Sunday, 3 December 2017

A Winters's Harvest

 
Winter is now with us.
I know this to be a fact because most mornings our fields have been white with frost
and, even though I wear home made knitted socks, my toes have started feeling chilly, a sure sign that winter has come. So I have had to start wearing my 'best' boots indoors instead of my summer sandals. Sandals and thick socks look a bit silly. Sort of neither summer gear or winter gear, but a mixture of both. Anyway, my feet now look appropriate for this time of year and can cope better with walking over cold,  hard, tiled floors which are so lovely and cool on baking hot summer days but not so comfy when winter's chill is with us. Walking bare footed on freezing cold tiles is not something one wants to do too often at the moment.  
 
 
These photos of this morning's dawn. The faint grey line on the horizon between sky and land are the Pyrenees mountains. Snow has now fallen on them. I know this because the chill of snow is in the air. Fortunately we live close enough to enjoy the mountains but not so close that we get any mountain type weather.
 
And when it is cold and frosty we are guaranteed to get a good dose of warmish sunshine, not enough to sit outside today, but warm enough to go raid Veg Plot 1 for some salad greens.
 


I wore my gardening boots. I think they might need renewing. Five minutes walking over the ground in VP1, and my feet were as cold as ice, even colder than when walking over the floors in the house wearing just socks and sandals.
But it was nice being outside for a quick check up of what is surviving the low temperatures, and to marvel at the strength of endurance that some of the plants have.
 
The Market Garden Project:
This has gone on 'hold' for the moment, which it would have done anyway because of winter conditions making it difficult to work outside, but now that he is working full time Lester does not have the time to make this project go forward. He thinks we shall have to get someone in to build the greenhouse and tractor shed, and do other building work which is needed.
Not to worry, although this project is slowing down, it has not stopped completely.
What could be seen as a set back, but which I have refused to get worried about, is the emergence of a huge commercial 'bio' market garden just up the road to us. It has the most enormous polytunnels, and lots of them too. They are growing 'ordinary' seasonal veg, and will squash all other veg producers in this area by the sheer size of the operation.
We remain undefeated by this 'set back'. We shall find a niche market, of that I am sure. 
 
iPhone Update:
Lester remains fascinated by the phone and is often to be found with it, (on the loo, in bed, etc...)
Meanwhile, I remain unfascinated by it, although I have heard tell that it takes good photos, which would be handy when I am out and about, and the other day I met a friend in the local supermarket who was using her iPhone to translate the words of a product she wanted to buy. I thought this was very handy and would be tremendously useful for saving time when out shopping. Dithering in front of the shelves because I don't understand what is written on the tin / jar/ box, etc., is a frequent occupation of mine.
 
The Rayburn is continuing to chug away for us. It is starting to look sooty. I did wash it the other day, but that did not seem to clean it up much, just made it look like it had a sooty face.
I am not cooking with the Rayburn very much as we are conserving our wood supplies; We are aware that we need to get through to the end of March next year, so keep the firebox tended but not over loaded, so the oven does not get hot enough to bake in, but occasionally it does.....
 
 
 ..... one pear tart, and one chocolate swirl tray bake. Simple recipes, quick to do, and shallow enough to bake on the floor of the Rayburn's oven.
Meanwhile, the Rayburn continues to heat all of our rooms downstairs, and for that I bless it.
 
Hope your fingers and toes are keeping warm,
Bye for now,
Vx 
 


Saturday, 18 November 2017

A new gadget....

Lester is out hunting, but not for something which is of flesh and blood, oh no.
 
 
A big day in our household this morning.... our first mobile phone thingy arrived.
Never had one before, never wanted one, never interested.
However, Lester needs it for work, something to do with being able to download things relevant to the 'virtual office' in which he is working. Something to do with 'cloud' stuff. Dunno. Not got a clue.
 
Anyway, after days and days spent in researching phones, one was finally ordered.
It is a weird thing..... flat and thin.... an iphone. You all probably have one, and now we do too!
 
So it being the end of the working week, Lester has had time to have a look at it.
The words 'Boys Toys' springs to mind as I watch him explore the ins and outs of it. I am reminded of Christmas Day mornings and the magic of opening a box of Lego.
 
Meanwhile I carry on with writing music on the computer using Noteworthy. It is not music I have composed, but copies of certain Christmas carols sent to me from a friend via email. I am supposed to be playing these carols for a small choir, and apparently also conducting the little choir at the same time, a fearsome task even when one can actually read the music, which I can't because the print on these copies is too faint. This music is separate to the other choir I am rehearsing with. That one is going quite well, although the singers are now drowning out the sound of my keyboard even though I have the volume maxed out, so I am going to take an amplifier with me in future.
I am thinking that I need a roady.
 
