Friday, 31 December 2010

The year draws to a close.

As the year draws to a close, it is time to reflect on the past year before we embark on a new one. It seems as though the years go by faster and consequently it is easy to forget many of the things we have done. Luckily by writing this blog I can look back and appreciate some of the highlights of our year. Many are small relatively insignificant things but were important in their own right.

As I look over my vegetable garden today, it appears light and open. I realize that there is more light now that the trees have shed their leaves. Most of the ground is bare, covered in black plastic, awaiting the spring. But there are still sufficient plants in the ground to continue to give us fresh veg daily. There are a few red cabbage, several sprout plants, Swiss chard is still growing albeit slowly, the celery is abundant, if somewhat small but ideal for soups, it may not be a 'looker' but it tastes good. Under some fleece there is sufficient spinach for at least one meal. The lambs lettuce is covered with fallen leaves but there is enough for several salads. And the Jerusalem artichokes are still abundant. We won't go hungry just yet.

We started the year with snow and although we may not finish it with more snow, we have certainly had a cold a snowy winter so far. Yesterday we had relatively warm sunshine and there was a feeling of spring in the air, but of course it is still December and today is cold and murky again, with colder weather forecast for the coming days.

This past year has seen many natural disasters affect the world we have indeed been very lucky. I have to admit getting annoyed as I have heard of peoples holiday plans being ruined by ash clouds or snow, but perhaps we need to think about what is really important. We are as guilty too as we assume we can travel back and forth to France on a whim. Over the last few decades we have become accustomed to being able to do what we will when we want. Perhaps it is now time to stop and think do we need to travel so much or expect every thing to run smoothly all the time. Perhaps there is something to be said for the 'big society' where we think of others before ourselves. We are enjoying the last day of the year sitting inside in the warmth of our house, and tonight will see in the new year with the friends we share last new years eve with.

Tomorrow is another year - what will 2011 bring?

Friday, 24 December 2010

'Tis the night before Christmas

'Tis the night before Christmas, the mince pies are warm from the oven, mulled wine warming gently on the stove. Outside it is cold and frosty, but hey luckily no snow!

All ready for tomorrow, the pudding has been steamed and the cake decorated. A buche de noel is smothered with chocolate and chocolate stars, the stuffing is made and the turkey is covered with a thick layer of lemon and garlic seasoned butter à la Gordon Ramsey.

The presents are wrapped and all we need now is for Santa to visit and family to arrive tomorrow.

I hope all who read this have a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

Monday, 29 November 2010

WrW Maternal Health

All speakers now in place - just need an audience. If you haven't booked your tickets please do so now. It would be nice to have sold 50 tickets before the WI office closes for Christmas.

Women Reaching Women

Improving Maternal Health

Maria Pawlowska,
Cambridge University Gates Scholar
Adam Musgrave
Health and Education Campaigner, Oxfam GB
Victoria Morris, 

Young Parents Support and Advocacy Worker Suffolk

Wednesday 23rd February 2011

Horringer Community Centre

7 p.m. Wine and Cheese 7.30 p.m. Start

Tickets from SWFWI, Cost £4,Tel: 01284 754 520

Book this date - don’t miss it!
This event is open to all - please invite your friends and other interested parties

Muck, Muck, Muck - black gold!

After many wheelbarrows full of farmyard manure the garden is now ready for winter. Black plastic is covering large areas of open ground preventing the weeds from taking over in the spring. A thick layer of muck covers large areas - hopefully the worms will keep busy this winter and drag it all into the soil to make a nice humus rich growing medium.

The last of the carrots and turnips have been dug up, but there is still a good supply of sprouts for Christmas and several beautiful red cabbage.

The chicory has been dug up and planted in pots for forcing, never done it before so watch this space!

It is cold, very cold, outside but luckily we have missed the snow, just a few snow flurries, but nothing on the ground.

Sunday, 21 November 2010


Mud is what you get when there has been a lot of rain in the countryside. Everything I touch outside is wet and dirty. It is time to clear the garden and prepare it for the winter. There are still vegetables in the ground which should keep us going for several weeks. Sprouts, red cabbage, leeks, turnips, beetroot and a variety of salad leaves, lambs ears, endive and oak leaf. The compost heap has been emptied on to the garden, the asparagus bed getting a good thick layer. I have dug all the potatoes, just need to go over the plot again to see if I have missed any, but will wait for a dry day before tackling that task. We have had a good crop this year, the Pink Fir Apples have been particularly prolific, and with a good crop of Blue Danube and Cara's we should have plenty of potatoes to see us through a cold winter.

