Wednesday, August 16, 2017

How many swallows made our summer?

Swallows

Once again the swallows came back to nest on our terrace. Even though we leave the two nests from last year just in case they use them, once again they set to work from scratch and raised five chicks in their first nest. There are now four hungry babies in nest number two. So this year it will be 11 swallows who have made our summer, two parents and 9 babies. Soon this second brood will be leaving us and we wish them bon voyage. Hopefully they will return next year.




A fond adieu

We recently said goodbye to two of the members of the club of the third age -  a sister and brother who died within a fortnight of each other. The second was a very sudden, unexpected loss. The two funerals saw churches full to bursting as whole communities came to say a fond farewell.

We have experienced many village funerals in our fifteen years here and are always touched by how many people attend. This last one was even more significant to me as I sat and watched so many people showing their love and friendship in such a loving way. A big family of four children, eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren remembered a life that was full. A man who worked hard as a farmer all his life and who also gave time to serve the community in many ways. I couldn't help thinking of the contrast this life had with that of those who put profit before community and measure people'e worth by what they possess.  Money cannot buy the love that was shown at these funerals and I feel blessed to have known both these gentle people.


Simple things

Lots of things happening in the world at the moment are making me sad and I am comforting myself by thinking of the simple things that make life good. The swallows, good friends, a caring family, my garden and good health.

When I was a girl it was the craze to have an autograph book and I remember my aunty Janie writing a verse in it which I now know is from Charles Kingsley's poem 'Youth A Farewell'``

Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever;  
Do noble things, not dream them, all day long:
And so make life, death, and that vast forever
            One grand, sweet song.

Our own sweet song

Some photos taken recently around our home by one of our daughters - the simple things that help make our life a sweeter song.











Thursday, July 27, 2017

Au bourg in July

Friends

Our best, best man lives in San Diego now so visits are rare. We were so pleased that he and his partner managed to find time for us in their hectic European schedule - thanks Bridget and Simon we had a great time.


Our lovely Australian friends are in town and we are enjoying catching up with them too. Family visits won't happen until August so we have been spending lots of time in  .........

........the garden

It's that time of year when we start storing our produce for the winter. 24 jars of tomatoes are already on the shelves in the cave and I have been processing cucumbers and courgettes. The onion and garlic harvests have been good and they are all tressed and hanging up in the barn and cave ready to eat. We are now planting out our winter veg of leeks, cabbages, cauliflowers and sprouts to keep us going later in the year. Here's a little walk around the potager.










Kevin has started another project - making beer! Watch this space.



A bientôt.



Friday, May 19, 2017

Géneration Mouvement - Le Club du Val de la Canaule

Ever since we came to Labretonie 15 years ago we have supported the activities of the club of the third age. I joined the Monday afternoon gym sessions and several years ago, after a week of training, qualified to run the sessions. We have also helped out some years at the annual variety show, been on outings and enjoyed the annual meal.

Since last September we have taken on a more active role as the club found itself without a president, secretary or treasurer. The club was in the doldrums but we got ourselves going again and Kevin and I took on the roles of secretary and treasurer after the AGM in November. Having a responsibility does involve work from time to time but it is worth it to see the pleasure that the activities bring. Our most recent event was the annual Gala.

A show of songs, sketches, jokes, mime and music.

The oldest members of our club usually sing in the choir but failing eyesight meant they couldn't get to all the rehearsals. We all agreed it wouldn't be a gala without them so we invited them to sing their customary duo and stay on stage for the last two songs. I remember them telling me how important music had been in their lives and how when they were young they relaxed by the fireside in the evenings singing folk songs. A delightful couple.


Alice and Eugène sing one of their old favourites

We had fun during the rehearsals and during the performance and we had great feedback from our appreciative audience. They all joined in as we sang Viva Espana and on the club's very own special song 'La Canaule'. Bravo all the artists - you did brilliantly.

A chance to catch up with old friends

A celebratory meal for the artists and the helpers

Our next event will be on the 11th June when we all meet at a local restaurant to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the club. One of the founders is our neighbour who turned 90 last week - we took her and another of the hardworking members of the club out to afternoon tea to celebrate.

Claudette and Reine enjoying an English afternoon tea - they had a doggy bag to take home too.

A bientôt

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Catching up in Cologne

Time for me to catch up with the blog and this post is about some catching up we did with good friends in Germany over Easter weekend. This was our second visit to Cologne to see them and we had a wonderful time. David came home from university to see us and Leah was home too so we had all the family together.

Sculptures, parks, picnic and Cologne beer.


