Thursday, 23 July 2015

First swim watched by Bruno

Today the ducklings went in the kitchen sink for the first time. Just a little warm water. Bruno was fascinated by them. I put them in again this evening with slighter deeper water but they could still stand on the bottom. They were diving under the water and shooting along underneath. Very comical to watch. They did a lot of preening too which is good as that will get the waterproofing oils going. I will now give them two or three swims each day. They are two and three days old now! They have already outgrown the box and are now in one of my big plastic craft boxes. This has steep sides so they will not be able to get out. The three day old duckling already has the beginnings of wing feathers appearing. I had forgotton how quickly they change. It is a privelege to be able to raise them like this.
Yesterday I had a good sort out of cluckingham palace. The Old duck house has gone. I have put a ladder  in for them to reach the beam which they like to perch on. Most of the hens and one cockerel worked out how to use it but the two big boys had to be lifted up! Hopefully tonight they will all manage it. I also turfed out broody hen as her house smelt awful. She had broken an egg which had coated the others along with chicken poo. I had to throw them out. I cleaned the house and once she had gone back offered some new eggs. She rolled them under her and has been sitting ok since. In about three weeks if the eggs are fertile some chicks should hatch. I love looking after the poultry.
Generally things are ticking over well which makes a change.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Look what has arrived

I had a quick weekend with my daughter in the UK, which is why I have been quiet. I arrived home yesterday evening. When I went to check on my family I found a fluffy yellow duckling running about the duck area. When I checked the eggs another had pipped. The first duckling I brought in and put under the heat lamp. We have lots of crows and buzzards who would take a small duckling. This morning the second duckling is nearly out so has also gone under the lamp. I hope to keep the two safe. I have done this many times before so know things can go wrong. Ducks are careless mothers so I have no problem taking these two. If any others hatch I will decide then whether to take them.
I will keep you posted on how they are doing.
Also my bee hive and gear is here. We are both very excited and are looking forward to building the hive. Another chapter in our lives begins.
We are having a big push to progress the cave ready for daughter and hubby. I am so looking forward to having them here.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

This and that

 so today I finished my second dress, finally winning the battle of the zip. It is the same pattern as the first, in a different colour with different trimming. At some point I will sort out a photo!
Also I have taken the decision to address my weight gain. I threw my toys out of the pram about eight months ago after a lifetime of weight watchers and have eaten whatever I wanted. This has resulted in me gaining more weight than I wish to confess to! All you need to know is I am no longer the size 10 I was! I am not bothered about getting back there but would like to be a comfortable 12 which I am struggling to get into. I will not go back to weight watchers and will never again buy any diet food. So I have signed up with My Fitness Pal, a free calorie counting app. Today I have stayed with it so day one done. It will be a slow process but I know if I stick with it the pounds will fall off. I may mention my progress from time to time but will try not to be a diet bore.
The other big thing for today is my inheritence money came through from dad and I have bought a starter kit for our bee keeping. I am very excited about this as it is something we have wanted to do for some time. I also feel it is something positive to spend the money on. I will  update this venture as  it happens! I have chosen a flat pack hive as it was cheaper delivery to France. I also thought it will help us learn about the hive whilst putting it together.
P has worked well in the cave and is beginning to look like a house. Daughter will be very pleased!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

say hello three of my four new hens. Due to the cockerel problem and my complete inability to dispatch any of my family I decided we needed more girls. So off to the market last Thursday. I impressed myself with how I managed to ask for and choose my new hens! I was even able to ask if they were female! I did get a dirty look at that as on the whole all are. I have though heard of expats being given boys! Possibly a case of if you don't give the impression you know what you are doing you can be fooled! They have settled in well and seem to have attached themselves to my pure bred Buff Orpington boy. I originally chose the Orpingtons as they are docile and I had no experience in handling them. I also started with four girls and one boy along with an incubator. I bred ducks and chickens successfully and gained valuable experience in handling them. Due to needing to mix the blood I have introduced different birds over the years. With the inevitable visits by the fox I have stopped naming my birds and am happy to mix in market hens.
Typically, when I put the new chickens in the barn I noticed a hen in a nest box.....sitting on eggs. I risked my hands to mark the eggs and remove some. She now has 5 eggs to hatch which I don't mind. I will have to get my head around dispatching any boys once big enough as cannot cope with more.
The hens all lay in one box which is why I have marked the eggs. I also cleaned out the other nest boxes yesterday hoping to encourage the girls to use them. I do not want to risk being attacked every day by a broody hen!
I now need to sort out the geese. They need water to sit in. I noticed at the farm supply shop we recently visited, some large water containers. They are big round things designed for cows etc to drink from. Perfect for the geese. It will mean as well I can clean it out easily and keep the water fresh. So I am saving my €'s !
Ducks are loving the pond and are a joy to watch diving and preening! A real stress buster.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

And the fruit just keeps coming

sorry no picture today. Fruit is coming in fast now and my freezer is filling. I have been given lots as everyone has excess. I have made 6 jars of blackcurrant and 6 of cherry jam. It has been cold today so I lit the Esse and did us spag bol but not enough time to make more jam.
My squash plants have flowers so I am hopeful!  All the peas are in now and most of the raspberries. I have autumn fruiting raspberries too so something to look forward to. Tomorrow I will be given another big bucket of blackcurrants.
My first dress is done, been worn and washed and survived! Second is underway.
Pond is now cleared. Will patch it tomorrow and install the new pump then wait for lots of rain. It seems to have taken ages.
Still trying to finish sorting things after losing dad! Despite the 'tell us once' scheme pension and disability allowance have still been paid. I just want it over with.
Been feeling quite low today but I guess that will continue to happen for a while. I need to get stuck into a big project to keep me busy. Will give it some thought.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

first fruits ( and veg)

First peas picked today,lots more to follow. Also picked lots of raspberries which are in the freezer now. I will pick some each day as they ripen and add them to the bag ready for jam making. The red onions are looking good and I have two small cauliflowers. I love collecting home grown fruit and veg. My thornless blackberry is growing well and is covered in small green berries.
Tomorrow I will attack my veg patch with weed killer to clear the paths between the beds. Then I can hand weed the beds to give the veg more room. I have a few areas around the garden that are covered with brambles despite constant cutting back. It will be weedkiller there too.
My 3 cockerels have been fighting today and they are all bloodied. One of them has seriously injured one of my girls. As much as I love having chicks running around I cannot cope with this. The cockerels will not be replaced. Each year I will buy a couple of point of lay hybrid hens at a market to keep the eggs coming.  I have a friend who will dispatch a cockerel for me if I ask. It will be difficult for me to do but I cannot stand by and see the girls suffer. I only brought a cockerel in because I thought the girls would not lay without one. I know better now but these boys are home grown. I should have dealt with them last year when they were young enough to eat. I need to change my softness towards them!
Tonight we went out to our favourite pizza place. P is 59 today! Where did the years go?
Not so hot today and an almighty thunderstorm this morning. More water to bail out of the pond, tomorrow!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Project pond

Sorry no picture but thought I would report on progress. First, it is so hot here it is impossible to be in the garden during the day. Work has to be done early morning and later in the evening. There is now just a layer of about 6" of sludge. The sun has evaporated the remaining water. We are due rain overnight which could affect this. It will now need two of us to finish the job, one to be in the pond filling buckets the other to empty the buckets. The ducks are using the plaster trough for now. They take turns at sitting in it to wet their feathers. It will be lovely to see them in a clean pond. We have a new pump on order. Our plan is to put gutters on the big barn at the front of our property that will feed a 500l water butt. We will pipe this water down to the pond. We will then dig a trench for a pipe so that excess water can empty into the orchard. This will give the pond the flow through it needs. It will also keep the orchard watered. This will probably have to wait until Autumn as there is no way I dig trenches in this heat.
My dressmaking is going well. I sorted out the tension on my machine and corrected the zip. I now have a dress with just the facings and hem to do. I think I will put a bit of lace trimming on too. I am confident now I can make most of my own clothes again. It is a good feeling.
I am not doing much crochet as it is too hot. The blanket is very big now so I think it will be done for the coming winter.
When it is so hot it is impossible to remember how cold it can be. The idea of having the wood burners going seems crazy. I feel the same in winter about summer. I love the way seasons are so strongly marked here. The barley and wheat is almost ready so the combines will be out soon.
So the year marches on.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Turn your back and this is what happens

