time passes….

Well – it certainly has!  The start of the season was very quiet and we could get on with a whole lot of tasks that needed to be done – new flower beds, deadheading, taking cuttings, and attempting to finish my last course of acupressure which, for some reason, I’m finding really difficult so the temptation to always find something else to do has been given in to on many occasions…

Ever since Thumps got out of the garden and went on a four hour ‘promenade’ around the chateau grounds I’ve been a bit paranoid about closing gates…and he’s been a bit on the ball and wily as to how to get out!  Madame Post came the other day and tooted just outside the front door (more on-line shopping – it’s wonderful, like receiving a gift – even though I paid for it! – and SO exciting to see what, from my many shopping sprees – has arrived… anything from seeds, art materials, aromatherapy oil or carob pods for Thumps).  Anyway, Ted charged to the door and as I opened it, Tass came hurtling down the stairs as well.  Now this was mid-morning and Thumps usually sleeps under the bed upstairs for the day unless he’s in his outside spot under his favourite bush, but that’s rare and usually only if I’m using the vacuum cleaner.

I took two steps outside, greeted Madame Post (not her real name) took the parcel, asked how her holiday was and turned back to to the door and there at the bottom of the stairs, eyeing the open door was shy, timid, scared-of-everything-new Thumps.  My crazy hare had found some bravery and was hoping for a fast exit for more exploring.  I never thought a hare could learn, but he does.  And here’s another weird thing… how DOES he know what’s in season?  Every second day or so, I have to go down the road, greeting the farmers and neighbours as I go, to get fresh dandelions and other wild leafy things for him to eat (he doesn’t eat lettuce or carrots or anything that a domestic rabbit would eat).  On these days, I still get asked when we’re going to eat him and what he would ‘go’ best with – shallots or mustard, red wine or cider.  I laugh, shake my head and have given up explaining that he’s our friend and pet. I also try and find something new for him to try – a new leaf, weed, flower – and each time I come upstairs, he seems to know and wait and sniff each presented new morsel and then either tastes it or shakes his head in disgust.  But then he’ll suddenly stop eating anything I pick and he nuzzles my hand for something else… searching, looking, following me…. it’s taken a while to learn to ‘speak hare’ but now I understand.

The green wheat in the fields had ripened in the hot summer sun.  All over the countryside, patches of gold waved in the breeze.  I went through the chateau hedge and into one such field and picked a few ripened heads.
‘YES!’ said my hare, ‘THAT’S what I need’  Well done!’ And that’s all he would eat for as long as the wheat fields remained.  Then came the day when the farmer arrived with his large harvesting machine and within an hour or two, the field was clear.  I ‘gleaned’ the sides where a few stalks remained for a week or two before the field was ploughed and compost spread for the next crop.

But then all of a sudden, Thumps started to search again and the few heads of wheat I still had went untouched.  Now what?  I walked (as he still did eat the odd dandelion as long as it was very young and fresh  – hard to find in the boiling sun of a particularly hot summer) and looked…oh  – the corn was ripening.  I went to the pet shop and bought him some dry corn still on the cob.

‘Oh Yes!’ came the reply.  ‘You ARE getting clever!’

I think sunflowers are next….  How does he know?  He was only out in the wild for a day and only weighed 80 grams at the time…so very clever.

We had a group of visitors that wanted breakfast, a packed lunch (fortunately just on the one day – the other days were ‘help-yourself-from-the-fridge) and dinner (4 courses) every evening.  The weather was glorious for them – if not a little too hot…but for me in the kitchen and especially with the desserts – it was nothing short of a nightmare.  I stupidly decided to make a Paris-Brest.  A delicious but complicated dessert that was the ‘taste of France’ that was called for during the week.  This recipe has a million steps and the day happened to be the hottest – nearing 40 degrees which is unheard of in Normandy.  But this fact, I wasn’t to know until later in the day and I started the process with great enthusiasm and cheerful gusto.

Step 1:  tra- lah- lah..mm..mmmmm. la de dah
Step 2:  tra- lah- lah..mm..mmmmm. la de dahparis-brest
Step 3:  tra- lah- lah..mm..mmmmm. la de dah
Step 4:  tra- lah- lah..mm..mmmmm. ..
Step 5:  tra- lah- lah..mm..mm     shew….warm
Step 6: tra- lah- ………………what the?
Step 7: …………..why won’t this creme patissiere thicken?
Step 8: STOP SLIDING OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
the Dear One walks in……………(poor unsuspecting man…)
Step 9: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
Step 10: I vaguely hear him telling me not to panic from my prone position on the floor – surrounded by a puddle of creme pat and sticky praline……….
Step 11: after a shower, a few needed tissues, a red nose, a change of clothing, the thing was put together and shoved in the fridge.
Step 12: Note to self – make Paris-Brest in the Autumn, Winter or Spring… NEVER in the Summer!

Image may contain: table and indoorAnyway, the by the time the week was over, the Dear One and I were absolutely finished.  We seemed to have washed dishes and glasses till they came out of our ears, laid and relaid endless tables and peeled and prepared mounds of veggies.  I vowed never again, I swore I hated my life, and yet somehow, I know next year will be another year and it will be done again…maybe without the Paris-Brest!

