Honeymoon Suite

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As I write this I feel like the chap in the Money Supermarket ad.  I have spent the last year wearing nothing but wellies and work boots.  With the wedding less than 2 weeks away it dawned on me that I was intending to wear smart high heels for the day.  Firstly I had to find the boxes with heels in. Then dust them off. And try to squeeze my feet into the shoes. I have been teetering and tottering around the house in red suede heels with shorts and sun-top doing housework trying to get used to them and stay vertical!  Work in progress! No photos available!!!!!

Following David and Jess’ wedding, all three boys (and wife and girlfriend) are coming back to Quatre Chemins.  David and Jess will have 3 days with us  before they go on their official honeymoon, so the summer house has been dubbed the honeymoon suite and we have decorated the bedroom and bathroom and moved furniture in.  It is amazing how it has transformed the space.  When finished we won’t have a problem living there whilst the QC is let – it will be like playing at house!

The work schedule has intensified to be prepared for over 2 months of guests, with lots of finishing off of projects.  We finally tackled the pergola’s – and despite the rubbish instructions, managed to construct them.  However, lifting them to bolt to the wall was an impossibility for just 2 people.

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Friends to the rescue for a pergola raising.

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The two canopies also took some fitting – given a storm warning they’re not going to be a quick job to take down.  We then had to move yet more stone blocks to stand the legs on to raise the height above the windows and shutters.  Rod resorted to using his saw to cut them down to size where necessary.  Not quite a stone mason, but it worked.

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With temperatures close to 40oC the shade is not just welcome but vital.  So the terrace seemed a good spot for my hammock!

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Night time temperatures have also been high, so a quick swim before bed has been a lovely way to cool down. (I STILL can’t believe that we have a pool!!)

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Before the concrete was set or the paint dry, Ginger was exploring our new bbq.

 

 

 

 

20160724_182551 The new pool furniture.

The Stone Fairy’s daughter and boyfriend have come out to France for the summer to help him with the rebuild of their derelict barn.  Danny had done a bricklaying course to help with the blockwork, and he and Rachel honed their skills by practicing on our covered terrace by the summerhouse, building a retaining wall.  Rod and I had no idea how to get a level wall with the changing ground levels across the front.  They have done a pretty good job of it too.  Apprenticeship ticked!

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The levelling of rubble and infilling is a job for the autumn/winter – so the honeymoon suite does not have a great outlook at the moment!

We have had a bit of a disaster with our slurry (as one does!).  The ground is now rock hard and all the new trees and potager need daily watering.  And we have about 120000L of brown water in the slurry tank. However, after a couple of waterings, leaves started to fall off the trees and the plants began to look decidedly unhappy.  The liquid must just be too potent!  So we have talked to the farmer who cut the hay and he is going to pump it out in the autumn and spread it on his fields.  It will be interesting to see if the tank then refills with rainwater – we may need to divert some guttering.  In the meantime, we are using the submersible pump to recycle bath water!

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The sunflowers are finally out and are fabulous.  Everywhere you go there are fields of yellow brightening up the countryside.  We have them to both sides of us, so see them whichever way we look. I still have a secret smile to myself every time I look at them.

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Breakfast with sunflowers

 

 

The bleuets are also out around the lake, with their ethereal blue flowers like a haze in the air.  The flowers only last for the morning – by afternoon they are gone.  Maybe that is why they are the French flower of Remembrance.

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In spite of all the work, we have had time for jollies.  July and August are packed with activities and festivities in all of the  local communes.  On some nights it is difficult to choose which to go to – one could eat out every night and never cook!

So, have picnic hamper, will travel!

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20160714_204330Castillones 14 July Repas, Dance and Fireworks

20160710_193023 Lauzun World Cup Final big screen BBQ and disco

20160709_193229 Lauzun BBQ and Dance by the lake and chateau.

We have also been to a “vernissage” – an opening night for an art and ceramics exhibition in Castillones, showcasing local artistes. Wine, nibbles and art.  Feeling very cultured! We never went to anything that in UK!

I have picked up some leaflets for events whilst we are back in UK for the wedding that Michelle, (the house/animal sitter) and her family, might be interested in. There is just so much going on. Spoilt for choice!

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Whilst the boys are here we will go to Soumansec for Sunday lunch, sitting out on the hillside under the plane trees with panoramic views.

