Thursday, 28 October 2010

my hens ? Mikes tractor ? contest really.

Mike's surfing on Le bon coin came up trumps again yesterday and we went over to Gratot  to pick up 15 third hand railway sleepers. We paid just under five euros for each one which may seem expensive but as they are jolly useful around the garden to retain gravel or give a little height to a boarder we feel it is worth the expense.  We have used sleepers quite a few times already and like the end result but not the handling of them, when they become cumbersome and extremely awkward heavy lumps of poo. We had to do two runs to get  this lot  home and it took courage over two days to unload. We have to apply the science of fulcrums as I am completely incapable of lifting one end so we use the sack truck, lashings of gravity and concentration, a few choice words and dirty looks at each other to get them into position, fortunately this lot  stay on the drive as their final destination is still at planning stage and besides they add a bit of old wood-pile interest in front of the house now that the pot plants and hanging baskets are all away in hibernation. I hope it snows this year because these lovely old bits of wood will look stunning dusted with snow, oops went a bit arty there.
I have  bottled the very last of the apples and tomatoes this evening and I for one are delighted.  I know I will use my stock as I have now discovered, but I really knew this all along,  that both stewed apples and roasted tomato puree are very good for you when you are on a diet, but not necessarily together. 
We had a fun outing to Cherbourg to meet up with  brother John and to check the boat over this week, it is always good to catch up and as we have so much sailing to talk about the time just whizzes by and before the day is out John is slipping off onto his next adventure.  
Autumn is well and truly with us and I for one just love this season with all the promise of warm fires and dusky evenings. Our clocks go back on Sunday which leaves us in the dark until eight thirty in the morning and that means we keep to winter time, and don't bother to even open the shutters until nine. The cock stays quiet and his night gets longer which means that the happy clutch spend much more time in the hen house. I had totally forgotten about that equation and had a nasty shock to see how much muck there was in the house at yesterdays clean out, so now the hens will need cleaning out every three days instead of a week and in the cold that is no joke. Last year the hens stayed in the garage for the winter, but poorly tractor has filled the space and, my hens ?  Mikes tractor ? contest really.

Monday, 25 October 2010

It was OK and I eat it all up, but I must work harder on my labelling.

I had a day off on Saturday, dickie tum, don't know where from, and hope it was not from the restaurant in town where we had our choir annual bash, but all is better now, so I will say no more.
It has rained hard these past few days but today we were  back to one of those perfect Autumn afternoons where it is warm enough to take your coat off but not too cold that you can't manage with just a fleece on.
Mike got the watering system installed in the poly whilst I was out for the count on the sofa and at the end of the day I spent a few mouth wide open minutes, in wonder of this bloke's ingenious abilities and we now have an irrigation system  using stock and stuff on site . The timer is the next challenge but I have seen  a refrigeration defrost timer and a plug in timer on the kitchen table so I guess the innovation continues below decks.
Mike has also had his head in his tractor manual, the lifting hydraulics packed up during the summer and he has  dabbled on and off  with no success, it is now getting urgent as the gang mower is stranded up on the field in all weathers when it should be down near the house in the garage. I feel a sense of crisis on the horizon with the days shortening and the temperature slipping into single figures and I have found myself backing off graciously when the language gets too colourful, poor Mike, being my hero and the  resourceful type means that I think everything is mendable but actually sometimes stuff just dies.
I got another letter from the French NHS on Saturday asking for all the documentation I went to the Caisse Maladie with last week. I had to get all the paper work out  and was about to start posting it all off AGAIN when I found some courage at the bottom of a cup of coffee this afternoon and I called head office in St Lo. A very nice lady, and I know you have heard me say that a few times now, rang the man who sent me the letter to say that all is well and we are in system, he confirmed that we are still in and to ignor the last letter.  I mentioned to the very nice lady that had been a bit of a nightmare case and that we had been battling for three years and she just said yes it is all very difficult, "so make it easy" is what I wanted to say but just did the normal french style  thank yous and have a good day and hung up, for the last time I really hope.
I have now run out of jars and have just finished bottling up 8 portions of apple sauce, or puree or compote as we call it here.  I had funny little moment at lunch time as I rushed in from shopping, starving because I am living on 1500 calories a day and from the freezer I pulled a bag of tomato puree and a bag of celery soup for my lunch. Mike hates my home made soup and he gets a packet of Bachelors special something.  I was microwaving my two concoctions and I became aware that my soup was smelling odd, nice but odd and when it was at warm and defrosted temperature I tasted the delights of tomato and apple soup, no, it was OK and I eat it all up but I must work harder on my labelling.

