Les poissons en France

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Meet Anita

Yes folks, I am on to my favourite subject again.....manure. This time I thought that you would like to meet the producer. She is a very fat and dopey donkey and John has become her best friend.

We had another phone call from Marie -Lise ( we are now on first name terms) asking if we needed any more manure. This time I think I have made it clear that we will take whatever Anita and her friends can manufacture - forever!! Anita has done us proud and provided two stables full. Unfortunately I have a trapped nerve in my neck; I'm hoping pills and 10 sessions with the chiropractor, starting Friday, should get it sorted. However, whilst I am not really very incapacitated, we decided that shovelling manure was not a good idea, so poor old John has nearly a week's work on his own. As the temperatures remain in the thirties he is restricted to collecting 3 loads a day. Whilst Anita is very obliging she has deposited her "gold dust" in a rather inaccessible site so that our cement moving car has had to metamorphose into a 4x4 manure shifting vehicle.

You may be thinking why is she bothering as this year's drought has so severely devastated the garden. However us gardeners are ever the optimists and next year will be better!

As you will appreciate one way and another we have not made much progress on our scheduled jobs. Also, we can see that August and September will be a whirlwind of guests and socialising. Wish there were more hours in the day!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summertime Blues

We've been mentioning that we have a heatwave and we've not seen any rain. Well now it's getting serious. I read in the local paper today that the last heavy rain was in April, and the authorities have stopped the farmers from drawing water out of the rivers in the Lot. We've gradually become aware of how serious it is when we were told that cattle farmers are having to use hay cut for winter feed as the grass just isn't growing. Also the maize which is grown for winter sillage is a lot smaller than normal. Not good for the winter!

This hot spell has also had a serious effect on our garden, and on the gardener. Sue has been struggling to keep everything watered, especially as she wants the new perennials to become established. We had a show from the bedding plants but really they've gone to seed and are now over.

The green beans aren't producing, tomatoes are small, and even the courgettes don't like it. But the peppers have given up the ghost. And all through lack of water.

All of this has made the gardener very depressed. She's now at the stage of damage limitation and thinking of strategies for surviving water shortages in the future. (But I'm not building a reservoir!)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Editor's Announcement

We have received feedback that some of you would like to leave comments on our postings. So we've decided to allow this facility, albeit, leaving us the right to screen your comments before they appear on the blog. We're obviously only going to allow 'nice' comments to appear! (As if you would consider anything else.)

A Walk in the Countryside

Summer here in the Quercy is now buzzing with village fetes and festivals. Last week there was a jazz festival in Souillac, a town about 20 minutes north of us. Last year it clashed with the Cahor Blues Festival, but this year it's been rearranged, so our friends on the other side of our hill suggested that we all went on Sunday when there was a 'Jazz Walk'. From what we could see of the programme, our pic-nic lunch would be serenaded by a band from 12 o'clock, then, at 1.30, off for a walk accompanied by a second band.

The pic-nic area was set up with tressle tables and benches in a large open sided marquee which provided great-people watching oportunities. However, the temperature was creeping higher all the time and by the time the walk started at 2pm (only half an hour late) it must have been in the 30's! Added to this, we found out that we had to pay 5 euros each for the priviledge of walking. Ok, so they gave us each a small bottle of water and a badge, but Sue was decidedly tetchy by the time we started, all 112 of us!

The walk proceeded along the side of a small stream but there was no sign of any band or music. Fortunately we were in the shade for the first part of the walk, but, after about 40 minutes we had to cross from one side of the valley to the other and then climb smartly up to the top of the hills overlooking the town. At this stage it was definitely head down and toil away. When we were nearly at the top we were overtaken by a 4x4 bringing up cold drinks, and we all collapsed in the shade of some large trees.

At this point music started to drift out of the bushes and our entertainment appeared. 'The Mystery of the Elephants'.

