Day inside

The temperature soared to almost 40o  today.  In fact a friend of mine told me that it was 43o in the village. The dogs did not want to put their nose out and neither did we. So, we sat on the sofa reading. (not the dogs) I did some knitting and listened to my audio book. Even the cat sat all day next to us sprawled eagle. He has the knack for that posture or any other weird positions. Stuck between chairs and perfectly at ease looking at you as if it was normal a for a cat to relax in this way. ( may be it is)

Zaina, quite comfortable there

The aircon was going full tilt and it was comfortable. But I was getting restless and decided to do the artichokes that I bought yesterday at my local supermarket. Every year they order me the best produce . I get some broad beans, quinces and artichokes.  Two cases which amounted to a total of 60. So I peeled them and got to the furry heart, got a huge saucepan full of water and slice a few limes or lemons water is growing in the garden at the time and a big pinch of salt. Tossed all the hearts in the boiling water, left them there for a few minutes and then scooped them in jars. The boiling lemony water was scooped onto the jars and then I tightly seal them. That was my artichokes for next year’s feast.

 

Artichokes and Nectarine

Then Peter told me that there were a few nectarines that needed to be done. Ok said I, you cut them and I will bottle them and make some compote out of them. So, as well as getting my fingers black with the artichokes I managed to slip in a jar of home-grown nectarines. Peter had spent a lot of time taking care of them. Pruning, and wrapping the tree in a heavy mesh so that the rats and the bats would not devouring them first. And it succeeded. We obtained some huge fruits and ever so sweet!

It was a languorous day in every way. Then, around 2PM we decided to upstairs and watch an episode of “Prime Suspect” . I always take my knitting with me and advance my sweater. I quite enjoy in knitting. Many people have told me :” do you knit in summer with this heat” ? I reply: ” it is the best time to have your jumper ready for winter. If I knit in winter it never get finish and can’t wear it on time”. So, I always do it in summer. Especially when the heat is so fierce and there is very little one can do outside. At least in winter you still can dress a little and do some gardening.

Talking about gardening, all my matured eggplants just decided to die. They wilted for some unknown reason as they were just starting to produce fruit and off they went. Dead!

Wilted Eggplant.

Till next time on a not so hot day.

 

Early morning

Good morning

Life on the farm has been busy recently. But that is hardly news really. Awake at 5Am this morning a cup of tea in hands, I ventured outside. Still dark. White clouds just visible in the dark shroud the whole valley and the top of the mountain. Chilly and nippy the cold mist spread on the fields creating an eery feeling of the world just about to wake up, emerging from a dream. The birds have not yet started and a lonely wallaby bent over the grass chews some unknown delicacies no doubt. Its ears pricked up. Noise, foot steps, am I worried? Yes, just a little. The smell of the dogs does not bide well for it. Shall I run or stay? I will stay for a little longer then will see how the situation develops. The last few bats makes their way back to the trees and one can hear their heavy flapping as they rush back to their habitat.

The sky has the colour of light grey charcoal and the half moon stands out yellowish and full of blemishes while the stars are getting a little fainter with each minute as the light starts to appear slowly over the horizon. The distinct bands of foggy clouds hover and move slowly across or down till they will disappear with the first rays of the sun. Different picture just from a few minutes ago and ever changing, transforming and continuously metamorphosing.

Invigorating… that little bite in the air. A shawl wrapped around my shoulders I venture in the semi dark morning towards the chicken run. The two dogs trailing behind me wondering what I am doing so early. As I opened the coop, the big and gentle ginger rooster called “Ginger”, flies off its perch and comes next to my feet. He does that all the time when I open the door. He seems to talk and asks me all sorts of questions…a chicken babble which I quickly interpret as: “Do you have any food so early”? But I am not ready yet, I have to open the little coop where the newly born chicks are still sleeping under their fat mother. Yes, Lady Grey is a little plump. Little chirps can be heard muffled by a load of feathers and little heads appear from under mum. They seem to say “can we go out now”? So, Lady Grey starts clucking and they all make their way out of the coop in search of little insects so early in the morning.

