Un petit séjour pour mon mari et sa mère

So last weekend saw hubby and grandma take a very short trip to France, with a view to meeting a plombier, a menuisier (joiner), and a plâtrier (plasterer). 

Le plombier spoke very good English and grandma wouldn’t let him go – had to show him Duolingo! He was called to sort out the leaking shower pipe that our former builder left us with, together with the hot water tank which doesn’t work properly (fitted by former builder too)

He replaced the pipe valve just in case – it hasn’t leaked at all! Much tighter fit now.  

Will quote re outside tap. Through kitchen units. Said he will drill in from the outside because the crèpi will break off if he drills from the inside. Re the drain – he said preferable to have one but with tiles it shouldn’t be a problem – just should’nt let the water lay on bare concrete as it soaks in. He will put an isolation tap in under the sink so we just turn it off when we’re not using it. 

Re shower – Hubby found receipt and plombier rang Bricorama for us and they have said take back the tap piece only and they will replace it. Receipt now clipped to the board in the kitchen and this must be our first job when we return in late July as 12 months is up on 4th August. They have none in stock at the moment but still sell them. Said they will be in stock by end of July. 

Le menuisier, Josh, has been in France 30 years. Covered area – the minimum height would be approx 2.2m. We could have the posts inset a little and would give more height. The crèpi needs doing first he thought – makes their job easier and less mess. He wouldn’t do the faux stone pillars – he would get Andy (the tiler) to do them and work together. They are filled with concrete and wire for strength. If we wanted wood he said they can be on studs which are very low to the ground but raised enough to stop water rising into the wood.

Shutters – again the crèpi needs to be on first – he needs to know the depth to have them fitting flush. He said the holes for hinges would not crack the crèpi. We want anodized metal hinges which match our existing shutter hinges – he said his supplier no longer offers anything but black. But he will buy the shutters from them and the fixings probably from Bâtiland as we know they have them. 

Stairs. He thinks he can sort (see pictures later) will cut a bit off the bottom and place at the top and then the bottom post would be adapted a little to fit flush. 
Balustrades – he can make some to fit – same colour but unlikely to be in beech! He will have them overlap the wood floor edge to hide the finish / edge of wooden floor.

Le plâtrier, manually plasters. Looks older when finished he says. More dimples than staccato. He doesn’t have a machine. He has to do one wall a day. Also can’t do it if over 30 degrees temp so July / August would be difficult. Paul explained the idea that we were trying to achieve the look of pigeoneer being older and the bungalow being the extension. He started suggesting one or more sides would look good in faux stone. Then the longer he was talking he started suggesting all in stone OR we would need to get a firm in to do the crepi with a machine. He is going to give us a price in a week or so for faux stone. He needs to chat with builders merchants. 

So all meetings were relatively positive. When things can begin is not so straight forward as it sounds like the crèpis must be done first. So another important job when we return is to find a professional crèpier. Answers on a postcard please😳

I received pictures of the garden, with many plants flourishing. Of course the grass needed cutting. 

And there was time for a bonfire 🔥 

Difficult to see, but the willows are growing. One day a willow arch. 


Our former builder (no longer employed) never fitted the stair rail and now we know why. Shoddy!!!

Let’s end positively with pictures of flourishing 🌱 


We’re looking forward to our summer in France now, with really just the finishing touches to the extension to organise. Our relationship with our former builder (Jeff Pittman) now over and even though he owes us money, we are moving on. Perhaps next year our extension will be finished but I’m not going to hold my breath. All in good time. Things do take longer in France. But hey ho!

Compost alert and the EDF man

OK, I realise that this post will not be for those with a delicate sensibility. So if that’s you, you might want stop reading now. 

In the U.K. I have a black plastic compost bin. In all truth, it did take a long time to get going but it now makes the most wonderful compost extremely quickly. It is full of little small red worms and many other creepy crawlies. 
In France I have a compost bin too, which has been a huge disappointment thus far. In fact I made contact with an owner of some stables just so I could collect horse poo on a regular basis. But, I really want to make my own French compost. So my big mistake has probably been to put too many grass cuttings in it and the contents resemble a very dry and musty straw bale. Not good. 

So I’ve heard from several gardening sources that human urine can act as a compost activator. You might guess where this is going now. 

So in France, weather gorgeous, inhibitions cast to one side. I decided there was only one thing for it. I would need to use some sort of Shewee to collect my liquid gold. I always knew that caraf from Ikea would come in handy. 

So web investigation tells me that human urine is one of the fastest known activators for a compost heap because it’s high nitrogen content. 

Nuff said!

