Saturday 30 April 2016

What are you doing on Sunday?

Well, it being May 1st,
we are going to be outside in a field,
playing music with Etceltera,
that is what we are doing
on Sunday May 1st.
And this morning, the last day of April, 
 we opened the doors to go outside to cut grass for the pigs and cows,
and it was horrid,
large winds, sleeting sharp showers,
and a chilliness in the wind which said
 'Best stay indoors today'.
And I thought of how it might be tomorrow,
when we stand in a field playing music,
if those winds blow,
(and away into the wind will go the sheet music)
and a sleety shower happens along,
( now that will mess the electric sound system up )
and if the chilliness persists,
( not too worried about that, I am still in winter thermals )
And so why are we doing this gig,
and I use the word 'gig' with relish.
We are not a celeb band,
and probably never will be with me playing in it,
so no Wembley Stadium for us,
but we are going to be playing in a field,
and that is good enough for me.
And so why are we doing this gig?
I am not sure.
I know the band will get fed,
and I know that there will be hand crafting people there,
spinners and such like,
and that sheep will get sheared,
and that there is a market of local food producers,
so I suppose it will be a country fair type of venue,
and that will do for me,
because we shall be playing for the people coming along.
 Estang, France,
on the
1st May 2016
there will be a
Journeé du mouton
( Day of the Sheep)
Tonte des moutons a partir de 10h
( Shearing of the sheep to start at 10am )
Marché des producteurs
( Farmers' Market )
Métiers anciens
( Old crafts )

Restauration a base de mouton
( Couldn't translate that!)

Annulation en cas d'intempéries
( Cancellation of bad weather)
Hope this 'all over the place' weather calms down.
Hope we are able to play.
I think it will be celebration of local country life.
It will be good to share this life,
which is slowly being eroded by the onward march of consumerism.
Hope to see you there,
but wear sturdy shoes,
it is an 'open air in a field' type of venue after all!
 Bye for now,

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Wild foraging, DIY tea......

Veg Paddock 1
We have been waiting for the kale and broccoli to set their seed,
but it has been chilly here, and the pods are slow in ripening,
meanwhile Paddock 1 goes its own way.
It has become a wonderful jumble of green things growing,
and I am developing a love for foraging.
Wild chamomile, and long leafed plantain....
.... and the chamomile flowers on the dehydrator ready for drying,
..... and the plantain....
......and dandelion....
.... and a partly loaded tray of nettle leaves.....
So what I am doing is making DIY herbal tea by infusing a mix of these leaves in a tea pot. It took a while to get used to the taste of this drink, but I feel much better for not drinking tea or coffee. It does take a while to gather the wild harvest, but I have come to enjoy the gathering in process. I was also concerned about the electricity it took to keep running the dehydrator but it is on the lowest setting, so I shall carry on. I have pulled up whole plants of chamomile and they are hanging inside the house to dry because the flower heads do take a while to dry. Leaves of dandelion and nettles dry very quickly though, so I am drying a lot of them.
Most of the plants I have picked could be harvested on the go for most of the year, but I tend to not want to do that, and prefer to reach for a handy jar on a nearby shelf.
I have not, as yet, plucked up the courage to try incorporating any of these wild foods into our normal diet, but I did try a leaf of mallow the other day, encouraged to do so by a knowledgeable visitor, and it was surprisingly tasty. I think that I am still in my old mindset of 'Get it from the supermarket and it will be safe to eat', which is nonsense because of the amount of chemicals that food which is commercially grown is subjected to. I am slowly getting over my nervousness about eating things from the 'wild', but not 'wild' as out in the wilderness, just 'wild' from our garden. I am being helped in this change of thinking by the wondrous growth that is happening out in Paddock 1.
Of course this rampant growth will have to be cut down soon, as the Paddock gets prepped for the coming growing season, but meanwhile I enjoy foraging in my own mini jungle.
....and I enjoy drinking my DIY tea, and Lester has expressed an interest in perhaps at a later stage he just might perhaps think about maybe trying the DIY teas himself maybe perhaps in the future.....
And I have a thought that I might try making a salve /lotion. I have some mutton fat (tallow) which I shall make it from. My first experiment would be on my itchy legs. My legs don't like hot weather. My legs don't like anything much. I thought I would show how much I love my legs to my legs my mixing up a DIY salve to soothe them. I have time at the moment because France is suffering from an unseasonable bout of chilly weather, something to do with the polar something or other, so I have time to have a go at making that salve. At least it would be organic. At least I would not be putting chemicals on my skin.