We listened to the band for about 15 - 20 minutes, and then they led us, some times in single file, back down the hills into Souillac, playing continuously. As you can imagine from their outfits they combined good jazz with a bit of a cabaret act and we can thouroughly recommend them. You can get a taste of them playing by going to their web site, http://www.mysteredeselephants.com/

By the time we were back into the town Sue had been mollified and declared the event well worth the effort of walking. To make it even better our friends Sue and Jon then took us home and fed and watered us. A very enjoyable day.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Country Life

We been initiating our friends Bob and Jenny into the 'real' french country life. Yesterday we had a phone call from acquaintances in the next village. They had a glut of plums and did we want any. The plums were duly delivered and so Bob and I set to, making plum chutney.

Whilst we were cooking chutney, Sue and Jenny were having a garden design brain-storm. Jenny is looking for ideas for their allotment, and Sue, as usual, has plenty of ideas!

The boys having finished the chutney, Sue then made a batch of plum jam....and there's more fruit which has been put into the freezer!

We finished off this day of local pursuits by going along to an evening 'vide-grenier'. The literal translation of this is 'empty loft'. In essence it's a glorified boot sale, but this one didn't start till 8pm and was scheduled to go on till 2am.

Actually, we're not keen on these events as, to us, they are just a huge collection of rubbish which we would have been pleased to throw away! But it did give Bob and Jenny a different glimps of rural french life.

Friday, July 24, 2009


We're currently having a few days 'holiday' as we have some old friends staying with us. Yesterday we took them to Les Arques, a small village near by which has a small museum dedicated to Ossip Zadkine. He was a sculptor who lived in the village from the late 30's till he died in 1967.

We've been to the museum a number of times as we like the way the building has been done up and we use it for ideas and inspiration. However, this time we were a bit worried when the 'curator' (the man taking the money) asked us if we'd noticed the changes to the display! We didn't realise that we'd become recognisable regulars. 'Oh, it's that funny English couple again.'

Monday, July 20, 2009

More Walls!

As Sue indicated previously, I'm on a mission to repair bits of wall to tidy up the areas around the house. Having already repaired the wall to the right-hand side of the entry into the ruin, I've now done the same thing to the left-hand side.

It's amazing how a random selection of fairly poor stones take on the aura of age and purpose once they're tied together to form a wall. Looking at the photo, I may have to repair the left hand corner of this wall. Totally unnecessary but satisfying, nontheless!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Manure Update

We went to the Cahors Blues Festival last night with a couple of friends. We enjoyed it but it was rather chilly as we had had a little rain during the day. Yes you did read that correctly, but the operative word was little. Unfortunately there were far fewer bands than the last time we went and there just wasn't the same ambiance.

As yesterday was a late night we were in no rush to get up today and when we did we had to clear the debris from our meal the night before, never the best way to start the day. So there were no special plans for today but as usual things don't work out that way. Late morning I had a phone call from my "manure lady" asking if I still needed any more. What a silly question as I will need it as long as I draw breath. I just can't understand why the French do not get as excited as I do about "fumier". Well we duly made arrangements to collect it this afternoon. When we got there there was a stable full!

We hadn't expected that we would need seven trips and it would take 4 hours to complete the job. We now have just over a third of the raised bed covered!!

I took a few pictures of the garden on Thursday as a severe storm with hail was forecast and I wanted to be able to remind myself of how it was before it was devastated. We had a lot of lightning but no rain or hail.

ps Whilst this photography was taking place, 'odd-job' was working on the corner of the 'ruin' as part of the ongoing tidying up of the garden environment!

He's finished that now.....

....until he finds some more bits of wall that need repairing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Following the Shade

The day started off cool and bright, so we started work on the 'serpentine' path at a good time. By lunchtime, we'd used 2 mixes of cement. However it had started to warm up so we only used one more mix before I called time. It really gets too hot working out there in the full sun.

I'm hoping that we'll have finished all of one side by the weekend.

Whilst working on laying the sets, I was using up the last part of each mix of cement to repair the house wall. Then, when it became too hot to work out front, I carried on working on it (in the shade). I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was able to finish this small repair job!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Making a Splash

Some of you may know that Sue isn't a fan of swimming. She can't stand getting her hair wet or getting water splashed in her face. Then there's the complication of wearing contact lenses; if she takes them out to swim then she can't see with just sun glasses! And, she hasn't got a swimming costume.

