Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Music in the park

Our nearby Spa resort of Bagnoles de L'Orne puts on musical events every Sunday afternoon during the summer season. These take place in the park in front of the Chateau. We spent a pleasant afternoon there last week listening to 'Calypso made in Calvados'.

Open Farm Weekend

This last week end our Dutch neighbours opened their farm to visitors as part of 'Les pieds dans l'herbe.' There were four farms open in the region, our neighbours and a farm in Passais were the ones close to us. On Saturday we visited Isabelle et Jacques Mousset's farm of Saint Auvieu
at Passais la Conception. They have set up their own creamery and Isabelle makes fresh cream, butter, yoghurt and fromage blanc from their own milk. They have also installed a heating system which uses chipped waste wood, many visitors found the boiler and feed system interesting.
Sunday we helped out our Dutch friends on their farm at La Dennee. They had just over 100 visitors on Sunday afternoon. They showed their waste water reed beds, the holiday cottage they rent out for holidays and the cows and milking parlour. We finished they day there with a BBQ for the helpers and their guests in the guest house. We had a lovely evening sitting outside until late in the evening. For more info see the link.

Bardsey Apple

Our Bardsey apple is now two years old had has produced 9 apples this year. One apple has already fallen from the tree and we have picked three others as they have been attacked by earwigs and we don't want them to rot on the tree. It is a beautiful apple, similar in colour and appearance to a nectarine - they have rosy cheeks. A crunchy apple with a fresh clean taste, sweet with a little tartness. The flesh is clear off white, the skin is thin and tasty. Our current feeling is that this is a nice cheerful apple. I will update when we have harvest the rest of our apples. But for the moment we are very happy with this new variety in our orchard.

Visit to Caen
Last week we drove up to Caen, the castle has several exhibition spaces as part of the museum of Normandy. We went to see an exhibition of travel posters. As usual it was very well presented and also very interesting. We also climbed the hill to visit the Abbaye aux Dames, which now houses the regional government offices, but is open to the public, well worth a visit. It is nice to spend time in a proper town, with shops, busses, trams etc. It makes a change from the peace of our rural surroundings here.

We continue to harvest vegetables from the garden, the tomatoes are ripening fast and are really tasty. The two butternut squash plants are running rampant over the garden. Several fruits have set - hopefully they will ripen before we leave.
Chutney making continues using the wind fall apples and other veg as it becomes available.

Today we have installed another satellite dish, with the help of an English friend. We now have the BBC/ITV etc as an alternative to French television. I like to watch the local and national french news programmes, however we don't find there is much else of interest - at least not in the summer.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Hot summer days

Not sure where the time is going but the days fly by. I can't pretend that I am very busy or working particularly hard. Last week Céaucé celebrated it's Saints Day of St Ernier with its traditional procession with floats and brass bands followed by a BBQ supper on the village square. There weren't as many floats this year and the band which usually comes from Belgium was missing too. This year no candidates came forward to be elected 'Miss Céaucé' so we had 'Miss Ambrieres' and her attendants to grace the possession, beautiful as usual. I think it may be time for a 'Mrs. Céaucé' if the youngsters are not interested. We went to the supper, and met up with some English friends there. But it was so noisy that it was almost impossible to have a conversation, particularly when the band started up and the singing started. The less I say about the food the better. While we were eating the heavens opened and the rain flowed through the tent. However when we got home there had been no rain at all. It had been a very isolated storm.

Found some cherry plums growing in the hedgerow so have taken the opportunity to make some jam.

The blackberries continue to ripen and I have made my first batch of Bramble Jelly. I also used some to make a sauce to accompany a panacotta the other evening.

Modern Art in our B&B bedroom an empty picture frame.