And the sheep fat? I scoop that off of the mutton / lamb I am slow cooking once the pot has cooled down. Then melt it slowly, sieve it to take any shreds of meat away. Last time I did this I followed a recipe which said to add olive oil to the tallow to soften it so that it is more spreadable on the skin. I think that the olive oil stayed in clumps in the tallow, and eventually got mouldy. I think that perhaps keeping this DIY skin salve in the fridge might have been a good idea to stop the mould. But I still used most of the salve up. The mould did not look harmful, just smudgily grey.

 It is nearly the early evening, so time to go out and gather the more leaves for the dehydrator, which I run overnight when the electricity is cheaper. As I say, all this foraging, harvesting, and general wild foodying does take time, but it is fun and does make one feel that one is taking control of what is being eaten. There are  a lot more plants to discover, like mallow, dead nettle, chickweed, etc. This is turning out to be a very interesting project.


So I was sitting at my PC this afternoon, all was quiet, dogs sleeping, Lester out and about on the farm, and I was writing some music using Noteworthy. And my mind thought about all the people we know who go here and there, some to work, some to be tourists, all using cars to get them to where they need to go. And I felt a curious sense of contentment that all of what we want to do does not require us to be in the main stream, side stream, or any other stream that everyone else is being carried along in. We are in a quiet tributary, but are not at 'stop'. We are busy, we are going forward, but in a quiet corner of the world which does not require us to be out and about every day. This is what I was thinking, and it was a nice thought.

Bye for now,


Thursday 21 April 2016

Scything, I have started......

Time to start scything again. Second morning today. Was drizzling a bit, but not too much to make the task an unhappy one....
Who is the grass for? The cows and the pigs. Lissie and Bonny are off hay for the moment, but it is handy to give Lissie something to munch on when she is being milked. As for the pigs, they are now banned from the vegetable paddocks, and are on strict rations to get their weight down in the hope that they might start breeding again. Both Mum Pig and Max had put on a lot of weight over the winter, possibly due to the milk and whey they were getting from the cows, so their breakfast is now cut meadow grass, with the normal grain ration in the evenings.
So......time for me to start scything. I love it. The swinging of the scythe gets me fit, airs my lungs, and has a general 'feel good' feeling, almost as good as when I picked up nine black little newly hatched chicks and put them in my skirt so I could carry them to their mum, who Lester had already put in the pen. This was surprise hatching. Didn't know that she was sitting on eggs. Lester found her in the Middle Barn this morning. Just as well he did. She was on her way out into the courtyard with her chicks. The magpies are now showing a heavier presence around us. They would have been oh so pleased to have feasted on one or two or more of those chicks.
And leaving you with a wee little song I crooned when out scything a couple of years ago......
Bye for now,

Monday 18 April 2016

Stones out, potatoes in, duvet done.

"The potatoes aren't up yet", Lester said.
"You only planted them a few days ago, give them a chance!" says me.
.... and here he is out in Paddock Two, getting the job done. I am not sure why this Paddock looks so huge in the photo, but I suspect it felt huge to Lester when he was getting those potatoes in. And yes, we have planted quite a lot of potatoes this year, but we wanted to have enough to get us through the winter and we also wanted to have a good stock of canned potatoes in the larder. Canned potatoes are such a good fast food for us.......jar opened, potatoes sliced, in to frying pan, add onions, peppers, courgettes, anything which will cook fast, fifteen minutes later, job done.
I shall not mention Paddock Three at the moment, although will say that it has been ploughed and rotovated, and what a horrendous job that turned out to be because of the amount of stones that where hidden in the soil, which were big enough to upset the tines on the rotovator. What I mean is, that the spinning metal tines colliding with the hard chunks of stones / mini rocks threatened to do unto death the workings of the rotovator, which would not have been a good thing. The cost of a new rotovator is just under one thousand euros. It is an expense we would prefer not to have at the moment.
And so Lester had to slowly rotovate for a couple of metres, then get off the tractor and pick up any stones which had been unearthed. There were lots of them. I said that perhaps we should give up on using that paddock for veg, and maybe turn it into a small orchard, or even let it go wild and let the pigs forage on it, but no, he was adamant that we were going to use if for vegetables, so with a stoicism which I can only admire, he carried on until the job was done. It is going to have courgettes, squash, and other such like vegetables planted, far too many for our own personal needs, but we do have a family of animals to feed which will use up all the surplus.
As for indoors, nothing much is going on. I should be carrying on with the painting, I should be doing a lot of this, that, and the other, but my engine is still running a bit on the slow side. Not to worry, I hope to be revving up again soon.
But I have finished a quilt cover made out of scraps of fabric. I don't know why I am unable to buy such an article because the cover has been on the go for months, and all I can say is that I have not had a proper sewing area, that we really did need more than one duvet cover for the bed, that every time I decided to buy one I couldn't bring myself to do so, and I don't know why I feel such a need to make everything because that only makes more work for myself. Anyway, that duvet cover is now on the bed, and the other is in the wash and will replaced soon because it was part of the soft furnishings of the caravan we lived in when we came here. The caravan is long gone, and that duvet needs to go somewhere else as well. I don't think I could throw it away, but I will most likely make some aprons from it.
The new cover....

