Saturday, 21 February 2009


Not only was yesterday my daughter’s birthday but it also marked the start of my third year here. I can’t believe how fast time can pass, two years working on the farm I can cope with but my little girl now able to apply for a driving licence; that’s just unbelievable.

Another notable event of yesterday was that I now have for the first time since I moved in reasonable telephone and Internet connection. I’ve been more or less unable to keep an Internet connection for more than 10 minutes lately and once lost it often wouldn’t let me connect again for a few hours. I was beginning to think it was the modem playing up but telephoned France telecom anyway to report that I could barely hear people on the ‘phone line due to the crackling.

Yet again they said there was a fault and that they would have an engineer out to look at the line in the next 48 hours. The deadline passed and there was no change in the line – I didn’t really expect there to be, anyone living in France will tell you the same. But then, yesterday while I was working outside I spotted a telecom van moving post, to post towards the house. As they approached I could see they were replacing the line up to my house.

Back in the mists of time during an earlier problem with the line an engineer had been sent out and he’d told me my line needed replacing but nothing was done and I let it drop as I did get a connection again. But this time they changed it – I was really surprised as there is over half a kilometre of line that is solely used for me.

All of a sudden I have a stable Internet connection and a telephone line with practically no background noise. I’m over the moon.

Confit of Duck

While I’ve been unable to surf I decided it was time to have a go at making confit, after all I’ve been here two years so I really should have a go. I was also encouraged by there being a really good offer on duck at the supermarket.

I decided to buy the manchons (the upper bit of the wings) and the cuisse (the legs). The manchons were very cheap, 2€60 a kilogramme so I had a go with those first.

The idea is to partially preserve the duck by salting and then to poach the duck in duck fat until it is succulent.

So part one was to sprinkle them with sea salt and fresh bay leaves and ground pepper. They were then left in the refrigerator for 24 hours. They were then rinsed to remove the salt and dried. Being the lazy type, I didn’t fancy standing over the stove for a few hours so I placed them in the slow cooker.

I then covered them in melted duck fat and left them overnight on low to gently stew.

Once cooked to tender, or in my case, until falling off the bone, they were left to cool for an hour and then carefully packed into sterilised canning jars and covered with the cooking juice and fat. I then processed them for a while to ensure a vacuum seal.

There were of course a couple of bits left over and I know I’m a bit biased but they were delicious.

The Vegetable Field

I’m another step closer to getting into the healthcare system. Over the last couple of days I’ve been able to work the area of land I’m going to use this year for the vegetables.

For those who don’t know about my healthcare problem, in order to pay into the system and therefore be covered, I need 11.5 hectares of land. I have 11.33 and there is no land available close by that I could afford to purchase. The French way round this is for me to cultivate an area of land for vegetables. This area of land has a weighting of 3; so if I for instance cultivate .33 hectare, I end up with a nominal land tally of 12 hectares – 11.33 – 0.33 = 11, the 0.33 becomes 0.33 x3 = .99 – call it 1 hectare, 11 + 1 = 12, over the magic number of 11.5 and I can get health care.

Last year I attempted to cultivate an area only to see it disappear under water and become unworkable until mid year, far to late to do anything. This year I’ve taken an area of my cereal field, (last year it was already planted with wheat but this year I’m sowing sunflower in a couple of months so it was still fallow).

So this is the lower half of the area; I’m using an 8-bed rotation, potatoes, squash, root, beans, tomatoes, cabbage, everything else, and the two yellow markers nearest mark the top of bed 4. In the distance is a single marker that marks the far corner of the area, which is 60 m by 30 m, which is only .18 of a hectare but it’s about all I think I can manage and it just takes me over the magic 11.5.

Monday, 16 February 2009

I just had to post this picture of the sunset tonight, it was just so beautiful.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Dried Eggs

While I’ve not been able to post for a bit due to my Internet connection giving up the ghost – I do wonder if France Telecom/Orange France will ever be able to provide anything like the service I had in the UK – I luckily had looked on the web earlier for information about drying eggs. So unable to waste time surfing I set about putting what I’d learnt into practice.

I decided to start with 5 eggs; the idea being to get a thin layer in the dehydrator otherwise it takes too long to dry the egg. As it is, the tiers in my dehydrator are slightly tilted so the egg at the outer edge was deeper than the inside edge.

The eggs were beaten well and then poured onto the lightly greased tray. They were then dried for a bit over 5 hours at the highest setting, around 60°C. One of the posts I read said that this heat and time were essential as this in effect pasteurised the egg as well as drying it.

Because of the difference in thickness across the tray I set the original time to 4 hours and then stirred the mix, then continued dehydrating until all the egg was dry.

Once all the egg had dried I then ground the egg to a powder in an electric grinder and transferred the resulting powder to an airtight jar for storage.

Other ways described to store the egg is in the freezer, vacuum-sealed or in zip lock bags. Once I’ve got my Internet connection back I’m going to do some more research into the storage but for the moment the jar is going to live in the fridge.

To reconstitute the egg, it’s one tablespoon of dried egg to one tablespoon of water and that’s equivalent to one egg that can be used for cakes, omelettes or scrambled eggs. The next job is to try it out.

The Woodland - Phase 2

It was a lovely Sunday afternoon and having just signed up again for the chasse meal – gosh the year has passed fast – I thought I had better do some work. I know way back I decided to try and take time out on Sundays but at this time of the year there is just so much to do.

I’d already sorted out the trees required for the first two rows and combined with the ploughed ground it only took a couple of hours to plant the two rows. It was a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon out in the fresh air and sunshine.

While moving some of the hazel trees I noticed that along with the wonderful catkins there were also the female flowers; so tiny that you could easily miss them, it's the little red blob on the left of the stem.

Returning to the chasse dinner I've just read this version from Living the Dream, just to give another viewpoint - I love the bambi and babe idea.