Thursday, 24 June 2010

Can't give them away, far toooooo precious to me.

It is nine twenty and I am still in the kitchen, we had our evening walk around the gardens after dinner and as always go to close the poly and find things to do, Mike picks and potters around the tomatoes or slashes swathes through the vine and tonight I picked the last of the pottage strawberries to add to the three punnets I took out of the allotment earlier today. All this means that I am in the kitchen for the evening, I divide the beautiful and the ugly and the ugly go to jam, the beautiful we eat. I am now waiting for the jam to boil and if I stand over it I inevitably loose the will to live and jar up too soon before it is properly set, so after the second year of jam making experience I know to wait, be patient, keep half an eye on the thermometer then find something else to do. I have 4 courgettes to freeze but at this time of night I need to do one thing at a time. Nine, thirty two and I have 3 kilo sized pots of Strawberry jam all wax topped and cooling, it is so easy when you take it easy.
We have had a day getting ready to leave the ranch for a few days and as there is no outlook for rain we are going to put all the hanging baskets in the shade and I have found another anti rabbit chicken wire frame so that we can leave both hedge end doors to the poly tunnel open, and just pray that it does not get toooooooo hot in there.
We had a great walk on the beach today I just love living so close to such a choice of sea sides but we usually end up at Utah as the sand is vast and with all the mussel and oyster beds it seems that the seaside holiday smell is stronger than on the other beaches we visit.
Mike has a puncture on the big box mower well actually the tyre fell off. Mike is now very internet minded and went on the search of cheapo tyres, we decided to give the local man in town a go to check prices and he gave us a quote of 25 euros delivered tomorrow and the Internet best price was 35 Euros plus delivery, so result there then.
I have started a new crochet blanket, which may bore you to tears, but I must confess that I am excited and very motivated at the prospect of making another work of art. I think these round blanket are the best thing ever, the way it grows and matures into this wonderful useful item gives me an amazing sense of satisfaction and purpose. If however, I keep going at this rate Mike is seriously concerned as to what we are going to do with them all....can't give them away far toooooo precious to me. I forgot to mention Sams birhday for yesterday, hope you like your lavender.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Will not effect thier performance knowing the Baker's in France are not tuned in.

We gave our afternoon to football today, well it was a crucial match and as my Dad said in 1966 'keep watching, you could be part of history' . The English team has not won the world cup since so I recon whilst I have the time I may as well join in and as Mike was then offered the chance to sit and watch TV in the middle of the afternoon he conjured up some interest. With a pint of shandy in hand, well it was only 3:30 in the afternoon for us, we moaned and groaned our way through ninety minutes of football thrills and spills not really understanding how a foreign coach with very little local language musters up the passion and telepathic leadership we felt was missing from the game and believe me we really understand about not being able to speak our minds and getting the complete story across in a foreign land. Glad England won, and it was a good game, so now we have to be with them to the end, fortunately we will be sailing next week and may have to miss some games but I am sure it will not effect their performance knowing the Baker's in France are not tuned in.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

we will have our boule park ready for this summer.

Not only did we have a wonderfully bright and warm day but we also overcame two challenges to boot. The first was to get the camper through it's MOT and using our neighbour certainly paid off as he gave us the time to walk Mike through the list of things that will need attention, but do not fail the test, Jean Paul put the camper back over the inspection pit so that Mike could see for himself what needed doing, so mission well and truly accomplished.
The other major challenge was to get Mike into a dentist. At lunch yesterday he lost a filling and as the dentist issue has been at the top of my list of things to do for over a year, I just never actually had the courage to get it sorted. An emergency made it so I had to face the challenge and went to the local yellow pages for local dentists who could take us on. Second call and bingo, there was an opportunity to join their club on the 8th of July. I took the appointment for Mike but he really did not think he could stand this broken tooth and jagged filling raking the inside of his mouth for over two weeks so I called the dentist again and asked the simple question of emergency appointments. The very kind and efficient receptionist said that there was no emergency service and that Mike would have to wait until the 8th, I hung onto the phone and sounded crestfallen and asked if she could then recommend another dentist who could see him sooner than the 8th and that just turned the discussion my way as she was not allowed to recommend a competitor and I guess was also not allowed to loose clients so with a few pregnant pauses where I was not going accept 'no emergency appointments' and she gave us a slot this morning at 9:30 so once again mission accomplished with the added attraction that as we booked in, the receptionist asked for Mike's Vital card so we will be able to claim a percentage of the cost from the French NHS and our insurers. The dentist was quick efficient a man of very few words which suited Mike down to the ground. He took an x-ray of the tooth and looked at it on his computer screen then put a temporary filling in and never uttered a word throughout the entire operation. Don't know what it's all going to cost but I will keep you in the loop, I know I have lots of work to do and an idea of costs will help me decide when and where to have the work done not to mention the fact that I am phobic about the dentist.
As the wind has abated we marked out the boule park and the area to garden up around wind break corner. The theory is that we weed kill now so that when we get back from our sailing break next week we will be able to get cracking on the work involved so we will have our boule park ready for this summer.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