The music I am working on at the moment is for another choir, one which has been created quickly, the intention being to sing carols for the elderly folk in three local Maison de retraites (care homes).
I will mention that the music is easy enough to write, but most of the words are in French, (which is not a surprise seeing as how we are living in France), and fitting those words into the rhythm of an English carol is fiddly, but interesting, and takes a lot of time up.
 
So why is Lester out hunting?
He is hunting for a phone signal because the signal is too weak where we live, he says, so he has taken himself out in the car to see if he can find one. Bless him.
 
It is an English phone we have bought because we thought it would be easier to understand how to use it because the instructions would be in English, and this was so up until the purchase of something called a 'sim card' which then made the phone go into French working mode.
.....
 
And he has tracked down a signal!
And I have had my first phone call from him away out in the world,
while I sit and chat with you.
Actually, he is only just down the road, in Plaisance. If we had been in the UK I would have instructed him to bring some chips back from a chip shop. I've been having a fancy for a plate of chips (plus vinegar, egg, tomato ketchup) for the last hour.
Something with being on the computer too long I think.
 
Off to switch the electric blanket on in our bed, and on the way I shall raid the kitchen. Meanwhile Lester continues to discover all that there is to be discovered on the iphone, and promises to train me in the use of it soon. I feel a fierce reluctance to get involved with that phone though. I don't want it to seduce me into messing about on it when I could be sitting and watching the flowers grow.
 
 
Bye for now,
 
Vx
 
 

Thursday, 16 November 2017

A frosty morning scything....

So, if you were me, what would you do when the frost is laying heavily on the ground but the sun is shining hot enough to melt it.  You would get outside and start scything as quick as you can while  the vegetation is still stiff with frosty coldness which makes it easier to cut with the scythe, that is what you do........boots on, fingerless gloves found and put on, big thick scarf draped round my neck, dogs collected up, and off out I go.
 
------
 
11am: what a glorious way to spent a couple hours of my life, that is what I thought as I dragged a couple of branches from the recently fallen oak tree from where it lay half way along the river path towards the far field. They were only the smaller branches. The heavier ones Lester will have to sort out at the weekend. He is not available to do farm work during the week (office hours 9 - 5.30) because he is working on his computer. Don't ask me what he does, he did tell me but it is beyond my comprehension. Not to worry, he still has time to look after the animals, and there is not much else to do on the farm during the cooler months except tidy up the place.
 
I want to continue cutting the front hedge down, which has been ongoing since we got here ten  years ago. I mentioned to Lester that I could do with an electric chainsaw for ladies which would make the job quicker and easier. He has his own chainsaw but it is a very hefty and fierce machine, entirely not suitable for a lady to use.
He said that we do have an electric chainsaw but he didn't know where it was.
Ah ha, I thought, a 'search and rescue' mission on the way to find it, meanwhile visions of chainsawing my way through that hedge and the oak coppice which is starting to grow in a corner of the front garden, floated across my mind.
But of course this all depends on whether or not I can actually lift the chainsaw when it is found, which will be a lot heavier that my wooden handled scythe. I shall try, though.
 
Two trips I made to the fallen oak, and four branches I dragged back.
On the last trip I started fantasizing about having a cup of milky coffee and a piece of cake.
Oh ho! Time to stop.
 
Earlier on, scything went well, and I scooped up the cut grass / vegetation and gave it to the chickens, putting it in a heap so they could have the pleasure of rummaging through it.
They were not impressed with my offering though, and didn't know what to do with it. Not to worry, they will soon learn. It is a new chicken flock so are still on their own learning curve.
Lester has been looking after the chickens so they know his ways. They don't know mine.
Last night Lester had a conference call so I was the one to round them up. I am now training them to respond to me calling out 'chook, chook, chook' while tapping their food container.
As I say, they are on a learning curve. They need to know that when I call and tap their bowl they should to come towards me and not rush off in the opposite direction.
It might take a while.

Off into the hours of my day now,
which will hopefully include a portion of time spent knitting outside in the sun,
so bye for now,
Vx
 
 


Friday, 10 November 2017

Cosy indoors....

The Rayburn is lit and burning hot enough for me to use the hob to cook on...
 
 
...just a simple meal of hot potato salad, with slices of pork fried with onions and green peppers, which are all home grown. The sweetcorn is from a tin.
 
And decorating the Rayburn are some items of washing needing to be dried, even on the Lazy Susan.
 
 
Bread is cooling on the table. It is a 'no knead' bread so is not lofty, but it will have an open, non chewy, texture which we like. It is also quick to make providing I remember to start it the night before.
 
 
We haven't opened the shutters on the window today...
 
... so with no daylight, and only half the lights on the ceiling working (something to do with the flow of electricity when the computers are on), the kitchen is quite dark, but it adds to the feeling of being tucked up in a cosy den, with food cooking, bread on the table, washing drying, and the world kept away by the closed shutters.  
 
