Posted by: kathandroger | October 24, 2016

Mog, Bug and Wall.

Cats rule the world. At least they do in our household. Not that we want it that way but the animal just assumes superiority and there is no way we have been able to convince Dennis otherwise. The dog, and even the chickens respond to loud commands, but not our feline friend. Not that he is deaf; any shout of food and he is home in a flash. And how do they manage to install themselves just where they are not wanted? If we want to use the computer he will be on the seat, and if a cupboard is left open the cat will be in it. Kath is usually a quiet and controlled lady, but her screaming at the little devil has become part of daily life. Any food left out on a work surface is fair game, and even my breakfast cereal seems to hold a fascination for the animal, who jumps onto the table and will try to have a mouthful even when I am eating! I guess he holds a grudge, remembering when I tried to castrate him many years ago. I left the sewing cupboard door open for a few moments…..img_3594Come to think of it I may well have felt the same way if someone had tried to castrate me!

I like insects but know very little about them. In France we seem to have lots I have never seen before, and yesterday this little chap hung around all day by our back door. The cat chased him a bit and the dog stood on him, but he still seemed alive when I threw him into the wisteria tree.img_3591He is called a saddle backed bush cricket (Thanks, Susan, of Loire Valley Nature), because of his lovely saddle, and apparently makes interesting noises. No amount of torture made him say anything, so I must just believe the articles that tell me the males help look after the young, and the mother does lots of singing. He is also known as the “wart biter”and has good hearing due to his ears in the front legs! Isn’t nature wonderful, and how little the average bloke like me knows about it.

We used to have a long wall around our property. We still have, but now it is called the bloody wall. No blood, mind, but just hours and hours of slinging lime mortar on to stop the thing from falling down. Isn’t it nice having an old property, people say. Yes it is, but the maintenance can be a pain in the rear end. My pain is in the right side, after days on leaning over the wheelbarrow and chucking the muck on.img_3595-2Nearly finished now, though, and I just hope that the mortar doesn’t fall off in the frost.

Posted by: kathandroger | October 16, 2016

Squashed and squash.

I have just come back from the UK. What a contrast between the almost empty autoroutes and the density of traffic in England. The ferry arrived in the evening rush hour, and it really is no problem to drive on the other side of the road when cars are nose to tail. My lovely French lady on the sat navigation has problems with her pronunciation of the English towns, and I was perplexed looking for “rangro” until I realised that she meant the ringroad! Eventually we arrived at Frome, where the younger daughter lives, and met up with the elder who had come over from Australia. A jolly few days were passed, in local pubs, demolition yards, and the local town, and lots of booze consumed when one of the sons turned up. But how squashed everyone is in the UK. Even in the pubs, in the middle of nowhere, there seemed to be people everywhere. On return to Portsmouth I stupidly decided to follow the advice of my Satnav lady and ended up in traffic queues again, squashed into endless trails of traffic. Apart from booking myself on the wrong ferry, all went well, and the liberation of again travelling on the French roads was wonderful. We only realise how dense the population is in the UK after living here.

Our own squash has been harvested today, and it only seems like a month ago that we were doing the same thing last year. I love how nature can behave in unpredictable ways; we only sowed some potimarron and butternut seeds, but this is what was produced.img_3560-2Not nearly as many as last year, but they should last us through the winter. I usually keep some of the seeds, so maybe I kept the wrong ones!

Sadly October has been notable for the demise of our chicken and it is my unpleasant task to kill and butcher our lambs soon. But we were both really sad to see one of our lovely red squirrels squashed by a passing motorist yesterday. It used to run along the top of our boundary wall, much to the delight of our guests, and to the irritation of the dog.img_3563-2

Poor little thing, but it was instantaneous and it was well and truly squashed.

Posted by: kathandroger | October 10, 2016

Who killed Norma no mates?

