……… along with the Cuckoo on April 1st. Finally, the cuckoo was heard throughout the land – or to be more precise St. Valerien in 85. I have joined a ‘Gardening in France’ group on Facebook (well it has to be good for something), and over the last 2 – 3 weeks I see people posting that the Cuckoo has arrived in their department from the north in Brittany (35) to down the east side mainly (55 & 39 Lorraine & Franche- Comte) – I was feeling left out, but there it was this morning, April 1st loud and clear Phew.
Took these two photo’s yesterday late afternoon – wanted to get them before the forecast rain and storm bashed them about, (which in the end never arrived). The first is the Cherry in the front planted well before our time – we were unsure last year how healthy it was (our first Summer) but we need not have worried, with the birds getting to the fruit first, so this year we are armed with old CD’s to hand (probably much to the amusement of our French neighbours). The 2nd photo is the old Apple tree to the side. Not sure how old this is, but it’s very very old and has tiny little fruit I thought at first were cider pears, but no. Neighbours across the road Marie-Esther and John, we knew that his Grandfather lived in this house, so the apple tree…. well anyone’s guess. Marie-Esther makes something from the small cheek sucking fruit, but not sure what yet. She has an invitation to come and help herself, so we’ll find out later in the year. We went over for coffee the other morning and she did ask what we would play to the cherry tree when we mentioned CD’s, not realising at that moment they were for stringing in the tree itself – maybe something by Neneh Cherry or Wild Cherry perhaps, or a recitation of Housemann’s ‘Lovliest of tree’s the Cherry now‘ while hitting it in a Pagan fashion with a stick.
Spring is finally arriving thank goodness. It’s been a long cold winter with many really hard frosts in January – day after day, and what with that and my fall and the alterations to the kitchen and downstairs bathroom, both Barry and I are glad of the warmer days when we can get outside, except for the weeds of course which out here grow in the blink of an eye. Still the garden group has started up again. Only been to one so far and that was the garden of the lady that organises the trips in the next department over – Deux-Sevres – more in to what is called the ‘bocage’. Here in St. Valerien, we sit between the bocage and the flat plains – endless fields of wheat, barley, sunflowers and maize at different times of the year – think Iowa or Indiana!
Anyway it was cold and ppisg….. pouring down, but it didn’t stop us taking a walk around. It was fab to look at an established border in the Spring. There were primroses out and all manner of things starting to show. We came back with lot’s of goodies in the way of cuttings and plants grown on from more established things. Our next trip out is this coming Tuesday (4th) in the opposite direction – the forecast is fine and dry at least. Then it’s a château owned by someone’s friend ho has started a garden centre and tree nursery there…….keep your hands away from the purse Tickner, walk away now.
It should be fun as afternoon tea is also being provided. That’s in May and then moving along to September I opened my grosse bouch and announced to Barry that we would be hosting the visit in September. Better start some one handed weeding, I might be done by then, and plant up the new rockery and, and……
We have a new baby…. don’t panic, it’s in the field behind us. Mum must have given birth somewhere over last weekend as on Monday morning walking with her was the sweetest new born donkey, and that’s ok as mum’s a donkey too. White with some tan spots, so we know who dad is, and the eldest donkey Celestine isn’t impressed at all. So with four donkeys now I can safely say we have a collective noun for donkeys – a drove.
So Spring is slowly arriving in the Vendee, but not so in Princeton, Massachusetts where a friend lives – it snowed on April 1st (no joke) – will they ever see Summer.
Makes you want to get your winter woolies out quickly again.
On a handy front, I was signed off by my surgeon on the 15th March, very very happy with his handiwork and how everything was healing and progressing, and now left to my own devises in terms of looking after it. I’d been keeping the hand mobile as time went on to the point that I could do physio on my own – didn’t need to go anywhere, and my dislocated fingers are now released from bondage. I keep trying all sorts of things and am calling whatever I do ‘physio’ – like lifting a gin or wine glass with my right hand instead of my left, and I can knit and sew again, so everything is all quite flexible, and just this week I started to drive again – that’s me to the shops, not Barry round the bend.
I’ll bore you with the kitchen/bathroom alterations next time, but I’ll leave you with a recipe for a tart given to me by a guy at our Franglais class on a Monday night. Only difference being he used figs he’d dried himself in his little machine – Ooooo there’s posh, having said that it would explain why there are a choice of four tucked in to my Amazon wish list. Where there’s such an abundance of fruit and things like tomatoes they actually make perfect sense. The local Gamme Vert has them, but not at the moment, usually appear when things like that are required. Here’s the recipe – sorry no photo’s yet.
Nigel’s Fig and Walnut Tart
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C, placing rack in centre of oven. Grease a 9” (23cm) square baking tin. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper or non-stick grease proof.
2 cups/480ml/200 grams old fashioned rolled oats.
1 cup/130 grams plain flour or all purpose flour.
¾ cup/160 grams packed light brown sugar.
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
Ground cinnamon to own taste.
1 cup/226 grams cold unsalted butter cut in to small cubes.
In food processor place oats, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon. Pulse to combine. Then add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly and just begins to come together. Press about 2/3rds mixture on to base of prepared pan.
Fig & Walnut spread filling
375g packet dessert figs, or air dry your own.
2 tablespoons of honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Place figs, walnuts, honey and cinnamon in a small food processor, process to a fine paste. Spread fig mixture over base of oatmeal crust. Sprinkle over the top the remainder of the oatmeal crumb, adding a few chopped walnuts to it if you prefer. Press down lightly onto figgy mix.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to stand in pan for 15 minutes. Lift on to a wire rack. Cut in to pieces while still warm, serve with crème fraiche or cream. You can also leave it to get cold , dusting with icing sugar before you serve.