Beth Haslam - logo amsterdam
Welcome to the autumn edition of Fat Dogs News. Have we spent the last few weeks relaxing in the shade of a grand old oak? Not likely! As you’ll find out, we have been pretty busy.
Here’s the list of regular features, including a new guest I’m dying to introduce.

  • Chez Fat Dogs
  • Fat Dogs Meme
  • Jack’s Latest Tantrum
  • Fabulous French Entrée
  • Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates
  • Fantastic France!
  • Recipe
  • Bookish Corner
  • Et voilà!

Chez Fat Dogs

Blazing sun and high temperatures for days on end, bliss? Not quite. I left you after the last newsletter, melting in a heatwave. Sadly, though it sounds awful to moan about endless azure skies, our weather has largely remained unchanged. Conditions have been punishing, with little rainfall since the end of April and regular highs of 41+ºC (105ºF) temperatures.
Sunflowers-2
I took this photo from a field without irrigation. It amazed us that even the sunflowers struggled. Jean-Paul, the farmer, did harvest, but his yield was 40% below average. We chatted about it later. He shrugged his shoulders and gave me a weary smile, “C’est la vie pour les paysans,” he said. That’s life in farming.
Brun reservoir-2
Restrictions on commercial irrigation usage from the River Garonne were eventually imposed. Those with reservoirs, like our apple-growing neighbours, continued watering for a while, but they came unstuck too. I took this pic three weeks ago. The waterline usually reaches the far bank shrubs. Now the level is too low to pump out the water.
Fallen tree-2
The parched conditions inevitably affected the forest. Some weaker trees have fallen, and exposed specimens’ are releasing wrinkly winter fruits extra early. The grass? Well, that’s like stubby hay sticking out of rock-hard ground.

Worried about our forest-dwelling larger animals, Jack and I decided to dispense maize in the enclosed section. Like a couple of milkmen, off we’ll go on our daily rounds, distributing half a ton+ of maize per week at designated drop-off points. Unsurprisingly, we’re now the most popular humans in the Tarn et Garonne.
boar following-2
Word soon got around. Think Dick Whittington, and you have it. We’re now followed by a train of wild boar and deer sheepishly peeping through thickets, hoping to snatch a treat before the maize is devoured.

Despite these challenges, many of the fruit harvests are reaping excellent results. Here is Andre/Andreo/Andreas (no idea which, with very few teeth to trouble him, it’s a job to work out what he’s saying). He may be nutty, but this charmingly eccentric chap and his team are doing a fantastic job with their apples.
Apple harvest-2
It’s all happening with the grapes too. Battalions of vines, gnarled old timers, are burgeoning with purple beauties; the buxom bunches are being snipped and prepared for sale right now. And as demonstrated by Aby, Max and Sun (I know, I know, they shouldn’t eat the pips. Try telling Nathalie!), this variety is a delectable eater.
Grapes use
And whilst I’m on the subject of animals, I feel no guilt in sharing this tale with you. During a recent ramble, the dogs and I passed several humane box traps. The farmer had set them to capture ragondin (coypu), who are busy dismantling his river bank.

It was Max (‘course) who spotted it first. I had only seen this species once before and was bewitched by its beauty. A young genet had been accidentally trapped and was scared witless. I knew what had to be done. I spent a moment appreciating the magic of this rarely-seen woodland animal before gently opening the trap. In a flash, it had vanished. Here’s a link to tell you more about this fabulous creature.
genet-2
http://www.planetepassion.eu/mammals-in-france/Genet-in-France.html
On a rare cloudy (tsk, typical!) day, my pal and I decided to go on a historic building adventure. Who knew that mysteries lay behind those ancient chateau walls? We certainly didn’t. Click on this photo to read my blog and find out what happened.
Photo 2

Fat Dogs Memes

Here’s one of my friend Sarah’s latest ducklings. As you can see, life can be complicated when you’re a little ‘un!
Meme done

Jack’s latest tantrum

tiled roof
Jack’s a black belt at ranting, but beneath that grumpy exterior lies a heart of gold. We know not to take his outbursts seriously, and he fizzles out as quickly as he ignites. Until the next explosion...

