Friday, 30 September 2011

Wash day blues!

What's the worst thing that can happen when you've a houseful of guests? (apart from rampant food poisoning, that is!)

Well it happened. Having made a start on our guests laundry, the machine chose that moment to break down, leaving all the clothes suspended in water within the machine.

Colin worked long and hard to repair it... Printing out an appropriate circuit diagram from the internet and checking each circuit for faults...

Every check pointed back to the electronic programmer that was no longer programming but 'dead in the water' as it were!!
You can't argue with a broken programmer! Given the machine was at least 8 years old, there was nothing left to do but go in search of a replacement. As washers range anywhere from €200 to €1000 we searched the internet to help identify our criteria and arrived at a shortlist of suitable machines. However, with those on the internet there was a hefty delivery charge and generally a wait of up to two weeks!!!. 

So off we went to various shops in Chatelleraut. Nothing came close to the internet prices except for the last place we tried,  Leclerc. They had an Electrolux machine on offer which was on our list and fitted the bill. It was cheaper than the internet price we had and they had one in stock we could take with us. So we did!!!  The chap at Leclerc was great, bringing it to the car and helping us load up.

The machine was installed this morning and has done its first load of washing...

Great!! We have spent a happy afternoon watching washing going round - as it does and as you do!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

En route from Chinon to Braye yesterday we stopped at a roadside picnic spot just south of the junction of the D749 and D760 at Anché. It attracted our attention because of the glorious display of flowers growing  in swathes across the grass, making the most colourful carpet of blooms.

We noticed the land being prepared but we were not sure if it was going to be sown with grass or with les jachère fleuries, a wild flower mix. Strictly speaking the term 'jachère' refers to agricultural land left free from agricultural crops for one year and planted instead with the wild flower mix. When the plants flower they do not need watering or fertilising. The idea is that those flowers which flourish are the right ones for the environment. They will attract and provide cover for pollinating insects, small vertebrates and invertebrates.

The scheme is expanding and many communes sow les jachères fleuries on land such as that above. What an attractive and environmentally sound way to enhance a picnic area!

Whilst I was taking the pictures a French lady stopped to speak and I mentioned the blog.... I hope she has taken a look??!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Bug Magnet

Our Asters have taken over from the lavender as the bug magnet of the moment.

Although generally honey bees making one almighty buzz, when you look closely there is a variety of the different species enjoying the nectar.. Here are a selection.

Just a note about the Asters, when we moved in there was one small clump in the front of the house. Elizabeth dug the clump up split it and planted bits here and there.... We are now overrun with them.... The insects appreciate them though!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Answers on a postcard please!

We have puzzled long and hard over some flowers which we grew from seed and which have been flowering non-stop since June. They came as a seed mixture so we have no idea what they are called.

Several people (Jean, you know who you are!) have commented and we would love to be able to put a name to the bloom. Can anyone help us out here, please?

The plants are now past their best but are still producing an array of colours and variations on the composition of the flower.

Once well and truly 'past their best' the flower develops to another level - quite literally!

If I can collect some, there's a scattering of seed in it for a correct identification. Now what gardener out there could walk away from an offer like that??!!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Spider of the Week Award goes to......

We promise not to make a regular feature of these creatures but we couldn't resist sharing this handsome beastie!

Unfortunately he made his appearance just after we had reassured our visitors that we don't get many spiders and any we do get are merely the wimps of the arachnid world.... Needless to say, our guests made a hasty retreat whilst Elizabeth went back out to take just one more photograph......

I promise it's the last......... till next time!!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

STERF Butterfly Atlas - the final survey for 2011

It seems like only yesterday that we set off to take the first look at the area we had been allocated to survey for STERF, the French Butterfly Atlas project. Today we completed the final survey for this year, which seems quite sad, really!

The garden is still full of butterflies so I'd expected to see lots of them out in the field. However, what I'd not taken into account is that whilst we have plenty of flowering plants in the garden, the season is somewhat advanced for wild flowers. No flowers, no butterflies! After the first three transects things began to look up and we were able to record the presence of Speckled Wood, Small Copper and Large White as well as Red Admiral and a single Brimstone, some of which are shown below.

And while Colin takes the butterfly photos my mind strays to take in other things...


