Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy new Year




The appearance of a newt at the start of a new year denotes good health and prosperity for the favoured catchee. imagine how much more of a good omen this must be at the start of a whole new decade. Tonight, we go out to friend's house to share a Swedish style meal. Tomorrow, we have a bit of an open house style thing for a few friends and neighbours. Including our french neighbours who have such a strong accent that we find it very difficult to understand what they're saying. We shall just have to ply them, and ourselves, with enough booze for it not to matter. M has been chopping more logs this afternoon-and playing spot the duck in between since they love hiding out in the barn if they get the chance. I've included this 2nd photo so that you can play spot the duck, too! Happy New Year!!!






Monday, December 28, 2009

sleeping positions




Sometimes, i think there's something wrong with our pets. In the evening, the fire is lit, and they go to sleep. None of them seem aware of the standard pet positions in which to doze. It grieves me. Not only are they frequently disobedient during the day, but they openly flout convention at night,as well. our snow has thawed now, luckily enough. I shall get my trusty but rather floaty twingo out tomorrow and hit the open road again. watch out Normandy, here I come...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A White Christmas?




Our neighbours called in this afternoon. They came bearing gifts-of a quality pork joint, and boudin-a local sausage. This adding to the gift of a pintard which they left us a few weeks ago. In return, I gave them a bottle of the apricot liqueur and a jar of the apricot chutney which I made in the summer, plus one of my dundee cakes (one of the ones the dogs didn't get at) which I've laced with their own calvados. The men drank some aperitifs together and M took snuff with them. l
Last night, we visited a little village called Beauchene which is close to here-where they have the most beautiful Christmas lights. Now, I've just gone out to tuck up the ducks and chickens who kindly gave us 5 eggs today. They're sitting on their perches and quietly clucking and quaking. i
I've put extra hay out for them today. Whilst I was out there, it started snowing again-great bit fat white flakes. It's going to be a white Christmas this year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

well that's it, we are officially snow-bound, now. Snow and ice have conspired to make the roads increasingly dangerous and, having encountered a snow drift at close quarters once too often, we are staying put for a while now. This means I am now marooned with a man whose main interests are 1) cars, and 2) quizzes on 1980's pop music. He, meanwhile, is stuck with a highly emotional woman who frequently needs to explore how she really feels about everything. Luckily, we have no guns so should onlyhave chewed our limbs to stumps by the time the thaw sets in.

The vid shows Bianca complaining about M collecting her eggs. M is not usually this strangely dressed. He's generally very debonair but obviously the weather can get the better of us from time to time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Coming Home




Just got home after prolonged snowy journey home. gas and water frozen up-inches of snow. the pipes now successfully defrosted and have trundled up to the chicken shed to check on the girls and give them fresh water.
Winter has come rather suddenly. The car skidded on the road coming back-well it was more like floating, really. Missing the family. Hoping Daniel is well enough to enjoy snow tomorrow.

Thursday, November 12, 2009



We've just got back from a dog walk in rather murky weather. A sort of Sherlock Holmes gloom to the weather today. So I've lit the fire now and the dogs have decided to take yet aother rest. Only they're sharing a bed-and now the cat has come along, too. They all have bed each but it seems they prefer the comfort of cuddling up together. Franck has just dropped off to sleep with his head in this downward position (there being nowhere else to put it) and as a result, he's snoring like billio. Suddenly, the light outside the windows has gone from day-light to dark indigo blue and shortly will be dark. That's winter for you. Until now, we've been getting pretty normal amounts of eggs but today, for the first time, there were none at all. I've checked all the chooks' favourite sitting spots but found no eggs elsewhere so perhaps this is just a time of year thing...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

winter preperations



I have started digging over the vegetable plots in the hopes of clearing them of some of the weeds and grasses which have plagued our vegetable growing efforts this year. There is simply never enough time. In the course of this, I've been harvesting the last of our veg. This is only a fraction of the sprouts we have. I have a recipe for brussel sprout curry somewhere. i can only imagine what the effect of that would be on M's wind production. When it showers, the remaining brussel sprout plants act like umbrellas for the chickens who can then enjoy continued pecking in comfort underneath. Yesterday, I had the immense privilege of being present at the actual laying of an egg-Joan being a bit later with her laying than usual meaning I accidentally disturbed her whilst checking the egg boxes. She fixed me with with an intense chicken gaze, puffed herself up to twice her usual size like a large white feathery balloon, and laid her egg. Meantime, M has been enthusiastically going online to check out the various mushrooms springing up in the garden to see which might be good to eat. So far, he hasn't eaten any of them which is probably just as well since some of the ones which are very good to eat look very similar to some of the highly poisonous ones. There are risks and risks...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Ramble







