Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Into the unknown

So we now start the process of not knowing what is coming. It is fair to say we never know what is around the corner but I had felt living in the first and last house in Normandy would be a permanent thing. We have no mortgage and no debts so had thought it is ours. A few people have talked of Cyprus and how owners were pushed out and the houses given to the Turks. I guess it is a case of anything is possible.
It also depends on who is voted in to run France in June. We could have heavy taxes imposed, it could be difficult for us to go back to the UK to visit. It could also be a lot harder for people to visit us which would impact our business and could render life not viable here. No hard facts just ideas put forward by news papers and news programmes.  So it really is the big unknown!
Today we are having the micro station emptied! Ready for the holiday season....! It is always a challenge for the chap to get his lorry in the right place, it just fits between the big barn and our garden fence! That will generate a pile of paperwork that we have to file against the day someone comes to inspect! I find French paperwork exhausting!
Today, if the sun shines I will do a hive inspection. I need to check the brood box and see if the bees are filling the super yet. I saw a brilliant video on Facebook done by English bee keepers and talking through a hive inspection. It has given me the confidence to go for it. This is not something I will do often as my approach is very hands off. The priority is the bees and their welfare.
My veg seeds are growing well, another month and they can go outside. With all the bramble clearance we uncovered three young plum trees which now have blossom on them. It would be good to add plums to our store! The row of cherry trees are in blossom too! The bees have so much choice.
Did I mention I have been given 36 kilner/parfait jars? Real treasure! I am gradually putting them into use. Just 14 to use now. They are in my pantry ( I am giving them crochet jackets to cheer things up) in my fridge and I use them to freeze things in! Once the elder flowers arrive I will fill several with elder flower cordial to give us cold drinks until the black currants are ready. I still have some rosehip syrup bridging the gap until the elder flowers! This week my shopping bill was €28! Not bad going! The dog kibble I buy every other month due to the amount of homemade food they have. We have masses of eggs at the moment so three times a week they have scrambled eggs for breakfast. They sit watching me whilst I prepare it and wait for it to cool! Today I will make a batch of treat biscuits for them. I am doing quite well at reducing costs. It means more work for me but that is ok! It is also removing chemicals from our lives!
We have come a long way with self sufficiency and I have learned many new skills. I am sure that if we did have to go back to the U.K. I would continue in this way. Even with a small garden I would keep bees and a couple of chickens. Veg can be grown in small places.
For now I will keep improving what we do and enjoy caring for my animals. It is still peaceful at the first and last house in Normandy.

Friday, 24 March 2017

The busy time begins

We have recovered from the shock of the fire and everyone is fine so will say no more about it!
Gardening has begun! All the barrels are now planted and we have put flower pots in the old hay cart with trailing lobelia that will hang over the edges. Should look lovely. I have started digging over the veg plot and have planted seeds in old cardboard egg boxes that are on the window sill of the cloakroom. The cabbage seeds I planted a week ago have sprouted! Today I have planted courgettes, cucumber and butter nut squash. I plan to buy plug plants of leeks, lettuce and tomatoes.
If my polytunnel ever gets finished I will put chilies and aubergines in there!
The black currant cuttings I was given have all taken and are starting to leaf. My second damson tree is just coming into blossom and with the bees in the garden now we should get a bumper crop! This year I want to bottle and freeze enough to get us through winter. If I have space I will also plant peas but this year I will soak them first as this will stop the mice eating them before they can grow!
We are all busy planting flowers too as we want colour! As this place started life as a farm few flowers have ever been planted. I have loads of snow drops and violets that have self seeded. The orchard soon will be covered in clover which is great for the bees. They are so busy now bringing in loads of pollen!
Tomorrow the clocks go forward an hour so it will be lighter in the evenings. This is good as it means more can be done. I will get some time in after dinner which is the only way to get on top of things!
In a few weeks our first guests of the year arrive. Bookings are still light but we hope to get a few more soon!
The second Gite is nearly ready then it will be finish off the third one and on to our house! The end is in sight!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Did not see this one coming!

