Thursday, 24 December 2009

The Best Laid Plans

Yes well you know what they say about the best laid plans! Here we are, Christmas Eve. The plan had been to head off into Le Mans through our couple of inches of Christmassy snow, go to Buffalo Grill, go into the city centre and see the light show at the cathedral, have a wander about, then head home. Pah! At mid-day the heavens opened and sheets of heavy rain began falling and just didn't stop. The snow was washed away within hours and the drive into Le Mans was treacherous. Not to worry, Buffalo Grill awaited us - but no, it was Christmas Eve and it was shut of course. So was Hippo Grill, Courtepaille, Flunch, the list went on. The children's spirits were falling fast as were mine thinking that we'd need to go home and start cooking!!! Fortunately DelArte the pizza place was open and humming so we actually had a very nice meal in there. Then it was off to see the lights from the shelter of the car (the wander about was called off due to bad weather). But no, it was Christmas Eve and the light show wasn't on because folk were filing in for midnight mass of course. You'd have thought that they'd like to see the light show too, or that at least the programme of events would mention that the display wasn't running whilst worshippers were on the scene. Sigh. So home we headed to see what Father Christmas's progress was via the Norad Track Santa site. Oh goodness, within half an hour of us being back, Santa had reached Germany so it was a quick scuttle off to bed for the boys leaving Mummy and Daddy to wrap up the final few presents.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Winter Arrives

Well it has suddenly turned into winter here and the trees have been finally forced to give up the last of their leaves. Last Friday was still chugging along at 14 degrees C like the lovely mild autumn we've had, then we woke up to a frost that covered the windscreens on Saturday, the wind changed to a biting easterly and it's been icy tundra since Sunday morning. If I were a bloke then I'd say that I'd frozen my proverbials off this morning feeding the hens and geese and de-icing their water troughs. The thermometer is reading -7.9 degrees C and it's now 9.30am. Brrrrr. Thermals now retrieved.

We had a large delivery of wood and looked forward to being all organised for when we needed to switch the heating on (which only happened on Saturday!). Pah, not so. The wood isn't seasoned and Jesse huffed along with her ovens only going up to moderate. It was weird because the fire itself was roastingly hot, so hot as to singe and melt the leather gauntlets we have for tending the fire, yet the heat wasn't transferring over to the ovens. We have since found out - via surfing waves on the internet that were almost tsunamis in our desperation to find the answer to our problem - that if the wood is unseasoned or wet, the moisture basically puts out the gaseous burn in the bottom of the flue. We need this secondary burn for a clean burn and super hot temperatures to transfer to the cooking bit. Plus this moisture allows for creasote/tar to form around every nook and cranny so needless to say, we spent 3 hours degunking her. We live and learn. She is now happily doing her stuff as we made a mercy dash to our local hardware store for some 'proper' wood. The other stuff will be good for next year so you could say we *are* organised.

Fortunately today dawns sunny and calm, released from the grip of the icy wind. We can open the volets (shutters) again and let in the light.

Today's activity - Christmas shopping.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Cider Makers

Next crop - apples. We have one tree that gives a fantastic crop of green slightly tart apples and this year we have harvested them to process into juice or maybe even cider. That is, we harvested the ones that the geese didn't eat. One of the geese, Nibble, just adores apples and would 'jump' up at the branches to make the apples fall, then they'd all chomp the resultant bounty.

Our neighbour brought 3 massive fruit boxes of their red apples and my Uncle invited us to come and raid as many apples as we liked from his orchard (sadly he's moving to Canada so we won't have that perk next year).

Anyway, here you see the boys with the apple chopper and press below. We have made 12 litres of juice so far and still have 10 fruit boxes to process. Plus more set aside for eating apples. It's time-consuming but fun. It also feels great that we can teach the boys through example how things grow, how to look after and improve your crops, how to harvest and how to process and store food supplies.

This was my first ever taste of freshly pressed apple juice and it is very different from the shop-bought apology. We have frozen lots so hopefully there'll still be some for lucky visitors in the spring.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Shortening Days

So what does this little home educating family do with it's time when the days draw in? Here's a selection of the activities that have kept us busy over the past few weeks....

There are crawling competitions designed to include even the smallest members of our family...

There's cooking. Here are R and B making Rupert Bear Biscuits.

There's pasta making. Here we are setting up the racks for drying our own pasta. Making our own pasta uses up some of our endless supply of eggs!

There's model making. Here is a Lego brachiosaurus. All manner of dinosaurs get built from Lego as this is still a very alive interest for our boys. The things I've learnt about dinosaurs since R got interested in them! He really is a specialist on them now and his, and B's knowledge of the subject far outstrips mine.

There's dressing up. Here is R as not just an Indian but an Iroquois (I got corrected when I said that he was an Indian as he pointed out that there were many Indian tribes - apparently it's like saying he's a human.) His head-dress he made from feathers collected up in the orchard, shed by the geese. I had to hide a smile when he took the war-paint off as it's actually electrical tape and was a bit like pulling off plasters - poor wee soul.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


Well the lives of our children move on and more milestones are reached. Here you see R proudly displaying the gap left by the loss of his first tooth. And S coincidentally had his first tooth arrive on the same day! Did the tooth fairy have anything to do with this I wonder. Not if it was the one that visited R as she (actually he) was very stingy and managed to russle up 40 eurocents - about 35p - "it was all the change I had"!!!! I ask you, mean or what??? R was thrilled to bits even so, bless him. The tooth fairy's helper had to go up and 'discover' that more had been left under another part of his pillow. He's now working out how much he'll have in his piggy bank by the time they all fall out. B is wiggling his in the hope that he can bring on an early visit from the tooth fairy.

Friday, 6 November 2009

French Healthcare System Experienced

Remember, remember the 5th of November. Yes because that's the day that son number 3 got hospitalised with breathing issues. Now anyone that knows our family will know that this is just what happens with our guys but this time was a fair bit more scary as we were dealing with a different system than the NHS and all in French obviously.....

S had had a cough since the Sunday - a horrible nasty barking sort of cough. Although it sounded nasty we weren't too worried as we thought it was croup so we just did the steamy bathroom/fresh air number and it seemed to ease it. Of course, this was all in the middle of the night as coughs always seem to get worse at night. Boy, were we tired!

