Tuesday, 3 October 2017

September

We've been in a bubble this month. With our house sold and a French house bought we've just been jogging along quietly. Until exchange of contracts (still waiting) we don't like to disrupt anything in the house in case we have to go back on the market. We've done some planning for the interior of the Correze house and barn, Andrew has been reading up on French electrics and plumbing (which has been the cause of a few sleepless nights). I've been sorting through my boxes of hoarded fabrics and Ebaying like crazy.

It's been nice to have visitors too although when we've been out and about we've had the odd 'will this be the last time...' moment. The first, and probably only time was a trip to Castle Rising Castle, a 12th century castle with huge surrounding earthworks. It's a lovely place to wander around and they allow dogs in as well although we decided that Mortimer and spiral staircases would not be a brilliant combination.

Castle Rising Castle




Autumn is probably my favourite season, I love the soft, golden light and warmth that doesn't sap. I usually have my camera tucked in a pocket to take some shots.

Autumn at Nelson House
As well as the weather, I love Autumn for the food. Much as I enjoy salads and the soft summer fruit it's nice to get back to soup and comfort food (much needed at the moment). Cooking is my 'go to' activity for relieving stress so I've returned to some favourite recipe books and tried out some new dishes. 



Andrew also made me a special dish for breakfast last Sunday. During our very brief house hunting trip to France I had 'pain perdu' for the first time. Also know as French toast, lost bread or eggy toast it was something that Andrew would sometimes have as a child but had passed me by. The version we had, as a dessert, was made with brioche and delicious and I was promised some on our return. We had several false starts but eventually it was served last week. He used a version by Mimi Thorisson, in her 'A kitchen in France' book and it was delicious and a great treat.



And that was September. I'm sure that October is not going to be as gentle a month but hopefully there will be some movement.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Summer

This summer has been a whirlwind, nine weekends in a row where we've either had guests or house viewers, or in some cases both (we have some very tolerant friends!) or we've been away from home.
One of the highlights was a long weekend in Bristol for a family gathering. Andrew's uncle (and godfather) Rodney lives in the centre of the city and this time we took the opportunity of an extended stay, quite rightly thinking it may be our only break this year. We had a wonderful time exploring the city, which seemed a place where your eyes were always drawn upwards.

Stunning Bristolian architecture
One of many ships masts

Rooftop detail


A hint of Bristol's maritime history
A model of The Matthew in St. Mary's Radcliffe

We never saw him again...

I don't know what your summer has been like but everything here seems to have come early. I took this photograph of blackberries mid-July and we had our first crumble at the end of the month.
 
Blackberries in July
 

Wild greengage (bullace)
 Apart from blackberries, the hedge opposite our house has a wild plum and a wild greengage. Technically I don't think that they're 'wild' but probably trees from old orchards that have reverted to their original rootstock. Everyone picks the red ones but ignores the greengage which makes a delicious jam (as does the plum!)

 


You may remember that a swarm of bees arrived earlier this year taking advantage of an empty hive. As they were new I left them alone but the visit of a beekeeping friend prompted an inspection - boy have they been busy! I had to take out some honey and improvise some extra frames to give them more space. My next inspection, two weeks later, proved that it was the right thing to do. They needed more space for brood, not having any spare brrod frames I had to slot in some honey frames and as you can see they have taken full advantage and built their own extension.


Bee extension

It looks like I wasn't the only one in the area who needed to improvise. We took some friends to Peckover House in Wisbech, where they also keep bees. If you look closely at the hive in the middle it seems to be made out of random polysterene nuc boxes and spare supers.



We baby sat Milton for a few days, it seemed only fair as he entertained Mortimer when we went to Bristol. They get on very well together and it's certainly a case of 'me & mini-me'!


Oh! and we went to France and bought a house! Fingers crossed it all goes through OK.
Our house in Correze

View from the garden.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

June 2017

June disappeared in the blink of an eye, we had a full diary but mostly of the mundane. We did manage a trip to the beach during the hot spell. We like to leave it until early evening, it's much quieter and more comfortable for Mortimer travelling. He was quite put out about having to get in the car but perked up when he realised where we were. His reading skills have obviously improved recently.