HOWEVER, she was finally badgered into having a dip in our friend's pool, using a borrowed cossie.

I've got my own swimming trunks although I bought them as shorts!

Don't hold your breath till you see her in a pool again!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Frog on the Blog Plus other things

John and Lesley (of lending us their house fame) arrived for the summer last week and John set about pruning his shrubs. Soon Lesley was calling us to see our first European Tree Frog - we didn't know they existed. For such a tiny little creature they make an enormous noise when they "sing" in the evening.

Today my John made the obligatory visit to the village market. He said it was heaving with tourists but standing calmly in the middle was Daisy (or her French equivalent) a Fresian Cow, who was allowing all the children to milk her. Sorry he didn't have his camera with him.

We went to Cahors very early yesterday as I wanted to go to the market. We nearly collided with a deer as she lept across the road in front of us, having had a drink from the river, but fortunately we arrived without further incident. However we were shocked to see a lot of trees with brown leaves which appeared to be dying. We just haven't had any appreciable rain for a couple of months and they are under severe stress. We are supposed to have a storm on Tuesday- but the forcasts are NEVER right.

I am equally under stress trying to keep my plants alive. Out watering at 7.30 this morning to beat the sun!! This retirement lark is so relaxing. John was out at the same time mixing cement to finish his repair of the ruin wall and start renovating the house wall.

There is a patch of the house wall, in the courtyard, which used to be below soil level. A number of stones have gone missing and he's got to repair it before we get to the point of levelling everything.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Stepping in to Summer

Summer is now in full swing and we're trying to carry on working around a busy schedule of socialising. Sue is being badgered to buy a swimming costume so that we can be invited to swim in friends' pools! She's dragging her feet because, at the end of the day, she doesn't like swimmimg or getting her hair wet!!!! Getting her feet wet is OK, which she experiences every evening when she waters the garden.

I've finished the latest set of steps and, as soon as I buy some more 'red' sand I'll point them so that we can safely use them.

Simple little things please me (as I'm sure you realise), but, when I finished the steps, I decided to use up the cement by starting to tidy the entrance to the 'ruin'.

This job seems totally unnecessary but we can immediately see the difference. Another small improvement to the overall picture.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Plus ca change But........

Some things are very predictable, like the village summer market. Today is the first day of the market and we have just returned with our goodies. Its like going to meet old friends and is a good indicator of how our French has progressed - we're up to bantering now!!

On the other hand, as we are always saying, we never know what is going to happen next. Yesterday Yoda and I were off to say good morning to our neighbours and I suddenly noticed a beautiful bird on our patio. It turned out to be a Kingfisher which had unfortunately flown into our patio door. This does happen from time to time and we have learned that if we leave them they usually recover and fly off. However the Kingfisher continued to look very poorly and we put him in the cat basket in the barn. I tried to give him water with a pipette but to no avail. We expected him to have died over night but not so. John is just off to put him out of his suffering.

We have received some " feed back" that our postings had not been so regular lately. In an attempt to rectify the error of our ways we have been typing away like mad recently (which we hope you have noticed). However, I must warn you that we have a lot of socialising looming which usually means NO WORK. Nevertheless John has started on the second set of courtyard steps.

PS The bird began to flutter and show "more" signs of life when John went to him , so after much soul searching we decided to take him down to the river and let nature take its course.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

"It aint 'alf 'ot Mum"

Sorry to keep going on about the weather, we are supposed to have moved away from that English outlook. However we just couldn't resist sharing this picture of Yoda with you. John went up to the cement mixing area (some people just have to keep going) and found this little head sticking out of the tarpaulin which covers the cement mixer.

We have eventually done a little bit more on the serpentine path but quite honestly, at 9 o'clock this morning the cement was going off quicker than we could lay the sets. Perhaps I should point out that with my "exacting eye" they require a lot of minor adjustments before I am satisfied.

We have been watching this swallowtail butterfly working the lavender bush for the last couple of days, it doesn't seem affected by the 34.4 in the shade temperatures.