Superbikes in the Gers

Nick and I had a great weekend in London, Staying at my brother’s and going to Ian Anderson’s “Thick as a Brick” gig at the Hammersmith Apollo. It was fantastic!

There was a Superbikes France race on at Nogaro circuit this weekend, so Kieran and Nick headed off to watch the final day’s racing when we got home. The skies were very black and thunder rumbled around from time to time, but there wasn’t much rain, so they enjoyed themselves watching motorbikes with and without sidecars and  Ducattis by the hundred. They said that one of the sidecar passengers hadn’t quite got the hang of the game, but the paint job was great!

And Nick said – Let there be light in my workshop

In between rain showers, of which there have been plenty this week, often lasting the whole day, Nick and Kieran have started the serious job of putting windows in Nick’s workshop, my workshop and the bike shed. It transforms the feel of the rooms, to have natural light pouring in and feels like real progress. Two down, two still to go; but that will be next week as Nick and I are heading off to London tomorrow for Ian Anderson’s “Thick as a Brick” tour, leaving Kieran behind to look after the chickens.

While they were suitably occupied, I’ve tiled behind the bath in the new bathroom; it’s not brilliant, but the wall was really wiggly, so I struggled to get the tiles flat. I hope it looks OK when the room’s painted and finished.

The staircase has been creaking really badly recently, so Nick took a look today. A good job he did! The supporting piece of wood was nailed into the old colombage wall, which was crumbling away, so the side of the stairs was unsupported. It’s propped up on a piece of wood for now, till he has time to cement it up.

The weather is meant to be warming up soon; I do hope so, it’s been cold, wet and windy for over a week now, feels rather like being back in Blighty!


On the road to self sufficiency?

We harvested our first crop from the potager today! OK, so it was only a couple of handfuls of radishes, but they did taste good! The cabbages, lettuces, spinach and rocket are growing well too, though the beans have yet to put in appearance.

Yesterday we went to a friend’s birthday party; the theme was supposed to be “extreme facial hair”, well, for the men anyway. Nick did his bit, with his moustache grown and waxed and his beard partly shaved (the rest went today), but disappointingly few of the other fellas had made the effort. It did, however, make me think it might be an amusing idea to have a “‘taches and lashes” party in the summer; men in moustaches and women in false eyelashes, or vice versa if anyone fancies it!

The high point of the evening for me, though, was a trip to the bathroom. Yes, I know; I’m a very sad person and I should get a life, but the shower was an amazing work of art, a mosaic depicting the tree of life.  Unfortunately, Nick is adamant that if I want a shower like that, it will have to be out in the garden:-( Near the pool, perhaps?:-)

Names for chickens

At last, we’ve got round to naming the little chickens. Izzy named some of them – Flappy, Flossy and Fluffy, but we hope she won’t mind, or remember when she arrives in August.

The two big chickens are Sage and Onion; the little ones are Peppercorn, the black one; the golden one is Rosemary, and the other two, who we can’t tell apart, are Tarragon and Marjoram.

They are becoming more confident by the day; when Nick opened the door this afternoon, to go out,  three of them hopped straight up onto the doorstep and into the hall! I think it’s nearly time to start keeping them in their own enclosure!

Today has given new meaning to the term “April showers”; it has oscillated all day between pouring rain, bright sun and tremendous hail showers, the changes being unbelievably quick. Because we weren’t able to do any outside work; Nick finished a spice rack he started before Christmas and I spent the afternoon pulling all the silicon sealant out of the bottom edge of the new shower because it still leaks. I’ll give it till tomorrow to dry out thoroughly, then seal it again; surely it can’t be that difficult to do!

Houdini hens

The little chicks are growing noticeably bigger now, and are becoming very much more adventurous; no longer cowering in their temporary home and nearly smothering each other at our approach, but running madly towards anyone who ventures out of the house, hoping for food treats. We even found one on the kitchen windowsill yesterday; I hope they don’t think they’ll be invited in when the windows are open (except to go in the pot, that is!) They’re becoming expert at hiding in the undergrowth (of which there’s loads), to the point that sometimes we have to search for them to check that they haven’t packed their bags and left!

On Sunday evening we went out to round them up for the night, but couldn’t find them in any of their favourite spots; after a few minutes searching, we found two of them on top of the spare roof tiles at the side of the poulailler, so we put them away for the night and started looking for the others. One of them turned up in the garden round the side of the house, presumably having flown over the carefully chicken-wired gate, with her clipped wings. By this time it was getting very dark and we were concerned about the last one; we searched the garden, the orchard, the field, even the vineyard, all by torchlight, and had all but given up when Kieran spotted her, outside the main gate to the road, quietly waiting to be let in! Kieran blamed the windy conditions for having given her the extra uplift she needed to get over the gate!

Before we can get the builder in, we need rid of the rubble mountain in the grange; so we’ve started digging out the soil from the path at the side of the house and will fill the space with some of the rubble, then pave it. It’ll provide good drainage and the soil’s useful to fill in some of the dips in the garden. It doesn’t look as though we’ll get any more done this week, though, as it’s forecast to rain for at least the next week 🙁

The holiday’s over; back to work now

The end of a good holiday is always sad, but particularly so for Izzy yesterday; she’d had a wonderful time, learning to speak a little French, getting over her fear of all things animal, she made good friends with Julie and Adrian’s dogs and even better friends of our chickens, who she loved feeding. She’d also been walking and sledging in the Pyrenees, played with the Flemish speaking children from up the road (one of whom told her mother she thought Izzy must be speaking Chinese!), helped Grandad cast concrete lintels for over the workshop windows, done some woodwork and had driven the mower whenever possible. So there were tears on Saturday morning as they left for the airport.

