Beth Haslam - logo amsterdam
there’s something I love, it’s learning a new word, and that’s precisely what happened when I read this fascinating article from Welsh Country Magazine
Welcome to the autumn edition of Fat Dogs News. And this one has a sandy theme. I’ll explain why, shortly.
In the meantime, here are the usual sections to cherry-pick 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 and Welsh Estates
  • Bookish Corner
  • Et voilà!

Chez Fat Dogs

In the last issue, I shared an account of the storm that bashed us in June. Tornadoes, unheard of here, swept across our area, devastating everything they touched. It was shocking. A few weeks after the event, I bumped into a fruit-farming neighbour who showed me this extraordinary photo.
It was taken by our mayor, who was on a hill, watching the storm supercell approach. Sadly, his orchards were in its path. There was nothing he could do to save them. Seeing the menace in that cloud mass makes us realise we got away relatively lightly.
With our problems mostly confined to the forest, we sought advice from the French Forestry Commission. Representatives came and toured the woodland. They assessed that the major damage extended over seven hectares (17+ acres) and offered to help with the clearance work. We could have hugged them.
Due to start this month, I was hoping to introduce you to their team of beefy Romanian woodsmen. No go so far. The tree damage has been so severe in our part of France that they’re overwhelmed with work. They haven’t forgotten us, though, so fingers crossed that December becomes the pin-up issue for woodchoppers instead.
Several wood clearance jobs couldn’t wait for the professionals, so we’ve been getting on with the urgent stuff. While Jack and Nathan patched up the forest fence in accessible areas, I set to work on the big hen coop.

A tree had fallen across the middle, bringing down the netting cover and fence on one side. Amazingly, the chickens survived, but it was only a matter of time before a fox used the fallen truck as the entrance for an easy dinner.
Jack, all heart, but actually to save his equipment from being mangled, brought me a dinky battery-operated chainsaw. And it’s marvellous. Possessing a magical push-button start mechanism rather than the bane of my chainsawing life, a pull cord starter, I’ve been saved from dislocating my shoulder. Better still, it’s very light.

Et voila! It’s not pretty, but it’s a secure repair. Sooo, if you ever need a smallish chainsaw, let me know. I’ll be happy to give you details of this little gem.
Still on storm clearance work, and July’s help came in a completely different form. If you follow my Facebook posts about our lives here, you’ll know that the district municipal office sent a vast bulldozer plus small team to clear the roadside drainage ditches.

I was on a dog walk with Aby and Max when we bumped into the men at work. In a wonderfully ‘small world’ moment, the leaf-blowing monsieur, very chatty, told me that we gave his wife permission to pick mushrooms in the forest. As a thank you, would I like our roadside-damaged tree debris removed? Yes, please!
For the next couple of hours, the massive machine munched through countless dangerous broken boughs overhanging the lane, plus a small oak, which had toppled into our moat. We couldn’t thank them enough for their generous help.
The summer has featured hot days and heatwaves, the difference this year being the high humidity levels. If you live in a climate with similar conditions, you’ll know how tough it is – for the animals, too, with most of them taking refuge in the shade. But not all. For some reason, the humidity has brought out the best in our modest amphibian population. Confirmed frog haters, Aby and Cleo are appalled at the numbers, which are still growing.
As Cleo, our feline rescue lass, attempted another fruitless stalking session, I counted twenty-two congregating around my teeny pond (which, of course, all leapt into the depths as I was taking the photo). Still, it’s an impressive number. Less so is the racket they make throughout the night. While the collective noun of ‘army’ for these little chaps is apt at the moment, I wondered if it should be altered to ‘choir’. Mind you, that is being overly kind to their croaky 'ribbits'.
Soaring temperatures eventually took their toll on Nap, our portly pot-bellied pig. Rarely defeated, he developed a cunning strategy. Instead of gentle rootles around the vineyard, he now spends most of his time wallowing in a homemade puddle. As you can see, he’s in pigly heaven.
I was finishing the feed rounds recently when farmer Giles appeared with a lady. He explained that Stéphanie, who I know by sight, needed advice on pheasant ID.
I showed her our penned Reeves boys, which confirmed that she was thinking about a different variety. No matter, her attention was taken by our chooks.

