Monday, 14 December 2015

Working hard

I know.  I am terrible at updating my blog.  It is just that life keeps getting in the way and so I have no time to sit at the computer.

A short time after my last post I received an urgent request from someone I know to take over from her at her job.  After a lot of discussion and deliberation, I have taken it on and am now even more busy than before.  But you can't really knock back paid work when on offer can you.

So I spend my weekday mornings working in garden, looking after the poultry and cats and doing all the usual household tasks.  Then the afternoons are spent teaching english at a local school and tutoring kidlets in english.  We have had a good giggle thinking about the fact that there is going to be a whole generation of French children who grow up speaking english with an Australian accent.....

As it is more academic than what I was doing before, I need to prepare lesson plans and do a lot more prep work.  A lot of fun though and the kidlets are mostly really good.  A few challenges, but nothing I can't handle.

Guy is not coping well with my working afternoons.  He is such a stress boy and spends all the time I am away from home ripping his fur out.  He looks very moth eaten and scruffy.  Have tried everything to calm him down, but he is so attached to me that he can't cope with me being gone for any amount of time.  At least when working in the garden he can see me, but when I drive off he falls apart.

Eric.  Well he is his usual self and really doesn't care much so long as food bowl is full and he has a warm spot to sleep.

Poor Sophie is getting very old and starting to show her age.  I have a feeling she will not last the winter.  It will be sad, but at least the last few years of her life have been very comfortable and she has had a good quality of life with us. 

McKinnell is growing up and turning into a very handsome young cat.  He is starting to fill out and keep some weight on now, which is a good thing.  Still an absolute sook and cries for cuddles and attention, but with a lovely nature and personality.  A real talker too.  He loves to follow me around "helping" outside and meowling the whole time.

The hens are doing really well and all my chicks from this year are at the layer stage, so we have plenty of eggs.  Nougat still hates Garlic, some things never change.  Garlic is still my sooky boy and loves his cuddles, but is getting way too big to pick up for very long.  He is magnificent and much bigger than Nougat.  I keep telling Nougat to stop picking on Garlic.  Someday soon Garlic is going to realise he is the bigger rooster and put Nougat in his place.

My duckling is growing well.  Not big enough for Christmas dinner, so it will live a while longer.  It is best friends with the dwarf/legbar hen and they spend all their time together.  Really cute to watch them.

In september I visited a Chateau that is famous for its gardens with the garden club.  The Chateau de la Bourdaisi√®re.  Absolutely fabulous!  Incredible gardens with all sorts of flowers, but specialising in tomatoes and dahlias.  We had the special lunch menu where everything was tomato based which was really good and very interesting.  You normally don't think of tomatoes as a dessert fruit, but the tomato sorbet we had was lovely.

I am loving the glossy black tomatoes, and am going to try and grow them next year.  Will also be trialling a new way of staking the plants.  They had them attached to tripods, which were much more sturdy than the single stake that most people use.  Shall see what happens next year.

The school I am working at is only 15minutes away, but most of the kids did not know me beforehand.  Now I am known by all of them, to the point of not being able to go anywhere without one of them coming up to me and trying to talk in english.  Cute, but some days you really want to remain  The stories I could tell after such a short time.... there are NO secrets when children are involved.  I should be writing them down so I can write a book afterwards.  The secret life of French families, or somesuch title.

All the staff are really nice and have been very welcoming and helpful.  I think I am very lucky to have such a lovely group of people to work with.  It really does make a huge difference.  We always have a nice chat and quite often a good laugh over something.  Helping my french enormously as well.

We are spending Christmas here this year.  Our roof is being replaced and work is due to start at any time after 25th december, so we need to be onsite ready.  It will be good to not have to worry when we get storms.  Normally we are frozen in place each time the wind gusts, waiting to hear the insidious drip drip of leaks, or the crack and clatter of another tile breaking/turning to dust - or mud during heavy rain.

Personally, I am fine with staying home and curling up in front of the fire with the cats and a good book.  I also have 2 really nice teas to enjoy, so I am quite content.

Speaking of books, my kindle has died.  I was devastated!  Mind you, as Wayne said, it has seen A LOT of use over the years that I have owned it.  It has also travelled all over and is probably more well travelled than most people.  Luckily all my books are archived so I can access them still on my new kindle.  After a month, I received a new one for my birthday which was wonderful.  It is already bulging with titles and getting a good workout.  Still trying to get used to the new way of using it though.  No buttons like the old one, just touch screen controls.  Sometimes I am wondering why it won't go to next page, only to realise that no matter how many times I press the side it won't work... you need to touch the screen. Sigh.

Sunday, 2 August 2015


 Wow! Time flies when you're having fun........

A long silence due to being too busy to spend time at my desk.