Yet again I have lost the battle of the weeds in the veg patch. It will take ages to regain control. Just went in to check my veg, which by some miracle is still growing, and found this in the courgette bed! It will be grated and given as a treat to the chickens, ducks and geese. Seems a waste but whilst we can cope with courgettes in stir fry or roasted veg neither of us likes marrow!
The new pond pump is ordered so I must get on and finish cleaning the pond. Having an evening off today as I created a blister on my finger that has burst hauling up the bucket. It was the string! P has given me a piece of rope for tomorrow.
I have made a good start on my dress, the first of four I plan to make. It is twenty years since I did any dressmaking and I am a bit rusty. I am having trouble with the tension but need more brain power to deal with it. It also took two attempts to put the zip in! It is taking shape though and I am pleased with it.
Was given a bucket of cherries today so made them into a runny jam that P loves with my homemade yogurt. Made it in the bread machine! Don't think I will try it again but it is too hot to light the Esse. I am trying to keep space in the freezer for the lamb that will come later in the year. I usually get given lots of fruit, somthe freezer is kept full.
Back to my crochet this evening as I really want to get this cover finished.

Friday, 26 June 2015

First day home

Sorry I have not been around. I left last Sunday to clear the flat and attend the funeral. Thanks to my wonderful daughter most of the work was done. We finished up on Monday morning. Monday evening we went out to dinner with P's brother and wife. Went to a country pub which was a treat.
Tuesday we went to visit auntie Elsie who will be 100 in September if she gets there. Then in the evening we went to see Jurassic World, complete with rumble seats! Had to keep my eyes closed for some of it being a complete light weight but it stopped me thinking about the next day.
The funeral was very quiet and our son in law took the service. We decided on no flowers as it was a cremation. I did get upset but regained control. After just us and daughter and husband went out for a pub lunch. It seemed right. We were the ones who were involved with him. His friend from the RAF came to the funeral but did not want to come with us. I had wrapped some plates of war time planes as a gift from dad and he was delighted. I was pleased to be able to do it.
Just a few more things to sort out then it is over.
I feel totally exhausted.
Today I pegged out three loads of washing, cleaned the bathroom and made a fruit cake. We collected our dogs from the kennels this morning too. Boring stuff but part of settling down again.
Project pond has begun...I am emptying it out to clean and repair it. Long over due. Hard work though as I am using a bucket! It will take a couple of days to do.
Changeover day tomorrow for the Gite but the next guests are staying two weeks.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Geese and ducks

Today we moved the geese into the orchard sort of on their own. This picture is goose hall made from pallets. We had to take the roof and door off to lighten it enough to lift over the fence. It would not go through the gate. The geese have been attacking the ducks. Next week we are away and a friend will let them all out and put them to bed each day. During the day there will just be the guests in the Gite until we come home on Thursday. I have two ducks sitting on eggs and at least some of those eggs are due to hatch this week. The geese would attack the ducklings so they have been moved. They now share the same area as the chickens but so far have not met! They are mooching about the orchard quite happily. It does mean they no longer have the pond but I am planning on creating another small pond for them. I have yet to tell P.
I have been wanting to do this for some time. Eventually we will build another fence and gate to separate the chickens. The ducks have stayed in their area since the geese left. They had been going into the field to get away. Hopefully all will be ok whilst we are away.
P has nearly finished the plaster board downstairs in daughter and son in law's house. Just the window reveals to do. Next we have to plaster the joins then it will be second fix plumbing and electrics. The end is just about in sight. For that building anyway.
Tomorrow is changeover for the Gite so a busy morning. After lunch we take the dogs to the kennels. Then the new guests arrive in the evening. We have explained things and they are happy. We will leave them our mobile numbers and email address. Also the friend who looks after chickens, ducks, geese and cats will be here twice a day if any problems arise.
It has occured to me that this is the last time I have to go to England! Once my eldest daughter is here there is nothing to pull me back. It is a good feeling!

Monday, 15 June 2015

All arranged

The funeral that is. I am very pleased the end is in sight. Wednesday week. A very small affair with my lovely son in law taking the service. We have written the script which he will put in his own words. He gave a lot of care alongside my eldest daughter to my father so it is fitting he does this. It is a non religious affair. We have booked our ferry for next Sunday, a hotel for four nights and our ferry home on Thursday morning. On the Monday we have an appointment with the bank to sort that bit out and will spend the rest of Monday and Tuesday clearing the flat. We want to hand back the keys on Wednesday after the funeral. The ashes will go back to the funeral place to be stored until we can next get over to spread them on Blackheath. We will not have for this before going home as there is a delay for collecting the urn. This way we will be here for this Saturday to do the changeover but will have to explain we will be away until Thursday. A friend will come over morning and evening to sort out the chickens, ducks and geese and cats so will check all is ok with our guests. We will also give them our mobile number and email address. We will be here for the next Saturday changeover too. I think I will book Frank and Bruno into the kennels. They know the people and the set up as they have stayed many times.
I am looking forward to getting my life back on track.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

The sun is shining

It always makes me feel better when the sun shines. This picture is part of the front of our property. You can see a damson, an Elder and a Holly tree. When we bought this place 7 years ago this was overgrown with Brambles and Ivy. The trees stood in a big overgrown bed. It took months of weeding to get it like this. You can just see the fencing we built to secure our front. This stops the dogs leaving our land. The postman was very grateful when we did this as he can now keep out of Bruno's reach! Generally the French are not too good with big dogs. Farm dogs are kept chained!
I have been doing lots of decluttering and sorting out which helps repair the damage losing my dad has caused. He has left me some money and when it comes through I am going to buy what we need to start bee keeping. Dad loved wildlife so it seems fitting.
We did bring him down here for a long weekend a few years ago. He loved using his school boy French to buy croissants for breakfast. It made realise how much he had deteriorated as he could not have done that in the last year. We took him on Eurotunnel as we felt it would be easier to cope and he was intrigued by it. He couldn't understand that we had to stay in the car. As it was a train he thought we would be sitting in a train. It was totally outside his experience. He talked about the trip for months afterwards.
Le Tertre is a very restful place, healing, and it is doing its work on me. Our latest guests left this morning saying they felt restored and rested. It is good that others see that too. This afternoon a new couple arrive, this time with two Labradors. Bruno and Frank will get very excited. I always hope people will enjoy their stay and be enriched by it.
All the bedding and towels are on the line drying in the sun, the house is quiet apart from a blackbird singing and one of my cockerels crowing. I used to think they only crowed in the morning.
I will try to call in often again. It will go mad again for the funeral but for now I will enjoy the peace.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015


