Monday 31 October 2011

That bloody 'tower' again. (An anti-Halloween posting)

I thought I'd end the tower's first year of existence by showing you how well all the plants have fared. Basically there are just 3 plants on the East side (the side you can see); a Vine, a Wisteria, and, protected from the animals, in the corner, a Fig. The big bushy thing in front of the interconnecting wall is a common pink flowering Lavatera, and I have made an arch with the vines over the gate.

Next year I expect all of these to really perform. In fact I hope it to be swamped by Summer.

On the North and West walls are two Clematis, a Nelly Moser, and a Montana; two classic 'doers' that have almost reached the roof. There is also a climbing Hydrangea 'Schizophragma' that has already started to send out healthy looking clinging shoots.

My aim is to have the whole building swathed in foliage so that the walls almost disappear. The fun part will then be to cut back and leave what will eventually become more permanent.
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Sunday 30 October 2011

Hardware on Wheels.

Here in darkest, rural, France profonde, we regularly receive these small hardware catalogues that arrive with the post. Inside is everything from chimney cleaning rods, to home welding kits, and fail-proof rat traps. Yesterday morning I visited this particular one to buy a large, heavy duty, tarpaulin, to cover the pool for winter (my old one is in shreds). 

And this is what the 'shop' looks like. They park-up somewhere central, open the side doors, and, after a couple of hours, are off to the next town. Many years ago these mobile traders were a life-line to country folk, but now everything is available locally, and they've started to disappear.

When we first arrived in France 40 years ago, similar, but much smaller, traders would call by our house on a regular basis. There were clothes vans, groceries, a butcher, a baker, and an agricultural supplies van. At the time we very pleased to have these people stop by, as it saved us the long trek into town. In fact we used to buy things that we didn't even need, just to keep them coming. Nowadays they are all but gone; even the baker no longer calls. Shame! 

Saturday 29 October 2011

Dead Badger.

If you should venture reasonably close to chez Cro, you may think that there are bizarre ritualistic offerings afoot.

In fact it's just me putting the dead carcasses of Badgers up into the trees; out of the reach of the dogs.

My neighbour, who is desperate to reduce our huge Badger population, tends to leave the dead creatures lying where they were caught. When completely putrid, there's nothing more attractive to both Monty and his friend Bok than to roll in the stinking, fly-blown, mess, and return to the house with huge smiles across their faces.  

So, with the aid of a long stick, and a clothes peg, I put them out of harm's way. It does look as if we practice some unpleasant form of Voodoo, but in fact it's far less interesting. Our next big bonfire will see them gone!

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Friday 28 October 2011

1st Pomegranate.

I'd be pretty chuffed if our climate allowed the culture of bananas, or mangoes, or even oranges, so you can imagine how happy I am that, at long last, I've managed to grow my very first (very small) pomegranate.

I don't know why, but the idea of growing pomegranates seems very exotic to me. Sadly one can't eat them because they're much too sour, but just looking at them on a tree is pleasure enough. It's a bloody POMEGRANATE for goodness sake.

Maybe it's because when I was a child a pomegranate was a very special treat. Those nasty little red seeds with their rather acrid flavour seemed the height of sophistication, regardless of how ghastly they tasted.

My trees/bushes are only about 5 years old, so I presume they've only just come into maturity. Next year I shall expect a bumper crop.... I know, I know; just something else to put on the compost.
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Thursday 27 October 2011

Why force it......?

Both Monty and Freddie prefer to drink directly from the tap (Faucet, US. Force it; geddit?).

Monty outside (thank goodness), and Freddie inside. I've tried to explain to them that it's exactly the same water as I put in their bowls, but they insist!

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Wednesday 26 October 2011

Lady M; watercolour painter.

Lady Magnon is not one to bang her own drum, so I shall do it for her.

Imagine driving up a long hill from the North Shropshire plains, way up onto the top of the first of the rolling Welsh hills, on a stretch where Offa, the King of Mercia, built his 8th Century dyke. It was here that my people had a couple of cottages between the 1960's and late 70's (such things were fashionable then).

The view from behind the cottages, looking west, was the subject of these two watercolours; a view that never failed to amaze, regardless of season, weather, or time of day.

The top watercolour is exactly as I remember it, and it takes me back immediately. The lower one (terrible photo I'm afraid) hides a tiny hamlet called Rhydycroesau in amongst the valley's trees.

Lady Magnon painted these two watercolours in about 1970 whilst we were house hunting in the area. We stayed for a couple of months in one of the cottages, and she painted the landscape constantly. These two are my absolute favourites.

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Tuesday 25 October 2011

The Grands.