M departed today for the UK in a flurry of forms, papers, maps, pianos, lawn mowers, sandwiches and clean pants. To regain some equilibrium and because we were missing him, Franck and I went for a long walk along the chemin. It was utterly quiet and peaceful. We stopped to admire the view, and say "Comment Maintenant" to this brown cow who was gazing in this puddle in hopes of seeing the face of her future suitor (This is cow folk-lore). On his return home, Franck has now crashed out in his bed and I'm about to polish many pairs of shoes. Such a satisfying task.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

To Catch A Thief



First, the good news. Over the last few days, it's finally grown colder with some properly chilly nights. So M has lit the fire and. since it also warms the water for all the radiators, the whole house is snug and cosy. The dogs love it, and so do we. Unfortunately, things are a little less peaceable up in the chicken shed since we have had an egg thief stealing, smashing and eating the contents of our chicken's beautiful eggs. I have had everyone under suspicion and launched the No 1 Chickens Detective Agency in Normandy. Investigations so far have revealed that the dogs are not prime instigators although they may be guilty of a fortuitous sharing of the spoils from time to time. My primary suspect is Jennifer, one of the ducks, since she had been noted to have a yellow eggy coloured streak on her chest. Since the chickens are still laying full blast despite having moulted, the odd loss hasn't caused us much of an issue so far - we still have eggs to give away when we want. But it's annoying-and could catch on...so today I had a minor brainwave following which M installed, at my request, this sort of guttering system (the silver coloured strip is a spare piece of gutter) which should catch the eggs and prevent them being rolled out of the egg boxes and smashed and eaten. How good is that??? Here's hoping it works. Today, M also finished the fence off round the side of the garden since the maize in the field next door was harvested yesterday. he nearly finished the fence off with the chickens still on the wrong side of it! They had a fantastic few hours pecking the remains of the stubble left behind.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Visitors






This is how much the ducks have grown over the past three months. I think it's incredible. hard to believe it's the same birds. Today, I got pretty absorbed digging in the vegetable patch-I've got one third of it free of weeds now. God knows what it will do to my back which has been hurting lately but I don't care-it's so satisfying. in the meantime, the ducks decided to pay a visit since I'd left the door open. I had to chivvy them out, explaining the only way they'll be entering the house is on a roasting tray. They each left a little memento of their visit on the floor in the hall.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chickens Are Stupid




I don't really like to generalise in such a negative way about a whole species of animal-but the fact is, that chickens really are stupid. They are a little like the Borg in that they don't really think as such as individuals, but they merely react. When in a group, as they usually are, the effect of such a reaction becomes amplified. In these photos, one of the chickens (Bianca) has wondered off a little from the rest of the group, happily pecking. In the meantime Mackerel the cat (who seemed fully recovered from having his nuts off after 24 hours) is doing what cats do. Shortly before the photo was taken, Bianca had actually been happily pecking whilst facing the cat. Shortly after the photo, Mackerel received a well aimed apple thrown straight at his bonce. These photos also give an opportunity to admire how well the chooks are doing now that they get to stroll freely around the place. their feathers are so fluffed up that, when they bend down to peck, I think they look like those old-fashioned female tennis players (I think this was confined to the females) who used to wear frilly knickers. Over the past couple of day, its finally started raining-we haven't had any rain for ages. So far, it seems that the old truism of ducks loving the rain is actually pretty accurate in our case-the chickens are often taking shelter during the showers whilst the ducks happily waddle around, or sit in their new favourite place by the back door-one on each doormat-so that they can monitor all the comings and goings here. I just wish that they weren't so enthusiastically incontinent.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Harvest Home




More veg pictures, I'm afraid-but I get so excited about the fact that I've grown them. I've always thought red cabbages are beautiful when you first cut into them. However, I never really knew how to cook them properly before. It's very different to cooking white cabbage-as everyone else in the world apart from me already knew anyway. So i ended up cooking this cabbage 'a la Delia'-by braising it for a couple of hours with spices and dark sugar and wine vinegar. It was very tasty and smelt scrummy whilst cooking. Then to the gorgeous pumpkin-which has got me considering the virtues of a vivid yellow and orange colour scheme. This is one of two pumpkins I've grown from seed . (well, I merely facilitated the right conditions of course-they managed their growth for themselves. I must not forget my social worker origins). The other is still green and currently enjoying the rain which finally started today. This pumpkin actually had a big manky patch which you can just see starting on the left hand bottom side. however, there was still enough to make a pumpkin pie today. Since I've never made or even eaten one of these before, I've nothing to judge it against-but it's currently cooling on the side and looks fairly edible. M is usually a pretty enthusiastic guinea pig so it can await his return.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Interconnectedness and Ikea


