Friday 30 October 2009

The fosse was delivered and then it wasn't

It has been a wonderfully quiet few days, full of sunshine and earnest endeavour: Lester working at programming on his PC for a company in the UK, and me working hard at redesigning and rewriting my web site, which has been a task which seems to have gone on, and on, and on.

And then there became an urgency to get the work done on it as Hubs/Tech Team Guy decided to transfer the site to another service provider which, he says, will give him more scope to fiddle about with it. Since I am the one who has designed and written the site, I am not quite sure to what measure his 'fiddling about' will go to. And I foresee some discussion, possibly even some heated debate, to come in the future in regards to the topic of what the site should do and how it should look. Meanwhile I carry on with sorting it out. At nearly two hundred pages with loads of links, it is quite a task.

On the subject of mice: they seem to be looking for new residences for the winter. One walked down the wall of the Hutto (hut/office) again last night, and then tried without success to walk back up it. Traps laid. This morning: one sprung, but empty. Hubs/Tech Team Guy just phoning his boss in the UK, but expletives were emitted instead. One mouse by foot under desk, probably not quite right after its rumble with the mouse trap. Mallet grabbed. (The mallet used to open and close the Hutto door) One mouse: deceased. Removed for recycling to the compost heap.

Meanwhile, a lorry was heard. Builders not been here this week as on holiday. So has been quiet: apart from the noise of the diggers finishing off the killing of our bank in the river, although it is only temporarily killed according to our neighbour who said not to worry as the first heavy flood of winter will give us the bank back which is good news don't you think, and apart from the noise of a farmer ploughing the field by our side field and who drives over a corner of our field to get to his field because he can't be bothered to go the other way round and enter the field by its proper entrance which is nowhere near our field at all but not to worry because I kept an eye on him to make sure he didn't take a drive over our field which is carrying sproutlings of baby grass which would make Hubs/Tech Team Guy/ Head Gardener very very cross indeed. Apart from this, all has been quiet.

And then the lorry arrives. And it has a fosse on board. Wow! One step closer the retirement of the porta potties. By the way, a fosse is a big concrete container which is part of the treatment process for our loo and waste water. No mains sewerage system here. All of what we produce and use is recycled back into the land. I quite like the thought of that. Sort of being responsible for what comes out of our rear-ends, instead of flushing the loo and disregarding what happens to our contributions as they head off into the sewerage systems.

The fosse is put down off the lorry's back. Meanwhile: I feed Gussy and Boolie after their two hour walk and swim. They are full. They settle down in the sunshine. I settle down on the PC. More work on website. Hubs is steaming away on his PC.

'Hellloooo' is heard. Bruno. 'You 'ave my fosse' he says in his sexy French accent. Oh. Not to worry. Back onto the lorry the fosse will go this afternoon, and over to his place it will be taken. Bruno is having his fosse done, but by DIY methods. It costs half the price of ours, which is being done by our builder. It remains to be seen which of the two fosses will be the most efficient.

Meanwhile, I make a return to the Hutto to listen out for any calls coming in from the UK for Hubs, while he, and Bruno, and Bools, and Gus all go and investigate the fosse. Well, Hubs, Bruno and Bools did. Gussy did a raid. To the compost heap he went.

Ah well, not to worry. I am sure the mouse will go through Gussy's entrails with reasonable speed, together with his breakfast of tinned dog food and dog biscuits.

I, meanwhile, continue on with getting my web site sorted. My eyes are all squrly from watching a scrolling screen, and my head feels equally squrled from too much concentration. Hubs is the same. Bools is snoring. Gus is sitting on his new perch which is the garden seat, sunning himself while his full tum sorts itself out. It is quiet here. There is a feel of spring in the air, of promise of the growth to come. Precious days, these are precious days, to keep within our hearts when the winter chills come upon us. Forever after I will view autumn in a different light. Living in caravans and spending a lot of time outside, we are starting to become in touch with the flow of the seasons, and autumn has a calm richness which is quite, quite beautiful.

Several hours later: in creative midflow I was stopped as Hubs's temper lifted off and he chased me out of the Hutto. I raged back at him and war was declared. In massive huff I at least fed him, delivering his food by slamming it down on his desk with great vigour, followed by the slamming of the Hutto's door which didn't quite deliver the effect I was seeking because Gussy was following on behind me as I made my Grand Exit and his big plastic collar made the door do a rebound when plastic met wood. Unfazed, Gussy followed on. I was, after all, heading for the kitchen caravan and that meant food. 'Well not today, Gusso, you already have a full tum ' I thought to myself. Bools had heard the raised voices and was keeping safely out of the way underneath the bedroom caravan, which is his sanctuary for when there is war.

Off for a sulk in the bedroom caravan I went. And as I lay upon my bed I thought of the uselessness of war. I thought of those people who I have come to know through their blogs, the ones who are unwell, very unwell actually, but who still manage to speak to me through their words. Of those who take time to write words of encouragement. Of those who are stumbling along at the moment, trying to find their way.

And so when Hubs came and found me a while later, offering the white flag of truce, in the form of a cup of tea, I did not continue my huff as we women are inclined to do, but instead let peace come swiftly between us. You see, I don't want to waste time in warring. In my mind are my fellow bloggers, all living their lives, all doing their best.

