Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas leftovers

our Christmas tree

On Boxing Day--another sunny but freezingly cold day we had left overs for lunch. We always try not to have too much left over so that by the 26th everything has been eaten. Some years we mange this, other times we don't. This year we got it pretty much right.

The village butcher had supplied us with a 750g sanglier (mature wild boar) fillet. This gave us 4 portions; 2 for Christmas Day and 2 for Boxing Day. We did decide on the Calvados sauce.
We roasted the sanglier at 180 C for 45 mins in the oven. Then we swtitched the oven off but left it in for another 10 mins. I'd made a few incisions in the fillet and we stuffed them with slices of apple. We coated the fillet in olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, sea salt and a bit of garlic. Into the roasting tray went some water (sanglier is very lean) and oil, some cloves, a star anise, a bay leaf and some ground black pepper. While the fillet was in the oven we put the apple slices which were to go in the sauce in some lemon juice with a shot of calvados, and added a star anise and cloves.

I made the sauce while the fillet was resting. I sauteed off a large shalott in butter, added the apple slices, and a little bit of garlic, salt and pepper. Then I added the roasting juices minus the 'bits' (bay leaf, cloves etc) and a little bit of the liquid which the apple slices had been in. Once it was all reduced I added a very healthy slug of Calvados and flambeed off the alcohol. I finished it with some cream. We had shredded sauteed Savoy cabbage with lardons (bacon bits) as veg.

Tinka sleeping off the sanglier
The wild boar was lovely--very soft meat more the colour of beef than of pork with a distinctive flavour. The sauce went very well with it. We certainly enjoyed it all second time round at lunch on Boxing Day. We even gave the cats a tiny tidbit each...  

No photos of the food sadly. We were so involved in getting it all cooked that we'd eaten it before we realised we'd forgotten...

Saturday, 25 December 2010

1st Christmas at Charnizay

Yesterday we had snow but it didn't really lie. Just the odd powdering here and there. Still it added nicely to the Christmas Eve feel.

seafood platter

In the afternoon friends dropped by to wish us a Good Christmas and we sat round the woodburner and drank mulled cider (recipe from Susan & Simon at 'Days on the Claise') which was lovely.

Christmas Eve dinner

Then having brought in more wood we settled down for Christmas Eve. We'd decided to have seafood as an easy but festive meal, made even better with a bottle of Savennieres. We'd decided to go for langustines, large prawns and crab claws. It was great fun sitting in front of the fire, Kate Rusby's CD 'Sweet Bells' in the background and our 2 cats watching our every move in case tidbits dropped their way. Messy food is always satisfying to eat!

Now on Christmas Day the sun is streaming into the house. It is bitterly cold outside. Soon we'll be off into the kitchen to prepare fillet of wild boar, not sure yet if the sauce will be Calvados or Port based ... we'll see. We are having Savoy cabbage with bacon to go with it.

An excellent 1st Christmas at Charnizay.


Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas shopping

Wednesday we went up to Loches to do our bit of Christmas shopping. The hypermarkets (superstores) like SuperU and LeClerc have been decorated for a couple of weeks and have special displays and yes, there is Christmas music piped through the tannoy systems but somehow it is all far less frenetic than in the UK--or so it seems to us. 
Loches decorations
At this time of year our local Sainsbury's where we lived in Suffolk would be heaving--morning, noon or night. There would be relentless 'pushing' of 'things for Christmas', a forest of trolleys in every aisle piled high with enough food to feed a Roman army for a month; long waits at the tills with rumblings of 'queue rage' and signs informing cutomers that yes, the store would be open on Boxing Day.