So it was to this end that I tiptoed down stairs at the crack of dawn on Friday morning clasping said liquid gold and popped it on the doorstep ready to transport to the compost bin. No sooner had I placed it there and clad only in my night clothes, there was a knock at the door. OMG 😲 I opened it to find a young man standing there and to be honest it took me a while to understand what he was saying but I managed to glean that he was from EDF and had come to tell me that he would be cutting the trees that were too close to the electricity wires that cross our  garden. He did say it wouldn’t cost us anything. OK fine I said, very much on the back foot. So now I’m trying to investigate what this might actually mean for some of our trees. HELP!

Open garden, South West France😍

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First lunch at B’s.

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Then to Loubens where one of B’s friends lives. She has a lovely Girondaise farm house that is on the market at moment.  House near Loubens

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Super place to check out which plants will grow in this part of France and for garden design ideas. We will return to check it out at the start of the season. At the moment it is so dry and parched. Still looking good

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I always think it’s lovely to stumble across a hidden oasis and treasures within a garden. Hydrangeas to die for and lots of hidden object d’art to stimulate the senses.image

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To get all the details about open gardens in France go to:

http://rendezvousauxjardins.culturecommunication.gouv.fr/

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Summer 2016 phlog part 1

Beautiful, but sad sunflower☹️image

OK, a phlog’s a bit of a cop out. More pictures, less words.

Visit to Taillecavat vide grenier this morning and then a walk through the grape vines with Bella and grandma.

Gorgeous vintage wicker bag, a necklace and some gentleman’s cuff links were my finds at today’s vide. Was looking for some wooden dining chairs but these were trop cher, at soixante euros😳

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Eclectic stand at vide today, followed by antique French confit pots, a Western horse saddle and a little black vintage car.  And our lovely village moulin à vent from our walk today.

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Plants in France

As I’m back in the UK (not for long, as we return to France this Thursday) I tend to look for all things French that I have around me to give me some inspiration for a blog.  Then I remembered some cuttings that have been languishing down the side of the house so they wont be in direct sunlight.  Not much chance of that here, I hear you cry!  imageAnyway back to the cuttings.  There are several but the largest two and the smaller one at the front on the left were taken last year from wild Elder bushes on a little road that leads to my friends house.  These wild Elderberry shrubs seem to grow all over in the hedge rows in our part of France.  My friend has copious amounts growing around her front door and as I have lost so many plants to drought, because we cannot water the garden, I thought that cultivating native/local plants, that do survive hot dry months, would be the best thing to do.  (Although we are thinking of putting in some sort of basic irrigation system once we have an outside tap)

Rose always wants to know what I’m up to when I’m in the garden.  After all it is her domain.  Looks cute doesn’t she.  But, if you are a vole, mouse, baby rabbit or small bird, this is the face that greets you just before you die.  She’s a killer.imageSo the Elder cuttings are doing well.  They will travel to France with us when we next take the car through the tunnel in either October or at Christmas.  The best time to plant them will be then as it will give them a chance to get some roots developed before the hot weather next summer.

The generic name of the Elder is Sambucus.  In France the Elderberry shrub(s) is called “Sureau” or “Les Sureaux”.

And as I’m writing this, the weirdest thing is happening.  A small bug is meandering across the screen of my Mac.  And, it’s behind the glass.  What’s going on.  Anyway back to the blog.

In our garden here in Blighty, I have three black Elderberry shrubs.  They have beautiful deep burgundy leaves and provide much needed colour to our otherwise very green garden at this time of year.

Elder shrubs have been an important resource for a very long time.  From the Greeks to the Romans and the Britons to the Celts, it has a huge range of practical uses. Elderberry wine is said to have curative powers. Taken hot it will help in the early stages of a cold or ‘flu, and is also good for a sore throat. This is due to the viburnic acid contained in the berries which induces perspiration and helps to “bring the cold out”.

Make it simply by stripping off the ripe berries with a fork until you have three gallons of berries. Pour over 2 gallons of boiling water, cover and leave in a warm place for 24 hours. Strain through muslin and press all the juice well out. Measure it and allow 3lbs (1.3kg) of sugar, half an ounce (14g) of ginger and quarter of an ounce (7g) of cloves to each gallon (approx 5 litres). Boil slowly for 20 minutes, strain into a bucket, adding the yeast when it is lukewarm. Pour into demijohns, standing them in a warm place while the yeast works through the sugar. Bottle when it stops. It’s really best to leave it for at least a year, and 2 or 3 years is even better.http://www.whitedragon.org.uk/articles/elder.htm

The Elder flower and berry seems to have been a cure all, from preventing mosquito bites to chilblains and bronchitis.  The berries also make a dye which was used by the Romans to dye their hair black.

