Sunday, 27 May 2018

It’s been a busy couple of weeks outside here in St André while the weather’s been so dry and sunny. 

My neighbours offered me the orchard next to the field that they rent to me for my sheep.  I accepted instantly and having spent an exorbitant amount of money on post and fencing, the roadside boundary is 130 metres, photo below on right.  I found a great chap, Roy, to do the deed. 

Last Monday Roy had the help of my current Workaway, Damien and by Tuesday lunchtime the sheep were able to wander around safely amongst the trees and fairly long grass.  It may be that we have to strim the grass a bit to make it accessible to the sheep. 

We have collected 400kg of animal feed and stored it in the feed shed, two trailer loads of well rotted horse manure from my friends, Jac and Ken, and 500kg of small stones ready for shovelling onto the inevitable winter mud. 

The polytunnel has been completed sorted out, with the remains of overwintered veggies finally given to the hens, ducks and geese and more veggies planted to take their place.  I now have tomatoes, aubergines, sweet peppers, chilli peppers, coriander, strawberries, a fig, lettuces of various types, cucumber, courgettes and poppies all growing well.  

Here is one group of the sowings of broad beans and then shallots with some of the residents - Martha, Raoul and Lenny and some of the girls ...

Outside in the raised beds there are courgettes, sweetcorn, runner beans, tomatoes, beetroot, peas, broad beans, garlic, shallots, potatoes, rhubarb and fruit bushes all doing their thing, so hopefully there’ll be some good crops this year.   I have even planted some tomatoes amongst the garden flowers this year to increase our produce possibilities.  The vine is growing well with miniscule bunches of grapes showing all along the cottages.

When the work is done for the day, I am thoroughly enjoying my new swing seat.  It’s the only time of year I manage to read books and I am getting through them now while gaining a tan.  So far I’ve read the first three of these and have just started the fourth ...

The Writers' Group has turned into a lunch experience.  We met at our usual venue nowadays, Le St Antoine in Plemet and this was my lunch of country terrine, confit of duck and panna cotta.  As usual it was lovely.  We were also brought a mackerel paté extra to start with and a raspberry sponge bun with our coffees.

The annual Silfiac Plant and Craft Fair took place a couple of Sundays back and somehow I found my boot had accumulated quite a few plants before I took my leave.  Luckily I had parked close to the entrance so was able to drop each purchase into the car before setting off round the stalls again.

Honey bees are in very short supply around here.  I haven't seen any in the gardens around about, just bumble bees.  Heavens knows what will happen to the crops this year ...  Friends, Jane and Alan are bringing me three swarms, hopefully, this week to start building up my hives again but I am not as optimistic as I would like to be about their future here

My beautiful kitten, Nilly, seems to have disappeared.  She has been hunted for everywhere with no sign of her.  I feel very sad as she was a lovely cat and I miss her.

Three things I like:

1.  These wonderful long sunny days we have had during May - just perfect ...
2.  My Workaways, helping me with so much here in the house, garden and field.
3.  My four new bantam hens which were given to me by my neighbour, François

Flowers in my garden and the lane this month:

Friday, 11 May 2018

May in St André - so good to have some lovely weather

I haven’t done my blog for ages and thought I would start again today.  Just for a bit of background, though I’m not going to go back and write about the last two months, I fell in the garden henhouse on Sunday and think I’ve probably cracked some ribs and damaged soft tissue. 

Today my ribs are slightly less painful than yesterday and it was easier to get out of bed and get dressed this morning. 

The animals were fed and watered and the hens let out of the barn, I watered the polytunnel and optimistically left open the doors in case it got too hot in there.   

A week or so ago, when I left the house there was a beautiful moth on the flyscreen - apparently a Tau Emporer.

Down the lane there are bait hives out in the hope of catching swarms, so I went to check them.  A neighbour was in his garden and I asked if he could possibly strim my field entrance when he had time.  He suggested Sunday afternoon, I am hoping to go to the Silfiac Plant and Craft Show in the morning.  As I turned to go he told me that someone had given him two bantam hens which he didn’t want and if I did, then he’d bring them over with a bag of stale bread from the Retirement Home – brilliant!

Breakfast was streaky bacon, veal kidneys, fried bread and gravy from the roast with a black, sweet coffee, before I went outside to finish cleaning off bee hive frames removed out of the dead hives at the weekend.  It was hard work as using my right arm to scrape isn’t easy with the ribs.

I stored the cleared frames – twenty-two of them in the garage and went back up to the field to empty another hive.  I stacked the ten honey laden frames in a large lidded plastic box and then found I couldn’t lift it.  There must be so much honey on the frames as they were far too heavy.  Once I’d found another smaller box I transferred four frames to that and could just about manage to get the boxes into a wheelbarrow and then unload into the car boot to bring to the garage.  I cleaned off the hive I’d just emptied but was too shattered to consider taking the honey off the frames today.  Also, I need to buy some litre sized plastic containers in which to store the honey so I don’t use up all the jars in which I sell honey from Rainbow Cottages.  I must also add to the list, wire to repair the frames and foundation wax for when I manage to get to a Point Vert with an Apiculture section.  The only stores I know of are at Loudéac, Carhaix and Guingamp and I am not planning a trip near any of these in the next couple of days.

