Monday, 20 April 2009

How to make a recycled bottle garden

Take an empty plastic bottle, without its top, and cut a 3-sided flap/door in the middle third.

Then fill one third with compost.

Cover the bottom third with old compost bag or card or paper to protect the roots from direct sunlight.

Make a hole to plant your seed or transplant your seedling.

Plant seed and cover with compost and water a little.

Wind wire or tie string round the neck of the bottle and hang on a wall.

You can use this in a window too - hanging or freestanding. You will need to water less often because the bottle creates its own micro climate.

When the plants become too big you can either cut off the door or cut the top off the bottle.

Happy planting!

Sunday, 12 April 2009


The greenhouse is filled with seedlings. We had a few hot days to start everything off, but now we have rain. So all change and we have installed guttering on the back of the garage and greenhouse to catch as much rainwater as we can before the real heat arrives.

Many of my pots this year are toilet roll inners with a milk carton outer. Once the seedlings are up I will plant the loo rolls in the ground and replace with the next batch.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Banana sculpture

Just thought you might like to see a different way to eat a banana. The artiste is 2.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

More hatchlings

Just one left to hatch - it is cheeping - and one that might not hatch at all.

The incubator stuffed with chicks.

The little one that wasn't quite right - its umbilicus wasn't absorbed properly.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Hatching Cou-nu eggs

So I'm not used to blogging yet, here are the chicks in reverse order haha....

The eggs started peeping last night at midnight and the first hatched today at lunchtime. So far there are 4, hopefully more later.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

New Items on my DaWanda shop.

Here's a quick preview of todays goodies. For more go to the link at the right hand side.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Rubber eggs.

Well not rubber really, more shell-less. They are perfectly formed and edible, just missing a shell.

Lucky chickens!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Valentines Day

Saturday 14th February 2009 Happy Valentines Day!!!

So how many Valentines did YOU get?

I spent the day with 2 children and 3 helpers, Other Half is sick in Switzerland with MANFLU.

This morning we went to visit our ‘summerhouse’ and spoke to the farmer next door who informed us that they had calculated how much they owed us for the yearly rental of our field and it came to 84kgs of wheat or a cash equivalent (about 20euros). We will take the wheat and feed it to the chickens. Our land is slowly working for us.

This afternoon we went to visit friends who have a goat farm for making goats cheese. This month is when all the babies are being born so the farmer has a short holiday until all the goats can start to be milked again. The children sat in the pen with all the babies who were away from their mothers. The herd of 30 females plus one buck have produced 50 babies which will mostly be sold. They are long legged, long necked goats and all of a calm disposition. We saw round the dairy and were explained the whole cheese making process and returned home with 2 cows milk cheeses. The farmer sells the cheeses at the local makets.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Wood fired quiche

Wed 11th Feb.

How to cook quiche on a wood fired stove.

Start to heat up the fire an hour before you want to eat. Small logs burn quicker and faster than big ones.

Take your ready rolled pastry packet out of the fridge and let it reach room temperature, about 15 minutes.

While pastry is reaching room temp. start to cook lardons (bacon) and onions in a frying pan.

When the pastry is ready lin a baking tin with it on its greaseproof paper.

When lardons and onions are cooked put them in the pastry lined tin.

Add finely chopped vegetables – broccoli, sweetcorn, peas – your choice.
Add grated cheese to the tin.

Crack 6 – 8 eggs (2 eggs per person) into a jug, add about 150 mls of milk, season to taste and whisk.

Cook in the oven for 30 minutes, turning every 15 minutes to stop burning. Timing varies depending on the heat of your oven.

Serve and enjoy.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Musee des Blindes, Saumur

Sunday 8th Feb 2009

It was cold again last night and we had a slight bit of snow again. Yesterday we went to Saumur to the tank museum with helper no.51, 2 children and me. It wasn’t an easy place to get to though we have been there 3 times already.

On the way into the town we saw a sign for Buffalo Grill and decided to have lunch there before going to the museum. So we turned left at the roundabout and into a huge industrial estate ( we could see the Buffalo Grill) drove all the way towards Buffalo grill and couldn’t get to it. So we came out, went back the way we came and still couldn’t get to it. Went back round a roundabout and headed off to town to go to McDonalds.

