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Life in The Ditch

Springtime in Normandy

Daily life at La Fosse Posted on Fri, April 20, 2018 15:16:36

How lucky are we to be living in Normandy in the springtime. Such a beautiful place that suddenly comes alive as the winter passes over.

The pear and cherry blossom really lifts your spirit with a promise of summer and autumn treats.

The dandelions are out in force and unlike our previous house lawns, they are not something to be eliminated. They look wonderful giving the fields a wonderful golden carpet – but more importantly they are an essential part of producing good rich hay to sustain the animals in the winter. It’s a win win situation.

The lambs are now all delivered (phew!!) always a tense time and this year we have hand raised orphan lambs who like to help in the garden smiley

Signs of awakenings

Daily life at La Fosse Posted on Wed, February 21, 2018 17:45:11

La Fosse is starting to wake up from several miserable months weatherwise ready to welcome springtime. And what a difference a few days makes. From the wet, windy, misty days of the past several weeks, now we are blessed with a bright blue sky, and warmth from the sunshine.

It doesn’t take much for nature to grab hold of the available opportunity.
We have seen buzzards soaring on the thermals and calling to each other, smaller birds flitting from tree to tree and singing outside our kitchen door.

Daffodils have suddenly sprung into life, their golden flowers taking their place alongside the ever faithful snowdrops.

But how can you top the sheep families soaking up the sunshine, at peace with the world.

Our lambs arrived early this year with the first two (Joseph and Gabriel) arriving on the 23rd December. Quite unexpected but a wonderful surprise. We now have 6 strapping lambs with their mothers and 4 lambs that we are raising on bottled feed.

What a difference a month makes – from 4 little rejected lambs in the study to keep warm!! to 4 strapping lads, full of character and naughtiness.

One more to go now – Dawn feeling very pregnant and uncomfortable – come on Dawn

Who would want to change a thing? Ask me again tomorrow after our challenge of erecting a new polytunnel. Watch this space!!!!!!!!!!!

Feeling plugged in

Daily life at La Fosse Posted on Tue, December 19, 2017 22:25:43

For a while we have had slow internet speed, no telephone, no internet and any combination of the three. Yesterday and engineer called and found that within the telephone line there was only one wire left connected which was doing its utmost to keep us live. That was repaired and now we are fully plugged in. Better still, because the fault was before the line reached the house there is no charge …. Phew!!!

But that sense of being plugged in is relevant

Plugged in to the family

We have had a few trips to the UK to spend time with family.

Sad times as Tony’s sister lost her long brave battle with cancer. Tony was able to get to the UK for Pat’s funeral and also catch up with his siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews and of course the children.

Fun times as Tony visited to take part in a Colour Rush challenge with the children.

Caring times, I was able to spend a week with Vicky as she recovered from an operation. She has done really well and is now back at work

Girly times when myself, Vicky and Kathryn spent a few days together in New York. This was my Christmas present last year from the children – how lucky am I.

Plugged into the community

We have had the opportunity to attend a couple of village meals which are always long, filling and boozy!! Spent with great company they have been a joy. We have been told that next year we will be eligible to attend the “white hair lunch” which is put on by the village for the older inhabitants. Not sure whether we should be thrilled or not!!!!!!!

We are now registered to vote in local elections in France. Perhaps this will be helpful when Brexit is a reality. We both feel it’s important to use our votes, but we’ll have to wait and see if we understand the process and the issues being debated.

I was recently asked if I would assist a young Afghanistani refugee couple to learn French, and we meet once a week. The village has generously taken the couple under their wing and this has been a very positive experience on both sides. It has been eye opening getting to know them and hear a bit about their culture and life in Afghanistan. I am extremely grateful to the BBC for their learning programe. As a non-teacher I am thrilled to have a structured learning scheme. We are getting there and I do see a great deal of improvement in their French language skills and their ability to make themselves understood in everyday situations.

Plugged into the smallholding

Our menagerie continues to grow in size as we become more experienced. This year we had 2 sets of quads, one set of triplets, one set of twins and two single lambs. Quite an achievement and with the exception of the twins all the ewes cared for and fed their lambs unaided. The twins needed hand rearing, which was a new experience for us and although tiring (for Tony particularly) was huge fun and a privilege.

We are active members of a Smallholder’s group in Normandy and this year I have taken on the administration of the group. I know I said no more, but old habits run deep!! We have also been able to lead and host a couple of the monthly meetings which is great fun, albeit a little daunting when you feel you are teaching your grandmother how to suck eggs. The feedback seems positive, so we’ll take that.

Our vegetable growing took a bit of a blow this summer when the sheep got into the veg patch and ate everything in site. Hey ho smiley

Plugged into friendship

This year we have been blessed with visits from dear friends. It’s always great to have time together to catch up properly and of course a spare pair of hands always goes down well.

We have continued to make some very good friends and enjoy their company and hospitality. We like to think that we are good neighbours and friends and are able to offer to help when needed.

