avoir le cul borde de nouilles – to be a lucky bastard

“Avoir le cul borde de nouilles” I’m happy with this label.

And it’s great to be back en France again, even after that 15 hour drive. Not so nice to be greeted with a load of builders mess though. I’ve just been out in the garden armed with bin liners to try and do a spot of tidying up, then the heavens opened so I’ve dived inside for cover. We are all very tired and I don’t think much else is going to get done today. Why are builders so messy????  A response from Instagram suggested it’s because they get paid to build and not to clean up.  But I think the best builders will do both.

So even after tidying up, I’m feeling vraiment avoir le cul borde de nouilles. The extension has now finally got its coat of crèpi and the only thing left to do is the covered area at the back of the house. So next summer we can just kick back and relax and really enjoy ourlittlehouseinfrance. So this all too brief break will involve lots of tidying up, repairing earlier builders disasters, planting lots of little cuttings that I have brought from the UK to improve the look of the garden and having several bonfires of Leylandi branches that we cut down at the end of the summer.  Oh, and of course, some trips out and about, after all it is a holiday too.

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Les Jardins de Beauchamp, a garden in the South West of France

Mercredi 16 Août – visited the lovely Jardins de Beauchamp which has an associated garden centre called the Jardinerie Jay and both are found on the outskirts of Marmande, which is a largish town not far south of Duras, in the Lot et Garonne. 

Formally named the Jardins de Garonne, they were renamed the Jardins de Beauchamp in 2009 when the garden was given the award of  ‘Jardin Remarquable’.   Beauchamp is made up of various themed gardens in which water plays an important part. There is a large pond which has been inspired by the orient and is full of beautiful big yellow water lilies.  The Italian garden is made up of two separate long water rill with clipped box hedge on either side and tall cypruses trees.

The garden was newly planted in 2006 but is very well established and layerd out. It was designed by the son of the garden centre owner after finishing his horticultural qualifications. 

There is inspiration at every turn for the would be garden designer. From the unusual garden ornaments and large stone water features, to the pergolas and piegeioner. 
You enter the garden via the Jardinerie Jay. We didn’t look around this that thoroughly, however, it looked to have a very good selection of interesting plants. The gardens and garden centre are open all year round and so we will certainly be back in October to purchase some trees for ourlittlehouseinfrance. 

Avoir le cul bordé de nouilles

I’m carrying on the theme of the French idiom, so here is the second one. I’m not sure that we feel our asses are surrounded by noodles BUT we do consider ourselves very lucky to have ourlittlehouseinfrance.

Dimanche 30 Juillet – up early and off to a vide grenier in Pujols.
On Monday morning the paving slabs for the terrace were delivered, the lorry only just managing to squeeze through the hedging.Also purchased a small chest of drawers via LeBoncoin from Eymet. A bit insignificant and so I ended up painting it cream.


On Tuesday morning our neighbour Margaret popped around with her daughter and children. She has been a resident in the village for a long time and knows many of the other residents well. Sylvian the plumber came to give us a devis for putting in an outside tap and changing the lavabo in the bathroom. He was very efficient and came to complete these small works the next day, Wednesday. Wednesday evening we drove to Saint-Loubes near Bordeaux to purchase a pine commode via LeBoncoin, bringing it back precariously strapped to the top of the car.Thursday 3 Août – Callum’s 16th birthday. Can’t believe I have a 16 year old son. Where did those 16 years go, in the blink of an eye!!!!!  There would be a picture of him here as he’s very handsome, but he won’t let me post any pictures of him😟 so here’s a piccie of Bella between his legs. Candy fridge freezer delivered in the morning and then we went to Callum’s favourite city of Bordeaux. Had a good mooch around and Cal chose his pressie. Then on the following day we went back to Bordeaux again to the cinema to see “Spider-Man Homecoming”. Very entertaining but had to dash there from the car park as usual due to our late arrival.

Samedi – evening went to the Bastid’Art festival in Miramont de Guyenne with Michele and family. Super entertaining with a reggae band, acrobats and then a swing band.Dimanche – sad face as the boy’s return to the UK. Not before Paul and I had a snoop around the vide grenier at Sauvetat du Dropt. The boys flight was due to leave at around 3.30 but it was delayed and they didn’t get home until late.