There’s an Autumn feel in the air – the time and the year seems to have passed so quickly…it feel like only yesterday when it was snowing.  Out of desperation with my French (or rather the inability to string a fairly large vocabulary into some sort of coherent sentence made up of correct grammar) a friend has offered to give me proper lessons…
I feel for her… I start on Monday…. should be interesting…. I’ll let you know how it goes…

A la prochain et bisous


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Snow, snow everyhare…and then Spring…And then Summer….

I had been hoping for snow all Winter.  The Perigord in the South had some, Paris had some, obviously the Alps had some but since we’ve been here at the Chateau, apart from the odd flurry of pretend snow which comes in the form of Slush Puppie that falls in an icy plop and isn’t nearly as romantic, we haven’t had a jot.

The Dear One assured me that this Winter would be cold and he was convinced we would snow.  We had floods.  As I mentioned in my last blog, we had water, water everywhere… and then at the beginning of the week, the sky grew heavy and the weatherman assured us we would have ‘les flocons’ and before you cover your mouth with your hand in utter disbelief of a possible swear word appearing on your screen, panic not – les flacons literally translates are ‘the flakes’…in this case…. the flakes of snow.  Yes but how many  I ask myself – are we just talking one or two icy flacons, numerous slush puppie ones or what?  And more importantly, will the ground get cold enough for the flacons to land and stay long enough for a snowman?

Les Flacons fell….the ground was cold, les flacons settled.  I was delighted.  By morning les Flacons had disappeared altogether and all that was left was more mud.  Once more the sky grew heavy and the weatherman said (and knew) nothing.  The heavens opened and les Flacons fell.  Silent, soft, they landed on the frozen ground and steadily formed a layer.  By this time it was dark but I shone the torch out of the window numerous times during the night to see what was happening (I was too excited to sleep).  At dawn I looked out of the window to see a pinky blue fairyland.  A blush of sunrise against a white world layed in eighteen centimeters of bluish-white snow.  It was breathtaking.  The topiary trees in the formal gardens looked like giant peaks of soft-serve ice-cream twirling out of the ground. The statues were draped in snowy capes and the fountains sparkled, the water frozen and still.  I couldn’t take it all in, a camera would never capture it.

Samuel the gardener eventually came to work along with the roofer.  His assistant found it easy to come on a quad bike.  There had been no warning and from Paris upwards toward the north of France had been plunged into chaos.  With advanced warning, the roads would have been salted, provisions made, snow ploughs out.  Nothing!  The weatherman got into trouble for not seeing it coming and most Frenchmen did what frenchmen do best, shrug and enjoy the day and that’s just what we did.
All four of us went out to play.

First we took the dogs for a walk, then we got a crate, tied it to the tractor and had turns pulling each other around the field at high speed…or rather as fast as the tractor could go in the snow.  It was great.  I took a saucer of it up to Thumps who was still snuggled up under the bed.  He sniffed it, wrinkled his nose, backed further under the bed, thoughts about it for a bit, came cautiously forward, sniffed, licked then rolled in the saucer and sprayed the snow everywhere.  He must have enjoyed the first experience because about half an hour later, he came thumping downstairs and sat staring at the winter world through the doggie door.  Tentatively he went out onto the grass, flicked each paw as he walked around and then began to run – charging around like crazy, rolling, kicking his little legs into the air and generally having a ball.

Spring came slowly after such a late, long wet Winter and then Summer arrived with a vengeance right in the middle of Spring.  It was all very weird and none of the carefully planted veggies seem to want to grow – all a little too confused I’d imagine.  Then much to my total horror – Thumps got out of his fenced garden.  We had friends visiting and we all tried to herd him back to the house.  He wasn’t having any of it.  He was out to explore and explore he was going to do.  It was quite interesting that he avoided the forest altogether (thank goodness) as that’s not his usual habitat in the wild but he stuck to the open grass, formal gardens and lawns of the chateau and systematically went over every centimeter…I ran like a mad woman to steer him away from the farm gate leading into the open fields – if he had got through – I think we would have lost him for sure.  Anyway, after three hours of him exploring and me panicking, he wandered off the pool in search of water.  We tried to catch him within the pool garden but he outsmarted us all – charged out of the gate with Tass the mutt in the lead – outran her and took himself back home with a flick of his tail, a last leap and twirl before pirouetting through the gate, into the house and under the bed.

I had a whisky.

Recently I’ve had reason to be surrounded by our own mortality, by people suffering on both sides of the coin – those with an illness and those who watch them suffer…both of them are difficult and tragic places to be.  On both sides, people cope so very differently – some by talking, some withdraw, some giggle and try to make light of it all, some isolate themselves in self pity, some get angry…..each coping with their fear and grief of being so helpless against something that is probably going to win one way or another and on top of it all – we hurt each other in the mix.

It got me thinking about the way we live our lives with the people we love while we’re still ok or, if we’re fortunate enough, after the fear and sickness has past and we have another chance at continuing life.

We’re all so different, for example each of us enjoys reading a different blog, a particular gendre of book, tastes in food etc and how we cope with the stresses of life…? Is any of it actually wrong or is it just different?  Do we have the right to judge or hold a grudge over the way someone has acted in the middle of a breakdown or fear or grief?  I think of after it’s all over and we’ve been given a second chance and I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re all so fragile but of all the ways to cope with grief – talking – if you can – is the best way.  That way, there can be no misunderstandings, no judging and no room for someone to fester and imagine all sorts of perceived intentions of wrongs…life is too short and too tragic to allow room for anything else other than understanding.

