Posted by: kathandroger | July 15, 2018

Football fever….and Hay fever.

I don’t really like football. Although I played the game for many years, and loved it, the modern professional game is spoiled by too much money and too much cheating for me. It seems that exaggerating injury and playing for penalties is as important as trying to win a game legally. However. the World Cup competition has been wonderful. Well done Russia, for putting on a great show, and well done the supporters for getting to that far off land, and for the real joy you have shown in following your team. Here, with France in the final, the excitement is at fever pitch.IMG_4008
With Kath having gained her French passport, the Union Jack has given way to the Tricolour, and our giraffe has been flying it for the past fortnight. We originally had a larger flag draped around its neck, but that one was stolen within days. The latter was stolen last night, so someone possibly thinks we should not be French supporters! They would have had to climb onto the wall and use some snippers to cut the flag free, and it is all a bit of a mystery. But the mood in the village is one of great optimism for the final this afternoon, and even the flowers are coming out in support of “Les Bleus”IMG_4001This lovely Chicory is from over the road, and even the vegetable patch has shown its support.IMG_4009The Globe artichokes have been rather neglected this year. A very different vegetable, but a real pain to prepare, and in out opinion not really worth the effort. But they look nice, and are a bit rough to handle, a bit like some of the French footballers. But what about Croatia, the opponents? Chapeau to a small country with only an indigenous population to choose from. They have some very good players, and I for one would like to see them win. Footy has become so international now, and it seems strange that I can remember the famous Celtic team of many years ago who won the European Cup with players all born withing 30 miles of Glasgow. So for me I would like the Croats to win a good fair and fast game. We will see later this afternoon, when the majority of the country will be inside watching their televisions.

Hay fever has been another feature of the past week or so. Not in the medical sense, but that every available field seems to have been mown for hay. Even long neglected pastures have been given the short back and sides treatment, and the balers have been everywhere. Having lost our first cutting to the storms, Manu, our local farming friend, has made some lovely small bales for me and we now have enough for the sheep and goat for the winter. All stacked in the new barn and looking good.IMG_4006
Polly has had her stitches out after her sterilisation and is back on top form again. She has even been forgiven for pinching the little one legged chick from its mother and playing with it like a toy. The chick succumbed, but its mother didn’t seem perturbed and is back in the flock as if it was the best outcome. She is probably right.

Posted by: kathandroger | July 8, 2018

Audrey, Villandry, and the one legged chick.

About a year ago we went to a party for a friends’ birthday. It was held in a smallish hall in one of our local villages, and a band performed. The singer was a lady called Audrey. She was not glamorous, she did not have an impressive voice, she was in her mid thirties and was very rotund. And she was wonderful, as were her fellow musicians. Audrey has a special charm about her, and her jazz songs were sung with impressive vocal timing in a manner very different from the usual raucous outpourings we have been used to. After that good evening we forgot about her, until one evening she was on the French TV competition “Ze Voice”, which is a well known national talent show for aspiring artists. Lots of razzmatazz and a big thing here. Audrey got to the semi finals and really made her mark. She now has bookings all over the country, and rather than singing part time, is now in the job she loves. Luckily for us, she is still a friend of our friend, and agreed to perform for us, this time outside in a much larger venue in Grand Pressigny.IMG_1678And this time the audience was packed.IMG_1680
Well done Audrey, we look forward to having known a star!

We were sitting under the stars last night at Villandry, one of the lovely Chateaux on the Loire. It was for the night of a thousand lights, an annual display which we have not seen before, and which half of France seemed to have attended when we finally managed to park the car.IMG_1692 The event allegedly began at about 9pm, but, as is typical in France, eventually started soon after 11pm. Just as well, though, as it was a firework display(which I don’t really care for) with well known classic music(which I love). The setting, around a large ornamental lake, was stunning, and the spectacle hugely impressive. It was ironic, thousands of us sitting on the banks of an ancient hand dug lake, checking I phones for the soccer scores before watching a computer controlled display of the latest incendiaries. What would the labourers of five hundred years ago thought if they had been there?