Last autumn I took cuttings from the red currant bush, these rooted and we have now planted them on the edge of the garden with the idea of having an edible hedge. A way of having more soft fruit without taking up more space in the garden. Let's just hope they survive the move and the winter.

Now just need to plant up the bulbs I removed from the tubs, to plant summer bedding, so that we have another good display of colour come the spring.

Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) 5

Continuing to finalise the WrW event focusing on the MDG 5. Two speakers so far confirmed. We are really lucky to have Maria Pawlowska is a Cambridge University Gates Scholar and has worked for different organizations including Global Poverty Project and RESULTS on issues concerning maternal mortality - communicating with the wider audience as well as writing government consultations. She has also written on maternal health for the Maternal Health Task Force and has been published in different outlets including the Reproductive Health Reality Check. Maria will speak about the latest developments, the most important of which are preventing hemorrhage and providing family planning services. She will also speak on the causes of maternal deaths and what is currently being done to help and why the MDGs are so important.

To bring the subject closer to home. Victoria Morris, Young Parents Support and Advocacy Worker will talk about the work being done in Suffolk with young teenage parents. The WI has been involved with one of her support groups, sharing skills such as knitting crochet and cooking.

Wednesday 23rd February 2011, Horringer Community Centre. 7 for 7.30 start.
Please do put this event in your diary - tickets can now be purchased from the WI office just £4. Please contact them directly (01284 754520) or by email

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Millenium Development Goals MDGs

Busy a planning an event as part of the Women Reaching Women campaign. The NFWI is working with Oxfam GB and the Everyone Foundation on a three year development, gender and climate change educational campaign. Women Reaching Women aims to broaden awareness of these issues amongst WI members, their families and communities.

This years emphasis should be on equality but here in Suffolk we are concentrating on MDG 5 maternal health.

The statistics are staggering. For instance did you know?
  • More than half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth every year - that's one death every minute. Of these deaths, 99 per cent are in developing countries. The lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy and childbirth in Africa is 1 in 22, while it is 1 in 120 in Asia and 1 in 7,300 in developed countries.(Source:UNFPA)
  • Only 28 in 100 women giving birth are attended by trained health personnel in the least developed countries. (Source:ActionAid)
Luckily there is a lot of work being done around the world to improve matters, and hopefully those who attend my event will come away better informed.
I am currently inviting speakers and it looks like we will have at least two if not three people with both knowledge and influence.

As this event is open to all - not just the WI I do hope we will get a good attendance. I think it should be of interest to all but particularly to mums and dads of all ages. Spread the word to anyone who may live close enough to Bury St Edmunds to attend.

Wednesday 23rd February 2011, Horringer Community Centre. 7 for 7.30 start.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

What a week!

Back from a few days at a 'Women Reaching Women' Conference at Denman College. If anyone thinks I have been away on a jolly - forget it, this has been an intense conference, busy from after breakfast till late in the evening, yes, we even had sessions and talks after dinner.

However it was very interesting and stimulating and now I am ready to get on with organizing our final years events. Watch out all of my friends in Suffolk, I will be expecting you all to support me.
If you haven't heard about Women Reaching Women click on the link below for more information.

Today I visited the young parents group in Sudbury. What a success that has been, when I first visited there were several mums and dads with their children but now the group has dwindled to just a few as most of the young parents are now either back in education, training or in full time work.
Just one very young mum and lovely baby today - and we cooked a quick pasta lunch together in the kitchen. It has been a really inspiring place to visit I just hope that there are similar groups in other towns where young parents can get the support that these youngsters have received in Sudbury. Well done to their support team.

One delightful baby enjoying his pasta with tomato sauce, cooked by mum!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Girls Night Out

What a great event. About 560 women took part in a 11.2 mile (18 km) walk around the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds yesterday evening. We started at 20.00 hours and Debbie and I completed the walk in 3 hours 15 mins.
The weather was kind, rain had been forecast but it held off until the end of the evening.
Despite having a bad cold and really not feeling at all fit before we set off I was surprised we walked to easily. Today, no aches or pains and feel much brighter and fitter.

