Les poissons en France

Monday, October 27, 2008

Back to Indoors

The rain duly arrived today, reinforcing our decision to restart working indoors. So, back up the ladder and on with the repointing of the stone walls.

I'm hoping that I'll finish the passage walls by the end of the week, which will then mean that we'll be starting in the kitchen (at last).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Safron? Non, Safran!

Not wishing to miss out on what might be one of the last really nice days of Autumn, we all went out to a small town eastwards along the Lot, Cajarc. This weekend was the Safron Fair (spelt Safran in french).

We had read that there was a tour of a safron producer (une safraniere) which was to start at 10.30 from the Tourist Office. We duly arrived at 10.30 to find that we had to drive to the Safron farm! So we followed the long line of cars, whilst I moaned that we wouldn't be able to park when we got there! However, my fears were unfounded (just) and we were given a short talk on crocuses and safron harvesting.

The farmer only had one small field, but that was because the labour involved in picking and harvesting the stigma from the flowers is so great that there's a limit to how many flowers they can cope with.

We went back to Cajarc, parked Betty on a bench in the town square, and went into an exhibition about Safron. When we came back out, we found Betty in a deep, one-sided conversation with an aged french lady. The lady was completely unphased by the fact that Betty speaks no french. Once we returned, we were able to translate for Betty and we quickly got a potted life history before her son and daughter-in-law popped up to take her off to lunch. Non-verbal communication can be just as effective as being able to speak the language!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

'I love it when a plan comes together'

My labourer surpassed himself today and I am delighted. He used the digger to dig out the path which I had marked out for the "serpentine" bed which snakes across the front garden.

As he was so speedy he had enough time to dig out the path for the iris bed which runs parallel with Michel's barn.
I have to edge the paths before we can rotovate and eventually plant them but we have made a start.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Ramp

The good weather continues and so we're carrying on working outside. We both spent today removing stones and earth from the ramp up to the big doors of the barn.

We've been putting the stones into the lower level courtyard, but now Sue's a bit concerned that if we put all of the stones from the ramp there, we'll end up having to move them again next year. So, we're on the point of calling it a day (or a year) for the outside work. We really need to rebuild the wall between us and JJ and Nadine next, so that we can then establish the level of the courtyard between the walls. Still, that's something to look forward to in the Spring.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Walls and Walnuts

The weather forecast for tomorrow is rain, but I'm pleased to report that side 2 of the wall is now finished!

Having said that, there are still a few odd jobs to do; fill in the middle of the wall once Etienne (the electrician) has laid wires inside the wall for lights, create a top step where the wall joins the house, and then build some steps down into the courtyard, add some more soil against the wall and then level it out.

Whilst I was doing this, Sue was continuing with marking/digging out the edges of the 'snaking' path in the front garden. As you can see from the photos, she was very happy (but then she always is when she's in the garden).

However, she did get delayed this afternoon because she had to go and pick walnuts with our neighbour Nadine. And unfortunately, it was scorchingly hot; a clear blue sky with bright sunshine. She was very red in the face when she came back!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Another Year.....

..... another Chestnut Fair.

Betty was very keen to go to the Chestnut Fair again. The fair is about an hour and a half west of us, into the next Department, Cantal. Sue likens it to 'Alpine' scenery as it is all rolling hills with a lot of agriculture and a lot of dairy farming.

We felt that the bands who march up and down the town weren't as good this year, although the fair still attracts a huge number of visitors.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Garden Moving On

The Editor has decreed that I should explain what I am doing in the garden. I prepared the design shortly after we bought the house but it has not been appropriate to start laying out the design before now. I am not sure that now is a good time either but I am really anxious to put my ideas into action. As you know it takes time for gardens to mature so I have got to get started.

I have marked out a bed which runs all the way beneath the trees in the back garden. I think it will be appropriate to call it the "long bed" as it is certainly that!! To be honest until I had marked it out I did not realise just how long it was. Before my labourer can rotivate the bed and I can apply the winter compost we have to raise the canopy above the trees and remove some more saplings.

In the front garden I have started to mark out "the Serpentine Bed", sorry if that sounds a bit pretentious!! My idea is that the front garden will be full of colour. I hope this posting doesn't come back to haunt me. Well I've got the ideas and the master plan but whether and if it comes to fruition time will tell.

I went to a garden centre today to look for some Judas Trees to go along the side of the alley in the front garden. Couldn't find the trees but found some lovely cyclamen and heathers to put in the troughs on the kitchen patio.

When I came back John had started on the second side of his wall. We are so pleased that everything looks so much tidier - an obsession of ours. He will not be able to totally finish the wall as we have to wait for Etienne - the electrician - to install the wires for the lighting.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Driven up the Wall

I hope that I haven't been doing just that.....driving you all up the wall by keep going on about the garden wall!!

But you'll be pleased to know that it is finished.

Or at least one side is. We realise that a small part of the top of the wall will be visible from the upper level. So, I'm going to have to build the 'other' side, albeit only a little bit of it.
At least it won't be such a marathon as the courtyard side; more like a short sprint. Ha ha!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rabbit on the Menu

As Betty is with us , today we decided to go to a local chestnut fair and then on to see a repeat of the Balloon display we saw at Rocamadour a couple of weeks ago. We found the village, sorry hamlet, which was hosting the chestnut fair and nothing was happening. We decided that "the fair" was infact a meal this evening. We never cease to be amazed that there are so many posters about advertising these " non events''.