We decided that it might be a good idea to get registered with a doctor so we tootled off to La Ferte and got signed up. We just mentioned that S had this bad cough so the doctor listened to his chest. All of a sudden she was in a panic saying that it was very serious and that he was in serious danger of choking and that we needed to get to the hospital in Ferte 'toute suite et tres vite' (sorry my keyboard is not set up to easily do accents and graves on the top of French words). She said that she didn't have any medication that would work fast enough and that he would need to be given it intravenously and would have to stay in hospital overnight. She gave us a letter and we hurried to the hospital up the road - to be told that they don't have a pediatrics department and that we'd have to go to Le Mans!!!!!! Didn't she know this!!!!!

Anyway, he was seen immediately on arrival at the hospital in Le Mans. Well immediately after dealing with all the paperwork - the French LOVE paperwork!!! I went up to the reception desk and told our story in my failing French. The officious lady waited until I was blue in the face trying to explain our predicament then said that it wasn't her desk that we needed, I'd need to go to the one opposite. So over we went and regugitated the story. Oh Ok they said, looked at the letter, gave us another piece of paper then said that we'd need to go back to the desk opposite to get registered and when we'd done that, come back to this desk. Feeling tired yet?? After jumping through all the paperwork/desk hoops S was put on an inhaler for two hours. That was fun, trying to keep a face mask on an 8 month old baby for 2 hours. However, after the ordeal he was greatly improved, a bot snotty but greatly improved.

So talking of snotty, the nurse came in with this horrible sryinge thing and a wad of cloth and said that she'd just do this toillette de nez, some yucky thing they do to clear a baby's nasal passages. They squirt some kind of liquid up the baby's nose at high speed and then clean up what comes out. I was horrified and said no thanks. On recounting our story to various Mums since, it seems like this toillette de nez is a regular part of many babies lives - for many, a daily ritual, a necessary sanitary hygiene thing, an obsession!!! Geez they've even got machines to do the high speed bit, like cute little Tomy Winnie the Pooh machines Ben noticed whilst collecting S's prescription. To my mind it's barbaric and useless anyway as the gunk just comes back in minutes.

Anyway we came home with some medication, including an antibiotic. He has been as miserable as sin since we gave him the first dose at lunchtime today and has just vomitted all over me BIG time. I guess he's allergic to Amoxycillin then! He's happy now and I won't be giving him any more of that.

I asked the hospital if we could have S's mask after he'd finished with it so R and B are now happily playing Dolls Hospital with it plus a ripped up sheet for bandages. Gosh I remember playing that when I was little.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Nuts, Nuts and More Nuts

Now this is when we need visitors - to help with harvesting.

The walnut harvest this year has been spectacular with 18 kg hulled so far and maybe another two to come. In total we have 4 walnut trees - one in the field to the east of us and I think the squirrels reckon that that's theirs as not many nuts were collected from there; one by the solar tunnel that's quite young yet still gave a good crop, almost all nicely popped out of their hulls; and two at the drive-side of the orchard. Now these last two are annoying because they overhang the drive so if the fallen nuts aren't picked up pronto then they get driven over and crushed. So it's a constant job collecting them and that's where we need the visitors' help.

Then comes the sweet chestnuts. Now this is a crop that I had never tasted until last year when our neighbours' son and his friend brought us 'un petit cadeau' of an enormous bucketful of them. I tentatively tried cooking with some and they were much enjoyed by all the family. Very high in protein so great all round really. So this year we were out collecting like mad. As well as the two trees in our garden, many of the trees down the drive to us are sweet chestnuts so we have loads in the freezer. As for cooking/baking with them... Hugh Fernley Wittingstall makes it sound easy to roast them in the oven and the skin just pops off but we've found that the nuts inside seem to go a bit hard - like rock! - so we prefer to boil them for a few minutes. Guinea fowl slow cooked with them followed by meringe with creamed sweet chestnuts and sauted apples is just autumn heaven in my book. Mmmmmm. Anyone coming next autumn???

Useful link

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Power to The People

Or not as the case is at present. We have had a power cut every day for the last four days, ranging in duration from 10 hrs to just 1 hour. The annoying thing is that they always seem to occur at cooking-of-meal-times. The first day I had literally just switched off the hob and was serving up. Rowan said, rather spookily, "Can we have candles?" and lo and behold the power cut out and we needed candles! The second night I had just started the tea so we had to abort and go to McDonalds (yuk). The boys thought it was a great treat. For me it brought back too many memories of not having access to the internet other than via Mac's WiFi. Yesterday it cut at lunch time but that was no major issue as we were just having baggette and a myriad of cheeses. Today again it cut at lunchtime and that made me furious because we had fired up Jesse the Esse just to check that all was in order ready for when the colder weather arrives.

Now Jesse is a wood-burning range that does our cooking, hot water, and various heating systems. She was bought as part of our carbon-neutral, not-having-to-rely-on-external-power-sources drive. Rather irritatingly she actually needs a Laddomat gismo that keeps her water circulating because Roger, the water tank, is higher than she is by 50cm due to the layout of our house. If she didn't have that on the circuit, the back water boiler would boil dry and Jesse would be shafted so to speak. And irritatingly that gismo runs on electricity. And guess what we didn't have today - sigh. So, having got her up to a nice hot test temperature (and all the windows and doors open because it's still warm here), with food lined up for cooking, we then had to 'dump the heat' ie waste all our hot water, and put the fire out tout suite with wet sand. I was less than pleased with EDF, France's electricity provider. However, we're back on now.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Interesting Visitors

Late this afternoon, just as Ben was opening the gates to go off to La Ferte for some DIY stuff, a car arrived with two unknown occupants. They explained something to Ben who then told them that his French wasn't very good and that they should come down to the house and speak to me. So the first I saw was this older couple following Ben down the drive with Ben mouthing that he had no idea what they wanted.

Anyway, it transpired that today was the couple's 49th wedding anniversary, they had been in La Chapelle du Bois at the chiropractor, and that the old man's Grandma used to live here at LPM in the 1950s and he wondered if he could visit his old memories. And it turned out to be very interesting.
Our bedroom used to be two cow byres and the other downstairs bedroom and bathroom was a cave (a darkened store room for preserved foodstuffs and drinks). Our living room encompassed their entire living area of bedroom, kitchen, dining room and bathroom! The patio doors hadn't been there. All the fields were in cultivation and the old man used to come over to work in the fields - he'd lived with his mother and father 6 miles away in St Germain de Coudre. He would ride over on horseback, but walk home over the hills along public footways that are sadly no longer passable due to brambles having taken over. The lady used to live at Le Soucheray at the bottom of our fields and that is how they met.

They were SO touchingly grateful to have been allowed to visit and have said that they would find some old photographs and bring them over.