Well done to all of us who took part and thanks to our sponsors - the money raised is going to a good cause.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Gifts from the Garden

It is said that the pleasure is in the giving of gifts, but I have to say that there is a great pleasure in the receiving of gifts, particularly those from the garden or those made by the giver.

We have had the pleasure of receiving edible gifts from our friends and neighbours gardens. Freshly dug beetroot, sun ripened tomatoes. Hot spicy chilli peppers and large courgettes ideal for chutney making. Home made jams and jellies, quince, rhubarb and black current - just a few of the varieties we have tasted this year, all really lovely. We also received dry cured bacon from Wales, a real luxury in France. I do appreciate these offerings and we have enjoyed them all.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Bay Bolletes, Chicken of the woods, Butternut squash

After a few rainy days the weather definitely has an autumnal feel. The nights are cooler and the days clear and crisp with bright sunshine. The garden continues to supply us with our daily needs. The butternut squash are bigger than previous years, real monsters growing in the garden. The cucumbers continue to surprise, I found two hidden under the leaves which were more the size of large marrows rather than cucumbers, and they were still tender to eat - I must be doing something right this year.

Saturday we went foraging for mushrooms in our favourite spot and it didn't disappoint. We came home with enough Bolletes to dry some for the winter and enough to make a lovely sauce, which we ate on homemade tagliatelle.

That's me slicing the mushrooms for drying and laying them out on a tea towels to dry in the sun and wind.

Yesterday we headed off to the village of Lonlay l'Abbaye, which was holding its annual fete with 'Vide Grenier' No we didn't have a stall, I am still busy making chutneys and those that are made need to mature before they can be eaten. It was our first time at this particular event, we were amazed by the number of visitors and the number of stalls. We grabbed a few bargains which is always satisfying.

After leaving the village we took a road along the river and low and behold there was supper growing on a tree. A nice fresh Chicken of the Woods. This time I gave it an Indian treatment which was really delicious, see my other blog for more details.

A cricket sunning himself in the warm sunshine on the gravel in the courtyard.

Monday, 23 August 2010

'Ouvertures normandes' - Exhibition opening

Sunday 22nd August 2010 saw the opening of Rob's summer exhibition 'Ouvertures normandes'.

The exhibition was opened on Sunday morning with a drinks reception for friends and neighbours.

On show in this exhibition are a series of paintings based on the theme 'openings'. In this region of Normandy the traditional houses are built of stone, many of these buildings have been neglected but many of the windows and doors remain in their almost original state. The wonderful aspect of these old buildings is that although many look similar they often have quite unique stone features. These windows, doors, and other openings in the buildings have inspired Rob this summer and the paintings in the exhibition are the result of his work over the last two months here in Normandy. The paintings are acrylic paint on paper, which have been mounted.

Below is a small selection of the 21 pieces currently being exhibited.

The paintings are not currently being offered for sale, but if you are particularly interested in purchasing one or more of this unique series, don't hesitate to contact me and I will pass on your interest to the Artist.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

St Ernier and preparing for winter

The village of Ceauce celebrated the fete of St Ernier on the weekend of 7th and 8th of August. There was a fun fair in the village all weekend and on Sunday afternoon the annual parade took place. Local groups prepare floats - towed by tractors and decorated with paper flowers. One float carried Miss Ceauce and her attendants, three beautiful local girls.

One float sported the ever popular, Noddy know here as Oui Oui.

Several local bands and majorettes livened up the parade and this year there were two new bands. One a small group who sat on the back of a trailer and played jazz and blues music and the other again playing similar music, definitely much better than the usual bands who are getting a little old and set in their ways.

Having had a bit of rain a 'Chicken of the Woods' grew on a nearby plum tree. We have enjoyed several meals from it along with some plums too.

My dad arrived last week. The first day he was here we bought wood which we hope will be enough to keep us warm through the next winter. As we both heat the house and cook on wood during the winter months it is essential to get in a good supply well before the weather changes. It was all hands to the task - and it was quickly stashed away in the cow shed to keep it dry and ready for use.

This last weekend we enjoyed a short visit from some family friends at the end of their camping holiday. It was lovely to catch up with them and to meet Emily for the first time.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

The Bayeux Tapestry and Port en Bassin

We continue to enjoy the bounties of the land. This year I have sown cucumber seeds and have now started to harvest them. The cucumbers are about 15cm long and just the right size for one meal. The cucumbers are hidden under the leaves and on close inspection there seem to be at least 7 or 8 ready to eat. The melons sown at the same time are now beginning to show their first fruits - there are about 3 or 4 but they are still the size of golf balls, so it's now a question of wait and see if they grow any bigger. The squash plants are just running wild all over the plot but do now seem to be producing small fruits. Last year they were very successful so I am hopeful that this year will be equally productive.

