La Chatte Gitane (or The Gypsy Cat) was the name we chose for our cottage in France. We chose it while on the road, moving home, 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 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, that is back in Ireland.

Monday, May 30, 2016

I'm Afraid

Like a mother, refusing to let her kids wander off in  this crazy and dangerous world.
Only, I am talking about my young veggie plants. I want to cosset them. I am afraid of all that is about to happen to them when/if I plant them outside.

An empty bed, waiting for me to get my act together.

I have lost about 8 courgettes and squashes to the cold easterly wind and  slugs. Luckily I have kept a few plants back and these are the ones that I want to treasure, I would like them to stay indoors where nothing destructive can touch them, preferably next to my bed. I have to bite the bullet and let them try to flourish out in the vegetable garden though.

The cabbages are in dire need of a space and I had just found the spot, only to discover a megalopolis for ants. Oh joy !

Some lime to sort out the very acidic soil, an extra layer of organic potting compost, a sprinkling of diatomaceous  earth and the white cabbage 'Enkhuizen' planted.

Not without a cardboard collar against cabbage root fly. I was reminded of this practice when reading one of Mark's Veg Plot posts . Of course ! My parents (my mother, actually) used to do this.

 I also used netting, which I bought a while back, to protect against cabbage white butterfly. I have now done everything within my power to give them the best start.  And if all goes to plan, I'll be making sauerkraut next winter.

The chickens had gotten into the radishes and made a fine mess. Fortunately, I can easily resow. If it's not the chickens, it's the cats who are exceptionally grateful for these huge cat litter boxes. Hence the bit of protection for the newly planted courgettes.

Did I tell you about our slug problem ? Well, we also have a humongous amount of leatherjackets  living in the soil, waiting for some roots to eat.
Fortunately, the latter have mainly been found in the flower garden and not in the raised beds. I throw them on the gravel area where the cars are parked, hoping the birds might find them. If not, they'll dry out and die a slow death.  How cruel am I ?

I had the healthiest looking tomato plants I've ever grown. We acclimatised  them in the tunnel for a week before planting out. And they still looked great.
The day after planting I noticed a few where drooping. They have deteriorated further.

A few days before the next photo

Surfing the net doesn't give me much to go on. A friend of ours thought it could be the soil, too acidic. We treated the soil with a sprinkle of lime granules and gave the foliage an extra seaweed extract shower. Here's hoping it will make a difference.
The funny thing is that there is only a few of the plants that are affected.

It's not all bad news. The broad beans are looking fantastic in full bloom.

The sugarsnap peas have suffered too but there is at least one or two pods making an appearance.

A few of the potatoes that I had dug out of the pantry and planted have popped above soil level.

Maybe in a few weeks time this small veggie plot will have some successes and I won't feel so disheartened.
Fingers and toes crossed.

Ouch ! Got a cramp in me toes !

Patricia xxx...x

Friday, May 27, 2016

A Wendy House for Chooks

Broody hen Number Two has left the barn and her eggs behind for home. She really has had enough ! Scratching away with the others and no sign of broodiness anymore.
Broody hen Number One who came home a few days ago is still sitting on the nest, but in the coop, trying to hatch straw.
That leaves us with broody hen Number Three. She is still in the barn. But soon we will need that enclosure for 15 broilers, so madam will have to move again.

On Wednesday, I surfed the internet to see what's available in hen houses. We need something for broody blummin' hens and hopefully a chick or two.
Found something and ordered it. Today it was delivered, in flat pack.

Fragile, indeed. I don't think it would stand up to one winter storm. But...we can easily bring it into the barn once everything returns back to normal in the hen household.

We started assembling the Wendy house straight away. It looks like a doll's house next to the other one. 
Saturday evening, Number Three will have a new home near her other family. Fingers crossed it'll stand up to scrutiny.

Flappy is thinking of moving in.

Patricia xxx...x

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mourning Their Leaving

But also joyful that they've been in our lives for five weeks.
We dropped off Mikaela and Keegan  at the train station in Killarney on Friday noon. Not waiting for the train to arrive and seeing them get on it, leaving us behind, we opted for saying our goodbyes on the platform and had them waive us out.
Am I getting more emotional as I get older ? After having had so many volunteers over the years (close to a hundred, or maybe more), this goodbye was the saddest for me. Still, the majority of volunteers hold a special place in my heart.
Before they left they gave us a box of chocolates (all eaten now) and a postcard. I hope they don't mind me showing you the card.

They sent me these photos from the train. Munching their bacon butties which I made for their lunch.
Is it just me or do they look really tired and exhausted in these pictures ? Maybe it's good that they got away.

In other news, the piggies have been let outside. This happened a week after they arrived here. 

They are in a restricted area until they are big enough not to be able to fit underneath the electric fence. They love being outside.

I've planted all the tomatoes, peppers and chillies in the tunnel today.

 Oh, and the tangled up  the runner beans. Hopefully they'll find their way up.
In the back I have four cucamelons, I am curious as to what the results are going to be.

The chickens are driving me around the bend. Three out of seven are broody, so we placed them in the barn in a separate enclosure from the pigs. That was on Thursday. Today the white one decided she'd had enough of the holiday and made her way back home.
She's sitting inside the hen house on zero eggs.

The other four and the cockerel thought that was a great moment for them to get out of the coop and wander around a bit.

All fine and dandy, until I found them going hell for leather in the raised veggie beds.

That particular bed wasn't planted up, so I hope they found some leatherjackets and slugs. But they have ruined my radishes and rocket in another bed. The little feckers !

Patricia xxx...x

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

We're About to Lose Them.

Mikaela and Keegan will be leaving us on Friday.

They'll be turning their backs on us, and going off on new adventures.

We make the most of it. Last Sunday we took them sightseeing to Staigue Fort nearby.
It is a (approx) 2000 year old ring fort of Celtic origin.
That is dry-stone walling for ye !

Yesterday we had the long promised sushi making session.

One last push today to get the chicken coop and run spic and span. 
They will be missed. For the fine individuals they are and for all the hard work they did for us.

Patricia xxx...x

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Medley

 The little ones have been outside for a couple of hours yesterday. In a restricted area, of course, and with extra sheep mesh fencing. The electric fence is placed just inside of their area (on a low setting) and they have made their acquaintance  with it a few times. They still need the training as that wasn't done before they came here. They didn't yelp, but soon thought better of it than come too close. 
Anyway, they had better things to do. Like rooting to their heart's content. I didn't have my camera with me hence the photo of the piglets indoors.

 Fergus found his own little greenhouse.

 Mikaela and Keegan got on with the raised beds for the tunnel.

 Not without some advice from the other boss. ;-)

 They have filled a part of it with soil/compost/heavy turf.

 Hard workers deserve a dinosaur chop for dinner.

 The chickens are pleased that the weather has finally turned into spring.
Three of them wouldn't know because they are sitting inside the hen house feeling all broody.

Our magnificent Artuur the 3rd. He's a sweet lad.

And what have I been doing ? Repotting and planting out a little. Today I want most of the tomatoes, courgettes, runner beans, chillies etc. in the tunnel. They don't have to be planted out yet and can stay in their pots for another week or so. But they have to get out of the kitchen. Everything I repot takes up more kitchen counter space. Out with the lot ! :-)

Have a good weekend !
Patricia xxx...x
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