Thursday, May 28, 2009

Life at Los Costes

I haven't been updating my blog very much, only because you are probably not interested in our boring days.  We get up around 8am, have coffee and breakfast, take the dogs out, check emails and then decide what to do that day.  If it's Tuesday or Friday I get up earlier to go to french class until noon.  If it's nice in the morning we either take the dogs for a hike, go for a trail run or go for bike ride.  We either go into town to do shopping or go to the market on Thursday or Sunday.  We take a nap most every day and right now are obsessed with watching the Giro d'Italia (kind of like the Tour de France of Italy), so we are home between 3-6pm.  Pretty simple life and I'm sure you are not interested in hearing our daily itinerary.

Last time I posted I was in tears because Rhoda and Lefty were killed by a fox and we were taking Fanny over to my friend Dawns house.  Well that didn't work out.  Her 4 hens are very small and the first day Fanny was great but on the second day she decided to bully them.  She wouldn't let them eat or drink or even go into their coop.  Dawn is new to chickens and was having a hard time seeing this happen (it always does with chickens, they need to figure things out and re-do the pecking order) and I didn't want to upset her so I told her I'd come to get her. Then I decided to email the ladies who take care of Dashell & Stella when we go away.  They have 3 golden retrievers, x number of cats and chickens.  I thought they might know someone who would take Fanny.  In no time flat I received an email back telling me they would take her. They are so lovely.  So we took her up last Thursday.  One of their hens is quite large which might make it harder for fanny to bully and they have a coq (he keeps order in the flock).  They emailed us later that afternoon and things were going well. We haven't heard from them so we figure the chickens are still working things out (which they have no problem letting happen) or she's fit in fine.  I'm thankful for them, they are lovely people.

2 weeks ago we were visited by JNRR and her adorable dogs.  Felt like I have known her for a long time, maybe because we have corresponded via email and blogs for over a year.  We had a great weekend visiting a few vide greniers (kind of like a huge yard sale), going to a party for our friend Ben, cooking together and drinking great wine. 

this is Bruno 

This is Louis

This is just a man at one of the vide greniers

Yesterday JNRR came over again for a short visit and we had quite an adventurous 24 hours. We snuck onto the property that we have been looking at to buy and were surprised to find one of the side doors open, so we went in and spent about 1 hour in the house looking around.  I was great to get her opinion, because the place is structurally sound but needs loads of TLC and it's huge.  

Today we had a bit of an epic.  We have been having some problems with Claude, our 1985 Peugeot station wagon.  Our mechanic said it's was the starter (he can't take it until Tuesday) so some days it will start and others we have to pop the clutch (so amazing that works).  Yesterday as we were coming back to the house I noticed the gas light was on (Bruce was driving) and I asked him if we should stop for gas. "No, I think we are ok".  We made it home no problem, but this morning Bruce was heading over to pick up some croissants and the car wouldn't start, so he popped the clutch and it started, but when he turned out of our driveway into the road it was out of gas. Argh!  So JNRR had to drive us into town to get a gas can and some gas.  Claude was left on the side of the road out in front of our house, when we got back JNRR and I had to push him to get him going (Bruce helped to)...but then JNRR slipped and fell and right as she did a big bus (for hauling kids to and from school) came ripping around the corner. Close call, she was almost road kill.

This is Claude 

Luckily after many tries Claude came back to life.  If JNRR wouldn't have been here we would have been stranded for a while.  I knew she came here for a reason!  Claude will go to the mechanic on Tuesday for a new starter.  Once he's all fixed up we are planning a trip to Brantome to visit JNRR to see her lovely house, spend some time in the beautiful Dordogne and see the boys, hopefully very soon.  

We have had lovely sunny warm days and a few nights some great thunderstorms.  We opened the pool 2 days ago, although we haven't ventured into it yet, still a bit chilly.  We are excited to go to Paris (mid-june) to see my sister and brother-in-law and my brothers daughter.  My sister is an art history professor and is bringing a group of her students over to europe and my 17 year old niece is coming too.  We'll spend 4 days in Paris and we can't wait.  Bruce loves Paris.