Imagine unknowingly being so involved with how you’re feeling that you end up pushing away or hurting the very people that are there though thick and thin…..

What are your thoughts?

On a more upbeat note…My Beloved husband found a Swift in a busy road, hunched near a drain in the boiling heat in the middle of a nearby town.  We were on our way to a meeting so we decided he should take it home, give it some sugar water and put it in a cool place until we got home.  After reading up on the Net, for the next few days we made sure it had plenty of rehydration fluids and then on the evening of the second day, he went out to find worms (a good source of protein) and I got out the flyswat to find some flies.  This little bird was quite chilled, sat on the Dear Ones head while he watched the Football World Cup, and snuggled into his neck when he was tired.  It ate it’s worms, drank it’s water and rested in a plastic cat box near a fan.  Each day, it clung to us just that much more strongly and each morning, we walked outside to see what its decision was going to be.  On the fourth day, it flapped its wings, tested them out, stretched them but stayed put.  On the morning of the fifth day, it made its decision.  After a good meal and a drink, it took off, soared higher and higher, dipped once or twice as if in salute and was gone.  I stupidly wanted to cry…but what an amazing feeling to see it fly strong and free.

The Beloved has taken himself off for a bit of fishing and I think a cup of tea would be wonderful…so I’m off to put the kettle on.

Would love to hear from you – hope you’re all well, happy and finding positive things to enjoy in life and people.

A la prochaine


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We’re all having a (hare) ball!

Water water everywhere!  And after the water (or during)…MUD!  It has rained and rained here for weeks.  Thirteen departments of France have been on flood alert, once again, the Louvre in Paris has emptied a few rooms of precious paintings, the Seine has flooded it’s banks into the road of Paris and here in Normandy, the roads have turned to rivers, the grassy areas to lakes.

The chateau kitchen has flooded five times, the water in the cellars swirled around the calvados barrels (8000 liters worth) half way up their rotund little bodies and the grand steps leading to the formal gardens turned into the most beautiful waterfalls which puddled onto the formal lawn and sent the Beloved into a crazy worry about his much tended lawn.  What made it all worse, was the Roofer, who has slowly been replacing the roofs on all the buildings, needed to get a front end loader to help him place the slate onto the roof peaks.  Well!  A heavy machine with giant tires moving around?  Yup – it just churned up everything in it’s path turning everything to a soggy, sloshy boot-sucking quagmire.   And then two dogs what to go out for a run….. I try not to think about it….

As far as we know, the hops rhizomes have survived.  We’re waiting for two more varieties to try to see what their oil yield will be before we chat to the owner of the chateau in a hope that we will plant six thousand plants in one of the unused fields.  That will be another adventure all together!

As I mentioned in my last blog, we have a new member of the family.  Now to give you a bit of background, I have long been obsessed by these for no other reason than they make me smile.  I can be having the worst day or be feeling really low or homesick and if one of these little cars drives past on it’s biscuit-thin tires with it’s funny little body, it ALWAYS brings a smile to my face.  I just love them.  Their simplicity, the expression on their faces (and yes, they do have one), their tortoise like shape with their flat boot, their rolling suspension designed to carry eggs over a ploughed field..you know what or rather who I’m talking about…the Beloved French Deux Chevaux! My obsession has been going on for nearly five years now and the Dear One has been vacillating between wanting to make me happy and hating the little cars with a passion.  Why?  He used to have one (how bizarre is that) in fact it was his first car.  It leaked, was freezing cold and draughty in winter,  refused to start on many occasions and, in general, drove him crazy to such an extent that his relationship with it only lasted a year before he moved on to ‘something more modern and reliable’.  But after hearing me bleat on for so long, I think the poor man was either worn down or just resigned but after a while, he told me to ‘just buy one for goodness sake!’

All very well but boy are they expensive!  I’ve seen a wreck with more holes and rust than actual car sell for around €3000!  Can you believe I came across a restored one for €99 000!  I do realise that it all depended on the year etc but I wasn’t too fazed about that – I didn’t really care what year it was except I would have prefered a ‘slightly newer’ model….but being the crazy artist I am, I was more concerned about it’s colour – it had to have round headlights and not square and that it had to be French Blue.  The Not-So-Beloved just rolled his eyes and asked me if I had ever heard of car paint shops that sold paint specifically for cars and for changing their colour.

I trawled the Net whenever the urge became overpowering for a ‘bargain’ and discovered there are many people out there who are quite happy to pull the wool over your eyes and try and take you for a ride.  It put me off a bit and the trawling became less frequent.  And then I discovered that Ebay sold cars and they had a buyer’s protection thing attached to any car a person bought…. I trawled there…and then a friend trawled there too looking for motorbike parts…and then……he sent me a link…..and then I looked……and then…..

