Posted by: kathandroger | April 8, 2018

The Sheep with no head.

We had three male lambs this year from our two ewes. Despite the awful weather of this springtime they have all done well and are growing rapidly. With the new flush of fresh grass in the pasture the hay is largely left untouched, but they all adore the sheep nuts I give them to keep them tame and so that I can catch them when needed. All the sheep also like old bits of bread, and this morning I took some up to the field this morning, only to find that one of the sheep, Dougal, I think, has lost his head.IMG_3947
I am not sure how he will manage without it, and feeding will be quite a problem, but I guess he will be welcome in the local circus.
Incidentally the local circus came to town for one evening last week. Yes, to our little village of about 500 people. To be fair, the circus consisted of one big tent and maybe an animal or two (we didn’t see the show), but it seems to be a trend for the small circus enterprises to visit small villages for one night and them move on. But I can imagine the excitement it must bring to the local children to have the show on their own doorstep.
We are still waiting to get on with the vegetable garden, the ground is still too wet for rotavating, although the broad beans are in flower and the peas are looking good. The early potatoes need to go in, but there is no point in putting other seeds in cold and wet ground. “Nature always pays its debts” according to the local sages, so we must be due for some good weather soon.
The chickens are laying beautifully at the moment. I have always been a bit cocky about how simple a chicken house can be, with no laying boxes and just a simple space with a perch which some of them use at night. But our chickens all like to lay in the same corner of the box. No problem with that except when three of them want to lay in the same place at the same time! I was passing the house yesterday when all sorts of strange noises were coming from within. I could hear chicken cussing phrases, like “bugger off, I’m bursting”, and “how much longer are you going to take to push that thing out?”. On opening the lid the problem was obvious.IMG_3946
Sandra was in prime position and laying, Beryl, the wayward chicken, was sitting on top of her trying to get to the nest, and posh Pat, was also on the pile, but had stepped back by the time I had got the camera. All seem to resolve over the next few hours though, and we had our normal clutch of four eggs by the afternoon.
I had been worried about our “kiosk”, the elevated sheep shelter on the top of our land which serves as a lovely place to sit and drink wine when we have the time to do so. It had been sinking in one corner and the decking had become badly warped. It was inconceivable that the builder bad been less than assiduous with the foundations, and last week I realised the culprit. IMG_3948
The sheep use the underside of the building and leave all their calling cards behind. The worms are attracted to the poo, and the moles are attracted to the worms. We have always had lots of mole hills up there, which is much better than on our lawn, but after years of burrowing under the wooden supports, some of them are collapsing. The beauty of rough and ready building is that repairs are easy, and next week I shall play with some cement foundations and some more big bits of wood and do the repairs… if the building doesn’t fall down beforehand!

Posted by: kathandroger | April 1, 2018

Annie Primrose.

First of April already! Still cold and miserable. We heard the cuckoo for the first time yesterday, but he only “cooked” a couple of times and then slunk away from the oncoming rain and hailstorm. Our sentinel swallow who came on his scouting mission on the 22nd rapidly flew off and we reckon he went back to Africa to tell his mates not to bother coming this year. I was looking at last years swallow nests in one of the barns yesterday and see that some illegal building has been done.IMG_3939
I haven’t seen the rogue builder who has added its own entrance and relined the old abode, but reckon it is probably the robin. I have to say it looks much more comfortable with the soft hay and moss lining than it did with the rough mud of the swallows effort. Apparently the female robin makes the nest all by herself, but the male helps by feeding her in the effort. She needs the extra grub because the eggs may weigh as much as 90% of the mass of the mother. Courtship apparently starts in January, so hats off to the little birds for all that copulatory effort in the bad weather. I guess it is a good way to keep warm though.
The flowers have been much later this year. We have the odd early purple orchid around, and the cowslips, which are everywhere round here, have been hanging their drooping heads for weeks, waiting to show their full glory. Some are just about managing.IMG_3943
But whereas in the UK the primrose is much more common that the cowslip, the converse is true here. The only site I have found the latter is on one of the hills we ride up on the cycles. It is a long draggy hill, which I hate climbing, but the sight of the primrose bank always cheers me up.IMG_3940 My mother was called Annie Primrose, as she was born in Bedfordshire in mid April, when the flowers are at their best. I always think of her when the gentle and unassuming plant shows itself; just like she was, always gentle and kind, and a great loss to all at the early age of 59. Flowers for names are always a complement to femininity in my opinion, and love all the Lilys’ Roses’and Daisys’ that we know. Middle names are often interesting. An old colleague has four brothers,each of which had a herb as their middle name. He was John Dill, and another old school chum was named after a river, he was Alastair Thames. Its all a bit romantic for me though, and reckon boys deserve a more practical name, how about Roger Wrench, or John Spanner?
Anyway I digress away from the pleasures of nature. The project last week in the workshop was to make a tool for removing earth from a post hole. I have a few holes to dig in the near future, and have always wanted one of the long tong like tools to remove the debris rather than having to scoop it all out by hand. Using some more of the old metal from an oil tank, and the wonderful plasma cutter for shaping the tool, it was soon complete-and will also be useful for planting the potatoes when we at last get some good weather.IMG_3945 But another lesson was learnt the hard way. A plasma cutter gets very hot indeed, and, just like welding when wearing flip flops, it is stupid not to wear good gloves. A flash of flame and my little pinkie almost went up in smoke!IMG_3944
Healing is well advanced now, and life is all about learning from experience. It is a pity that stupidity sometimes gets in the way!

