Friday 31 October 2014

Our three boys.

Bok is almost 4. OK, he may have orange eyes, and small evil looking teeth, but he's a sweetie. 

His brother, our Lab' Monty, is a bit of an oaf by comparison. He's gorgeous of course, but he's self-centred, scheming, and always hungry.... a kind of canine narcissistic gourmand.

If I'm in the woods, Bok will be permanently by my side; Monty will be gawd-knows-where searching for some stinking dead animal carcass to eat. If he finds one, that'll be the last I see of him for several hours.

Bok, thy name is affection; whereas Monty just tolerates us, as long as he's fed promptly.

That's right Monty, you just sleep until supper time (He's dreaming of food; I can tell, he's smiling).

Feline Fred barely tolerates them. He's snooty, indifferent, and (as the original 4-legger in the house) sees them as infiltrators. Sitting on the roof, looking down disdainfully at them, is one of his better moments.

We can't really imagine life without them any more. As I'm writing, the two bigger ones are pestering me to take them for a walk..... I'd better go. I'm putty in their paws.

Thursday 30 October 2014

Be Prepared.

No point hiding our heads in the sand, it's gonna get COLD; and soon.

Jean-Claude delivered our Oak yesterday (above). I reckon we've got enough.

I don't normally prepare too many logs in advance; it makes me lazy. But I've sawn and split about 3 cubic metres 'just in case'.

And this is my pile of Chestnut 'tree trunks'. I've bought a new chain for the Husqvarna; some of these babies are HUGE. 

We have roughly another 8 cubic metres of Chestnut about to arrive; it's all one metre length, dry, and ready split. All it'll need is sawing in half.

Overkill maybe, but at least we shouldn't go cold this winter.  

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Early morning walk, late October 2014.

Now that the clocks have gone back by an hour, my early morning walks are lighter and more comfortable. Above is Chateau Cro in 7.30am sunlight, with the barn in the distance.

For the past week or so, the Chestnut woods have been deserted and silent; leaves are already beginning to fall.

All that now remains of the harvest are these piles of empty husks.

The horses are less flyblown, some decent grass is growing, and one can tell by their demeanor that they love the early mornings (Chateau Cro again in distance).


With literally 100's of productive Chestnut trees all around us, one would think it unnecessary to plant one of our own; but yesterday I did just that. Self-sufficiency is the name of the game these days. The variety I've chosen is called 'Marsol' (not Arsol); it's quite early fruiting, and produces very large nuts that fall easily out of their husks (very important).

As you can see, I've also wire-netted it against the bloody Deer. 

I've given it plenty of space; they grow into BIG trees. First Chestnuts are due in 2021.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Summer Quarters.

I suppose we'll have to accept it; Summer is pretty much over. We'll soon have to move back indoors to our Winter quarters; my shorts are already packed away in the drawer marked 'Summer clothes'.

There is no electricity in the 'tower', so, unless we installed a very small wood burner, it could get quite cold in there before too long.

The interior of the 'tower' is 3.60 metres square. It's reasonably sparse with just a large bed with 6 copious drawers underneath (not Queen Victoria's), a cupboard, and 2 bedside tables. In the height of Summer it also often contains children's toys, damp swimming gear, and various dogs.

When we built the 'tower' back in 2011, I envisaged it exactly like the photo above. A peaceful Summer haven, covered in creepers.... We're getting there.

Monday 27 October 2014

Thank you Amy!

I don't normally have anything to do with blogging prompts, but seeing as this one was from the lovely Amy Saia (here) I shall make an exception.

She asks me to list 7 'lovely' facts about myself. Believe me; I've had difficulty (I've had to ignore the 'lovely' bit).

1. I am a card-holding insomniac. I sleep for about 3 hours each night, then lie awake listening to one of about 3 all-night radio stations (through an ear-piece) until exactly 5.30am, when I get up and write my daily blog.

2. My first dog was called Hamlet (not named by me). Hamlet was a scruffy black-n-tan mutt. For a while we lived next door to a family who owned a huge Great Dane called Sam. Somehow their names seemed to have been confused at birth.

3. I'm a bit of a skinflint when it comes to clothing. Even the shoes I'm now wearing are falling to bits and have holes in their soles. I don't throw anything out until it disintegrates (see above).

4. I've rowed 8's at Henley, The Serpentine, and The Cambridge Bumps; always unsuccessfully.

5. The one human quality I dislike above all others is 'prim' (self-consciously finicky, namby pamby, puritanical, pretentious, etc).