Monday, 21 September 2009

One Whole Year

So we've now been here one whole year. Any regrets? Nope not one. I absolutely love it here and so does the rest of the family. I miss two things though - speaking in English, and Tesco (or other UK supermarket). There are just so many things that I can't get here - babycorn, muscovado sugar, Rooibosh tea, jelly, Marmite to name but a few. And other things we can get but that are exorbitantly priced in the "World Speciality" section - peanut butter, fajitas, and fish sauce come to mind immediately. Oddly, mangetout aren't very often available and yet you'd think with a French name that France would be its home.

Life here is very seasonal - everything from the obvious of what everyone's doing in a day (like at the moment it's harvesting and preserving), down to the fruit and veg that's available. Now that I'm used to this seasonality in availability of foodstuffs, I have to say that I quite like it. I've had to change from "oh this recipe looks good, what do I need, now let's go and buy this or that" to "what's available right now, ok we'll have ..." In other words, the available ingredients drive what's on the menu rather than the ideas coming first. I've found that it leads to a lot less wastefulness for us as we used to have a fridge stocked with just-in-case veg that we often found gone off.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Caution - Men At Work

Some women would say that that's something *always* to be cautious of - men at work, but in this instance it really does mean what the building site warning says. The Boyz (except S) happily spent today hammering out the walls along the corridor.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Adieu Blue Loo

Hooray, it's finally happening - the hideous blue bathroom and separate (very French) blue loo is due for rip out on Monday and the boys are looking forward to demolishing the walls over the weekend.

Today's task however, was to buy all the sanitaryware, lights, glass blocks, mirrors etc. We had already been to make our choices and to see which were stock items and which were orderable - fortunately all of our choices were all stock items - so you would think that it would be a relatively easy breeze round the store with a trolley just popping stuff in, paying for it, and pushing off. Ho no. The boys demanded one of the trolley cars - tiny small area for collecting merchandise, great big enormous childrens' car on the front that they can get in and 'drive', absolute devil to manoeuvre. Even more difficult to move as B was driving with R sitting on the roof (more on that later). Needless to say we then needed a second trolley of decent size to actually do the shopping. Fortunately there was one with a baby seat on the top so we opted for that and off we set.

All started off well but then B wouldn't give R a go at driving so a squabble broke out and that set the scene for the rest of the trip - we'd collected about half of what we needed and the car trolley was taking on the shape and handling abilities of a large whale with squawking occupants. S then decided he didn't actually like being in the baby seat on the trolley and wanted to be carried, expressed in no uncertain terms by loud screams. Ok, not easy to carry him and steer the trolley but needs must. Next on the list was the loo. A very kind assistant surveyed our predicament and loaded the non-car trolley for us with all the bits that we'd need and the baby seat became holder for the basin. Now I couldn't even see over the top of the trolley but had to steer one-handed peering round the side occasionally. S poops his nappy. Oh great - we still need waste connections - he's yelling, the boys are arguing and now running about misbehaving, I'm trying my best to get what we need but my French is woefully lacking, and my brain feels as though it's bleeding out of my ears. Ben looks like a man that's been pushed over the edge. Waste connections located - MASSES of them and not a scooby as to what we need nor the peace in our mind to even try to work it out. Another kind assistant appeared as if by magic, established what we needed and, I'm sure, thrust it hurriedly into our hands so that we'd take the awful noise away from his department.

At last we're heading for the checkouts. Even this was fraught with difficulty as I had S in my arms and Ben was trying to keep the other two from racing off or harming each other (can you put children on leads???). Then an unhelpful lady checkout person tells R that he's not allowed to climb on the trolley so he throws a massive sulk on the floor - one of the ones where he lies completely prostrate on the ground, whimpering and sticking to the floor like tiles.

It was with great relief that we finally reached the car, having bought muffins and brownies on the way out as bribery and mood-enhancers - funny how chocolate seems to calm things down. So, children cleaned up and strapped into their carseats, we set about loading up the trailer. It was packed... unpacked... repacked... unpacked... and packed again, with various helpful comments being chucked in by passing customers. Oh how I wished I'd had a camera!

But we're home now and everything is decanted and all is peaceful. Funny, looking at the small pile it really doesn't seem as though its aquisition could have caused SO much stress.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


Now 'Mirabelle' is a new name for me. As these little fruits were developing I thought at first that they were plums but they didn't seem to get any bigger than an almond so I reckoned that they were indeed almonds. But they then started going a bit squidgy so I had to rethink and asked my neighbours. "Mirabelles" I was told. Yes, they are small plums but yellow ones. And how appropriate that they are yellow as when they are picked directly from the tree, warmed by the sun, they taste just as sweet as honey, like a little sunburst in your mouth. Mmmmm delicious. R and I picked loads and loads (B wouldn't help as he's now scared of the geese and wouldn't come up to the orchard - they don't like him as he chased them too often when they were little. No surprise there!). We now have 8 Le Parfait jars of them duly sterilised, and a massive bag of them in the freezer. The thought is to have "Sunshine Crumble", as R has named it, in the middle of winter. There were still masses left but the geese and hens adore them too so they get daily treat for free.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Frustration Leads to Wisdom

Odd maybe to say that but in our case this has been true. Normally I would rush in and start getting things done but was prevented from doing so in the first instance by being pregnant. That's Ok I thought, as soon as baby is born I'll get on with things as it will only be March and he can just pop on my back in the sling and we'll be off. But that didn't happen because it's been so hot that it hasn't been ideal for a sling - he gets annoyed because the imperative hat keeps falling in his eyes, he gets hot and cranky, I get hot and cranky and it all ends in tears. So, we've had to delay. And that's been a good thing. In permaculture, lots of your design for living is worked out by watching what's around you and taking note and account of it, fine tuning as you go. Well if we'd rushed in we wouldn't have known just how dry this land gets in July/August. Today even the dock weeds look as if someone has sprayed them with weedkiller (no-one has of course) but they are just wilting. I've had to rethink some projects and alter the priority of others. So sometimes it's good to do nowt -you learn from doing 'le glandouiller' (b**ger all).

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Beautiful Creatures

We have some really lovely critters here, small critters that are easy to miss if you're too busy to look. I have no idea of the names of most of them since they are 'new' to me since moving to France. One I have discovered is the soldat and we have loads of them - coupling here in this photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

I was trying to establish the depth of our pond today when I came across this beautiful spider - a biggie, you can see the red clover head as a reference point. At present I don't know what it's called so I'm on a mission to find out. If anyone knows before I track down a name, please post a comment.

Update - it's a wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi) and this one is a female as the males are much thinner in body. They are Orb Weavers and apparently their web takes just one hour to make. They spin it in the morning, catch their prey during the day, then eat the web and prey at night. When the females have just reached sexual maturity their jaws are soft for a short time and that is when the males approach for mating. If the males leave it too late they get eaten!!

