Saturday, 31 July 2010

He will be asked to apply for a french driving licence......scary....

The garden has been giving up it's produce this week and in true natures way fashion, it is all coming at once. I can empathise with the squirrel foraging and storing, his time of year is just full on. My instincts tell me to collect, process and store, and that means looking for new and interesting ways to see these fruits of our labours later on during the winter months. I have made 10 litres of tomato sauce frozen what feels like a million courgettes and french beans but today I made curry courgette burgers and they just may be, OK. I can half fry them and freeze down to resurrect them on one of those cold winter days when you need to have a curry.....and popadoms.
On Thursday we went to Blosville to help Anna and William move their furniture from their cottage garage into the brand new house they have had built on the field next door. It was a very sociable day, a couple in their very early sixties also joined us and we were able to get all the big beds and wardrobes in the right rooms albeit perhaps in the wrong place. After Mike and Graham had sweated and grunted their way to the back of the garage and all the big stuff was moved we sat in Anna's new garden, which seriously needs my attention, opened a bottle of champagne and toasted the new house that had, that day, become a home. I chatted about my garden and Anne, Grahams wife, admitted that she never stored any of her produce and if they did not eat it then and there, she binned it. I must have had a face like thunder and just went off on one about all the benefits of a few hours work to enjoy the garden produce in the winter. I may have a convert and I hope she will come and ask How To, or avoid me like the plague because she just has no interest a little self sufficiency.
Mike got a letter from the government to say he was clocked driving 114 kilometers in a 110 zone and he was required to pay up and shut up. Mike has a fury about needing to change his licence to french as we are European, so I needed to do a bit of research on the Internet to see what procedure there might be to have the points held in his name on the system. Well it seems there is a system and we believe that the point will be held for a year. If he accumulates too many he will be asked to apply for a french driving licence......scary....

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Mike just smiles and wonders where that sort of comment comes from.

In our commitment to each other to get off site and see more of this wonderful country we set off on Monday afternoon in the camper to head south and go where the wind blows.....we say that sort of thing when we go sailing and camping is so similar, in so many ways, uncomfortable beds, simple food, lashings of beer, not enough room to swing a cat or dog for that matter but new and interesting surroundings and experiences. We fed the chickens on double rations, watered the poly, emptied the bins and put all the other home alone procedures into place before we set off. I felt a little vulnerable as our neighbour has finally moved out and the house is empty and there is nobody to busy body over me and keep an eye on the place. To soften that blow I dropped a box of tomatoes and courgettes and a bouquet of lavender to my other mate Genevievre just to let her know we were away, there was no need for her to come and deal with the animals but as she is a sister to our Maire I felt that if there should be an incident he would certainly call her to see if she knew where we were, but that is me running a 'what if' procedure day book. I also e-mail my Mum, Mike's mum, my kids and my French speaking Brit mate Sarah so all our bases are covered, why, is a mystery to Mike, but he gives me the time to set it all up and then he knows I am happy to go. We headed out towards St Hillaire le harcourt for our first night and enjoyed watching the land change from flat lands to hilly then yesterday we found ourselves in the Alp Mancelle in an outcrop of rock that, blow me down, looks and feels like an alpine resort consisting of one camp site, a hotel, a church, three bars, a high street of traditional homes and businesses and lots of holiday makers looking up at a sheer rock face covered in pine trees. I am not knocking this place called St Leonard because it was gorgeous, just little, and the camping only cost 15 euro for a view of said sheer rock face and the sound of a real babbling mountain stream and hourly chimes from the church. I am constantly amazed how the French take a tiny place and make it into something quite special. We drove home today on tiny back roads through the Gorges of the Vire and then home by afternoon tea. We covered about 250 miles since Monday afternoon, I used to do that in a day just to be at a meeting but now such distances have more meaning and purpose and take three days. The corn is ready now and our few days out were dominated with the spectacle of acres of golden fields dotted with bales of hay drying in the sunshine. We passed a field full of sunflowers all looking for the sun and I just made the comment that "you really have been on holiday in France when you pass a field of sunflowers", and Mike just smiles and wonders where that sort of comment comes from..

