Friday, 31 July 2009


We popped up to the woodland around Peguere this afternoon and collected enough chanterelle/girolle mushrooms for a contribution to dinner this a gigantic parasol mushroom....
....that Andy cut into segments and lightly fried in tempura batter this evening. Mmm, yummy!

Dinner on the new terrasse this evening was a salad (homegrown lettuce, raw carrot, chives plus other bought in stuff) with manchons de confit de canard, gesiers and chanterelle mushrooms.
Reet scrummy it was! Then evening fell...and a magnificent sunset followed...It's OK in these parts - I 'spose ;-)

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Projet terminé!

Whilst Andy was down in Foix for his French lesson this afternoon, I cracked on with treating the decking boards which is the final stage of the terrasse project. It took me a few hours but the treated pine was gradually transformed into a lovely warm shade of oak. At last (well, it has only take us 10 days from start to finish!), the terrasse is finished! All that is required now is for some trellis to be put up between the ground and the decking at the steepest end and for some scented climbing plants to be planted. I will also be putting pots of scented plants and flowers on the decking itself to make it a really special place to sit out. Other news is that I dug up my first parsnip this evening as they are looking over-crowded in places. It was a monster, which shows just what good soil I have!True, they taste sweeter after experiencing a frost, but I am sure this one will still taste scrummy and there are plenty more to follow

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


Well, raspberries are really up there as one of my favourite fruits. I brought some autumn-fruiting stubby canes back from mum's in March, planted them in the potager and I already have a small handful of fruit off them! There are plenty more flowers on the canes so I should have more fruit very soon, but I doubt whether there will be sufficient to make jam this year

Tuesday, 28 July 2009


I have spent most of today on the new terrasse staining/treating the woodwork. It has been hot (nearly 30 degrees in the shade). My back copped rather more sun than was wise but I think I caught it in time and Andy quickly slapped a load of factor 28 on me! Progress has been slow but worthwhile. It is a tedious, painstaking job staining each individual balustrade but it is lovely to see the naked pine transformed into a warm, oakey wood. Photos tomorrow when hopefully I will also have had the chance to stain the baseboards. While I was staining, Andy was constructing a new gate for the front terrace to replace the rotting, collapsing excuse for a gate that the previous owners had put up. Pics tomorrow when I have stained it!

My first job this morning was some clearance in the potager before I sowed some more F1 Nelson carrots and also more spring greens. I have got spare space now that the garlic and leeks are out and am keen to keep the plot working. I still need to sow some little gem lettuce and more spinach and then more leeks will go in hopefully before the weekend. More good news today, my first chillis are appearing so I am at last optimistic that we will get some fruit!

Monday, 27 July 2009


Last year, I failed miserably. This year I thought I would try again. My two aubergine plants have grown nice and bushy and have had plenty of flowers but little sign of fruit developing so far. Until I spotted low down and hidden by foliage a glossy, purple aubergine about 4" long! Success at last! Let's hope it won't be the only one.The capsicums are also developing well and will hopefully start turning red in the next week or two.
The trusses of cherry tomatoes are heavy on the plants but have not yet started turning red. More sun please.

Sunday, 26 July 2009


Well, I have run out of stain for the woodwork, so a visit to St G tomorrow to get some more and then we can complete the project. Just thought I would share our new view with you in the meantime

Projet terrasse update no. 4

Andy made great progress getting the balustrade system up yesterday. Our construction is now looking like a proper terrasse!Today I will be treating and staining the wood and hopefully tomorrow projet terrasse will be completed - hurrah!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

A circuit on the roadie

This afternoon was spent down in the Foix direction again. Whilst Andy was enjoying his French lesson I had a spin on the roadie. It was perfect weather for it, overcast and in the mid/upper 20s. I started at Verniolle and headed south and then along towards the underground cave systems of Labouiche, following another one of the circuits in our little pamphlet of rides in the area. Quiet roads, gently undulating apart from a killer climb (after already doing 33kms) from la Bastide de Serou up to Alzen - 300m of ascent in just under 4kms. Ouch! Sum total was 54kms, 1000m of ascent in 2 hrs 45m. I am tired this evening!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


Some more potager success today, when I discovered that the pesky voles had actually left half a dozen garlic bulbs untouched. I dug up the lovely big fat bulbs and they are now curing in the hot daytime sun. They smell wonderfully garlicky and I can't wait until we can use them in our cooking. Just a shame I don't have more bulbs to show for my autumnal efforts!The shallots that have been curing in the kitchen for the past 3 weeks are now ready to be stored and look fantasticI also dug up all of the leeks today as they were showing signs of going to seed. Some are now in the freezer and others are in the fridge for more immediate use. I have also put better support in for the tomatoes and trimmed back much of the excess foliage to give the fruit a chance to ripen. Hopefully soon we will have cherry tomatoes on the menu. I now have enough ripe courgettes (round and long) to make a batch of chutney .... yummy!