Friday, 22 October 2010

I am totally tomatoed out for this year.

My goodness me where has this week gone, this feel like the slippery slope to oblivion when you go to your blog on Friday and the last entry was Tuesday.
On Wednesday Graham and Ann braved the apple picking challenge again and we cleared our orchard, it was actually very easy, we keep our trees on clipped grass and even the leaves get picked up so with the sun out and a warm and pleasant breeze caressing our tired bones we got the job done and dusted by one o'clock and cracked open a bottle of cider, well you would wouldn't you. We then  spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and trying to sort out Ann's French homework. The last of the picking was done on Thursday at Jacqueline's orchard, we all met at La Capitainery at nine thirty for the off but worryingly 84 year old  Jacqueline was unwell and was getting herself off to the doctors so Mike and I took over the job of preparing the apple pile on her front lawn and organising our friends into action to get the trees emptied and the fruit into bags. I feel so at home at La Capitainery and at lunch time we came down off the orchard and settled ourselves in Jacqueline's huge dining room and tucked into our pic-nics before finishing off the final trees and clearing up leaving the apple pile ready for crushing next Saturday. Jacqueline was away all morning and had a full  anaesthetic then surgery on her nose to stop it bleeding, she then drove home, put on her apron and started work again, but I think she was quietly delighted that we had got all the work done for this year and all she had to do was put her feet up for the rest of the day.
We have had a letter from the French NHS to say YES we can stay at a cost of three hundred and fifty Euros a year for both of us. This gives us eighty percent of all our medical costs paid by the state which is the basic french person's cover and then we pay ninety euros a month for top up insurance which pays the other twenty percent so we are fully covered. If any UK resident out there wants to knock the NHS then they should came here and pay the price,  have all the medicines  taken listed by price to make you aware of your burden on the state. Sometimes you have to pay, if you have a sour throat then the state will not reimburse the doctors prescription because every one gets colds and sour throats, so you pay. Still, the service is much faster and you get seen pretty much straight away but that is because most French people think twice before they go to the doctor as it will most definitely cost them hard earned dosh.
We have booked our trip to Spain in the camper in June but now the reality of leaving our poly tunnel unattended of a couple of weeks is sinking in and Mike is designing an irrigation system that will not only deal with that one problem but act as a permanent feature to take the worry and time out of watering during those few vital weeks when the plants are young and vulnerable. Tomorrow he will start to put the plan together and I for one will be happy to introduce a labour saving process as I spent many a hot and weary afternoon wetting the tunnel down this year to save the souls of our tomato plants who incidental are still producing red tomatoes but sadly I cannot look them in the face as I am totally tomatoed out for this year.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

I feel much happier that we don't have rats the size of cats so close to the house.....

Mike and I are a bit stiff and tired today, we did our first apple pick day yesterday in a difficult orchard with Ann and Graham, but as it was their first time, by four o'clock Ann was done for so we packed up and delivered a full trailer load of apples to La Capitanary.  We are getting together again tomorrow to clear our orchard and then to Jacqueline's orchard on Thursday to finish the picking by the end of the week. I had relied on Jacqueline to let Jean-Jacque know that we would start in his orchard on Monday but I had a bad feeling that their paths would not have crossed and I was right,  we ended up breaking and entering to get through his garden to his orchard and I was waiting for the big horror  with arms articulating with disbelief that someone could make their way to his orchard....and I was not disappointed. Jean-Jacaque's dog called Doggie came flying  to the gate and barked like his was going into a veritable doggie type paddy followed but his master looking a little bewildered but once he saw it was us he went all shruggy shouldered on me and explained in three different ways that Jacqueline does not have his phone number because he is not in the book and the number she was calling is his Internet number and she does not know how to leave a message on the answer phone, and at 84 I am not surprised she shys away from modern stuff, she does not even own a washing machine or microwave. Jean-Jacque does however speak good English and showed off his skills despite the fact that it is easier for me to communicate with him in his language but at least the others got to communicate with him as well.  For the first time ever we had a picnic in the Avenue which is Brevand's listed tourist attraction and we often see people parked up having their repas on the picnic tables looking over the Marais and over to the sea. I was tickled pink as we sat there, with our guests to Brevands, waving as cars drove by, we were tooted and waved at by our nieghbours and village kin. Ann mentioned that we seem to know plenty of people and it is not until you stop and think about it, and yes I guess we do.
When we got back from our day yesterday I busied myself opening doors and letting HOSS our into the field when I realised that Mike was out in the road bashing something with a spade and when I went over I was Horrified to see that he was knocking the stuffing out of the biggest rat I had ever seen. At first  I thought it was a coypu but realised it was a proper rat, the size of a cat. We pondered on this all evening and I mentioned that I was unhappy to have a rat that size so close to the house and this morning Mike having pondered on the problem all night declared that the rat most probably fell off a farmer's trailer passing by and that is why it was concussed and just sitting there waiting to be bashed, so I feel much happier that we don't have rats the size of cats so close to the house.....