Back at home, Amber the chicken has finished sitting on her dozen eggs. Final score, several broken, one dead chick and one live chick. A poor show, but it was her first go at it, and sitting doing nothing for three weeks, other than to get off the nest for an impressive bowel evacuation, must be really boring.IMG_4004We only lifted her off the nest this morning and a few moments ago Kath informed me that the new chick has only got one leg. Now one of us can’t count. I reckon it has two, and if it walks rather than hops, I think my diagnosis will be confirmed. Anyway one is enough for us, as there is not enough room in the chicken house for more inhabitants. Amber has been sharing the her private room in the log store with a baby swallow which has clearly fallen from the nest before it could fly. Usually the babies just succumb, but this one has taken to perching on the logs, and is obviously still being fed by the parents. It has now progressed to hanging onto the wall, so flying may commence soon.IMG_4005This is the first time we have had swallows in the wood store, and they seem to be even more plentiful this year; sadly against the general trend.

Posted by: kathandroger | July 1, 2018

Canicular activities.

We are in the middle of the first canicule (heatwave) of the summer. Approaching the mid thirties and full sun. That is until last night, when having left all the soft outdoor furnishings uncovered because of the rainless forecast, we had a thunderstorm this morning! Still I guess the sun we are promised today will dry everything out.
But just because it is hot and difficult to work, tasks still have to be done. The sheep needed shearing and a French pal had promised to help me as he has two of his own sheep to deal with and wanted some lessons! The only problem was that he did not turn up. Luckily we have had some delightful Australians staying and Max, a ready for everything schoolteacher was willing to help. First lesson of sheep shearing is to catch the sheep before starting. Having set up all the kit, with a long electricity lead from the house, the bloody animals escaped from the little holding trap I had made for them. Rosemary, the one who has had 13 babies, is always a bugger to catch, and she knew something was up and was off under the fence like a greyhound from the trap! Only big heavy Hercules, the ram, was left. I am beginning to think he is a bit like myself, older and slower and less inclined to vigorous escapades. The old fella didn’t even mind when I started the shears and, with him still standing, started giving his big head a crewcut. He seemed to be thinking that the haircut was inevitable and as long as he stood still and upright then the torture could be endured. And that’s what happened, for the first time ever I sheared a sheep who remained upright and mainly motionless throughout the procedure! I think Max was impressed, especially as it only took about half an hour when the professionals do one sheep every minute. I left the others for another day, but to my surprise caught them in the trap with a bait of bits of old bread, and was able to shear the girls as well. No staying still for them, though, and the old trick of tying the legs together had to be employed. Flossie, became quite happy after she was released and even stayed resting in the comfort of her lightweight summer coat.IMG_3995
Yesterday was changeover day in the gites. For some strange reason I have been promoted to helping in the washing routine, namely carrying out and hanging up the washed bed linen. How can women do it so well and I struggle so helplessly to get big sheets to fit onto the washing line? This is yesterday’s sample, with Kath’s on the right and mine on the left.IMG_4000Maybe I will improve, or maybe I will be relegated to former tasks; I hope it is the latter!
Poor old Polly. After long discussions, we decided to have her sterilized. I had wanted to have a litter from her, but the Boss was quite right in saying it was not practical and would be too much trouble to look after a big litter of pups. So there she is IMG_3999all her womanly organs have been ripped asunder and she is no longer whole. We can console ourselves that nasty future illnesses have been prevented, but I am sad that her breeding potential has been curtailed purely for our convenience. Polly has expressed no opinion, but we hope she will soon be back to her hugely entertaining naughty self!

Posted by: kathandroger | June 24, 2018

Hammocks and Triathlons.

