Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck
Roosting on the gate

2011 - My second year of blogging in Brittany

I felt I would like to share some of the photographs I have taken so far this year and some from other years. I live in a beautiful part of Brittany and just love being here. It's a lovely place to photograph and enjoy being in through all the seasons and hopefully this blog will show you where I live my life.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Elderflower Champagne and a New Loaf

I walked back from the field on Wednesday morning this week with my left hand full of strawberries for breakfast from both outside and inside the polytunnel and my right hand bulging with luscious dandelion leaves for Boris, Ruby and Bert. 

There wasn’t a sound except for the birds and my wellie clogs on the lane gravel – I love the peace and quiet here.  The only problem was the rain - that dull, relentless, straight down rain that makes everything very wet very quickly - at least I didn't have to do any outside watering of plants. 

My elderflower champagne is glugging away on the kitchen table and another ten litres is getting ready in the white plastic lidded bin.  I shall transfer it to the flip top glass bottles I have once the fermentation has diminished a bit.  A couple of years ago I lost three of these strong - especially for fizzy liquid - bottles when they exploded sending glass and elderflower champagne all over the utility area - so I am being patient about the final bottling operation.  Today I found another six demijohns in the garage so the production line will continue for a while longer.
The blossom is really late this year, usually by July it is all turning brown and on its way to becoming elderberries but the trees here are still covered in buds and blossom so plenty more available to be picked.

It is one of my favourite summer drinks along with gooseberry wine - I can't get enough of it.  This year my gooseberries are being taken away by the birds before they are ripe so next year will have to be the year of the fruit cage I think.  I've already bought the netting, so a frame will be erected to try and thwart the thieving birds.  They are so engrossed in their stealing that they only emerge from the bushes when I am about a foot/30cm from the bushes so have become very bold.

My other criminals on the field are the wild rabbits who run for the field boundaries as I enter the area.  I am not sure what they are eating as everything seems to be nibble free so far, but there are certainly a lot of them about.

I had an afternoon appointment in Guingamp to get measured for a large rubber belt which I have to wear after I have my tummy skin removed.  This operation is currently planned for September with my gastric surgeon,  but I'm seeing a plastic surgeon in August and she may have other ideas.  While I was in Guingamp with JaneF  we took advantage of the shops for food shopping and I bought some Breton boules too - they are bright pink.  

I baked my fifth loaf on Wedneday morning.  Every loaf has been deliberately different.  This bread is made from Allinson's strong white flour (as I've just run out of Francine flour), with sunflower seeds, sultanas and cinnamon.   It rose beautifully.

I was planning on baking it in the oven in a round baking tin as I wanted that shape with some height.  Couldn't find anything in my cupboards so drove out and borrowed a loose-bottomed tin from JaneF.  It turned out beautifully - of course(!) and as usual it's very difficult to resist eating it all at once.

On Thursday afternoon I played Breton boules with three English friends at the Laniscat boules area.  It was a blazing hot day and I and my partner for the afternoon won both games - those pink boules are good news!  I'd never played Breton boules before and really enjoyed it.

Today was another seriously hot day and my worker was shattered after strimming most of the field and round the veggie patches - still half a day's strimming to do though.  The combination of rain and this very hot weather has certainly seen things grow out there, not least the grass.

I'm watching Murray in his semi-final and after winning two sets to one they have a break while the roof is being shut - a very contraversial decision at this stage of the evening.

Three things I like:

1.  Finding a spot on the field where the sun stays until about 21.40pm and putting pallets down to make a small deck to sit and read on in the last of the evening sun.
2.  Taking the last lot of field rubbish to the tip.
3.  Making arrangements to visit an exotic garden tomorrow with friends.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Hard work, hot weather and a new foal