Posted by: kathandroger | March 25, 2018

Calm….and Crappy.

Clocks went forward last night, we saw our first swallow a few days ago, and we await the cuckoo. Chiffchaff has been singing his chiffchaff song for a few weeks now, and must surely be getting bored with the monotony of his own voice. The blossom on our nectarine seems to have survived the frost, and the other fruit trees are peeping their buds in the orchard. All is calm and cool at the moment, as we prepare for the oncoming season. My favourite time of the year, when the summer birds arrive and the restrained energy of nature, marking time during the past couple of months, bursts into life. Even a muddy delve into the leaking water pipe and struggling with an old brass fitting didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for the weeks ahead.
But I could not find the long lived toad, Crappy, in the cellar. He has been there for possibly 30 years, and has been showing his age recently. Has he passed to Toad Heaven, I wondered. It would be a great loss to the farm, as he was there with the previous owners, who often ask about him. But yesterday I found him again, looking old and withered. He probably felt the same about me, but said nothing. I was overjoyed to see an old friend and immediately made my way to our vegetable garden to dig him a worm. I think the worms knew I was coming because it took ages to find one. Crappy looked happy with his free meal, but took a long time to devour it. I hope he isn’t becoming anorexic.IMG_3933
Chickens will eat anything. In the past they have eaten castrated piglet testicles which I threw to them after the adult pigs had refused the offering. But they do have their preferences, and really love old cold spaghetti and other assorted pastas. In view of their Italian dietary preferences, this weeks’ offering was an old pizza. There was no hesitation at all; all six seem to love pizza, and it was soon devoured by the hungry mob.IMG_3935
All this chicken food variation is resulting in an egg glut. Now that those silly medical people have decided that eggs are good for us again, we are becoming egg bound. But the chicks can’t decide which size of egg to lay. The one on the left had no yolk, and the one on the right had two!IMG_3932
But back to the forthcoming springtime. I passed the first open primroses today, and the skylarks are rejoicing in the warmer weather. The silence of the early morning was only perforated by birdsong and crowing of a rampant cockerel in the distance. And how do I know the cockerel is rampant? It was Decker, our own fine looking and insatiable male, easily heard from several fields away. I hope the neighbours like the crowing as much as we do. But time is limited for him: unless we can find a new home he will become “Coq au vin” before the guests arrive.

Posted by: kathandroger | March 18, 2018

Three dogs and a new fishing bird.

