Saturday, 12 April 2008

Another Thank You

Debs from The Lehners in France has kindly given me a Blog of Distinction award. So a big thank you to Debs as well, I’m feeling really chuffed.

The difficult bit is passing it on, not just because picking out just 8 is difficult but because there might not be 8 people on my reading list who haven’t been sent it already – I really should have checked my e-mails earlier and got there first. So I’m not posting names tonight but I’ll have a ponder and come back very shortly.

Cabin Fever

For the last week or so I’ve been unable to get on with the things I need to be doing. Outside the ground is too wet to dig for most of the time and I’ve been unable to get on with anything inside due to either waiting for the workmen to arrive, to finish or them actually being here. I also find it very unsettling having strangers in the house, so by Friday I needed to get out and have a break from here as I couldn’t concentrate on anything to do with the house.

Nothing grand was planned, it was going to be a quick trip up to Bergerac to visit a discount store that had been mentioned at one of the ladies meals. We’ve been trying to arrange the trip for about a week but somehow one or other of us had to cancel. So Friday I set off on my own to find the store.

I got about 10 kilometres up the road when, beep, beep, beep and a little red warning symbol appeared on the dashboard. A few choice words passed through my mind as I pulled into the deserted supermarket car park opposite me – this one was deserted because they don’t re-open after lunch until 3 pm.

It was the ABS warning light, I haven’t looked up ABS but to me it is Automatic Braking/Balancing System, the thing that hopefully stops the wheels locking up if I stand on the brakes too hard. Not a good start to what was supposed to be a relaxing trip. I turned the car round and headed 5 kilometres back down the road to my local garage where he told me not to worry and to come back on Tuesday when he’d have the computer to sort out the engine (mis) management system. Ho hum, and I’ve just received the bill for the last service, with timing belt change. At 800€ it was a bit more than I though it would be. Still I’d rather have the warning light come on when I’m only a few miles from home than when I’m on my trip up north in a while – got to keep looking for those silver linings.

Anyway, I set off again for Bergerac and found the shop, it’s called NOZ and it's an end of line, clearance retailer. On entering my first though was “what a load of junk” but I decided to wander round and look in all the bins and to my surprise there were diamonds to be found. I came away with some tuna for myself and the cats (they may have tablets to take and it’s the best way I’ve found), a mega, 2.5 kilo tin of papaya pieces for 3€ (papaya ice cream I think) and some small coffee mugs at the extortionate price of 50 centimes each. I’ve been on the lookout for some smaller mugs since most French people don’t take milk in their coffee and half cups of coffee don’t look right.

So picture of one of the said mugs with one of my stoneware mugs beside it for comparison.

I found this blog with a description of NOZ, she’s absolutely spot on.

Buried Treasure

Stepping backward a couple of weeks and I was about to mow the large area I want to incorporate into the garden. I had only done about three quarters of the first tour round when the ride-on mower gave up. It had in fact shed the drive chain and where it needed to be reset required dismantling of most of the rear of the mower. Not a job for me as I don’t have the tools or the knowledge or the time. Ann and Regis to the rescue again and they took the mower to someone they know how repairs mowers. Two days later it’s back, repaired and serviced, but have I been out on it…of course not. The grass is far to wet and I’ve now been told that if the grass is over four inches it’s better not to use the ride-on. The grass was of by now at least 6 inches tall and growing visibly.

I thought about hitching up the topper and running round with the tractor but in the end decided that the time it would take me to un-hitch the plough, wedge it securely upright, hitch up the topper, unhitch the topper and re-hitch the plough ready for the next piece of field I need to prepare would be significantly longer than using the walk behind mower. It only took a couple of hours and was quite enjoyable, I think I appreciated the work out after being indoors for so long.

In the process of going round I lost a nut and bolt I’d put on to help hold the handles on. For some reason nothing has ever stayed put in that place. The original bolt lasted about a month and then I put it back every other week for a few months until I lost it completely. I didn’t think I stood a chance of finding the nut, bolt and two washers from this go but for a laugh got out the toy metal detector I bough my daughter when she was much younger.

Sure enough, nothing, until I got to the area I mowed after I’d seen I’d lost the fixings. The detector gave a long clear buzz, I moved my steel toecaps well back and checked again; it had really found something. All my old dreams of becoming an archaeologist and finding buried treasure came rushing back and I raced back to the house to get a trowel.

I started digging and hit a flat metal plate about 2 inches down, at this point I mused about UXB’s and decided to proceed very carefully. I finally excavated my treasure but I won’t be donating it to the Louvre, just to the dechetterie, as it was just a flattened old steel drinks can.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Why Grow Your Own?

Well, I felt uneasy about using Roundup before watching this and had misgivings of Monsanto and GM food, well now I’m really worried. If you have time, 1 hour 49 minutes, watch this documentary

The World According to Monsanto.

It really is Food for Thought

PS. For those who don't visit the Down to Earth blog, Rhonda is organising a seed swap. This is one way to try and preserve our right to grow our own food.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

A Big Thank You

And that big thank you goes to Ciara who sent me a “You Cheer Me Up” blog award.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

So now it’s my turn to pass on the award. I have 32 blogs on my reader at the moment, and thinking about this award has made me realise I read and enjoy the blogs for many different reasons, but I can’t give everyone the award. So I have eventually whittled it down to 6.

