How To Be Clean In French

Yesterday I had the first day of the obligatory course in food hygiene that all persons have to attend who so much as touch a single piece of food destined to be eaten by someone else. We offer a meals package to anglers, so therefore that includes us. There’s another half day of lectures next Monday morning, and then our trainer, Françoise, will be visiting us in turn to give us advice and draw up an overall plan to help us better run our various entreprises.

We were a mixed bunch. Maxime, Christophe, David, Francis, Valérie and Cristelle were French and all ran restaurants of various sizes and types. Then there was the English contingent consisting of Nik and me. Nik runs a B and B at St Germain Beaupré, and as you probably know by know, I run a gîte de pêche (holiday cottage with lakes and fishing) together with Chris. Both Nik and I do relatively few meals compared with the pros, but we still have to go to this course. It’s not really suitable for us since we don’t have dedicated kitchens with cold storage rooms and walk-in freezers like the others. We don’t have lorries delivering food to us, and whose interior temperatures we should go in and check for ourselves before accepting a consignment of something perishable from them! There’s a lot that’s not relevant but tant pis !

It was very slow-going to start with. It took over two-hours for everyone to introduce themselves. The French are friendly people who love to talk, and adore going off on tangents. It was all very interesting but not getting us anywhere. However, after a coffee-less coffee break – the machine at the CCI training centre in Gueret was out of café, horrors – we got down to business.

Now, do you know what the 5 Ms of cleaning are? In French of course? I would have settled for just one M word relating to it, Miserable, but that wasn’t on the list. Instead we had: 1. Methode/Manière (how hard to scrub basically); 2. Matériels – what to use; 3. Main d’oeuvre, which is essentially labour, workforce i.e. human input; 4. Milieu – place, and 5. Matiére, what it is you’re actually cleaning. Like I said, Miserable sums it up!

And then there’s TACT which is Temps (time), Action Méchanique (elbow grease), Concentration (correct dosage of cleaning materials) and Température (correct temperature for the cleaning i.e. do you use hot or cold water).

We spent a lot of time learning about mineral and organic souillures (taints, stains) and saw plenty of slides of magnified microbes. Scary stuff. You have to tackle acidic souillures with alkaline products and alkaline souillures with acidic products, before finally disinfecting them to finish off any remaining nasties. This gives us the 7 stages of washing, notably: 1. Prewashing, 2. Washing with alkaline cleaner, 3. Rinsing, 4. Washing with acidic cleaner, 5. Rinsing, 6. Disinfecting, 7. Rinsing. We were all rather gobsmacked by that. We’d all thought a good clean with an all-in-one detergent cum disinfectant did the job properly.

There’s a difference important between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning removes the visible stuff and makes things look nice, but it’s the disinfecting that is the business end and deals with the microbes. However, only temporarily. The little horrors don’t take long to get going again. Spores are particularly tough to deal with.

We touched on the practicalities toward the end starting with different coloured lingettes (cloths) for cleaning different zones of the kitchen – one use only before being washed or disgarded. And know that sponges are a total no-go area. They harbour too many germs so mustn’t be used. Brushes are fine so long as they have plastic bristles, and you can only use plastic-bristled brooms too. These have to be disinfected after every use and be stored hanging on the wall. They mustn’t be left in contact with the floor. The chemicals you use must be stored in themed plastic boxes (detergents together, disinfectants together, etc) and you’re meant to wear gloves and safetly glasses when you use them.

And that’s just for starters! Whether it’s a) achievable with a bit of effort, b) all a tad over the top or c) totally impractical I’ll leave you to decide.  However, it’s the ideal we must aim for and need to put plans and protocols in place to show that we are following an organised approach to our cleaning.

The goal of all this is not to make customers ill, a very important one. Common sense cleaning and basic hygiene will assure this, but you have to go several steps beyond in order to make it obvious that you are being sensible and conscientious.

So – time to go and scrub my kitchen!