The fosse was delivered today, but then it wasn't. Soon it will be delivered again. Our beach is gone, but soon it will come again. Summer is over, autumn is saying that winter is on its way but that soon spring will come again. Hubs and me might have minor skirmishes mostly as a result of mental fatigue, but soon all will be well between us. No mice here at the moment, but soon one, or two, or even more, will come again. And so life goes on.

It is peaceful here at Labartere. When all the comings and goings are resting, the feeling of peacefulness drops down like quietly falling snowflakes. And I hope your days will be blessed with peace, of comings and goings, but yet with an overlaying sense of peacefulness. That is what I wish for you this day.

Sending love and best wishes to you. x

Friday 23 October 2009

The beach is killed and Gussy has a lie in

Oh now look what they have done to our beach. It is killed. Dead. No more. Sliced a great big chunk of it away from our land, taking some of our wood with as well, these machines did. Cut a deep new river bed beside our bank, took the stones and earth over to the other bank they did, to try and convince the river that it didn't need to flow over that side and that it could have a more fab time over on our bank.

I heard the roar of the machine's voices while I was battling with cooking lunch. A mouse had just ran over my foot and a wasp was busy trying to make friends, or otherwise, with me. Feeling flustered I became inattentive to the lid on the liquidiser such that a wondrous spurt of hot soup flew out of the gap betwixt lid and jug, arching tracefully to land on Hub's side of the table. All the while the roar of those machines was carrying on. Mopping up, but not very well because Hubs fetched up with a damp botty and had to roast himself, his three layers of clothes and his bare skin in front of the electric fire to dry himself off, I made a dash to the source of the noise.

And there they were. Two huge machines eating up our beach. The very same beach on which I had fond summer memories with my daughter and grandsons. The very same beach on which we had been woodying with Bruno. The very same beach I frequently enjoyed paddling from. Outrage flew through me at great knots of speed, shouldering aside my tinge of guilt about reliquishing Gussy into the hands of the vet earlier on for his op - I had felt quite a shift in my heart when I left him.

Meanwhile, the roofers were busy, in the rain as well, trying to get our roof finished. The back roof is almost done:

...and they are putting the lining on the front roof. I should have been pleased. Excited. House dry after all these months. But no. That outrage shouldered aside my relief at having a dry house. It felt like we had gained something and lost something. Strange that. As if scales needed to be in balance, that we had gained a dry house but lost the beach. "You can't have it all." That is what the Universe seemed to be saying to me.

Needing to take action, I went under the pile of tarps infront of the caravans, and dug out my freezer. Gave it a wash down from the slug trails and other nonsense festooning the once white surface, and charmed Hubs and Jean Louis into carrying it into the house, to there become a convenient place for workman-like activities including the time-for-tea equipment of cups and a plate full of biscuits or cake, which Bools was on his way to raiding, an activity he is most keen to keep repeating if given half the chance.

And then it was time to collect Gussy. Bless him. He had to wear a plastic collar which irritated him no end, and made Bools really cross at him so that we were constantly having to tell Bools off for being a bully. Gussy meanwhile kept colliding with everything including my legs. That plastic collar actually packs quite a punch when rammed into one's calf muscles.

So this morning Gussy had a lie in.

It was one of those mornings when one's bod didn't seem to want to get going. Even Bools got up and sank back into a slumberland, and all this at nine am which normally sees us halfway round a two hour walk. But Gussy was the most reluctant of us all. Since he was post-op we decided to leave him be. In his bed. Not ours. You can see by his guilty expression that he knows he shouldn't be up on our bed!

But Gussy did eventually get going, and took a gallop round our field with plastic collar gaily jiggling along to the rhythm of his stride.

So Gussy is well. He is now de-balled so no babies for him. No babies for Bools either. Fleur was last seen carrying on with a horrid black scrappy looking dog from down the lane so if she is preggers then she will not be allowed to have the pups, which was what happened last time she was in season.

My beach has died. The French monsieurs decided that the river ought not to be given its own way so have decided to tame her down. She must flow that-away not this-away. It remains to be seen whether the river will comply.

Things I have learnt: Not to take things for granted and not to let upsets spoil the blessings that I actually do have, and feeling a tad miserable with myself for not counting those blessings more earnestly.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Oh...., and my aching back.

Mmmm. Well. Gussy booked in for The Op. October 22nd. There. Done it! Got back from Plaisance to find a worried and irate Hubs. "Gus has gone missing again. So has Fleur. We (Bruno and Hubs) think that she has taken him off. I'm so sorry" he said, "Only I know I promised to keep an eye on him and I did and when the builders went off for lunch I blocked up the back entrance as usual, went into the office to do some work, went back out again ten minutes later and no Gus." Apparently he had pushed open the two old doors put across the entrance and had gone.

Hubs was oh so worried, but I wasn't. I seemed to have become quite fatalistic of late, and as far as Gus is concerned: we are doing our best for him and that is that. If he is meant to return to us he will. If he isn't then he won't.

Half an hour later: message from Bruno. Fleur back and with Gus. Hubs gets the lead to go fetch him. Bools goes too. Part of the team, he doesn't like being left out.

