Sunday, December 26, 2010

...the bleak mid-winter...

We still have snow here-quite a lot of it-and very cold temperatures...the animals' water will freeze over several times during the day. Then this morning, we saw as we got up that the trees
have frozen over-somehow the overnight fog got stuck onto the branches. All quite pretty...but also a warning sign as we discovered when we realised our well water supply had frozen over. Time for Mart to go out in his dressing gown, boots and hat to try and change the supply over at the tap to mains water (which took a while since the concrete lid was also frozen over) whilst I poured bottled water (the shame of it) into the toilet cistern since my body was ready to dispose of the remains of yesterday's Christmas dinner.
Every single thing takes so much longer when it's cold like this. Just getting ready to go outside takes some minutes-in addition to the usual coat hat gloves etc, it's also necessary to apply some kind of lip balm and particularly thick socks. I have been helped with this last item by my daughter's fantastic gift to me of hand knitted woollen socks. They are beautiful and unbelievably soft and warm.

Indoors, I've been busy with the more traditional pursuits of Christmas baking-here using my Mum's old mince pie tray which I can remember her using when I was a child...which memory caused me a tearful moment. She used to do her baking whilst listening to the Carol concert on the radio and-just for once-us children were allowed to help ourselves pretty freely to whatever we wanted to eat.

Here, I did my decorating-as usual-on Christmas Eve. Felt pretty silly applying spray snow to my twiggy branch given the quantities of the stuff outside. The wooden piggy candle holders were made for us by our Swedish friend Pelle a few Christmases ago.
The local shop was open this morning so we called in for a few necessities and noticed a postcard of the town there. We'd forgotten how green this place usually is. We've had weeks of this covering of snow now. It can drive you a little crazy...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mistletoe and Whine

Apparently, there is a shortage of mistletoe in the Uk due to a lack of suitable cider apple trees. Here, we have 52 of the flaming things so it wasn't too long before I managed to find a suitable bit that I could reach with my little silver sickle.
By the time M returned from work, I'd quite forgotten I'd hung it up, and, due to a passing irritation, was far from in the mood for a spontaneous amorous gesture.
I returned from a trip to the UK on Tuesday morning after a 24 hour journey..since then, have been snowed in and seen no-one except M. Could be going a little stir-crazy...I've

hung up more fat balls for the birds (a tricky business in gloves), cleaned out the chickens and ducks-oh and the rabbit...we're all struggling to walk on the ice. Even the ducks who look very surprised as their flippers go in opposite directions. Bess the staffie is much cleverer since she waits, follows behind, and then walks directly in my footsteps-a paw placed in each print. it makes me feel like Wenceleslas himself...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Secrets and Fights

Nearly used these little French buttons today ...then changed my mind...I like them as they are!!!!
A bit busy today with secrets...sssh....also finally realised that it's less effort to reduce M's contribution to Christmas preparations to a celebrity-like bored signing of cards and gift tags, than to nag him to encourage any more pro-active involvement. He has mislaid his shiny black Christmas tree somewhere in the attic...I haven't had time to help look...

I've also been preparing for trip back to the UK for a few days. All this busy-ness leaves the dogs a little under-exercised and ignored, so they take to fighting all over the kitchen floor. I get used to living with the background noise of snarls and barks, along with the occasional 'yelp' from Frank when he wants to be 'released'.
It exactly reminds me of how my children used to be at this time of sweet!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Christmas Grotto

Time for the annual jaunt to the Christmas Decoration shop grotty grotto. Sadly, they had no animated polar scenes this year. Mart added to his collection of purple decorations with this little group. He gets the hallway to decorate. He has a black glossy tree and flickering purple lights plus co-ordinating decorations. Me, I get the kitchen. It's the only way-there is no middle ground between our differing tastes in Christmas decor.

Yesterday, my choice was this set of model tools and green flock from the grotto which I'm hoping Naomi might allow me to place around the old crib. I would feel like the magi arriving bearing gifts. There's even a little bucket.

Tonight, I also made these little trees. Their trunks are a little too thick giving them the appearance of tree/mushrooms, but tomorrow I'll put some button or bead decorations on them to make them a little more festive...what do you think????

Saturday, December 4, 2010's little project...

Mart has been kicking old coats into the cranks under the doors to stop the draught whistling it's way in like a small tornado across the floor. So today I made these-practical rather than pretty.

Friday, December 3, 2010

...the hidden world...

