Monthly Archives: September 2014

14/09/2014

Nine eggs today! (Well, eight really. The ninth was about 3cm long, more the size of a pigeon egg.)

I also collected a bucket full of hazelnuts from the tree at the edge of the garden. In the long winter evenings I’ll probably be shelling these; last year I made some rather lovely hazelnut liqueur, by soaking crushed hazelnuts in strong alcohol with some sugar. And when that was ready, I made some hazelnut cookies. That will definitely be repeated!

The raspberry bushes have been producing non-stop; we have bags full in the freezer. LSS makes a rather lovely raspberry cheesecake!

13/09/2014

Work on the corridor has been on hold for a while. We’ve had a slight problem with our grey water system. Not the reedbed; that’s working fine. The thing is, the ground around the house is fairly flat, so there is not really sufficient slope for the grey water drainage. We’ve noticed that since the installation of the shower, the grey water from the kitchen sink tends to bubble up through the shower drain. This is because the water does not filter into the reedbed quickly enough, and the wastewater pipes fill up. The system therefore needs to be modified.

We had been looking for a reasonably-priced large plastic container for a while, and on T&M’s recommendation, last week we visited a lawnmower shop in Orleans. This turned out to be a veritable treasure trove of gardening stuff. Not only did they have a stock of plastic containers (we purchased two of the largest 120-litre models), but they also stock – wait for it – bee-keeping supplies! For a future project, of course.

Where was I? Oh yes, plastic containers. One of these will be buried in the ground near the reedbed, and act as a sump. All the household grey water will drain into this, and because of the installation of this sump, water will no longer back up and be able to bubble up through the shower drain.

However, this creates a new problem. The sump will be much lower than the reedbed, so to get the water up into the reedbed will involve the use of a pump. We didn’t really want to rely on electricity for this (and there’s also the running costs) so I purchased a marine bilge pump with automatic float switch fairly cheaply from Ebay, and as it’s 12 volts, it will run off its own little photovoltaic panel via a regulator and a car battery. The automatic float switch means that the pump will operate as soon as any water gathers in the sump; this should prevent quantities of grey water stagnating.

I’m currently in the process of connecting all of these items together. Of course it also needs to be fairly well insulated, as winters here can get very cold indeed. I’m keeping my eyes open for a discarded non-operational refrigerator; I can simply cut a hole in the back and use the resultant insulated “box” as a cover for the sump; the small photovoltaic panel can be mounted on the “lid”.

As an update on the “plum wine”: after several hours of cooking, we have one-and-a-half litres of clear liquid. It smells very nice, and there is a faint taste of plums, but it’s rather watery and not very strong. I think it ideally needs a second “cooking” operation, but the game would not be worth the candle due to the quantities involved.

It would be nice to repeat the process with a large plastic bucket full of apples (this is why we bought two plastic containers from the lawnmower shop!) but the apple crop this year is dismal. Maybe next year. Actually the aged FIL has the legal right to produce fruit alcohol, so the above process was obviously carried out on his behalf. Unfortunately this right is not hereditary.

08/09/2014

The plums given to us by T&M have been fermenting quietly in a plastic milk churn for a month now. I decided to put them through the cider press (as constructed by Mr. C). The juice will be left to settle out for a couple of days before being – ahem – further processed through a length of copper pipe.

I also gathered a couple of buckets full of windfall pears from the aged FIL’s garden, and put these through the scratter. Tomorrow they will go through the cider press as well, with a view to making some more perry, or possibly something slightly stronger…

07/09/2014

Because it has been a very good year for sloes, we’ve decided to make some sloe gin again. We haven’t made any since we’ve been in France. LSS also started a batch of peach leaf wine. This is simply some cheap red wine, to which is added some sugar, strong alcohol, and a handful of peach leaves. It is then left to marinate for a few months.

Not to be outdone, I started a batch of ginger beer from a recipe found online. My mother used to make this stuff; I only hope I can tweak the recipe so that it tastes as good as hers used to be!

05/09/2014

The aged FIL was without water all morning, so he had to forego his wash. The village was doing some work on the water supply. T&M came around to drop off his spent barley (from his latest batch of beer brewing). The chickens love it. He didn’t have any water either – we’re so pleased we opted for a borehole.

As LSS had no classes in the afternoon, we checked the three plus one “male” rabbits. Well, they are all male. So there’s no risk of any unforeseen pregnancies. As long as they don’t fight they can all stay together.

04/09/2014

Due to the massive growth of grass and weeds around the polytunnel entrance, I noticed that it was impossible to close the door. This has obviously been left open all summer. In preparation for the colder weather, I tackled this problem. I cleared away the weeds from around the doorway, and then re-used some old floor tiles from the aged FIL’s farm (where they had been piled in a corner of the farmyard) to pave the entrance. It’s looking very quaint, but at least the door can now shut!