Old Hunstanton Beach Cafe
Mortimer's normal behaviour is to run in and out of the sea, splashing about and rolling in damp sand. This time he just went in and stood there, eventually just mooching about in the water. The sea was lovely and it really helped cool him down. I loved this family who still had their dog on a lead.


Despite it being quite late on a Sunday evening the temperature was still in the late 80's and people were making the most of it - Andrew & Mortimer included.


I will miss Hunstanton beach when we move - there is a beautiful quality to the light and I never tire of taking photographs.


Hunstanton beach

Salads were the only food we wanted to eat and in an effort to move away from lettuce I tried a Yotan Ottolenghi recipe for watermelon, feta and olive - it was perfect in the heat.

Watermelon & feta salad
June is Mortimer's birthday month and so we had the obligatory birthday photograph, there is certainly a tad more white this year.

Mortimer age seven
The last two weeks was a final push to finish the house - and we did it! The final weekend was hideous as I found myself cleaning windows with a toothbrush :-(
We've chosen an estate agent and  the photographer has been - he also does pet photography and he has some great shots 
I was a little nervous as he used a drone to take some aerial photographs and flew it over the neighbours field. The neighbour with a shotgun who shoots pigeons... but he did a good job (the photographer not the neighbour!).


So does any one want to buy a house in the country?

Sunday, 4 June 2017

May 2017

I was going to tell you all about May, the things we've achieved on the house but I know that you'll be scanning down until you find out about the bees so I'll have to start with them. The girls are still in town.
 
Busy bees
I haven't been into the hive yet but they seem happy and are bringing plenty of pollen in.

We took a half day holiday at the beginning of May to enjoy the Ely Eel Festival. We chose the day that the food & drink fair was on. Converted horse boxes seem to be the choice for a pop up bar.

Ely Eel Fair

Ely Eel Fair
 Although there was a great deal of super food for sale I wasn't sure about these suggestions.


Finally the carpet saga has ended and we have a finished hallway and stairs. I found some photographs of this area when we moved in

Before

Before
We've been upping the search for French properties lately and a lot seem to be in this style! However we now look like this

After

After
I spent hours on my hands and knees weeding the drive - thank heavens for trousers with built in knee pads. On the hottest day of the year (so far) seven tons of gravel arrived. Unfortunately I managed to wipe the photographs from my camera but you can imagine that it was a lot of gravel. First we had to redo the flower beds under the bay windows which now have lavender instead of ground elder. Gritting our teeth we just got on with it, Andrew with the shovel and me with the rake and lots of breaks and gallons of water.


Finished
The final external project was the area between the house and the workshop. Slightly out of sight it orginally was home to the old oil tank but even with that gone it was still a pretty nasty area.


Now it's a restful zen garden and nicely sheltered from the breeze.


There seem to have been a lot of 'before & afters' this month which is nice as it means we're finally getting towards the end of our renovation project. We just have some internal snagging to do, some paint patching and a deep clean and tidy. Externally Andrew is in the process of washing the fascias and wants to touch up the previously painted gutters which look a bit messy. Then it's off to the estate agents. Anyone want to buy a house in the country?

Friday, 5 May 2017

April 2017

April has been quite a busy month, one way or t'other, so what to tell first? Well there is the stair carpet saga. In last month's post I was getting quite excited about the stair and hall carpet, which was to be fitted on the 21st. Lunchtime came and went but no carpet fitter and when Andrew telephoned he was told that they had forgotten to book it in (although we had seen them write it in the diary when we ordered the carpet) and it would be fitted the following Tuesday. The carpet fitter, with carpet, arrived, took one look and with a sharp intake of breath said it would look rubbish (not actually his phrase but I'm quite polite) We had been told that the carpet could have the edge turned at the base of the banisters to give a neat edge but apparently not.

