Cheese & the Goat that Ate My Homework

 

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If you ask most people what comes to mind when they first think about France and food, more often than not you’ll probably find croissants, cheese and wine popping up in their replies. Moules-frites, fruits de mer, Cognac, truffles and patisserie also play a role in most foodies’ daydreams, but this blog-post is about cheese, and in particular, goat’s cheese. We’re not talking mass-produced here, no, we’re thinking more about those soft aromatic little cheeses that are a real speciality. Read more

Millie Hijacks the Blog

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As  you know our children play a huge role in our lives and are actually quite integral to this blog. So when Millie asked the other day if she could write a guest post about her life in France, it took me just a nanosecond to say “Yes.” Millie is 16; she has an immense passion for life, she’s very sporty, she’s quite tiny and she’s also terribly sweet most of the time! I gave her no guidelines as to what she should write and have not edited her offering at all; in fact the only thing I said was to “try and keep it to around 1500 words.” Apart from my snapshots of Millie herself, the rest of the photos are her own. So, this is Millie’s life in France; it’s a glimpse into the life of a teenager in a foreign land and I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I read it.

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This Idyllic French Life

 

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Several unrelated comments from around the globe have got me thinking recently about idyllic lifestyles. It has set me thinking that what is one person’s idyll is most likely not another’s. How does one clarify ‘idyllic’? Can life be idyllic in the cold and rain, or does there have to be sunshine? Or perhaps everything needs to be calm and perfectly peaceful to be idyllic? Read more

Brocante and Chocolate

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These last few days everything has felt slightly different as the sun streams in through the windows, and although the mercury is definitely nudging upwards a little there’s a cold easterly wind which is banishing all thoughts of bare arms and legs. Along with the week’s slow change in temperature, there’s also a subtle change in the light and despite the lingering smell of winter woodsmoke in the air there’s now a welcome new scent, that of freshly mown grass. Read more

Finding brocante in the attic and an ivy update

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Oh my goodness we’ve packed a lot in so far this weekend. It began with one of those early Saturday mornings when you wake up with the sun streaming in through the bedroom windows, and even though you’d dearly love a lie-in, you just know that you have to get up; it would be a criminal offence to waste such a beautiful start to the day. And as the forecast yesterday had promised much warmer weather and plenty of sunshine, there was much to do and no time to waste after months of winter and weak sun. Suddenly everything felt so different! Read more

MUD MONTH & OLD FRENCH HOUSES

Perhaps we have to endure the wind and the rain and all that winter can throw at us in order for us to enjoy the spring and the summer?

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We have been attempting to forecast the weather since the beginning of recorded history. Long before the invention of radar and other meteorological tools, people relied upon nature to give them a clue as to what the weather would bring.

“Is it going to be sunny today?” – “Maybe”

“Is it going to rain today?” – “Probably”

“Why does it have to rain?” – “Because we need the rain”

“Can you get some strawberries when you go shopping today?” – “No, it’s winter!”

These are the same questions I get asked every week by our two smallest people at varying stages of the day; the weather-related ones usually arise as I am trying to get the two teenagers out of the door for school, put on my coat, pick up Evie to take with me, find my phone, grab an umbrella and remind the same two little ones that if it should be fine they are walking home.

I answer on auto-pilot, “It’s winter.”

But don’t get me wrong, much as I hate winter, I also love winter – not for itself as I can’t pretend to love the bare trees and dormant garden or the quiet streets where not a soul can be seen, and nor can I pretend to adore the empty markets when all that is on offer never seems to change: winter greens, potatoes and carrots. No, what I like about winter is the promise it offers of spring and summer; for surely winter is just the prelude to the months that I love so much? If we did not go through winter we would not revel in the first cherries, the first meal taken outside, and spring and summer would become normal rather than ‘special’. So I have come to an agreement with winter, I’m ok with it.

