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.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The First Hour of a February Day in 2012

Lowering my buttocks onto the lavatory seat was a tentative move as, seeing the ice crystals which had formed on the Velux window in roof of the bathroom, I knew the seat would be freezing cold.  After I had switched the light on, I had pulled the cord for the electric fan heater on my way through the door and because of the smallness of the room within a minute or so the space was already getting up to an acceptable temperature.   I looked at my watch – it was five past eight.

Living alone, I rarely shut and never lock the bathroom door.   A couple of years ago I was very ill with an acute gallbladder episode and have never locked the door since, as I had needed outside help; and I now also keep a ‘phone handset on the shelf between the basin and loo which I change for the fully charged one in my bedroom every three days. 

I heard feline footsteps running up the stairs and almost immediately a small furry head butted the door and in bounced the youngest of my cats, Purrdy.  She wove in and out of my legs, brushing her cheeks firmly against them.  She was by nature a silent cat apart from a loud purr, never meowing and with a weak, useless growl.  I picked her up holding her like a baby.  She didn’t like being held upside down with her legs in the air, but tolerated it long enough to have her neck tickled and scratched all the way round.

Each day the buckle on her bright red flea collar worked its way around her neck to rest under her chin and I moved it 180 degrees and then scratched the bit where it had been nestling into the fur.  The cat relaxed its head backwards and closed her eyes as if the experience was so ecstatic that she needed to concentrate on it fully and not be distracted by anything she might see.  Then suddenly she jerked up off her back and without a backwards glance jumped off my lap.  She walked to the open door and cautiously looked out onto the landing and down the stairs.  I picked up an empty toilet roll cardboard inner from the shelf and threw it onto the white tiled floor.  Immediately the cat came back into the bathroom and pounced on the new toy, putting one of her front paws through the tube.  She then walked two paces from it and sat down.  A few seconds later she turned round and, as if she had never seen the tube before, jumped on to it and lying on her side gathered it into her tummy fur, kicking the life out of it with her back paws.

More footsteps on the stairs, and then a low growl could be heard on the landing.  My older, mainly white cat, Daisy, peeped cautiously round the leading edge of the door.  Immediately the smaller cat jumped on the intruding head.   Then they were locked in combat and little bits of hair were floating in the air above them.  I shouted at them and they moved out onto the landing and started fighting again.  It was a familiar scene, re-enacted pretty much each morning.  Within minutes they all would be downstairs and once I had put down the plate of cat food in front of the Aga, the two cats would be companionably eating from the same dish with no thoughts of aggression.

While the cats were eating, I pulled two sheets of kitchen paper from the catering size roll on the work surface and opening the under sink cupboard took out the fire glass cleaner and a sponge with a soft scouring side.  I opened the door to the woodburner and sprayed the glass with foam.  Six pages of a French newspaper, brought round by my Breton neighbour, were then crumpled and put into the base of the woodburner, followed by four pieces of firelighter and four pieces of kindling directly above the firelighters.  The kindling, which filled two bays of the woodshed, had, in a previous life, been part of the roofs of the four houses I had renovated over the last five years.  It was bone dry and once the newspaper had been lit with a large black gas lighter, it soon took flame and ignited the two split logs which I had placed on top of the laths.  Before lighting the paper, I used the soft scourer to take off the sooty deposit on the glass and then wiped the dirty foam away with the kitchen paper.  The whole cleaning process took about thirty seconds and this was thanks to the small amount of residue left because of the double burn process with this type of woodburner. There were two ways of controlling the air entering the burning space.  Firstly, the handle which closed the door could be left so it was only just catching the frame and there was also another regulator which could be pulled out or pushed in according to the airflow that was needed.  While the fire was beginning to take hold I left everything at full flow, but once the logs had definitely caught then I closed everything down except for the bottom regulator which I left slightly open for five or ten minutes just to make sure.

By the time I had rinsed out the spongy scourer, put the spray away and emptied the dishwasher, it was already warming up to be comfortable. I picked up the digital thermometer by my chair to check the outside and inside temperatures.  Inside the house it had now reached 22.4°C but outside it was -3.6°C and I knew that the animal water containers would need the ice breaking and topping up.

I wrapped a fleecy scarf around my neck tying it under my chin and then put a fleece coat on, zipping it to meet the knot of my scarf.  I had cut the heel and foot part off socks with holes in the heels and now pulled the cuff of the leg part over my hands so they acted as half mittens protecting all but my fingers against the cold.

I added bird seed and the solidified fat from yesterday’s roast to the old cat food plate and took a knife from the cutlery drawer.  Shutting the doors firmly behind me, I scraped the plate onto the bird table and brought in the water containers to wash and refill with slightly warm water.  The sun was already nearly coming over the house next door and would soon raise the outside temperature.  The rabbits were next on the list and when I opened the wire run to their grassed area, they were not sitting there eagerly waiting to come out.  I opened the door to their house and found them all huddled under the main hutch in thick hay.  I poured a small bucket of food onto the floor and then left that area to feed the tropical fish in the utility area.  I had tried to sell the tank, but no-one had answered the advert so it had been relegated to the gym as I’d needed the space in the sitting room.

