Thursday, 2 August 2012

Happy Blogging

A friend recently sent me the blog address of a young lad who has gone to New Zealand to work - farming with cows - to have a look at with the comment "this is proper blogging", or words to that effect.  The recommended blog is - it really is good and the photos he takes are great.  Didn't realise New Zealand had such cold winters.

Since that email from my friend, everything seems to have been set-up to get me blogging again.  Homes and Antiques' (the magazine) newsletter came onto my in-box.  Headlines? 50 Best Blogs 2012.  So had a quick peek at some of them - a bit out of my league as they are a bit arty and crafty.  Am still sorting out my collection of mags, and picked up Prima with the article that set me off blogging in the first place.  Rejoined Wife in the North (her last blog was in 2011 - but she won a book deal so is probably still busy writing books) and Charlie Beth - she has since lost her weight, got married and has two children, and back on her diet!

So, I got to thinking about what of interest I could blog.  I did think that no-one would want to know the (rather boring) details of my day to day activities now that OH and I have retired from farming.  We don't have anymore funny stories of lambs running about, calves up to their hide and seek tricks (setting off their mothers come back moos), or disasters that turn into quite humerous stories once you sit down and go through them.  My gardening isn't so good that I produce prize winning produce, mowing the lawn does my head in!!

But then I got thinking about "Housewife 49".  She was Nella Last who wrote a diary for Mass Observation in the 2nd World War.  Her diaries have been published and are now available in book form - Nella Last's War and Nella Last's Peace.  Who would think that Nella would have much to write about?  Victoria Wood played a very good Nella in the tv production of "Housewife 49".

Pages and pages of blogging also leaves me cold.  Rightly or wrongly, I think blogging should be short, sweet and relatively simple.  Not many people have the time to sit and read mini-books in their coffee breaks.

But I do wish that blogging had been popular when we first moved to France.  It would have been quite nice to record my thoughts, doubts, fears and longings, and to have, hopefully, some support during my early years here.  After 16 years here you just get on with life now.

However, I did come with one husband, got divorced and married someone else.  One of the 3 children, now young adults, is married, another has returned to the UK, and we no longer work from dawn 'till dusk.
Perhaps there are some blogs there after all!

And photos?  Will leave you all with some of our extended family. Theses baby hedgehogs were on our lawn when we got back from holiday in the Spring.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

You know when you have made it!

There are times in you life when you reach certain goals, standards or you've just plain made it.

I suppose my first experience of having "made it" was many, many, years ago when I voted in as Social Secretary of our local Young Farmer's Club (could it have helped that my parents kept the local hostelry where we all gathered and used for our (drunken) discos?).  So, number 1 was achieving the dizzy heights of Social Secretary.

Another many, many years passed.  I went to secretarial college, mother wasn't having any of "I want to work with horses" lark, got my first few jobs, doing "temp" work and moved to Lancashire with my then partner.

I got an interview with a local carpet company, and subsequently got the job of Secretary to the Board of Directors - Managing, Export, Financial, Sales and Personnel.  I had a couple of other secretaries working for me, but I was Senior Secretary.

With that title came responsibility for the Directors' Dining Room, and their drinks fridge, and ............ the Directors' Toilet!!!!!! Don't let your mind go overboard with this one - I only held (?) the spare key!

So number 2 holding the key to the Directors' loo.

And so I came to France.  What accolade could be in store for me here?  No, getting divorced was no big deal (if I'd known how easy it was I would have done it sooner).  Getting remarried?  No. Retiring?  That was quite a milestone, especially as I get no pension yet so have to look after OH as he is the breadwinner.

None of the above came close to........................becoming Secretary of our Farm Women's Club!!!!

You may laugh, but we all have to aim high in life.  Perhaps the next pinnacle will be becoming a grandmother, oh joy!

The photo shows our outgoing Secretary and her husband at one of our FWC lunches........ gotcha!!!!!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

A moving experience.

OK. so my blogs are like buses - they come all at once - and yes, I apologise for using a.n.others subject, but I couldn't resist it, and it's too much for a comment.

My moving experience was when we were trying to sell to come to France, or rahter ex-OH wanted to sell.

We had a couple come round - they had loads of money, wanted to turn the barns into garages for his collection of cars, wanted isolation, loads of bedrooms for her many furs and gold jewellery (got the picture?).

All went well, with the usual "we'll do this, knock this down, do that" etc. until they asked about the neighbours.

