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, July 15, 2011

Cats, Mussels and a Castle

As I finished my book yesterday, I have dug out the book club book I have to read next, which is A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly.  This year we chose to read the TV Book Club books from the previous year, partly because it is easier than everyone trying to get to a unanimous decision on a myriad of novels and partly because they are heavily discounted throught the TV Book Club. 

We added three other random books to make up the necessary amount, to take us through the whole year, but I couldn't get hold of this month’s book,  Hold Tight by Harlan Coben, so shan't be reading that.  However, I won’t be recovered enough to go to July's group meeting anyway so that’s worked out well.

There’s no meeting in August as so many people are away or have guests staying. So I shall be well in time for the September meeting.

Another quite sunny day here with a tiny bit of breeze after a misty start. I hadn't seen the weather forecast, but optimistically hung out the washing and it's drying well.  I have one of those brilliant ceiling airers in the kitchen, so can always dry things overnight without a problem whatever the weather.

The cats finally woke up from there sleep on a settee, and I sat out watching them playing in the garden, while I ate a late breakfast of crispy bacon, fried bread and fried tomatoes and taking a few photographs.

A pair of pink poppies and single poppy in the driveway, and opposite the poppies marigolds.

It was lucky that the washing dried by just after lunch, as it suddenly poured with rain, really hard, like stair rods, and then just as quickly stopped again.  The weather has been very strange for the last few weeks.  Hard to know what it's going to do from hour to hour.

I cut back the delphinium that had been so wonderful from April to June, to a few stalks at the end of June, and it is already shooting again.  I wonder if I'll have more of those fantastic flower spikes later this year.

This evening Moules Marinière is on the menu for supper.  I make it with mussels, chopped shallots or onions, garlic, Muscadet wine, parsley, seasoning and a good tub of full cream.  Here are the ingredients set out ready for me to start cooking.

This was a meal which my children loved from an early age, and when I lived in Cornwall we used to pick mussels, each filling a small popcorn bucket with the lovely purple shells,  from the rocks on Porthluney beach just below the wonderful Caerhays Castle, owned and lived in by the Williams family. 

The Williams family were responsible for many of the new camellia varieties in the last century and some of these wonderful plants are in the castle grounds.  They also have Highland cattle in the grounds too, with  huge horns and wonderful dark rust coloured coats which gleam like burnished copper in the sunshine.

The Fourteenth of July - Bastllle Day, Veggies and a Surprise Visitor

It was Bastille Day here yesterday and very quiet outside with no-one going to work on this public holiday, so no traffic.  Not that the village is usually busy, but it was really quiet.  It was also a beautifully sunny day and I spent the beginning of the morning in the veggie plot where I have onions, broad beans, courgettes, spinach, beetroot, celery, parsnip plants, butternut squash, woad and strawberries.    The strawberry plants are just flowering again, so a second crop is on the way.  I can't remember the variety and the label has blown away.  There are also some soft fruit bushes, but they are not productive.  I brought back home spinach which I had for lunch with the veal liver I bought yesterday.  I also picked broad beans and courgettes.  I had the broad beans as a starter for supper and they were lovely.  I may grow more of them next year, they're no trouble and give such a good crop.

I wiled away the beginning of the afternoon outside in the garden reading the last chapters of The Family Way.   There were swallows swooping in and out of the garden and it was really pleasant out there with Purrdy lying asleep between my feet.  The hollyhocks seem to have flowered overnight - I'm sure they weren't out yesterday.

It look as if I need to sweep up round the terrace plants.  I tend to pop out for a moment, deadhead and drop them on the floor before going back inside again.  I ought to have a bucket with me, but it's always a spur of the moment thing.  You can see all my empty egg cartons piled up on the kitchen windowsill, waiting to be filled with duck and hen eggs.  Unfortunately, I only have three laying hens  at the moment, as I'm waiting for two lots of chicks to come up to point of lay which will at different times during August.

This is a photo of the Escholzia - Californian Poppy, spilling out onto the shingle by the staddlestone.

I've cheated here, because this was the day before yesterday, with Purrdy have a little clean up on the rain sprinkled table I was reading at.