A Bike, A Banana And A Camera

The three trigger-happy members of the Dagg household headed off for a session at the shooting club this morning, so I got on my bike armed with a banana to keep me going and my camera – as ever. I wanted to go and see what was going on at eolienne (wind turbine) 3. (There are 9 eoliennes going up in the Boussac area – I blogged about this here.) There had been signs up in Boussac last week saying that convois exceptionelles  (long vehicles) would be going through the town on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. These could only be eolienne parts, surely. And they were. We noticed that intriguing, huge white things had appeared near the sites of eoliennes 6 and 7 when driving past. Time for a closer look.

However, I was in for a disappointment. All there was at eolienne 3 was this.

I mean, it’s very impressive and the site has been nicely landscaped now too, but our local wind turbine is lagging behind the others. We haven’t got the enormous whatever-it-is delivered yet. But we do have these official-looking straw bales.

And this portentous chalk cross on the ground:

Not to mention a keep out sign now, but since I cycled in the back way along a green lane I didn’t see it until too late. Shame.

On my way home, I spotted these two smashing pigs. We plan to get some next year.

Further down the road, there’s a house with some awesome metal sculptures in the garden. I finally got round to taking a photo of them. First the eagle …

… and here’s the owl. Which is your favourite?

It’s astonishing. These wonderful works of art are in the garden of a small country house in the middle of nowhere, and the chances are you’d never notice them from a car.

I carried on towards home, only stopping to take a photo of these very new calves. There’s been a real cow baby boom lately. They seem earlier than normal. I’m sure we usually see the calves in January.

Then back home. I’d been out about an hour and a half, covered maybe 20 kms or so, taken loads of photos and generally had a brilliant and interesting time. And I hadn’t even needed my banana!



La Mode Pratique 11.11.1911 – Fur, Dowries, Patterns and Potions

The weather is wonderful at the moment, definitely the nicest French November that we can remember. So we took advantage of it yesterday to some sorting out in the barn. Our barn is huge and has become a bit of a dumping ground for, well, everything. It was getting out of control so well overdue for a quick tidy up.

We soon filled the trailer with old papers, two broken vacuum cleaners, empty containers, sacks, and a load more things. But then I came across some of my old magazines so work rapidly ground to a halt as I was quickly sidetracked into looking through them. I was delighted to find a copy of La Mode Pratique dated 11.11.1911, one hundred years old to the day!

La Mode Pratique took over from La Mode Illustrée, which I have previously blogged about. It took on a tabloid format and became a little more downmarket, in there are lots of classified and other ads, far more than in Illustrée. There are even, heaven forbid, boobs, although they’re only cartoon ones!

All the ads are on the four outer pages of the paper, as was common with many publications of the time. They seem to be mainly about slimming …

… whitening your teeth, and staying regular.

The paper proper opens with an editorial about ‘la pluie’, rain. It’s very flowery, describing rain as ‘les larmes du ciel’ – heaven’s tears – and talks about how it makes us ‘douloureuse’ and inclined to ‘la mélancolie’. But there’s a nice picture of an afternoon dress to cheer everyone up.

Next comes, in full colour, an embroidery template. It’s a copy of the pattern on Louis XVI’s armchair. But you only get the first half. You’ve got to buy the next issue to get the rest!

Tucked into this page of the paper was the delivery slip that had been around it. It bears a Paris postmark, and the date of 8-11-11. This copy of LMP was sent from Librairie Hachette et cie, Boulevard St Germain 79, Paris to Madame Dubois, Notaire à Lepaud. Now, this ties in with the fact that we know a Notaire lived at Les Fragnes. We thought he was a Beaufils, but I’ve come across the name Dubois in other of my researches. But the address? It looks like M Dubois had a practice at Lépaud then, about 30 kms away, as well as locally. How would he have got there, I wonder?  It’s something of a mystery having Mme Dubois mentioned here. Other adresse labels we’ve come across have been for Les Fragnes, or even neighbouring Les Combes. Some detective work to be done.

On with the paper. There are several pages about fur coats …

… followed by an article about children’s hats …

… and then some lacemaking patterns.

