June Dictons

It’s the start of a new month, so time to turn to look at some French dictons (sayings) about it. Rain and/or the harvest seem to be the subject of most of them, reflecting what the major concerns of country people were in the past. And they still are today. We’re waiting for Edouard,  our farmer, to come and cut the hay for us, and by the looks of things, the cereals he’s growing in some of our fields are almost ready for harvest. And everybody needs rain this month.

 

Rain in June

publicdomainpictures.net

Pluie de juin n’est que fumée. Rain in June is no more than steam.

Le temps qu’il fait en juin le 3 sera le temps du mois. Whatever the weather is on the 3rd of June, then it will stay like that for the whole month.

Pluie à la Trinité récolte de moitié. Rain on Trinity Sunday means the harvest will be  halved. (These year Trinity Sunday is 19 June, i.e. first Sunday after Pentecost.)

Juin larmoyeux rend le laboureur heureux. A weeping June makes the ploughman happy.

Pluie en juin donne belle avoine et chétif foin. Rain in June gives good oats and puny hay. And similarly : Pluie de juin fait belle avoine et maigre foin. Rain in June means good oats but poor hay.

S’il pleut à la Saint-Médard la récolte diminue d’un quart… If it rains on St Médards day (8th June), the harvest will be a quarter less.

Quand il fait du rouille en juin cela fait mal au grain. If there’s rust in June that is bad for cereals.

Eau de Saint-Jean peu de vin et pas de froment. Rain on St John’s Day (24 June) means little wine and no wheat.

Avant la Saint-Jean pluie bénite après la Saint-Jean eau maudite. Rain before St John’s Day is good, but after that day it is cursed water.

En beau juin, toute mauvaise herbe donne bon foin. Weeds make good hay during a fine June.

Le soleil de st Barnabé, A saint Médard casse le nez. If the sun comes out on St Médard’s Day rather than St Barnaby’s Day, then that means bad luck.

En juin, pluie ou soleil unie fait prévoir récolte bénie. Sun and rain together in June make for an excellent harvest.

Juin froid et pluvieux, tout l’an sera grincheux. A cold and wet June means a miserable year.

En juin trop de pluie, le jardinier s’ennuie. Too much rain in June and gardeners get bored.

 

Wind

De juin le vent du soir Est pour le grain bon espoir. During June, evening winds are a hopeful sign for the crops.

 

Fine weather

publicdomainpictures.net

En juin, soleil qui donne n’a jamais ruiné personne. Sunshine in June never hurt anyone.

Frais mai et chaud juin, amènent pain et vin. A cold May and a warm June mean there’ll be plenty of bread and wine.

Prépare autant de bons tonneaux qu’en juin tu compteras de jours beaux. Prepare as many barrels for your wine as you count good days in June.

Saint-Antoine clair et beau emplit cuves et tonneaux. A fine and bright St Anthony’s Day (13 June) fills vats and barrels.

S’il tonne au mois de juin année de paille et de foin. If it thunders is June then it will be a good year for hay and straw.

Beau mois de juin change herbe rare en bon foin. A good month of June transforms poor grass into good hay.

 

Fruit and crops

En juin, quand la cerise périt tout s’ensuit. If cherries wither in June, then everything else will go the same way.

Juin fait pousser le lin et juillet le rend fin. June makes flax grow, and July makes it good quality.

 

Wildlife

publicdomainpictures.net

A la Saint-Jean perdreaux volants. Young partridges start to fly on St John’s Day.

Pie trop bavarde grand vent ne tarde. If the magpie is too cheeky then strong winds are coming.

Abeilles en mai valent un louis d’or, abeilles en juin, c’est chance encore. Bees in May are worth a  Louis d’or (coin worth 20 francs), and bees in June are even luckier.

Animal Farm

An update on the various new arrivals at Les Fragnes.

First up, Bertie. He’s feeding well, despite the fact his mum’s a llama. Llamas are not the greatest mothers. They’re not patient. Poor baby just about gets his wobbly legs and his wobbly neck under control and in position, when mum moves off to graze somewhere else. She usually kicks baby in the head as she does so. So dazed little llama shakes his head, then trots afer mum to go through the whole procedure again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had put Windy and Bertie in the alpaca field, but we’re going to move them back to the small paddock and stable. It will be easier for Bertie to keep up with mum there. It also gives the pair of them a chance to bond. I may slip him the odd bottle of sheep’s milk to make sure he’s getting enough to eat.

