Sunday, October 21, 2007

Shades of Autumn

Before we moved over here we weren’t sure the extent to which we’d experience a definite changing of the seasons. If we didn’t, it would definitely be the change from summer to autumn I would miss the most.

We needn’t have worried. Despite the high daytime temperatures, early mornings have a definite autumnal feel to them. The last couple of mornings there has been a heavy mist in the valley below us, so thick that the village on the hillside opposite us has looked like an island floating in the ether.

The Virginia creeper on the back of the barn is gradually displaying its autumn hues

And I’m waiting patiently for these to ripen.

These are Persimmon and I have a tree laden with them. If they do ripen I actually have no idea what I’ll do with them!

In keeping with the autumnal theme my WIP reflects the colours of autumn

This is the basic top down recipe from with the lace pattern from Licorice Whip down the centre of the front. I knit Licorice Whip last year in the recommended Blue Sky Organic cotton and it is my favourite sweater. I’m hoping this slightly snugglier version will be just as wearable. The yarn is Malabrigo chunky merino, in unknown shade. The chunky yarn doesn’t have that buttery softness of the worsted but it’s still lovely and soft.

It’s good to be knitting again. When we first moved in things were just too hectic to even think about knitting, then it was too hot, and then I wanted to knit but hit a slight stumbling block. Now, I’m not one of those knitters who can pick up and put down their knitting at the drop of a hat, or knit while waiting for a bus / at the dentist / in the supermarket checkout queue etc etc. I like to SIT and KNIT, for a couple of hours at a stretch. In the past this has meant that 99% of my knitting was done in the evenings, while watching TV. When planning our move, we had a number of options regarding TV:

  • Buy a new TV in France and watch French TV
  • Take our UK TV and subscribe to one of the UK satellite TV packages for Brits
  • Have no TV at all
  • Take our TV and just watch the occasional DVD

We chose the last option. We really didn’t want to have UK TV programmes in our new life. Many English people here do, and that’s fine for them, and who knows by the time the middle of January is here we may be so bored of an evening we’re crying out for it, but I hope not. Watching French TV would be pointless on two counts: we don’t speak the language well enough, and French TV is crap.

However, we did think that on a cold winter’s evening when we’re snuggled up in front of the wood burner it might be nice to watch the occasional film. So for the last few months before the move I bought a DVD every week when I did the supermarket shop.

So far we haven’t turned the telly on once. We’ve sat outside, when the weather was warm enough, just chatting, we’ve read books, listened to music, occasionally surfed the net, but not once had the urge to watch TV. Ergo, no knitting.

I couldn’t let this continue, so last time I was in the UK I got a couple of audio books out of the library. Bliss! Now I can knit to my heart’s content, whilst being read a good yarn.

Problem solved.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Back to life

I can’t begin to describe how lovely it was to get back home on Friday night.

On Saturday morning I went for a wander around the farm, camera in hand, to “reclaim” my home.

Sitting beside the lake on such a beautiful day the stress of the past few weeks simply melted away.

Since I went back to the UK the maize has been harvested on our neighbour’s farm.

If the other farms in the area are anything to go by this land won’t be laying fallow for long. In the meantime the “chasseurs” are making the most of the empty space to shoot (and more likely than not miss) anything that moves.

Umtata has been given a group of girls to play with but just like any bloke he’s more interested in the ones he can’t have

Two of our hens have gone broody again, something they seem to do at the drop of a hat.

Little do they know but they are sitting on two plastic eggs each, which we use to encourage the hens to lay in the nest boxes. Bottom of the queue when the brains were being handed out.....

The tree frog is still living in the well

Middle of October and the animals still need to come into the shade in the middle of the day. Can’t be bad

Clarabelle asked how Cosmo is doing. Well, he’s doing great. As so many of you mentioned in the comments that you thought he was a puppy (doesn’t say much for my skills as a photographer!!) here are a few photos showing him more to scale

Ben is a Labrador cross, and quite a big dog we thought, until we met Cosmo

Eddie is 6’2” (when he's standing up :0 )

I’m a midgety 5’2” (Sam is an Old English / border collie cross)

Brace yourselves because the next post will contain knitting content.....

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Ups and downs

Well, we always knew it was never going to be all “hullo birds, hullo sky” (as Fotherington-Thomas would say).