There’s advice on how to make your table look attractive …

… and then a discussion of what we should be decorating our hats with. Chunks of dead bird seems to be the answer!

More dresses are pictured, this time for visiting in, and there’s more about embroidery and lacemaking.

Now comes something really interesting. ‘A propos des dots Mode Pratique’ is the title. A ‘dot’ is a dowry, and it transpires that LMP has been collecting donations from readers in order to be able to give small dowries to  three ‘travailleuses’, working class girls one assumes. Lucky J-G will be getting 2 457,50 francs. (A franc in 1910 was worth €2.69 in 2006 which is good enough for our purposes, so this comes to €6610 in current terms. Pas mal!) This would presumably have made a huge difference to someone’s life.

Below this is a long discussion of how to treat ‘engelures’, chilblains. Rubbing with camphor mixed with ‘essence de térébethine’, a type of resin, was the best treatment. I’ll bear that in mind as I’m prone to these horrid red lumps every winter.

The last page of the main paper has a selection of short articles about current products – a corset, knitting yarn, furs, anaemia treatment, and then there’s the Agony Aunt bit. Frou-Frou answers questions that have been sent in by readers. ‘BDG’ is told that her unsightly problems can be cured by Dr Galud’s special course of treatment. He has an ‘appareil électrique’ which will kill off unwanted hairs (early electrolysis) and his injections of sterilised wax will eliminate wrinkles and facial deformities. Altogether now – eeuuw. ‘Lectrice-assidue’ is told that she will learn everything she needs to know about feminine health if she gets Dr Séréno’s masterpiece ‘Ce qu’une femme doit savoir’ by writing to him at 14 rue Thérese in Paris for a copy.

Two more pages of ads to wade through. The last of these is a full page spread entitled:

It’s all about keeping your kidneys healthy. What you needed, depending on your exact symptoms, was a bottle of either Jubol for 5 francs, Urodonal for 6,50, Globéol also 6,50 and Filudine for 1o francs. (Euro equivalents 13, 17.50 and 27.)

So they you are, a look at a popular women’s newspaper from exactly 100 years ago.


Armistice and Apples

We’re just back from the Armistice Day commemoration ceremony at Nouzerines’ war memorial. It is the most perfect day, sunny, warm and still. It’s hard to think it’s November. Look at that blue sky.

The occasion begins a little after eleven when the three flagbearers followed by the Maire carrying a wreath leave the Maire. Everyone falls into step behind them and we walk to the side of the war memorial dedicated to the solidiers who died during the First World War.

The Maire lays the wreath and then two messages are read out, one from the association des anciens combattants en france and one from Monsieur le Président. Both end rousingly with ‘Vive la République. Vive la France.’

The Nouzerines-based children from the three schools in our local co-opérative always stand at the front during the ceremony and every year they contribute.

For the last few years they have recited a poem by a local person. This year they went musical, and sang the first verse and chorus from La Marseillaise. They did brilliantly. A lot of the older people were humming along and they got a good round of applause when they finished.

Here’s what they sang:

Allons enfants de la Patrie
 Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
 Contre nous de la tyrannie
 L’étendard sanglant est levé
 Entendez-vous dans nos campagnes
 Mugir ces féroces soldats?
 Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras.
 Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!

Aux armes citoyens
 Formez vos bataillons
 Marchons, marchons
 Qu’un sang impur
 Abreuve nos sillons

Now this translates as:

Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived.
Against us tyranny’s
Bloody standard is raised.
Listen to the sound in the fields,
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts.

To arms citizens, Form your battalions,
We’ll march, we’ll march march
Let impure blood
Water our furrows.

That’s one impressive national anthem!

Then the bearers lowered their flag and there was a minute’s silence for everyone who died during the First World War. Finally we processed round to the other side of the memorial which commemorates the soldiers who died during the Second World War and later conficts, and there was another minute’s silence.

It was over. There is always a cup d’amité on offer at the Auberge, but since we always cycle down to the ceremony, we never partake as we many not get home! Drinking and cycling don’t go together.

