Archive for the ‘garden’ Category


March 17, 2011

Now that Winter is (hopefully) nearly over we can look forward to visits from family and friends  in the coming months.

It looks like a busy time ahead with Daphne and Johnny due to arrive tomorrow – together with the chimney sweep, who was supposed to come on Tuesday morning but he rang at the last minute and changed his rendezvous to Friday. Oh well, it saved me worrying too much about (not)  dusting the living room.

Bear is suffering from a bad back. Something clicked when he lifted the toilet seat, and he can hardly move without yelping in pain. I’m also concerned about his driving now that I realise how bad his eyesight is getting. We went to the opthalmologist last week and I was stunned to find that he couldn’t make out a rather large E –  he thought it was a square.

It means that I’ll have to pluck up the courage to take the wheel when we go out with Daphne and Johnny. He drives all day at work and doesn’t like driving during his holiday. However, if my driving makes him nervous he’ll have to take over.

After two days of almost Summer temperatures – 21 degrees – it has turned cold again. The short burst of enthusiasm for gardening has been blown away by the chill wind and so there’s no hope of clearingthe enormous pile of branches in the middle of the garden – which is all that remains of four conifers  – before our visitors come.

It was a shame to cut down the trees but Willow, our youngest and most agile cat learned how to climb up them and jump over into Claudine’s garden. The only problem was that it wasn’t so easy for her to get back and it meant going next door to rescue her.

I don’t like the idea of chopping down trees withut replacing them so I’ve bought two more fruit trees. Hopefully I’ll be able to get two more next year.

At Easter we’ll welcome Rosemary and in May Wendy is coming over with her husband, son and his girlfriend so that means I’ll see all three of my sisters.

In June we’re expecting a friend of Jay’s from America and in July a friend of mine from college days and our friends from Norfolk who come every year (but not all at the same time).

It will be lovely to see them all but I may be ready for a ‘holiday at home’ in August.

And there was June gone!

July 7, 2010

Whatever happened to June? I remember realising that it had begun and before I knew it, here we are a week into July.

So what’s been going on? Nothing terribly exciting I’m afraid.

There was the meal with the Club de Troisieme Age with langue de boeuf as the main course so Bear refused to try it. The couple opposite us were 80 and 83 but didn’t look a day over 60. When the president gave out tokens for the Dodgem cars (it had been the Village Fete the previous weekend) they were among the ten or so ‘oldsters’ to take up the offer. As for me, I didn’t want to risk it  and was content to go outside and watch.

Then we had an end of term English cheese and beer tasting for the classes at the library. CC and Jay brought  a selection of cheese, beer and pickles back from their trip to England.

They bought stilton, cheddar and cheshire cheese and a variety of pickles incuding Branston, Piccalilli, pickled eggs and pickle onions as these are things you don’t find in France. There were several types of biscuits for cheese and Tunnocks Teacakes and Golden Syrup cake for those with a sweet tooth.

It was decided that the ‘rite of passage’ was to eat a pickled onion without spitting it out and Isabelle just about managed it.

Fortunately she likes beer and so was able to wash it down quickly.

The chickens are now all moved to the back part of the garden with a temporary fence and fingers crossed that they won’t escape again. The white ones had found a way of getting underneath so we’ve put in 40 extra staples. The ground is so uneven that they found it easy to dig underneath.

I wasn’t sure how the four adult black hens and the eight young chickens would get on but after a few stand offs they seem to have settled down. They still tend   to go round in two ‘gangs’ and I have to try to feed them seperately or else the black ones won’t allow the white ones anywhere near. They have all investigated each other’s living quarters but they go to bed in their ‘own’ houses.

It looks pretty certain that there are at least 4 cockerels among the youngsters and we are coming round to the idea that some of them may be eaten. . . . . .

The cherry trees were more productive this year. We had two handfuls from each of the ‘eating’ cherry trees but the sour cherry tree excelled itself and we now have 14 pots of (rather runny) cherry jam. There is still lots of fruit on the higher branches but I’m not sure I could face another session over a hot stove especially as Yvette let us pick her remaining redcurrants and that resulted in 8 pots of red currant jelly. It’s the first time I’ve attempted to make jelly and I’m proud of the fact that it’s beautifully clear – and set!

The heatwave looks set to continue and we have had little or no rain for ages. This is so unlike our famously rainy weather and I’m worried the well will run dry as I have to water frequently.

The good news is that we haven’t had to mow the grass for some time.

But the weeds still grow, alas!

Bitten by a Rat(?)

April 14, 2010

Some of the cats dashed indoors all of a sudden but Willow sat transfixed on the steps outside the conservatory.

I went out to investigate and saw this ratlike creature cowering in the corner at the bottom of the steps. As I went to pick Willow up it went for me and landed on my foot ready to take a bite.

I grabbed it by the tail but it twisted itself up and bit my finger. Naturally I dropped it but it squealed angrily and junped a couple of feet in the air obviously feeling threatened.

All I could thnk of was to make a lot of noise as this litle creature was pretty courageous and rather fierce for its size so I was pleased when it ran behind some large stones to hide.

My finger was bleeding but I took Willow indoors and then went to find Holly but she ran off.  Meanwhile CC came to the window and watched the little creature as it moved around behind the stone.