When we lived in the UK we had a house which had lots of big windows in every room, which was alright when the weather was bright and cheerful, but not so good on days when the weather is mucky which only made me feel colder even if the house was warm.
Here we have smaller windows, which we prefer.
 
And the reason why we are all cozied up and not outside doing farm jobs...
.... it's wet!
 
 
But even though we are coming up to the middle of November, the leaves have not as yet fallen from the trees, which makes us feel that winter has not quite arrived.
 
 
 
 

And in the Half Barn...... here is the supply of wood for today, brought in from the wood pile just beyond the Courtyard gates and sharing the tarpaulin with the recent harvest of butternut squash.
You can see by the photo that there is more light in the Half Barn, and this is because of the velux windows in the ceiling, but it still has a cosy feeling because of the exposed stone walls.
 

The last of the pepper harvest, brought in just before we had the first frost of the year. It was a huge crop this year. ......and the last of the courgettes now in storage, and some of the spaghetti squash, the rest of the squash are in the back kitchen.
 

The carrying case of my piano keyboard waiting for its next trip out, which is on Sunday, which is Remembrance Day. Along with the hymns, (played with the organ setting on my keyboard), I shall be playing The Last Post using the trumpet tone on the keyboard. It echoes wonderfully well in the silence of the church. Any wrong notes will be quite clearly heard.....


 
 
..... and Maz, sitting on her mat infront of the computer desks and beside the stored courgettes, waiting for me to stop messing about with the camera, which I am now going to do...
 
So bye for now,
Vx
 
 

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The chicken gang come calling.....


Look who came calling yesterday......
 

 
........ the Orpington cockerel and his favourite hens, the three Barenecks, so called because they have no feathers on their necks, which does make them look like a bit like vultures. But they are good egg layers, good meat birds, and have a lovely nature, so we like to have them as part of our chicken flock.
.......... However, .......... the chickens are supposed to be free ranging round the rest of the farm, and most definitely not in the courtyard which we want to keep free of chickens, because:-
 
1) we do not want them scratching around in the raised beds, which would upset me a  lot,
2) we do not want to have chickens laying siege to us at our front and side doors, as has happened in previous years when the chickens were kept in the courtyard.......
...and here is the evidence from 2010 that this is what they used to do.
As soon as the door was open they used to barge in, and the door was open a lot because most days we had builders here.
 


3) we not want to tread in chicken poo as we walk across the courtyard. I have not very fond memories of visiting friends for lunch in their chickenless home only to notice that I had chicken poo smeared along the side of my shoe, which was most embarrassing.
 
So Cockerel Boy and his gang of three hens were chased out of the courtyard, and the gates firmly closed behind them. But I do love to see the chickens around the place. They give such life to the farm, and it is fun to watch their mannerisms.
 
-----
 
Update on John, who took a tumble straight on to his head when he was helping Lester worm the sheep a couple of days ago.....
I phoned him last night to ask how he was doing, and he said that he was 'vertical as we speak', which means that he is alright, which is good, as we were worried about him. It was quite a fall that he took. Being barged into and knocked down by a ewe not wanting to be wormed is not an experience one would ever want again, but John, bless him, said that he was 'raring to hep out again next year'.
 
------
 
Coming home from a meditation group I belong to.... it was late evening, and my first time of driving in the dark since last winter. I must say that it was quite scary driving through woodland down a steep, narrow, lane which twisted and turned this way and that. And as I got out of the car I could smell the sharp cold of snow in the air, which means that there has been a snowfall in the nearby mountains, but winter has still not quite arrived here at the farm although this lovely flower died last night....
 
 
I have forgotten the name of it, but it was planted last spring, grew sparingly, did not bloom all summer, but went into a burst of floral prettiness when I was in hospital and has bloomed ever since.
 

Millie, in a mood and complaining loudly about being put in the side field with the sheep. She had to be separated from her mum because she is still drinking milk from her udder,  and we think that she really ought to be weaned, but she does not think so, and was voicing her angst about being denied her sips of milk.
 
Piano rehearsal yesterday afternoon, which went well. This time I was sat beside the conductor so was closer to the choir. It took a while to get used to concentrating on playing whilst having the choir singing in four parts coming into my ears at the same time, plus having to keep a watch on instructions from the conductor. It was fun.
 
We had rain this morning so it will be too wet to do anything outside, so catch up time in the house.
Bye for now,
Vx
 

Monday, 6 November 2017

Oooops! Brrrrrrr!

Ooooppp!!!
 
Friend John reminded us a few days ago that we had asked him to help us to give the sheep their worming medicine, a job which had got forgotten in the busyness of the last few weeks and which needed to be done if we are start to harvesting the lambs born at the beginning of the year. This, too, is a job which should have been started in October but we can't start that job until the worming is done. It is our least favourite job to do, so perhaps that is why we have been neglectful in regards to the worming job.
 