At SuperU there was an 'animator', a sort of in-house MC onthe tannoy who chattered on in a one-sided conversation with himself about the fantastic special offers. As we came in he was having one about individual mini tagines--special offer on a set of 4. But when we got to the checkout it was no more, nor less busy than normal; there were no extra tills open. Yes the checkout people were wearing santa hats; but they seem to wear these everywhere. A sort of universal retail Christmas 'signature'. We loaded up our shopping including some nice wines to go with Christmas food and went into Loches proper.

musical logs

The market was in full swing, friendly, not frenetic despite much trade at the fish stalls to buy oysters and other delicacies for the festive season. There were signs to remind people that the Saturday market would be held a day earlier on Friday the 24th due to Christmas and that the same would happen for the New Year. We shopped for ingredients for our Christmas Eve & Christmas Day dinners. Christmas Eve will be seafood : langoustines, large crevettes(prawns) and crab claws; neither of us is too keen on oysters. Christmas day will be marcassin (young wild boar), parsnips--to be roasted with honey and herbs and savoy cabbage with lardons (bacon). Not sure about dessert yet. Clutching our goodies we walked back to the car; with no signs of Christmas stress.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Lady from SATESE

This morning we stayed at home as we were expecting the lady from SATESE. SATESE is the organisation which oversees and approves the installation of fosses. They make sure everything is done to the norms and regulations. She's visited us before to check that the filter bed was in order before it was re-covered by the topsoil but this was the final visit for the formal 'seal of approval'.

bird watching
While waiting for her to arrive we re-stocked the suet balls in the maple 'bush'. It was once a tree but has been coppiced by the previous owners so is now more of a bush. We have a continuous to-ing and fro-ing of blue tits and great tits. Robins and other birds pick up the crumbs on the ground below.

Obviously with 2 cats there is quite a bit of interest in the feeding birds. However, both cats seem to focus on the mice and vole population--bad news for them, but good news for the birds. Shadow is what one would call 'a good mouser'. He can easily bring in 2 a day. They are always dead and he doesn't play with them; he eats them, hardly ever leaving a trace. You just hear him 'crunch'. We've cut down on his cat food a bit as he is becoming rather too 'well fed'. Most we've had in a day is 6. Can't say we like it, but it is his nature to hunt and there are zillions of mices out there.

blue tit in maple 'bush'
Katinka, being younger, isn't as profficient. Quite often they are still alive. When this happens we liberate the mouse or vole and tuck it into a pail in an old towel. We leave it in peace and quiet for an hour or so. If they survive, we let them go free--which is 70% of the time. 
Madame from SATESE arrived just before noon. Armed with a large jerry can of water she opened up  the 'regard' (viewing hole I suppose in English) in the septic tank where the pipe carries the water out to the filter bed. Then she went to the filter bed and opened up the 1st 'regard' there. Coming back to the septic tank 'regard' she poured the water in and ran quickly--well as quickly as you can in sticky clay soil--to the filter bed regard to see if the water had flowed down the pipe correctly. 'C'est bien' she said. The correct incline had been achieved on the pipes, making sure gravity caused the water to flow down to the filter bed.

So next week we will recieve a certificate which states that our fosse septique has been properly installed and meets the required regulations.

butter wouldn't melt.....

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Stacking wood

Last Sunday we went to a Christmans market at Ferriere Larcon, our first in France. We were curious to see what it would be like. We'd been to Ferriere Larcon before to look round the church, and part of the draw of the market was that it was held in, and around the church. The church is well worth a visit, Romanesque in style, it was, according to village records, probably built by the Templars. We had a good look round, there was a very nice smellies stand and a chap selling lovely glassware. We bought a pot of rillettes (potted pork) and enjoyed a vin chaud (mulled wine).

Christmas Market at Ferriere Larcon
Yesterday we meant to go to the market at the chateau La Celle Guenand to pick up some Christmas goodies and have an opportunity to look round the chateau as well.
Christmas lights in Charnizay

Events however over took us. For some time we'd been trying to get wood delivered and after a few leads fell through we found a supplier, right here on our doorstep in the village. Murphy's Law I suppose. Anyway on Friday we found out that the wood would be delivered about 10:30 am the next morning, i.e. Saturday. Great! we said. What wood we had was getting very low--we'd 'inherited' an elderly collapsed pile with the purchase of the house.

