art: christmas quail

First (Aerial) Frost

November 29 began like the other mild days we have had thus far this autumn, but by afternoon a London fog had settled on the landscape.  Freezing temperatures during the night gave us our first aerial frost of the year.

Enjoy a little walk with me along our hedge and garden to enjoy the seasonal sight.

Some gold and silver:

The wild rose leaves were especially gorgeous with the unique crystal formation:

Festive garlands:
(black byrony berries)

Where did the spider go during the freeze?  In an webgloo?


This has been a spectacular year for holly.  Our neighbors who are in their late sixties say they have never seen so many berries.

Fare thee well, Cosmos.  See you next year.
Junebug: Diggin' life

Funky florals

These are drawings made by Farmer Boy, aged 6.  He did them with a cheap pale-pink colored pencil, so I faithfully outlined them in black ick in order to photograph them.  Sadly someone had already crumpled the paper.  I do have better examples of his highly-personal flowers, but I wanted to preserve these, too.

I totally think his designs would be perfect for textiles, etc. :P

And a bonus sun:

Email woes - Gobsmacked

Has anyone else had their entire mailbox emptied because they had not signed into the account in (according to the provider, and probably true) over a year?  I have an account that I use to store stuff, not really checking it, just sending stuff there.  Today I opened it, it still recognizes me, but it is completely empty. Not a single thing in it.
It is a Yahoo! account. Does anyone know how I can get my info back?
art: shroom sweet shroom

Bluster, bluster, storm and blow

We've been having a very wet and windy week, actually almost two weeks.  After such a dry summer, it feels both good and strange to have this weather.*  I could do without the wind, though the rain is very welcome, and we are so chufffed with our rain-catchment system.  We have been able to pump at least 18,000L (5400 gallons) into the ponds we created in our pastures. That sounds like a lot, but like I said, it has been soooooo dry that the water doesn't last long. The ponds are not waterproofed, and the soil is just drinking it up. That is OK, the aquifers need recharging, and with the mild winter they are once again predicting, we won't have much snow this year. Snow is what really helps raise the water levels.

And the weather has made staying in and writing a reasonable-seeming thing to do.  :P

I have rewritten and edited the first thirteen chapters of the first volume of my Witherwild trilogy.  It would be great to get the whole thing revised by year's end, so I can move on with book two, which is about halfway done.  I make myself no promises, though. Life is too full of surprises, both nasty and good.


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Ah, the joys of unexplained health conundrums.
cabana boys

Let me revel in this feeling

I have done it!

I have FINALLLLLLLLY finished To Be Undone, a book idea that occurred to me when we still lived in Sancerre, before we ever went to live in Mayotte and I started Witherwilds.  I think, in fact, I started to get the idea for it before even finishing The Traveler's Daughter.   To Be Undone was to be the book I wrote for myself, not sharing chapters on the OWW or giving it to critters until I had written an entire draft.  The OWW taught me so much about writing, but it also taught it me that it was easy to fall into the trap of "writing for the crit."  I wanted to avoid that with To Be Undone.

I actually "finished" the book in Sancerre but the ending was a bit rushed, and I knew it needed a few more chapters to make it richer and more fulfilling.  Well, it has those chapters and a better ending now. We shall see if it is ready to transport readers.

I will be interested in getting that kind of feedback because I really don't think I accomplished one thing that I was aiming for. However, after thinking about it and struggling with it, I don't think the thing I wanted could have been done any more thoroughly without changing the story more too much.  So now it is what it is, and HOORAY! It is done.

For now. Like I said, let me revel in the feeling of writing THE END.
art: shroom sweet shroom

A Photo Ramble

What follows will be long and quite possibly uninteresting for anyone not into growing food, but I wish to get a copy of my thoughts and observations of this growing season (as well as a few comparisons to others) in one place where I can refer back to it.  I mentioned before that I have not really allowed myself the joy of all the work we have accomplished so far because I am always looking into the future of "when it will be more like it 'should' be," and that can get pretty depressing.

(Funny side note, the above lines were written weeks ago. Alas. That is the way things go)

To battle the depression, I thought I would post some before and now pictures to truly get a grasp on just how much has changed. However, now the garden has changed even more and I need new photos. :P

(Extra Funny Side Note:  The above lines were written almost two months ago)

Let's skip the long and blather and just post some photos because I have another post I want to make.

Garden when we moved in (view from the house):

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Busy bees we've been.  I guess i fibbed because that was pretty long....
art: guitton - housework

So Happy!

