Sunday, 28 November 2010

Which only gives us until February 2011, to achieve.

Winter decided to show her face this morning and for the first time this winter I had to walk around the perimeter of the field in fear of burning the frozen grass beneath my feet, which sounds like the title to a sloppy love song, but actually, is true. This afternoon when Mike and I went for a tour of the estate Mike pointed out that he could see where I had walked this morning,  and there before my very eyes were the darker burned out shape of every step I took which incidental is the title of a tune I could hum to you if I needed to.
I awoke this morning with a hang over after spending the entire afternoon and into the evening  at Graham and Ann's lovely new home in Neuveville Les Plain. We were six around the table and discussed just about everything including what is the one thing you would buy yourself if you won the lottery, Ann was going to save the world and I was going to install a swimming pool and looking at the temperature today would probably be a huge mistake. Ann has offered to do me a groceries run during their visit to the UK so we popped over on the way to the beach this morning to leave a list and ended up spending another two hours just talking. Graham is seriously into his garden having discussed with us his plans way back in July and today was proud to show off his lawn which  way back in July was a patch of weeds. Mike instructed  Graham to get on his mower every four days and cut and cut and cut and we are really pleased that he is at the brink of success with a green lawn going into winter mode but all the same very green.. It is good to give good advice which works.
During our walk around our estate Mike and I had a slightly fraught discussion about getting the allotment back into shape, we have lost our mojo and I am very frustrated that all the work we have done will be for nothing if we don't buckle down again soon. We need to put a new gate in at he top end of the allotment and I will start planning that so we will find ourselves up there to move trees and reshape the landscape before the next growing season starts, which only gives us until February 2011, to achieve.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

It is Dick's birthday and I really wish he could be here for the first fire up.

It snowed for a mega second today, I was on the drive sorting out my washing and felt the wet,  but it weighed nothing and when I took a closer look, it was snow, OMG
I did my most favourite Autumn job this morning and trimmed my lavender from spent spiky plants to smart silver boulders, and the smell was fantastically overwhelming, my gardening gloves will smell great till the next chicken clean out. Mike cut the eucalyptus tree down and cleared the area, I still get a little pang of sadness, we bought it to give height and solidness to the wood garden but now it is gone.  We have a better view of the  roses climbing the arboretum  in the middle of the garden so all is not lost.  Mike got his mini tractor out and started to cut the grass with the cutting deck, it is the worst cut possible but as this is probably the last this year, it does not matter how it looks and  it just had to be done. The fairy rings are showing and I have seen a few weeds pushing through so off with their heads and hope it coincides with a bout of cold weather to kill them off completely.
We were invited  to Sarah and Peters to celebrate American thanks Giving this evening . We have a young exchange student at choir who has joined our group for a bit of company and something to do on the Tuesday night. She speaks good French but has gravitated towards us expats for a good old fashioned gossip. Sarah and Peter who  lived in America for a while thought it would be nice to have a dinner and celebrate Carentan style and we had a good evening out.
The builder finally called and  will install our chimney liner next Saturday so my little range remains  stranded in the middle of the kitchen on a pallet until then. We will light her up on Saturday 4th December oh blimey, that it is Dick's birthday and I really wish he could be here for the first fire up.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

I have to go out now, and get some food stocks in.

Our cute and adorable Montherme wood burning cuisiniere is ready to go, Mike has polished and scraped, polished more and painted the flue using a pot of Pot Back that has sat at the back of his stores for ages. We now wait with baited breath for the builder to come and drop the liner down the chimney to make us legal to burn.  I contacted the builder on Friday to say please come now we are about to  collect the cuisiniere and I want to light it NOW, but it has taken until last night after two e-mails and a phone call for him to commit and we even have to wait until tonight to get a day out of him. It's the same the world over I guess. This is an English builder rushed off his feet with ex pats who need an ex pat to get the job done, and here we are waiting for him to consult his diary. I don't blame him,  I suspect he came out here to retire, saw a red hot market and now he is over run,  we will find out when we  sit with him over a cuppa, I still have a box of PG tips to share so at least he will get an excellent cup of tea whilst he is here.
Ann, Ann, Anna and I have started a reading club and bought the same book each and are reading it all at the same time. We have arranged to meet at Ann's house, Ann from Apperville that is, to discuss the story so far and what we think of it. This is really good for me, I have a bad habit of not paying attention when I read and to avoid seeming like a CSE throw out I am making notes of names and turning points in the plot  so that I can at least sound like I have paid attention. I even forget the names of authors I have read, and that, in reading club circles, is a sin, a bit like no knowing your Latin plant names, and I don't know those either, so I am devising an idiots guide to how to sound far more educated and switched on when talking about my garden and our book.
The weather is still very wet and with the moon in a full on. light up your garden at midnight, mode we have high tides and everything just takes so much longer to dry. The chickens are up to their ankles in mud except in the new winter quarters where at least the soil is merely damp, We accept that  this wet season happens every year but it is still a shock and surprise every time it comes. We saw on the Cherbourg Meteo that we are due a cold blast and my friend Sarah has forecast snow on Thursday,  so now I am in panic mode..Mike does not do panic, but I do and I just have to go out now, and get some food stocks in.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Frankly life does not get much better than that , now does it.