We have six hammocks here. All but one are for the guests, and they are well used. What a lovely bit of kit a hammock is! If only I had more time to use them. There is something super relaxing about the gentle swinging from side to side, especially in the hot weather we have been having recently. A couple of glasses of the local rose wine with a good lunch and then an hour or so of gently swinging recumbency is a pleasure beyond compare. We have a hanging cradle type of hammock which is my favorite. The wife spends most of the day in it whilst I get on with the daily tasks.IMG_3994
Actually that last statement is a complete porky, and she will kill me if I don’t explain that I asked her get in it for the first time today for a photo! The advantage of having only one suspending rope is that the view can be constantly changing, and the increased freedom of swing adds to the experience. But recently I have had a problem in using our own private hammock. As with everything, the dog wants to be involved. After showing her how the device should be used, she has decided that it is for her use only, and barks endlessly unless she is gently swinging as well!IMG_3992
She hasn’t yet managed a glass of wine whilst swinging though.

Friends Paul and Clare arrived this weekend from Luxembourg for the local Nouatre Triathlon. Only the lady of the party was competing, with her husband being the team backup man. Triathlon is a sport which has blossomed over the past twenty or so years, and consists of a swim, then a bike ride and then a run. Distances vary, from the short “sprint” distance of 400 metres swim, 20km ride and then 5km run, to the “ironman” distance of 2.4miles(4km) swim, 112 miles(180km) on the bike, and then a full marathon (42km)! Yesterday it was the Olympic distance of 1500m swim, 40km on the bike and 10km run. It was hot and windy, but the swim down the river Vienne was aided by a good current so time in the water was shorter than normal. The little village of Nouatre comes alive for this one day a year, with competitors coming from all over France and Europe. This was the 35th running of the event, and one which the wife would still be doing if she wasn’t hampered by not being able to run anymore. I would have done it myself if I had been twenty years younger, fitter, and more inclined to self torture. But Clare done good!triathlon Second in class and fourth veteran lady and very pleased with her time of under three hours. Chapeau.

Posted by: kathandroger | June 17, 2018

Eating Pigs nostrils at the village fete.

We have just come back from the village fete. This annual event is the only one which reliably brings most of our neighbours together, and is often cancelled for inclement weather. Not this year though, with some unusual sunshine and fairly warm weather and a good turnout. At our first event, nine years ago, I was subjected to an alcoholic assault from our friend Guy, which resulted in my legs not working when we tried to walk on the candle lit procession around the village. My frequent stumblings were noted by our new French friends, and each year I am reminded of my failings. It meant we made our mark though, and at least most of the local residents know who we are! This evenings’ event was as usual, a short speech from the mayor, and then some complementary drinks before supper.IMG_1626
Everyone brings their own meal, but these are inevitably shared around the table. Ours was fairly mainstream, with melon and ham and then some local quiche and couscous, but we were pleased to be offered some pigs nostrils from some other diners.IMG_1622
I have to admit that a pigs’ nose is not on the top of my culinary wish list, but they were quite tasty if a little unremarkable. Still, it is another French delicacy which can be added to the “have eaten* dishes. And I have to add that despite the flow of aperitifs and wines, my legs were still in working order after the meal.
But that was yesterday. Today was the annual cycling club picnic. And all this after a rain affected barbeque for our friend Pauls’ birthday on Friday night. Life is difficult here with all this eating we have to do. Anyway, at the crack of dawn we were off to a local town leisure centre to begin our ride at 8am.IMG_1642 Needless to say, everyone was there on time-the French do love their regimented regimes-and we began our 80 kilometre spin around the surrounding countryside. I have to say that it did make me puff a bit, but it was the ideal way to work up an appetite. Aperitifs were started at about noon, mainly sparkly wine to celebrate John-Claudes’ 70th birthday, but these had to be taken with nibbles of all sorts, which really was a meal in itself. The now showered and refreshed party installed themselves in a pretty corner of the park in readiness for the real meal to begin.IMG_1650 Exactly at the arranged hour, the “Traiteurs” van arrived and all the prepared delicacies were beautifully arranged. I always find it a little confusing with all the different traditional courses, but an suffice to say that their were six dishes, all washed down with the appropriate wine of course. The meat did not include any noses, but did have some lovely rare beef,which the French do so well.IMG_1648 Polly the dog did well also, with all the tough bits being donated surreptitiously under the tables. The meal finished at about 4.30. Incidentally, it is interesting that the dog will only eat her own food when nothing more interesting is available, and even then she doesn’t mind sharing it with Dennis the cat!IMG_1603

Posted by: kathandroger | June 10, 2018

Double trouble and dotty Dotty.

