Friday, July 12, 2024

RAIN, RAIN....please come NOW - we need you, all creation needs you.

 Oh, YES!!! t

Today was another day it did not rain...and it looks as though tomorrow will be the same as today....There is a childhood song that is currently haunting my begins something like....'Rain, rain, go away, come back another day...' But there seems to be no opposite version that I can think of...

And, yes, the grass is as high as an elephant's eye....pollen still floats up from the grass and down from trees to annoy hay fever sufferers (me) everywhere.  

Our grass is now actually beginning to droop as if with heat exhaustian.  The plums on the wild plum tree are not swelling - the fruits on the cultivated trees are small and scabbed....cherries barely cover their pits with flesh....some leaves are wondering whether to just drop off now - or to wait for a little gust of wind to decide for them..

The flat temperature frog stuck to the terrace door...the outside of the terrace door ...only just manages to get to 20 C.....the real frogs who normally infest the valley pond have gone to look for water elsewhere.The valley pond is formed by drainage water from the road above gradually oozing through the clay of our sloping fields.. There will be no frogspawn for passing herons this summer - but herons may get advance knowledge and go another way..

The only sacrifice I can think of making - in hopes that rain will come - is to leave my heaviest, newly washed bath towels, on the grass to dry.   We shall see in the morning - but hope to hear from rain in the night.

Friday, July 5, 2024

Diplomacy in a Dordogne cafe - or 'why the French are so civilised'

 There I was in my habitual cafe in St Astier...newspapers on the table, glass of best white wine and a large glass for the sparkling water...The cafe was only moderately crowded, everybody very polite....I do like the way that smokers apologise to non-smokers when about to light up..Today a man with one of those 'vape' things actually leaned over to ask me, to make sure I had seen what he was waving...Of course I said 'do go ahead'..

My reasoning is simple:  smoke keeps away flies, mosquitos, wasps and other flying nuisances.  Often I mention this reasoning to the smoker...smiles all round, everybody friendly.

Today there was an extra dimension to this civility.. I had ordered myself a second large glass of best dry white....and then worried...after all I did have to drive back...The pub does not offer crisps or any other alcohol related nibbles....

Someone kindly offered to look after my things whilst I popped across the road to a general store...which was very kind.   Only, unfortunately, I have a historical dispute with the owner of that store, so mostly avoid going in there and said so....Today I was feeling particularly rancorous as I remembered my grievance...

A short tubby man on the next table tut-tutted - queried 'plain crisps?' I said yes he went across the road and came back with a packet of crisps for me.   I proffered a fiver to pay for them, he gave me change.

I don't thnk we exchanged more than 20 words in the whole procedure..

Monday, June 24, 2024

Mice time in the Dordogne...

Just as I was bending over to get something out of the fridge a mouse slid out from underneath - and I mean 'slid'....her* claws did not scrabble on the floor, her progress was very slow.

A sigh from me as I retrieved the dustpan and brush, caught the mouse in the pan, kept it down with the brush and went for the front door....You try opening a stiff front door with the wrong hand and the other hand with brush trying very hard not to let the mouse go...Anyway, I succeeded and got my burdens as far as the gate into the woods - which I kicked open with my slippered feet...yes, ouch...

Then I disposed of the mouse in a clump of nettles,brambles,ferns and other odd woodland plants.  It was far from being the first mouse I had disposed of this fact probably the fifth...

Yes, I had put mouse poison in the kitchen drawers - empty kitchen drawers I will emphasise..and, yes, I had seen some dead mice in the woodshed...

But I was wondering:   do mice not communicate with each other?  Communication as birds are supposed to do in their songs...Surely some must have lived to see that 99.9 pct of the stuff in my kitchen cupboards and drawers was either in tins or glass bottles with lids...No dying squeaks - ''keep out of there, it's dangerous'..

If there is no further mouse invasion in the coming week I shall assume all have gone elsewhere - perhaps staying in the woods and living off old nuts, not quite composed greens and peelings...

After that time lapse, duly protected by hygienic throw away gloves...(yes, I know - plastic but...washing fabric ones in a machine would not be good either ) we shall have to clean out the wooden drawers, probably with bleach...and wash any polishing or washing up cloths that had survived the invasion..

* why did I assume it was a female?  Anyway I did not check...

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Orchid joy!!

 Oh the joy!!   Stephanie and I found another orchid at La Chaise!  This one is pretty rare, unscented (obvs!) and not long for life...It is called the 'Bee Orchid'....for obvious reasons.  The question is:  will many bees be sufficiently conned into 'fertilising' this flower?  And why did whoever/whatever.. make life and its continuation so complicated?

Monday, June 10, 2024

Time for 'food from the wild.'

Would you believe it?   There is an upside to the pollen reminds you to go and search for your 'Food from the Wild' cookery book which has a terrible winter habit of hiding...I have had to buy the Ian Burrows copy again...