It’s possible we have made a mistake with one of the rabbits; there was mating behaviour going on in the male’s cage; so we’ll need to check whether one of the males is not actually a female. We can do without any inbreeding at this point, thank you. I moved the possible female rabbit into a separate cage. Female rabbits reach sexual maturity between 4-5 months of age, and males between 5-8 months. Today is day one of month five, so fingers crossed that nothing has occurred! According to the younger daughter of T&M (aged twelve) the way to tell the difference between male and female rabbits is from the length of their eyelashes. Long eyelashes = female. Short eyelashes = male. Nope. I’m afraid she has been misinformed. One simply looks at which way their waistcoats are fastened. Buttonholes on the left: male. Buttonholes on the right: female. (My apologies to Beatrix Potter). No, there’s a more obvious way to tell the difference, but it’s not an easy task holding a struggling rabbit on its back. You see, these are not pet bunnies which are used to being handled and petted. They tolerate us opening the cage because it generally means we’re giving them food. But trying to pick one up is another matter entirely! My first attempt to be kind in picking up a rabbit without using its ears as a useful handle ended in blood. Rabbits have quite sharp claws, and if one does not want to be mercilessly scratched, one has no choice but to grab the ears firmly in one hand, a bunch of fur at the rump end, and lift.

Speaking of kindness to animals, I came across this item the other day which is worth sharing here.

A cat died and went to Heaven.
God met her at the gates and said,
“You have been a good cat all these years. Anything you want is yours for the asking.”
The cat thought for a minute and then said “All my life I lived on a farm and slept on hard wooden floors. I would like a real fluffy pillow to sleep on.”
God said, “Say no more.” Instantly the cat had a huge fluffy pillow.
A few days later, six mice were killed in an accident and they all went to Heaven together.
God met the mice at the gates with the same offer that He made to the cat.
The mice said, “Well, we have had to run all of our lives from cats, dogs, and even people with brooms!
If we could just have some little skateboards, we would not have to run again.”
God answered,
“It is done.” All the mice had beautiful skateboards.
About a week later, God decided to check on the cat. He found her sound asleep on her fluffy pillow.
God gently awakened the cat and asked, “Is everything okay? How have you been doing? Are you happy?”
The cat replied, “Oh, it is WONDERFUL. I have never been so happy in my life. The pillow is so fluffy, and those little ‘Meals on Wheels’ You have been sending over are delicious.”

LSS’s contract negotiations were successfully resolved at the last minute, so as from next week I won’t be seeing much of her; and feeding all the animals will become my job. Several persons have asked LSS, “Doesn’t your husband get lonely, being stuck on a farm in the middle of nowhere with nobody to talk to all day?” She replied, “No, he’s a bear. He’d be quite happy living on a deserted island.” I suppose that’s true; being on my own doesn’t bother me.

The corridor construction is nearing completion. The tricky bit is the roof beam which runs across the middle of the bedroom. To cut the wood panel to fit around this beam entailed climbing a ladder, holding the panel in place, marking it, climbing down the ladder, taking the panel to the workshop, cutting it, bringing it back, climbing the ladder, holding the panel in place, marking it again… I did that five times. But at least that section is done!

02/09/2014

LSS had managed to find a physiotherapist who does house calls, and had arranged the first appointment for this morning. She needed to be there to explain the situation, timings with the washers and carers, and so on. Well, she waited for two hours. He didn’t turn up. When she rang him later in the afternoon to find out why he didn’t show up, he said he had had computer problems so was waiting at home for the IT repair chap. Perhaps he has a computer-linked phone, which is why he didn’t call to tell her. Or perhaps her phone number was saved on his computer. In any event, she was Not Happy.

LSS is also negotiating a contract with a large company in Bourges for English lessons. The problem is, they’ve subcontracted the work out to a subcontractor. Who has subcontracted the work out to another subcontractor, namely LSS. This complicates matters no end; she is supposed to start work there this Friday, but only if the terms of her contract are met. To date, they have ignored this. As she (quite rightly) said, “No signed contract, no work!” Fortunately she’s in a fairly strong position because her diary is fairly full, and she’s even had to turn down prospective students. So if this particular job falls through it’s no big deal for her. (Unfortunately for the company, there’s nobody else in the area who can do the job!)

The construction of the corridor in the bedroom is progressing. However, to make space for the corridor, we’ve had to rearrange the furniture a bit. This means that there is only sufficient floor-space to shuffle around the bed sideways, with bent knees, which is not very good for the joints! Still, it’s only temporary; for the next year or so.

We’re not too happy with our four newest hens. During the first week we had five small eggs from them. That was four weeks ago. Since then, they’ve been on strike. The six older birds are managing to produce five eggs daily. However, the rabbits have doubled in size, so this winter we’ll need some room in the freezer, and I may also be able to start making some fluffy slippers.

Although the weather this year has not been brilliant for garden vegetables (except for potatoes), it has been good for the blackberries and sloes, so at the moment we have a batch of blackberry wine bubbling away in the kitchen. Once that’s done, we’ll make some sloe wine – and also some sloe gin!