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.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stunning Autumn Colours

Autumn colours are everywhere and I’ve taken so many photos that it’s been difficult to select for this posting.  Don't forget you can see them in a larger format if you click on any photograph.  The change has been later this year, perhaps because November was mild, but when it arrived it took my breath away.  Mostly pictures of Corlay lake and castle but some of my lane and the field next to mine too.

Above is the field on the corner of my lane in the early morning sunshine.
In my polytunnel I have Ruby Chard growing which is doing a pretty good job of competing with the countryside hues.  To the right are three of my Muscovy ducks who have started roosting on the gate tops and also on the barn roof.
 A bit of home baking which fills the house with such a lovely aroma and makes it almost impossible to wait until the loaf and rolls have cooled before thickly spreading butter and eating.
Now the winter is coming in I have pulled out the various scarves, hats and fleeces that are hidden away through the warmer months.  Here is the first of several winter looks.  When I turned up at Bowls yesterday wearing my cap I was called "Farmer Giles"!
Three things I like:
1.   Collecting 6 eggs from the newest henhouse instead of the 1 or 2 per day recently.
2.   Doing an UK Asda order with a charge of only £5 for delivery to Brittany next week.
3.   Buying a very, very large old pine box for storing my spare duvets.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fish in my local supermarket today

I really like shopping for fish in my local supermarket and these photos show just some of the shellfish they had today.  There is always a really big choice of fresh produce and the prices reflect the season and the weather it brings.  Every week I buy white fish, sometimes dos de cabillaud, which is cod back and completely boneless, or haddock fillets, but usually plaice fillets – three small fillets packed in three bags so I can eat one immediately and fridge or freeze the other two packs for later in the week.  I just flour them and fry them in oil and butter for a few moments, season and eat without any accompaniment.

I also buy shell-on prawns and mussels regularly, I love shell fish.  Sometime I buy spider or brown crabs when I feel like spending more than a few minutes extracting all the meat.
I love oysters but I’m unable to eat them because of the severe reaction I have afterwards.  This breaks my heart because here they are so cheap compared with England.
The bulots are, I think, whelks and I don't fancy them at all; they look too much like snails but they are very popular with the French shoppers and usually feature in the massive shellfish dishes which are ordered in the shop and eaten on Christmas Eve en famille.
The choice of fish is so good, for a relatively small supermarket branch, that I think I probably eat as much fish as meat now, if not more.  It's very hard to resist such good quality fish and the staff on the counter are very friendly too. 

Three things I like:
1.   Christmas cards starting to arrive in my postbox in the wall.
2.   Clearing up the log area, splitting and cutting the logs which are too big for the woodburner and stacking them in old slate crates for neatness.
3.   Going out walking and taking photographs of the Autumn colours.

This is of the lake at Corlay next to the castle.

Monday, November 25, 2013

This afternoon's walk in my hamlet

My walk this afternoon took me past my field and then across empty pastures before coming back along the lane from the mill pool.  It was 7°C, so not cold and there was no wind or rain.  The light wasn't brilliant for photographs but I can never resist using the camera.
My raised veggie beds have been weeded by the volunteer worker I have here at the moment and are looking very tidy. 
Likewise the polytunnel. 
The trestles on the left and the timber in the centre are the materials for the job for the next time it rains.  The timbers we've brought in are to replace the edges of the raised beds in front of the barn need painting with preservative.  Previously we had used old beams from the cottages and these had rotted away and have now been removed.   You can see them round the back of the rhubarb plants.
The mill pool looks lovely In all seasons and I like the bush on the right with its reddening leaves.
The little bridge from this area to another lane has been a little compromised by a tree falling across it but it's not impassable. 
There was quite a colony of fungi growing on this fallen tree.  It was like this across the bridge last year but I'm not sure about before that.
The stream is running fast after all the rain we've had.  I can't believe how sodden the ground is considering it's just the beginning of the winter period.  I shall need webbed feet if it continues like this until the Spring.
Along the verge there were lots of fallen apples, crab apples perhaps.  I fed one to each of the horses that came to say hello as I walked past their pastures.  Saving one for the goat at the end of my little bit of lane.

