Wednesday, 25 February 2009

How many brambles? Focus - think of the chickens!

Question...How many brambles do you think can grow in an acre of land during a 10 yr period of an uninhabited or untended land space?
ANSWER... too damn many!!! ARGH

I was at the new abode today via a visit to the helpful secretary at the Mairie trying to sort out electric supply ( EDF say they have no record of the property - don't ask!)

I therefore thought I would make the afternoon worthwhile and bash a few more brambles. It was very satisfying as I totally uncovered the chicken coop and 6 rabbit hutches and a lovely stone wall. I will not be keeping rabbits to eat I may add as this is what these hutches were originally for.
This particular space is crying out for some chooks to peck around in and I look forward to purchasing them from the local market and am taking votes on names!. Even though the space is not a part of the land that can be seen immediately as it is behind the barn, I feel it could be used very wisely for fresh eggs as indeed it was originally so used. I will be back tomorrow to continue my mission which feels endless. I will focus on the end result in order than I can justify the aching limbs and numerous scratches and the evil attack of the brambles.

Watching Mr Robin hop about and hearing those cows moo again makes it all worth it, plus the sun was warm warm warm. I feel sooo lucky and hopefully the chickens will feel the same.

A dedication.. Footprints in the Sand

I took this photo at Lamor Plage on New Years Day. It reminded me of the poem that follows. I am dedicating this posting to a wonderful woman who lives in the Languedoc and has had more than her fair share of grief in the last two months and this week is experiencing much emotional pain. Religious believers or not it does not hurt to think that maybe we can call on some higher force whatever it maybe to draw some strength from now and again.

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life,when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord,“You promised me Lord,that if I followed you,you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?”
The Lord replied,
“The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,is when I carried you.”

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Pancake Day French Style

In France the main day eating pancakes is Candlemas on the 2nd of February. This holy day is six weeks after Christmas and is the day that Christ was presented at the temple by his mother.

The French name for Candlemas, “Chandeleur” comes from the word “Chandelle” which means candle. It was custom for the people to bring back the lighted candles from church to assure good crops for the year to come and to chase the evil.
In France it is custom to prepare “Crêpes” for “La chandeleur”, which symbolises, wealth, good crops and health for the year to come.
Its form and colour evoke the Sun which is finally returning after the dark winter. It keeps the mould away from the crop and protects the home from harm. Pancakes must be tossed with a coin in the hand so as to ensure prosperity throughout the year. Whoever manages to toss his pancake without dropping it on the ground will have good luck until the next Candlemas.
I have never been that good at flipping pancakes and need to have no distractions not even holding a coin in my other hand! Lucky or not!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Welly Boots

I had a comment from one of my followers about my pink wellies. I love my wellies. They are very special if not the conventional green. I like to be different sometimes! They are a treasured and special gift from my girlfriends down south the 'Languedoc Lasses'. I can totally believe they were thoughtful with this gift but it took nothing away from the fact I was utterly touched when they presented them to me on a girls night in Narbonne at one of the lasses 'town' residence. After a couple or more of my favourite cocktails 'Caipirinha' (Brazilian rocket fuel I had no troubling in embracing when I lived there) I had to be stopped from wearing them into town for dinner.!

They are so jolly and bring a smile to my face everytime I wear them. Funny I feel geographically closer to les girls via footwear!

However I am glad to say it is not as wet as everyone said it would be up here but I put these babies on whenever I want to and they make me feel good! Thank you lasses for brightening up this bit of Brittany!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Weed whacking..........

Ever since we saw the Hammeau for the first time I have been itching to get my hands on the land!!! Where will the potager go? ( I bought him in doors a book on growing ones own veg for Christmas - but I seem to be the one who will end up cultivating carrots!) where will I put the herb garden?

First things first though to clear the jungle! I have never seen so many brambles. It seems to be never ending! I went up there first day not armed with proper tools but found a rusty sythe and was determined to get clearing. My knuckles were swollen from whacking against the weeds but I uncovered a huge hydrangea bush to my husbands delight as he likes them. It is coming into bud so it will be fun to see what colour it may add to the surroundings.

My job will now be easier as my husband has bought me a petrol brush cutter to cut through those stubborn interloper plants. It has its' own harness as it is rather heavy however, I may have shoulders like Arnie soon.

Day 2 of clearing and did it with shears. Ouch ouch, I am suffering still. I have terrible scratches on my arms despite covering up. My hands are sore,neck and shoulders and back tender! I made fab progress though. Hubby said I was a weeding demon on a mission! I found some land that I did not know was there complete with chicken coop!!! We think we really ought to get some hens now, just three and are having fun thinking up names for them and finding out about breeds etc.

It was beautiful up there Sunday with the birds singing, the cows gently mooing and the sun twinkling on the river. Idyllic. I love it!

Can you see the kitchen yet??

Ha Ha!

The first day of renovations entailed knocking down 2 partition walls to make one big space that will become a kitchen/diner. I was so excited to see the total space finally. I cannot wait to get my country table in and patio doors to the back of the land and a stable door where the existing front one is. I am determined to work damn hard to make it happen sooner rather than later!

