Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Snake in the grass

Well, this snake wasn't in the grass but curled up inside the old grass topper that Ian acquired today. Our neighbour has been working on a house near Bergerac, and lying abandoned in the grass was the rusty topper and a tine harrow. The owner didn't want them anymore so Ian went up this morning to pick them up. He was showing a friend how it worked, happily spinning the blade round, when the friend noticed the metre long snake curled around the drive shaft! As we didn't want a massacre like the digger/snake incident, and as grass snakes are a declining species, we decided (or rather Ian decided, as I have a snake phobia) to persuade the snake to leave. However, here is where the plan failed as no amount of banging the topper and poking the snake, could persuade him to leave the safety of his metal home (and I can't say I blame him; I am developing a new respect for snakes!) So, now the topper is halfway down the field, next to the hedge in the hope that in the peace and quiet of the evening the snake will leave of his own accord!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The Eiger vanishes!

After another day working with the digger and dumper the Eiger; the pile of earth that has blighted our view since the house was dug, has now gone! For the first time we can see the whole of the front garden and the view across the fields and slowly we look less and less like a building site.


The contents of the Igor are now spread behind the house, where the pool is to be dug. The pool arrives on the 21st June so the hole must be dug by then and we are a little short of soil in the right places. We are also  doing rain dances as we speak as we really need the ground to pack down before we start. Today we watched the storm clouds circle us but went straight past and left us high and dry! My veggie patch needs a good downpour to thrive and we are expecting a storm in the next two days.

In the meantime I decided to go for a swim!


PS: Just been old that it is The Eiger and not Igor!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Routine

Oh for a day off! One of the problems we have is that we have so much work to do to finish our project that we don't think about taking a day off. Ian gets embroilled in tractor parts and I get bogged down in the garden (although not literally since we still have had no rain). We made a real effort yesterday to take a break with the help of our neighbours, who have been in a similar position themselves and realise the importance of not letting the project take over your entire life, whilst continuing to feel that you are making progress. We started off with a morning visit to Issigeac and the Sunday market. The village dates from medieval times, with the streets shaped in a spiral up to the church. Many of the old buildings are still there and on Sunday mornings there is a market selling the usual market type stuff but quite interesting. I bought a large straw hat to protect me from the sun and we stopped and had a beer/coffee in the local bar. All in all a nice diversion from work.

After lunch we went to see the farmer to get some eggs (her chickens produce more than she can eat). She showed me the rabbits she breeds for dinner and offered to show me how to kill them and turn them into pate! I think this may be a step to far for me just now, although in terms of sustainable, cheap and environmentally friendly food, rabbit is probably better than most other meats. I explained that in England rabbits were kept as pets and she found that quite amusing!

We concluded the day with a visit to our neighbours and watched the moon rise while we drank wine and ate  lovely leftover veggie curry!

Ian has been engrossed in his tractor since Friday. It has a serious technical problem in that it pumps diesel into the engine and the source of the problem cannot be found. He is now stripping it down for the second day running. Personally I would rather he got on with something more immediately important, but I think he is also tired and we have both lost a bit of our mojo since returning from UK.  Anyway, here is a picture of the tractor with Ian up to his neck in oil !

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Heavy metal

Today Ian is at a friend's house trying to repair the ancient tractor that he bought several years ago and I have a day to myself in the house. This is probably the first time since we have been here and I promised Ian that I would catch up on some 'proper' work at my desk while he was away! Well, I managed until now but what I really want to do is catch up on some blogging, without my thoughts being interupted by sounds of engines and cursing as something else breaks! All I can hear today is the drone of the flies as they get more and more exited by the approaching hot summer.

So, what is the cause of Ian's cursing? Well, he can never resist a good bargain when it comes to heavy machinery and one of the things we towed back from UK was an old roller; apparently we need it for when we do the drive. This was a bargain but sold on Ebay as 'spares or repair' so Ian set about repairing it only to find that it needs rather more repair than he had hoped! It goes forward and 'rolls' but apparently does not perform its secondary function of vibrating!