For the kind words.
I am in limbo just now waiting for all the paperwork to come through. We have chosen the funeral and are going for a simple format as there will not be many there and I think it is what dad would want. He left no clear instructions other than cremation and where to put his ashes.
There is so much to do it makes my head spin. Not until the funeral is over can I move forward.
I am keeping busy. I have stripped and cleaned the walk in larder, removing out of date stuff and thinning out the shelves so I can see what I have. I have asked P to put another layer of shelves at the bottom as I would like to put the maslin pan, stock pot etc in there. They are too big for my dressers.
I also want to clear a corner of my still unfinished kitchen to put a small breakfast table and two chairs in place. I will search the second hand furniture shops for these.
The home made washing up liquid did not lather and P was not happy with it so I have an eco brand of wash up and dishwasher stuff. It feels like a compromise but as P said this has to work properly!
The dogs have been very windy since changing their diet and it has not settled down with time as I thought it would. So we have gone back to their kibble. Another backward step but needs must.
I am getting on well with my crochet blanket but have yet to make a dress. I need my brain for sewing and it is strangely absent just now.
So at the moment it is a waiting game and I know life will resume as normal once this is over.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Didn't see that one coming

I am fortunate to live in such a quiet place. Just now I need to be quiet to cope with life.
This is not the place to bare my soul so I will not give any detail.
Yesterday my father died. My childhood was traumatic but when dad had a major stroke in 1985 I had to bury the emotion and get on with caring for him. I have been fighting for him since to ensure he had a comfortable, happy life. I feel I managed it. He died peacefully, just slipped away and now I can face my childhood. If I am not around as much I hope you will understand why.
I had a quick trip to England. I left Thursday evening, arriving at the hotel at 2am. P came with me and was and is so supportive. We stayed at the hospital all Friday morning and spoke to the consultant. I said no heroic measures. He had another massive stroke. I sat and held his hand and said goodbye. By 11pm on Friday we were pulling out of Portsmouth harbour on our way home. Reaching home at 9.30 Saturday morning to perpare the Gite for guests. The call came at 10.30.
I had to call my sisters to let them know and spoke to them both before dad died. I have not spoken to them for over 15 years. The pain for all of us goes too deep. I am trying to find my brother.
I will continue to talk to my sisters as now I feel I can.
My dogs sat and watched me preparing their breakfast of scrambled eggs. Bruno kept nudging me. They didn't do that when I tipped kibble into their bowls! They are both loving real food.
As I am no longer on standby for trips to the UK I can settle into life here. I want to develop our gite business. This time as well as the usual welcome pack I gave the home made crab apple and blackberry jelly in a jam pot and wrapped one of my soaps in tissue and left it in the soap dish in the bathroom. I want to add a few extras for our guests. I will have to get going making more soap and bathbombs. I also want to get ahead by making bits for the other two Gites.
Daughter has a survey being done on her place tomorrow morning so looks like the sale is going ahead. We are still holding our breath though. Meanwhile we will crack on with creating a home for them.
Weather is blue sky and sun. It looks so beautiful here at the moment.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

My boys and other things

The dogs that is. The slow cooker is currently on with the dogs dinner in it! I am moving away from commercial kibble that I spend a fortune on! I have read lots of websites to gather information and now know what is needed. As I am nearly at the end of the current sack seems a good time to start. I bought a big pack of chicken thighs when shopping this morning. P commented that his food was cheaper...10 pork steaks for €4 and ten chicken thighs for €8. I will make the meals in batches and freeze it in portions. Today it is chicken ( I will remove the bones once cooked) with carrots, potatoes and celery with rice added for the last 1/2 hour. There is enough for 3 meals. They will have the meat meal in the evening. For breakfast it will be scrambled egg with rice. Eggs I always have in abundance. I have a recipe for Bonio type biscuits so once this box is nearly gone I will make them too. I have to order Bonio from Amazon as I cannot buy it here. I would like to move the cats to real food too but it is tricky as two of them are outdoor cats. They have a wooden cat house in the garden with a covered area for feeding.  Fresh food would attract flies and rats. Not nice. I have been feeding them an expensive kibble too but have now gone back to Whiskas. My indoor snowy bengal could have real food as she is mostly fed indoors.
My eldest daughter is embarking on a food regime to treat her severe PCOS and asked if almond milk could be bought here. No, but we can make it! It really is incredible what can be made. I have been getting quite a lot of respect for what I am doing too, although most feel they couldn't do it themselves.
All my fabric has arrived so soon I will begin dressmaking. I used to do it and made lots of the chidrens clothes when they were little. When my eldest was due to go to senior school she asked if she could have a jumper from the school shop rather than one I had knitted. I understood but was sad she felt that pressure. Now it does not bother me what people think, I think homemade is best!

Friday, 29 May 2015

A happy bunny once more

today, for the second time in as many weeks my eldest daughter and son in law have sold their flat. I so hope this one does not drop out. It is a first time buyer with a mortgage in place so it should go through quickly. She has just agreed to a temporary nanny job for 10 weeks so that will make time pass quickly. We should be able to finish the cave for them in that time. Downstairs is now almost framed out and should be finished by the end of the weekend. Then next week the plasterboard will go up.
On the home front...I have done some research into real dog food. At the moment they have a quality kibble but I am thinking of doing home made meals for them. I will certainly give it a go but accept they may not like the change.
My fabric has arrived that I will make myself some dresses with. Over the weekend I will dig out my tailors dummy as I find it easier to make a dress on this.
Just had to negotiate a French website. My mobile is from Le Clerc and I have an automatic monthly top up in place. The card I use expires on Sunday and I have had several texts reminding me. It took a lot of brain power but I have done it. I also coped with the lady reading the electric meters this morning. We had our electricity supply changed from triphase to single and they have put a thing on the outside wall that allows the meter to be read without coming into the house. It was hidden by the shutter and I did not know it was there! A lot goes over my head!
Tomorrow our guests leave and we have a week free. They have loved being here which makes me happy.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

And the home made continues

first batch of washing up liquid is in the bottle. I have yet to try it. I am now used to the laundry soap and cleaning stuff. I am also happy with my moisturizer and foundation powder. I am doing well with cooking from scratch too.
Today I made a honey and lemon drink that is in a big jug in the fridge. I have never liked coke and only ever drank lemonade if I had a fizzy drink. I usually only have my elder flower cordial or rosehip syrup if I want a flavoured drink. I am addicted to coffee which I would like to give up but it is the only hot drink I like. I drink it sugarless and black. I do now have instant rather than filtered which has to be better.
Tomorrow my fabric should arrive but I want to finish my blanket before starting on my dresses.
Took the dogs forba good walk this afternoon and big guy was so good. We always keep them on leads away from our land. He did not bother about any of the people we passed. He is now 3 1/2 and has calmed down so much.
Life plods on but I feel I am going in the right direction.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Look what I made

This is my first attempt at making soap. I used a base melting soap, added colour and scent and poured into moulds. For fun I bought some farm yard moulds but will invest in different ones as I get better at this. I plan to wrap one and put it in a small basket in the Gite bathroom as a small extra. I need to find the basket and the wrapping. Something organic for the wrapping. I will also make bath bombs and put a couple in the basket with the soap. P is going to do me some 'made at Le Tertre' labels to put on things. I have never been very confident about making things for other people, always doubting the quality. I have though started making things as gifts for friends. So far I have made two friends a crochet throw. It has amazed me how much I love making stuff for myself.
I have today noted recipes for lemonade and pina colada ice lollies thanks to 'live simply' a brilliant blog I follow. Tomorrow is shopping day so I will be sure to include what I need.
Today I also made my every day fruit cake, a favourite with us both.
I have ordered some fabric and a pattern to make myself a dress. I now have two patterns I like and will in future make these in different fabrics.
Today is a bank holiday here too, unusual for it to be a Monday. It is pentecost and we had a village do called fete de pentecost. It was basically a big vide grenier ( empty attic) which is like an English boot fair. As always there was a lot of rubbish and anything I liked was over priced. They rarely price anything which makes me suspicious as it feels like it is priced according to who you are. I found a wooden hand butter churn I would have liked but it was too expensive. There were the usual chickens and rabbits in cages that I wished I could buy just to give them a good life.
Started today feeling very glum but have kept busy and feel a bit better now. This often happens but I do feel tired at the moment which always makes me feel low.
There are veggies roasting in the oven which I will do with some fried eggs and we will have crepes with my bottled peaches and creme fraiche for pud. I have a box of crepes wrapped individually in the freezer. Which reminds me I must make some more veggie burgers.
Then an evening getting on with my crochet bed cover which is getting very big now.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Daffy ducks