While I was busy in the potager, Andy was busy screwing down the decking boards with literally hundreds of screws.... quite a task. We now have an idea of the balustrade look that we want and will be pricing up the wood tomorrow. Hopefully the terrasse will be finished by the end of the coming weekend.

This morning we also had a major tidy up around Pissou, with the lawnmower and strimmer both in action. It was very hot, sweaty work but it was desperately needed as it was starting to resemble a jungle around here!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Growing your own comes into its own

So, we had some dinner left over from two nights ago (a homemade pork Thai green curry, seeing as you ask), but just not quite enough for two people. But with the addition of some steamed homegrown French beans and slivers of homegrown courgette we were able to bulk the meal out to be more than adequate for 2 people. It's quite a nice sensation to see the normal 'vegetable bowl' empty (apart from onions) but knowing that the potager can provide what we now need. And let's not talk about the monetary saving on organic veg purchases ....

Projet terrasse update no. 3

Took the dog down to St Girons for his annual rabies booster this morning then we got cracking on projet terrasse again this afternoon. Temperatures reached 34 degrees in the shade, so it has been very hot, sticky work today. But we got the subframe fully treated, black polythene laid underneath the terrasse to prevent weeds from coming through and the decking boards laid with just some cutting out around the upright poles to be done tomorrow to finish them off. Next, what balustrade system to go for ......? But it's looking good, isn't it?

Monday, 20 July 2009

Projet terrasse update no. 2

It's been hot and sticky (up to 30 degrees) today, so thank goodness we got the hard physical work out of the way yesterday. We made good progress today and got the three main cross beams fixed to the uprights. The 11 other horizontal beams also fitted nicely into place and we have this evening got the majority of the structure treated to protect it against the rain and also insect attack. Tomorrow we can lay the decking boards and then we just need to decide what kind of balustrade system to use before we can call the job a good 'un!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Côté potager....

... let's not forget the potager! It has basically been going bonkers! The leeks, baby carrots, F1 Nelson carrots, French beans and Charlotte potatoes are on our table most days, the cherry tomatoes just need some sun and then we will have a glut ..... the parsnips are developing well, the courgettes are now ready (round and long) the third sowing of beetroot went in today, the second sowing of spinach is developing well.... you get the picture!

Projet terrasse update no. 1

Today we have made great progress on the terrasse construction. The hole-digging went without a hitch this morning and all 9 upright posts have now been concreted in, ready for the 3 big crossbeams to be bolted onto them tomorrow. The posts are currently all at different heights which emphasises the slope that we are having to work with. But all will be chainsawed down to the level of the post on the left corner of the house in due course (apart from the two posts in front of the doors which will have a supporting role only) and the decking will be level with the top of the step from the rear doors.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Projet terrasse

The weather cleared overnight to leave us with a cool, overcast day today. Perfect conditions for hole-digging and hopefully we would be able to get some of the corner posts in today. But first we had to clear the area which was covered with weeds, rocks and bits of rotting woodWe have seen various snakes around Pissou over the past month or two (a grass snake and also adders) so we both warily set to, moving rocks and stones to one side. Our first surprise was not a snake but some snake eggs concealed beneath one of the rocks
A little later, close to the house, I moved some more small stones and surprised a young adder, which Andy was able to manoeuvre into a jam jar so that we could safely take some photos of itbefore releasing him a safe distance from the house

Anyway, back to the ground preparation and by the end of the afternoon we actually managed to dig 3 holes and concrete in 3 upright posts, with another 5 yet to do. Progress is being made!

Friday, 17 July 2009


Well, the severe weather that was forecasted never materialised, thank goodness. Rain, yes, the odd strong gust too and temps down to 12 degrees today (quite a contrast to yesterday's 33 degrees!), but nothing too severe. The tomato plants have needed support reinforcement but they are doing just fine.

In the meantime, I bumped into Mme la Maire down in Massat earlier in the week. She advised me that the 'autorisation' for our terrasse had finally come through, so we can at last get started on the project at the back of the house. What a relief! However, it looks like we could be taking on another project over the coming months too, which will no doubt compete for our time and energy. We have decided to buy a van and convert it to a campervan, so that we can travel, explore Europe and have some adventures. We will be buying in the UK as secondhand vans are SO much cheaper over there, converting the van there and then bringing it over to France. The favourite at the moment is a long wheel base, high top Mercedes Sprinter which will eventually provide us with spacious living accommodation while we are on the road. Andy has already done a massive amount of research, we are ready to get cracking and I can't wait!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Amber alert

John left us this morning and is heading up to the Alps in his 'pegul car' (a 1970s Alfa Spider) to watch le Tour and to get in some good cycling action himself! It was 30 degrees when he left. It has reached nearly 34 degrees in the shade this afternoon so we have spent most of the day indoors. However, this evening and into the early hours of the morning we are on amber alert due to some severe storm activity which is developing not only in our area but also across much of France. Gusts of up to 100kph are possible, although the air is deadly still at the moment. Let's hope my heavily laden tomato plants are able to withstand the buffeting!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

le Tour (part deux)

