Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Christmas is coming......

and the goose isn't getting fat - not around here at any rate. I left it too late to get one this year, as I was a bit concerned I didn't have enough grass to keep them going until it was time to fatten them up for Christmas. Next year my plan is to get a breeding pair and raise some.

Keeping the pigs has cost rather more than I realised - they certainly won't be the cheapest pork we have eaten, but at least they will have had a damn good life and eaten well in the meantime.

I have had an unexpected trip back to the UK since the last blog. My 66 year old Aunt died of cancer, so I headed back to the UK to go to the funeral. She lived in Yorkshire and they don't half talk funny up there!!
Everyone called me 'love' and they call baubles 'wasslecups' (actually it can't be that because I just googled wasslecups and the mighty google had no results. Either I completely misunderstood or they were making it up - perhaps someone can enlighten me).

Anyway it was lovely to get home, and although it is cold here the snow has gone and we are all wanting some more for Christmas day - unfortunately the forcast is for rain, bah humbug!! I'm still getting Christmassy though

Friday, 10 December 2010

A table for two.......

My days are even more busy recently because I am working a split shift. I come home and have just enough time to eat lunch and see to our menagerie before returning to work. If I leave my animals until I finish I have to do them in the dark, so I prefer to do them early.

It seems like a bit of a rush though, and today I was eating my lunch, a tuna pasta, and was engrossed in the lunchtime news, as they were discussing the student riots in London yesterday.
I used to work at the training centre for police horses in London, and was enjoying watching the horses on the news report. I casually glanced back at my plate and to my horror realised that Lenny, our young cat had taken advantage of my lack of attention to my plate and was happily helping himself to the tuna pasta from the other side of my dish.
I roared my displeasure at this gross act of misconduct and he just looked at me like "Yeah? So?" I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and deposited him on the floor whereupon he sauntered off licking his lips. Cheeky sod.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Ice in my house

In the same way most of us take our staircases for granted (note I said 'us', I can say that now the staircase is in woo-hoo!!) I am hoping those of you with central heating aren't taking that for granted either.

My mum (or inspector clouseau as we like to call her) noted that in the photo of Neil, Fred, Pat and the staircase, Fred and Pat were wearing their jackets.
Although it is true that they were on their way home it is also true that you really wouldn't want to spend any time in the hall without wrapping up warmly.

In the end of the house we are living it is lovely and warm, as our woodburner heats the kitchen and our bedroom above it, but it is fair to say that the rest of the house is suffering from the drop in temperature, in fact I just went into the hall to check on the animals drinking water to find a covering of ice over the bowl - so I'm kind of guessing that we are experiencing sub zero temperatures in the rest of our house.

Hopefully that will change reasonably quickly - now the staircase is in place the first floor going down is high on the 'to do' list and following that the upstairs can be partitioned and insulated, which will make a huge difference.
This renovation lark doesn't happen overnight does it?!!!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

I was having a tough time getting out of bed this morning - I could see the snow falling from the safety of my duvet and I was so cosy. I've been feeling tired as Neil has driven back to the UK to pick up a load of building materials and I never sleep as well when he isn't around. Not that I am alone in the bedroom, since the staircase has been in place Tess has been thrilled that she is no longer confined to the ground floor and is quite insistent on accompanying me to bed, and to be honest that suits me fine as I like the company.

Anyway, I had just managed to drag myself out of bed when the phone rang. It was my boss calling to tell me not to worry about coming into work, she was going to leave all the horses in and was concerned about me coming out on my own. I didn't argue too much and then gleefully got undressed again and slid back under the duvet. Even Tess seemed to be happy to jump back in her basket and go back to sleep.

When I did get up I started feeling guilty about my boss having to do all 20 horses, so I brushed the snow off the quad and wrapped up against the arctic temperatures and headed off cross country towards work.

As I sped along a track across a field the snow stopped falling and sun came out and all of a sudden the landscape was stunningly beautiful, with blue skies and the snow glistening in the sun.

It was one of those moments when you realise just how good life can be and how lucky you are. I would have paid good money in the UK to go out quadding in the snow, and today I was heading to a job I enjoy and having fun getting there.

How lucky am I?!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Freezing Fresian!!

Brrrr - it was cold this morning, thats frost on the poor babys' mane and back!!

Monday, 29 November 2010


You can hear them coming a mile off - no, not the type of crane that poor old fellow blogger Jan is having to put up with (http://jamjaragain.blogspot.com), but the bird type passing over us as they do twice a year following their migration pattern.