 

 

 

 

 

The kittens have made themselves completely at home. They spend the night in the Eglu but we’re letting them wander more and more during the day. Two of them have names – Voltaire and Gigi (short for Gaston Glock). The two white ones are possibly Austen and Bronte, but one of them might be Baretta. We’ve got very laid back about names these days. At one time, names would be decided the moment a new animal arrived, but these days it tends to drift. But if we’re not careful, the white kittens will be White Kitty 1 and White Kitty 2 for the rest of their lives.

Voltaire
Gigi

Julie the guinea pig who was born wild in the flower bed has been rounded up together with mum Blackberry and a couple of her aunties/half-sisters (our pigs are a tad on the inbred side unfortunately) and is thriving. No sign of any more babies so it doesn’t look like we’ll be overrun after all. Phew!

 

Bertie the Baby Llama

Bertie about 30 minutes old

So – our first male llama has been born at Les Fragnes. Bertie arrived about 11.30am on Saturday 28th May. He’s the fourth cria in a row to be born on a Saturday. All our three 2010 babies – Victoria and Georgina the llamas, and Elrond the alpaca – came on that day of the week. What is it about Saturdays and llamas I wonder!

Mum is Windermere and Dad was Bernard, who died in January this year of old age. It’s lovely that his son is here. And baby’s name, Bertie, is based on his Dad’s.

Bertie is good and strong. He knows what to do to suckle, but he hasn’t got the where sorted out quite yet. Windy has got plenty of milk, and she didn’t mind me firkling around under there to get it flowing. Bertie has sucked some milk off my fingers but isn’t latching on to Windy. We’ll have another couple of tries later this evening, but I’m confident he’ll have it sussed before long.

Windermere and Bertie

He has lovely markings and he’s good and woolly. He has his mum’s hairy ears!

The only slight concern is that I haven’t found the placenta yet, so I’m not sure if Windy has retained it. We’ll keep a careful eye on things for the time being.

Bertie has dried out and gone all fluffy now that he’s nearly five hours old. Much more handsome!

Dry and fluffy now

Apples, Crosses and Gravel

Another cycle-road photo blog. The Sazeray ring, around 20 kms or so, is one of our favourites at the moment. Chris and I nip off to do it after delivering Ruadhri to the school bus at Nouzerines in the morning. But on Wednesday, since there no’s school for Rors that day, we all went together. We’d hoped to buy him an ice-cream along the way, but the one shop on the route – the Multi-Services at Sazeray – was firmly shut for whatever reason. Luckily I came prepared with choccie bars so we had those instead.

There’s some nice off-road cycling on this route. We go along the ‘Boulevard des Pommiers’ (Apple Tree Avenue). Isn’t it a great sign! It’s nailed to a tree in a lovely little orchard which produces the most amazing apples.

We’ve never seen anyone either inside or outside this caravan, and we’ve passed it hundreds of times. The slogan reads: La petite maison dans les pommes, le coin des gens heureux’ – the little house amongst the apple trees, the place of happy people.

More cycling along tracks and then we get back to tarmac at the Croix Verte – green cross. It actually is although it looks rather dark in this photo. It’s a simple but beautiful iron cross, painted a nice bright green.

By now we’re in Indre, the département to the north of our Creuse. In these foreign parts they have snazzy signs to mark the points where the school buses stop to pick up their young passengers! This one doubles as a cow herding aid – see the blue string?

Just before we arrive at Sazeray, we go through L’Oiseau – The Bird. There seems to be just the one house there.

The landscape around here is dotted with water towers. This is the ivy-covered one of Sazeray.

Another cross along the way – La Croix de St Jean. The inscription on it says 31 May 1943. I shall have to do some research to find out what that’s about.

We had our usual stop at St Paul’s. We love this old abandoned farmstead. When I’ve made a fortune from self-publishing my books on Kindle, we’ll buy it!

And back home for elevenses. Ruadhri was great all the way round, with just one grumble up the last hill home. The territory around is rolling so there are some fairly stiff climbs – and some great descents! The problem is that the local communes have been gritting the roads in honour of the forthcoming passage of the Tour de France through the area, so there’s a lot of loose gravel lying around at the moment. That’s lethal for cyclists. I hope it’s all swept up before the 9th of July …

 

 

Excellent Eglu

Side view of the Eglu and run

I must have had my Eglu for about seven years now, maybe longer. My what? Eglu – it’s a space age chicken house made by Omlet. Check out the website. The company now produces several versions of the Eglu and also houses for bees, rabbits and guinea pigs. I’m glad to see Omlet is doing so well. It deserves to. It produces top quality items.

