Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck
Roosting on the gate

2011 - My second year of blogging in Brittany

I felt I would like to share some of the photographs I have taken so far this year and some from other years. I live in a beautiful part of Brittany and just love being here. It's a lovely place to photograph and enjoy being in through all the seasons and hopefully this blog will show you where I live my life.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday, 12 February 2010 - Features in my village

The weather continues to be cold and snowy here and the ground is lethally slippery with ice.  I have been looking through photographs I've taken of my village during the short time I've lived here and realised just how many interesting architectural and decorative features there are here.  I am particularly drawn to faded paintwork, beautiful stone and rusting ironwork.

The geraniums are an intrinsic part of the French summer - I believe they are thought to discourage flies coming in through the windows and doors with the added bonus of the colourful flowers.  I have a yellow freemontededron one side of my door and a campsis on the other to lift the bare stone walls.  I see that one of my neighbours has a rose here.

I really like the details like the little triangle of lace curtain in this window, and just look at those gorgeous maroon hollyhocks.  I collected some of the seed from them, and if I can find the safe place I put it in, I may be able to sow it this year.

This dated stone is a lintel above a door in my longere.  It must have originally come from another building somewhere because it doesn't quite fit the rest of the doorway.

This is a gate bell with a cockerel on top which I particularly like.  And the rusty door furniture on the faded paint door.  Everywhere I look there is something interesting which I hadn't noticed before.  I think that walking around with a camera makes you concentrate on really looking.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday, 11 February 2010 - Birds in the snow

We've had a snowfall overnight which has continued this morning and there's now just over an inch of the white stuff lying over my garden world.  There have been lots of visitors to the bird table this morning.

This is a baby starling and I like him so much that I'm posting another photo of him with his back to me turning round.

I hadn't seen much of my little robin for the last few days, but he's been here most of this morning taking advantage of all the good things on the bird table tray.

Here is the same robin a moment later stretching up so he becomes tall and thin - funny isn't it?

A male chaffinch arrived on the table and with his head feathers slightly raised he looks like a punk - very cute in the falling snow.

One of the regular blackbirds who visit the garden since I have the bird table here and well-stocked with tasty titbits.

There is a lot of folklore surrounding the magpie. A rhyme which I’ve shown below, was used to tell fortunes in the eighteenth century and then updated in more modern times with the use of bus tickets. The numbers on the top of the bus ticket were added together and then divided by seven. The remaining number was then used with the rhyme below to see what fate had in store.  l still can't get a really decent photograph of a magpie – but here’s this morning’s attempt, while he was sitting on my neighbour's garage ridge tiles.

One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for girl and
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told
Eight for a dream and
Nine for a wish

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday, 10 February 2010 - This morning's birds and one cat by the fireplace

We had a very light snowfall overnight and in addition to that it was freezing, so a crisp white sugar coating over the garden this morning.  This disappeared almost completely before midday with the morning supnshine.  The afternoon was miserable, with the odd snow and sleet shower and it's bitter in the wind.  I put out crumbled bread which I had fried in bacon fat and yesterday's catfood, together with grated cheese, bread crusts and boiled potatoes cut in half.  The bluetits were down on the table before I had got inside the door.

There were two little brown birds on the garden wall and one on the terrace floor beneath the wall and the first was a house sparrow - Passer domesticus. 

The second was a dunnock - Prunella modularis, which has much more in the way of grey plumage.

I am not a really a bird person and have only really "discovered" birds while I've been photographing the garden and am thoroughly enjoying them with the aid of a reference book written in French.  It's a good job photographs are not language dependant!  Luckily, I have a good friend in England connected to the RSPB who confirms my identification if I am in any doubt.  I first met him on a morning when he was netting and ringing birds for future identification, when my younger son was a member  of the Young Ornithologists Club in Gloucester, England.

This is a great tit - Parus major, who kept coming back again and again, and I managed to catch him as he turned round to see the movement I had made.  There seem to be so many great tits and blue tits around at the moment.
The next little brown bird was below the birdtable on the terrace floor picking up dropped food.  She is a female chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs.

And here is a male chaffinch - not taken today, but on 9 January this year in the snow, just so you can see how showy he is compared with his counterpart.


And then there was a blackbird - Turdus merula, on the wall. I just love the yellow ring round his eye.

Here is his counterpart, browner than she looks in the falling snow, a young female blackbird, again taken on 9 January this year.