Back to the kitchen to make some soups.  I cooked up celeriac followed by pea and ham and they have just cooled enough to put into the freezer.  As I was finishing the pea and ham a neighbour from the far side of the village arrived to ask if I had any vacancies in the gites as he might have a judge for the Corlay Hippodrome races over the weekend who had nowhere to stay. 

No chance of sunbathing with a book today as it is very overcast and no sunshine.  It felt almost chilly inside and I’ve lit the woodburner and am catching up on recorded TV programmes for an hour or so. 

My American Workaways left on Tuesday.  Marge made a set of cushions for the new swing seat and Nilly enjoys the comfort in the sunshine.

The Workaway family coming last Wednesday had a change of plan.  I may though have found a young man to arrive sometime next week, arriving by bicycle so no firm date yet.  I have lots of work, as usual, especially as my immediate neighbours have offered me the orchard next to the field I already rent from them as more grazing for the sheep and the hens and the land will all have to be fenced.

I went to check some hives I have seen previously in the woods to see if they were thriving.  They had been removed for the winter but I drove slightly further on and found this lovely stone bridge over the river Blavet.

Three things I like:

1.   All the blossom on the trees in the village.
2.   Seeing the seedlings in the polytunnel doing well.
3.   Finding I have a broody hen in the barn sitting on eggs.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Happy New Year - lots to look forward to in 2018

Another month has gone, taking with it 2017 and we’re already half way through January.  Where does the time go?

The three adult goats who live with my neighbours clearly think the grass is greener my side of the wall and have been outwitting all attempts to keep them in their own area.  

This is a photo of them back with the babies after I'd herded them up with a garden broom and shut them into their garden.  They returned to me several more times that day but finally are contained in their own field again.  Goats are incredible escape artists ...

Luckily the weather was not extreme over Christmas and my son, Matthew, came over as planned which was lovely.  We went out to eat on Boxing Day at Le St Antoine in Plemet and had a delicious meal there.  

He came without his mobile because he forgot it was charging in his kitchen.

On 27 December, he left for Roscoff just before 1300hrs and five minutes later I went to get my car keys to drive to the shops and found they weren’t on the hook. He had put a new satnav in my car that morning and used the keys for that. I didn’t panic immediately as I have a spare set.  I looked for the spare set and they weren’t on the hook, nor in any bag of mine nor in my pockets. They weren’t down the sofas or under the sofas. They weren’t on the table or my computer table. They weren’t anywhere. He had taken both sets of my car keys with him!

Of course, if he had remembered to bring his phone I could have rung him as he was then only five minutes away.  Until three weeks ago I had two cars so it wouldn’t have been such a problem but have just sold my Land Rover.  I am in the sticks and not having a vehicle is not an option. I panicked and then finally, I calmed down - just a little bit. I phoned Brittany Ferries at Roscoff and Florence was trés sympa and understood immediately that she needed to stop him getting on the boat with them.

My wonderful Breton neighbours, Paulette and Christian drove me to Roscoff and I collected both sets of keys. Florence was no longer on duty but one of the other girls said that I should have seen my son’s face when they told him why he been pulled out of the queue – clearly he knew there was a big problem for which he was responsible.

Another bee keeper Robert, his Mum, Elsie, and a friend Liz – also into bees – came for lunch and to discuss moving some of my bee hives to the pond field.  

It is not often that my table is cleared of the things I dump on it, but needs must for guests.  

This moving of hives will mean that I won’t have so many bees in one area when I am dealing with them and I should feel more comfortable about that.  Robert and Liz are coming back to do the move with me on the last Sunday in January.  I shall close up the hives the previous evening, before I go off to the Pantomime in Gouarec, so that the hives will be safe to move the following morning.

An email arrived with an unexpected booking for Small Cottage and the French guests arrived on 30 December for two nights.  At 1915hrs, upon returning from their day out, they invited me to spend the evening with them.  A very pleasant evening with nibbles, drinks and good conversation seeing in the New Year.  How kind of them! 

Both the urinary consultant and the gastro oncologist gave me an all clear the first week of the year after I had experienced worrying symptoms.  Many thanks to the French health service for the prompt appointments and verdicts.  I just have one more appointment, next week, which is with the dermatologist for a possible skin cancer on my forehead, so fingers crossed.

Aperos Sunday last week at, Ronan and Fanny’s with four other neighbours too.  Always good to get together with others in the village.  

We had nibbles, charcuterie, prawns, galette de rois and kir and lots of wine – a good thing I only had to walk 50 metres home …

I had another invitation from a more distant neighbour, from the farm that used to have slippy slates on the roof and now has no roof.  

Isabelle took over about eighteen months ago and is slowly renovating a total ruin while living in a caravan.  She has a lot of work to do and wanted to show me what she has achieved so far. 

I don’t envy her, I remember how inconvenient everything can be and she is not using much paid help whereas I did.  She has horses on the surrounding fields – fourteen I think – so has a lot on her plate.

