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 10, 2011

My 100th post and one I wish I didn't feel the need to make

Today, 10 December, is my middle child’s birthday.  I haven’t seen him for several years.  It has been a difficult relationship for many years, but the last few years have left me not being able to see him at all.  It’s as if I’m dead to him.  He hasn’t seen or spoken to his father for the last thirteen years either, so I know he is capable of never being with me again.  It makes me so sad because I love him so much.  

One of my friends tragically lost her son, of a similar age to mine, this Autumn.  I had always felt we had something in common with our sons, and now her boy is dead.  Not seeing my son is, almost, as if he’s died.  He wants no contact with me and it’s very hard to bear.  There seems to be nothing I can do and it breaks my heart.  There are times when I cannot stop crying, days when all I want to do is hold him close and tell him I love him.  It is twenty-six years since I gave birth to him at five minutes past nine in the morning.  I would give anything to have him back in my life.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cheese, Heinz Tomato Soup, Basil the Goat and Veggie Garden Produce

I was in my local supermarket last week looking at goats’ cheeses when a much younger woman asked me, in French, what she could buy which was like Brie.  She then asked if camembert would do.  I replied that it was certainly a soft cheese like brie but was much stronger in taste and smell.  I asked her if she was French as it seemed a strange question for a French person to ask.  Yes, she replied, she was French – she must have known from my first sentence that I was not French.  I looked further along the chilled gondola and saw brie – two different sorts – President and SuperU’s own brand.  I pointed them out to her and she took the President, smiled and walked to the checkout.  Bizarre.

I am really missing cheese.  I have religiously stayed away from milk, cream and cheese since the Saturday before last.  On Tuesday night, I added some Heinz Tomato Soup to half a bowl of homemade soup, only to read the label after I’d eaten it and found in the ingredient list, dried skimmed milk, milk proteins and cream.,,!  And, I am still really missing cheese.  There are some schools of thought which say that you can eat cheese and possibly yoghurt in small quantities as they are thicker and even lactose intolerant people can sometimes get away with it.  As I'd inadvertently eaten the lactose in the soup, I indulged in three thin strips of cheddar from a block in the fridge.  I might as well have problems for something I really enjoyed.  Although I hoped I  wouldn't have too many problems on Wednesday as I was going to Yves Le Foll hospital in St Brieuc to see my bypass consultant.

Other things I always bring back from England when I visit are:

I usually add the Oxo chicken stock to soups, if I haven't just roasted a chicken, and have to have Colman's English mustard with my Christmas boiled bacon joint.  Bisto is what I like to use with the meat juices when I do a roast.  I'm sure I should only want "jus" as I am in France, but I like a good gravy with Original Bisto powder.  I've never used granules or flavours like onion.  I like to have a slice of bread in my gravy after I've finished my roast, because my gravy is so delicious!

Last night my physio came and gave my neck and shoulder a good going over.  I haven't got too many problems at the moment, thank goodness, but my prescription, has to be used up before it expires, so I am indulging myself with a visit a week from her until they are finished.  We were looking and feeling the collar bone on the right front of my neck at the end of the parathyroidectomy scar.  The bone seems unusually prominent and I'm wondering if I should be worrying, I might mention it to my GP when I see her again.

This morning my worker and I were up on the field.  Andy was wheelbarrowing earth and stones, which we dug out of the parking in the summer, to cover the muddy exit/entrance from the barn at the goat end.  We have now put the hens and ducks in the goat field because of the quagmire in their own area.  When I go down in the evening to put the birds away, Basil and Betsy, the goats are always in the hen end of the barn.  This means they have to crawl through a very small pophole in the dividing gate, but they do manage it.  Here's Basil on his way through as I was leaving the barn.

Andy was clearing out the hen overnight shed and putting the wheelbarrow contents in the compost bins - should be some good stuff in them next year to spread on the veggie beds and in the polytunnel.

I'd gone up to the field to collect some more veggies.  The butternut squash were harvested and are being stored in the polytunnel, so I only have to collect them, but the parsnips, carrots and beetroot are still in the ground.  I suppose I should dig them out before the frost and snow freeze the ground.   I made a soup when I got back to the house with chicken stock from the chicken I roasted yesterday, the butternut squash, garlic, onions, carrots and parsnips - I had some about ten minutes ago and it was lovely and there's enough for about a week with a bowl or two a day.