Originally intended for our first two chickens in Ireland, Lady Egg and Princess Layla, the Eglu has since housed more chickens but also ducks, turkeys, guinea fowl, rabbits, guinea pigs and, currently, kittens. It’s incredibly versatile, totally secure and generally brilliant.

It was one of the few items that Irish couriers condescended to actually deliver to our house. We used to have a dreadful time with them back in Cork. They would avoid bringing anything out to you if they possibly could. We only lived a couple of miles outside Bandon, a small town, and around twenty miles from Cork City, but you’d think we were on the moon. The excuses we’d get for them not to come out – too far off the beaten track, not on our map (I even gave our GPS location to them sometimes), won’t be going that way again till 2012 … It was shameful. So I used to have to pick things up from the various depots. I gave up ordering stuff from Amazon altogether because we never got that. It was either nicked or sent back to the warehouse, the couriers claiming no-one was at home when they tried to deliver it. Grr. So it’s wonderful here in France where couriers’ vans turn up when expected and never have any trouble finding us, and we really do live in the middle of nowhere now. We were semi-suburban in comparison back at Finnis!

Back to Eglu related content. There was great excitement when Ruadhri and I collected our first two chickens all those years ago. Our neighbour Joy had told me about a lady who sold chickens, so we went out there with a cardboard box. I was rather stunned when the woman opened a shed literally packed with chickens, grabbed the two nearest by their legs and dropped them on their heads into our box. But I’m used to chicken management techniques now! And when we found our first egg in the nesting box of the Eglu the very next day, well, that was it. I was hooked on chickens. Lady and Princess were super chickens. They spent their holidays with Joy’s chickens every year, and the rest of the time free-ranged over our garden, and hardly missed a day with egg laying. Lady’s eggs won a prize at the Bandon Show one year. Classy chicken or what!

But for now, the kittens are comfy and cosy in the Eglu. We’ll keep them there another week or so until they’re properly settled in, and then move them out into one of the stables. I shall need the Eglu back for more chickens soon …

 

I Hate Hayfever

Here is my kitten-delayed post about hayfever.

I don’t normally get hayfever – but I’ve been suffering this last two weeks. Thanks to the dry, hot weather pollen levels have been incredibly high. And May sees the greatest different number of pollens floating around. The main culprits in France in May are:

www.free-photos.biz

Trees

Silver birch – bouleau; Hornbeam – charme; Châtaigner – sweet chestnut; Chêne – oak; Cyprès – cypress; Hêtre – beech; Marronnier – horse chestnut; Platane – plane; Prêle – horsetail; Saule – weeping willow

(Bouleau and platane are particularly irritating.)

Graminées – grasses

Dactyles – orchard grass; ; Seigle – rye; Fétuque – fescue; Ivraie – rye grass; Phléole – Timothy grass

 

Herbacées – herbaceous plants

Colza – oil seed rape; Pariétaire –  pariatarias; Plantain – plantain; Pissenlit – dandelions; Trèfle – clover

 

No wonder it’s tough going at the moment. And it takes only 10-20 pollen grains per cubic metre of air are enough to set your hay fever off once you’ve been sensitised. That a scarily small amount.

Chris and Caiti are hayfever sufferers and, while I’ve always sympathised, I’m doubly sympathetic this year. Isn’t it miserable? Stuffy nose, itchy ears, sore eyes – and that’s just for starters. It can escalate to asthma, skin problems and medical crises for some people.

Everyone will tell you that the best way to avoid hayfever is to avoid the trigger substance. In May, that’s impossible if it’s pollen, so antihistamines are the next line of defence. Chris can remember being sent to sleep by the ones he took as a child, but these days, medicine has moved on and antihistamines no longer make you dopey. Nasal sprays and eye drops are helpful too. There are homeopathic remedies as well, which some people swear by.

In France Réseau National de Surveillance Aérobiologique issues daily pollen alerts. There’s an app for your iphone or Android that you can get from the site to keep you up to date.

But hot dry weather isn’t all bad. First swim in our pool today. It was a tingly 18 degrees, but the only way is up!

 

 

Hijacked by Kitties

This guy has blue eyes

I’d spent quite a while on Sunday afternoon researching and writing a blog about hayfever to post for Monday, when suddenly a phone call came through. It was Caiti on her evening bike ride. She’d found four kittens in the road, not far from home. No sign of mum and the kitties weren’t feral  – just another set of abandoned cats. Chris brought the last batch home two years ago, tiny babies that he found in the middle of the road.

