Saturday 30 May 2009

Be that an apple yonder?

'What be those odd looking lumps of things on this tree?' I thought to myself. 'They shouldn't be there. That's an oak tree. It should have acorns.' Off for the camera I went, grabbing hold of Lester en route.

'What are those things?' I asked him. He didn't know. So he reached up and picked one. It smelt like an apple. Now apples grow on apple trees, acorns grow on oak trees so momentarily I wondered if the world had gone slightly askew and a bee had cross pollinated the flowers of the oak tree with apple pollen and ended up with this acorn/apple, which even then felt spongy as if it could bounce if one threw it a distance.

But looking at the tree felt surreal. It has long, tassle-like flowers that looked out of place as well and didn't look like they could produce anything like an acorn, or an apple, or an acorn/apple. They didn't even looked like they belonged to the tree but they did because I tugged one and the branch it was attached to thwacked me on the head as punishment for being too rough.

So we both scratched our heads and did the only thing left to do: go search on the Internet which is 'must-do' occupation for when things come up which we haven't got a clue about. The Internet is used often: for French translations, for veggie info, for YouTube vids, for generally wasting time which is why I now have a watch so I can keep an eye on how long I spend investigating all manner of interesting subjects which have nothing to do with anything important.

Et voila! An oak-apple! The Internet says so, or rather the website

In May a wasp-like insect lays an egg in the base of a soon-to-open leaf of an oak tree. The tree doesn't think this is something that should happen, so gets mad and surrounds the egg in a spongy container, which is called the 'gall'. But the mother wasp has got this sussed, and the eggs keep growing nevertheless, eventually hatching inside the gall, then boring exit holes to escape their confinement in June/July. The male and female wasps then get together as is the manner of all creatures who want to create the next generation, and the female wasp flies down to the base of the oak tree, burrows in the soil and lays her now fertile eggs in the roots.
"Oh no", the tree says, "not again", and then forms a root gall to enclose the eggs. Sixteen months later a wingless female emerges, climbs up the trunk of the oak tree, and lays her eggs in the leaf buds again and so the cycle continues.

And gosh oh crikey, but I find that fascinating to think about. And my mind expands further to think about how we tend to exist in our own little bits of the world paying disregard to everything and everyone else around us. Blinkered, that's what we are.

So this thingy up the tree is an oak apple. And while it looks as if it just hanging there doing nothing, it is in fact part of a complicated and busy life cycle. Oh it might only be a little wasp that in the greater scheme of things, according to us human beings, is hardly worthy of a second glance let alone a blog, but nevertheless it is living its life as best it can.

Things I have learnt: that it is good for the soul to have respect for all things. That it is good to investigate experiences which come along because one's thinking will become ever more expanded. That the Internet is a must-have requirement for me, and comes only a fraction behind my requirements for a roof on our house.

Friday 29 May 2009

My patch of the world

I thought I would show you where I spend much of my time. The loo roll is for sticky fingers and mopping up spills from my computer keybopard. The white writing pad has got the page numbers of my second book which I am editing at the moment. As I get a page finished I tick its number off from the list. The list seems not to be getting any shorter.

Packets of seeds for planting out, ipod for listening to and saving work which it never does because I don't tell it to, big dictionary because I need a large vocabulary of words, pot of Vaseline for dry lips and dry fingers so I don't nibble at them, a watch newly provided by Lester who bought it from Argos yesterday so I can be aware of using my time more wisely and not dither about getting sidetracked by extraneous activities which are not condusive to either getting my books written or getting Labartere up and running, and sunglasses for when I can't find the safety visor and need to do some strimming.

And Bools catching up with his sleep. He has obviously decided to come off guard dog duty but has his ball and stick to hand in case I should get off my PC sometime soon. He likes it in the office. It is the coolest place to be. Today the butter melted and the eggs became warm so I had to throw them out on the compost heap where a big buzzard bird saw its chance to have a free feed. Those items were kept in the kitchen caravan.

Today was not a place to be in that caravan. Bools and I knew that. Lester was recovering from his flight home from the UK and was catching up with sleep in the bedroom caravan so was oblivious to the heat. Ah bless. I didn't recognize him when he came through check-out. I sent him off dressed in casual gear, and he came back dressed in city gear, London-style. He had to speak to me to capture my attention. But then I was otherwise occupied with watching everyone coming and going. My family will know how much of a people-watcher I am. It must be the writer in me!

And so this is my immediate patch. I wanted to share it with you, mostly because it is tidy today. It normally looks, quite frankly, a mess! But today it looks good.

Yippee, Lester is home safe and well.

Yippee, the potatoes are blossoming, the onions too and they shouldn't be so are being naughty, we are eating our own lettuce now, had our first three strawberries, had our first four raspberries, my Bruv called to see if I was OK because I hadn't posted a blog for a couple of days and so thankyou Bruv for being a Goodo Bruv, and finally to say to Denise over at Malarkey Manor: Yippee for trainee self sufficiencers, yippee for seriously erst-while writers, and yippee for not giving up.

Things I learnt today: Too much sun can have a detrimental effect to one's normally quiet-mannered self.

Oh, and the things I have either side of my head are not earings, but headphones through which I am listening to Queen as I right this blog. "We are the Champions" is playing, so join in and have a singalong with me......arms in the air as in the manner of Freddie Mercury.......waving them side to side......1,2,3,and "We are the champions my friends, And we'll keep on fighting 'till the end, We are the champions, We are the champions...."

Wednesday 27 May 2009

Update for Lester

Hiya HG, just doing a quick signing in: Johnathen here yesterday with electrician. Took the decision to get three trunk cables from the kitchen door in the halfbarn to go directly across to the wall opposite rather than leaving space round the edge of the wall for the electrics. J spoke to Dani. Concrete pour probably Thursday or Friday depending on whether or not the ground is dry enough. They were going to do it before, but ground too wet for lorry. J said the cable needs to be put in before pour otherwise concrete will have to be chipped away later on, which will be more expensive than laying one across now. Three cables. One for lights, two to carry the plugs. One cable can carry 8 plugs, which would be enough if the barn was to be a recreation area but since it is likely to carry the office later on, and considering the amount of plug boards we have all over the place, I thought it more sensible to have an extra cable put it. J took measurements of roof so he can sort out a quote for the insulation. Told him we were taking one step at a time, but it didn't seem to register in his head! He is still very keen on plasterboarding over the side wall as well. Bless. Anyway, good to see him, and know that Dani is on the case with the cement pour for the floor.

Thinning corn today. Will take some over to Bruno. Planting yog pot plants. All plants looking good. Sara pulled up some of her potatoes, said they were tasty. All her lettuce donated by Bruno eaten by slugs. Our pots OK. Haven't needed to water because it has been raining. Yippee! Saved the trudge to and fro the water tap. Peach tree now died. Other still just about holding its own. I think it is trying to decide whether or not to carry on.