6. The older I become, the more I can confirm my dire lack of general knowledge.

7. Every morning, without fail, I wake-up HAPPY.

You will be pleased to hear that I shall not be nominating anyone to continue this malarky, but if it would amuse you, please do follow my example.

Sunday 26 October 2014


One of my nearby neighbours is trying to raise some cash for an upcoming holiday to Spain.

He's made these bird nesting boxes (with some help I imagine) which he brought round to the house yesterday to sell. At €10 each they were a teeny bit expensive, but the cause was the important bit; we are always happy to buy stuff from the local kids, and bought two.

Samuel (pronounced Sam-well, as in the Spanish name Mig-well) is about 12, and is a really nice boy. He and his little 6 year old sister Zara lugged a huge bag-full of bird-boxes around our tiny hamlet; I do hope he sold them all.

Merçi Sam-well; I'll let you know when they're occupied.

Saturday 25 October 2014

The Cranes heading south

Yesterday the first of the Cranes passed overhead on their way south for the Winter.

My cheap €70 Fuji camera obviously doesn't capture the real beauty of the occasion, but here it is anyway. I hope you can see and hear them; it might be clearer on YouTube.

What a wonderful sight, and sound.

Friday 24 October 2014

Last Chestnuts for the Freezer.

There are numerous ways of preserving Chestnuts; this is mine. 

With a very sharp knife, I cut a cross into the pointy end of each Chestnut.

Boil for between 15 and 20 mins, until semi-open.

Peel away the outer shell (don't worry too much about the inner skin, just remove as much as possible), and remove the nut.

Then when cool place in freezer bags, and freeze. Couldn't be simpler.

These are semi-cooked Chestnuts which can later be roasted, or used in blitzed soups, or even puréed for sickly sweet desserts (not my thing).

As with all freezing, only PERFECT produce should be used. 

It's now the end of the Chestnut season, so this may be your last chance to preserve. Don't buy them later-on towards Christmas as 'fresh'; they won't be, and will probably contain worms. 

I put away 3 bags from the above, and now have a total of about 12 bags awaiting Winter; that's plenty for me!

Thursday 23 October 2014

New Wine.

Yesterday I went to the birthplace of my youngest son, Villeneuve sur Lot, to get a couple of new front tyres for the Compact Royce.

On my way back I popped in to see my vigneronne to fill up two 5 litre containers with my favourite rough-n-ready rouge.

As has become tradition she offered me a sample of new wine. This stuff was still on the vine until two weeks ago, and has not yet finished fermenting. She filled an old 1.5 litre plastic water bottle for me (above). 

The colour is staggering, the taste interesting, and the kindness unbounded. 

A glass of 'new', a few roasted Chestnuts, and maybe a small Cèpe omelet on the side, and I am in Autumnal heaven. Maybe the new wine is not to everyone's taste, but, once again, it's a marker in the annual cycle that I hope continues forever. 

In another month we shall be sampling the Beaujolais Nouveau (Thurs 20th Nov), but for the moment I'm perfectly happy with my St Martin de Redon Nouveau. Cheers.

Think Blackcurrant juice (Ribena), with a serious vinegar attack on the back of the throat; delicious.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Please allow me one final indulgence.

To any amateur mycologist, there is no finer sight in the world than this.

Wicker baskets lined with bracken are de rigeur when mushroom hunting; and a few young Boletus mushrooms languishing therein is 'gatherers heaven'.

And just so you don't think that Lady Magnon doesn't do her bit, here are a couple of perfect Tête noire Cèpes (Boletus Aereus; the others are Boletus Edulis) that she found yesterday (below). These are reputedly the best of the Boletus family..

I shall now stop posting about bloody Cèpes, you must be getting fed-up with the wretched things. Me; I could muse about them for weeks on end.

Anyway, the above haul combined with some others to fill seven 350gm jars. I think that's enough for now (I already have seven 250gm jars in storage).

Tuesday 21 October 2014

There will now be a short intermission.

I'm a tad preoccupied at the moment (ahem), so as an in-fill here's our late National Amy singing Hey Little Rich Girl..... Amy at her best. Enjoy.

I've added the lyrics below (just in case you want to sing along).