The restoration work on the house is now practically finished and we are on track for opening as a B&B in March. We are looking forward to forging new friendships with our guests and being able to offer them a comfortable bed for the night and a good breakfast to see them on their way. We are right on a long distance cycle track of 600km and hope we will be able to welcome cyclists with their bikes.

So all in all we have had a really plugged in year and here’s hoping it carries on. We send you all our best wishes for Christmas and every joy for the New Year.

A season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Daily life at La Fosse Posted on Sun, October 15, 2017 14:43:55

Arrived back from New York tired but happy to have spent some time with Vicky and Kathryn and to have experienced New York. The city seemed so familiar somehow, but I guess over the years with the amount of American TV and Films I’ve seen it’s inevitable. We had a lovely time together and Kathryn was able to meet up with her dear friend Leo; he looked after three very jet lagged ladies the first evening and then later in the week widened our horizons taking us to eat Japanese food which was delicious.

Autumn has arrived here at La Fosse, and the leaves are turning to a glorious gold before dropping to the ground. The weather has been and is currently wonderfully warm and gentle.

We have had five new arrivals with our Bantam hen successfully brooding and hatching 5 tiny chicks. She is being the most marvelous mother and all our concerns about where to put them all, and whether she would reject them, have come to nothing. In fact the whole family has come together to raise them. Two nights ago the cockerel cared for them while mum had a “good night’s sleep” on her normal perch. We’d never heard of a cockerel keeping the young warm before. A truly modern man.

Sunday afternoon stroll with Mum and Dad

It’s sweet chestnut time again, much to the concern of the dogs, ducks and chickens who find walking across the prickly outer covering unpleasant. However, the inner chestnut makes up for the challenge of picking them and it’s a real pleasure to split, roast and shell the mouthfuls of sweetness. Earlier this week we spent a lovely evening with our neighbours drinking cider and eating chestnuts – so convivial.

This late summer and autumn the weather has been so kind that we are having one of our fields cut for sileage. Too much grass has not been a problem before now. Normally we are desperate for grass to feed the sheep. Mums and the girls are enjoying being in a field lined with chestnut trees – they don’t seem to mind the coverings! The boys are together in another field doing what boys do; there’s the occasional mock fight, followed by a bit of eating and then sleeping in the sunshine. What a life!!

The vegetable patch and its produce is now put to sleep for the autumn. It will be apples next to be juiced for the year to come – cheers everyone smiley

As John Keats wrote

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

It’s getting nearer

Daily life at La Fosse Posted on Fri, September 22, 2017 17:33:46

This week has been a busy week in so many respects with a number of things coming together to reach fruition.

Our Facebook page, and web-site are up and running. This has been a labour of discovery as I have tackled setting up our URL (, designing and writing the website, taking the necessary photographs and finally getting the sign-off from Tony!!

We also have had an unexpectedly lovely link in, a website which is aimed at cyclists enjoying the many lovely long distance bicycle routes that run throughout France. Two run really close to our home. The Velofrancette (Ouistreham to La Rochelle) runs through our village, so within a kilometer of La Fosse. The Veloscenic (Paris to Le Mont St Michel) crosses a main road just 10k from us. We are looking forward to welcoming cyclists to our home.

We have a Bantam hen sitting on nine eggs. She has decided to brood them in a bucket half way up the hay stack!! As hatching time draws ever closer we are considering how best to protect the young chicks from falling out of the hay, how to bring mum and babies down to a place of safety and how to integrate them with the rest of the adult chickens. It’s all fun and games.

On Sunday I am due to fly to the UK to meet up with Vicky and Kathryn and then fly on to New York. This is my wonderful Christmas present from the children – how lucky am I. We are off to see Hello Dolly on Broadway and probably take in a baseball match. I’m sure there will be hours of walking if we want to take in all the New York has to offer the three of us over four days. I am expecting to be exhausted but happy at the end.

Reflecting on the week ahead has made me think of the number of times we do the right thing but perhaps in the wrong place or the wrong order, a bit like the bantam, but that with a helping hand things work our OK in the end – a bit different but OK.

Watch out for photos of chickens and skyscrapers

So excited

Daily life at La Fosse Posted on Mon, September 18, 2017 12:42:21

So the time has finally arrived to start marketing our Bed and Breakfast property which is set in the heart of Normandy in the delightful location of Saint Fraimbault. This is a village renowned for its floral beauty. Both the Commune and local residents take great pride in the flowers and plants that can be found around the village. With an annual festival being attended by people from all over France.

We moved here 4 years ago after retiring and set ourselves the task of restoring our house to its former glory and making a lovely home that we can share with others.

Yesterday was the launch of the web-site and the Facebook page which we did with our eyes closed holding our breath!! Believe it or not within minutes we had people liking and sharing our site. We also received a review from a previous guest.

We went to bed happy and excited about what the future would bring for this new chapter in our lives.