December was gorgeous, December was one long Indian Summer; but then December is always good no matter what the weather, it’s a festive month. January normally starts with a bang but fades into insignificance, which this year has been a very wet and soggy insignificance. This year February is continuing in the same vein with severe gales added into the mixture to spice things up a little. I am reminded of the ancient proverb “If in February there is no rain, ’tis neither good for hay nor grain.” I of all people, as a farmer’s daughter, should understand the importance of rain, so long as it rains at the right time of year.

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The past week 105 kph winds battered our coast. The garden looked like a war-zone with scattered branches littering the lawn and I was staring out at the sodden landscape whilst cleaning up after breakfast when the rain commenced again; not a gentle drizzle but a torrential downpour that saw the terrace turn into a river before my eyes. At the bottom of the kitchen window where the two sides join in the middle is the most tiny gap and in through that gap water suddenly came streaming in as if someone had opened a tap. Water poured around the sink and was soon pooling all over the counter and down the front beside the dishwasher. Grabbing tea-towels I stuffed them as hard as I could against the tiny hole and then as quickly as it had started the rain ceased and the water stopped. Another job for Roddy to do, and another reminder about living in old houses. Why this had never happened before and why it should start now we had no idea, but there is never a sensible solution, it just happened and that’s life here in an old farmhouse!

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The truth about living in an old house built in 1790 is we live with it ‘day to day’. The windows and doors can be draughty, but I’d rather live with the draughts than lose the house’s character. Nothing is truly straight, walls slant this way and that; there are no perfect right angles, the roof slopes, the beams are bowed and cracked, but the very same things that can sometimes be irritating are also part of the charm. Our property hides a wealth of old features that have become so commonplace we don’t even notice them. Our barn for instance has this ladder with which to climb to the attic above; it’s easily as old as the house, but it’s sturdy and it works and we have no idea what the numbers signify.

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Frequently things need fixing. The older the house, the more opportunity for things to go wrong; but no matter the inconveniences, no matter the hardships, living in an ancient farmhouse is a privilege. Certainly the best balance is to combine charming period features with modern amenities, but we must restore sympathetically; we cannot seal up every hole and crack for the house must be able to breath. We have to treat it as a living creature, as it has stood for centuries and will no doubt still be standing long after our lifetime; in effect it is an honor to live here. The other day I passed this centuries-old farm which is for sale, complete with barns, lots of land and amazing views. I would arrange to go and have a look but I would hate to waste the time of what I am sure are elderly owners, so we will have to be content with a little day dreaming from the outside.

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I wish I could move this old stone trough. It stands in the corner of the grange attached to our house which we call the ‘boot-room’. Unused and quite unnoticed by all, it even has drainage; perhaps this is where previous inhabitants used to wash in times gone by? Or is it something as mundane as a horse trough?

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Living in an old house might change your life; it will certainly change your perspective.

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A major preoccupation of house-owners in France is the heating. In virtually every old home you go into the fireplace will be a feature. It can be an open-fire with logs crackling in the hearth, flickering flames licking at the grate and the mellow fragrance of burning wood filling the air, or it can be a wood-burner, safer and easier to keep alight throughout the day. Either way there is nothing better nor more inviting when you’re coming back from a walk than seeing the smoke gently coming out of the chimney. I can’t imagine a property without a fire; they can be messy and dusty, and it’s hard to regulate the temperature as we know all to well, alternating between wearing thick jumpers to wandering around in a t-shirt – but nothing captures rural living better than a fire.

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Come to think of it, winter hasn’t been that bad at all, I don’t mean the weather I mean winter in general, and I am sure that’s all down to the new wood-burner we installed in the kitchen last October for nothing beats a cosy country kitchen. It’s true I’m slightly bored of washing dirty dog-towels, the boot-room is constantly littered with wet coats, wet umbrellas, wellie-boots and mud. But as is always the way in the Charente Maritime, just when I can’t stand the rain any longer, the sun comes out, and even in February it’s a powerful sun, strong enough to actually create some warmth. It beckons us outside and away from the fire. Whilst doing some research I learnt that in Olde English the name for February was Solmonath, which literally means “mud month” – I think I shall be calling it this from now on!