It was an auction in the UK and this little car started at 0.99p.  It was a left hand drive so wasn’t doing very well as far as Uk people wanting to buy it.  I watched the price rise for a bit and then, without telling the Beloved, I put my bid in.  I waited for two weeks.  No one else bid.  I was beginning to wonder what was wrong with it but from the picture – it looked pretty good…not much rust, a good year (1986), it still went so the engine must be good….I eventually broke it to the Dear One and showed him the photo -after all, I couldn’t drive it, I couldn’t look underneath it or look at the engine (not that I’d know what I was looking at)… it was one of those things you just held your breath and bought unseen.  The auction closed early one morning and I awoke to my phone beeping.  A text to tell me I was the proud owner of a 2CV!  My nerves! I got onto Ebay to put an advert for people to bid to deliver it to Normandy france and got a really reasonable price because a flatbed trailer was already coming to the area with two other cars on it and there was room for one more.

Cool beans!  The driver got lost and eventually the truck appeared down the chateau driveway at dusk.  The first car closest to the cab was a huge plush BMW, the second, a grand sleek Mercedes….and attached to the end of the trailer like a little pimple was Charlie the 2CV…. forlornly balancing there with one flat tire and a spider’s web stretching from one of her mirrors to her bonnet.  Her battery was flat, her little face was grubby but she still made me smile.  After charging her battery overnight, the Beloved started her up and we drove down the half a kilometer driveway to the chateau gates.  She backfired with great gusto and in the most unladylike manner all the way there and all the way back.

I also mentioned last time that Thumps has developed an addiction.  it took us ages to find him some sort of dry food that he would eat and I was beginning to worry that he would go a bit hungry over winter when there are no dandelions and the grass is slow growing.  The Dear One came home one day with some Dwarf Rabbit food and at last, here was something he could tuck into….still fussy, picking out bits and pieces to his liking.  He loved dried corn, whole sunflower seeds, a few of the alfalfa or grass pellets but not too many but two things he just loved.  One was a variety of square biscuits that were green, beige and pink and tasted of maize (yes I tasted them) and the other was some sort of bark.  It was this stuff that became an obsession.  He would dig through his bowl until he had found every bit.  If he got hold of the main tub of food if I wasn’t looking, he would dive in, pick out the biscuits and rummage for ages crunching his way through until there wasn’t a piece of bark in sight.

We sat together one evening while I tried to figure out what it was.  He was very protective over them, taking out another one while he was still chewing on the first and tucking it safely between his front paws, hiding it with his chest until he could grab it and repeat the process.  I managed to find one and together we chewed thoughtfully.

Hard, crunchy, sweet and…slightly chocolaty?…..yup…..definitely a combination of rock hard dates and chocolate.  I trawled the internet once again.  It took a while but finally I discovered that they were Carob pods, the leftover husk after the caffeine-free chocolate substitute bean had been removed; they’re also called Locust Pods.  Ebay here we come – a gentleman was selling half a kilogram at a very reasonable price (after all, they are usually just thrown away.  I never realised that they were part of so many rabbit, mouse, gerbil etc feeds as well!)  it wasn’t long before they arrived in the post and I put them in an old ice-cream tub.  They smelt a bit weird – a combination of old socks and chocolate but Thumps thought they were the best things out.  I decided they would have to be a treat – something to tame him a bit more, a reward after he had literally ‘eaten his greens’.  He learnt very quickly. The other day I was kneeling in front of a chest of drawers putting away the laundry when I felt two gentle paws land on my back.  I turned round and there he was, having crawled out from under his daytime spot under the bed…ears up….big round brown eyes staring at me with a question mark above his head..
‘Where they?’
‘What you want my boy?  Do you want some sunflower seeds?’
‘Do you want some more apple?’
‘Have you run out of food? Grass?  Corn?’
I accompanied each question by an offering of food…each was met with an actual shake of his head!  Eventually he climbed onto my lap to nuzzle his nose into my hand.
‘Do you want one of these?’ I offered him a piece of carob pod.
‘Oh Yes!  Yes! That’s what I want!!!!!’

It’s got to the stage when in the middle of the night, he reaches up and tugs on the sheet near my head until I wake up.  All I can make out in the dark are his long ears and the gleam of his eyes staring at me as he sits on his back legs, his front paws held to his chest.  I fumble around for the dish I have learned to leave full on the bedside table.  He munches three, then moves away to sit in his own bed and crunches through the fourth one before he rolls over, kicks his legs in the air a few times and blissfully doses off.

I’m so well trained.

I’d love to hear from you…
A la prochaine

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Hops and Nature’s Pantry

The Chateau grounds are rather large – with a 500 tree apple orchard and quite a few empty fields;  some flat, some gently sloping, some quite steep and covered in gorze and blackberries and these ones are a lovely haven for deer and hare.

I had been trawling the internet as usual in search of Aromatherapy oils and more info on acupressure and the Beloved was mulling over ideas to make the chateau grounds a little more profitable.  He thought of hops and I thought of hops essential oils and so the idea was born.  Around March April, the three different varieties of hops rhizomes had arrived (three of each as a ‘try out’ experiment), the flowers of which were reputed to be high in oil content and the Beloved was constructing a new method of hops trellising which resulted in two huge crosses in the field.   Now bear in mind, March/April is around Easter so I think the neighbours and passersby must have thought we had gone a little crazy.  Eventually the Gardener couldn’t contain himself.
And the response from the Dear One? ‘Careful!  Just don’t irritate me today!’  Samuel went off chuckling but continued to look at my husband in a mixture of worry, awe and disbelief for the next few days until the whole idea was explained to him.  Poor man.

