"Why?" you might ask, " would you need a sailboat?"
Because this happened yesterday.....
Saturday 14th December
Le fleuve Adour, c'est lever!
Our lane, le chemin du Louet
The water at the back the sheep paddock
...... and on the way into the courtyard
So what do you do to keep worrisome thoughts about everything, including your home, possibly going to receive a goodly amount of river water sometime soon, you keep busy, that's what you do and stay positive as best you can.
The day became a good one. Lots of chats with neighbours, French and English, which had a bonding effect between us all. Most were worse off than us. We spoke a lot of French as well, which was good.
You might be of the opinion that living beside the river we should expect flooding. You are right of course. We remain mindful that it can happen, it was just that the flood came unexpectedly after a year of rainy weather which should have had the river flooding so many times, but it didn't, so we had become complacent.
Not to worry...........the day passed, and then it became the next day, and relief zoomed our spirits right up into the sky as we saw green land again and not deep brown muddy flowing water.
We also saw the damage to the fencing. Oh dear! Loads of work!
So what you do is to go buy some more hens to replace the ones that the dogs massacred the other day, which takes you away from the farm for a few hours, which is good, because then you see the countryside in all its soggy glory, which still holds a beauty even after all the battering it has had from the recent high winds and torrential rains, and you are reminded how lucky you are to be living in such a lovely place.
One of the seven black orpingtons chickens that have come to live here.
So when you feel a bit overwhelmed by things you have to keep going, and fight the heavy desire to give up, that is what you have to do, and that is why we went a chicken shopping.
So what to you do when you are in the midst of unfriendly weather? Winds blowing up to 80 km / h, torrential rain, everything saturated, main field flooded, which means the ditches are full up, which means that the sheep can't get onto the field to graze, which is why they are still in the barn complaining about the unfairness of it all and 'when are you going to feed us?'
So into town you hurry, to the man who sells the small bales of hay, but "No" he says, "I'm having a cup of coffee. Come back in half an hour". So you do a quick about turn, say "*******!", or words to that effect, and hurry back to home, meanwhile embracing the moment as best you can as the wind plays with the car, which is not really a 'proper' car but a little white van, so can be easily buffeted about should the wind be in playful mode.
So you spend a wet time getting hay off an old hay bale, which is soaked on top, but dry underneath so you have to pull the wet hay off the bale first. You take the hay into the sheep barn. The sheep are not impressed and complain, but you hurry away, wanting to get back into the dry yourself.
So then you go to let the chickens out, and with gladness see the plump, fluffy, Orpington hen appear. You feel happy because she was done unto death by a pack of dogs from down the road who came on a rampage two days ago, killing three hens and shredding another to bits, although that hen has survived. The Orpington must have laid low until she thought it safe to appear again. We think the hens will stay under cover today. We hope the winds do not lift them up and away.
Back indoors, and on no, the fire needs to be lit. But you are now damp all over, so follow through with going and getting the firewood in from where it is stacked, which is just round the corner of the house. Oh dear, the tarpaulin has gone, the wood is wet, not to worry, carry on, fire lit, house warming up.
This, then, was what my husband was having to cope with this morning before he started on another strenuous day of computer work. The internet keeps switching on and off, and the electricity is trembling suggesting an imminent power cut. Not to worry, such are the joys of living in rural SW France.
No venturing forth into the outside world for me today, so meanwhile, I try to stay jolly by trying to get a load of fairy light angels to behave themselves, but most wouldn't. Some insisted on flying upside down, or sideways, or any way other except standing straight, except this one.....
....and then there were the others.....
upside down and all about...
........ not behaving in the manner which is required of an angel on a Christmas Tree,
These angels have been donated to me, plus the string of fluffy pink hearts, together with a Christmas Tree on which to put them, by Laura, bless her, who is moving from SW France to the south of Scotland in the next few weeks.
The tree is still work in progress.
Our original Christmas Tree and decorations all became done unto death by drowning, or rather, taken down to the local tip, after their storage boxes became filled up with rain water during the January 2009 tempest. It seems quite fitting that these angels and their tree were delivered in wet and windy conditions, which deteriorated into tempest like conditions today.
Thank you Laura, for this donation,
I wish you well in your journey forward in life,
and look forward to keeping in touch with news of your new adventures.
Meanwhile, the Christmas Tree and the romping about angels have given the house a cheerful ambience, which is much needed today.
We are now on red alert,
the flooding has continued all the day long,
the winds are bringing down trees, only one so far on our property,
but indoors we are cosy and warm,
so life is good.
Hello, here I am again. Been away from you for a while, but have been busy doing other things, which is no excuse I know. One of the reasons I have become a tad constipated with writing this blog is because it was supposed to be about the farm and our life as smallholders, but since we have had this slow down with the farm while my partner earns us a living on his computer, not much has happened outside. I did try and take over some of the farm work, but we have just had a humungously long, hot, wet, and humid summer, which stopped me in my tracks. So.........
We are living in France, so need to speak French, which we do. I can write it, and Lester can speak it, but not really to any high standard. Actually it is quite a low standard if I am to be honest. For a long time I have been thinking that we ought to improve our language skills, but this would have probably only stayed in my head if it had not been for a French lady asking me:
"How long have you been in France?" she asked chattily.
"About eleven years" I said, still in chatty mode myself.
"......but your French is not very good. Don't you want to speak it." she went on, still quite chattily.
Now you know when someone presses your button, the button which happens to be sitting over a sensitive subject, a button which needs to stay not pressed, because if it is pressed then you know you will go off on a rant? ........ Now feeling unchatty, and not even attempting to speak in French, in English I went off on one, defending the reasons as to why my French was not as good as it should be, all the while, in my heart, I knew that she was right. She was the prod I needed.
Duo Lingo was recommended to us, and is an easy and addictive web site to use. We are both easier when speaking French, and are likely to engage with the French people a lot more as we continue using it.
