Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Food Glorious Food......

Not been on here for a bit. No bad thing really.  We were off in't England for a few days, over t'bank 'oliday, like. And enjoyable 'twere too! Save for the bleeding usual UK Bank Hols weather, of course. A tad windy, overcast and chilly at times.

We were in London followed by Kent then West Yorkshire, with Kent to finish off before I returned to La Belle France and half-decent weather again. Though it's been a bit nippy today.

J was off on a bread-making course at http://courses.thehandmadebakery.coop/.  These are held in the small, pleasant canal-side town of Slaithwaite. Or Slaw It, as the locals say! Always game to be awkward are yer Yorkies! But, I must also say, most welcoming and friendly too.  The bakery itself is a fine example of a small, community-based enterprise that has proper 'green' shoots and concerns for sustainability and local needs and concerns. Altogether, an admirable enterprise which we first heard of a few years ago when it was shortlisted for (or won)  an award by BBC Radio 4's Food Programme.

J enjoyed her day out - an early birthday pressie from me - and I walked the canal towpath in a strong wind. Luckily I managed to avoid the rainfall by stopping for lunch at 'The Moonraker', a narrowboat, self-styled a 'floating tearoom'.  Again, the locals were most friendly and helpful.

Our visit fortunately/unfortunately (delete as required) coincided with the cup final where a fairly local team were taking on the cream of northern Spain/Catalonia. The result was inevitable but not widely admired by many locals, it must be said!  As we had been staying with a friend in Kent who is a rabid MU fan, the home-coming was also somewhat fraught! 

I unfortunately forgot to take a camera, which I left in the glove compartment of the car at Poitiers airport.  So no pics from Blighty, I'm afraid.

I collected Charlie & Jack from the kennels this morning: both were glad to see me and to be released once more into the French countryside. Charlie whinnied for the entire journey home then popped in and out every few minutes as if checking to see that Jack and I were still around. When I collected him, he was huddled in the furthest, darkest corner of his caged run. It took a fair bit of persuasion to coax him out and into my hands. Let alone into his carrier thingy!

Our Brit neighbour, Frank, watered the garden and fed the Chooks in our absence. We already have a small cucumber growing together with about four/five Toms, a few small green chillis, a couple of courgettes and the first set of Peas and Beans are flowering. Amazing what such a short time brings over here in this climate!

Frank invited me over to his son's place - which is not far off - to a BBQ this evening. I completely forgot and went off shopping instead!  Most embarrassing. Hopefully, Frank will understand.

We now have a vast number of eggs awaiting inventive use. Egg Curry anyone......

Saturday, 21 May 2011

I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down.....

Another hot day. Yippee! But at the same time, or on the other hand - take your pick - it does get a bit wearying. All that sun and heat becomes a tad ennuient, after a while! Never thought I'd say that, or at least not since leaving Spain. And more of the same forecast tomorrow.  Oh God....what will I do?

I watered everything a bit earlier than usual last night which meant I could sit in the garden with a bottle of rouge and a book and an empty, bruised brain - a bit like my Hens, I suppose. Though they seem content - thankfully - with water!  It was a glorious, near perfect evening, in short. Not too hot, not chilly and delightful with the rabbitting of the crickets, frogs and Cuckoos, plus the harsh cackle of a Woodpecker somewhere in the distance.

Charlie elected to join me for a bit before hustling off in search of an hors d'ouvres at the appero hour:

Greedy little booger

The poor little moose gave him great pleasure for about fifteen minutes or so before he swallowed it. I almost intervened at one point. It was such a lovely little thing and made the most pitiful squeals:

Maybe next time. I've intervened many times and saved God knows how many of its brethern over the years. I'm a bit of a soft touch at times, I'm afraid!

I had a quick look over the plant life to confirm all was well and noticed a tiny - nay - a baby cucumber had raised its head:

And a couple of the Tomato plants were also bearing/showing fruit:

The Chooks were a bit reluctant to go in for the night; perhaps they too were enjoying the warmth of the evening. But eventually, as the sun faded, they wandered into their kennel! We are now getting two eggs a day and the odd shaped egg we had a few days ago turned out to be double yolker. Most satisfactory  -  and tasty to boot.

