Yes, I’m feeling février positif

Well I’ve made it through January.  I really don’t like the first month of the year.  My beloved mum passed away in January, it’s cold, wet, dreary (not always, I know) and I usually catch a bad cold or the flu.  But, I’m feeling like I’ve ducked a bullet this year.  It’s February 1st and I’ve made it.

Last year I was convinced that I had a case of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) .  I purchased Echinacea and vitamin D but still caught a really awful virus that put me in the doldrums until the Easter holidays.  Then I ended up with a shoulder injury.  A rotator cuff injury according to a physio friend.  Ended up seeing a consultant and getting a cortisone injection.  It worked for about 3 months and then I had a go at some Pilates and it was worse than ever the next day.  Back to the consultant again and another cortisone injection later it was much better once again and lasted for a while, but I am having twinges again now.  The consultant insists that I will definitely need to have an arthroscopy where he will clean out the joint.

I’ve had some lovely messages from you all out in blog land.  Thank you so, so much. It’s really comforting to read your supportive comments.  We feel quite helpless at the moment about the French house as we are not there and wont make it back to France until Easter, which is just over 9 weeks away.  In the meantime what can we do?  We are at the mercy of our builder, who may, or may not complete the inside of our extension, which was due to be completed by December 2015.  We were planning on taking a trip somewhere different this summer but these plans have changed as we want to try to organise the completion of the extension now, together with painting and purchase of some extra bits of furniture.  It’s all very frustrating but I’m feeling February positive at the moment and just thinking positively about what it will all look like in the end, when it’s finally completed.  The main thing to cling to is that we always have a fantastic time as a family in France.

I’m going to have to break off from writing this as Bella (our cocker spaniel) needs a poo and I have some marking for school to do.

Bella pooed and marking done, I’m back.

When the two extra rooms are finally finished, we will have a salon facing the garden and our own chambre with toilet and shower off it.  I don’t want to make any rush decisions about new furniture.  We did that when we first bought the house.  Mainly because we had to, in order to be able to have a holiday there.  I’d like to purchase old furniture that I can paint, or not, as the case may be.  I want a much more authentic look.  I certainly don’t want a modern French look, where it’s all bright colours and leatherette.  Horror.

I envisage a lovely old armour and sideboard.  I’ve collected lots and lots of images on Pinterest.

I’d also like a metal bed but whilst waiting to find the perfect bed, we’ll probably purchase the Fyresdal day bed from Ikea.fyresdal-ikea

If we are unable to get on with the house this summer then I will focus my energies on the garden.  I’m really excited to see if the Willow tunnel that I planted last year has taken.

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But what I really want to see again, is those beautiful blue skies.

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Optimistic phlog post

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Le Petit Coquelicot

Le Petit Coquelicot

The family2

Having real trouble with our builder in France.  Seems like we’ve become another casualty of the British builder abroad.  Haven’t felt like blogging for ages so thought I’d look through some of our French photos from the last few years and post some to make myself feel better.  Just looking at all that sunshine has raised my spirits.

Our building project is now into its second year and I’m not confident that it will be completed by the end of 2017.

Very sad face indeed

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Bon les vacancies école

It’s been a tough old half term for all sorts of reasons, so we were all looking forward to this half term trip to France.  It has the effect of re-charging our batteries for some reason, even when it’s an 18 hour, non stop, journey on a friday evening.  And these were the first few sights early morning after we came off the N10 at Angoulême on our journey south.  A sky crisscrossed with plane trails and this ethereal, spooky mist hovering above the fields.

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And as the sun came up, this gorgeous dappled fig tree leaf on the turn.

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And when we arrived at the house there was a very neat hole in the wall.  We were very pleased.  It might have taken just under a year but, hey who’s counting.

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Bon matin France.

Open garden, South West France😍

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First lunch at B’s.

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Then to Loubens where one of B’s friends lives. She has a lovely Girondaise farm house that is on the market at moment.  House near Loubens

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Super place to check out which plants will grow in this part of France and for garden design ideas. We will return to check it out at the start of the season. At the moment it is so dry and parched. Still looking good

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I always think it’s lovely to stumble across a hidden oasis and treasures within a garden. Hydrangeas to die for and lots of hidden object d’art to stimulate the senses.image

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To get all the details about open gardens in France go to:

http://rendezvousauxjardins.culturecommunication.gouv.fr/

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Summer 2016 phlog part 1

Beautiful, but sad sunflower☹️image

OK, a phlog’s a bit of a cop out. More pictures, less words.

Visit to Taillecavat vide grenier this morning and then a walk through the grape vines with Bella and grandma.

Gorgeous vintage wicker bag, a necklace and some gentleman’s cuff links were my finds at today’s vide. Was looking for some wooden dining chairs but these were trop cher, at soixante euros😳

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Eclectic stand at vide today, followed by antique French confit pots, a Western horse saddle and a little black vintage car.  And our lovely village moulin à vent from our walk today.