Lastly for today, not a bird, but Daisy, pretending she has no legs, on the rug in front of the woodburner.  We've just had another minor snowfall and I'm just hoping it won't be too bad out there when I wake up in the morning.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday, 8 February 2010 - Birds in my oak tree

This morning has been incredibly frustrating.  There have been so many different birds in my oak tree, but the light is terrible and I am just too far away for clear pictures.  It is almost foggy here today and chilly and if I try to capture the birds from inside I am getting flash reflection as, on automatic, the camera is insisting on using flash.  I haven't yet worked out how to turn it off and obviously don't need it for a subject so far away.

This is a woodpecker - hard to identify, but I think it's a middle spotted woodpecker, Picoides medius.  I was trying to photograph a magpie when I suddenly noticed the movement and then realised that there were two woodpeckers in the oak tree.

This is a treecreeper, Certhia familiaris - but very hard to see I'm afraid.  The quality is so poor I didn't know if it was worth posting really, but I've never photographed one before, so I was quite excited.

There have also been magpies, Pica pica, which I find impossible to photograph well as they fly off as soon as they notice the slightest movement, but I have posted one below. Also blackbirds, blue and great tits, a robin, sparrows and starlings have visited this morning.  I often have jays in the tree too, and frequently they are on the ground below the oak tree.  We have a lot of jays here in Brittany - I hardly saw any in England, but here there are small flocks of them everywhere.

The mother of my neighbour in the house with the tower will be here later in the week and I think I may ask her if I can go into their garden to take photographs during the day when her son is at work.  They have a huge garden, away from the house at the end of our shared drive, with lots of trees and I think I may be able to take some good photographs in there, especially when it warms up a bit and I feel like being outside again.

Magpie in flight - it's tail pretty much doubles the length of the bird.
And another bluetit, Parus caeruleus, because I can never resist them, they are so cheeky.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

My neighbours and the village - Living in 22, Brittany, France

Right - just to explain a little about where I live and what I have around me.

On my birthday, 12 April 2006, I completed on the purchase of a derelict house in a very  small hamlet in Department 22, Cote d'Armor in Brittany, France.   I'll do a post of the way it was then and how it is now at a later time.   My hamlet has just seven other dwellings.  Four are permanently occupied by Breton families and I'm pleased to say that the people who live in them are very friendly and have welcomed me into their community. 

The house the other side of my garage/studio is owned by an Englishman who hasn't been seen for ages, his post is piling up in his garden and the front door is beginning to take on the look of Sleeping Beauty's castle entrance.  I think perhaps he has retreated back to the UK.    There is a house the other way down the lane, a holiday home, owned by a couple from England who visit for about eight weeks a year.  Down the lane from them is a house with a small lake, no longer lived in, but maintained by the son of the man who did live there. 

There is a large house set back from the top lane with a lake owned by a cattle dealer and his artist wife.  The large stoned house (below) is owned by a lovely French couple who come roughly every eight weeks and stay for about three.  They are the same age and me and we have the same sense of humour and get on very well. 

The house with the tower is lived in by a single young French farmer, the same age as my eldest son, who supplies me with wood for my woodburner.  

This is the house of Vand M from the UK, again in this January's snow. 

There is stone cross at the top of my lane, called a calvaire - it doesn't always have a rainbow to set it off.  

200 metres up the lane leading off to the left, is my very small smallholding with goats, Basil and Betsy, hens and my goose, Grace.   I have a small barn for the animals as well as individual houses for them.  There's a standing polytunnel and a collapsed polytunnel, which succumbed to the heavy snowfall in January, several outside veggie beds, my runner bean frame and lots of compost bins.  I have yet to decide the fate of the collapsed tunnel.

Sunday, 7 February 2010 - Animals rule OK!

A very grey still morning when we went up to trim the flight feathers off one of Grace's wings.  This is in an attempt to keep her in the two fields nearest to the barn, as she has a predeliction for the far field when her Mum was taken by the fox last week. 
She behaved very well, with no hissing, and should now be practically flightless.

I tried to take some photographs of my goats, Betsy and Basil, but they were more interested in their food trough.   Here they are last year with some of my laying hens.
Betsy and Basil became parents in May when they had Archie, who was the most beautiful and happy little goat.  Sadly, something, we never found out  what, killed Archie last summer.  A very sad day.

Archie was the sweetest little goat and whenever I sat down up on the field he jumped on my lap to cuddle down - he was perhaps more like a dog than a goat.  It's very strange but I'm afraid a lot of my animals have lipstick marks on their heads!