Garlic!

50 gorgeous pink Lautrec garlic cloves ready to go in the ground!

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I was absolutely thrilled to discover I could plant garlic in the spring. Apparently yields are slightly less than for autumn planted garlic but who cares – I get to grow garlic! This variety have a lovely flavour and nice big plump bulbs, they are quite expensive in the shop too so well worth growing, fingers crossed they do grow for me. I can’t wait to see how they go, I’ll definitely update!

 

Garden part I

One of the things we loved as soon as we saw the house was the garden. I thought I better do some posts about it as it has started featuring heavily in my life again the last few days with some gorgeous spring like weather!

It was pretty bare when we viewed the house as it was the end of winter. By the time we got back to France in May it looked like a jungle and scared the life out of us! Here are some photos of what we had to work and deal with!

The figs outside the back door!

The greenhouse all set up and ready to go (not – but at least the bones are there!).

Looking back up at the house from the greenhouse door:

Stood on the terrace (next to the house in the first photo) looking back down the garden (yes we do have our own windmill!!):

Panning left:

And left again (our land ends where the tree line is):

Some massive ancient yukkas at the front:

Wow that makes me exhausted just looking at that!

Sunday autumn walk in the forest.

The weather is just perfect for walks at the moment – generally dry and reasonably warm (around 20 degrees a lot of days). Sundays are always a little fraught as it is hunting season and certain areas are full of the hunters in their fluro orange vests! The woods behind us seem fairly hunter free but even so we were careful to go out late afternoon. The sun was low and the colours and light were gorgeous!

This is looking back across the field behind us towards our house as we were heading off:

We spotted some mad crazy mushrooms (no way was I picking them!):

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The forest is just lovely, we are so lucky to have it just behind our house!

The little guy was just happy looking all around us and at his mummy when we stopped!:

The big boys were happy cutting hazel branches along the way to make arrows (their new favourite pastime!):

I was happy picking up kindling for the fire! I reckon I got about three or four fires worth into the pram!

Heading back home the sunset was amazing I’m just sorry I only had my phone with me as I don’t think it coped too well with any of the light that was in the forest and the sunset (which in real life was incredible!). I’ll remember to take my proper camera next time! If you could see it our place is on the far right of the picture but all you can see is the hedges!

I hope you all had lovely Sundays and are having great weeks! xx

Home made vine wreath.

I have been wanting to make a wreath for a very long time, a simple wooden one that can be decorated depending on the season. Our barn door was looking sadly barn like and the front of the house a little drab and not like a house (well it was a barn and has some characteristics that are more barn than house like!). Someone dropped Josh off after his youth group and commented ‘wow it really is a barn’ which spurred me to take a closer look and to do some quick fixes to make it look a bit more loved and house like from the front!

I had a search online of some tutorials for making your own wreath and lots of them used vine branches – what do you know I have a big one growing (and desperately needing some trimming) at each end of our property! We actually have 2 barns, one that we live in and is in the process of being renovated and the other which is just a barn so to avoid confusion I’ll call the house barn the house and the other barn the barn from here on in!

It was actually pretty easy and fun as well, I think I’ll be making more of them, although I was surprised at the number of vines I used so I’m not sure how many I’ll be able to get from our grape vines.

My first decoration scheme is obviously autumn, with a simple oak twig and acorns. I’m quite impressed with the effect and I think it looks like someone lives here now!

I’ve now added some lovely coloured leaves but it is pouring today so I’ll wait for some sun to get an update photo! Halloween decorations for it are all organised, the lovely couple in our village épicerie (general store) got me in some gorgeous little mini decorative pumpkins. I just need to work out how to attach them!

First Frost!

I was very excited last week to have the first proper frost of the year (not so excited the night before when there was a little frost which nearly wiped out the entire seasons basil crop!). I managed to get some pictures of the lovely view driving down our lane when I took Louis to school – you can see the village in the distance, we are about a kilometre out of town.

Coming back towards our house the sun was coming up at the side of our barn, the frost didn’t last long at all once the sun was up as our days are still fairly nice and warm. Spot the pesky mole hill!

And a couple in the garden:

In this one you can see the 2m x 2m concrete base and gate that are already there waiting for my hen house and run at the back of the garden! The house is about 10m behind me when I took this to give you some perspective.