So now you have a blog about kitties instead. Hayfever can wait!

 

 

 

 

 

The kids have called this one Voltaire - he's full of mischief

And the irony is that I’d been reading in Ruadhri’s Quotidien magazine today about how France was a nation of animal lovers. Not round here, they’re not. Unwanted cats are dumped regularly in this vicinity. It’s appalling that people can do that to animals. They have no idea what the animals’ fates might be – getting run over, starving to death, dying of disease. They can’t bring themselves to have them put down or find homes for them – they just pass the buck to folk like us. If Caiti hadn’t happened along when she did, we would never have found these guys and we’re the only residents around for a long way. Goodness knows what would have happened to them.

 

 

 

 

This kitty is creamy white and has a twin

They’re house cats. They’re friendly, used to people and clean, apart from a few ticks that they must have picked up out in the wild today. Voltaire has made himself very comfy on the chair.

So … back to finding homes for unwanted cats and forking out for cat neutering. It’s annoying, but, well, what choice do we have? We can’t just leave them to an uncertain but almost inevitably unpleasant fate in the wild. Humans are meant to look after animals.

 

They’re very lively now that they’ve had some food and water – they hadn’t had anything for a while, that was obvious. Unfortunately they can squeeze out through the bars of the cat cage we have, so they’re running amok around the lounge at the moment. We’ll move them into the Eglu tomorrow, and stock up on kitten food and kitten milk.

Caiti and Ruadhri are thrilled of course, Chris and I less so since we’ll be the ones dealing with litter trays while the kids are at school! But as I write, Chris is cuddling two of them – and the four of them really are cute. Yup, we’re soft.

And now – all four kitties have snuggled up to Chris to watch telly with him!

Water, Babies and Outings

Finepix to the left, Nikon to the right

Expect more photos on this blog from now on. Why? I have a new baby. No, not a real baby – been there, done that three times which is quite enough! This baby is my new Nikon Coolpix L23 camera. It’s awesome, and so small. Here’s a picture of it next to the Finepix I’ve been using up to now. The Nikon will be coming everywhere with me now. The Finepix was rather cumbersome so got left behind a lot. No excuses now.

We had an afternoon and evening of thunderstorms yesterday which brought some very welcome rain – but still not enough. I’ve already started using the bath water to water the flowers. Rors doesn’t like deep baths, but there was still around 50 litres in the bathtub for me to reuse. Makes you think. A lot of areas in France already have water restrictions in place. Not the Creuse, at least not yet. So we thought we’d better the pool filled up in case a hosepipe ban comes in. So we opened it up yesterday. The water level had dropped a lot – definitely a small leak somewhere but despite a good search, Chris couldn’t spot anything. He repatched the old hole and put some new patches over where the steps brace against the lining, possibly a weak spot. And he scooped out four live frogs, umpteen dead worms, one dead lizard and a tree’s worth of leaves. And this is with the cover being on all winter!

My blogging colleague Vanessa Couchman wrote a very good post about swimming pools recently, outlining their many drawbacks and summing up what pool ownership entails. In a nutshell they’re expensive, a lot of work to maintain and you don’t get to use them very much. But – I wouldn’t be without ours. I can’t wait to get swimming again.

 

The school outing season is upon us. Caiti went on a geology field trip yesterday and got very sunburnt, silly girl. They went to a quarry somewhere near Clermont Ferrand. We pre-armed her with the geological hammer I gave Chris as a wedding present. (I wonder how many wives give their husbands a potential murder weapon on their wedding day? That was a show of trust!) She came back with stromatolites. These fossils are the most ancient records of life on Earth.

Ruadhri heads off to a dam on Tuesday and then to a zoo on Friday. The dam trip is part of the school’s project on energy, and Friday is the fun yearly outing. Rors hasn’t been on many school trips. In the last three years, two different but equally over-enthusiastic teachers have insisted on doing a two-day trip and then a three-day trip respectively, totally ridiculous for such young pupils. Ruadhri and a few others didn’t go on them. They weren’t ready to stay away from home overnight, and why should they? There were ulterior motives for both these over the top jaunts – to boost a CV in one case, and to use up the school funds in another. But common sense has prevailed this year so it should be a great outing, despite the 7am start!

 

 

 

Naked Eurovision and Other Updates

Naked what? Well, half a dozen people have ended up at my site as a result of using the search term ‘naked Eurovision’, with another person after ‘Eurovision nudity’. There is a definite obsession with nakedness out there! Other bizarre search terms have been ‘lucky dog Limousin’ and ‘Anita Brooknerish’. I used that last phrase in my non-review of The Naked Gardeners but I didn’t think anyone went looking for it on the Web! And ‘When is a pot de crème a custard’ is a little intriguing too.