We have lived in France for more than seven years now and have never lost a chicken. It was different in the UK, when a least once a year the fox or the mink attacked our little feathered friends and left us with a carpet of corpses. So it was a surprise when one of our early rising Australian visitors pointed out the piles of feathers on the lawn. Our automatic door opener has been out of action for several weeks, but we didn’t worry too much because of the lack of predators locally and our big surrounding garden wall. But the evidence was clearly there; piles of scattered white feathers and a few bits of bloodied chewed bone. Some of the flock had obviously been spared, and I counted six survivors out of our seven chicks. That in itself is unusual, in the past the whole flock has been killed, but I guess that with the coop door open it would have been easy to pull the nearest bird out.img_3557

Sods law, it was one of the two new chickens that had been murdered. Norma no mates was so called because she did not integrate well with the rest of the flock and was normally found wandering around on her own. She was a lovely Light Sussex, who had come into full lay and gave us an egg daily, and must have been last into the coop and therefor the first out! But who was the murderer?

There were three prime suspects. Charlie Fox, who is less common in France than in the UK, but who we have seen locally, the Fouine, a type of polecat about twice the size of a squirrel, also seen at the bottom of our road, and Brock the badger. Our neighbour had mentioned that she had seen a big dark looking squirrel in her garden, so that was a possibility. Charlie Fox almost always kills all the animals, although it would have been easy to grab just the one. We knew Brock the badger was around because I had seen him in the garden after he had gorged all my prized sweetcorn. But that is at the back of the house, separated by an iron gate. It did not take too much investigation to find that the gate had been left open, my spring loaded door closer being too weak, so it was either Charlie or Brock. I decided to close and secure the gate, and made sure the chicks were closed in the next night. On checking the secured gate….img_3559Not only was it wide open again, but the animal had dug underneath and managed to pull out the newly secured fastenings. It must have been a strong beast, and can only have been Brock. This was further proved by lots of holes in the lawn around the coop where he had been rooting for worms. I guess a few juicy worms is a substitute for a chicken.Anyhow the problem was identified, but how to rectify it? I didn’t want to harm the animal, but did not want my lawn destroyed or the chickens eaten.What did we do before the internet? A quick reference suggested that human urine is not attractive to badgers and they will avoid any tainted area. A bit like the lorry parks on the motorways in the UK which I avoid because of the same smell. The door was closed and fixed again, a sheet of black plastic placed against it, and over the course of the next day it was well doused with my own effluent. The wife is usually supportive in our efforts, but declined because of the dangerous slope perching would have involved.

I am happy to report that Brock has not been back.

Posted by: kathandroger | October 3, 2016

Death of a tree.

The old thing had been hanging on for the last couple of years, and I had lopped off a couple of dead boughs, but now our senior cherry tree has finally left this life. I don’t know how old she was, or what killed her, old age I guess, but she was certainly in full production when we came to La Belardiere. I remember thinking how good life was when cutting the lawn on the old mower (before I blew it up that is), and gently reaching up and  picking off a handful of lovely ripe cherries to keep me going. Cutting the lawn on a sunny day, picking off fruit whilst working, and not even having to get off the machine, life was wonderful. But all good things come to an end. We have lost several of our animals over the years, and to my surprise I feel just as sad about this old bit of dead wood.img_3552 I have never wanted to hug a tree, and don’t talk to them much, unlike talking to some of our pretty flowers and telling them how lovely they are. The difference with a big old tree though is what to do with it now? I thought of cutting the trunk horizontally and making a table on top of it as the position in the orchard catches the last of the sunshine, but few of our guests sit down much and I don’t think it will be used. But then the obvious answer popped into the ageing cerebrum-one of the main branches can be preserved and used to mount a basket ball hoop. It is in the games area, between the croquet pitch and the badminton, and will keep the players away from the houses. Once I have finished repairing that bloody wall in the background-only about another 100 metres to go, I will get to work with the chain saw. And unlike the dead animals, the old cherry will still be good for heating us in the house in woodburners. Luckily we have another five cherry trees so if the frost does not do its damage next spring I may even be able to circulate on the new mower and pick cherries off the younger trees. Farewell old friend, life goes on.