The first birds are on the move and their songs echo in the valley. Butcher birds, noisy mynas are the first in the morning concert. The dogs have smelled and are eying intensely the wallaby, ready to pounce, stop a second, wriggle their body and off they go, they are giving chase  Not a hope in the world tho! It scoots so fast that the poor dogs are left miles behind. But the pursuit was worth it. A little excitement so early is not to be missed.

Still my cup of tea  around my hands, a little cooler by now, I decided to meander down the drive for a walk to the pond. The cows were not around at the time, so I guessed they would have been at the back where the grass was greener no doubt. They are not going to miss me this afternoon tho!

The water hens have not yet emerged. The lilies are about to burst in flowers and thousands of little fish dance in circles in the clear waters. The dogs are running and frolicking chasing each other, grabbing some sticks and playing tug of war. Sipping the tea, I can feel the dew on the grass as the morning slowly breaks and to the east the first light shines on the opposite slope… slowly. Such a sense of vastness and serenity. Everything is alive, Away from news and politics, away from scandals and gossips, away from greed and the stock market, the economy, new laws, the internet, Facebook, corruption at every turn, wars in the world. Boy! How much can the mind take? Comparing to the calm and freshness…There is really no comparison. It seems that a part of the world has come to a stop. Just does not exist at this moment. All the noise that clutters your mind during the day appears to have ceased…at least for now. Just silence and a pristine state of being. Just breathing the crisp air that bites your nostrils and is drawn deep into your lungs with every breath. Just to be there and a sense of timelessness engulfs you.

As I make my way back slowly toward the house the first rays of the sun beam their little warmth over the land, just a little cosiness this morning. It is not going to be a very hot day as rain is expected later on. Dogs in tow, I sit down on the bench and soak it in this unspoiled moment. Not for long, John next door is also an early riser and he decided to slash the property next door. The noise of the old diesel motor makes its way sluggishly up the road to our neighbours and breaks the silence. But it is there and that is all. Part of the farm, part of the scene, part of rural living.

Zaina, our latest puppy gives Elsie a hard time. She is fast, mischievous and very playful. Not for poor old Elsie whose Labrador nature (she is rather plump) does not make her a sprinter. Given that her back leg is also injured, that does not help. But she stands her grounds and Zaina has to tow the line and obey her elders.

The colours of the trees now are greener and the tall bamboos sway gently in the breeze. I make my way to the vegies garden secateurs in hand that I grabbed on the table and start cutting the dead leaves from the tomatoes. Uproot the dead eggplants that have withered from some unknown disease. Plant a few seedlings of corn and okra and water the newly planted gherkins.

What a fantastic sensation to wake up to such an abundance of the world!

Time to see if Peter is awake. But not before peeping at the rose bushes and seeing that there are a few dead branches that I happily snip away. A few weeds also. But I stop there. It is already 7AM. As I enter the house, I can see upstairs that the curtains have been drawn and yes, Peter is awake checking his emails.

Cup of tea” I shout from downstairs? “Yes”, he replies. So the water is slowly on the boil and in the meantime I set out to feed the dogs and the cat. Quickly run to the chicken run and throw a few handful of sunflowers for them and coming back just in time for the water to be ready.

Oh! and I forget, I also read a few emails from J who went mushrooms gathering in the woods in England and is preparing a feast for dinner. Time for gym and a nice cup of coffee. The day’s chores and routines are about to get into full swing.

Till next time.

Busy in spring

Well, it has been a while since I put pen to paper or should I said keyboard to WordPress.

It is a glorious day. Spring is definitely here. Judging by the smell of orange, grapefruit, lemons and lime blossoms. The bees are buzzing around selecting the nectar. The wisteria is in bloom. We do have a white one at the moment and the scent is just so subtle and sweet. The daitura are also propagating their scent at night and the evenings are just divine with their sweet and overpowering smell. Just a delight! And the native iris are also showing their best. As dusk slowly arrives the frogs in the background are already calling their mates. The owls are fluttering as soon as I walk out and I can hear their heavy flights above the bottle brush when I take the dogs for a late night wee before retiring for the night. The green frogs are croaking in the background. The cows are still begging and bellowing for extra hay every night. They must be the best fed cows around.
Native Iris

We have not heard nor seen the butcher birds over the last couple of weeks. I guess they are busy mating. The magpies tho, have come for a nightly feed, still awkward at catching the little meat that I can throw at them. Frip, the cat does not help there I am sure as he stalks them ready to pounce and catch…if he can.