Tuesday Rob and I set off for a couple of days in the Loire Valley. We drove straight down to Angers and then followed the river to Saumur. We spent some time walking around the town, but it was very hot and humid, so not very pleasant. We continued on to the village of Fontevraud which has a wonderful old abbey. As the two hotels were both fully booked we found a B&B just on the edge of the village. Luckily we were able to get a table at the hotel/restaurant in the centre of the village. We had a wonderful meal served outside in the courtyard of the restaurant, see link. http://www.fontevraud.net/
The next day we visited the Abbey - should anyone be passing this way we recommend a visit for more information: http://www.abbaye-fontevraud.com/v3/home/

Dominique, one of our neighbours is here for two weeks holiday from her work in Paris, so she and Serge came on Thursday for supper, It was good to catch up with them as she is often busy when she is here at the weekends and we don't often get the chance to chat.

Today we visited the annual manifestation at St. Fraimbault, as usual it was very well organised, lots of local producers of food and drink, demonstrations of farming techniques, exhibitions of tomatoes, rabbits and chickens, beautiful displays of flowers and a classic car rally. It was very hot and after having a look at all that was on offer we came home to spend the rest of the afternoon under the trees in the garden where there was some breeze.
The photo shows my dad looking at one of the cars last year.

The garden continues to supply us with a good selection of vegetables. The tomatoes are now ripening quickly giving us a constant supply, however the ones growing in the garden had been hit by blight so I think I have lost all of those. I have removed all the effected parts but it was such a severe attack I don't think there is much hope which is a shame as they were heavily laden with fruits. The neighbours are being overwhelmed by courgettes so although we have plenty of our own I have taken some of theirs to start this years chutney production.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Busy week

Been busy since my last posting,I have met up with another English girl, she is much younger than me, who is in training to walk up Snowdon later this month. So far we have managed one walk together, hopefully we will get more in. I am walking on my own in the evenings even if it is only to the end of the road and back 1.6km.

This morning Rob and I went out for a walk starting from the village of St Simeon, not far from here. It is a circular walk taking in several menirs and dolmens, however it soon become very hot so we only walked as far as the first menir and then came back along a different road. It was very quiet hardly anyone out and about. On the road leading out of St Simeon we found lots of edible mushrooms, all of which had already gone over but it shows that the season has started early this year, could be to do with all the rain we have had.

On our way to St Simeon we did come across several giant puffballs in a field with cows, they were close to the road so Rob rolled under the barbed wire and picked one, we shall be having it for supper. It is enormous - I have photographed it with a lemon to give some idea of size. It weighs 1300g

The garden continues to keep us supplied with fresh vegetables and herbs. Almost without exception our meals are based around the days harvest. We have eaten out first ripe tomato,see photo, but there are many more on the plants and two more are almost ripe. The potatoes continue to impress particularly the variety Rocket - I will be growing these again. The beetroot are also impressive and are living up to the description on the seed packet - they are large 10 -15 cm in diameter but still beautiful and tender all the way through - no tough bits at all.

Rob has been busy treating the floor and beams in the attic of the garage against wood worm, it has been a long hard task particularly when he was painting it on above his head. He managed to loose a contact lense as there was so much dust and perspiration - luckily he has brought along a second pair, as we have not managed to find it.

Costa del Faverie

Now that the weather has improved we have put out our new parasol which we brought with us, there was a time when we thought it would be staying in its box, but as you can see it gives a very summery impression. In fact I am sitting under it now as I write my blog - very pleasant indeed. What is also impressive is that I still get a good connection to the internet out here despite the wall between me and the 'livebox' is about 90cm thick.

There was lots happening round about this last weekend. It was the bi-annual Mediaeval Faire in Domfront and on Sunday the annual fete in Soucé. We visited Domfront on Saturday luckily timeing our visit avoiding the really heavy rain. It was not a good day, our neighbours who have a shop in Domfront said it was very disapointing but Sunday was much better as it was a bright and sunny day.

We went to Soucé where we had our stall selling chutneys and English paperbacks. We packed up early afternoon when we had only three jars of chutney left. We felt we had had a successful day. Sales were good with some repeat customers, I seem to be making a name for myself. Now I am waiting for the apples to ripen and for a glut of courgettes and I will be back making chutneys for next year.