I received an emailed attachment of documents for review and editing from a friend in Switzerland this morning. They were originally drafted in German, then roughly translated/interpreted and altered by a German friend (from Sweden) into English: not a happy sight. An interesting cross-European cultural/linguistic melange, to be sure! But English? I'm afraid not! Now I'll have to set aside a day or so to deal with it for her over the coming weekend.

I also received my book on Scots Land Law from the Orkney solicitors today. I've given it a quick look and, as far as I can superficially tell, the law and processes seem to be analogous to the English system but with different terms and some archaic Scots expressions, which as a Scot, don't (yet!) cause me any problem. Certainly looks promising. And perfectly possible!

J has a day off tomorrow but must spend it in Kent. Not too bad really....could be worse. She could have still been in London, I suppose.  I myself am going over to England next week. I can't say I'm looking forward to it, though there are a few bits and bobs I could do with and so will take the opportunity to stock up a bit.

The temps in Sweden seem to be improving steadily. Today it was about seventeen degrees at its best and dry, which makes a difference because in the immediate aftermath of the snowmelt/thaw the countryside is completely sodden. It takes a good few weeks or so just to soften the ground and dry it out, usually just in time for the 23 hours of daylight we had at the summer solstice!

 A Swedish Kirk and its overnight cabins, for worshippers, in days long gone:

 Summer in Vaster Norrland:

J in the distance here, with Hamish & father in foreground, walking the ski-slope above Fun City.

Sweden is certainly beautiful, not only in summer but most of the time: 'Tis a pity, 'tis also absolutely infuriating as a state controlled monstrosity! 

I took Jack off to the hairdresser a few days ago. With the intense heat here, and his rather shaggy coat, it was much needed and - I like to think - much appreciated. Though to hear his whines as he was shampooed, clipped and groomed, you'd never think it:

Now, there Jack...that must be better.....surely!

I finally came back into the house as the sun gave its last gasp for the smouldering day:

And that's enough for me. Have a good weekend:

Friday, 20 May 2011

Sunshine On My Shoulders.....

We're having a wonderfully hot, dry time of it right now. Temps are hovering around the 30 degree mark for much of the time. Yesterday I took J to Nantes airport for her return flight to Gatwick. On the return leg, as I drove through a small local town, the neon display thingy the Frogs love so much, was showing 26 degrees at about 21:00. Not bad for mid-May. I rushed on back home and grabbed a glass of rouge and a garden seat. Then realised that I had still to water most of the garden. So my relaxing, summery evening drink was short-lived but pleasant nonetheless.

It now takes about thirty minutes to water everything, most of which is growing fairly vigorously and well. Save for the lettuces which are now down to two - one good and one, well,.....not nearly so good!  Just as well they're not my favourites, though J does enjoy them so. We have a few (miniscule) flowers beginning to appear on a couple of the Aubergines; a few Peppers have already set; ditto the Chillis (my favourites); and even a small tomato, of a perfectly acceptable girth given how early in the outdoor season it really is.

Our German friend and neighbour in Sweden, Roger, phoned this morning. He has been travelling southern Europe - France, Portugal, Spain etc., - since January. Following  a few weeks in his hometown, Chemnitz, recently, he has now returned to his Swedish home in Långvattnet.  He arrived back yesterday, following a few days working in Oslo, Norway. He is already grumbling about the quality of Swedish food and its cost; the lack of variety of victuals; the high cost of wine; the rip-off costs of electricity from the truly awful E-on,  and the weather!