The background.
A drawback of old buildings is that they’re often leaky. Two buckets currently live in our courtyard apartment bathroom. They’ve been there for a year, catching drips as they seep through a mystery hole in the ceiling. Was it coming from a seal in the unreachable Velux window or a cavity in the roof? Nobody knew. There was no point in Jack grumping; we had to bring in a roofer.

Monsieur Guirbal, roofer #1, declared he was a ‘maniac’ with his customers and never stopped working until the job was done. His approach, though somewhat startling, was encouraging, so we booked him. After a long, tortuous saga, Monsieur Guirbal left us with nice clean roof tiles, which was lovely except that the roof still leaked.

Roofer #2 was found, which turned into a health crisis since Monsieur Ponti was extremely old and had several tubes attached to various body parts. He didn’t last long on the job. Jack was getting fed up with roofers. Then came Monsieur Bonnet, who seemed fine and healthy, enthusiastically zooming up and down his ladders, but do note the word ‘seemed’. As it turns out, he had a completely different sort of mania. It was during monsieur’s obsessive roof diagnosis when Jack almost lost his temper.
“You have many problems with all your roof, Monsieur ‘aslam.”
“Unlikely. Can we focus on the area above the bathroom, please?”
“Of course, this is a grand catastrophe. You must change your Velux window. I can supply a new one, but they are not cheap. You must also change the seal around it and the tiles. Have you seen the tiles? They are broken, very bad.”
“I doubt that. Those ones were new last summer.”
“But this is not the main problem, monsieur.”
“Oh?”
“You,” he said, with a grand sweep of his arm, “definitely have problems with all your roof.”
“You’ve already mentioned this, and we haven’t. But since you’re obviously like a dog with a bone, what d’you think is wrong with it?”
“Bone?”
“English phrase, never mind. Please explain the problem.”
“It’s the angle. The roof gradient is not acute enough for the rainwater to run off, so you will have leaks everywhere.”
“We don’t.”
“Ah, but you will. You must have many leaks with a bad angle like this. Pah! Too flat.”
“Come and have a look. That might ease your roof angle anxiety.”
[A short tour of the apartment (it didn’t take long, it’s tiny) ought to have proved to monsieur that, aside from the bathroom, it was completely dry. He didn’t give in so easily.]
Monsieur ‘aslam, this is clear. You do have leaks, you just can’t see them yet.”
“Look, this roof was laid twenty years ago. We would have noticed if we’d sprung a leak somewhere else. Can we focus on the bathroom problem, please? Are you going to give us an estimate or not?”
“I insist, Monsieur ’aslam, you need a whole new roof. I have special materials which can increase the angle of the tiles. It will be much steeper afterwards.”
Monsieur Bonnet, let me spell this out one last time. We are not replacing the roof, so there is no point continuing with your angles fixation.”
“I can give you an estimate for the bathroom area, but you’re making a mistake in not replacing the whole roof. That angle…”
“No! Just the bathroom, please.”
Monsieur Bonnet sulkily loaded his ladders onto the van, we said our goodbyes and watched as he drove off. He stopped halfway out of the drive and reversed back. Monsieur had an afterthought.
Monsieur ‘aslam, I will give you two estimates, one for the bathroom leak and another for replacing the whole roof. This is actually what you need. It will be expensive, but the gradient, you see, the angle isn’t acute enough.”
Goodbye Monsieur Bonnet.”

Fabulous French Entrée

French Entrée logo
I am delighted to introduce French Entrée, a team with 20 years experience in the French property industry. As part of providing a stellar service to purchasers, they also produce a fabulous online magazine filled with information on all things France. As a taster, I have included a link about the Haute-Savoie, a stunning region in the east. If you’re anything like me, you’ll fall head over heels in love with one of those delectable ski chalets. Enjoy!
https://www.frenchentree.com/french-property/buying/living-the-high-life-in-haute-savoie/

Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates

Wales sailing
So nearly there! I’m thrilled to tell you that my Welsh tales are finally being formatted. The book goes to beta readers next, which allows me to leave you with one final extract before the pre-release. This concerns a dinghy sailing calamity. Ahem, I had several. On this occasion, I was racing with my friend Rupert when disaster struck.

