Friday, 31 January 2014

Galette des Rois

Tonight we're invited to our neighbours, Jean Noel and Natalie Bourreau, for galettes. Galettes des Rois (King Cakes) are traditionally served to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th but as we were away this is a belated celebration.

Because of the gluten problem, I've baked one to take along, although I've not done the traditional Galette des Rois which has a pastry topping because if I end up the only one eating it, I'll burst!

Taking liberties with tradition is a tricky thing in France as it’s not always a good idea to mess with a good thing, but it is tradition to bake a fève(bean) into the tart and whoever gets the bean (preferably a child – and crafty parents have learned to cut around the pieces to make sure a kid gets the trinket!) gets to be the roi (king) for the day and wear a gilded paper crown that bakeries often give with the galettes.

Well, I just hope I'm not going to offend too many traditionalists but mine doesn't contain a fève either! But there again, every website you read has a different version!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Smoked Chicken??

We experienced a rare event today.... it didn't rain!

So this was the perfect day for the funeral pyre of the leylandii "trimmings" of the past week or two.

Those of you who know the layout of our garden will realise the smoke was heading in the direction of the chicken coop..

But never fear! The girls were tucking into some bug delicacies at the other side of the garden and happily unaware that they could have been smoked chicken!

However, if they keep eating the food Colin puts out for the birds they may not always be that lucky!!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Winter Floods 2014

A comparison of water levels in the Vienne at Chinon, this year and last.

Taken this morning 29th January 2014

Taken January 23rd 2013

Not a lot of difference then!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Counting the birds 2

We blogged about our bird survey last Saturday and actually carried out the 'formal survey' on Sunday morning ( 26th January). We've entered our results on the site 'Oiseaux des Jardins'. The site is jointly run by the LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux) and the National Museum of Natural History.

Here are our pages.

During the survey we recorded a sighting of a Cirl Bunting (Bruant zizi) which is listed as rare and the site asks you to record each time it is seen. As one was in the garden again this morning, we recorded it. This time we were able to get a couple of photographs so these were also uploaded to the site.

We will be keeping up our observations and making regular entries. It is also interesting to be able to search the local area and see what has been recorded when and where.

It is an interesting site and we could spend many a happy hour looking through it... especially when it's raining!

Monday, 27 January 2014

Confluence 2

On our way back from Grignon and the old cars yesterday we came through Port-de-Piles and stopped to have a look at, the very flooded, confluence of the Vienne and Creuse rivers.

Interestingly we stopped a few years ago, as we'd noticed the sign on the D910 and walked down the path there. Wrong place! Access is down a dirt road about a kilometre down the D5. (as shown on the google map above)

It was difficult to photograph from the path and too dangerous to get down to the riverside due to the level of the water.

The horrendous rainfall this January must be similar to last year, as on the 23rd we blogged about the flooded Vienne at Chinon.

There was certainly a lot of water and according to the forecast, there's more to come tomorrow. We will be going to Chinon on Wednesday so we will compare the river level to  photos from last year..

Confluence 1 of the rivers Vienne and Loire is  Here

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Desolate in Descartes!

As we suspected, the inclement weather continues but undaunted we ventured out to see the Panhard meeting at Descartes. There was nothing much happening, as you'll see from the photographs, but then again we were surprised to see any cars at all - especially these old girls - out on such a  wet day.

The rain-soaked tarmac was the perfect backdrop for all the rainbow patterns created by oil leaks... and there were plenty of them!

We didn't realise there were so many models, including a couple of more sporty ones..

And, of course, a tractor...

The figure in the background to the right on the following photo came and introduced himself as a reporter from La Nouvelle Republique.

It will be interesting to read his copy online because if they are expecting a full length feature on the event, either they are in for a disappointment or he'll have certainly earned his money!!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Counting the birds...

This weekend is bird counting weekend or if you like garden birdwatch!

Rather than write about it again, take a look at Tim and Pauline's blog here and the LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux)  site here

We have registered our garden, downloaded and printed (A3) the fabulous bird sheets showing the photographs and, more importantly to us, the French names of the 52 most common birds.