Oh well, off to the balloons.However, a wild goose chase makes you hungry and thirsty so we stopped at a village on the banks of the Lot for refreshment. It turned out to be the local bar and was full of "Characters". When we arrived there were about 10 chaps playing petanque on the gravel opposite the bar. Lots of banter and all supervised by an ol' boy wearing his beret (of course) and seated in the middle of the court. Everybody soon adjourned for a drink and we began our meal. Meantime another car had drawn up and out of the corner of our eyes we noticed a rabbit was sitting on the roof. We all did a double take and assumed it was a toy, that was until its whiskers started twitching. An 'hombre' then emerged from the car and scooped up bunny covered it in kisses and took it into the bar. Soon bunny was being passed amongst pastis drinking, boule playing, rugby loving men with each giving him a kiss and cuddle and joking about him going into the pot. One of these men then decided that Betty should be part of the pass the bunny game, to her delight.

Bunny was then placed on a chair with his friend the dog until hombre was ready to go. His departure was as bizarre as his arrival. Hombre had a beat up BMW which obviously didn't have a starter motor because all of a sudden we saw him pushing the car down the slope which led directly into the Lot. Obviously he had done this many times because half way down the slope the car started and instantly he was charging up the slope in reverse. We decided that he was limited to drinking at this bar as it had the necessary geography for departure.

Feeling very mellow and thoroughly entertained we drove across country to the balloon festival. The autumn colours were magical and we stopped in a vineyard to admire the view and the produce.

Although the weather today was very warm it was also very windy, so, you've guessed it the balloons couldn't take off. Nevermind we had thoroughly enjoyed our day out.

Autumn Colours

We are experiencing a glorous spell of sunny weather which is really showing up the changing colours of the trees.

I noticed yesterday whilst I was working on the wall, that the the leaves were starting to fall, even leaves that were still green.

Last night we took Betty and our neighbours JJ and Nadine to the catering college at Souillac. An enormous meal and a lovely evening. On the way home at half past ten we watched the outside temperature as shown in JJ's car drop from 16 degrees a couple of kilometres outside of St Germain, down to 9 degrees in our valley. We had thought that we were in a 'frost pocket' but this confirmed our thoughts on our 'micro-climate'.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Suzie at Play

Yes, it's that time of year again. The frost has taken the vegetables and the flowers, and so the true gardener turns their thoughts to their plans for next year. And, true to form, Sue was out there, assessing and marking paths and beds for the front garden. More work for the labourer!

Meanwhile, I had to admit that I'd done a bit too much yesterday. So, because of that and because of the rain during the night, I contented myself with finishing back-filling the wall ( with the help of my boss!) However, there was an irritating lump of concrete with the remains of an old chestnut post. One of the first jobs I'd done back in September 06 was to saw off the post.

Now, the concrete and stump was too high for the level of ground we're trying to get to. So, it had to come out! I tried to get it out with the digger, but the digger nearly tipped over. The concrete with the stump in was joined to a large piece of stone. After a lot of sweat and the use of a sledge hammer and a pick axe, I managed to get the stone out, and then, finally, the post. I then retired indoors to have lunch and a glass of wine!

Back on Track

After a few minor hiccups, I've finally got the digger back into action. I had to sort out a good grease gun, then I had to figure out how to correctly tension the track on the driving wheels. However, all of that done, I started moving some of the earth around yesterday. I wanted to start on this as the forecast for today was rain (correctly forecast).

I'm hoping to get the wall finished before the weather goes downhill towards winter!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Plodding On

We only had a touch of frost this morning, although it was a bit nippy until about about half past ten! Then it was down to tee-shirts as in true brick-laying style. Nothing much to report on as it was just another day of wall building; however I did have an assistant who was filling behind the wall (back-filling) with rubble so we were able to progress well. I think there's about 3 more days of work before it's finished.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Brr! Autumn's Here

Our precautions of yesterday paid off as we woke up to a nice white frost.

Our attempts at covering up things hadn't worked as, just after we'd done it, we had a squally shower which must have blown the sheets of plastic off.

We went to inspect the damage this afternoon and picked we don't know how many more green tomatoes!!!

At lunchtime we all went to our friends south of Cahors, Simon and Judith, who had kindly offered us some of their figs. Betty was seen disappearing into the Fig tree although she didn't go up the ladder.

So now, not only are we swamped with green tomatoes, we've got heaps of ripe figs. I'm currently looking on-line for Green Tomato Chutney recipes, and Fig Chutney recipes!

In return for the figs, I helped Simon fit the winter cover for their swimming pool. It's a 2 person job, if not 3!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Frost Warning

Our weather forecast is showing a minimum of 2 degrees tonight and tomorrow night and 3 degrees on Sunday night. So we've been trying to cover up our vegetables which will suffer from a frost. We've also picked lots of green tomatoes and armfulls of Dahlias. I'll have to look for a Green Tomato Chutney recipe!

PS Great news!!!!! Bernard is back on the market with more wine. Sue and Betty went down to the Friday market this morning and were pleased to see Bernard there. For some strange reason Betty likes Merlot, and so she bought a 5 litre box of 2005 Merlot. We bought a 5 litre box of 07 'Auxerrois' which is the variety used for the local Cahor wine. Life is back to normal!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Off the Track

The mini-digger has been earning it's corn lately. Certainly it would have been almost impossible to attempt to be digging and moving all of the rocks and stones in the courtyard by hand. However, a couple of days ago, as I was pushing the stones about to try to get them level, one of the tracks started to come off!

So, the digger is marooned in a sea of stones. Fortunately, our friend Donnie knows about diggers and he was able to explain to me how to get the track back on the wheels.

We're off to Limoges today (Thursday) to pick up Betty and she'll be staying for the whole of October. Ironically, it's raining for the first time for I don't know how many weeks!