I am not really sure where this year has gone. In a week my youngest grandson will be six months old. Always a joy he is a very smiley baby. It is hard to build a relationship with a baby but he does grin when he sees me!
Yesterday I opened the bee hives. I have not looked in them since they swarmed back in May. They are both thriving colonies. Many people have said honey production has been low this year but I had hoped my hives would be different. Sadly not. My first hive, an English one had five frames of honey out of ten. The new French hive I put the swarm in back in May barely had any. I just took from my first hive. For now I have left the super on the second hive but that will come off by the end of the month when I shut the hives down for winter. It is important to keep the hives as warm as possible.
I de capped and span the frames yesterday and had a decent amount of honey in the extractor. The honey needed filtering as there was wax in it. I do not have the money for a proper filter system, maybe next year. I set up the sieve over a bowl and poured the honey in. Tiny bits of wax went through...back to the drawing board! Then I remembered the jelly straining kit! That filtered it fully but was very slow. I finally finished it all this evening. 7 full jars of golden honey and one little one I gave to our Gite guests. A little concern is a field of rape seed flowered last week about 1/2 mile Away! My bees will have found it so the honey may christalize so it is just as well I do not have enough to give away! Lessons have been learned to make things easier next year.
on the crochet front I finished the Sea Spray blanket and it is now draped over the back of the sofa. I love the bright colours. Then I was reminded that I had the hydrangea kit so that came out! I took one look at the pattern and decided to do my own thing. Then someone encouraged me to use the given pattern saying it was easy and looks really good, like flower petals. So I undid it and started again. I am so grateful for the words of encouragement as I am now on stripe 6 and loving it! It really is the easiest yet! The colours are amazing, like dried hydrangea flowers. Lucy, at Attic 24 is so good at putting colours together. She is doing another crochet along in January which I will do! Looks like being autumn colours! The kit will go on sale next month! I plan to finish the hydrangea blanket before the new crochet along starts.
On the home front I have adopted another cat! She came through a friend who has a holiday home here. They had been looking after her as her elderly owner died. They are due to return to the U.K. She is called Betty and was clearly loved as she is very gentle and cuddly. She has been with us since last Sunday and I now have her sitting on the sofa with the dogs. She has a refuge in the cloakroom. She has been very good about using the litter tray which is good as I have not let her out yet! I have yet to brave that. Before she goes out I need to take her to the vet to find out of she has been spayed and /or micro chipped.
The evenings are drawing in now and tonight I have the wood burner going. It makes the room feel cosy!
The frenzy of bottling and freezing is done for another year and the pantry shelves are laden. Work needs doing in the garden but I would rather be by the fire with my crochet.
The evenings are definitely drawing in now and the nights are cooler. The trees are all changing their uniforms for autumn colours. The Virginia creeper that covers the front of the gite barn has turned a glorious red. The first strong wind though and they will be gone. There is a feeling of hunkering down now, preparing for winter.
Time now to start on the fencing that needs doing, to separate the ducks and geese. These means there will be no fighting next spring. You never know maybe it will help them nest and hatch some fluff balls which would be lovely.
The chickens are now in an area of their own with a barn and big enclosed run. This protects them from the fox and means I can find eggs each day. It also means I can develop my back garden into a proper garden. I have already planted lots of wildflower seeds. Then I want to fence in close to our front door. We have a patio at the front that the fence will edge with a gate in front of our door. This will keep the dogs out of the main front garden, again so that I can get some flowers in and create a colourful space. It will also stop the dogs going to the front gate to bark at people arriving.
There is always change here as we gradually develop our place. The third and final gite is progressing well and tomorrow him indoors will put in the new back door. We have bought the downstairs floor tiles so they will be laid soon.
It is wonderful to at last be talking of what we will do with our house. It has been a long time coming.
Next year should see things very different.
Apologies it has been so long since I last posted. No good excuse really!
Gite number two is finished and occupied as I type! The third Gite is well under way. Having had a very slow start to the season this year we have ended up with 17 1/2 weeks of bookings, which is really good. With the loss of money due to the dreadful exchange rate we need 20 weeks each year across the three Gites. Hopefully this is possible next year. We have no control over either the bookings or the exchange rate!
I have found a company that brings shopping from an English supermarket. My first order will arrive on Friday. By doing this I do not have to change my money into Euros so do not suffer the hit. Also food prices are much cheaper than here. I am aware that brexit could put an end to this but for now will enjoy cheddar cheese and proper veggie burgers once more!For example the bread flour I buy here is 3.65 euro for 1.5 kgs. In Tesco it is 65p for the same amount! No contest!
