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, January 7, 2012

The Village during the last couple of days

As usual recently, the weather has been either very wet indeed or lovely sunshine.  The sunsets and the sunrises viewed from the garden and the lane have been lovely.   Here are a few photographs of my trip up to put the animals to bed last night.


This is my absolute favourite photo of the year so far - birds, I think starlings, roosting in poplar trees.  They all swoop in as dusk falls, and the swirls they make in the air are like a ballet.

The roof of my house with the moon and a welcoming window as I approach my driveway.

I have also taken photos of interesting things along the verges. The first fungi are at the end of my flower bank on the driveway and I love the look of them and their rusty colour. The celandine buds are almost opening now and are a lovely bright colour in amongst the autumn leaves which are thick along the roadsides. 

We drove out yesterday in my worker's van to collect animal feed.  In the usual shops it is nearly three times the price.  This farmer mixes his own feed and we get it at a seriously cheaper rate per bag.  I bought it initially for the ducks and hens, but the goats and rabbits love it too, so it's a brilliant buy.  We store it in a corner of the polytunnel as the shed and the caravan are full of hay and straw. 

                                                                                              These will last me about five-six months which is pretty good considering all the animals eat the feed.  It is a mixture of wheat, peas, barley, corn and other thing I can't identify.   I used to feed it to the hens and ducks when I lived in Cornwall and realised that the rabbits were eating it too.  When I moved to St André the goats were in with the hens and I noticed they liked the feed too, so I thought well why not give it to all of them and it works really well only having to buy in one feed.  They have hay too in the winter as do the rabbits.  I also give the hens out of date milk, salad and veggies, and of course, all the animals have the stale bread from the SuperU bakers as well.

The ducks have finally allowed me to see them swimming in their new pond.  They are loving it.

Here, one of the drakes is mating with a Khaki Campbell ducks, so there will be the possibility of ducklings later on when they have their own shelter.  They only mate in water, and the drake practically drowns the female gripping the back neck feathers in their beak and, for a good deal of the act, pushing her head below the water while in flagrante delicto.
Here are some of the chickens.  The first lot are the five Lavender Pekin bantam youngsters, who seem to be thriving.  They are climbing over and pecking goodies out of the earth spoil heap which was a result of digging out the duck pond.

The five Light Sussex birds sneaking into a corner as I approached with the camera.

Then my bantam cockerel, not sure what type he is, and one of my large grey hens who have just spotted chickweed which they love.  I'd just pulled it out of one of the raised veggie beds.

I then walked down the lane and was considering going as far as the little bridge at the end of the village.  However,  two of my neighbours cattle had escaped and although when I first spotted them they were in the old orchard, within moments of seeing me they were walking fast to the lane. I am not stupid and didn't fancy an encounter with them both, so I headed off back towards home and telephoned the farmer to let him know where his beasts were.  

They were loose about six nights ago and my opposite neighbour's dogs barked all night as they knew there was something wandering around near their house. I hope they get them shut in their own field tonight so we can get some sleep!

Three things I like:

1.   My lunch today - calves liver, roasted red peppers and homemade chips.
2.   Seeing spring flower buds in the verges.
3.   Watching the magpies flying down to eat the spare chips off the bird table.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Village, Spring Growth and My Animals

I had a dreadful night without much sleep but am still full of energy this morning.  After I'd walked up to the field and looked after the animals, I walked down the lane, past the calvaire to a little opening I'd never noticed before.  Today it was easier to see as logs have been cut and left there for collection.  This is something you see all over Brittany, piles of logs, huge, huge piles sometimes, which the owners leave to season on the roadside without risk of anyone taking them.

My neighbours had told me that there was a little house down there where I could collect leaves for leafmould.  It was very damp and the leaves underfoot had obviously been falling there for years and years and were deep. 

You can see how damp it is by the amount of moss which is growing on the trees and how far up the trunks the moss comes. 

Tucked away by a tiny house were primroses in flower and periwinkle, also a tiny oak seedling, one of many growing through the leaves.  With the enormous quantity of acorns produced and fallen this year, I should imagine there will be thousands and thousands of new little oak seedlings this time next year.

There are catkins on the trees in the lane too, some golden and some red.  I can't ever remember seeing red before, but when I look closely the golden ones have tinges of red so perhaps they change colour.

Here's a hazelnut on the same tree as the red catkins.

Here are photos of another neighbour's lake and a sheep on the few hundred metres back home.

Back up to my field and Betsy and Basil were cuddling together on top of the old pig shelter.

The ducks and hens are enjoying their extra area which I opened up to them yesterday.

When I got back home I gave the rabbits, Bert, Boris and Ruby, the dandelion and nasturtian leaves I had picked for them.  There were actually yellow dandelion flowers in bud - it's only 4 January!

Three things I like:

1.   The sunshine when I'm walking.
2.   The woodburner when I get home.
3.   Hot homemade soup for lunch.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rain, Water Collection and Storage and the back Veggie Plots

Very, very windy weather this morning and lots of rain.  I walked up to the field to find Andy had just arrived, in spite of still suffering from the end of man 'flu',  and the first thing we did was to clean out the hen house and put down fresh straw, also in the hen end of the barn and in the nesting boxes.  We also gave the goats another bale of hale and took some back to the house for the rabbits too.  Rain is seeping in from the concrete path into the nearest end of the barn and I think silicone may do the job of keeping it out.  We decided to put the ducks in the field with the pond.  This photo just shows the very shallow end where it slopes up to the grass. 