He has also been spending quite a lot of time on the digger and dumper trying to move earth. After the builders went we were left with two very large piles of earth that we have called Mont Blanc

and The Eiger



Truck loads of earth have been removed but the size of the piles never seems to decrease. While Ian was clearing Igor he accidently hit a snake with the digger bucket. The snake was probably searching for food in the pile. It was about a metre long and most probably a grass snake just awaking from hibernation. Unfortunately he wounded it but didn't kill it outright and then we didn't really know what to do. We probably should have killed it as it was unlikely to survive its injuries, but at this point it decided to try and fight back and so we had to let it go; maybe to be dinner for one of the birds of prey that fly over the field. Our encounters with snakes so far have been seen two, mortally wounded two!

So, just as I was halfway through writing this entry Ian returned declaring that the tractor was ready and we could go over an pick it up.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Hotting up

Today the temperature in the sun was close to 30 degrees. Amazing for April although from what I can understand this is not unusual down here. I have been concentrating on my veggie patch. I have never had any luck with veggie gardening in UK; with all my efforts destroyed by slugs, cats (turning the newly dug soil into their litter tray), lack of time, lack of water, bad soil etc etc. Looking at the hard lumps of clay here I was not holding out much hope as I planted five rows of potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, and beetroot. However, so far, nothing has died. The neighbours tell me that everything grows here really easily including the weeds and it is certainly true that this time of year with the warmth and a little rain you can virtually see things shooting up. I am keeping my fingers crossed., although I did work out that with the cost of plants it is probably cheaper to buy seasonal veggies from the supermarket! Next year I will have to try my hand with seeds.

The fine weather meant that at the weekend everyone was out mowing the lawn on their ride-on mowers. Our neighbour mowed his lawn, left the mower outside the shed and settled down to an evening meal and a few glasses of wine and failed to notice when thieves cut through his fence and stole it. This also happened to someone else so we suspect a lawn mower gang! This is only the third crime in the history of village in the last 20 years, the other main one being the theft of Ian's caravan from the field a few years ago. It has lead to a lot of disussion, debate and purchasing of locks!

Monday, 4 April 2011

On the menu

The lunch yesterday was very pleasant. The hall in Thenac is functional. Like most of these places it was brightly lit, with a wallpapered country scene on one wall and the village banner on the other. It was full with about 30 long trestle tables down each wall. The room filled up with close to 70 people; in this case the majority being over retirement age, but in remarkably good health. The man in charge of the food was strangely Neanderthal looking, with a thick set head and neck. The menu was as follows

An aperitif of kir (sparkling wine and blackcurrant, tasting a bit light fizzy ribena) and a few salty snack biscuits

Asparagus soup

Red and rose wine (and some water)

Terrine de sanglier and crusty bread (a pate made with wild boar that tasted a bit like a peppery corned beef)

Venison stew, made with red wine, garlic and the addition of some rather strong alcohol, probably cognac, served with a piece of French toast and a clove of garlic to rub on the toast!

This was followed by roasted boar meat with a redcurrant sauce (our neighbour had a piece of lead shot in his!)

Following this was a plate of garlicky green beans.

Then more wild boar meat.

Then a bowl of endive salad

More wine

Cheese (Roquefort or camembert)

Desert (an ice cream cornetto from Lidl)

Coffee

Strong spirits if you wanted (we declined this bit!)

The whole thing lasted 6 and a half hours and we then had to sober up before bed!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

We are expecting!

 I bet that got you going! No, a miracle has not happened, but it has been confirmed that doggy dad did his stuff and there is a litter of approximately 5 pups due in May. So, all being well I may get my first dog in the summer and we have time to puppy proof the house! At times I wonder if we have done the right thing by considering such an active dog, but then last night our neighbour had his lawnmower stolen from his garden and the thought of having a dog on stand by was a little reassuring, especially if Ian is away. See, even in the heart of rural France there are still thieves.

Today we are going to the Salle de Fetes in nearby Thenac for a Chasse lunch. Five courses of meat, meat, meat, cheese, coffee and red wine all for 15 euros and an appointment at the doctors for gout the following day!