Did a raid on your seed box, as you said I could. Put everything back as I found it, including all the 'don't touch these seeds'. Have got some collards, swiss chard, eggplant, and cabbage. Will put those in today while ground wet.

Otherwise, Bools is looking cheesed off. Not getting any titbits, that's his trouble. Hope London is not too grim. See you soon. x

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Lunch at Sara's

OK, Bools" I said sharply to my spaniel. "Walkies it is." I had planned to spend the day writing, gardening, and sorting out my camera equipment in readiness to start taking photos of products which are going into a shop on my web site. First, gardening out front, so boots on. Wrong choice of plan. Boots on means 'out for a walk' to Bools, which was not in my plan for today. Yesterday it was. Probably tomorrow it will be. But not today. Lots to do. Needing to get a move on, I begrudgingly said to him, "But I'm not going to be out for long".

Oh what folly to say those fatal words. Four hours later and we made our return. Waylaid by Sara as she walked her two horses down the lane, "Come in for lunch" she said, "Don't mind about Boolie. I'll put my dog in the shed". How could I refuse such an offer? So I didn't.

"So I sang to the camels, watched the baby potbelly pig romp around the camels before having a splash in the stream and chase a bald-necked chicken which suddenly developed a limp as if to say 'don't hassle me, I'm sick', was regaled with tales of the lady potbelly pig who was in urgent need of being seen to but meanwhile was desperately trying to get serviced by everything and everyone in sight including Sara's buckets, the donkey, and my foot, said we couldn't have the two baby goats which had got dumped at her front gate recently because we didn't have any fencing, rescued the cat which had been put in a boat (a cardboard box) for to go a-sailing down the stream by her young son, sat under the mulberry tree and drank in fresh air laced with all manner of animal perfumes, clucked goo-ily at the young yellow and brown goslings, smiled at the lamb punching away at the teet attached to a the big plastic bottle containing its milk and will feel everlastingly in sympathy with a mother sheep having to feed her lamb - they really do pack a hell of a punch when they head-butt a milk container whether it be bottled or uddered. And was fed myself. Homemade quiche made with duck eggs.

Lunch at Sara's. An experience. And reminds me that living a life is better than anything else in the world.

Things I learnt today: that one can start off with a plan for the day and be quite surprised at how bendable that plan can become when one goes walking down the lane, that duck egg quiche is delicious, and that singing to the camels is a must-do occupation if one is going to be serious about living life!

Saturday 23 May 2009

A wedding, a dunk, and a farewell.

Holah! And may I give you due notice that the wedding of Maddi and Bruno has taken place and they are now married.

The multi coloured person with the hand painted French flag is the 'vicar-type', who is the under-mayor of Castelnau village. Maddi is the one in the white frock, and Bruno is standing in between her and the under-mayor.

And in their back garden the marriage this all took place. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and it was very friendly and great fun. The swimming pool is just behind them.

Here be proof that they be 'done'.

"Hooray!" And again, "Hooray".

And a song from Maddie to Bruno, and then a song from Bruno to Maddi. Ah, sweet!

What a jolly bash it was. Much frivolity, champagne, jigging about, and general mayhem. Plus we only had to toddle back down the road a little way to get back home.
And may I say that if it had been warmer then I would have had a splash in the pool. After all I am soixante deux (62) and can therefore be considered eccentric enough to do so. But it is still only May after all, and the water was a tad on the cold side. I had try-out sneaky toe-dip earlier just in case it was warmer than freezing. It wasn't.

But I had my dunk the next day. The sun shone brightly again, and Lester seduced me into the shower in the house. Well, not 'seduce' exactly...just made leading comments about how warm the weather was, and how warm the shower was because the water heater had been switched on for a while, and "why don't you have a try, I'll keep guard in case anyone comes calling."

Instructions followed: this is how you switch the tap on, you stand in this Halfords plastic box, you put your clothes on this plastic chair here, when you have finished you stand on this pallet,etc. And away he goes.

I am left. OOh. The first time I have disrobed in our house. Our roofless house, but nevertheless, our house. Oooh. Gosh. All comes off. OOOOOOoooooohhhhhh! Into the Halfords Box. Shower on. "Lester," I yells, "It's toooooo hottttt!". In he rushes. To my rescue he comes. He twiddles. All is well. Mmmm, that's better.

Onto the pallet. On with my clothes. My first shower this year. In the open air. In our house. OOooooohhhHHHHHHhhhhhhoooooo!

And now we are parted. From Pau, France, Lester has flown. Out to the UK he has gone, to do London, and to earn the money for the roof of our roofless house. Bless. I waved him off after he had booked in and had the security check, just in case he wasn't deemed a suitable occupant for the Ryanair plane which was going to take him off with itself when it left a couple of hours later. It's his passport. It makes him look like terrorist. No worries. Through he went.

So back up to Labartere I drove, musing on the trips I have already made to and fro the airport. We are building a history here already. I have met two new neighbours: the Marquee (not sure how to spell that one) who is rich, can open over forty bottles of almagnac just to have a taster from each bottle, does casino trips to Morroco and other places to while away his time, and looks as lonely as hell proving that money can't ever buy you peace of mind, and the Railway Lady, whose name I can't pronounce let alone spell, but lives upstairs at the old railway station, is a widow (her husband drank himself into not being here), and waves at the maize trains which occasionally potter up and down the line. Both were at the wedding. Both I had fun with. Neither went into the pool either, it being only May and a tad on the cold side as I said before.

But Eric did. A big splash he made, he being a big man. Getting to the grand age of 50 last week has entitled him to start practising for when he gets eccentric in ten years time.. Plus he was carrying a tank of alcohol in his tummy which sort of pushed him along a bit.

Last week him and Bruno walked along the railway line at midnight, after a 40-bottle almagnac tasting session at the Marquee's house which is just along from the Railway Lady who is just along from Bruno's house. Fortunately the trains go to sleep here when it gets dark. So no damage done to anyone, including the train.

So, waving to Hubs in the! Got back home OK. Behaving. Car OK. Bools OK. All the neighbours know that you are away so will be keeping an eye on me to make sure I stay OK.

Lessons I have learnt: That dancing on the lawn can play havoc with one's best shoes, so to wear an older pair when the occasion next arises. That it is best to put one's shoes away from the Halfords box when having a shower and not leave them conveniently placed to step into when one's shower is finished. Wet shoes are not nice. That it is best to smile with one's best smile when one is waving off one's Hubs at the airport because then he will take that smile away with him on his journey.

Thursday 21 May 2009

I didn't want any adventures today!

We started the day off well. Up at just before 6. Into the office, a couple of hours of editing the second book, a look at the synopsis of the first, then off for a cup of tea and porridge.

