Sunday, September 20, 2015

Five Firsts and a Fête

An extra trip to the Uk this September to visit family started in Birmingham where I spent the last day of the summer holidays taking our grandson Sam out and about. The city was featuring an event called the Big Hoot where over 80 large owl forms had been sponsored by local businesses and decorated by local artists to reflect Birmingham past and present. We found around 35 and had great fun spotting them. I learned a lot about Birmingham and had a fun time with Sam.

First first

A lovely weekend with Sophie and Sam and then first day of the new school year had arrived. Sam was so excited because it was his first day in the Junior department of his school - a new building, a new playground and new responsibilities. He was up at the crack of dawn with his bag ready by the front door. I was delighted to be able to be there for this first in his life and to pick him up at the end of the day to hear how it had all gone.

Second first

After a couple of days R and R with my daughter and her wife I arrived in Beckenham where my grandson Charlie was looking so grown up in his uniform after having his first morning at school. He had made a new friend but didn't know his name yet and had braved the big playground to meet up with his sister at break time. He looked worn out and that night slept really well.

Third first

My granddaughter Ellie is now five and a half months old and on the move for the first time. She rolls over onto her tummy and then starts her yoga exercises with the downward dog position. Flopping down from that she pushes herself backward and makes her way round the room slowly but surely. What a delight to watch her concentrated efforts.

Fourth first

Ellie again this time starting to eat solid food. She took to finger foods straight away and attacked carrot,banana, avocado, cucumber, strawberries and sweetcorn with gusto. The other two found the mess she made very amusing and Bethany loved helping her little sister keep the goodies on her feeding tray.

Fifth first

I went to a festival. So I didn't sleep in a tent or walk through thick mud but it was a festival with real bands and entertainment. Charlie had his face painted and B had her nails painted. It was noisy and busy but great fun.

A fête

Another birthday for me. I have a new camera from Kevin and the children bought me a new ipod - most welcome as my old one is held together with tape and I listen every day to Radio 4 podcasts as I do my chores. Lunch on the river at Bordeaux had been planned but the party organiser was ill and so
we had a quiet day at home and I played with my new camera. Friends popping in and calls from the family made me feel special and the visit to Bordeaux will happen later in the year.

Now I am giving the garden it's end of summer tidy up, finishing the last of the harvesting and preserving and getting ready for our next adventure in mid October - a month in New Zealand - we are getting very excited about that. September still has some sunny days in store for us and we are looking forward to spending some of them with our lovely Australian friends who are staying nearby for two weeks.

Thanks for popping by.

A bientôt

Monday, August 17, 2015

A cat,a cruise,a clutch and a chorus of children

A cat

We have a new addition to the family - Sukey who arrived in June and immediately made herself at home. She wasn't phased by Sam the grumpy dog and it was love at first sight between her and Schula the lab/ retriever cross. She has decided to be an outdoor cat at night and is usually to be seen exploring the wood pile and is proving to be a good mouser. She loves to spend the day with us though and is always looking for a lap to curl up on. She's captured all our hearts.

A clutch

We have been enthralled by the swallows this year. For the first time they reared two clutches, five in the first and three in the second. Their antics have kept us amused for weeks and despite the obvious annoying evidence of their stay they are welcome summer guests. One morning I was having breakfast on the terrace with my six year old granddaughter as the parents and several other swallows swooped and swirled trying to encourage the youngsters to fly the nest - what a show they gave us. We have swallows in the barn too and aperitif time on the terrace has been their chance to out on an evening spectacle for us - pure delight. We hope they'll be back next year.

A Cruise

My daughter turned 40 in July and I joined her, her wife and her mother-in-law on a cruise through the Norwegian fjords. I was entranced by Norway and adored the outings into the countryside and towns. Cruising up the fiords was a highlight for me and I enjoyed the evenings with the girls. Alison and Karen are becoming seasoned cruisers but although I had a lovely holiday I am still not a convert.