For all of us who have them, our own grandchildren are the brightest, best looking, future conquerors of the world. Rarely can they do wrong, or be criticised in any way. And, having just received these photos of my two London based boys, I think I now have a small insight into how their futures might pan out.

Ollie, above, will certainly become a fireman.... he never quits his fireman's helmet....or stops showing-off his 6-pack. I've no idea what those green things are.... or why he keeps them tucked into his trousers.

And Harvey J will no doubt become a transatlantic pilot. He's even got his own plane (well, he borrowed it for a bit)! Chocks away Harv'....

Monday 24 October 2011

Ivor The Terrible 1923-2006.

If you've not heard of Ivor Cutler; shame on you!

I only possess one of his albums; 'Dandruff'. I should (of course) have more.

There are always people around who are 'one of a kind'; Ivor Cutler comes under this category.

Half singer, half poet; Ivor's work is unique. I'm not saying that you will like it; but at least have a listen. I must add that he used to be a hot favourite on the UK university circuit. Students eh!

Sunday 23 October 2011

The Sunday Dog.....FETCH!!!!!!

Monty just loves carrying sticks around with him.... this one is small in comparison with some he finds. A whack on the ankles with a hefty pole, unfortunately, is now a common occurrence.

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Saturday 22 October 2011

Tower Treasures.

Furnishing the 'tower' has been fun. The latest addition, to our collection of valuables, is this fabulous classic antique French mirror (circa Oct' 2011).
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Friday 21 October 2011

Done Clettering or The New Kitchen.

Our kitchen has been transformed from THIS..... to THIS....

Nice and simple, and extremely practical. There's a bit more around to the left that you can't see; glass fronted wall units etc. And, of course, Lady Magnon's long-desired new non-clettering dish-washer. I'm pleased to say that the room still has a 'cottage' feel about it.

All the electrics have now been installed, but we still have some decorating work to do. I must say, it does looks a bit tidier than before. I wonder how long that'll last?

I did really like the old kitchen too.

Wednesday 19 October 2011


I seem to have been reading a lot about Stonehenge recently, both in blog form and in books. So just to add to the current wave of interest, here are 2 small sketchbook watercolours that I did on my last visit.

To the person (you know who you are) who recently proclaimed that 'Stonehenge is 137 km south of London', I'm sorry to disappoint, but that's called FRANCE. The word that escaped you was 'west'.

I shall not pontificate about the significant history of Stonehenge; the net is full of it, and does a much better job than I could ever do.
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Tuesday 18 October 2011

3 Calves, 1 Cow.

I've often expressed my dislike of the common-or-garden Fresian and Holstein, black-n-white, milk machines. Regional varieties of cow are so much more interesting, and, of course, designed to cope with regional peculiarities.

Above is S W France's very own cow; the Blonde d'Aquitaine. A beautiful beast that would grace any pasture. Here she is looking after 3 calves; only one of which I presume is hers.

Bad photo, I'm afraid. I took it through the open window of the compact Royce. But look how much more beautiful she is than those wretched animals whose names I am now reluctant to mention.
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Monday 17 October 2011

Another Autumnal Morning Walk.

Beautiful landscapes exist everywhere, but to claim that hereabouts we have more than elsewhere would be untrue. However, I can't think of many places I'd rather be than here, taking the dog out, kicking a few leaves around on a deserted woodland path. What do you think?

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Sunday 16 October 2011

The Sunday Larf.....2001, a Space ODDITY.

They play better than I did at their age. Enjoy!

Saturday 15 October 2011

Still No Rain!

It's hot and it hasn't rained for ages, and this poor blighter above is cutting a meager crop of late hay. What grass there is is dried up and totally unwholesome, but I suppose that if it's all there is.... 

The dust he's kicking up is horrendous; I've never seen anything like it. He's cutting an area of about one hectare, and I'd be surprised if he gets more than two or three large round bales from it.

Nearer to home, I've given in to the drought and have re-assembled my sprinkler system up at Haddock's. My brussels sprouts aren't swelling, so I'm having to water them artificially. We can't not have sprouts for Christmas; can we. Posted by Picasa

Friday 14 October 2011

Butternut Harvest.

Nights are getting cooler, and for a vegetable gardener there's nothing worse than having crops ruined by unexpected frost (not that we're expecting any quite yet).

So, I've begun to bring in the Butternut Squash crop. I seem to have gone overboard this year, and have at least another TWO barrow-loads to harvest. Luckily both Lady M and myself adore Butternuts, so we'll get through quite a few.... but we've got mountains of them.

They all need a good clean, then stocking in a frost proof environment. This way we should still be eating them until about March next year.

