Beth Haslam - logo amsterdam
Welcome to the summer edition of Fat Dogs News, and it’s been pretty busy here at Le Palizac, with some testing challenges and heart-warming wins. Here’s the usual list for you to stroll through at your leisure.

  • Chez Fat Dogs
  • Fat Dogs Meme
  • Jack’s Latest Tantrum
  • Fabulous French Entrée
  • Fat Dogs Part VI
  • Fantastic France
  • Recipe
  • Fat Dogs Wales
  • Bookish Corner
  • Et voilà!

Chez Fat Dogs

The potager has been a veritable hotbed of activity since my last update. By early May, my baby greenhouse had reached bursting point. Those legume and border plant seedlings had to go out.
All was going well in the early stages except for my cherry tomatoes, which were decidedly peaky. I asked advice from a dog-walking friend. Convinced the problem arose because I (disappointingly) planted them during the wrong moon phase, Nadine, a dead keen lunar gardener, gave me the recipe for her failsafe elixir called Stinging Nettle Tea, and here it is:
· One kilo (2.2 pounds) of stinging nettles
· Ten litres of water
· Tear up the nettles (wear gloves, they pack a punch) and place them in a plastic or wood bucket. Macerate the nettle leaves in the water for at least 15 days (stirring occasionally).
Apparently, it produces an excellent natural fertiliser, which can be poured on plant bases. Nadine added that it’s also an effective bug repellent if sprayed sparingly on the leaves. As for the residual mush, she spreads the marinated leaves on the ground. It may sound a tad ‘Macbeth’s witches’, but I’m keen to try it. Just in case you’re interested, here’s a non-Nadine recipe link.
Newbies of a different kind started emerging in May. Little Mum (one of Tripod’s descendants) appeared from the forest while I was down at the bird pens. It took a second before I realised why she was acting so coyly. She was surrounded by her latest batch of utterly adorable babies. I swear she’d come to show them off. See if you can spot them in this pic.
Understandably cautious at first, her six marcassin piglets didn’t take long to gain confidence. Now, the second I approach the pens, there’s an outbreak of grunts and squeals as the babies push to the front. They love their treats!
I’m happy to say that the pheasants have been busy, too. Mind you, egg-laying got off to a quaint start.
I’m not sure what happened here, but it wasn’t long before several ladies started laying normal-sized eggs.
Sadly, a severe storm (which I’ll tell you about in my next blog) may have compromised the efforts of those who nested in the long grass, but they are brave souls, usually determined to stick it out, whatever the weather. Time will tell.
Briefly, in dogly news, Max managed (don’t ask me how) to get covered in bees during a late spring walk in the orchards.
Aby watched from a safe distance, dismayed, while I swatted them out of his fur.
Now beeless, though still a bit doleful, Max did what he does best. He went for an extended respite wallow. Honestly, only Max.

Back in the garden, our indefatigable roses have again demonstrated their invincibility.
Here’s one of the kitchen borders. Ridiculously out of control as always, they cause Jack awful grumps as he gets his clothes snagged. Me? I just coo at their flamboyant behaviour.
Inspired by their success, three years ago, I planted a David Austin Rambling Rosie climber on one side of our rustic arch at the entrance to my potager. Would they take? They’re blooming marvellous!
Still in the garden, much to Jack’s disgust, who says I’m ‘littering’ the place, I have invested in a bijou adornment. Thanks to Nathan, who tractored in the lump of tree, my metal pheasant now welcomes folks to our home. What do you think? I think he's very fetching.

Fat Dogs Memes

I was cleaning out feeders in a bird pen and put my hose sprinkler on the ground for a second. Imagine my surprise when this happened. Mr Toad was a hot boy!

Jack’s latest tantrum

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...
You’ll be glad to know he has recently been on sparklingly ranty form. Here’s the background to his most recent bluster.

The background.
Like many folks, we’re trying to work towards an eco-friendly lifestyle. So when we received the publicity leaflet about a free shed with solar panels, we invited a company representative to come and tell us more. Jack led the discussion.
Monsieur, before we start, can you assure us the shed is completely free?”
“Absolutely, Monsieur ‘aslam. Gratuit. We build the shed on your land, fit solar panels on the roof and harvest the electricity.”
“Any restrictions on the shed usage?”
“Poof! Non, monsieur. You can use it for anything you want. Let me show you the dimensions of our three models.”

[Monsieur, accompanied by Max, who’d decided he looked shifty, plodded around the field. He stuck poles in at intervals, making calculations on his mobile phone. After nearly an hour, he had three different frames mapped out. The smallest was huge. I was horrified.]