So, no change there then, I thought. It all just about sums up life in Sweden - a State controlled madness with a frightening lack of basic foods/produce and a blinkered attitude to the single-market, open border commerce,  EU, and a refusal to allow its citizens or visitors access to reasonably priced plonk and grub. It has an unacceptable and irrational reluctance to permit access to normal, easily obtainable booze and  tucker from other EU/neighbouring countries. Vendors apply small Swedish flags to Svenska produce, and have the absurd menace to then extol its virtues as being 'Bäst i Varlden'! No need to translate, I'd say. All absolute nonsense, of course. How can they possibly - despite EU subsidies, which they hypocritically grasp with all hands - grow decent fresh veg or fruit when most of the country is under snow and severely temperaturely challenged, for half of every year?

But Swedes are so single-mindedly obsessed with creating an international image of themselves and their country that they have genuinely lost touch with reality. God knows how they cope when travelling abroad and coming face to face with a vast array of good quality, fresh veg and fruit, a range of meats, and booze for sale in ordinary stores!! They must be so shocked!

Anyway, rant over, he also confirmed that temps were about 5 degrees overnight and a bit higher during the day, though there is still snow clinging to the forest tracks and undergrowth.  Today it was cloudy and raining, he said. I don't think he fully appreciated my localised weather, food and wine report! Think he wished he was still in Spain.....

One of the more noticeable aspects of living in this warm region is the evening/night noise. Not agricultural machinery but wildlife - crickets, birds.....and frogs. The frogs make an incredible noise - almost a need for hearing protection, in all probability.  And the crickets, are ever chirrupping noisily through the day and well into the night.  In Sweden, it's really the distracting, threatening buzz of the odd wasp or the constant evening menace of the marauding Mozzie that pierces the ears, in every sense of the word!

As dusk fell last night and I retired into the house - reluctantly, perhaps - a lovely moth appeared, banging, crashing and thumping frenziedly at the kitchen window. To my surprise, having expected it to bash itself into oblivion, it was still there this morning when I surfaced at about 09:00:

Quite an attractive little critter.

Charlie decided to give me a wakening nudge at the un-Godly hour of 04:00 last night. I woke to the sound of purring, followed by the now habitual nose bang, a sign of affection, I like to think, and muchos padding alongside my tired body.  It looked like he remained indoors all of the night, as he was still in his recently adopted position in a corner of the bedroom by the door when I finally got up. Because of this new position, I went out and bought him a new bed thingy today. As it cost me all of about 20 Euros, I hope he uses the damn thing:

It's a 'Happy House'.......'my ar**', I suspect, given Charlie's temperament and his usual caution!

I put his black, blanketty thing in it in the hope that he will see it as his space. Might mean a bit more legroom in/on the bed of a night!  All will be revealed, as they say. In due course, as we lawyers are wont to waffle.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Flying in to Las Angeles.....

Weather a bit iffy today; more like Scotland than the Poiteu Charentes.  Cloudy, windy at times, with temps in low to mid teens.  When I was practising as a lawyer in South Wales some years ago, I used to occasionally bump into one of the civil court, district judges at a local delicatessen in the indoor market, where we 'd both be buying some exotic sandwich or other for lunch. If it was lashing down - a common enough experience in Wales - I would joke to him that it was a 'grand day. Like a Hebridean summer's day....'  I'm not sure he believed me!

After so many years in Sweden, where temps can be extremely extreme, to move here where it's often sunny and warm takes a bit of getting used to; nevertheless, it's amazing how quickly you become accustomed to the overlying theme of warmth outdoors. So that, when the sun decides it's not coming out to play, the temptation is to carp on about it. So I'll move on, I think.

We've been toying with the notion of upping sticks (again!) and moving up to the Hebrides. It's quite appealing really. And for family reasons, concerning our daughter and family, seems to make some sense.  In the course of our deliberations, I've been online checking out property prices and all that sort of stuff. It does appear pretty reasonable, especially given the quality of life that comes with living in that region on the edge of the UK.

However, to my surprise, not to say astonishment, I've been offered some online work, law related, from a firm based in the northern tip of Scotland and with offices in Orkney. I'm very interested in the proposal which requires me to check out some land lawy things online on a regular basis. It can be done from anywhere - including here in France - but it has made me research living on Orkney, a group of beautiful islands off the northern tip of the UK where, again, property prices appear reasonable and the quality of life looks great, albeit windy at times - ie., a lot of the time! So, who knows......