My three year old twin grandsons have just left after spending a week with us. And two other boys aged two and four. All with parents of course, but the change in our tranquil life was profound to say the least. We had been used to excessive noise earlier on in the year before the demise of our cockerel, but this was different noise from multiple sources. Having had four children, I was used, I thought, to the demands of little ones, but time erases the intensity of the explosion of youthful vigour. They are lovely little boys, very different and very inquisitive.IMG_3987
Getting them to sit down for a few seconds was a task in itself, and they were much more interested in the quad bike and the lawn mower. Mind you, Polly the dog is more interested in the quad bike as well and refused to be left our when we had a little ride around the orchard.20180608_154052
The cries of “faster, faster” were not only from the twins, but also from Polly, but the thought of impaling my offspring on the overhanging fruit trees required some mature prudence. The swimming lessons went well, too, and it is a great pleasure to see any of our young visitors getting more confidence in the water. Not quite Olympic standard yet, but running well in the water aided by good flotation jackets. Maybe I should get one for my pathetic efforts in Chatellerault swimming pool. Not too much damage was done to the homestead, and severe grandfatherly reprimands for pulling the flowers to pieces were reluctantly obeyed. I did feel very guilty when telling little Ted off, causing him to burst into tears, but he soon forgave me and we made up by visiting the chicken house and collecting eggs. One visit to the Chateau de Rivau was a real hit; it is not one of the better known buildings, and a bit quirky, but is designed for kids, especially the gardens, with lots of games and special adventure areas. They have all gone back to UK now, and the place seems not only quieter, but somehow lacking in energy… but then so am I!

The new chickens have settled in really well. It was good fun to sit on the terrace and watch them go into their house at night. We have an automatic light sensitive door, which they seem to anticipate to the minute. Bets were laid, but the adults, over which would enter first, but they must have been watching because the door closed before the last pair were in last night which meant lots of chasing with the landing nets to catch and replace them. Chickens are not the most intelligent of animals. Dotty, so called because of the flecked feathers-she would be called a Maran in UK, is particularly lacking in chicken brain. Or perhaps she just likes to be different. Anyhow, she has decided that the correct place to lay her lovely brown eggs is on the windowsill of the gite lounge window.IMG_3986
What she has not considered is that the windowsill is on a slope, and her eggs fall off and smash on the lawn below. That is good news for the dog, but not for us. I have put a ledge of wood up yesterday to try and preserve our supply, but no doubt she will then go elsewhere to lay!

Posted by: kathandroger | June 3, 2018

Spoiled Hay.

Our little flock of sheep need hay for the winter. After culling, we will only have the couple of ewes and Hercules the ram, oh, and Moins Dix the goat of course. But they do love their winter hay, and get through a bale or so every day. Until this year it has never been a problem; Manu,our local farmer and neighbour, makes some lovely stuff in May and I pick it up fresh and dry from the field on the trailer and stack it in the barn. But this year…disaster! We have had very unseasonal storms over the past fortnight, and in the few hours after the hay was baled and available for collection, we were in the middle of a weekend changeover in the gites and could not get there. Since then we have had daily rain and the little bales have become sodden and spoiled.IMG_3980
Manu reckoned that they may dry out in the barn if not stacked, but I fear we are beyond that now. Although the centre of the bales is still OK, there is mould on the top and dampness coming up from the bottom. I hope he can make some more for us before the grass is too old.

Having been burgled for the first time a few months ago, I thought we ought to hide Kaths’ car from the passers by on our little lane. A little enclosure was made in the big barn we now own, a task which may have been easy for a coal hewer used to using a pickaxe, but a real pain for myself. Digging holes in old and dry barn floors is not easy, and the words of self encouragement that it is good for my general fitness did not weigh well after the first few holes. But it is all done now and is reasonably straight, and gives us a space for the hay (if it ever arrives), as well as the 2CV.IMG_3981 The only snag so far is that Kath is not convinced that her precious machine will be better off there, and has hidden it in our neighbours’ garage!