On warmer afternoons, I’ve spent quite a bit of time watching the hives to see how the bees are doing and am so glad that all eight hives have bees coming and going – not lots – but enough to make me feel that everything’s as it should be for this time of year.  This afternoon as I left the field I met a couple walking in the lane.  Crystal works in SuperU, so I recognised her, and her husband, Gilles, came and talked bees with me for half an hour, he is a bee keeper too with hives in St Nicolas du Pélem, three miles away, or perhaps only two miles as the bee flies. 

There have been lots of hunt sounds in and around the village, both shooting and dogs barking.  Here are three hunters at the top of my lane happy to pose for the photo.  Their dog had a huge bell under its chin so shouldn't get left behind because it's lost.  Sounded like one of the cows with bells in the mountains in Switzerland.

Yesterday I drove to St Servais to swop eggs with another hen keeper.  I wanted to have different genes in my flock and have put fifteen eggs from Noeline’s girls with four from my girls into the incubator in the kitchen.   Her hens are the standard red hens, so good layers of brown eggs.  Hopefully, on or around 2 February I should be hearing baby chicks cheeping as they emerge from their shells.

Bit of a book clear out in the afternoon so I could accommodate the most recently purchased volumes without putting up yet more shelves.  I selected 100 books that I could bear to lose and advertised them.  Sue, who fund raises for an animal charity, collected the three boxfuls this morning along with two paintings.  My shelves are looking better and I feel very virtuous.

A sunrise and sunsets in the village this week


The first seeds of the year have been sown -  tomatoes – Gardeners’ Delight and Moneymaker in a small unheated propagator in the polytunnel.  I am usually late planting my tomatoes so thought I’d try and get a headstart this year.  Also planted out a common thyme I bought in Point Vert and had divided into three.  I’ve topped up on all my seeds from Jardinage Naturel and can’t wait to get gardening again when the weather allows it.

This is Étoile, a cow in my lane, who Fanny, my neighbour, has owned for years and years.  She loves having her head stroked and being scratched between her ears.

Three things I like:

1.   The Christmas decorations are down – I do like to get my house back to normal.
2.     The incubator humming in the corner of the kitchen with promises of new life.
3.     Making it through to another year - oh and finding the pieces for this bracelet which I'd bought and put safely somewhere!

Saturday, 16 December 2017

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

The weather has been difficult this week …    We have had huge quantities of rain falling on the already quagmire-like field, making it almost impossible for me to consider walking around up there as now, with my osteoporosis, I cannot risk falling.  We have had bright sunshine too, thunder and hail.  Everything except snow has arrived in St André.

Last Sunday St Nicolas du Pélem had its Christmas Market in the town.  It was lovely!  Lots of different foods to try and a good atmosphere, as usual very well supported in spite of the weather.  

Alexi tried something from every food stall, I’m not sure how he managed to eat so much – a cheese and egg galette, six oysters, wine, scallops, wine and lastly sweet crèpes. 

Most of the week, outside tasks have been impossible so, Alexi, my current Workawayer, has been painting instead.  When the weather was kinder Alexi and I built new compost bins and he has been transferring the “still to rot” stuff into these.  

Dan has also been over and fitted a new landing floor and changed the base of the Middle Cottage bedroom basin, so we are now ready to finish decorating and start cleaning up. 

On Wednesday I joined a group of Facebook friends in a Rostrenen café to meet them face to face and have a coffee or, in my case, two hot chocolates.  

It was good to actually see people and have a pleasant and interesting morning with them.  We will do it again.

There is a small triangle of land at the end of my garage belonging to my absent neighbour.  The branches of the three trees on this plot, two elders and a scuffy small oak, were all interfering with the electricity cables which cross the area.  We felt that this might be what was causing the frequent small power cuts we get and so another neighbour, Ronan,cut them down completely. 

I have benefitted in having the wood which yet another neighbour, Christian, chain sawed for me to season for a year or so before using in the woodburner.

My GP had decided I need to monitor my blood pressure at home for three days.  I did this and the results were not good.  It has been gradually increasing and so after seeing the results prescribed medication.  It is a two-edged sword  - I have lost weight/fluid but get up too many times each night to pee.  I am already tired, so this isn’t a good effect.  Not sure why I’m so exhausted, but I am and hate not having any energy to do anything – it’s just not me.

My neighbours delivered a cord of wood this afternoon and Alexi stacked it away in the log shed.  It's very handy having my log supplier as my next door neighbour.  

Nilly, my new kitten, sat and watched as they threw the logs threw the air and seemed quite disappointed when they had finished and driven away.

As usual, Maggie helped me sort out my Christmas tree and I decorated it with just a few of the glass decorations I have made this year - not the best photo as it was daylight.  I was too worried about Nilly knocking them out of the tree to use too many - so far she has behaved well, so I may add more ...

Three things I like:

1.  All Christmas presents have been bought and wrapped - always good ...
2.  Christmas cards arriving and being arranged on the mantelpieces and windowsills ...
3.  Food and wine sorted pretty much, except for the last minute fresh things ...

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!