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Saturday, 30 January 2016

Caturday extravaganza

It's #caturday in the social networking world, and I've been collecting kitty photos to share for a while. So now is as good as any to post them. Sit down, get yourself a nice cup of tea as there are lots of photos. But not much text so breath a huge sigh of relief! :-)

Harry looking quite normal for a change.

Manic tree hugging again.

He loves climbing trees but actually isn't very good at it!

Bertie doesn't pose very often and is less loony outside than his brother.
But makes up for it indoors

"I love you, Mummy".

And then the moment was over.

Harry spilling out of the small basket.

He can just about fit in it.

He looks, and is, angelic when he is asleep.

Some blurred shots are worth keeping.

The boys up a tree together for a change.

Harry plots to kill.

"You daft bugger."

You may be wondering where the black cat is, well for one, they are notoriously difficult to photograph, and two, Miss Hallie rules the roost and doesn't deign to have her photo taken like ordinary, common cats. It's only on her terms.

"I ordered tea 10 minutes ago, now where is it?"

"OK I'll give you 5 secs to take a photo of me, then......"


Occasionally I can sneak up and zoom in without her noticing.

She wouldn't be seen dead mucking about the way Harry does.


New technology, old technology.

And Harry.

Sitting around became too tiring so he lay down for a nap.

Bertie oblivious to the fact that the blankies had slid off the back of the chair with him on them.

A phone shot, using flash, but it didn't come out very well.
What I saw when I woke up a couple of mornings ago!

I'm going to get killed for posting this next one!! My Cybershot made a good job of it - what I saw when I got up for a pee in the middle of the night!

Not a one of them woke up!

Happy Caturday! xx

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Who lives in a house like this? and Mandy has a new toy.....

Buggy things first as there are not too many of them at this time of year. My OH brought this in for me to have a look at. He found it on an old plastic chopping board which was out in the barn around his work bench. I don't know who might have made it, but I'm guessing a solitary wasp? Any ideas? It's about 2cm wide, and I was very pleased that my new toy made a good show of photographing it.....

Yup I've joined the 21st century and changed my ancient but very cute clamshell mobile phone, which was from before the days of even cameras on phones, for a smartphone! Talk about shock to the system. Now I don't use mobiles much at all, and my real reason for wanting one was so that I could take snaps of things whilst out and about (not that I go out and about very much) and upload instantly to social media. Or take photos of the cats looking cute and share on facebook without having to get up off the sofa. And I was feeling really left out that I could not join Instagram just because I didn't have a smartphone. I still don't think that's fair, even though it seems like all the world and his dog have smartphones already, so there's nobody else but me feeling left out.

What was great about the deal I got was that it only cost me about €17 because we had so many supermarket fidelity points saved, that cashed in came to €150! So I don't feel guilty now for spending on something which isn't totally necessary.

I hadn't been in the mood for taking photos lately but I had to try this phone camera out, didn't I? It's so hard to use though - it has a fair few semi manual settings which can be used (it stays on f2.2) but it's hard to do all that with your finger when you are not used to it. And to tap on the screen to take the photo whilst trying to hold it steady, and point at the thing you want to shoot, and keep it in focus - my god, how do you guys do it? The image stabilisation must be great in this camera as it did a good job I reckon, as I was waving it about all over the place! I have edited some of these photos a little bit but mostly crops, contrast etc. It's not bad for an 8MP camera.  Oh and I discovered quite by accident that it even has a zoom. Good grief, modern technology is amazing!

Here you can see where I've been attacking the ivy at the base of the trees, and a black cat wanting to be in the picture.   

I was really surprised to see the Mirabelle plums already blooming a couple of weeks ago!! They are normally in blossom mid to late February.

I'm still in hack, slash and burn mode in the garden. I'm not out of the woods yet (hoho) and I don't have much desire to do many of the garden jobs that need doing, but I am happily going out in the afternoons, in most weather, to attack brambles and ivy. I'm sure a therapist would have a field day with that, but it all needs doing anyway and it's better than staying indoors doing nothing. I tried taking a photo of them both, plus whippy saplings, but they don't show up much. This is just the other side of the 'beach' area of the pond but you can't see it from here, because of the undergrowth.