Friday, 23 July 2010

.no maths needed there then.

Where has this week gone.....I went to the doctor had a very extensive blood test done, got a bill of good health and here we are, and it is Friday.......Mike and I have been working on the boule park and although the first day of working was fraught with bad temper and tantrum it's the not knowing how it is going to pan out, and the pesky flies who make a bee line for Mike every time which send him totally nuts. In between work spurts on the park I have got veg in and processed them and even got the weeding done in the garden garden. It is little wonder that I feel faint and out of it, there is soooooooo much to do and so little time to get it done. Today however we took the covers off the cement holding the coping stones in place and are proud of the traditional wonky look we have created. This 12 foot by 4 foot boule park looks like it was built in 1910 and not 2010.
We now have the logistic issues of finding the sharp sand to fill the play area and that is a story all on it's own but it has taken all day to get prices from two gravel pits and then prices to hire pick up trucks, trailers and even the cost of getting the stuff delivered but it all comes down to the bottom line price and it is cheaper for us to collect the 3 tons of sand we need in 6 visits to the gravel pit with our own 500 kilogram limit trailer. Time is of no consequence but boredom is, but we will make a day of the 40 kilometer round trip 6 times to achieve the result. You wonder why we don't use our local chappie for the sand, well, we checked his prices too and the sand from him is 63 euro a ton and from the gravel pit it is 18 euro a maths needed there then.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

I am exhausted with thirst waiting, and so is the sweet corn.

We spent Sunday out and about, I was still feeling quite not me, so "no work" went to top of the "to do" list. We did a round robin of five Vide greniers and bought nothing, I probably didn't have my keenest and most enthusiastic head on so we spent our budget on a typical French Sunday lunch of sausage in a baguette, called a sandwich, and a portion of chips. The only difference with our take on this meal is that we manage to eat it on the go whilst the French have to sit en famille and chat washing it all down with something alcoholic.
I paid my twenty two Euros to the Doctor on Monday morning and had the usual immediate tests and investigations and initial thoughts on the dizzy and sick symptoms is a low blood pressure level but a blood test this Wednesday will have every other possible condition checked out. We went for a horse and cart ride around Carentan with Peter and Sarah later that day and Sarah took one look at me and said....anaemia that's what you've got, so we will get the iron count on Thursday and she may just be wrong and I may just be let off the agony of liver and onions for the next three months.
Mike has finished making his trench around the Boule Park and we have set out the coping stones ready for final placement. I thought he had the bit between his teeth this afternoon as the cement mixer came out and he looked like he was setting out his work space, but no, it was far too hot and sticky and he was setting up in case it was cooler tomorrow, so the whole space could be there for the rest of the week if this cyclone stays put. We watch the weather on the UK TV and just keep waiting for the rain but it never comes. French Meteo made mention this morning that poor old UK was having it bad compared to us here in sunny France and over the past three years this has happened quite a lot. Mike looks at the Cherbourg nautical weather which is fairly accurate and he tells me there is no rain due for days yet......I am exhausted with thirst waiting, and so is the sweet corn.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

it works...good work Mike, Mr appliance of science, you are amazing.