Sunday, 17 October 2010

You don't know what you got till you start using it again....or something like that

It was my birthday yesterday and we decided to fill the house up with people and invited Anna and William, Ann and Graham and Anne for lunch, amazing that it may seem but nearly all my mates are called Ann,  Peter and Sarah are in the UK so couldn't come. We drove Dana on Friday to a lady called Lynda who is Dana's normal minder, this lady has a business looking after other peoples dogs in her home and they run riot along with her own dogs. We stopped for coffee and chatted about both our lives here in France, which all expats do, and then we left her to her doggie chaos and took the slow road home via leclerc to get my shopping in for my birthday  bash.
Yesterday was full of fun, face book lit up like a Christmas tree with all the best wishes coming through and I got phone calls and e-mails and even had the luck to see Debs online and chatted on skype. We keep missing Georgie on line but will find her later today but sadly no contact from Chris.
My guests arrived at one o'clock and we sat down to eat, but we didn't get up again until seven in the evening, so much to talk about and so much to laugh about, I have no idea how much wine I drank but I was ready for bed as soon as we said our goodbyes but Mike forbade such an early night and I battled on till ten o'clock which was much more acceptable.
Since our trip to the UK in September I have been using the dish washer. It has been sitting there idle for three years because I was playing at little farm housewife and poo pooed the advantages of such fangled machinery and anyway we both needed to have our hands in water several times a day to wash the garden grime out but after experiencing the clean and organised kitchens at John and Linda's and Chris and Sam's homes I decided to plug in and go.  I have not regretted it one bit. A good clean and a program with one of those flush out your dishwasher products and I was back in business and what a difference it has made, the kitchen is clutter free and as I only have to wash the big stuff I wipe up straight away, and put away straight away, it is great, it only goes to prove that you don't know what you got till you start using it again....or something like that

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

And all our calls in France, buck shee..lovely.

We have both just come in for a coffee before going out to cut grass, I am screen watching as our money transfer has not happened yet. I was expecting our account to be flush by the ninth of this month and here we are the 13th and still no dosh, I am in the red, so we cannot be seen to be spending as the bank take a dim view to expenditure and showing a negative account the same time. So that we don't open our wallets,  we are stop 'athomes' for the time being or at least until our dosh turns up. I will be forced to go to the bank in the morning to cancel a couple of DD's  before they come to take me off to jail.
We have Sarah's dog Dana here for a few days so HOSS has a play mate to hang out  with but she is so energetic that I have to split them up for HOSS to take a breather, He is 75% better but being a bigger and heavier dog the constant running and jumping and tumbling and biting tails for play and nicking of toys and then more tumbling and running hanging onto his just getting on his nerves so a separation gives her  the luxury of not having to perform for him and he gets his chance to lay flat out on the kitchen floor as is his favourite pass time.  Sarah also decanted her entire chicken house and  run so we are in charge of her adorable little bantams as well, what a menagerie we have this week.
The lounge is oh so nearly finished.  We had a damp corner that Mike had to investigate and discovered that the gutter down pipe had sprung a leak spraying water  on the  outside wall and that was enough to give us the ominous wet patch on the inside but two weeks after mike's magic touch the patch had disappeared and yesterday he put up the last sheets of wall paper.  Our second hand furniture turned up and I am very pleased with the overall feel of the room much more light and airy and tidy, for now.
Mike is busy on the Internet and has found a new ferry service  from St Nazaire to Gijon in Spain which takes the motorway out of the trip and means we can get south quickly and comparatively cheaply with  HOSS with us in the van. If he stops swearing at the laptop and manges to get the form filled in on line it looks like we may have a plan for our holiday next year.
I called Orange again yesterday to wonder why my Internet phone is still not working, the customer services chappie read through our dossier, quietly at first then, became quite astonished and loudly proclaimed that we really do seem to have a problem.  Oh what a surprise, and he promised that a guru on these matters would call me at thirteen hundred hours, oh where have I heard that before,  but give them their dues I did get a call from the Guru, who sounded quite ordinary,but blow me down if he didn't talk us through a mind meld and re-installation of our live box and the server all on line and with his broken English and my fluffy french we now have the possibility of calling UK free and a limited a call allowance for Ozz and Canada land lines,  and all our calls in France, buck shee..lovely.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The caveman's natural need for heat and chippings was satisfied.