I think our house is in some kind of dip that is good for thermals - as they always seem to pause here to swirl around, gain height and head off south or north, depending on which time of year it is.
Watching them pass, as you must - it's obligatory, it's hard to imagine just how huge they are. I think I am correct in that they have a wingspan of about a metre.
Anyway, I just thought i'd share them with you.

Saturday, 27 November 2010


These three have the right idea - cosied up in front of the woodburner. Last night the snow started to fall, and this morning we have woken to a blanket of the stuff. The outside animals don't look impressed do they?!!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Tessy had her 3rd birthday a few days ago and here is a photograph of her with a present sent from my Mum. She is never quite sure what to do with toys, squeek, bury or stash them, but she was suitably excited when I found the parcel in the post box.

Last night Fred master stair builder and his wife Pat came over so that we could say 'thank you' for their help with the stairs with a meal.

We toasted our new staircase with a bottle of champers and had a hastily prepared raclette. We like the raclette and love this social way of eating, and luckily Fred and Pat were thinking of buying one so it gave them an opportunity to test one out.
I say hastily prepared as we had both been out all day working so when we got home there was some frantic chopping and marinating going on!!!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Up the wooden hill to the land of nod

is what my grandmother used to say when we were off to bed as children. The wooden hill has been non existant in our house since about January when we ripped the old staircase out in order to put a new block and beam floor in.

I have never been fond of ladders, but as that has been our only way of getting to bed I have got quite used to them.

Tonight though, will be the first time that I am able to go to bed via our brand new staircase. The left hand upper flight went in today and the ladder has been taken outside where it belongs.

Now I am working full time, Neil has been able to stay at home and dedicate his time to the stairs, with more than a little help from staircase supremo Fred.
In fact Neil seems to think he can take no credit for our new staircase such is his debt of gratitude to Fred, who has planned and worked out all the angles and maths that are involved in such a project, but I know that my husband has spent hour upon hour sawing, planing,sanding and lugging large sections of green oak.

We are hoping the final flight will go in tomorrow, and then all the spindles and hand rails are to be made, but this is a momentous time for us and a central part of the renovation of the house.

I was a tad disappointed that Fred had to rush off tonight, as I didn't get to thank him properly and I had put three glasses on the table ready to fill with champagne to toast the new stairs. I'll have to open another bottle next time he comes.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

When are caramalised onions burnt onions?!!

I'm making soup with a load of vegetables Keith and Margaret grew and kindly bought over. I thought caramalised onions would make a nice base, but when they were 'caramalising' keith and Mags popped over and whilst I was away from the cooker the room filled with smoke and the onions have a slightly darker than caramel hue.
I think they are ok though, so I have pressed on, but obviously if the soup is rubbish tonight they will take full blame.

The photo below is my kitchen table mid vegetable preparation. Note several different bowls - veggies for soup, compost and pig food!!

for afters I have cooked the sponge base from the 5-4-3-2-1 recipe (because it is so simple I use it for everything now!!) with toffee and pineapple that will be added later. I have purchased a tub of creme fraiche that I am assured will whip up and Voila!! pudding!!

Now some photos of progress. There hasn't been a lot of that over the summer as Neil has been working hard on paid projects for other people but here is a preview into the nearly finished utility room - ttaaaa dddaaaaaaaaa!!!!!

the first door holds a walk in larder and the second the downstairs loo

Here are two photos of the larder - mainly because I am so proud of it but also I didn't think you would be interested in a photo of a loo!!

lastly a photo of Neil working on the staircase. Fred the stair maestro has been over to give him a guiding hand so that he can get on with it, and we are hoping one day in the not too distant future we can chuck the ladder outside where it belongs!!

ps there is a main course - its a beef stew and it is sitting on the wood burner in case you were wondering........

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Romey minus ear

Here, mostly for the benefit of Judith who is in the UK and is Romeys foster mum when we are away is a photo of her minus ear.
She was away with the fairys for most of last night and it wasnt until about 11pm I felt her safe enough to come out of the box and sit in front of the fire.

When we got back Tess and Lenny came and sat with her, keeping her company whilst she writhed around in the carry box.

Today she seems much better, and even attempted a friendly 'head butt' on the bad side of her head. I am hoping that at least she will be more comfortable now.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

It's not like it is in England.......