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It is indeed a truly fabulous life, but nothing is ever simple. A few days ago, right after I published the post about Evie, she killed one of our chickens; the victim was our dearest little silkie, Constance. Why Evie would suddenly kill a chicken we have no idea; she has grown up around them since she was two months old, and sure, she chases them for fun, but there has never been any intent to harm, or none that we could see; it was always just a game. I actually walked around feeling rather numb for a couple of days, and the garden and our dog walks temporarily lost their appeal. I know my ancestors would tell me I’m becoming “soft” – maybe I am. Still Mother Nature tried really hard to cheer us up. One of our plum trees is already in blossom, the daffodils are fabulous, and the aubretia and camellias are starting to work their charm. We’ll work out what to do, I know. But our immediate questions of that day already seem over-dramatic; do we sell the chickens, do we fence them in, do we re-home Evie? Most likely we’ll do nothing for now but keep a vigilant eye on her whoever she is outside, hoping it was a one-off, however unlikely that may seem. We’ll keep training her and right now put it down to one of life’s cruel moments.

But for now, the rain has stopped, it’s a perfect sunny French day, and the children’s winter holidays are looming; just one more day to go and then two weeks with them at home – I can’t wait. We have tennis tournaments for the girls in La Rochelle, and then we’re off to the snow and mountains for a few days; there is so much to be thankful for and I certainly am extremely grateful for all of it.

Making the Most of the Rain

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Sometimes, when it’s bucketing down with rain or just horribly cold and damp, it would be much nicer to stay inside; it would be so easy to batten down the hatches and work in the warmth of the kitchen, never straying too far from the wood-burning stove. But that is not an option when you have dogs. I only have to touch a lead hanging from the door and Bentley and Evie are at my feet, looking at me with that expectancy that says they just know they are going for a walk; by the time we’re in the boot room and I’m reaching for my wellies, there’s a keen sound of excitement at floor level; they don’t care if it’s wet or cold, or howling a gale; they just want to get out there! Our 200 year-old flagstones sigh at the scratching of paws and the wind-banging slam of the door as we go out and brave the elements.

I have walked with a certain spring in my step the past couple of days as the dogs and I leapfrogged puddles and dodged showers. I am extremely grateful for the response to my questions about blogging in my last post and I was naturally happy to hear that you like things as they are. Thank you all so much. As a result I have maybe stopped a little more frequently with my camera, spurred on to share all around me, and I’ve been re-arranging words to better describe what I see and hear. This deep in the country we don’t have any opportunity to have an ‘extravagant’ lifestyle, instead we take extreme pleasure in the most simple things; whether that’s our family life, the animals, the scenery, the fresh produce or just being grateful that we do not sit in traffic for a fifth or more of our waking day. Yes, we’re lucky, and we know it, and we appreciate it; and yes, we know how fortunate we are to live in the online age, where small luxuries can be bought with the click of a mouse too. It’s a magical mixture.

I never tire of the views on our routine dog-walk straight from the house. It takes me just one hundred paces to move from the 21st century and a computer-screen to this old landscape, where an ancient fortress surveys a working landscape it once proudly guarded from the ravages of Barbary pirates and the plundering attacks of British yeomen; where centuries of tears, smiles, births and deaths lie buried deep in the cloying inevitable embrace of the marsh that is the Marais de Brouage.

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Looking across at little hamlets, that have stood for centuries, I stand on a path that pilgrims have trod for 14 centuries, and still do today, as they go southwards to the great cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.

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We go past dormant vines, not really enough to be called a vineyard, in fact there are just a hundred or so plants for someone’s private use – some of these ‘house’ wines are very unsubtle, some are little treasures.