Money is never in abundance here so we are always looking for ways to save!
Our lone chick looks like being a girl which is very good news|! She is now independent, fully feathered and growing fast. A few more weeks should see her lay her first egg!
This week we are very busy with both Gites occupied and my brother and sister in law in our spare room! Good practice for having three Gites filled. We currently have six cars parked at the front!
Apples are coming in now and I have processed loads. It is all now puree and either frozen or bottled ready to give us puds in the winter.
I am getting on well with the latest crochet blanket as I am keen to start the next one!
In just over two weeks I start my dental treatment. Two long sessions to do a fixed bridge at a ridiculous price. about half will be paid by the French government and our top up insurance. I am not looking forward to it!
My other news is I have finally decided to stop colouring my hair. I have spoken to my hairdresser who is going to help me change over gradually so I do not look a mess! I have been thinking about this for some time and feel the time has come! It will be a difficult process but at least I can change my mind if it really does not feel right.
A new venture has begun!
Due to a need to tighten our belts once more I am making more of an effort to make things myself from scratch. We are both fond of things sweet which may not be a good thing but cannot be denied.
As a child sweets were rare due to my younger sister being an insulin dependent diabetic from a young age. All four of us were limited with visits to the sweet shop. I remember my sister having horrid little sweets that came from Boots. I always felt sorry for her but it was hard on us too!
I recently watched a series on TV about sweet making through the ages which really made me think. sweets used to be made at home! it is another thing the big factories have taken over for profit!
The idea came to make a different thing each week that will fill a kilner/parfait jar and live on a pantry shelf.
The next problem was sourcing recipes and ingredients. many modern recipes use fancy things like liquid glucose and double cream. I wanted to go back to the basics to be sure of avoiding chemicals.
The first thing I made last week was cinder toffee. Just sugar, golden syrup and bicarbonate of soda. Really easy and rather yummy. The next time I make that I will coat it in chocolate like Crunchie which will add another good taste.
Today I have made a basic chocolate fudge. A bit more complicated but not beyond me. It is sitting in the tin cooling just now. The recipe I found called for liquid glucose but I used golden syrup feeling it does the same job. It has yet to be tasted so I am unsure how good it is.
Him indoors is very good with the things I produce, always giving a it a go and giving his verdict.
If this fudge recipe works I plan to change it by adding things like raisins or glace cherries.
Next week I plan to make coconut ice.
I have found a wonderful you tube site called simply cooking. It is an Australian chap with great ideas. I plan to try making his whipped cream from a bottle of full fat milk. He shows how to make butter and cheese too. Although it does not come under the heading of sweet, cheddar cheese is to be attempted very soon. A few more things to gather and I will follow his instructions.
I am finding making things myself to be fairly easy. regular things like bread and cakes are whipped up very quickly now. It give me great pleasure to see my cupboards and fridge filled with home produced stuff.
Somewhere I have a copy of Mrs Beeton, I need to dig it out and see what ideas she had!
it is also very good for the bank balance!
At least that is what I read many years ago whilst looking for a way to lose the dreaded pounds.
Throughout my adult life I have eagerly taken up every new way of eating that came up. and there have been many.
At the age of 18 I took the decision to become vegetarian. I just did not like the idea of eating meat. As a child I was not allowed to decide for myself. It was not easy avoiding meat at this time and I had rather lot of omlettes and chips. Eventually frozen pasta meals came into being but they were not that good!
I spent many years and lots of money on weight watchers but have to say I lost the most weight on this plan. Nearly everything I ate was made by weight watchers.
Then I started to think about the quality of what I was eating and reading packaging. I was horrified by what I found. Barely any natural food was in the things I was eating.
I stopped following the weightwatchers plan and of course put on weight.
Then much more recently I decided to become vegan. It seemed the natural progression from being vegetarian. Living in France made it very difficult but I found sources to make vegan meals. I joined a facebook group but did not stay with it long due to the militant attitude. I firmly feel that we all make our own decisions about our diet. It is not for others to dictate.
I realised recently that I was once again eating chemicals even if they were healthy! It is expensive too buying special things to make faux meat for example. I do not want to eat faux meat.
So today I have gone back to my vegetarian lifestyle that I am familiar with and can easily manage.
The vegan world would be horrified but it is more important to me to eat real natural food.
The weight.... so far I have stayed a size 12 which I feel is fine but if it increases it is not a problem. I will no longer be dictated to.