It's the first time it's been full since it was built in April last year and the first time the ducks have been in.   I didn't see them in it, of course, but there were loads of feathers in there, so they must have been in there diving, swimming and getting their feathers into shape.   At lunchtime we went down and put the ducks back into the normal hen area so that it would be easier for me to get them inside at bedtime.

The rain was terrific this afternoon, so heavy that it was bouncing up again off the roof of the logshed, and by 4.00pm we'd had about a dozen very short powercuts, which meant the Sky box, and internet were reset each time, very frustrating!

The Christmas tree, which was outside on the terrace, waiting to be sawn up for the woodburner, has been rolling around all over the place and it absolutely soaked.   From this angle it looks really small, but was just over two metres high, the biggest tree I've had in Brittany.

Even the logs which are under cover, are slightly damp when they come inside and have to be dried on top of the woodburner before using.

We also cleared the paths around the polytunnel and barn and emptied the bath, in the polytunnel, which was full of very smelly water after the tomato plants had collapsed into the water. 
We refilled it with clean collected water from the barn roof which is stored in an IBC immediately outside the polytunnel.

Here are some of my water collection and storage solutions.  I have the guttering on my small barn sloping to each end from the middle so that I can fill an IBC from each end.  At the back end I have the first IBC connected to two others so altogether that is 4000 litres.  I also have four baths, two dairy containers, three water butts and two very large round galvanised cattle drinkers. 

I have just bought two more 1000 litre IBCs from an expat website here and will use one on the field and one for my garden plants when I am able to collect them.                  
Here is a photo of the veggie beds at the back of the polytunnel.

They are arranged like this as they were originally in another polytunnel which collapsed irretrievably in the snows of two winters ago.  I had the paths concreted because I seem to find it easy to fall over any small lump in the ground so this seemed a good idea!  The front middle bed has strawberry plants in it, the next bed back has woad.  The back right beds have soft fruit and the far left bed has beetroot and some parsnips still happily in the ground.

Tomorrow the plot is for Andy to finish installing the electric door opener for the garage and then do the polytunnel and perhaps start on the outside veggie beds.  I also want to clear the runner bean bed (not shown) and dig the proceeds from the henhouse clearing today into the runner bean trenches so they are well manured for good growing this summer.

We replaced some of the outside light bulbs which had blown, but didn't have enough, so I went shopping in late afternoon to get some and combined the journey with putting the birds to bed.  I seem to buy bulbs endlessly.  Every lamp takes a different type, bayonet or two types of screw and a different wattage - these needed large screw 60w.  I couldn't get 60w here, they were either 75w or 55w so I chose the brighter ones. 

The Land Rover doesn't like short journeys - they seem to kill the battery - so if I'm shopping I tend to go later in the day so I do six miles on the round trip and then leave the engine running while I do the birds and collect the eggs.  I've bought a trickle charger for it, but it's been so mild that we haven't wired the vehicle up for the charger yet.

Right - I have to get ready now for my Physio, who is coming to do my back.

Three things I like:

1.   A good back massage.
2.   Finding Christmas sausage rolls in the freezer and cooking them for supper.
3.   Wishing my friends Sheila and Paul a happy holiday in Tobago - they arrive tomorrow.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Village on New Year's Day

Libby, Matthew and Gareth spoke to me on the 'phone at just after their midnight - one o'clock in the morning here - of 1 January 2012, to wish me a Happy New Year.  They all sounded as if they were having a great party so a good start to the New Year.  It was a mild night and I turned off the storage heater in my room which I had put on in the third week of December.  During the day it had been 12°C on the SuperU display.

I weighed, although my usual day for weighing is Tuesday, because I wanted to know what I would begin the year at.  I was 105kg/231.5lbs/16stone7½lbs, which means I have lost 38.1kg/84lbs/6 stone since my mini gastric bypass on 18 July, in nearly 24 weeks.  I am a very happy bunny!

Woke up to a grey and drizzly day.  I walked up the lane, next three photos, to the field to do the animals - without a fleece just in a short sleeved t-shirt and carrying my camera, accompanied by Bobby, one of my neighbour's dogs. 

 I fed and waterered the hens, ducks and goats.  The bags of bread I bought just after Christmas are still very fresh - some of the price tags carry a date of 30 December.   They all enjoy the spongy inside of the loaves and the outside crusts with a bit of bread attached go into a galvanised container filled with water to soften it up.   Then I walked on up to the corner of my field and up the lane to my neighbour's abandoned orchard.  There were apples all over the ground and on the roof of a shed too.

After that I walked back, stopping to take more photographs.   Here is my own field and the field I rent from my neighbour and then different bits and pieces on the verges next to my field.

The gorse is such a wonderfully bright yellow lifting the grey day.

And finally back home again, the buildings on the left, to be greeted by Bobby again.

I don't often buy pre-packaged convenience food, but when I was shopping yesterday there were frozen prawn two-bite party bits and I succumbed.   These are eleven of the twenty-one delicious morsels.

They were really lovely, just popped into a very hot oven with no extra oil, and made a super New Year's Eve supper with their piquant sweet and sour chilli dip.  I wish supermarkets did these little nibbles all year round, as they are a good quick and tasty snack.  I have another two boxes in my freezer - just in case!

The rain set in properly for the rest of the day and underfoot it is extremely soggy, but still mild.

Three things I like:

1.   This afternoon's snooze in front of the woodburner.
2.   Seeing my daughter admitting to her relationship with Gareth on Facebook.
3.   Reading through old magazines so I can pass them on.