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Bentley is always content to wait and take a breather while I take photos, he being of a slightly senior age, but Evie at only seven months old cannot sit still; she’s off, on the scent of a rabbit or some purely imaginary smell. Nose to the ground, she follows a translucent path of scent, weaving right and left, her nose twitching like the billion-pixel imagery tool it truly is. Bentley watches with knowing amusement as she scampers around wasting so much energy. However, our dog-training efforts are finally starting to pay off and she now comes back when called (most of the time!). She races back to the track ahead from where she’s been lost in some adventure, far out in the field or deep in a hedgerow, and darts around in all directions before shooting off ahead again, covering ten times as much ground as the rest of us.

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The weather has thrown everything possible at us this week, we have had freezing temperatures, gale force winds, torrential rain and beautiful sunshine. One morning we woke up to a rare frost and a thin sheet of ice on the puddles and the pool. Gigi and Hetty had a fine five minutes before school playing in our temporarily frozen landscape.

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A couple of days ago I arranged to meet someone I wanted to talk to about three houses she has renovated; this is for a future blogpost next month. The weather could scarcely have been worse. I set off straight after the school-run, the thermometer only just above freezing and the rain battering against the windscreen, wipers on full speed. Heading north-east and away from my usual stomping ground I started to go inland through little villages I didn’t know. On the way home I kept making deviations and stopping to take photos; my return journey taking a good hour longer than it should have done. I passed several small chateaux, the type that look ‘lived in’ by families rather than just being museums open to the public, and I made a mental note of many places I had to return to when I had more time and the school pick-up was not approaching rather too quickly.

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I stopped briefly in St Savinien, a small Gallo-Roman town, on the banks of the Charente; the rain had eased finally, which is just as well as the umbrella I had grabbed in my haste to leave the house on time was in fact broken, a fact I discovered with sigh of resignation as I arrived at the house I was visiting – alas the girls had used it once too often for some Alice in Wonderland adventure in the garden.

I stood staring at near deserted streets I had once seen in a very different season, for we had been here before last summer; then, flowers adorned every window box, boats with tourists silently glided down the river and locals and tourists alike strolled along the ancient streets. Now it was almost unrecognizable but just as photogenic, with the streets and houses slick with watery reflections.

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A little closer to home and after another quick detour I came across this wonderful farmhouse, with a large Vendu sign, clearly marking that it has recently been sold. I thought what a wonderful home it would make, tucked away off the beaten track but not totally isolated, located in a tiny village with a small church and a clutch of similar houses.

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and I also realised that I don’t need perfect sunny days all the time to take photos, as sometimes the light can be magical on grey days, when rain magnifies colours even if it’s cold and bleak.

So whatever the weather where you are today, I hope you have a wonderful Sunday.

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CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS, PAST AND PRESENT

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Around mid-October each year I usually have the same good intentions, to be one of those super-organized people who gets all their Christmas shopping done by November. However, although I may wake each morning with the same great idea, it never seems to materialize. I remember one year when we were in the midst of moving house and I descended on Toys”R”Us on Christmas Eve, panic-buying whatever caught my eye, and ended up with a bunch of presents I would never normally have even considered. Strangely, the children who are old enough to remember that Christmas recall the day with great fondness!

However, having said all that, I had thought that this year my organization levels had been a touch above average and almost everything had gone ‘swimmingly’ well. To start with I became French and bought champagne back in September, the month synonymous with the annual autumn French wine sales (Foire aux Vins) and a time when French families stock up their wine-cellars at hugely discounted prices. All the presents are wrapped and family parcels have been mailed overseas. The house is decorated and we even made a gingerbread house but there is one small blot on the my otherwise perfect Christmas landscape – an elusive present. It’s something I bought months ago as part of my plan to be super-woman, which is good, but the only problem is I have no idea where it is hidden, which is bad. I have turned cupboards inside out and unearthed things I didn’t even know we had, but there is still no sign of the elusive gift. I’ve even questioned my sanity; did I really buy it or am I just going completely mad? I know I bought it. I did, I did, I did. I think.

Maybe it’s time to take Gigi up on her offer. She has a favourite phrase at the moment, which for some reason she seems to think is extremely funny, and she says in her best Downton Abbey voice (as only a nine year old can….), “Would you like a glass of Bubbly?” As champagne has been all over the news recently with the fact that two or three glasses a day can help prevent dementia in later life, I may well take her up on her offer quite soon.