This is us collecting our swarm earlier this year. I was unable to post a picture in my old blog so it is good to show you now! This was a totally new experience for us. The bees were very obliging in being text book in their behavior! I had been expecting them to swarm due to observing their behavior for a few days before. Bees are very organized and will always swarm on a sunny day between 11 and 2pm. Do not ask me why! Ours went at 1.30pm. My son in law had been in the area and heard them. The buzzing is very loud.
For a few days before, the bees send out scouts to find a new home. They will also check out a good place to settle when they first leave the hive. They will swarm every spring as they will create new queens. Only one queen can live in a hive. When a new one hatches the old one gathers some workers who will take some honey from the hive to keep them going , and leave! Ours decided to settle quite low down in our holly tree. The queen will settle on a branch and the worker bees will gather around her to protect her.
This is the swarm! At this point the bees are their most docile as they do not have any brood to protect.
we were able to cut off the branch with the swarm on it and shake it into the wooden box. Provided you get the queen in the rest will follow. We left the box propped open for a couple of hours to gather the stragglers.
A few weeks before we had bought a new hive having made the decision to expand to two hives. At dusk that day when the bees were settled on the frames in the box I moved them into the new hive. At this point they had already started filling the cells with the honey from the the other hive.
I left them to it for the night.
The next day I checked the first hive and found a queen so was happy they would thrive. The second hive I put some sugar syrup on to start them off.
My approach to bee keeping is hands off. On the grounds they have been doing this for a great many years I do not interfere. I spend lots of time observing from outside and can hear lots of activity so I am sure both are fine! In Sepember I hope to harvest some honey so I'll open the hives to see what is there. I will only take honey if there is plenty to ensure the bees have enough to over winter.
Any honey I get is a bonus as the main reason I have them is because they are major pollinators.
We get many bee varieties in our garden and currently have tree bumble bees nesting in a dormer window. They will die off in the autumn when the queen will burrow into the ground for the winter. In the spring she will emerge and start a new colony.
It has been a very steep learning curve for me having bees but very interesting too.
I have been stung a few times and have lost my fear of them. They are amazing little creatures!
A big step forward
Today has been spent finishing our second Gite. There is still a little more to do but we have moved furniture in and put up pictures. We have gone through all the kitchen stuff and made a list of things still needed. Next week we will buy all that is needed. Things like saucepans, kitchen bin, some bedding bits.
There has been some discussion about the names of the two new Gites. The original one is Le Tertre Rouge, so we will now have Le Tertre Verte and Le Tertre Jaune. It is Le Tertre Jaune that we have just about finished. As this is a little smaller than the others we will make it a bit cheaper than the other two.
It feels like it has been a long hard journey to get to this point made worse by knowing that my house will not be completed until all three Gites are up and running. I am finally beginning to feel that my home will be done! I have had several bouts of depression caused by living in a building site. It is the main reason I have bouts of feeling desperate to go back to the UK. Hopefully things will now improve.
Today we visited another expat to buy a fan. She has sold up and is going back to England as she is tired of all the trips to visit her grandchildren. They had completely renovated their place over the last eleven years and now have a beautiful property. It would worry me that I would regret selling something we have heart and soul to.
So for now we will plod on keeping our dream alive Looking forward to the day when my home is finished.
First part of my new blog
Well, I have been wondering for some time how I could allow you lovely people to reply to what is on my website. Then it occurred to me how others do it and here we are! All of this techie stuff is a big learning curve for me.
This came about when a forum I used crashed and did not look like being fixed. There were several regulars who missed the daily chats. So I set up my website and attached a forum. That has grown well and we are all together again.
Then I thought about my blog and how I always enjoyed writing it and here we are!
Life is predictably much the same here.
This is our one new addition this year. No idea if it is male or female but time will tell. The hen was sitting on 9 eggs but only this one hatched. I think the weird weather had a lot to do with it. It will mean I finish this year with twelve chickens.
I have now enclosed them in my back garden which I am not happy about but it is keeping them safe from the fox. I have lost rather too many chickens and ducks to the fox this year. This means my back garden is less than pretty as they scratch about and create dust baths. I have plans to acquire some more tractor tyres to create flower beds. I want to use one as a herb garden too. I currently have courgettes growing in one in the veg patch and they have done very well! The good thing about the tyres is they are free! I like to upcycle when I can.
The first of many I hope
I have lived in France for almost eight years now. In that time I have gradually simplified my life and worked at improving my carbon footprint. On a world scale there is little I can do but I can make a difference in my corner. I welcome comments but would ask all to maintain the peace that I work hard at promoting.