So role on the harvest.

It is ten at night and we are just coming in from our evening walk and a little tending in the gardens. I have learnt that a plant in the wrong place is a weed and as soon as you are sure, grab and pull. The weed in the poly tunnel however which I identified as a poppy way back in May was left to flourish and is four feet high with ten heads in a deep crimson. It is beautiful and I am leaving it to live it's life out and then we will collect the seeds and it can be an out doors poppy next year. Only goes to show that some things need your patients and attention and I feel happy to have given it both.
Mike was looking over the geraniums and noticed that the leaves were turning on one in a pot, when he went to touch it, The whole plant came away in his hand. You know the one, the biggest, healthiest and most beautiful one with all the flowers on it, we both looked at each other in horror and rushed it into the poly like an episode of ER. I filled a trough with soil and compost, Mike went for sand and we had a rooting bed up and ready for the disembodied plant to be split and replanted to root for next year in a matter of minutes......well that is the theory, watch this space. I have a few plants in propagation and a trough of seedling rambling roses. I have made a propagation chart for all the plants we have in all the gardens and July and August will be busy, I can tell you. We just looked up the best time to trim the hedges and then plant cuttings and that will be September. I want lots of hedge, and that is my focus this year but I also want to produce enough babies to make a new garden next Autumn, this planning lark is so not our normal way of working but it is good for the soul and makes you appreciate time and effort a little more.
My time in the kitchen is mounting up now, I spent all evening putting courgettes to freeze and made ratatoue from this years courgettes and last years tomato passata, I am very pleased to say that I have only given the chickens two freezer bags of last years courgettes so my numbers were good and we were nourished all year, I am now coming to the end of the tomato and all the beans are gone too, so role on the harvest.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Now would be a good time to raid the joint...HOSS is asleep.

What a busy busy week, I have been weeding and harvesting strawberries and Mike had 17 tons of gravel delivered. We have had a lorry of gravel delivered here once a year for the past three and amazingly it has been the same lorry driver who has come. We shake hands in acknowledgement that we are established mates whilst he showed his appreciation of the new delivery area. The past two years has been a bit tight on turning space but this is now much more acceptable, believe me 17 tons is a mighty big pile of stones. I swore, as I wrote out his cheque that this was the very last order for gravel, ever, and he just smiled, departed and said 'see you next year'. Mike has worked like a Trojan laying a membrane to stop weeds and stabilise the gravel so we now have a spanking new parking area and entrance to the field.
The camper needs an MOT, but as they only come round every two years, we don't feel so bad about it. We drove her to the local control technique centre and booked her in. Our neighbour is the manager there and with a marital break up going on across the road, Mike was keen to show that we have not taken sides and could he please do us a good test....that's why you have neighbours isn't it? we didn't actually say that, but we are hoping that our french telepathic skills are becoming more acute and he understood why we were back at his establishment.
We needed a little piece of plastic to go on the camper dash board to hold the back light switch and Mike suggested we go to the breakers yard in Blossville. I am always a little nervous because women don't go to these places and you can taste the testosterone as you walk through into reception. But I am brave and with said broken pit of plastic in my hand and asked if he hada petit truc like this. A breaking engineer was dutifully sent off to look while we read the paper and stared at all the posters on the wall of the customer waiting area. We waited five minutes before the engineer came back needing to see where this bit lived in the van. We all walked out to have a look then he disappeared again for another five minutes and returned joyous and successful, I was so relieved that it showed and expecting a bill of 20 euros for the fifteen minutes spent on us. I squeezed my eyes tight shut and asked...combien, we were both astonished when the boss man said 'what ever you like' Mike offered him 5 euros and he said that would be do these people make money,
HOSS is better, I gave him the delousing wash yesterday and he is getting loads of treats and rest, but he is no longer Head Of Site Security since his wash, he has slept deeply and even a call in his face won't wake him, the vet said he would tire but this is ridiculous, so now would be a good time to raid the joint...HOSS is asleep.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Port Solent it is a distant memory and has saved us a weeks food money.