However: recycling ………
at the recycling bins in the village just across the river, in the Gers, …. Saturday morning …… raining (again) ... Lester emptying our dustbin bags of recycling into one of the several bins lined up by the lake. ..... up
comes a big, black, four by four car and stops inches from our little white van, ….. out
gets a big man …. who puts on his fancy dancy cowboy-type of hat …. Ah, I think to
myself, a chaise man …… ( local hunter of deer, wild boar, and anything else he can shoot) … he puffs himself up ..... and out comes a bunch of French words .... they do not sound friendly …. I see Lester puff himself up as well, ..... and I hear him come out with a bunch of French words .... "good ole Duo Lingo I thought to myself" ...... and so on it went.....two men, one French, one English, which already could put them in opposition to each other, one from the Gers protecting his village's recycling bins and the other from the Haute Pyrenees which is a region who does not have recycling bins. They argued, and argued, and argued, for ages. It was fascinating to watch. All the while I could hear Lester holding his own. I was very proud of him. I saw the French chaisse man deflate, become smaller.
We await the fallout from this confrontation. Apparently we are not allowed to put our recycling in the Gers. It looks like there is still territorial divisions between the various regions, but only with a certain generation of people. I suspect the younger people will not care.
We hear the news about plastics. We want to recycle our plastics. The Haute Pyrenees does not have any facilities for this. We are obeying the pressure from social media to cut down on our plastics.
So we have bought a little incinerator so we can burn our paper and cardboard. But then that would fall into me encouraging global warming, which we already presumably do with our wood burning Rayburn. This is a no win situation all round. As for our plastics? Oh I shall just put them in the normal dustbin and not sort them out. We keep being told to recycle but.......
And I began thinking that perhaps it was not such good idea to do Duo Lingo. Because if you have a good French vocabulary then you can have a stupendous argument with someone who is irritating you, but if you don't have the vocabulary then all you could do is just turn away, or speak in English which is what irritates the French people no end.
Oh well...... such is life.......
- the good news is that our French is improving.....the not so good news is that we can argue with people if they need to be argued with, or rather, my partner can!
- the good news is that after having months and months of rain, our fields have not flooded, .... the not so good news is that the river has remained full up for months, and that when it drops again we expect that a lot of our land will be gone somewhere else because of erosion.
- the good news is that I have become more supple in myself due to the twenty minutes I spend doing Qi Gong from a YouTube video. There is no bad news for this one, but it is proof that at seventy plus the body can be encouraged to move again if it is encouraged to do so.
Oh! I have a sudden image of chocolate. And blow me down, but there is a bar in the fridge. Sorry, will have to go and satisfy me.
and my thoughts about what our future direction should be....
2013: June 29th: .
.... and the bees had already swarmed...
" Five days later and they were at it again, the first signs being a bunch of them flying around the front of the hive, not seeming to do anything other than hanging around. As the day moved on more bees gathered outside the hive, and as their numbers increased so did their energy, until the air became full of their loud buzzing. Gradually they started flying faster and faster, moving away from the front of the hive to fill the air for quite some distance in front of it.
So what did I do?
I stood in the middle of them as they flew around me. No need for the protection of a bee suit because they were too busy going through the swarming process to be bothered with me. I was calm and posed no threat, but from time to time a bee would pause in its flight, stop in front of me, and take a look, just to make sure.
But the day was getting on, and I had lunch to prepare. By the time I was finished the bees were beginning to settle together on the lower branches of a nearby tree, and were starting to bunch up. Only a few bees still flying around.
So I parked myself on a chair near to the swarm, put an umbrella up to shield myself from the sun, and watched. It was absolutely fascinating to watch the swarm tighten up into a ball of bees, and they reached a point when they seemed to quieten, so I said to them,
"If you would like to stay here you will be more than welcome, but if you want to go somewhere else, then that is OK as well". What I meant was that if the swarm stayed on the tree then they would be put into a hive, but if they wanted to go somewhere else then that was alright as well. Giving them a choice is what I was doing.
I didn't see them go because I was busy elsewhere, but when I saw them gone, I looked up into the sky and wished them bon voyage. It was like sending a grown up child out into the world.
And it came into my mind, that although we are not exactly the most efficient of bee keepers at the moment because we are not managing the hives well enough to get a honey harvest, (when bees swarm they take the stored honey with them), we are doing our bit towards helping the declining bee population by having a hive which is sufficiently healthy enough to act as a production line for swarms. "
2006: Back in the UK.....
So what do you do if you want to keep bees, but can't do that because you are not living in the right place to do so. Well you buy lots of books about bees, and enrol in a local bee keeping class, that is what you do.
2008: And now in France....
And then you eventually move to the smallholding, and you do manage to find some bee hives, and you do purchase some bees, and then later on some more bees, and another couple of hives because the first ones were old and rotted, and you speak to a man in a bee shop who sells you a swarm of bees because all the bees you have so far have not survived, so you don't have to purchase another bunch of bees in the post, and that swarm does survive, but then gets eaten by Asian hornets, but not before your efforts to capture a secondary swarm from that hive results in you running off down the nearby lane in an effort to escape the fury of a bunch of bees who did now want to be caught despite you wearing a bee suit which actually let them get inside with you, so then you sort of give up trying to be bee keepers, at least for the time being.
So that is where we are at in regards to keeping bees. And I have to say that of all the animals we have here, the bees might have been the smallest but were the most complicated to look after, but I still have a fondness for them, and am not put off by the difficult attitudes they sometimes display. They are being themselves, that's all.
So, thoughts about keeping bees
I think a lot was against us when we tried to keep bees.