Most of the week on my own was spent cleaning and oiling the staircase and painting the small chest of drawers purchased from LeBoncoin. I did meet up with Barbara a couple of times and had an evening with Lune and her family. Also, on the Friday I had a nice trip out with Margaret to IKEA. It was a bit of an epic trip as I hadn’t realised how long it would take to get there and walk around. In the end it meant leaving Bella for 6 hours. Luckily she coped with that. The evening I spent preparing for the girls arrival the following morning.

Saturday morning, the girls landed about 10am. It was great to see them and they both looked excited to be here. We didn’t get up to much and as they were acclimatising we just went for a walk along the Dordogne river in Ste Foy La Grande.
Dimanche 13 Août – the girls were happy to get up and go to a vide grenier in Pellegrue not far away.  It was hot, hot but we managed to mooch around and pick up a few bits. In the evening we stood, and stood for over an hour to see “Mapping” at the Château de Duras, together with a fireworks display. It was well worth the wait in the end, although my feet were aching after all the standing about.
On Monday we went in the morning to Duras market, where I also caught up briefly with Barbara and Sharon and purchased a small common perennial plant in this part of France called “Gaura Lindheimeri”. In the afternoon we headed to Meilhan-sur-Garonne where we had a lovely walk along the Canal du Midi and down by the river Garonne. In the evening we had a pizza in the village restaurant. I wouldn’t go back.  Monday night there was a tremendous thunder storm. Lightening lit up the sky and the bedroom. Wasn’t sure I’d get to sleep, but I did. On the Tuesday morning the girls and I decide to go to the Monflanquin medieval festival. We took Bella and enjoyed browsing the stalls and watching some of the festival acts.  Although Bella didn’t like the drums. Mercredi 16 – visited Les Jardins de Beauchamp which is in Marmande. Catch my next post to see how beautiful these gardens were. After the gardens we went to see an armoire I’d found on the dreaded LeBoncoin (think I’m addicted). Needless to say it wasn’t as nice in the flesh. In the evening we went to the Monsègur night market. Then back for jollies around the kitchen table.

Jeudi – I am up very early writing up this blog. The plan is to visit Eymet market this morning and then go to Duras night market this evening. It’s hot today and we all enjoyed our mooch around Eymet market. The girls are enjoying the sunshine and I’m about to post this blog before joining them.

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.

How to build a shed base and erect a shed in France (in 11 hours)

We are definitely not Mr and Mrs DIY, BUT when you are quoted 800 Euros to build a shed base from one of the only builders I could get hold of (yes, I know it’s the summer) and the shed only cost £499, needs really must and we decided to do it ourselves.  Total cost 175 Euros and here’s how we did it.  First decide where you want the shed to be in the garden, then measure out the correct space.  You will need sand, cement and paving slabs from the builders merchant, we used:

The invoice

Slight problem with the delivery as only 29 paving slabs delivered and we ordered 35, soon sorted out though and given an extra one for luck.   You will also need a spade, a spirit level and a long piece of wood or pole.  First you need to dig out the base to about 4 inches deep.  You might need to water the ground if it’s too hard.  IMG_3121

digging the base

Make sure it’s as level as possible at this stage.

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Now for the sand.  We also purchased some bordurette (edging) as the ground slopes away at the back.

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Now you will need to spread the sand, tamp it down with your feet and level it.

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Once the sand is level, sprinkle with cement.

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Now the fun part, you are ready to lay the paving slabs.  This can be tricky and it’s a case of trial and error to make sure that each slab is level.

Bella trying to help too.  paving slabs down

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Then tah da!  The base is now ready to start erecting the shed.  We chose a 6 x 8 foot resin shed by Keter we have one at home and have been very happy with it.  Keter manufactures in Israel and makes lots of different resin garden products.  We purchased it from Amazon in the UK and then had it delivered to us in France.  It’s a little like putting together a Lego shed.  Grandma and I helped by passing screws and pannels.  A lot of it clips together but you need to be strong to do this.  First the shed base.

plastic base

Then the sides.

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And finally a shed.

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finished shed again 1

And of course we had to have an opening ceremony!

Shed opening ceremony