It was the size of a small rat but it didn’t have a pointed snout and it’s eyes were larger and set more forward than a rat’s.  However, it had two very prominent front teeth and I can vouch for their sharpness.

After cleaning and disinfecting the bite I rang the doctor to see if there was a danger of infectious diseases. Having ascertained that the wound wasn’t deep enough to require her attention she told me to report to the hospital this morning and to ring the secretary first.

Bear duly drove me there at 8.30 and I had to go to ‘Admissions’ to show my Carte Vitale, Insurance card and passport. I was given some papers to take to the outpatients clinic and we waited there until the doctor arrived just after nine.

The was a young lady who went in first and then it was my turn.

He assured me that there was no danger of rabies from rodents so an injection wouldn’t be necessary but as they could carry rather nasty diseases he has given me a weeks supply of antibiotics – with a warning that one of the side effects could be diarrhea. Great: we’re hoping to go out and about this weekend when my other sister comes to stay.

The greenhouse

March 8, 2010

Ever since I had visions of growing vegetables I’ve longed for a greenhouse and this year I found a really good offer – a 10×8 foot ‘serre’  – at half price, end of line.

I ordered it and a couple of weeks later the courrier phoned to arrange delivery for March 4th. We put the package in Claudine’s garage to wait until Guy, another neighbour who had agreed to put it up, could come and unwrap it.

He turned up on Friday afternoon and among the packageing was the book of instructions stating that 2 people could assemble it in 2 or 3 hours.

But when I saw the heap of metal bars and sheets of corrugated plastic, not to mention hundreds of screws, I had my doubts.

And so did Guy.

He set to work with the help of Claudine’s son, Francois but after three hours all they had done was fix together the base and the metal corners  and attach two panels.

Guy was patient and methodical but did use the word “chiant” (shitty) a few times. It seems the main problem was that the screws and their holes would not line up.

They gave up at about 6 o’clock when it began to get dark and came back on Saturday morning.  After seven or eight hours grind most of the panels were in place but there was still a long way to go.

They spent all day Sunday on it – albeit with a prolonged lunch break – but it still isn’t quite finished.

Guy is there now, completing the roof and, hopefully will manage to put the doors in before  night sets in.

There must have been a misprint or mistranslation on the leaflet. Not 2 or 3 ‘heures’ but more like 2 or 3 ‘journees.’

The Garden is tidied

September 17, 2009

A few months ago Whale received a letter from  the French  government stating that as he is handicapped he would receive 200 euros worth of  ‘cheques emploi  services’  to employ additional help.

This sounded like wonderful news  but when they arrived they bore no ressemblance to the normal  ‘cheques emploi service’ which are used to pay legally for any work done by someone not employed by a business.

After asking one or two French people if they could make sense of the directions on how to to use them I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t being totally thick and, maybe, the government wanted to put people off using their gift. Which, naturally, made me even more determined to find out how the system worked. 

So I asked at the Mairie  and a very friendly member of the council came round and studied the instructions. She scratched her head, read through the notes again and then decided to phone  for assistance.

After a long conversation she told me that my ’employee’ must sign up with cheques emploi service and  then the ‘borderaux’ (slips which enable you to cash the cheques) woud be sent directly to him or her.

After asking around I found Thierry, who was willing to do 20 hours of gardening in return for this strange method of payment -but he didn’t know what to do either.

He said his aunt had used them so he took all the papers with him last weekend to ask her. It seemed you had to do it online, she said and she wrote down a list of instructions which he brought with him on Tuesday.

Going online resulted in me signing up to fill in the monthly forms by internet – something I’ve resisted doing up till now  but will have to get to grips with it  at last.

When it came to Thierry’s part it clearly stated that he culdn’t sign in without a valid email address. Thierry doesn’t even have a computer so we were back t square one.

“I’ll send the form by post” he finally decided.

I hope we do get this sorted because he’s already done a good few hours and here are the results so far:                                                                          


The vegetable patch has been dug over and sown with mustard seed. Apparently if you dig in the mustard before the Spring it will fertilise the soil and help prevent the weeds from growing. The ‘bush’  in the far corner is horseradish and you may just be able to make out one lone sweetcorn just in front of it. I used two packets of seeds and  of the 3 (yes THREE)  that germinated this is the only one that has survived. I’m thinking of preservng it somehow!

The hedges that our friend planted last year had been sadly neglected but Thierry cleared away the grass and weeds and put cocoa  hedge3shells down to keep it tidy, and hopefully weedfree.

These cocoa shells smell strongly of chocolate and CC and I used them in the bed by the garden shed where the weeds come through from next door.


Yummy, they made our mouths water but there was no chocolate in the house to eat.



There’s a buddleia and two other shrubs planted in the earth and we’ve part buried some boxes to grow herbs . The plastic sheets are meant to stop some of the weeds from invading and the hosepipe takes well-water up to the vegetable garden.

In addition Thierry has weeded the borders by the path and planted some pansies to fill the gaps where the perennials have died.

There isn’t much colour left but here is the last rose of Summer, looking a bit of a sorry sight.

last rose

Next stage is to tackle the front of the house.