Thursday, 31 March 2011

Shouldn't have eaten all those peanuts

We noticed a couple of Bluetits and a hole in our wall yesterday.

I can't fit through here
No its too small !!
Let me show you how its done!
There thats it
I am in but can I get out
Now watch it happen for real.

Given that we had fed them several kgs of peanuts over the winter I felt sorry for them after seeing this so I went out with a chisel and made the hole slightly larger. This morning we noticed they are both now using the hole. So watch this space for more about this nesting pair.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Qu'est ce que c'est

Was walking around the garden this afternoon as you do, taking a stroll.

I came across this seed head in the middle of the grassed area not adjacent to anything and the nearest tree was a laurel. We have no idea what is is and no idea where it came from.

Elizabeths best guess ia an Artichoke. We do have two plants so maybe she is right.

So all you budding botanists Qu'est ce que c'est

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


Walking round the garden these last couple of days has brought it's own pleasures despite the rain.
The colour of the foliage seems all the more intense and the damp earth sets off the flowers so beautifully.

Another thing I enjoy is exploring the images you can get by photographing droplets of rain on the branches and leaves.

A couple of years ago Colin and I went to Gairloch on the west coast of Scotland. We went in April and had mixed weather, which was lucky because so often you can get solid rain for days on end in that part of the country!

We had a drive to Loch Maree and a walk along the loch shores. I took a photo of Colin, in the drizzle, and then turned my attention to photographing the rain drops. It was only when we looked at the photos later that we realised that in one of the rain drops I had caught an image of Colin, not dissimilar to the one I had taken of him earlier. Obviously the image is inverted but if you look at the two pictures below, you'll see the likeness.

 I'll leave you to reflect on that!

Monday, 28 March 2011

The big plant

The big 'plant' began this last week. Seed trays at the ready Colin set to and sorted out the 'sow indoors' varieties from the 'sow outdoor' types.

In the potager we have so far planted potatoes: Samba and Bernadette, carrots: early Nantes, onion sets: Sturton and Stuttgarter, garlic and peas: Plein le Panier. We still have beetroot, parsnip, sweetcorn, spinach and french beans to sow directly into the potager.

On the indoor front, the seed trays were filled with compost from the compost heap we inherited when we moved in, so we're not sure how much confidence to put in it. Fingers crossed!

Tray after tray was filled, sown, watered and labeled..... Cauliflower, chillies, courgette, leek, broccoli, brussel sprouts, lettuce, tomatoes: 'red alert', 'money maker', 'gardeners delight', 'seeds saved from last year's tomatoes'......Hang on!.... HOW many trays of tomatoes??!

Four days later and the first of the cauliflower seedlings have emerged. This has given us a bit more confidence in the 'inherited' compost and also amazed us at the speed of growth.

One question remains....  We're left with a foil pack of nameless seeds.....Any ideas?

 Answers on a postcard please!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Cast not a clout till May is out!

Cast not a clout till May is out a good Lancastrian saying or is it a Yorkshire saying. Not really sure as my mother is Lancastrian and my late father was a true Yorkshireman. Both used to say it to me on a regular basis when I was no-but a lad.

A French proverb - 'En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil; en mai, fais ce qui te plaît'. This translates as 'In April, do not shed a single thread; in May, do as you please', which has much the same meaning as 'ne'er cast a clout...'.

Not really true in France at the moment. Cast not a clout till March is out is not true this year either though as the pictures show. It must be warm, Elizabeth usually has three layers on.

And as for me. Only time I can remember wearing shorts this time of year is in the Canaries.

At least it is making things grow!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

French Butterfly Atlas

This is quite simply one of the most challenging and frustrating photographs I have ever taken.

As I chased the orange tip butterfly round the garden for several minutes waiting for it to land, Colin reminded me that, as part of the STERF project, I'm supposed to be counting butterflies not chasing them. Colin at this point was rolling round the grass in fits of laughter.... otherwise he might have helped!!!!

Anyway the above was the best I could do in the circumstances.

I have always liked butterflies, though this one pushed me to the limits, and when I read about my friend, Susan, joining the Suivi Temporel des Rhopalocères de France (STERF or, in plain English, the French Butterfly Atlas project) it prompted me to look further into this. 

