Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Taupes (Moles in English) Episode, lost count...

As regular readers will know we have been battling the moles since we arrived, a losing battle I might add!

One thing in our favour, over the winter, has been the very wet weather, the garden has been too water logged for the beasts BUT now its dried out they're back!!!

In the past we have tried many ways with limited success, the most successful has been the traps but even these have only caught the odd one and are now resting in the shed.

I have all but given up and now just go with the wheelbarrow, shovel up the soil, and dump it in one of the many hollows we have...

However!!!! When back in the UK,on a trip to our favourite shop Lidl, I spotted these...

At £9.95 I could not resist... It is also guaranteed for 3 years, I suppose that is to keep working and not a guarantee to scare moles...

It was one of the first jobs last week when we returned to Braye.

It was quickly assembled and installed in an area where the beasts had been active for some time...

YES a result, we have had no mole activity since it was placed... It is supposed to cover 750m².

BUT... It is early days yet and the ground has baked rock hard. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Out with the old...

When we first bought the house in 2010 we inherited a small Christmas tree, basically in full view of the kitchen window.

Over the years we have made very good use of it as a bird feeder. BUT it had just grown toooo large for its position. It had also developed a lean due to the high winds last winter.

So today has been Tree change day... We did check for birds nests first.

A selfy with the extracted root bowl!

In with the new. This little tree was an import from Loch Fyne, Argyll and Bute, Scotland, which interestingly means the loch of the vine or wine... Very appropriate don't you think...


If it grows as fast as the previous one we will not have long to wait before we can hang the feeders on it again as the tree rings of the old tree show...

What the birds think we will never know...

Monday, 14 April 2014

One of the worst jobs...

To the left hand side of our house is a main drainage ditch which forms the boundary to our patch of land. Although it has never been mentioned by anyone we have always understood that we are obligated to keep it clear.

So every year since we have been here I have attacked the long growth with the strimmer / bush cutter... Yesterday our neighbour Antony  he said he would do the strimming this year... Perhaps he thought I was getting too old for such a task!!!

"No! No! I have more time than you, Antony, I will do it this week"...  Silly Me... When will I learn to keep my mouth shut!!

But going back to my previous comment about my age, Antony proceeded and strimmed about half.....

So this morning it was out with the strimmer... And as usual with small 2 stroke petrol powered machines of a certain age, although it started it had no power and just died when the throttle was opened. After a full strip down,  I ended up taking the engine out, cleaned the carburetor, cleaned the exhaust port and adjusted the spark plug. I had already bought and mixed some new 2 stroke mix and, Yes, it did eventually start and run in a usable manner...

It is one of the most unpleasant jobs I have to do and for the last two years it has been made worse by the fact that the ditch has never dried out... This has a two fold effect:  it makes the plants grow larger and you get wet through wading and strimming!

This is the completed work...

It will probably want another cut before the summer is over but I am glad this one is completed...

When the ditch leaves our boundary it goes off across the field and this is cleared out by our village handyman, Philippe, with his tractor...

It is such a pity there is no room for him to get between the two plots!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

2014 Potager Plant-In..

Concerned that time was advancing rapidly but the potager wasn't, we've had a "plant-in" today.

At the time of writing, we've got three rows of seed potatoes (Annabelle), four rows of onion sets (Stuttgarter), two rows of shallots, a row each of carrots (De colmar a coeur  rouge 2), and peas (Kelvedon Wonder) all planted out and ready to go.

We've done the potatoes à la Monty Don, in trenches with compost in the bottom, the seed potatoes resting on this and then filled in and earthed up.

The onions and shallots pretty much take care of themselves as long as they are weeded and watered..

The peas will need the netting putting up to support the plants when they start growing

but it was the carrot seed which fascinated us most. We hadn't realised when we bought it (from Lidl) that it was "seed by the metre".

What an easy way to evenly distribute the tiny seeds! The pack contained around five metres of carrot seed, which wasn't enough to fill the whole row so we finished it off with the same variety but in 'loose seed' form.

It will be interesting to see if there is any significant difference as the two types grow - other than the obvious more even spacing of the seed by the metre, of course!

The salad crop seedlings are divided between the living room and the greenhouse, according to germination times..

But job done for today! Tomorrow we start on the Haricot Vert etc....

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Freesias - at last...

Two years ago I planted fifty mixed Freesia bulbs in anticipation of a good show. I was disappointed; not a single bloom! In fact, very few bulbs produced even a couple of leaves.

I considered digging them up but decided to give them another chance. Earlier this year the foliage appeared and in early March the first flower buds appeared.

Now, after a long wait, we've finally got freesia in flower and what a lovely sight they make!
Certainly worth the wait!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Solving the Hole Problem..

Excessive rainfall and the subsequent rise in the water table had turned our "hole" into a "lake" at least a metre deep full of stagnant water.

With the warmer weather coming, this was not a problem we could not afford to neglect.

A failed attempt at draining it with a pump and a series of hose pipes had taught us that if we wanted to survive to see the job done, we were going to have to find a better method.


Solution? Four extension reels; Five x 4m lengths of 40mm diameter waste piping; 4 x 40mm connectors; a submersible pump; gaffer tape; scissors and the close proximity of a farmer's field...

We set up this sophisticated apparatus yesterday morning and pumping continued all day...











The water was fed through the pipes to the end of the garden and over into part of a field which is left fallow..

At the end of Day One, we were mildly optimistic that the plan was working.. The water level had dropped significantly...

Pumping continued today and towards the end of the afternoon it was necessary to dig a sump and re-position the pump to allow it to drain the last few centimetres.

So at the end of Day Two..

Colin's cunning plan had reduced the "lake" to a slightly damp patch of ground...

And as long as it doesn't fill up again over night, we can declare it an out and out success!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Le Lézard Vert

At least a couple of years ago Jane, Elizabeth's daughter came in from a walk round our garden and said " I've just seen a bright green lizard". We have seen them along the Richelieu park wall when out walking but never observed one in our own garden.

Until today that is...

I was picking up fallen sticks from beneath the Poplar trees when I saw a green flash run from the grass and round the bottom of the tree. I must have walked round the tree six times before I spotted him/her perfectly still in the fork of a branch...

After a quick dash for my camera surprisingly he/she was still there...

Elizabeth then appeared from in the cellar; secret wine drinker!! No, she was looking for some seeds. After showing her my photographs we proceeded to see if it was still around. We thought it had gone!

It is certainly not easy to spot against the green foliage.

or even just in the branches.

They are very sensitive to temperature, can grow up to 42cm in length and can live for up to 16/18 years. This one was about 20cms and as it was in the same area of the garden as the one seen by Jane we can only assume it is the same one or a relative!

If you want to know more about the Green Lizard see here, the site is in French but does translate OK. For an English version see here

NB We also saw the first Orange Tip of the year this afternoon in the garden.