I am enjoying liberating tree bark, however if it is not covered in ivy it is covered in lichen! :-)

Guess what's finally finished flowering? Yup those nasturtiums are going into the compost bins now - yet the calendula and borage are still alive, albeit the frost killed off their flowers. The plant that surprised me though is feverfew, as it doesn't seem to have been phased by the frosts at all and the flowers don't look any different.

Also wanting to flower in the jungle is a self seeded PSB! That'll be eaten soon.

I had to show you Keith's carrots. Because he is a bit heavy handed when sowing seeds (well he has big hands) and they didn't get thinned much, they have come out all sizes as they were growing so close together. It makes it more fun when digging them up though. There is a bit of root fly damage now but not too much.

Up against the house wall here is the new heuchera bed which was all I had the energy to deal with in the autumn. It's the bit with all the snowdrops in it. We pruned back the huge old yucca and I dug out tons of weeds and replanted loads of snowdrops and some early narcissus bulbs in betweeen the new heucheras. Two of the heucheras have even sent up flower stems which is just more of the odd weather craziness! Piles of snow dumped on parts of the USA whilst Rennes airport recorded almost 17C/62.6F the other day. Mad. But I'll take this over the snow.  

The other bed is a work in progress as it had been taken over by creeping things, both weeds and 'real' plants. I have a couple of new purple heucheras to go in there along with other things which will be replanted.

The hedge guy has been and I wonder if he noticed my asparagus bed..... luckily there are none shooting yet, because it certainly needs some tlc.

Harry wanted to help...

Just a pic to show how the ivy has spread even up the house end of the garden.

Oh and Bertie wanted to have his pic taken (he didn't really, he was busy grooming himself, but I got lucky and snapped at just the right moment when he looked up as I called him).

There is no hope for me now! :-)

If any of you are on Instagram you can find me there, follow me and I'll follow you back, although I've only posted two photos so far, so my home page or whatever you call it doesn't look very interesting. Yet.....

Monday, 18 January 2016

In the absence of photos...

...there is nothing actually stopping me from blogging and just writing about stuff. Winter has arrived, with one white frost and this morning, some flakes of snow, but I don't feel like going outside to take photos. I've done it before; the cold hurts my hands and they are numb enough right now anyway.

Before that we had several days of April showers - I did think of taking some pics but moments later I'd be sheltering from torrential downpours, sometimes hail, and it wasn't the weather to have a camera out with me whilst I worked as the ground was drenched. There's nothing very interesting for the viewer about brambles or ivy, which I've been chopping back. In fact many of my garden sorties have involved looking up and deciding which branches need lopping because they are either shading out other trees, growing into each other or dangling down in our way, particularly over the drive. It's amazing how trees grow! Of course they do as they are plants, just like shrubs need pruning and weeds need weeding, so the amount of work needing doing in winter during the dormant months equals the summer work.

There's the perimeter fence which needs clearing of saplings and ivy; brambles and whippy growth which grow out into the main pathways smack K as he tries to mow, and the ever encroaching ivy jungle which threatens to take over all my trees. The enormous Leylandii hedge desperately needs its once every two years trim (that job is now given over to the professionals and the guy is supposed to come next week as he was too busy in November), the elm saplings need constantly hacking back in the chicken runs, sycamores self seed everywhere and need pulling out or chopping off. And that's all before looking at the veg patch, which has a jungle growing over every inch of soil. The orchard fruit trees haven't been pruned for two years, ditto clearing the stream over there of all the brambles and other vegetation which swamp it. Flower beds and shrubs need a good sorting out and compost added to the soil. All the while I mostly laze around indoors unable to get motivated to do anything about it, not that I have the strength to do half those jobs even if I was raring to go seven days a week. I accept that I currently have a semi broken body which needs a lot more time to heal and cannot keep up with this garden.