Anyway, John reminded us that we had asked him, so the medicine was bought (100 euros!) and yesterday Lester and John headed off to the sheep paddock to do the job.
 
The sheep were done, but so was John. It was not a bad injury as injuries go, but it was still sufficient to need a mopping up of the blood, and a plaster stuck on top of the wound. No hospital visit, though, which is a good, but he will have quite a sizeable bruise which will be right in the middle of his forehead, plus I suspect some other soreness from the jolt that he received.
 
What had happened?
Well, most of the sheep had been wormed, just two left. Big girls, lots of winter fleece on them now, (a lovely mottled grey so I can't wait to spin it next year), plus they are full of the lambs that they will be dropping in a few weeks time, plus they are fat. In other words, they are heavy, so best not to be anywhere near where they are likely to barge into you.
These two ewes did not want Lester to catch them. Round and round the holding pen they went.
And boof!!!! One went straight into John, 'toppling him like a skittle' Lester said.
Straight away the worming was stopped as Lester rushed John into the house to be attended to.
Job was finished, but no, John insisted on going back out into the sheep paddock to finish the job.
Bless him, we thank him for his help, and are sorry for the bad manners of that ewe.
Sending him lots of love.
 
Brrrrrrr!!!!
 
So what do you do when your partner decides to clean out the Rayburn only a few days after you have blitzed the kitchen until it is all shiny and clean, and you know that the Rayburn will be harbouring soot and  clinker in its innards and up its pipes, some of which is going to waft through the air and cover all.

 
But then you feel a bit of a shiver. It is raining. Winter is coming. So you push aside your momentary irritation at having to clean the kitchen again after the Rayburn is attended to, and you do not mind that little bits of wood litter the area around the Rayburn where the logs have been stacked, because the box which used to keep all that litter in one place is now out in the barn and full of man stuff, like bits of wire, a tin of oil for the tractor, etc.... I don't know how that box walked itself over to the barn, all I know is that I did not take it.  So I suppose the magic fairy, which is me of course, will have to magic up another box if I am to keep the kitchen floor reasonably tidy, and I shall guard this box and make sure it does not walk somewhere else.

Last year we used the Rayburn mostly for heating, but I did use the hot plates on top. As for the oven, that was a  new learning curve, one which I did not wish to pursue at that time. But this year I am ready to cope with that learning curve, one which will no doubt test my patience as all learning curves tend to do!

..... and a drop of sunshine has pilfered through the clouds, so I am off out to the Veg Garden for my daily half an hour work out before the clouds conquer that sunshine, oh dear, which it has just done, but I am off outside anyway.

Bye for now,
Vx
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, 3 November 2017

The Rabble and Veg Garden 1

 
 
And here is The Rabble Gang....
Five youngsters who we hatched out a few weeks ago.
For a while they were kept in a pen but then were let out into the Chicken Paddock, where they were supposed to stay until officially allowed to free range round the farm.
But upon discovering that by squeezing through the fencing wire  there was a bigger world to be explored, notably the Vegetable Gardens, specifically Veg Garden 1, which just happens to be one which I am working on at the moment so has a good quantity of veggies in it,  all of which run the risk of being uprooted or trodden on by the gang.
 
And so here is the gang having a chat amongst themselves and pretending not to be interested in coming into VG1, and indeed seem to be going in the opposite direction. But this is only a ploy, because already they have had a quick raid into VG1 but were shooed out by me  yelling at them and waiving my hoe in the air.
 

.... and then the rottweiller girls arrived and did a bit of chicken herding, which soon had the gang picking up speed and racing away in the opposite direction to VG1.
 
 
.......
So here is VG1, with chard, turnips, beetroot, radish, leeks, kohlrabi, sundry brassicas, and spinach most of which have been planted in long 25 foot rows. I prefer these long rows, finding them quicker to look after and hoe. The plants also have more light and air space, something they tended to lack when put closer together in short rows.
I planted out a row of onions yesterday.  Bending over to plant those onions gave my back a really good stretch, although I had to sit down and have a five minute rest in my garden chair to recover from the effort!
 
 

.... and then onwards to pick some more peppers...
 

.... this harvest seems to be going on and on, and there are still more to pick. Fortunately the prep work for storing them is quick, just deseed, cut up, and then into the freezer.

 

November, and I am still harvesting summer veg!
 
 

... and there was even a courgette to be picked.
 
 
Off out to VG1 now..... more peppers to pick, a bit of hoeing of weeds to be done, and the replanting of some of the onions which have magicked themselves out of the ground. I do not know how they get to be unplanted, but I suspect the Rabble Gang might have been the culprits because I saw them wandering about in VG1 yesterday afternoon.
Not to worry, it is good to have chickens around again, and at least they are away from the courtyard so do not lay siege at the front door anymore. Neither do we have to tread over chicken poo, of which there was quite a lot when they lived so close to the house.
 
Off I go out into the day so bye for now.
Vx
 
 

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

No butter, and frost?