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Wasting so much time searching for the elusive gift has for some reason made me think of Christmas when I was a child. For me it began when Grandparents arrived and school finished. We always had a party on Christmas Eve; the Christmas tree always went in the same place, and the routine was unchanged year in year out; it always all seemed to run so smoothly!

Last week we set off after school one afternoon to choose our tree. We always do this altogether as a family and it involves a lot of discussion and a fair amount of what is usually good-natured disagreement. Rarely do we reach a unanimous decision in less than fifteen minutes and on more than one occasion there have been both referendums, and voting.

We check each tree carefully, considering the side view and the back view; is it too bushy, too thin, will it stand tall and be centre-stage for the entire holiday season? Everyone seems to want different trees for different reasons, and as we have raised five very strong-minded and independent children opinions are expressed loudly and confidently. This year, like all others, an agreement was hard to come by. Roddy took control and organized a vote, Gigi stood on Hetty’s toes and Millie and Jack eventually got their way. Roddy expressed bemused surprise that we had yet again chosen one of the most expensive trees in the entire department, possibly in the whole of France, but although I hate to admit it, I think they chose a fine specimen!

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Of course, the fun has only just started; next comes the decorating. Boxes are hauled in, and we all look out for our old stone crèche that we bought years ago in Provence – it’s a Christmas favourite with the children. They just love placing all the little figures (Santons as they are called) in place and making the nativity scene come alive. Decorating the house is loud and chaotic, but it’s always fun and as the children get older it does get a little easier and fewer decorations seem to get broken each year on unforgiving hard tiles. Ours is a very personal tree as virtually every decoration tells a story. Many are gifts from a dear friend who lives in Connecticut, as each year she sends the children a decoration and as a result they have always been treasured. Along with these there are also baubles they have hand-painted at school over the years, some even with finger-prints and dates. Each and every one of them has a story to tell. It’s a long slow process, and an evening when Slade repetitively belts out “I wish it could be Christmas everyday” and everyone gets a little bit silly! By the end of it there are always a mass of decorations on the bottom and at the front, and the tree is typically left a little bald and devoid of colour at the back and top. But when the house is quiet again and the youngest are tucked up in bed I usually go around tweaking a little here and there!

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Starting the decorating slightly earlier this year has certainly had it’s advantages, and although the tree may drop a few more needles before the New Year it has definitely made for a more relaxed time. Yesterday I also cut a huge trug-load of magnolia branches which sat in the hallway all afternoon whilst I decided what to do with them! In the end I tied them in bundles up the staircase and Millie wrapped the bottom of the balusters in lights. We were both surprisingly pleased with the effect.

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Going back to my childhood Christmases, I remember how we always went to church on Christmas morning, how the turkey went in the oven overnight, and when we went for a ride on Christmas morning how our ponies would be festooned with tinsel around their necks. There was something wonderful about trotting along the village lanes when everywhere was quiet and still, and the people who we did see were always smiling, wishing us a very happy Christmas as we did likewise.

Presents were always unwrapped after lunch, part and parcel of being a farmer’s daughter. Everyone on the farm had the day off so it was typically just my Father who fed horses and cattle, milked the house cow and checked on stock. For this reason Christmas morning was always busy and presents were opened in the afternoon when everyone could sit down and take time to enjoy their gifts. By early evening it was time to go out and once again tend to animals on the farm, after which we would then come in for Christmas cake and settle in front of the fire. A game of cards always took place, and at some stage there would be a break in play for a supper (as if we could really eat any more!) of ham, salad, and trifle for dessert!