Came off the first roundabout and turned into l’Eclercs. Wrong. Back out and joined the motorway. Wrong, drove over the river, turned, came back and finally got to McD’s. Had lunch and then the same sort of fiasco to get to the museum. We took another 2 wrong turns before we got to where we should have been.

The museum is huge and has hundreds of tanks all grouped in various rooms – Allies, french, German, Warsaw Pact etc. Biggest child loved it, smallest child spent most of the time jumping off concrete blocks.

You can find the museum at, it is open all year except 25th Dec and 1st Jan.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Candlemas Day - Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day in USA, Candlemas Day in Europe – what does it mean? Well basically if the sun shone today it means still 6 weeks of winter to come and if it was cloudy then winter is on its way out. We will see.

It was our local livestock market today and I took 2 helpers with me. It was grey and raining so not surprisingly there wasn’t a full complement of stalls and not many people either. We bought 2 tan ‘cou-nu chicks’ at 6 weeks old and 4 ‘souche lourde’ which are meant to grow bigger than the cou-nu’s. Already they are quite a weight.

The bugs were found in a log split for the fire, anyone know what they are?? The other photo was taken yesterday, down by the playpark.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Wood fired cookers

30th January 2009


Cooking on a wood fired stove. We started cooking on wood in November 2008. Our first cooker was beautiful. Concentric rings on top that you lifted out to suit the size of cooking pot, side boiler to heat cooking water and a little oven. We rescued this little beauty from a friends ruin of a garage. After sanding with a ‘soft’ angle grinder we managed to clean off all the rust and installed the stove in our new kitchen.

It burned well and we managed to cook on it, but the firebox was just a bit too small at 40 cm logs for heating our 200m cubed room. It also didn’t burn overnight. So we changed it for an ’ugly’ wood fired stove with a bigger firebox.

Stove no.2 heats the room reasonably well ( we have had temperatures down to –14* this winter) and cooks well too. Our biggest scare with it was one day we didn’t shut down the back flue after lighting it and it was fully open for 30 minutes. When we came back into the room there was an amazing thundering noise and the flue pipe was glowing bright red like a nuclear reactor. The photo has not been edited.

How to roast chicken in a range : -

Heat your oven 30 minutes to 1 hour in advance of putting in your chicken.
Place the chicken , breast down, on a roasting tray with a complete cover of tinfoil.
Leave in the oven for as long as it takes. Todays has taken 4.5 hours so far and is still not done, but when it is it will be wonderful.
Check with a meat thermometer before eating. The juices should always run clear.

Not a very technical recipe – wood cooking is slow and the food is ready when its ready and not before. The tinfoil keeps the moisture in during cooking. At the end we usually light our ‘normal’ gas oven and heat it to ‘8’, give the chicken half to an hour cooking to finish it off and then put the roast potatoes in for the last half hour.

Sometimes we sprinkle olive oil and herbs on the chicken before cooking, today we didn’t.
The chicken weighed 3.5kg and came from our own stock. We prepared it yesterday.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Milking goats!

Well it’s Wednesday 28th January now and I haven’t written for a while. The fence has been rebuilt, the ewe and lamb are happily sleeping in the strawbale shed in the pen next to the goats. The goats kids have gone…..milking….

The kids went on Sunday morning to go to live with some horses. This meant that the goats now needed milked twice a day. OH had built me a ‘goat stall’ for milking on. Well Bramble was on and back off within seconds.

After a rethink I tied the collar really close to the side wall, with a wall in front and a wall behind and me in front. Milking isn’t easy when all you have seen is on Youtube. So I persevered and got some milk eventually. The first time it all spilt on the ground because it would have added much more stress trying to get the milk in a pot.

Nutella was next, she has always been the shyer of the two and not liked being handled. It was a bit like a ‘bucking bronco’ moment again. I finally managed to milk her with her hed on the ground, both front knees on the ground one back leg and all her weight on my left arm and virtually no weight taken by her other back leg. Just to make it worse she kept trying to sit down with that back leg too so I was holding up a goat whilst trying to milk it too. Now you can use two hands to milk a goat if one hand is holding it up. So it took ages milking one side at a time, then I got cramp in my hand.

Next day I tried again and same old nonsense, but I put down a flat bottomed pot and milked Bramble. Nutella was a bit tricky again but after half an hour we got 250ml of goats milk.

