Encore en France

We’re here again, in our favourite place, South West France. Long trip again, with no stopping. Hubby and I sharing the driving and with a it much better plan this time as each of us only doing 2 hour stints. Still exhausted by the time we reached the house. My nephew and family set off at the same time and only missed each other by 30 minutes at Le Tunnel. We actually like our epic journey to be honest as it feels like the start if a big adventure.

Actual time of arrival was just about 9am and it was straight to Leclerc, to pick up some provisions for lunch and tea. Arrived at the house to find an even bigger nest of House Martins. Poo all over the tiles outside the front door. Bella leapt out of the car straight into the garden for some well needed exercise. As I surveyed the garden it was pleasing to see all the plants doing so well, many thriving.

We also have produce, so there will be plumb crumble and fig jam, all being well.

Then once we’d gathered our thoughts it was off to Bricorama in Marmande to change the shower thermostat, which was only allowing us to have scalding hot water coming from the shower.

Back to house, replace thermostat and relax. Not doing anything else today.

Sunday it was up early to go to a couple of vide greniers close by. Thought my son would like to join us but he was spark out. Hubby and I spent a pleasant morning mooching around vides at Les Lèves et Thourmeyragues and Ste Foy la Grande.

Chines du jour (antiques of the day)

So no wonder we were exhausted by Monday.  The tales of Monday and beyond to come.

Half term and ramasser des pierres – to gather stones

walk 1

Well the week is almost over and it has been a bit of a blur.  Not because we have been that busy but because of the drizzly weather and we have also had a problem with the car which has restricted what we have been able to do.  The weather has been against us but true to form, now we are packing up to go today it has been glorious.  Because of the car, Wednesday meant a trip about 20 miles into Bergerac to the Audi garage, that we identified online, to check if we could establish what was the matter with the car.  We suspected that the wheel bearing in the front drivers side was the issue after checking the internet.  Anyway to cut a long story short “nous pensons que le roulement de roue est cassée” and were correct.  The French chap at Audi initailly said that this couldn’t be possible “ce n’est pas possible” as he asked how many miles the car had done and as we said only 30,000 he didn’t think it would break at that mileage.  But once up on the ramp he confirmed the worst was true and unfortunately the garage could only fix it next week.  No good to us as we are heading back on Saturday.   walk2

Had a lovely goats cheese quiche and good conversation at my friend B’s house.  The weather was good too for the hour or so I was there and we were able to eat outside.  Very French.  B has given us some baby trees which I have planted in the tree nursery.

Our neighbour, M, has painted her shutters the most lovely mushroom colour.  Ms shuttersIf that’s not farrow and ballFarrow and Ball “Cord No. 16”, I don’t know what is?  This is just the colour I was mooning over at home, thinking it would look very French when our shutters need a new lick of paint.  Oh dear, I thought, that’s it I don’t want to be the copycat neighbour.  That would be just freaky.  Anyway up-shot is M doen’t like the colour much anyway and is planning to chang it.  So F&B Cord  No. 16 could be mine after-all!

So most of the time we have been doing things around the house and in the garden.  Not the most exciting of half terms for my son.  In fact later today we will be going on a walk so I will take my camera with me.  Had a lovely long walk and saw our first snake.

Came across a small garden centre selling cacti called Le Petit Mexique.  With a lovely sign outside saying “En hommage a maman qui m’ a fait aimer les cactus”

Cactus farm

I was excited to see, what looked like a very unusual bird in the garden.  This lovely Hoopoe below:

Hoopoe

I must be turning into the log lady, love this collage I produced from a picture I took of a pile of wood.

walk wood

And I am still on the hunt for stones.  Ramasser des pierres.  Managed to pick up two this time on one of our walks.  I’m convinced that if I keep gathering stones whenever we are here that I’ll eventually have enough to build an old stone wall or rockery in the garden.  (In my dreams)

stones

And just to close here is a picture of a new prune tree looking very windswept that we have moved from under the Leylandii hedge and one of our healthy looking grape vines.  Lets see if they survive the next 7 weeks!

our grape vinesà bientôt:)

 

We’re back it’s HOT and I need inspiration for the garden!

If you need a place to begin your inspiration journey then this is a great place to start.

A Flying Visit in May 2013

So we arrived at ourlittlehouseinfrance around midday Sunday 26th May, after our Ryan Air flight into Bergerac. (Again another on time flight!!!).  We settled in straight away and our son rushed off to check on his French friends.  We have a lovely neighbour who lets us borrow her sit on mower so off we set to get petrol, initially without any money, so we had a little detour around the local villages and then back for the wallet.  Then the wheel fell off so that was the end of the mowing until a part can be purchased.
Anyway my fig tree cuttings haven’t taken. Very sad about this but determined to have a garden full of fig trees ever since the beautiful fig near to us was chopped down last year.
The garden in images taken with iPhone. Big camera too BIG to bring on plane.
Our grape vines