My two sunflowers from the terrace.  From inside the sitting room I can see the sunlight through the leaves and petals which is really lovely and I'll think I'll grow some under the window again next year as they don't seem to take the light away at all.

Have you ever picked up something thinking it was something else?  Well the night before last, when I went up to bed, I thought I was picking up a small toad or frog from the landing.  I assumed the cats must have brought it in, and I thought I'll just pop it outside by the pond.  As I gently wrapped my hand around it, it tried to fly away!  It was a little bat - a pipistrelle I think.  I placed it on the outer pane of the Velux window and closed the window.  This morning it had gone, hopefully to somewhere safe and without cats.

My oldest son had a study day yesterday, for an exam today, but having given it a good go yesterday, he realised that he wasn't ready for the exam after all, and is arranging to take it the next time they offer it.  I know he wanted to get it under his belt, and I'm so proud that he was mature enough to assess the situation and act appropriately.  It's not easy to admit you're not ready for something.  So good luck next time round, Matthew.

I took the last of the Buff Sussex chicks up to the field run yesterday and when I went to put the ducks and hens away last night, she had managed to get  partly through the stones which make a safe area at the bottom of the run.  Her head was through but not her body and she seemed unable to get back.  I knew she would be bullied, being smaller than the other chicks, but not that she would made a suicidal bid for freedom.  Lucky I spotted her.  I popped her into the chick house and when I went back this morning she was still in the house, so at least had not been kicked out overnight.  Hens can be horrid to weaker/smaller members of the flock.  When you have chickens you certainly understand the derivation of the phrase "pecking order"! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Powercut and Cats in the Garden

I came downstairs this morning, loaded and switched on the dishwasher and switched on two sets of lights.  I walked out to feed the rabbits and chicks and on the way back to the house went into the gym/utility barn to feed the tropical fish.  Their tank was not illuminated.  I pressed the light switch – no light.  I check the fusebox for downed switches but they were all in the up position.  I went back into my house and no comforting hum from the dishwasher and no lights.  We had a power cut.  When there’s a power cut I like to check this out with someone else in the village to make sure it’s not just my electricity supply which is down, but no-one was home, except for Sylvie my neighbour who works nights, so going to see her early in the morning isn’t an option. 

I read in the garden for an hour joined by Purrdy who climbed up onto the pergola above my head and disturbed raindrops from the clematis and honeysuckle which fell on me and dampened the pages of my book.  By 9.30am – an hour later - I decided to go shopping.

Yesterday I heard from my surgeon that my mini gastric bypass was to be postponed until Monday because of a shortage of anaesthetists during the holiday period.  So I have a few more days to enjoy a bit of high living in the food department.

This morning I went shopping for food to take me through some of those extra days I now have before going into hospital. 

Beautiful, ripe, vine tomatoes were on offer at a ridiculously cheap price, and they smelled seriously tomatoey, so I bought a big bagful to make some sauce, as mine in the polytunnel won’t be ready in quantity for a few weeks yet.

As I arrived home, Sylvie was in the lane.  I stopped the car and simultaneously we each asked the other if we had electricity and then laughed.  I suggested that as she is French and can be better understood than I can that she use her mobile to contact EDF to see if they knew about the powercut.

So – all that food and no fuel to cook it – frustrating eh?  I put three Weetabix into a bowl and drowned them with milk and sprinkled them with sugar.  No bacon for breakfast today then.

I’m not sure how long my battery lasts on this laptop.  I’ve just checked and I currently have 2hrs and 28 minutes, and now Sylvie’s arrived with news about the powercut.

There has been some sort of accident which has cut the power, but, and you have to understand that only in France could this happen, they are switching the power back on at 12.00pm so people can cook their lunches!   They’ll try to keep it on for an hour, they’re not sure.  Then it will be off until 5.30pm. 

