Saturday, 30 April 2011


Living here in France there are a number of wild animals here that we just don't see in the UK. Birds such as hoopoe, hawks and cranes and mamals such as wild boar and coypu as well as many reptiles and lizards. We have seen a lot of them in the garden and most are welcome!

However, recently we have found that the lake is being trashed by an animal and all of the plant life is systematically being eaten which in turn will cause a problem for the fish.

Therefore, I took it upon myself to speak to one of the local farmers to try and find out what was causing the problem. I was told a ragondin (coypu) was likely to be the issue and that he would come and set a humane trap to see what we could catch.

He arrived with a rather large cage of about 1m in length and baited it with apple and maize. After a few days we noticed the trap had gone off and the bait gone, on looking inside we discovered we had caught a moorhen! We let the poor stressed duck go and reset the trap once more.

After two further days, bingo we had our beast! yep a ragondin. We all went to take a closer look at the animal and found that it was much larger than we had expected. It was the size of a very large cat or small round dog. It had the most hiddious teeth, webbed back feet and a rat like tail. In addition (probably due to it being stressed) it made a horrible hissing noise followed by a deep growl! We promptly called the farmer who came to take it away and now the vegitation around the lake is growing back and happy fish once more.

I have not asked the fate of the beast, but like to think the farmer released it back into the River Garonne a few miles away!

Wild Orchids

Being a country girl at heart and loving all things associated with it, I have been amazed this spring with the variety of wild flowers we have growing here in France.

When we first moved into our old house in Newbury Berkshire over 16 years ago we had a number of wild orchids growig in the garden but unfortunately over the years they disappeared, which was sad.

Here however, we are blessed with not one variety, but I have seen three this year and all totally different. In the UK I am sure our garden would be designated a SSSI (site of special scientific interest).

I have checked the web and we have the following

Bee-orchid. Ophrys-apifera. Ophrys-abeille
Green winged orchid. Anacamptis morio. Orchis bouffon
Lady orchid. Orchis purpurea. Orchis pourpré

How exciting, I am on the look out for other varieties now!

Update May 11. Two new varities found today, images uploaded but am yet to find out what they are! can anyone help?

18th Birthday, no not mine, but I wish!

My lovely daughter turned 18 recently and as she doesn't live with us here in France but with my sister in the UK, I wanted to do something special for her.

It took months of planning and organisation. I emailed/called family and friends and it was like a military operation to get everyone here without Megan finding out.

On a number of occasions information slipped out in conversation and we were convinced that she had some idea of what was planned, but after questioning coyly, it seemed not. However, Nick, my husband had been on Facebook a few weeks before and had sent a message to my niece saying that he was looking forward to seeing her in March, but instead of private messaging her had posted it on her wall! Needless to say I went mad and told him to stay off Facebook until he knew what he was doing, he would blow the whole thing out of the water if he wasn't careful! Suitably chastised, he dutifully did as he was asked and got on with other things!

The weekend soon arrived and airport runs were in full swing by the time Megan and my dad had boarded their plane from Gatwick to Toulouse.

I had catered for the masses in advance and had made lasagne, chicken curry and beef stew so I could enjoy the weekend too instead of being locked away in the kitchen!

At 8pm I set off to collect the guest of honour and my dad from the airport while everyone else blew up balloons and hid away in the games room to keep the surprise going for as long as possible.

However, unbeknown to me, I was to be the one to let the cat out of the bag and I was gutted when I found out! The night before everyone arrived I had posted something as a direct message on twitter to a friend but had sent it as a reply instead and Megan had seen that I was expecting 17 for the weekend! She had subsequently spent the next 24 hours trying to work out who would be at her "Surprise" do. When I arrived at the airport she was playing the game well!

An hour later when we pulled in the drive the surprise was well and truly out in the open! Nevertheless, everyone was thrilled and cheered happy birthday when she walked into the darkened room!

I had made a cake and the celebrations kicked off in a big way with plenty of alcohol in the equation! At the end of the weekend all departed happy and we were left sad and lonely without our daughter :(

Life is tuff being a parent!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Strawberry Picking

I can feel a writing spree coming on! I have been so busy recently, I have not had the time or the inclination to write a blog but today I feel invigorated and ready to start again!

We have been here a year now and so much has changed in our lives. When we arrived last April we did not have a clue what lay ahead, but a year on we have made lots of friends, have integrated well and have found enough work (so far) to keep the wolf from the door for the time being!

In addition to my internet account management for Zebra (barcode printer manufacturer) I am working up at the local farm picking strawberries whilst waiting for bookings to pick up and have never worked so physically hard. My knees ache, my back is killing me and after the first few hours instead of bending to pick the fruit, I end up kneeling on the floor of the poly tunnel in straw and squashed strawberries, feeling like a cripple, what a sad case I am! However, it is doing wonders for weight loss and the breakfast is fab. I am sure after strawberries there will be other fruit to harvest too, I think cherries are next and although I appreciate the work, I am starting to feel my age!

With the days work, mowing and cooking a meal finished with, I collapse on the sofa in agony which is where I stay until bedtime. After a large Armagnac (or two) to numb the pain I almost crawl up the stairs to bed! But am I happy?........................YES most deffinitely.