I was also reflecting back to the scene a few months earlier... Back in July we showed the following photo

Today it looked almost autumnal.....

We (very nearly) went out with a bang. Yesterday we blogged about it; today we were almost the subject of it... La Chasse, that is! We were heading back to the car when we heard the horns and the shots being fired.... And then we spotted the dogs and the men and the guns.... We didn't hang around other than to say "Bonjour"!

So that's it for this year. We look forward to taking part in 2012..

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The hunt is on...

The hunting season is back  and the signs are out in force.
Auchan carries a seemingly popular range of attire for the hunting fraternity, including headgear now, sadly, more commonly associated with terrorists than with the simple task of keeping warm.

It would be easy to dismiss all this as an excuse to dress up in quasi army gear at the weekend. But that would do those who hunt in the French countryside a vast disservice. The management of the countryside is at its heart and these guys are trained to a high level.

Back in  May when we went along to the Grande Vente Emmaus one of our purchases was a book entitled "Le Permis de Chasser", a study guide to follow in order to 'qualify' for the hunt.

As well as the practical hoops to be jumped through to enter oneself for the examination, the book details full facts about each animal and bird which can be hunted, chapters on types of arms and ammunitions - including some rather fetching images of how to carry one's weapon....

It details types of hunt, legislation and care of hunting dogs plus a section of test papers and some advice for after the exam, as apparently this is not the end of the process. One still has to present oneself at (where else?) the Mairie, armed (no pun intended) with all the relevant documentation....

No doubt that will be a tale in itself!! For now we'll content ourselves with "Soyons Vigilant" and "Attention!!" and, of course, "Prudence!"

Friday, 23 September 2011

Kitchen worktops continued...

Back in July ( where does the time go!!) we started to look at the old tiled worktops with a view to their replacement. Details here.  This week after our holiday in the UK where we bought the necessary router and cutting jig, we made a start on replacing the easy one.

Well it was supposed to be easy. The worktop was cut to length, a straight cut using the router and jig, no problems. When it was placed in position it became clear that there was a problem with the existing tiled splashback... The one to the end was 2.5cms lower than the one at the back. Ohhhh dear!! How do you cut a piece of 3cm thick chipboard fixed firmly to the wall... You use an angle grinder with a diamond blade and make one hell of a lot of dust.

It did the job though.
Just some final trimming with an old chisel and the worktop fitted a treat....

Before you ask we decided not to cut the corner off at 45 degrees but leave it in place to maximise the worktop area.

We then moved on to the next section, where the cooker sits.. but that's another story...

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Fungal foray

As the early signs of Autumn appear one more stage has been added to the task of mowing the lawn. Unless we want a lawn resembling the aftermath of a foam party, the  mushrooms need to be collected first...And by mushrooms, we mean lots of them!

Yesterday's crop filled two large garden tubs.  We added the drinks can in the photo below, to give an idea of scale.

Now, if we could be sure that these are only common field mushrooms I would be making soup till it came out of our ears but we can't be sure - despite several excellent books on the subject. There are so many 'lookalikes' and the consequences of eating the wrong ones can be so severe that it just isn't worth the risk.

......Although, looking at them, it does seem a shame!
If  anyone out there has any advice and would be happy to share it, we would be very grateful. Otherwise, at the risk of throwing away the main ingredient of mushroom soup, it's all going to stew on the compost heap!!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Magic Roundabout 6

Many of our readers who travel back to the UK from our part of France will recognise this one immediately. It makes me smile ever time we go past.

Located on the D18 and D18E the Rond-Point des Vaches is to the south of Rouen, just before you enter the industrial area travelling north up to Calais.

Milton Keynes eat your heart out!!! I wonder if the ones here are by the same artist Canadian Liz Leyh who did the ones in Milton Keynes.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

We've cracked it!

After our disappointment at losing all our hazelnuts to the woodpecker, we are pleased to be able to report that our unidentified twig...

...has produced a harvest of walnuts! Yes, folks, this is the entire crop! Pretty good for a twig, though, isn't it?

Unfortunately the tree we at first thought was a walnut has not produced a single one! So now we wonder if it actually IS a walnut. Can anyone help us identify it please?


We would like to offer a walnut to the person who solves the mystery for us - but we've eaten them... Jolly good they were, too!