Now we’re back I must carry on tackling the apples and pears we’ve harvested this week. I’m peeling, chopping, stewing and freezing them. I may diversify into a little chutney making over the weekend.

There’s at least 10 kg in the three biggest bags, so I’ll be busy for some time. And there is still plenty of fruit lying around beneath long abandoned trees, calling for me!


Beetle Drive

Having discovered the CPN website and its ongoing beetle survey, and since yesterday was unbelievably sunny for November, Chris, Rors and I decided to go for a stroll along woodland walk at nearby Ste Sévère and look out for these insects. I printed out a record sheet for Rors, stole a clipboard off Caiti, and we were set.

Ste Sévère is a beautiful little town in neighbouring departément Indre.

The walk begins just down the road from the shooting club the guys go to, next to this moving monument.

Poor brave Pierre Boury, killed by the Nazis in July 1944 when he was only 20. Our Benj will be 20 soon. Life’s only just got going at that age.

Rors raced ahead, enthusiastically searching for beetles (coléoptères – probably my second favourite French word after trombinoscope!). But despite looking in all the likely places, he only caught of a glimpse of a couple of beetles.

They didn’t hang around long enough to be photographed and described in detail.

We saw a lot more toadstools. Here are a few intriguing examples.

So we gave up on trying to collect coléoptère-related data and simply enjoyed the walk. OK, so we go a little lost but doing so, discovered a fascinating area of rocky outcrops. My camera batteries had run out by then, but we’ll definitely be going back and I’ll take some pics then.

And the reason we didn’t see many beetles is most likely because they’re hibernating or certainly slowing down. Invertebrates become a lot more inactive during the cold months, apart from grubs inside trees and stumps who are well insulated, or deep ground dwelling beetles. They don’t notice outside temperatures.

We’ll have to wait till spring to count our coléoptères.

Hidden Treasures of France – Rendez-vous sur les chemins

What a shame! Last weekend, 5-6th November, was the second ‘Rendez-vous sur les chemins’ even in France. And I had no idea until a few minutes ago  when I browsed through one of Ruadhri’s Mon Quotidien magazines. But I will be on the alert for the 2012 rerun. The activities included guided walks, exhibitions and lectures.

The idea of these weekends is to encourage people to discover the ‘chemins’, the public footpaths and green lanes in their vicinity. There are a total of 1 million kilometres of them in France. The publicity refers to these as ‘trésors cachés’ – hidden treasures, and that is so true. We do a lot of cycling and walking as you know, and there is so much to see along these quiet pathways and tracks – trees, flowes, insects, birds, small animals, and even big animals. We often see deer and hares on our travels.

The event is organised by three nature protection groups – LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux); ASPAS (ASsociation pour la Protection des Animaux Sauvages)  and CPN (Connaître et Protéger la Nature) – Know and Protect Nature.  All three organisers are hoping to raise public awareness of the problems facing the pathways and surrounding hedgerows. These included overenthusiastic ‘fauchage’ (hedge cutting) by farmers which hamper pollinisation of wildflowers and slowly destroy the hedgerows, also pesticides, rubbish and tarring.

More about the three groups. First up ASPAS. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t even know it existed. Do check out the website. They have some brave and good intentions. I may well join next year. This year I’ve been a member of SEPOL, a Limousin based bird-protection group, and much as I’d love to support every charity, until my novels make it to bestseller status I have to be strict and stick to just one. At present ASPAS is running a petition to stop hunting on Sundays. I’ve signed since it’s decidedly dodgy to go for a walk or bike ride during the hunting season, and Sunday is the only day this possible. Saturdays are work days. We’ve had several near misses from lead shot and frankly it’s dangerous.  I’m not worried by the hunting clubs who hunt together, but it’s the short-sighted very old men wandering around with their guns who scare the heck out of me.

CPN is a child-orientated group. You can find out if there’s a club near you here. CPN in France is running a beetle watch programme this year. I’ve printed out the protocol and the report to fill in. Maybe Rors and I will go looking for beetles tomorrow.