Our hens haven’t started laying yet, so each morning while she was here, Nick put a couple of eggs from our neighbour’s hens in the hen house; Izzy loved going to look for them and having them for breakfast. But on Friday, we’d run out of “real” eggs and had to use some from the shops; there was a big debate as to whether or not Izzy would notice the date stamp, but we thought probably not. WRONG! She brought the eggs in to the kitchen, saying that there were some marks on them which looked just like letters. She wouldn’t be distracted as Nick took them from her and surreptitiously tried to scrub the date stamps off; even when he’d finished, she insisted on showing them to me, assuring me that the pink smudges had really looked just like letters when she got them out of the hen house! Eventually we managed to distract her, and hope the memory has faded.

The second week of their holidays wasn’t blessed with the sort of weather we’d had at the beginning; we had quite a lot of wind and rain, though it didn’t stop us having the odd barbecue. It’s much needed rain as France as a whole has had 25% less than it should have had this winter and the aquifers are well down; but that doesn’t mean we have to enjoy it! The plus side (apart from not having to water the garden)  is that there have been some quite dramatic views over the vineyard, sunlit in front of heavy, charcoal grey skies. Graham took some amazing photos which I’ll put in the gallery when he sends them to me.

For the rest of us now, it’s back to work. The bathroom needs finishing, windows need putting in the workshop walls, the rubble piles in the grange need relocating and we need to contact the builder to see when he can start on the major works. It’s going to be all go….

Sledging in the warm sunshine

On Easter Monday, the weather was beautiful, so Nick, Kieran, Alex, Izzy and Graham all headed out for a day in the hills (no room for me in the car). Their plans to go paragliding came to nothing as we should have booked earlier, but they had a fantastic day nevertheless. A makeshift sledge, made from a large sheet of cardboard in the boot of the car, kept everybody amused for a few hours in the freshly fallen snow; then a walk , on which Graham found what turned out to be one of the most poisonous vipers around these parts, completed the day (for Graham anyway). They all arrived home happy, very hungry and sleepy.

I wasn’t idle for the day either, taking the chance to have a clean up; but the wash basin in the bathroom hadn’t been draining properly for weeks, so I decided to take the trap off to clean it out. Sure enough, it was full of smelly gunk, which I got rid of, but the problem was putting it back together……..  It had been quite awkward to remove, but simply wouldn’t go back, so I had to leave it for the fellas to do. Nick ended up dismantling almost all the drainage pipes behind the sink today, and unfortunately losing the washer down the inside of the pedestal. Naturally he didn’t have that size washer in stock, and couldn’t buy one locally, so resorted to making one out of a plastic lid; I don’t know how long it’ll last, but the water from the wash basin now flows away and not onto the floor, which is a distinct improvement. I think I might leave plumbing to the experts in future; I wasn’t flavour of the month, even when I explained that I was only trying to help!

The grouting and silicon sealing that I did in the new bathroom, on the other hand, look good, even if I say so myself:-)

A right good feed!

While I took Alex, Graham and Izzy to Eauze market this morning, Nick and Kieran fitted the shower and cubicle in the new bathroom; it just needs the silicon sealant now, my job tomorrow.

There’s a deer  and wild boar farm near here, with a restaurant attached, which has a good reputation, so we treated ourselves to lunch there today. What a feed! We started with garbure (mountain soup), then two types of pate, followed by civet de cerf (slow cooked venison stew). These were just leading up to the main course; huge steaks of either venison or wild boar, venison sausages, magret de canard (duck breast), all cooked to perfection over a roaring log fire. Izzy was concerned for the health of the chicken whose leg she ate, asking, in all sincerity “How does a chicken with only one leg walk, Mummy?”. Chocolate mousse, coffee and armagnac followed, to much groaning and holding of stomachs.

After lunch, we went for a walk around the cerf farm, complete with a bucket of corn for Izzy to feed to the deer and the wild boar (great fun till she touched her arm on the electric fence!). Part way round the walk we met the front of house man  from the restaurant, now a farmer again, who gave us a tour of his armagnac chai. He produces a barrel a year and has barrels going back to 1996, but the bottles go back as far as 1962.

By the time we arrived home the weather had dried up, so we planted strawberries and did a bit of gardening, before spending about half an hour trying to encourage  Flossy and Flappy, the big chickens, to use the ladder into the hen house. The little chickens are still segregated for their own safety, and are living in the old poulailler at the moment; they’ve finally emerged from their cardboad box and happily peck at bits of bread and corn.

Chick, chick, chick, chick, chicken, lay a little egg for me…..

Since Alex, Graham and Izzy arrived on Saturday it’s been all go; mowing the grass (to let Izzy drive the mower), trying our hands at archery and badminton, eating out (of course), cycling and running to burn off some of the excessive calorie intake and, to Izzy’s great delight, our chickens have arrived!

We’ve got 4 little chicks and 2 layers; unfortunately, the big ones started to peck at the little ones so we’ve had to separate them in the hope that they’ll get on better together when the little ones have grown a bit. Izzy was thrilled to find two “freshly laid” eggs in the hen house this morning; Nick will have to remember to put some out till ours start to lay! Izzy’s been allotted the task of naming them; so far we’ve got Flappy, Flossy and Fluffy. I don’t know if we’ll adopt those names full time!

Our neighbours called round this afternoon to ask if Izzy would like to go and see the foal that was born this morning at the local stables; she was delighted and not at all frightened.