So what is the answer? Well there's the obvious, which was our original thought. Sell up and move somewhere with less land, an easier to maintain garden, and in our preferred area near the south coast of Morbihan or Loire Atlantique, near to all the good birding areas. This would also fit in with our PLAN, which would be hard to execute whilst living here (more about that later). But first we'd need to declutter all the accumulated junk, all those 'might come in handy one day' things, plus all the really technologically obsolete things which make up a huge bulk when you move house. Maybe someone might want a load of punk LPs at our village vide grenier in May? I'd give them away to a happy home rather than take them down the tip and chuck them. Ditto paperbacks; I've tons here, far more than fit my shelves as we had a number of plant and book swaps some years back with friends and somehow I seemed to end up with bagsful of 'bodice rippers' which my OH likes to call them, which I don't read (unless I'm really desperate). We're both using Kindles now anyway. And don't get me started on the photo albums! However I think the videos can go in the bin, except for our wedding one!

Then there's the house - a lot of it was never decorated and we've been too busy in the garden here to ever get to it, so upstairs we have a lot of bare plaster walls in the hallways and stairwells, plus one of the bathrooms. I really want to do something about that this year and feel like it's time the house had some attention after all this time.

It just seemed like such a mammoth amount of work we'd need to do this year in order to put the house on the market in spring next year, much worse than just the regular jobs which need doing outside, which at least don't involve tidying up outside to make it look as neat and pretty as possible as well. And it would involve work both inside and out. Not necessarily great when you are wallowing in post chemo depression and can hardly get out of bed.

On top of this I have been looking at houses for sale, and they all suck. Big time. Even the really expensive ones miles out of our price zone. Do you know why? I know one can change them, albeit one is usually constrained by existing walls, windows, doors etc, but why are kitchens so forgotten? Why are they so small in relation to the rest of the house, with so little storage space? I'm not a professional, just a normal person who cooks and bakes, and I have a lot of kitchenware, and it all gets used. Plus the large things which reside in cupboards in the huge bathroom next door. Deep fat fryer, breadmaker, ice cream maker, food processor..... I can tell you where some people kept things like that as it was all too obvious from the cluttered photos. No work space left.

Then there were the dreadful designs, mostly in the newer properties. I'm sure they were designed by people who've never cooked in their lives and know nothing about the cooking triangle. Huge living dining spaces with a tiny corner given over to the kitchen, which is open onto this large room. This seems to be the way all houses built in the last 20 years have been designed, ditto a lot of the old house renovations. I HATE that! It's bad enough being in the living room trying to watch telly when my OH is clattering away in the kitchen next door. If he was doing that in the same room I'd go nuts! And I love having a kitchen which is big enough for a table - we have different living spaces this way, and one can be in the kitchen at the table, listening to the radio, whilst the other watches TV in the living room, which is big enough for a dining table too.

Then there's the Breton style houses where they shove all of upstairs inside the sloping roofspace. Another hate. It may be fine for a four foot high child but a six foot 4" husband? It's so impractical as well as ugly as sin. We're very lucky in this house as we have less of that as all the top floor rooms have dormer windows, and we don't live on that floor anyway. We've fewer problems with that on the middle floor.

I was rather taken with the styles of houses south of the Loire - they have the terracotta canal tile roofs which I find very attractive. Many houses within our price range had swimming pools too - but as K pointed out - a swimming pool would just go the way of the exercise bike. A novelty at first then barely get used.

Whilst all this has been running through my mind these last weeks, I've started to look at my house in a new light. I LIKE this house. It works for us. I don't like the tiled worktops in my kitchen, and I wouldn't have chosen this design of cupboards, but it has storage space galore. I counted the drawer and cupboard knobs and there were over 50! We have a good amount of worktop space too and I use every inch when I'm cooking but like to keep it clutter free in between times. Plus we have more things in the mud room/cellier, mostly relating to freezing and preserving, but we don't need to find room for them in the kitchen. I thought, if only we could transplant this house further south.... because another thing. We've been there and done that round here over the years and after a while it gets boring. Yet go a bit further afield to new exciting places and it makes for a long and tiring day out. Then there's the problem of having poultry if we were to go for an overnight somewhere - we could leave the cats alone overnight but the chickens are the worst tie as they have to be shut inside the shed at night for their own safety. I could try to rehome them but I don't want any of them going in the pot!