Of course, there are lots of things which are usually hidden from us-or which we're just too busy to look at properly-for instance, the fireflies which fly away with the sparks from a bonfire, or the Tea Elves who form in groups of 12 or so to carry mugs of tea or coffee on trays hoisted onto their shoulders between them-the only evidence of their existence being the frequent times we finally find our cups of tea or coffee in a different place to that in which we left them.
This morning, the snow left clues of other hidden worlds-first, some small cloven hooved tracks coming down from the forest-then, on the ground, these little tracks left by a small animal with a tail-which leaves a line between the footprints. These little tracks curved round to a hole in the bottom of the tree where presumably some small animal has been keeping his winter store of food. It seems a little early to have to be raiding it, but needs must...then the little tracks led right away up towards the vegetable patch....keep safe, little creature!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's so cooooold...

Wellington the Cockerel has developed into a truly magnificent specimen. I think I am a little in love with him. Today, I took his picture just as he pronounced the "Doo" of his "Cock a Doodle" which is why he's still holding his neck so erect. I've put extra hay in the coop tonight...the chooks and the ducks all snuggle up together more closely in this weather. Tonight, both the dogs went haring off through the dark in the direction of the (locked) coop-I could almost feel sorry for any half starved fox trying to find some sustenance. As Bess returns, I always check anxiously in case she has blood dripping from her jaws...

We still have no snow! But it's bitterly cold...the cows were happy with their hay this morning but the horse and her (nearly grown) foal have to manage by trying to eat the frozen grass

Monday, November 29, 2010

Light and Warmth

Well-it's blimmin cold here today. but no snow yet...The cat found a sunnier spot on the windowsill, and dozed with his paws in the bowl of chestnuts. Since he had arranged his feet so symmetrically, (in what my Dad used to call the 'Primitive Methodist' position-ie both front feet tucked right in ) it seemed it would be a shame to disturb him. Apparently, cats choose to rest in places that are not good, psychically speaking, for humans to rest in. Whereas dogs do choose to rest in places which are also positive places for humans to rest. Unless the dog is flatulent, and still there, of course. I don't know what you're supposed to do if a cat decides to sit in your lap.
In the evening, before M gets home, I set a candle at the kitchen window so that he can see it as he comes up the drive. I don't really know why...When I turned the kitchen light off to take this candle photo tonight, I noticed that, through the window, you can just make out the lights of Sourdeval twinkling in the distance.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Nasty Moment

It was Thursday morning, and I stood just by our gate with our little staffie, Bessie, who was on the lead waiting for her walk. When I saw that, coming down the lane, was this low, stout, and bulky dark shape. If it's possible to lumber along quite fast, then it was lumbering fast. Could it be a wild boar??? We certainly can get them around here. What to do???? The only universal advice I've heard is NOT TO RUN. The best thing, apparently, is to climb a tree. I looked at Bessie-whilst she adores (so far) all humankind, she has two reactions to other animals (other than frank whom she also adores) 1-She regards them as beneath contempt and attention, or 2-She reacts like a rabid crocodile. So far, she was ignoring this creature. I swung the gate to as quickly as I could and photo'd the creature again...then realised it was the escapee pot bellied pig which is the pet of a nearby farmer. What an anticlimax. Several phone calls later, using my rather inadequate french, the farmer was traced, and the pig collected. Later on, I went on another dog walk past the pig pen...whereas this pig is usually rootling around in the afternoon, yesterday he was fast asleep on his side, oblivious to everything.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Dog is Too Fat

Took Frank to the (French of course) vet recently for his vaccinations. The vet pinched bits of his flesh around the hips (Franks flesh that is, not his own), and told me he is too fat. We should be able to feel his ribs easily, apparently.
It's probably related to my decision to have him castrated. (Something the French are not keen on) It has bought him his freedom, but at a price. Perhaps the castration thing is why you see so many over 40 yr old pot bellied men around....
Am having to light the fire a little earlier every day now. It's cosy, but it's loads of work-and I don't even do the log chopping bit. Apparently, we'll have snow in the next couple of days. One of our neighbouring farmers has been burning bit of wood out in the filed, form his recent bocage clearance. he has sorted out all the useful bits, so it's just the thin leafy twigs left to burn. The smoke from the fire whisks up a long way and, as he deposits each new load on from his tractor, the dead leaves roar and crackle like a box of fireworks being set off all at once. Perhaps we will all benefit from having a little extra fat over the next few months to keep us warm....