Big fanfare

The Lehners in France
Us in France
Veg Plotting
Musings from a Stonehead
A Night on the Tiles
Tiny Farm Blog

Here are the instructions for this award: "If you are a recipient of the "You Cheer Me Up" Award, please find the blogs that cheer you up, copy the code to post on your sidebar and pass Ethel and Lucy (in the pic above from the 'I Love Lucy' show) across the blogosphere. You can use what cheers you up in your post, or copy this one, but please send your award recipients back to the original post on A Nice Place In The Sun to get a copy of the award code, post the image and read the instructions. I want to try to maintain a page of original and ongoing award recipients, so feel free to let me know if you've received an award when you pick up the image code."

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

April Showers.

The rain has come as promised, so clearing the orchard has had to be postponed yet again. The ground is also too wet for me to continue with the weeding so I am holed up inside and wondering what to do.

I can’t plant any more seeds as my tiny greenhouse space is already full, I can’t get on with the kitchen as the plumbing work isn’t finished and I can’t get on with putting stuff away until the kitchen is finished!

So it’s time to go through my expenditure over last month. Keeping out of the shops and then tallying what I do spend has really helped curb my spending. I still have days when the shopping bill is high but at least it’s down to one or two a month, not one or two a week. Having the goal, and expense, of getting the paddock fenced in the next month is also helping me concentrate my effort on cost cutting as well.

I would really like to change my telephone and Internet provider, currently I’m paying around 50€ a month, excluding calls which are extra. I could get an all in package with another provider that would give me free calls as well for about 30€ a month. So why don’t I do it…well, my neighbour has done that and has been without telephone or Internet for about a week and a half. Before that it wasn’t working in the evenings. When I got this connection it took nearly 6 weeks to get it up and running. Add to that, here in France they charge you a disconnection fee to leave a contract and the oft repeated problem of leaving France Telecom, which is the state provider, to go to someone else usually results in FT throwing toys out of the pram and your line (which they own) failing and not being repaired very quickly – hence my neighbours problem.

Still I might have a go after my summer visitors have left. Planning on when a 2 month break without Internet or telephone is not the easiest of things to do when you are an Internet addict like me.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Cherry Blossom Time

The forecast rain didn’t materialise today and instead we had a lovely sunny spring day. I got another tank full and a half of spraying done but have now used up all the herbicide. Rather than get another bottle and have it lying around only part used I’ve decided to leave the final strip of land and rely on weeding that by hand. It’s about 100 meters by a meter to a meter and a half but I think it will be doable. I then finished off the day by making a start on weeding the first of the herb beds.

The next trees in the succession of blossom in the garden have come into their own, the sweet cherries. This is the sweet cherry on the front lawn; there is another one in the chicken enclosure at the rear of the house. The sour cherries bloomed a couple of weeks ago and are now looking decidedly green, as the leaves are all appearing.

Next up will I think be the apple blossom, it’s already showing large buds just waiting to open. After that I think it will be the quince, not the ornamental but the tree quince. I’m really looking forward to that as the quince flower is really pretty and the poor tree had such a hard time of it last year sitting in a pot on my patio.

I mentioned in the last post that I’d been making starters for a meal and completely forgot I’d taken a photograph. I’d decided on savoury tartlets using home grown or home made where I could. So we had spinach and goat cheese, red onions caramelised with a little honey and a sort of quiche Lorraine made from my home salted pork and of course lovely eggs courtesy of my Lacey Ladies.

Tomorrow I should be back working on Regis’s orchard but rain is again forecast, this time with 80% probability rather than the 20% of today, so we shall see

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Playing Tag.

Hazel on Mud Walls and Beams tagged me at the end of March. I’m going to cheat a bit and refer back to my last tag.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Just where does time go? One glimmer of sunshine and time races past so fast; still there is time today for an update.

Having finally made the decision not to register as organic I have decided to spray the couch grass on the new vegetable patch. I’ve been waiting for a dry spell and one finally turned up. Friday, Saturday and probably Sunday were shown as dry on the long range forecast. However, Friday the electrician was due, I’d arranged to see friends who were going away for a while and agreed to go out for meal; Sunday I was also out for a meal with another friend who was returning to the UK for a while and I was providing the starter. All this after weeks of doing nothing, it all falls on the same couple of days.

Never mind, I got a couple of tanks full of spraying done each day. The backpack sprayer holds 16 litres, which is quite a weight for me and leaves bruises on the front of my shoulders. Added to that, the field has already been ploughed and the furrows are beginning to dry out enough that they are crumbling so every so often I find myself falling off or through them, past my knees into the bottom of the rut, completely unable to re-balance myself because of the weight on my back. It’s been a slow process especially as I have to stop between each fill to unlock my neck shoulders and back.

The up side is that with luck, I won’t have to do it again. I’m fully aware that it is very unlikely to kill off all the grass but I’m hoping it will knock it back far enough that I stand a chance of dealing with it without having to resort to chemicals from now on. The walk through the furrows has also shown me a lot of bindweed beginning to sprout. That has come as a bit of a shock as I didn’t see any bindweed when I walked the field in the summer months.

It’s now Sunday morning and the weather has deteriorated a lot from yesterday. While the dew is nowhere near as heavy, there is no sun, so I have a bit of time to blog before the grass dries ready for spraying. I also need to cut the grass, but that too requires dry grass.

Oh and my hot water saga…still none, the electrician arrived and has fitted the immersion heater and timer but the plumber is waiting for the final bits to fit the range so won’t come to finish off until he has the bits. Add to that, the missing bit for the kitchen hasn’t arrived, everything inside, that I could be doing while waiting for the grass to dry is on hold too.