Thursday, 25 September 2014

A pile of photos, sharing my world....

Our river, the Adour,
all quite and gentle,
lazing her way through the last of the summer days....

...and our river beach, 
which is soon to be taken away again
by men in machines.
But it will return as winter weather pushes water down the river,
the force of which plays with the stones on the river bed,
which will eventually make a new beach.

And the back of the house,
with Lester busy feeding the pigs....

..... and a little while later,
carrying on with getting the gates done in the new paddocks,

..... so that these hooligans can get out onto grass,
which they will hopefully dig the roots up of,
to make for us next year's veg patch.

...and Max having a strop about the noise Lester is making with his grinder..

Sometimes it is hard to think that just over six years ago we didn't have a roof, and we didn't have pigs, or any of the other animals, nor did we have a veg plot, nor fenced fields and paddocks. 

Sometimes it is good to look back to see how far we have come...

Winter 2008

September 2014
The fenced areas  in front of the house are the new paddocks which Lester is making the gates for,
the lighter green on the right is the Side Field,
and the lighter green towards the horizon on the left is the Home Field,
which is our main grazing area.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Welding, dervish cows, yog making.

We are not continuing on with painting the kitchen,
because we need to get the pigs out onto the back paddocks,
so we have been learning to weld.
Which requires that I sit, watch, and keep Lester company,
while he does the job.
Only he couldn't get his new little welding machine
to even raise a spark,
so a phone call to friend John saved the day.

Two leads, one clipped onto the  metal
(and not attached to the cement mixer as Lester had thought)
and the other attached to a clip thing which held a rod.
(if the rod is upside down it doesn't work, hence 'no spark')

...and then there was the hat to sort out,
which Lester had assembled,
but not in quite the right way,
and then on to the making of the gate.....

.....and the raising of a spark,
and the gluing welding of the parts,

..and the megga patience of friend John,
who hardly raised his voice at all,
as he patiently passed on his welding skills to Lester,
who equally as patiently accepted his teaching.

And so L has the basics now
and can make a simple gate. 
Only nine more to do!
He also needs a proper work bench,
and a proper work shed,
so he is going to take over the goose house,
which used to be our office,
which used to be the original chicken and pig lodgings
when Labartere was a farm in the olden days.
He has grand plans for that space.
I think it will turn into a 'man only' zone.

On the subject of cows:

When a cow comes into season she is difficult.
Her milk yield will go down,
she will put her foot in the milk pail when being milked,
she will fidget when being milked,
she will not allow herself to be calmly led from field to barn,
but will slip the lead,
and go for a gallop round and about the place,
with calf galloping along behind if she still has one with her,
both of them thinking it a grand lark to be chased,
both kicking up their heels to show their delight.
This is what happened yesterday.

For months she has been docile,
strolling along betwixt field and barn with calm dignity,
apart from having an occasional urge to munch greenery along the way,
which sometimes has Lester suddenly going from this way to that way.
He had forgotten what a howling dervish of a cow she can be
when she is having a season.
She is a fiend.

On the subject of DIY yoghurt:

It is delish!
Try it!
I used probiotic yoghurt culture from The Cheesemaker

but here in SW France you can buy sachets of yoghurt culture,
not sure if you can do the same in your part of the world,
wherever that may be, bless you.

All you do is heat the milk slowly in a heavy bottomed pan, stirring occasionally to stop the milk from sticking to the pan. When the milk is just starting to bubble around the edges showing that it is just about to start heading towards a boil, then shut off the heat and let the milk cool down until just slightly warmer than tepid. Then into a container, (I use a canning jar). Cover with a cloth to stop flies, etc...from swimming around in the soon-to-be-yoghurt.
Put into a warm place. I put the jar in our bathroom which is always warm.
I have used a thermal flask before, and that worked as well. You do not need a fangly bit of kit like a yoghurt maker to make yoghurt, just a warm place. Even a working kitchen will do, or a dehydrator.
Leave overnight, and in the morning, done!
It tastes far better than shop bought yoghurts, and you can add whatever flavourings you want, although the particular culture I used makes for a calm, creamy, less tangy tasting yoghurt to the ones you buy from the shops, so I mostly eat it plain. 
Anyway, passing this on to you. DIY yoghurt is easy and tastes real good.

And thanks to...

 for being so patient and for being L's best buddy
 Thanks for letting us borrow J for the afternoon.

One nearly finished gate,
one very enthused man now he can do simple welding,
and two happy hens who were just about to be fed.

It is good to learn new things,

Sunday, 21 September 2014


All was quiet in our corner of the world,
no guns sounding,
no dogs howling,
not today.
For it is now the hunting season,
when men with guns and dogs go merrily shooting.
They shoot anything which moves,
so it is best to take care.
Their aim is better in the mornings though,
but not in the afternoons,
when they have had a drop or two of wine.
But today, they were somewhere else.

'They're back'
'I've got another one!'
'....And another.....'
could be heard coming from our corner,
from time to time,
throughout the day,
and the previous day,
and will be heard in the days ahead....
because those horrid giant hornets are back.
And they have killed off one of our bee hives.
But we did not realise that it had happened
Because our attention has been taken up with other things painting the kitchen...

and getting the shelves in the larder filled up....

Bless me, but I have remembered to label every single jar this year, something I learnt after spending ages trying to remember what the jars held after last year's harvest. 

....So back to the beehives:
We had two, one is now done for,
one is just about functioning.
But we counted six hornets yesterday evening,
waiting to pounce on the homeward coming bees,
armed with our fly swats we went onto the attack.
And thwack again!
And today the same.
And we shatter the peacefulness of our corner of the world
by yelling our enthusiasm for the hunt.
'There's one! Get it!'
' missed!'
...and so on.
And the hunt for those hornets has become a passion,
such that I can understand why the French menfolk
like to go a-hunting over the woods and fields,
except that they have guns instead of fly swats.
It is the way here.

And this is what Lester found inside the dead hive:


A pile of wax,
which he has put into a bucket with the instructions to
'Melt and strain', he said.
Anyone know what I can do with a pile of wax?

And here's a strange thing....
that beehive was empty,
we know this because Lester had a look inside it,
as he was removing the top box.
A couple of hours later.....
And so why were there a bunch of bees flying around it
and going inside,
and not coming out again,
as if was their home.
Where did they come from?
Not from the other hive surely....
but the hornets were gleeful,
because they now had two hives to attack again,
and so we spend another hour or so fly swatting them,
and killed quite a few.

Apparently about one hundred French farmers torched their local tax office the other day, after dumping a load of rotting veg in front of it first.
They were complaining about the cost of living.
I think we can all identify with their concerns!