I arranged to go and see a french goat milk farm to find out how I should be doing this. A very nice farmer man welcomed me and asked what sort of goats I had? ‘Pygmies’ I said, ‘aah’ said he, ‘ I have milking goats, I don’t know anything about pygmies!’ ‘well’, I ventured, ‘they are the same animal so shouldn’t milking be the same too?’ He contemplated for a moment then said, ‘come and see, this is how I milk my goats’

I went to see and thankfully I had been doing the right thing after all. Then he asked, ‘ how much milk do your goats give?’ I said, ‘250ml on a good day’, he smiled and said,’ that’s not very much is it? Is it worth milking twice a day for 250ml?’ ‘No’ I said and then he explained how to stop goats producing milk. What do you think I did next? Yes I went home and put in place the –NO MORE MILK PLAN. The goats did calm a bit as they got used to milking, but Nutella still had to have one leg held up.

Today I went to Jean Michels farm to see Hugo (ram), he didn’t recognise me! He will go to a new home next week.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Everybody PANIC

Wednesday 14th Jan

I was half dressed – top half done, but pj bottoms on. TW summoned me through the window and I went out to find the garage flooded with water pissing out of the pipework at the back of Margaret (Margaret is a 1948 Triumph Roadster). I phoned OH who just happened to be in Switzerland, to ask what to do. The instructions were to turn off the tap in the garage, if that didn’t work then to hit the pipe with a big hammer until the water stopped.
The tap in the garage turned off but didn’t lessen the water. I didn’t use a big hammer but went to turn off the tap in the cellar, which did nothing. The hatch where the water meter (and stopcock) is is 2.5 feet below ground and when we opened the hatch the hole was full of water. I ran to the pool to get the pump, which was frozen in the pool. TYPICAL. TW tried to turn off the stopcock with his arm up to his shoulder in freezing water, but it was too cold and wouldn’t turn. We bailed out the hole with a bucket and TW tried again, the handle broke on the stopcock. TYPICAL.

I defrosted the pump from the pool and set it up to drain the hole, it didn’t work very well and I have since found out it hasn’t worked since summer!!! TYPICAL.

The Cavalry arrived and sussed the situation out, braved the water and managed to turn off the stopcock, then we did a very quick trip to the DIY shop and bought 2 options for the burst pipe ( which luckily I hadn’t hit with a big hammer because they were plastic). On return to the house the easy option worked luckily and drama ended after 3 hours panic. Until..........

Saturday 17th Jan 2009
I let the goats out, Hugo – male sheep, thinks Nutella – female goat with young kid, is gorgeous and he wants her NOW.

The goats were running round and round the outside of the goatshed, over all the logs, with kids in tow crying, all being followed by Hugo who was leaning on Nutellas side, tongue hanging out, bleating in a whoooar! kind of way. So they all ran into the goatshed and I managed to trap Hugo inside. He is now on holiday at Jean-Michels farm for a week until we can rebuild the fence and Nutella will be out of heat by then.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Brioch, Banana, Bread Pudding

10th January 2009 Saturday

It was cold here again today, down to minus 6 last night and we woke up to no cold water upstairs this morning. We put fan heaters on in the kitchen and first floor bathroom which thawed out the pipe in about an hour.

Todays wood fired recipe

Banana, Brioche, Bread Pudding

Line a heatproof dish with old bread and fill the middle with chopped banana and Brioche.
Drizzle with one big spoon of syrup.
In a jug mix 2 eggs, half a tub of crème fraiche, a little milk and 2 spoons of sugar.
Whisk and pour slowly over the bread.
Put in the oven until ready

Friday, 9 January 2009

Minus 14 degrees.

9th Jan 2009 Friday

Well it snowed on Monday and quess what? Yes it’s still here. We have had temperatures down to –14* for 3 days and today it is beautiful outside. The sun is out and there is still snow everywhere.

Eldest child hasn’t been to school since Monday which was his first day back after the Xmas holidays. Tuesday and every day since there hasn’t been a school bus. Hopefully it will be back to normal for Monday, but it is still –3* outside and it is 4pm. So if it doesn’t melt, we’re stuck here.

