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.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saturday, 18 December 2010 Déjà Vu in St André

It has again been snowing through the night and is still snowing as I write at around 13.00 hours here in Brittany.  When I finally got up this morning at 09.00 hours the sunrise was still in progress, so I rushed downstairs - as fast as the stairlift would take me - grabbed my camera and took these photographs through the spare bedroom window.

Over the wall into my neighbour's garden.  Sylviane lost a tree in February last year with the weight of the snow and I think there will be many more trees lost around here this year again.

The sky changes so fast, just like trying to catch sunset, you have to be very quick or it's gone.

And two from yesterday.  The greenfinch on the bird table was taken from too far back in my sitting room and through a fairly grubby windowpane, but it looked so yellow I couldn't resist.

This is Daisy "plodding" on the red velour rug she sits on to dream about catching the birds on the bird table.

A rare sound in the lane as my neighbour drives his tractor with hay for the horses out in the field.  We are completely cut off from the rest of the world now except by tractor and quad bike.  I feel that the weather has changed in this part of the world, and that perhaps we have to accept that we are going to have snow for a good part of the winter months now and in the future. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday, 16 December 2010 Snow is coming soon

Sometimes, like this evening, the rain hits the landing window so hard that it’s as if someone is breaking in - I have to mute the television to check for the more rhythmic background sound. It’s black out there tonight – no moon, no stars can be seen. The only illumination is that of the sitting room lights reaching out into the garden but failing to brighten anything but the immediate terrace and garden walls.

And now snow is forecast again. We will have more of the white flakes, which imprison the village and encourage the women to cook comfort food and the men to stack the logs high in the hearths. I love the way it covers the imperfections and makes everything outside beautiful and new. I hate the way it threatens my family travelling from England to me here in Brittany for Christmas.

I can’t bear to drive in the snow, I’m too frightened of sliding off the road, or of some other driver driving into me. My friend has offered to drive up to the port to collect my daughter and grandson whatever the weather. I just have to keep my fingers crossed that it not too bad for them to get to the port in England and that it’s not too bad even for him to drive here – I just have to keep them crossed that the snow disappears as fast as it arrives.  This was less than three weeks ago looking from my west window:

I loved it when I was small and my father built a snowman for me in the garden, buttoned and eyed with small pieces of coal and Dad's old allotment flat cap on the snowball head. I loved it when my children were small and they sledged down the fields near our home. I love the pictures I am sent of my grandson sledging down the hill of the College my children attend now. But now, if I’m honest, I am not keen on snow because I have to rely on others helping with my animals and helping me. My neighbour, with my interest at heart, bans me from walking outside in case I fall and need more looking after, and it makes me feel older than I am. 

I love the bird photos I can take though, with the background of snow they are contrasted well and the snow stops them blending into the background.  I like too, the muffled silence that thick snow creates, waking up and feeling that nothing is happening out there at all because the quiet is all enveloping.

But - roll on spring and warm, sunny days!

Twelve hours later - update - snow is here this morning - here's photo of a chaffinch in the latest fall.

and over the wall

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday, 12 December 2010 Breathing machine, Pumpkins and Jess

There was another quiz on Friday night at La Vallée in St Gilles Vieux Marché. It’s always an enjoyable and good value evening. For €5 we have the quiz evening and a one plate meal. This time it was chicken in a cider sauce with chips. The chicken was very good, and the chips were superb. I rarely eat chips now, but could never leave even one of these they are just perfectly cooked. The atmosphere at these quizzes is excellent and they’re brilliantly organized and run by Andrea and Vic. I had my camera in my bag, but completely forgot to take a photograph – typical.

I now have an oxygen extractor, which adds pure oxygen to my sleep apnoea breathing machine. It works by taking in air and extracting just the oxygen to pass to my usual breathing machine and is an alternative to an oxygen cylinder to someone who only needs oxygen at night. The extractor is very noisy and because of this it can’t be in the same room as the user - me. To this end, it has a 10 metre hose and is sited in the adjacent bedroom.