Now I don't know if it was the porridge or not, but everything sort of slid downhill from then on.
First the cake: decided to be bold and cook a French recipe one. Didn't do a translation first. I think I had to melt butter in this pot, melt chocolate in that pot, mix stuff in another pot, break and separate five eggs so three bowls there (one for the whites, one for the yellow, one for the shells), put everything together in yet another bowl, divide the contents equally, add chocolate to one half, vanilla sugar to the other. All into cake tin. Swirl round. ( I am making a marble cake). Into oven. Am left with a ceiling high pile of pots to wash and much stickiness everywhere.

Bread day today: normal recipe kept in my head. No probs. All thrown together. A nice kneading. Onto baking tray. Covered. Should be OK.

From out of the oven comes a sunken cake. In the middle it has caved in. Oh f****k, that oven again! Might be alright. Looks aren't everything. Cake cools down. Cut a trial slice. Nope. No good. The edges dried up but the middle still soft. Has to go back into the oven.

Bread done nothing. No rising. As I inspect it a sudden awareness that I forgot to put the yeast in flashes into my mind. No matter. Grab bread dough in one hand, open a packet of yeast with my teeth and the other hand. Throw yeast into dough which is now stone cold. Roll dough around on the table to try and coax some life into it. Regret the fact that I haven't got a microwave and can't warm it up to get it going. No matter. Onto tray. Leave it to rise, hopefully.

Bruno pops round. Good news, bad news, some more iffy news, and then the bombshell news. He's getting married tomorrow. We have an invite. I ask if I can help out. Bruno says, "Make one of your cakes". My heart sinks. That oven and me are not on the best of terms at the moment. No matter.

Take todays cake, now missing a slice where I had tested it, out of the oven. Looks worse. Shrunken. More saggy.

Lunch over with. Yesterday's lunch recycled. A drop of wine as a treat. Tackle the huge pile of bowls and general mess from my cook up. I don't have the energy for another adventure today. This week I have done striding through the corn field to decorate my legs with scratches and wading through the head high grass gathering a head full of pollen and dust whilst waiting to be eaten . Today I am going to have a day off. Bools looks at me with 'that look'. He thinks different. He wants to go to the loo. "Oh why can't you take yourself off to a corner of the field and go yourself" I yell at him. He waits expectantly, his answer obviously "No".

Off down the lane, but not past Christiane's today. I don't want to do 'kick the poo into the ditch' activities today. Neither do I want to have an adventure as such. And yet I do. I have a slow adventure, of pootling along so Bools can do his pees and poos, and walking through a meadow to begin with. Because I am on slow-down, I look at the flowers, and see varieties I had never seen before. Oh, and look at that odd insect, the one which is a cross between a bumble bee and a butterfly and the most gorgeous colour of burgundy. And those bright red poppies occasionally sprinkled through the corn field which I am not walking through today. And those lillys parked in a ditch. Whatever are they doing there! And so many varieties of grass I see. All sorts. And up the road and onto the bridge. And there I stand and watch the River Adour for ages, first on one side, then the other. The fast flow, the movement, our beach, Claudine's secret pipe into the river for watering her garden.

I didn't want an adventure today, but I had one anyway. It was a 'watch and have a look' type of adventure and I didn't get scratched, or bitten, or nasally bunged up, and I got to see things which I had never seen before.

And the bread? It is in the dreaded oven as I write this and has grown odd pustules over its surface where the yeast obviously worked, interspersed with saggy bits where it didn't. Oh well, it matches the cake!

Things I learnt today: That it is not wise to try fangly recipes when all one has to cook on is an appliance which has a will of its own.
That if one is going to be bold and try to cook via instructions written in another language, it is better to translate properly first, otherwise everything will get sticky, including the computer keyboard as one tries to do an urgent Internet search for certain foreign words midway.
That adventures are multi-tiered, and don't have to be of the daring-do type of activity.
That bread really does need yeast put in it at the beginning otherwise it will grow odd pustules during cooking.
That watching a river busy with its day is a delight.
That it is Ok for a neighbour to put a hidden water pipe into the river to water her garden so she doesn't have to pay the water meter charge because Lester is going to do the same but through the duck pond which hasn't got any ducks on at the moment but will have at some time in the future.
That I might avoid a cake-bake tomorrow and go buy Maddi some flowers for her wedding day.

Bon nuit.

Wednesday 20 May 2009

I nearly didn't have an adventure today

But then I did. Initiated by Boolie deciding that he really needed to Go OUT, and not keep poncing about on the campus like me and Lester had been doing all day. Well, we had been working. Lester to pay for Boo's food, and me to try and become an ever-so-famous-writer by selling at least one book. And what slow going that is and how I am learning that being a writer requires of one hours and hours and hours and yet more hours of earnest endeavour which can, quite frankly, drive one up the pole.

Anyway, on with today. It has been hot, so early lunch because being in the kitchen caravan is like being in a sauna if one is trying to cook. Heat from the sun + heat from the oven (if on, which most days it is) + top of stove cooking = one hot and drippy moi. Yesterday, it was hotter. I left it until late evening to wash up. It was still swelteringly hot. So I divested myself of my top and other articles except my pinny, and hoped that Bruno, bless him, wouldn't come swinging along to see how we were getting along. Fortunately he didn't. But I relied on Boo's ears to let me know if he, or anyone else, was about.

Trouble is that Boo's getting lazy. He used to bark at everything, which was a nuisance sometimes, but a blessing at other times especially if one was doing things which one didn't want anyone else to see. But he is getting inattentive to his job of late, and we are finding that we are the ones to investigate new arrivals before he does. I think I will have to have a talk with him about what his job actually entails, especially as it looks as if I am going to be only wearing a pinny in the kitchen caravan more often. We are, as it happens, still only in late spring, and the temperature in the bedroom caravan was at 30 degrees C.

So, 7pm here. Bools was of the opinion that messing about with potting compost was too damn boring. So he psyched me out. He does this by lying down with his head on his front paws and stares and stares at me, knowing that I will get the message eventually.

Off we go down the lane. Now I don't know why he has to do this, but he always does at least one or two deposits right outside Christiane's house. No matter how I try to get him to do his doggy dollops elsewhere, always he manages to find some contribution to dump around her property. I have become deft at doing a quick sideways flick with my booted foot to reposition the deposits. I am sure that Bools thinks it fun.

The grass has grown. So has the oil seed rape on our fields which means that we haven't been able to walk round our fields for weeks. We miss that. It makes us feel disengaged from the full extent of Labartere. Today I thought I would plough a way through. After all, I haven't had an adventure today, so here goes. Instead of returning the way I had come, I carried on over Christiane's field, into a little strip of woodland, then round the edge of our oil seed rape field.

The grass was as tall as my head. It was fun for a couple of yards. Bools thought so too. He does kangaroo hops in long grass. But he also spooks himself. The thing is, I rely on his desire to look after and protect me from anything which might come and eat me. It would seem that this only applies to when I am having a lie down in bed, when he can do watch-dog in comfort, or sitting at my computer when he can do a full-on sleep as can be heard by his snoring, him being obviously off-duty. But when it matters, as when I am having an adventure in tall grass which could be housing all manner of creatures both great and small, and here I am reminded of that humungous snake that I disturbed in the middle of winter when I was messing about out front, he seems to be looking toward me for protection. So it ended up with both of us spooking each other.