Two days ago I wrote a really good blog about my new 1950s kitchen range, how excited I was and I so wanted you all to know about it. Quite frankly, it was probably the best blog so far but as I did the final corrections I accidentally highlighted all the text, the devil took over and wiped the lot out. I threw a chair across the room, put the TV on and watched Doctors, Diagnosis Murder and did not move until Summer Bay was over.....I was so upset.
Today we drove over to the other side of La Manche to pick up our new 1950's kitchen range. Mike decided it was time to get a heat source  in the kitchen and I really stood my ground that I wanted a range of some sort. A new range costs two grand but this lonely and dumped little treasure cost 300 Euro and whist I chatted up our vendor with all the interesting and varied things we get up to  here in France, he shot to the back of his garden and dug out an old tractor drawn mini trailer and two hugely long steel poles,  I was so excited about them that he  made a gift of them and there starts another garden theme...fab.
Graham and Ann came with us today to add a bit of muscle to the event but Mike had constructed a trolley with  handy lifting points and this small but unbelievably heavy range was on the trolley and up in the trailer before we had time to worry about the plan failing. We came back chatting and laughing all the way,  had a  jolly nice lunch then Mike and I said goodbye to the hired help and only then decided that we really wanted to have the range in doors for cleaning, Mike  put the appliance of science to work once again and got the heavy laden trolley off the trailer  and then slid the whole thing into the kitchen, I wonder at our resourcefulness sometimes, it seems we can do anything we put our minds to, except make money but that is another blogs worth, another day.
HOSS gave me a bit of a fright yesterday and refused his food and then started the dreaded  chewing action on his back. He no sooner displayed the symptoms of his mange than I was dressed up in my protective  kit and  was dousing him in insecticide to within an inch of his life. Both he and I hate this treatment and sadly I had to leave him wet and smelling like a debugged refugee as we  had an invitation for aperitifs and really wanted to go as these are new friends that I am quite keen to get to know. The evening was delightful and we met  many very interesting folk, all UK escapees making a living here at one thing and another and as I am in the throws of looking for an income rubbing shoulders with these  people is useful and a lot of fun. HOSS looked sad and fed up when we got back late in the evening but a bickie and cuddle perked him up and he is looking much better today.  The next few days is taken up with preparing the fire place polishing the enamel and cutting all our wood to fit our tiny wood burner box and frankly life does not get much better than that , now does it.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

We always want what we don't have.

We have woken up to a bit of a frost, first of the year and the real start of winter, at last, because we don't mind winter and this year we have organised our Christmas with visits to friends and then two trips  to the UK in January and February, then it is March, seed time and getting the garden ready, it all goes past so quickly but the difference this year is that we feel more planned and organised. We have realise that in retirement having something organised to look forward to is an important ingredient to life.
I am determined to control costs next year or we will be selling up and returning to the UK before we are ready and that definitely is not something to be looking forward to. We are putting feelers out where ever we go that we need to find a revenue stream and I am staying the optimist that something will turn up.
Mike got the hydraulic pump off the tractor yesterday whilst I was out on an extra choir practise and our friend Ann from Appleville was here with us to rejoice and celebrate with a cup of tea the successful oil seal change which has solved the problem...we think...and hope...
I have been in a bit of a sad place these past few weeks and put it all down to the grey skies and soaked ground but today we have bright sunshine and a good walk around the field with a pair of secateurs might just give me the lift I need.  I have plans for the allotment and there is a lot of work to do, Mike is not that keen because it means moving eight five foot trees but they have to go so I will try to move them bare root in February and if they make it that will be a bonus.  Our mate Anna from Blossville has found a supplier for Brambly apple trees and I am tempted to go and order one for lifting in Feb. It will complete the orchard and please Mike immensely as he does not like french cookers, well I think they are cider apples here and he just wants a nice warm baked brambly apple covered in sugar...strange how we always want what we don't have.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Thanks Anna, right again,