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Over the years we have kept some of our family traditions, and started other new ones of our own. We still unwrap gifts after lunch, everyone has grown to prefer it this way. I’m not sure we know another family with the same routine, but it seems to work well and now that the children are a little older and have a little more patience, they love it too. The morning is all about gifts left by Santa in their stockings and it gives them time to really enjoy these whilst the adults are cooking the big meal, and phoning family and friends. One of the new traditions is something  that seems to have been started a few years ago by Izzi, the eldest of the tribe. The children all quietly creep into her room at 7am on the dot, and they sit on her bed with their bulging stockings, opening Santa’s offerings in turn, around and around. When all the goodies have been unwrapped they load them all back into their stockings and then come and wake us up and start the whole process all over again. This means there are seven of us in one bed, which this year will be a complete battle-scene with two dogs! The best part of this arrangement is we do get to have a lie-in on Christmas morning.

It’s strange how the tradition of hanging a Christmas stocking can have so many variations. In fact the entire Santa/Father Christmas tradition varies quite dramatically from country to country. Here in France, for the most part Santa leaves presents for the children under the Christmas tree. Alas, we are not French and we stick to our British tradition of leaving a stocking at the foot of the bed. French friends visiting last weekend were amazed to see presents under our tree, “Santa has been already?” they asked incredulously; it took some explaining for them to understand that those were presents we give each other and we traditionally put them under the tree! To our surprise, these differences seem of little consequence to children, and both ours and their French friends seem to have an unspoken acknowledgment that Santa Claus brings French children their big main presents, and English children just receive small “stocking fillers”!

French children often get left twigs, while English children seem to always receive an orange or a mandarin. As a child, my stocking was a pillow-case and I would wake at some time during the night and by twiddling my toes I would know if Santa had been. Now it is slightly different as when Gigi was a baby I decided we should make Christmas stockings that the children would treasure forever. Nine years later they are still going strong and once again this year they are ready and waiting to be filled!

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Just one more day of school until the holidays and our little people are counting down the days and hours, wishing it was Christmas today, not next week, to which I always have the same reply, “I don’t, I’m not ready!”. But I’m getting there!

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I would love to know if you have any special traditions you keep going and wherever you are in the world; how do you celebrate Christmas and what are your family’s Santa traditions?

AUTUMN IN THE GARDEN

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Across France it’s now the two-week autumn school-holiday known as “Vacances de la Toussaint”. So far we have enjoyed fantastic weather with warmish sunny days; ok, not exactly swimming weather, but perfect walking weather, perfect playing-in-the-garden weather and perfect weather for exploring near and far.

The children take a huge interest in this little blog of mine; indeed frequently they are my inspiration and so as we were kicking about in the falling leaves, they asked what I was going to write about this week and that’s when it came to me. “This”, I replied, pointing to our autumnal shrubbery and falling leaves,”a tour of our garden in autumn”,

“But it looks a mess!” they chorused, adding “and it’s not exactly pretty at the moment,” but  that’s when the fun started. I fetched my camera and we wandered around, stopping to take photos, and suddenly what they had taken for granted as red leaves clinging to an old stone wall, took on a new form as they turned russet orange in the afternoon sun.

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The Japanese Anemones are still flowering, self-seeded in places, and with the protection of a north-facing wall they are still  in abundance in many corners of the garden; and the Salvia Grahamii have been in bloom all through the summer and continue to provide colour.

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Roses are once again flowering as they have their last flurry before winter takes its toll, and  the Pampas Grass is looking fabulous. There are tiny hardy Cyclamen all over the place in shady spots, poking their heads up between the fallen leaves.

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The vegetable garden has been dug over and the autumn kale has been planted. The roses down there are a stark contrast to the plainness of the bare earth.  However, the aubergines, peppers and chillies are still going strong and producing as fast as we can eat them.

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Our Persimmon tree is quite literally groaning under the weight of so much fruit, so much so that a huge branch broke off one afternoon with a quite frightening crack and a subsequent thud. This has made us look at seriously pruning it back this winter to a more manageable level. In the meantime we have yet to see if we can get the fruit to ripen enough before it gets too cold, I am told they sell for a pound each in England so we must have at least £200 of fruit! Last year winter came far too quickly for the fruits, and I fear it will be the same again this year.