Yesterday I was busy sweeping away at work when a tatty black car pulled up outside the stables. A short, rather scruffy farmer type bloke got out of the car, gave me one of the most limp handshakes ever (as is fairly typical of the french male I find) and asked if my 'patron' was available. Luckily my boss was making his way over to the yard and was treated to another limp handshake. They went off together to look at a patch of land while I racked my brains to work out where I had seen him before. Perhaps he was a local farmer coming to do some fencing I thought, before it suddenly dawned on me that he was, in fact, our local Maire.

Shouldn't he be wearing a chain or something? or at least look a little less like Compo from Last of the summer wine....

This morning I had to take Romey (the cat that came with the house) to the vet to have a cancerous ear taken off. I was dreading that moment where they give you a form where you have to agree that the cat may die during the operation and you consent to it going ahead. I handed over the cat and the vet just looked at me.
"Don't I need to sign anything?" I asked. "No" he replied "you can pay when you pick her up". I guess it is just taken for granted you know they may croak it and accept that. I went on to tell him that the last time she had had an anaesthetic she seemed to me to take a very long time to come around afterwards and was still out of it at ten oclock that night... "Seeing pink elephants?" he asked "absolutely normal".
Ok, I'll just go then.....

It is different here isnt it?!!!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Halloween Horrors

It's been quite a week. I've been working hard, feeling rather grotty with a second hand cold left here by my parents (only joking mum) and spent the night in a body bag.

Some of our friends have an annual Halloween and firework party and every year we fail dismally to come up with an interesting outfit for the fancy dress. I kept saying to Neil that this year we needed to make an effort, and so I drove to a local town the day after Halloween hoping to scoop some post halloween bargains in Gifi.

I couldn't believe that in the space of a few hours the shop had changed from a spidery den to a Santas Grotto. I still quite can't believe that anyone in France can move that fast or that efficiently in a shop. Neil I think was quite relieved my mission had been fruitless, as someone had suggested a 'Rocky Horror' theme, and the chance to wear a minimum of clothing was appealing to his naturist side.

He drove over to Janes' house and went through her 'smalls' (another fantasy I'm sure) and came back with a bag of goodies. He put on his outfit for me, and as much as I tried to offer him some larger items that I suggested might be more flattering, he was steadfast in his resolve to wear the minimum.

This still left me with a dilema on the outfit front, but in the middle of the night whilst boiling the kettle for yet another lemsip, I suddenly remembered the body bag in the piggeries containing the garden cushions and decided to go as the walking dead.

I borrowed some horse chalk from work - used to make white markings on their legs look super white, and plastered my still reasonably tanned skin in the white powder. On the front of the body bag is a pouch to put information in, so I got Neil to take a photo of my face, whited up and with mascara scars and marks on to put in the pouch. He took a couple of photos before commenting that I didn't look very dead because although I had my eyes closed I was standing up, so we repeated the process with me lying down on the floor and I zipped myself into the bag.

Tess was giving me some very funny looks, but she positively freaked out when Jason who is staying with us walked in in his scary wolf outfit, barking and snarling whilst simultaneously backing under a table for protection .... (thats Tess not Jason!)

The party was a great success. I was very relieved that the gendarme didn't pull us over on the way to the party. A wolf, A person in a body bag and two rocky horrors (Mel, Jasons girlfriend joined in with the theme) would have made for an interesting discovery for them I am sure.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

A recipe for you

That break seems a long time ago already. Today I have been trying to strip the paint off a small door with Decapant (liquid paint stripper) or decrapant as Neil calls it, and he couldn't be more right - the stuff is useless.

We have had one set of trick or treaters yesterday - and as we had nothing to give them I ended up handing over my last bit of English chocolate - a packet of Rolos. The children weren't in the least bit scary, and I can't imagine they would have any good tricks up their sleeve had we not had anything to bribe them with, but as we were going out later in the afternoon I bought three small packets of sweets in case we were called on again tonight.
This morning though, Neil admitted that he had scoffed some of the sweets apparently not realising that halloween is in fact tonight, not yesterday. I sent him off to Intermarche to restock, and he came home with two large bags of bonbons, most of which we have eaten already.

Looking out of the window it looks like we are living on a chicken farm. We have 23 chickens roaming around the land (and unless they are laying somewhere secret none of them are producing eggs yet)so it looks like it is time for a bit of a cull.

Yesterday I made a cake that we were served whilst on our break last week. It's like an apple upside down cake and is lovely and moist and yummy. Here is the recipe in case you would like to try it...