A while later, back they all come. "Bools has just been on top of Fleur" Hubs says.
"What, properly on top?"
"Yes, all the way in."
"Oh." Taking a minute to digest this info, I turn to Bools, "Oh well done you," I say to my brave Springer "It's been a long time coming!".
And I think of the hundreds of times that Fleur has flirted and flaunted with Boolie and then sat down on her rump so he ends up with a scrambled head. And I am so glad that he managed to have a go. He is deserving.

Oh. So Gussy. Obviously he has been wanting to get over to Bruno's because Fleur is in season. So we can't really get cross at Gus because he is doing what comes naturally, and that is following his instincts to procreate. But the problem is that he picked up Fleur's availability before Bools did, which means that he is more likely to pick up any other female dog's availability as well and be off. We can't have that. So: October 22nd it is.

And so? Possiblement uno problemo. Is Fleur now pregnant? If so by which of our two boys? Or both? And if so, should we assume responsible ownership of our boys and help out with any vet bills? Is it our fault? But then Bruno comes trotting over here with Fleur following. And she has been such a tease, particularly with Bools. Not so much with Gus. Mostly she has snapped at him in temper. But with Bools, well .........

Taking a moment to give you a roof update. Half tiled!

re: 'My aching back': Actually it isn't aching now but it was for a couple of days. The reason was that in an attempt to wear Gussy out and stop him from roaming over to see Fleur, I have been walking the boys for at least two hours every morning. This is the fifth morning. We have found some splendid new paths to explore, but oh how my body has been complaining.

Leg aches: which I counteract by walking for twenty steps with the right leg leading and taking my weight, and the left one then being able to rest, and then twenty steps with the left leg leading and right one resting. Works perfectly. Counting the steps is good for relaxing my mind, and my tendency towards excrutiating leg pains has diminished. Back ache: Crikey but for two days my back was sore, but I kept on walking finding that swinging my arms as if jogging made me loosen up my waist movement. Et Voila! Today: no back pain. Wet feet because the grass was so wet, but no pain!

And marvel of marvels! I seem to be able to keep going during the day without feeling as if I am wading through treacle for some of the time. My head feels clearer, and I feel generally more chilled out both mentally and physically.

Things I have learnt: That it is not clever to say to oneself 'I haven't got time to take a long walk because I have this to do or that to do.' What nonsense! Because I have found that taking a two hour walk makes me more active during the day, therefore I can actually do more.

Things I have learnt: That walking to a rythm clears the mind, reduces stress, and has a feel good factor so high that it is almost addictive. Take this morning, for instance. Wasn't going to be out for long as had to go into Plaisance. Fifteen minutes down the lane, then out into the maize fields, then on into the woods and I was hooked. Two hours later we were done.

Things I have learnt: That making the effort to take exercise can be tiring on the body at first, but when one has a little doggy called Gus who one is trying to keep occupied so he stays home, then one has to make the effort to do the two hour's worth of walking. And that that little doggy called Gussy has become quite a blessing. Most of the time. But October 22nd still stays.

I suppose Fleur, Bools and Gus all had a good day one way or another. I will keep you posted as to whether there is the patter of tiny feet.

If you greet the day with a smile, then the day will smile back at you.x

One tile, two tiles, three tiles up, & Sara's snake

You have been spared yet another photo of our roof because my new camera eats batteries like a hungry shark, so: the back roof is now having its tiles put on. And really the only feeling I have at this time is of disbelief. As if my life is galloping onwards and I am several steps behind. Catch-up time, I think, when the builders have gone, and we have got all the boxes, furniture and other assorted paraphanalia which seemed vital to our UK lifestyle but which we haven't needed at all since we arrived here sixteen months ago, from out beneath the tarpaulins and into the dry space of the house. And that will be satisfying enough. Meanwhile we will carry on living in the caravans for the winter. We've done one winter already, so are more prepared than what we were last year. And if the winter storms hit us too badly, well we can always move into our house temporarily.

Sara down the road came by yesterday with the news that her friend had been almost attacked by a hissing python of a snake. OK. A bit of exaggeration, but it was very long snake of over a metre long, and had taken up residence beneath his car. Didn't like being disturbed, so had had a hissy-fit at him. He hastily retreated, meanwhile the snake took it upon itself to climb at the nearest tree and continue its hissy-fits.

Now this is disturbing. Walking around the local woods and fields have reassured me that there is not too much wild life around that is likely to either attack or eat me. This time last year there was lots of hunting going on, with guns going off nearly every day and quite close by as well. This year there is silence. So either the local huntsmen are giving this area a rest, or there is nothing else to shoot.

But: snakes. Sara prodded the snake up the tree, her intent being to make it come down so she could somehow box it up. What she was going to do with it then she seems to be fairly vague about, but I suppose she felt she had to take some action. It stayed put. Became more hissy, so all retreated. An Internet search fetched up the info that it wasn't a poisonous snake but could make a hefty bite if it felt so inclined, and that it killed by wrapping its coils around its prey. Ooooohhhh dear!