The wild poppies are in full bloom and are stunning!

That's about it for us.  Just a simple life in southwest france.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mes Poulets

our kids - rhoda (in front) fanny (blonde) and Left (our roo)

When we moved here in October, well actually months before we actually arrived I always spoke about getting chickens.  I have never had chickens before and I wanted to wake up to fresh eggs and have these little pre-historic birds clucking around.  Over Thanksgiving dinner I had mentioned this to our friend Ben and 2 days later he was at our front door with 3 chickens. Here's the post from last year when we got them.

Every morning I would get up and go up to the coop (which is an old shed), open the door and say "morning birds".  Usually Rhoda would be roosting on the 2x4, Lefty would be sitting on a concrete block and Fanny just standing there.  We didn't have a run for them (with a fence) because it wasn't possible where the coop was located, so they were free-range.  They would wander off into the forest and come down to the front door for their treats.  Lefty was the best roo you could have.  He was injured before we got him and his left leg didn't work very good so he was very submissive for a roo.  He wasn't aggressive and he only cock-a-doodle-doo'd once in the morning.  He was very sweet.  Rhoda and Fanny were sisters and were such a team, they were always together scratching around and if I would call them they would come running down the path, hoping for some treats.

On Thursday I let them out of the coop and went about my day, just like any other day.  We went into Montauban for 3 hours to do some shopping and when we came back Fanny was standing right at our front door, but there was no sign of Rhoda or Lefty.  It's very unusual for the ladies to be apart so we went looking for them.  We looked everywhere but they were gone. Not a trace.. it's like they just disappeared into thin air.  I was in tears, I knew that something got them.  Either a fox or a hawk or maybe an owl.  We are thinking a fox, because we have heard that foxes can clear out a whole flock in a day without leaving a feather!  

My heart was/is broken.  I loved those birds and Rhoda was my girl.  She was the leader of the flock and so cool.  And Lefty, well, he was a super roo.  Fanny was very freaked out and for 2 days stood at our front door.  Never venturing out to scratch or anything.  She would go up to the coop to lay her daily egg but would run back down to our door.  I knew that it was only a matter of time before the fox came back for her so I talked to a friend of mine who I go to French class with about taking her in.   "Of course" she said.  She just got 4 hens (3 weeks ago) and loves them.  Her and her husband have 2 kids who love the chickens too.    So yesterday we took her over to their house and it went great.  Fanny was let into the run and she got along great with the other girls and started scratching around (something she hadn't done since the Thursday).  She was eating and laying in the sun and looked so happy.  My friends daughter is 9 and loves the birds, she spend most of the time checking up on Fanny to make sure she was OK. I left feeling very good about my decision to give Fanny to them.  I know that she will be safe and happy.

I still get choked up when I think about Rhoda and Lefty, having to die like that.  I know they are just chickens and we eat chicken 2-3 times a week, but these birds were my pets, part of our family and very cool.  I will never forget them and when we get more birds, which I will when we decide where we are going to be (Los Angeles or France) they will have a fenced in run.  I think we were very lucky they lasted as long as they did...I never thought they would get killed though, it just never crossed my mind.   I will say though that Rhoda and Lefty had a wonderful life here...being able to run free in the woods is something most chickens don't get a chance to do.  They were spoiled birds for sure and I will miss them.

Rhoda and Lefty

Rhoda and Fanny

The girls would come running when I called them

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Our first "Vide Grenier"

And most certainly not our last.

Last Friday was a holiday here in France and we kept seeing flyers all over for a vide grenier. Vide Grenier means "attic clearance" and in the past it was the chance for grandchildren to make a bit of money out of their Grandparent's horded junk.  The junk of course can also include some exciting finds for collectors.  These events attract stall holders from the region and prices vary depending on who has the stall.  Sometimes stall holders do this for a living and are very aware of what they are selling while some are really clearning their attics out and bargains can certainly be found.