Those of you who watched the first series of "The Lakes" will have seen George, the egg man.
George was our nearest neighbour, about a mile away as the crow flies. He, too, was a farmer, and when ex-OH broke his leg one December, was a good friend and help to me.

George would come and help me with the sheep and lambing (we had about 500 ewes then), and literally could clock me leaving the lambing tunnel in the field, walk down the yard, take my boots off and go into the house. He would then phone me to see how my day went.

Now, I knew he had his binoculars trained onto our yard for his timing to be so precise.

So when the prospective purchasers of our farm asked about the neighbours, I told them that I was getting mugs printed with TEA and COFFEE on them! Why - if we stood our on the back terrace and George had his binoculars on us he would know what we were drinking!!

She obviously also wanted to sunbathe naked (judging by the tan that too cost-a-plenty) so George and his binocs. didn't go down at all well.

Ex-OH was amused either, he thought he had a sale in the bag there!

How they grow up!

The bride and groom.

Summer has been and gone, drought has gone, rain has rained and drought has returned.

Must be a poem here somewhere.

As can be expected, it rained during the main summer months of July and August. The (spring) drought returned just in time for the autumn, and here we are, 30th October, beseiged by flies!!!

The warm sun has woken them up - if they ever went to sleep - and now all the sun-facing windows and walls are covered in the things, getting into the house via any nook or cranny. Even though I'm not renowned for my cleaning up, I'm sweeping flies up daily - some doing those funny dances on their backs (can't remember the name for them).

This photo is of my three - Laura, Louise and Thomas.

We've had some visitors this year. My mum came in the summer when we all went to Louise's wedding in the south, and OH's daughter, Tara, and her boss, Liz, came over from Ireland just a couple of weeks ago. Oh, and Thomas, my son, and his girlfriend, Holly, flew into Limoges to go down to the wedding with us.

As is normal, mum had a good time when she came (and cleaned my cooker). I took her to the new Family Village shopping complex near to us as she wanted to buy a digital camera to take photos at Louise's wedding. A bit annoying as my sisters and I thought it would be a good pressy for last christmas, but mum thought otherwise. Can't remember what we, or I, actually did buy her.

After buying the camera - a neat Nikon Coolpix in red - we went on to Limoges Airport to collect Thomas and Holly. It would be nearly a year since we last saw Thomas, and the first time we had met Holly. I'm sure he, at 23 and 1.96mts, is still growing!

So, as you may have concluded, the wedding was the main item of the summer. We had a great time.

My sister had booked a gite only 5 minutes away from the reception venue. More by luck than judgement, but it worked a treat, with her 4, and my 7, really having a good laugh. Heard the one about the mummy balloon, daddy balloon and baby balloon? It's much better after a few bottles of wine! Talking of which - if you get the chance to try rose wine with a dash of grapefruit liquer do so. It's like coffee with Baileys in it - rather moorish!!

The actual wedding day was fantastic. Louise and her new husband really did everyone proud. The weather was great, though a bit hot, their local village where they got married was very pretty with flowers everywhere and the reception Chateau was super. The bride looked a million dollars, as did Jessy (her husband) and the bridesmaids, and of course all the guests.

She asked me about music for the wedding. Fight the Good Fight was suggested (but turned down) as a hymn, and Simply the Best as they left the church. She compromised with starting the evening dancing with Simply the Best (of course the bride's mother, after consuming some champers, gave it some welly!). Rumour has it that Thomas and one or two of the lads did the fully monty, but fortunately, for the guests, most of them had gone to their beds by then. My niece got plastered, sobered up and got plastered again. Not advisable when catching the plane home next day! And, Holly, Thomas's girlfriend, caught the bouquet!!

All in all, a good time was had by all, and I hope you forgive me for putting a couple of photos on here.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Come rain or shine

The recent early heat-wave came to an end earlier this month and the weather is now a bit more normal, wet, thundery and showery. Sometimes cooler, then, just before a storm, stiflingly hot.

New farmers to France often ask "is this normal?". The problem is none of us know what "normal"is. Since my family and I arrived in France 15 years ago, each season has been different each year.

As we unloaded the removal van in January 1996 in heat of 25-30 degrees, out came the sledges. The Frenchman we bought our original farm from said "you wont need those here". Famous last words! Within almost a week the weather was cold and snowy, and continued to get colder and snowier. That winter we had frost at -10 to -15 below. I hated it. To me it was colder than Cumbria, and far more hostile. At least in Cumbria I had my friend and neighbour, George, keeping an eye on us from the other side of the valley (about 1 km away). Didn't go much on it then, but sure as hell missed it in France.