Count Me!
 and Me!
 and Me!
 Hey, don't forget us!!

We won't, in the morning if you show up...

Then in the afternoon we are off to look at some old motors...

It is supposed to be raining YET again. So maybe they will move the cars into the old factory... Probably NOT, here's hoping.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Hen(s) at Work!

We spotted a newspaper sign which attracted our attention the other day...

"Des poules lâchées dans le vignoble de Bourgueil"

so on returning home we checked the story out online. It made interesting reading!

Apparently this is a national first and the brainchild of Philippe Boucard, a wine maker and Simon Vincent, a Belgian restaurateur. 

The scheme involved fencing off an area of 5000m2 in a vineyard at Ingrandes-de-Touraine, near Bourgeuil, and then on 21st January, 250 hens were introduced to the area, free to roam among the vines doing what hens do best...

The aim of the scheme is for the hens to do work which a man would otherwise have to do: tidying up around the foot of the vines, turning the soil as they look for food. This in turn will keep down the number of bugs which are harmful to vines. It will also give the hens a good natural diet, improving their flavour and texture when they end up on the table in front of some discerning diner or other! 

Philippe Boucard, chef at La Galotiere, joked:
"Nous sommes deux fous qui avons décidé d'essayer ça" (We are two fools who decided to try it)

Whilst they have no plans to extend the scheme to the other 45 hectares which Philippe Boucard owns, the two men hope it will prove beneficial to both of them.

To read more and see a video of the release of the hens, see here

Just a thought.................Wonder if they want to rent some hens??

Thursday, 23 January 2014


The fruit loaf I started yesterday was from a French cookbook entitled "Le Pain et La Patisserie Sans Gluten" which we bought from Lidl last week.

It has the interesting name of "Cake"

We made a substitution to the ingredients, primarily because of cost, Pine kernels cost €5.40 for 125gms and we had a tin full of our own hazelnuts. We also used all farine de mais and farine de pomme de terre (flour) rather than 'fecule'. Apple juice was used as the liquid.

The fruit chopped, mixed and ready to soak overnight.

The eggs and sugar beaten and the flour etc. ready to be sieved in.
With the fruit carefully mixed in

.....there was toooo much for one tin. Donc...

Fan oven 180C for about 35 minutes. Result...

I think it looks better than the cookbook picture.

It certainly tastes very good and other than the fruit it has no fat content...

My only problem now is to eat it before Elizabeth does!!!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


A quick blog tonight and a sort of follow-on from last nights...

Why, is the question, did Elizabeth take this photograph??

Answers in the comments please!

As far as the job goes! It has rained ALLLLL day today so nothing has been done... But I have started to make a fruit cake...

The fruit is soaking overnight - I could say the same about the weather!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Chain Saw on a Stick part 2

Back in April last year we wrote about giving our leylandii a severe pruning with the chain saw on a stick.

Well today we tackled the second part of the remaining leylandii. The first job was to set up the scaffolding tower... Colin had already done this by the time I arrived on the scene... (Result!!)

Having cut the inside face of the hedge down to head height from the scaffolding, we de-camped to the front of the hedge. This is the fun bit, watching passing cars swerve as drivers try to get a better look!

It's an ingenious method but it works like a treat. The chain-saw on a stick reaches right through the branches and into each trees trunk.
The chain saw on a stick is the perfect tool for the job, and before very long we were at the end of the first stage. The height needs to come down a little more BUT the trunks are thicker and it is heavy work...

So that can wait till another day...
In the meantime we can look at the piles of prunings and be very glad we're not having to do it all with a handsaw!

Once the excess height is out of the way, we (and for 'we', read 'Colin') can trim back the branches to create a slimmer hedge.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Tree Creatures and

Wild Boar...

On our walk in La Forêt de Preuilly last week, the sharp eyed Elizabeth photographed these unlikely flat sharers in a damaged tree!

She also managed to capture some "wild boar" all be it captured already!

Keep that camera at the ready!