Friday, 10 September 2010

My First Grapes

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I know they are not much to look at but I’m really chuffed.  I’d planted the vine a couple of year ago in anticipation of installing a pergola.  The planting position is far from ideal for producing grapes  as it’s in the shade of a tree. 

The pergola is yet to go up but I’ve just let the vine do it’s own thing each year in order to produce a good root system and hopefully it will be quicker to cover the pergola once it is finally up.

P9100045 tinyThe vine has climbed nearly 20 ft into the tree over the year and produced the two small bunches of grapes down near the root, where I’d cut back the side growth.

I’ve planted more vines out in the fruit garden and I’m hoping for  further desert grapes next year once those plants are fully established. I’ll post a picture of those vines once I’ve got them all in and the support wires in place.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Rain, wonderful rain.

The weather can be a difficult thing to live with,  Over the last months there have been the harrowing accounts of the floods in Pakistan and other places, while here in my little corner of France I’ve been watching the skies searching for a rain cloud.

We’ve had around 3 months without rain;  all the irrigation ponds have been drained to try and save the plum, maize and sunflower harvests.  Farmers such as I who have no irrigation water have just been crossing fingers.  My neighbour harvested his sunflowers 2 days ago.  All of the flower heads were at least 50 percent smaller than I would have expected them to be.  Watching the combine harvester going round the field I was taken by how few times it made the trip to the transporter to discharge its load, and it wasn’t a large combine with large holding tanks.

In my own case I’ve been looking at my soya crop; the field is quite yellow and the leaves are falling off the plants.  The soya beans themselves are about the size of small petit pois so I think I’ll be lucky to break even on the crop. Such are the joys of small scale farming. Thankfully the weather has broken and the rain, about 30mm of it, has fallen steadily over the last 48 hours.  The ditches are still empty and the rain is soaking into the soil and not just running off the surface.

So what to do on a rainy day?  Well life is never boring here, there is always a new skill to learn and for my son ‘A’ and I yesterday it was tarmac-ing.  My friends ‘A’ and ‘R’ had been given a pile of tarmac in exchange for the department appropriating some of their land to store tarmac while they were patching the road, and a working party was arranged to get it laid before it went off.

While it may not have been a totally professional job, all 5 of us (we were joined by ‘B’ who is on holiday in the village at the moment), felt the drive looked pretty good afterwards and there was even some tarmac left over to make a start on another hard standing area.  ‘A’ put on a wonderful lunch and despite getting totally wet through the job took much less time and effort than we though it would.

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Sunday, 5 September 2010

Annual Update!

The New Year resolution to post more didn’t do too well, time to give up on cataloguing and just summarise the last year and start again I think; so what has been happening here over the last year.

Firstly the sad news; my beloved Snowy cat died last September. Thankfully though it was quite quick and I had my son G here too but I miss her. After her death I decided not to get any other cats as I would like to get down to just 2 cats at a time since vet fees and cat food are getting so expensive these days. I’d also decided that I wouldn’t get another white cat or long haired cat due to the amount and visibility of fur they leave. Enter Jewel.

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She chose me; she was an abandoned kitten who was brought to a friend’s house. Looking at the abrasions they all had we’re pretty sure she and her 3 siblings were chucked out of a car in the village centre. One of the siblings was run over before anyone could catch them but the other 3 found sanctuary at Ann’s. I went round to visit and this under-sized ball of flea and worm infested fluff curled up beside me purring the whole time. I fell for her hook, line and sinker and the long-haired ball of white fur, who is as mad as they get, is now a fully fledged member of the ‘FHTE’ society. And yes, she does have one blue eye and one yellow eye.

The next major occurrence was having my car written off. I was around 150 mils from home and of course I’d managed to forget my mobile, (put it on to charge especially for the journey and walked out the door without picking it up!), and someone went straight across a junction in front of me. I T-boned into the side of them pushing them 10-12ft up the road while they spun me through 90 degrees. Thankfully though I was not going fast, 50 mph or so was well strapped in and the impact was head on for me. I had a slight graze under the chin from the airbag and couple of tender spots on my arm and leg where I assume I must have hit the padded door handle.

The other car was lucky too, the centre of my car hit their door pillar and that protected the person in the passenger seat. The police and first-response medical units were brilliant and what was nice too was the police officer who made a point of coming over to me before I left to tell me very strongly that it wasn't my fault.

There after ensued a couple of months of sorting out the paperwork for the old car and finding and buying a new one. Sounds so simple written like that but it would take more than one post to go through the paperwork involved, stress and cost, so I’ll sum it up in one word for all the areas – lots.

My computer also decided to try and die too! Luckily I had purchased a laptop as I’d realised my computer was getting old. I’d also backed up everything on the main drive, or so I thought. My second drive on the old computer finally failed. It as then I realised that when I’d migrated to the new C drive that I’d installed in the old comp many moons back, Outlook was on the new drive but the contacts file was on the D drive still. I’d not bothered taking a paper copy as I thought I’d backed up everything when I made the C drive copy…. ho hum!

While I’m on this trail of disasters, the hay harvest didn’t happen this year. Everything was going superbly, they grass was at peak condition, I’d got it all cut and dried, took the baler down and it just wouldn’t tie knots round the bales. The weather broke a couple of days later before anyone else could finish their fields and come and bale mine. It then rained for a couple of weeks. I do still have some of last year’s hay and have bought couple of small round bales that I hope will see me through to next spring.

Next up is the ongoing tale of trying to get health insurance.

My file on that is now nearly 3 inches thick. At the end of last year I gave up on trying to get into the French system and applied for private cover. After a month or so the firm got back to me and refused me as they said I was eligible for state cover and by law they couldn’t insure me. So I was back doing the rounds between MSA and CPAM. MSA still saying that although they were the department that insures registered farmers I didn’t have enough land to qualify and needed to go to CPAM. CPAM then sent me on a paper chase collecting 2 years of French tax returns, 3 years of proof of paying local taxes etc before finally saying, after I’d gone down to the head office because every visit to the local one came up with a different set of paperwork to collect, that as I was a registered farmer they couldn’t insure me. The then said that one of the pieces of paper I’d got from MSA saying that I didn’t qualify for cover would mean that the private insurer could cover me.

So, re-applied to the private insurer with the new letter – 2 months down the line they’ve just rejected me again saying ….. I’m employed and therefore………aaaarrrrrggggghhhhhh!

So I’ve given up on trying to support the system here and have applied for cover from a UK based company for people living abroad. All fingers and toes crossed that this goes through.

Apart from the above, life is good if rather busy and I do remind myself that actually I’ve been very lucky. My crash could have injured me, and with no health cover it really doesn’t bare thinking about.