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.