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Day of the Triffids

So this is as far as the potager has got this year - cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli, runner beans, barlotti beans, sugar snap peas, mange tout, beetroot, carrots, lettuce, herbs, courgettes.... and butternut squash, butternut squash, butternut squash. You see the 'free' area in the photo on the right? That has now been totally invaded by the squash. They've scrambled up into the runner beans and are making a bid for freedom over the back fence. They just don't stop! Now you may ask as to how this has been allowed to happen, given that I have been growing veg for a good few years now and should know the ropes. Well it goes like this....

Back in Scotland when I started growing them I planted 10 seeds and 4 came up. On those four plants I got ONE squash. Ok. So we moved here. Same packet of seeds, same frame of reference. So I planted 20 based on previous experience. All 20 came up. I reckoned that we could indeed cope with 20 squashes as they store well so I happily planted all 20 seedlings, expecting about 20 fruits. But no, they were off. The scramble for life and reproduction was on. Stand still for 5 mins near them and they've woven their tendrils into your shoelaces in a desperate bid to shore up the ever swelling fruits. I think there must be at least 100 squashes happily expanding in the sun! I was down at our neighbour's taking them some spare eggs and I was telling the lady about this situation. She thought it was hilarious and rushed in to tell her husband who was working on their roof. All I could hear was raucous laughter from the rafters! So if you come to stay this autumn/winter - possibly even in the spring and early summer of next year - guess what's on the menu?

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Peace and Quiet

Finally. The Boyz are in Newcastle where it's raining for the wedding and Sammy is finally asleep in his pram after a day of being way too active. Too active because it's been up into the 40's today and as I write this at 7pm in the evening, it's 31.8 degrees C here in the *shade*. Now I'm not complaining but I am wishing for some rain. I have found out that major gardening works need to be done in the spring and the autumn. Winter on a clay soil is too wet and summer is too hot with ground like stone, baked hard in the sun. Not much one could do today except hang about in the sun. Shame :-)

But right just now is beautiful; warm and still surrounded by wonderful birdsong and an occassional gaggle from the geese as they muck about in the paddling pool set up especially for them today.

Friday, 14 August 2009

The Branch Bus

Well the Boyz (Ben, Rowan and Brodie - Sammy will be added when he's mobile) have gone off to a Thomas wedding in Newcastle. I actually cried when they set off as this is the first time that Rowan and Brodie have ever spent a night away from me - not intentional, just happened like that. Quite an emotional moment for me. Sammy and I didn't go because Samuel is a bad traveller and screams for large parts of even relatively short journeys so the thought of hour upon hour of driving up through France and then the UK filled us all with dread. We are instead on dog, cat, geese and chicken watch.

Anyway, now that I have relative peace and quiet, I have had chance to wander round with Sammy and listen to my own thoughts - something very difficult to do when there's a Brodie in the vicinity! I decided that when Sam had a sleep I was going to tackle some of the overgrown and dead vegetation along our drive and found out what stock was really in there.
So secateurs and loppers at the ready I began. A large pile of debris is now left behind me and is traditional for me whenever I do a 'tidy up' job - I like the tidying bit but not the clearing up of the bits removed from flowerbeds. Ben says that it isn't really tidying, it's just moving rubbish from one place to another. Bless him however, he has accepted this quirk of mine and has designed the Branch Bus, pictured here, that can be towed along behind the tractor and will stop at the varying locations around our garden where I have been working and collect all the unwanted 'passengers' and take them to a mulching area in one of our fields. Looks like once again its services will be required when The Boyz get back on Monday.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Tax Man

Or woman. Yes the dreaded tax folk are here too and yesterday morning's post brought a letter from them saying that we should have filled in a declaration for 2008 and that it was meant to have reached them by 29 May 2009. Yikes. There was me thinking that as I'd had a letter from the UK tax office for a return for April 08 to April 09 then our tax affairs here wouldn't start until this year, therefore first French filing in 2010. But no.

So we downloaded the forms and made of them what we could, then today went along to our closest office in Mamers. We arrived at 3.13pm and, after explaining what we needed - help, were given a ticket and asked to take a seat. the ticket said 42 mins waiting time. Having noticed as we came in that closing time was 4pm (!!!!) we wondered if we might be told to push off and come back another day. However, the queue dwindled (only 2 folk in front of us) and we were hopeful for a speedy exodus. Ho no. The lady in front of us took AGES and 4pm came and went. The front office shut up and the man bid us Bonsoir; the folk from 'upstairs' packed up and left and bid us Bonsoir. We feared that we might be locked in for the night. But at 4.15pm the door to the little consulting office creaked open, a photocopy was made of the lady's tax return, the clerk bid her Bonsoir, then smiled wearily at us and invited us in to said consulting room. It was a small room and hot. As we as a family number 5 now, all 6 of us was a squeeze in this room. However, the boys got out their toy cars and played happily under the table whilst we tried to explain in French what we didn't understand. Happily it was quite simple and straightforward, or at least the man said it was. What we don't know is if it really was, or were we being let off lightly due to horrendous wafts coming up from the urchins playing on the floor - Rowan's rear end and Brodie's feet, plus Sammy filling his nappy? All in a hot sweaty room and past closing time. Guess that's one way to speed up the procedings. Bet the tax man got a good impression of us Brits!

Friday, 7 August 2009


Today's question - how long is a caterpillar a caterpillar? I'll have to find out. We have the most gorgeous tiger striped caterpillars en masse on our weedy 'patio', the weed they are on being groudsel. Now I had meant to go out and clear it before the groundsel set seed but now we're busy watching the caterpillars to see when they turn into chrysalises (or is it chrysali??). Apparently they are the larvae of the cinnebar moth, a red day-flying moth that's rather attractive we think. So no clearing yet -grrrr.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Our French Car

Another milestone today - we collected our newly purchased car complete with French number plates and I felt quite emotional about it. It was just another little bit of our British-ness being given up as we'll no longer be driving with UK number plates. A weird feeling. Even weirder feeling driving the new car as
a) it's a manual and the Bongo is automatic and I've only driven that for two years now
b) the Hyundai is much wider than the Bongo so I have to watch out for the fosse (ditch) when some crazy French driver whizzes round a country bend on two wheels
c) I've been doing very well driving on the 'wrong' side of road (the right hand side) up until now by telling myself on a constant basis that I'm nearest the curb when driving. Well that changed today and I had to be 'normal'. Now many of you know that being 'normal' doesn't always come easily to me and in a moment of panic, having to pull away quickly from a garage on top of a hill with crap visibility, in an extra wide car, with a manual gearbox and a clutch to cope with, a screaming baby in the back, and a partner hiding his eyes, yes I managed to take off onto the *left* side of the road for a few metres before being screamed at by both baby and Ben. Rectified very quickly and no oncoming traffic inconvenienced so a lesson learned (or at least reminded of!). Frantic Mum found out!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

I Can Fly

Yes don't children just think they can do *anything*? And here is Sammy, true to form, thinking he can fly. He can roll, and he can sit up but flying might take a little longer to master me thinks. He's learning.