Ummmmmmmmm.......... well....... it was only when I was changing the size of the photo so it would fit the blog that I noticed that I had put the centre of the duvet the wrong way round before I sewed the rest of it together........

.....the left is the bottom of the bed, but the big square and the row of smaller squares in the middle should be at right angles to what they actually are, with the row of smaller squares being joined to the row of squares at the bottom of the bed. and the bigger square joining up to the row of squares at the top of the duvet so that everything looks reasonably symmetrical.  Crikey's sake....Oh well so anyway and all that my excuse is that I used creative license and shall not admit to not paying enough attention to what I was doing when I was joining all the pieces together.
I must now go and  have a lie down. Actually, .....I have just done that, but feel that I could do that again. I seem to be falling asleep a lot of late. Just the tensions of the last eight years catching up with me I think. Ah well, not to worry. I forgive myself the assembly error of the new duvet because at the age I am I think that I deserve not to be too tough on myself!
Bye for now,

Monday 11 April 2016

Dust motes, hymns, dead fields, dandelions....

......sitting watching the dust motes sparkle and dance in the beam of sunlight coming in through the velux windows of the Half Barn, looking at my shoes under the table which are covered in dry mud and which I shall need to be wearing in a few minutes time so will have to get them cleaned, thinking 'Shall I have one of those scones on the table, or not.....' as I continue to drink my coffee. Dawdling, that is what I am doing as I watch those dust motes.

But I do get those shoes cleaned, and I did eat one of the scones but not all of it because I had baked them in the Rayburn yesterday and they were now hard enough to almost break my teeth, and soon I am on my way to Mazeres, one of our nearest villages, driving across the fertile flood plains of the  Adour, the river which cheerfully floods our own fields when it gets too full of water. The little pointy spire in the middle of the photo is where I am heading to.

Looking sideways  and up on to the top of the ridge and this is the village we belong to, Castelnau Riviere Basse. Perhaps you are wondering what crop is being grown that is looking such an attractive shade of pinky rusty brown. It is not a crop. It is a field which has been sprayed with chemical weed killer. No weeds will grow there now, nor worms, nor any living being within the soil. It is a dead field. Soon it will have fertilisers added. Maize will be planted and grow, assisted by further spraying of fertilizers. These are modern day industrial farming methods.

I am glad that our fields have now got their first sprinkling of dandelions and daisies, and that there are now worms in abundance as can be seen by the hundreds of worm casts. I won't mention the moles which are hunting those worms. I am glad that we are able to keep just a small portion of the land alive while all around us are fields which are industrially farmed.

I am just about to set up my keyboard in Mazeres church, where I shall be playing hymns for the service which is going to start in half an hour. This is a Catholic church, which the Church of England community here uses for a couple of hours a month. I like Catholic churches. I find them calm places to be, with no dead people interred in the walls or under the floor, which is what you are surrounded by in the Church of England churches in the UK.

But I would not label myself as a Church of England follower, nor a Catholic follower, I am just me, a free thinker and therefore not a follower of any particular religion, but I do like to add to the ambience of these church services, and if I had more free time I would also play for the Catholic services as well.


