Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Bagnoles de l'Orne

Picnic lunch in Bagnoles de l'Orne

Having our picnic lunch on the job.

Sunday saw us at the Vide Greniers in Bagnoles de l'Orne, a spa town close to us. It is a huge two day event and for the second year running we had a stall on the Sunday.  I had made a large batch of Lemon Curd to sell on the stall as we had run out of stock at the last sale.  Sales were steady throughout the day and even as I was packing up I sold a few more jars of chutney to a lady who is based in Paris and is setting up a course for school children - teaching them about the different tastes of France. She thought my lemon curd and chutneys were an interesting addition to the Tastes of the Orne.  We also met up with several of our neighbours who were enjoying a Sunday out in the sunshine, a rare sight these days - the sun that is not the neighbours.  

Jaipur Maharaja BrassBand from Rajasthan
Each Sunday afternoon in July and August concerts are held in the park of the chateau. They vary considerably in style - last Sunday it was a brass band from Jaipur. They played music and there was a female dancer. One of the troop also did circus style acts balancing a pot on his head while dancing to the music and walking bare foot on a bed of nails.  These events are always well attended, it may be because they are free and in the open air.  After packing up our stall we spent some time watching the band.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Rob happened to be walking outside the house one lunchtime and found a cow had escaped from the field opposite and was wondering along the road. Just as we were looking up the phone number to call the farmer he came along with assistance and they quickly rounded up the cow and fixed the fence. No doubt she thought the grass was greener on the otherside and pushed her way through the barbed wire to get to it.

We are still waiting for summer to return. The only plus side of the weather is that the mushrooms are flourishing. Yesterday evening while strolling up the lane to visit a friend we found 7 parasol mushrooms just in the grass at the side of the road.  We quickly harvested them for our dinner this evening. Luckily I don't think anyone else had noticed them as they were well hidden in the long grass.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Chutneys, Marmalade and Lemon Curd

Selling Chutney
Last Thursday, 14th July, I had a stall at the 'braderie' in Domfront. It is a large event with both commercial and private individuals selling their wares. Most people are selling 'car boot' type items but I was there with my chutneys and marmalade. We also have a selection of English language paperbacks, books which we have read and then sell on to other local English speaking people.

I had booked a place in advance, and when I queried the 7am start I was told it was imperative that I arrived then and no later as the roads in the town would all be closed off later. Of course with hind sight I realise I should have tried to find out where I was being placed, so when we arrived just after 7 on Thursday morning, I found that my spot was along the main road running through the town and we could have arrived at any time as it is the main road from Alençon to the coast and would remain open all day. For the first couple of hours it was very quiet and very chilly. Then about 9 am people started to arrive and within a short while I had sold all the Lemon Curd. Throughout the morning I had a steady stream of customers, some new and some I had met before. One older gentleman explained that he had left his wife at home while he was looking around the stalls. He asked where we lived and then explained he knew our house and our neighbours and that he lives in the village next to the Marie, small world!

Eventually about 1pm the sun came out and it warmed up - and the afternoon was pleasantly warm. In the morning the people milling around were mainly older couples and many expats, but plenty of them  were out to buy. In the afternoon the crowds changed to families with children who were there  to enjoy the sun, but not much business was being done.   Eventually around 5 pm we packed up and went home. I was very satisfied with my sales. Next week we will be at the Vide Greniers in Bagnoles de l'Orne. I have already made another batch of Lemon Curd as many people asked for it last week.

This last week has been particuarily wet in fact last Tuesday we had 30ml of rain and over the last week we have had about 50 ml. The garden is really wet. The potatoes seem to be happy with this rain, as are the asparagus plants, they continue to send up small spears. The plants are now two years old so we still have a few years to wait before we can eat it. 

George sleeping under the hedge.
George, our cat, often sleeps outside, even in the rain, so long has he has a relatively dry spot to sleep, in England he sleeps under the garden table, here he sleeps under the hedge.