Long time readers may remember Smiley, our beautiful little buck who did so well for us when we showed him as a yearling last year, culminating with him winning Supreme Champion at The Royal Show. Sadly, ten days ago Smiley contracted tetanus and died.

I tell you, the guilt hits you like a hard punch to the stomach. I felt so responsible for his death – my train of thought being if we hadn’t brought the animals to France he wouldn’t have died. Rationally, there’s no point thinking like that, but it’s hard not to at the time. Tetanus was something that just wasn’t even on our radar in the UK – it just wasn’t something our animals were ever likely to contract. When we called the vet out I asked him if tetanus was a problem in the area. He said it wasn’t and that farmers here don’t routinely vaccinate sheep and goats against it. Horses and donkeys are vaccinated, but they are much more susceptible to it. The vet said they had the odd case from time to time in a sheep or goat but it isn’t very common.

So, it seems it’s just a case of bad luck, plus I think the fact that our goats don’t necessarily have the right level of resistance to what they’re going to face here. It wasn’t something I thought about before the move, but I guess it makes sense – after all, humans are affected by moving, and can pick up bugs etc so why should animals be any different? Thank goodness for the internet. Via a forum for people living in (and wanting to live in) France I’ve made contact with a number of people who have brought animals over, and one lady in particular who brought over angora goats. It seems we should expect them to pick up bacterial infections more easily, simply because the strains of bacteria here are slightly different and they have no resistance to them. I think that we are going to have to keep a careful eye on them, and vaccinate against things that we wouldn’t have vaccinated against in the UK. The new born kids will be especially vulnerable, until we have bred several generations on the farm and resistance has been built up by the mothers.

Still, things could be a lot worse. At least we aren’t staring foot and mouth or blue tongue in the face. Having gone through the 2001 F&M epidemic my heart really goes out to farmers in the UK at the moment. Life is generally tough enough for them without this being thrown into the mix.

In other news, my parents have been with us for the last two weeks which has caused stress of a different sort. Ideally, Eddie & I would have liked to have put off their first visit until next spring, for a number of reasons: having taken August off and now being in a very busy period for the firm I knew there was no way I would be able to take more time off before Christmas; we didn’t have a spare room fit for habitation, and with so much else to do Eddie could really have done without having to get that room renovated enough for us to be able to sleep people in it; since Eddie had to devote a lot of time at the outset to getting the house basically habitable for us, there is a huge amount of work still to do outside – chiefly fencing, since the only fence we had when we moved in was the boundary fence around the perimeter, so he is mad busy as well.

All in all not the ideal scenario for visiting relatives, and we really could have done with a bit of a breather, and not had any guests before next spring. However, as she had been going on and ON for months before we moved about coming over I knew that if I suggested that to my mum she would have been devastated. So, guilt well and truly piled on, we agreed for them to come over now.

Putting aside the awful oscillations between feeling guilty that I couldn’t spend more time with them, and anger that I was feeling guilty (ah the vicious circle of emotions the grown up “child” can go through!), two weeks was just too long. Not only because we actually live in a region that is pretty much 100% agriculture and nothing else and in French terms is geographically the middle of nowhere and there is NOTHING to do (and no matter how much I told my parents that they WOULD NOT believe me – until a few days after they arrived when they realised they had two weeks of BOREDOM ahead of them), but also because the week before they came over with me I was in the UK, and now I’m back in the UK for a week, so I feel like by the time I get home again on Friday I won’t have seen Eddie properly for a MONTH!

So, the last two weeks have been a bit pants, one way or another.

But what about the ups? Well, the glorious weather for one. Warm sunny days where that fierce heat of summer has given way to a more mellow warmth which still tops the high 70s during the day, coupled with balmy nights when the tree frogs serenade us as we sit on our covered terrace after the parents have gone to bed, snatching a precious hour or so together.

If we were still in the UK the goats would have been in for the winter for a couple of weeks by now, so every day they continue to be out is a bonus for us. We still have plenty of grass after the unusually wet summer, and whilst the warmth continues it will keep growing. Goats out = far less work, so that’s a definite up.

Horse riding – something I haven’t done since I had my own pony in my teens. Now I go riding with Fran on a Friday. Ambling round the lanes and over the fields for a couple of hours is just wonderful.

And last but not least, who could stay down for long when this is the view from their back garden that greets them in the morning??

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