so the ducks have discovered the field beyond our garden. They have spent most of today going between the two. The field has a herd of heifers but the ducks paid no attention to them. The cows ignored the ducks so all was ok. I think the geese were bullying again which made the ducks flap. I have no doubt they accidentally flew into the field and once there discovered lots of yummy stuff. I think this will now be a daily thing but as long as they come back at bedtime I am happy to let them have the freedom. They stay close to home which is good.
Had a tractor bucket of wood delivered today (2 steres) so now have loads for my oven. We have gone back to getting from our nearest neighbour as it is so much better quality. Benoit is a dairy farmer and as with all farmers around here he manages woodland. It is all properly seasoned and good chunks! It costs a bit more that what we had been buying but is so much better. We will have some delivered every couple of months to build up our store for winter. It is much easier to stack this amount each time too.
Today was another first.....I cut my hair! It was easier than expected and I am happy with the result. I had it cut short in a salon and layered. I am just cutting a bit off each layer. P checked it was even. So, €50 each 5 weeks saved. Well €40 really as it costs me €10 for the home colour!
With regard to the rat situation, things have calmed down. The two houses are raised off the floor and we put poison in the gaps in the walls. I feel very uncomfortable about this but understand we cannot have a rat infestation. I plan to cement the inside walls to stop any more getting in.
I cut the grass in the orchard too, at last. My new victoria plum has some fruit. Also my bramley apple that is just a stick has some little apples. I am very excited about this. In the veg patch two of my butternut squash seeds have germinated. I so hope I get some squash.
P has got on well framing out the downstairs of the barn that will be daughters house.
So, all is well here just now. I am off to get on with my blanket now.

Thursday, 21 May 2015


Literally! Sorry no pictures but I expect many of you are thankful for that!
It has been a strange day really. Daughter and sil left after lunch and I was very sad to see them go. They have helped so much the last 10 days. They were unhappy too knowing their buyer has pulled out but I am trying to focus on the positives. It gives us more time to finish their house. P has got on really well today starting to frame out downstairs. It will not be long before the plasterboard goes up.
Early evening some friends came round with their Jack Russell who is a good ratter. They are having my old chicken house. We went into the barn and lifted the chicken house and a family of rats scattered into the walls. Stig went mad chasing them but sadly did not catch them this time. We are going to build a platform and lift the nest boxes and feed bin up on it. This will remove a safe place for the rats to nest. We will also refill the gaps in the pointing of the walls to stop them using the walls to hide in. I do not particularly like the rats but my main complaint is they take the eggs. I have long felt the chicken barn needed sorting out so am pleased it has come to the top of the list. Once the stones have been replaced I plan to paint the inside white. With everything up off the floor I will be able to manage the deep litter better.
The chickens have been upset by all the excitement and one of them flew over the fence into the field. We hunted for her but failed to find her. Later she appeared the wrong side of the fence but I was able to catch her. As dusk fell I went to lock the barn and a hen was missing! Not the same one! I found her in the field too. Managed to chase her in so all tucked up safe now. The rats will probably rebuild the nest under the remaining house. We will build the platform tomorrow and start filling the holes but not lift the house and nest boxes up until friends can come back with Stig. I would rather the rats moved out but either way they have to go.
There are times when I cannot believe how I have changed. I was a complete townie.
I have started using the deoderant I made and it seems to working ok. I am also using the foundation powder every day and am entirely happy with it. I am nearly at the end of my current bottle of wash up liquid and am poised to make my own.
One of my ducks has built a nest and placed their eggs in it. I am hopeful! Yesterday I cleaned out goose hall and removed the eggs that had been there over two months. The geese went mad! Once I had put the new bedding in they both went in and looked for their eggs! They were not happy! I put a couple of the eggs back along with some fresh duck eggs. Mrs Goose is still not sitting so I took today's egg. If she builds a proper nest and seems broody I will leave her to it.
My first courgette has shown itself and the peas are growing well. Tomorrow I must earth up the potatoes. The elder flowers have begun too so it will not be long before I make the cordial.
Oh by the way I have ordered the wool/cotton to make dish cloths and found something called dishcloth cotton! Brilliant. Two balls ordered.
So tomorrow our guests arrive and as always I hope they love being here as much as I do.

Monday, 18 May 2015

And it just keeps coming....

The ideas that is. I have ordered some dish cloth cotton ( yes it is actually called that) to make some dishcloths. Tomorrow I am going to make deoderant and I think that officially makes me a hippy! P is referring to me as 'the witch'! In a nice way of course. He is rather amused at what I am doing but supports my efforts. In a way we are on the same mission. He does the renovations and is learning on the job. I guess I am renovating us, removing the rubbish. We are both working at being self sufficient and I feel we are winning. There is still lots more we can do and I am looking forward to all the changes to come.
Today we have gravelled in front of the three Gites, and removed the weeds. The virginia creeper is growing well and has softened the front of the big barn. We need to get the front door on the far right Gite then the barn will look better. I have pointed the front of the finished Gite but need to get the rest of the barn done. It is a job I hate as I have to work from a ladder most of the time.
On Friday our season fully starts. We have had two lots of people stay so far this year but on Friday, barring a week at the end of August/early September we are booked right through to 10th October.
Another project I want to get going with is sorting out the pond. It has a leak caused by the ducks scrambling up the side. I have to drain it and clear all the muck out, repair the damage and refill it. Ducks are very messy and really I should clean out the pond annually. I had an idea of putting plastic coated wire all around the sides for them to grip and to protect the liner. I will also put more stones in at the other end to give them another place to get out. I need to invest in a decent pump to get the flow going again.
So life plods on, in a happy way and slowly we are our home a good place.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

More chemicals ditched

for two days now I have used the foundation powder I made. I used a little concealer underneath to give better coverage of my ageing skin. The powder works really well. It does go all over the place and I have to shake excess off the brush. It is just a case of getting used to it. The  recipe I found says to use arrowroot which I cannot find so I have substituted maize flour. It is a wonderful new world to me and I am really enjoying the journey. It is a challenge finding ingredients but if others can work it out so can I.
I cannot get cotton dishcloths here as they use sponges for washing up. There are lots of microfibre cloths around but they are synthetic. So.....I am going to knit or crochet my own. I will find some chunky cotton and make them. Then I can keep a stock and wash them when necessary.
Slowly I am looking at different things and realising I can make things.
In the food department I want to make biscuits. We both like them but homemade ones are best eaten on the day they are made and I do not have time to make a daily batch, I think! I make them from time to time but that is not enough. I need to give more thought to this one and do some googling! I always make cake but that keeps better. I make bread too but that also keeps well.
In the autumn I want to bottle a lot more fruit for puddings as a lot of tinned fruit has a plastic lining.
The elder flowers are beginning to show so it won't be long until I can make elder flower cordial again. I need to make more this year so that it lasts until next year. Along with rosehip syrup this gives me 'squash'. I now never buy commercial syrups or squashes. It is all good stuff!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