We made a safe return.

I had an adventure today. I have the mozzie bites to prove it and my nose is full of grass seed and oil seed rape dust, which means that the bedroom caravan will swim sweetly with the scent of Vick Vapour Rub which I will have to use in quantity if I am to keep my airways open so I can breath.

Bools meanwhile, is having a nap. After all, he was the leader on the adventure as such thinks he deserves the reward of a kip.

Things I have learnt today: That its best to wait until Farmer Foch cuts the oil seed rape and hopefully also cuts the verges so me and Bools can make a safe passage round our land and also ensure I do not become peppered overall with mozzie bites. That an early dinner was a good idea because I could wash up when it wasn't so hot and therefore avoid any embarassment to Bruno and other visitors by wearing only my pinny because it is too hot to do otherwise. That even when one doesn't think one is going to have an adventure, an adventure will pop up and find one. That Vick is a blessing.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Doors, blisters, and mozzies

Hellooo and welcome. This be t' owld doooor that upon a time ago serrrrved to protect t'occupants of t'tall barrrrn. Eet weavered many a storrrrm but ne'er eet failed. T'ole in t'wall eet protected.

Now eet ees no morrrre. Il est mort.

Et voila. Angel Jim did come and wave a magic wand, or rather, his toolbox. With great skill he made and manoevred a new door into place. Et voila!

The 'ole has been feeexed.

"Oooooouuuuucccchhhhhh!" Head Gardener wailed this morning, "I've got a blister on my thumb". And so a blister had grown where before there had been none. Indeed, HG's once white, pristine, office hands are now brown, earthen, and starting to grow baby calouses. Ah bless! And now the advent of a blister, brought about by the moving of the field, not with a tractor nor yet a sit upon lawn mower, but by his ancient petrol lawnmower which has to be pushed over the docks, nettles, wild flowers, old corn stalks, new corn, and other assorted greenery which has made up the field out back of the house. And HG, stirling trooper that he is, has mown a goodly portion of this field, and turned it into a trainee lawn. Hence the blister. It takes hours. He is brown, fit, and has newly made muscles in certain places. Mmmm, lovely!

And so the mozzies have arrived for their summer vacation. They have been floating around for a few days, but in a lazy fashion as if they are still half asleep and wouldn't take a sip of blood out of us even if we offered ourselves up for them to do so. Not now. Last night, with a vengeance they were zooming in to any piece of skin which dared show itself. So that's it for the rest of the year. Never mind, one gets used to them. All windows and doors are shut before they start flying about in the evening and HG is a marvelous aim with his flyswot, and we say Hurrah to the bats and swifts which are zooming about overhead eating them for dinner.

And 'ere beee t'doorrrr!

Things I have learnt today: That sometimes I can speak French, sometimes I can't. So not to get into a flurry if I can't for the life of me understand the French butcher into whose shop I ventured for the first time. Perhaps next time I might.(This is a different butcher to the one I have spoken about in the past). And not to mind if my double chin seems to have vanished. It will probably be back soon.

Saturday 16 May 2009

I've got the itchies...

And it was all the fault of the cornfield.

Today it came into my mind to have a go at taking cuttings from certain shrubs and trees in the neighbourhood which could contribute to Labartere's nudeness as far a greenery goes. She has native trees, plenty of land coverage by way of grass and wildflowers, but she lacks flowering shrubs and trees of which there is an abundance in the surrounding locality. I have never seen so many tall flowering trees in my life and these, I have decided, would contribute to the food-larder for our bees. We haven't got bees yet but we will have, and I want to make sure they have plenty to eat, or rather, plenty of flowers to harvest from.

Heading out early this morning, before anyone was awake because I didn't want to inspire the local people to add to their list of 'daft things those English people on the corner are doing', with secateurs in hand and Bools giving assistance when needed, off we went down the lane: a snip here, a snip there, and soon my plastic bag was full. It was fun. Soon the sun woke up, its job today being to get the place dried out after the rain.

Chancing past a corn field, another thought came into my head: 'to go take some green fig cuttings from a house over there, the one which has been sold but is still empty for the moment, the one which has the fig tree overhanging the field next door.' So Bools and me plunged through an oh-so-glorious-meadow of grass and wild flowers, dry now because the sun had been doing its work. Wriggling through a narrow hedge. Doing a lady-like leap over a tiny ditch.

And now the corn field. Voices were cheerfully chattering away. Coming from another house. There, by the edge of the cornfield. I could see people. Children. Mmmmmmm. I was already several yards into the field. The corn was mid-thigh high. It was wet. It had avoided the sun for the moment. I had a skirt on. It was getting wet too. I bunched it up infront of me. White thighs were exposed. But no knickery-things. My rear end remained suitably covered.

So what to do. Impassioned with the mission of hunting out those fig cuttings, I carried on. Bools thought it great fun, bouncing about through the cornfield like a kangaroo. I meanwhile was trying to make it look as if I was walking along a tractor-path, and not walking gung-ho over the corn itself. I felt self-conscious. What if the people rang the farmer up to say that a woman was walking with her skirts all bunched up, in company with a dog cavorting madly, over his precious corn. Would I get shot? I tried to look even more as if I was out for a Sunday morning stroll in the park. Not easy when the corn was starting to soak my legs, my skirt when it could get to it, my boots were already sodden, oh and now I was getting scratched to pieces as well. Red streaks were appearing on my pristine-white skin.

Nevertheless, I was getting over the field with some dignity. Then the rows of corn went at right angles to me, which meant I had to step over each single row to get to the next, planting my feet sideways as I did. By now I was near the house, and I wanted to make it appear as if I was being Very Careful of the corn plants. I had to lift my legs quite high, in gigantic steps. I must have looked very silly. One would not walk like that in the park on a Sunday. Nor any other day! But I tried to make it look as if I was Really Being Very Careful, when in actual fact I was not. Neither was Bools.

Onto the railway line. Striding quickly in case a train came and mowed us down. Not likely on a Saturday, but one never knows. It is a maize-train, carrying corn up and down the country. It is not a passenger train. That would go too fast and really knock me off my feet. The maize train sort of chugs along a respectable speed but one could get out of the way if one had to.

Ah, et voila! The house. Over a little ditch. Oops, didn't see the water in it, but never mind, feet are wet already. Through the grass. Better to let skirt drop now as near the main road. Still looking super efficient and as if I know what I am doing, being of the opinion that if I look hesitant then someone driving along the road might think I am up to mischief. Which I am not. I am recycling plants, that is what I am doing. Reaching up, I 'borrow' some cherries, thanking the tree for its donation to the cause. Onto the fig tree. Cutting taken. And here is the proof:

PS. I am standing on my shadow so it doesn't escape. Of late it has not been in attendance, possibly because the sun has been elsewhere, but just in case, I am keeping my foot firmly planted on it today!