Charlie was in last night but went off, hunting presumably, in the early hours of morning. He then returned noisily, but without fresh food in his jaws/paws, at about 02:00 and demanded attention, with a bump on the nose for me thrown in for good measure, and much padding on my slumbering chest. Just to let me know he was around, I'm sure! I heard him giving Jack a hard time, as usual, till Jack with a loud snuffle and sigh, dragged himself from his basket and off to the floor by the far side of the bed - J's side, where he huffed and harrumphed before settling back down for a good night's kip. Charlie. mission accomplished seemingly, then left again. He hasn't been back since but I expect his arrival anytime now! He's not had his cream supplement yet, so must be getting peckish!

J is due back tomorrow. I'm collecting her from Nantes airport at about 09:40. It's a bit of a pain at that time. It's virtually impossible not to hit the Nantes - the capital of Brittany, and a lovely city on the Loire - rush hour traffic. So I'll have to be up early and off with some time to spare in case of traffic jams on the dual carriageway airport ring-road approach.  Since we had a power-cut a few days ago, I've been unable to reset the Sony cube radio/alarm clock. It's just too complicated and, having lost the instructions for the damn thing, I can't remember how to do it. Crazy thing!

The Spanish house is still not on the market for sale. The agent concerned is going up to check it out on Tuesday, after which she'll give us her view and hopefully put it up for sale. It's a fine place but we just don't really like Spain enough. The Swedish place, however, is now up for grabs: http://svenskatorp.se/object_details.asp?id=1066&mainId=62

Hopefully it might sell fairly fast, and probably to a German. The Krauts are busy buying up Sweden at the moment and that would pee-off our Sweedle neighbour who behaved greedily when trying to buy it privately from us!  We shall see.....!

Both Hens have started laying, though we still get only one egg on odd days. The first from one of the Chooks was more like an enlarged Kinder Surprise offering than a real one though.

Here it is alongside its mate's pretty conventional product: 

It is lovely to have fresh eggs and Hens around again. They're always generally fairly trouble-free animals and quite easy and fun to keep. Well worth the effort and normally rewarding.

In one of the local supermarkets I recently spotted smallish jars of Cepes/Mushrooms for sale, at a horrendous cost: about 18 Euros the kilo, it worked out at.  I've little doubt they'd be even costlier in the UK, when they can be found!

In Sweden, we had huge amounts of these things, growing wild on footpaths and lakeside tracks and verges. We even had them in the garden at times. Our German neighbours, who hailed from the old Eastern block side of the country, were determined foragers and used to collect them in vast quantities. They would carefully thread them together with a needle and festoon the kitchen with the things. Hanging them from the ceiling to dry out for dispatch to family and friends back home, they also vacuum packed them for use throughout the year till they're reappearance next Autumn/Fall.

Here's one we picked up next to the house:

We, too, collected them in considerable quantities and luckily still have a fair load, ready dried, in the kitchen cupboard.  They taste great in stews, sauces etc. Marvellous, nutty, smoky sort of flavour. Very 'Flavery'  indeed, as J would say, with her specially coined - and apposite - expression! Not too sure about the spelling of it though!

As far as possible, we try to grow as much of our own Veg as possible. Many moons ago, in the Brecon Beacons, we were almost self-sufficientish: we had loads of veg; Hens and Ducks for meat and eggs; Goats  (Anglo-Nubians) for milk and meat; Bees (with little success, it must be said);  Sheep and Pigs, a variety of breeds from Berkshires through Saddlebacks to so called Oxford Sandy & Blacks - a breed that I always felt to be little more than Tamworth/Glos Old Spot crosses in reality. The great advantage was fresh food from animals that were free-ranging for the most part; and the provenance of the tucker was known to us personally.