View from my bedroom

This morning I was stood at my bedroom window drying my hair looking at this. I thought I should share it. I can watch birds flying around and squirrels in the trees too. The cute red variety not the grey ones! Sometimes there are cows in the bottom field too. I never tire of seeing this. A few years ago when in England I looked over other gardens and houses and thought nothing of it. Now I cannot see another building. I know how fortunate I am.
Yesterday we received a blow, our daughter's buyer pulled out. The solicitor was concerned the lease was only 73 years even though the paperwork is being processed to extend the lease. The plan was to pay for this very expensive piece of paper from the equity. Now the money has to be raised by us all. Daughter and sil go back next Thursday and will try to raise the money. They will take the flat off the market until the lease is sorted then re market it. I am trying to view it as a blip, not a major thing. It gives us more time to get their house ready too.
On that note P has done the first fix plumbing, always scary due to the issue of leaks. In France water is at a high pressure so is difficult to work with. We are getting closer to boarding out downstairs which will make a huge difference to the look of the place. We have a large fireplace in the kitchen with an equally large chimney. My wood burning oven sits our side and their woodburner is their side sharing the chimney. The chimney is so big it can take two flues! Last winter there was a hole in the wall waiting for a pipe to be fitted and it made my kitchen so cold. The hole is now closed so the coming winter will be easier. The biggest difference will come when we have our roof re done. Old French houses have no underfelt so a lot of cold air gets in under the eaves. Along with mice! Our roof is sagging badly and tiles keep slipping. It is becoming ever more urgent but as fast as we save money a big bill comes in! At the moment we have three tax bills to pay this year! Fortunetly our Gite is fully booked this year. We keep having mad ideas about being able to build up our capital! One day!
Somehow nothing can ever be so bad when you live in a place like this!

Friday, 15 May 2015

Of things home made..

As usual things look better in real life. This is the bed cover I am making for our room. It is navy and white, the chosen colour scheme. I started out a few years ago knitting loads of small squares but became bored with it so into a box it went. Now I have rediscovered crochet I decided the time had come to finish it. I am the queen of unfinished projects! One day I will compile a list and work through getting it all done. I will crochet these big squares together then crochet a lacy edging around the whole thing. Our bed has a plain white valance which I plan to trim with strips of navy fabric and white lace. I have a vision in my head and very hope the reality is as good!My home made cleaning product is working well as is my laundry soap.
Today I have made the foundation powder. I brushed it on my arm to check the colour and adjusted it a bit. It seems to work but have yet to use it in place of my usual foundation. I have been using my moisturiser for a couple of weeks now and am very happy with it. It will be a permanent feature.
So life ticks over with good days and some bad ones but generally going in the right direction. I am in a much better place mentally now than this time year when I was desperate to go back to the UK. I have come to realise I have to force positive thoughts into my head to drive out the negative ones.
I now accept I will always be viewed as a foreigner so just have to get on with it. A few people have told me I would feel like a foreigner in the UK now too!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Ducks in the sun

The chickens, ducks and geese are enjoying the sunshine as am I. Sil has cut lots of the grass with only one section left to do.
Had a letter from the tax office this morning saying we had to pay a fine for a late payment. We gathered up our folder and girded our loins for a visit to madame at our local office. We will be able to refer to her as tu soon as she is nearly family. The dusty box did not come out and she was impressed to find out we had filed our return online already.
So, opening again the folder for 2012 and the letter. Turned out she had forgotten to send the letter so cancelled the fine if we paid today. We wrote out a cheque straight away. That put 2012 to bed, finis, complete, superbe! So to 2013....... Yes we owed money, due in June. She cannot promise we will get a letter but must pay it by June 15th. So now we know to go to the office if no letter arrives and pay. Then 2013 will be finis, complete, superbe!
Ah but what about 2014? She found our forms online, had a look and found an error. We had declared our private pensions twice. Good for France, bad for us. She adjusted the figures and we signed the correction. When do we pay this we asked? September she said.... We may get a letter but may last we understand......if no letter arrives go to the tax office and ask if we can please pay our tax! By October of this year we should be up to date with a system we finally understand! Awesome!
On the green I made the laundry soap mix and a general cleaner. I washed a floor with hot water, white vinegar and a few drops of lemon essential oil. I have ordered a pack of vanilla beans to make vanilla extract. Another money saver. I am slowly getting there.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Where does the time go?

something about warmer weather and lighter evenings, I always seem to run out of time. Sorry I have not been around.
On Friday I had my three year old grandson for the day so he took all my attention. By the time he had gone home and I had sorted dinner I was shattered.
Then yesterday was the preparation for my eldest daughter and sil arriving. Lots to talk about so again didn't get on here. Have just cleared up the roast dinner I did for us all and settled to watch the taped highlights of the grand prix. So thought I would catch up on here.
I had intended sorting out more photos but that will have to wait.
This morning whilst younger daughter and co were out we went to their house and put up a big trampoline eldest had bought her nephew. It took four of us two hours to do! A great hit though and a lovely surprise.
Sil is going to cut the grass at the back that is very long tomorrow. It will be such a help. It is going to make a big difference to us to have so much help.
I feel very fortunate to be having my family with me.
So once again life is changing. By the end of July all should be sorted.
Once daughter goes we start the season proper with back to back bookings until the middle of October. It is amazing. I enjoy meeting new people and having the place come alive. It also gives us money to further improve our property. We have always had a vision of how this place will be and are well on track to achieve that.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Happy bunny

that is me.....daughter has today had two offers on the flat. Negotiations have begun. Should mean they move here by September. They arrive on Saturday for 10 days to get on with The Cave as their house is known. It gives us impetus too to get on and finish it. There is still a fair bit to the bathroom, board downstairs, 2nd fix electrics and plumbing, flooring, fit the kitchen, and decorate throughout. They have a big caravan here to use as a base but they are staying in the Gite this trip. We then have paying guests coming in the day after daughter leaves and it is eyes down for a busy season.
I have waited so long for my eldest and her hubby to come here. It took quite a while for them to decide to come. Then five months on the market and loads of viewings but no offers until now. My younger daughter is happy too as she is very close with her sister. We will all benefit from being together. My two son in laws get on well too.
It is amazing how life can suddenly change.
P has carried on today trying to get the flue sorted out for daughters wood burner. The pipe work is now done, just the cementing to do. Then the wall between our homes will be done. At the moment I have two large holes behind the cooker.
I found a wonderful app today, google translate that allows you to speak into the iPad in English and it gives you the French. And vice versa. You can also photograph a road sign and it translates. All off line! It Will certainly make life easier.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

....and Wisteria round the windows

I planted the Wisteria as a stick three years ago and it has done amazingly well. To the right of the picture is the top of the fence that surrounds our front garden. The big window and small one are what will be our eldest daughter's and sil home! The front door is around the side. The window to the left is my kitchen. The orange bit you can see is a pottery gheko. I rather like them!
There is still a great deal of work to do, inside and out.
Today we had an outing with the expat club, lunch and a tour of a brewery. It turned out to be a fabulous day. I had a lovely vegetarian meal, starter, main, cheese, pud and wine €12.75 . The brewery is run by an enterprising French farmer, not something you find often. He runs an organic dairy farm and set up the brewery as an extra. He has formed a co operative with three other local organic farmers and they grow their own hops. He spoke pretty good English, was very comfortable with us and made us all laugh. We finished with a beer tasting session. It was so refreshing to meet someone like him. One of my better days here.
We had to leave the dogs at home and in the end it was 7 hours! No mess or damage anywhere! They are amazing. Took them for a walk and now they are crashed.
We are still contemplating trying to access the French health system without running a business. As we have been here and paid tax for more than five years we are resident and entitled to access the system. It is a daunting prospect! Doing this would enable our daughter and sil to run the Gite business giving them access to health care. We will discuss it with them when they are here next week. On the subject of our Gite, we now have 19 weeks booked! I am so pleased our business is viable.
I went in search of a container for my laundry soap I plan to make. It will be liquid and I hoped to find a glass container. Sadly I have come home with a plastic one which is not good for my mission to reduce plastic usage. At least I will keep it a long time. Hoping my castille soap arrives soon. It will be held up by the fact it is a bank holiday here Friday!
So now I will do some more of my blanket before having an early night as I feel very tired.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Roses round the door