And, as it goes in home-educating, this attempt at flight brought our family discussion round to Icarus. This led to a small geography 'lesson' (about the Icarian sea), a small biology 'lesson' (about which birds would have feathers big enough), a small science 'lesson' about the properties of wax, then a small science 'lesson' about the sun, and that led onto a BIG discussion about the solar system and lots of artworks being created by the boys to show all the planets. Then them raking out a gift they had been given last Christmas called 'A Moon in My Room' and they couldn't wait for bedtime to see it working properly. Rowan was all triumphant because he already knew about the term gibbous moon (having picked up on it when he was just turned 3!) And so ended another day of home-schooling.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Preserve Me

We have had a fabulous harvest of peaches - white fleshed ones that I didn't know existed until we bit into them. Every bit as gorgeous as 'peachy' coloured peaches, and tasting like honey when picked straight off the tree warmed by the sun. Now my family may well scoff at this knowing that I *didn't* like stoned fruit - seemed like a faff to me to nibble round stones or have them in your mouth just to spit them out after masticating all the flesh off them, so I haven't tried them since I was young - but now I'm old and since we're growing it, it's free food and I can't see it all go to waste so I've given it another go. Mmmmmm is all I can say. Cherries, plums, mirabelles, peaches and nectarines so far.

Some days I feel as though I'm in a jam and chutney making factory but I'm determined that we'll preserve all of this harvest for the winter months. Brilliant info HERE about all sorts of preserving. Next week I'm going to visit a neighbour and she's going to show me how she uses one of those big sterilising units to bottle fruit and veg. That's what I like about rural France - there are still lots of traditional skills used. I just have to find the folk that can show me how.

These sterilising units are on special at our local hardware store at the moment and, apparently when you're not using them to bottle your fruit and veg, you can use them to make yoghurt. I'm thinking of trying this too because it is very difficult here to buy yoghurt that is sans morceaux (without bits of fruit) and Rowan doesn't like the 'bits' ones but loves yoghurt. The trouble is that the only ones sans morceaux are loaded with sugar. I figure if I make our own then we can adjust it to suit us. I do kind of feel that I'm following in my mother's footsteps here as I do remember her making yoghurt when I was a child but I'm afraid that the memories of the yoghurt itself are not good ones - rather sour I seem to remember though I couldn't have told you that as a child, just that they weren't 'right'. Well we'll give it a go. We're contemplating getting some goats a) to eat the brambles and b) to milk. More on that I'm sure at a later date as I still have a lot to find out.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Roll Me Over In The Clover

Or rather, don't because there are SO MANY bees collecting pollen from it. The grass per se has not grown hardly atall in the last few weeks due to scant rainfall, indeed the last cut was 16 June, but the clover has flourished. Now we can't bear to cut the clover as it's such a rich food source for so many creatures. But the buzzing of bees has resurected my desire to keep a beehive so I'll need to think some more on that one. When the grass finally does start growing again we're going to try to follow the tips in this article "Organic Lawncare for the Cheap and Lazy"

Containing the Hoodlums

Hoodlums? That's the geese. Up until now they have been allowed to roam around this top area of garden and we have delighted in watching their antics but recently these antics have become more scary. As they have grown and their confidence increased, they have been exploring more and more all things NOT grass. Like plastic strands of landscaping fabric, like nibbling the number plates off the Bongo, like eating all the boys plasticine, like chewing the tops off of storage pots. You get the idea. So we've spent the last two days putting up a fence around the orchard (that was Ben) and making some woven willow gates (I did that with Rowan and Brodie) to keep them in the orchard. The fence is rather ingeniously held upright with string tied to various trees around the perimeter. You may think that that's a bit half-arsed but it actually works quite well as we can still move it to give the inevitable weeds a good grubbing out occassionally. Plus the ground is absolutely rock hard at the moment due to scant precipitation so getting posts in is a no-go without getting in mechanical diggers. The photo shows the Girlz looking very dejected 'behind bars'.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Nature's Bounty

A good part of the orchard has actually survived the fire and we are now eagerly awaiting our fruit (strawberries already well underway though they don’t make it to my jam pot as the boys sit up there all day munching them). We have plums, cherries, apples, pears, quinces, walnuts and peaches. Not quite as many as I might have liked due to some little folk deciding that the peaches made great ‘missiles’, better than the potatoes that they’d pulled up earlier!!!!! Grrrrrrr.

Friday, 12 June 2009


Le Mans was buzzing with excitement on Wednesday as the 24 Hour starts tomorrow and the place is just coming down with visitors, mostly Brits in very fine cars. We of course know that the Bongo is indeed the finest car that one can own and were proud to be seen in it amongst all the Aston Martins, Porsches, Audis, Mercs, TVRs , BMWs etc. Actually, since saying that we sadly have to part with her (and we still do and are looking for a suitable replacement) we have had lots of offers from folk who will happily give her a loving new home.

June is a very busy month here at LPM with folk staying in every week. Made all the more busy by some friends from the UK just appearing on Wednesday evening (as Ben was about to change into his swimmers to go rescue the geese) and hoping to stay overnight with us!!! They had been saying that they *might* come over but that they would confirm exactly when at a later date. Well, I guess the ‘confirm’ bit happened as they drove through the gates!!! Still, it was fine and Ben helped them get their Blackberry phone/gadget thing working in return for them helping him to fix the rails for the doors of the solar tunnel. Worked quite well actually.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Feathered Friends

