Friday, 22 August 2014

end of summer

Already, in mid august, we are experiencing the end of summer.  Far too early!  We can only hope that the warm weather and sunshine will return for another few weeks.

Our normally scorching summer days have turned balmy.  The nights are cool.

The swallows are gathering to fly south to Africa.

Apples are ripe and dropping from the trees.

Everyone is left feeling rather disappointed and deflated.  After a long, wet and miserable winter (even though not as cold as usual), we have had a very short summer.

All signs are pointing to another long winter, and a cold one at that.  We shall see what happens.

Most of the sunflower fields are already faded and waiting to be harvested, but there are still the odd ones which have bright sunny flowers.  Even on a dull and grey day they are beautiful and give a much needed splash of warm colour.

Annoyingly, my tomatoes are not yet ripe.  I have the fruit in abondance, but not enough sun to ripen them.  We may be eating a lot of green tomato pickles etc this year.  Worst thing is that I will have to buy tomatoes to make sauces and preserve for winter.  Feels really wrong to do that somehow when I have such a big potager.

The chicks are doing well.  We have enough eggs to not have to worry about buying them.  I would like a slight surplus, but that will happen when I enlarge the flock.

I was very excited last night when I was making us a light snack of eggs on toast for dinner, and we had double yolkers!  What a bonus!

OK, enough time spent inside, there is work to be done in the terrain.



Saturday, 16 August 2014

Rooster


Once again I have not been sitting at my computer as too much to do outside.  Apologies as photos and updates very overdue.

Well, we have our rooster now, and he is lovely.  Still doesn't have a name.  Can't quite decide what to call him.  Would love to call him Roger the Dodger as he spent the first few days dodging the girls.... but we have too many Rogers in the village, so it would not be tactful if I had to explain the joke behind his name .... hmmm.  Was thinking of calling him Bordeaux - as Coq au Vin is a bit of a mouthful.  We shall see what happens.

Whilst the girls are pretty shades of browns and coppers (with mullet hairdo's!), he is striking in white, grey and black, with tiny hints of coppery brown.  Still a bit of growing to do, so we are waiting to see how big his tail gets and what form his comb will take.

The girls are laying pretty much everyday.  Beautiful pale blue eggs like jewels.  Have had one full size egg so far, the rest are "training" eggs and a bit on the small side.  They are very happy and content in their coop.  No more attempts to explore the terrain, so their wings have not needed to be clipped.

Sophie loves the chickens, but unfortunately the rooster is not so fond of her visiting them.  If she gets too close he gets a bit stroppy and fluffs himself up and runs at her.  Would be interesting to see who came out the victor in that battle!  Both are little warriors.

Our freezer is filling with veg ready for winter.  Haven't started preserving yet, but will have to start soon.  Hasn't been a fabulous year for the crops as too wet, so everything is late and some things not doing too well at all.  Still no aubergines and the capsicums are only just fruiting.

One thing that is thriving is the sureau and berries in the hedgerows.  Have made one batch of elderberry jelly, but will have to make more to sell.  Also have a batch of syrup put up ready for winter.  The blackberries are ripening, so will go foraging for them monday and make up some blackberry jelly.  Also a few kilos for the freezer.  Rosehips on the eglantines seem to be coming along nicely.  Am keeping an eye on them so I can harvest for eglantine jelly in a month or so.  I detest the texture of rosehip jam, far too gritty for me.  The jelly is the same lovely perfumed flavour, but a much nicer texture.

My jams and jellies are now available to buy at Chez Tante Mabel at Fondemoulin.  Hopefully they will sell well there and benefit both Bev and I!

The apples are nearly ready for picking.  This year we are trying to get a group together to take all our apples to a professional cider mill to have them crushed and pressed.  You need a lot to do this, and no one has enough on their own.  So if we club together it should work well.  Also, the more varieties of apples in the mix, the better the flavour of the finished product.  Win for all!