Our grape vines

Pink Salix

Pink Salix

Cherry Tree

Cherry Tree

Prunes

Prunes

Lady Lace

Lady Lace

Lady Lace

Lady Lace

Lady Lace

Lady Lace

Lady Lace

Lady Lace

Anthriscus  Sylvestris
Plenty of ‘cow parsley’.  Cow Parsley or Lady Lace as I’ve always known it is a beautiful wild flower that certainly grows in abundance in North Yorkshire.  I once had a pony called ‘Ginger’, a lovely natured Welsh chestnut roan, and he absolutely adored Lady Lace. You couldn’t ride him past a bunch without him grabbing a mouthful and if you stopped, he would have to polish off the lot.
I have been doing some research into this plant which I thought I knew well from childhood memories.  It is prolific at this time of year and can be seen scattered along the side of the road or in hedgerows. It is apparently  a biennial.  A biennial, is a plant that takes two years to flower from seed: it puts on leaves, stems and roots during the first year and then flowers the following summer.  Once they have flowered they die.  It is also referred to as ‘umbelliferous’ which means that its  flowers bloom on the end of short, spoke-like stems radiating from a central stem.
Lady Lace is everywhere this year and has also been trending at Chelsea Flower Show.  Here it is below being included in the Brewin-Dolphin garden.
Brewin-Dolphin Garden Chelsea 2013

Brewin-Dolphin Garden Chelsea 2013

The shape of the plant adds architectural structure to a border, without being too dense or heavy.  It is also the latest must have perennial for many London parks right now, yes Lady Lace really is en vogue.  Whether common or posh, it is a very successful garden plant as it can weather our cold springs and very late frosts.
But beware, this beautiful plant is also very similar to the deadly Hemlock plant and as little as 8 leaves of this plant can prove fatal. See http://www.woodland-ways.co.uk/blog/wild-food-diaries/plant-russian-roulette/
I rushed out into our French garden and am relieved to say that our wild flowers below are the innocent Lady Lace. Gorgeous.

Meeting Greeny the frog, more gardening, removing the pool and getting ready for the long journey home

Common tree frog

Common tree frog

Callum meets tree frog

Callum meets tree frog

Did I mention how wet it has been in France over the past two weeks?  Well we have only had two days where it hasn’t rained.  This, of course, is ideal for some species, not humans.  Meet the Common Stripeless Tree Frog or Greeny to his friends.  Apparently it has seen considerable population decline and is considered vulnerable according to the French National red list, so it was super to see one in our garden.

Prune tree cutting

Prune tree cutting

Our garden is a work in progress and at the moment is taking up a lot our time when at the house in France. We have a reasonable sized garden but it was previously a vineyard and so the land is undulating and is full of various weeds, such as dandelions, clover, daisies and couch grass.  The plan at the moment is to create some structure to what is a flat plot of land, with some minimal planting, as we don’t want to end up producing the traditional English country garden in France.

I would like to have a space with several fruit trees.  We are lucky enough to have a boundry that has two established prune trees in it, together with numerous self seeded small infant plants.  These we have dug up and transplanted.  These plants will form the basis of the small orchard style planting we are trying to achieve.

Last October, while walking and travelling around the local area, I gathered as many small cuttings as I could and very crudely dipped them in rooting hormone and then stuck them in the ground.  Some of these appear to have taken and are now growing. We have transplanted one of the willow tree cuttings into the garden and will be interested to see if it survives until our return in July.
 
The garden is mainly south facing but suffers from cold north westerly winds.  We have decided to plant a slow growing barrier in the form of Laurel and Elaeagnus (Ebbingei) to the west of the house, in the hope that this will provide some shelter in both the winter and summer months from the prevailing weather.IMG_2851 We have an Olive tree that came with the house and that should benefit from this shelter.  In the same area we planted a Salix and a Red Robin back in April 2012, these are not doing very well. We have also planted a couple of Vibernum Tinus close to the gates, that should provide a display of white flowers in the future at this time of year.
IMG_2847
IMG_2862We inherited an overground pool and gazebo with the house but decided to dismantle the pool and retain the gazebo to produce a seating area in the garden.  I’m afraid this meant we evicted several creatures including toads, beetles and leeches.  Although the weather has been dreadful and wet we planted a pair of Cyprus trees either side of the entrance to the gazebo.  We also purchased a Buddleia and a Feijoa Sellowiana (pineapple guava) and have planted these in the gaps between the uprights of the gazebo.imageimage Today we went to a quarry near Marmande and purchased some very large stone pebbles to put around the edge of the gazebo.  While we were gardening in the very soggy ground my son was aquaplaning across the bottom of the garden, becoming a complete mud boy.

Not Callum but he did looked like this!

Not Callum but he did look like this!

So after hand washing his clothes, my husband bathing the dog and grandma raking we are all bushed and ready for an evening of TV.

Below are some ideas for garden furniture and terracotta plant pots.  It’s always good to have ideas I think:)imageimageimageimageimage

Figs no more plus toilet troubles!!

 Back at Le Petit Coquelicot on Saturday 27th October. 