We enjoy walking our dog. She has a youthful energy which we both envy, and her relentless pursuit of wild animals, real or imagined is a daily amusement. It also gets us out of the house, in fair weather or foul, and we appreciate the ever changing countryside around us. So it was no problem to accept the request of friends Dave and Pay, to look after their brace of dogs for a few days. Rollo, the spaniel/poodle cross is about three now, and escaped from his home about a year ago on one of those wonderful randy urges which we all used to revel in during our youth. The result was a litter of pups from a nearby labrador bitch, one of which remains his companion. Rollo’s reward was to have his family jewels removed! So Flora, Polly and Rollo have been together for a few days. A sudden family influx has made a big difference to our household. The first mornings wimper from the pack made me venture sleepily downstairs in bare feet to encounter a strange but familiar wet feeling between my toes at the bottom of the stairs. The culprit cannot be proven, but our training over the past months has made dog pee a part of life, and the puddle was soon cleared. Walking three dogs is different from walking one.IMG_1430
Even young dogs pull like billy o, and commands are diluted by three. After some vigorous exercise behaviour becomes rather more acceptable though, and in general they have been a pleasure to inflict on the fauna of our lovely countryside. To see three dogs trying in vain to make any progress in pursuit of a hare or deer is incomparable entertainment; we know the animal will escape and the dogs come back looking as if they have had the time of their lives.
But what to do when three animals are back home and wanting some entertainment? Now these are three intelligent animals, and playing tug with a pair of old socks is not interlectually fulfilling for them. So we have begun reading stories to them.IMG_0488
We began with old favourites like 101 Dalmatians, but it was too basic, so we are now making progress with ” A short history of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. They seem to appreciate the nuances of the American’s quiet humour. After several hours reading they settle into a lasting slumber, no doubt pondering the lessons of history.IMG_1433
But back to the real world. The barn end with the fish sculptures needed something more higher up. The result was inspired by a spare cutter from an old Allen scythe found in the workshop, and an old oil barrel from over the road. And with the use of the trusty old plasma cutter (has there ever been a better boy’s toy made?), and a bit of very inexpert welding, the menacing bird has been erected.IMG_3929I don’t think there is any more room on that wall, so we may have to build another barn. It looks OK with the others though.IMG_3928
But now spring is coming and some proper work needs to be done-in the garden!

Posted by: kathandroger | March 11, 2018

Return to France.

Where did the time go? One minute the expectation of a holiday trip is just round the corner and then it is all gone! Nearly a month away from home and now back to the grindstone. Except that it is not like that at all; I love being at home, and am pleased and proud to admit it. Holidays are great, seeing the family is lovely, but they are a trip away from the reality of everyday life which, here, is where living really happens. The bad news is that Chucky the chick is no longer with us-it apparently disappeared one day, now doubt taken by the buzzard or sparrowhawk, as mother hen had all but abandoned it. The chicken house roof had blown off, and various bits and pieces of outdoor plumbing had been damaged by the freezing temperatures. Kaths’ 2CV refused to start, the wood store door fell off when I opened it, and the grass needed its first cut of the season. So just the routine problems waiting to be fixed! The lambs are all in good condition; three boys, to be eaten in the autumn, and the dog has come into her first season.
Well what about reflections of the time away? A great trip, with great contrasts in the way people live. From the wonderful temples of Ankor, to the relative poverty of life in Cambodia. But the kiddies all had smiles DSCN1008 (2)wherever we cycled. The laid back way of life in the so called “poorer” countries was a pleasure to see, especially when a tents had been erected over the little roads we were on so that celebrations could take place. One was a wedding and we cycled right in front of the bride and groom who were having photos taken, and they seemed to think it only added to the fun!DSCN1005 The Killing Fields in Cambodia, and the War Museum in Saigon brought us back to the cruel realities of life, but overall there seemed to be an inspiring air of optimism in the developing countries that we certainly don’t have in Europe at the moment. And the group we went with, and the tour guides, were a real pleasure to be with. I hope we see them again in the future.
Leaving Australia with its gentle climate (yes I know it had been 40 and more degrees a few weeks ago, but it was mid 20’s when I was there),was a bit sad, but I was inspired by the over 70’s swimming group we encountered on the early morning dips I took with my daughter.DSCN1044 Keeping in shape seems to be a way of life in Oz which we could all learn from. Leaving Sydney airport had been a nightmare last year, but having checked in on line I was delighted, and felt very superior in bypassing the huge queue to leave by kit at the baggage drop. Airports and long distance travel are, for me, are relaxing time. The brain needs to go into neutral, time has no meaning, and all the films I have been wanting to see are available on the plane. Even a delay of 9 hours at Bangkok was no problem, as the onsite hotel I was offered gave a few hours kip, some good food, and a nice shower before the haul to Paris. And the wife, bless her, met me there and chauffeured be back home. The jet lag is not too bad, just as well, as all those little jobs in the gites and in the garden now have to be done!

Posted by: kathandroger | March 4, 2018

Clean up Australia!