Our Summer Sundays are governed by the vide grenier in the immediate area. I go to a web site called 'brocabrac' on a Saturday evening to investigate La Manche and Calvados. We have a rule that we do not travel too far and yesterday we had three big events to stroll around in Pont Herbert, So Lo and Houseville. In Housville we were pleasantly surprised as it promised to be a small town event and ended up filling every street in the village with lots of banta and fun along the way, we were a little envious at the camaraderie and coherence of this village and wondered if this was what we are missing here in the back end of Brevands. We did make a few purchases, with a bag of wool for my obsessive blanket making and the jug end of a cafetiere to replace mine with a broken glass. We came across some little bantem hen chicks and immediately thought of our friend Sarah who has 4 white ones and so wanted some black and browns so we bought a couple as a thank you for her generosity and care she has shown us over the past few weeks. It was her birthday and we have not had the chance to meet up so our gift was well appreciated and we feel good that we have been able to show our appreciation.
Today we both woke up feeling less troubled, we had a plan to get the top parking area back on track which although has cost us an arm and a leg in terms of a lorry full of gravel 480 Euros and a membrane to contain it the size of Wembly stadium 330 Euros, the job will be completed and the area ready to use for parking trailers vans and tractors.
I spent time again today weeding and tidying the potagee. We had a good crop of Strawberries and I have made another 8 pounds of Jam, a courgette dish for the freezer and some stewed Rhubarb to freeze for our winter Sunday lunch crumbles. No rain today but the water table is up a little so a quick hosing in the poly was all that was required. HOSS is remarkably better today and I have started the 'get the mite back' campaign so he is on the right side of the Battle, my side, because I will get him right back to best of health before the next three weeks is up.
During our marriage I have been a constant winger of Mike's hording behaviour but yesterday he absolutely blew my socks off again by presenting me with two 5 liter cans of paint which are just perfect for the lounge. Paint here is twice as expensive as the UK a Dulux can that costs 32 quid in B & Q costs 75 Euros here, we even contemplated a trip home as there are a few things that are horribly over priced here, but Mike has come up trumps and although the colour is the same as we had throughout our home in Port Solent it is a distant memory and has saved us a weeks food money.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

I feel qualified to comment, it was good if not a little sweet.

What a shame, HOSS is sicker than we thought. I have been battling with him for a month with an infection on his back and yesterday I gave in for the second time and we went back to the vet who took a skin scrape which turned her into a weak and blabbering vet to announce that he was suffering from Demodicosis, which to us laymen is, mange. The vet was unable to explain herself well and seemed more up set than us but then we don't truly appreciate the implications. I started to understand that a dog his size and age with this condition could mean that his ammune system is not functioning and there could be more complications for him as he gets older. 135 Euros later, I have a three week treatment which is horrid and he needs to keep the collar on to prevent him scratching. The vet was so insistant about the treatment in terms of dilution, wearing rubber gloves, and not letting him lick whilst the solution is still wet on him that I have lost the will to live but we will give him all the help he needs to get over this.
I did my gardening today and using my nifty little weed 'puller outer' cleared the way past my new little hedge, home grown from the hedge around the compost heap and then I cleared the Garden garden and although it is impossible to clear everything it does look better. Mike is frustrated because I think he hankers for a perfect lawn and weedless beds but with a garden this big it is not possible and now that we understand what is required in developing a garden we may need to start planning a move to something smaller and more manageable but that is today and there is always a tomorrow to get strong and focussed to deal with the next project.
It is sunny and we have lots of full up water containers to prove that we did get 17 cm of rain in one night so as long as it keeps coming at night I am happy.
I performed in a concert last night in a tiny chapel about 25 km away. It was a nightmare to find as it turned out to be the chapel to a fantastic chateaux in Berignie and was situated in the middle of a field. It has just been rebuilt from four walls to a beautiful intimate space with new stained glass windows roof and alter. We were delighted when the owner turned up and lit over a hundred candles to add a warm glow to the atmosphere. Singing our religious pieces just made the hairs on my neck stand on end and I was in danger of cracking up but it was a wonderful experience. At the end of the concert just before the sun went down we gathered outside the chapel to chat over a glass home made cider. As I am now an expert on home made cider I feel qualified to comment, it was good if not a little sweet.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

I am getting a reputation for my offerings around here.