All this rain has been a pain for the hay, but good for the garden. The broad beans sown last autumn have nearly all been picked, and the peas are the best we have had.IMG_3982 The other crop which has done well is the Globe Artichokes,IMG_3983 something I have had little experience of but of which Kath remembers as a pain to prepare when she was training on her cooking course in Paris. And she is right! I tried the simple way of just boiling the things and eating the flesh off the leaves. That is quick and effective, but not all that tasty. The proper way, peeling the leaves off, getting to the tender centre and shelling out the seeds, means that almost all the head is discarded and a tiny little heart is all that is left. Quite tasty but I am not sure it is worth the effort. The French will differ, and seem to love to take hours to prepare any sort of food. I will try to be a little more like them when I am covered in artichoke leaves!

Posted by: kathandroger | May 27, 2018

Watch the Watch.

Nature seems to provide larger specimens in France. Certainly in the vegetable garden where we can grow some enormous tomatoes and aubergines. But other flora and flora also stand out. The local Hornet, which is very common in early summer, is much larger than the wasps we see commonly in the UK.IMG_3975
They are not aggressive beasts, and I quite like to see them buzzing around, but Kath did not enjoy her encounter a few weeks ago. She was shooing the frelon about in the bedroom but lost sight of the little buzzer. It had taken refuge in her blouse. Now when little animals are being chased, and the odour of aggression is in the air, and one is in a confined space, the panic reaction takes place and a sting is the only response. A sudden shriek from the spouse meant that the insect had been located, and the response was electric and violent. Amidst various cussings, outer garments were torn off and an unusual dance of sheer panic performed. It ended with a naked torso shaking with pain from the sting in the middle of the back. Being a sensible soul, she soon calmed down and the pain only lasted a few days, but the mark could be seen for a fortnight. Be kind to hornets.

I quite like eating the local mushrooms, but am not an expert and have a some fear of poisoning myself. We came across some nice looking specimens last week in the ditch by our little lane. I picked the youngest and ate them for lunch. The wife did not join me. They were OK but not delicious as I expected them to be, and I noticed yesterday that the ones I had left had become huge.IMG_3978
This must have been a Horse Mushroom rather than the Field Mushroom that I was expecting, so I had better go back to the books to brush up a bit on my mycology. I did have a good sniff first, which is a good test for toxicity, and only read today that the horse mushroom is like the poisonous Yellow Stainer, which as the name implies, turns yellow when damaged. The story of the local mayor and his chum who died from eating local mushrooms is always remembered.

We have had some severe storms over the past couple of days. Bloody typical, as Manu, our local farmer friend had just baled my winter hay for the sheep. We could in theory have picked up the bales from the field before the storm, but it was Saturday and we had to prepare for our new guests arrival. I hope we have a good drying day and that it is not all spoiled or we shall have some thin sheep next spring.
But the weather had produced lots of lovely wild flowers this year. As well as the profusion of orchids, the poppies are magnificent.IMG_1590
This field is a couple of kilometres away and looks wonderful in the sunshine.
The local fields have been cut for hay and silage, and the wheat and barley is turning colour and will be harvested in the next few weeks. To me that means that summer is really here, but my favourite time is now, when all is fresh and at its peak. I used to feel like that, but can’t remember when!

Posted by: kathandroger | May 20, 2018

We’ve been moved! and the Welsh Dragon.