The project aims to record changes to butterfly populations with reference to habitat. It is a long term project aiming for national coverage. At present there are only around 120 volunteers to survey the whole of France which means there are some departments with no coverage. Volunteers are allocated two sites, each a square of 2 x 2 km, then within this square the volunteer surveyor must define 5 to 10 transects, each taking about ten minutes to walk whilst recording any butterflies seen.

Susan gives much more detail on the project in the blog, Days on the Claise

Of the two sites I was given I have chosen to do the detailed observations at Assay, near Champigny sur Veude. 
The area is varied with agricultural land and woodland, with the lac d'Assay at the centre.

Volunteers are asked to visit their designated site once a month from April and until September or October - depending on the weather - and record all the butterflies seen at each visit.
It is hoped that this will give a national picture of the decline in habitat of many of our butterflies and highlight the need for more to be done to conserve these species.

If you would like to get involved or wish to know more about the work, please visit the STERF website. 

Friday, 25 March 2011

Reptile on the rideaux

Opening the curtains in the lounge this morning was an interesting experience. Perched amongst the heading tape was a little lizard, obviously with a head for heights!

How he got up there goodness alone knows

Perhaps he just enjoys the high life

Anyway he was rescued and placed safely in the garden where I'm sure he'd be happier!

POSTCRIPT Yesterday we tried (and failed) to convert a video of the bluetit leaving the nest box. Colin took another short video instead, so here it is:

Thursday, 24 March 2011

More Taupes ahhhhhhhhh

My skills as a Taupe trapper are pathetic to say the least. Current score Taupes 100 - Colin 0.  See Taupes the first episode.

What a mess they are now making, so much so that the grass  is growing and it is impossible to mow it, the ground is so uneven.

Round two.
Gas the little blighter's. I actually purchased these before I got the traps. I suppose with the traps I was wanting to eminate my late grandfather who was an expert in these matters. Beside if you actually trap them you know you have succeeded. But I failed and failure is NOT an option. The above fireworks are lit and then placed in the underground runs at strategic intervals.
This has been done with all 10 cartouches and I only managed to get one nose full of the smoke.
The secret is to hold your breath! but I am not doing so as I have little faith that these will do the trick. The underground runs appear to be very extensive. I will wait and see. If piles of earth continue it will be a seance to speak to grandfather to get some tips with the traps.

Watch this space!!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Today has been truly glorious!

Today has been truly glorious! We had wall to wall sunshine and the temperature reached 20C.

The first thing we saw when opening the shutters this morning was a Black Redstart. Unfortunately we weren't quick enough to get a photo but here's one I found online

When we went outside the butterflies were out in force. First came the Peacock, though he is a rather bedraggled specimen..

Then came the Comma

And then that herald of Spring, the Brimstone

 Another creature enjoying the warmth was this tiny lizard

However the real thrill of the day was seeing a pair of bluetits going in and out of our nest box. I managed to capture this on film but we are having problems converting this to view on the computer!! Hopefully I can add the film later. It was such a delight to see!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Spuds R'us...

Elizabeth had finished raking over the potager to level it after the other day's marathon so it is now ready to have some of the seed potatoes planted.

These have been chitting in the grenier and according to our booklet they are now at the planting out stage. The booklet says the soil should be at 6C for three days in a row, at a depth of 10cm.

Colin duly found the thermometer to check this. It was registering the air temperature so needed to be reset. Colin shook it but Elizabeth could do it better...

We now have no way of knowing if the soil is at the right temperature so we're going to throw caution to the wind and plant the things anyway!

The new tool for planting potatoes and the like proved very successful... So successful in fact that Elizabeth got rather carried away with the planting...

If you happen to see a woman randomly planting potatoes near you, send her in the direction of Braye please!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Time for planting is approaching.

The weather has been perfect for gardening over the last couple of days and so out came the motobineuse...

We thought this time it wouldn't take too long to do, having already gone over the potager with the motobineuse back in February.

 And so off Colin went....

  And kept on.......

And on....

Until the job was done

and we could admire the result.

All that remains is the planting....  Now where are those potatoes??!