Here it is-the interconnectedness. This is how it works. So my neighbour gave me the peaches-which we've used for various things. Like putting in our ears instead of earplugs (they are small peaches and our ears have grown since we've been here because it's so quiet). And playing balancing peach pyramid games. Then these were the worst of the windfalls and I put them by for the ducks, who've been loving them. They waddle up as fast as they can to get them-the effect is like up like animated kayaks with short legs. Then these are the last of the windfalls which as you see are being eaten by the butterfly who also seems to have it's eye on the fly. Perhaps the fly itself is looking at another thing which in its turn regards the drop of water on the garden table as a gargantuan lake. I'm distracted as i write this because M is currently trying to put together a large filing cabinet from Ikea. He says it's the worst thing he's ever tried to put together from there. Generally, he is the most patient man in the world when it comes to doing flatpacks but it would seem that Ikea is the one place that the interconnectedness theorem does not apply.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Le Chasse du Chicken







Here, M is demonstrating some of the finer points of chicken chasing which seems to be practised with enthusiasm rather than style in the UK, whereas here in France, it's done with enough flair and style to elevate it to an art form. The moves shown here are: 1) La Discret - obviously this move depends for it's success on the subtlety and stealth of the practitioner-also a certain amount of patience is required. 2) La Glissade. This manoeuvre is possibly more suited to the younger artiste since it requires an element of suppleness and quick movement. Finally, 3) Le Battait douce wherein a gentle flapping movement (by the person rather than the chicken-if the chicken starts flapping, you have lost it-note the calm posture of the chicken in the third photo) is used to encourage the bird in the required direction. We are considering using our premises for the start of a new sport-which could have potential for televising-perhaps to be entitled "Une Homme et Son Poulet". Our chickens seem to have good personalities for use for demonstrations, and, heaven knows, they could do with the exercise since they're getting pretty fat. I would have taken some more photos since there are many more moves-some quite complex but unfortunately, my raucous laughter was distracting the chicken, who was thus unable to give of it's best.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Duck Days of Summer




This is a very strange time of year-humid although not hot days. the vegetable patch has given of it's best, and the air, as you walk between the trees, is thick with the sound and presence of the flies and other insects which feast on the rotting apples. We pick what we can-but they are constantly falling. yesterday, one fell on a friends'-Jenny's- head. Has it done her any damage??? Hopefully not. On Saturday, there were thunderstorms all around us-we could see them going on in every direction-but none of them ever actually arrived here which gave a real edge of suspense and tension to the day which wasn't entirely pleasant. In the meantime, the ducks have finally taken to the water, Sometimes silently bobbing and swimming around their little pond, and at other times, taking to the water with huge splashes and then spending ages preening their feathers afterwards. they can, to my mind, be pretty much as elegant as swans. So much for ugly ducklings! I have spent a couple of weeks visiting my beautiful children and grandchildren back in the UK-hence the break from this blog. I miss them all.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009




I am terribly excited today cos about to visit my family and see my lovely children and grandchildren. hurrah!!!


I will miss the doggies of course-our lovely neighbours have agreed to look after them. However, their dog cushions were completely minging. So I have finally got my trusty old Singer out and made them these new cushion covers. They seemed very pleased and fell into their beds straightaway for a snooze-and at least the neighbours (being posh doggie judges) shouldn't be too shocked at the way our doggies live. only at their behaviour.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wood




Our wood for the winter has arrived. In order to get it, I had to use my best French on the phone to a local french farmer. The wood is priced by the 'stere' and we ordered 6 steres. Combined with the wood we already have stored, this should be enough to get us pretty much through the winter. The quality of the wood sold can be variable and last year, we made the mistake of buying some unseasoned wood-and initially thought the problem was with our newly installed wood burner when actually it was a problem with the wood. The wood burner also powers a total of 8 radiators placed throughout the house. This wood is of much better quality-a mixture of well seasoned beech and oak which smells fantastic. It actually took quite a while to move it into the next door barn-luckily we did have some help-now M will start splitting some of the logs and I can stack them. Nothing is ever straightforward here. It's not a convenient life. Having said that, there's something very reassuring about paying in advance for your fuel-and then being able to see exactly how much of it you've used-rather than just anxiously waiting for the heating bills to come in in the new year.

