Chasse à l’oie sauvage

Double Armoire Purchase, n’est de pas?

You know when you start the day with positivity thinking that the day will work out well. Well let me tell you, I thought last Tuesday 10th April 2018 would be one of those days (how wrong could I be?).

So you probably know how desperate I am to purchase an armoire for the kitchen. Well two really, one as a cupboard for the kitchen and one for our bedroom. So I’ve been searching LeBoncoin and just missing lovely armoires or they’re miles away in the Pyrénées Atlantique area or I my french isn’t good enough to organise a rendez-vous. So when I found what appeared to be a perfect one for the kitchen I asked a friend to contact the seller by phone on my behalf as she speaks fluent French. She very kindly called for me and spoke to the vendor and it was agreed that I would hire a van and go to the far side of Bordeaux (Arsac) and collect it the next day, Tuesday. At the same time I also made contact via message with another vendor on the other side of Bordeaux (Paissac) and hoped to go and possibly purchase a smaller armoire suitable for our bedroom at the same time. Everything was falling into place for a double armoire purchase on Tuesday.

So grandma and I went down to Pineuilh location.leclerc drive on Monday night to louer une camionnette. We were met by a very curt and yes I say rude woman who basically said there were no vans available for the Tuesday but only for Wednesday or Friday. So it looked like I’d have to message both armoire vendors and let them know I wouldn’t be a able to meet them on Tuesday. Aaaarrrrrrggghhh!!!

Back home and hubby suggested trying to book a van sur l’internet. So we checked and yes, yes, there was one available at Pineuilh. So What the @@@@ was that woman on about eh!! Booked it and all looked back on track for a double armoire purchase the next day.

So as I said at the start of this post, woke up on Tuesday morning with a positive vibe for a double armoire purchase.

So armed with husband and son (French waltnut armoires are VERY heavy) we headed off to collect the van. As you’d expect I’m asked to confirm any damage that might have already been done to the van before I take it. I am told several times that there shouldn’t  be any as it’s a new van. I check anyway. There is a dent to the back door. I write it on the form and she comes out to see, with a very surprised attitude, still saying that the van is new. We agree the damage and head off for Bordeaux.

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Nous arrivons. All excited we follow the vendors into their home to view the first armoire. Quelle horreur, it looks enormous, is made of walnut, so a beautiful hardwood but incredibly heavy. I can’t budge it. And it’s had a significant amount of woodworm. I’m told it’s historic and been treated but I don’t like the holes. We begin to dismantle and hubby checks the van. Comes back in and says he doesn’t think it will fit in. We take a measure and all stand looking in the bank of the van, having measured it. It’s been completely boarded out inside and therefore is not as big as the measurements we were given suggest. IT WONT GO IN. So we give our apologies and sheepishly, disappointedly head off to the second armoire.

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Just as we arrive the heavens open. The vendor here was good enough to stand out in the rain with her umbrella up, so we wouldn’t miss her house. Once again, quelle horreur! This one was in very tatty state and again full of woodworm holes. We made our apologies and backing out of the very tiny room, we escaped.

The boys were not best pleased with this wild goose chase. We returned to Pineuilh location.leclerc drive at about 6pm to return the van, having never put anything inside it.

This time it was a man who appeared to check over the van. To say he went over it with a fine tooth comb, is an under statement. He was over moon when he found a few scratches on the hub cap (enjoliveur) I was sure I’d not hit any curbs but of course I hadn’t noticed these marks when I picked the van up. It was very difficult to argue my case in broken French and they wouldn’t budge. The upshot was they wouldn’t give us our 300€ deposit back until we purchased a replacement enjoliveur from the Renault garage over the road in Pineuilh. So the next day we did just that, it cost 39€.  It had to be ordered though and we were told it would arrive the next afternoon. We dashed back to location.leclerc Drive and they were happy to photo copy our invoice and give us back our deposit. I should also point out that many of the leclerc rental vans did not have hub caps on them. I can’t help but feel very aggrieved and will not be hiring from Leclerc drive ever again. Anyone else had a similar experience?

Mais, Je n’abandonnerai pas.

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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

Gardening, exploring the local area & trampolining

Gardening

Gardening

So today was spent putting in the various shrubs we’ve purchased from the Gamm-vert garden centre. I was looking for some sort of symmetry, so planting in order was important although this did go a bit pear shaped.  We also put stakes in to support the small plum trees that we stransplanted last October and to stop them taking too much strain in the wind. The soil is clay and very boggy at the moment, not ideal for planting anything but as someone once said, “the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago and the next best time is now”.

Daisies

Daisies

Dandelion clocks

Dandelion clocks

I use the word garden to describe what surrounds the house but it is basically meadow.  Full of daisies, dandelions, clover and couch grass.  There are also some lovely purple wild flowers, the name of which I am not sure, anyone help?

Purple flower growing in the garden

Purple flower growing in the garden

There were also some very unusual looking black furry caterpillers with red heads.  Can’t find out what these will turn into, help anyone?

Black catterpillers

Black catterpillers

And the other thing we notice is that the trees are full of mistletoe.  This is a tall tree that overlooks the garden.  Not sure what type it is but it has two large balls of mistletoe hanging from its branches.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe

Then we took a drive down into Sainte-Foy-la-Grande.

Sainte-Foy-la-Grande map

Sainte-Foy-la-Grande map

This is one our favourite local towns. It was founded in 1255 by Alphonse of Poitiers. The central part of the town has maintained it’s right angled street pattern, typical of a fortified town. My favourite street is Rue Victor Hugo as it hosts the regular vide grenier in the summer months and has a lovely shabby chic shop at the top.  Rue de la République is the main street, on which is the tourist information office can be found.

Office de tourisme Sainte-Foy-la-Grande

Office de tourisme Sainte-Foy-la-Grande

Usually in summer it is a mass of window boxes full of flowers.
We love the historic streets with their half timbered buildings, unique shops and unusual door knockers.

Shop in Sainte-Foy-la-Grande

Shop in Sainte-Foy-la-Grande

Half-timbered building in Sainte-Foy

Half-timbered building in Sainte-Foy

Half-timbered building in Sainte-Foy

Half-timbered building in Sainte-Foy

Unusual door knocker

Last time we were in France we went for a stroll along the Dordogne but this time having been so wet the river was swollen and the walkway was completely covered by the extremely fast flowing river.
The afternoon was finished off with sweet crèpes on Rue de la Rèpublique.  And the boys still had time for fun on the trampoline!

Boys on trampoline

Boys on trampoline