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We don’t have any apple trees but a friend has plenty and she is constantly providing us with box loads of fruit. Sweet and crunchy they are perfect in cakes, tarts, compotes or just eaten straight from the box.

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The chickens are hard at work enjoying the cooler weather. I was digging up some of last years well rotted leaves as mulch for a new shrub I had planted and they are never far away from my feet, searching for grubs and worms. In turn they are rewarding us with more eggs than we can eat and it’s been a very long time since we saw a tick on the dogs. After a summer fraught with chicken problems we are back to a healthy flock, so our fingers are crossed that Roddy can take off his veterinarian’s coat for a while.

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Fritz the bantam cock has turned very dark, quite suddenly, and Constance, our only Silkie, is quite a madam earning herself any number of nicknames from visitors this summer! Gone are the long lazy days when our flock rested in the shade of a tree for hours on end; now they are on the move from dawn until dusk, constantly scrounging tidbits from anywhere they can get their feet and beaks into. They are very opportunist feeders and we have seen some surprising items disappear into frenzied craws, including half-consumed cat leftovers….. no more details needed..

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It seems as if we have been clearing leaves forever, but in truth we have barely started, many are still green and there are plenty more to come down !

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So it’s just as well we bought ourselves a new leaf collector that is towed along behind the mower, it is certainly making life much easier this year, I won’t have the arm muscles of last autumn but it will be done in a quarter of the time instead and anyway I always have my little helpers!

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THE MAD HATTERS’ TEA PARTY

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It’s a dismal rainy afternoon in South West France.  The children are on their winter break for two weeks and it’s raining.  What is one to do ? Make cupcakes of course!  So, with the two youngest girls, we baked, we iced, we giggled, spoons were licked and a fine mess was made –  baking with the children is always wonderfully sticky fun.

The girls then said they were going to have a tea party.  I thought this was a great Idea.  So they dressed up in their party clothes, dragged in a small table from the garage, found the low stools and chairs, and then took out some real china and silver napkin rings. I just knew this was going to be one heck of a tea party!

However, the number of place-settings confused me at first, until I realized that an invite had gone out to one of the American Girl dolls. This was followed by much giggling and whispering, and then I saw Bentley, our dear sweet long-suffering Jack Russell, offered a seat.  Nothing really too unusual here I thought, and carried on with my paper-work.

However, out of the corner of my eye I then saw Rory, one of our six month old kittens, had joined in the fun. This now peaked my interest and I furtively started to watch a little more closely, un-noticed, in the background.  The giggling continued unabated.

Our youngest then left on the pretext of going to the bathroom, but she had that wicked glint in her eye and I knew something was up!  She returned carrying Eleanor, the friendliest of our Pekim Bantam hens; yes Eleanor was coming to the tea party!  Now I’d forgotten all about the paper-work, I grabbed my phone (no time to look for the camera) and started snapping away….this was hilarious !

IMG_2131Rory wasn’t sure – what was that icky-sticky stuff on the table ? Bentley started to have a meaningful conversation with Elizabeth, the American Girl doll.

 

IMG_1983More tea anyone? Bentley looked perturbed that his plate was empty. 

IMG_2034Rory thought he might just get the last of the crumbs as he enjoyed the rest of ‘whatever it was’ so much.  Bentley on the other hand, now has something ON his plate but cannot quite understand that he is going to be allowed to eat off the table, that’s a definite NO normally; and Eleanor, well she’s just sitting, wondering what on earth is happening….

IMG_1964Rory really wanted more – and then some more. Who knew cats liked cake?

IMG_2010Well, as soon as Rory licked his lips (yum, that butter cream icing is just too good!),  Bentley decided the temptation was too much, and no one was going to stop him from having just a sneaky little taste….

IMG_2004and all the time Eleanor just sat there, unruffled by the chaos and laughter….

What a fun afternoon; there is one thing for sure – our household is never dull – but this certainly beats electronics and television on a rainy afternoon. Of course, Mr H thought it was all totally normal when he walked through the door, but then he is slightly barmy himself – I can see where the girls get it from now.