When I came out of the barn, I turned round and amazingly my rhubarb plants are all shooting and there are even some new leaves.

Three things I like:

1.   Watching Basil, who has a very large girth, squeezing through the bird pophole.
2.   Being interested in cooking again.
3.   Realising how much more energy I have now I've lost 79 pounds in twenty weeks.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Parsnips and Purrdy

Parnsnips are one of the veggies I buy frequently in the supermarket here.  When I first came to live here in 2006, it seemed very difficult to find them.  I remember, not then knowing the French for parsnip, now I know it's "panais", that I described them as being like a long whitish yellow carrot to the checkout girl.  I use them almost every week in soups and roasted on for Sunday lunch and love their sweet taste.

I found this article with photograph today in the online site, written by Stephen Clarke:

"France, has steadfastly ignored the parsnip, despite its succulence, a sort of sweet potato tenderness with an almost citrus tang. It is one of those vegetables, like turnips and swede, that the French classify as animal fodder.  This ignorance is largely due, like so much else in the French consciousness, to wartime trauma. During World War Two, food shortages forced many people to eat things they would otherwise have turned their sophisticated noses up at, like turnips, swedes and parsnips. So after the war, they rejected them as a bad memory.

However, things are finally changing in France. Maybe it has something to do with the dire economic situation, but over the past few months, the French have at last begun coming to terms with the idea that the human intestine can digest parsnips even in peacetime. And it’s all thanks to the Brits. This year, we have managed to flood their supermarkets with packets of parsnip crisps, and their popularity in fried form is the only explanation I can find for the raw parsnip’s sudden appearance in my local market. I am talking about ordinary market fruit and veg stalls in a fairly poor part of the north of Paris, not organic health-food fairs down in the Latin Quarter. The parsnip really has arrived, albeit in a minor way — they still fetch three times the price of potatoes, and are only on two stalls out of about thirty."

Today turned out to be mostly sunny but interspersed with short, hard showers of rain. I took this photo of the evening sky from the end of the garden while I was putting the rabbits to bed. Let's hope the old adage of "Red sky at night, Shepherds' delight" bodes well for tomorrow.

On Mondays, because my cleaner usually comes, the plot is to pop downstairs and clear the ashes out of the bottom of the woodburner and clean the glass and light the fire, before going back upstairs and having my shower. I love my woodburner!

I did this today, then had a 'phone call saying that my worker wouldn't be in and so his wife, my cleaner, won't be in either. I had to drive straight up to the field to do the animals, which I did in my pyjamas, and never got upstairs again to shower and change. It's not often I have a pyjama day - well not often enough!

In fact, my cleaner did pop in just to stack some more logs to keep me going until Wednesday.  So I had a lovely, lazy day in the warm reading other people's blogs and following up things they mentioned.  Sometimes it was difficult to concentrate as Purrdy was lying behind my laptop and occasionally attacking the screen.

She is so gorgeous and with the sun shining through the window behind her the halo effect on head fur and whiskers is really good.

I forgot to post this last night.  It poured with rain again here all night, but as a result it is much milder here than further south where they had a clear night and frost.  It is a lovely sunny morning and I've had to move my chair so the sun isn't shining in my eyes.

Purrdy has been chilling out on the back of the sofa again.  I love the way she just flops.

Sunshine and showers again today after another rainy night.  I have to find a way of getting the hens and ducks into a different field as the mud was lethal there again last night and this morning.   Perhaps I can sort something out when my worker comes tomorrow before I go to see the gastric bypass consultant in the afternoon.  I'm hoping we'll come home with an electric garage door opener so that I can start putting the Peugeot in the garage.  At the moment, when I go out each morning the inside of the windscreen is really wet and needs a very good wipe before I can drive safely up to the field or to the shops.

Three things I like:

1.   Bacon and egg for breakfast this morning - first time since my op twenty weeks ago.
2.   Buying two used 1000 litre water containers on the net, one for my garden and one to add to those collecting water on the field.
3.   Finding my spare camera battery - at last!