As a powerful gust hit us, the dinghy centreboard shot out of its housing. The repair had broken. Tubby heeled over and capsized. I was chucked into the sea so quickly I didn’t even have time for a, nooo, not again, thought.

Disorientated, I opened my eyes. And stared. Beneath me, a ghoulish white shape was gliding upwards from the depths. I knew what it was. Di was right. There was a corpse in the water, and the current was bringing it to the surface. I thrashed around to the back of the boat. Rupert was already there, coughing and spluttering.

“Sorry about that. Don’t know what happened. Damn centreboard coming up didn’t help. And now…”
“Rupes, Rupert! There’s a dead body floating into the cockpit!”
“Really?”
“Yes! Come on. We’ve got to get the boat going.”
“Not good!”

Fantastic France!

eiffel-tower-gacff678e9_1920
As we all know, if there’s a foodstuff the French love with a passion, it’s cheese. But how much do you know about this delectable foodstuff? Why not test your knowledge with this fun quiz from Pierre and French Moments? I’m confident you’ll do better than me!
cheese quiz
https://frenchmoments.eu/french-cheese-quiz/

Recipe from France

frog-g11b32c46e_1920
Once again, my hugely talented author friend, Lindy Viandier, has produced another mouth-watering recipe inspired by the fruits in her French potager. With a glut of tomatoes here, too, I’ll be trying this recipe soon.

PS And at the end of the recipe, you'll find an excerpt from Lindy's forthcoming memoir. As you'll see, it promises to be another stunning read.
Lindy 1

Lindy's Best Tomato Sauce

As the days grow increasingly short and the evenings start to carry a nip in the air, my thoughts turn to foods that straddle the seasons. We have an abundance of tomatoes here at Les Libellules, and a great way to preserve them for winter is to make soup or sauce and freeze it. This is my ultimate tomato sauce that I’ve tweaked to perfection (try it and see). It is great served on its own with pasta, or alternatively you can add some canned tuna. It’s also delicious served with chicken, steak or salmon.
Today I’ve served it with gnocchi (I’ve cheated and used shop bought). As I said, this sauce freezes very well to keep you going through autumn.
Ingredients
  • A good glug of olive oil
  • 1 small shallot very finely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic crushed
  • 1 small red pepper very finely chopped
  • A centimetre of red chilli very finely chopped
  • 1 small branch of celery very finely sliced
  • 4 large fresh ripe tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
  • A little glug of red wine vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 250 ml of hot water

Method
  • Gently sauté the shallot, garlic and chilli for 2-3 minutes taking care not to brown.
  • Add the peppers and cook for a further 2 minutes, then the tomatoes and continue to cook gently until all softened.
  • Add the fennel seeds, oregano, tomato puree and red wine vinegar and stir together.
  • Add the water and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Cover and gently simmer similar for around 40 minutes.
  • Cook the gnocchi as per instructions, drain and tip into the sauce until all is coated.
Serve immediately in pre-warmed dishes with fresh basil or parsley.
A little grated parmesan is also a good compliment to this simple, tasty and colourful supper dish.

Bon appétit!
Lindy 2
‘My sandaled feet are cool and wet as I walk through the newly appeared grass to the tomatoes. Six or seven fat ripe fruits are begging to be picked. Once again, my nose is prickled by their sharp, tangy scent which stays on my hands even after washing.’

Extract from forthcoming second book in the Life at Les Libellules series by Lindy – Morning Mists and walnut wine.