Off home. Quick search on the Internet to see how one deals with fig cuttings. Everything is a learning curve at the moment, including taking cuttings. All cuttings now in pots. A bit late for them really, but have promised to do my best for them.

Head Gardener enthused about the fig cuttings, ate his share of the cherries, and is saving the pips for yet another growing project.

Things I have learnt today: That scratches on thighs, from 'strolling' through a cornfield, can get itchy if one has to cook lunch in a caravan whose internal temperatures are soaring skyward due to the sun deciding to get it dried out. That eating fruit straight off the tree is a glorious experience - no chemical sprays, only a bit of dust, maybe a bit of bird-peck, sun-warmed, and au naturelle. That I like doing things with cuttings and seeds and am developing a passion, which I didn't know I had, for collecting greenery for Labartere. That I seem to have discovered a gardener in me. That I like fiddling about with bits of plants and making my hands and fingernails all of a muck.

Friday 15 May 2009

Wot's this 'ere?

Before I go any further, this is a 'no smuts' blog. You'll see why in a minute.

Sensibles first. This is Head Gardener on the runway, our new answer to the underfoot tarpaulins which made puddles when everywhere else was dry, but kept the mud from being dragged into the caravans and office. (see photo below)

The tarps had done their service, but were looking decidedly tatty, so a temporary solution was found, and that was to lay some paving slabs and ex-floor tiles down on the ground to make a runway. And it works. We have kept our feet dry, all eight of them (2 of mine, 2 of HG, 4 of Bools) despite inclement weather this week, and there is also a lack of puddles around because the water can drain straight into the ground without getting walked on to produce a muddy slush. Good solution. Plus, and this is an unlooked for bonus, when we come out of the office at night, when it is dark and we have neglected to put the caravan lights on, the runway sort of stays lit-up so we can just about see where we are going rather than having to feel our way which was a bit hairy-scary sometimes. The poor old lemon tree got kicked on frequent occasions by mistake, and the glass covered cold frame was often nearly fallen into. The new runway has saved us, the lemon tree, and the seedlings in the cold frame.

Anyway, here is HG on inspection duties: having given me instructions for getting the tomatoes out front, he then went to virtually dance around with glee because the olive trees seem to be putting out growings which just might be actual olives. It's nice to see one's man happy!

Off down the road this afternoon in between a bout of showers, and I thought I would show you Pierre and Christian's jolly jumble of a garden.

This photo does not do it justice, but I liked the cheeky looking scarecrow in the centre. Now I don't know why it is standing there. P and C's garden doesn't really warrant such a suberb specimen, given that it is such a glorious jumble of assorted veggies and flowers. No straight lines here, no pristine rows of tidy veggies and well weeded flower beds. It is all as it comes, and is what I aspire to out front. This garden is my role model.

And so wot's this ere?

Any answers? Because we don't have the faintest clue. Well, certain subjects were mentioned on which I must stay discretely silent, but otherwise? Nope, not a clue.

So this thingummyjig arrived in my hands via my spade. Out digging yesterday, and 'Wot's this 'ere' I thought to myself as the pointy end sort of erupted out of the soil. At first I was smitten with dismay. Was it some devil's horn planted there by some Evil One decades ago? Was it a Secret Weapon against Good. Why was it planted in such a manner? What spell casting was associated with it? Oo-er! Megga bad vibes did I have, especially when another spade dig dragged up some bits of stuff which looked like rotted leather but were too far gone to decipher what they actually had been once upon a time. And then it rained. I dropped the pointy thing where I had found it. Indoors I went for the rest of the day.

So out for a dig I went this morning. There! It was still there! Oh crikey! But then a ray of sunshine popped its head through the clouds, and the pointy thing didn't seem quite so intimidating somehow. So I stooped over and picked it up. Did a sort of 'feel' of it. (No smuts! I did warn you at the start of this blog!) It has a sort of blackish paint effect on it, which might only be from the soil in which it has lain. And it is 'attached' to what looks like a piece of tile. I think it is made of clay as there are some curious indents in the top, which might be chips broken off it or artistic creativity.

So here it is. Should I put it away for safe keeping, and one day in the future, when I get to have shelves on which I can put ornaments and other dust-gathering bits and pieces, I could put this pointy thing on show as part of the history of Labartere. Which way up should I put it? Upwards, downwards, or sideways? And what would I say it was? And what if it actually did belong to some dark sect who had planted it for the sole purpose of causing mischief and mayhem. So, no, perhaps not in the house.

But it was dug up, and therefore could be classed as 'buried treasure'. Already I have found three horseshoes and two old keys. Now this,...mmm, thingy. I don't know what to call it.

Yes, I do! On having another hand-feel, upon planting the flat part at the bottom on the palm of my hand, and inverting my hand so the thingy pointed downwards, I have found its name and its new purpose! It is a Dibber! Yes, a Dibber! What is that? Well, its a tool for making holes in the soil when needing to plant young seedlings out so their vulnerable roots don't become damaged.

And I was having this very trouble the other day when it came to plant our first flush of seedlings out. I tried using my knitting needle but that made too small a hole, so I had to 'borrow' HG's screwdriver. So, I am thinking that the Universe was watching over my shoulder and recognised that I was needing an implement to help me out. And hey presto! A day or so later, I dig up this ready-made tool!

Oh, singing joyfully as she goes, Under Gardener is now off to try out her new Dibber.

Things I have learnt today: When one chances upon an unlikely looking artifact, do not panic. There are reasons why it has come one's way. So stay cool. Let it sit in one's hand. And then one will become aware of a usefulness for it, which is likely to be different to one's original thoughts.

Blessings to you this day.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Rolling raindrops

"Vera", yelled Lester, "Come and have a look at our guttering. See if its working. It's raining. Come on."

"*******" and other assorted expletives were flung about in the air as I uncoiled myself from my computer chair, and duly followed Hubs, grabbing my umbrella along the way because it was tipping down with rain. Ah, that dear umbrella, once so pristine, now much battered about having accompanied me through various wetnesses.

Yet it still just about works!

Lester testing that the water was coming through the guttering in a goodly flow. Yes, it was. And plans to build a concrete tank to catch the water before it disappears into the earth are spouting forth from him.

My plan is a plain plastic tub. I always seem to go for more simpler plans. Like Hubs's plan for the well out front. Need to get the water up so the plants can be watered for free. So Hubs's plan is for an electic pump and a huge circular water container which can also catch the downwater from the tall barn when it eventually gets its roof. I favour a hand pump. A bit of arm action followed hopefully by a bit of a squirt of water straight into the watering can. No electricity needed therefore carbon footprint balanced, and will give good exercise to my upper arms which tend to flap about with extraneous flesh when I wave them up and down too fast. Like wings.