We have yet more additions to the family. We got some more hens. We now have 5 ‘normal’ ones (ie not bald necked) and they go by the names of Neige (a white one), Feu (a black one with orange flecks on her), Grace (a black one), Mrs Brown (a brown one – you’d never have guessed that one eh?) and Smokey Jo (a grey one). Their fortress is hopefully now very fox proof so fingers crossed as these ones are very friendly and the boys love them. They are totally free-range – so much so that they even try to venture into the house, the besoms. Calyx sorts them out though at that point so we have a seemingly endless flutter and squawk at the front door. The first day of being out of their pen, supposedly hen-tractoring the potager, they escaped into the main garden as we haven’t clipped their wings. And I’ve not laughed so much in ages when we tried to catch them to get them back to their ‘safe’ place. I say we, it was more Ben and Rowan, but the chooks were definitely not up for it and it was hilarious to watch Ben stalking one, go diving into a bush to get it only to have it happily zip out the other side laughing at him. Needless to say, all were safely shepherded back to their pen and are now, 6 weeks on, very tame. Three out of the five are now laying every day – well it might be 4 out of 5 as Mrs Brown has the right signs to be laying (red, long comb not pink and short) but she’s perhaps found an ‘away’ place to hide her eggs. Not easy to track down in this place! We found Neige’s stash in the tractor barn in an old pile of dry grass – 9 eggs! We all had omelettes for lunch that day. Yesterday Grace laid her first ‘egg’ but it had a really weird soft papery shell – apparently quite normal.

And we also have some organic lawnmowers by way of 3 geese. Actually they are goslings and just 7 weeks old at the mo (got them at 5 weeks old). Very entertaining. They are Dirty Gertie, Filthy Phillippa, and Minky Mel. They are supposed to be keeping the grass down in the orchard and actually are really brilliant at it even at this age. That is, really brilliant if they would stay in the orchard. Not their fault as Ben reckoned that a ditch and some very long grass would be sufficient deterrent to keep them up there but no. They came waddling down the drive on day 4 pooping everywhere (they do LOTS of poop). So we herded them back with them squeaking in protest and put up a little barrier. We went to Le Mans on Wednesday and when we returned they were out again and swimming in the pond, laughing. We thought that Ben was going to have to wade in in his bathing costume but just as he was about to effect the change of clothing, they waddled out and back to their bunks. So once again, the animals rule the humans here.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Fireworks and Feelings

We have had a big week-long international arts and technology festival in our local town, La Ferte Bernard, with an emphasis on robotics. The boys loved it as there were stands all over the place where you could remotely control the robots and get them to do things. Plus the town square was converted into bouncy castle heaven with about 10 different things for them to expend their energy on. On the last day, yesterday, there was a big fireworks display down by Le Lac (loch/lake) in the evening. It was supposed to start at 10pm and the evening was warm and balmy, the Lac was mirror calm and the scent from the mock oranges was super sweet in the air. A very large crowd gathered on the banks, mostly families, and we waited. Then, about 10.30pm the music from the loudspeakers stopped and everyone waited expectantly. The air seemed charged with anticipation. Then, into the black of the evening came the sound of ‘No More I Love Yous’ from Annie Lennox and I came over all emotional and had tears filling my eyes. There we were, on a beautiful evening, watching a beautiful fireworks display, surrounded by happy French folk, feeling very foreign, listening to the lilt of a Scottish voice, and what seemed like a million miles from friends and family. No I wasn’t homesick but I did feel very emotional.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Nature and Nuture

Our solar tunnel (a slightly more sophisticated polytunnel) is finally up – accompanied by lots more swearing - and should be put into production within the next week or two. It’s stonkingly hot in there on a sunny day (of which today it isn’t – raining but gallingly hot in Dover apparently – sigh) so we’ll maybe try melons this year. We have tomato plants galore as the boys wanted to help plant the seeds and got carried away – it’s amazing how big a ‘pinch’ of seeds is from a 5 and 3 year olds hands!!!! Just as well actually as Rowan ate an entire punnet of tomatoes for his breakfast yesterday. He has big plans to make his own tomato sauce this year, Jamie Oliver style. They are both keen vegetable growers and eaters - thank goodness on the eating side, oh goodness on the growing side. Gardening jobs seem to take twice as long when you have ‘helpers’. They want to set up observation tanks (read ‘water bottles’) for worms and caterpillars – obviously not burying the caterpillars in with the worms, nor indeed burying them atall. Last weekend they had a soil pest (the long white one with the orange head – yuk) under the microscope linked to the computer and scared themselves when it moved on the screen. Then they decided to just do a soil sample so now there’s mud all over the computer desk – sigh.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

A Sad Day

We’re in mourning – a fox got into our hen house last night and killed all three of them L Well, I say ‘last night’ but it was actually at 8.30am this morning. The gall of it. He took one and left the other two. We went indoors, gutted. And when we went out again, he’d come back and taken another!!!! Ben is out adding major reinforcements as you live and learn. Hopefully we’ll be able to get some more quite soon as I actually quite miss them even though we’d only had them for a few days.

Heavy heart.

Friday, 1 May 2009


I am getting heartily sick of our lawn-cutting devices breaking down. We have a tractor with a cutting and collecting attachment, 2 ride-on lawn mowers, 2 petrol powered push mowers, a petrol powered strimmer and an electric strimmer plus 4 pairs of shears. Of this list what currently works is.... the electric strimmer. Even the shears are blunt. And we have 2.5 acres of 'living area' to keep under control over and above the other 15 acres that we're leaving as meadow. Not so great. And what do you notice about most of the list? They rely on oil derivatives and that's not really where we want to be (or at least *I* don't, Ben is more of the mind to get the job done in the least possible time even if it means using some fuel other than human sweat). So I'm on a quest to find out about scythes. I know they take quite a lot of practise to become proficient but the thought is that hopefully by the time we reach post-peak-oil we'll be skilled in the art. Maybe one day I'll be like this woman

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Three French Hens

Yes more additions to our family, 3 chickens – and as Rowan pointed out “three French hens”. They joined us on Monday after Ben had finished swearing as he finished their fortress (hopefully to be safe from foxes). Now they’re not the prettiest of girls, being a breed called “Cou Nu jaune” that have bald necks (weird) but they were all that the lady had available until September. Looks aren’t everything so long as they do their jobs we reckoned. They seem to be settling quite well despite being haranged by Rowan and Brodie and have today started clucking in a happy sort of way when we go near their pen. Next week we hope to let them go free-range – well actually not quite free-range for a few weeks cos I want them to be hen tractors on the veg patch eating all the weed seeds and undesirables. That still represents a massive 240m2 so I hope they’re up for it. We hope to have some eggs from them too in about a month’s time J I’m quite glad to have a few more females on the premises actually and fear that I may well being having womanly heart-to-hearts with them before long.