Posted by: kathandroger | September 26, 2016

The laughing fish.

The lovely weather continues, and our very busy part of the season is over. Time for a day out. The wife is still largely out of commission with her broken arm, but that means she cannot drive her little 2CV and the chauffeur has to take over. I just love that little car. The engine is smaller than my lawn mower engine, it was designed in the 1930’s and driving it is a bit like floating along the road on a comfortable but noisy and windy sofa. The canvas roof fully unfurls and in the full autumn sunshine we made our way to the Brenne, our local wildlife waterland, and a national treasure. At this time of the year it is almost deserted; the French finish everything as the school term restarts, even though the weather may be glorious. The only visitors to the lakeside resort at Bellbouche were a company of less than normal left over hippies being taught to waft their ageing bodies around by a red silk clad would be monk with a magnificent beard. I guess they were happy in their own meditative world, but I felt they would do much better if they shifted their bums and got out to see a bit of the surrounding nature. We did. A brisk walk around the lake led by my one armed spouse was followed by a lovely lunch of eel and ratatouille on some sort of crust, sitting outside and watching the birds on the water. We then visited a local nature park and later sat by the road watching the fish jump.img_0379Now what is it about fish? I have been a lifelong angler, and still have no idea what it is all about. A few days ago I fished the Claise with an expert angler. We caught nothing all day, and did not even see a fish. But today, in full sun, every few seconds the water was disturbed by jumping carp and roach, and each of them was looking at me and giving that fishy smile as if to say “you may have a human brain, but you can’t catch us!”.

Still on the food scene, we do love to lunch on Boulots (whelks) and langoustines. The difficulty for the one armed one is that the shellfish have to be winkled out with a probe, and that is not easy with one hand. But with a lot of practice new skills can be learned, and if proof is needed…..img_3551What a clever girl!

Winter is coming and the log pile had diminished. Off I was sent to saw down some of our trees in the wood. I enjoy logging, and once started it just seemed to inspire me to do more and more.fullsizerender I will have a rest now.

Posted by: kathandroger | September 18, 2016


I do not think it right to steal things. I am not a thief. But I do enjoy a bit of pilfering.Our neighbour opposite died over three years ago, and his house and outbuildings have been unoccupied since then. He was a sad drunkard who once had been a garage owner, and over the past several years had filled every square inch of his buildings with  car and motorbike parts. His ex-partner has been several times to do the initial removals of household items, and then a shady acquaintance has had all the keys and has removed, with the help of other shady gentlemen, all things of any worth. So there remains lots of rubbish that even the French have no use for, and the buildings will be sold at auction at some time in the future. Hence the recent pilfering, and my sense of innocence in the act because everything that is left is due for the local dump.What fun! I have lifted several old and rusty tools for use in my sculptures, and some old adverts from many years ago which I shall frame and put in our gites.I came across this old solid wood bowl, filled with nuts and bolts, cleaned it up and will use it for our walnuts.img_3548-2The old hammer may end up as a head in a sculpture, but it is in lovely condition so I may keep it in the workshop. The only trouble is that we have so much junk ourselves that there is not much room for any more!

The weather has changed at last and we have had some much needed rain. It may even save the local grape crop according to a local producer we met yesterday in Loches. And the tomatoes just get bigger and bigger!


Dennis the cat owns our house. He bosses the dog around and is always the first in line for food. He is also very keen to have his own way.I was late returning from a rehearsal last night and the wife had ignored the feline demand for his supper. In a fit of pique, Dennis went upstairs to our bedroom, pooped profusely in the bath, and left dirty smelly footprints all the way downstairs. Her indoors was not amused. He has also taken a liking to drinking from a wineglass, much as we have. He refuses to touch the dogs water, and will only drink fresh water from the tap. It is a cats life!


The local river has never been so low, and this after the floods of early summer. We swam in this water a couple of months ago but now even the geese are struggling!img_3544

Posted by: kathandroger | September 12, 2016

Autumn activities.