There is no butter in our local supermarket because of an apparent shortage in France.
Not to worry because down in the deepest recesses of my chest freezer I still have a few pats of DIY butter made from the milk of our cows.
I do not feel inclined, however, to do that at the moment because rummaging about in the freezer is not one the jobs I particularly like doing, so we shall have to make do with soft margarine for the moment.
 
We woke up to freezing fog this morning, which then turned itself into our first frost.
So into action we have swung.... the hose pipes are all to be gathered up and stored away, and what a big heap they will make because they are in long lengths, stretching from the river, down the river path, and across to the veg gardens via the big oak.
Also, too, the Rayburn needs to have its insides cleaned out.
I should be paying attention to the vegetables still growing in the veg gardens, of which there are quite a few, and I should be sorting out some sort of mini poly tunnel to give them protection but I am of the mind to let them take their chances this winter, that if the frost gets them then it does.
Just had a quick look at the veg garden and it looks like the frost had settled itself out on the fields.
All is looking good for the moment.
 
Got my first rehearsal with the choir this afternoon. It is 10 am at the moment, and while my head does not feel worried about the rehearsal, I already have butterflies in my stomach, which I find strange because if I am genuinely not worried about playing. This is something I do not have to do, it is only a donation of my time and skills, that is all. I have free will choice, to do or not to do, so why the butterflies.....
Anyway, have just packed up all the kit ready to load into the van.
 

And here am I, parked in the mairie (town hall) at Labatute Riviere .....
 
 
.... with all butterflies now flown away from my stomach, and waiting for the maire (mayor) to come back from lunch and open up the mairie, which he was late in doing.
Not to worry, the rehearsal went OK, and I enjoyed being the rehearsal pianist, and my hands and wrists kept strong despite my abuse of them the other day when I was on a mission to scythe  all the weeds down in the Veg Garden 1.
 
So, it is the morning of the next day now, and I must be away into Veg Garden 1 to rescue the last of the peppers and do some weeding.
 
Bye for now,
 
Vx

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Getting back in the saddle again.....

Oh I did enjoy that extra hour in bed this morning, courtesy of the clocks going back an hour, but it does mean that we swing into winter mode, when I allow myself to start using the canned produce harvested during the growing season. However, I must admit to using several jars of canned tomatoes already, so I think the rest of the jars will be soon gone. The supermarket tins of tomatoes do not compare with the recipe I used to can our tomatoes this year. But I have not opened our jars of canned cherries and plums, nor the green beans, the pickled beetroot, the carrots, or potatoes. They will stay as a treat in the darker winter months.
The Rayburn can also be lit now the clocks have been changed, but Lester needs to clean it out first. Not to worry, the weather is still mild, and we are not feeling cold in the house yet.
Our first five years of living in a caravan here have made us stalwarts when it comes to dealing with winter temperatures. Thermal vest help as well. I am already wearing mine.

................

Getting back in the saddle, that is what you have to do when you have any sort of blip in your life. Finding myself down on the floor and unable to move recently literally had me falling out of the saddle, that's for sure. Then the ten day stay in a French hospital made sure I stayed dismounted from my life for a while, because I could nothing else but stop. I did have time to think, though, and I did crochet some more squares for a jumper I am making, and in the middle of the night the Universe did connect powerfully with me, but I shall leave the writing about that to my other blog.
Nevertheless, I was considerably overwhelmed by the helplessness of myself.
This, and other things, could have contributed towards me never quite getting back in the saddle of my life ever again.

So, if you are me, what would you do when you get back home is to try and pick up the rhythm of the daily routine, which did not seem to be want to be picked up again at all, but  you try anyway. And you try not to mind the weakness of self that you feel, and know that to stay in bed, as everyone says that you should, would be devastating for any future attempts to pick up the rhythm of your old life, because you are stubbornly you.

Most of all you have to work hard at getting out of your head the files of stored memories about the recent health episode, because if you keep staying in the shock of what happened you will start believing that you will never be entirely well, and that the same thing might happen again.
Such thoughts will keep you in a weakened state..
 
It is a battle to get these memories sorted out..... to keep the positive, to let go of the not so good. And not to moan about what has happened, not to think or say 'poor me', and to be patient with the lack of speed and agility which you have and to say 'it is only temporary, it will pass'. You have to work hard with what is in your head, because the way you think will either make you well again,
or not.
And you need to forgive yourself, if, for the moment, hauling yourself back in to the saddle of your life seems ever such an effort. Not to worry, if you are me, you will still keep trying anyway.