In Sweden, we tried as far as possible, but the climatic constraints were limiting. Nonetheless, we were able to buy meat direct from our neighbouring farm. As a dairy enterprise, they invariably had Steers to dispose of each year and we always bought one from them. The only difficulty - and one which I never enjoyed but viewed as being part of the deal - was that Håkan would kill the animals (humanely, with the right equipment, all very rural Swedish)  himself on the farm, and I would be roped in to help move/cajole or just plain drag the beasts out into the field area before slaughter, and then also to assist with the skinning and gutting of the thing. Later, after it had hung for a sufficient time, J and I would have to hack up the carcase into useable - if not necessarily recognisable - joints of meat:

Here's J playing at being a butcher, with John Seymour's old 'Self Sufficiency' for reference. Eat your heart out Hugh Fearnley-Whittenstall!

Another welcome source of excellent quality meat in Sweden was the local, village hunting syndicate. Each year the Swedes long for the beginning of the Moose - known as Älg (pronounced Elly) - season. They go off with their wildly barking dogs - Älghunder - into the forest and sit on hunting chairs and try shooting these elusive and enormous beasts for meat. The meat is not at all gamey, being more like a very lean beef, if anything. It's absolutely superb and highly recommended. It also makes a mean curry! And what more could you ask for!

The dogs are bred to sniff out the Moose and when they find one, they just stand and bark at the thing, attracting the hunters to it for the kill. They are huge dogs and can be a bit intimidating at first sight, though generally they are fairly friendly, albeit in a powerful, knock-you-over kind of way:

Håkan's Älghund, Birk.

We used to pay a moderate price for this wonderfully welcome meat, which always came not just on the bone but generally as a complete side of meat. Out with the knives, saws and the John Seymour again!

Once when we had been out collecting a load of timber for the stove from a nearby hamlet, Håkan received a phone call advising him that there was a newly killed young Älg/Moose by the railway line at the bottom of the village. As this was on a stretch of track that was bounded by his hunting ground/forest, he was entitled to the body. We all went down to see it, where it had been hit by a passing train, which had caught/slit the poor animal's back leg tendons. It had then presumably tottered a bit before collapsing and giving up the ghost:

Don't know what I was thinking that day - no gloves!!

 Given the temp was about minus 20 at the time, and the train driver had phoned in the kill, the time of which was therefore known, the meat was pretty fresh (though almost frozen) and Håkan generously offerred us half of the meat. That was the first time I was drafted in to the gutting process (done on the spot) and the skinning, which we carried out at his farm.  The price to be paid for what turned out to be a good amount of excellent meat! Now easily one of our firm favourites. Don't think we'll be having any soon, though! Drat!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

With My Little Ukulele In My Hand.....

Another hot and sultry day yesterday. Managed to finish off the mowing, despite the bleeding mower packing in with an annoying regularity. It farts and backfires sometimes, so sounds like overheating - aren't we all, here? - and maybe a new sparkpluggy bit might help. Must take a look. Sometime soon.....ish.

The Chooks were in fine fettle and are becoming more used to my presence. They don't rush off to the farthest corner of their enclosure now whenever I appear. Instead they lurk - as far as Hens can lurk, that is - nearby until I provide more fodder whereupon they attack it with relish, and loads of clucking. The clucking is probably their way of telling me to Booger Off, Pal! But I just cluck back in counterpoint and grope around optimistically for eggs. Of which yesterday there were none! A bad day at Chooken Gulch, to say the least!

In Sweden we kept Hens for a few years. The cost of feed and the need for heating and lighting through the cold, winter months - ie. six months or so a year - didn't make this in any way a sensible enterprise. We eventually gave up on it as a lost cause. We did, however, have one favourite Hen - Lady. She had real character, was curious, like most of her ilk, and came running when called by name, an endearing trait:

After a few years of reliable laying, during which time her two travelling companions were gobbled up by mean Mister Fox, she became egg-bound. I scanned the internet for remedies and finally had to resort to holding her in a basin of hot water before rubbing her bits with vaseline:

You'd have thought the shirt alone might have induced a resumption of laying....but sadly not!