“You have grey chickens?”
“Yes, they’re great egg producers. Strangely, though, they have never been broody.”
“This is not normal.”
“I know. It’s a shame because I wanted to use them to incubate pheasant eggs.”
Stéphanie shook her head.
“Bad breeding. Leave this with me.”
Mystified but well used to the strong opinions of our locals, I thought no more about it.
The following week, Stéphanie called to say she was coming over. Assuming we were back on pheasants, I was amazed when she arrived with four brown chickens.
“These are for you. They come from a good breeder. They will lay many eggs, and they will incubate your pheasant eggs next year.”
“What a surprise, thank you so much, Stéphanie, they’re beauties. How much do I owe you?”
Stéphanie looked affronted.
“Rien! Cadeau.
I haven’t seen her since.
Over the past few weeks, the fields and orchards have come alive with chatter and song. It’s harvest time, a period in the country calendar I love. If you click the link below, you’ll find out what’s been happening, including why our farmers are so dedicated to moon-watching.
https://www.bethhaslam.com/harvest-time/?utm_source=mailpoet&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the-latest-post-from-fat-dogs-monthly-blog_36

Fat Dogs Memes

If there’s something Max loves, and I mean really loves, it’s Frisbee. No prizes for guessing, then, what he was thinking the second I put his fave toy away during our beach hols.

Jack’s latest tantrum

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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.
This issue’s rant took place in our snug. It’s a tiny room where Jack and I, surrounded by animals, relax at the end of most days. A tranquil scene, you might think? Not always for Jack. He appeared at the doorway the other day, pouting.
“They’re strewn all over the floor again.”
“Who?”
“Your bloody dogs. I shouldn’t have to pole vault my way to the settee.”
“Just step over Max quietly; he’s asleep.”
“Argh, now look. What a dimwit!”
“Who?”
“Max. He sprang up, nearly rugby-tackled me, and now he’s standing di-rectly in front of the TV sensor. I’ll never get my remote to work.”
“You do exaggerate. It’s because you woke him.”
[Max, understandably mystified by his latest apparent sin, gave Jack an apologetic toothy grin and slunk back down.]
“And here’s the next one, turned up to ruin my evening. I swear he waits until I get settled before he does it.”
“What?”
“Brutus. Look at the furry sod.”
[Brutus, our extra-large tabby, had appeared. He was now neatly folded up on Jack’s chest approximately 2.5 centimetres from his nose.]
“It’s his version of Facetime, Jack. And if you didn’t stroke him so much, he might stop purring.”
Hurrmph! And, of course, the sun’s shining in my eyes now.”
“Shall I draw the curtains for you?”
“Oh no, you just relax. I’ll negotiate this heaving mass of fur. Staaaaay, Aby!”
[Jack took a couple of giant strides over snoozy bodies and started hauling on the curtains.]
“And that’s a-nother thing. Every time I close these bloody curtains, a ring flies off the pole.”
“You’re not weighing anchor, Jack. Try and pull them gently. They’re fine.”
[Jack managed to draw the curtains without yanking the pole off the wall, and we settled to watch TV. Almost.]
“We don’t get a second’s peace here, do we?”
“What’s wrong now?”
“Aby and Max, they’ve started milling around.”
“Oh, that. They’re waiting for their evening treat. Huh, who needs an alarm clock with dogs about?”
“Very funny. Marvellous! And here’s the black and white one to take up the final square inch of floor space.”
“Cleo, Jack, she’s been with us for years. You should know her name by now.”
“Whatever. Look at her. Come in to perform her evening ritual of shredding the carpet. Honestly, I ask you!”
“Hmm, nice to have the whole furry family together.”
“Sodding animals!”