I am using a few spare moments as we wait for Mikes Mum to finish her skype to Australia. Our weekly get together with Mikes Mum and brother Geoff has become an incredible punctuation mark in the week and  helps to put life in blocks of seven. This evening we had a fantastic surprise when Deb skyped us from OZ with all the boys around her, it was her Saturday morning, our Friday night and they were all bright and happy to see us. I miss their attention and acknowledgement, Deb had actually got up early to catch Nanny and Geoff but as we were on line and the weren't we got the first call. Skype is the most amazing communication tool and today I have spoken to both our girls and both our mums, the wonder of technology will be realised when Chris our son gets on line and I will then have a full compliment of family on-line.
The wind and rain has put a full stop on the day and we spent all morning weighing up the benefits of  ferry crossings verses channel tunnel,taking HOSS,  leaving him behind, who to see, who to not see but we finally found the right equation and booked a long weekend in February to coincide with my Mum's 85th birthday. Our friends John and Linda are hitching a lift back with us and are going to spend a few days here to celebrate Johns Birthday so we have a happy end of February to look forward to.
It was time to brave the weather this afternoon and go for bread and HOSS meat, now he is on raw meat only I have to  buy it more frequently and although I keep a couple of packets in the freezer I do need to keep on top of stocks. As we were leaving Mike saw that the washing I had stupidly put out this morning was all over the boule park. The rotary line had broken in half in the wind and the whole area looked like a crash scene as we desperately tried to recover mud splattered clothing which had double wrapped itself around the lines. I took the time to scan the garden and I saw a change in shape at the wood garden and realised the eucalyptus tree had fallen over. It was planted  two years ago and had grown from a four foot weed to a magnificent twenty foot tree which is now only good for fire wood. I did feel sad for a moment then realised that there is always a good reason for all events in the garden. This tree was growing so big that it was hiding the climbing roses we planted  last year, so, the roses won. My friend Anna's comment echoed in my mind when she said don't ever plant eucalyptus trees they always fall over. Thanks Anna, right again.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Just as lovely in the winter as in summer.

I thought I would do a bus job on you today,  you wait all week for one blog then three turn up at once,  bit like my Orange invoices. I have found some time,  there is a tempet raging outside and it is also a national holiday of which I approve. The whole nation stops today to remember the dead and to rejoice in freedom  and I for one like that all French people are reminded to remember because no matter what day of the week it is the Eleventh of November is a holiday. The shops shut, there is no post and all transport is on Sunday schedule, those who feel the need can go to their local memorial and have a little community gathering followed by le pot d'amitie paid for by the state..
Mike could not get out to the tractor this morning as the tempet was blowing straight into the garage so he turned to the kitchen which is now complete. The center island is functional and at my disposal of which I am very grateful and happy. All the juggling for work space I have put up with is a thing of the past, but  no matter how much of anything you have you always want more and I will try not to look for that bit extra and be happy with what I have, although Mike did mention that there was a wood burning cooker for sale and how could we put that it in the fire place, frankly I am not going there today or even tomorrow.
I did my Honorable duty this morning and went to the church in Brevands, I picked Genevierve up and we went together both our husbands having made their excuses for not wanting to stand out at the highest point in Brevands exposed to the sea for an occasion they could do in their heads. Thankfully the church was open so we all bundled in for the customary shaking of hands and kissing of cheeks, meeting up with neighbours and  people I have not ever seen before but being with Genevierve meant that every one got named and placed as she knows all and sundry in the village. Jacqueline was there as well and the three of us hung out like the three musketeers catching up with the gossip with people walking in and out of our court. Jacqueline always manages a juicy bit of gossip and I can do little else than laugh and wonder at the courage of these village pensioners who turn up year after year and still have something new to say. Genevierve's uncle, now in his 93rd year was looking as sprightly as ever and always takes me in an embrace and cares about how we are getting on here in his wonderful France. Joseph, second patriarchal figure in the village also showed that he cared and wanted to know all about our plans. At the June 6th celebrations two years ago Joseph looked at me very sternly and asked if we were intending to return to the UK as he had heard that many Brits were, I laughed and said we could no longer afford to live this wonderful  life style in the UK and he just pointed his finger at me and assured me that he was keeping an eye on us and that we were not to leave, and today he mentioned that he was very pleased that we were making such good progress in the garden, it is nice to feel included and accepted in such a little village.
I have just taken HOSS for a quick walk around the field, he knows walks are at a premium when the weather is as foul as it is today but he manages to chase the leaves bark at the rabbits and upset Jacky's dogs next door all in a five minute outing. I for one just get such a kick out of scrapping my wellies through my very own fallen leaves,  our little wood is now in real winter mode and is just as lovely in the winter as in summer.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