We thought it would be fun to check it out.  We didn't spend that much I think all in all about 47 euros.  2 things for me and 2 things for Bruce.  Of course, mine were the cheapest.  There is another vide grenier on May 10th in Varen not too far from us and we have decided to go but this time we each will have 25 euros.  We'll separate and meet up in an hour with our finds.  
Here's what we got on Friday.

Bruce bought these cool blocks for printing and is going
to make some cool art assemblage (15 euros for 13)

I found this old chopper and LOVE IT  (10 euros)

Bruce really wanted this old "desk" it opens up 
and I'm really not sure what he is going to do with it (20 euros)

I got this nifty bottle for storing change (2 euros)

Friday, May 1, 2009

8 months

the yellow in this field is blinding

That's how long we have been here...8 months today.  We arrived in Paris October 1st with 2 bikes in their carrying cases (big rolling things), 2 dogs in their crates (remember one of our dogs is an 80 lb. golden retriever and his crate is huge) and 2 large bags.  Getting to the rental car was hell. 

It's now 8 months later and we haven't had a fire in 2 days and that was only in the evening when it was raining (which it has been for a week!), we have had 2 visit from family and friends, we went to Belgium, Bordeaux and Beziers (didn't realize all the b's).  We have made many trips to Toulouse (mostly to visit notaries), we've ridden about 2500 miles and seen many villages, towns and cities, breathtaking.  We have made new friends, reconnected with friends we met when we were here last year and Bruce reconnected with an old friend from high school who lives with his lovely wife and his 2 boys in Bordeaux.  I still take french lessons 2 times a week in Villefranche and we are finally at a point where we can understand most of what our old neighbor says.  Well, Bruce can understand most of what he says, I'm about 50%.

We had a lovely February and March (especially because my family visited), April was so much fun, going to Belgium and Steve and Lisa coming over.  Thanks to Steve Bruce started climbing again (first time in 6 years).  

Steve and Bruce getting ready to climb

Bruce on his first route in 6 years

And then there is the rain, argh!  I know that it rains here (that is why everthing is so green) but it's been really hard for us.  I really didn't realize how much you take the sun and nice weather for granted when you live in Los Angeles.  Sure, some days are cloudy and usually smoggy but it rains maybe 1 week a year.  It's May 1st and it's a beautiful day and the weather says nice for 12 days.  Ah, please let a rain-free spring be here...or better yes pre-summer as we want to open the pool.

We were going to go to Italy to see the Giro d'Italia but have decided against it for financial reasons.  Remember we are not working here!  We are OK with it, it will be nice to stay around our area and ride and relax.  In June we are heading up to Paris for 4 days (to celebrate Bruce's 40th and see my sister and brother-in law), that should be really fun.  I hope to meet up with Leesa and Barbara while I'm there too.

July is going to be crazy and I can't wait for it.  Tour de France, riding Mt. Ventoux, our great friends K&E coming over, it will be a wonderful month.  

We are truly happy here and love it more every day.  It's wonderful to wake up happy and content.  It's a bit crazy that we are now on month 8.  It's gone so fast.  Right now it gets dark around 9:00 seems like yesterday when it was getting dark at 4:30.  That was when we didn't have a television and we had CD's we'd put on and open a bottle of wine and listen to music.  There are a few songs that will always remind me of this time, right when we arrive in France in our little house in the woods with nighttime arriving so early.  Those are good memories even though I cursed the wood burner every day.

We have a few things up our sleeves, but too early to talk about them now.  Things are in the works and we hope they will work out for us.  Right now we'll just enjoy every moment we are here and thank our lucky stars that we were able to come here and have a year in France.

One cool thing is that we have had 3 sanglier sightings.  This morning was our 3rd, we have been hearing a boar in the woods at dusk a crazy cry/snort/growl, but this morning I was out with Dashell at about 7am and in the meadow was a boar, not huge, but not a baby.  It was super cool...don't get that in Los Angeles.

this isn't the one that was in our yard, but same size