Recette Gateau 5-4-3-2-1

for the cake

5 heaped soup spoons of flour
4 soup spoons of caster sugar
3 soup spoons of milk
2 soup spoons of oil
1 egg
1 pinch of salt
half a sachet of yeast / baking powder
2 or 3 apples

To add during cooking

80 grams of butter
100 grams of sugar
1 egg
1 sachet of vanilla sugar

1. Mix flour, sugar, yeast and salt.
Then add the milk, the egg and the oil and mix well.
Line / grease a baking tin, and arrange peeled apples cut in slices on the bottom of the baking tin. Add the mixture on top and put in a cold oven.
Switch oven on at gas mark 4 or 120 - 130 degrees and leave for 30 minutes

2. meanwhile prepare the second mix and pour on top of the cake when it has been in the oven for 30 minutes. Cook for a further 15 mins.

I hope that makes sense - its a bad translation of the french recipe but tastes lovely so I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Anniversary trip

It seemed like we hadn't had a moment to stop and relax for ages, what with work, animals and visitors so I took advantage of my parents offer to house sit and booked a few days away in the Perigord Pourpre region of France for our wedding anniversary.
I fancied getting away somewhere luxurious (with at least a staircase and central heating) so that Neil (and I) could at last take some time out and relax.

I found wonderful chambres d'hôtes called the Coteau de Belpech in the town of Beaumont Du Perigord (www.coteau-pelpech.com) where we were met by the owners Isabelle & Alain Le Coz, a French couple who had restored their eleventh century chapel beautifully.

The region has lovely countryside and lots of historic chateaux and cathedrals (mostly built by us Brits) and plenty of vineyards scattered around producing some lovely Bergerac wine.

Our room

One of the 360 degree views at the Coteau de Belpech

The converted chapel and buildings

The Mairie at the bastide town of Monpazier

This is Neil tasting some wine at the Chateau la Renaudie, just outside of Bergerac

In the town of Beaumont du Perigord we found the most amazing Quincaillerie (hardware) store, it was absolutely massive and stocked with the most bizzare items - apparently people come from Paris just to visit the store

So now it is back to work and back to reality. The break just wasn't long enough really- but then they never are!!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

épi - the French word for whorl

Last night I uploaded the photos but really was too knackered to write the blog. Yesterday was full on with moving the eight horses that needed to be seen by the vet and moving around several others, by walking, riding and boxing them in a trailer.

One thing I did want to mention though was my faux pas with the vet. As he was noting the distinguishing marks of one of the horses he asked me what an épi was in English. I told him that they are called whorls - little swirls of hair growing in the opposite direction to the lay of the coat. They are used in the identification of horses. He then asked me to spell whorl out in French, which I did, but then I was halfway down the garden towards the house before I realised to my horror that I had spelt it with an e on the end, not an l.

I rushed back with a pencil and wrote on his notes the correct spelling before telling him that the other spelling should not be used as that would mean a 'femme de la nuit!'. Needless to say he found this very amusing (the same vet who had had a laugh about the chicken in the waiting room), but I fear I may only have confirmed his opinion that we are all as daft as brushes.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Here for Helen and anyone else who may be interested is a picture of the new pig run - followed by a photo of the residents inspecting the stream

Today my dutch friend Nicoline who owns the fresian horses bought a selection down to my place to be blood tested and microchipped. Here she is with the vet and the latest born foal Amy

It is lovely to have some horses back in the field and we now have 3 mares and one foal in the field, so I will be riding once again now we have weaned these two foals.

Lastly here is a photo of her 3 year old fresian stallion. Gorgeous isn't he?!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Chicken and cat in a basket...

This afternoon Judith and I went to the vets surgery for open clinic, so on the backseat of my car were two baskets, one with a chicken and the other with my cat.

I did have to smile as I knew the vet would find Judith and her chicken sitting in the reception area a great amusement, as most people around these parts would rather neck a chicken than pay a vet bill, and they know how soft she is about her hens.

I took Romey, the cat that we purchased with our house. Unfortunately she has white ears and is a sunseeker. This year the cancer that has appeared on her ears has rapidly got worse, and now looks red, sore and is not healing. I have been told there is nothing to be done with them, but she is so uncomfortable I couldn't just leave her. The vet gave her a cortisone injection and is going to review her before deciding wether or not to take the ears off.

It was then the turn of the chicken, and the vet shook his head and laughed when he looked in the cat box and saw the hen. It has had a large swelling on its foot that Judith had tried to lance without much sucsess. the vet sliced it's foot open and removed a large ball of pus, before swabbing it with betadine. He decided not to put a stitch in it and told Judith that as long as it was eating and drinking and looked happy enough she shouldn't worry about it. It cost her twelve euros, which would have bought her a new chicken, but lets hope the hen makes a full recovery.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Porky Palace

Thursday afternoon Mags and Keith, who own our second pig BB (bacon buttie) came over to help construct a new run for the two porkers.