Fabulous French Entrée

French Entrée logo
I adore reading about folks who have renovation stories to share. Having been through the trials and tribulations, we know all about the challenges involved. In this article, prepared by the wonderful folks at French Entrée, you’ll find out about a couple who fell in love with a village and took on a mammoth project. It’s fascinating, it’s brave, and I have huge admiration for what they achieved.
Click on the link to find out about their mini chateau.
https://www.frenchentree.com/living-in-france/real-life-stories/real-life-a-mini-chateau-renovation-in-grand-est/

Fat Dogs Part VI

If you've read Fat Dogs Parts 4 and 5, you will have met Ana, our moderately hysterical Brazilian friend. Here she is again in Fat Dogs Part 6. This time, we were cleaning a friend’s house together. I was upstairs.

“Beth, Beeeeth, come please.”
Ana hadn’t screamed, so there was unlikely to be an animal involved. I found her in the kitchen brandishing the iron.
“What’s the problem?”
“This iron. It has stopped working.”
“Is it plugged in?”
“Yes, it was,” she said, disappearing behind a cabinet. She popped back up with the plug in her hand.
Non! Regard. It is not!”
“There’s your answer, Ana. Problem solved.”
“Ah, but it was plugged in before. So why not now?”
Not wishing to point out the obvious point that Ana was a serial offender when it came to yanking innocent plugs out of walls, I shrugged my shoulders. But Ana wasn’t done.
“There’s something wrong about this house,” she said, scanning the ceiling with a hunted look. I hear noises.
“It’s probably mice. I’ve cleared up lots of droppings upstairs.”
Ana looked horrified.
“Rats?”
“Nooo, just little tiny mice. The poo is very small.”
The door opened, and in walked Jack holding a long, thin creature. I saw it first.
“What on earth?”
“Impressive, eh?”
Ana wheeled around, knocking the iron clean off its pedestal as she clasped her hands in horror.
“Argh! Arrrrgh!

Fantastic France!

Thanks, as always, to Pierre at French Moments for allowing me to share his fun quizzes. In this issue, we have a tricky one that takes you to several regions in the country. See how you get on with the September Quiz!
https://frenchmoments.eu/september-quiz/

Recipe from France

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Thank you to my author friend, Lindy Viandier, for contributing another of her culinary creations. This delicious dish is guaranteed to bring summer sunshine streaming into your kitchen.

Lindy's Oven Roasted Tomatoes, with Salmon and Potato

Autmn may be just around the corner, but at Les Libellules summer is still reigning over the garden, with temperatures reaching 37C. This means an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables from the potager.
Apart from luscious strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, we have succulent melons and crisp, if knobbly, cucumbers. But it is the tomatoes, courgettes and potatoes that are the real stars. Last year both our tomato and potato crops failed, so they took us a bit by surprise this year, and I have had to think of even more ways to use them.
This dish is so simple, and also uses herbs fresh from the garden. Here I’ve used salmon steaks, but it works equally with chicken, and I should imagine pork, though I’ve yet to try. The smell when baking is incredible filling my country kitchen with the aroma of garlic and herbs…
Ingredients
(serves two, just double up for four)
  • 2 salmon steaks (skin removed) or two chicken breasts (skin removed)
  • 1 medium courgette (zucchini) finely sliced
  • About 250 grams of cherry or tiny olive tomatoes (the riper the better)
  • About 250 grams of small potatoes, scrubbed clean with skin left on
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Garlic salt (I don’t use fresh garlic for this dish as it burns and tastes bitter)
  • Fresh or dried basil, oregano, lemon thyme (or whatever you have at hand)
  • Olive oil
  • Feta cheese for crumbling
Method
  • Par-boil /steam the potatoes for 5 minutes, as they take longer to cook than the other
  • Very lightly rub the bottom of an oven-proof dish with some of the olive oil (a trick my French husband uses when making crèpes, is to pour a little olive oil into a ramekin, and dip half a small potato in the oil and use this to rub over the pan).
  • Arrange the courgette slices on the bottom, saving some to garnish.
  • Place the salmon/chicken on top of the courgettes, and simply add the tomatoes and potatoes randomly.
  • Arrange the remaining courgette slices on top of the salmon/chicken.
  • Season with a good amount of salt, garlic salt and lots of herbs.
  • Crumble as much feta as you like over the top.
  • Drizzle with a little olive oil – not too much as the tomatoes produce a lot of juice.
  • Bake uncovered in a pre-heated oven at 210C / gas mark 6 for 25.
  • Serve with a nice crusty baguette to soak up those wonderful tomato juices.
Bon appétit!