Monday, September 13, 2010


Over the last couple of months, every time we went in a couple of the barns here, we would be dive-bombed by small birds, desperate to drive us away so that they could bring up their babies in peace. Their courage, and noise, was extraordinary. Their nests look like papier mache mouldings tucked up between the beams. Then, a few weeks ago, we started seeing the babies beaks wide open sticking up out of the nest and screaming to be fed. A little later, and the babies were practising their flights and I braved the wrath of their dive bombing parents to take this photo of the four babies sitting on the flourescent light tube. It was only a few days later that, once more, the families were gathering on the telephone lines, and preparing for their mass journey towards warmer climates. it's a short childhood for a swallow....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Good Fortune

You can choose your friends but you can't choose your family...or so the saying goes. Well in my case, I have the good fortune of having a most excellent brother, and he has the good fortune of benefitting from my good taste when it comes to selecting his birthday gifts. He's actually knocking on a bit now, so it seemed only right to push the boat out this year and get him something meaningful. (He'd also actually remembered my birthday this year for the first time in aaaaaaaaaages) We bought it late-his birthday actually being at the beginning of June-and he's still going to have to wait a bit longer to receive it since it's much too delicate to entrust to the vagaries of the postal system. Revealing it this way also gives him time to prepare a suitable display area in his home. As you (and now he) can see, the figure is of a hunting man accompanied by dog. The man is mysteriously wearing lipstick. Perhaps this is traditional. The dog is of indeterminate gender. My brother likes these kind of dogs although they also stress him, and he also goes shooting hence this gift. We got it at our local Vide Grenier (over-priced boot fair) a few weeks ago. It was on the first stall we stopped at not least because a) it was too hot too look around much, and b), the stall holder was quite pretty and so M found her wares to be of particular interest. The figurine had a tag attached saying 15 euros. M managed to bargain this price down on the basis of damage (a missing gun). If you ask me, he was still robbed. The piece is labelled underneath 'The Leonardo Collection' so likely to be of some value I feel. My brother is pretty canny with finances and investments so will appreciate this aspect of his gift. Here, the first picture shows a standard view of the figurine. The second a side view (unfortunately the missing gun gives the impression the hunting chappie is doing something rather odd). It also shows how recklessly I've placed the figure with a big overhang from the shelf. It could easily have fallen and broken. I honestly didn't realise this at the time.The final pictures here show M's current progress at manufacturing a replica gun. So far, the end result is pretty effective-and done with only a cheap scrap of timber and two (used) toothpicks. So there it is! I don't know when this gift will get to you, big brother, but it's well worth waiting for as you can see. yee ha! I bet that's cheered your day up no end!!!!...and you thought we'd forgotten you!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Teasing the Cockerel

...and here is Wellington, our youthful cockerel who is now approaching maturity. He has won the day over Napoleon, the bantam cockerel, and Napoleon has had to return to our neighbours', from whence he came. Being young however, Wellington can be over-exuberant with his love-making and so, every afternoon, I let the girls out on their own for a peaceful saunter. They can be seen doing this in the distance in one of these photos, expoing their feathery bottoms-two white, two brown, as they bend over to peck at some tasty morsel. This drives Wellington absolutely crazeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee with frustration, as he paces up and down beside the fence, waiting for their return in the evening. Yee-ha. Go girls-that's Girl Power for you!

Monday, August 2, 2010

harvest home!

Directly behind our garden (the boundary being the wire fence), is the hay field...and on Saturday, after a series of checks, and much rumbling of heavy vehicles, all was ready to do the harvest...which when it came to it, hardly took any time at all. I always find it exciting for some reason-even though the serried ranks of sweating men with scythes have been replaced with these machines which can do the job quicker than you can say 'giant haystacks'. The little tractor in the second picture is towing a yellow trailer. When this gets full of the hay which the big green and white machine is cutting, the yellow trailer thing suddenly splits itself in two at the middle, and spits out one of those round haystacks. Marvellous.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Counting Your Chickens

A lot has been happening recently...but since our human lives are really pretty tedious, it's best to focus on the chickens. The neighbours bantam cockerel, Napoleon, has joined our girls-and even been roosting with them overnight for the last couple of nights. His fancy feathered tail can be seen here. I have also 'rescued' another chicken-who has turned out to be a cockerel. So there will be trouble at the coop before long. Wellington (the new cockerel) is trying out his cock a doodle doo at the moment which currently sounds like a gurgling sink. Once he crows for real, it will be war between the two of them, or so I'm told. Currently. Napoleon has a harem of all four chickens, whom he looks after very conscientiously, and Wellington has to make do with raping the ducks when they can't run fast enough.