No it has not been borrowed by my cleaning lady - she only reads French (reasonable as she is French and we are in France) and disapproves strongly of anything that has not grown under control of green fingers...

My two favourites from the book are the recipes for rosehip syrup - which has more vitamin C than orange juice - which I had to give up drinking because it gave me the shakes worse than real coffee - and elder flower cordial - which is a very pleasant, light drink and (I am told but have not tested) is a very pleasant addition to a G&T..

Of corse there are downsides...for the rosehip syrup the 'hips' have to come from wild roses, those on your garden prize winners will not do. They are hard to find and harder to pick - leather gloves and pocket secateurs are recommended.  

The downside of the elder flower is its pollen, plenteous and easily blown on the wind.  A nose covering mask is recommended for those with pollen allergy problems.

Extracting the essence from the hips will take time, patience and good straining clothes, a wide copper jam making pan would be good for the elder flowers..

The rest you will have to look up for yourselves....but don't forget to sterlise your re-used jam jars and their new (!) lids.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

The usefulness of forgetfulness

As I was wandering around the house, looking for something, I suddenly had a brainwave!!  It stopped me right in my tracks, halfway up the stairs - a very dangerous place to stop and think.

Wanting what I have forgotten to bring to my desk makes me get OUT of my chair!!  Then I have to think where this item might actually be - which means crossing several rooms -  sometimes even going upstairs.

Forgetfulness in the aged is nature's way of compelling them to take exercise!!  The thought of 'going for a walk' is usually confined to fine weather days and often done reluctantly. But searching for something you think you need at that moment makes you forget to think of the wandering as exercise!  And yet - there you are, moving, standing, sometimes even stretching to look over, or under - whatever, a chair, a table...

A slight downside...if you pass through the kitchen in your wanderings perhaps you should discipline yourself NOT to STOP for another cup of coffee or tea - and certainly not for a glass of something...

Spring things - a little late..

 What I would really like to write about is the wonderful actions of the baby deer that has decided to live in the woods.....right next to the swimming pool. No, don't jump to conclusions - it has NOT jumped into the pool - it just jumps onto the pool cover to cross the pool.  However endearing the sight, you can well imagine my worries - suppose it shits - or pees - on the pool cover, a cover which is already laden with wet leaves - ach,  stop right there!

More encouragingly the cherries are beginning to ripen.  They are very small - despite all the rain we had recently they do not seem to swell.  If I remember correctly they are 'morello' cherries and morellos are not for eating but for cooking - actually turning into cherry liqueur.  Yes, I have done this - some years ago - but do not propose to repeat for reasons I do not need to spell...So the lucky birds will have them all.

And here they are - still yellow, not yet covered in birdshit - but there is much agressive bird noise when I get anywhere near the trees...

Sunday, May 12, 2024

The first orchid has just arrived...

 It is with such joy that I greeted the first orchid of 2024.....may there be many more!   We at La Chaise are very spoiled for orchids - which occasionally spoils things for those who have to work our fields because as soon as located the plants are protected by pickets and sometimes fencing...all of which gets in the way of hay-making.   So far, so good, because so wet and hay-making is sometime off.. This orchid was in luck because it was on our lawn and so can be danced round with a small mower.....It will probably be another few weeks before further orchids show themselves - I roughly remember where to go and have sensibly kept a pair of knee high wellies.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Hen is off the egg - at last

 Maybe the White Hen suspects that her lonely splendour is about to be invaded...Yes, in two days time, if all goes well, she will be joined by two other hens...Perhaps she is still nervous about the unexpected, unexplained disappearance of her Golden companion. A heavy gate clicked, a dog briefly barked ...after which the Golden was gone.

Oddly enough one noticed later that a few things had also strangely disappeared, random gardening equipment - shears, small pruners, marker pegs - things like that, all clobber under the small, open sided shed roof...

I discussed this sad event with some local friends - the manager of the hardware store, the dry cleaning lady, the newspaper vendor - all said 'how extraordinary' and then proffered the name of some people who visit the Dordogne at this time of year.   Part of me wants to concur with this solution, part of me says ' hold group think...another explanation might be equally valid..But there were no passing buzzards who have been known to fly down over a chicken and then up and away, chicken in beak.  But this would leave a trail of feathers, as would seizure by a passing fox..and I have found no golden feathers anywhere.

Did we have a cockerel I could have entertained the explanation that she was brooding somewhere in the bushes.   But I visited all the usual spots, even used my imagination and went further into the woods...

If she is still alive somewhere, Friday's arrival of newcomers might just provoke her to rejoin us ...on verra

Saturday, April 20, 2024

how to light a fire....uh - oh!!