Fat Dogs Wales

If you’re a rugby union supporter, you’ll know France is hosting the Rugby World Cup. And if you’ve read Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates, you’ll also know that the Welsh are passionate about their rugby. So you’ll imagine my delight when I received an email from a chap who had just finished the book. He explained that someone bought him a ticket to a Welsh game in Paris. With no particular allegiances, on the strength of enjoying the book so much, he decided to support Wales. Diolch yn fawr iawn to Chris for cheering the red dragons during their match!
Did you know that Roald Dahl was born in Wales? In their latest magazine, the Welsh Country team shares a tale about his writing life and connections with Wales. As an undying fan of his fabulous work, I found this piece fascinating, and I hope you will, too.

Click on this link to read the complete article.
https://www.welshcountry.co.uk/the-whizzpoppingly-wonderful-world-of-roald-dahl/

Bookish Corner

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You know what it’s like when you come across an author whose writing you love? That happened to me when I read Lindy Viandier’s debut memoir. Could her sequel match its excellence? Here’s my five-star review to explain why it does!
Lindy Viandier – Mellow Mists and Walnut Wine
The author continues her enlightenment period as she and her husband, Mr. V, settle into life at their idyllic Burgundian country home. And her enthusiasm is infectious. I was quickly drawn into learning more about their home renovations, natural surroundings and the community. The social settings, too.
Lindy’s descriptions of local events are highlights in this book. They’re charming, exuding gentle humour as she recounts hilarious tales about her quirky neighbours. Equally entertaining are her stories about Mr V plus workmates, who attack the renovations of their home with enviable French verve. How Lindy creates her culinary masterpieces in the kitchen with lumps of house raining down on her amazes me. And yet she does.
The author has an exceptionally lyrical style. Words flow effortlessly as she creates a literary framework that invites the reader into her world. Together, we learn, laugh, and celebrate the delicious recipes she generously offers.
Dreading the moment I would reach the end, I was delighted to find it was merely au revoir. There will be more books in the Life at Les Libellules series, and I can’t wait.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mellow-Mists-Walnut-Wine-Countryside-ebook/dp/B0C811XWKV/ref
(Click on the book image or the link below to take you to the Amazon .UK page.)
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mellow-Mists-Walnut-Wine-Countryside-ebook/dp/B0C811XWKV/ref

Et voilà!

Summer is when we have a fête weekly in one village or another. Larger scale spectacles also take place. We recently attended a cracker at Belleperche Abbey. Once one of the most prominent abbeys in southern France, Belleperche’s fine ancient buildings now house museum exhibits and host events. This year’s main event theme was À la vie, à la mort – life and death in the Middle Ages.
Designed to be educational and entertaining, we had great fun at the event, which included a host of different side shows, and as you’ll see from the YouTube video below, there was no lack of drama and fun.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5NQU5qeaAc
Remember I mentioned sand at the beginning? Determined to have a break, we set aside our chainsaws and headed for Capbreton with Aby and Max. If you have read our Fat Dogs adventures so far, you’ll know that this tiny town on the west coast with endless beaches and ginormous waves is one of our favourite places in France. And here are some pics to show you why. Let’s start with that famous surf.
The food was delicious, too!
Extraordinary sunsets lit up the sky every evening.
And there were lots of doggy friends to play with. This was the day when Max fell in love. It's a shame he spent most of his time at the wrong end!
And that’s a wrap for this edition of Fat Dogs News. As always, Jack and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your incredible support of our Fat Dogs.
A bientôt! We hope the period leading up to the festive season brings you lots of fun and happiness.
Hugs from us all,
Beth - logo - cropped for newsletters
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