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Plants in France

As I’m back in the UK (not for long, as we return to France this Thursday) I tend to look for all things French that I have around me to give me some inspiration for a blog.  Then I remembered some cuttings that have been languishing down the side of the house so they wont be in direct sunlight.  Not much chance of that here, I hear you cry!  imageAnyway back to the cuttings.  There are several but the largest two and the smaller one at the front on the left were taken last year from wild Elder bushes on a little road that leads to my friends house.  These wild Elderberry shrubs seem to grow all over in the hedge rows in our part of France.  My friend has copious amounts growing around her front door and as I have lost so many plants to drought, because we cannot water the garden, I thought that cultivating native/local plants, that do survive hot dry months, would be the best thing to do.  (Although we are thinking of putting in some sort of basic irrigation system once we have an outside tap)

Rose always wants to know what I’m up to when I’m in the garden.  After all it is her domain.  Looks cute doesn’t she.  But, if you are a vole, mouse, baby rabbit or small bird, this is the face that greets you just before you die.  She’s a killer.imageSo the Elder cuttings are doing well.  They will travel to France with us when we next take the car through the tunnel in either October or at Christmas.  The best time to plant them will be then as it will give them a chance to get some roots developed before the hot weather next summer.

The generic name of the Elder is Sambucus.  In France the Elderberry shrub(s) is called “Sureau” or “Les Sureaux”.

And as I’m writing this, the weirdest thing is happening.  A small bug is meandering across the screen of my Mac.  And, it’s behind the glass.  What’s going on.  Anyway back to the blog.

In our garden here in Blighty, I have three black Elderberry shrubs.  They have beautiful deep burgundy leaves and provide much needed colour to our otherwise very green garden at this time of year.

Elder shrubs have been an important resource for a very long time.  From the Greeks to the Romans and the Britons to the Celts, it has a huge range of practical uses. Elderberry wine is said to have curative powers. Taken hot it will help in the early stages of a cold or ‘flu, and is also good for a sore throat. This is due to the viburnic acid contained in the berries which induces perspiration and helps to “bring the cold out”.

Make it simply by stripping off the ripe berries with a fork until you have three gallons of berries. Pour over 2 gallons of boiling water, cover and leave in a warm place for 24 hours. Strain through muslin and press all the juice well out. Measure it and allow 3lbs (1.3kg) of sugar, half an ounce (14g) of ginger and quarter of an ounce (7g) of cloves to each gallon (approx 5 litres). Boil slowly for 20 minutes, strain into a bucket, adding the yeast when it is lukewarm. Pour into demijohns, standing them in a warm place while the yeast works through the sugar. Bottle when it stops. It’s really best to leave it for at least a year, and 2 or 3 years is even better.http://www.whitedragon.org.uk/articles/elder.htm

The Elder flower and berry seems to have been a cure all, from preventing mosquito bites to chilblains and bronchitis.  The berries also make a dye which was used by the Romans to dye their hair black.

The Elder was a mystical plant associated with the spirit world across Europe.  In particular a tree spirit, called the Elder Mother.  To be able to use the magical properties of the tree, prayers and offerings would have to be made otherwise the Elder Mother would not be happy. Because the Elder is very easy to propagate from a cutting and grows so quickly it is therefore associated with regeneration and rebirth.

Because of these spiritual links the Christian church ‘demonized’ the Elder tree, as it did many of the magical plants of the Druids and other pagans, and said that Elder wood was used for the crucifixion cross and that Judas hung himself from an Elder tree. Elder was given a bad name and now had powers of both good and evil. Bringing Elder into the house might cause misfortune or even death to family members and burning the wood meant summoning the Devil.

The word “elder” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “æld” meaning fire.  According to one source this may have been due to the hollowed out stems being used to blow on the fire. The stem has a soft inside that can be easily hollowed out to form a tube. These were then used to make whistles and pipes.

In 1629 a Dr Martin Blochwich who died aged 27 published a reference book titled The Anatomy of the Elder. In this book, which has become a standard reference work, Blochwich described the cultivated plant in three units that occupied a total of 298 pages.

  • Unit 1: The botanic of the elder with an explanation of the origin of the name, as well as where it could be found, its growth and characteristics.
  • Unit 2: In six chapters Blochwich described the preparation of vinegar, chalk, compote, oil, tablets, ointment, juice, syrup, spirit, water, wine and sugar made of elder in detail and gave recipes.
  • Unit 3: Thirty-three chapters about the treatment of diseases that occurred frequently. Recipes have exact descriptions for the production of medicines made of elderflower, elderberry, elder marrow and elder bark, as well as numerous references to the opinions of famous doctors of antiquity and the Middle Ages, which gave the practical doctors during Blockwitz’s day instructions how to use various elder preparations internally and externally. The conditions dealt with include breast and uterine diseases, frostbite, tumours, infectious diseases, diseases of the lungs, stomach, intestines, spleen and gall bladder, mental illnesses, stroke and paralysis, consumption, unclear fever and pain, poisonings, injuries, worm attack and toothache.

Elder continues to be commonly used in herbal remedies and drinks.  It is the flowers and berries that are most used as these are the safest parts of the plant as the bark and leaves are toxic in the wrong dosage.

River Cottage Elderflower cordial

Ingredients

Makes about 2 litres

  • About 25 elderflower heads
  • Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150ml in total)
  • 1kg sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)

Method

Inspect the Elder-flower heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the zest of the orange and lemon.

Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the Elder-flowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.

Strain the liquid through a piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).

Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.

Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.

Serving suggestions

Add a splash or two, undiluted, to fruit salads or anything with gooseberries or dilute one part cordial to two parts water for fragrant ice lollies.

To find out more about the Elder tree, simple google it.  There’s loads of info out there or grab a copy of Dr Martin Blochwich’s book, available from Amazon.

Oh, and before I completed this blog, Rose had caught yet another vole and my son’s run out to see if he can save it.