Not to worry. We are aways up the lane, but Sara isn't. The snake is in residence at Sara's house along with the camels, the lamas, the goats, the pigs and the chickens. It is not likely to want to leave either, because she has loads of young chickens which are snack food for it, and the bare-knecked chickens lay their eggs all over the place which provide it with nibbles. I said the only thing was to make loads of noise when they were moving round the farm. Bang drums. Stomp feet. That sort of thing. Then it could either clear out of the way, or have a hissy fit so you would know where it was. Don't know what else you can do about it. Neither do I like the thought that it can climb trees. I thought only jungle snakes did that.

Naughty Gussy. Musing over whether to have him de-balled or not, I was veering toward not. I have tried running the legs off him each morning by two hour walks, thinking that would wear him out so he would feel less inclined to go trotting over to Fleur. (The lady dog across the road) Hasn't worked. Not only that, but he will not let himself be easily caught when I go and fetch him. War is now on. On lead for his walk this morning. No glorious hunts and gallops through the maize and woods today, and de-balling it is. He has pushed me into the decision himself.

I am not sure if Fleur is in season, but I don't think so because Boolie doesn't seem to be excessively interested in her. Which means that Gus is going to be one of those male dogs who will sniff the wind and then follow any scents of lady dogs wafting about. This will not do. Because he will then wait for an opportune moment and be off. And another thing: why is he howling? For some reason he has taken to sitting in the middle of the courtyard and howling, which starts Bools off too. They have been fed. Walked. Lovied up. So why the howling? Is it some sort of doggy phone-system? By his howling, is he saying 'Wait for me, oh you wonderful lady doggy, and I will come and play and do all sorts of things with you if you only but wait for me'? Is this his way of answering the doggy lady scents he has captured on the wind?

Otherwise, all is well, down here in South West France. The temperatures have dropped fast the last three nights, so into thermal vest and thermal long-johns. Not very elegant, but hey ho! Caravan homes and country living dictate the necessity for these items. And layers. This morning I have on: 1 vest, two t-shirts, 1 body warmer, 1 hand knitted cardi, 1 pair long johns, 1 pair of trousers. BUT I don't have any heating on. The reason for this is because I can't be bothered to switch the gas fire on. This not only helps my carbon footprint, but also the bill for the gas cylinder refill and my sinuses which get clogged up whenever heating of any description gets switched on. So with halo shining brightly, and hoping my rather slender reserves of patience will carry me through another day with Gussy-boy, I say cheerio for now.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Take the positives from your yesterdays and forget the rest. Today is the start of all your tomorrows. x

Tuesday 13 October 2009

It's been a long time coming

The kitchen after the roof came off, but with old beams still in

The old chimney in the kitchen, which eventually fell down.

The kitchen when we arrived.

The ceiling of the kitchen after the roof was taken off.

....and the kitchen is finally waterproofed as the roof felt is put on today over her brand new roof beams.

And so our house has got a dry space inside: the first time in many a long year. And if felt like a house when we went inside to get a feel for being inside it with a roof almost on.

And the boys, Bools and Gus, did a celebratory howl to the moon tonight. Gus started it. Lifted his nose up to the sky just as the moon came out and did a howl. Bools then joined in. Not quite sure why they did that, perhaps for the sheer joy of living? Or to tell Fleur across the way that they were thinking of her? More likely that actually. Bruno came across on his motor bike this aftenoon to inspect the roof, followed by Fleur. Had Bools and Gus falling over themselves with joy, although Fleur didn't seem to think too much of Gus's efforts to get her attention and she had a fight with him after he tried to spraddle her, followed by Bools having a go at him for even trying.

Otherwise, we are OK. Was cold at six this morning, so knew we would have a warm sunny day. Which we did. If it had been warmer it would have signalled rain. But winter is approaching, and the feeling of autumn is now in the air. Still, the summer has been a long one, and I feel like I have got my money's worth out of the sun this year.

But today, part of our house is going to stay dry when next it rains, and that is a really good feeling to have.

Sunday 11 October 2009

The bones of the lid

Et voila! The bones of the lid of our house are now in place. All the wood is up where is should be, and being cemented into place. The birds which have been living in the house since it became a ruin, which has been for many years, are pleased that they now have loads of places on which to pirch. Before, all they had was a fally down roof, then no roof and only walls, and now they have brand new pirches all over the place to sit on. No wonder they are chirruping!

There is even a bird in residence in the half barn, which flies up and down when the lights are switched on. Seems a shame to give it notice of acquittal just now. No sign of someone to make and fit the doors at the moment to make the space inhabitable for us, so we will leave the little bird alone to take shelter since we can't live in there for the moment. I might even leave some food to help it through the winter ahead. After all, it is not nice to let guests go hungry!

And here is a close up view of the top landing roof. It is not quite the same shape as the original, but we like what Jean-Pierre has done. We left it up to him, figuring that he knows what these roofs should look like and how they need to be made. I also like the way in which everything is not quite symmetrical: the house lost so much character when it was cleared out, so now the non-symmetricality puts some of the character back!

So here is the roof beams all on. I find it hard to believe that we have got this far. I have worked so hard at being content living in caravans, that I am having difficulty in adjusting to the thought that come next spring we will be in the side barn.