last Friday we had the chimney in our lounge swept. We are waiting for the certificate to arrive.
We have just had a chimney fire!
I was washing up in the kitchen and heard a roaring. We knew immediately what it was so I phoned the pompiers ( French 🚒)  the lady I spoke to was very calm and coped with my French! As it happened one of the pompiers was our neighbours son from the next farm! The house was full of smoke upstairs and down. The muck had fallen onto the plate in the flue and ignited.
The pompiers were great and very efficient.
I put the three cats in my mini and the two dogs in the Rav to keep them safely out of the way.
Tomorrow we have to find someone to repair our wood burner. We probably need a new liner and flue.
I hope to never experience that again!
Makes a change from calling an ambulance for him indoors!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Our Gite business will grow this year

Thought I would tell a bit about our Gite business and our future plans.
When we bought this place we had no thought of running a Gite business. Our plan was to renovate our house and be retired. When we first moved here England covered our health care as we had paid into the system right up until we left. They gave us two years after which the plan was to enter the French health system. Unfortunately the French government decided to change the rules and we had to work to get the cover. Without a good command of the language we had no hope of gaining employment here other than in the chicken factory....that was never going to happen! So we looked at one of our barns and decided to turn it into Gites! We had the pot of money to renovate our house so used it to build the Gites. After lots of research we came to the conclusion that three two person Gites was the way to go. We signed up for a business regime which gave us health cover and had two years to start earning money and pay into the system. And so Le Tertre Rouge was born!
La Jonquille is almost ready and will be on board for the summer season. Le Beau Champs will come on board hopefully by August.
With the Gites just about there we are now looking at developing our business further. In particular we are doing lots of research on marketing. We have decided to upgrade and will provide a better welcome pack and good toiletries in the bathroom. We will also raise our prices a bit. We think we are priced too low and that couples are willing to pay a bit more for a quality product!
We have other ideas for making this a place to choose but it will take time to put things in place. 
The hardest part of this had been regarding this as a business not just our home! We are learning!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Buzz buzz 🐝

We have had a few much warmer days and my bees have been very busy. They are out and about again and coming home with very full pockets. I needed to check the situation with the fondant I put on in January so one warm afternoon I togged up and opened the hive. Loads of bees I'm pleased to report so they have survived the winter. The fondant had almost gone but the bag was full of bees so I  left it on top of the hive. I did not open the brood box as it is obvious the queen is ok by the behavior of the bees. I have now put the first super on ready to be loaded with honey. We are now starting to look for a second hive in preparation for the swarming season.
As part of developing my wildlife area I am going to construct a bug hotel. I have a large wooden container the roof tiles came in which I will put near the pond. I will then gradually build all the different habitats inside this. It will interesting to see who moves in!
I have treated myself to two rambling roses. I have bought David Austin scented white roses. This is my favourite brand. I now need to construct an arch over our front gate for them to scramble up. I then plan to buy some pots of heather, purple and white to line the fence at the back of my house. I very much want to get some colour into our garden and also help the bees. It has to be done in stages due to the cost.
I was given loads of blackcurrant cuttings that I planted. They all seem to have taken and are budding. I am very pleased about this as I want to make blackcurrant cordial to go with the elder flower cordial I make each year. Soon I will go to the garden center and look for more soft fruit. I would love to find some gooseberries. Also red currants. I hope my quince tree comes good this year. We also have some new plum trees we hope will fruit. The big damson tree in the corner of my veg plot is thick with blossom. With my bees in place I hope for a good lot of fruit from that too. That will be jam....mmmmm damson jam! I plan to grow loads of tomatoes this year too as I make it into passata which I freeze. This is used for pasta sauces and soups through winter. I am hoping to get a couple of old tractor tyres to plant potatoes in. They can sit in the veg patch. I have not been able to change around the veg patch so will have another year of the potager garden. I will be out there soon digging over the beds. I need to get the onion sets in soon.
The warmer weather brings work but I enjoy doing this. It reduces my shopping bill and gives us a taste of summer during the long winter months. My veg garden is organic as is my land. No chemicals are allowed! Means a lot of weeding but better that than use chemicals. The only weed killer I use is white vinegar.
Life feels much better today. Him indoors is over the worst although still not sleeping properly. He is off all medication now. Next session of Physio is booked as is another appointment with the surgeon, hopefully the last one.
Tomorrow we are sorting out a mini digger to create the petang court! We are all excited about finally getting this done. Next year our little pub will be created and we will start making beer and mead!
Everything is back on track again and with the arrival of spring we are all much happier.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Had to put my nurses hat back on