The Elder was a mystical plant associated with the spirit world across Europe.  In particular a tree spirit, called the Elder Mother.  To be able to use the magical properties of the tree, prayers and offerings would have to be made otherwise the Elder Mother would not be happy. Because the Elder is very easy to propagate from a cutting and grows so quickly it is therefore associated with regeneration and rebirth.

Because of these spiritual links the Christian church ‘demonized’ the Elder tree, as it did many of the magical plants of the Druids and other pagans, and said that Elder wood was used for the crucifixion cross and that Judas hung himself from an Elder tree. Elder was given a bad name and now had powers of both good and evil. Bringing Elder into the house might cause misfortune or even death to family members and burning the wood meant summoning the Devil.

The word “elder” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “æld” meaning fire.  According to one source this may have been due to the hollowed out stems being used to blow on the fire. The stem has a soft inside that can be easily hollowed out to form a tube. These were then used to make whistles and pipes.

In 1629 a Dr Martin Blochwich who died aged 27 published a reference book titled The Anatomy of the Elder. In this book, which has become a standard reference work, Blochwich described the cultivated plant in three units that occupied a total of 298 pages.

  • Unit 1: The botanic of the elder with an explanation of the origin of the name, as well as where it could be found, its growth and characteristics.
  • Unit 2: In six chapters Blochwich described the preparation of vinegar, chalk, compote, oil, tablets, ointment, juice, syrup, spirit, water, wine and sugar made of elder in detail and gave recipes.
  • Unit 3: Thirty-three chapters about the treatment of diseases that occurred frequently. Recipes have exact descriptions for the production of medicines made of elderflower, elderberry, elder marrow and elder bark, as well as numerous references to the opinions of famous doctors of antiquity and the Middle Ages, which gave the practical doctors during Blockwitz’s day instructions how to use various elder preparations internally and externally. The conditions dealt with include breast and uterine diseases, frostbite, tumours, infectious diseases, diseases of the lungs, stomach, intestines, spleen and gall bladder, mental illnesses, stroke and paralysis, consumption, unclear fever and pain, poisonings, injuries, worm attack and toothache.

Elder continues to be commonly used in herbal remedies and drinks.  It is the flowers and berries that are most used as these are the safest parts of the plant as the bark and leaves are toxic in the wrong dosage.

River Cottage Elderflower cordial

Ingredients

Makes about 2 litres

  • About 25 elderflower heads
  • Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150ml in total)
  • 1kg sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)

Method

Inspect the Elder-flower heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the zest of the orange and lemon.

Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the Elder-flowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.

Strain the liquid through a piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).

Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.

Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.

Serving suggestions

Add a splash or two, undiluted, to fruit salads or anything with gooseberries or dilute one part cordial to two parts water for fragrant ice lollies.

To find out more about the Elder tree, simple google it.  There’s loads of info out there or grab a copy of Dr Martin Blochwich’s book, available from Amazon.

Oh, and before I completed this blog, Rose had caught yet another vole and my son’s run out to see if he can save it.

Aaaarrrrgghhh, blasted wifi down AGAIN😡😡😡

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OK, so I’m starting with grapes. Not sure why, just had a lot of time to take snap shots of the garden as we just couldn’t get a decent WiFi signal at the beginning of this week. Whaaaaaats up!  So now we’re back in Blighty I’m updating my blog.  This was the picture on our return to LBA early on Thursday morning.  What no sun!  We’d got so used to 30 degrees that 12 just didn’t cut it.

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Anyway back to the building work.

You need the right tools!  This magnificent red contraption (a dry wall lifter) is a must when you are fixing plasterboard to the ceiling.  Hubby and I were chuckling, just imagining ourselves doing this job without the correct tools.  I know there would be lots of cursing and blaming each other!!!  Just as well our builder is putting the ceilings up.

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This would have been hubby and me with the 4 x 4 propping up the board and one of us having a very achy arm/shoulder the next day.

imageUpstairs we now have a toilet and the shower tray has been installed.  We’ve also  purchased the shower, awaiting installation, and the sink/unit which has been installed temporarily, this we bought from IKEA last year.

We’ve now chosen the tiles for the en-suite, together with the wooden floor for the bedroom but because of the French holidays, we won’t be able to order these until September, so who knows when they’ll be fitted😦

Downstairs we’re going for a traditional French style tile and not sure of the pattern yet. Again this won’t be available until September. It would seem sensible then, to wait and decide on the covered area and patio tiles when these have been laid.

Watch this space👀