It has been a very busy few months since we got back from Europe. Very busy indeed. I have redone the whole veggie garden. A complete overhaul. I have weeded 8 beds and recovered them with wood chips. A new technique inspired by the video called:” Return to Eden”. Not that I am very keen on religious propaganda. But that does not distract from the fact that the principles explained have got some merits. I was a little suspicious at the start to hear all this bible recitation at every step of the video. It got quite tedious. In the end I decided to give it a go in spite of the spiel.

So quite painstakingly, I weeded all the beds . Yes, the 8 of them meticulously.
As for wood chips it was not too hard. When we were away, the local charming and efficient Bill came and lopped a few trees that were quite dangerous to have around. He made a huge pile of wood chips which I wheeled into the garden day after day. The results were quite amazing. After just a couple of weeks I could see how the soil was still very moist and the newly thinned and planted vegetables were growing very well. I was impressed.

They did mention in the video that there was no need to add any fertiliser of any sorts or even watering should be kept at a minimum if at all. But I decided to complete the experiment keeping only 2 beds mulched with the chicken manure and hay that I collected from their coop.

I also planted the same vegetables on the chips bed and the manured/hay bed just to confirm it for myself and to see if there was a grain of truth in all that.

It has been a 3 months now and I really can see the difference between them. We had a few days of over 31 dry and windy.
The one with the chips are springing and shooting ahead at quite a speed. The weeds are down and if they spring up a gentle tug will do the job. The soil underneath is really moist. As for the other beds with the straw, they are quite dry and weeds crawl onto the surface at a faster pace, making harder to pull the whole root. The soil has also hardened quite a bit and I have been watering them more often.

Veggi garden with wood chipsWood chip beds

We also has some fabulous crops of broad beans and peaches. The peach trees have been thinned last summer and this year we had huge peaches, but they were not as sweet a little floury. Nevertheless quite good and are still producing. Maybe the later on they might get a little sweeter. Mulberries have also been abundant and every morning we go to the trees and harvest a little basket. I am freezing some for later on also.

Broad beans
2014-09-25 11.29.39 Peaches

Well, that was the garden bit. In the meantime with the few days of rain that we had, I managed to finish Peter’s pullover. I had knitted one last year with hemp and wool and it became an Indian dress. So I redid the whole lot. It fits him to perfection now. He is very happy with it and so am I. As I was knitting, I also listened to some audio books. Nothing fancy. Just a thriller by Harlan Coben. That really got me in and help me finishing the knitting quite nicely.

New pull over.

Another event that took place was the arrival of a new dog. Yes, after we lost our last German Shepherd 2 years ago, we were playing with the idea to get another one for quite a while and having difficulties in making up our mind. So one day I looked up to see if there was a local breeder. We don’t like driving too much. I was not hoping to get one around here. Finally, we did and the little Zaina is among us. Peter and I were quite impressed by the way the kennel was ran. We saw the mum, aunties and uncles. After 3 hours of talks and info (which drove me crazy)  we drove away with her…not the owner but the dog. Deb was a real German Shepherd lover and has been doing it as a hobby for 30 years apart from her teaching biochemistry at the local school We did have something in common as both of us are also ex teachers. So the yakking went on for quite a while and I was glad to drive back home finally!

The old Labrador, Elsi, is not sure of the new arrival and Frip, the cat, did not take it too nicely either. (to be expected) But after a week of cohabitation the two of them have become the best of mates. Running around the house and the garden playing chasy. Of course you may have guessed, The dog is really at a disadvantaged here as she is the newly arrived on the block. But that does not stop her from trying to get the upper hand with her size and being boisterous. Frip so far is winner. And Zaina is nicely fitting in in our routines.

After all this, we also managed to catch up with friends and have a lovely lunch and working at the gallery over the week ends and doing a new hanging there. As I said a very busy few months.

Till next time.

 

ZainaFripZaina

 

 

Back Home at last!

