Friday, 3 October 2008

Another Gift From Debs

As I was leaving yesterday, Debs handed me these:

They are Chayote, also called choko, chaco, xuxu and christophene. These two have both started sprouting from the single seed at the base of the fruit and I’m now scouring the Internet on the best ways to grow these. I will have to plant carefully as they produce a vine that can grow to over 30 ft and work out what to use to support the vines but I’m looking forward to growing them.

Jane Grigson has some interesting recipes using them, Chayote Creole and a sweet of Chayote in Red wine that sound rather nice. Roll on next September.

Cat Food Shortage?

Well only locally and caused by me.

I was feeling pleased the other day when I received a 5€ voucher from a local (well local-ish as there’s nothing really local here), gardening store. The cats were just about out of their food and the price of a 10kg bag has risen to over 63€. So that brought the cost back to around 58€, about the same as it was a year ago, so I duly bought a sack. Why is it, by the way, that cat food cost so much more than dog food?

Then at the beginning of the week I was going through the ‘publicity’, the lists of offers at the various supermarkets delivered weekly by the posrman, and couldn’t believe my eyes. The farming chain was selling the very same at the amazing price of 45€90. That was just too good an offer to miss – so I bought 3.

I may not have much in store for me this year but the cats are in food until the new year.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Many Thanks Debs

Just a very quick post tonight as I’m finishing the day feeling a lot worse than when I started it – hopefully another early night will do the trick. I eventually got to Debs house this morning despite every best effort to delay me; two tractor drivers stopped in the road having a chat, then two car drivers doing the same, then no cars in sight on the lovely long stretch of road but as I come up to the bends and very limited visibility at the end I come up behind a tractor and trailer, you get the picture.

It was really sad to see the house in the throws of packing up but I’m sure Debs and Bob will be happy back in the UK and that’s what counts.

As I said yesterday, Debs was giving me the last 3 chicks she’s reared; so here they are, and aren’t they beautiful.

So many thanks again Debs, hope the move goes well and we’ll all miss you.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Digging Deep

Time is passing so quickly it’s frightening. So what have I been doing; well, digging digging, labouring and ploughing mainly.

While the tractor was on loan for a few days I continued with the pottager area. The general weeds come out quite quickly but the couch grass is another matter. It takes half a day to dig an area that would take about an hour otherwise, but the good bit is seeing the barrow full of roots ready for burning.

The cats also love it when I’m out digging and I usually have my entourage, the only one missing here is Hazel and she was watching me from the patio off to the left.

Digging also unearths scores of these, mole crickets which scamper away to find cover as soon as possible. My guess is that they don’t taste too good as Cid usually leaves them alone while he goes crazy for grasshopper snacks.

Talking of digging, a month of so back I was lifting the garlic and I unearthed this gorgeous little fellow, a baby toad. Up by the chicken house I’ve seen, but never had my camera of course, an adult that is at least the size of a saucer and possibly a bit bigger.

Monday I had the tractor back so decided to get on with ploughing the cereal field. There was the customary hour or so to fuel and check over the tractor plus hitch up the plough. Over the summer, G and I have been working out how to set up the plough so it does actually plough and not just slide over the surface.

The main problem is getting the lift arm short enough; it’s a chicken and egg type of situation. It’s best length is the length it needs to be when it’s actually in the ground ploughing but while it’s still too long it is difficult to get it into the ground.

I read one tip somewhere about running the tractor up onto blocks on one side to mimic the working position of one set of wheels in the rut which I might try next time, this time though I could put the tractor into the last ploughed rut and adjust it there. Still it takes time as it’s all larger than me and being large lumps of iron, rather heavy. It’s working pretty well now, the only slight problem being that the short lift arm means that the leaver to turn the shears now hits the back of the tractor and unless the plough is downhill from the tractor I have to get out and release the locking mechanism and manually swing the plough over. But it keeps me fit. I’ve about a third of the field still to do so it’s looking like the weekend before that will be finished assuming the weather holds.

Part of the reason for it taking so long is that other things need to be done as well; shopping for instance as I hadn’t been for a couple of weeks and I wanted to restock my basics stockpile. Then yesterday it was time to help Ann and Regis. They were stripping the tiles off the roof of Ann’s garage/barn and wanted an extra pair of hands to stack all the handmade terracotta tiles. With three pairs of hands it was done in the morning with the tiles all stacked in known amounts in fruit storage boxes ready for sale.

Ann produced a wonderful lunch and then I crawled home – nothing to do with moving the tiles but I’ve gone down with a head cold. At first I thought I’d managed to give myself another asthma like attack, as the last bale of hay I opened was full of mildew but as yesterday morning passed and no breathing problems had developed overnight as last time I realised it was just a cold. I put it down to the rapid drop in temperature over the last week or so plus the differences between the night and day temperatures too.

So the rest of the week is down to ploughing, the pottager if time and the weather holds, chopping wood if the weather doesn’t. I’ve also a trip to the dentist today – yes another but I hope this will be the last – and then a trip to Deb’s from Lehners in France as she has a Sussex hen and cock along with a Sussex-cross cock for me to add to the hen collection. It will be the final get together before she returns to the UK at the end of the month. Then over the weekend I’ve spotted a local agricultural fair which might produce some more point of lay hens.