Eymet night market is another must, setting up camp next to the watermill and river and making forays into the square for food.  Moules are very popular, but Rod still drools at the thought of his duck burger and my seafood risotto wasn’t too shabby either!

The Gasconnade in Lauzun is actually on Ed’s birthday this year so what further excuse do we need to party.  Last year it was held indoors because of the rain, and it was still one hell of a bash.  Outside in the street it will be  so much more festive and atmospheric.  If it’s the same band as last year then they’ll be literally dancing in the streets before the aperos have even been handed out!

All these foody events are in addition to all of the little daytime markets – there is one every day in the area, including the lovely Sunday one at Issigeac.  One job for the winter is to add a page of links and information on all of the activities in the area – in case anyone reading this is contemplating a holiday next year on a smallholding in the Lot et Garonne!  There will certainly be lots to keep all ages occupied if one wearies of chilling by the pool.

Animal antics.

Surprisingly, Monty has been very well behaved this month and has no misdemeanors to report.

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We’re good dogs, we are!

 

 

We have a Little Owl nesting in the barn.  Sadly, Rod found an owl chick dead on the barn floor one morning.  We are hoping that it was because there were 2 of them, apparently in the fight for survival, one will push a second one out. But it is very quiet in there now, so we are not hopeful.  Sad.

We also have bats in the barn, as we found this little chap (or chapess)

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Pixie continues to disappear for days on end, then return hungry, thinner and matted.  I would love to know where she goes.

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Tiny Tim is proving to be a naughty little kunekune.  We have had to buy an energiser so that we can put a strand of electric fencing tape around the pig pen.  He manages to squeeze his now fat little belly through the stockproof fencing and go wanderabout.  I am worried about him ending up in the lake! Or encountering a wild boar!!

The sheep are now totally bucket trained and all but one will eat out of your hand.  The Dartmoors are starting to grow back their fleeces and are now very cutely covered in short curls.

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20160725_090913  Surrounded by sunflowers

 

 

 

Kunekunes come!

Animal antics.

Last week, we did over 3000km to collect pigs and sheep.  We are now a proper smallholding!

We collected the 4 kunekunes from Normandy in 2 large dog crates in the back of the car.  We went up the night before, then picked them up in the morning and headed for home.  After 6 hours in the car, boy did it smell! But the piglets were brilliant – as soon as the car started, they settled down to sleep and slept all the way home.  At one point I insisted that we stop to give them some water and I had to poke them to check that they were still alive.

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All current animals came down to the sty when we got back to see what was going on – there were some feline eyes out on stalks! We had filled the sty with straw and when we put them in, they snuggled into the straw and went back to sleep!

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We have one girl – Rosie, who we hope to breed from.  The 3 boys, in size order, are Pate, Terrine and Tiny Tim (he’s too small to even look like food at the moment – more cocktail sausage than chorizo!)

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Tiny Tim was obviously the runt of the litter, but he was the only other boy that they had.  We have to feed him separately to make sure that he gets some food, and, as he fits into the feeding trug, he gets elevated out of the fracas!

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They learnt very quickly to come when called – like Labradors they are totally motivated by their stomachs!

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When food is around they squeal excitedly, but at other times, when we just go down to be with them they snuffle around making calm little friendly grunty noises.  Rosie loves to have her tummy tickled and now rolls over for more!

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Pate is putting on weight in front of our eyes and is the largest (but Rosie rules the roost).  He is always first to the gate but is very friendly and gentle.

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Terrine is still shy, but I love his markings and he is the hairiest of the 4.

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TT is the lagger behind, but is the naughty one.  If he grabs a piece of melon or tomato – his favorites – he legs it with his trophy to go and eat it in peace!

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The Stone Fairy/Guttering Guru has a 1/3 share in the 3 boys and happened to meet an ex pig farmer and talk pigs.  The next thing we know, there is a knock at the door and a stranger introduces himself “I’ve come see about castrating your pigs”.  A charming chap – it is amazing how you get to meet people! Having had commercial pigs, he used to do all of his piglets himself.  He wanted to check our boys out because if they are too big/old, they need a local anaesthetic, which he couldn’t do, so it would then have to be a vet job.  Having declared them little and good to go, and checked for no undescended testicles, he pulled a new, sharp razor out of his pocket and said “lets do it”.  Fortunately, in readiness for the animals coming, I had unearthed the box with medications etc in and had to hand the blue antibiotic spray and the dreaded purple spray. (Dreaded by David, Eds and Sam!  Having originally acquired the iodine spray – with aloe vera! – for the horses, it was used on all the other animals too, and then, in extremis, for scrapes and grazes on the boys as well).