What do you think of the oven in the corner? Can you picture the finished space???!!!! Wish us luck!

My new Door Bell!

Hooray!! Seeing as there is SOOOOO much work to do at the Hammeau and it will be a long while before any of my personal items can be unpacked, this is one thing that I can put in place without impeding renovation works.

My very rustic cutesy door bell. I love it! As I have dreamt of having a place where my cats can do proper cat things like hunt and scratch on real trees instead of manmade ones indoors , I had to go for a cat motif on the bell. My husband kindly bought it for 'us' whilst visiting Auray market this week. I am trying not to turn into a mad cat woman though some of my friends may say it is far too late for that! It goes up today. I cannot wait for my first visitor to ding my bell!

Crêpes and Galettes

Just down the drive from the Hammeau there is a 'Moulin de Farine',( flour mill) and it happens to be owned by the daughter of the lady that sold us the hamlet. We went to visit to buy some flour for someone who owns a crêperie in Beziers, Languedoc and got chatting A lovely girl indeed and glad that she will be our neighbour. I shall be buying my flour from them of course.

The day we signed for the house we went for lunch at Crêperie nearby in Baud called Les Vieux Temps. We all agreed how yummy our savoury filled galettes were so I thought I would share a recipe with you.

Savoury or sweet whatever your prefer. Sweet crêpes are made from flour called Froment and usually served with anything sweet, lemon and sugar, hazelnut spread etc and savoury known as Galettes from Blé Noir are usually filled with all manner of savoury combinations. Enjoy with a cup of Breton cider of course!

For the real french Galette, you’ll need ........ ( this is a recipe I follow)

500g buckwheat flour/ble noir

4 dessertspoons of plain flour

1 egg

1 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of milk

40cl cold water

2 dessertspoons of oil

1. Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the egg and salt. Mix well. Whisk in milk and 5cl water. Add the oil and leave to rest for up to 24 hours. An hour will suffice.(Makes about 24)

Savoury fillings. One can prepare crêpes/galettes, leaving one side less-well cooked than the other then prepare the fillings, place the galette (less cooked-side down) on a preheated pan and garnish. Once garnished, reheat gently, fold and serve immediately.However, some people cook the galettes completely, leave to cool, brush with melted butter, garnish, fold and reheat in a preheated oven (200°C) for about 6 minutes. The advantage here is that they can be prepared in advance and reheated and everyone can eat at the same time.

Forestiére - my favourite!

600g mushrooms chopped

60g butter

melted1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic crushed

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

4 teaspoon cream


1. Melt a little butter in a pan. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and continue cooking until mushrooms are cooked. Throw in the parsley. Spread the rest of the melted butter on the galettes. Add the mushroom mix and a teaspoon of cream.

2. Fold the outer parts of the galette into the centre, forming a square. Reheat in a preheated oven (200°C) for 6 minutes.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Carnac - Archaeological wonders

The fascinating Menhirs (standing stones)/ aligments clustered in and around Carnac which we visited with our family visitors this week.

4kms of them. Imagine how they got them all there, how long it took them and what they did once they were up??? Most of the stones were erected between about 4500 and 1800 BC though it is said some maybe older.
One of the main groups of stones is called 'Menec' with 11 rows of about 1,100 stones that stretch for 500 yards!

There are many theories as to what exactly the stones were for, from some sort of astronmical observatory designed to predict times for planting crops to temples of sunworship or fertility rites.
Regardless of whys and wherefores they are very impressive in the Breton sunshine.

It's Ours!!!!!!!!

We did it!! You can just about see it all through the trees.

We now own the Hammeau! Was a great day. Signing was pleasant, 5 of them and us of course. I was strangely nervous! The notaire was fast and efficient and luckily we had not forgotten to take any important documents or such like! Took about an hour in all with a celebratory coffee with the vendors at the cafe next door.

We then went headed to a local creperie for lunch with the husbands brother and his wife. We had lovely savoury galettes and cider then off to the hammeau and popped opened the fizz to peruse our new habitat. The previous owners were there clearing the wood and the junk ( 10yrs of unwanted rubbish as the place had been empty that long!)even though officially not supposed to be there but they are lovely people and will be our neighbours so we did not kick up a fuss and there really was no need.

Next stop was to visit the local foie gras producer ( I know some of you may not agree with this but my brother in law loves the stuff) and to follow was a whistle stop visit to see the U boat stations that survived the bombing at Lorient. We have been trying to give our visitors a good overview of the area in 2 days. Quite tiring but alot of fun had by all! That evening we were off out again for a delicious and indulgent celebratory meal in nearby Baud.

The work started today with unloading of some furniture to empty the van in order that all the necessary tools, tile slates etc could be accommodated. Let us hope the weather holds for the roof repair 1st phase as it has been glorious of late ande the bird song has been delightful.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

4 days and counting......