And being me, you will be back on your computer again toute suite............ and sitting in my email inbox was a request from a friend asking if would I consider being the piano accompanist for a temporary choir who were getting together to sing at a carol concert in a local church in December. And being me, without thought, you say 'yes', because your instincts say that you need this diversion to put distance between yourself and the memories of that hospital stay.
Unfortunately I did some scything in the veg garden yesterday, took an extra big swing at a stubborn stalk which refused to be cut down, which brought the scythe to a full stop, the shock of the force ending up in my wrists. Not to worry, although letting me know that they were not impressed by my enthusiastic efforts to tidy up the veg garden, my wrists are still letting me play the piano, just about.
First choir  rehearsal in three days time.
 
And why, might you ask, was I scything in the veg plot anyway.
Because I am me, that's all.....
.... just proving to myself that I am not on the downward spiral towards being an invalid,
but on the upwards move towards full recovery.
 
Bye for now,
Vx
 

Thursday, 26 October 2017

An unexpected 'holiday'

..... and here I am once more, recharged and raring to go after a ten day 'holiday' which separated me from my day to day life on the farm and gave me time to think about things. And one of the things I came to realise was that I  miss writing, and that I must not allow the busyness of my life to push aside this need to write. The 'holiday' made me realise this, hence this blog.
 
However, ......................... the 'hotel' I stayed in was not my first choice, nor was my mode of transport to get to it, being a ride in the middle of the night in an ambulance, the destination being the hospital in Tarbes which then became my 'hotel' for the next few days. Thus did the holiday arrive unexpectedly into my life.
 
I could not say that it was the best of times staying in the emergency cardiac ward for ten days although the view from the window in my room was superb, being a close up of the Pyrenees mountains. I spent hours looking at them, and seeing the light play on them throughout the day was fascinating to behold. I missed that view when I was shifted into the main cardiac unit.
 
I thought I had flu, but it seemed to be lingering on and on. I was having high night time temperatures sufficient to soak the bed, but I thought it was the flu virus. And then a night time visit to the loo fetched me up down on the floor, and nothing seemed to want to work to get me up again, hence the trip in the ambulance to be deposited in ICU, where I was fussed over by the most gloriously handsome set of male nurses and doctors who spent ages looking in amazement at the heart monitor which was behind me, quizzing me as to why I did not have any heart pain when the monitor was showing that it should be otherwise.
 
Not to worry, I stayed affable and kept on smiling, because that is what you do when you are an English girl living abroad, 'stiff upper lip' and all that.
And so my 'holiday' began as I was shipped out to the emergency cardiac unit, whereupon I had needles inserted here and there putting I don't know what into my system, and then there was the tube which was inserted into my nether regions with a urine bag attached to the other end of it which I prefer to not talk about because, well, it was not the nicest of experiences I have ever had.
 
And reminding you that because I live in France, that these were French nursing staff looking after me, so of course they spoke in French. I can speak French as well, but my French vocabulary was nowhere to be found, except for the odd word popping into my head, mostly 'merci' (thankyou), 'pas probleme' (it's not a problem), ........ just small words meant to reassure the nursing staff that I was OK about their treatment of me, which was not alright sometimes, but being 'stiff upper lipped' I would not have complained even if I had had the French words to do so.
 
Anyway, I survived. It was not my time to pass over.
So what had happened to make me fetched up on the floor of the bathroom?
Well, my liver and kidneys were under attack by an infection which must have been brewing for days if not weeks, which then eventually made my heart go silly with the effort of coping with it all.
I am not saying that my heart is sound, but it is doing well enough for the years it has been working, 70 in total. As for the liver and kidneys, these I must be more attentive to, making sure I take notice should they complain again in the future.
 
As with any difficult experiences, rather than feeling sorry for myself I have put the experience behind me, preferring to look upon it is an unexpected holiday, and that it has made me review certain things in my life, which is good.
 
And so I returned back to the farm, a little shaky, but on my feet.
And I feel blessed that I have this life to return to, that keeps me busy, that does not allow for laziness of self which could happen if all I had was the TV and social media to keep me occupied. It is good that we had a very good harvest of peppers to bring in from the veg garden, and which I had to do because  a large oak tree had fallen on the fencing of the back field and broken down the wiring of the fence so before it could be mended, so the tree had to be cut up, and this was the job of the moment for my OH. He has just counted the rings on the tree and it is fifty years old. It was toppled by some sort of rot at its base. Well I was not toppled this time, although nearly was, and I am now off into the veg garden to plant some onions.
Onwards, ever onwards!!!
 
PS. Should you ever have to stop an escapee cow from cavorting round the veg garden and therefore trampling everything to death under the weight of her  mega sized feet and pregnant body, if you have a scarf around your neck then remove that scarf and flip it about like a whip. Of course the scarf will lack the resilience of a proper leather whip, but if at the same time you yell in as deep and gruff a voice as you can manage  'turn around, go back' or any other words you care to use, then the cow might feel challenged enough to take notice of you. Just offering these thoughts to you should you also find yourself in a similar position.
 
Bye for now,
Vx 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Taking a pause

 
 
To let you know that I seem to have come to a crossroads with the blog for the moment,
not closing the blog down, just taking a pause.
 