You will have to wait and See.

I am in danger of sounding like a broken record, each time I come to the blog I am apologising for the time laps. The days are galloping by at an alarming rate and the short days with little time to stop and think about blogs, journals and the like, means that we are getting up the next morning without having achieved all that needed to be achieved the day before.  After our fab Guy Faulks night out I sent a "nice to have met you"  e-mail to the couple we met  running an on-line business selling French Shabby Chic, in their words. We went onto the web site next day and I just had to tell them how envious I was that they had managed to bring a good business over with them and I remember in my tipsy state, on the night, saying  that I wanted to spend time in their aura to be inspired and they must have been paying attention and have invited us over to theirs for aperitifs next week, I am quite looking forward to that.
I called Orange last week because they have taken money from the bank without an invoice, which I am told is on-line in my orange account but when I went to have a look, it was not available. I have learnt that getting agitated and raising ones voice is absolutely pointless so I stayed calm and they promised to stop using the web to send my invoices and I really thought that was that, but then I got three invoices in three days and getting an orange envelope in consecutive postal deliveries does not feel very sorted. I made that call again. I felt agitated and my voice was cranking up a few levels but during the time I had to wait for an assistant I  read all the small print and every side of this forest of paperwork and realised that it was actually OK and managed to make the revelation before I got answered to and prevented the embarrassing discussion that they are always right, and I am not.
It has rained and rained and rained with thunder and lightening, very very frightening, but we are not complaining as we now know what dry is and a bit of wet is just a pleasant change. During a lull in the downpours yesterday we decided to clear up the drive and transported the sleepers to the top gate and then Mike had a fantastic brain wave and suggested that we use the worst of the sleepers as edging to the top drive and before our very eyes and sore backs the job was done and looks much more designer than French  farm yard entrance.
Mike has been in panic mode over his tractor and finally today he took himself off to the garage to reassemble what he has dismantled and try to make sense of this frustration and infuriating hydraulics problem. I was pleased of the time alone to repack my kitchen and what a great work-out for the soul that was. I had yet another harvest from the tomatoes and made soup and then lay the table for lunch but when Mike came in and said  "I'm bored now" I knew he had made no progress with the tractor so we jumped in the car and headed out to Coutance to the most amazing tractor breakers for advice.  I don't much like going there as the owner very much dislikes discussing tractor problems with a woman but today we were met by a young and attentive man who listened to our problem then promptly went to fetch "old woman hater grumpy guts" who also listened to out problem and without hesitation said the seal on the hydraulic pump was blown. He then showed us where it was on a diagram, turned away and left. The younger man went off to find a new seal but would not take a penny for it and just wished us bon courage and away we came smiling from ear to ear.....proof is in tomorrow, however, when mike brings the pump into my new kitchen, will I let him put his oily pump on the table to take apart ??? will have to wait and See.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

I think I may well give it a hobby style go !