So, to the pigs.  If male and/or squeamish, you might want to skip to the next paragraph, as the Biologist in me describes the subsequent scene.  Rod held the piglet, head and shoulders between his legs, tail and nether regions pointed upwards and exposed. A bit of wiggling and grunting (piglets, not Rod) but no squealing. One small incision on the scrotum, a gentle squeeze and out popped the testes.  That did elicit a quick squeal – and a definite wince from Rod. A quick cut of vas deferens and sperm duct and one testicle done.  Surprisingly no blood. Repeated on the other side, a quick spray of blue, and all done!  It was all impressively quick and clean, but I don’t think I’ll be trying it myself.  The testes were discarded – unlike Sam, I was not going to saute them in butter as a starter.  They say you can eat everything from a pig bar the squeal, but I draw the line at that!

All of the sheep are girls.  We have two pure-bred and registered Dartmoors, who we have named after fictional Dartmoor heroines – Demelza and Beatrice.  They have very sweet faces, with big Labrador eyes – I think it is because they look as though they have eyebrows.  As they have been sheared, they are otherwise looking a bit like an advert for specsavers, but their curls will soon grow.  The other 3 are charolais/texel lambs for bringing on.  We shall probably also keep Monique for breeding, but Cutlets and Hotpot are destined elsewhere!

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Again, food rules, and already they come running at the shake of our bucket – an essential habit to instill as we don’t have any other way of rounding them up!

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Pixie has had another absence – this time I really did think she’d gone for good as she disappeared for 6 days.  I’d love to know where she goes, but I don’t think anyone else is feeding her.  She returns too thin for that.

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Animals apart, it has also been quite a momentous fortnight build wise.  I am the Queen of Calcaire!  We finished barrowing it round to the pool terrace, thumped it down and then put the gravel on top.  I started with one barrow, just to see what it would look like…………. 90 mins later we had it finished! We then levelled and raked the “spoil” so that it is flat (ish) around the pool – you can now see the field beyond whilst swimming – I just can’t wait for those sunflowers! Every day now we are on sunflower alert – watching and waiting!!!!!!

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The other job of major significance was the completion of the fosse septique for the summer house.

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We had the official inspection yesterday and we are now good to go (literally “go”).   Bravo pool man!!!!  He has been a real treasure.  The pool is wonderful, and finished to a high standard, with everything done properly.  No corners cut.  (Two couples, seeing ours progress, are so impressed that they are having him do pools for them too).  He then stepped into the breach when we were abandoned by the previous builder and has done the fosse – which makes the summerhouse habitable. (Yay!) And then dug a trench and run a water pipe to the covered terrace and paddock.  And put in a field drain for our new guttering.  And last, but not least, rather taken with the piglets, volunteered to dig a pig wallow!!!!

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We have been so involved in other projects that we failed to notice that the potager had become over-run. It now resembles a jungle. But, midst the weeds we have been surprised to find that we are ready to harvest!

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So at least we have had some produce.  The lettuces are like trees, the courgettes are marrows already, and the tomatoes – planted a la UK, close together, obviously need MUCH more space next year – it’s like virgin tropical forest in there – I need a machete to get in!

The main problem is how many ways to disguise the courgettes to fool Rod into eating them!

As I write, I am taking shelter.  It is HOT! The pool has come into it’s own – every day we have to stop and pinch ourselves to believe that it is real.  With temperatures in the high 30’s the pool, at 26 today, it a lovely respite.  It still feels like total luxury, and we marvel at it every day.

The last big job is to construct the pergola’s and fix them to the house so that we can have some welcome shade.  Every time we look at the boxes, full of so many pieces, we find another job to do instead.  It is now the time to get on with it!

And then decorate in the summerhouse ready for our summer visitors.

Less than a month now until David and Jess’ wedding.  Then I’ll have all three of my boys in the same place at the same time.  I can’t wait to see them all.  And my eldest is getting married – how exciting is that. Afterwards all of them are coming out to France, even D and J for 3 days before going on honeymoon.  And Jules. And my brother (and maybe his girlfriend???).  Bring it on!!!

 

20160708_081248  Watching and waiting for sunflowers!

And finally…. because the last photo comes up on Facebook link…..

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