Oh the joy of a wet and windy day, soup for lunch and roast for supper, real indoor winter stuff. We came home from the boat early this morning as a trip today was well off the cards. We took HOSS on his first sail yesterday and he took to it like a duck to the dessert, not sure why he was there, or what his purpose was, but he stayed calm and trusting. He wore his life jacket like a true matelot and was only asked once in strong terms to sit and stay when I was leaning over the side of the boat preparing my jump onto the pontoon to moor up. There is no TV or radio on the boat but we do have a video player and are going through our collection of good and not so good movies we are dumping the not so good, there is a shelf at the capitanerie where people leave books and videos for lend and we are recycling and clearing out all at the same time. We played cards last night and I had forgotten how much I like a good card game, it may be a little hobby to collect a few good games for those stuck indoor days.
My plan to get weeding tomorrow is off the list now as we expect this rain to hold out but my time is well spent on other projects instead of watering, there is still a load of house work to tackle every day and we are still battling the dust but I am pleased to say that things look more houseworked everyday.
I am having a battle with the local government money collecting office, tresor public. The marina in Cherbourg is council run and all the turnover goes to the public purse so the mooring fees need to be paid through this department. The problem is that the Marina have set me up with a standing order but have not told the Tresor so we are now on our final demand for full payment. I called the Tresor and had to explain the situation, but the immediate solution, as always, is to fax all the documentation so it can be sorted. FAX, who ever heard of that these days but in France it is still the first call for finding a solution. I have learnt my lesson in being a grumpy old foreigner and went through the story over and over and suggested that perhaps they needed to contact the Marina themselves but the return suggestion is, send me your document by fax and I will sort it. I had to then gently explain that faxing was not an option, and going to a neighbour, was also not an option, so finally we agreed that they would contact the Marina, phew.... it is so exhausting having a small and obviously minor error but I now have to keep tabs on this until it is truly and finally resolved.
I have started to harvest lavender, it is so fresh and clean at the beginning of the season and I am planning to dry into bouquets this year. Saddly it is illegal to send dried flowers to Australia but I did manage to get a bag over to Canada, It is a great gift solution and I am getting a reputation for my offerings around here.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

I am cooking, cleaning and caring for HOSS.

At last water from the sky, it comes in hesitant drizzle and the odd stair-rod event but all in all it is damp and the humidity is up which is good for the poly as well as us. Mike is working on the door, skirting boards and the like and I have put 900 grams of strawberries to jam, I am a little concerned that the trial pot I don't seal is not setting as well as I would like but that is the characteristic of home made jam, it is never the same twice. We are eating salad leaves every day now, I am delighted, but Mike is a meat and two veg man and is braving the glut syndrome we gardeners have to manage. I have been out in the poly this morning to truss up the tomatoes, we have a few diddy little green fruit which promise a good crop so I am trimming, trussing and training to get the maximum fruit growth.
I bought myself a new tool yesterday, a weed 'digger outer' and as we queued in Point Vert to pay, a jolly old fella asked me, in a friendly manner, to watch out as my new toy was a dangerous weapon, I was quick to reply that les mauvaise herbs will be sorry they grew when I get started and it developed into a lovely banter about weeds and using weed killer and plastic covering. The French just love to cover their soil with a weed preventative cover, the term, il faut bacher, makes me chuckle, but we have taken thier lead and have many areas under plastic. I wanted to get out today to start my little campaign against the dreaded weed but it is wet under foot, thank god, and I am cooking, cleaning and caring for HOSS.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Oh well, off to cut the grass before that really does becomes a crisis.

