.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Guilty Pleasures

Yesterday evening our friend Ian brought us this tiny kitten not knowing what had happened with Borg in the morning.

She had been seen with her mother at the house where he is working but then mum hadn't been around for a day.
The timing isn't great but there you are.
We have managed to get her eating at first from the end of a finger and now from a dish.
She has been to the vets today for de-worming and de-fleaing and has been pronounced a healthy six weekish tigre gris (grey tabby?).
TS is calling her Mo I'm calling her Mi-Mo. ( much as I admire Mo Mowlam I just can't see the resemblance. Although she is very fiesty).

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!"

Borg 1993 - 2007

May you sleep sunkissed through long hot summer days
May you stalk through fragrant moonlit summer nights
Till you come home at last
To the arms of the Goddess

Saturday, 2 June 2007

We all Have a Dark Side

I was ambling about in the garden today wondering when we would get something to eat out of it (beyond leaves). Thinking well the new potatoes might be ready soon which would be the makings of a substantial meal. I stopped to watch the chickens a bit.

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.