After 6 weeks away wandering in Thailand, London and Paris we are back on the land and in the swing of things… and loving it. Mind you the times spent with the family were of course the best moments. I won’t go into details the fabulous food we had in London and Paris with J and G. Bangkok is in itself an exploration into some great restaurants that we thoroughly savoured with Tum and Sulma.

Towards the end of our stay in Thailand in spite of the lovely time with the family and being treated to spend some time in a superb resort by Tum, we had enough of Bangkok. We felt more assailed, besieged by the publicity everywhere. On the sky train for instance they have now erected huge televisions set on both side of the quays that blast add loudly. There is not a square inch of the train itself that is not plastered with adds and even smaller screens that do not give you a minute of respite. Even the announcement of the next station is overpowered by them. Not a minute a silence and the streets are even worse. Every wall, every post, every billboard invades you and wherever you happen to cast your eyes you are being reminded to buy this products or that. You are being reminded to look like this model, use this face whitening cream to resemble a westerner.  The cacophony of cars and the endless traffic jams was reaching saturation point. Enough of that! Let me go home now to the serenity of the land, to the songs of the birds, the bellowing of the cows and the sounds of water as it splashes in the ponds, the crowing of the rooster and the site of the newly established swamp hens in the large dam below.

As we approached the road and the farm, the air so crisp and fresh hit our nostrils and lungs. It felt invigorating. In the middle of winter that is what one would expect. Fortifying and biting. Another layer of clothes is definitely warranted during the chilly nights.The land was dry and almost brown.  The grass was very low. It is usually low in winter but this time there was nothing growing. Given the fact that the rain was scarce this summer there was very little growth that could be sustained in the leaner months of winter. The cows looked scrawny so I hurried to give them some good lucerne/hay. The one they love most. That was my first task. I took the wheelbarrow and filled with the good hay. They bellowed and I took off the electric fence and fed them. They chomped through it in no time at all. I reminded myself to give them some decent feed everyday. They need it!

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Scrawny cows

Magali and Mereki came to pick us up at the station after a sleepless night on the plane from Bangkok. What a treat to be so welcomed. She had prepared a succulent lasagna, cleaned the house and everything looked so spick and span. What a delight to be home. Elsi the dog was beside herself. It was hard to know if she was wagging her tail or her tail was wagging her whole plump body. Fripouille,  the cat looked scared and bewildered at first scampering away at the site of the car with people in it, but upon hearing my voice  he darted toward me rubbing himself against my leg and I am sure I could hear him purr.

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Fripouille

After finally a good night sleep in your own bed away from the noise and chaos of the cities, I wondered in the vegetable garden and was surprised to see so many goodies still growing. Heaps of cabbages, lettuces, carrots, peas, leeks, fennel, and sweet potatoes and much more. I hardly  bought any vegetable since we got back. What a treat! Fresh salads from the garden. roasted sweet potatoes, and I even made some Kimchi with the daikon (white radish) carrots, cabbage, ginger and turmeric and chillies, yes all from the garden!

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Sweet Potatoes and Fennel

I decided to spend some time redoing the garden beds and already I am weeding and cleaning. Out of  the 8 beds that we use I replanted the leeks and the carrots in two new ones and carried on weeding the others. What a lovely task to be in contact with the earth and the mild winter sun!

Sulma and Tum came 5 days after us from Bangkok and are spending 10days enjoying the calm and the fresh air of the countryside. Lots of good cooking and sharing some good wines and company as usual. Magali treated us to some of her delicious crepes last night and a good yarn. Mereki found a good playmate in Sulma that evening and could not believe his luck. The dishes were done and the kitchen tidied ready for the next day’s feast…..which will be lamb cutlets with fresh garden peas.

Till next time.

PS: 2 photos courtesy of Sulma. Cows and cat.

Here is Huan Hin reflections

In the luxurious resort called the Boathouse, we are spending the first day lazily reading, meandering along the criss-cross of pools that lead to the sea. A superb labyrinth of immaculately maintained crystal clear pools. Each house on the property has a ramp that unfolds into the pool. Impeccably blue, beautifully kept gardens sprinkled with coconut trees, palms, local trees offering colours, scents and a touch of Japanese influence. A delight to the eyes and the senses. At the end of the myriads of pools lay an infinity pool made of salt water. Warm, inviting and a view onto the ocean where the waves rhythmically break onto the small stone wall separating the pool from the sea. Idyllic indeed. All created for total well being and relaxation and big wallets.