The broad beans and peas are coming to an end - just a few more to harvest and then it will be time to clear them from the plot.

The climbing french beans are providing sufficient for a meal every other day so I have frozen some for later in the year. I have also grown a variety called Barlotto Lingua di Fuoco, a type of Italian Borlotti bean. The plants have grown strongly but as yet not producing as many beans as the standard french bean plants.

This years crop of beetroot is not very good, I think the hot dry weather has something to do with it as some have started to bolt. Luckily my friend Verity has a good crop so we have enjoyed freshly boiled beetroot, with just a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and black ground pepper.

The fennel is growing well, this year I waited until after the longest day before sowing the seed directly into the ground. Last year I sowed the seed too early and they just grew ferny tops and no bulbs - hopefully this year will be better - they certainly look promising.

The courgettes continue to produce fruits and I am harvesting at least a couple from each plant every 2 to 3 days. There should be plenty for chutney making very soon. I have cleared the red currant bush of its fruits and frozen what we haven't eaten to keep it for desserts. The one bush has done really well. Plan to take some cuttings this autumn so that we can have a 'fruit border' along the boundary fence of the garden. The black currants cuttings I took last autumn have taken and a looking very healthy, they will be the first fruits in the 'border'.

Tuesday we headed off to visit the Bayeux Tapestry. We stopped off briefly in Caen so Rob could make a purchase, now we know the city quite well and I was able to park almost outside the shop and hover while he popped in, and then set off for Bayeux not so far from Caen.

We went via the coast and stopped for lunch at Port en Bassin a
small fishing port just to the north of Bayeux. Its claim to fame is that it was captured during WWII and was used as a Petrol Terminal for PLUTO (pipeline under the ocean), an under water pipeline from the Isle of Wight to France bringing fuel for the allied forces.

The harbour is surrounded by many fish restaurants which were full of tourists, we found a small restaurant in one of the back streets not far from the fish market, where we had a lovely lunch.

After a leisurely lunch and a stroll around the village we headed south to Bayeux. There was only a short queue to buy entry tickets but then we found a very long line of people waiting to actually get into the exhibition room. I think we hit the crowds coming in after lunch, anyway well worth the wait. I had seen it before when I was young, but I now understand the history behind the tapestry and can also appreciate the quality of the work.

We also visited the cathedral which has some amazing stone work, the first level of the nave has medieaval stone carvings see the interactive website to get an idea of the beauty of the stone work.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Sold Out!

Last Sunday we set up stall in Bagnoles de l'Orne. A really good day - more or less sold out. We have only a small selection of books left and when we were down to the last 4 jars of chutney we shut up shop. Several repeat customers came along, ones we had sold to at Domfront the week before and stocked up. Now just have to wait for the apples to be ready for harvesting and then it will be time to make more chutney. The blackberries have started to ripen - made the first blackberry and apple pie today with the first ripe berries and some windfall apples.

Some customers even had their dogs with them.

Aliénor, our next door neighbours dog, has given birth to her first litter of pups, nine healthy little things. When we saw them they still had their eyes closed but had already grown quite a lot.

Mother and babies doing well!

Yesterday we visited the town of Mortagne au Perche which is in the eastern partof the Department of Orne. A lovely small town with many interesting buildings and many small streets to explore, worth a visit if you are near by.

North of the town is the Abbaye de la Trappe ( unfortunately it is not open to the public although there is a shop selling religious books etc and a selection of food and drinks from the Abbey and other local producers.

After leaving Mortagne au Perche we stumbled on La Chapelle Montligeon when we saw the Basilique de Montligeon in the distance on a hillside backed by trees and with a chateau style building to the side. Only recently built - well 100 years ago - it towers over the very small village.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Caen, Vide Greniers, Garden Fresh Veg and 'The Big Society"

Bastille Day, 14th July, saw us up early, the alarm clock had been set and we set off too our local town to set up a stall at the 'vide greniers' basically a car boot sale. It started to drizzle with rain as we left the house but we weren't deterred. Thinking we would be there early we found the town already full of stalls and the most lively we have ever seen it. We secured a place under an archway which had the advantage that we stayed dry when it rained, however it is known as the windiest spot in Domfront. The old town is built on top of a hill and where we stood is the access through to the car park with a panoramic view over the countryside to the north, hence there is always a cold wind up there. However it was a choice get wet or get cold, we chose for cold.