Wherever I have lived before, it has always been in a city, a town, or a village. Here in France we were just outside the boundary of a little hamlet. Any house outside a conglomeration is called a “lieu dit” or a “place called”. I liked living in a place called, it seemed to give us some kind of particular dignity and individualism rather than in the being in the mass of grouped houses. Then last week the workmen arrived. Big lorries, lots of chaps in red tunics and loads of spades and machines. What were they up to? By the end of the day we found out. Our local village sign and little garden, which we used to live beyond, had been moved!IMG_1585
The whole caboodle had been taken down, rebuilt and replanted about 300 metres up the road, and looked splendid.IMG_3972
But what does this mean for us? Are we still in our “iieu dit” or are we now in Mazieres? Will the price of our property drop as we are now in a conurbation rather than the countryside? And will the smog and pollution of the city now envelop us? My cough is a bit worse already, and maybe we should see the mayor about reducing our rates. But I guess we should look on the bright side; I have never had a less traumatic house move!

We love having different groups of guests, especially if they share our passions-metaphorically that is. Our recent visitors were cyclists from the Vale of Glamorgan, and it was a delight to show them the joys of our area. David arrived alone and soaking after travelling by train, ferry and bicycle, followed by the rest of the troup in cars. They spent a busy week exploring the local countryside, averaging about 80 kilometres a day and punctuating their rides with stops for sustenance and viewing the local sites. It was a pleasure to have them join us for our club ride on Wednesday morning.
They are a cyclo touring club, and do what it says on the packet. We rarely stop on our rides, except for the communal “arret pipi”, and it sometimes becomes a bit of a race. I am getting a bit old for all that now and maybe we should take a lesson from the Land of the Dragon.

Posted by: kathandroger | May 13, 2018

Frome, flowers and the Badger Barrier.

Modern travel is wonderful. About 80 euros for a return flight to Stanstead in the UK and another 80 for car hire for three days. Lovely little car as well, nearly new and nippy. I had ordered a Ford Focus, and was extolling the virtues of the vehicle as I arrived in Frome when I noticed it was a Vauxhall Astra! Daughter one was visiting daughter two having traveled from Australia and a few days were spent with the offspring in the West Country. What a lovely town. Steep cobbled roads with dozens of independent shops and loads of nice cafes and pubs. But the best thing is the friendliness of the inhabitants and the general ambiance of the place. It has apparently been voted the most popular town in the UK recently, but how that works I have no idea. From a walk in a Dorset bluebell wood, to lunch in a very pretty county pub, the visit could not have gone better. Sarah, the daughter from Oz, needs to come back for her “fix” of the old motherland, and she could not have seen it looking better; we even had hot sunshine and Clares’ three year old twins spent the day running around nude in the garden. I didn’t. And it only takes less than half a day to get back to France. The world is a small place.

The Badger Barrier seems to be working so far. The new chicks have now been given the run of the orchard and are clucking merrily. No eggs yet of course, but I reckon they will start laying in the next few weeks. They are still very timid, however, and don’t yet come scurrying over with wildly flapping wings when I offer them some scraps. I read that badgers don’t like nasty smells, and so the back gate has been draped with deterrents.IMG_3965
The rags are soaked in a selections of odious odours, Jeyes Fluid, Essence de Parabenthine, Diesel, and the contents of the male bladder. If Brock makes his way past that lot his sense of smell will be so confused that I hope he will forget what he was chasing. Oh, and the hole under the bottom of the gate has been filled with concrete…that should at least blunt his claws a little.

This year we have been a bit tardy with the vegetable garden. The autumn broad beans and peas are almost ready, and we have been eating overwintered lettuce, but I only planted carrots and the other roots a day or two ago. I reckon we are all too keen to start each year and I don’t think a week or two, given our cold weather recently, will make much difference. The chard and perpetual spinach have bolted, but are still edible, and it is easy to strip the leaves off leaving the plant in the ground.IMG_3967And somehow it seems to make the dogs’ ears stand on end.

Our local orchids are still everywhere. This year there seems to be a huge influx of Butterfly Orchids. Each time I see them I mean to take a photo, but forget, so first thing this morning I crept into the neighbours’ field and couldn’t find any in full bloom. This is the nearest I could find.IMG_3968
A bit further along the bank was a green orchid I have not seen before..IMG_3969
It’s not a Twayblade, or a Lizard, so I guess it is a Frog Orchid. Don’t orchids have lovely names?

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