And a quick trip into the veg plot to see how things are doing after the lunch time inspection a couple of hours previously. We have lots of inspections during the day. Sometimes Hubs. Sometimes me. Sometimes all three of us together. One way or another, it gets a lot of inspections. We are learning to watch the plants grow, which they are doing at a cracking pace at the moment.

On the way back, into the half barn, to check the roof is not leaking. I kept my umbrella up out of habit. I am not used to being in the house without getting dripped on. It has dripped from the day we arrived. Or did. Now, no longer. We even watched the raindrops rolling themselves down the velux windows in the roof. I think that will become a past-time for rainy days in the future, when we have moved in.

Things I have learnt today: I don't need an umbrella in the half barn anymore. It is better to get the letter written to the French water company Veolia on the day it arrives rather than letting it sit on my desk for days, the attached worry-factor about having to write an official letter in French not being worth the tension it produced. A day off from having the builders here re-organises the peacefulness of Labartere.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Cool cake, cool implement

Off I went to Maubourguet today. Needed to sort out the Taxe Fonciere, which was mucked up last year. It was sent to the UK first, but was not sent on very quickly from the occupants of our old house, and arrived late here. Was paid. But got a fine. Didn't pay fine: one of those bits of paper that get left in the pile to be sorted out later. Red letter came. Oops! Was going to write a letter. Thought 'I must go and sort this out personally.'

I can tell you that this took bravery on my part. This was officialdom I was going to have to speak to, not Claudine of the Chambre d'hote who I had a recent girl-talk with about men, she having split up with her recent partner which made us sad as he had become part of our French network here. Knowing that we are not probably going to see him again has made us quite sad. Never mind, we made due commiserations to Claudine and said we would help her whenever necessary. All in French. Nor was it going to be the same as chatting to Christiane down the lane about life, men, and parents. Mind you, it was not going to be any worse than talking to her husband who is absolutely not-understandable, him being Spanish and so speaking Spanish-French.

Anyway, time to do the Tressorie, in Maubourguet. Internet. Found where it was. In a village of all things, just outside of Maubourguet. Never mind. Downloaded map. Into car. Now driving French car, with everything on the opposite side to UK cars. Means I don't drive sitting in the car on the side closest to the ditches. Took a while to get used to that. The ditches here are fearsome things, and every single road or lane is lined with them. At least if I was driving right beside them I could see how close I was to ending up in one of them. Not so now. Am sitting further away. A couple of times I have had to grit my teeth when another vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction on a narrow lane and I have had to shift over to let it pass. I wouldn't like to hazard a guess as to how close I have come to fetching up in a ditch. Never mind. They do a good job. Rarely are the roads flooded here. And there are plenty of tractors around which will pull you back out apparently, according to Sara of the camels.

So, map in hand, off I go. Caussade Rivière is where I have to head in the direction of. Get there. Pretty village.
"Bonjour Madame" I said, flagging down a passer by, "La Tressorie. C'est près d'ici?"
No it wasn't. Way off course. A quantity of French later, and redirected back onto main road, with thoughts of letting the Tressorie people know that Yahoo has relocated them in the middle of a peaceful and sleepy village.

Market day in Maubourguet. Can drive our French car but parking is another matter. Better to park at SuperU, the supermarket, and walk back into the town. Done. Tressorie found.

And I did it! AND no fine. The lovely young lady at the desk managed to understand what I said, bless her, and wrote a lovely big cross over the bill, got me to sign it, and I think she said that we don't have to pay until August. Never mind. Job done.

The Dress-stall lady: Had a browse in the market, found dress stall, had girl-time having a look up and down the rails, was measured up and told I was a French size 5 for future reference. Will re-visit at a later date.

The Honey Stall Lady: Had chat to her about bees. Her husband has 35 hives. Gave us email address so I can contact him about buying a hive. I think she said that he had one for sale. If not, then it is a start on our hunt for bee keeping equipment. Will visit her again.

The Food Man: "Bonjour monsieur. Votre marie en Plaisance derrière semaine?" He looked fox-eyed. I was asking him if his wife was in Plaisance last week, as I had bought some home-made lasagne from her and it was delicious. Giggles from the young lady standing beside me. "Votre marie?" Ooops. I had just asked him if his husband had been in Plaisance. Guffaws all round, and a splendid few moments were had. Food bought. Will revisit.

Cool Implement: Wow! This was a find.

The Plant Shop: On way back to car. Feet decided to march themselves into shop. Mmmm. To be re-visited as well. And there was the rather marvelous looking implement as shown in the above photo, to be used for no end of purposes when one needs to dig little holes, or get something out of a litte hole, or scratch about in a little hole.

Cool Cake: Wow! What a treat!

The Chocolatier Lady: Laden with bags. Now at the boulangerie. Must have pain au chocolate to keep me going. Ended up with this wondrous confection as well. The photo does not do justice to it: On top - slices of strawberry and kiwi, and a raspberry. Inside it, don't know but it was a delight. Bought two. One for HG one for me. I had both. Shoppers treat! Will definitely be visiting that lady again.

Things I learnt today: I can manage to map read and drive the car at the same time without falling into a ditch. If I take my time, then I can manage to converse reasonably well with people other than neighbours. Sometimes one has to sleep through the hotter parts of the day and one must not feel guilty if one does so (it was outrageously hot today). That Head Gardener can be forgiven anything when he says "No, you have that other cake, you deserve it." Ah bless. And blessings for the little butterfly which has just sprung out of the wall in the office, yet another occupant which has woken up. But it is dark outside, so hopefully it will be patient until we can let it out in the morning.

Monday 11 May 2009


Oh so have a look at this humungous insect which fell off the wall in front of my computer today. It is lying flat on its back, waving its legs in the air, and I have put a one pound coin beside it so you can see how big it is. Or was. It is now in Insect Heaven.

Gosh but it gave me the heebie-jeebies.

It was the third.

An hour or so previously, Lester called my attention to a two inch long thingummyjig with hundreds of legs each side of it, similar to a millipede, but oh so much huger, that was walking up the wall infront of his computer.That is in Insect Heaven as well.

And then last night: going into the kitchen caravan later on in the evening, and there was this huge moth-like creature bashing about the place. That was the biggest of these three. But it sort of gave itself a headache from crashing into everything and ended up prone in my saucepan. Handy for getting back outside. I don't know whether that is in Insect Heaven or not. It might be being recycled via Boolie's tummy, or it might have flown off. It was dark so I couldn't see.

Now I am not particularly squeamish about insects, but these are BIG. And I think they must be waking up from their winter sleep. I think that our pig/chick hut has been their dormitory for the colder months, and now it is getting warmer, well.... time to wake up and get going with doing things.

However, all has changed. No longer is their previous abode as it was. It has been re-done. No cobwebs, no pig-poo, no chicken leavings. Clean walls. People. Dog. It must seem like a living hell when they wake up, have a stretch and then head on out for their new season. Perhaps it is just as well they are dispatched. They can't like it very much now that we have reclaimed their previous abode as our office.