Bookish Corner

book-50
Here’s my five-star review of Simon's travel memoir set in New Zealand. As you'll find out, I loved the book.
Author: Simon Michael Prior
The Scenicland Radio: A Travel Adventure in Search of the New Zealand Experience (South Pacific Shenanigans Book 2)
Absorbing, empathetic, fun – this memoir packs a massive feel-good factor.
The author and his girlfriend decide to spend a year with her family on their farm in New Zealand’s South Island. And it’s remote. It’s one of those places where everyone seems to know Fiona’s dad no matter which part they visit. Evidently, he’s the man!

Keen to help rather than relax, city boy Simon embarks on new learning experiences involving dairy cattle. And as he discovers, there’s more to this milking lark than he imagined. With family support and help from his four-legged co-worker, the author’s bucolic thrills, spills and dramas begin. And there are lots, many of which had me in stitches.

As an established fan of the author’s writing, I love his vivid descriptions and superb use of dialogue, which effortlessly engage the reader. These features, combined with his self-deprecating humour and masterful chapter-end cliffhangers, make The Scenicland Radio a terrific read.
TYT Simon Scenicland
(Click on the book image or the link below to take you to the Amazon page.)
http://www.smarturl.it/scenicland

Et voilà!

As you’ll know, the French can be pretty quirky regarding art. I was recently treated to several strange examples in Montauban. Arriving too early for a meeting, I decided to have a stroll around the Jardin des Plantes. Humming happily, I followed the meandering path, pausing to admire magnificent trees, dignified statues and flourishing borders. The curve ahead was partially concealed. Naturally expecting to see another specimen shrub, I was amazed by what loomed into view. An enormous detailed illustration of a sci-fi chameleon suspended between tree branches. Odd, it demanded an investigation.
Chameleon-2
Created by the fine artist François Delarozière, the extraordinary piece and several other fantastic designs featured throughout the garden, and I was intrigued by them all. Here’s a link to tell you more about the artist, a man of machines with astonishing talent and imagination.
https://www.lamachine.fr/en/francois-delaroziere/
minotaur art
Inspired by my garden discoveries, I later suggested to Jack that we should go on our next ‘big city’ trip. You can imagine how that went. His ‘Are you completely mad?’ expression said it all. One day I’ll get him to appreciate the wonders of art and plants! But there was an event soon after that touched both our hearts.
heron art-2
Our wild boar, Little Mum, and her brood appeared in a forest clearing while I was feeding the penned birds. We hadn’t seen them for a while. They’re a smart lot, though, and regularly appear for bird pellet treats. Rustling alerted me as I was collecting chicken eggs. I went to look, and sure enough, there they were, although looking strangely coy. It was pretty obvious why.
marcasan-2
A cluster of the tiniest babies I have ever seen was standing shyly beside their older siblings. Little Mum paused, watching me intently as I cooed over them. With a grunt, her courage failed. She thundered back into the woods with her family trailing behind. The same thing happened the following week when Jack and I were on our forest rounds.

Up Little Mum charged, pausing in front of us, just for a moment, and as you’ll see from the Youtube video clip, it didn’t take many seconds before she fled. On neither occasion had any of them taken food. Enchanted by the encounters, Jack and I are convinced Little Mum just wanted to introduce her new humbugs.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_2w2jKKK2U
As I close this issue, the forest is changing colour. Although it’s still horribly dry, there is something exquisite about the carpets of multi-coloured leaves lit by soft autumnal light.
forest light-2
If you are celebrating autumn, I hope you’re enjoying those gorgeous warm shades too. Or perhaps it’s spring, with the vibrancy of bold daffs, buds and crocuses coming through. It’s hard to beat the season of rebirth.

Despite our continued water shortage, all is not lost with our two pups on the job. I don’t know how, but Aby and Max did it again last week. To my amazement, they found one of the remaining full reservoirs. It took me ages to get them out of this pond. Actually, I’m thinking of training them to become water diviners!
pond last pic use
PS Guess what? The weather forecasters have just promised that showers are on the way. Happy days!

Hugs from us all,
Beth - logo - cropped for newsletters
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