- First of all we were in a foreign country, and did not have the support structure which we would have done if we have been keeping bees in the UK. Here in France they do not seem to have bee keeping associations which you can go along to to get help and advice, which I think you need when you start keeping bees, although I have noticed that there is more help online nowadays. (2019)
- Second, a lot of other things were happening at the time we kept bees so we were not as attentive to their welfare as we perhaps could have been, this was particularly relevant to the attacks on the hives by Asian hornets. They are a big problem in our area, as is the spraying of chemicals on crops by the farmers, although there has been tighter control of which chemicals are used since we have lived in France. The Asian hornets are less easy to control.
- Thirdly, as I have said, we did not have the time to pay attention to them enough so we could understand their needs.
If you would like to keep bees, then find other bee keepers who will help you in the early stages. Better still, search out a local bee keeping association who will hold training courses to help get you started, plus you will be able to meet other people who are also new to bee keeping.
We bought our first swarm through the post, but I am not sure if that is the best way to start. By the time the package arrived the bees were already irritated with being kept in transit, plus the queen had died.
With our minimal use of the French language at that time, it was impossible for us to contact the seller to get a new queen, but we finally managed to buy a replacement queen from a beekeeper in the UK, who shipped her out to us. But I think it was too late by then for the swarm to settle happily into the hive with her, and within a few weeks all the bees had died.
Our preferred option would be to buy a swarm direct, and this we did. We had found a shop selling bees and equipment a half an hour drive away, which was good. What was not quite so good was the fact that the beekeeper asked us to take the hive to him in which the bees were to be kept, so that he could put our swarm into the hive and settle them down before we brought them back to the farm. Seemed like a good plan at first, but having to drive back home with a hive full of noisy bees in the back seat of the car was, to say the least, scary. In hindsight, we should have taken our trailer down and put the hive in that for transit. We shall know to do that should there be a next time!
But problems surfaced with this swarm, the main one being that there was still no one we could ask when we were unsure of what we needed to do. But we did gain a lot experience through having this hive, including the setting up of a sister hive when the original hive swarmed. It was the Asian hornets which killed both these hives off.
All in all, keeping bees is a wonderful occupation, and I have many blogging friends who are successful in keeping this wonderful little insect, and they inspire me to not to give up the Bee Project forever.
I am glad we tried to keep bees. I am sad that we were not successful, but I do encourage bees here at Labartere by growing as many flowers as we can, and this year we had lots of visiting bees in the garden, which makes up for us not having our own family of bees.
The little red squirrel sitting on the fence pole,
Lester approaching the little red squirrel on his tractor.
He is busy with his Sunday afternoon task of cutting the grass.
He sees the little red squirrel, and the little red squirrel sees him,
Swiftly the little red squirrel turns itself upside down on the fence pole.
It is now part of the fence pole, or so it thinks.
This is a good idea.
Or is it?
Because now a goodly portion of the little red squirrel's fluffy tail is extending beyond the top of the fence pole.
It is like a signpost.
Lester sees the signpost.
Not to worry, onwards Lester goes.
Today is a sunshine day.
It is hot.
He needs to finish today's portion of mowing.
He needs to get indoors for a cool down and a nap.
The little red squirrel thinks its ploy of pretending to be a fence post has won the day.
Lester lets it think so.
Does not holler at it to '****** off!"
He is now past the fence post,
He sees the little red squirrel turn itself around,
Sees it sit itself on top of the fence post.
Sees it observe the fruit above its head
Sees it reach for a fruit,
Sees it take a bite.
For it is a fruit tree under which it is sitting,
But Lester sees all.........
Yet the need to be done with the task of mowing is greater than his urge to protect the fruit of the tree so onwards he goes.
He does not disturb the little red squirrel.
He lets the little red squirrel eat on.
Ah, but the little red squirrel does not like the fruit,
Not yet anyway,
So it turns around and perkily bounces off to investigate elsewhere,
Lester sees it go.
He carries on mowing.......
As I have said, it is hot, hot, hot.
One nap later:
122 peaches picked and laid out on a cotton sheet to continue on their way to ripening.
They are in our back kitchen.
But Lester has left a few peaches on the tree,
For the little red squirrel and others.......
Now.....what am I going to do with all those peaches when they ripen!
Cherry time. So out I went to have a recce round the farm to see what was what and did we have any cherries to harvest this year. And yes, we did. Not a ton of them, but enough, I thought, to make a small harvest.
Mission accomplished, cherries picked, canned. 10 quart sized jars for the larder, and five portions in containers for the freezer.
And when I was out and about on the Cherry Project I noticed that Veg Plot 2 looked like it had a nice patch of open brown soil in the middle of it, which sparked my interest. Upon further investigation it turned out to be manure from the cow barn, put there when Lester was daily emptying the cow poo, and then spread all about when he ran the tractor and cutter over the plots to keep the weeds down. We had decided not to do full on veg growing this year, and to leave the plots fallow, cutting them frequently to reduce the presence of big weeds.
But, oh joy of joys, here is Veg Plot 2. All of the green you see belongs to this plot:
...and here is the open patch....
....just yearning to be planted with stuff, like tomatoes, courgettes, and anything else I can think of. I know that we are now in June, but the weather has been chilly, and we do have a long growing season, and anyway....what the heck! Nothing ventured nothing gained.
So here is the plan: Lester will keep cutting the rest of the veg plot with the tractor, but I will take over this little patch. Since we are not keeping cows we have several hay and straw bales which need to be done something with, so I am going to have a go at smothering V's Patch with these bales. I am also going to use some of the tarpaulins which are covering the bales at the moment to put down alongside the Patch to extent it, with a view to reducing the weeds without having to dig, ready for the 2020 season.
Lester will not be allowed to trespass on V's Patch with the tractor. I am going to have a go at the 'No Dig' method of cultivating the land, and I have already wheel barrowed some straw on to the Patch, as can be seen in the photo. There is a bale of straw by the gates of Veg Plot 1, which provided this straw.