OK, time to go and make rhubarb compote.  I have a bountiful supply of rhubarb, which is fabulous.  I could eat rhubarb every day with no problem.




Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Les Poilus... and other things

No, these are not Poilus, these are cupcakes....

Realised that I forgot to post an image from the decorating workshop that I went on a month or so ago.  It was heaps of fun and I learnt so much. 

Things have not slowed down for summer.  I seem to be busier than ever.  Luckily it is school holidays and I have the extra bt of time to cram in my tasks....lol

The garden is looking fabulous!  Will have to take proper photos soon to post.  These ones are just snapped on my iphone.  I have flowers everywhere and the orchard and potager are looking fabulous too.  The wildflower meadow is coming along slowly, thanks to Jean's unfortunate plowing incident just when it was ready to flower.... let's not talk about that though.  Hopefully next year it will be fully established and look wonderful.

Unfortunately I lost the battle with doryphore beetles this year.  They have decimated my potato plants.  Hopefully the potatoes will be ok, but the plants are almost gone.  Very annoying.  I went out every day and removed the eggs and beetles, and then when that didn't seem to be working I tried dusting them with flour ( a remedy from an organic website).  It seemed to slow them down, but did not stop them.  So I don't think I will get the same massive yield as last year.

The chooky girls are doing well.  Completely at home in their chicken palace.  They have taken to following me around inside it and "helping" me weed etc.  The paler one has a fondness for pecking my toes.... she is the cheeky one and has a very bold character.  The darker one is slightly more timid and skittish.  Yesterday we went out and bought our new heating system and a whole heap of hardware items for the next months works.  When we got home it was 7pm and first thing I did was go out to collect the washing off the line..... only to be met by a chicken.... outside the chicken pen.  The lighter one had decided to have an explore, but could not get back in.  Needless to say I have no strawberries now as she feasted on them all day...hmmm.

The cats are all spoilt and content.  Sophie has not been battling everything that moves, so has been looking good the past few weeks.  The boys are loving our new memory foam overlay on our bed.  They also think it gives the best nights sleep!

At present I am working on a project along with a few others in the village.  We are putting together an exhibit about the villagers who went to the First and Second World Wars, and including the British SAS soldiers who were executed by the Nazis and are buried here in the village cemetary.  One of the team has done a huge amount of work tracing teh genealogy of the French soldiers and finding as much information as possible about each of them.  My job is to translate all the information into english and then to research the SAS soldiers and produce profiles on them.

Les Poilus is the name given to the local soldiers who went to fight.  It has been interesting to learn about the lives of these men (and sometimes boys) who lost their lives and are now commemorated on the War Memorial in the village centre.  So many of the names are still to be found here, and they really are still remembered by the older villagers.  One of the first stories I was told when we moved in, was about Clémentine who rode her bicycle over the Vichy line taking messages for the Resistance.  Her family owned our house.  There are still members of the family living nearby and the cemetary is full of those that have already gone to "pastures green".

As part of the project, I am going to London next week to conduct further research in the National Archives and the National Library.  Hopefully I will come across some interesting images to display in the exhibit as well.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Chicks!

My chickens are finally here.  So happy.

I have the 2 girls now, and the rooster arrives in a few weeks.  He is still a bit young and needs to learn how to be a big boy before coming to live with us.  Mind you, the girls are still quite young and have a bit of growing to do as well.

They have settled in fabulously.  Loving their new coop, and letting me have little pats each morning.  Hopefully they will be quite tame and will sit for lots of cuddles and pats before too long.

Sophie is happy too.  She has missed having chickens to guard.  Yesterday she made her inspection and then sat outside the door purring.  I could swear she was smiling.

The breed is Legbar (lays lovely blue eggs) and they come from Anne over at Arbes et Abeilles.  Fabulous plant nursery, and chickens too!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

and suddenly there were bees!

I was going to do a post about the wild orchids growing in the terrain today..... but as sometimes happens, another topic came to the forefront.