My reason for starting the blog in the first place was to help the family keep in touch with us as we began our new life here  in France. It has also provided a history for us of our first ten years here, and kept my writing skills active as well, plus connected me to fellow bloggers who I have enjoyed sharing time with.
 
Ten years ago, and here I am looking out of the upstairs window of our ruin of a house.....
 
 
............ten years on, and we now have a lovely cottagey home, a twelve acre small mixed farm, and the experience to move forward into our next project,
but meanwhile needing time out to catch up with myself.
 
So saying goodbye for now,
 
Vx
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Changing around.....

My legs are all a-tremble and my back has gone a bit creaky,
so I thought I would sit down for a minute and have a chat with you,
because if I didn't then I would lie down and have a nap,
which is something I don't want to do because then I wouldn't get back up that ladder,
which is what caused the tremble and twitching.
 
Why am I up a ladder?
Because we have a need to get the downstairs front room finished off.
It was supposed to be a room for paying guests but we have moved beyond wanting to do that for the moment, so the room has remained unfinished and become a dump room.
 
Floating around my head during recent weeks has been a growing concern about how I don't seem to be able to keep plants growing successfully from seed, which is something I need to do for the Market Garden Project. Some of this is my lack of experience, but a lot of this is to do with the ups and downs of the weather. The temperatures are not stable enough to keep trays of seeds germinating in succession. Some are alright, such as brassicas, but others such as lettuce are fussy.
 
 So what am I supposed to do during the cold months, when I have plants needing to be kept away from possible frosts, and when I need to get crops prepped for next year.
A poly tunnel? We are thinking not. We can have very high winds zooming along the edge of the nearby hills and we are concerned about the whole thing tipping over, which happened to a friend's poly earlier on this year. I know they can be anchored down, but we feel unenthusiastic about the work that will take.
 
So we err in favour of a poly carbonate greenhouse, which we are going to build when time permits.
Meanwhile, winter is on its way. We know this because we felt the year turn last week.
I began to think that perhaps I could park pots of seedlings in the hallway over winter or put them on a table in the middle of the Half Barn under the velux windows in the roof.
 
And so it was that an afternoon pow wow after the afternoon nap which resulted in me up that ladder painting and the problem of what to do with the seeds has found a solution.
We are going to move out of the Half Barn and let the MG Project have the space.
Lots of shifting of furniture to do, lots of painting, lots of cleaning, so lots of busyness ahead.
and hopefully a more stable growing environment for the little seeds.
 
 
Work in progress....
 
 
..... and the Half Barn which is going to have a change of use....
 
 
 
Little Milly is in season again, but Bonny and Lissie seem not to be having seasons at the moment, so hopefully this means that they are in calf, although during a storm last night Bonny slipped and took a nasty head over heals tumble  on the way to the barn, which left her limping on two legs. But this morning, although slow to get up onto her feet, all four legs seem to be back in working order again. Hopefully this has not damaged her expectancy.


 
Meanwhile, Veg Plots 1,2, and 3 are still doing well, but harvesting and preserving has slowed down because of the diversion of our time. Not to worry, I always knew we would over produce this year.
 
 
But I have managed another five pots of courgette jam, and Lester has started working his way along the rows of potatoes. He has already dug up a load which are already in the kitchen, and this is another barrow load waiting for me to sort out....some for canning, some for long term storage, and some for immediate use.
 
 

Running out of energy for bringing the potato harvest in, we decided to have a musical episode, me with the accordion and Lester with the guitar. It made a fun interlude.
Still lots more potatoes to be brought in though.
It has been a good harvest.
 

 
We are very green for this time of year thanks to the many storms we have had,
which is not so good for the holiday makers and those who like to sit out in the sun,
but good for farmers and country folk like us who have produce to grow which needs the water.....
 
Ah, a storm is brewing so I had best close down the computer in case of another lightning strike to the electrical systems of the house. I seem to be brewing the fear inside of me of getting blown up. Silly, I know, but the recent lightning strike did put a healthy respect for the force of nature in me.
I have come to realise that there is not much we can do about it when nature flexes her muscles,
and nature has being doing a lot of that lately.
Best to say, ' What will be, will be' and then carry on......
 
Bye for now,
Vx


Sunday, 9 July 2017

Lots happening in the veg plots.......


Little bundles of fluff, full of cheeps and chirrups and already trying to fly out of the box when they see us nearby. We have another twenty eggs in the incubator so hopefully we shall have some more chickens to add to our flock soon. And last night our three new hens took themselves to bed in the nearly finished chicken hut, but the two Orpingtons prefer to rest for the night in the mini huts, possibly because they find climbing the ladder to get into the new hut too much effort for them. Orpingtons are not the most energetic of chickens.
 