Oddly enough, after my treatment she became extremely affectionate (if that's possible with a Hen), sitting by my side in the garden of an evening, eating crumbled crisps and such like alongside us.  I rather miss her. She'd have loved it down here, I'm sure!

I read on a Hen-keeper forum, that it's generally considered best to have trios of Hens. I didn't know this, although in the past we generally had a fair number, certainly more than our current duo. I also remember that when buying Ducklings, they tended to be sold in threes, too. (We always kept ducks, Aylesburys and Khaki Campbells, mostly, for their eggs, which we prefer over Hens). So might be something in it. Maybe have to get another and weather the storm of the fight for top-hen position in the pecking order. Need to get a better Coop for them first though!

I retuned my Ukulele yesterday and tried rattling through a few numbers. The problem I have - among many - is my nails. I keep two nails on my right (strumming) hand fairly long because of guitar finger-picking. I've never got on with finger-picks - feels a bit like having your hand in a mousetrap  -  though I have always used thumbpicks.  The longish nails get in the way and catch on the Uke strings making it tricky to play smoothly. There must be a way round the problem but I can't see it right now.

Hamish, the Grandsprog, also has a Uke. We bought it for his fourth birthday, last year. He's a bit unsure of it still and hasn't got the hang of how to hold it, chord it and strum along yet. It'll come in time, I'm sure. He has one of those brightly coloured ones, although relatively inexpensive they're really fairly playable!  This one he's holding here was a bit more pricey and is J's:

They're great fun instruments and just the right size for little hands, I reckon. His father plays guitar so should be able to help him get going.

I noticed today that local farmers are already taking a cut of hay from their fields. In Sweden, this was a late summer activity, though the grass does grow very quickly between late May and July.  Our German friends and neighbours up there went off to Norway for work one summer,  leaving us to arrange with our neighbour Monica to cut their hay and for us to gather it in for them. They had 19 - yes, 19 - huge Kraut rabbits, so needed the hay for food over winter. They bought the rabbits (initially a modest 6 in number)  in Germany planning to breed them - which certainly happened in a totally uncontrolled way with a multiplying herd - for meat. At the time of purchase they didn't have a car, so they transported them across Germany then through Denmark by train, I think, and finally from Denmark by ferry in cat baskets as hand luggage on a small trolley before decanting them into the back of an estate car hired in Sweden for the 1000 Km journey North. It was really absurdly amusing at the time.

Anyway, we got lumbered with doing their hay after the initial cut. It all had to be done by hand and was backbreaking work, labouring under a hot sun and struggling with Mozzies and Horseflies. Bloody hard going, it were!:

It is a beautiful spot but being lakeside means loads of unwanted, unpleasant bugs and Mozzies in huge numbers!

I'm becoming increasingly concerned about Jack. He had his eleventh birthday last month so is in his twelfth year. We've had many Cocker Spaniels over the years. Twelve seems to be about their average alotted span. He's in fair health and pretty good all round for his age, save for his deafness (selective at times?!)  which he's had for a year or two. He's always been a wonderfully obedient, loyal and affectionate dog. In reality, he's J's dog rather than mine. She chose him, trained him and absolutely adores him. He responds best to her commands and clearly dotes on her too.

Here they both are, picnicking in the Charentes:

A few months ago, while still in Sweden, I noticed he had a developing tendency to want a helping hand when getting up into the back of the car. Previously, he'd simply take a little canter up to the open door and leap and scrabble into the rear footwell. Recently, however, he baulks at doing that and instead waits patiently for a hand up and into the rear. He is also limping in a strange way. We checked him over and there's no visible problem, nothing stuck in a paw or anything like that. He was in for his Rabies and general vaccination updates to the Vet last week. We mentioned his apparent limp and the vet gave him a thorough going over. She reckons he has a slightly atrophied back haunch and is probably suffering from arthritis.

I personally fear that his limp is becoming more pronounced and hope he is not in pain or suffering too much. I also hope that his haunch/leg doesn't give out on him. 'Twould be sad were it to continue to deteriorate.