LPO’s aim is to protect birds and their habitats. So many speicies seem to be threatened these days. There’s a fun birdsong identification game on their website here.

Good old Mon Quotidien. I’ve learned a lot by using its little snippet about ‘rendez-vous sur les chemins’ as the springboard for this blog post, and hopefully you have too!

Boussac Battle of the Bands 2011

Last night the second Battle of the Bands, organised by the inter-culturally active AIPB, took place in Boussac. I wrote about 2010’s here and the 2011 sequel was every bit as good. Benj wasn’t on the jury this year. Caiti was going to be, but at the last minute some bright spark decided that the judges needed to be at least 18, for reasons which elude me, but which ruled my daughter out. Shame, but the jury we did have still came to the right decision without her!

Six groups battled it out. Last year’s winners, the awesome Argyle from Poitiers, opened the evening with a session of great music. This band, consisting of brothers Basile and Arthur together with friend Noé, just gets better and better. If you ever get the chance to see them, seize it.

First up in the contest was Hill Treason. This is a five-member electro pop and trip-hop band, influenced by Massive Attack, with drums, keyboards, guitar and two female vocalists. Only one was named in the programme, Pauline, and I didn’t quite catch the name of the other announced last night. I think perhaps it was Lynette? Anyway, along with Michael, Cedric and Jerome they gave a gutsy, talented performance and got the show rolling.

Singless Project came next, an alternative rock band, consisting of three guitarists and a drummer. Now the two Guillaumes, Benoit and Adrien were good, very good, but I think they could do with a vocalist to widen the appeal. They were also pretty scruffy! Now I’m no fashionista myself, and I’m not advocating a return to the sequinned and shiny matching suits of 80s pop groups, but maybe just a little effort, lads? I know two of you were wearing cool shades, but all the same!

Next it was the turn of a group from neighbouring Haute Vienne. Prism Break had three guitars, keyboards and drums. Here was classy classic rock, and then some. Olivier, Fabien, David, Bruno and Sylvain played brilliantly. It was obvious they’d go through to the semi-final.

Up to now there hadn’t been much dancing. Caiti and I were officially on duty, keeping an eye on the entrance to the side room where all the musicians’ equipment was. Last year there’d been a few problems with unsupervised kids getting in there and messing with stuff. We were at the right hand side of the floor. I’d been jiggling around discreetly behind Caiti – 17 year olds are easy to embarrass, and I just have to dance, so this was a good compromise. But then Hernbay, a young Indie rock group with a Boussaquin among them, took to the stage. Their groupies took to the floor and at last there was some dancing, although the youth of today are no match for my generation! The Stalk, Blake and Doug gave a good performance. Maybe they’d give Prism Break a run for the money?

No. Midnight Rider put paid to that. This band consists of three mature British rockers – my kind of lads. Richard, Keith and Mat, who said they were only here to have some fun, got lots of people to their feet with seamless covers of ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ and ‘Highway to Hell’. Here was real quality.

Then finally Hold On, a superb rock blues group, with British Bev Calladine as vocalist, had their turn. Together with Stellio, Wilfrid and Pierre, she got everyone dancing again. Bev has a smashing voice.

The results weren’t long in coming. Midnight Rider and Prism Break were the two semi-finalists, so after a short interlude they played again, each doing just two numbers. Prism Break seemed to have lost their edge this time round. The songs they played were good but not really good. Maybe a bit too pretentious? After their first session, I’d actually thought they might well win. However, Midnight Rider came up with the perfect combo of ‘Born to Be Wild’ and, the clincher, the Sex Pistols’ ‘Pretty Vacant’ which they performed brilliantly. Now, over the years I’ve done my mother-daughter thing with Caiti and tried to pass on useful skills like knitting (little success), sewing (more enthusisam) and cooking (Caiti has way surpassed me there now). Last night it was time to do fulfil another maternal duty and teach my girl to pogo! She shows a lot of promise.

And so Midnight Rider triumphed. The right result. And it means they’ll be back next year to open the show. I can’t wait!