We did our weekly visit to Cherbourg on Thursday and met up with Peter and Judith on Manana. We had three very heavy batteries to get on board and four to take off so I took the executive decision to borrow one of the marina trolleys and I am glad we did, Mike was able to do all the transporting on his own and I just had to carry my bag and HOSS's lead, life doesn't get much better than that.
I had a funny little turn on Wednesday, you know the one, feeling drunk without touching an ounce of the stuff but there I was, head swimming and not at all well so Thursday and Friday were lay low, and watch out days, including afternoon sleeps and lots and lots of sitting around. We sit and relax more on the boat than we do at home, which makes a mockery of all the hard work we have put into the gardens, we very rarly go and sit up there although we still walk it, look at it and keep working in it, but it is not the sitty about place we imagined it might be...... odd.
Manana came for a meal Thursday night on Beema and we enjoyed talking boats and stuff, the wind was blowing a hooley and there were a couple of times when we all stopped talking and just looked at each other, whilst gusts blusterd thier way past our rigging. At the end of the evening we walked P and J back to Q pontoon despite the wind the air was warm and refreshing and then back to the Beema for a good nights sleep tucked up in our cosy little cabin.
My neighbour Annie popped in today to say that they would be moving out next weekend, I am so sad to see them go. She has emptied her potting shed my way and I paid her in tomatoes and courgettes and a whopping great onion. There is an English couple looking at the house on Tuesday and Annie asked if we could be in to meet them, probably thinks that Brit neigbours could clintch the deal.....not sure about that.
We have made a start on the boule park and Mike's nifty ditch cutter seems to work well, he had an idea during one of his long wakeful nights to attach a cutting wheel to his electric buffer for a clean and acurate cut to make a mini ditch to lay the coping stone works...good work Mike, Mr appliance of science, you are amazing.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

If this rears up again he can have a number one crew cut and look tough and cool for a bit.

We have just had the wettest grass cutting session yet, and it was great. I was lifting onions with HOSS who was complaining bitterly that it was wet and ugly out here, and Mike was putting the finishing touches on the lawn with the gang mower. The heavens opened to a dramatic display of stair rod rain, I hid in the barn with HOSS as it was starting to sting my bare arms but Mike soldiered on. It was so refreshing to smell wet soil and see glistening foliage, dry is not good and today wet is great.
Mike has woken up this morning with a more determined look on and after a good breakfast of our hens eggs we both set off to get some grass cut. I love the smell of newly mowed lawn so this is a job I love, made all the more easier today after Mike's epic weed killing around all the trees three weeks ago.
The harvest is well into it's busy time now with broad beans and now french dwarf, onions and tomatoes, dare I mention, courgettes and soooooon melon, which are of a good size now and Mike has a little squeeze every time he goes past to see if they are ripe, so role on that time.
This year we promised ourselves time off and time out, so we have organised a trip to the boat show in Southampton. Sailing friends are coming here the week before we go and then another lot planning a few days in Carentan on thier boats the week after can't believe the crossing of dates and activities but if it all goes to plan we will have had record time off and alot of contact with our sailing friends . To make our trip to the UK special and holiday like, Mike has booked us into the Odney Club for two nights. It will be nice to be called sir and madam for a couple of days and talk quietly about nothing in particular. The partnership has so much to offer it's retired partners and we should be using all our points and prizes after the years Mike has put into the partnership.
HOSS's trip to the vet was fraught with danger on Monday with the vet suggesting biopsies and blood tests but I could hear my Debbie saying, don't jump too soon for all the investigative expence, and I convinced the vet, in my very bested French to lay off and let me do another month of care and simple treatment. The vet shaved his back and I am not sure who she was trying to punish the most, me for not wanting to take out a second mortgage or HOSS for having hard up owners but his back looks remarkably better since the crew cut and I am happy with that. Debbie suggested a shave right at the beginning, so if this starts up again he can have a number one crew cut and look tough and cool for a bit.
It is a bank holiday here today..... all's very quiet..........

Sunday, 11 July 2010

If the rains don't come soon, I will have to cry on my garden to save it..