It is still hot. Over 30 today and no sign of rain.Our local river has never been so low and this after the floods of the springtime. Those fish have been very lucky in that I could not catch them in the high water and now I can’t find any water to catch them in! The last swallows have left the farmyard, always a sad day for me, and the final three fledglings only left the nest last week. But I did manage to count 71 on the telegraph wires a couple of weeks ago so breeding has gone well.

The invalid is making good progress, and she can now write with her left hand. Not so good at the ironing though, but is pleased to pose with the work her husband has to do!img_3541Actually I have to admit that ironing is not really the chore we are led to believe by the feminine fraternity (should that be sisterhood?). With a bit of nice music, benign thoughts and a gentle rhythm of movement it can even be a pleasure-apart from those bloody fitted sheets that is!  A full CD of classical music will see me through loads and loads of bed linen.img_3540An interesting feature of limb fractures is the slowed rate of growth in the affected nails of the limb. I had to cut Kath’s fingernails on her active hand whilst the other side is much shorter. Reading the medical reviews it is obvious that nobody really knows why, but says it is to do with altered blood circulation, whatever that means. My hair on top does not seem to grow very well nowadays, and I wonder whether it is because I have not been using my brain? All those elderly chaps with pony tails that I see in airports must be very intelligent.

The Rats season is upon us. Not the four legged kind, but the lovely Ratatouille that we put in the freezer for the winter. With huge tomatoes, courgettes, onions and our best aubergines, and other bits and pieces, the partner with two usable hands has made several trays of the stuff to sustain us in the cold of the coming months.img_3537The home brewed beer and the red wine are for inspiration and sustenance during kitchen duties.

We thanked our help for the big changeover last week by having a little drinks party for them and also invited our gite guests. A mixed bunch of French and English and lots of Pimms. The French have no idea about out favourite summer tipple but it all went well and it is strange how language ability improves in proportion to the amount of alcohol drunk!img_3536

Posted by: kathandroger | September 4, 2016

Garden tales, broken bones and boys.

This year our sweetcorn in the garden was looking lovely, almost ripe for eating. I was not pleased to find it looking like this.IMG_3511But who was the culprit? None of the other crops had been touched, and there were no footprints to be seen. The goat has never jumped the fence into the vegetable garden, and surely no birds could have done such damage. Deer were a possibility, but since the patch is well watered we would have expected to see some prints. The same thing happened the next night, although we did manage to rescue a few cobs for the barbeque-they were delicious! Our red squirrels were a possibility, and we have had the wild boar in the field, but the latter would surely have made even more mess. The next morning, before daylight, my daughter and her family left for the ferry. I took the opportunity to creep into the potager. Nothing, but then a snuffling sound from the bushes. The torch then lit up the guilty intruder, brock the Badger. He was soon off, but to this day I am not sure how he gets in; the sheep fencing all around does not look to have been breached, and maybe he gets in by pushing against the gate. Last night we found lots of these little holes in the grass paths.IMG_3534 (2)I suspect it is the same beast looking for worms. We do like old brock, and would do nothing to harm him. The badger is apparently a protected species in France. How different to the wholesale and probably senseless slaughter of the poor animals in the UK.

The grandsons and parents have left for home and the house is quieter. It was a bit hot for one year olds and they were only happy in the swimming pool. Their aquatic ability is not yet sufficient for independence however, and it was not until the last day that the solution was found-Ikea washing baskets filled with water.IMG_3515

But this last week has not all been fun. The wife, taking a short break in the Lake District, managed to fall off her mountain bike and broke her arm. Having driven herself back to Manchester Airport, she could not manage the gear change on the left hand drive car we have here (it is the right arm), and so I drove her back home via the local casualty department. The next day her break was fixed, and she will be in plaster for at least six weeks. Poor girl, but poor old fella also, with all that ironing and washing to do for the gites. No problem, an email to her English class and volunteers from the local community were soon on hand.IMG_3532I have always said that the best thing about France has been the French and this support shows what I mean. Not that Kath has been left off her duties, with the help of my old sack trucks and with one hand, the washing can still be done.IMG_3528 (2)You can’t stop a woman from doing the things she loves!