We had our usual produce, jams, chutneys and lemon curd, and a box of secondhand English language paperbacks. The books always draws in the English speakers although they aren't particularly good customers for the chutneys as they tend to make their own. Despite the weather we had a good day, we had taken three boxes of books and left with one. We also sold a lot of chutneys and lemon curd to both locals and visitors.

It is also a good way to meet people, and we made contact with 'friends of some friends' who recognised the label on the Lemon Curd having been offered it to taste by one of our neighbours.
I also met a man interested in local history who made some suggestions of names to look out for in the library and I also told him about some booklets that I had read about the war time period in Domfront which he hadn't heard of. Always nice to know something that locals don't know.

Friday we had our Welsh friends over for lunch - these are the friends we meet up with here, but have only met once on the UK side of the channel. Wednesdays rain had cleared away quickly and we were back to the warmth we have been enjoying for weeks, so kept the menu light, and where possible fresh from the garden.

Salmon, with a fresh vegetable salad, our first new potatoes,and a fruit tart with raspberries, redcurrants and blueberries all picked that morning.

This year has been a particularly good year for fruit - the cherry trees around us have been full of fruit.
I have frozen quite a lot and made three different types of Cherry Jam, White Cherry, Dark Red Cherry and a light Red Cherry.

Monday we headed north to Caen to visit the summer exhibition at the Musée de Normandie. This year it is about the local Caen Stone, which has been used to build Canterbury, Chichester and Norwich Cathedrals as well as the London Bridge. As usual it was very well presented. The temporary exhibitions are held in a recently renovated part of the Castle which as been left with the stone walls exposed and a simple light wood floor. The Presentation is light and modern and with good use of multimedia. I think a few more museums could follow their example.

Girls lunch today - had lunch at our local restaurant with my walking mate. Perhaps we should have been walking rather than eating, but we spent 2 1/2 hours over a leisurely lunch putting the world to right. Yes, we did start at midday and I was home just before three. There was plenty to catch up on, and I am sure there are still topics we should have covered which we missed, but we caught up on friends and family, discussed the economy - volunteering 'in the big society', battered women, careers, motherhood as a career and much more.

One interesting fact - there are 204.031 volunteer firefighters in France who account for 80 % of all fire fighters nationally - I was lunching with one of them!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Drought, Cherry Ice Cream and World Cup Football

We are back in the peace and tranquillity of rural France after a few days away in the Netherlands visiting family and friends. A visit which included a party on the beach in Scheveningen where some friends were celebrating the fortieth anniversary of their meeting (I think they have been married 38 years) and the funeral of a must respected family member who had died aged 93.

While there we watched the Uruguay - Netherlands match and are now ready for this evenings match against Spain in the World Cup Final. Not having any flags or banners to decorate the house we have found a good use for some Sainsburys carrier bags, thank you Mr. Sainsbury let's just hope they win tonight! Our neighbour has just popped in to enquire about the orange carrier bags, are they for harvesting some particular fruit or veg, or as her husband thought were we celebrating a wedding here today. She didn't know that orange is the national colour of the Netherlands - the royal family is from the 'House of Orange' - now she is wiser. Once France dropped out of the World Cup that was the end of it here in France there is no interest in other nations, although I suspect the south west regions will be supporting Spain tonight.

The sun continues to shine everyday. Everywhere is yellow and very dry. No matter who you talk to all they want is rain. After many years of bad summers one would think we would be grateful for this wall to wall sunshine, but as it hasn't rained now for months it is time for some rain. Other regions of France have had severe thunderstorms but we have just missed them all.

Rob has fixed a hose pipe to give a gentle cooling mist.

The farmers were very fortunate earlier last month to have a good hay making period but since then they have had to start giving the cows supplementary feed as the grass is not growing. Our neighbours have found their milk yield down by 250l over 2 days (the milk tanker comes every 2 days) which soon adds up to a considerable loss, put that with the additional feed they are using - the economies of farming are very susceptible to the weather.