The weather has warmed up a bit again – thankfully as we aren’t quite ready for the -1 degree nights yet, it was a bit nippy! Our wood heater is working well though so our kitchen / living is warm and cosy as is the boys room above.

Amazing Autumn!

I love autumn, the colours of the trees, the feeling of the long, hot summer coming to an end, the darkening of the evenings, getting ready for winter, the smell of woodsmoke in the air in the evenings. The seasons were one of the things I missed most when living back in Australia – especially when we were in Queensland!

Having our wood delivered by our lovely neighbour and lighting the fire for the first time was a joy as it has been so long!

The boys were fabulous and as it was Wednesday afternoon, which they have off, they stacked all of it!

With our garden full of hazelnut and walnut trees there has been lots of nut harvesting over the last month or so. We were waiting impatiently for the hazelnuts to be ready, checking them every few days (the trees had so many of them on there!), then from one check to the next they had all disappeared! We think the squirrels must have been onto it quicker than us! We got a bowl full and that is it!

The walnut trees are a different story, they have been coming down for weeks now and we collect them up every couple of days and lay them flat in the sun for a few days to dry out, there are kilos and kilos of them! This was our first bag, which were thought was a lot – what did we know, this was barely a tip of an iceberg!

This was another days harvest, the 3 different containers have the nuts from the three trees. I’ve gone and bought a proper collecting basket now to help deal with them all!

I ended up finishing collecting with a little helper who just wanted his mummy who had been out collecting nuts for far to long for his liking!

 

The lanes around are full of chestnut trees and my MIL (mother in law) has been collecting them when she takes the baby for a walk. We haven’t done anything with them yet but we are looking at recipes on line and working out what to do!

We also have had bounty from the neighbours garden, amazing apples and excitingly some quinces. I’ve never seen or used a quince before but love the quince paste that is so popular in Australia to eat with cheese. It is also known as Membrillo in Spain where it is very famous. We decided to try our hand at making it – we had a change of direction as we were going to do jam and had already added a few of the apples so we have ended up with quince and apple paste but it is still delicious (although a little sweeter than the original). I’m going to pack it up in little squares and use it and gift in in the coming months (apparently it keeps at least 3 months with some people saying it is fine for up to 12 months).

I’ve spotted some rouge rhubarb growing in what will be the veggie patch so I’m waiting for that to be ready.

Am completely loving autumn and all the amazing produce that comes with it!

Amazing food in the Dordogne from our March 2015 trip!

As I mentioned in the post about our house hunting trip in March we have been wowed by the quality of the food in the Perigord and I though some of our finds during that trip deserved their own post!

Joël and I manage a lunch out on our own one day while house hunting. We found a great little restaurant in Issigeac called Casa Del Seyrat, they did a fantastic lunch menu and even though we arrived at the very last moment to be served the owner and staff were lovely and had a great chat with us as we were leaving when they heard we were here to find a home!:

For entrée I had a lovely selection of crudités (salad bits) and J had a soup. For main we both had the steak with an incredible red wine and shallot sauce, carrots in a cream sauce and of course frites!

For dessert I nabbed the last piece of the tart made with the local (ish) ‘prunes de Agen’ (J had to manage with a gorgeous chocolate mousse which I was too busy to take a picture of!). It was amazing!

At the end of another long house viewing day trip across in the area around Sarlat we were driving back along the river and decided to stop for dinner.  There is an amazing village in the rock overhanging the Dordogne river called Beynac-et-Cazenac (look it up it is really amazing!).

We wandered up the hill and found a restaurant called ‘La Petite Tonnelle’, they had a set menu for 2 courses for just over 20 euros so we decided to try it as it looked lovely. I’m so glad we did, it was the nicest meal I’d had in a long long time. We all decided to go for the main and dessert, except for my mother in law who chose the fish soup starter (which I forgot to take a picture of!). The boys had the confit de canard (confied duck) with a pesto, white beans and puree (artichoke maybe, I can’t remember), I was jealous when it came out and hoped I’d made the right choice with mine:

Hubby and my mother in law had the veal which looked divine as well:

I chose the lamb and I was wowed over when mine came out:

The little pyramid was filled with spiced butternut and a red capsicum / pepper sauce it was really really delicious and the lamb just melt in your mouth.

Our little man wasn’t eating yet but enjoyed being out with us!

The wall of the restaurant was the wall of the cliff with water seeping out right next to us – very cool!