Update – just been out to close up the hen house for the night (I’m on my own as Ben has gone over to Dover to get the Bongo MOT’d – another story). Now, we’ve been told that they toddle off to bed in their house at twilight and you just pop round and make them safe for the night. Ho no – not ours. They’d squeezed themselves like plaster on the outside of the door of the hen house so I couldn’t open it to ‘encourage’ them with a full door for access (they have a little pop hole that they’ve been ‘popping’ in and out of all day but couldn’t oblige me by using it tonight – bl**dy things). I tried to ‘shoo’ them but they weren’t having it and just clucked at me. So I thought, I’ll just have to lift them in. I’m not normally worried about handling wild animals/birds etc but Jaune, as one of them is called, decided to protect her friend Cou by having a wee peck at me. That made me a bit timorous. I therefore had to steel myself and go about lifting them to their perch through the half-dark and chicken poo whilst battling with the bulge that is Sammy strapped on constantly in a sling. I say again, bl**dy things – they’d better start laying.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009


Yes the Bongo. Sadly the French controlle technique (MOT equivalent) won’t give it a French certificate as the sliding door for rear passengers opens on the traffic side ie the left. Not much we can do about that. We need to register a car in France within 6 months and for that we need the French MOT. Stymied then. Since we didn’t officially ‘check-in’ with our local Mairie until mid-February, we have 6 months from then. We so love the Bongolini but they don’t do a left hand drive version so we’re trying to decide what to do. Anyone like to buy our lovely friend?

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Reception

Well we had our little ‘reception’ and Sammy was welcomed into the community, as were the rest of the family. There were quite a few local folk there and the Mairie had gone to the trouble of getting a lovely quince tree to plant in Sammy’s honour, hoping that “he will put down strong roots here and grow well”. They are making a plaque bearing his name to go beside it. Plus they gave me a beautiful bougainvillia bush and an Anne Geddes My-First-Five-Years momento book. And the champagne flowed – not that I could take full advantage being a breastfeeding Mum contrary to one of the newspaper articles that said Sammy was unaware of the fuss, oscillating between bottle and sleep!!!!! Goodness, he even had a feed halfway through the evening and I don’t *think* my boobs look bottle-shaped (I asked Ben and he agreed that they do not look bottle-shaped normally, only in certain lights). That indignation aside, we were in 4 papers – news here in the rurale is slow. Ben’s Mum is with us too. Check the scowls on Rowan and Brodie’s faces!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Fairy Godmothers

We now have Granny Sheila staying with us for a fortnight and that is just wonderful. I can concentrate on feeding and cuddling and don’t have to worry that Ben is over-burdened. It’s like having a fairy god-mother in the house as I think of something that needs done but find that’s it already being handled. Rowan and Brodie are also enjoying having her here for an extended period of time though I’m not so sure that Sheila’s voice will make it back unscathed as she is constantly harangued for yet another story.

We have become small celebrities in our little village. We went down to the Mairie’s office to register the birth and, lo-and-behold, no births had been registered there since 1966 as all the women give birth in hospital in Le Mans and it gets registered there. So cause for celebration - the Mayor himself raced over and they opened a bottle of champagne - and lots of books and flowcharts to refer to to guide them as to how to fill in the paperwork!!! And on Saturday morning the Mayor popped in chez nous to say that they’d organised a ‘reception’ for us and the Press would be there and all the prominent members of the community to welcome Sammy. Oh gosh. So that’s this Friday. Better see if I can find my best frock!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Sammy Arrives

Samuel Haydn Freeth-Thomas arrived Friday 6 March, 10.43am, 6lb 8oz / 3kgs. 37 weeks and 3 days, so another early bird. Beautiful day, beautiful homebirth, and lovely days since just staying at home looking wonderously at our perfect lovely new addition in my arms rather than in an incubator. Spring is definitely everywhere.

So the story went like this….. The Thursday we needed some things from IKEA so we tootled off to Tours (80 miles away) and I had to waddle SO slowly round the store. After, we stopped at Buffalo Grill for tea and the waitress asked how long I had to go and I said 2 or 3 weeks but wished it was sooner. She wished us Bonne Chance. Got home at 10pm and fell into bed, asleep I’m sure before I hit the pillow. Midnight – ping, waters broke. No contractions until 2.30am so we then called Joelle, our midwife, as she lives 2.5 hours away. It was actually a rather peaceful and cosy night with the boys fast asleep and just Ben and I lying on the sofa. There was a frantic moment for Ben when the contractions speeded up and Joelle hadn’t arrived so he was desperately scanning the net for guidance on how to deliver a baby. But things calmed down again much to his relief. Joelle arrived at 5.45am and was just so lovely and laidback. The boys woke at 8am and were happy to be allowed to go out in the garden to play in their pyjamas. Fortunately it was a lovely warm day as things might have been a bit more stressful if they’d had to play indoors (Ben’s Mum, flying in to be on stand-by for child-minding during birth wasn’t flying in until the following Tuesday). 9.30am things got going in earnest and just over an hour later our gorgeous Sammy Sausage squeezed out. The boys came in to see him and were quite interested to actually see the placenta and the cord that attached Sammy (Rowan had talked a lot about this throughout the pregnancy – how does a baby get its food when it’s in your tummy etc etc). Brodie adores him and keeps bringing toys (Lego) for him to play with and Rowan has raked out baby Lucy (my nappy demo doll) and keeps changing her clothes and putting her in the car seat, arranging boob feeds for her etc etc.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Fire and Brimstone

Gorgeous day today (following on from two more consecutive gorgeous days) – 16 degrees, sunny, calm and springlike. Time to get outside and start the spring tidy up we thought. So Ben continued to cut the grass (started yesterday) but the ride-on lawn mower decided to stop miles away from the barn and refused to start again. Ben swore. So we stopped for lunch.

Our lovely Jesse the Esse the woodburning cooker is doing a grand job with cooking and heating water for domestic use but we wanted to put in a slightly higher thermostat. A 10 minute job we’d been assured. The warning should have been in that sentence however….. Ben started the change over whilst I made lunch and lo and behold complications arose that ended with him setting off a big leak in another joint in the system and us not having the tools to fix it. So we had a flooded floor. Ben swore again – louder. Fortunately Francis (our knight is shining boilersuit) was working with us today but had gone off for the traditional 2 hour French lunch break (he’s not normally away for that long). However, on his return, it was all fixed and mopped up and life went on with Ben grumping that it was ‘one of those days’. Little did we know….