Other neighbours with a gift shop in the local town are not benefitting from the good weather either as they find tourists are seeking out cool terraces or swimming pools rather than visiting historic towns. They are due to take part in a Mediaeval Fete on Wednesday and will be in costume, they break out in a sweat just talking about their costumes.

Not all is doom and gloom in the countryside. The cherries are ripening on the trees and we are lucky to have two white cherry trees on neighbouring land and have harvested a few for our own consumption, it would be a shame to leave them for the birds, although I did see the cows nibbling at them earlier today.

I made some into ice cream yesterday a lovely way to use them, so summery, (see cookinglizzie for recipe)

We are now harvesting a variety of vegetables from the garden everyday. The heat has caused some of the lettuce to bolt, but I have cut out the tops of many of those threatening to go to seed and braised them in chicken stock adding some fresh peas just at the end - a good way to use the lettuce. The raspberries have been particularly good and as well as eating them fresh every day we also have some in the freezer for later in the year. The blueberries are ripening a few at a time and I am putting them in the freezer for use later. Everyday I get about 60g not many but the bag is filling up.

The red currents are beginning to ripen so a pavlova with a mix of raspberries, red currants and blueberries will be on the menu soon.

The courgettes are beginning to grow - I think they appreciate all the watering we have done each evening and we have had our first meal of purple sprouting broccoli. The melon and cucumber plants which I was sure were dying last week have suddenly put on a growing spurt and are producing flowers and there is evidence of small immature fruits forming. The tomatoes are also enjoying the warm weather and most of the plants have small tomatoes forming, not long now and they will be ready to eat.

The only real problem in the vegetable garden at the moment is our resident mole who is determined to work his way up and down the rows and then when I am not looking across the rows as well. Never mind it means there are lots of earth worms in the soil which is a good.

Monday, 28 June 2010

We have now had a week of hot sunshine - long may it last.

However it was just too hot when we visited an agricultural show on Saturday. Local farmers had brought along their prize beasts and very handsome they were too, when washed and scrubbed up - the cows I mean. They were judged on the shape and size of their udders, the width of their rear end, and their general appearance.

As well as the cows there were some fine 'percheron' heavy horses being exhibited.

Yesterday we visited a 'vide greniers' where we managed to find a kitchen sink for Rob's studio, and I found a le Creuset griddle pan for just €2. Often the goods on offer are either just plain rubbish or over priced, but yesterday there were a large number of stalls and most of them had some useful items which were realistically priced. The fun is to find a bargain.

The biggest news of the weekend was the Parish Walk on the Isle of Man. My sister and her husband took part, starting on Saturday morning. Margaret managed to walk a very respectable 30 miles before becoming too unwell to continue. Simon continued and finished 23 hours and 30 minutes later having completed the whole 85 miles route. They both have sore feet but they are understandably proud of their achievements. Makes the 11.2 miles I will be walking in aid of our local Hospice a mere stroll in the park in comparison. Well done them.

Our own 'spring watch' continue to keep us enthralled. Our pair of redstarts are busy feeding their young - flying in and out of the hole in the stone wall where they have built their nest. Hopefully the young will continue to thrive and we will see the young fledge their nest. The parents are very nervous and only fly in when they are sure there is no one around, but by staying some distance away and sitting very still we can observe them flying around and they darting into the hole with insects in their beaks.

The female can be just seen entering the nest hole if you look closely.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Raspberries, Music and tired feet

Isn't that a beautiful flower, our Blue Danube potatoes are in flower now and look stunning.

June 21st, the longest day, is traditionally celebrated with a 'fete de musique' here in France. All musicians are able to perform in public, in cafes, restaurants or on the streets until midnight. We went to the nearby village of Ambrières les Vallées, where one of our young friends was performing with others from her music school. It was a very pleasant evening, good music, warm and light until 11 p.m.

Yesterday we harvested our first raspberries, I picked 270g of really ripe fruits and today another 220g. As raspberries are one of my favourite fruits I am really pleased to be here when they are ripe. In previous years we have missed them coming back to find them rotten or shrivelled on the canes. Hopefully we will be able to continue to harvest for some time to come.