...............however, this has appeared in it:
A hole! There has been a small hole for some time, but this hole looks as if it could hold a creature of menace:
What think you? And what should I do?......poke it with a stick and hope that the creature in residence, if it is still there, runs away without putting up a fight? Get Lester to bring the tractor round and knock the bale over thus exposing all inside? Leave it alone, after all had I not said in my previous blog that we had made a haven for wild life? At what point is a creature considered not wanted here? I mean, what size are we talking about........
For the moment, then, Project 'Shift the Hay/Straw' is in stop mode. But I have planted some tomatoes, and I am on the move to get other seeds in. Meanwhile I shall keep talking, making a noise, singing,......etc.....when I am passing the bale, and hope that the occupant might decide to shift home because of the noisy neighbours.
When I was upstairs in the house the other day, I noticed the porta potti we used when we didn't have loo. A thought popped into my mind to bring it down and use it for wee's. I have wanted a compost toilet for a long time, but that is not do-able at the moment, but I could capture the wee, and then use it on the garden, maybe sprinkling it around the bale of straw, my thinking being that it is like cocking one's leg up a lamp post like a male dog does, marking one's territory, letting all know that I am here as well in case they don't know already!
The tone of my last post reflected my mood of the moment, which was a general sadness and a vague sense of having somehow failed in being able to rise up to the challenge of running a self sufficient smallholding, a challenge which the Universe had delivered to us eleven years ago.
I was wrong. We have not failed.
So at the Knit and Natter group last Thursday the conversation rolled itself round to cats chasing birds, cats catching birds, and then cats were left behind and birds were then discussed, ....... different types which live here, bird watching, etc.....
And then a light bulb moment happened in my head, after a friend mentioned that we must have a paradise for birds here on the farm, what with the grassland we have being able to feed them and the amount of trees to provide shelter for them also. Such a casual remark, and I thought of when we arrived, how devoid of life the farm was.........
September 2008: Back field, and back of house.
We arrived in June 2008
Eleven years on, and over 80 fruit trees have been planted providing flight corridors so little birds can fly safely between here and there. They can also help themselves the fruit harvests if we do not get to them soon enough. Our bird population has increased to such an extent that it is hardly ever silent here, someone is always chatting about something, this being brought to my attention when I am editing the footage for my YouTube videos because never is there silence in the background unless I am filming in the house.
We have been slow in keeping all the land cut and controlled, so we have lots of beautiful tall grasses in long swathes growing everywhere. While we feel that it looks untidy, thinking it should be mown short enough to be called a lawn, I have changed my mind after I saw a small bird feeding off of one of those grass heads. So we have short cut grass in places, and wild grass in other places.
Because the fields are not being heavily grazed, the cows now living in a new home elsewhere in France, the fields are looking more like meadows, with sprinkles of wild flowers here and there. And I was slow to cut the Courtyard grass, so it also grew a lot of meadow flowers as well, and then I couldn't cut it because it looked so pretty and it was smothered in bees.
My 'light bulb' moment opened my eyes to what we have actually achieved for the land, especially the birds, the small birds like the sparrows, the ones who sing and chatter. We have given Labartere a life it did not have. I actually think that that is more important now.
I have learnt to look at what we have rather than what I think we should have, and to work within our limitations and be satisfied with that rather than being dissatisfied because of unreal expectations of ourselves. We have made a difference here.
We have done very well with smallholding life, becoming nearly self sufficient and loving the feeling of being in charge of our food.
2014: A big heap of food, all homegrown.
We had dairy products as well, with milk being provided by our two house cows:
We have also had Tamworth pigs, a bunch of hens, a few geese, one duck, and a herd of sheep.
The sheep we still have, the geese were donated to a neighbour down the road, the duck went down the throat of a predator (probably a fox), and the hens have almost gone as well. We are down to three after another raid by something which required of their flesh. The pigs were despatched into the freezer. We have also kept goats, and they were also put into the freezer.
At one time the smallholding was humming with life, and in Spring the air was filled with the sounds of new life. It was magic.
And as I write this I am aware of how much sadness there is within me that we could not keep the smallholding at that level of productivity, because in 2017 my health failed and Lester was head hunted by an ex employer who made him a financial offer he could not refuse.
And that, my friend, put the brakes on being able to efficiently run the farm, because growing your own food requires a lot of time and effort, which we ran out of.
And now the cows have left home, transported to a lovely young family up in the middle of France to become part of their small herd of house cows.
We nearly let them go last year, but stepped back at the last moment because we felt that the cows represented the heart of the smallholding, but a year on, and nothing changing in regards to the time constraints on Lester and me, well....... it was time to let them go.
I can't say that we were entirely happy about the saying goodbye to them, but we are glad of the time we have gained. It does mean, though, that we are becoming dependant again on commercial food production. This I am not happy with, but there is nothing I can do about it.
Hey ho, life goes on, and we have to take the ups and downs as part of the continuing pattern of life.
Meanwhile, I am getting back to growing our own veg, in a small way at the moment and not for winter food storage, but at least I am picking up the pace again after my lay off in 2018.
And I have taken over control of the courtyard, and have an arbre to sit it in, with a sunbed it it for afternoon snoozes when weather permits.
All in all, everything is going along well, and for that I am glad, even if we are not heading in quite
After another night of heavy rain, the clouds shift over to let the sun come through.....
....but the cloud pattern only allowed for certain parts of the land to be shone upon.
The far end of our main field receiving the sun's rays.....
.... and the hill in front of our farm receiving of a soaking of sunshine,
but with the cherry tree, nearing the end of its blossom time, in the foreground and still waiting for its dose of warmth.
The weather held steady for most of the plum and cherry blossom time, but has become unsettled now the apple blossom has just started. Not to worry, it is as it is, and what harvest we do have, despite the heavy overnight rainfall we have been having which could damage the newly fertilised blossoms, we shall be grateful for.
All is well.
Bye for now,
Just to let you know that the YouTube vlogs are now on our sister blog: The Psychic Craftswoman. The link can be found on the top of the side bar.
Latest Vlogs are:
10th March 2019
The Psychic Craftswoman does a peeve....