I couldn’t believe how fast the hops grew and by August, we had big plump healthy flowers ripening in the Summer sun.  The smell was wonderful, citrus-ey fresh and spicy.And then came the thought… how do we extract the oil.  More internet searching and before long, a small pot still arrived in the post for us to ‘practise’ with.  Well, we couldn’t wait for the hops flowers, they still had a few weeks of ripening so we pounced on the lavender which was flowering in profusion outside our cottage and in the chateau grounds.  The pot still was set up in our tiny cottage kitchen, with a pipe here, a peg there, balancing on a glass tilted there and attached to a tap.  All very precarious but all good.  Before long, the smell of lavender filled the cottage and voila – pure essential oil separated on top of the hydrosol.  I was SO excited.  It was beautiful, clear, strong smelling and just perfect.  We waited in great anticipation for the ripening hops flowers but tried other plant extractions in the meantime. It was such an amazing process.

But we didn’t quite think it through and it wasn’t long before the hops vines had to be harvested, cut at the bottom near the ground and then five or six meters of vine, laden with flowers was then loaded into the tractor trailer….and yes….times that by 10 plants and you ended up with A LOT of vine meterage!  We started off by putting it onto a tarpaulin and,  with the three of us sitting in the warm sun with radio and birds for hops vinesentertainment, we began to pick flowers.  In true Normandy style within a few hours the heaven opened and the rain came pelting down.  Fine!  Load everything onto the tractor.  Run like crazy to the pool house hoping that someone had the savvy to not run but drive the tractor.  Unload everything into the pool room.  Dry off slightly.  Start again, this time with just the radio for entertainment and instead of warm sun, slightly damp clothing.  Samuel’s wife popped in and shame, poor thing, was immediately given a bucket, a vine and told to pick…fast…..

hops tubs

It took us the entire day to get all the flowers off and loaded into big plastic bins labelled with the names of the different varieties.   The following day the Beloved set up the pot still again….with a pipe here, a peg there, balancing on a glass tilted there and attached to a tap….but this time was not nearly as easy.  Lavender is filled with oil, distills quickly and the results are fast.  We waited and waited and waited…and eventually…..EVENTUALLY we saw some dark yellow oil.  Rich, thick, deep gold, beautiful.  It’s amazing what nature contains right underneath our nose.

On a different note but still on the subject of nature…we had to take our first lot of honey from the hive this year.  Well!  Neither of us had ever done this before and there is a limit as to what YouTube can tell you in the ‘real life scenario’ goes.  YouTube made it look so easy and honey just flowed into the jar.  Ha!  Dressed up to the nines and covered from head to toe we raided the hive of just three frames.  The hive is not huge so we didn’t want to leave the bees with no winter store.  We had bought a manual extractor and a little wheel thing that you roll up and down the sealed comb to break open the cells rather than cut it with a knife.  We started on the first one….rolled up and down carefully, honey oozed out…..we hurried….honey poured out onto the table…I scooped it up with my fingers and put it into my mouth (to clean up as one does you understand)..I was now sticky…I stuck to the wheeley thing….I tried to get the frame into the extractor which was being help by the Dear One.  I stuck to it.  He grabbed it, honey oozed all over the side of the extractor and dripped onto the floor.  Ted came to see what it was and licked it up, honey dripped onto his head, he became sticky… the Beloved patted him, he became sticky….

You can see where this is leading to can’t you?

Finally the three frames were in the extractor and the Dear One turned the handle to spin them and get the honey out.  The extractor did a little dance.  I tried to hold it down. The Beloved turned the handle faster and the extractor began some sort of wild break dancing across the floor with me half lying on it trying to hold it still.  Bits of linoleum started to fly off the floor, Ted started to bark.  It was a total fiasco but after a while, we got the hang of it all and honey filled the bottom of the extractor and out into the sieve covered bucket – pure and gold. I, armed with a rubber spatula, went into the extractor to scrape out the walls and bottom while the Dear One tilted it.  unknown to me, I got honey in my hair.  After we had filled twelve little jars, I took the frames and some of the left over comb back to the bees so that they could clean it up and use whatever they could.

‘mmmm’ said one bee, ‘I can smell honey.  Where is it?  Oh there it is – in this strange stuff on top of this dancing thing.  I’ll just dive right in to lick it up.’
I ran, I swatted, I danced, I did the highland fling but I couldn’t shift the bee who was not stuck in the sticky honey in my hair.  It stung me on the top of my head.  They say the sting keeps pumping poison so it’s best to get it out as soon as possible so the least amount of venom goes into your system.  Well, I got the entire does as it was evening before I found it.  I’m not allergic to bee stings but I must say, being stung on your head is not a good place to be stung.  I had the mother of a headache, swollen glands and a swollen ear for three days. Four months later and the area still throbs and is tender to touch.  How weird is that?  But the honey is delicious.

And then, out on a misty rainy afternoon with the dogs,Ceps I discovered Ceps growing near the main gates to the Chateau.  My husband’s favourite saying when it comes to mushrooms is ‘There are old mushroom pickers, and there are bold mushroom pickers.  But there are no old, bold mushroom pickers.’  I picked them anyway and put some in the dinner and the rest went into the dehydrator to be eaten at a later date.  Such trust he has in me.  He ate his dinner, saying it was delicious…but I think he was relieved when he woke up the next morning!