We got up extra early to get into town to go to the Caisse Maladie this morning. We have learned that you need to be there at the crack of dawn or you have to queue and we don't do queuing very well. So, with all the information I have on our French NHS nightmare we presented ourselves, without having to queue to a very pleasant young woman who read the form that I had lost the will to live by, and said that the bits I was concerned about were of no concern to our case.....yep... I felt like an uneducated bimbo, but then, that is nothing unusual, not have a native understanding of the language puts you in that category time and time again. I appreciate why my Dad worked so hard at his second language, once you are involved half measures are seriously not adequate enough. The form was duly filled and the lady was very accommodating, Mike always tells me that these events work well for us because my French is so good but I still feel like a peasant.  Having got on so well with this helpful  lady I crashed and burned by I asking her for a receipt for the form she was about to plonk on a very tall pile of other peoples paperwork and I  sensed that the trust had gone. She huffed ever-so slightly, but, having had our file for entry into the French system sit on a CPAM desk for a year without action, and us falling out of the system, I am constantly on alert.
With the Autumn feel in the garden, the warm air and bright skies got Mike out into the allottment,  I did ask that he helped out more and there he was lifting rotting cabbage and spent sweet corn. We filled the trailer ready for the dechete vert and over a short coffee break Mike decide that he really didn't like the wild rose arching over the entrance to the pottage and before my very eyes it was cut, slashed and in the trailer. I must admit that it really lightens up the entrance and having winged all summer that the lettuce patch is in the shade fifty percent of the time I can now see that this is going to revolutionise  the growing potencial. With this potencial revealed  the plum tree came down, and so did the lilac and then there really was light. We spent the rest of the day stripping the leaves from the branches and Mike cut logs for the winter and what was left will go to chippings and the caveman's natural need for heat and chippings was satisfied. Billy had a special birthday yesterday . 10/10/10 how great is that.

Friday, 8 October 2010

I am her equal now because I always get my own way.,

We are waiting for three days dry weather to get the grass cut and the longer we wait the more arduous the task becomes, if we manage to get out this afternoon we will both have to work like billio to catch it before the dew starts to fall again at five o'clock. Yesterday was dry and I pottered around my wet and Autumnal garden wondering where to start, so the best solution is to start close to the house and work out. I have emptied the cart of the potted giant petunia which did not like being in pots but gave us a surprising show of flowers and now as I clear them out, a good supply of seeds for next year. I had to call Mike out to see the wonders of nature. As I pulled off the seed pods they sprang into life and jettisoned little black seeds everywhere, it was like popping bubble wrap, and we both found ourselves popping seed pods just because it was fun. The drive is clearer and my next job is to find a safe and frost free place for the geraniums, we lost most of them last year in the poly during our hard winter so this year they go into one of the outhouses off the back courtyard.
I spoke to Debbie on Skype just now, we are all a bit psychic, us girls, as I was just starting to feel a little isolated from her. She is so busy with her wonderful life in Australia and I hate not being a part of it, Georgina contacts me every week on her day off and I really look forward to see her lovely face and just chatting about nothing in particular bringing the miles to zero.  Being separated by thousands of miles and new life styles is tough, no matter how great life is here,  but like the Internet phone still not being connected totally out of my control.
We have a new form to fill in for the French NHS three years after applying they are still questioning what we are doing here, the UK should take a leaf out of the French system and they might find that they loose many foreign hanger onners. I am going to have to go to the office here in Carentan as I do not understand the questions and the reasoning, I am now petrified of making an error and having to go through all this again so I think it is prudent to get some help.
I had a mad urge to draw three days ago and got the pad and pencils out, what a disaster, I really have to draw stuff that has value, a still life leaves me cold and drawing the house is too huge a project. My aging eyesight means that I have to have my glasses on to see the distance and take them off to look at the paper and then I get nauseous in between, so I am going to drawer an object a day within my focal vision without glasses to get my skills back up to scratch, which sadly, has depleted to nothing, so watch this space, I have my art teacher friend coming for my birthday bash next Saturday and I need to have a modicum of confidence before then.
We have formulated a plan to get the apples picked for this years cider.  I have 6 bags here just with my windfalls but there are tons still in the tree, Our friends Ann and Graham are coming to make a start on the 18th to give us a clear week of commitment,  Jacqueline was  a bit thrown as she thought she has set us up to come this week and next but I have Dana for the week and it is my birthday on the Saturday so when I suggested Monday the 18th she was sorry that she was unable to help as she was off to Paris to see her chiropodist and then I realised she was manoeuvring me into a position to suit her,  she is a very Wiley old  woman and usually gets her own way, but I think I am her equal now because I always get my own way.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Where have I been all my life finding this simple procedure such a hoot.

