Saturday 18 November 2017

A new gadget....

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

Thursday 16 November 2017

A frosty morning scything....

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

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

Friday 10 November 2017

Cosy indoors....

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 8 November 2017

The chicken gang come calling.....

Look who came calling yesterday......

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

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

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

Monday 6 November 2017

Oooops! Brrrrrrr!

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

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

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

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

Bye for now,

Friday 3 November 2017

The Rabble and Veg Garden 1

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

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

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

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


November, and I am still harvesting summer veg!

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

Wednesday 1 November 2017

No butter, and frost?

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

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