Thumper the Hare is doing well.  I’ve discovered he has an addiction, one I thought he never would have….but more about that another time…Oh and I we have a new addition to the family by the name of ‘Charlie’….but more about that next time…

A la prochain

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Furry Pets Hare and there….

‘What have I become?’
I ask myself this quite regularly.  I often stand back and look at my life from a different angle – a bit like at art school, when you’re told to see your drawing or painting through different eyes by bending over and peering at it upside down through spread legs…we used to laugh at each other doing this….and now I laugh at myself…sometimes….when I see the funny side of it….sometimes I can’t find one…..

Thumps was growing up and we we couldn’t let him go out into the wild, I knew the day would come when we would have to take him to the vet to be neutered.  The vet, muffling a laugh because to tell you the truth, every French person ranging from the gardener, the post-lady, the laundryman and, yes, the vet, all wonder if we are simply waiting for him to grow up before we eat him.  So for me to seek advice from the vet, well that just added to the confused mirth at the veterinary clinic.  I had very precise instruction,
‘It is very important to wait for his testicles to drop, we cannot perform the operation if we cannot see the testicles!’
This all said in very earnest French mad me want to laugh but I got the point and waited for the illusive testicles.  What made it worse was the fact that hares have a habit of hiding their testicles, tucking them up if they don’t want you to know they’re there or they think you’ll hurt them so trying to find said testicles was proving to be quite a challenge. All we knew was that they should make their appearance between the age of three to four months so the grand moment was immanent.  You see?  I ask myself while I wait…’What have I become?’

In the meantime, Ted had to go to the same vet and have his other knee operated on and as he was being checked out – we took Tass to have the once over as well and discovered her twelve year old teeth need a good clean and possibly one needs to be taken out.  The list of veterinary visits and procedures seemed to be piling up.

We took our minds off all the waiting and visits by picking cherries and bottling them in cherries in brandybrandy and Triple Sec as well as stuffing more into my mouth while climbing from branch to branch in the tree than putting them into the basket.  The Dear One, in between holding the stepladder and picking from lower down asked me if \i was actually putting them in the basket to which I answered with a muffled mouth-stuffed-full-of-cherries ‘yes’ and only told me I was a liar after a group of quests who were staying at the chateau had walked over, had a chat, tasted a few cherries and went on their way.
With a smirk on his face he said after they had gone..
‘You’re such a liar!  You should see your face!  I bet a lot of cherries missed the basket because your face is covered in them!’
Well….’What have I become?’

But as I mentioned, Thumps was growing up and in doing so, started to pee on me and everything I touched.  He would follow me like a dog until I made his milk, jump on to my lap, finish the milk, get a cuddle and pee all over my lap. He would sniff on the couch and pee on the side where I sat and he was becoming a little more aggressive, digging on me which was accompanied by loud grunts and nips.  He was up on his hind legs leaning on my arm when we saw them…the testicles had descended!
I emailed the vet an booked him in. for the following week….and then I started to stress. Poor little guy, will he be ok, are we doing the right thing but at the end of the day, we had to think of his safety.  Life with us and the dogs is the only life he’s known and from a safety point of view, we could never release him to find a lady-hare…so I had to be content with the idea that this was probably the kindest thing to do for him.
The vet told me to stay and him while the sedative kicked in and I watched this beautiful, regal creature slowly go to sleep in my arms…I wanted to cry (and it wouldn’t have been the first time the vet had to hand me tissues -she’s very understanding).thumps at the vet

Two hours later and a bit wobbly, he was home and asleep in his downstairs bed |(yes, he has an upstairs bed as well…) under the stairs.  The next day, he was twirling in usual ballerina twirls and leaps around the garden.  And joy of joys, he hasn’t pee’d on me or any other item of clothing or piece of furniture again.

It was a rainy afternoon and the Beloved was watching sports on the TV while I was studying for an acupressure course.  We were all sitting on the couch, Tass on the back cushions staring out of the window, the Beloved, Ted (surrounded by his toys that he brings one by one from upstairs), me and Thumps was next to me on the floor in his bed.
‘Feel like a glass of wine?’ the Dear One asked while rummaging around under Ted for the TV remote.

‘Sounds perfect!’ says me not looking up from my pc.
Rummage, rummage..
‘Aah there it is’, he says looking at me as I lift my eyes to see him pointing a giant plastic squeaky-toy carrot at the television.  He followed my eyes wondering where the buttons were.  There were no words really.  I was wheezing I was laughing so much and he, well, he went to get the much needed bottle of wine.  What have we become?

And then there is bedtime.
Thumps suddenly decided that he was no longer going to be left downstairs on his own so as we got the dogs together and took them out for a last visit to the grass, he shot upstairs and sat in Tass’s bed looking highly delighted with himself.  Fine.  That meant I had to carry up the kitty litter tray of straw for him and some dandelions and wheat stalks because he is, after all, fairly nocturnal.  His bed came up as well and all were placed in a line, Tass, Ted, Thumps, tray, water.  Whenever we switch out the lights at bedtime, the dogs get a baby carrot (sounds weird but they love them).  Thumps doesn’t eat carrots so he had to get a slice of apple.  They all sat in their beds waiting.  It was surreal.  In the dark, we lay there listening to crunching sounds of apple and carrot.  we were woken at dawn with Thumper ‘binkying’ from bed to bed, under the bed, around the bed, on top of us, flipping sideways, swirling up in the air, using us as a trampoline and in general – having the best morning….and asking for breakfast.