I bought you a fur coat when you were fifteen
You wore it to the disco, but everyone was in jeans
But you were a rich girl, and only having fun
Your worn out dresses, brought stares from everyone
Hey, little rich girl where did you go wrong?
You left for London, when you were nineteen
Had to pawn all your nice clothes, just living on dreams
A man in the bright lights took all that you own
Now he's taken your freedom for a fate unknown
But you were a rich girl, only having fun
Your worn out dresses, brought stares from everyone
Hey, little rich girl where did you go wrong?
Hey, little rich girl you've been away for so long
And now little rich girl, my words are in this song
Hey, little rich girl my love for you is gone
And now little rich girl, I know where you went wrong
At your dad's office party all the movies were blue
Caused him so much heart ache, because the screen star was you
You left for London, when you were nineteen
Had to pawn all your nice clothes, but you were living on dreams
You were a rich girl, and only having fun
But your worn out dresses, brought stares from everyone
Hey, little rich girl where did you go wrong?
Hey, little rich girl where did you go wrong?
Hey, little rich girl where did you go wrong?


Monday 20 October 2014

Oh YES!!!!!


At last, we have Cèpes; and they're beauties.

My vigneronne has given me a new recipe for preserving them, which is slightly simpler, and less time consuming, than the usual method.

The mushrooms were cut into reasonable sized chunks (1.5 cm cubes), then plunged into boiling water for 2 mins. They were then transferred into ice cold water to cool, and drained.

I used 250 gm jars, which were filled to the level indicated. I added salt, pepper, parsley, and a small sliver of garlic, they were topped up with water, the capsules and lids put-on, and sterilised for 2 hours.

And here's the result; 7 small jars of the world's most delicious mushrooms, ready for our Winter omelets etc.

Cèpes dry well and freeze reasonably well, but this method is by far the best. Usually, in this area, they are preserved in oil (in much the same way as above, but with 3 hours sterilising), but I must say that these look very good; Winter will have some compensations after all.

I shall be out in the woods again today.

Sunday 19 October 2014

The big local Chestnut (and Cèpe) Fête.

Yesterday was the opening day of our 2 day local Chestnut, AND CÈPE, fête.

So, you can imagine my pleasure when I found my first Cèpe of the season just before leaving for Villefranche; I shall go out again later. Omelet for lunch!

Now, I don't want you to get the impression that we are all TOTALLY OBSESSED with Mr Penny-Bun, but in the growing season it does occupy 99.9% of our waking time.

If people aren't out hunting them; they're making them.

There are life-size hand painted plaster ones (at €12 each).

There are bigger ones made into garlic pots, or salt and pepper pots at various prices. 

And there are giant wooden ones (these ones are relatively small) that are used as stools.

Most of these are no better than garden gnomes, and are not for me. Personally I'd rather the real thing, and will probably be out in the woods for the next few days. I'm hoping to do some preserves.

Right, I'm off to the woods......A suivre.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Silly Political Parties.


Is the UK alone in having a plethora of silly political parties? France doesn't seem to have any!

The above (showing Cameron winning his seat back in 2010) is quite typical of the UK's choice of General Election candidates. A few loonies, plus one or two slightly more mainstream loonies.

Just to give you an idea of some of the UK's more lacklustre parties; here are a few....

No Candidates Deserve My Vote Party.
Revolutionary (Marxist Leninist) Communist Party of Great Britain.
Church Of The Militant Elvis Party.
Fancy Dress Party.
Idle Toad Party.
Miss Great Britain Party.
Rock-n-Roll Loony Party..... There are hundreds.

The Monster Raving Loony Party (candidate far right above) has been a part of UK politics since the early 1980's, and would now be much missed at election time were they to pack-up.

What loony parties do you have where you live (no jokes about Socialists please)?

Friday 17 October 2014

New Windows.

Things do progress up at the barn; but slowly. We now have pukka windows!

What we don't have are the two bathrooms, a kitchen, interior walls, insulation, and electricity (although the actual cables are now inside).

It's an interesting exercise, taking an old run-down building and making it into a ti-tech modern home. Lots of highs, lots of lows, and plenty of frustration.

With a small child about to take up residence (and hopefully a few more to come) we have chosen windows that not only open sideways but also swing-down open from the top, making them Bunny-proof.

Our carpenter has promised to return this weekend.... we'll see if we can find something for him to do!

Thursday 16 October 2014

England's, and France's, Favourite Subject.

I never used to take much notice of weather forecasts, but for the past few years I've checked it daily.

Prior to having my new (Windows 8) laptop I used to use a French service called 'La Chaine Meteo', which (I was assured) was used by all French farmers everywhere, and therefore infallible.

Frankly it was bloody useless. In fact, if it said it would rain you could almost guarantee it wouldn't; and vice versa. So it's been DUMPED.

In its stead I now use Microsoft's own system. It is as comprehensive as one could possibly want, and seems to get things spot-on.