We are on our own again today, Chris and Sam left for home yesterday morning and as normal we went through the melancholy few hours, I cried and Mike stayed on the sofa. Mike is under the weather and has been settled there for the third day now, he tried to cut some grass two days ago but came in after fifteen minuets and plonked himself in front of his computer. The dentist experience has given him a headache and his neck is sore again, so I am farmers wife and nurse for the next few days.
Yesterday was my catch up day in the allotment, despite the 30 degree temperature I battled through and mowed down all the weeds and cleaned up around the plots. There was a huge harvest of broad beans and I clocked that the french beans are looking close to their first pick. The groaning blackcurrant bush got some attention and I made 6 kilos of jam this morning and 2 jars of courgette pickle using the cider vinegar the chap who we bought 200 cider bottles from gave to me as a gift.
We are eating broad bean curry tonight in front of the box watching the world cup, we sat through the Germany and Uruguay last night and I think I have enough enthusiasm to see the big event just so we can say we have, it is only every four years and is a world event so we will be there.
The vet rang us up on Friday to see how HOSS was, Nice gesture I thought and we are going in first thing tomorrow. I feel he is well on the way to recovery but last night he started to gnaw at his back again. I say NOOOOOO and he looks at me with those knowing eyes that we both understand it is bad but he just resist a good scratch. We should know tomorrow what we need to do next for him.
I have two washing machine loads on the line this morning and I am watching the outside like a hawk, we are at last over cast and there is a hope of a drizzle down pour.
If the rains don't come soon, I will have to cry on my garden to save it..

Friday, 9 July 2010

Even Mike is having a lie in, so all is well in Brevands this morning.

This blog is surprisingly difficult to do in the summer because there is so much going on and I spend very little time at my mac just maccing. It is early and I am awake because the cockadoodledo is very vocal. The poor old chap has been kicked out of the hen house by the girls, and is sleeping in the duck palace with one of the new hens. I am not sure why this is happening, but my friend Peter who knows about these things says he is hot and wants out, my theory is that the girls think he is past it and takes up too much space in the brooding chamber but either way, due to the fact that he is out and about in the enclosure at will, he chooses to be vocal and this morning it all set off at seven o'clock which is fine for us but to Chris and Sam that is six o'clock in the morning and whilst on holiday, constitutes a disturbance, not that they would ever mention it in those terms but I know what I would be thinking as I buried my head in the pillows searching for another hours sleep.
We still have no rain, so after a long day out saying good bye to the PYC summer cruise in Carterer over a cafe lunch, my first chore when we got back was to water, water, water, I have not done the allotment yet and perhaps a little drenching whilst Mike is mowing the lawn today is on the agenda.
Mike did his visit to the dentist who never speaks, I go in to act as translator but he still doesn't speak so I watched with great distress at the way this mild looking man attacked mike's jaw and frankly I am put off. This obvious professional, is either not mild at all, or hates the English and I for one will not take the chance. I suspect Mike is going through root canal work and we need to go back in August to finish the job but we are both feeling very unsure about the whole experience, and what it is going to cost.
The cherries are coming along well, not quite cherried out yet, and with the help of Sarah's pip popper I can de-pip the last bowl today and make jam and that will be that crop complete, the black currents are groaning on the bush and I see the raspberries are off as well so this weekend is full for me in the kitchen not to mention, the tomatoes are reddening and the courgettes bulging. I have a ridiculous cabbage crop and I am going to start giving them away, Chris and Sam will have to take one home, Chris is a nutter for cole slaw and was so amazed at the difference in home made and bought so I have a convert. I introduced Chris to pickled courgette and he genuinely said that he had never tasted such a great pickle, well he is my son and I do love him but now he is god as a true appreciator of courgette pickle...with mustard.
We have spent two wonderful evenings outside catching up with Chris and Sam, I love hearing about their horses and what they are getting up to we have vowed to do this more often, we are going to see them in September when we can get HOSS back in the Kennel and do the boat show .
I have let the chickens out and it is all quiet in the heneria, nobody has raised their heads from the pillow so the country alarm clock has not disturbed too much, even Mike is having a lie in, so all is well in Brevands this morning.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

preserve cherries in alcohol...that will be much more fun.