For end of May and June we had family visiting.  Did the usual sightseeing and touristy things, as well as lots of relaxing in the garden.  The flowers in my borders were magnificent this year.  A real pleasure to just sit and admire them all and watch the bees and hummingbird moths feast themselves.  I won a prize at garden club in May for this lovely rose.

Spent a lot of time cuddling the chicks too..... to the point where one of them is super tame and just wants to be picked up and cuddled all the time.  A little rooster with a HUGE personality.  We have named him Garlic (he loves raw chopped up garlic above any other treat) and will hang on to him for a year or so to fertilise his clutch mates.  Luckily he is from our nieghbours hens, so unrelated to mine.

Another little rooster from that clutch will go back to our neighbour.  His nasty rooster was killed by a dog in early july, so his girls have been wandering around a little lost and almost stoppped laying.

I have two lovely hens - a legbar, and a legbar/araucana cross from the same clutch.  They will stay with me and be Garlic's girls.

The day they turned 12 weeks, Apricot chicken hatched a second clutch.  Six in this one - but she was sitting on 15 eggs!!!  I had given her 7 eggs to sit, but the naughty girl was stealing the eggs from the other hens and rolling them in to her nest to sit on.  By the time I realised what was happening it was too late.  No one else had a broody that I could put the eggs under, so they had to be thrown.  At least they fertilised my nectarine and peach trees and didn't go in the bin.

So now I have 6 little puffballs running around.  Looks like 2 legbars, 1 dwarf/legbar, 1 araucana/legbar and 2 marans.  The legbars are hens (thank goodness for autosexing!!!), but not sure on the rest.  Am hoping the dwarf is a hen as they make excellent broodies.  Any roosters from this clutch will go to the freezer at 12 weeks or so.

We have had horrendous heatwaves here for all of July and most of June.  Really difficult to keep water up to the veg, and the crops are suffering everywhere.  The river is almost dry, and even the wells are drying up, and that never happens here!  We did get a few millimetres of rain last week, but that was only because Wayne had fitted new guttering to the arrier cuisine and  It actually rained before he could get the pieces glued together which is typical contrary weather.  I am hoping it will rain on us again in next few days as he is fitting downpipes to the back of the atelier and garage..... would be nice to get some water in the water butts.

My veg are suffering, but hanging in there.  Have been picking heaps of tomatoes, but nothing like my neighbour who has irrigation up to his.  Photos from his tomato patch used here as much better looking than mine.  The deer have been into my potager stealing all the fruit and veg for the moisture.  Then they rub their antlers against the tomato plants and the plants wind up broken. Grrrr.  Have no strawberries as they have stripped the plants of leaves and fruit.  No matter what I use as detterant, they are so desperate for liquid that they are willing to risk anything.

Aside from visitors, chickens and gardening, I have been completely inundated with preserving the fruits and veg from the potager and verger.  Everyday is spent cooking or prepping in one form or another.  Not the most enjoyable task in teh extreme heat, but it must be done, and we will enjoy the benefits all through winter when eating our own produce.

I have developed a new jam for this year.  Rhubarb and vanilla.  I love rhubarb and could eat it every day, but it doesn't preserve very well as compote and freezer space is precious.  So I now have a few litres of this jam sitting on the shelves.  Some of the rhubarb did go into the freezer to make compote and fruit tarts over winter, but I did not have room for the (nearly) 10kilos that I picked. 

McKinnell has settled in well, and has a new nickname "The Apprentice".  He follows Sophie around and helps guard the property.  So funny to watch.  Still a really sooky boy who just wants cuddles and attention all the time.  Only real problem is that he dribbles when happy.... so you have to be prepared to get a little damp when having cuddles.

Well, enough time sitting at computer.... back to the potager and kitchen for me.

Sunday, 17 May 2015


What a difference a month makes!

No sooner had I written that none of my hens was showing any inclination of going broody, than the dwarf hen decided it was time to hatch some babies.

I tested her out for a few days first to ensure she really was broody, and not just sitting in the brood box for the sake of it.  When I was sure, I replaced her eggs with some Maran, Legbar, and Araucana eggs.  Eight in total, which I thought was a lot for such a tiny hen not yet a year old.

I marked my calander for 21 days and began the anxious wait.......

Sure enough, day 21 the first two chicks hatched.  Followed during the next 24hours by three more.  I waited another two days, but no more hatched, so removed the eggs and shells and cleaned up her brood box.  When I broke open two of the remaining eggs they had poorly developed chicks that had not gone past about week one.

So now I have three Maran, one Legbar and one Araucana chicks.  Super cute and all I want to do is spend time watching them.

The broody hen is doing a fabulous job and is extremely ferocious towards anyone (or thing!) that comes near.  She is resigned to the fact that my hands keep appearing and replacing food and water, but is not happy about it.  Equally resigned to the fact that I keep stealing her babies to cuddle and check over each day.  I want them to be reasonably tame, so daily handling and talking to is essential.