Next week, providing the weather holds reasonably dry, they will keep on cementing the wood onto the walls, then next the membrane, and then we are dry. Tiles on next.

Gussy Update: Have almost given up with Gus of late, bless him. He has developed a passion for Fleur, Bruno's seductress of a dog, and takes any opportunity to race across the road to go play. We don't let Bools do that, both for his own safety and the safety of any occupants to the cars which could land up in the ditch trying to avoid the dogs. And I know boy dogs will be boy dogs, but what with the builders and everything else going on here, our heads are full of so much stuff at the minute that trying to find the patience to deal with the little renegade is, quite frankly, too much.

So last night I had had enough. To the dog rescue centre he was going. He was on his way there when we took him in, so I reckoned we were a temporary parking up place for him. Also, we are not sure if he is reliable in terms of temperament.

Oh dear! Looked at the web site for the dog rescue centre and I was done in! Saw all those little doggy faces so desperately needing homes, that I really, really, really, couldn't leave Gus there. Plus if I had taken him there, it is more than likely that I would have come back with at least one homeless mutt. So I need to steer clear of that place, and Gus does to. We are going to keep him. The Universe has brought him to us, and with him comes a fresh challenge to add to the many other challenges we have at the moment. The Universe certainly wants to keep us busy!

I think he is a troubled little dog. After all, he has had three other owners who for various reasons passed him on. We want to do good by him and we don't want to let him down. So off to the vet next week for de-balling, then lots of fussies for him, and lots of lovings. No doubt he will pinch a blog space to tell you all about his woes shortly!

Self sufficiency update: well, there isn't any! Update I mean! Because it has been raining, and we have been busy with work. No excuse I know! But nothing happening on the food growing front. Unless: Farmer Michel called round for his money (he ploughed and grassed two of our fields last weeked) and arranged to keep an eye on the fields to see if they needed any particular sort of attention.

Also, Lester went off with Bruno last Thursday to meet a man who had a vineyard and who was digging up loads of vines together with their supporting poles. Bruno came back with sixty, and Lester was keen to go get some yesterday, but was too tired to do so. Instead, Bruno and Lester went onto our river beach and cut into logs the trees we rescued from the bridge a couple of weeks ago. Good that they did, as the river is starting to rise and soon the logs will be either back on the bridge parapet again or off down the river to somewhere else. So I guess I can give you a vague update about self sufficiency. Oh and plus we are still using our potatoes and I haven't had to buy any for three and a half months. And we have just finished our onions. Felt quite mortified when I had to buy some the other day. So feel a tinge of guilt about our lack of recent efforts at producing our own food, but there is always next year.....

Signing off for now, and hoping that your week ahead runs as smoothly as it possibly can.

Sending you blessings from Labartere.....

Saturday 10 October 2009

Don't Quit

I have posted this up for 'Slouching Past Forty' (a fellow blogger) to read. I have these words printed out and put into a frame which is hung within eyesight of my PC, and I thought they might help her, and others, who are struggling with trying to make headway in their life. They might inspire you as well. By the way, I did not write this poem!

Don't Quit:

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must - but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up, thouguth the pace seems slow -
You might succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup.
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt -
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so afar;
So stick to the fight when you are hardest hit
It's when things seem worse....

And to make you smile:

Dear Lord.

I'm thankful for all the food you're giving me.
Thank you for the fish, the snails, the crabs, the shellfish & the seagrass.

But also thank you that I haven't been eaten yet by the bears, the whales, the coyotes, the sharks or by a strange specie called homines.

Thank you Lord'.

(I found this photo and little poem out on the Internet ages ago, and the link I made a note of no longer exists, so if you are the owner of this piece, thankyou..... it always makes me smile)

Thursday 8 October 2009

Gussy has a fright.

Well it wasn't the hugest of frights, but for a little doggy such as Gussy, it was quite big.

So on our walks through the maize fields we pass a field of big white cows, of various ages and with various sizes of babies. Gus being Gus is very interested in these cows, but the thought of explaining to the farmer why his herd stampeded out of their field has ensured that Gus always remained on the lead whenever we passed them. Explaining in English is just about do-able. Explaining in French isn't. So on lead he stays.

Gussy had a 'moment' with one them yesterday: Close to the fence, it was easy for Gus to slip through the fence, still on lead though, to have a closer look at them. Being a youngster he has not yet learnt the lesson of mortality. That there are situations which need avoiding or treating with respect if he isn't going to get done unto death. In other words he has a fearlessness which all youngsters, even human youngsters, have.

Brazen and cocky, he stood and stared at the baby cow nearby. That scampered away, to be replaced by the biggest of the cows, the matriarch of the herd. She approaced Gus. But you know what? I really don't think he realises how small he is. I truly think he thinks he is huge, as big as Bools, or me, or the cows. So he goes head to head, nose to nose, tongue to tongue with the cow. Gentle she was. Pushing out her tongue to give him a lick across the nose. Gus responded by doing the same. Ah sweet!

And that rat bucket of a dog went and spoiled the moment by springing backwards and yelling at the cow that he wasn't frightened of her at all, and 'I can beat you up', and all sorts of nonsense he yelled at her. She stood her ground. Looked at me. And we swapped a moment of feminine awareness: that youngsters are really a perishing nuisance sometimes.