The meal finished with divine chocolate fondants – a picture says 1000 words!

It is a shame we didn’t get any photos of the village in the light but this was our walk back down the hill from the restaurant back to the car:

We also enjoyed all the local produce and cooked up a storm! One night was one of my all time favourite meals, magret de canard (duck breast) with green beans and potato gratin – delicious!

And my MIL made a lovely homemade tarte tatin which we had with crème fraiche:

And finally with the arrival of spring it was a real pleasure to stop one Sunday and not go house hunting and have our first meal of the year outside:

I did manage to put a few kilos on between staying with my MIL in the UK and the month in France but thankfully have got them all back off over the summer!

House hunting in the Dordogne – March 2015

A quick recap of what we have been up to this year. We left Oz at the beginning of February and flew into the UK so we could stay at my mother in laws while we found our feet and bought a car. After three weeks we headed off to France for a house hunting trip (with grandmére in tow to help with the kids).

I wanted to find somewhere central to stay and we found a lovely gíte mid way between Perigueux and Bergerac. If you are ever in the region Thomas and Marion were just lovely and the gite charming and really well equipped http://www.gite-mamet.com/ . If you are there on a house hunting trip or off season it has a lovely wood burner as well as electric heating and they are happy to do long winter lets. It was perfect for our house hunting which took us all over the Dordogne, we clocked up about 2,000 km in the month we were there.

We saw some lovely properties, some out of our price range and a lot that were in our price range not habitable enough for us. We wanted a property that needed a lot doing that would therefore be affordable and that we could make our own but with at least a kitchen / bathroom / 2 bedrooms habitable even if basic. I had a list of what we needed from our new French home and it was something like this:

  • On the edge of a village or hamlet just outside a village
  • Village to have all the basic amenities, primary school, shop, baker, bar as a minimum
  • Not too far to bigger towns
  • Garden big enough to have veggies, chooks etc
  • Preferably a detached property

We started feeling a bit overwhelmed and worried when we hit the final week of our house hunting trip at the end of March and still hadn’t found anything. I went back through all the properties that I’d discounted (mainly due to price). There were a few in and around the same village so I made some appointments in the final week. One agent who showed us a property that we loved the location of, in a hamlet on the edge of a village (with all on my above list and more!). The house wasn’t right for us (no where near enough stone for our liking!) but the location was amazing, great views, set among houses on decent blocks of land (half to a couple of acres), only a kilometre out of the village, I even said to J I’d be tempted to consider the house due to the location. As we drove away there was a lovely old stone barn next door with gorgeous stone work and garden all around and I said to the other half ‘I wish that was for sale’, it was ticking all the boxes! When we got back to the gite I checked our appointment for the next day and I couldn’t believe it but it looked like it could be the same building. We met the agent the next day and sure enough he drove us to the same barn but all the photos had been taken from the back hence why we weren’t sure when we first saw it. Things slowed at this point with negotiations to buy it as it was slightly above budget and the agent went away for a few days and we went back to the UK for our family holiday with my family. It looked like it wouldn’t happen but after a couple of weeks of negotiations from afar we managed to come to a deal!

The trip itself in March was great, we had a lovely time with the kids and the MIL, I particularity loved having a wood burner again and sitting by the fire with my crochet!

We visited the amazing Château de Castelnaud with it’s museum of medieval warfare, the long climb to the top of the stairs gave us an amazing view:

One of my favourite parts of the castle were the lovely herb garden with 4 different areas for aromatics, medicinal, and not sure what the other two were now, that they had found plans for and recreated. In the centre was an almond tree which was just coming into blossom when we were there.

I also loved the kitchen which was set out as it would have been back in the day:

The boys favourite part was all the to scale medieval trebouchets and other war equipment (Louis enjoyed running around with the wooden bow we bought him!):

Of course we couldn’t resist a photo opportunity at the end:

I’m not sure the baby quite knew what was happening bless him!

Other days out included the famous caves at Lascaux with their amazing cro-magnon cave paintings, some of the oldest in the world. During the month we also had some amazing meals and lots of yummy French bread, cheese and patisserie and enjoyed spring arriving while we were there (it was bleak and freezing when we arrived but by mid March we had some lunches outside with the temperature getting up into the 20’s!). It was such a pleasure being back in France but also discovering a whole new area with it’s own amazing culinary and historic wonders! A successful trip all around which found us our new home!