It felt a bit like coming back to the civilisation we recognise when flying into Oz. Being useless with modern electronic methods, I was very proud of myself for getting through customs and passport control by using the “e” system. Being one of the first off the plane helped, but my pride was dented more than somewhat to find that the baggage collect was not in operation for another half hour, and I ended up being one of the last off the flight to reach freedom. My lovely daughter and graddaughters were there to meet me, and the shreiks of delight could be heard all over the airport-even theirs were loud. Sydney is always busy-today this was the suburbs at 1pm.image
The pace of life here always amazes me. The cars are all near new, and the affluence of the place is witnessed by the expensive vehicles and also by the price of the loveley local houses; Sydney seems as expensive as London or Paris now. But it all seems so well organised; despite the traffic density cars keep moving and jams are rare.
The mornings here are a delight. At daybreak the local kookaburras start their monkey like chattering and they are then superceded by the squawking parrots which seem to be everywhere. Early rising seems to be normal, and the local traffic is on the move before light. Son in law Bill and I set off soon after 5am one morning for our customary fishing trip, and the road were already busy. I love seeing not only cars parked on the roads, but also frequent and sometimes very large boats.image
I always adore coming through Sydney harbour just before sunrise. The water is alive with rowers, singles, doubles, fours and eights. The boats have bright lights on them and are frequently followed by the coach in his little tinny. Apparently the local championships are soon, so training is at its peak now. We made our way to the fishing mark, about nine miles offshore, only to find that the marker buoy could not be seen due to the rough seas and rain. We turned around and caught some Flathead before making our way back for the early afternoon. I am pleased to report that I was not seasick despite the buffeting, and even managed to eat some chicken rolls whilst landing fish from the rocking vessel!
The spirit of the Australians is somthing that should be imported into Europe. It seems that everyone is up and active, be it surfing, swimming, cycling or anything else. On my way to swim soon after 8am yesterday, a schoolboys cricket match was about to start, and another group had started soccer training. At the pool this morning, we had to vacate the lane swimming because the local over 70’s group were starting their weekly competition. Exercise seems to be a way of life here.
And today is “clean up Australia”day. This day of action was apparently started several years ago and has become nationwide. Groups of Scouts, usually with their families, and lots of other bands, join together to clean up the enviroment for the enjoyment of everyone. It is good fun too.image
The only sad feature I have discovered is the relatively reticence of the locals to say hello. In France the youngsters, maybe only in our rural setting, are always polite and greet us with a smiling “bonjour”. Here the locals often tend to pass with heads down, just like in other cities, and in complete contrast to the joyous greetings we received on our holiday of the past few weeks. A smile and greeting costs nothing, and it makes such a difference. Come on Sydney, you have it all, how about a little happiness?

Posted by: kathandroger | March 1, 2018

More oriental delights.

Phew, the cycling is all over now and a hasty retreat to wet and windy Australia for recuperation with family is the next step. Poor Kath is on her way back to the arctic waste that was once France. Holidays always do seem to go too fast, but this one in particular has really flown by with a lovely group of people.image
Memories of the trip are those of burgeoning progress in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The first is the most advanced, with fine transport systems already in place, and wondrous, if over the top buildings in Bangkok. Vietnam is on the way, with a sense of more energy in the regeneration, and the remarkable Saigon city, with around 14 million people and 8 million motorcycles. Cambodia is a bit behind, the rice fields often brown due to lack of irrigation, but with still lots of new building both for factories and for residence. We felt the mood was much more restrained there, with our local guides unwilling to impart any views on the political situation. The little motorbikes there were also the most overloaded!image.jpeg
Our trip coincided with local celebrations in all three countries.image
The pigs were due to be eaten in the evening after offering them to the Gods.
We ourselves had to content with various insects, which tasted of nothing in particular.img src=”” alt=”image” width=”2048″ height=”1536″ class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-6084″ />
To go through all the experiences we had would take hours, but personally I was impressed most by the gentleness of the Budhists, imagethe futility of the many abhorrent wars in the region, and the resilience of the human race for recovery from disaster. And most of the recent wars have perpetrated by so called civilised countries of the western world. I felt ashamed.

Posted by: kathandroger | February 25, 2018

Three countries by bicycle.

It must be age, or the time differences,or,most likely, general incompetence. Our last post seems to have called itself “more oriental delights” and has inserted itself in our font! Please click on that and send me to computer classes!