Monday, August 24, 2009




I have been very busy in this glorious kitchen making jams and chutneys and stuff due to the fantastic harvest of PLUMS or GREENGAGES that we've had this year. Never even noticed that fruit tree last year. Thanks to the lovely people who've sent some more jars, i could carry on pickling even more-giving them a share of the result, of course. The shelves are starting to fill a bit now.
In the meantime, we've had a few fantastically hot days and on one of them, Hilda decided she would be happy to pose for a few closeup photos. She's quite a friendly hen and has some fantastic feathery bloomers too so one day I must just post a piccy of her rear view on here as well, if she obliges.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Colour Purple

Someone has given us some beetroot so I pickled it today and also made this orange gingerbread which came out scrummy.
I've never given beetroot much thought before-it actually comes with long leaves with deep purple veins which are solid purple when you cut through them. i read in my recipe book that beetroot used to be grown solely for it's leaves-so I put some in our salad tonight. the leaves have a little bit of heat to them, and are pretty. I gave the really wilted leaves to the chickens so we may get some mauve eggs soon. The water left behind after cooking the beetroot was a really lurid pink. I can't wait to grow beetroot myself now.
M has finished decorating the toilet now!!!!! The saga is still not quite over since it's flushing mechanism is worn out but hopefully we're getting a new flushy bit tomorrow . Currently, it takes about 7 vigorous flushes to wash away a single bit of loo paper so not quite up to M's daily doings as yet....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tradition




We went to a local country fair this weekend. Saw horse ploughing, local crafts, and champion chickens and suchlike. Also there was this old-fashioned 'wedding group' in traditional dress- including the rather strangely shaped 'monsieur' on the far right of the middle row. Inspired by the sight there of a mother duck teaching her babies to swim, we decided to show our own ducklets the pond again-M seen here escorting one of them. In the course of which, he noted that they're putting on weight and started muttering dark things about duck on the Christmas table. Never, never, never.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mugginess




We've been getting some very muggy days-not especially hot as such, more just tiring and humid. The pets, as ever, are much more sensible than us and take their siestas during the day, then race round the garden like mad things in the evening. M is still working on decorating the loo-it's involved getting a 'new' one fitted now. I've weeded the now empty vegetable patch. Wondering what i could put it in next for the winter...

Monday, August 3, 2009

A bit of a squeeze!


We have pretty much completed our potato harvest now-which has reaped two big sacks worth of potatoes for storing. I started off by digging them up which unfortunately results in too many of them getting damaged-so had to resort to scrabbling around on all fours in the mud, which was kind of fun I suppose. One of our chickens has laid a huge egg-pictured here next to a standard egg. it was nearly 100g. All a bit eye-watering really. I think it was Joan that laid it-and she's up in the egg box right now clucking over something so hope the next one not as big...We've had the four chickens for 16 days now and had 31 eggs so far which is a pretty brilliant result I think given that they can take a long time to adjust to any new surroundings. We've had a major invasion of caterpillars in the red cabbages (suddenly that children's book 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' does not seem so sweet any more) so I've sprayed them with soapy water and hope that that does the trick.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Our smallest room




M has been decorating our toilet. It's a French style loo, having just the loo in it. So it's very small. So you would think it hasn't been too tricky-or expensive. Just a matter of chucking a bit of paint at the walls. Sadly, this has turned out not to be so. M decided to alter the position of the loo whilst he was at it, straightening it up so to speak so there have been all sorts of complications some of them a little smelly, given that our plumbing is via a fosse. This isn't the final colour scheme-the wood will be painted. Hopefully not poo brown! In the meantime in order to cheer things up a bit, I'm including a picture of Bianca playing a fun chicken balancing game on the chicken feeder.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Growing Up

The ducklings are growing up terribly fast. Already their yellow down is going and you can see the start of white feathers especially towards their backs. They're still very sweet although they're also extremely mucky shitters. M has called them Clarissa and Jennifer after the two fat lady cooks wot used to be on the telly. I think this is a little over-posh for ducklings (this one is Clarissa). Once their feathers have grown, they can go and play on their pond. Hopefully, they will also grace us with some eggs in due course.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Courgette Madness


Courgette Soup, Courgette Bread, Courgette Bake, Courgette Curry, Courgette Chutney, Courgette chocolate, Courgette crisps, courgette fighters, courgette nightmares....

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I've lived with my partner in Normandy, France, for about four years now. There's lots I love about our lives here-including our beautiful surroundings-but I also miss my wonderful children and grandchildren who are back in the UK. I trained as a hypnotherapist originally in the UK and am now registered for this in France, I also like making (and hopefully selling) some jewellery.