Posted by: kathandroger | August 29, 2016

The curious incident of the toad in the night.

I love toads. We have one living in our cellar, called Crappy by my granddaughter(the French for toad is “crapaud”). He is a lonely old thing who I occasionally feed with worms and who may be 30 years old-certainly there was a toad in the cellar when the property was a working farm. So I was delighted last week when another large toad appeared in our courtyard. I proudly showed him off to the guests, who showed the typical reaction of trepidation and alarm, but after some gentle stroking (of the toad that is), they gradually joined my admiration for the little animals.

“Dad, wake up” …..I was deep in a lovely slumber, fuelled by our home made liqueur and a huge barbeque that evening. Daughter Clare now in her early forties, had been staying and the long forgotten parental years seemed to return like an unwanted nightmare.”Dad, can you come and see my friend, she can’t swallow anything” I have not done any night calls for several years now, but collected my old medical bag to attend the patient in our larger gite. I had no time for my contact lenses, but the visit was soon completed and I made my way back to our house, over the courtyard, in deep darkness. Half way across, calamity struck. I stood on the toad and felt the soft flesh deflate beneath my clumsy left foot. Bugger bugger. Poor little thing, murdered for no good reason. Perhaps he would recover overnight, and I would check in the morning. Sleep after senseless murder is difficult, but it eventually arrived, although I awoke nervous and early the next morning. Our upstairs bedroom windows were wide open, and I peered anxiously outside. The dark shape was still there, a pitiful lump of lifeless flesh on the gravel. The contact lenses were still not in, so I picked up the nearby binoculars and peered out, aware that my nakedness would be an unwelcome start to the day if any of our guests were about. No signs of life in the little animal, he was surely dead. Dressing to retrieve a cold and lifeless corpse is a sad affair, but it had to be done. I grabbed an old trowel to put under the body and make some sort of burial tribute, then approached it slowly and grim faced. Life plays tricks sometimes, and sometimes they are good tricks. My toad was in fact the bountiful excretion of our dog Boudies’ bottom!! Never before has a pile of poo made me feel so good!

Posted by: kathandroger | August 23, 2016

Bicycles, Balloons and Boozing.

We have just had a lovely group of visitors. Happy, noisy and active. There are loads of things to do here for those interested, and bicycles were requested for ten! Cycling in this part of France is idyllic; not too many hills, lovely scenery and very little traffic, so the bike sheds had to be raided. Here is the result before the ride; all tyres pumped up, all lubricated and only the human motor required.IMG_3500Dennis the cat is not into exercise.

After the efforts of one day on two wheels, what better than a water fight in the orchard? I was amazed to see this new (to me) and ingenious way of filling balloons with water from the hosepipe.IMG_3495I think it is 50 balloons filled together, and with several different colours, the battle was soon underway. As often happens in good games, the children, for whom the kit was allegedly bought, were soon pushed back whilst the adults took over!

IMG_3497Each Sunday morning, we usually skip the club bike ride to go to the local market in Descartes. It is only a relatively small affair, with loads of tat and some decent food stalls, but it really functions as a social centre. Making the slow ascent up the hill to the butchers and cheese stalls, we usually meet lots of local friends all stopping for a chat. With the French it is all about how few medals they have won at the Olympics compared to us. and with the Brits about how the pound is falling after Brexit. But we all end up at the local bar, and the wrongs of the world are all sorted before going home for lunch. At this time of the year, sitting outside in the sun is a real delight, and it is hard to imagine the cold of February when we are sipping our vin chauds (mulled wine) inside. IMG_3508Grandsons Miller and Teddy are visiting at the moment, and we decided to see if they approved of the local brew.IMG_3509And that was only after one glass of Lager each!

Older Posts »