The garden tidy up continued and we made a big pile of fallen branches and debris ready for a bonfire, in one of our fields that was sporting large lumps of dead grass that never got cut last autumn. About 4pm I mentioned to Ben that if we were going to have a bonfire then we’d better do it then so we could keep an eye on it before it got dark (about 7.15pm). So off went the bonfire and up got the breeze – now only a slight breeze you understand but enough. Within 15 mins we were whacking the grass clumps with brooms trying to keep the fire under control. It was a losing battle so I ran to the house (as best you can when you’re 37 weeks pregnant) and called Francis and Pascal to help (you may well remember that my French words for emergency fire situations have been tried out before, so no problems there!). It had spread to the orchard and was heading rapidly towards the tree-lined hedge. Unfortunately the outdoor water supply had burst during the cold spell at New Year and was awaiting a fine spring day to be fixed – so no water outside other than all the water butts. Pascal attacked them, Francis whacked the fire with a spade, and Ben whacked it with a broom. I ran to collect all my millions of hosepipes from all over the garden and time ticked away oh so fast. Finally Francis managed to fashion a hosepipe connection to our house water supply and the dousing began in earnest – as well as the second flood in the house today (thanks goodness it’s all tiled). The boys stood by mesmerised but being very responsible. An hour later the fire was finally out having blackened about 2000m2 of our orchard. Ha-ha, next week we were going to hire a commercial lawn mower to get the orchard grass under control – no need now!!!!! Ben was clean out of energy for further swearing.

So here I sit wondering if these sort of things bring on a birth?

The picture above was taken the day after and no, that's not fog, it's the smoke still rising!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

All Hands on Deck

Yikes – just found out it’s a major works day tomorrow. Our charpentier, Stephan, arrived this evening to say that they will be here first thing tomorrow to start replacing the worn bit of roof (it’s only 1/3 of the roof and only the southern side) so let’s hope for fine weather. That’s 3 guys minimum.

And Francis has said that he can get a helper for this weekend, and he’ll be here tomorrow as well so the count is up to five.

Plus Martin, the cooker/heating installer, is also arriving tomorrow for 2 days to finally get this system’s teething problems sorted – and he might bring Lance. So that’s six minimum arriving tomorrow.

Bless them, they’re all trying to get the house ready before Bubs arrives – maybe they just don’t want to be ‘on the job’ when I go into labour knowing that we’re planning a homebirth.

Glad they’re not all expecting tea/coffee on tap or we’d be a bit shorter by the weekend with all the running about!

We had about 2 hrs of snow this morning but it was melting as soon as it hit the ground really. Monday’s is now almost gone. The UK didn’t fare so well did it? Our farmer friend, Claude, popped in today for a chat and he said that this was a colder winter than normal!!! Oh good, it seems quite doux (mild) to us. I’m itching to get a wee few veggies planted up in the potager and it looks as though that might be quite soon.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Work Ethics

The changes to the house continue at speed with the constant help of Francis, our man-who-does. Anyone who says that the French don’t turn up, are unreliable, and lazy definitely haven’t had the good fortune to meet the guys we’ve worked with because they’ve all been the exact opposite – in fact, no endless need for them to have coffee/tea on tap like in the UK, they just turn up at 8am, work solidly until 12 noon, come back about 1.30 and invariably work until 6 or 7pm again with no breaks!!!! What a work ethic. We have now finished one of the guest bedrooms in the grenier and hope to have the upstairs bathroom finished in a couple of weeks. Then we can start ripping out the downstairs bathroom (at last). Our kitchen still needs to have some of the units permanently fixed but it functions as a kitchen and so I’m happy. The stove and heating system are still proving temperamental but should hopefully be finally sorted by the end of this week.

This house stays SOOO warm unlike Butterwell and we’ve survived thus far with just the fire in the main living area! We put in loads of natural hemp roof insulation and it’s been really worthwhile. We had some snow again this morning (about 2cm) but it’s not set to last. Good because hopefully some more Velux windows are being put in tomorrow.

Pregnancy in France

Well we have reached 33 weeks of this pregnancy peacefully and without complication nor worry. What a lovely change!! I have to admit that just in the last couple of weeks I have ‘blossomed out’ and now feel like a whale with very little space left for comfortable eating. I am however still finishing off our floor tiling and wall painting. Good for Bubs to keep on the move I think. We only have to hold on for another 3 weeks and we’re assured of the homebirth we’d like to have (as opposed to a highly interventionist birth in hospital, so we’ve heard – caesarean rate in France runs as high as 43% in some hospitals!!!). We have found a lovely independent midwife (one of only 30 for the whole of France!) who is prepared to cover us from 36 weeks at our own house and she is very laissez faire. She has written loads for medical journals etc and has actually just released a book that she’s doing a big launch for in Paris (yikes on the 18/19th March so I hope Bubs doesn’t decide to exit on those days). She’s also very French so we’re now learning lots of baby/birth words to add to our vocabulary of plumbing, masonry, electrical, carpentry – steep learning curve but effective. It was wonderful to find her a) because she’s so lovely and b) because we can now stay at home rather than move up to Paris for a few weeks. I’m quite excited actually.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Learning at Home

The boys seem quite happy and Rowan is intrigued by numbers, especially dividing and multiplying. He’s also beginning to work out how to spell whilst Brodie is keen on letters and draws them almost all day. He particularly likes B, Z, O and W for some reason.

This winter they have been mesmerised and obsessed with the Galapagos islands (we have a BBC documentary DVD about them) and they build planes out of all the cushions on the sofa in order to make journeys over there to see the giant tortoises and albatrosses. Indeed we regularly have to visit their art gallery that displays all the pictures they have done of all the wildlife that live there.

They also have a fascination with castles at the moment so we’re busy saving toilet rolls and cardboard and making big long castle walls with turrets, portcullis, moats etc. Ben made them some shields and swords out of polystyrene and they are outside busy ‘tracking the enemy’ most days. Actually, Rowan says that Brodie is too young for a sword so he only gets a pilum (very Asterix influenced). Oh they make you laugh.

Brodie seems to have left the terrible 2’s behind him – thank goodness – and is now just as affable as his older brother. He made me laugh today as he was wanting a drink of water but didn’t want to walk the 4 metres from the sofa to the kitchen table where there’s always water. So he pipes up “Oh PLEASE, I’m a child in pain” – what’s that all about???????

Ben is still very happy being a free spirit and seems to quite enjoy his hour or so in the morning of being in charge of wood for the fire – either collecting it from our charpentier, or logging it with the chain saw, or building a nice pile next to the fire. His French is coming on well considering that he knew only Bonjour and merci when we moved here. He was confident enough today to go off to the garage and explain that he thought that the suspension on the Bongo needed looking at. He’s like a cat on hot bricks every time I get a twinge and he keeps the Bongo in a permanent state of readiness – such is life when you’ve had one premature baby experience I guess. It’s quite touching really.