Art, folk stories, castles and cathedrals
Going back in time and all the fun of the fair. Those houses were a bit small for our boys.
David and Leah with their young selves - how lucky we are to have these young people in our lives.
In between all the outings we had lovely meals, drank some excellent wine, discussed Europe and politics, listened to music and laughed together. The best of times. From gite clients to best of friends - what fun it has been watching the children grow up and getting to know this family so well. Can't wait for the next time.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Family Fun

A lovely week in the UK - a second birthday, an Easter egg hunt and Mother's day with both my children. Wonderful!


Everybody singing Happy Birthday when you have just woken up can be a little scary.

Present opening brings back a smile - especially when you have bubbles.


Playmates, birthday donuts and more bubbles.


Easter Egg Hunt around the school - well done Balgowan PTA.


Mother's day lunch for two  - an old Mum and a young Mum.

It was a lovely break. Back home again now to beautiful sunshine and a garden to see to.

A bientôt.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring is in the air.

Spring is in the air and we are surrounded by lovely new growth indoors and out. I love this time of year when everything comes back to life. The orchid that I have had for years with little sign of movement has come into flower and is giving me so much pleasure and new seeds are germinating in the kitchen and the greenhouse. It's all go!

4 flowers

The kitchen window sill nursery

Christmas cactus and narcissus in bloom together

The serre is currently a nursery - soon I will move the seedlings to the cold frame to make way for early tomatoes. The big lettuce just appeared over the winter and the rest are new plantings.

In the greenhouse

Broad beans from autumn and spring sowings are doing well. The garlic is well on its way and all the beds are ready for planting. The hinged, wooden frame is K's design for a protective cover - just needs the fleece adding. When I cleared the last of the leeks, three sweet pea plants were uncovered and I've moved them to the end of the bed - fingers crossed they survive the move as I don't have much success usually with sweet peas.

In the potager
I am going to the Uk for a few days - I wonder how all these areas will look in a weeks time. Happy gardening everyone.

A bientôt.









Monday, March 6, 2017

Pottering in the Potager

It's a bit rainy here at the moment but in the dry spells we have been getting the veg garden ready for the season. When my son was a little boy he walked by when I was weeding in the garden and said 'you're good at soil Mum' - I think the insinuation was that I wasn't very good at actually growing things though. These days I like to think I am still 'good at soil' but now it's not just about keeping it weed free but improving the quality to get better crops.

We have completely fenced the potager now for three reasons:

  • To keep the chickens out when we let them out to roam
  • To keep the ragondin (coypu) and rabbits out
  • To keep the dogs with us securely when we are working in the garden

New compost bins


Weeded, manured and turned.


Can you see the garlic growing happily?

Although our raised beds give us a no dig system I do like to lightly fork over the soil and feel it for myself. I have added home grown compost and well rotted grass cuttings and am now adding well rotted horse manure. We also get cow manure from a neighbour so some beds will have that. We add compost from our local dechetterie (rubbish tip) where we can fill up the trailer for free and that adds bulk and texture. Then when I plant or sow I use bought compost in the hole or drill to add some more balanced feed. I save egg shells and scatter them to deter slugs but also to add calcium and later use epsom salts for my tomatoes and peppers to add calcium.  We also have raised beds in the greenhouse and here I grow early tomatoes and start my seedlings. According to this article playing in the soil is good for my health - I know I always enjoy my time pottering in the potager.

Ready for seed sowing and early tomato plants.

Tomato seeds are doing well on the kitchen window sill - when their 3rd and 4th leaves are established I will pot them on. I have to finish a spring GTU (General Tidy Up) in the greenhouse and then seed sowing can start with a vengeance. The broad beans I started on the kitchen window sill are doing well outside  and I have sown more directly outside too so fingers crossed. We are harvesting the last of the leeks and the cauliflowers to release those beds for other crops so a bit more playing with soil will go on there soon.



So much to look forward to in the potager but good harvests start with good soil prep so get your hands dirty, stay healthy and enjoy your garden as much as we enjoy ours.

A bientôt

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ducking and Driving

All about the duck. A wonderful day spent at Camont with Kate Hill learning about wonderful things to do with duck.






 
Great teaching and a friendly, interesting group of people.

Delicious lunch outside in the warm February sunshine.







We did rather more driving than we expected - roadwork's blocked our route twice and we got some distances wrong. We were delivering the Laguna to its new owner and found him more by good luck than good management - my phone had no charge and K, as usual, had left his ay home. What a pair of numpties driving around Agen looking for the road to get us to the other side of the river! Farewell Laguna - enjoy your new home.