10:45 a tractor with trailor arrived with our 6 cubic meters of wood neatly cut into 50 cm buches (logs) followed by the usual little white van--containing the support team of 2 chaps and a young lad. 6 cubic meters is a lot of wood! In fact it was a full trailor. We'd worked out where we wanted it and they very neatly dumped it on the right spot. It was cold with a knifing wind but we'd checked the weather reports and meteo France showed rain for Sunday and Monday. So we had to grit our teeth and get the wood sorted into a proper woodpile and covered with a bache(tarp) straight away. 

 2 1/2 hrs later all the wood was either stacked into a woodpile covered by tarps or in our woodshed.  Feeling pretty shattered we tottered into the house for coffee and a de-frost. We just had enough energy to light the woodburner and collapse on the sofa with our mugs of coffee feeling reasonably pleased with ourselves. We never did make it to La Celle Guenand. We'll go next year if they hold one again.
And today? As I write this the sky is largely blue, the sun is shining and it is still cold and windy but no rain.....

PS It started raining about 16:30 so we are feeling glad we made the effort.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

our village

Charnizay December 2010
Another beautiful frosty morning here. 

We've been posting about all sorts from house renovations to things that have caught our interest locally; but we haven't really mentioned our village. We thought it was about time to put that right. For a village of about 500 people there's quite a bit of interesting history.

Charnizay is a small place, perched on top of an outcrop of 'tuffeau blanc' (local chalkstone) above  "l'Aigronne". The Aigronne is small tributary which feeds into the Claise at Grand Pressigny. The village has been here a long time. The earliest recording of the name is in the 10th century as Carnisiacus which had changed to Carnisiaco by 1099 when the village is mentioned in bull issued by Pope Urban II. The name, appropirately, means 'place of stones'. We can attest to that given the amount of calcaire (chalkstone) which was excavated during the digging out of our fosse septique! 

Charnizay later 19th/early 20th century
image from www.ferriere-larcon.com 

But the history of the village goes further back. In the 19th century they found a number of coins dating from the time of the Gauls. The discovery of neolithic tools points towards a much earlier settlement or at least habitation. Just outside the village is a dolmen known as 'les palets de Gargantua'. Our local cafe takes its name from this listed pre-historic monument.

The village doesn't do too badly in the chateaux department: opposite the church are the remains of the original medieval castle. Just a bit of the donjon (fortified tower) remains and forms part of an old farm which the village has recently bought to renovate and turn into a 'salle des spectacles' (cultrual/social centre). The current 'salle des fetes' is a, not very attractive, utilitarian building which is on the small side and no longer meets the village needs. Just outside the village is a 19th C Chateau (manor house). This is in private hands so cannot be visited.

Until the 17th C Charnizay was a manor which formed part of the barony of Preuilly. The manor was held by the Menou family. One of the family rose high in royal service at the turn of the 16th/17th century serving both Henry IV and Louis XIII.

His son, Charles de Menou d'Aulnay is probably the most famous Charnizeen and took part in the 1632 expedition Louis XIII sent out to what was then known as Acadie (now Nova Scotia) in Canada. The intention was to reclaim it from the English who had been given it after the treaty of St Germain-en-Laye. After the leader of the expedition, his cousin, died in 1636, Charles took over as Governor and followed a policy of colonisation. During his governance Port Royal to became the major centre. He died in 1650 when his canoe capsized in the Port Royal river.

Church of St Martin
The Menou family also owned (from 1661) another manor house known as the 'Chateau de Jauget'. This lay just outside the village on the road toward Azay le Feron. The current Chateau de Charnizay was built on the site of this manor. The last descendant of the Menou family died in 1802 and the new owner started building the current house in 1813 having done well during Napoleon Bonaparte's time. From 1844 the chateau belonged to the de Montesquiou-Fezensac family. Robert de Montesquiou was a good friend of Marcel Proust, who often visited the house.