We made the horrific discovery last weekend that what I thought was a cold was actually withdrawal from tramadol. Him indoors is very bad, like a drug addict going cold turkey. His sleep patterns are disrupted and he has had several emotional crises.
When he went to the doctor because he was not sleeping post op I can only think it was a misunderstanding due to the language. He was given tramadol which I now know to be an opiate. At no point were we warned about how addictive it is. I have been out of nursing for around 15 years now so did not know the drug. With hindsight I should have asked questions and looked it up. No good going there now as I have my work cut out trying to help him through this. I am currently sleeping in the spare room so he does not have to worry about waking me up. After one all night vigil I am happy to do this.
I have spent years removing chemicals from our lives, firmly believing they are bad. This drug has undone all I have achieved by poisoning him indoors. I am very angry about it.
We are taking things very slowly. He has no appetite and no energy. I am managing to get him to have small amounts and do a short daily walk. I have removed all the tramadol from our house and tomorrow will take it to the chemist for disposal,
This will take a long time and yet again puts a big burden on me!
Thank goodness Spring is not far away which improves everyone's mood.
Yet again big business profits come before what is best for people. What it has done for me is to make me with draw even more from all big business. If I don't make it we don't have it!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

A week of hospital visits

not an easy week this last one.
Last Tuesday we had to go to a poly clinic an hour away for him indoors to have a scintigraph...bone scan in English. We found it easily enough! We arrived in the department 1/4 of hour early and checked in. Within minutes him indoors was called. First an interview with the doctor who amazingly spoke English and even more amazingly was happy to use it. Then he went into the scanning room. I settled down with my crochet. There was no one else in the waiting room and it was very quiet. I could along the corridor to the waiting area for cardiology. An older couple were sat facing me and just sat and stared. No smile! Maybe they had never seen crochet before. After an hour Him indoors came back and we were told we could go but be back for 2.50. He had been injected with a nuclear substance and had had the soft tissue scanned. It would take a couple of hours for the radium to get to his bones. We went to a big DIY place to get some bits we needed then found some lunch. Before going back to the clinic. Again no waiting. After the second scan we waited about ten minutes then him indoors went to see the doctor again. It was confirmed him indoors has algodystrophy from his left elbow up to his left shoulder. This has been caused by the injury, surgery and being in plaster so long. It will take up to a year to recover and for a minority it never gets better. All that can be done is Physio and pain killers. It has caused decalcification of the bone which causes chronic pain. We left with the scans on a disc and a diagnosis.
Then on Friday we had to go to another hospital, an hour away in the opposite direction for an X-ray. We were to go back on Saturday morning at 9am for an MRI to the same place so were  told the X-rays would be given to the MRI department. Again I took my crochet to do whilst he was being scanned! He found this one uncomfortable as he had to have his left arm above his head and The MRI scanner is a tunnel with little room for someone just over six foot! This just confirmed the diagnosis we were given on a Tuesday. Again we left with the films and a diagnosis. The health service here is fantastic!
Tomorrow he sees our GP with all the pictures, letters and other paperwork. Then we have to go back to see the surgeon again with all the pictures, letters and paperwork. Here we keep all the X-rays. It is all held on the health service computer system but you are expected to bring them to any future appointments to do with this problem!
Yesterday him indoors went down with a cold. I reckon it is because he had to get his kit off so many times! I have dosed him up with lemon and honey.
It is hard keeping his moral up, he is suddenly feeling old!
I finished my moorland blanket and gave to my eldest daughter. She had admired it as it was growing! I have now started the cupcake blanket which is very different...the colours are cloud blue, fondant, sherbet.. 15 different lovely colours.
I have finished one of the mug cosies from my little box of crochet, but it was too big for a mug. It is on a parfait jar and looks great. I will make more to go on the other jars that are on a shelf.
The baby blanket is growing but I must get on with that as grandson arrives in about five weeks. I have been gathering a few bits to go in a basket as a gift. My current grandson loves all things orange so I want to make him an orange and white snuggle blanket. I will make him a little basket of things too so he does not feel left out.