Here, the chickens are trying their new night-time game which is trying to see how many chickens will fit on the roost before it breaks. It is already bending. The posters in the background, which some of them are studying, have their pictures and names on them. I hope they might learn to read one day.
On a more serious note, some of them have deveoped a discolouration of their combs. They have no other signs of illness so I am hoping this is just a temporary affliction. The traditional approach to sick chickens here is a firm hand grasped around the neck and tightened. it is cheap, and effective. They have been warned...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A baby kestrel

It's been busy here recently since the sun has finally come out, and many things have started growing. Our neighbours have put their horse and foal back in our field for extra grazing-they did check first! As it happens, it's really useful to have the grass kept down. The French around here must think we're all mad for using lawnmowers-after all, you could have an animal grazing the grass which you could eat or sell later on. At any rate, it does not look as if the french use their grass to practise football on if the world cup is anything to go by...Our other neighbour also had a return of the baby kestrels on his window ledge. Sadly, the one which was pictured here probably left the nest a little too early-but there were at least two others left looking over the edge and trying to judge the right moment to leave the nest-it's never an easy judgement-even for a little bird...

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Broody Duck

One of our ducks has gone broody. I had thought this might happen to one of the chickens, given that they now have a cockerel, but no-things always happen a little differently here, and for us, it's the duck. For the last few days, we've been lifting her off the favoured egg box after about 10.30, and shutting her out of the coop. Sometimes, I've just lifted the nest box up vertically to turf her out (and yes, tesco's do deliver their shoping orders in very similar baskets), and at other times I have called upon any ill-prepared sandal-wearing man in the vicinity to do the deed, whereupon he gets his toes pecked. Today, I gave up. I have lost out to the forces of nature. Whenever I go in the coop, this duck gives out an odd chirruping noise by way of a warning. She is currently sitting on 3 hens eggs which are probably fertile, and one duck egg which i don't think possibly can be. I've looked on the net, but still can't see any advice for what happens if a mother duck does hatch baby chickens. Will she try and take them on the pond??? For the moment, I'm just amazed at her commitment. Usually, the ducks are very sociable and wander all around the place, and especially love to know what's going on in the house, but now she just sits there all alone, in the darkness of the coop, gazing at nothing, and just listening to the buzzing of a fly as she sits and patiently waits...and waits...and waits....

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Gaspers

Run fast, little teckel. Run fast and run true. Run 'til your small heart beats like a drum inside your deep chest. Run until your breath pushes your chest in and out like bellows.
For here in the woods, the Gaspers live. I have just seen one behind you, his matted hair fouled with the slime of a thousand slugs, his breath as putrid as the deepest swamp, and his yellow eyes swivelling constantly round in search of his prey. I can hear him crashing through the trees and snapping the twigs in the forest as he chases you. He can run fast on his bandy legs. If he catches you, he will cut off your legs. Already your legs are just stumps because long ago, one of your ancestors, Ruben the Digger, dared to dig in this part of the woods. When a Gasper came upon him, he was angry with Ruben for digging so hard, and he started to chase him. Then he tripped in the hole which Ruben had dug. Enraged with pain, he caught the dog, and cut off his legs so that he could dig no more. Later that night, the wood fairies came and found the poor suffering dog, and with their woodland magic, they were able to sew his paws back on again with tendrils from ivy leaves, and they placed spiders webs around the wounds to help them heal. But, before he had left,the Gasper had sat and gnawed upon Ruben's legs, and they were too badly damaged to be replaced. This, as you know, is how the teckels came to have such short legs, and this is also how the Gaspers came to have bandy legs and bad tempers. It's the reason why the Gaspers hate teckels even more than tax officers, or social workers, or MP's or even bankers. So keep on running little one, and do not stop until you have crossed the bridge and run out of the forest and safely into the sunshine.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Today, I have resumed the pointing of the chicken shed. Here, you see firstly my own pathetic and messy efforts. Second is an area done by my personal pointing guru called Pelle. If you think his looks good, you should see the left hand side of his own house which was where he made his own first efforts at this 'craft'-believe it or not, it's not much better than mine. Obviously he has done a lot since. No matter how good you are at it though, it remains a long and slow process. Can't be hurried. There's the whole chicken shed to be done-front, and back and sides. Currently, the stones are just resting on each other with nothing in between-not a good recipie for stability. To keep my spirits up, M took over tea-making duties which was fantastic. Bess the staffie-type dog came and sunbathed-she lolled against the chicken shed gate in the full sunshine until she became so hot that she'd have a panic attack and have to lollop into the shade. Her breathing has not been so good again lately-she comes to be to be 'calmed' when she's having one of her gasping attacks. The vet said this was a chronic condition, aggravated by the conditions she was kept in before we had her. Anyway, in between her wheeziness, Bessie did manage to tell me a couple of doggie fables to help while away the time. In return, I told her a potted version of the 101 Dalmations. She was a bit cynical about it because she does not believe in mongamy-she seems a little bitter about it, in fact, and any attempt to discuss the rewards of a long-term committed relationship with her just make her hacking and wheezing worse than ever. Poor Bess.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Baby Bird