Charnizay's church, dedicated to St Martin, belonged in the 10th century to the Collegiate church of St Martin de Tours. However, a century later they gave it to the Abbey of Preuilly.

So although not on the 'tourist trail' is it an interesting and vibrant, friendly village to live in. The elementary school is flourishing with 100 children and, in addition to the cafe, there is an excellent butcher, a small general store and a post office.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Tinka goes to the vet

A couple of days ago we took Tinka to the vet. This was a new experience for us and we weren't sure how she would react to being driven somewhere in the car.

She's been in the car loads of times--and has often tried to stow away when we go shopping. We then play the "let's let the humans chase me around the car" game. It can take a while before we actually leave.....

in quince tree
She had her basic jabs before she came to us. But we want her micro-chipped and also wanted to ask the vet if she was old enough for the "pillule anti-conception pour des chats" (cat contraception pill). As we don't know her exact age, we don't want her to come into season and find ourselves with a litter of kittens. Apart from the fact that our neutered  5 yr old tom, Shadow, might have a fit at a further feline invasion; there is the challenge of finding good homes for the kittens.

We got to the vet ok. Tinka travelled in our cat carrier and although she didn't howl it was obvious that she didn't like being in it. Little paws kept waving through the grille to pat our hands for attention (no claws) and she made it clear she wanted to see what was going on.
We were first at the vet which was great. We explained the situation and that we wanted her to have a 'fiche'  (chip). Being chipped was not nice. Here they insert it into the side of the neck; Shadow had his just between/slightly in front of, his shoulder blades. Poor Tinka: it obviously hurt like the blazes if the blur of claws and biting teeth were anything to go by (thankfully she missed- so no scratches or bites). Not a happy lady.
Then on to the teeth inspection to judge how old she is. Madam has been lying about her age!! She is older than we thought--according to the vet she was probably born around the end of May. Just as well we wanted the pill as she is of an age to go into heat at any time!
We want to have her sterilised but thought that as she's quite small it would be best to wait a bit as it is quite a major op. The pill seems a good interim solution. She gets 1 a week for the next month or so and then we book her in.

On the way back we thought we'd see how she'd do without the carrier. It was a breeze. We clipped the lead onto Tinka's collar and she sat/lay on Niall's knee pleased as punch watching everything going on around her and peering out the window. She seemed unfazed by the speed.

We've had a cat before who much preferred travelling loose in the car--she used to lie on the back ledge and other motorists did a double take when they realised it was a real black fluffy cat, not a stuffed one.
vantage point in living room

When we we got home we had stern words with Tinka and explained that going on the pill did not mean she could stay out all night with any French beau who took her fancy!

PS Apologies for lack of news. We've had a computer melt down which meant we couldn't post.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Christmas Card hunt

Yesterday we went looking for Christmas cards. We'd not seen much on sale and most of what was on offer were of the postcard variety; not folded cards which need envelopes which we would prefer. 

We encountered the postcard type in The Netherlands when we lived there too. In fact, there, traditionally, one sent out Happy New Year cards not Christmas ones.  While we lived there the US/UK type became more and more common; and is now the norm for those who send cards. However, my more elderly Dutch relatives still send out the postcard type with best wishes for the New Year; not Christmas. 

First we popped into the news agent/tabac in Preuilly. There were none on display so I asked madame. She would have them in stock some time at the start of the coming week, she said. 
Abbaye de Notre Dame de Fontgombault
We thought that somewhere like Fontgombault Abbey gift shop might have some. Photos of the Abbey (with/without snow) perhaps, or reproductions of stained glass windows appropriate to the season. So off we went. They had beautiful, if sombre, 'ordinary' religious cards showing reproductions of icons but sadly no Christmas cards of any kind at all. 

chapel at Fontgombault Abbey


Visiting the Abbey is a pleasure -- it is in a beautiful spot; medieval monks always had a great eye for location and the buildings have been well restored. Originally founded in 1091 by a group of hermits led by one Pierre de l'Etoile; it lies on the right bank of the river Creuse. They had been living in caves on the left bank near the fountain of Gombaud--hence the name of the Abbey. The foundation flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries and during the 15th it played an important role in creating the fish ponds which are dotted all over the Brenne region just slightly to the east.