If you don’t have experience of France you may not know, but at midday sirens sounds in all the towns and lunch starts.  Workmen drop their tools where they stand and leave for two hours for their lunchtime.  Shops close, the streets become like streets in ghost towns and people just disappear inside to dining tables across the land.  When I first arrived here, I constantly forgot this and would drive 20-25 minutes to my nearest diy store for supplies only to find the doors shut and that I had a two hour wait until 2.00pm in the car park.  You’d think I’d have remembered after the first time, but I didn’t.  Time and time again I’d have to make the decision to turn around and go home or sit it out.  I learned to leave a book in the car permanently so I always had something to pass the time.  In the larger supermarkets, which don’t close, it’s a wonderful time to shop as there’s no competition for browsing counters and no wait at the checkout.

So – we may have power for lunchtime and then nothing this afternoon which is a real pain as I have loads of things I want to do, all of which involve electricity, for instance both my mobiles are nearly out of battery and need charging, laundry etc. etc.   That’s the trouble with modern life.  At least I’m slightly better off than Sylvie, who has electric shutters on her windows which she closes every night.  They shut out every pinpoint of light and so she’s in pitch black over in her house until midday. 

I have stood out in the lane with my mobile, walking around until I found a signal, and called my friends who live about 3 miles away.  Sylvie was out there too trying to make contact with the outside world! They have electricity, so after lunch I’ll pop over there for a cup of coffee and to continue using and simultaneously charging the laptop.

My little hamlet is a very quiet, calm place, hardly any noise except for birds and the lunchtime siren which you can just hear from the town three miles away, if the wind is in the right direction.  However, today is it very, very noisy.  Men with very big red machines are resurfacing the road.  This is one of them - a grader apparently.

I’ve never seen so many big machines at once.  They started on Monday, but disappeared for the whole of yesterday and now they are back in full force.  We have had some terrible potholes after the last two seriously snowy winters, so it will be lovely to drive along without having to negotiate the worst of them.

Well – midday came and went without the promised lunchtime electricity supply.  I went out into the lane to see if anyone knew anything and our two English holiday home owners were chatting to Sylvie and have arrived to spend a shortened month in St André. 

Sylvie’s shutters were still firmly closed and her three daughters were all fast asleep still, having not been woken by daylight!

I had coffee with my holidaying English neighbours as they have a gas cooker and could boil water.  We caught up with events since they were here around New Year.   I then went on to my friends to charge my laptop and have some coffee.  When I returned at 4.35pm, via the veggie patch, we had electricity again – thank goodness.  I picked some spinach and runner beans, the first runner beans this year, and will look forward to having them with my supper.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Friday and Weekend Things

Yesterday was one of those on and off rainy days.  I like to take photographs when the rain has just stopped or when the light is not so bright as I think the colours of flowers are more enhanced or less drained. 
This is one of the sunflowers growing up past my sitting room window - finally opened in the little bit of sunshine we had.

My neighbour's blue hydrangea in the driveway.

An orange Marigold in my garden.

A neighbour's pink Hydrangea in the driveway.

A yellow marigold in my driveway.

Crocosmia Lucifer in the border.  It's such a vibrant red - I love it.

And a close up of one bloom.

I'm still reading "Choral Society", but have a trilogy to read by Stieg Larsson, which have just arrived from ebay.

I'm going to save these until after my hospital stay.  I think I need some lighter reading for that and I may also try to see if I still have some talking books on CD which I can take in.  In June I took "A Year in the Merde" by Stephen Clarke, but wasn't very keen on it.  I also took in "Billy" by Pamela Stephenson which I did enjoy.   I love reading, but when you're not feeling absolutely up to par, it's quite pleasant to lie back and listen to someone read to you.

On Friday I was treated to lunch by friends from the Bowls Club.  Here they are trying to choose what to eat.

I had lunch out again today, this time with friends from my Writers' Group and a couple of husbands came too.  You can see I finished my meal - there won't be any more meals like this for a very, very long time..    I'm very grateful for the support that I'm getting regarding my bypass from both groups of friends.

And lastly, a photograph to show how Purrdy has grown in the few weeks that she's lived here with us. 

Three things I like:

1.   Eating with friends.
2.   Purrdy going to sleep on my chest while I watch television.
3.   Getting into bed at the end of the day.