Well, John finally arrived at Pissou at 02.00 last night after departing from Zeebrugge at 09.00 yesterday morning - 17 hours on the road!!! But he did travel on a public holiday Friday and encountered half of Paris escaping the city at lunchtime! So today, rather than biking up to the Col d'Agnes to watch the Tour come through (a bit of a grind at the best of times), we had a meander up to the Col de Port to watch the race from the same spot from which we watched the race two years ago. This is John and I posing at the 'summit' point.... as you do!The weather was perfect, sunny but with a slight breeze and not too hot. I took some movie clips with my new Canon which I will upload tomorrow once I have installed my new software. It has been a thrilling race so far and it was good to see the Astana guys at the head of the main peloton again. The atmosphere today was brilliant (as it always is as the Tour passes) and it was good to see the Couserans area on the TV in the Auberge at the Col de Port as the race made it's way up to the Col d'Agnes. I found the discussion about the pronounciation of Agnès and the river Salat (should the final consonant be pronounced or not?!) intriguing. In this area, the final consonant IS pronounced which is contrary to the general French way. Sometimes it's fun to be different ;-)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

New toys

We have been very restrained in our spending over recent months, trying to build a bit of a buffer in anticipation of what we thought would be a hefty tax/social charges bill over here. Fortunately, thanks to two excellent accountants, that bill did not materialise so we haven't felt too guilty about spending a little bit of dosh recently! My new compact digital camera arrived today (a Canon Ixus 870 IS in case anybody is interested) to replace my old Fuji which is 4 years old and rapidly on its way out. We have also bought some 'proper' mountain bike helmets and a new brake system for my mountain bike to replace the troublesome unit that came with the bike 4 years ago. So now its time to play! I will be heading over to Justin and Emily's on the bike tomorrow to give J a hand sorting out the house in preparation for Emily's homecoming with their new twins at the w/e and then the TDF on Saturday will give me the opportunity to test the camera. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Perking up

Looked out of the window this morning to see some blue sky! We headed down to Foix this afternoon for Andy's French lesson, so I took the roadie on an excellent ride which I did with him in early June around the quiet lanes to the east of Foix. I blasted round the 55km circuit (800m of ascent) in 2 hrs and 10 mins - it had taken us just shy of 3 hrs last time! It was a cracking outing with everything working well and legs feeling strong and the weather was perfect - overcast and in the low 20s. Excellent!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Le Tour

Well, the weather has been dire here for the past 4 days .... cold (14 degrees today) and very very wet. The potager has had a damn good watering but it is in danger of getting drowned if the weather doesn't clear imminently! We have been avidly watching the Tour de France via the internet (what an exciting few stages we have had so far!) and desperately hoping for a weather break before Saturday when they will be coming from Andorra to Tarascon, up over the Col de Port and down into Massat before climbing back up to the Col d'Agnes and eventually finishing in Saint Girons. Fortunately, the weather does look like it is improving from here onwards, so we intend to cycle on the roadies up to somewhere between the Etang de Lers and the Col d'Agnes from where we can watch the climb. Should be exciting! I'm looking forward to it already!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Storm avoidance

The thunder storms continue to rattle around us here and it looks set to continue for the next couple of days. So I headed down to Pat's this morning in the hope that it would be clearer down there. Fortunately, it was, so we hopped onto the mountain bikes, rode from the house along quiet lanes for 10kms with a steady ascent to start with and then picked up the signs for the red route no. 7 which took us along some interesting paths and tracks which were muddy and slippy in parts, requiring a certain degree of bike control if a muddy bum was to be avoided! It was interesting undulating terrain which finished back on quiet lanes and farm tracks. The thunder was rattling above Foix as we made our return and I was sure we would not be able to avoid a drenching, but miraculously we did! Sum total for the outing, 43kms and I don't know how much ascent but it wasn't loads

Friday, 3 July 2009

What a cracker!

We have had a proper alpine storm this evening, with thunder bouncing off the surrounding hillsides. It was also amazingly, mesmerisingly beautiful as the clouds made their way up the valley.The pooch was slightly less than happy though!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Has beans

We have enjoyed the first pick of the French beans today and totally delicious they are too!The beetroot is also jolly fine. This is nearly the end of the crop from the 2nd sowing Today I have thinned out the turnips which are developing well. I have also had to tie back the tomato plants as they have gone rampant over the past week, with masses of flowers and settng fruit. I can't wait until they are ready!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

That's shallot!

At the end of October, I planted some shallot sets. Today, they were ready for harvesting. And quite a harvest it has been!
The potager has been plagued by voles over recent weeks. Fortunately the shallots escaped their attentions, although they have destroyed my garlic crop and have now started on the carrots. We have set traps but they don't take the bait .... why should they when they have a fully-stocked underground larder!!

Today, I have sown more spinach and will hopefully clear the ground where the shallots and garlic were later in the week ready for more planting. Quite what I shall plant, I don't yet know!