It is no wonder I got a phone call from my sister Mim this morning hoping that we were both well,  I have not been so active on face book and yet again five days have lapsed on the blog. It is really daft how I let the days drift away into the sunset without a backward glance. This week has been filled with a topsy turvey kitchen, Mike has had tools all over the table and every day has had a kitchen theme. We did go out and weed kill a patch on the other side of the Abri garden to start a new bed which we intend to fill with plants from the existing gardens that have matured and got themselves squashed in the process. The lawns need a good cut but the inconsistent rain, here one day gone the next has not given us enough dry to get a good last cut in but I am sure now that the growth is down to winter speeds that we will find the window we need before the frost and cold arrives. The center island in the kitchen looks good to me and is very useful. I have acres of space to fill but I am reluctant to start moving stuff from the pantry to the kitchen in case Mike needs access so I am taking a slow and deliberate approach so I only have to do this once.
We attended a Guy Faulkes party last night and celebrated this, oh so British fete for the first time in four years. Every year since leaving the UK we have both felt that there was something very tangible missing on the  5th of November and we have been quite sad about it. This year however, we met up with a gang of expats to throw a Guy each onto  a fire and set of fireworks like a bunch of over sized kids. Anna and William put on a great party and we all sat outside to eat drink and be merry to the smell of a smokey fire and that sulphur smell you only get on the 5th of November.  There was a delightful French family there who joined in oblivious to the story  and even when we tried to tell the tale they still did not understand why we were celebrating the failure of blowing up parliament, and frankly I see their point.
Today Mike and I are worn out, all the talking and laughing in two languages really does take it out of you so as it is raining we have decided to sit tight, the bread machine is whirring and the cakes are in the oven which means we can stay in until Monday if needs be, I am told there is a big brica-brac fare in Bricquebec tomorrow so lets hope the rain passes and we can have a good rummage.  We met a couple who are running a very successful on-line, anything old and French, business and they were quite open to having us pick their brains on how to get started, we have no way enough experience to  achieve their standard of  business acumen and income but it is their main income stream and all I want is an injection of a few euros to allow us to develop an interesting and lucrative past time, first I must get my mac to allow me to upload photos and I think I may well give it a hobby style go !

Monday, 1 November 2010

The season is over and that is that, so soon and so decisively

Saturday was cider day and Mike and I were up, out and at Jacqueline's by nine thirty. Our friends Anna and William joined us for this part of the cider process and I was very pleased they did, or we would have been short handed on the job. I took the trailer position with Anna emptying the pressed pulp out of the pressing cloths and Mike teamed up with Pierre Lecerlc shovelling the apples into the hopper. William was  press cloth organiser  and runaway apple collector. Once the press and crusher  was up and functional we were off, all photos taken before the start as there is no time to dally once the process is underway. The weather was fantastic during our three hour whirl wind of activity feeding the crusher with apples and preparing for the next pressing. The juice just poured out of the apples and into the barrels in Jacqueline's cellar and the whole ambiance is one of achievement and productivity. At one O'clock, the last of the apples was crushed and pressed and the equipment all put away for next year and we  went in for a three hour lunch. I enjoy listening in to the chit chat between these country people the two men who did the pressing are  farmers and do this activity once a year and after they had drunk the cellar dry and eaten Jacqueline out of house and home they climbed into their tractor and set off to their afternoon appointment. Pierre Leclerc is the barrel carer and went out of his way to proclaim that all this was the fruits of our labour, all your apples, he kept saying and I do wonder if this event would actually happen if Mike and I did not get involved. Jacqueline says that she gets more help from us than she does her neighbours and friends but then picking apples is a hard and time consuming activity and I suspect all those who have done it over the  years saw us coming and made their excuses.
On Sunday with achey-breakie muscles we set off on a ride to Vire to collect a kitchen unit that matches our existing kitchen. We have decided that the kitchen needs more facilities and a centre isles is the answer but doing it in such a way that will not destroy the farm house kitchen feel. It is difficult if not a little  risky. We got the unit home and although  the doors match, it was just too long so Mike applied his ability to see past the problem and cut a whole cupboard's worth out and butted it all up again with a magic and invisible  seam and tomorrow we will go out to buy the wood he needs to finish the job. We could not go today as it is the first of November, All Saints Day and all the shops are shut and everybody is on the road visiting family and laying flowers at the graves of their parents. It is a good public holiday if not a little morbid because, like Bastille day, it is taken very seriously so I for one am glad to stay at home to reflect on the concept hoping for good weather so every one can get to where they are going and enjoy this Autumn family celebration.
Good new is that Mike cleared out the courgette plants from the poly this afternoon. He managed a small crop for which I gave him a mouthful but the season is over and that is that, so soon and so decisively