The cold air was making my nose run and I went back into the house to get a piece of kitchen roll and to collect the two blue plastic bowls on the table.  One contained veggie peelings for the compost bins and the other had left over rice, and cut up broccoli stems and cauliflower leaves for the hens.  I added a fleecy hood to my attractive ensemble and as I walked up the lane to the field, I thought that it was a good job I didn’t care what I looked like.   The foliage along the lane was frosty-edged in white and I put down the bowls on the grassy verge in order to take out the small camera I keep in my coat pocket.  I took several photos to use on my blog later in the day and returned the camera to my pocket.

As soon as I crunched the shingle on the driveway and path to the barn the birds heard and started to talk.  I slipped the combination lock off the door of the barn and stepped into the hen half.  On the other side of the central dividing wire Basil and Betsy, the goats were waiting impatiently for their food, standing on their hind legs against the fence.

I took the lids off the two bins to the right of the door and filled a plastic container with food for the goats which I tipped through the dividing fence.  The goats were always so keen to eat that inevitably some would land on their heads as they dived straight in as the first of the food hit the floor.  Next I opened the pophole in the central fence and then scattered food and layers pellets from the bins onto the straw in the hen area.  I broke the ice in the drinkers and refilled them from the full watering can, which had remained unfrozen in the most sheltered part of the barn.  Another bin next to the henhouse contained stale French bread which I collect weekly from the supermarket bakery.  I broke up two baguettes and put some of the pieces into one of the open drinkers before opening the catches on the henhouse door and letting the poultry into the barn.  The birds all rushed out clucking and squawking eager to get to their breakfast.

Taking a small container of layers pellets and two more baguettes I then left the barn and opened the old hen run gate.  I pulled away the paving stone blocking the pophole to the small henhouse and out came the trio of blue egg layers.  The cockerel shook himself and the long ruff of paler feathers around his neck fell back neatly into place.  His girls always came out after him and they were much more nervous, probably partly because being out in the open meant they were likely to receive the immediate attentions of their husband, who although very handsome is quite forceful!

I poured the layers pellets onto the ground by the henhouse and then opened the galvanized bin and scattered their food next to the pellets.

The next field was the duck area and I opened the gate to their area and slipped the wire holding the duck house door shut and attached it to the fence to hold the door open all day.  Again I poured food onto the ground and then broke the baguettes into small pieces and threw them into the pond.  As I turned round, the last duck, always the lone Muscovy, emerged from the duck house and I popped her head inside to see whether there were any eggs.  There were two, in the far corner of the house.  I bent myself double and managed to reach them and placed them carefully in the pocket without the camera.  All ten ducks were now in the pond, splashing and enjoying themselves.

Returning to the barn, most of the hens were now out in their field and I was able to check whether there were any newly laid eggs in the cat baskets which were now being used for nesting boxes.  There were six, all different colours and sizes, from the motley assortment of hens and bantams I have collected.

I put them into one of the blue bowls which I’d lined with straw from the barn floor and added the two duck eggs - eight beautifully packaged presents. As I walked down the lane with the bowls clutched tightly to my chest the sun broke over the top of the cattle barn past the calvaire and the light brought to life the rusty colours of the leaves and bracken.  Again I felt the need to put down the bowls and take photographs.  As I gathered the bowls to me again, I also picked up a few slim pieces of wood to dry out for yet more kindling – I find it impossible to resist free supplies.  A horse-owning neighbour waved as he drove past in a little white van on his way to feed his  seven horses, each with its own partitioned pasture bordering the lane opposite my own field.

The bouncy little dog from across the road was waiting at the end of the driveway and I said hello to him and told him to wait a moment.  I went into the house and opened the fridge door.  On the middle shelf packaged in foil was a meaty beef bone.  I unwrapped the foil and walked back out to the garden.  Bobby was just outside the door to the driveway and I held out the offering which he took gratefully into his mouth and bounced off to sit and enjoy it in his owner’s flowerbed.


I filled the kettle with enough water for a mug of black, sweet coffee and turned on the laptop and the television.  I filled a glass with chilled water and ice and while the kettle boiled and the laptop booted up, I selected the recorded BBC Breakfast programme and fast forwarded to the weather forecast.  I swilled down my usual morning pills and the laptop screen sprange into life and new emails downloaded.  The clock in the right hand corner of the taskbar read 09.05am.  The weather map showed an area of high pressure coming in from the west over the Atlantic.  The weather girl said that this week was going to get much warmer which was great as it meant I could start sowing and planting in the polytunnel.

Three things I like:

1.   The company of my three cats.
2.   Finding watercress in the supermarket - they don't often have it in stock.
3.   Seeing my newly dug and weeded veggie and flower beds - thanks to my wwoofer.


  1. and I thought my mornings were animal filled...I don't have to walk down a lane though, they are all here around my ankles and in the yard. :))
    Shutting the bathroom door here is futile; I shut it and count, "3,2,1.." and it opens... I've adjusted, but guests aren't quite as accepting of the arrangement! :))))

  2. Hello Melody Luckily I have bathrooms in each of the buildings here and try to keep mine to myself and send guests into the others, especially at the moment with diarrhoea afer my mini gastric bypass!

  3. I guess that's what the problem is.... we've only got the one... I can't hide! ;))))