A good Valentines gift to each other I thought would be us toasting our new home today but despite not being too superstitious, we still did not want to leave anything to chance and declined signing on Friday the 13th. Tuesday will be St Valentine for us and the fizz is on ice to share with the brother in law and his wife. I hope the reality is not as such that I am permanantely on the fizz to block out my worries of this project! Here is part of it, other pics to follow. The far end white bit is the starting point knocking through to the other buildings you can see. I am dying to get no end of games into the barn space, to plan my potager and herb garden and of course to get cracking of course on making this place habitable and be there all the time to sit outside and enjoy the view of the Blavet river and the songs of the numerous birds I have seen. The cottage behind these buildings is so chocolate box too. I cannot quite believe it will be ours!

Friday, 13 February 2009

A privileged view

We are very lucky to walk 30 seconds and get this vista. Revisiting the donkeys that belong to our ex neighbour down South and spending more time around these amazing creatures I am warming to the idea that the field at the front of the hammeau needs to be filled with a cute rescue donkey or two. Donkeys pine I am told so one must have something with them. They would certainly keep the grass down in an eco friendly way and may come in handy for when all the friends and family children visit!

A Vigneronne Cave in Mailhac

Back to Bretage

Well we are back and whilst I am sad to leave friends behind and the vineyards that are heading towards their next crop I needed to come back to Brittany for a number of reasons but I reckon for my health! All this making the most of my trip has played havoc with my digestion,
my liver and my sleep requirements. I also of course have to prepare for a 3 day visit by one of my brother in laws and his wife and return to the loving fluff balls and........ sign for the hamlet.!!

I have had a wonderful week indeed and have been driving 'Vanessa the Van' Renault 4 kindly loaned by some other friends. Visiting the choir and airing my lungs which I realise are out of practice hitting a top C! Walking round the vineyards, feeding the ducks in the park with our friends grandchildren and realising whilst keeping the 3 yr old entertained I knew the words to the Spiderman theme tune!! Of course celebrating our friends 40th was a big part of the trip too. The piccie is obviously of her cake made by a friend of us all. It was as delicious as it looks. I have done much more besides whilst poor hubby has been working and then packing the monster with our furniture. Our dear friends with whom we stayed have spoilt us so much and fed us up so well. During our week we have eaten in with them and out at friends and I have worked out that we have had not had a morsel of French food at all, well I made a pissaladiere for friends fortieth and tried a bit of that but we have had Hungarian, Chinese, Indian, Italian, traditionnal British and a fabulous Mexican dish for which I must find the recipe. I will be cooking a traditional French meal for our visitors and going out for galettes/crepes over the next few days!

Right back to house insurance quotes, I hope someone out of the 3 calls me back before we sign for it next week.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

a very hurried update

I type this hurried update in a dear friends kitchen in the village where we used to live whilst he and hubby are playing Wii tennis. We have been enjoying the hospitality of Le Bar Mailhac patron Laurent for a couple of hours at apero time and now back at our friends house. Also important was a meeting with our notaire to sign papers on the hamlet.!! Final signing day is 17th Feb!!!! We could have done it on Fri 13th and both are not overly suspicious but did not want to leave anything to chance!!!
The week here is sooo busy and two very late nights sleep deprived ( my eye balls hurt!) and wine overload are catching up with me but I am loving every minute! Last night ( weds) we had such a fun evening with friends who cooked us a fab curry, the dhal was fab though our hostess realised half way through what was was missing from it,,,, all the spices! She is pregnant however so hormones can be a wonderful excuse for blips such as these. It did not detract from the continued tantalisation on our taste buds. I don't know why but I am enjoying every mouthful of food I am eating on my visit here.

I also had the chance to bring out the child and untalented artist within with crayons belonging to their gorgeous son and some coloured card and I allowed my artistic juices to flow whilst the boys had intellectual conversation about the world! I have to add i was asked to give this drawing lark with child crayons a go ! Goodness knows what it turned out like if I was to look at it in the light of day with sleep and a non alcoholic infused hand!

The weather today has been glorious and sun warm on my face. Bliss. The mountains are looking wonderful and the vineyards looking ready to start their journey to producing their 2009 grapes.

I am taking photos but yet to download to our laptop and attach to my postings. Sorry, I will find time. I am on an alien albeit apple mac, keyboard feels strange, boys getting very noisy and competitive at their game so will sign off for now. I will be in much need of my healing and meditation/relaxation group tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

3 days in...

Sorry folks been busy busy busy catching up with people so behind on my updates and this will be brief too
The monster made it here and the journey was not too boring. So many trees down around Auch from the horrendous winds.
Our friends cooked us a wonderful goulash and we went to bed tired but relieved we made it down in good time.
The weather has been raining and cold but today the blue skies are in view, the ducks and swans in the local park are basking in its rays and so am I. It is actually warm and looking at the buds on the trees in our friends garden is inspiring to know spring is finally on its way!
We had a wonderful feast Tuesday night, our friends husband loves to cook, lucky us. Tonight we are at friends for dinner then tomorrow catch up with our Aussie friend who has been on his Alaskan travels. Importantly too we sign some papers on the hamlet! It seems the disappearance of the immobiler is not hindering the process, fingers crossed and then by 17th Feb it will be all ours then the callouses will be evident and handcream will be much needed!
I will update you when I can, the laptop is here but no WIFI and of course with such a social diary ..........
A la prochaine,,,,,,,,