We decided to move them into an area of our field that had been taken over by bracken and brambles, and so the afternoon was a full on work party with some serious strimming, fence post ramming, pig house construction and electric fence connecting.

It was getting dark by the time all that was finished, and I was a bit concerned that if we didn't get them into the new run sharpish, we would be chasing two tamworth/cul noir porkers halfway around the Limousin to get them into the new accomodation.

Although now pretty tame, we hadn't really tried moving them any distance before and Mags and Keith galantly held two makeshift pig boards whilst I went along in front, shaking a bucket full of grub (that they largely ignored).

I hadn't quite bargained for how big and solid they are these days, but after a bit of a tussle we finally got them into the new run.
I also hadn't bargained for them taking fright at the tiny stream running through the front of the new run, so Neil, at this point desperate for a beer, rugby tackled one of the pigs over the stream and in the general direction of their night accomodation - Like a flash it hopped back over the stream to join his brother and at this point we all thought sod it, and tucked into a pint of shandy before we went and had our tea.

I am happy to report they love their new patch, and after they have done their stuff of clearing and fertilising we hope that one day this area will provide us (and Mags and Keith) with very large, (pig) fertilised pumpkins.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Going too big, too soon.

Is a failing of mine - I admit. I am talking of course of the woodburning stove and of loading it with wood. It's actually far too early to be lighting fires - within an hour you end up stripping off and opening doors and windows, but with the pool and sun lounger season now firmly behind us, there is nothing so nice as loading up the fire and settling in for a night of snuggly warmth in front of 'flicky flames' as my friend Judith calls them.

Neil is a bit of a boy scout fire starter - and deeply frowns on my use of firelighters to get the fire going. As far as I am concerned it is a failsafe method of lighting the fire and puts paid to being on your hands and knees staring desolately at a smoking pile of paper and kindling. I tend to buy packs of firelighters when he is not on a shopping trip with me and secrete them around the room in places he never looks.
"Let me do it!!" is his frequent cry, as I go to light the fire and grab the lighters and he proceeds to unload my stack of newspaper, kindling and lighters in favour of his own method - which I'm sure is something of a secret ( like 5 year old moss covered old wisteria sticks or something).
It's just a case of male pride I am sure and I normally let him get on with it, although with his recent liking of walking around in a state of undress perhaps I should ensure the house is as cold as possible!

Here is a picture of Lenny - who has settled in like a dream and has already caught his first mouse. Long may he continue!!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Winning friends and Influencing People

I was blissfully unaware of this mornings events until we turned up at the local bar for the bi-weekly fish and chip event ce soir.

It appears that after I had left for work this morning our dutch friend (who is married to a local french farmer) popped in to give us some cheese samples that she had made. It being in the fairly early hours of this morning she was greeted by Neil, naked as he normally is at that time of the day.

Nakedness is not something that sits awkwardly with my husband so he offered her a cup of coffee, at which point he heard another car pull up outside.
Assuming it was a pal of ours (who is also used to Neils nakedness) Neil walked outside to tell the pal that he would just get changed before he made him a coffee too.
Unfortunately the visitor turned out to be our dutch friends husband - who took in Neils nakedness before calling for his wife - who very nonchalantly called out -"Oui?!".

Luckily however curious our french friend is about his wife being with a naked Englishman, our dutch friend thinks the whole thing is hilarious. I am a bit concerned he may turn up with a shotgun to defend his wifes honour though.
At the very least though, I think it will spread around the village like wildfire that should anyone be stupid enough to visit us, they are likely to be met by an english naked man.

Should save us a fortune in coffee....

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Fete de L'Ane

It was obviously the place to be today - we bumped into half the village at the Donkey Fete today, which took place in a small town on the route to Limoges
Judith and I go every year primarily as it always has a very interesting vide grenier, but also many interesting stands, including one which made boudin noir to order and had a sign warning you that spurts of blood were a very real hazard - but first here is a photo of a donkey with an interesting hair do.


Wednesday, 29 September 2010


Meet the new addition to the family. As you might expect the sonar mouse deterrant was bloody useless so lets hope Leonard likes catching mice.

He would have been off to the SPA today so lets hope he likes his new home and settles in. Signs so far are good - he purrs whenever you touch him, uses his litter tray and hisses half heartedly at Tess, but only if she gets too close. Lets hope they form a bond soon. Yay!!