Up very early at the Premier Inn in Liverpool to get to John Lennon Airport for our 6.40 Ryan Air flight to Bergerac.  Grandma is with us and we had an early breakfast and then walked to the Airport which is about 500 yards away from the hotel.  I have a very close friend staying at our house in England, looking after all the animals, so we are good to go!

The Yellow Submarine at John Lennon Airport

The Yellow Submarine at John Lennon Airport

Landed in Bergerac, earlier than Ryan Air scheduled, and it was cold.  Very cold.

Arrived at the house having had a quick look around Bergerac, which looked lovely, I definitely want to go there again.  Looks like it would be a spectacular place to investigate in the sunshine.  When we got to the house, after a couple of us went to the toilet it was clear that we had toilet trouble.  The water began to rise and you know that always means trouble.  

After a lot of hard work by my hubby we finally could see the Fekafoss lid, which is the pump that is installed to pump all the house waste/water to the local sewer. 

Fekafoss lid

Fekafoss lid

Meanwhile Grandma and I headed off to one of the last local vide greniers in Ste Foy La Grande, where I found a very tatty mirror that I gave the French shabby chic look to when we got back.  What do you think?  Not sure what to put in it though.

Painted French mirror

We also now have transplanted 4 plumb trees in the front garden. 

Transplanted plum trees

Transplanted plum trees

So we shall see whether or not they survive.  I’ve also created a little nursery of tree cuttings from the local area. 

Tree cuttings

Tree cuttings

To my utter shock and horror, somebody!!! has chopped down the beautiful fig tree that stood on the edge of our garden.  Why oh why would you want to do such a thing I really do not know.  In fact it has freaked me out somewhat.  The figs were to die for.  See earlier post.  I am now determined to fill my garden with fig trees.  Just you wait, you chopper down of beautiful fig tree!

I have checked the Internet for info on taking fig tree cuttings and found this thread curtesy of www.botanicalgarden.ubc

” In the spring before the tree leafs out, cut a 12 inch long piece of branch up to 3/4 of an inch thick. Bury it all except the last bud on top. It will root itself quite easily and grow vigorously throughout the summer.”

Two meetings with architects about the proposed extension have left us in a bit of no mans land at the moment.  Not always quick to make decisions we will have to take this one home and mull it over during the winter.

Anyway today, although the weather is not that good, we are heading out to Bordeaux.  Meriadeck shopping centre is central and has a car park.  Not sure whether shopping in Bordeaux is a good idea but the main aim is to go to the cinema and see the new James Bond film “Skyfall”.

Skyfall

Skyfall

And there lies a tale of the famous shoes.  Grandmas shoes went missing for sixth months and they turn up in a Hollywood blockbuster, the new James Bond film “Skyfall” worn by James’ and M’s arch enemy in the film Raoul Silva. 

skyfall-Javier Bardem

skyfall-Javier Bardem

And here are Grandma’s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Like Raoul, she’s not allowed laces either, you understand!!!! Tee Hee.

Grandmas Kappa trainers

Grandmas Kappa trainers

I always like cooking when we are in France and while there this time, I cooked a mean Homity Pie, though I say so myself.  This is a good old English recipe that I came across in my Cranks recipe book years ago.  If you read the recipe book, there’s lots of specific amounts of ingredients but the way I make it is with no weighing or measuring at all.  Here goes!  Nice lot of potatoes, peeled and then boiled.  While they’re doing I make pastry, in this case with plain flour and just butter.  Loads of red onions, garlic and extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan.  Make sure not to burn.  Then drain the potatoes, no need to be too careful, add to the frying pan, together with lots of fresh parsley, grated chedder cheese (yes you can get this in France now), salt, pepper and a slurp of milk.  Place the pastry in a large oven proof dish and then add the ingredients from the frying pan.  Place in the oven (200 degree) for about 20 minutes.  Hey presto!

Homity Pie

Homity Pie

To finish we had the most gorgeous French pastry from a lovely little shop in the local town.  Yummy!

French pastry

French pastry

To change the subject quite dramatically, I must also talk about the dazzeling array of crysanthymums around at the moment and how I finally came to realise what they were used for.  In France La Toussaint or All Saint’s Day is a Catholic festival celebrated every year on 1st November. 

La Toussant is the day when all the Saints are honoured by the Catholic church. The following day is Le Jour des Morts (All Soul’s Day), when people pray for the souls of the dead. La Toussant is a national holiday and children are off school for two-weeks (half term).  La Toussaint is celebrated by decorating the graves of loved ones with chrysanthemums, the flowers associated with death.  The cemeteries are awash with flowers.  In fact I first noticed that the flower shops and supermarkets were awash with these types of gawdy flowers.  Very bright and clashing colours.  I prefer paler coloured flowers like lillies but here are some pictures of our village church which, I have to say, looked so alive with colour.

Village church

Village church

The church in our village

Anyway we are back in Blighty now and I’m just finishing off this blog.  Weather is awful here, so I sometimes cheer myself up with a look at what it’s like in Bergerac via the webcam Not always a good idea though but I’ll keep looking.