What a glorious day.  The sun has shone ceaselessly and the sky has been Mary's colour as far as the eye could see.  It was still 23°C in the shade at 18.30hrs as I sat eating my supper of cheese and tomato with homemade bread in the garden.
A few days ago I heard a bird who frequently sings the same four notes in a row.  These notes are the first four notes of Ain't No Sunshine When You're Gone.  I have been replying by repeating the sequence and adding the following three notes.  This evening the bird - clearly a dedicated student has started doing the first five notes!  I have no idea what bird it is - I can't see it in the foliage of the trees but it is clearly very bright - in fact as I type this I can hear the first four notes being sung again and again. 
It's been a very productive day.  My worker arrived first thing and we cleared and cleaned the utility and gym, the garage bench and shelves underneath, the rabbit and hen houses, got the water draining again after a weekend with a blocked sink and no dishwasher and 
cleared up the rubbish on the field into the small trailer ready to go to the déchetterie.  We also moved the log trollies away from the terrace leaving space for the pots of annuals around my early morning, because it gets the first sun of the day, seat on the terrace and 
we sorted out the steps for the swimming pool.  The pool has now come up to 22°C and I shall now be forced to use it in the next day or so.  It seems really cold but I know that once I'm in it will all be fine.
A few weeks ago Jaina, a large brown mare – I know nothing about horses so can't tell you the make – was in the field where my goats, sheep and chickens used to spend their day.  As I am no longer keeping sheep I don’t need the extra space which I used to rent from my neighbour for €50 per year.  My neighbour, J-L, from the other end of the village has gone into horses in a big way.  A couple of months ago he told me he had thirty-two at livery and today he took three more on.  Anyway, back to Jaina.  She was due to give birth and disappeared from the field to give birth in safer surroundings.  She had a boy – whose name is Denam but I’m not sure of the spelling.  They would have preferred a girl, apparently girls are better – as in life generally then!  They have been installed just an orchard away from where Jaina was before and this evening, this glorious sun-filled evening, I strolled up the road in my knickers and sarong and clog type wellie shoes,with my camera in my hand.  The locals have got used to my eccentricities of dress and other things.
He is so beautiful.  I think he might have been considering being a giraffe because his legs are so long.
I held my hand out to him through the electric fencing and was glad I had remembered to hold it flat as I had as a child feeding my Sunday School walk apple to the horse at the top of my road.  For two pins he would have nibbled off my fingers as I hadn't anything to offer him in the way of snacks.  He was so lovely and seeing him has rounded off a lovely day. 
Three things I like:
1.   Having sun all day long.
2.   Finding some forgotten seeds under everything on the garage bench.
3.   Being able to walk into the gym without picking my way through "stuff".

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bread and an Afternoon at the Races

I’d been meaning to make bread for ages and about two weeks ago I managed to uncover the bread machine in the utility area and set about trying to remember what to do.  I didn’t recognise this machine so maybe it was one I bought secondhand, and I didn’t have an instruction manual for it.  The only source I found on the internet wanted $9.99 for it plus postage.  Online I found a couple of basic bread recipes and combined them adding a bit of sugar and some olive oil to the ingredients listed.  The bread mushroomed over the top of the baking tin and I finished it off with seven minutes in a very hot oven before cooling it on a rack.

In Cornwall I used to just use my machine for kneading and then halved the dough making six rolls on a baking sheet and a loaf in a loaf tin.  I couldn’t quite wait for it to cool and indulged in the first two slices thickly buttered with the butter melting into the bread – the texture was lovely and it was really scrummy!  I am hopeless at cutting a whole loaf but finally managed to find suitable blades for my electric knife and cut a passable slice (or was it two or three or four slices?), once the loaf had cooled down properly.   It was hard to stop eating it and golden syrup on top of thick butter seemed just the way to go.  I haven’t bought a loaf since, but have been experimenting with different flours and other ingredients.  Today’s loaf and rolls had sunflower seeds and sage in the dough and very good it is – I’ve just had some with buttery, garlicky prawns.

Lots of my time this week has be spent up on the field sorting out the weeds on the veggie patches and sowing, potting on, planting and watering veggies.  It is coming under control now and I’m so pleased we’ve done the polytunnel cover. 

I wished the goats further when I discovered that they had somehow managed to open a small bolted door from the barn to a hen run where a newly planted Bramley and a Cox’s Orange Pippin apple tree had been trying to settle in.  The Bramley was almost completely severed.  I have packed it with damp kitchen roll and wound it round with duct tape in a vain hope of it surviving.  The COP was chewed off 18”/45cm above the ground and the top part was in several bits.  This the second year running they have done this.  The small bolted door has now been screwed shut – hopefully this will thwart even my Houdini-like goats.

The last few days the weather has been glorious and today I was invited to go with friends to Corlay races at the Hippodrome.

I've never been horse racing before and it was a great introduction in a very civilised atmosphere.  €6 to get in and no parking charge.  We were then given a programme so we could study the form and choose what horse to lose our shirts on.  First we watched them being led round the paddock and then the jockeys mounted.  We walked over and placed our bets.  No odds - the money paid over is, I am told, added up and then a proportion of it is divided between the winners. 

This was a feisty horse - a surefire winner.  On the second circuit he was in the lead but finally came in last.  Here are my four losing tickets!   The standard bet is €2 for a win or for a place.   So I can still afford to eat this week.

We then took our places in the stand and watched the races in glorious sunshine.  There was a quality artisan icecream seller and I was treated to a vanilla icecream in a cone with a raspberry sorbet scoop too - lovely.

It was a very pleasant way to spend a sunny afternoon and although there were apparently 2500+ people there it didn't seem like it  No drunks, no disputes, no litter just a lovely day out.

There is a restaurant above the stand we were in where you can have lunch and a grandstand view of the races for just €16. 

I started a book in the garden yesterday and finished it before I went out this afternoon - Ripe for the Picking by Annie Hawes.  A light read about an expat in Italy - not demanding and pleasant enough.

Three things I like:
1.   An impromptu afternoon out with friends.
2.   Coming back home to the smell of fresh baked bread.
3.   A neighbour popping in with a container full of roses and herbs.