Amazed myself and managed to put up another picture. This is my front door, you can see the date stone above..1832.. The plants either side are white climbing roses. So I really do have roses round the door.
When we bought the house there was an old front door that had a gap underneath where the doorstone had worn. At this time we were coming over for a weekend each month arriving very late on the Friday night. I would always have to hunt the toad who used to come in under the door. It became a game and it was always in the house. Maybe that is where my love of toads came from.
The door was fitted by P and the window bit opens which I rather like.
Today has been very windy and I had fun staking the peas. All canes are in and the first level of string is in place. The peas are going mad. The red onions are doing well too. This year I tried putting butternut squash seeds direct in the soil as my greenhouse is still not ready. One seed so far has sprouted. I will be so pleased if the plants produce the squash. The courgettes are looking good too.
The soft fruit bushes are full of leaves and even my new plum trees have blossom. The cherry trees are laden with little green fruits so I am hoping for a bumper crop.
On a personal front, this morning I coloured my hair and feel happier. I have ordered a vat of castille liquid soap and will make my own shampoo. I also have beeswax coming to make lipstick. The long term plan is to have a couple of hives so we can have honey and wax of our own. I am very keen to do this.
I have stocked up on white vinegat and bicarb ready to make cleaning products. This is my next area to deal with. I have added another element to my going green and am going to reduce the plastic. Again I have done a lot of reading about this..I had no idea there was plastic in my toothpaste! The more you look at the green subject the more you discover that is wrong with the way we live today.

Monday, 4 May 2015


I have been trying for the last hour to sort out a piccie. Head now hurts so have given up.
It has rained nearly all day, the grass is growing at a silly rate. It will be hard work getting the mower round it. Perhaps I should keep the chickens in the run tomorrow and let the geese into the orchard. Will give it some thought.
Took the dogs on a three mile walk this morning and they are still crashed.
My pond has a leak that is on the list to fix. Due to all the rain it is full just now, it cannot drain quicker than the rain falls! It is on my radar to drain and clean the pond as it is full of duck and goose poo! When I lifted up the ramp that forms the duck house there was a darling medium sized toad underneath. I rather like toads, weird I know!
We have had a problem with the blue rav. After lots of research we knew it was either the fuel pump filter (£20) or the fuel pump itself (£700 +). We thought it best to start with the cheapest option and amazingly it was the cause of the problem. That rarely happens so P is feeling very pleased he was able to fix it.
I am feeling increasingly more desperate to have something done in my house. Last year P put in the cloakroom which was lovely but I need a bit more. Will have to be gentle in suggesting it. P is amazing with all he does, electricity , plumbing, framing and boarding. He has built staircases and windows and doors. All self taught. We could not afford to have a builder do it all so just had to get on with it.
So life plods on, some days good some not so. But the sun comes up every day ( not always obvious) and we keep going. One day the work will be finished.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Oui non oui non err peut etre..zoot alors choisi

Three apologies
1. My french
2. For not wtiting yesterday
3. No picture. I took a good one of my front door with the date stone above but internet is too slow to load it.
So what do I have to choose? I am over three weeks into no shampoo as part of my ditching chemicals. I have been trying to cover my grey roots with black walnut hull powder. It hasn't worked very well so I started thinking about going grey. I did lots of googling but all said the easy answer. The thing is I do not like myself with messy grey hair. Being neatly coiffed has always been important to me. I have given up my contact lenses and my size 10 body and cannot say I am too unhappy about being a spectacle wearing size 14. As my better half often reminds me I am 58, had three chidren and an abdominal hysterectomy, bless him! But grey hair I cannot do. So tomorrow I will go to my usual hairdresser and have my hair cut and coloured. I have no hope of explaining the idea of no shampoo so will have to go with it. I do feel fairly bad but this is going to have to be the one batch of chemicals I cannot ditch. Maybe when I am 65 it may be more palatable.
Didn't get on here yesterday as we had a spontaneous idea to go out to dinner. We went to a local place and had pizza with a jug of house red followed by creme brulee. Much enjoyed and needed from time to time. The owner is a lovely young lady who speaks good English and is not atfraid to use it. They have a sign outside the restaurant ' ice cream to take away' in English! This always amuses us as it is nigh on impossible to buy an ice cream when out. Once the warm weather is here we will stop and get one.
We have two bakers in our village and the little one on the corner I favour has a sign on the door.          ' English products'. Inside the shop is a glass cabinet, kept locked, with a union jack on it. Within are such things as custard creams, a jar of mincemeat, Birds custard powder and I think I saw a box of Paxo stuffing. Sometime soon I will have to buy something to show I appreciate her efforts. There is also a shop for sale with two signs ....a vendre and a phone number.....and To let and a phone number. Not sure why French can buy but English can only rent but it is good to know we are thought of.
There are little pockets of Englishness becoming evident which makes me happy
So tomorrow I go to the little salon and reunite myself with colour and shampoo whilst practising my French on the lovely young ladies who are not scared to try a little English.

Friday, 1 May 2015

A good day

it is a bank holiday here today. The butcher and baker were open this morning but shut at lunch time. Nothing else is open today! Takes a bit of getting used to when you have lived in a 24 hour society. Traditionally this is the day when workers go on marches around France to protest at whatever is the current grievance. Apparently the number marching is down this year. Not sure what there would be to protest about when the code de travail covers all you would want.
This morning we finished our French tax forms on line so now we wait to see what arrives in the post. We also finished our English tax forms and they are ready to post. All the paperwork for registering our enduring power of attorney for my dear demented dad is also done and ready to post. Then P did an online application to renew his passport. So, all paperwork is up to date today. Itbfeels good.
This afternoon we went out for tea. We have expat friends who moved to the centre of our village. We met some other expats who have bought a B&B in the village and are moving over next month. It was a very enjoyable afternoon.
Home in time to walk the dogs and put chickens, ducks and geese to bed.
I did want to include a picture of our place but it has rained all day so that will have to wait.
P managed to do the concrete to go under the flagstones for the front doorstep of the end Gite. A step closer to getting the front door on.
We have lost momentum a bit recently, mainly because we were expecting family to arrive yesterday and they cancelled last minute. We will probably have the weekend as down time then get going again next week. Our eldest daughter and her husband arrive next Saturday and we will all be getting on with their house.
In the veg patch the peas are coming up fast as are the red onions. The elder has the beginnings of flowers so will not be long before I make the elder flower cordial. I also have a good stock of fruit in the freezer waiting to be made into jam.
The wood burner is going well as the house is cold. I always like it when the curtains are closed and the fire is blazing. Planning to get on with the bed cover I am making. It is a combination of knitting and crochet. Will post a picture once it is done.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