It was a great night at the Battle of the Bands. There was a good crowd, everyone had fun and I imagine we raised plenty of money for the ‘La Maison des Parents’ charity. My ears will ring for another few days I expect, but who cares. I love rock music!

Apologies for lack of photos of the event but my camera wasn’t up to the job. The photo I’ve used is from and is by Vinicius de Carvalho Venancio.


Oh No, Noël is Coming

Oh boy, it’s the Christmas season. The ads on telly began a week or so back. When we were in Limoges at half term collecting Benj, the Christmas lights were being put up. Gueret and Boussac have theirs in place now, and so does Nouzerines, but only because the glowing light tube on the church stays up there all year!

The first of the Christmas catalogues

The Noël catalogues are arriving too. Ruadhri has made his choices from them by circling roughly half the items! We’ve tactfully suggested he makes a list for Santa to choose from.

I’ve been going ‘bah’ and ‘humbug’, grumbling because it seems far too early to think Christmas yet, but yesterday, with time to kill in Gueret post haircut (one of my twice-yearly treats!) and pre collecting Caiti from lycée, I bought cheap festive wrapping paper from Carrefour, and a few pressies from Gifi. Yep, I’m a hypocrite.

Actually, it is exactly the right time to be doing the Christmas shopping. Ideally I’ll have all the parcels deposited into La Poste’s trusty hands by the end of this month. I’m usually very late sending my parcels and the postal service in every country tends to fall apart after mid-December. A couple of my packages last year didn’t turn up at their destinations until late January. Whoops.

Time to do the Christmas cooking too. It’s not easy making Christmas cake and Christmas puddings in France. The essential ingredients just aren’t available. I used to ask visitors to bring packets of suet and muscovado and pots of black treacle with them, but I don’t bother any more. I use the nearest French approximations I can find. The end results seem to taste equally as nice.

Festive occasions are where being an ex-pat has its bonus. You get multiple celebrations. In our case, we have three sets since we’ve brought Irish traditions with us too, as well as our native English ones and our newly acquired French customs. At Christmas we have English Christmas cake, Irish layer cake and French bûche Noël. We observe Boxing Day as a special day, whereas the French don’t. We have an Irish knees-up at Halloween and an English celebration on Bonfire Night. We get Irish St Patrick’s Day and French Bastille Day. We get three cultures’ worth of festivities! Pas mal.

Returning to Noël, the one thing that I do miss are boxes of Christmas cards. You know, the big, cheap boxes you get from supermarkets or charities of frankly rather naff cards? Certainly when I was little, everyone bought them. At school you could tell what someone really thought of you from what card they gave you. If you got the ghastly Victorian-esque scene of carol singers or the bauble on the Christmas tree, the two duds in every box of cards, well, you knew that friendship was doomed. France goes for tasteful, aka expensive, small packets, but is  more interested in New Year’s cards than Christmas ones. We usually  make our own. I think we’ve done llamas in the snow enough times now, so we need a new image for this year! Time to  head off with the camera …

Autumn on the Farm

Is there any such thing as a typical autumn day here at Les Fragnes? Definitely not. Everything depends on the weather and what has suddenly cropped up as being unputoffable. We have a ‘to do’ list to keep us vaguely on track but that rarely gets stuck to for long since life is unpredictable. Yesterday we had to postpone all plans and do some llama fencing repairs since Vicki had taken to jumping over a low section of it. It was only low because other llamas had squashed it down by leaning over to eat grass from the other side. And the polytunnel had annoyingly developed a hole by the door which we had to fix.

The hole is to the right of the end door

We weren’t impressed with the way you had to pleat the plastic around the doorways when we constructed the tunnel, something I  mentioned here, and it’s proving to be the tunnel’s Achilles’ Heel. Chris has rebattened everything so we hope it will hold this time.

I found time to a bit of indoor seed planting once the repairs were finished, and before the polytunnel got too warm to comfortably work in. It’s quite incredible how efficient it is. It’s hot inside in November.  I’ve put in a load of medlar stones and woad seeds, some honey locust seeds and some as yet unknown seeds I picked up in Limoges on Sunday. They came from a small yellow pod from a tree with ash-like leaves but thorns. Any ideas what it might be? I’ve also shoved a whole honey locust pod into a seed tray (ex-croissant box!) to see if that works better for germinating purposes, rather than depodded seeds. Time will tell.