One of the Maran chicks was attacked by the rooster in its first day of life.  It is now short an eye, and part of its top beak has broken off.  So far, after nearly a week, it is still going strong and growing.  If it shows any signs of suffering or of not thriving it will have to go to chicken heaven, but till then it can grow and enjoy life.

I will have to share these chicks with my neighbour.  He was the owner of the Marans whose eggs my hen clutched.  That is fine.  For a first attempt we have done well in getting five chicks.  He would like a new rooster, so we are crossing fingers that we have one rooster and the rest hens.  Only time will tell.

The chicks above are (from left) a Legbar, Araucana X Legbar, and Maran.

Here is another photo just so you can squeee!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Flowers.... finally

Spring is such a beautiful season here.  The sun shines - even if it is not really warm - and the birds start to return from their winter migration.  Bulbs poke green spikes through the still cold soil, and finally flowers start to appear.

The tulips are magnificent this year.  All the (hundreds) of bulbs that I have transplanted are starting to flower and the borders are a blaze of red and yellow.  There are still hundreds of tulip bulbes to be dug up and transplanted to a better position, but that will have to wait till after they finish flowering now.

This year I have hyacinths and anenomes in the borders also.  The hyacinths are so pretty and smell lovely.  I think the anenomes will be better next year.  A bit sparse and spindly this year.  I have a few different types of daffodils and jonquils now in the borders.  These ones are especially pretty with their apricot centres.

In the orchard the fruit trees are flowering and the air is filled with the intoxicating aroma of blossoms.  I love walking through the orchard and seeing all the blooms and knowing that we will have fruit again this year.  Although, in the case of the cherries, it is never a sure thing.  I have masses of blossom on the tree, but we need good weather and conditions to have fruit in may/june.  So far we have not had any fruit from this tree in teh three years we have lived here.  I am hoping we don't get storms, high winds or any other disasterous conditions in the next month or so.

My rhubarb has come back to life and is growing very fast.  Will need to start picking soon!  Yum!!!

We have a little visitor at present.  A young male cat came in very battered and unwell.  He is absolutely adorable and just wants to be loved.  I am looking for a home for him, as I simply can't keep him.  Three cats is enough! (Four and I am officially a crazy cat lady....) He follows me around begging to be picked up and cuddled.  I was trying to take photos in the garden, and he kept putting himself between me and the flowers.  So I took a few snaps of him too.
This is the "I am so cute you must stop what you are doing and cuddle me" pose.....

My girls are laying well and we have plenty of eggs to eat at present.  None of them seem to be interested in sitting on the eggs though, which is a nuisance.  Will have to get a Chinese silky hen to hatch my chicks I think.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Spring Eggs

Our araucanas  (Ginger and Marmalade, otherwise known as the velociraptor sisters) have reached maturity and winter has ended, all in the same week.

I have had two araucana eggs this week.  Lovely olivey green coloured shells. 

Also our dwarf hen has laid two eggs this week.  We are laughing because her name is Apricot Chicken, and she laid pale apricot/pinky coloured eggs.....

The legbar egg is full sized as they have been laying for a while now.  The araucanas should get bigger as they develop.  Am hoping that Apricot's eggs don't get any bigger as they are already huge in comparison to her tiny body!  She is smaller than a bantam, but her eggs are much bigger than bantam eggs.

We have had a glorious weekend of sunshine.  The lawns have had their first mow of the year, and everything has just sprung to life. 

I have bulbs forcing their way through the ground everywhere, and pink and white violets flowering under the trees in the orchard.  My daffodils are looking splendid in teh sunshine.  Bright and gorgeous and they scream "springtime".

Must get out and take some photos next week to capture it all.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015


Well, at the risk of jinxing us all over here..... we haven't had much snow this season.  What snow we have had fell at the same time as the snowdrops started showing and continued till they were blooming.

I call that an aptly named flower!

They look so pretty as their foliage is really dark green and shows up beautifully against a white background.  The flowers themselves are laced with lime green, so you can see the delicate pattern nicely in comparison to the snow.

A bit hard to get a really good photo as had no inclination to lay on my front in the snow to get down to their level... sorry, some things I just do not do.

Since then we have continued to have cold weather, but no good snowfall.  A lot of neige fondu and ice, but not much else.

Our neighbour has been tidying up the hedgerows around the farm and carting huge tractor loads of branches back to the field behind his house.  Any wood that could be kept for heating the house was put aside, but there was still a huge alount of branches and "bits".  Today all the grandchildren were visiting, so we had a bonfire at dusk. 