After a good night's sleep I woke up with a surprising peeve on me. Here's how I got rid of it, but please forgive the appearance of my early morning self. It did improve during the following hours...
16th March 2019
Making the fleece jacket: Part 2
Finally....I have made a start on the fleece, which has been my first project on my quest to get my fabric stash reduced in size.
I have made a fifteen day plan of attack, and have documented my progress.
This video covers the first part of my efforts at getting Lester's fleece made.
20th March 2019
The Psychic Craftswoman does his fleece: Part 3
Now starting to sew the fleece together, and it proving not an easy task because of lack of instructions, the work sheet belonging to the paper pattern having been lost since I last used it. This is proving more of a problem than I had originally anticipated, but not to worry, we are carrying on with the make anyway.
30th March 2019
Sharing with you my pleasure at having the fleece jacket done!
....and taking you on a quick trip to my village,
...... and my ongoing crochet shawl project.
4th April 2019
Crafting Update: 1
Rushing in from chasing the young calves around the field so we could get them inside the barn for the night, I had a short time to post a video while Lester was busy with milking Bonnie and Lissie, which is why I was short of breath and soggy. (It was raining)
So this is my first crafting update and includes my sock pile: flat or magic loop knitting. A jumper in the making. Tackling a pile of half made pinnies. Making a pinny for bramble work. Finishing my first crochet shawl. Recycling Lester's old work shirt without him knowing the fate of his once favourite shirt.
I don't think it's me, that I live a quiet life and am not out and about on the roads very often, I don't think that it's me.........but lately I have noticed that most of the cars seem to be zooming about, far to fast for safety, and all oblivious to there being such a thing as a speed limit, and overtaking so close to our little van that it is a marvel that they do not clip our backside.
Most cars will want to overtake our van if they can. I used to drive a delightful little two toned grey Citroen 2CV when I was in the UK. This was years ago, but it has always remained my most loved car even though it had to be sold as it was not big enough to carry all the rolls of fabric from fabric warehouses in Brick Lane (near Petticoat Lane in London), back to where my shop was, which was on the Isle of Sheppey, in Kent. That little car was such a workhorse, was light to drive as a ballerina on pointy toes especially round corners when it could be driven as if it was a motor bike, which means that I could swing her slightly wider at the start of a corner, then launch her into the curve as the corner continued round its arc. It was splendid fun. The suspension on her would allow her to keep her wheels firmly anchored on the road but let her body swing over, just like a motor bike does. But not a racing circuit type of motor bike, just a day tripper type of motorcyclist, one who has a modicum of madness.
These are photos from the internet
As I say, that Citroen lady would dance about, safely but lightly, along the roads, could be fully loaded up (with the back seats left at home) with rolls of fabric and would then drive quite sedately, but still safely, along the middle lane of the motorway for two hours to get home, with the same speed as when she was unloaded and empty. She was a joy.
But it was the other drivers who hated that Citroen lady, and would get into a fume if they could not overtake her. My partner would not believe me at the time, until the day he had to borrow her and became subjected to lots of road rage from other drivers, almost getting into a punch up with one driver. That was in the 1980's. And so now, in 2019, it would seem that other drivers, here in France, have a dislike for small cars. We travel at a good speed, but not a crazy one, and frequently find other cars glued to our rump until they can overtake us, sometimes dangerously.
The French government have become alarmed at the amount of road deaths, and two years ago reduced the speed limit on main roads to what they considered a safer speed. It did not work. The deaths increased. So in 2022 they are proposing to insist on governors being put into cars, which are aimed at stopping drivers from exceeding the designated speed limit of the particular stretch of road they are on. It's a bit like 'big brother' in a way, but there is definitely a madness brewing in most car drivers at the moment. Perhaps it is the arrival of Spring. Perhaps the blood is pumping hard, and the energy which is thus produced needs to be used up somehow. France has a lot of straight roads, the foot can be put down hard, and zoom mode happens.
Ah well, it is as it is. Perhaps the speed of the cars can be controlled by satellites up in the heavens, but maybe the drivers will get crosser and more frustrated. We shall wait and see........
And the Citroen lady was sold on to a young man, whose first car it was. I am sure that she was driven hard. She would have liked that. And I went on to own an old black double wheeled van, which carried me to markets around Kent very efficiently. It was just as efficient at taking me to local nightclubs for these were my ' break loose ' years. There was nothing quite so satisfying as parking that scruffy black van in front of the venue alongside the posh and shiny vehicles.
During my time as owner of that van I learnt to park in difficult places by hanging out of the sliding doors so I could see the spot which I had to aim for, market places being very cramped on space especially when other vendors where setting up their stalls as well. I became very good at parking. But that was then. Apparently that skill has faded, according to my efforts yesterday at parking our little white van in an under cover parking area. I think it is because I cannot lean out of the door sideways to watch where I am going. This is when going backwards. Going forwards is alright.
It would seem that my preferred type of car / van is one which is more of a workhorse rather than a car which is for leisure, so I shall continue to be patient with ' less than patient' drivers. As for the black van, that never got bullied because it was bigger than most leisure cars of that time, who would have come off worst in a bump with me because the van was already had a bumpy surface anyway. I did say that it was an old girl!
Off I go into my day. It is nearly noon, but I have not started the usual activities of the day yet, just been chatting with you.
First of all I want to say thank you to all of my blogging world friends who took the time to watch the first vlog and leave such encouraging comments.
So what I have been doing is making a new blog page for the vlogs, which are now called The Psychic Craftswoman. Snippets can carry on as usual, which is as a written blog because I think that perhaps not everyone will want to watch a video, but would rather keep in touch with us via the written word. The two blogs are linked, so it is easy to move between them, if you want to.