I had already thought of a cunning plan.  I had a bag of grass, dandelions, apple and wheat packed the nice before.  All I had to do was fumble around in the semi-gloom, pour everything into his box and we dozed once more to the sound of crunching until the alarm went off and Thumps shot under the bed scattering grass and wheat all over the bedroom.

I think I know what we’ve become….privileged, amused, honoured…happy.

















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There’s a hare in my soup….

So as you can see, I’ve merged a blog I started about the addition of Thumper the Hare (thanks to the Dear One) into our lives.  I’m sorry I haven’t blogged on this sight for a while – things went a bit crazy for a bit and Thumps turned our world a bit pear-shaped for a bit… plus we took a trip home to South Africa….I really home many of you are still out there, following this blog.  It was lovely knowing you were there and better yet, hearing from you….  If you’re still around, you may want to scroll down a bit and catch up on a hare-raising adventure… Thumps will, no doubt, feature quite bit in the story from now on…..

In the time between the last Footpath to France, let me tell you what’s happened…The Chateau has a brand new roof, the chapel and Calvados storehouse as well as the little Children’s house have also been given a new ‘hat’ of new wood and shiny slate and everything is looking pretty grand.  The Chateau has two new renovated bathrooms with walk in showers and travertine tiles and the some damp patches which were growing the most amazing mushrooms have all been fixed.  All the hedges have been cut down and pulled out and replaced by new ones – the old ones were full of ivy and some other climbing invaders and half the hedges fell over so they all had to come out.  The fountain has been turned into a miniature ‘Giverny’ and the waterlilies and other water plants are now providing cover for new members – a family of koi who are obviously very happy as they had babies in the Spring.  Oh and we have some hops growing in an empty field as an experiment – the Beloved’s babies – ten hops plants, five each of two varieties, growing with wild abandon and reaching out in all directions.  We’re going to see how well they do and then we have a plan…which I’ll tell you about another time.

What else…mmmm…..we bought a piece of land – 1,4 hectares worth, in the Dordogne valley, five minutes from my beloved Sarlat but deep in the countryside, no neighbours and a view to forever – right across the Massif Central and on to the direction of the French Alps.

And then there is Thumper.  He’s officially part of the family now.  Any hassles he had with Ted have all gone and  if Thumps is sitting in his tray eating, Ted stops en route to give his nose a lick and hopefully steal a piece of apple.  I’ve joined a small group of Hare Owners on Facebook and they’ve been really helpful.  Owning a hare – well, you never really own a hare – they’re not like rabbits at all.  They’re distant, regal, aloof and affectionate when they please – a bit like a cat really.  I can see why they have a ‘mystic’ reputation and why they are called ‘Star Gazers’.  He’s a fascinating little guy, made more odd by the fact that he takes his cue’s from two dogs….making his little ‘hare’ personality a bit of a mix.

I think because I carried him around from a day old in order to feed him every half an hour, he now views me as ‘it’.  His food source (despite the fact that he can go outside into the garden whenever he feels like it),  his morning and evening milk feed (even though he’s now nearly four months old – I don’t think he’ll ever stop wanting his beloved goat’s milk), his comfort, his friend and the person who removes any ticks if there are any.  He’ll take milk form my Dear patient husband but that’s it.  No-one else can touch him, cuddle him or kiss him but me.  His trust in me is complete.  This is both an honour and, to tell you the truth, a bit of a burden.  I worry that he doesn’t get the food he might get in the wild so I’m forever hunting in the bushes for bits of plant or leafy treats that he might like to try.  He comes to me as soon as I return, sniffing each offering as it’s presented to him, nibbling a bit, smelling all around and then with his nose upturned, shaking his head in rejection like a child in a highchair being presented with mushed peas for the first time.

Twice, he has managed to get out of his garden (which includes my now half-eaten veggie patch) and in to the main chateau grounds.  The first time, I didn’t realise it and Samuel the gardener came across him as he gazed at the chateau on the front lawn.  Thumper saw Samuel and got a fright and headed straight for home, charging through the open gate, into the house and into his bed under the stairs.

The second time he was a little more nonchalant about his escapade and after searching high and low for him, I thought I’d leave it for a while to see if he would come back.  The worry was, our dear Hare has no idea about the danger of cats or other dogs and I was worried about the stray cats living in and around the barn.  But after about ten minutes, I saw him cruising around the barn, stopping to sniff hear and there, reaching up to look on higher ledges – not a care in the world.  I went outside and called him and he came towards me – slowly as he was still enjoying his exploration – and then the Dear One came up behind him and together we herded him back.  He didn’t want to go but a loud hand clap sent him shooting back to the safety of his garden.

He drives me insane sometimes.  He loves to sniff out any smells and comes to see what they are.  My breakfast being one and even worse, dinner.  We were sitting on the sofa one Friday evening and decided to eat while watching the news.  And there was Thumps…you could almost see him thinking…
‘What you got?’
‘Smells nice……’
And with a mighty leap – he landed dead center of my plate.  Worse still, he stayed there for a bit just to make sure nothing was edible – then leapt off  spraying food everywhere. He then sat calmly in his dog bed and proceeded to clean sauce and bits of food off his feet.