My four main Butternut uses are in soup, roasted with chicken, added to Moroccan style tagines, and puréed with potato. Any other interesting uses will be gratefully received.
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Thursday 13 October 2011

Autumnal Morning Walk (two days ago).

It's about 7.30 am; it's cool, there's a cloudless sky, and a thin mist is hanging low over the surrounding farmland. But the sun is there, and it creates it's own special magic as I take Monty out for his first short 'emptying' walk of the day.

We take one of about 5 regular morning routes; today's takes us past this old stone roofed bread oven, and into a small sloping paddock, where there's a line of about 8 pear trees (Monty loves pears, but there's none left there now).

This small traditional door is at the back of the old barn on the extreme left of the bread oven photo above. I've never seen it used; maybe it never is, or has been. The owners are hardly ever there anyway.

Now down into an empty, even more sloping, field where, in this light, even this ruin takes on a fairy-tale look. 40 years ago I knew this house, and adjacent barn, when it was still a viable home, but the owner prefers to let it to fall down.

Just as this smaller outbuilding already has done. I remember it when they still kept farm machinery in it; Monty can't resist poking his nose around. Like owner; like dog!

Lady Magnon is away in Blighty for a couple of weeks; so this is also to confirm that her precious baby, Monty, is still alive and well..... aren't you Monty. Woof!

I'm also away, but I shall return from The Willow Manor Ball tomorrow.
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Wednesday 12 October 2011

The Willow Ball. 2011.

As you can imagine, I was thrilled when Ms O'Hara accepted my invitation to Tess's Kincaid's annual Willow Manor Ball.

I collected her from Glengarriff yesterday afternoon, and we flew over in her late husband's Sikorsky VS-44A seaplane. The Ohio lake on which we landed was perfectly calm; poor Maureen sighed with relief, she's not a good traveler.

This evening I collected Ms O'Hara from her room (she looked sensational in an Ivory coloured silk dress, and plenty of diamonds), and the car arrived almost at once. I hadn't previously mentioned to Maureen that I would be wearing my full MacLennan tartan evening dress; she was surprisingly complimentary, especially about my antique badger-trimmed sporran.

We should arrive at Willow Manor between 9.30 to 10.00 pm. See you there folks.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

More eggs, and some walnuts.

I know that I posted an egg photo just a few days ago, but I thought you might like to see another one (who are you kidding!).

Our 3 hens are all the same age, eat the same food, and live together in relative harmony. Yet, the difference in egg sizes is extraordinary. The egg (front middle) is tiny; I honestly thought a pigeon must have got into the laying box by mistake. It doesn't look that tiny in the photo, but it's probably a quarter the size of the others. Do you like my 'antique' egg-cup?

The walnuts have now started falling, and I'm out every day getting a good stock in before either Monty, the badgers, or the squirrels eat them all.

I try to eat about 6-8 each day, and I drink a teaspoon of walnut oil each morning.

Oily fish and oily nuts are at the front of nature's medicine cabinet. These combined with plenty of fruit and green vegetables, and I can't see why I shouldn't live forever.

I was just chatting to a neighbour who said that the chestnut harvest this year has been a disaster. Lack of rain at the right moment, and too much sunshine, has left the nuts dried up inside. If you want some for Christmas, I suggest you buy them in tins; NOW!

p.s. I'm just off to Ireland to pick up Ms O'Hara (my partner for The Willow Ball), we shall fly on to America tomorrow morning. I shall, of course, inform you of any scandal, drunken behaviour, or dalliance.   
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Monday 10 October 2011

Oh What Fun They Had!

There was I, taking Monty for a Sunday afternoon walk, when what seemed like thousands of shots suddenly rang out, about 100 metres away, at my neighbour Jean-Claude's farm. Could the local 'chasse' have stumbled upon a huge troupe of wild boar, of roe deer maybe, or were they just shooting wood pigeons?

Renault Express cars (the chasseur's favourite car) were tucked into every open space, and I could see those luminous red hunters peaked caps bobbing about amongst the trees. What on earth were they doing?

Monty wasn't keen on the continual firing of shots, so I approached just near enough to ask someone (who was going back to his car for another box of cartridges) what they were shooting. 'Frelons asiatique' (Asian hornets) he replied.

These nasty stinging hornets have become a huge problem in France over the past few years, and Jean-Claude had mentioned to a chasseur friend that there was a HUGE nest at the top of one of his trees. So, after their copious lunch, about 25 hunters made a de-tour and had great fun blasting the nest to smithereens.

I returned a little while later and found the ground littered with spent cartridges and dead insects.

I don't know if they shot anything else yesterday, but they sure bagged a good haul of hornets!
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