A lot to get used to

This is the view from my front door looking up to the front of our property. The bushes are lavendar that line the path we created. The building top left is a double height barn we use as a wood store and garage. The plan is to concrete the floor ( it is currently an earth floor) and put in a mezzanine floor to provide a workshop for P. We have been snowed in three times in five years. Once we get out onto the proper road they have drainage ditches either side. When it snows you cannot tell what is ditch and what is road. The minor roads are not gritted. Our friendly farmer pushes a bale of straw up our access road with his tractor so we can walk out. It used to worry me to be so cut off but I am now used to it. The freezer and pantry are kept well stocked.
I am slowly learning to be more self sufficient but it is a steep learning curve. The French culture is something I doubt I will ever get my head  round. It is the reason why I often feel I cannot hack it.
It is a socialist set up with no help for new business. People come out of the pharmacy with a carrier bag of drugs. There is no competition. A large supermarket recently applied to sell basic drugs, non prescription and were told no as it was unfair to the pharmacies. Amazon was not allowed to deliver books free as it was deemed unfair to bookshops.
There is a big red book called code de travail that protects workers rights it makes it impossible for a small business to employ anyone. When you sell your house you leave stuff in it up to a year after you have moved. Bizarre or what! They do not make way for emergency vehicles and are happy to tap the car in front and behind to get into a space. We had this done to us whilst I was sitting in the car, it was saved by the fact it had a tow bar and a bull bar. When buying new number plates the shop told me to have metal as the plastic ones get broken so often.
Do not get me started on food. I recently called a restaurant to ask if they could cope with me being vegetarian, oui, oui I was told. Starter grated carrot with a boiled egg, main mashed potato with grilled tomatoes. For the same price as the full menu.
I don't want to be totally negative so will stop there but there is so much more. I will tell more in other posts.
The country is lovely as is our part of it. It is easy to lead a simple life. But give me a good English pub anyday.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

my animals

I had always been a cat person. I have had cats ever since I left home and my husband knew the cats came with me. Once the children arrived we did talk about a dog but our lives did not suit having one. I will never take on an animal I cannot fully look after. We were a busy house, often out so it would not be fair.
Once we moved here and had retired it became a possibility. Then P had a short spell of contract work in the UK which meant I was on my own. P suggested we get a dog. The situation here for unwanted dogs and cats is heart breaking. The numbers are managed by putting down healthy animals. So it had to be a rescue dog. I trawled the internet and found Bruno. His mother had been rescued by an English expat charity and within a week had given birth to six puppies. Bruno and a girl went to an elderly couple but only lasted a week and were back at the centre. He was never small even at 8 weeks but I could carry him. It was love at first sight. We were told he was a Heinz 57 but he did have the look of a Boxer. I did lots of research on how to train him and eventually started going to obedience and agility class every week. He grew rapidly! The trainer was brilliant and I knew it was us that needed traing rather than Bruno. He was hard work but she kept telling us that he would calm down by 18 months. We had him done at 6 months as requested by the charity and did the class for a year. It was the trainer who told us he was a Boxer/Mastiff cross! Thanks to her he is now a lovely dog. He does push it sometimes and can  bully when he wants something. He will do anything for a biscuit which made him very easy to train. Our trainer runs a kennel too which we use from time to time. I spoke to her about adopting another dog and she agreed it would work. She rescues dogs too and along came Frank. She had saved him and two others when she dame upon a French man drowning a litter. She homed two. As is her way she went to check on Frank and found he had a broken tail. The short story is he came home with her. He was 3 months old! He is a Teckel/Yorkie cross. She kept him a few weeks to be sure there were no problems with his behaviour and socialised him with big dogs. He was 4 months when he came home and right now Bruno is next to me on the sofa with Frank asleep on his back! Bruno is 47kgs and Frank is 5kgs and they are devoted to each other. I adore them both!
My snowy bengal cat Suki copes with them and happily lives in the house. My brown spotted bengal Lola lives outside as does my adopted cat Humbug. They now have an outdoor house where they eat and can sleep if they want. Humbug mostly lives with the chickens and Lola roams the fields mostly sleeping in a barn. They are great mousers!
The dogs and cats have a lovely life here with loads of space away from roads. I have to keep away from adverts for other animals as I know I could end up with more that I could cope with!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

My fledgling orchard

This is at the back of the house. The big tree is an old French golden delicious tree. When we bought the place it was overgrown and laced with brambles. It took a couple of years of pruning which was nerve racking for a townie. I looked up what to do! Last year it fruited well and by the amount of blossom on it will do so again this year. Very close to it is a pear tree just coming into blossom. I have planted two plums, Gala apple, four different pears, Bramley apple and quince. Along with the strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants it keeps us in jam and bottled fruit until the next harvest. I also have a big old Damson tree that gives me loads of jam. At the front of the house is a large Elder so I make Elder flower cordial. Along with the rosehip syrup I make this gives us all the soft drinks we need.
All our neighbours are dairy farmers one of whom we are very friendly with. We buy our wood and straw from him. I plan, at some stage to ask to buy milk direct from him. I would like to make some cheese. This will have to wait until my kitchen is finished though so is one for the future.
When this was a fully working farm, the family planted a variety of apple trees and made Calvados. When we bought this place they gave us a bottle of the Calvados that had been made here. Once a year the remaining family turn up to see what we have done. Last summer the old girl, who had come here as a young bride, visited to see our Gite. She remembered milking cows in the barn that is now our Gite and loved what we had done. Since the family sold the farm there were two other owners before us but nothing was done to improve things. She was so happy to see the place being cared for. She died shortly after that last visit and I think she had wanted to say goodbye to the place she had loved. Relatives came from all over France and came here to see the place once more. There were cousins who had stayed over summers. It was obviously a happy place despite the sad times, not least of all two world wars. We are still in touch with family who live locally and they will no doubt appear again in the summer.
There are times when I really struggle with living here. I try to think of the family who built this and how hard it was for them. It helps keep things in perspective.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Ditching chemicals

for me this is a big one. I have long felt it is not good to consume or cover ourselves with chemicals. The problem was it felt like I would be going back to the dark ages. I started googling different things and was amazed at what I found. The biggest surprise was that most of the ideas came from Americans. I had not thought of them being very green. I bought a book, the naturally clean house, and so it began. It took some time to gather what I needed and I still have a long way to go. The first thing I changed was no more bubble bath, something I was addicted to. Then I stopped using the dishwasher. Chemicals and expense. Then fabric softener went along with the tumble dryer. If I cannot dry things outside it goes in front of the Esse. I have what I need to make cleaners but haven't got around to it yet.
Next came the biggest revolution of all....Eileen54 mentioned 'no poo'. Back to google and I read all about going without hair products. I washed my hair every other day and had it coloured every five weeks. What a lot of chemicals. I am now over two weeks with no shampoo. I have also done my first rinse with black walnut hull powder to cover the grey. I plan to wash my hair with water and rinse with the walnut powder twice a week. Watch this space.
Then I found a great to make natural beauty products. She also has a section about colouring hair. I have what I need now to make moisturiser, foundation powder and lip colour. I just need a quiet day to try making it all.
The final thing so far is soap. The liquid soap has gone as have the makeup remover wipes. I currently use dove soap to remove makeup and wash me but will swap to castille soap asap. I have bought ceramic soap dishes and put bars of soap by all sinks. A fraction of the cost and no chemicals. With castille soap I can remelt the ends to make new bars.
There are many more things I can do and I will get there. It suits my ethos not to line the pockets of big corporations, saves money and is better for the environment....a bit of card and paper rather than a plastic bottle.
So that is where I am now. I will update as I start new things.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

It is THAT time of forms

...and the air is blue. P is brilliant and deals with all this stuff. From the moment we arrived here we have done things properly and above board. There are many expats who operate under the radar but we cannot. Due to our business we are on a special regime, all managed online and we declare every quarter what we have earned and pay 26 per cent in tax. On top of this we fill in an annual form to declare our private pensions and the rental income from our English house. The thing is the form does not allow for the fact we pay the tax on our rental in England. So every year we get a big tax demand. We then gather all the paperwork and visit our tax office. We always see the same lady who brings out a dusty box labelled 'anglais' and does a lot of sighing. I do feel for her but we conduct the interview in French as she does not speak a word of English. She always says they are in the wrong then spends ages looking at the computer and writing on bits of paper. Eventually she arrives at a number and somehow we always have a hefty bill, despite what they pay back. Last year we had a large refund, then this year we had to pay it all back. We were told we would get two letters, one in March and one in June with a final date for payment. A week later we had a letter to say we were due another large refund. The March letter never arrived. Now we have a section that asks about rental property but we think it is just for French property. It means another trip to the tax office!
The lady will look heavenward when she sees us and will drag her dusty box from the depths of the cupboard and settle down to sort us out. Whatever she tells us will be incorrect a week later and yet again we will leave feeling she has no idea what she is doing. We will wait for the demand but not be surprised if it never arrives. We will continue to put money away each month to pay our tax and if a refund comes we put it away too against another demand. So we have a fund to cover our tax incase it should be asked for. Above all we will make sure we are at the office well before 12 as France stops for lunch!