 Right!  so this is the story of 'how to light a fire'  when you only have 3 matches, a few  commercial fire lighters, one candle and a bottle of colza oil  (courtesy of Ukraine)

Good! so first lucky you go to collect some vine prunings that have been given by a kind neighbour.   Vine prunings are very thin twigs, very breakable and very, very flammable... These, using your pruning shears, you cut into short lengths...and pile at the back of the fireplace.

Then you go and check what you have - providentially - soaking in your jar of Ukrainine oil...I say 'providentially' but perhaps I should refer to 'foresight'.. This jar, a former sterilising jar, has been filled with Ukraine's best oil into which you have put some long slivers of wood which are soaking up the oil - in other words,  home made fire lighters...

These long slivers of oily wood are then wrapped in a couple of sheets of the local newspaper with the possible addition - if you have any left - of one of the small commercial fire lighter squares per wrapping.   Wrap very tightly, place at an angle over the vine prunings, facing towards the back of the fireplace, tips touching where they rest on the cast iron back of the fireplace.  If you are feeling uncertain - sprinkle a little more colza oil on the paper wrappings.

Then, breathe deeply, light number one match and use it to light the candle - your only fire resource once the matches are finished. Use the lit light the paper wrapping of your fire starters.  Make sure the candle does NOT go out - you only have two matches left!

It was my lucky evening - I was left with two matches...

Monday, April 1, 2024

An overburdened tree...

 This is a three pear tree....Odd you may think, definitely different.  The idea, apparently, was that the then owner of our orchard either did not have enough space for three trees - or was just feeling mean.   Any how this tree does need much attention when being pruned or generally tidied - who knows you might accidentally cut away of the pear varieties...

The three different pears appear (sorry about that) at slightly different times, mostly days apart.  Some of the pears will ripen on the branch, these are usually the cooking pears, large and white and - sorry again - tasteless..For the other two varieties the orchard watcher has to be very aware.   They are small, dark skinned and seem to drop after the slightest breeze..I have never managed to collect sufficient to make anything with them for the slightest delay at collecting them and they are covered in ants, sometimes wasps - the latter are quite aggressive about their fruit rights.. 

Obviously what I need to do is to find myself a fruit tree expert but where to start? The Dordogne rather specialises in apples and grapes..  I think I shall start in the hardware store - then in our small multi-services shop in town - probably the best is to launch  the question into the air next time I am in the local cafe...

Wish me - wish US!! luck.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

White ghosts on wheels - in the Dordogne

 My nerves are now on full alert when driving, a new and uncomfortable experience.   It does not matter whether I turn left out of the gate to descend to Tocane St Apre ....or right in order to get to St Astier.  Both are long winding, twisting roads which - fortunately - have been broadened in recent years.  Crossly I sometimes put this down to my forthcoming forth score of years, due at the end of this month.

Then sometimes self blame gets going:    I should not have taken that second cup of coffee - a known over stimulant - but I drink decaf so that should have no effect.  Ditto the glass of wine - leave time for that to be absorbed by whatever I am eating.

After self-blame comes the other popular culprit - the local roads authority and its constant mending, fiddling, obstructing parts of the road.  The roads themselves are not exactly flat - not possible on hill sides! 

As I was rehearsing all these factors coming up from St Astier one morning I was obliged to draw over to the ditch side of the road as three small cars insisted on overtaking me at excessive speed. 

This shock to my attention suddenly made me see the reason  - I think - for my problem:   all three cars were WHITE, SHINY WHITE!!

It was as though a procession of automobile ghosts had gone by.  Over the following days I noticed more and more white vehicles going in all directions.   Then I saw a shiny white petrol tanker go, I thought that really cannot be possible - but it was. I saw it twice, once followed by a white builder's van carrying sand. And, to cop it a cement mixer on of those very long bodied vans on which there is a churning, slurping, egg shaped recipient.

Fortunately I have a clever son who explained:   white metal paint is cheaper than any other....

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Beware AI entanglements...!!

Through my own stupidity - my dislike of crowded, noisy places - such as airport luggage recovery spaces - I managed to leave Merignac without my laptop, my tablet - and my deaf aids plus their fancy cleaning stuff.   This happened because of the security systems - all the above equipment had been scanned at Gatwick, passed and put into a separate black bag - rather than back into my usual travelling trolley..

At the exit I saw my daughter waiting - so just rushed off to meet her, pulling the trolley behind me, not thinking at all about the 'black bag'.
It was not until I unpacked at home that I realised what I was missing...panic stations.

But my very computer competent daughter was able to snaffle the French grandsons play computer - a sturdy Hewlett Packard - and get it working reasonably well.   It did have some 'etats d'ame'  and refuse to cooperate at times - the keyboard would jam, for example. So I was able, more or less, to keep up with my essential admin matters - but not much creative 'stuff'.