An OS update, which I thought I had installed weeks ago, put an end to my horrid keyboard lag problem, and I can now type freely. Color me happy.

I have other happy news:  My "baby" bee colony (started for and given to me by a kind and generous beekeeping neighbor) is growing splendidly, contrary to the fear that took hold of me when J told me he thought, due to the lack of visible activity,  the hive was dying.  I bought J a bee suit today--as well as two for the kids (I wish I had a pic of Farmer Boy in his, but it is on J's phone)--and we went to check the state of the hive. Thank the Lord, the bees are doing so well that I went ahead and added a super on top of the main hive body to give the bees room to stock honey so that the queen can continue laying...  I pray the workers can gather enough nectar to complete their honey stores for the winter. Since I am just starting out, I don't want to be faced with the moral dilemma of letting my bees starve or feed them sugar. :-/

We now have a duck sitting on a clutch of four Khaki Campbell eggs and eight Indian Runner eggs.  It seemed a pity to let the duck sit on only four eggs, so we went ahead and bought the IR eggs in hopes of getting a flock for slug patrol.

Now for a bit of grimmer news, we only have one duckling left from the incubator clutch (and she* still doesn't look like a Khaki Campbell); however, the two goslings hatched well and are growing. We named the three after Narnia characters, so we have Lucy (duck), and Polly and Diggory (geese).

Today, we had to kill yet another sick hen. It is so heartbreaking to have to do that.  That was why I was really in a funk until we checked the bees and saw they were OK. It is hard raising life and harvesting death.
Sometimes, when a series of bad things happen, you really forget to look up and take stock of all the progress you have made.  I have been reminding myself of late how much more my garden is approaching my ideal now than it was when we bought the place. If I can find them, I will post some Then and Now photos.

This year, barring an unforeseen disaster, we should have a very nice eggplant and pepper harvest, and my tomatoes are looking good. I might even get lots of carrots.  We have already pulled up some hefty early potatoes, and I had my first-ever successful garlic harvest.  We're eating cucumbers and have had zucchini since the last week of May.**  Last year it was too hot, and this year is on the cooler side, so other harvests are slow in coming.  I am not sure pumpkins and such will have time to ripen because my plants are barely setting fruit. :-/   The winter was so mild that the garden has a pretty hefty pest load ,and all my first sowings of beans were completely wiped out. My okra was so shocked and stunted--those that have survived the insects--probably aren't going to do anything at all either.  Such is the the growing year.... Better not to put all your eggs--or seeds--in one basket.

*If Sprout's and my fledgling skills are anything to go by, after vent sexing the goslings, we have a goose and a gander.

**We've eaten plenty of other stuff, too, like peas, beets, salads, rocket and mustard, cabbage, etc. from the cooler days on...
Sprout: !!!

The Saga of Molar 47

Back in January, I started suffering from horrible tooth pain. Six months and several flare-ups later--after 5 visits to the dentist, one to an osteopath*, one to a doctor, one x-ray, one cone beam scan, and two courses of antibotics--we discovered I had a vertical fracture in my molar, right between the tooth's roots.  Last week, the dentist did a root canal, and next Thursday, I should have the permanent filling put in.
After asking the dentist how in the world I had fractured my tooth in such a way, I remembered that at the end of last year, Ti'Loup, while sitting on my lap, flung himself backwards into my chest, and his head made painful contact with my jaw. That was, I believe, the first chapter in The Saga of Molar 47.
May July 2nd bring about "The End."
*After the first course of antibiotics, during which time the pain was so great that it literally tetanized my jaw and I couldn't open my mouth more than a centimeter, I had to visit an osteopath to help unlock my jaw.
critter: Mr. Brown

Drat it

The broody duck broke open and kicked out her last duck egg. It was a beautiful duckiling, so I have no idea why she killed it. I took the remaining 2 goose eggs away from her and put them in the hated incubator. That is better than losing them to the duck's craziness.