“So, Monsieur ’aslam. Which size do you want?”
“The smallest is fine, thank you.”
“Good. Where is the electricity network?”
“It’s over there,” said Jack pointing to a pole approximately one hundred metres away.
“I see. So now for the costs.”
“What costs?”
“The expenditures.”
“I know what costs are, but you said it would be free.”
“It is, Monsieur ’aslam. Apart from the costs.”
“You’re being extremely baffling about this. What costs?”
“So, you must pay to have the solar panels cabling connected to the electricity network. And create a deep trench for it.”
“Really? So how much will that be?”
“I can tell you in a moment, but it will be much cheaper if you do it yourselves.”
“Brilliant. Anything else?”
“Of course, you must pay for the materials.”
“The materials for the shed structure.”
“I don’t believe this.”
“It gets better, monsieur, it’s fantastique. We give you an excellent discount price.”
“You’re missing the point. You said it was free.”
“It is. It’s only the costs.”
“Right. So, we’ve just spent nearly two hours pacing around a field on a mission to erect a free shed the size of an aircraft hangar, which isn’t free at all.”
“It’s only the…”
“Yes, I know. The costs. Since we’ve already spent far too long on this fruitless mission, you may as well give us an estimate.”
“Simples, monsieur. I can do this now.”

[The gentleman produced an oversized calculator and wrote down ever-increasing numbers on a jotter pad.]

“Here you are, monsieur. The costs. The materials and cable preparation will be approximately fifteen thousand euros. And remember, we do everything else, so this is a marvellous deal.”
“But it isn’t free, is it? Anyway, are you sure that’s it?”
Bien sur! Aside from paying for the planning permission documents and the legal arrangements. These will cost approximately five thousand euros. Perhaps. Oh, and the materials may increase in value because, as everyone knows, the cost of iron often rises.”
“I don’t believe this. Do you sell double glazing at the weekends?”
“I do not understand.”
“Never mind. Thank you, monsieur; it’s time you left.”

Fabulous French Entrée

French Entrée logo
I love articles prepared by the folks at French Entrée, and this one is particularly special. It’s a poignant story with a wonderfully heart-warming outcome. Click on the link to read about a couple’s journey and life with their gorgeous border collie (aptly named), Jack!

Fat Dogs and French Estates Part VI

Fat Dogs Part 6 is progressing steadily. Here’s a snippet from an early chapter. Nan, my mum-in-law, and I were in Toulouse airport, and she was struggling with her mobility. I decided to kidnap a lone airport wheelchair. As I was wheeling it back to Nan, I was apprehended by an airport official, who (of course) instantly realised that I was English.
“I am called Gabriel. Enchante, madame!” the man gushed.
“Lovely to meet you too, Gabriel. The thing is, I need to borrow a wheelchair for my mother-in-law. She can’t walk far, and we must catch our flight.”
“You go where madame?
“To London.”
Gabriel slapped his hands on his heart.
“Of course you do,” he giggled. “Oh la la, j’adore Londres. Le shopping!
“Yes, it’s great. Anyway, about this wheelchair.”
“Leave ’im to me. I am your driver. Come, come, vite! Where is your belle-mère?
Gabriel zoomed off doing wheelies with the wheelchair and me puffing alongside. He came to an effortless sliding halt in front of my bemused mum-in-law.
Enchante madame,” he cried, twizzling the wheelchair in a pirouette, “I am Gabriel, ze wheelchair chauffeur at your service. Please to sit in ze chair and be careful of your feets on ze stirrups,” he added with a little bow.

Fantastic France!

Thanks, as always, to Pierre at French Moments for allowing me to share his fun quizzes. In this issue, we’re going Medieval. It’s all about Carcassonne, a place I love. Click the link below to discover how much you know about this extraordinary fortification.

Recipe from France

Thank you to my author pal, Lindy Viandier, for contributing another of her culinary delights. Sharing this piece is an excellent opportunity to congratulate Lindy on publishing her latest memoir, Mellow Mists and Walnut Wine, the sequel to her bestseller, Damson Skies and Dragonflies. Five-star reviews are already flooding in, and I can’t wait to read my copy.

Lindy’s Gazpacho

Gazpacho, bursting with summer fruits and vegetables is the perfect companion to cool us down as the temperatures rise at Les Libellules.

The traditional Spanish gazpacho uses bread, but I prefer a lighter version. I usually use whatever I have to hand, so my versions vary, but here is a more traditional recipe. Apart from serving this as a cold soup starter, I serve it in small glasses called verrines as an aperitif appetiser, and also often reduce the amount of olive oil and vinegar to produce a salsa to serve with chicken or fish.
Serves 4 for an entrée or for lunch
(just half the ingredients for 2 as an entre and 6 verrines for an apero)
  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes (you can use regular tomatoes, but the plum variety give more flavour and are less watery – definitely use these if you are making this as a salsa)
  • ½ medium cucumber
  • ½ medium green pepper
  • 2-4 spring onions depending on size
  • 6 fresh basil leaves roughly torn up
  • A good tablespoon of olive oil (the finer and lighter flavoured the better)
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • A dash of Tabasco sauce (optional)
  1. Roughly chop the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper and onions and blend into a rustic salsa.
  2. Taste and season as required.
  3. Add the oil then the vinegar and blend.
  4. Finally add the basil and give another quick blend.
  5. Pour into serving dishes (it should be a little thicker than soup at this stage).
For a thinner soup, add an ice cube to each dish, cover and leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours to chill and the ice cube to melt to make the texture more liquid.