A wet walk today. Rain last night which will hopefully start the grass seed growing in the fields, and a bit of a drizzle as we headed out. Cows past. Quite a distance away by the time we reached the maize field path, so let Gussy off. Off he shot, galloping away as fast as his little legs will carry him, nose to ground to catch any nice smells, making his back legs sort of look as if they don't belong to him. He doesn't look exactly elegant when he is running! I don't call him back. He needs to stretch his legs. And then I saw him to a sharp left turn. 'B*****r', I thought, 'he looks like he's heading......' And yes. He was.

In the distance I saw the outer members of the herd suddenly turn and start running towards the others. I couldn't see Gus, but knew he was the mischief-maker. 'Oh well' I though. 'Can't do anything about that. If he gets kicked then it will serve him right. And if he makes that herd stampede then he is really going to get told off, and it will be on the lead forever after for him'. 'The little s***t,' was the foremost thought though.

The herd was gathering together. From out of the herd members came three cows, at speed, with heads down, as if to charge an enemy, which was presumably Gus.

I saw Gus racing towards me across the fields with much speed. Wagging his tail as he neared me, he looked relieved to be safe again. And it came to me that this little pest of a dog has just learnt one of the valuable lessons in life: that there are times when it is best not to cause a ruckus, and that one should be respectful of the size of other beings on this planet if one is not going to get a dreadful fright.

He stayed closer than what he has done during the rest of his off-lead time, and frequently looked back to check where Bools and me were.

We all have to learn such lessons, oh perhaps not in regards to being friendly enough with a cow so she can give us a lick and we can give her a lick back, but in not making waves when the hand of friendship is offered.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Gus's blog

(Translated from the French because he is a French dog)

Her and Him weren't very nice to me yesterday, and I think you should know that I was not very pleased with them either. After all, they have put me into my bed every night and then left me. How could they do that to moi? Aren't I cute enough? Don't I roll over onto my back so I look all cuddly? Or sidle up to them and give them body hugs? What more can I do? With Big Dog always making me behave and not letting me get very close to Her, I have to keep getting in with Him. He seems to like me. Keeps on patting me, and he seems to like me sitting under his desk because he keeps talking to me. I think that means he likes me.

A complaint: I am a doggy. I like to do doggy things. I can't play with Big Dog. He just keeps telling me off. So where am I to go for my fun and frolics? Over the road. That's where my fun and frolics are.

There is Lady Dog. Smaller than me so doesn't beat me up like Big Dog keeps wanting to do. And she calls to me. I can hear her voice when she is talking.

Well. I am not happy with not being with Him and Her and Big Dog all the time and feel lonely. Yesterday Big Mens arrived and opened up the gate and left it open. They come nearly every day and go high up on a pile of stones Him and Her call a house. I think we are all going to be moving in there, or so they say. Anyway, the gate was left open. I heard Lady Dog speaking. No fun here, so snuck out and over the road I went. Oh romps and folics, romps and frolics.

And then Him came and spoilt it all. I knew I was in the s***t because he growled at me in his 'bad' voice and put me on the long rope (lead). And then, dear reader, I know you will feel for my sorrow, to say that I was then put into my bed, and had the door shut on it. How could they do that to moi? How could they be so mean? I even did 'sweet doggy' to Her, but she growled at me too. Oh it was so bad of them.

They let me out. So to pay them back for their mistreatment of me, I went to where I had fun time and frolic time. Yes! I went back to the Lady Dog. Or tried to. They caught me in mid flight. Him and Her, looking at me with huge blackness. Oh dear! Not good. I dropped my rump to the ground. That was all I could do. Growling at me with big voices, Him and Her made it clear that I was in big time trouble. I had a momentary thought about continuing my way over to Lady Dog, but Him and Her really did big, big-time growls, so I didn't. Back into my bed I was put. The door became shut again.

Boy of boy but I was busting to go to pee and poo's. No walk this morning. Him and Her had an overnight visitor, so busy with him, not me and Big Dog.

Then surprise! my door was opened and off me, Her and Big Dog went for a walk. Down the lane. Tug. Oh how I hate that rope thing. Big Dog goes ahead and can have first sniff at all the delightful smells that abound. I have to wait until Her gets to them. I pull her along, but she walks so slow that I get quite a long way behind Big Dog. Oooooooh. Frustrating!

Then surprise! She took the rope thing off me. Wow! But I did a runner. Glorious to be free. Off I went. 'Like a rocket' she would say. I ran, and I ran, and I ran. I looked round. Oh. I couldn't see Her and Big Dog. Oh. I couldn't see anyone. I heard Her call me. No. I will run, and run and run. So I did.

And then the world seemed a very big place to a small dog like me. I couldn't hear Her. Oh. So I thought I ought to run back to see if she was still where I had left her. She was. Only Big Dog was standing infront of her like he always does, so I skipped over the ditch and ran through the forest (maize field) and came in from behind her, and she did smiling, not growling, voice at me, and I knew that she was happy to see me, so I ran and ran again, but not so far. It felt good.