On our back from the Marina on Saturday we popped into the grown-ups DIY store in Cherbourg. We feel really cheated not having a super dooper B&Q type store with keen deals and choice in Carentan, so any opportunity to pop in and have a look makes our very sad. We did however pick up two blinds for the boat, 2 Euros each, and 10 square meters of carpet floor tiles to replace the plastic lining in Beema for a Euro a square meter...gooood deal. We have been looking for a wall light to go over our new doorway and we found one of those as well and Mike has spent the past three days installing it. When the light goes on in the lounge the light goes on in the court, and a bit changing rooms for this old house but cool all the same.
Sarah held a summer party in her garden with Traditional English Tea and we ate cucumber sandwiches, bread from Tesco, cake and scones, she raised five hundred Euro for her church restoration fund and when we popped in on Monday I picked up all the left overs and have a freezer full of Tesco soft cut loaves, cake and scones, and 5 cucumbers, but not in the freezer ! I feel I did better than the Church and we will not need to buy bread until September.
On my evening walk yesterday I noticed that the cherry tree was, full of cherries. In the three years we have been here we have rarely seen cherries in time to pick before the birds whip them away so today I commandeered the cherry picker, that will be Mike, and we set off to see what we could harvest. I was gobsmacked with the sheer volume of our crop this year. What a perfect scene, Mike up the tree picking, me sitting on the in the grass sorting and packing, HOSS playing around us without a care in the world, there was not a sound that nature hadn't invented herself and as our basket filled and our tummies filled I started to regret ever getting involved as a full basket of anything means time in the kitchen. We finally threw in the towel when I couldn't fit another cherry in. Over lunch we got our books out to see what you are suppose to do with a glut like this. I then spent the rest of the day bottling and jamming, but I still have three huge bowls to deal with tomorrow. Not a problem I think the jam is yummy so we will go down that route. Next year I will get the red currents in a little quicker and bottle the cherries in current juice and I will look up to see if you can preserve cherries in alcohol...that will be much more fun.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

From three feet up the trellis to seven feet in seven days is extreme, to say the least.

Hi there, we are still here, live and kicking, just had a seven day break and didn't need to advertise to the world that our little patch of paradise was going to be home alone. We have returned to dried up pots on the terrace and bolted lettuce in the poly but everything else is fine, including HOSS's health after a stay at the Kennels.
We joined the Port Solent Yacht Club Summer Cruise and met four boats in Cherbourg and another two in Alderney so we were a gang of 14 plus a dog called poppy. We spent two nights on the buoys bobbing about in Bray harbour and two nights in Beaucette marina in Guernsey, had a cocktails night, a BBQ, a pub dinner with girls verses boys at the dart board but more importantly for Mike and I we met up with our friends and talked boats, family, gardens, life in France and life in the UK and we have a bunch of people who will come and visit now that they have heard all about our life here, so that is great.
Beema behaved well though she did have a battery failure whilst out on the buoys which presented us with a few strategic issues, but the chandlers in the tiny harbour was able to sell us a battery and even delivered it to the boat for no extra cost so we were up and running and once again Mike excelled himself pulling out meters and tools I didn't know we had on board to diagnose the problem and solve it. I am so lucky that a mountain is only a mole hill when Mike is about.
We have both had a good change of air and have pitted our wits against tide, time and weather. Mike did some serious navigation planning that worked, so no change there then, and I got my chart work and how to behave on a yacht skills polished up, and you know what, we really enjoyed the challenge. We left the flotilla on Friday morning in drizzle and mist which reflected our sadness to be leaving them so soon, but our holiday was for one week and they are all off for another few days before having to take that 14 hour slog across the Chanel back to old Blighty. If they make it to the French coast we will drive over to see them but it's all down to the weather.
Getting home to the garden was a little more daunting, as we drove in through the gates we saw that all our pot plants were in a state of wilt but the poly and the allotment were fine and I took a good crop of broad beans and a cabbage to reward myself for not over reacting and taking the initial heart stopping realisation that everything had died in seven days in my stride. We both fell into automatic mode and watered all the sad and depleted plants before we even unloaded the car.
I spent time rummaging through my e-mail boxes, an old and tiresome habit from work days and was delighted to see that Chris and Sam were making plans to come over to visit. It only took one phone call, and the dates were firmed up and we have a crowd for the end of the week, just in time to get the lawn cut and the weeds put back in their place, they so take over when you turn your back, but, so do the runner beans, from three feet up the trellis to seven feet in seven days is extreme, to say the least.