Like many other religious foundations it suffered during the Wars of Religion and was attacked in 1569. A century later the buildings were restored and it carried on as a monastery until the French Revolution when it was partly demolished and sold off by the state. All that was left were the cloisters and some pillar bases.

Since then it has had a bit of a roller-coaster life. Owned by various families, re-founded by Trappist monks as a monastery in the middle of the 19th century; it became, after the enforced departure of the Trappists, a Belgian military hospital during WWI. After a spell as a seminary everything came full circle when it re-founded as a Benedictine abbey in 1948; which it remains today.

We popped into the church for a quick look round. It was cold and still hazy with incense from the 10 am mass. A lone monk with his cowl drawn deep over his head was busy vacuuming the choir stalls. With a back-pack hoover and waving the suction tube he looked a bit like an extra in Star Wars.

With the sun out and the snow still looking good we took some photos. They may well turn into home made Christmas cards.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Snow Fosse II

view this morning from
Antoinette's study
We had more snow overnight and this morning when we got up it was snowing again. We now have a real fluffy blanket of the stuff. Shadow and Tinka are doing bunny hops to get around as the snow is up to their tummies.

Just as I was making coffee Ken appeared. The dumper truck problem has been fixed--filter needed changing due to cold and so things are moving again! The system of pipes which will trickle the water through the layers of sand & gravel go in and then there is the connecting to do. In a way the snow is a real help as it protects the ground and keeps it from becoming too churned up.

Monday we have an appointment with the lady from Satese who must come back and inspect/approve the installed system, specifically the filter bed before the final layer of top soil goes on. We are really hoping this will go ahead. Since we moved in we've had to be ultra careful with our water usage because of how quickly the little fosse etanche fills up. In this cold weather a nice soak in a bath is a pretty attractive thought!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Snow fosse

Today we woke up to find it was snowing again. Not heavily, but enough to put a further thin layer onto what was already there. We are at the top of a ridge and north of us is the valley of the Aigronne, a trout stream. Looking across to the other side of the valley from my study window, everything is most definitely white.

looking NE over the filter bed to Eric's field
and the other side of the valley

This unusual cold spell kicked in just as the fosse septique project started so we were worried that it would interfere with the digging out of the filter bed and hole for the tank. Amazingly, until now it hasn't stopped the work though today the dumper truck and digger are silent--they won't start--to do with the cold.

Nevertheless, so far this week Ken has dug out the fosse hole--large enough for the 3 cubic meter tank near the house, and then the 4 by 5 meter filter bed. Niall and I made sure there was a steady stream of mugs of hot tea while he battled with the very stroppy calcaire. So good news: the septic tank is in, embedded in sand and the filter bed is 1/2 filled with its layers. The next stage will be connecting the tank to the house and laying a pipe from the tank to the filter bed.

calcaire chunks next to
embedded septic tank
 As a result of all this digging we have some huge mounds of spoil. Prep work had shown that our property sits on a pretty impressive slab of calcaire which is only covered by about 60/70cm of clay and top soil so we knew that what would have to be dug out wouldn't be pretty.

And it wasn't..... we seem to have enough calcaire to set up in business as a mini quarry. Some of the chunks are huge. A rockery anyone?? For now, the covering of snow has, however softened everything.