Builders in today. Stones down on the floor in the half barn. Looking good. HG was up at 6.3o this morning, getting up the same time as me, his UG. He has been in shock with his early arising all day, but enjoyed the early morning dig. Blowing up a bit outside, so a storm is on its way. Great! Won't have to water the garden. But must rush off to retrieve the washing from the line before it disappears off down to the Pyrenees.

A couple of hours later: Hi. Just had chat with Bruv in UK, done some potato-earthing-up with HG, rescued washing, no rain but hopefully some will arrive soon, stick-play with Bools, uploaded this photo of our new 'lawn' mowed by stirling-trooper-HG, now off to do the washing up as have no clean cups, cutlery, saucepans or plates. Well, it has been hot, like a sauna, in the kitchen caravan today. Too hot to mess about at the sink. Well, that's my excuse so I am sticking to it!

What I learnt today was that having a Bruv is great, that when one feels like one is going to melt like a pat of warmed-up butter it is best to leave any heavy exercise, like washing-up, until later when it is less hot, that if one is an Under Gardener then one must expect to have finger nails and hands which are no longer in pristine condition, and that laughter lines on one's face are better than frown lines.

Sunday 10 May 2009

Cuckoo's, nuts, camels and seeds.

And so this morning I was doing a potter in the dreadfully overgrown onion bed. In the beginning we were anti-weeding, taking the attitude that one put the things you wanted to grow, and eventually eat, into the ground, watered a bit now and then, and hey presto, a certain amount of time later one would wander out to the veggie plot and harvest the perfectly grown produce.

This is not so!

One has to work like VERY HARD to even get that something to grow, let alone eat it. Watering the seeds, for instance, is a must. This we found out when a row of carrots failed to even send up one sproutling after they were planted at the start of the six weeks of glorious sunshine we had in late winter, and not one drop of water was put upon the little seeds. Quite frankly, I think they were of the opinion that since we obviously weren't going to help them along, then they weren't going to bother either.

And one must WEED, because if one doesn't then one will not find one's produce because it will be buried beneath other green stuff, or if one does, that it will be shrivelled up and distorted because the much stonger weed has taken up all the nutrients from the soil.

It rained last night. Great. Weeding time. Soil soft enough. Out I went. Lovely morning. Birds singing. Ah, a cuckoo! Been around for a while. Not fussed with the bird, because of its selfish disinclination to look after its young. Pop one into another bird's nest, then off to it goes to enjoy the day, freed up from any responsilities associated with rearing babies. " cough", went the cuckoo. And again. And again. It could manage the first "cuckoo" Ok but the second one was cut short midway by a cough. As if it's voice hadn't woken up yet, as if had had a late night out on the town and really wanted to stay asleep only everyone else was up and doing things so 'I guess that I had better show willing but don't really feel up to it today'.

And so I smiled, and felt a warmth towards that little bird for at least making the effort, even if it wasn't really up to it. The warmth has carried on as it continues to fly about the neighbourhood, now in full voice and cuckooing properly even as I write this piece.

Bit of a problem has arisen. Lester over to Bruno's. Sees some baby trees. "Ah good for Labartere" he thinks. Back over to me. "Bruno's got some trees - they're chestnut trees".
"Ah great" I say, let's get them planted. Lovely to have roast chestnuts, and I could puree them and do all sorts with them" I said, in the true manner of a self-sufficiencer.

A wheel barrow appears, full of baby trees, most still attached to their nuts.
"Conkers" I said. "They are conkers".
"How many" says Lester.
"About twenty."
"We'll plant them all over", Lester says now launching into Head Gardener mode. "We need to put them in pots first. You can do that. "
"Hokay. I'll have a look on the Internet just now, see what things I can do with the nuts. I am SO excited about having them. I just love roast chestnuts."

Internet search: Ummm, uno problemo. It transpires that the eventual nut produce from the trees needs to be heavily processed before we can eat them: mincing them, washing them through at least five times. Definitely can't be roasted and eaten entire. Not only that, but the flowers may or may not be poisonous to honey bees. And also to some animals. There were differing opinions on this, but the outcome to this Internet browse, was that we have the wrong nuts! Or rather the wrong trees! We needed Sweet Chestnut trees. We have Horse chestnut trees. Sweet chestnuts are eaten. Conkers can't be, and the flowers are iffy for the bees.

And so another problem: I have already potted up seven of the baby trees. The rest are still in the wheel barrow. Somehow a solution has to be found as to why these trees are not suitable, which will not upset the endeavours of our neighbour Bruno, who dug them up for us. This remains an ongoing difficulty. I will let you know the resolution in good time. Also, what the hell are we going to do with seven trees. At the moment the favourite idea is to say "Oh what a shame, the deer ate them." But it is likely that dear Bruno might go and dig up a few more for us. Mmmmm. So thinking caps on for this one. Or I suppose we could say "thankyou very much, but we can't grow them on the farm" all the while smiling sweetly and with great sorrow. Great! Solution found! And all with your help.

Off to Sara's the other day. One of her camels has a sore foot, and she recently has had a young white camel delivered from Bulgaria. Can't fill you in with any more info on this blog otherwise it will end up yards long, but I am in love. Me and that white camel bonded. She has rickets. The camel, not Sara! Thought I would do a bit of healing for the other camel. She is big. Done little birds and things before. But camels, no. Got in the pen beside her. Crikey but she was HUGE! One kick from those gigantic feet would have had me flying through the air to join the cuckoo. Nevertheless I had a go, did my best. And then off to the white camel. She looked at me and I looked at her, and we had a 'moment'. Anyway, as I say, I will give you more info another time.

And so I have planted loads of seeds, watered them, tended them, and have a halo bright and shining above my head. As Under Gardener, I think I am doing OK. Head Gardener is going OK as well. He has done loads of mowing this weekend, and I have done loads of strimming. Labartere is looking quite pristine, if you ignore the piles of rubble (which now have their own halo's but of grass and wild flowers, or weeds if you like), piles of bricks from the builders and the hugest pile of gravel which we have to scabble through to get out the back gate, and that is for the floor in the half barn.

What I have learnt is: That even cuckoo's can have a 'bad hair' day. To be careful about what one encourages one's neighbours to dig up from their garden - have an Internet search first. That big camels are OK to snuggle up to providing that someone else is keeping them occupied. That one can have a 'bonding' element with other creatures including young white camels. That if one bothers to look after seeds and things in pots then they will bless you with showing willing to grow. And not to swear at piles of stones which make you slip and slide when you walk across them because soon they will taking up residence beneath our first solid floor.

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Holay: Le petit toit est fini!