It's the beginning of another week and we still have no significant rain so the weekend was endless watering and tending. I needed to have a quiet day yesterday as the events of the past year have knocked me over and in the words of a friend (when sharing a gin and tonic in Antigua a few years back) , there is always trouble in paradise. A change in life style does not eradicate the pain and anguish of separation and loss and with the year up for our Australian Pearse family, the settling down of our Candian Joiner family and no news from Southampton it all got too much for me, so a distracted morning at a vide grenier was put on the schedule. In fact there were eight to choose from so we were able to do a round robin of three and still managed to avoid the D-Day hot spots.
Mike works a little every day on the window, Michael the builder popped in with a plank of wood he had for sale and as we are always in need of good wood we paid up and shared a cup of tea in our new court yard garden. Michael was adequately impressed with our progress, he is a good and genuine bloke and we are pleased to have made his acquaintance. All the plants in the herb bed ( which is actually an iron bed stead ) are doing fantastically well and the beds I planted during the window build have taken and we now await with anticipation the Lavateria and Poached Egg plants to flower. Mike is keen to instal a light in the court yard so that we can sit and watch the bats, it also makes that area an integral part of the lounge at night.
HOSS is troubling me with the sores on his back and I feel that a trip to the vet is going to be required if I can't crack the cycle of chew, lick, sore. He is waring an upside down lamp shade all day and all night, I feel so sorry for him and he feels sorry for himself.
No sightings of baby OZ and I found Mum eating her way through a rabbit this morning so no love lost there then. I should learn from her and just get on with life but chewing through a rabbit and 7:30 in the morning is most definitely off the agenda.
The Poly tunnel hit a staggering 92 degrees on Saturday, I don't understand how we are not harvesting cooked crops but all seems in control. I cut salad leaves and radish everyday and we will take courgettes for tonight, We have gone over board with melon this year after our success last season, I can eat a melon a day so there is little chance of wastage. The Strawberries are in full swing and a few meringues bought at our favourite baker in St Marie du Mont allowed us to delight in a truly wonderful Eaton's mess.
I here from Mum that Marc and Lucy's wedding went well and perhaps not being able to attend a traditional family wedding added to the 'crisis in paradise'...oh well, off to cut the grass before that really does becomes a crisis.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

a little trip out to see the jeeps at the beach will do the job for us.

I can't believe a week has passed and I have spent next to no time at my PC, I have however been making great progress on my crochet blanket for the boat, watered the garden, sewn a plot of barley, picked strawberries and mowed the grass. I knew I was behind in my chores when I sat here yesterday and realised that I had not done any accounts for May not even set up the spread sheet, and I have not done a journal for May either. I write down every last Euro we spend to keep tabs on how we are doing and every month I realise we are on borrowed time here as we spend more than our income but it is all capital expenditure and everything that is over budget is to improve on our investment so we carry on and enjoy the ride.
We went up to Cherbourg on Wednesday and met up with John and Linda on their way back to Blighty after a three week sail around the channel islands. Moules and frites at Port Flamands sounds like it will become a regular event for us and we were keen to share the experience again. We slept on Beema giving HOSS the opportunity to prove he is still willing crew and all went well, Mike has had a fearsome headache these past few days so we decided to head on home and enjoy the weather in Brevands....there was no wind, so we couldn't have gone out to get the sails up anyway. We called Tellina on channel 16 to wish them safe passage, they left at five in the morning and I can no longer get up that early without a crisis to handle.
Before we left the marina we went into the chandlers to order a new water filter. Mike had been in on his own a couple of day before and showed the guys the item he wanted to purchase out of the catalogue but the straight answer was.. NON. I could not understand why they had not offered to order the item, we are regular customers and Mike did try his best French on them so I had to go and politely ask the boss man to order the filter then asked him why he had not ordered it when Mike was here two days ago. He looked very sheepishly at me and apologised that he had been a little busy, but we have decided after this event we will use the other chandlers who go out of their way to speak English to the point that it becomes a free English lesson, but I'm actually OK with that and at least Mike gets what he wants and not what I think he wants.
My baby cat Oz is still out on walk about and we now feel that she is a gonna, I am wandering around the field hoping that she will come bouncing across the field to see me but I must now believe she is gone, I am very sad and the emotional mix that I am going through has me on a bit of a downer despite the fantastic growth in the garden and the beautiful weather.
Mike is going hammer and tongs on the window and we have a completed installation, even the back step is finished and now we are attacking the room itself. We wanted to keep one wall of the original wall paper because it is expensive and quite lovely, but not on the scale that our previous owners used it, one wall with suffice and the room will then remain loyal to it's original design and we will have shed light on our new and fabulously bright new design.
It is D day tomorrow and we both feel we have done the celebrations before so a little trip out to see the jeeps at the beach will do the job for us.
Marc and Lucy marry today and we wish them well with loads of happiness and joy.