Sunday, 31 July 2011

Fête du bois du temple - 2ème Randomée Autos - Motos Rétro

Today we attended the Fête du bois du temple - 2ème Randomée Autos - Motos Rétro. It was held in our village in the wood adjacent to the village hall just across the field from our house.

The morning started with an extensive Vide Grenier. The stalls covered a huge area and continued throughout the day.

From lunchtime onwards the stars of the show were the old cars and motorbikes... There was a great selection of French, American and British vehicles of varying ages on display. Here are a couple of general pictures. For all you car enthusiasts, like myself, I have included a good selection of individual vehicle pictures on the Autos - Motos Rétro Page.


As always in France the event was very well attended with people coming from all around the area. The event concludes tonight with a firework display at 23:00 hours.... We will be there....

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Stuffed Woodpecker

We thought we would share with you our latest recipe.

Roast woodpecker stuffed with hazelnuts and served with Grapes and Celeriac Puree.

Woodpecker is a bird that is available year-round. Young birds are best for eating. This recipe will cook the woodpeckers to rare - so ensuring maximum flavour.
  • 4 woodpeckers, plucked and cleaned
  • 2 lbs Hazelnuts
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 celeriac root, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 1/2 lb small (seedless) black grapes (250 g)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • You will also need:
  • Foil
  • A masher
Preheat the oven to 266 degrees F (130 degrees C). Season the woodpeckers with salt & pepper and stuff with the hazelnuts. Heat half of the butter in a frying pan and brown the woodpeckers over a medium heat. Make sure that you also brown the legs (they may take longer than the breasts).
Place the woodpeckers on a baking sheet and roast for approximately 12 minutes on the middle rack of the oven. Take the woodpeckers out of the oven and allow to rest on a warm plate, loosely covered with foil. Now increase the oven temperature to 392 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Meanwhile, cook the celeriac for 15 minutes in plenty of salted water.
Snip smaller bunches of grapes from the bunch of grapes and carefully toss in the olive oil on the baking sheet. Roast the grapes in the middle of the oven for approximately 15 minutes.
Now drain the celeriac and mash to a rustic puree with the rest of the butter. Season the puree with freshly grated nutmeg, salt & pepper.
Divide the celeriac puree over four warmed plates, dish up the roast woodpeckers and place a small bunch of grapes on each plate. Drizzle with the grape 'gravy'.

 Bon Appétit...

Stop... only a joke but actually what I would like to do to the woodpeckers that have stolen ALL our hazelnuts. The only recipe change would be that they would be already stuffed!!!!!

Friday, 29 July 2011

A few days at the coast...

Yes we have been on holiday for a few days and instead of our usual destination of the UK we went to La Rochelle and the L'îlle de Rê. La Rochelle is 195kms (120 miles) from Braye and it is the easiest part of the coast for us to get to as the drive is all motorway and dual carriageway. The downside is the 9:70€ each way toll but the plus side is you are there in just over 2 hours. La Rochelle has a very pretty harbour and old town, it was quite busy being the middle of the French holidays.


We toured the area to the south of La Rochelle, Châtelaillon Plage as far as Fouras (about 20 miles). There were many beaches to explore, some were busier than others but none could be said to be overcrowded. The picture below is one of the quieter ones at Fouras.

We then paid the quite pricey sum of 16:50€ to go over the bridge to the L'îlle de Rê. We did not really know what to expect but it was spectacular... and well worth a visit.


We will be featuring some of the more interesting aspects of both areas in future blogs so watch this space.. We both enjoyed our short break away and will most definitely be visiting the area again.

Interesting Fact - St Martin de Re one of the main tourist towns on the L'îlle de Rê  is twined with Esperance in Western Australia. Esperance is a large town in the Goldfields-Esperance region  located on the Southern Ocean.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

French Butterfly Atlas - July update

Last weekend we went to complete the July survey for STERF, the French Butterfly Atlas project.

The outright star this month was the Gatekeeper, pyronia tithonus. It really stole the show....

They were so numerous we had to estimate rather than do an accurate count. Estimates were up in the 50s along some of the transects we survey.

A refreshing change was provided first by the Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria...

And then by a very attractive Sooty Copper, Heodes tityrus...

Colin was photographing a bee on Ragwort when a chance entrant took the limelight. We've not been able to identify it conclusively so would appreciate any help on this one...

I couldn't resist this last shot. It shows the boundary of one transect and although it is heavily managed woodland, I can't help but see it as magical in the sunlight..

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Magic Roundabout 2

This weeks featured roundabout is again on a road we travel frequently between our house and Dissay (the home of Brico Depot). It is only a small roundabout on the D757 in the centre of the village of Lencloître. This years theme is obviously the beach.


The theme is continued in other areas of the village with small areas being decorated accordingly.

Given this is a small community of less than 2500 people, they have certainly made the village look good for the summer... Well done to them.

Courtesy of Google earth you can see what the roundabout normally looks like....

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Kitchen worktops and tiles...

The kitchen worktops in our house are tiled with the same tiles that are used on the splash-back. We have never liked both the tiles or the tiled worktops since we bought the house. The tiling itself is not what I would consider to be professional; it is far from even.....

After much discussion about the kitchen and a look at a few kitchen outlets we are going to replace both items. Today we made a start on removing the first (and easiest) of the worktops...

As the tiles are on thick chipboard that has been screwed to the base units, they had to be removed. This done, it is a case of find the screws and unscrew.

Just when you think you have found them all one turns up in the most awkward of places to remove.. and then another...