The leaves are such lovely colours, particularly on the beech trees.  Although there was no sunshine this afternoon to enhance the light and colours they were still worth photographing.
The hazel bushes are already showing their new catkins and there was a red leaf on the verge which caught my eye.

As I arrived at the end of the far lane bordering my field the hens in that area came rushing up to meet me and then settled down to pecking around on the bank created from the dug out soil from the duck pond.  In the background you can see two Muscovy ducks by the pond and two on the top of the gates.  Obviously the ducks can fly and yet they never seem to go anywhere else - thank goodness.
There was a motley assortment of four little hens in the bushes about 200 metres along the lane from my field.  I am hoping they might find their way to join one of my flocks!
Three things I like:
1.  Eating the sweet chestnuts that took so long to peel a couple of days ago.
2.  Finding that the wood shavings I was given for animal bedding make wonderful fire starters for the woodburner.
3.  Gathering hot, peppery watercress from my fish pond - I wonder how long it will continue cropping.  Apparently some varieties grow all year round.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Autumn activities in St André

It’s the time of year when the garden, veggie patch and polytunnel have to be cleared of dead stuff, weeded and dug through.   Everything is such a mess in there  I feel ashamed when I look at it.  However, I have still been harvesting salad, peppers and squashes.


Luckily, last week a volunteer emailed me to come here for a couple of weeks and he has been labouring on my behalf in exchange for full bed and board.  He’s from Germany, only twenty-seven and has much more flexibility, strength and stamina than I have so he's great for the work that has to be done. 

So far he’s helped clear up the cuttings from the long laurel hedge, cleaned out the chick house, brought in logs, cleared the large flower bed in the garden and some of the raised veggie beds and virtually finished in the polytunnel.  The weather has been dreadful since he arrived on Monday late afternoon so it’s been handy having the possibility of working in the shelter of the polytunnel.   The log trolleys have been filled and covered on the terrace in case of really bad weather so I have a ready supply.  The garden furniture still needs to be collected up and stored inside.
The last of the berries, which were on the honeysuckle, next to my postbox in the wall, have been stripped by various visiting birds.
On Tuesday, 19 November, we had our first fall of snow here in St André, preceded sleet and hail.  It only lasted for fifteen minutes but was proper snowflakes floating down to the ground – the earliest we’ve had it since I’ve been in Brittany I think.
Wednesday saw me in St Brieuc for an appointment with my gastric surgeon.  He was pleased with the healing of my giant abdominal scar.  I still have two tiny leaking holes but he didn’t seem think there was any infection or anything else to worry about so that’s reassuring.
On my way to the field today I realised that a pungent smell reaching my nostrils must be a goat tethered somewhere on the lane.  I found him by the calvaire.
I am always amazed at how strong the smell is from uncastrated goats and from how far away it can reach my nostrils.
The horse chestnut near my house has lost so many leaves now and the ones that are left have changed colour to a lovely light rust.
Underfoot there are so many sweet chestnuts in and out of their prickly cases.  My volunteer, Christian, has gathered a huge container full.  I love their polished shells and the way they fit together neatly in their protective casing.
The hedgerows are topped with bracken, making graphic statements against the sky - I love the images.
The last of the tomatoes have been picked before the vines were given to the chickens to pick over. 
They have also been enjoying chickweed which covered the empty raised veggie beds.
Chilli peppers and capsicums, squashes and courgettes are being stored in the polytunnel until needed.
I have mixed feelings about this time of year.  I thought everything seemed to be dying away but when I look, I see nasturtians and antirrhinums still in bloom on the driveway and several shrubs have little green shoots appearing. 
Three things I like:
1.   Booking a table in a restaurant I haven't tried before for Sunday lunch with a friend.
2.   Getting the garden and field area tidied up.
3.   Seeing a new photo of my lovely granddaughter, Mia, on Facebook.