Here he is keeping Hamish on the hop:

And, of course, keeping me on the hop, a few months ago in Sweden:

Only a few days short of a month before I can get/claim my bus-pass. An old friend and I, here seen riding the rails, or mower - working for his meatballs - in Sweden:

 He already has his pass.  We are planning an epic trip around the Capital. I've always been tempted to grab a bus to 'World's End', even though I now know it to be, somewhat prosaically, just by Chelsea. It'll mean another visit to London to arrange and collect the damn thing, but I need to visit anyway for Wine Gums and Pork Pies  (both of which I have a penchant for and cannot find here in Frogland) and medication/GP appointments etc. C'est la vie!

Monday, 9 May 2011

I've Seen Pictures Of Flowers.....

Firstly, I must apologise to all who suffer from slow broadband speeds, cos there's loads of pix in this post. Sorry......

Secondly, I had to get the mower out yesterday, the grass was just getting too long. 'Twas hot work with temps around the low 20s. The light cloud cover didn't help, making it feel a bit heavy at times. Had to take many breaks for refreshment and rest. But it does look a bit better, I must admit. J would normally chase up this sort of activity but she's in the UK/Kent for another week or so.

Here she is playing in the garden in Sweden:

Of course, the bloody ride-on thingy is still up in Sweden! So I was left trailing around with a so-called self-drive power mower that conked out regularly, overheated and is a bit of a sod to restart! Perfect. Just the thing for temps of low 20s, on a rising curve!

 In addition, I've finally sort of finished turning over the new patch which is to host the next Bean sowing exposition. Now that was hard work, stripping off turf, lugging it by wheelbarrow off to the Hens as a plaything, then double-digging the whole sodding thing.

 At least in Sweden, under a thick blanket of snow,  there was no need to use a mower. Well, not till summer was fully entrenched. Meaning not till June:

Jack decided to drag himself from his basketty thing and join me to help out. But it all proved too much for the old codger, who is now in his twelfth year:

At one point in the proceedings, as I came in for a drink with Jack nosing just ahead, Charlie appeared with a Lizard in his jaws, which he promptly dropped in his rush to bug his doggy buddy. He was then baffled by its disappearance when it sensibly shot off into the understairs cupboard with its door ajar, leaving him somewhat perplexed:

I've previously mentioned my doubts about the Lettuces. You can see why:

Although the Celery, which is at the far end of the same bed, appears to be doing okay:

Most of the rest of the stuff also seems to be alive and kicking:

Beans, doing well after the attacks by bloody Mulets.
Peas, thriving
And even the second Pea bed is now sprouting littluns, thank you:

The Chillis have little flowers and baby fruits on a few of the half-dozen plants:

The Toms and Peppers are also fine although the first couple of Aubergines withered for some reason.  
They've been replaced by four substitutes that seem to be well. There's also now a couple of courgettes, still smallish and potted. They do tend to get out of hand when fruiting fully - and there's only so much to do with (or want from) Marrows, Baby Marrows, call 'em what you will!

And the fruit trees are all showing signs of baby fruit:


Apple, maybe!

My knowledge of what's what is, I shamefacedly admit, wanting at times. Though I'm pretty certain this is a Quince:

And this, by deduction - and weird fruits - Mulberry:

To our surprise, cos we didn't realise 'twas there, we also have a vine with grapes already forming. We're assured they are damned good, too:

I love Cherries, probably my own favourite fruit. When we lived in Andalucia many of our local neighbours grew them in the campo. When in season they had too much for their own needs and often generously gave us kilos of the luscious, dark fruits. Ah....bliss.  Here, we also have a Cherry tree that is now developing fruit nicely. But, I fear, the birds wil probably beat us to the crop. Feathery little f..... boogers!:

So, if all goes to plan, we should have a bountiful harvest. As long as I don't manage to injure or kill the boogers off, that is!

A bit dated, though old Tom knows the score only too well! How the Hell did he know I was going to be left in charge of it though?