Still carpetless

The carpet fitter said it needed whipping and for this it would need templating (something he didn't do), took the carpet away and said he would talk to the carpet shop. They phoned and, after some harsh words from Andrew, said it would be at no extra cost and the guy would be round to template the following day. Which he was. Unfortunately the templating couldn't be done as the carpet shop had decided to precut the carpet and had got it wrong. Bearing in mind that whipping takes three weeks and the carpet took three weeks to arrive I don't think I'll be showing you the new carpet soon.

We also said good bye to Kip this month. Kip is Patricia and David's latest trainee guide dog puppy, he's been with them for over a year and it's time he moved on to more advanced training. Luckily his last Sunday outing to the orchard was a beautiful day and he & Mortimer had a great time.

Kip & Mortimer

Bowled over
While we're on dog topics I couldn't resist this last one of Milton and Mortimer.
Me & mini me
Latest obsession this month is with clothes moths! No I haven't had them but am concerned that my collection of jumpers may suffer if they go into long term storage. In my search for a deterrent I found this site Total Wardrobe Care which even has a blog. Many of you know I'm a bit particular about my wardrobe and cupboards (if it's not in colour order I can get into a real hissy fit) so this site is heaven. I ordered a load of products so feel more relaxed now.
Total Wardrobe Care
Andrew's birthday was this month and although we went out for the day I didn't take any photographs. Well apart from this one - Andrew received a rather splendid hamper of charcuterie which Mortimer was keen to share.
I'll help you with that!

Next a bee update. April was a sad month for my girls. They were doing great in March, lots of food, the queen was laying eggs and all was well. The hive is within sight of the back door and it has become reflex to glance across to see bee activity. It was a warm, sunny day but only a couple of bees were about and they didn't look happy. I opened the hive and they were all dead. It was horrible - a deep layer of dead bees at the bottom of the hive as well as bees who had just died - young bees in the middle of hatching, older bees cleaning out the cells. I'm not sure what happened as everything seemed normal but I suspect some insecticide drift from the orchard. Anyway I didn't have time to clean the hive properly, just took out the frames with honey (which I got rid of in case it was tainted) and closed the hive up to stop mice. My plan was to clean it thoroughly over the Bank Holiday weekend.
On Monday (OK we've slipped into May but I didn't want to leave you wondering) I noticed that there were a few honey bees around the hive, keen to get in. I assumed that they wanted to get to any scraps of honey that had been left in so I quickly opened up the hive and left them to it. Yesterday I was gardening and noticed a few more bees at the hive. Half an hour later I got a shout from Andrew, because of this...


 I'm keeping my fingers crossed that a local hive (possibly the ones that have a temporary home in the orchard) has swarmed and liked the look of my hive. They seemed to have gone inside and there was a lot of activity today. I'm desperate to take a peek but if, big if, I have a new queen inside they can be a bit flighty so I'm going to give it a couple of weeks. Still it's very nice to see bees at the hive again.

I've finally got my headphone/speaker issue sorted and have been trying to do more French lessons. You may remember that we are both doing Rosetta Stone courses. Andrew is like a demon on his whereas I had a slower start. Mine is currently concentrating on listening and pronunciation. I had to pronounce this sentance 'je vais prendre des oeufs brouill├ęs'  which has (for me ) two difficult words with oeufs & a double ll. But apparently I had to practise the 'je'!

Their system is quite good. You hear, and see, how a word or phrase is pronounced and then speak it. The programme records you so you can hear yourself and then shows your pronuciation against that of the native French speaker.  I'm only showing you these because I did quite well - you can see on the second one I didn't need to practise anything. If only it were all that simple!

Native speaker is black - I'm in green


We now feel that we're on the final push to get the house finished, so much so I've got a spreadsheet of tasks to be done. The biggest is the front of the house, the garden and drive have been very neglected. Hopefully next month you can have the 'after' shots. And maybe even a stair carpet!




Finally April was peak blossom month in the orchard - I don't think I'll ever tire of taking photographs.