In other duck news, our second female is laying agin, so she will go broody in about 2 weeks. We'll try to source some true Khaki Campbell eggs before then. Of  the new mystery hatchlings, two are doing great but the third is rather weak and we don't know if it will make it. *sigh*

Now for some happier news: Our potager pond is coming along nicely.  If not for the all the spates of rain and the need to scrounge up stones that go well, we could be done by now.
Cutting the liner down to size and then pegging down with soil:

Hiding the liner with stones:

How many more loads is this going to take? :P

It is going to look lovely with some plants around it. Already I love catching a glimpse of it as I walk around the garden or step out of the house.  It makes me want to fix up (water-proof and landscape it) the bigger pond. Gotta get some pigs and get that gleying action underway.
art - pondering

So many things

Forgive the hodgepodge nature of this entry, but there has been so much going on this week

- It seems wrong to include this first category in an entry with more trivial stuff, but it has shaped my week and affected me more than the rest, so:
This week, we have been notified of three deaths : the doula who helped bring Farmer Boy and Ti'Loup into the world lost her husband. He died in the night in Cairo, we know not of what. A friend's son, who had been paralyzed and in a coma last year after falling from a roof, made a miraculous recovery only to die a few days ago of a brain aneurysm. Another friend's 20-year-old daughter was in a fatal car wreck on Thursday.  So much grief. So many questions about how well are we loving those around us when we have no idea when our lives on this earth will come to an end. So much anger at myself every time I lose my temper with my own lively, hyper-alive kids.

- Our broody duck is down from 4 duck eggs and 3 goose eggs to one duck egg and 2 goose eggs. I thought the drake was stealing them from her because I saw him in the nest with her. We were prepared to harvest him because we can't have an animal that eats the eggs or young and it woluld be too hard to house him alone and only let him with the others for breeding purposes. So, we separated them and then discovered it was the mother duck eating the eggs. :( She is still on the three, and I don't know whether to take them from her and put them in the incubator (which I detest)or just leave them and see what happens. Sprout is devasted because it is her duck, and of course, what is good for the gander...or drake, in this case, is good for the duck.

The reason I haven't just moved them to the incubator---besides hating the thing--is that it is still occupied by one egg, which leads me to my next topic:

--Mr. Crude (as I call the man from whom J bought the duck eggs because of his penchant for sexual innuendo, which i often overhear) is either dishonest or not at all careful of his duck breeding. J asked him for Khaki Campbell eggs, and instead of saying he didn't know what that was or saying that he has a mixed flock, he sold J a dozen eggs, only 4 of which were viable.  ( Granted, he was not selling them as hatching eggs, but J was very clear that that is what he meant to do with them.)  Two ducklings hatched on the 11th, one hatched today, and the other should hatch tomorrow from the look of things, and so far, of the three, none of them look anything like KC ducks.  Two could be Rouen or Rouen crosses, and one could either be a Cayuga or a Swedish cross...or something else entirely. Look s like if I want Khaki Campbells, we are going to have to drive an hour and a half one way and pay 2euros per egg for them.

- Just when I told frigg that our hens were doing great on the hatching front, our latest clutch only produced 4 chicks out of 9 eggs. Two chicks were crushed under the mom, two mysteriously disappeared (no sign of them or their shells), and one egg never developped. Then  the mom pretty much rejected them for the first day. The kids babysat the chicks in the warm greenhouse until we could convice the hen to mother them. All is well now.

- We finally got some rain, brought in on those lovely dark clouds looming over our daisy-studded field,

which we were able to stock until our pond liner finally arrived (the hole has been dug for more than a month). Yesterday J bought some geo-textile (whatever that is in English, see photo below), and we started to construct the pond in my potager today:

Everything looks a mess now, but that is all the better for comparison purposes of when we get it looking spiffy. The larger pond we dug on the other side of the greenhouse 2 years ago is not lined and therefore does not hold water year round, so I wanted a smaller one closer to the veggie plot to provide more reliable habitat to all our amphibian friends. This one should hold around 1000L of water.

-I have no idea what is up with the garden this year, no idea of how it will produce. Rainfall is so-so, temps were really high and now really low. Some plants look fine, others--like my cucumbers and noodle beans--look like they are not going to make it. :(

--The weather has been poor, so I haven't been to check on the bees that my neighbor gave me (we made a split and are waiting to see if they raised a new queen for the hive), but when the sun finally came out, I went to observe what was happening. I didn't hear any intense drone buzzing (indicating that there is no queen and workers have taken over the laying), and although there was not a lot of activity, I did see bees going in and out and lots with their pollen baskets filled. I do feel a bit guilty about having my first colony be the result of splitting up another colony because I do want to go the natural beekeeping route. I wanted to start my apiary with a caught (hopefully wild) swarm, but when my neighbor offered to give me bees, I didn't feel I could say no. Ah  well, there will be time for swarm catching in other years. I also don't want to exclusively  use Dadant hives, but I got one because it was free...and because I think it is not a bad idea to have the same hive as other beekepers for many reasons, but I won't go into that now.