Posted by: kathandroger | February 18, 2018

South East Asia.

There is only one thing to do in the cold and rain of February in France. We are in Cambodia in temperatures of mid thirty degrees! Sitting supping the local beer on our hotel balcony in the enveloping warmth of dusk seems a long way from the shivers of last week. Paris looked more like Siberia when we left, with some roads around the airport blocked by snow. What lucky chaps we are to be able to traverse the globe when things get gloomy at home. Our cycling tour has taken us through Thailand, over the border and we are now en route to Vietnam.image
Thia is the second time we have toured with Exodus Travel; we cycled across southern India with them a couple of years ago, and loved the relaxed way we explored the remote areas of that fascinating country. This trip is similar,arriving in Bankok, then slowly traversing the countryside on two wheels to the Cambodian border and visiting the well known sites.
Thailand is buzzing. The economy is stable, the infrastructure is in place, and agriculture is green and efficient due to the water capture resevoirs and irrigation. Cambodia, to my surprise, was also seemingly alive with energy and development. It seemed that every other car was an expensive Lexus, and even the swarming motorbikes were usually new. Modern houses are replacing the old shacks, and arriving today in Phnom Penh, after the initial rundown downtown, is like any new city centre. We have visited the huge Ankor complex of old ruins, but to be honest they didn’t do much for me-very impressive but not pretty. We are off to see the Killing Fields museum tomorrow, so that won’t be much fun either. How humans overcome the misery of a barbarous civil war such as this country had only a few decades ago amazes me. We have noticed several mutilated limbs on war survivors, but in general the decemation of the countryside has been repaired. Cambodie is browner than Thailand because if the lack of a good irrigation system but even that is being put right.
On the brighter side, the food in both countries has been wonderful. Having eaten whole frog, imageand today fried tarantula spider with cockroach, we are starting to see the limits of our home cuisine. Cycling in temperatures of arond 35 degrees really is no problem with the frequent stops for local sustenance. We are looking forward to more local delights!

Posted by: kathandroger | February 11, 2018

Six cans of paraffin and one old door.

Funny old lot, these Frenchies. No doubt we are the same in the UK, but the different ways things are handled here is a continuing education. Our theatre group of last year split up in disharmony, to say the least. We had several more performances booked, but the cast fell apart from one another acrimoniously, and we could not continue. The two main adversaries were friends beforehand and had even been on holiday together last year. Well, I was sad, but perhaps because of my limited linguistic ability did not appreciate the depth of feelings on each side. I was happily aloof from the dispute and maintained a good relationship with both sides, and thought that the events were all history. Wrong! I was asked to attend a “conciliation” meeting a couple of days ago, as legal proceedings were being started….because six cans of paraffin, and one old door had not been returned to the President. Accordingly all fifteen of the company attended a preliminary meeting with the conciliator, a firm but fair retired policeman, in one of the local council offices. One group on one side of the room and the other on the other side of the room. Me in the middle. The rules of the game were explained, and nobody could talk unless they first put their hand up, and then no interruptions were allowed until the individual speech was over. Actually that was the best thing about the meeting, because the French usually talk all over one another and meetings are a shambles. We heard all the old groans again, conciliation was not possible, but the cans and the old door were given to the Red Cross. What a palava, and it was quite difficult to dodge from one group to the other afterwards to underline my neutrality. I hope I did so, because I love them all!

But back at the ranch, we have had some snow. But no more lambs. No lambs for Flo in the snow, but she looks full to bursting, with a ballooning udder, and will no doubt have them in the next day or two. The first twins are looking great, having put on some weight, and are jumping around like new born lambs. They still look a bit grubby against the snow though.IMG_3925
We tell our guests to spend the hot summer evenings drinking some nice cool white wine in our “kiosk” on the top of our land. It does not look so inviting at the moment!IMG_3926
And seeing the grubby sheep did remind me of our “Lavoir” just across the road. IMG_3916This is where the dog loves to chase the frogs into the water, but was originally for the locals to do their washing; “laver” is to wash. Most villages around here have preserved the feature, and some of them are splendid. Ours is not, but no doubt could tell a few stories of times gone by. Apparently the lavoir was where all the local gossip was aired. I would love to have been a fly on the wall, or even a frog in the froth!

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