It was a happy walk. It was a happy day. Him took me for a walk with Big Dog in the afternoon and I ran and ran again. Only I dived off the bank into the river. Wanted a swim. But I'm only little and couldn't get back up the bank again so Him had to lie down on the bank and lean over ever so far to get me back up. He didn't growl much though.

Many Big Mens came and visited. Busy for me and Big Dog. On patrol we are when other people come here. This is, after all, our job or so we think. Big Dog sniffed my bum, and I sniffed his. I think we might get along.

And I became so tired after my busy day. I heard Her pack up for the night. Time to go into my bed and have my door shut. Him was still there. I like it when he is here. I call out for him at night, when they leave me, but Him or Her come back and tell me off. I don't care. I'm still going to let them know that it is unfair treatment of their trainee watchdog.

But: Her said to come with her and Big Dog. What was this? What was going on? Into the place where they sleep she took me. Big Dog has a bed. He went straight to it. Her gave me my bed from my other sleeping place. She put it down by the door. I didn't like that. Might get stepped on. So I found myself a little place just big enough for a little dog like me, and snuck on in there. And stayed very quiet all night. Big Dog made loads of noises, but I didn't. I just stayed ever so quiet and didn't even snoar. I wanted to be a good boy, so I could stay with them all. They are, after all, my new family.

Merci pour votre attention. Au revoir pour ce moment mon amis. xxxxxxxxx

Sunday 4 October 2009

Farmer Foch gives up on us

It has been an ongoing saga about Farmer Foch and our fields, so let me fill you in with a bit of info first: Farmer Foch has been farming the fields here on behalf of the previous owners for several years. It is of mutual benefit that he did so, because the owners get to have the fields used and Farmer Foch gets to reap harvests for minimal rent.

And then things changed. We arrived. Farmer Foch had emailed us in the UK during the sale of our house there, to ask if he could use the fields for one year. We thought that a good idea at the time because we didn't know when we would be able to leave the UK, and having him farm the land meant that the property didn't look so neglected.

A problem: if the farmer farms a land which he doesn't own, and does this for a number of years, then he has automatic rights over that land. Which means that he can keep on farming it until he decides not to, no matter what the owner wishes. The way round it, I thought, was not to receive any money for rent. In other words Farmer Foch got use of the land for free.

He put corn on the fields. We arrived in June 2008 to find the house surrounded by corn fields, apart from the entrance field. The farmers here use every inch of space, and the corn was so tightly packed onto the land, that we couldn't even get round to the back of the house or down to the river. No problem. We were still busy trying to clear the courtyard of vegetation which occupied us at that time.

Late July. Farmer Foch arrived with the combine harvester. And showed great amusement at the fact that we were living in a caravan and tent, that the house of our roof was all of a tumble, and that our French was almost zilch. We were newbies. Still plump from our UK lifestyle, still nervous of the adventure which we had given ourselves by coming here to Labartere, and showing uncertainty and unsureness which must have given him the impression that we didn't have the foggiest idea of what we were supposed to be doing here.

Hubs wanted him off the land and didn't want him to put another crop on. But I felt that since we had given him our word that he could have the land for one year, then we should honour that commitment.

He planted oil seed rape, which is probably the worst crop he could have planted. It took ages to grow, from September through until July and snarled the fields up so much that we couldn't walk round them and worst of all, that beneath the rape grew a multitude of vigorous weeds. We were left with fields full of such plants which we knew would produce difficulties when the fields were seeded with grass.

Meanwhile: the roof of the house was removed (September 2008), the tempest of January 2009 came and went leaving us with ripped tarpaulins everywhere but a second caravan to live in, and we managed to get the Hutto (once upon a time pig and chicken place by the gateway) up and running.

So when Farmer Foch paid a visit in June 2009, we had an 'office' to talk to him in, but still he seemed amused at our efforts to live here which made us feel belittled. But somehow he had a hold over us. We began to be worried in case he refused to budge from our land. He offered us rent again but we refused. This was just before he harvested the oil seed rape. Hubs also discussed his requirement of the fields: that they be laid down to grass so that animals could graze, such as sheep and cows. Farmer Foch thought this hilarious, said that we didn't have enough land for cows, and obviously had not changed his opinion of us: that we were newbies and didn't have a clue.

But Farmer Foch did say he would plant the fields to grass for us. He didn't seem very keen though. I guess he was losing income by not being able to put corn, oil seed rape or maize here.

The summer made its progression: long and hot. The house began to be ressurected. The half barn became almost done, and it was obvious that we were making headway with the house. Having lived here for just over a year, and been stretched mentally and emotionally a million different ways during that time, we have changed. We are not newbies any longer.

Farmer Foch paid us a visit again three weeks ago, still with his original attitude towards us in place. Here is what I wrote in the blog at that time: Farmer Foch has been asked to plough the two fields and then sow them with grass.

Since we don't really do French, and Farmer Foch doesn't really do English, well let's just say that wires can get crossed! Hence HG Hubs fetching up red faced with frustration, and Farmer Foch kind of cross eyed with trying to make himself understood.