Anyway, it has taken me a lot of courage to keep going with the vlogs, but I now know what I need to do and the format that I need to follow. I have a long way to go though, but it is excellent stimulation for my mind and stops it from getting tired and old. Well that's not true! I do still get tired but it is more a happy tiredness rather than a miserable tiredness! And I find it personally amazing that I am entering the world of vlogging which is mostly a young person's world, while I am sitting very firmly in the over 70's age group. But we shall not think of age, rather think of living in a life well travelled, but not necessarily in terms of air miles, or being grandly wealthy, but in terms of accumulated achievements and a broadness of self worth and wisdom.
Meanwhile,........... I have had a couple of screws screwed into my jaw in preparation for a couple of synthetic teeth to be screwed on to them in three months time. I can't say that it was the most pleasurable experience I have had, especially because my face was completely covered over by a sterilized cover except for where my mouth was, so I couldn't see anything and could only hear the sound of the work going on......like the drilling, the sound and feel of the screws going in, etc. Not to worry, I came through it alright, although my jaw feels not quite in its usual self, which must be as a result of the manipulations of it by the dentist.
The weather is now more in sync with what it normally is for this time of year, although it is still warm. There is a feeling, however, that winter is not quite finished with us yet. Sprinkles of blossom are appearing on some of the trees, which means that spring is urging its way forward, albeit a little on the early side. I want to hold the onset of spring back. For once it begins it will not seem very long before we are again looking towards the festive season again.
The lambs are growing fast, and most are now eating grass, but they still have time to have lamb gang gallops and plays, where they charge around the field in a mad gallop. It is a joy to watch.
The chicks are growing, and Nearly Dead has new legs and feet, or so it seems. After having been born with a crooked leg so she couldn't walk properly, she can now charge around with the rest of the chicks. Somehow she seems to have become magicked up with proper legs.
Here is the link to the latest vlog, where I chat about the ongoing saga of getting my partner's jacket made, husband or partner chat, the chicks and Nearly Dead, me and my nearly deads, the need to float and not sink, and introducing the Green Jumper Knitting Project, amongst other things.
The link to The Psychic Craftswoman blog page is on the top right hand side bar.
The silence that has been between then and now....
Has something untoward fallen upon us here?
Have dire circumstances laid seige to us?
No, just sun filled days which have seduced me into being outside, that's all.
Which means less time spent indoors,
doing things like housework, podcasty things, Lester's jacket......and so on.
Of seventeen eggs which went in the incubator, twelve hatched, of which at least nine are cockerels.
Of the two late arrivals, one died almost immediately but the other one nearly died but didn't, and then nearly did but then didn't again. thereby encouraging us to name that little one Nearly Dead.
Nearly Dead is the one with the arrow pointing at him/her, although I think it a 'she' because her wing feathers are not long.
Despite having a damaged leg, being frequently trodden on and barged into, Nearly Dead has managed to survive. Her spirit is strong. She has fought to keep in life. So I hope she is a she. Most of the males will be going into the pot later on. I think we would find it difficult to cook him if she was a him.
There are four newly hatched chicks cuddled up in a pile of sheep fleece. Can you spot them?
The lambs are here, eight in total, and are now at the stage of running round in a gang, causing mischief when they can. We anticipate escapees soon. If there is the slightest gap in the fence wire they will go through it. It is the way of lambs. The need to discover the world is very strong within them.
Lester's Jacket Project remains in slow down. Blame the sunny weather for that. And the fact that the project belongs to the Podcast News.
Much improvement needs to be made, but first steps, that is what this video reflects.
The video is unscripted, because that is what it had to be. To have scripted it would have made it too wooden in texture. I was nervous enough as it was, so it was better to have wandered my way through the video rather than followed a proper trail!
Lester was in bed for a much needed Saturday afternoon nap after having worked long hours all week and I was at my computer not doing anything in particular, just messing about. But no, I was not going to waste my time any more, so I thought a little nap for myself would not be amiss, after all, we are going out this evening to a Chasse 'do', the Chasse being the local hunting fraternity, and Lester had remarked that he wouldn't mind joining the Chasse although it was difficult to join. Off to the settee I went, but I had a sudden and enormous urge to take the opportunity to make my first podcast. So I did
For days I had been making notes about how to introduce myself, and had decided that I would concentrate on fibre craft (sewing, knitting, etc) and keeping things simple for the time being while I find my feet with podcasting.
Earlier on we had been out in the field getting some hay for the cows and sheep from off the hay bales stored there. We also put some planks on the ground in front of the sheep barn, so the lambs and their mums could walk into the barn without sinking knee deep in mud. It was very windy, and wet, and I got windblown, and my face got all red and wintery looking. I did not look my best. It was not the time to do a podcast, plus I had not made a list of subjects to speak about, plus I had not made a tidy 'studio' looking space to film. I did not have a tripod, ....actually I did have one, but I could not seem to fit the camera on to it. I did not have the words formed in my head as to what I was going to say, I was wearing my cold weather gear of scarf and shawl so was not dressed up as a lot of podcasters are, ......in short, this was not the time to do a podcast, but when greater forces are at work in my life I move, so I did, and I made a podcast, just a short one of less than twenty minutes, but I did.
And looking at that person in the camera, I wondered who she was. One thing, though, was that she made me laugh. Maybe the podcast was too short, as most that are fibre related are nearly an hour long, and I did not mention my wool arts, just the fabric, and I thought about doing it again but I am thinking that it might seem too stiff if I were to do so. I also did not mention any subjects which I would like to include in the future, thinking that this would be too much. So, I kept the podcast short, slightly scatty, but it was all of me and not some manufactured person who bears no resemblance to the real me. This is who I am, and I feel blessed that I do not feel the need to change myself in any way. I suppose that I am happy in my skin. And may I say that it has taken a long time to get to that state of being.
To post that podcast up feels scary, so I am sitting on it at the moment. It needs editing anyway. But I have been working on certain aspects of YouTube, and am taking down all the videos that I put on there during the earlier years of the blog. For some reason they feel inappropriate.