The geese arrive

These are my pair of White geese on our pond. This area is fenced in with the duck den and goose hall on the left. I will add more pictures when the rain allows me outside. The geese are my newest addition. In the past I was frightened of geese thinking them aggressive. The gander is very protective of his mate, especially when she is laying her egg but I have picked him up. It would seem they are ok with their carer! The ducks were all round the feeders when I took this picture so I will ensure they are in the next picture.
The goose eggs are lovely, big white ones. I had been leaving her eggs in the nest in the hope she would sit but not so far. She is not yet a year old so maybe she is too young to go broody.
I have removed the duck eggs too as they had been there some time and I didn't want to risk bad eggs. They are also showing no sign of broodiness. In the past I have hatched ducklings with an incubator but took the decision last year to leave it to nature. It was so lovely having ducklings around. Some I helped to hatch and taught them to swim in the kitchen sink. They progressed to a paddling pool before going to the pond. They were Rouen ducks, my favourite. Sadly, I went through a very depressed stage and was desperate to go back to England so gave away all my ducks. I regret it immensely and keep looking for more Rouen ducks. I have Alylesbury ducks now and two Mallards. I could do with another Drake really as I have one to six girls. The search continues.
The ducks are a pleasure to watch but I am amazed the species continues as they are so careless with their young. The eggs are never hidden either. Mrs goose covers her eggs with straw before leaving the house.
So I hope to get some fluffy tiddlers this year but do think it likely.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

So what about self sufficiency?

First you must understand that being a former townie I am on a steep learning curve! I have always made my own cakes as it saved money when the children were young. A never ending supply of other  kids coming to tea! I did a fair amount of cooking from scratch too although have to confess to the use of chicken nuggets and potato waffles. I made biscuits and sweets too. At this point I should point out I am vegetarian.
So we landed in France with little knowledge of the language and a great deal less money. No pre prepared stuff here!
Fairly early on I bought four hens and a cockeral, Buff Orpingtons because they cannot fly and are docile. I knew nothing about keeping chickens but all information can be found by google. Today I have three cockerals and nine hens. I still have one of my original girls. Each year we have had chicks which has kept the flock going. So far this year none of the girls looks broody so I may get some more hens from the market. I have been thinking for a while of not replacing theboys when they exit and just stay with hybrid market hens that lay an egg each day and never go broody. I have had problems with foxes and it is heartbreaking. I no longer give the chickens names. They are for eggs only of course. I also now have ducks and geese, again just for eggs. I am happy handling them all and love having them roaming the garden.
I planted fruit trees to add to what was already here....apples, pears, cherries, plums, damson and quince. I have also put in a Bramley apple tree which has yet to fruit.
I have a veg patch with raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants. This year I have planted main crop potatoes, red onions, peas, butternut squash, courgette, cabbage and cauliflower. I plan to increase this each year. I am very keen to establish herbs.
Since moving here I have not bought bought a jar of jam. Every Autumn I make jam, jelly and bottle fruit.
I cheat with a machine but I make the bread for us. We do buy baguettes though which I eventually want to make.
I am currently on a mission to have only clean food. Nothing made in a big factory. I am largely succeeding. Everything here is seasonal which helps but I want to grow more of my own. Not just for the health benefits but it reduces my weekly shop.
So all in all I have come a long way really but I am very aware I have more to do. I care very much about our planet and want to do my bit in my corner. It is very much easier to lead a simple life here living among dairy farmers.

Friday, 24 April 2015

First stage of becoming green

As I have said, when we bought this property it was liveable but derelict. Once we had the staircase in and knocked down the downstairs bedroom walls we put in a heat exchanger. This provides our hot  water via solar tubes. We put the tank under the stairs and planned to build a cloakroom around it       ( this we have now done). There is a small electric pump to move the water around. This works very well and has an immersion heater for when it has been cloudy all day. The solar tubes give us loads of hot water virtually free! At the same time we installed a wood burning Esse into the enormous fireplace it what is now the kitchen. It took a while to get used to this but now I would hate to use a conventional oven. There was an enclosed fireplace it what was the salle de vie but is now a lounge/ diner. We removed the pink concrete case and found a lovely granite fireplace beneath. We have a face carved into the stone on one side. We built a stone plinth, topped it with flagstones and installed an efficient cast iron wood burner. The oven and the fire are our only heat. With the downstairs still un insulated it gets very cold in winter.
Sadly we are not self sufficient for wood so buy it from a neighbor farmer. It feels expensive but is far cheaper than our fuel bills for our modern house in the UK.
We then looked at the sanitation. The single toilet emptied into a concrete tank at the back of the house that our farmer neighbour emptied to fertilise his land! Everything else dumped in the field below us. I often saw my bubble bath floating in the breeze! This could not continue so we started our search. We found a thing called a micro station that we really wanted so went to talk to our maire. He advised us to install it straight away as he approved of the system and was currently the inspector of the fosse septic. We had to use a firm in the village and had to go with the brand they wanted. This was not a problem for us. Our garden looked like the somme for a week! Whilst the digger was on site they dug me a pond! Our microstation  needs no chemicals and works from natural bacteria being pumped through three very big chambers. What comes out of the end is clean water that is piped into a nearby stream. It is currently emptied about every three years but will need doing more often when the gites are all occupied. We now have to get a certificate for official emptying and another for official disposal that the contractor gets. This has to be kept on file for our next inspection! The French love paperwork.
So that was the beginning of becoming green, done our first year here in 2010.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Ooh errr

totally new to this idea! Have always been a fan of paper but in line with my new green image I need to save a few trees! Please bear with me as I get used to how this works.
So, who am I? A middle aged women with middle aged spread, grandmother of three, mother of three and married to the man I met when I was sixteen! Something to celebrate do you not think?
I qualified as an SRN in 1978, the same year I married. I took early retirement at the age of 50 and moved to Normandy in France. And there the adventure began!
I was a townie with all mod cons. Two pedigree cats and a large disposable income. We bought an almost derelict farm built in 1832 in 2007. A main house and a collection of barns, big and small. With this came an acre of land. Along with waist high weeds, brambles and ivy.
We did a bit on our house, converted the upstairs hay loft into two bedrooms and bathrooms and putting in a staircase. We formed the kitchen from three bedrooms and removed the kitchen from the lounge. We have a wealth of big oak beams which I love. We removed the downstairs bathroom that will one day be a study come craft room. Then the French government decided early retiree expats were not allowed access to the health system. So phase two began. We had to create a business and pay enough tax to get cover. After a lot of work, money and angst last year we launched Gite number one. It opened in May and we had fourteen weeks booked! The Gite is a small ( but beautifully formed) one bedroomed place for couples ( and up to two dogs). This is one end of a large cow barn and milking parlour. This year we have 17 weeks booked. The rest of the barn is well on the way to becoming two more small Gites. Our business is born!
The other side of this is how much I have changed! I will talk about this in later blogs.
I hope this will be of interest to someone. There are so many blogs around now. I will sort out some pictures too if I can work out how.