Tonight, M came and put a baby bird in my hand. It looked directly at me with it's beady brown eyes, and opened it's mouth into a big yellow diamond shape. It made no attempt to get away. We didn't know what to do with it. He had found it on the ground, underneath one of the cars-the cat had been about to get it.My suggestion was to give it some water from a dropper-perhaps with some sugar in it. M checked online. "Do Not give your baby bird water", he read out. Our baby bird??? I thought...since when ???? looked at me, and cheeped. "Do Not give your baby bird sugared water" he continued. is coming to something when a Man starts reading instructions. The advice continued to suggest that we should be fetching a wide variety of insects for 'our' baby bird. Instead, after some thought, M made this rather neat surrogate nest out of a spare corner of old carpet on the tree closest to where we'd found our baby bird, and I popped 'him' in. We put all the pets indoors and withdrew to a safe distance. It wasn't long before there was much cheeping and crying between this baby and a couple of adult birds in the next tree, and then the adults started flying into the area of the carpet cone nest. A little later, 'our' baby bird was gone. I'd like to think it had all had a happy ending but realistically,it seems unlikely. Nonetheless, I feel there should be little nest cones like this every 10th tree or something for just such eventualities at this time of year...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pipes and Tension

Sunday was a bit trying for M. On investigating the cause of a loss of water pressure in the house, he discovered a spurting tap up in the garden. We are fortunate here in being able to use a type of well water which was originally put in for the railway line which used to run along the back of the house (now a footpath). This means we only have to turn the mains water on if e.g. we need to use the jet washer-so all our garden watering etc comes for free. it saves a fair bit of money since all water supplies here are metered. Anyway, M clearly thought he had saved the day when he went and shoved one of those things in the pipe which you usually use to stop up a wine bottle. Me, I am a little less of an optimist and sure enough, I was proved right when the stopper came flying out again. Much cursing ensued. I carried on banking up the soil around my potato plants since there's a time to offer a man help, and it's not when he needs it- it's when he asks for it. After he'd been soaked for the third time, M reached this stage and I duly held the pipe whilst he went and sought a solution. All is well again now and he has also neatly concreted around the base of the tap. I saw a goblin admiring his handiwork as I walked the dogs around the garden first thing this morning. It's a fact not commonly known that goblins are terrific at DIY. They actually have very high standards-it's partly why they're often in a bad mood because they're always stressing over the quality of finish, the cost of materials, and how difficult it is, when you're very short, to find a staff member to help you locate things in B and Q stores. As you can see, Franck found M's repeated soakings great fun-this dog is completely incapable of responding appropriately to a number of human emotions-these being things like anger, irritaiton, stress, and hatred. In his world, everything is full of love and sunshine. It could be the death of him one day.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Spring Has Sprung

This morning, I noticed things seemed very noisy just outside the kitchen window. I turned the radio down...a cock was crowing loudly and repetitively. Since a) I was listening to a farming programme and b) we haven't got a cockerel, I turned the radio completely off, thinking it must be background noise in the programme.But the crowing contineud more loudly than ever. So I finally took a look out of the window to see the above scene-where three of my 'girls' were eyeing up the neighbours cockerel, who has ventured into our garden, lured by their charms. The girls have gone about in a tight huddle all day, not sure what to think. The cockerel is small (size might matter)-in fact, I think he could be a bantam. But he makes up for it in terms of the noise he produces, and the strutting he does. He has his own girlfriend-a small dark bantam who follows him around-but at the least opportunity, he gives her the slip and strays over here. The grass is always greener as they say, and it certainly was this afternoon when I took the dogs for a walk and admired the fallow fields, full of dandelions. A rabbits delight-and I saw a hare leap across the road from this field obly the other day. As for the chickens, the tension is mounting (but will the cockerel be mounting, too?) It's nearly as exciting as British politics at the moment.


About Me

My photo
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.