You may have noticed I had Monday off blogging. I’ve been doing daily posts for three months now as part of the WordPress post-a-day 2011 challenge, and I’ve loved it. But it’s taken a lot of time, and I’ve decided to cut back to posting every other day for the time being so I can spend more time on my writing. In theory. The outdoor jobs are piling up around the farm, I have a new editing project, we have more meals packages to do for anglers next week, and not one but two of my sisters-in-law are arriving for a visit in just over a fortnight so I have rather a lot of tidying up to do around the house! And that’s on top of all the usual everyday stuff.

We’ve made a tiny start on the polytunnel. Long way to go yet!

Measuring up for the polytunnel
Julie

No baby llama still, but we do have a new baby guinea pig. The seven girls have been living in the gite flowerbed for several weeks now and having a high old time. They’ve done wonders with the weeds that were growing there. And one of them has had baby Julie! We’ve no idea who mum is yet. We’ll catch them all within the next few days and get them back into their cage. The cats are showing rather too much interest in Julie for our liking.

Now big drum roll … daughter Caiti has come joint second in a national French science competition. She got 98 out of 100. An amazing achievement for anyone, but especially for an Irish lass.

 

Nouzerines is getting ready for the Tour de France. There’s a new banner up now. In the background you can see the nearly-finished church tower and brand new shiny weather vane.

A blue, white and red bike has appeared by the wooden tour de France sign too.

So that’s the major updates accounted for. Please do check in on www.booksarecool.com where I’ve been putting up new posts and a book review.

PS For the nakedly obsessed reader, the next national naked event is World Naked Bike Day on 18 June. May have to think about that one …

Don’t Sit On The Fence

A well-braced corner

Denis the llama’s new field is progressing well. Not too much left to do now.

We do all our fencing ourselves and at as a low a cost as we can. Fencing can be horrendously expensive. So you need to decide early on if you are going for looks or practicality. I would love swanky wooden post and rail fencing round my llama fields, but I’d have to sell the llamas to be able to afford it. So we have always used posts and netting, supplemented occasionally by electric fencing. I can’t remember the last time we turned an electric fence on though, to the honest. It’s not necessary with llamas and alpacas, and, because of their thick wool, isn’t very effective anyway! Our fencing may not win prizes for its appearance, but its functional and affordable.

The fencing for Denis’s field has been hard work. First we had to get all the 1.8m high piquets (posts) to the right place. The tractor wasn’t quite as useful here as we’d hoped so there was a lot of lugging by hand. Then a hole about a foot deep needed pickaxing for each post, and then the poles needed bashing into place. The postslammer makes this easier than using the sledgehammer, but it’s still very intensive labour. For Chris. I can hardly lift the postslammer off the ground, let alone get it on top of a tall post and whack it up and down! There was just one minor mishap when Chris lost his grip and the postslammer clunked him on the head. Fortunately he has a hard skull so no lasting damage done. At least, we don’t think so.

The postslammer
Tensioning the grillage

For the last two days we’ve been putting the wire grillage (netting) up. We use 1m high grillage. This is perfectly adequate for llamas. On the whole, camelids are great respecters of boundaries. They aren’t bothered about getting out – unlike goats, for example, whose sole intent in life is escaping from wherever you want them to be. The worst llamas might do is break a pole by leaning against it to scratch. It’s for this reason we’ve upgraded, but down-budgeted, to using rough chestnut piquets, rather than the smooth, rounded ones from hardware stores. Those simply aren’t strong enough. And also, being rounded, it’s hard to get the crampillons (u-shaped tacks) in properly.

Tensioning the grillage is the hardest thing. Chris has a handy tool for that. He got it off ebay and thinks it’s called a monkey climber, but those might be the tensioners that involve chain and look mega complicated. Anyway, here’s a picture of ours. It’s ingenious and incredibly efficient. You need to tension at the top and bottom of the grillage for the best end result.

Close up of the fence tensioner

Chris is pretty brilliant at fencing these days. He got a book, A Guide to Stock Fencing by Andy Radford, and has picked up a lot of tips from that. All our corners are properly braced these days.

So, the fence posts aren’t in a very straight line (my fault, I was principal pick-axer), and yes, they’re too big – we should have ordered 1.5 m ones, but Denis won’t mind and neither do we. He’ll just be happy to be outdoors again.