Eventually I got fed up, demanded advice from my also computer competent son in London as well as my c.c. daughter in France.  Their consensus opinion is that I should purchase a 'Cromebook'.  The daughter tried to order one on the ever useful Amazon site - and the first snag came up.    In France 'Cromebooks' could only be bought with 'azerty' keyboards...I learned to type on the classic English 'querty' keyboard - essential for someone whose handwriting was illegible...

So we ordered one via the UK and it duly arrived in the most amazing
packing ever seen - three boxes, one inside the many trees I asked myself...But shut up as soon as I got to work with and on it.
Communication with the UK and other places outside the Dordogne was soon flourishing.   I felt on top of all my admin chores..and even had a little look at my 'creative' writing.

However, reality soon showed its ugly face.    My London accountant sent me xxxx pages of tax declaration to study - and a final page to sign and return.  So I dutifully read, noted where I had to sign and tried to download the one page I needed...Only by this time the Crome system had cleverly spotted that it was in it tried to download that one page to a French system of 'fischiers'...which of course I did not have...

In the end I had to download the whole document - sign the single page, scan that page, save it and then send it.  I dread what is going to happen when I start to edit/rewrite/ generally fiddle with my creative text...

And now Stephanie has confessed SHE put the internet on in French...I wait to hear why but she is feeling rather queezy at the moment!!!

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Here comes the cold..

This morning the first cold of 2024 arrived ....approppriatly on the 13th day of January.   It was a pretty cold, mostly a light, nearly transparent mist that did not lift until well after lunch time - most un French, it might have stopped many people from going out to lunch, especially if they had to drive anywhere.   But even so there was quite a lot of fast traffic going past La Chaise which lies on the top of a hill midway between two market towns - Tocane St Apre and St Astier....both of them in river valleys, Dronne and Isle respectively - they join up later.

One very splendid surprise:   I subscribe to the local newspaper whose publishers guaranteed to deliver it by one o clock every day and so far this has been true.  It is usually the simple yellow post office van that brings it. An unkindness in me makes me wonder whether the postie does not have to hide somewhere to make the time come true. Occasionally, when I have nothing better to do, I wander up to the road and the post box a few minutes before 13.00 to see if I can see the yellow postal van lurking down the Tocane part of the road.  I never have seen anything - but then there is a little hamlet called Chantepoule just down the road, perhaps a friendly resident offers a warm coffee. 

Sometimes  when I get warning of the van's possible arrival I wander quite aimlessly up the path to the post box and manage to greet the postman, congratulate him on his timely arrival.  The usual postman, an elderly man with a Santa Claus beard, goes slightly pink and sometimes we shake hands as I thank him.

However, today's mist did delay the delivery but it was compensated in the most splendid way.   Just around 13.30 I heard the rush of an engine coming up from the St Astier side .....a yellow and white van drew up, turned in a circle to face back to St Astier, a young man got out - and put the weekend edition of my newspaper in the box.   I could not get there quick enough to shake hands and thank....but I did notice it was not the usual yellow all over post van - it was yellow and white, the colouring of the post office's extra fast and secure delivery service - Colissimo.

How's that for service?

As always mist softens

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Great Jumping Chestnuts...

 So a few days ago, TDH* Martin - who is now fully responsible for woodland management, not least new planting - but that will be another story ---

Well Martin set off with his trusty chain saw to deal with a copse of three skinny chestnut trees. 'Deal with' is of course a euphism for 'cut down'...He cleared the land around the trees, dead branches, excess fallen leaves and a surprising amount of chestnuts on the ground....anyone would think we did not have wild boar who normally hover up such delicious treats, especially once they have cleared all the acorns...but..passons...

Martin settled himself comfortably on his knees, started his chain aw and cut the recommended V near the base of the tree - making sure it would fall well away from him.  He says the tree wobbled, its head waved and it moved from its cut root....only to establish itself firmly into the soggy soil a few inches from its rooting place.   Martin swears the tree did not look at him with scorn - but it felt like that...

So Martin re-starts his chain saw, cuts another perfect V at the new base of the young chestnut and waited for it to fall exactly where he - Martin - had planned it should fall.  The chestnut shudders, wobbles, the head shakes.....and it planted itself again a few inches further into the soggy soil.  If young chestnut trees could grin, Martin swears it would have grinned at him.

Now Martin swears he was not cross with the tree, it was just that he had other trees to attend to, other things to do...So once again he cut the perfect V just above ground level on the chestnut's slender trunk. 

This time the tree conceded and fell to the ground as pre-ordained. But this leaves me with nagging problems:   should I burn the wood of an animate tree in my indoor fire places, should I sell it to someone else, without telling the story...perhaps as the wood dries its soul will drift into another tree...Not a happy thought. 

Later I heard that Stephanie (a girl) had got cross and lassoed the trees, then pulled so they would fall..

*= Tall, dark,handsome