A Chorus of Children

We had the great joy of welcoming three of our grandchildren for a two and a half week visit. The first week their cousins stayed in a local rental property so we had six children around for one of the weeks. We also met up with our lovely Australian/French family and their now four children after a gap of a year whilst they were moving house.The weather was glorious and the pool was the star of the show. We enjoyed the night markets, local village events, dining at our favourite restaurant and a visit to a fun chateau. The children helped with the hens and the vegetable garden and we loved having them. It will probably take us all of September to recover but they were very special days.

Now we are harvesting the summer garden produce and preserving it for the winter and starting to plan for our next adventure when we go to New Zealand for three weeks. We hope you have all had your own lovely summer with family and friends.

A bientôt

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Cherry Ripe

Cherry ripe, cherry ripe, ripe I cry

This year the cherries are really sweet and juicy. Cherry jam on home made bread - my favourite breakfast (at the moment). Yesterday I made more jam with my last cherry harvest of 2015. I  have a large bag frozen for making summer desserts to share with family and friends throughout the summer ( and beyond) as well as my pots of jam. I don't pick them too early as I like them when they are a bit riper and turning a deep purple colour. I don't pick too many at a time as I want to process them at their freshest. We once had  some helpxers (travellers who work in exchange for food and lodging) working with us at our last house. One of them decided that we were going to lose all our cherries to the birds and so without speaking to me she organised the others to harvest as many as they could. I got back from shopping to find the kitchen table groaning with cherries - I just couldn't make that much jam or have freezer space for that many cherries and we had to throw lots away.

In our early days here I asked a neighbour how he protected his cherry crop from the birds and he replied that there were enough cherries for him and the birds.  I still hadn't got used to having so much fruit ripe for the picking and wanted to save as much of that cherry harvest for us to eat. I learned after only one season that my neighbour is right and now I take my share and leave the rest for the birds.

So I am looking forward to lots of cherry treats in the months ahead - my favourites are:

Cherry clafoutis
Chocolate cake and hot cherry sauce
Cherry ice cream
Hot cherries with cream

They are our first fruit of the year and my favourite but the good news is there are more fruits are on their way!

A bientôt

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Fifty shades of green

May is one of my favourite months here and this year we are having marvellous weather. The countryside looks amazing and the many shades of green make a fantastic backdrop to our every day life. Everyone is busy outdoors and we have been having fun moving things on all around the garden.

One of our ongoing projects is the liberation of the lavoir. There is a natural spring on our land and long ago villagers came to this source to was their clothes. The lavoir has become silted up and invaded by bamboo over the many years that the house was uninhabited and we have started the long task if clearing it out. Our gardener has cut it all down  (he likes this kind of brute strength job) so we are sorting it out into what to keep and what to get rid of. Next step will be our digger man in to dig out all the stumps and dredge the pool. Then hopefully if Kevin keeps mowing with his big new tractor it we will keep it contained.

The final stage of the building has been completed - the pointing of two of the barn walls. It looks amazing and just gives that finishing touch to the buildings. It also makes a fabulous back drop for the new veg plot.


The greenhouse is up and planted up and the raised beds are made. We still have a few of them to fill but are pleased with how it's going especially as we had to wait to get going. Following permaculture principles the beds are designed not to be walked on so everything in them is accessible from all sides and the paths are wide enough for a wheelbarrow (or a kneeler as friend pointed out the other day!)



Kevin is making a frame for the squash to go in and building a fence around the whole potager. We are trying fennel for the first time this year and also it's our first time trying the principles of square metre gardening.


We've been working on other parts of the garden too - a bamboo trellis and border near the pool, flower borders around the house and tidying around the lily pond.


The Massey Ferguson 35 seems to have come to the end of its days so we replaced it with a MF165. We really want a mini tractor though so will be selling this  big boy soon - meanwhile Kevin is having fun with it.

A little break from all that gardening today and we tootled off to a local strawberry and flower fair. I bought the last of the flowers I need for planting in pots. We had a beer in the sun and met two of our French friends for a catch up.

Driving home we both commented again on how beautiful this region is and how there were many more than 50 shades of grey to please the eye. Now for a swim.

A bientôt.