Smoking some mackerel.
For many years now we have been smoking our own fish. We have struggled to make a contraption that will produce cold smoke rather than hot smoke. Finally we have almost got there. See the contraption left. Still the smoke is a bit too warm, so we need to find some more piping. But we are pleased with the design so far. From left to right, our old barbeque, two pieces of piping linked at both ends with curved pipes all found in the metal container at the déchtèterie (recycling centre). The piping is still not long enough to cool the smoke sufficiently so we need to find a couple more pieces. As it was raining when we were preparing supper we set it up under the chimney in the barn.  The mackerel was really delicious a good smoky flavour and just very gently cooked in the warm smoke.

Rob has continued with his re-pointing of the walls of the outbuilding, while I have continued with the redecoration of one of the bedrooms. 

This morning while painting the ceiling I listened to Women's Hour on Radio 4 and there was a very interesting piece on the WI focusing on the Shoreditch Sisterhood WI in East London. They are a new WI and are keen on crafts but are also very interested in the campaigns of the WI and are linking these interests in a 'Vulva Quilt' which they will use to raise awareness of Female Genital Mutilation.  

See these websites for more information. or where there is a link to BBC iplayer.  Great to hear that they have a campaigns officer on their committee, just wish a few more WIs were so interested in Public Affairs.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Tour de France 2011

Rob and I spent Thursday along side the road waiting and then briefly watching the Tour de France. Had to come home to follow it later on television. The majority of photos are of the caravanne which precedes the tour by about an hour. Hats, tooters, cakes, crisps,newspapers, key rings etc were thrown from the passing vehicules at fairly high speeds.

No not a real rider!

Rather large dog?

Yes he was real!

After the caravanne, waiting for the tour

Is there anything coming?

The front runners.

Then a gap - filled with support cars

Board has numbers of those in the breakaway group, looking up to the helicopter above.

The Peleton

 As they pass by.

This video gives an impression of the caravanne racing by. It was very windy and the background noise is the wind not my breathing. You will see why you need to look at the photos - it is almost impossible to see what is wizzing by.

Video of the event, terrible pictures but an idea of what it was like to be there.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Work in progress

Baby Redstarts hiding behind the vine

Closeup of our 'babies'
The birds have been very busy these last few weeks. We have several house sparrows nesting in holes in the walls of the outbuildings. Somewhere locally a black bird is nesting and often sits on the  roof of the cowshed singing. Last year we had a pair of Redstarts nesting in a hole in the wall, about 90cm from the ground. It wasn't a very safe place to raise a family as George (the cat) soon realised he could sit under the entrance and watch the parents flying in and out. Luckily he didn't catch them. This year we have had a pair, possibly the same ones, who have built a nest in the vine climbing on the side of the outbuilding where we have our laundry room and pump house. A much safer place to rasie a family but still low enough for us to see the chicks when they had hatched. Just after these photos were taken they started to strectch their wings and then the  next morning, just after breakfast the two largest fledged. Unfortunately we missed them leaving. The smaller one remained in the nest and I assumed it wouldn't fledge that day but when I checked after dinner it too had gone. 

The sparrows are still busy with their families no doubt they will fledge soon.

Rob re-pointing the walls of one of our buildings

Rob has started to re-point  the walls of the outbuilding. He is using a lime mortar and has a reference book which was also used by the builders who built the millenium tower on St Edmundsbury Cathedral. However, I don't think Prince Charles will be popping in to see the progress of this project as he did in Bury. After a few trials he has perfected the mixture and is happy with his work to date. It will be a long job as he has to clean out the old mortar and in someplaces add small stones to fill up the holes.
He is currently working his way around at ground level and then will move on to a platform to work on the higher areas. He has completed two sides so far and will tackle the back of the building next - giving the birds time to vacate their maternity accommodation.  

I have started work preparing one of our spare bedrooms for redecoration. So far I have stripped the walls of the old wallpaper and carpet. This means that one bedroom is out of action for a while but we still have one double for visitors, and hopefully it won't take me too long to finish my project.