However, in March of the same year I was lambing the sheep - well, those that didn't abort their lambs - in temperatures of about 20-odd degrees, and managing to get in some early sun-bathing. Out of 350 sheep to lamb that year, we ended up with only 100 lambs. We are of the opinion that the journey from Cumbria, unloading overnight somewhere in Dorset, to France didn't suit them. Some that were loaded in an iminent state of lambing fared much better.

Every year there are fears over the haycrop. Is there enough rain, is it warm enough and (especially) when will this bloody cold wind stop?

April can be awful. I remember moving the kids in with (my new) OH in April 1998, it was wet and cold, the kids were miserable, the washing piled up, the tumble dryer never stopped. I thought he might send us all back to (old) OH again! But we all survived and have lived to laugh about it and look forward to Louise's wedding in August. The photo is of us all in 2001.

Winters are unpredictable too. OH says France is a cold country that gets hot. Not a bad analogy. We have certainly been able to use that sledge that was unloaded in 1996, on more than one occasion. Some winters are wet, moving the sheep from one soggy field to another chasing non-existant grass is one memory that springs to mind. At least the young sheepdog had some repetitive work to help with his education. Feeding the cows that we had to winter outside, losing my welly in the sucking (yes, I said sucking) mud is another happy memory. Probably didn't say sucking at the time though! Running, after retrieving said welly, to the safety of the fence in my sock. There's no time to mess about when there's 500 kilos of cow - with horns - after the empty bucket.

This winter hasn't been too bad. Some snow and frost early on before Christmas. Then we had just housed some of the ewes before OH fell down the stairs and had a plaster on his leg for 4 weeks (plastered in more ways than one). But I didn't get too wet whilst doing the sheep. Not that I can remember anyway. If it had been exceptionally wet it would have stuck in my mind, or certainly in my throat.

And now we're back to haymaking time. Most of the farmers round us have done the majority of their hay. Those fields that are left have been waiting for some rain in order to thicken up in the bottom. The rain has dutifully arrived and obliged. We now need some sun so we can all get on with it. We're never satisfied are we?

Monday, 14 March 2011

Spring is sprung

After quite a heavy shower last evening, spring is definitely in the air today.

It doesn't seem to matter how much watering you do with tap water, rain water has an immediate effect on plants, and hopefully our grass.

Because we have been so short on hay, most of the ewes and lambs have now been put out. Only the pets and thinnies are inside, but if this warm sunshine continues they'll be out too. Not only did the shortage of hay force the sheep out, but OH and his plastered leg. He fell downstairs in January and I've had all the lambing to do. I say all the lambing - it could have been far worse had we had the 350 sheep and 30 cows that we used to have. But on the positive side - I've lost 5 kgs in weight due to all the exercise. Let's hope it stays off until eldest daughter's wedding in August. Sadly, to achieve that it will mean very strict diets and lots of dog walking to keep those extra kilos at bay. I was never meant to be sylph-like. Born for comfort not speed, me.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Happy new year!!

Christmas has been and gone since I last blogged. Thank goodness. I'm not a fan of christmas, perhaps because I have always had to work - my mum had a pub when we were young, and since then farming has taken priority.

With the pub we had private christmas parties - firms dos etc -from mid-November, and then we had our own christmas eve party. The pub then had to open christmas day lunchtime, so masses of cleaning up had to be done before mid-day. Pressies were either opened very early or put on hold until the afternoon.

New year's eve was also party night, with the hangovers for new year's day when we opened again.

Of course with farming the animals don't know it's christmas, so it's easier to do them and again open the pressies later. Christmas dinner is also a problem - do we have it (rushed) before we do up at night or do we wait until afterwards when we can have a drink or two, or three, and not have to go outside again. As the kids get older it is easier. Or is it?

My eldest buys herself an advent calendar if I forget, and they moan like anything when they come and there is no christmas tree.

I now buy them an Asda or Tesco bag - one of the pretty canvas ones - and put lots of stocking fillers in (unwrapped of course). They still get pleasure from wondering what is in it, I think. Their big pressy is money. So, as you can tell, I don't make a massive effort for one or two days.

Now that new year is over the (sparse) decorations that I did do are down. The cards took no time at all - we only received 5, 4 were from OH's family!

On a lighter note though. All the barns are ready for the sheep to come in for lambing, but with the scarcity of hay do I keep them out or bring them in before lambing? Nothing is easy, even when you are supposedly retired. At least the pre-christmas snow has gone though, but I wish it would warm up a bit.

Time to do up again. Happy new year to you all.