It has an hour by hour forecast, a 10 day forecast, several maps including almost-live satellite shots, and a historic view of the month's highs and lows etc.

On the lower picture you might see that at 8am it was to be foggy and 12 C. When I went outside to check, it was exactly that. 

On the top picture, you can probably see that we have roughly 25 C forecast for the next few days; 25 C just happens to be my favourite temperature, another good reason to follow MSN weather.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

One of those 'nothing much happened' days.

This guy came to visit us up at the barn yesterday. No idea what it is, but I presume it's some sort of Cricket. We found another one the same, that had a very long spike protruding from its behind. Looked very nasty. 

(Some time later). I now know what it is. My friend Sami has informed me that it's a Saddle-Backed Bush Cricket, and that the one with the backwards pointing spike was the female. Thanks Sami.

It's one-pot stew season again. This one that I knocked-up yesterday contained Lamb, spuds, carrots, red onions, and butter beans. Very comforting, even if our weather doesn't yet warrant such comfort..... It was HOT yesterday.

What better sign of Autumn than Mrs Tiggy-Winkle off to find some cosy nook to pass the Winter. This gal was found walking up the long drive to the barn, in the middle of the afternoon. Lady Magnon helped her on her way, and deposited her under a nice thick warm hedge. Sleep well, Mrs T.

And whilst we're still waiting for the Cèpes to emerge, I found just one Parasol (that was added to the above stew). Meagre pickings, but it should get better.

A demain.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Facebook. A bit of a moan.

Like so many people, I have a 'facebook' page. And as with so many people it was entered into as a way of keeping in touch with a reasonably small group of family and friends.

As a family we share photos, and tell each other of significant events. We post pictures of places we visit, things we do, and projects we undertake. In some ways not dissimilar to blogging, but with a slightly different angle.

However, I find more and more examples of the above turning up. They are simply 'copied and pasted' from gawd-knows-where, and have nothing in common with whosoever 'shared' them. They seem to be an easy way of filling space, and trying to be associated with whatever sentiment is on offer. I scroll through them by the bloody dozen. 

The other 'facebook' trend which really annoys, is women who show pictures of themselves looking (what I presume they consider) 'glamorous', prompting an outpouring of sickly cooing from admiring female friends. These 'look how beautiful I am' narcissistic postings really get on my nerves.

So what to do about it. Well, I do find 'facebook' a very useful tool; it's free, it works well, and I enjoy most of what I see there. I suppose I'll just have to ignore the borrowed wisdom, and the 'aren't I gorgeous' junkies, and bite my tongue (with difficulty)!  

p.s. I should add that I do have some seriously gorgeous female friends; not one of them would EVER stoop as low as soliciting admiration.

Monday 13 October 2014

Almost unthinkable.


When I first moved south of La Manche (43 years ago) I did wonder if I would slowly, but subconsciously, adopt the hint of a local accent; as do so many who move to the USA, Canada, or Australia.  I am pleased to say that this has not happened, nor have I grown to look too much like the chap above (although some might say otherwise).

Aged 25 my schoolboy French allowed me to insist that my Aunt's pen could be found on my Uncle's desk; but not much else. Had I wanted to employ someone to empty my septic tank, all would have been explained by gesticulation. I eventually learned to speak French by necessity; food needed to be bought, building work done, and the children educated. Never did my Aunt's pen or Uncle's desk contribute to any of that.

I now speak pretty fluent French, and there is no subject about which I cannot converse.

But a strange thing has happened; I now THINK in French. When I'm musing over some problem, or situation, in my head, it is with the help of French that the solutions are found. I don't remember when this started, but I have noticed it more and more over the past 5 to10 years.

I wonder if I'll ever start throwing my arms around in disgust when England thrash France's XV at the Stade de France......Non! Jamais, jamais, jamais.

Sunday 12 October 2014

St Caprais Chestnut Fête.

Yesterday afternoon was the Chestnut Fair at the nearby tiny village of St Caprais.


With its medieval church.

Containing this stunning interior.

Its ancient houses; this one's for sale (contact me).

My lovely baker, Madame Dimitri; with her giant Sunday brioche (on a Saturday).

The moonshine (eau de vie) still.

The old codger who still weaves traditional chestnut baskets.

And my late-mate Jock's old house (what larks we had).

It was a beautiful hot October afternoon. We bought bread from the lovely Madame Dimitri (she now calls me 'tu'), and met-up with several old friends; nice day.

N.B. I'm not showing you pix of all the Chestnut products, as I expect you've seen enough of them previously; although there is another nearby Chestnut Fair next weekend, so maybe..... 

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