And so a decision has been made, we are staying put. We will look into getting some help in the garden and we won't be growing any veg this year. No, not even courgettes (although we might still have some cherry toms in pots up by the house. I don't think I could be so drastic as to not grow a few tomatoes!) so my neighbour may be happy to offload excess courgettes on us. We plan however to get out and about more often, but I am keeping the details of what that's about to myself for the moment until the big PLAN comes into fruition. It's just that if cancer should come back to bite me in the non existent arse, I would like to have made the most of this time doing something a bit different that we will both enjoy, rather than just slogging away at same old same old. Watch this space! In any event, I am now going to try to live for today and not plan too much beyond the next few years. Who knows, any of us could get run over by a bus!!!

I'm also breathing a huge sigh of relief as I don't really want to move. The thought of starting all over again somewhere new is scary. We know everyone here in the hamlet even if we sometimes don't see them for months or even years on end. And we need to be within an hour of a hospital, and an airport which has flights to the UK, which meant Rennes or Nantes anyway. I could wave goodbye to my lake, but would feel sad about leaving my buried pets. I'm now beginning to feel a bit less gloomy too - December was a dreadful month for me and I spent a full three days in bed after the chemo port was taken out. Not due to pain. I can't tell you why. I'd feel teary for no reason, plus people kept dying - not people I knew personally but either friends of friends or family, or virtual friends, which was affecting me greatly. I think there was a bit of survivor guilt in there too.

Back to this place - we can't stay here forever; it never was our intention with a big house and so much land to still be toiling away into old age. But for now Chateau Moorhen will live on with us as its guardians.

I can't post without mentioning the death of an absolute genius in the world of music and art - yes that bloody disease took him too but I am not taking this one to heart. But he will live on through his music, like all the legends. 

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Moths from back in November, and one I would rather not have seen

I suddenly had a thought the other day that there must have been many times during December when I could have put my moth trap out. Indeed, there were overnight lows in December that were warmer than some nights in October or November! But in my low mood I never even thought about it.  It has however reminded me that I still had these moths from mid November to post.

Then there was a funny which I had meant to add to my last post but didn't get round to it, but it's far more suited to this post, so if moths bore you then scroll down to the last two pics! 

This time I thought to bring in some Liquidambar leaves so I could shoot them on a colourful background, but many moths refused to play ball and either flew off or stayed put in their egg cartons. Never mind.

This was my favourite, The Sprawler (Asteroscopus sphinx).

And again, The Sprawler (Asteroscopus sphinx).

This is a Yellow-line Quaker (Agrochola macilenta).

Some were sleepy in the egg cartons and took a lot of encouragement to come out for a photo. I'm out of touch with the IDing so I am not sure I've got the right ID for this; all the others I identified at the time and keyworded the names into my database (thank goodness for that!).

Not wanting to come out of the the egg carton - I think this may be a Lunar Underwing?

The same moth encouraged to come out onto a leaf - possibly a Lunar Underwing?

Scarce Umber (Agriopis aurantiaria).

This one falls into the the category 'I don't have a clue'.

A pale or worn out version of a Feathered Thorn (Colotois pennaria).

A fresh, darker specimen of Feathered Thorn (Colotois pennaria).

Both Feathered Thorn and The Sprawler doing what moths do best. Sleeping. :-)

As for the next one... well I haven't been using my breadmaker very much (or even doing much cooking) over the last year, so my seeds and grains haven't been used much. I was a bit surprised then to see this little chap or chapess in the airtight container where I keep my sesame seeds.... of course it was dead, due to the container. I was going to be brave and just carry on using the sesame seeds until I looked a bit closer and saw a lot of webby stuff and some lumps in amongst the grains - ugh, no thanks! Chucked the lot and then when I got my new unopened pack of sesame seeds out they were marked best before 2013!! So I dread to think how old the ones I chucked were. No wonder things were hatching out. :-) But the new packet was fine so got used.

Let's called this one the Sesame Moth, although I am sure
it was saying "Open Sesame" before it expired, poor thing. ;-)

It wasn't very big, which is a good thing as I didn't want to see any grubs in the seeds!!

It could very well be Indian Mealmoth which get inside all sorts of seeds and grains, although my specimen looks like a very worn out version. Perhaps it's been dead for a long time! 

As usual, if you spot any errors in my IDing then please do let me know.