There is something lovely about standing around a blazing fire when it is really cold.  A very primordial and primitive sense of peace and enjoyment.  Your front is hurting from the heat, and your back is aching from cold.  It is essential to turn around every now and then to allow the back to defrost before facing the flames once more.  The flames leap and soar higher and higher, before dying back to smouldering coals.

Staring glassy eyed into the flames is essential, as is holding your hands out closer - even though it is already too warm where you are standing.  The children occupied themselves throwing twigs and corn stalks onto the fire, while the adults just soaked up the warmth and ambience.  Chickens pecked at the ground at the limit of the heat.

All too soon it was over, and time to lock the chickens up as the sun set.

Life in the country is good.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

It's cold outside!

Well, whilst we haven't had much snow so far this season, we have had lots of ice and rain.

Sounds counter intuitive.  Ice and rain at the same time.  I can assure you it does happen, and it makes life interesting.

Most mornings have seen the terrain looking like it has been gilded in crystal.  Everything is frozen and glinting in the morning light.  Really beautiful.  Then it rains all day and everything turns soggy and grey.

Quite a few days we have had neige fondue (slushy snow) falling, which melts as soon as it hits a surface.  Leaving slushy, wet, boggy mud everywhere.  Really not nice to try and walk in.

The chickens spend most of their time roosting in their insulated hen house.  Sophie spends all day in her heated bed - venturing out only for food and calls of nature.  The boys, well they spend all day curled up in their baskets in front of the fire. .... What can I say, it is a tough life for the animals here.

I am itching to get in to the orchard and prune the apple trees, but need a few days with no rain, and temps above freezing.  Somehow I don't think I am going to get this for another few weeks.  May have to just bite the bullet and prune them anyway... then hope like crazy that they are ok.

With the weather being unsuitable to garden with, I have spent some time dreaming and browsing the seed catalogues.  Quite easy to pass hours in this fashion!  (Almost as addictive as Pinterest!!!!)  I have been working on bedding layouts and thinking what I will add to the borders this year.  I want a certain look, so do need to think about it and plan it out slightly.  Like with all things garden, it will evolve at its own pace and take a few years to get there, and there will be changes made as things do better than expected - or worse and need replacing.

My vision for the garden is lots of shades of green and grey foliage with shades of blues and pinks in the flowers.  So it should be a nice mix.  I love striking foliage, and have planted chardons (ornamental artichokes) last season.  They are doing well and have actually weathered the heavy frosts better than I thought they would.  My penstamons are also a lovely soft grey colour with pale purple flowers and complement the other bolder greens in the beds.

This season I intend to plant up troughs of herbs for the chickens as well as for our use.  Have been reading some very interesting information on beneficial herbs for chicken keeping, and trying out the dried herbs over winter on the flock.  They love it, and are super healthy.  In fact, I am getting an egg almost everyday, which is not normal.  My breeds normally don't lay in winter at all. 

You can see the girls - and Nougat the rooster -  above.  Waiting for breakfast.  Dinner is checking out the white platter, expecting it to have her warm drink....  When it is freezing (most mornings), I boil the kettle and give them a hot drink first thing.  By the time the boiling water thaws the bowls and plates, it is drinking temperature.  They love it!  Line up and all have a drink, then they take turns standing in the hot water warming their feet.  Very funny to watch.  Ginger and Apricot are standing on the tree root watching and waiting for me to stop taking photos and pour out their hot drink.  Neither of them misses anything that goes on.

Ginger is getting quite friendly and likes a back scratch and pat before bed.  Her sister, Marmalade, is getting comfortable with being touched, but prefers to be scratched under her wings.  Apricot hates being touched and is still super flighty.  Light Lunch is in lay, so she just wants to be left to sit and do her business in peace.  Nougat is a bossy, greedy little bully.  Instead of letting the girls eat first and looking after them, he spends his time chasing them away from treats and then chasing them to fulfill his teenage lusts..... Hopefully he will settle as he gets older.

They have a cut down fir tree to play and shelter in for winter.  We have so many birds of prey here that they need something to hide in if they fly over.  It is also a good spot for them to shelter and to search for bugs.

Window boxes and hanging baskets are on the agenda this year.  I had such good success with my trial ones last year, that I intend to do a few more this year.  Orders have been placed for the petunias, and work will commence end of march on this project.

I want to replace the pampus grass in the (huge!) pot beside the front door soon.  It is a little too cramped in the pot, so will put it in the ground.  Don't comment and tell me it will take over please.... it is too cold here and they do not get massive and encroach on the whole garden like in Australia.  My only problem then will be finding something equally dramatic to replace it in the pot.  Would love to fill it with lemongrass, but it does not tolerate the winter here, so will not grow as big and majestic.  Still thinking of a solution for that one.  Watch this space.....

Well, the cats are raising their noses and sniffing the air, and my mouth is watering from the aromas pouring from the kitchen.  Time to take the turkey out of the oven and feast.