My recipe for yellow melon, yellow pepper and ginger gazpacho features in Mellow Mists and Walnut Wine, which was published on the 27th of June.

Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates

An aim in sharing my Welsh tales was to introduce folks to my homeland. The feedback so far has been lovely, with several readers kindly writing to say the book has inspired them to visit Snowdonia. Mission, in part, accomplished! I’m also profoundly grateful for the all-important reviews, which are creeping closer to the 200 mark. Remarks such as these make my day.
In this magazine issue, the team at Welsh Country shares a fascinating article about the slate quarry where my Pa worked for most of his life. Follow this link to discover why the dramatic grey slabbed landscape has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
And, as always, do browse the magazine; it's packed with excellent articles.
In Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates, I share a story about our trip with Uncle Barry to Bodnant Gardens. A gifted botanist, UB told us about this remarkable grand laburnum arch and its buzzy bees. This photo, taken by Patricia Cairns, shows you the fabulous laburnum in all its glory.

Bookish Corner

Fancy a spot of globetrotting? I began in Greece with Peter Barber. This is the first of his books I have read, and I’m smitten! Lisa Rose Wright then took me on a grand transcontinental adventure in her latest outstanding publication. Frankly, I’m exhausted! Here are my five-star reviews.
Peter Barber - A Parthenon on our Roof: Adventures of an Anglo-Greek Marriage (The Parthenon series Book 1)
The author tells the story of life with his partner, Alex, a fiery Greek beauty, and how he becomes part of her family. And this is not a starchy, frightfully British integration. It’s a full-on bear-hugging immersion.

A central theme of the book is the couple’s decision to upgrade their traditional home on the same plot. But it isn’t plain sailing. As they battle through endless construction-related traumas, Peter’s placid nature becomes a saving grace in calming Alex’s fiercely combative temperament. Somewhat soothed, she focuses her attention on another project.
Alex decides to educate Peter on all things Greece. And it’s a passionate mission.

The book is written with love. Love for Greece, the country that becomes his adoptive home, love for the Greek culture and most of all, love for the woman he has known almost all his life. Oh, and is there a Parthenon on their roof? You’ll have to buy the book to find out!
Lisa Rose Wright – Bento Boxes, Boomerangs & Red Foxes
As an established fan of her writing, I knew I’d be in great hands with Lisa Rose Wright’s account of their country-hopping expedition. And what a treat it’s been.

From the vast barren beauty of Australia, the extraordinary orchids of Singapore, snow monkeys in Japan and a Chilean eye-opener, the couple embark on an epic transcontinental trip. Every scenario is embraced, every work experience handled, and disasters overcome with their customary can-do attitude.

For me, this easy-to-read travelogue showcases the best of Lisa’s writing. Her free-flowing style, self-effacing humour, and vivid descriptions are excellent. I learnt about new places, laughed often, and was fascinated by every work stop and encounter she shared. I loved the book and look forward to their next expedition.

Et voilà!

For the first time since the dreaded Covid outbreak, I abandoned Jack for a few days (don’t worry, meals were cooked, numbered and popped in the freezer. Directions were given for freezer location). I pleaded with the dogs not to self-harm and nipped over to London for a few days to see family and friends.
Did we trawl Oxford Street and Regent Street? No! Did we see the King? Nope, just missed him by a whisker. It was a long-awaited trip to London Zoo. And this isn’t any old zoo. It is a conservation zoo, and I have wanted to visit for years.
It was blissfully quiet when my pal and I arrived. They practically had to boot us out at the end of the day. Why? These images might help you understand.
And to complete our idyllic day, we were allowed into some enclosures with the animals. Who doesn’t love a lemur? Mind you, standing in the ‘toilet drop zone’ wasn’t my best trick! This Youtube clip shows you what happened.
For me, no visit to London is complete without a mooch in the Natural History Museum. Luckily, my pal shares a similar love for this extraordinary place. On this occasion, one special exhibit was on our list, the titanosaur, Patagotitan mayorum, the latest big boy to join the dinosaur collection.
And my goodness, he’s a marvellous collection of bones.

Meanwhile, back in France, the summer fete season is in full swing. Last weekend while Jack was mending Nathan’s tractor (again), I snuck off to a fantastic horsey event with my doggy friend, Natalie.
The evening included breathtaking displays of horsemanship, including a series of spectacular gymnastic feats. This Youtube clip gives you an idea of what we saw.
As I close this issue, mercurial weather has dealt us a bitter blow. The aftermath of its might is likely to keep us very busy. Still, I keep assuring Jack that there’s nothing worse than being bored. I shan’t relay his response...

I do hope the season is treating you well. I’ll be back in the autumn with more news and views from our corner of France. In the meantime, thank you, as always, so much for your continued support.
Hugs from us all,
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