Apart from the unexpected winter weather the challenge is what to do with this amount of spoil. Believe me when I say it is a lot; you can't just hide it under a bush! So after a fair bit of discussion we decided the spoil will form a low sloped bank on our side of the boundary with the neighbouring parcel of woodland, which is owned by people in the village.  Our house does not sit on 'un terrain clos' (visibly enclosed by fencing or similar); but rather the property has more natural boundaries of adjoining fields and copses with 'bornes' (boundary markers) at strategic points in the ground. This setting is one of the things which appealed to us when we first saw the house back in April.

looking towards the back
of the house over calcaire spoil heap
So with the work outside on 'pause' we decided to clean the snow off the car and see if we could get out to our local supermarket. The 'chemin rual' (country lane)  which leads to the 'lieu-dit' (a small group of houses) where we live, dead-ends at our house and isn't properly paved. Thankfully we have 4x4 and it wasn't a problem as long as we were careful.

As we passed through Preuilly our nearest small town -- or large village --we aren't sure which, we saw that they were putting the finishing touches to the Christmas decorations in the main streets and readying the Christmas tree outside of the post office.

Evidently there is more snow forecast for this evening so we'll see how things pan out tomorrow.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Snow kitten

Yesterday it snowed; properly. Big fat heavy flakes which at first looked as if they would just melt away. Wrong, it came down thickly and lay.  We know it's a major news item in the UK, and here too it is on the news as it is unusual to get snow this early.
advance warning: a dusting
the day before

view from our front door,
 mid afernoon

Our rescue kitten, Tinka who came to live with us in October is now about 4 1/2 months old; and, of course, has never seen snow. At first she was hesitant. Shadow, our black 5 yr old neutered tom, was much more phlegmatic, he just popped out the catflap and went about his kitty business. After all, he had experienced lots of snow last winter in Suffolk.

Then we had to get some more wood from the woodshed. We have central heating but heat most of the house using a wood burner in the living room. As always Tinka "helps" us and finds this great fun--diving into the stack chasing anything that moves: real creepy crawlies or imagined ones. Now there was the added bonus of fluffy things falling from the sky--obviously very exciting but also puzzling...why couldn't she catch them??

Hummm... puzzling
Chasing a snowball
She took one bouncy jump into the snow and that was it. It was FUN! She burrowed her nose in the snow, she batted flakes and chased the snowballs we threw for her. She certainly didn't seem bothered by getting her paws wet--the kitchen floor certainly needed a wipe down later in the day!

Stalking flakes

In fact she completely forgot about the wood shed and left Niall to get the wood on his own.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Digging holes!

We dug a few holes over the summer: we needed a driveway -- there was just a grass track, and a couple of soakaways. We also wanted a terrace.  All this happened in July just before we moved in properly on the 1st of August and resulted in about 5 cubic meters of spoil: calcaire and clay. The soil has just about settled from those upheavals....

Digging terrace in July
and... now we're at it again, this time for something very necessary but totally un-glamourous--a fosse septique (waste system). Although we're only 1.2 km from the centre of the village we are out in the country and therefore not on mains drainage. Up to now we've been 'making do' with the small 'fosse etanche' (tank) which needs to be emptied with boring frequency and does not meet current standards.

It has taken a while to get to the digging holes stage. As ever, things like planning permission and an 'etude' (a report/study of what is needed and how & where to install it) by the relevant body is required. Then another organisation sends someone to inspect the terraine once more--checking the findings of the etude and approving it; including making sure our filter bed is at least 35 m away from the communal well which used to serve the hameau. Once all of this is done we are able start the actual process of installing the system. Last Tuesday we had the go-ahead from the relevant authority.

So Friday saw the delivery of a 3 cubic meter tank, 4 dumper truck loads: 3 of sand and 1 of gravel; as well as the return of Ken's digger and dumper truck. He did a great job on the drive and terrace in July and is back to dig our fosse septique.