Last tuesday I had a very busy day.  Wayne had to fly to Sweden, which meant a train at "ugly o'clock" in the morning.  I drove him to the station, stayed in Poitiers for a little shopping, then returned home in time for a quick lunch before working that afternoon at the museum.  Of course, being a busy day, it did not stop there.  I had to go home from museum, finish off some light summer trousers I was sewing, so that I could wear them the next day on a trip, then I had a council meeting to attend.  You are starting to get the picture that I hardly had time to think, let alone sit for five seconds and breathe.

In between getting home and gobbling down some dinner, before rushing back out to the Mairie,  my neighbour knocked on the door.  He had been strimming along the drystone wall that runs along the boundary of our place and his, and on our side he ran into a bee swarm......

Literally walked right into it - with strimmer running - and bees trying to guard their queen from the nasty invader.

Luckily he was not stung, although he did do the crazy bee dance trying to wave them away whilst backpedalling very fast.

A friend of his is an apiarist, and was very happy to come and collect a healthy swarm of bees.  So he came and placed a beehive beside the angry mass of bees and gently smoked and coaxed them into moving house.  As it was late in the day and the bees had been upset enough already, the hive was left in place till early next morning to enable them to calm down and settle in.

Bright and early the next day (again! another 5:00am start - eek!) the beekeeper arrived and gently loaded the bees into his van for their trip to a new home.  I waved them off, then went on a coach trip to Beauval Zoo... but that is a story for another day....

I have been promised a jar of honey when it is ready to be collected, and suffice to say, whilst I am happy that my garden is so appealing to the wildlife I would rather not have bee swarms to deal with -  or snakes dropped on my feet for that matter (are you listening Sophie?).

Not many photos as I was not willing to get too close to all the action.  I am super allergic to bees!

It seems that every time I have a really busy day, some other drama arrives to cap it off.  No one can say life in the country is boring!
Just because, a photo of my baby boy Guy.  Isn't he gorgeous!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Windowbox

Just a quick post with an image of the cellier window filled to overflowing with petunias.

Everything is just looking so beautiful at present, and I am super busy keeping it looking that way, whilst still advancing the garden works, and keeping up with other chores.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Spring!

Well spring is finally fully here and my flowers are blooming beautifully.

I have pots with petunias billowing out and draping everywhere.  Lovely big purple and white, or raspberry and white blooms. 
My pansies have finally flowered too!  They did nothing last year and I was really disappointed.  This year they are a mass of flowers and so pretty.

The peonies are nearly finished, but have been magnificent!  My favourite flower.

One thing which has me really excited is the amount of elder flower this year.  Am looking forward to late summer and to making jelly and syrups.  I could not survive winter here without gelée du surreau.

I have heaps of borage plants in the garden.  The bees love them and that area is always alive with the sound of buzzing.  The plants themselves are quite attractive, and the flowers are a lovely blue.  Borage flowers taste a bit like cucumber, and make lovely decoration for cakes or in salad.  I was fascinated by this little white and blue spider who was happily living on the flowers.

One of the downsides of springtime is that all the small animals are out and about..... Sophie has been bringing me her spoils of hunting and displaying them in front of the arriere cuisine door.  Much as I love her, I wish she wouldn't kill the lerots.  They are super cute and completely harmless.  Mice and rats I have no problem with her killing.  She is, after all, a farm cat. 

Yesterday she was making her calling noises to alert me to the fact she had something for me... I could not find her at first, then eventually saw she was under the car.  Her behaviour was a bit peculiar, and I was wondering what was up..... till I saw she had caught a snake and was proudly bringing it to me.  Hmmm...  Thanks, but no thanks Sophie.  I called out to Wayne who came and quickly dispatched it whilst I distracted Sophie and told her what a big brave girl she was and thanked her for my "present". 

Oh well, at least the snakes here are nothing compared to what we grew up with in Australia........

No photos as did not think you would like to see a "spiflicated" snake..... you're welcome.