It was, to say the least, difficult - and this was the easy one!

We have discovered that it can be done by dismantling the unit itself, so this was a good learning exercise. I have a feeling the next main worktops will NOT be straight forward...

Watch this space.....

Monday, 25 July 2011

Potager update ( Salad Area)

It is some time since I wrote about the potager, 28th May to be exact. Where has the time gone...  The four rows of potatoes have died off and we have been eating them since the 28th May. We have started digging the rest up for storing. Peas have been and gone ( Eaten and frozen.) Haricote beans are endless and our freezer is filling up fast. The rest of the produce we are picking and eating as required.

Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers well!!!


My reservations about growing tomatoes outside were totally unfounded. I have never ever had so many tomatoes on each truss. Elizabeth has just picked seven pounds and as I write is looking for recipes!!! The majority of seeds I cultivated were English varieties which I wrote about here

My only minor disappointment is with the choice of cucumber. I should have had one which was F1 and did not need the male flowers nipping off.  They are incredibly difficult to spot and miss one and the cucumbers are bitter... There is always next year....

I have never had any success with peppers grown in the greenhouse but here they have done well. We bought the plants at a local market and one was a chili pepper.

Even the chilli's I planted from seed are beginning to flower.

We are fortunate to have had the well water to keep the potager watered during the very dry weather. It has definitely been worth the effort watering every night for what seemed like weeks...

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Cheeky Woodpecker

Elizabeth noted the cache of cones and nuts under the pear tree earlier in the month. At the time we thought it could be mice... Wrong... yesterday evening the culprit was caught red headed as it were!!!

The juvenile greater spotted or middle spotted woodpecker was pinching our hazelnuts, placing them in a knot hole in the pear tree and breaking them open. A trait more common with greater spotted woodpeckers.

After it spotted me it was off leaving the evidence in the hole!!

However, in a pathetic attempt to save some of our hazelnuts, when it returns it will find it has been replaced by a stone.

Note on the Taupes... None caught as of today.... Looking like it may be the gas fireworks again!!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Taupes Episode 5 - After the drought....

Back in April I did everything to reduce the number of Taupes (moles) putting large amounts of soil on top of our nice green grass!! I thought I had had some success... Think again Colin; the only success was the dry weather which had made to ground like concrete. A decent amount of rain and ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Over the last few days the mole hills have been appearing at an alarming rate.

 What a mess they make...
So its back to the traps...
The runs are located by pushing a stick into the ground and feeling for the holes. Once these are located the run is quickly exposed, a set trap dropped in and the gaps around filled. Speed is of the essence since moles can detect the fresh air...

So is wearing gloves as they also have an acute sense of smell.

My five traps where set yesterday with no success, two had been snapped but no moles. Moles are known on occasions to push soil in front of them which I assume must have happened on this occasion. Today I have moved and reset all five traps. 

We will see what tomorrow brings...

Friday, 22 July 2011

Aire de Loisirs

For some time now we've been meaning to follow a sign to the Aire de Loisirs, on the road between Braye and the neighbouring village of Braslou. Yesterday I cycled down to do some exploring...

A track leads through the sunflower fields down to a small lake, but at present it can hardly be called a lake..

The lack of rain over the past months has left a cracked basin where once there was water.

There were plenty of butterflies around and one beauty of a fly which I've not come across before.

By coincidence Susan mentions one very like it in Days on the Claise today. Perhaps this is one of "lookalikes"; a close relative of Gymnosoma called Ectophasia crassipennis.

As for the rest of the Aire de loisirs,  it comprised a hut, some benches and a few horse riding jumps in the far field.

We will explore it further when the rains have done their bit to restore life and interest to the area.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Water Softener Part 2

Up with the lark, well 08:45, breakfast and some jugs of water for the necessary brews. It was all go, water turned off, old pipework stripped out and the remaining new pipework fabricated to suit. BUT as usually happens I discovered I was one fitting short... Down to the Colomat in Richelieu which fortunately stocked what I required.

Pipework assembled and the last soldered joint was made...

The water was turned fully back on and the minor leaks on the compression fittings were repaired by a bit more brute force tightening them. All ready to connect the softener, add the salt and commission.

Commissioning involved programming the digital controller with time,day and then the water hardness; ours tested at 350 ppm. For information on Water Harness See Here

This was then followed by an initial regeneration cycle which took 82 minutes. (this will in future happen at 02:00 hrs when we have used approximately 2000 litres of water - hopefully!)

We now have a fully functional water softener, although we will have some time to wait until we have used the 300 litres of hard hot water before we can enjoy the full benefits....

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Water Softener part 1

Coming from the soft water area of North West England we have certainly noticed the hard water available to us here in Braye. After months of discussion and a little research we decided to go for a water softener that will cover the whole house, with the exception of one tap for drinking water should we require to use it.

The model shown will more than cover our requirements and is digital meter controlled. This means it works by measuring the amount of water used and then regenerating accordingly. It is being sited at the point of water entry in the garage next to our hot water tank.

We will be utilising  the existing filter and pressure reducing valve to save on cost.  After a visit to Brico Depot for the remaining plumbing supplies (they are considerably cheaper there) we made a start on the preparatory work necessary for the installation.
Some of the new pipework.
The connection to the drain for the regeneration water.
Tomorrow is to be the full installation. The tools are ready...

I am not sure about me, but if there is no blog tomorrow I will have drowned in a torrent of water.. Softened or Hard who knows....