And, yet again, God bless the Internet. Onto Babel Translation HG and Farmer Foch went. Ah. An even redder faced HG. For it transpired that Farmer Foch was saying that because we have had no rain since April, it is not advisable to put grass seed down because it won't have enough time to flourish before next summer arrives. Therefore, a 'meanwhile' idea from Farmer Foch: "Why don't I plant another winter cereal crop in December. Then we can have a go at getting the grass planted this time next year." He went on, "But if it rains in the next three weeks, then we might get the grass in this year". What he meant was: Can I use your fields for another nine months? Lets not do the grass because that won't make me any money. Or at least, that is what HG thought he meant.

So: a conundrum: pray for rain so we can get the grass growing which means we can get the animals who will eat the grass in two years time. Or pray for no rain so the roof can be put on.

Well, it did rain. Only for four days, but rain it did. Plus the roof kept on going up. But in the background of our minds was the niggling thought about whether Farmer Foch was going to plant the grass or not. Too mentally tired to phone him, and not wanting to deal with his attitude, which was still that we didn't have a clue about what we were doing, we left it as a bubbling irritation in the back of our minds. In truth, I think we would have probably let him bully us into planting another grain crop.

And then! A tractor arrived. On it, Farmer Michel. Come to discuss the ploughing of the fields, and the grassing of them. Worse to talk to than Farmer Foch because his French is laden heavily with local dialect, nevertheless he treated us more as equals, perhaps because he hadn't seen us when first we arrived so didn't have an entrenched view of us in his mind.

And he came, and he raked over the fields with one tractor, ploughed them with another tractor, smoothed it over with yet another one, went and purchased the grass seed on our behalf (one type for cows, one type for sheep), someone else came with another tractor specifically designed to sow seed, then Farmer Michel smoothed the land back over again. It took three days, and he charged us less than the grass seed cost.

And I think that Farmer Foch must have finally realised that we do know what we are doing, that we are here to stay, and that we won't be messed with. Somehow, during that last visit of his, he must have realised that we remain intent on our purpose and that we haven't wilted under the pressure of living here, which so many of the English do. And so, I think, he handed us over to Farmer Michel.

It is a big step forward for us. By his doing so we feel that we have proved ourselves. And it means that we have control of our land back, that once the fences are up we can start having livestock. But most of all, that we can walk all over our land without being worried about damaging a crop which isn't ours. It is a good feeling.

Front field:

Side field:

What will grow: the newly planted grass, or the newly turned over weed seeds? Probably both. So: how to get the grass to grow without being strangled by the weeds? Two ways: Inorganic which means spraying with a herbicide next spring. Or organic. Which means going out and weeding it by hand. Mmmmmm. A question, I think, I will leave for the moment! They are, after all, quite big fields!!!

Saturday 3 October 2009

The lights and the beams


And now: We are lit up!

Temporary electrics have been put in and now the half barn is all electricked up. Can even plug something into a socket without having to run extension leads all over the place. And I know that it is not a palace, but this is where we are going to be living while the house is getting sorted. But not until next year. We still have to put chaux (lime plaster) in between the river stones from which the walls of the house are made, and we still have to save up the money for the tiles on the floor and the log fire. But: we have light! Yahoooo!

Sorry I haven't posted up a blog this week but the pace has been frenetic here. Last weekend I took hold of myself and made a daily task sheet of 'things to do', and wow! I have done a humungous lot of work on the redevelopment of my web site, as well as loads of other things this week. My halo is positively glowing, or that's what I think anyway! Just proves that organising one's self and setting some daily goals is very productive. Trouble is, that the blog has become a victim of my timetable, mostly because it takes ages to write, and other writing has taken precendence these last few days.

However, the builders have made grand progress this week, and here is Jean-Pierre on the left, and Jean-Louis on the right and these are the carpenters who are doing the roofing.

And this is what they have been doing:

Soon these beams, and the house beneath it, will not see the sky until the roof needs replacing or rebuilding again. Hopefully not our life time!

And the courtyard, looking to the right:

And the courtyard, looking to the left, with Gus posing in the middle:

All of this lot is going up onto the roof. It would seem that we might just get a roof on our house sometime soon!

Things I have learnt this week: that if one organises oneself then it is amazing how much gets done, plus the ecstatic feeling of having done so much puts one on so much of a 'high' that one forgets to get the 'end of the week' tiredness. Unless they have a newcomer who thinks it an outrage to be left in his kennel in the Hutto (Hut Office) while the rest of the team goes off together to the bedroom caravan.

This so enrages the newcomer that he shouts out his outrage on and off all night long. Not last night though. Hubs got fed up too, and launched a verbal tirade of outrage back at the newcomer, which so surprised the newcomer that he thought he had better go to sleep and stop causing a ruckus. Trouble was that Hubs woke himself up, and if he is awake, then he seems to like me to be awake as well so he can have someone to talk to. Bless. Not to worry, though, newcomer got some sleep, so at least one of us did. The other three didn't. Because if Hubs is awake, then I am awake, and if we are awake, then Bools doesn't have much chance of sleeping either. But, as I say, newcomer, did!

So: we have light in the half barn, and the roof is coming along at a pace. Although October, we are still in summer gear although there is a distinct autumnal feel to the air tonight. Nevertheless, it still feels like we are in summer.

OK, so time to be off. Have some sleep to catch up on, and hopefully our newcomer, Gus, feels the same.