And out in Veg Plot 3...
the potatoes have survived the beetle attack, and Lester is now harvesting them.
He is bringing into the kitchen one row at a time, but he wants to get them all lifted quicker than I can process them, so I bought some hessian sacks from Amazon UK to store them in.
Total jars of canned potatoes to date: 5.
These are DIY fast food for us.
 
 
And the right hand side of VP3, and really, truthfully, while it might look like a jungle of overgrown weeds it is not. The first clump of greenery is the four rows of bush beans,
which we are now harvesting.
Total jars of canned beans to date: 15
.... and of course a lot eaten!
 
 
The empty looking strip of ground is in fact the very diminished rows of brassicas which have been so heavily attacked by flea beetles. But although looking very battle worn, the plants continue to struggle on, so all the while they are trying to keep on growing I shall keep on persevering with trying to help them.  The greenery beyond that strip of brown is full of tomato plants, bush beans for drying, and manic courgettes.
 
The tomatoes: we have not staked these up, and have let them do what comes naturally to them, which is sprawl everywhere. We did very well with our tomato crop last year but everyone else did not. We don't know why..... we never tied the plants up, fed them, or hardly watered them. In fact they were totally neglected! So this year we have left this patch of tomatoes to go their own way, not through intent but through not getting round to tying them up.
 
The bush beans: we have started eating a lot of beans..... sloshing some tomato ketchup over them gives us the equivalent of baked beans but at a fraction of the cost, so we thought we would grow our own. Beans seem to do well here without much fuss, and with no disease that we know of.
 
As for the courgettes: I grew four courgettes plants, which are enough for us. They are the non rambling type so are easy to get to and harvest. However we had courgette type sproutlings popping up here and there in Spring, so not having the heart to plough over them Lester transplanted them into VP3. Oh dear, The original courgette parent must have cross pollinated with something else, because those courgettes are  flinging out arms all over the place, and are producing at a rapid rate many plump, courgettes far to big to be useful. I do not want to save the seeds of these!
 
And ignoring Veg Plot 2 because there is not much to see, here is the right hand side of Veg Plot 1.
 
 
...... the muddle of greenery to the right of the onions is just that... a muddle.
This is supposed to be three rows of beetroot, but the beetroot were slow in sprouting and were overtaken by weeds. These were the only seeds we direct planted, and the last I shall ever do because they confirmed for me that using plant cells to get seeds going might take more work at first, but save work in the long run.
 
 
.... and the onions, which are the first we have grown from seed. Recent high winds knocked them all sideways and I thought I would to replant them, but no, I didn't have to, because they all righted themselves again. I was very impressed with the effort they made to do that.
 
... and next in the line are the cucumbers, which I don't have the faintest idea what to do with.
All they seem to want to do is sprawl all over the place despite my efforts to get them to grow upwards. But I did harvest a cucumber this morning. It had a prickly feel to it, very unlike the smooth, straight, shrink wrapped  supermarket cucumbers, but I now know what cues are supposed to taste like.

 
.... and next along are the tomatoes, and as you can see, these all have wriggly metal poles planted beside them.
Message to self: do remember to get those tomatoes tied up otherwise those poles are useless.
 
 
...... and then on to rows of newly planted brassicas, chard, peppers, and basil.
This patch also has an active population of flea beetles,
Not to worry, I seem to have found a solution to reducing their population:
I was spraying with diluted washing up liquid, but it took ages, and was tiring to my patience and my back. Then I tried diatomaceous earth powder, but apart from being expensive to buy, it tended to blow off the leaves in the wind, with the flea beetles side stepping what was left on the plants.
 
 
... then I came up with this solution.... which is to make a plastic dish out of the bottom of an empty water bottle, fill it with dilute washing up liquid, and put one down beside each plant.
I had to cut a lot of bottles up, but it was worth the effort. I fill the dishes each morning, and feel very satisfied with the amount of beetles I see floating in the water.
 
 
... the black specks are the beetles. This is one day's capture. There are a lots of dishes in situ.
 
 
And the now empty pig pen, which was getting overgrown with some big weeds.
Not now it's not. The scythe and me went to work, and half an hour later all was cut.
It was a lovely morning, me and the scythe worked well together, and all in all in was the most satisfying experience.
 
 
A simple meal, but all home grown: lettuce, crystal lemon cucumber, beetroot, and cheese on one plate, and on the other pan fried spiced potatoes and runny eggs.
The only add ons were the ingredients for the salad dressing and the spices for the potatoes.
As I say, it was a simple meal, but quick to make and delicious.
 
That's all for now folks,
off to the kitchen now for a slice of chocolate courgette cake.
I ate the last slice of lemon courgette cake this afternoon.
Total number of jars of  courgette, ginger, and orange jam made so far: 6, but one eaten, so 5 are left.
I remain surprised at how versatile courgettes can be!
Anyone got a courgette recipe I can try?
Thanks in advance.
Bye for now,
Vx