The mini gastric bi-pass which I am probably due to have in March, will eventually result in sufficient weight loss for me to abandon both machines, but for the moment the hose snakes across both bedroom floors under the doors and across the landing. If it were to be a more permanent fixture then we’d drill the wall and pass the hose through. In fact, I have tripped over it so many times in the three days I’ve had it here that I may well get a hole drilled anyway.

The weather has been warmer over the last two days, reaching a heady 8°C yesterday. However, because the skies are clear at night with wonderful star displays, the temperature is really dropping through the dark hours. When I feed the birds first thing in the morning any food still left on the table is frozen solid to it and the water container is too. It’s also strange walking outside where the normally loose gravel/shingle is frozen into a one piece slab.

Friday was a sad day for my friends Flick and Andy whose lovely collie dog, Jess, had her last ever visit to the vet. Andy buried her in the garden along with all her toys and bowls.

She was a fetching dog, in more than one sense. Good looking and constantly wanting to have things thrown for her. She will be very missed.

I have often grown pumpkins, but only used them for Halloween, cut out like a face with a candle inside. Today I decided to make pumpkin soup. No accurate measuring necessary, I just made it up as I went along.

I poured some olive oil into a baking tray and placed peeled large chunks of pumpkin in it, plus two peeled and quartered onions, and four cloves of garlic peeled and left whole, then seasoned it all before putting in the oven to cook until the pumpkin was soft and the onions just catching on the edges.

I then poured all the contents of the baking tray, including the juices, into a saucepan and blitzed it. I brought it to the boil while adding some chicken stock and milk to get the consistency I wanted. Checked the seasoning and served with warmed buttered French bread. It was a delicious colour, tasted scrumptious and I shall never waste a morsel of pumpkin again.

I washed off and kept some of the seeds from the pumpkin to use again for next year’s harvest.

I am an obsessive seed collector and can never go past plants with seeds, wherever they are, without grasping a seed pod and putting it into my fleece pocket. My dresser, is full of envelopes labelled with notes like “From Bruno’s road frontage – yellow, tall daisy flowers – 2010”. I have a whole mug full of poppy seeds from various plants which I shall scatter at the appropriate time next year, just as I did this year. They made a lovely display along the drive.  The roundabouts here all have lovely flowering plants on them and last year I collected many different types of marigold from a mini roundabout in St Nicolas and they were mixed in with the poppies along the drive.  This summer/autumn two of the borders in St Nicolas had ruby chard growing and on one of the small roundabouts there were pumpkins - lovely!

It’s seriously dark in the mornings here now. It doesn’t really get light until about 8.50am and even after that and through the morning it’s necessary to have the lights on inside the house. In general, I am extravagant with lights and one of my friends never fails to comment on the number switched on when he comes round. Even if they’re not entirely necessary, I feel cosier and happier when I have lots of different lights about, twelve ceiling spots, one pendant light, seven wall uplighters, several under cupboard lights and two table lamps in the downstairs room, which is my kitchen as well as my sitting room. Two wall lights are not in use as one falls behind the dresser and one comes in the middle of my book shelves. I like the different light each type gives, and perhaps it’s also because I miss the sun so much at this time of year. In the kitchen area, the wall lights, pendant and ceiling lights are not on at the moment, but all the rest are – I think light often makes a room. I know it’s not particularly green, none of my lights have energy saving bulbs for various reasons, but I am reasonably economical with electricity in other spheres of my life.

One last photograph, a young robin, who was sitting on my garden wall with his Mum yesterday, but I could never see the two of them together when I had a camera in my hand.  I just love him, his feathers seem still mixed with down and he's so sweet.

Three beautiful things:

1.   Speaking on the 'phone to someone you haven't spoken to for ages.
2.   Receiving a photo of my three children and grandson together, at last.
3.   Getting the first Christmas cards of this year in my postbox.