And nous avons en autre probleme: Assuming that the bed isn't rotten, will it fit into the end of the half barn. And do we put plaster board on the walls or do we start the long process of filling in the walls the same as we did in the office. Shouldn't be too long a job, as nowhere near as many holes and up-and-down bits, and no spiders to cope with, plus no bones stuck in the walls, or the likelihood of discovering something squashed. And, presuming our leather settees are still unrotted, how am I going to arrange this, or like that. And then there is the dining room table. Is there going to be room for it, if so, should it go lengthways or sideways. By the door (when there is a door) or in the middle of the space.

And so we have apparently gravitated to the next stage of our life here, which is how are going to make the halfbarn our home. Today we switched track: from being caravaners, to being nearly-home-owners. The switch was tangible.

And the roof on the half barn looks great, very elegant, very natural, and very discrete. One of the things we are careful of, is being too showy. We don't want to come across as being 'rich English', which we aren't, but might be thought of as being to our French neighours, one of whom, bless her, brought round loads of plants to put in the front garden. She waves every time she passes. Everyone does. It makes us feel part of the community.

And so the half barn roof is done. Now a few days off from the roofers,- next week now before we see them again. It will give us a break to catch up with ourselves. Of late, not a day goes past without there being a question to find an answer to. Not easy when the question is spoken in French and we don't have the foggiest idea of what is being asked. The simple thing of the floor in the half barn, and the possible opening for a wood burning fire have caused no end of problems.

And the complete hole in the wall. Down it has all come. Lester thinks we should knock the other wall down as well. It will not be done. As in the way of the Suffragete (sorry about the spelling, no time to hunt down the right one) movement, I will personally use any means I can to stop any would-be demolition man from doing so. It is not a good idea to think about putting a super-duper greenhouse there. It is my indoor winter garden area, providing funds come in to put that roof back on again. On this argument I will win the day. Am going to have a look on the Internet (You-Tube is good for this) to see how I can tie myself to the wall, as in the manner of a trainee Suffragete.

I am even hoping that in time I can have a tall church-like window put in the wall. Of course, the wall will have to be rebuilt first. At the moment it is a 'fresh-air' wall.

No donkey today. Sun was shining. Under instructions from the Universe, I edited five chapters of The Psychic Toolbox today, and did a grammar-check on it. 'No writing tomorrow', I have been told, but then it is to shipped over the Internet to Lulu for a Pdf conversion. Then downloaded back to me for a complete read-through, and probable re-write of chunks of it. Oh the joys of writing!

So swinging my finger over to the Internet button so I can research the Suffragette movement and see if I can pick up any hints or tips of a preventative nature, I wish you au revoir pour ce momente.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Donkey gone. Wall down. All's well!

So this 'ere donkey is, at this very minute, supposed to be partaking of the grass in our back field.

He is the donkey, who at this very minute, is supposed to be on a trek across France with the Dutch girl, who got sixty kilometres up the road before deciding that that particular adventure wasn't for her. (She was supposed to be travelling back to Holland with a white camel only the camel which got brought down from Russia was unfit for the journey because it was knock-kneed with rickets so she had to buy a donkey from round the corner at the donkey farm which provides the donkey manure with which I have so much trouble. Anyway, she got the donkey, did a couple of saunters up and down the road then headed out in the general direction of Holland but as I say sixty kilometres up the road and she decided to come back. She is staying with Sara of the Camels.)

Said donkey needs feeding. Grass out on the back field is growing, needs cutting. Donkey introduced to grass. Hey presto! Job done. Grass cut.

Ah, actually no.

You see, the only means of stopping the donkey from going AWOL was to put it inside an electric fence. Good idea. Fence up. No means of getting electricity to the fence. Not to worry. Donkey can be put inside the portable electic-tape hung on plastic posts paddock. The theory being, that it will think that the electricity is on. Again, good idea!

Donkey put inside paddock yesterday. Ah, good donkey. Munched his way through loads of stuff: all the wild flowers, some of the grass, none of the dock weeds, none of the nettles. Never mind. He's doing well. Told him so when I went to have a pat with him in the late afternoon. Inside the paddock I went. So did Boolie. "Ah, munch-time" thought Bools when he espied a pile of donkey poo.
"No, Bools" I yelled, startling the donkey who was having a fondling moment with me, particularly round his ears. Up came his head. Spinning round, he charged at Bools, who was by now yelling his delight at the whole adventure. Round and round they chased. Actually round me, they chased. Fleet of foot I sprang through a gap which opened up between them, and got myself out of the paddock, hearing chortlings from the roofers who were perched up on the half-barn roof.

A little pat to say 'Good donkey', a growl at Boolie to say 'leave that blasted donkey poo alone, you have been fed today', and in retreat I went. Later on the donkey was fetched, walking back down the lane to Sara's.

Today: along came donkey. Into paddock. Left to eat whatever was left from yesterday. Busy in pow-wow with the roofers about things, donkey not made a fuss of. Lunch comes and goes, so do the roofers. Everyone fed. Apparently not. A garbled yell, and an urgent knock on the office door calls my attention to an escapee. Yes, you've guessed it! The donkey had walked through the 'electric' fence, and was under the oak tree partaking of a lovely tall clump of juicy grass. Obviously he had gotten bored with what was on offer in his temporary paddock.

Out Bools goes as well. With joy he espies the donkey. Off he gallops towards the donkey. Off the donkey goes at a matching gallop, with Bools gaily chasing on behind. Then Bools chanced upon a delightful smell which stopped him in mid-gallop enabling the donkey to have a breather as well. Me too. I was chasing after both of them. (Fortunately the moment was captured in the handily placed camera in my skirt pocket).

The donkey was last seen heading back down the lane towards Sara's. It is unlikely that he will be allowed back to partake of our grazing, so I will have to resort to Plan A, which is strimming the whole field down myself, which is good for my waistline, and superb for my arm muscles, plus encouraging my bosoms not to give in to gravity. They are definitely more pert since I have been doing this self-sufficiency lark.

Now Boolie's turn to do watch-dog duties, as he has a look at the back field through our latest addition to the house: a hole. Of which we have plenty.

This is the back wall to the winter garden, or antrim, being broken up. Sad to see it go, but it is tipping the whole back wall of the house outwards. So that piece of wall has to go, to be replaced with a ghastly block-brick wall, which will be covered over eventually.

But this wound is deliberate, and will save that side of the house. Bless. Labartere has been having such a lot of knocking around that it's a wonder she is still standing. But she is.

And here I am listening to a cricket chirping away. At least I think it is a cricket. It is making an almighty amount of noise whatever it was. I was hoping to get a photo of it, but the little creature kept shutting up whenever I was in its neighbourhood. Never mind. Here are the buttercups in our back field, which is looking prettier than what it did last year when we arrived: it was covered over with wheat. Now it has lots of prettiness.

The donkey has now reached Sara's. The rest of the wall is coming down tomorrow. Lester has unglued himself from the PC at long last after a humungously long session over the last couple of days, and is out with his rotovator, shattering the peace and quiet of a lovely Spring evening. But at least he is doing what we came here to do. And I am doing what I came here to do which is writing.

All is well.