I am going along to a rehearsal with the little Marciac choir next week, and have been asked if I would take the accordion with me. I have accepted the position of chef d'orchestre, which is a grand name for conductor, but it seems they would like me to play as well. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. The accordion is not an easy instrument to play and if I lose concentration and disconnect as to where my hands are on the keyboard and chord buttons, and worse still, if I forget to pump the bellows up so there is no air in the instrument, then discord will happen, which I quite assure you happens frequently. Ah well, not to worry, I can always focus on playing the tambourine!
The lambs are popping out now, with the weather being the most wetest and windyest it could be. But they are sturdy little beings, but it would be nice to have a sunny patch of weather for them to enjoy. Sun is not something they are familiar with yet. They are themselves though, and are frisking about as young lambs do.
And the menu for tonight:
Bouillon de poule aux perles
Civet de sanglier pomme boulangère
Poule farcie et ses légumes
Fromage du pays
Baba a l'armagnac
Café - Digestif
That is a lot of food to get through, and it will take many hours to do so. The French sure do know how to put on a good spread of food! And all for 16 euros each. And all the wine for free, with Lester taking along a portion of twenty year old Armagnac in his hip flask just in case he and the friends we are going with would like a tot of the hard stuff during the evening!
Off to change, but we do not dress up here in France, we are country folk and so remain fairly countrified when out socially, which means I shall keep my thermals on. We shall also be mud splattered by the time we cross the courtyard and gate entrance to get to the car out on the drive because the rain is in persistent mode at the moment and mud is in abundance.
And Yay!!!! I have made a podcast! Don't what to do next, but shall wait and see. As I said, I shall sit on the project for now.
I was hungry, so I got myself out of bed to have a bowl of cornflakes and to have a chat with you at the same time. It is the middle of the night.
Do I, or do I not, get involved again with the little choir I conducted before Christmas, as I find myself getting tangled up with the making of music with them once more. And why is it that I have this drive to organize the choir folk so that they can get the best out of themselves, which they definitely did on the last concert just before Christmas. I was so proud of them. They shone, which sent a lot of light and happiness into the maison de retraite residents.
Anyway, the little group has got together again. I spent a bunch of hours yesterday searching for the relevant music on the web, then downloading it and re-writing what needs correcting. It is mostly French Pyrenees folk music, some of which sends shivers down my spine. I find it very seductive. I think it must be a past life connection I have to this area because I have a love of the Basque music.
But aren't I supposed to be getting myself sorted out with the art of podcasting, which seems to be taking an age. Such a lot to think about.
And then there is the general housewife stuff........ looking after the two of us takes up quite a chunk of head space, as does listening to the woes of my partner as he grapples with the complicated world of the virtual office. Bless him, he works hard for us.
The farm, that also needs some attention. The winter has not been cold enough to make the wild plants go to sleep, instead they doze, waking up frequently to put on another growth spurt. The brambles in particular are starting to romp away. If not cut down they will soon own the farm.
And then there is the chicken hut, which has started to have a worrying lean to its original upward stance. There are mounds around its feet, which might be either rat or mole tunnels. It is possible that the feet of the chicken hut are sliding into this newly made space in the earth.
Then there is me, and the need to give some time to my crafts, music, and everything else I do to keep in balance. I am out of balance at the moment, which is why I am awake at three o'clock in the morning writing to you. Oh dear!
Not to worry, life is good, and everything is as it should be. The owl that zig-zagged from side to side in front of the car I was a passenger in the other day said this was so. It was dusk. I had been to a choir meeting and was being taken home by a kind friend. The owl came then. It flew at shoulder height alongside the car, then flew from side to side in front of the car. For some distance it did this. The other passengers didn't take much notice, but I did, for whenever an owl comes into my space in an unexpected way, then I know that things are on the change for me, and that everything will be alright. They are one of the signposts that the Universe sends me to let me know that all is well.
But.....I have wandered off the point.....do I continue with the choir, or do I gently release myself from their project and focus on what I already need to do? Not sure. So perhaps to put the choir project out of my mind for a day or two and see where my thoughts travel.
Meanwhile, I am back to Project Podcast. I am getting along with it, but slowly. I have had a few goes at speaking to front of camera, and am training myself not to use a silly voice, a voice which sometimes comes forth to overcome shyness. Looking at myself on screen, I am surprised that I do not look as I think I look. I have watched many podcasts within my genre, but prefer the presenters who do not posh themselves up with coiffured hairdo and painted faces. Therefore I shall be as nature intended, but dressed of course! And here again, I see that I look plumply round in body shape, larger than I thought I was, but I wouldn't be able to give someone the hug they badly needed if I was stick thin. One must have a cushiony bosom to be able to hug someone properly, and that I have in abundance.
Crikey, it is now four o'clock in the morning, so I really ought to go to bed. I always write better during the hours of night. No distractions I suppose.
The cornflakes are now being recycled in my tummy, and I am starting to get a little chilled so off I must go to get warmed up again in bed.
Oh, must just say that one of the cows got out of their pen and decapitated the rest of the green vegetables which were growing in the raised beds in the courtyard, the same vegetables which were munched on when the sheep did a raid a while ago. The vegetables are now stumps of stalk so non retrievable. Not to worry. I shall continue on with the 'growing our own' project, which, to be quite honest, is definitely not happening at the moment, but is not absolutely dead despite the raids on the raised beds by cows, sheep, magpies, blackbirds, rats, mice, and everything else which is hungry.
And......we have two lambs born.
....bye for now, and thanks for keeping me company.
The last few days have seen me panicking about this podcasting project which I have embarked upon. Why do I do this. Why do I get all in a tizz and fill my head with thoughts about not being able to achieve what I originally set out to achieve in terms of my personal self. So many times when a project had appeared in my life, and was started, and brought to almost completion, and then stopped because of either me running away from it or life getting in the way.