I have had a frustrating few days and now I have low blood pressure again ..drat... The Internet phone is still not working.  The special engineer had a special rendez vous to call me between twelve and one on Friday, we had new friends in for lunch so I primed Mike up, to chat amongst himself, and keep the party going whilst I took this, oh so important call, but, what a surprise, no rendez vous. On Saturday, customer services rang to say that the special engineer couldn't make that call after all and he would ring Sunday, which he did, and I had to go through all the questions of three weeks trying to get this phone to work, and then some. He finally said that he had demanded, or was that, merely asked, that the server connection with my livebox be set to zero and that it could take another five days. I was unable to throw a wobbly as my french is not that great in those circumstances and besides he spoke far too quickly and through his upturned collar to boot. I was in danger of being hung up on which is a normal occurrence if the customer gets uppity.
My other frustration is that the new livebox does not emmit as  strong a wi fi signal as the old one and my Mac is loosing connectivity at an alarming rate during the day.  I was well set up in the corner of the kitchen with my on line radio, i-tunes, e-mail, blog, facebook, and world wide information getter,  so not having the computer in the kitchen is a real non starter for me.  As I write this blog I am plonked in the middle of the kitchen table, this is not just a laptop it is a huge 1970's type of set up with UPS back up and a screen as big as your TV, but I am going to sweet talk Mike to decant me in another corner where I can get back to my communication and love of my computer without falling off line and into oblivion.
It's been wet, but we have all this decorating to do, the royal we, is have a blast decorating, and we are falling out of favour with each other with every drop of backing paper, I actually walked out today and gave the heneriera a winterizing spring clean so that I can shut their little door at night without getting a boot full of mud. so a bit of a nag session meant I got a job done that has sat at the top of the to do list for well over a week.
It's bin day again tomorrow, second time out with the new wheelie, I am so excited, just chuck it all in and wheel it out where have I been all my life finding this simple procedure such a hoot.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

A touch of once bitten twice shy.

Sadly nobody wants my beautiful dining suite and the price guide offered by the depot vends in Coutance makes it worthless and has more value as a storage cupboard in the garage. Mike's logical thinking puts it's value in the price of wood and to construct a storage unit of that size would cost considerably more than 200 euros, so the side board is in the garage the display cabinet remains in the lounge showing off all my emotional clutter and the chairs remain in the bedrooms. It is not my ideal solution but we have plans to use the wooden doors as wall coverings,  but not in this house,  so Mike has waxed up the heavily carved doors for future use where ever that might be, and I have a huge capacity in organised storage so we are all happy.
We had Ann and Graham over for lunch yesterday and it rained all day. We couldn't get out onto the park for a looksie but we had so much to chat about and we were still at table at 4:00. It is really interesting getting to know people, with all their stories and back ground and I am glad to say that we really do have a lot in common with this couple.
The walls in the lounge are all plain, we did think to leave one wall papered as a feature wall but having appreciated  the brightness and cleanliness of plain white walls there was no discussion and the whole lot came down. The room looks twice the size it was before we started and we will see how we feel when the other furniture turns up, the display cabinet may still have to go.
The grass in the Park is visibly growing in front of my very eyes, it is warm and very wet out there and every time I go to give HOSS a run I can see a difference even it is only a few hours difference, the growth has to be seen to be believed. Mike has just given me a meteo report and we are stuck with this rain for a few days which we are OK with because we can just do nothing, or nothing or even nothing. I should start drawing and being arty but it is easier and far more comfortable to sit and watch the TV. When we were working we would hand over an entire day at the weekend to TV and vegetating and I don't see why we have to stop just because we are retired. It does of course mean that we don't sleep at night,  we are more rested that a rested rester, but we don't complain about that.
I have noticed mouse poo in the out-house so I have decanted the cat back to the back door from the barn. She did a really good job of clearing the barn of rats and mice but I need her closer to home now and it is so much easier for me to feed her down here  in the winter months
We are preparing for another hard winter, I have spotted that the farmers are putting their bales of hay around the outside of the fields close to the hedges this year,  I  guess so they can more easily collect and distribute the winter feed if we should go winter wonder land again, it is a bit like shutting the door after the horse has bolted but is also a touch of once bitten twice shy.