4 dumper loads of sand/gravel

dumper truck bringing sand
And now the "fun" will start. The various organisations checked out our soil to make sure it was suitable to put in the system so we know that below about 60cm of clay there is a pretty solid slab of calcaire (chalk). It runs all through the region. This is good news for the filter bed but isn't any fun to dig out. Nor is getting rid of the spoil going to be easy. We have to find 'suitable' spaces on our property to dump it as taking it away is so expensive we'd need to rob a bank to pay for it!
But in the end it will all be well worth it as we will have a self-contained system which is green--anaerobic bacteria do all the hard work and the filter bed ensures safe, cleaned water goes back into the ground.

tank and digger
our house in snow
Now we just have to hope that the weather doesn't cause problems. Saturday we had a dusting of snow, but today it is coming down properly. It all looks lovely but won't make things easier.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


Today we passed the village of Lureuil on route back from Le Blanc and decided to have a look at their recently restored pigeonnier, originally built in 1693. In France they use two terms for a dovecot--'un pigeonnier' and 'une fuie' or 'fuye'. They aren't quite the same. 'Une fuye' is a pigeonnier created out of an already exisitng space which was never intended to be a pigeonnier but has been adapted as one. Think of converting an attic space. The restored building at Lureuil is a purpose built 'pigeonnier'.

Pigeonnier at Lureuil

Originally a seigneurial privilege in pre-revolutionary France, pigeonniers were a visible sign of affluence as the size depended on the surplus of cereal or grain cultivated on one's estate (domaine). The grain was needed to feed the pigeons and as a rough rule of thumb one pigeon niche ('un trou de boulin' or 'niche a pigeon') equalled 1 'arpente' of (grain producing) land. An arpente is roughly about 1/2 a hectare, or 5,000 m2; although the exact size could vary from region to region. 

Pigeons were highly prized for their flesh but that was not their only use. Their droppings were used as fertilizer in kitchen and walled gardens. Estates also used pigeons to train their falcons for hunting.

Given the size of some of the pigeonniers we've seen in France some estates either had an awful lot of surplus grain or diverted a considerable amount solely for use of their pigeons! Two summers ago we even stayed in one which had been converted into a beautiful gite for 2 near Albi, down in the south.

Not in the photo are a pair of lovely white egrets which promptly decamped the minute we appeared and joined their mates in a neighbouring field of Charolais cattle. Sadly white egrets against a background of white cattle does not produce a decent photograph!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Fete des Arbres

Our local village Charnizay

It is the season to plant trees and bushes. Earlier in the week we put in 4 small fruit trees: an apple, cherry, greengage and pear. Hard digging as we have clay soil and it was claggy. So as we were in 'fruit tree mode' we drove down to Tournon St Pierre for their Fete des Arbres held yesterday.

Despite the grey day there were quite a few people. This, the flyer announced was the 10th year it had been held. On show were many local nurseries selling mainly bare root fruit trees and roses but there were also craft and food stalls. The small forge had a keen audience of children as the blacksmith made small gift items such as candlesticks. And the stand promoting local endangered apple species had brought a press and was doing a roaring trade in fresh pressed apple juice, encouraged by free tastings. It was lovely. 

We strolled around and watched folk dancers "Les Sabots de Brenne". In full local costume they were accompanied by a hurdy-gurdy and accordion player. The ladies had beautifully starched lace caps and clogs; which reminded us of Dutch local costumes. The Brenne is a region of fishponds/lakes just to the east of us. The group moved through the streets lined with stalls and every 50 meters or so they stopped, had a chat, greeted friends and performed a dance.

Folk dancers in Tournon St Pierre

Saturday, 20 November 2010

First post

Welcome to our blog!

Photo is view from our house over to the other side of the Aigronne Valley. The Aigronne is a small trout stream. A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to see a dog otter in one of the fields bordering the water, think he was after frogs.

We moved into our house in August 2010 and have been busy settling in--we'll share more of this soon. Not only is living in France a new experience but this is also our first foray into blogging.

Our two cats, Shadow and Katinka are especially pleased we have a blog--they are keen to share their adventures.

Shadow is 5 and came from an animal rescue center in Limburg, NL and is already a well travelled cat having lived in Maastricht and Suffolk. Thankfully he speaks French as Maastricht is on the border with French speaking Belgium. Just as well, as Katinka is very definitely French and local--she was rescued in the Chamussay area and has been with us a month.

Shadow and Katinka on our roof