Lack of self confidence, that is what it is. Comes from my early background. From parents who could never say 'well done', but instead chose to critisize my every endeavour. Not to worry, it was as it was, and I have learnt the reasons why they were as they were.They did their best, as all of us who are parents try to do for our children, but none of us are perfect, and we must remember that when we find ourselves passing judgement on others.
So back to podcasting.........and my tizziness.......where do I start...... I don't know.......what subjects do I use for the content of the podcast, I have a lot of subject material but which do I use, ........and then there is the learning of the camera, which is an expensive one I bought several years ago when the one I was using ended up in the mud of the sheep's paddock. The new camera has lots of knobs and things, none of which have ever been learnt by me because, well, I ncver did because the camera took good photos left on its factory settings. But now I need to take videos, because podcasting requires that I sit in front of the camera talking into it.
And then there is social media. For all of my seventy plus years I have avoided this modern technology, and do not even own a mobile phone. Since I am a trainee podcaster. I need to break through my dislike of social media. Thank goodness for YouTube. Others have paved my way with info associated with all that I need to know. All I have to do is stop panicking.
And so why am I feeling the urge to podcast. In truth, I don't know, it is just what my next project needs to be. Something to do with the Universe and me. Meanwhile the 'Jardin de Salade' project remains on hold as Lester continues working on his computer with the UK, USA, and Canada, all via a virtual environment. There is hardly any spare time in which to tend to the needs of the farm at the moment, although the animals remain well cared for. Not to worry, it is as it is, and all will turn out alright in the end.
The plants in the raised beds which were decapitated when the sheep raided the courtyard a couple of weeks of ago are not going to recover now we have had a series of sharp frosts. I did buy some onions to give me a feeling that we were keeping on going with growing our own food but I am sorry to say that we have hardly any of our produce at the moment. One thing, though, is that although there has been a 'stop' in regards to feeding ourselves, it is only temporary. This is a relief because we could have decided not to pick up the 'growing your own' pathway because of the amount of work it takes. So the vegetable plots remain untended, apart from Lester continuing his daily deliverance upon them of manure donated to us by the cows, and the sheep who are occasionally allowed to roam over them so they can eat the rampant weeds.
I shall sign off now, as other things need doing, like casting on another pair of socks on my knitting needles, emptying two large pots of sheep which have been cooking on the Rayburn, and other sundry tasks relevant to my life as a homesteader wife and erstwhile podcaster.......
The frosts have arrived, so the wood burner stove is now lit all day...
and I am often to be found parked in the chair beside it, often drifting off into a doze, trying not to look at the washing up and other house jobs needing to be done which are in my line of sight as I cuddle up in the chair. I like the place tidy, but most times it is not.
And a word about the chair, ... it is an elderly chair, with springs in the seat which are not all in sync with each other so some are still quite springy and others have lost their puff. In total, then, the landscape of the seat is up and down so one has to be careful where one parks one's butt if one is to have a reasonably pleasurable sitting experience.
And then there are the arms, which have become quite wobbly but feel as if they might fall off if given too much of a bump. The legs are feeling vaguely wobbly as well.
To add to all of this, the chair is low in height, so one tends to plop down in it with some force.
It is therefore quite likely that the chair and I will suffer a mutual catastrophe at some point in the future, but not for today......let us hope for quiet and peaceful naps without damage to either myself of the chair as we merge with each other.
Need to refuel the fire and myself.....logs for the fire, and a buttered slice of DIY teabread with a mug of coffee for myself, and perhaps a short park up in the chair to keep the fire company, just in case it feels lonely!
It is a quiet life here in rural SW France, with the days flowing by only given structure to by the governing order of routine as laid down by the requirements of Lester's work schedule.
So I knew that Christmas was coming up because I was involved with a Christmas choir singing French and English Christmas carols to retired folk in the maisons de retraite in Marciac, Plaisance, and Castelnau Riviere Basse. All went well. I jigged and jumped and made a grand effort at keeping everything moving, my role as the conductor of the choir allowing me to do so. I learnt that I can play my tambourine with great verve and that it can make a grand noise if encouraged to do so, which is a bit like me really.
The concerts were positioned around the solstice of mid winter, (December 21st). At noon of that day you would have found me standing in a field with several other people, doing solstice related things. I would quickly say that this did not involve anything which required certain types of dress, ( robes, nakedness, etc......) nor did it involve all sixteen of us to dance around waving fronds of greenery. All we did was stood at certain points of the compass as laid out on the ground beneath our feet, and stood in a prayer led meditation. All was calm, all was peaceful. And then all back to the house to partake of lunch, which was full of good food, and good company.
Once this day had passed, so, too, did the feelings of it being the festive season, and Christmas seemed to float past us, as did New Years Eve.
In my head I am fiddling with the idea of starting a podcast. I am finding that blogging does not fully express all that I want to say, and so limits my creativity. The blog was started in 2009, which was just after we arrived here in France, and was specifically intended to record our journey of renovating our ruin of a house and land. There was lots to write about. But as 2019 arrives I am finding that I need to open up other avenues, hence the podcast idea.
So two possibilities are in the air. One is the starting of our Salad Garden (the Market Garden Project), which is on hold at the moment because Lester is working full time on his computer and does not have the time to get the project going, but I do what I can on the farm to keep the project alive. Mostly this is with working on our system of raised beds, which was going well until the sheep wandered into the courtyard and ate the tops off most of the vegetables growing there, except the onions....apparently they don't like them.
While the farm is on slow down, I have the time to investigate being a podcaster.
Shall I, or shall I not.......the answer to that remains unknown at the moment......whatever is to happen during 2019 sits in the mystery of time, and it does not matter in what direction we go in as long as Lester and I stay in sync with each other and keep going forward. And this I also wish for you, that no matter what comes along during the New Year, that you see it as moving forward, even if you are not quite sure of where that 'moving forward' is moving you forward to!
Sending blessings to you, that you remain uplifted and full of hope,