We have been very fortunate to come here. A friend invited us to use her flat in this lovely setting. How could we refuse? The days so far have been spent just reading, eating, talking, exploring the local eateries, breathing the fresh sea air… A real change from the farm and all that it entails. Thanks to Tum!

In the end, walking around the luxurious condo, admiring the beauty of it all there is a feeling of “so what”? Doing it once or twice is fine, but the thought of doing it every day could become very quickly not only boring but sterile, even futile. One is sheltered from the outside word like in a cocoon. Yes, the blue limpid waters of the labyrinth pools are magnificent. At first there is certainly astonishment, awe, admiration in front of this super architecture, this feast of engineering and implementation. Somehow I feel a little out of my league in there.

But one thing is sure for a holiday it is just fine. Living here on an everyday basis ( the thought has crossed our mind) is definitely not our cup of tea. If everything is done for you what have you got left to do? Gossiping, spending money in shopping complexes, pedicure, manicure, hairdresser, massage, dancing, drinking, dinner parties and cocktails at someone’s place and endless chatter about nothing. Not my dream living. I would be missing the gardens, the cows, the animals and the mountains.

Everyday we taxied to Huahin to eat. So far, we discovered a great family restaurant called Deya Deli and we had the most lovely home cooking for quite a while. In between showers we get to visit the local supermarket and get a few provisions for dinner.

Deya Deli, was really nice but the waiter was too overbearing. Could not stop talking and his laugh sounded so fake with his contorted lips and and white teeth that he seems just out of a comic Thai film or some canned laughter from a sitcom. Jamie was relentless…that is what his mum called him. With is posh English accent and his perfect Thai he came straight out of boarding school into the restaurant business…not quite but almost. Spoke too much and invaded our little corner with his views of the world. Nice for a little while to exchange points of views, but he did no know where to withdraw gracefully and let us eat.

But the one thing that bothers me in this trip is the boredom. The boredom of seeing the world. It seems that I am not interested in visiting places, admiring temples, checking museums for the latest painting or work of arts, meandering down Oxford St, Sukumvit, Rue de Rivoli or the newer streets of Huahin to witness the same brand names, the same shops, the same opulence and affluence.

Down the streets of HuaHin the myriads of little shops selling the same colourful plasticky items made in China and the open drains filled with blue, yellow and white plastic bags. The cars with tinted windows splashing rain water onto the pedestrians and the little pavements full of misplaced tiles or holes. Traffic jams, clogged streets, fumes spurting out of buses, horns from impatient drivers, helicopters hovering over the town every 10 minutes, aeroplanes landing in the nearby airport, scooters two or three abreast at times race about with exhaust opened. I have a sense of deja vu. The layout of the town, the people, the smell, the buildings, I find myself in Phnom Penh. I know some of you will say: ” no way” – that does not resemble Cambodia at all. On the outer it does, but it is a fact that Khmer people are much poorer than Thais.There is not as much misery here as I have seen in my 5 years in Phnom Penh. That was many moons ago…some 15 years. But according to some friends still living there, poverty prevails at an alarming rate. I have not seen this in Thailand. But that is out a little out of my sphere right now.

One thing is certain is that in my experience the Thais that we have encountered are just lovely and easy to be with. Quite a contrast with the Vietnamese where one could feel the harshness that they have endured over the years of wars and occupation. Thailand has never been occupy by a foreign country for long. Except in the last World war briefly by the Japanese.

Where does this leads me in terms of my own feeling in these travels? Seeing family, yes always wonderful to be with them all. Sharing thoughts, food, excursions and some precious moment together. That is definitely a big plus. And that is what we have done.

But I am not any more into sightseeing. I think we we do not have the stamina anymore. And the thing that is really hard on us is the food. So many temptations, yes yummy! But after a while we just crave some simple food. Tired of French food, or English pub food or Thai curries and soups full of MSG. Home food is best and that is what we looking for right now. I think that we are ready to go home now after all this ranting.
Till next time.

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