...back home and Lester has ploughed Number Two and Number Three veg plots. I look at them and think, 'Crikey, that's a lot of land to fill up with veggies'. Ploughing is slow for him, though, because he has to keep getting on and off the tractor to pick up the large stones which the plough is uncovering. If not picked up these stones will damage the rotovator. There are a lot of stones. He is on and off the tractor many times.

Dandelions!!!! It is no use, I cannot avoid the 'Dandelion Jam making' thought any longer. 365 is the number of flower heads I need to pick. I pick 291, then flunk out on the settee. It is hot. I need to rest my back. So me and the three dogs all pile in to the sitting room for a cool down and back stretch. Time passes. Oh. We have all have had a nap. My enthusiasm for the 'Dandelion Jam making project' has dwindled. I look at my bowl of flower heads. Have a search on the internet. Apparently I can make tea out of them. Ahha. An idea pops into my head, and so in to the dehydrator they go.

My vague sense of guilt about not following through with making Dandelion Jam has now been replaced by a sense of satisfaction that I have inadvertently started the long awaited Medicinal Herb Project. Won't go into the benefits of dandelions here, other than that they make you go to wee, but the Medicinal Herb Project is one I have long wanted to begin so I now have.

I have kept you long enough,
so bye for now,

Saturday 9 April 2016

A Bunch of Bunnies.

One bunny, which has just been rescued from under the rabbit hutch after it fell out in a topsy turvey heap when the door of the cage was opened.

.... and here are the rest, at least ten.
There were more but they were found beheaded by their mum just after they were born.
Don't know why she did that, she just did.
Rabbits are the sweetest things to look at, but my goodness they are ruthless when it comes to their young. Lester has often had to pick up remnants of baby rabbits after the mum has had a set to and killed the lot.
I am not going to say any more on the subject of rabbits,
just to say that three adult rabbits are in the freezer,
and they weighed in at 1.5 kgs each.
Been a divinely dozy day here,
with the Rayburn lit since morning because the weather has been cold, wet, and not nice.
If it had been January, then we would not have felt inconvenienced by the weather and only lit the Rayburn late afternoon, but it is April after all, so expectations are that we should be having warmer weather, which we should be getting at the end of the week (won't mention the thunder storms which are also forecasted), meanwhile we indulged ourselves by having the fire lit.
The Rayburn cooked lunch on its stove top,
did not like being asked to bake scones in its oven,
but did enthusiastically cook a chunk of frozen pork for lunch tomorrow.
Signing off for now,

The fall apart bale...

They couldn't help themselves,
as soon as the straw started unfurling as it was pushed to where it was supposed to go they were on it. As in in the manner of all chickens everywhere,
they could not resist getting involved with things they shouldn't get involved with.
And the dogs didn't help.
It was the mice, that is what was revving the dogs up,
who were encouraged to be more revved up by the chicks I spoke about in yesterday's blog,
who were hot footing after the mice,
with the dogs hot footing after them.
No one got damaged though, apart from several mice, who are now being digested.

The Pyrenees mountains sending us up some rain clouds.
Wish it had properly rained, or not. This 'might or might not' type of weather is frustrating. Do one thing or the other, but not tease us.
And the nest up in the tree on the right hand side of the photo...
that belongs to the perishing magpies.
We know they are back in situ because we are starting to find half eaten eggs here and there,
our eggs, not theirs.
Lester has a gun license.
He also has a gun.
I am not saying any more.
He probably won't, but it is nice to think that he can.
It's past midnight,
so I must away to my bed.
Bye for now,

Thursday 7 April 2016

The chicks are out, Nutella oh yummy.

Those three chicks I wrote about here.
Released from the pen, they are out in the world now,
From here.... here in six weeks.
The ones whose mum got squashed under a collapsed hay bale,
but the cooling heat from her body just about managed to get them hatched.
Lots of eggs in the clutch,
so lots of dead  chicks in those unhatched eggs,
but these three were breaking through their shells when we found them.
They are funny little bunch, cockerels we think,
but not sure of this one....
... looks like its rear end has not been formed properly.
We hope it is a hen, but it play fights with the other two cockerels, so is probably male.
Anyway.....they are now out and about.
Meanwhile, we went out and about as well yesterday,
but only to the local supermarket, reluctant though we were to do so,
but we did need supplies...