But he’s cute and after his milk, rolls around on my lap wanting cuddles and kisses.  Then he charges (or ‘binkies’ being the correct term I believe) around the house twisting and turning, leaping from sofa to chair, bounding up the stairs, rolling on the bed, careening down the stairs and bouncing on our laps before landing in a heap in his bed.  Tass ans Ted watch on as we do – in amazement.

Hope to hear from you,
A la prochaine






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Hare at Home at last…

I know I’ve been quiet…it wasn’t that I didn’t want to, it’s just that we went back home to SA for 3 weeks and it was a little difficult to give news about Thumps when I wasn’t there to gather any.

To tell you the truth, I was a bit in a bad way about leaving him and the Dear One had a hard time reassuring me that all would be well.  But Thumps was at a fragile age, he was getting to ‘fit’ in so well, Ted seemed to be getting along with him at last and was offering the odd lick or two (I tried to convince myself that this a tentative display of acceptance and friendship rather than a small ‘taste’ for future reference) and all seemed to be going well.  But I also knew that hares don’t have the best of long term memories and I was worried he would forget all the work we had put into him and worse of all, forget us.  But….I couldn’t very well send apologies to my niece that I couldn’t attend the special occasion of her wedding because I had to keep bonding with a 4 week old hare….

Anyway, to cut a long story really short, we arrived back at home in France, Tass and Ted were delighted to see us, everything looked beautiful, the fresh green leaves of Spring were amazing and Thumps was completely wild.  Due to circumstances, he had to be left in his cage day and night and had received very little, if any, physical human contact.  But he was healthy, still drank loads of milk through the cage wire and had grown in leaps and bounds!  His baby face had disappeared completely, his feet had grown to fit at least a size 5 shoe and he was in the middle of his Spring molt.

In the late afternoon when everything had settled down, I tried to catch him and hold him.  He bit me, gave a kick that I never thought possible and flew out of my arms like a mad thing.  So we started again….
We left him to do his usual circuit of the cottage to orientate himself and try to remember.  A bit of research thanks to Google told me that even though they have bad long term memories, familiar sights and smells bring it all back and with a bit of perseverance, they will remember things.  I watched him and to be honest, I wanted to cry.  As I said earlier, it seems such an honour to have this fragile and now very regal looking wild animal in our care and I was torn between keeping him and trying to revert him back to what he was or, seeing as he was so unused to people, letting him go into the wild where he truly belongs.

Two things made me more at ease with the decision to persevere. The owner of the chateau was here with his dogs – two whippets and when one managed to get in and come and sniff the cage where Thumps was, Thumper didn’t flinch.  He completely ignored the dog, made no attempt to hide in his little house, just carried on eating even when the dog, who is a hunter and definitely would have killed him if he had got to him, scratched on the wire. In the wild, with foxes and dogs scurrying around the fields, Thumps wouldn’t stand a chance.
The other thing was the vet.  When the owner mentioned my dilemma to her, she said he would live a longer, happier and healthier life where he was and she didn’t see any reason to let him back into the wild.

For the next two days, we brought him inside to have the run of the cottage in the evenings and put him in his cage during the day to sit and doze in his sandpit and nibble the odd bit of grass.  On our first evening home, he recognised his furry white blanket and hopped onto the couch and then tentatively on to my lap to be fed his bottle of milk.  But he wouldn’t let me touch him.  I sneaked a kiss on the top of his head while he was busy drinking and he stopped drinking for a minute and stared at me with his big gold eyes.  The next morning I came downstairs in my dressing gown and to my joy, I watched a light come on in his little brain.  He put his front paws on my arm and sniffed the dressing gown licking it with great gusto.  Then he followed me around until he could climb on my lap for another feed.

By this time, Ted was back in line and showing a bit more respect and the owner and his dogs had left so I opened the back door and let Thumps out into the garden where he once more did his exploratory circuit and then tucked into the bed of mixed lettuces which had been able to at last grow in his absence.  I left him there for the afternoon and then showed him his carrier house, tapped the door and offered him some milk.  He went willingly into the carrier and allowed me to give him a few more kisses while he drank.  After a shower and back in my gown, I went watch a bit of TV before putting him to bed with a piece of apple.  To my delight, he jumped on my lap, rolled around on my gown, snuggled in and allowed me cover him with kisses and tickles.
Thumps was back!

I have to keep in mind that he is older.  And even though he still has a lot more growing to do( he is 1.5 kgs now – still has another 5 or 6 to go), his needs are not those of a baby anymore and he is more independent.  I can live with that.  He stays out in the garden all day dozing in the sun, at dusk he becomes more active and browses on the grass (or my lettuces) and darts around or ‘binkies’ – pirouetting and leaping across the lawn.  Sometimes he comes in through the back door to lie on his bed under the stairs.  At around six in the evening, he comes inside in search of milk and settles down in the spare dog bed we have or in his own bed.  Every now and then, he hops onto my lap and scratches for attention and then absorbs all the love, tickles and kisses he can before wandering off again.

He had a tick on his head which seemed to be bothering him.  I put some essential oil on it to kill it and make it easier to get off and then later in the day, when he was calm and sleepy, I pulled it off.  I got some licks and head rubs as a thank you.  It’s silly, but those moments are very touching, more so than a domestic cat or dog.  As a I mentioned earlier – it is truly an honour.  He is a handsome, silent, regal and fragile creature and he is teaching me so much.

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