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December, 2008:

Happy Snappy

For many many years taking photographs was always just a perfunctory 35mm point and click. I’ve no idea where many of those photos from my very early years are. In a box in the loft no doubt.

In my mid twenties I bought a second hand Olympus IS-1. A pukka 35mm SLR with an integral zoom lens. It was quite the thing in it’s day and I still miss the form factor and pistol-grip. All of the great photographic trips of my life (all over Europe, the US, Southern Africa, The far east and Japan) were shot on that Olympus. I have hundreds of great photos and get a gooey feeling at the prospect of unearthing the best of them when a get a-round-tu-it.

Going digital for the first time in Late 2000 I splashed out on an eye-watering €800 Fuji Finepix 4700.  Almost €100 for a 32Mb memory card on top of that if you please! A point-and-click camera but it had a reasonably high resolution that was fine for web shots. Probably half of the shots on this website were taken with it so for that I’m particularly thankful – a real practical application and it earned its keep. Longevity wasn’t it’s strong point and the clever pointy-out lens bit and shutter mechanism gave up the ghost after four and a bit years. A sad day.

2005 and D-SLR’s were still unreasonably expensive… €1500 before you got anywhere, so thoughts of one of these went on hold for a while. I got a hands on with one in the summer of ’05 and took some interesting photos in the garden here – so the seed was sown.

Step into the frame an almost throwaway Canon A430 point and click digital. A massive leap in image quality over the Fuji and I was thrilled at the results with this thing and it was more than capable of bridging the gap. It still gets toted around everywhere as it comfortably slips into your jeans pocket – highly portable and bullet proof build quality. A good gizmo.

2007. The price of SLR’s comes down to consumer levels and I take the leap with a Canon EOS400D. What a massive learning curve. Reviewing my results over the 5000+ images I’ve taken shows that things are improving – slowly but surely. It is rewarding though to take a good photo and every once in a while something which I’d be happy to share comes along. They’re rare (0.6% of my snaps!) but that’s the beauty of digital. What you don’t want to keep, costs very little.

So, a handful of the better ones – almost all of which were taken here in Bellebouche or the locale are in this flickr slideshow set.

Click this for the full slideshow

Of course. The bug is biting a bit now. I’ve bought a couple of cheap bolt-on lenses. A Fixed focal length 50mm prime and an ebay cheapie 90-300mm zoom lens. I hope you see an improvment in the quality of the photos on the blog in future!

Some of our trees are missing !

After travelling all the way to England to collect a load of bits and pieces – but – more importantly – 200 trees – we returned home to find – some of our trees were missing …


In the trenches

In preparation for the arrival of 80 Beech trees and another 100 odd various other trees, I have dug out a trench along the edge of the potager. (more…)

Fishy Business

Most of the fish counters in the local supermarkets normally do a really good spread of seafood – most of it is usually pretty good value for money… but every once in a while… something pops out and leads to a little experimentation.

A few months ago I spotted lots of teensy little Breton sardines being virtually given away at €2.50/kilo. oof!

So. I asked the lady to pull out all the very smallest ones – I’d decided to pickle/brine some myself.

We normally pay €18/kg from the deli for little anchovies so I thought I’d have a go at something similar.

Not much to this… it’s fiddly to gut, clean and bone out 50 little fish.. but in the end… it all went quickly. A generous fistful of salt on each layer and then pack them in a little tray and keep in the fridge under a weight. The salt will draw off a significant quantity of brine and the flesh becomes quite solid and… well… pickled. I decided to keep them under sunflower oil and leave them for 8 weeks to mature a little.

Cracked them open yesterday and ate my first one.
Home pickled fishies.

Salty. Fishy. Sardiney. Not as chewy as a little anchovy but they will be excellent to cook with.

Marche de Noel, Renard et Herisson

Starting to get into the Christmas mood, we decided to visit the Christmas market at St Loup sur Thouet.  The market was on over the weekend from 5.00pm Saturday until midnight and then 10.00am to 7.00pm on the Sunday.

We arrived, as it became dark, to the enchanting sight of the church and surrounding buildings all lit up with Christmas lights.  There were a number of wooden chalets around the town streets, containing a wondrous selection of artisan made items.  Carved wooden bowls and apples, glass necklaces and earrings, pottery, knitted jumpers, home-made chutneys, honey, beeswax carvings and candles, paintings, pottery and lots more.

Xmas Chalets

Many of the houses, which fronted onto the street, had their front rooms open and converted into small display areas for the vendors. Other houses were all decked out with holly, greenery and flashing lights and some even had window displays with nativity scenes or rooms decorated and tables set out ready for a wonderful candle lit christmas meal.

The chateau wasn’t open to the public, although they did have an enchanting display in their courtyard.  Hundreds of empty glass yogurt pots were placed in a matrix, each containing a tealight candle, creating a magical effect.

There were other vendors selling hot nuts, sweets, savoury snacks and welcoming vin chaud to warm up our cold hands on this frosty night.

On the way back home, we popped into our local pizzeria, La Toscane, and picked up a take-away pizza.  As we drove up to our house, a fox was caught in the car’s headlights. It squeezed under our paddock gate and shot through the pigeonnier.  Little bugger, this must be the one that killed our guineafowl.

I rushed into the house and grabbed the torch and went out the back door to see if I could head it off in the garden.  No sign, it had well and truly disappeared.

I was just about to return into the house to enjoy my pizza when I encountered another creature of the night.  We had put down a plate of pate that had started to go a little hairy.  The plate had been almost cleaned by … a giant hedgehog.  He didn’t seem to be bothered at the 3 million candle light torch shining on him.


After taking a couple of snaps, we left him to enjoy the rest of his meal, and enjoyed our pizza infront of a roaring fire.  With a glass of red wine of course!

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