La Chatte Gitane (or The Gypsy Cat) was the name we chose for our cottage in France at the time. We chose it while on the road, moving house the first time round, from Ireland to France with 2 dogs and 7 cats in the car.
This blog began its insignificant life as a recipe book for friends and family who would ask me repeatedly for a recipe of this, that and the other.
Since then it has taken many different directions, like we did and like gypsies tend to do. Sometimes making a U-turn and revisiting familiar roads and taking a break when necessary.
You'll find recipes here, but also musings about the places we've called home, the gardens that we've established, not always successfully, the homes we've improved and the environments we've lived in. Currently, after yet another stint in Ireland, we're back in France @ Le Mas d'Ayen

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Erm... What Was It that I Came in Here For ?

My befuddled brain is full of measurements and calculations while I try to make the roman blinds for the bedroom - finally. It takes a fair bit of focus, you see, and I'm so easily distracted.

But that's not what I wanted to talk to you about. Not yet, anyway.
I'm here to show you our mini plant nursery, which is what my kitchen now has been promoted to.

 The upside down plastic boxes are to protect the seedlings from ...

 ...these two on the right.
 The pumpkin seeds have sprung and are growing at triffid speed.
Rouge Vif d'Etampes 

 Left : squash Futsu. Right : yellow and green courgette.

 Squash Butterbush

 Crystal Lemon cucumber in the front and only two Tuffy squash plants

More courgettes that I've sown last week. A small variety of white colour.
Bianca di Trieste

 The broad beans have come on in leaps and bounds.

I've now placed them in our homemade cold frame for another week and then they can be planted out.

 I've placed the potted cutting of a lilac tree in the cold frame as well.
It had overstayed its welcome in the kitchen. Not really, but it should also find its final place in the garden soon.

While I was outside I took a peek into the cloches that protect the recently transplanted strawberries.
And they're doing just fine.

And this is what I have to deal with when trying to measure, calculate, cut, pin and sew.

Till next time.
Patricia xxx...x

Monday, March 28, 2016

My Tip for Wrapping a Birthday Present.

Make it bold and blowsy ! Make it count !

Especially if you have to wrap something bulky and you only have brown wrapping paper and a few scraps of pink tissue to do the job.

It was our friend Sophie's 50th birthday on Good Friday. With five couples we chipped in and bought her a large stockpot, for Sophie to make her cheese.


The stockpot.

We didn't have a birthday card, so I found another way to 'sign' our names to the gift. Birthday cards, lovely and beautiful as they are, either get thrown away or find a place in the darkest corner of a drawer for the next 10 years.
Sophie loves flowers and herbs, so I took a dive into my seed stock and came up with seeds from five flowers and five herbs.
 I made sachets from brown wrapping paper and Bert had the responsibility of printing the labels.

For an extra layer of protection I used tin foil to contain the seeds.
The tin foil then went into the brown paper sachet. Sealed it.

I had scrapbook paper lying around (never done scrap booking in my life, but can't resist buying beautiful paper every now and then) and made the cover sachets from that.

Bert made the labels that went onto the envelopes, with the name of the herb/flower and the friends who gifted the present.

I then attached florist wire to each of the packets of seeds.

Wrapped the stock pot with brown paper, embellished with pink and green tissue, lots of ribbons and fastened the seeds at the top.

And there you have it!

The party was amazing ! Great food, great music, a lot of dancing and many many people.

And there was some booze too. ;)

Till next time
Patricia xxx...x

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Of Squashes, Pumpkins, Cukes and Broad Beans

There is a lot of movement, but not all are doing well. Harumph !

The list
Squash, Courgettes and Pumpkins

Courgette Yellow Zucchini : Very attractive bright yellow courgettes with a slightly different flavour ro green varieties.
Black Beauty : Dark green cylindrical fruit up to 20 cm in length. Ideal for slicing and freezing.
I've grown both of these before and they give good crops

Squash Tuffy : Delicious acorn squash for baking, with sweet yellow flesh. Black-green thick ribbed skin. Not very promising that only one out of 10 seeds has germinated so far.
Squash Futsu : Small slightly ribbed fruit with brown-orange skin, weighing up to 1 kg
Squash Butterbush : Squat, fleshy, butternut flavoured fruit on compact plants, suitable for growing in pots. Looks a lot like a butternut squash but much smaller.

Pumpkin Rouge vif D'Etampes : Excellent flavour and grows well in acid soils. They vary in size, up to 18 kg are a possibility. I've had these before - albeit in France - and they are tasty buggers. Here's hoping for some success in Ireland too.

Broad Bean Express Eleonora : Strong hardy plants providing mild, sweet beans which are good for freezing. I've never had much luck with broad beans as they seem to attract black aphids like there is no tomorrow. Wait and see.

Cucumber Crystal Lemon : Delicious pale round fruit. Pick when 9 - 12 cm in diameter. They've been a favourite of mine for a long time as they do well in cooler climes.

Yesterday morning I got a nice surprise in the post.
More seeds. I knew at the back of my mind that some seeds were missing from my order, but I assumed I had just forgotten to order them. And I didn't go and cross check the delivery bill wit my order list.

I thought this Cucamelon sounded interesting to try. But due to lack of greenhouse it'll have to be homed in the kitchen in a pot. 

You'd think we have a veggie plot as large as a football pitch. We haven't. ;)

Patricia xxx...x

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Pile of Poop

Last week we got a load of cow dung delivered by our friend Sigi from Blueberry Hill Farm

 He arrived with one of their volunteers and we ended up with a nice clean heap.

Yesterday, Bert and I filled up our raised beds some more with a layer of straw and topped with the manure.  

We filled them the same way last year and now that the straw had broken down, so did the level of soil go down.

I proceeded to cover the soil with plastic and other 'stuff' (great slug trap) until I'm ready to plant. It'll keep the weeds out if all goes to plan.

I rescued four strawberry plants and moved them to the raised bed near the kitchen. Homemade cloches from 5 ltr water bottles should protect them somewhat. That's if we don't get any more forceful breezes.

I am glad that we've got that job done ! Now, on with the sowing !

Have a great week.
Patricia xxx...x

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Paddy's Day in Sneem

Sneem, the village where I live, has had a parade on St Patrick's Day for yonks. Also on this day there is a substantial market and people flock here from afar.

These 4 photos were taken by Kerry Experience Tours - the very best in Ireland !  Kerry Experience Tours show you the  places that are not just the obvious tourist traps, so if you ever want to book a tour when you're around these parts your know who to call.

As you can see the weather was gorgeous, which made for a great atmosphere.

My mum, boasting a black eye* and green hair. Paddy's day, well and proper.

 The people.

And the parade.
 The flags that represent Ireland's counties.

The Men's Shed float.

 The kids are always the best.

 A reference to the 1916 rising.

 Ah ! The film crew from Star Wars. Yes, this area seem to be held in high regard for the film industry.  A smidgin of The Force Awakens was filmed on Skellig Michael , and island off the coast here. 
The Lobster was filmed almost entirely in Sneem.

Tahila Ladies Club

 The Beekeeper's Club.

 Making a point of what the people think about the last election and in particular the formation of a government.

The parade wouldn't be complete without the contribution of a few farm animals.

And that's it for another year.  Sneem has given the start  signal  for the upcoming tourist season. Let's make it a good one, with great visitors, a decent amount of sunshine and the best hospitality.

Patricia xxx...x

* My mum fell last Sunday and collected herself a bruised cheekbone. We both got a bit of a shock (I more so than her), but as you can see in the pictures above, she was in good spirit on St Patrick's day. She's now back home in Belgium.

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