The goats have escaped from their pen, the snow is deeper than the electric fence so it is switched off. The goats won’t go far though, they just wanted a munch of ivy. The baby boys will be going to their new home on Sunday, leaving us with two goats who will need milking hopefully.

I have been sewing door snakes today and filling them with wheat. I just hope we don’t get a mouse in the house. Despite it being below freezing outside someone still can't shut the door properly and it was open AGAIN.

Our wood fired cooker is doing well now and we have been cooking on it since the start of December. It takes a bit of getting used to – it’s not like gas – you can’t just turn it up or down in a hurry.

We start it heating up about half an hour before we want to start cooking and have water heating on it frequently so that when we want a hot drink it only takes a few minutes or if we are going to cook potatoes etc. it is pre-warmed. The oven needs planning too if you are going to bake bread. It does get up to the right temperature, but it often overheats too and you need to turn the bread every 15 minutes because the oven heats more at the firebox side.

I can hear all you town people asking ‘why bother? Why not just cook on the gas cooker?’ Well the cooker heats the room too and we don’t have central heating of any form. Plus it is fun cooking on wood. Definitely ‘slow food’ and it lets you simmer stew or soup gently for hours.

Tonight we had pizza, made from scratch, with dodgy yeast that threatened not to work, but in the end it produced two wonderful pizzas. Chorizo fort is a brilliant addition to a pizza topping. If all goes well with the goat milking then we might be able to produce our own goats cheese for pizza.

Monday, 5 January 2009


5th Jan, Hey, guess what??? We have snow!!!!!!!! When we arrived here in 2005 we were told ‘it doesn’t snow here – it hasn’t snowed here in the last 15 years’ Well it snowed winter 2005, winter 2006 and again winter 2008 ( I am counting today as part of winter 2008) So our oldest child who gets a school bus home got stuck and we had to go and get him with some friends who have a Landrover. The snow isn’t soooo deep, we could have driven in our car, the problem is the French who don’t know how to drive in it. We have seen many skid marks in the snow and many vehicles who have gone off the edge.

We have had the phone call tonight which said there will be no school bus tomorrow, so lucky child gets a day off school, but also helps to move 3 cubic metres of cut wood into the logshed.

The animals are not happy about the snow. Tonight at bedtime all were standing at the doors of their various sheds muttering quietly, all except the sheep who are oblivious to almost everything.

Tomorrow will hopefully bring a day with brilliant photo opportunity.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Happy New Year

2nd Jan 2009

Happy New Year to all. We saw in the new year, twice, at a party on Hogmanay. Twice because French time is one hour ahead of Scotland. We ate wonderful roast lamb, ratatouille and roast potatoes followed by French patisseries and accompanied by copious quantities of wine.

Both children managed to stay awake until 2am, just as well because oldest child became 12 at midnight.

We rolled home at 2 and straight to bed after a bit of pressie opening. Youngest child managed to stay asleep until 9.30am, thankfully, when we all surfaced and spent all day in pj’s again until the afternoon. OH (other half) fed all the animals wearing pj’s under a long coat and with hat, gloves and scarf etc.

We got dressed in time to go to a Campanard Supper at ‘the Chateau on the hill’, which is owned by some lovely, well to do, people of whom we have made acquaintance.

The Chateau is in process of renovation and what was a dreary, grimy storage room has been transformed into a regal dining room / banquetting hall with open fire and an original
Potager – french stone equivalent of a hostess trolley – set beside the fireplace. The potager has 3 firebox openings at the top lined with a metal grill. Ashes are taken from the fire and placed in the fireboxes, then a pot of soup or pot of coffee is placed on top and it keeps warm all day (of course with the constant attention of the maid).

We ate French bread, pate, cold roast beef, cold ham, stilton (very French not) , Christmas cake, handmade chocolates, handmade almond cakes, OH says ‘slugs’ which was prunes in bacon, or devils on horseback. I liked them anyway. Many wines from the cellar which is endless. Both children managed to behave and charmed French and English alike. We were the only Scots there, as usual.

Today, 2nd Jan. OH took oldest child and 2 friends ice skating. All came back with no bones broken and only mildly wet bums and all had a fantastic time. I stayed at home with youngest child and started to tackle the usual after Christmas debris. Tea was cooked on the wood fired range as is the norm these days. The only problem tonight was I added too much chili powder and blew the top off all of our heads.