Alright, alright, alright....I know that it is not really smallholding fodder,
but we do need something to put on our toast in the mornings:
two slices each: one slice DIY cheese, the other DIY jam,
but we ran out of homemade jam weeks ago.
Fortunately we were donated a huge pot of Marmite,
which of course isn't jam but filled the gap.
Well that ran out eventually, so we bought some honey,
but then, oh dear, in a moment of weakness,
(well it was on offer)
we bought a jar of Nutella.
We have only had it in the house for a day,
and already it is half eaten.
I am suffering from guilt though,
because it was my intention to make Dandelion Jam to keep us going until our fruit harvest begins, but I haven't got round to doing so what with the cold bug hitting me.
So, Nutella it is until this jar is done,
which should be sometime today the rate we are eating it,
because we can't help eating a spoonful of the chocolate goo when passing the jar.
Not to worry,
the dandelions are still just about in flower,
so I might get myself into gear and get some jam made.
Or I might not.
I have to pick 365 dandelion flowers, then take the petals off.
It takes ages, and I do have other things to do, so we might just have to soldier on with Nutella until our plum harvest begins and I can start getting our jam stocks back up again.
Meanwhile, a spoonful of Nutella to get me going perhaps.....

Bye for now,


Sunday 3 April 2016

Squeals, sqeaks, and other odd noises........

Squeals, squeaks, and other odd noises,
this, then, is what my voice has been reduced to.
It is as if I am trying to speak in a foreign language,
only not a human type of language,
but an extra terrestrial type of language,
as if an ET is trying to communicate,
so bits of words are present in the communication,
but the rest is made up of odd squealy noises.
And trying to sing, that is useless as well.
I aim for the right note,
the word is in my head that I want to tunefully sing,
but all that I end up with is a dreadfully off key noise.
Ah well,
c'est la vie,
My immune system took a slaughtering at the beginning of last week,
as an unknown germ bug hit on it,
down I went,
like a tree which has been axed,
Now I am at the end of the journey,
with the bug now received into the knowledge bank of my immune system,
so that if should it come visiting again it will be instantly killed off.
I am finding some energy to do things,
not a lot, though,
just little bits of activity
interspersed with long naps on the settee.
Hopefully my voice will be back to normal soon.
But the snake will not be never be the same again
after Lester chopped it's head off yesterday.
The snake was sprawled across the entire width of the barn door,
which Lester was needing to go through so he could get the cows in for the night.
He already had Lissie on the rope,
so what to do....
His voice being alright, he shouted for me,
but in my cold weakened state I did not feel up to the task of shifting the snake
so he could get through the door.
Swop, that's what we did,
me to hold the Lissie's rope,
while Lester did the deed.
He had not intended to kill the snake,
but when prodded, it turned and bit the handle of the spade.
I was very glad that we had swopped,
even though Lissie started prancing and dancing and pulling at the rope,
which made me afeared in case I ended up being dragged along on the ground
as she did one of her madcap gallops.
Thankfully the big bay tree was near by,
so she put her head in its perfumed greenness and munched away,
while Lester despatched the snake.
It would not have been a good thing if the snake had bit Lissie.
I am sure that she would have kicked up a hell of a fuss.
It was a shame the snake had to be killed,
and it was given the option to go away,
but it chose to fight....

Today the sun is shining again,
so one cannot stay despondent about silly things like cold bugs and a lost voice,
instead, I thought I would write this blog
while Lester is off to gun club to try out his new gun,
and then he has booked me in to help him fence the front garden this afternoon.
He has got this far....

so just the wire to be put up.

.... and looking across the lane to our side field,
with the sun shining through the young leaves of the trees,
making them all of a glow.

.... and the trees on the hill starting to wake up.
At this time of year I want to say 'slow down' to the forces of nature,
because Spring happens so fast here,
blink and you miss it!
Hope you have a lovely Sunday
wherever in the World you are,
bye for now,

Lissie is not standing quiet and docile.
If you enlarge the photo you can see that her eyes have gone all slitty,
and are not their normal size.
What she is doing is have a stand off with the ram.
She is being naughty, that's all.
In a few moments she will try to lock horns with him,
and he will respond by barging back at her.
They will then have a bit of a tussle,
just like two children needing to amuse themselves!