Today we enjoyed a long walk. We started off from home and took a route through the countryside on the other side of the river and included a stretch along the river bank. It was probably the warmest year so far this year so we were exhausted when we arrived home 13km later. Luckily we were able to sit down and watch the football, why do the english team find it so difficult to score goals, it is always a nerve racking event, 90 minutes is too long sometimes.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Cows, Raspberries and 'Les Bleues'

We have just enjoyed a visit from friends from Holland. Although it was warm and sunny on Friday when they arrived and we could enjoy the pleasures of sitting outside in the yard, the weather turned very cold and windy and only now has the weather improved a bit. Never mind, we fitted in a visit to Bagnoles de l'Orne on Saturday, spent some time in the farmers market and then a short walk around the town, before heading back here for lunch. Despite the cold wind we did sit out in the afternoon, but had to keep wrapping up and then unwrapping as the clouds blew across the sun. Anyway they discovered the pleasures of living in the country, the peace and quiet and the farm animals which follow you as you walk by, the cows have so little to distract them that 'foreigners on the hoof' are worth checking out.

Anyway it is a bit warmer today and I have got the last of the plants in the garden, there really is no more room to fit anything else in.

The raspberries are beginning to ripen and we will have our first bowl either later today or tomorrow. The look luscious, deep red and plump!

As you may already know, the French are prone to striking but it would appear that the French Football team have gone too far. Last evening TV news broadcast of 20 mins was taken up with 18 mins about the French team being on strike and refusing to train for the manager. The minister for work gave her opinion about how bad it was for the working man, particularly the young who are finding it difficult to find work to see this display of unrest amongst 'les Bleues'. The Minister for sport is in South Africa and will stay until Tuesday to help sort out the problem, maybe she will take on the position of Manager/trainer - who knows. As Rob says this world cup is the tournament for the underdog, with all the so called 'top teams' failing to win their matches. We are not keen football fans but do try and keep up with big international tournaments, this one is certainly hotting up. As for
England well we will have to wait and see if they can figure out why they are in South Africa and why they receive such large salaries. Perhaps footballers should only get paid if they win matches not just for turning up.

Lots of peas and broad beans and my 'new asparagus bed' in the foreground (see left). The plants are I admit a bit small yet but as they were grown from seed only this spring I don't think they look too bad. Another few year and we can eat them assuming nothing happens to them in the mean time.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Weeds, Weeds and more Weeds.

Why do weeds grow faster than vegetables? If only we could eat all these weeds we would never go hungry.

Coming to the conclusion I am not good at growing carrots or parsnips. Only one parsnip so far - no really worth keeping. The carrots which have come through are looking healthy now at least 20 cm tall and will lots of foliage, but still lots of gaps along the rows.
Never mind, lets look at the positive, the potatoes are looking good. Broad beans look promising, both sowings are full of flowers and one lot have actually got some small beans developing. The peas are coming on, but considering how many seeds I have sown, there should be at least three times as many.
The sprouts, sprouting broccoli, red cauliflowers and red cabbage which were planted last month have grown and are looking very healthy. The raspberries are heavy with fruits, need a little more rain and some sun and then hopefully they will ripen, they are my favourite fruits.
The two blueberry bushes are laden with fruits just need to ripen - considering the price of blueberries in the shops these are well worth growing. The red current bush is also heavy with fruit and the rhubarb has grown from strength to strength since last month and there are lots of slim tender stems just waiting to be harvested - I will use them to make a dessert this weekend when we have house guests.

Been busy planting up the veggies plants I have raised in the greenhouse today. The asparagus look really promising in their new bed, just hope they settle and then we have to wait a few years before our first harvest - but it will be worth it.
Celery, more sprouts and sprouting broccoli, cucumbers, melons and squash and lots of climbing beans. I started planting out the tomatoes until I ran out of canes, must buy some more tomorrow. Will put some more in the open ground and will also plant some up in pots. We have plenty of tomatoes last year but would be pleased to have a glut so that I can use them in the chutney and to make soups and sauces.

Must buy compost tomorrow, so that I can plant up the window boxes and tubs, I have some home grown geraniums and lots of busy lizzies just waiting to brighten up the courtyard.

Let's hope the weather improves a little more sun and just a little warmer would be nice.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

What is a 'Time Pole'?

A lines on a 'Time Pole' are similar to the rings which are seen when a tree is felled and a straight cut is made through the trunk. Those rings can be counted to calculate the age of the tree. The time pole is similar in that the lines marked on the pole indicate time, in this case they represent the age of the building from which the piece of timber was taken. It was part of the roof of the barn and was removed when the roof was repaired a couple of years ago.