I also planted some gingko fruit. Gingko take over as the trees lining the Avenue Albert Thomas in Limoges at its end closest to Benjy’s University residence. These are beautiful trees with fan-shaped leaves. However, the fruit stinks. It smells like vomit, due to a high butearic acid content. Benj was horrifed as I scooped some of the small golden plum-like fruit into a plastic bag to bring home and try and get to germinate.


Back to today. We opened up the hangar to put Sea Blue, the little tractor away. The llamas staged a mass break-in which made us suspect they’re a bit peckish.

There’s still plenty of grass in their fields, but llamas don’t eat near where they poo – and they poo everywhere. Male llamas are generally fastidious and have one neat and tidy pile. But not the girls. They crap everywhere. This means there’s a good proportion of their field that they won’t graze in. So, we decided we’d better move a bale of straw out into the shelter for them. This takes time. We have to move stuff out of the way, keep driving the llamas and alpacas out (they always come straight in), encourage chickens to get from underfoot and undertyre.

Waiting to break back in!

We had to evict Roly Poly from what’s left of Rusty II’s tractor seat – he’s our big bale-moving tractor – and then do the actual physical moving of the straw.

I'm sure she's telling us to go away and mind our own business! Look at that expression.

Chris is one mean tractor driver now! Driving these antique machines isn’t easy. Each one has its own very distinct foibles and you never know what’s going to suddenly stop working or drop off! I’m talking tractor here, not Chris.

Picking up the bale of straw ...


... then delivering it through a very tight doorway

The llamas will soon spread the straw everywhere so the next job on the list is to tie pallets around it as a no-budget bale holder, or mangeoire. We looked into buying one but they’re a good few hundred euros each. That would keep Benj in pasta for several years, so we’re going the DIY route.

The rest of the day will be indoors since strong winds and rain are on the way. I have half a sack of windfall apples and pears to process and then I must get some work and admin done at the computer. But to finish a pic of our black male turkery who is permanently displaying and gobbling at the moment. Even the sheep is impressed!


Halloween Round-Up

Following on from yesterday’s blog about Halloween preparations, here’s how the flayed face came out – not too bad. The blue dye from the M&Ms ran a bit unfortunately. Olives work best as eyes but we didn’t have any in. However, despite appearances it tasted wonderful.

Caiti was a very cool zombie at our little party. Rors couldn’t be persuaded to have his face painted. He hung some binoculars round his neck and came as a grue (crane) spotter!

Her book is a French one about how to survive a zombie invasion!

Here’s a close-up of the scab on her face. Pretty gruesome and very well done I think!

We had our traditional Halloween shoot-out. This year the broken microwave was the receiving end of the bullets.

Before the shooting ...


During ...


... and after!

We finished our evening with some fireworks as usual. All in all a rather good Halloween.

So now we’re into November. Yesterday’s warm sunshine is long gone. The cycling season is coming to a close. We had our first winter walk. OK, it’s still actually autumn, but in my opinion Creuse winters start on the first of November. The trees are still colourful, although photos never seem to do them justice.

The stream that runs into the big lake has almost disappeared under leaves.

And finally the toadstools are springing up everywhere. They’re very late this year since it’s been so dry. Here are some interesting ones we spotted on the way.

I’m not even going to try to identify them in case I get it wrong and lead you to believe that a highly toxic one is actually bon comestible i.e. nice to eat.

We have an illustrated book about champignons but the only thing we’ve learned from it is that it’s way too dicey to try and work out which ones are edible!

Get your mushrooms from the supermarket – that’s my advice.

We’ve spent the rest of the day tackling Ruadhri’s room. It’s now neat and tidy again. It’s nearly killed us getting it to that state, but the time had come for drastic action. Now I just have the rest of the house to organise…