Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Baby Grasshopper

This is the first grasshopper we've seen this season...

And what a tiny thing it was too! Here it's on a half inch hose pipe...

Now you see it....

Now you don't!  Or do you??
Take a closer look...!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Potager Update April 2013

Whilst I've been away Colin has been working hard on the potager...
Luckily for me (!?) he's left some of the work for me to help out with this week....

Here's how the potager's looking to date...
The ridges in the foreground are where the 80+ potatoes are planted. In the bottom right corner is our one and only artichoke but, as neither of us is very keen on them, we are not looking to increase our stock.

Whilst there is nothing much to show at the moment, these are rows of beetroot, peas, french beans, onions, shallots and carrots. The netting houses some lettuce and you can just see the courgettes, which have suffered a little in last night's frost..

Below are the two areas of strawberry plants, with well over 200 surviving the winter, at the last count.

And all but one have multiple flowers on...

The other soft fruits are doing really well, too. We've raspberries, gooseberries, currants of all shades, and rhubarb as well as the apple, pear, apricot, peach, fig and cherry trees -

 The red and white currants are laden with fruit..

The rhubarb is giving us some lovely tender pickings too...

And then there's the raised bed....

We've still some planting to do but at least we've finally got off to a start. It's due to rain tomorrow...

Ah well! At least that's the watering taken care of!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Formby Sand Dunes, Merseyside, UK

Whilst over in the UK last week Elizabeth had an enjoyable trip out with her son to the National Trust site at Formby, an area of pinewoods leading through sand dunes to the coast.

The visit reminded her that Christmas is not too far away!

Yes, row upon row of Christmas trees. They are being used to prevent the erosion of Merseyside's sand dunes which are moving inland at the rate of four metres a year. The National Trust in conjunction with Homebase and with the help of teams of volunteers have recycled thousands of Christmas trees.

The trees are strategically placed in rows where the dunes are most vulnerable to help catch the sand as the wind blows it over the dunes.

The sand builds up around the trees and once they are covered they will bind the dune together.

What a great use for all those old Christmas trees. What will you do with yours?

If you are in the Merseyside area and would like an easy woodland stroll full details are here. For general information of the National Trust at Formby see here.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Elizabeth's Return

I'm back from my visit to the UK - just! The flight was delayed due to, wait for it, a hole in the runway at Tours. When that was cleared they couldn't find the pilot... The joys of Ryanair!

A view down the runway at Manchester after a heavy hailstorm...

Leaving Manchester behind...

The last view of the UK coastline!

And approaching France - Yipee!

France from the air....

This distribution depot stood out a mile. Come to think of it, it looks miles from anywhere!

The toll booth on the motorway... (note the traffic jams....)

And now, back home! What's for tea, Colin??

Friday, 26 April 2013

Presents from Afar...

I'm sure Colin will be heartened to know that whilst I'm away for the week I have been thinking of him and have been out and bought him one or two gifts just for him..

First up was the "cultivator" - an implement to help him plant the potatoes etc..

Then I  chose a spring, so that he can repair the long loppers...

Next I bought some fleece covers so that he can nip outside and cover up my delicate plants when there's a frost...

I thought he might like some more pea netting and strawberry netting to help him protect the crops...

Then there's a new visor so that he can do some more strimming and a piece of trellis which he can use to replace the one behind my rose bush.....

But I've not been totally selfless.. I thought I'd get a little something for myself after all these things for Colin, so I went and got this..

Colin will get the benefit of it too, I'm sure, so it's not really just for me.............................

Thursday, 25 April 2013

A good year for cherries?

Looking at our three cherry trees and listening to the loud hum when you approach them, it is looking like it could be a good year.

These two are eating cherries
This one is a sour cherry.

Oh dear all that stoning... better get my mother over again!!

On a different note, despite a few cracks in the wood, we appear to have two holes used in our bee hotel. Just after taking the photograph another bee popped out of a hole. It looks like it could be full in no time.

Watch this space...

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Potager 2013

With Elizabeth away I have started the first planting of 2013. First off a few lettuce seedlings complete with a willow protection cage to stop the pigeons eating them!!

Then our potatoes, this year we decided on a variety called Annabelle, we have been buying these at the supermarket and they are to our liking having a creamy texture when boiled.

I have also changed the planting method using a technique shown by Monty Don on Gardeners World last Friday. This involves digging a 15 cm deep trench, putting compost in the bottom, then the potatoes and heaping up.

We bought a 3kg sack and this contained just over 100 seed potatoes, to date I have put in 80. (Thought I would save you some to do Elizabeth...)

Today has been tooo hot and the soil is too dry and resembles bits of concrete to plant anything else! (that's my excuse) Dare I say it "We could do with a shower!"

So I tackled the Dahlias. This year all have survived their over wintering in the cellar and have been duly split and prepared for planting.

Unfortunately they all won't fit in the prepared bed even though we made it larger last year end. I am sure they will go somewhere?

The other things that look to me like they need to go in some soil are the two lots of willow cuttings I took for Jim and Tim...

They have developed some good roots but it may be a case of 'break the glass' to get them out.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Like Son like Father!

After having my son Stephen over last week I decided to follow in the young mans eating habits!

Stephen always buys himself a piece of horse for at least one meal and after discussing its low fat properties I bought myself  one.

Last night the menu was - Barbecued  Horse with chips and mixed steamed vegetables...

This was followed by Fresh Strawberries in a Meringue nest with fat free Fromage Frais.

My verdict on the Horse was that it will be staying on the supermarket shelf in the future.

Now what else can I try whilst Elizabeth is away!!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Another well advertised event!

On Sunday morning there was a gathering of horse boxes across the field in front of our house. What's going on??

I had read nothing on the Mairie notice board or on any of the 'what's on' web sites we use...  

However this is NOT an uncommon occurrence here in France. I made the assumption it must be a Randonnée à Cheval - A walk with your horse.

After several internet searches I found the following. (Link to site here)

It looks like a brilliant event for a horse owner and the weather was perfect for it.

They all returned around 16:00, packed up and went, after what was probably a very enjoyable day.

I just wonder how many people would have liked such a day but did not know about it?
Such is life in France.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Flying Solo...

Yesterday I flew back to the UK for a week, leaving Colin holding the fort on his own....

Before I left I quickly took some photos of the garden so I can enjoy it from afar, though the more cynical among you may suspect it's to check how much work Colin does whilst I'm away!

The blossom on the fruit trees was at its best yesterday.. Here's our beloved plum tree, still propped up on its stake.. See here for the full story

The loud buzzing in the cherry trees is a good sign. The bees are busy pollinating the flowers for us

Our pear trees look to have a fair amount of blossom despite their age and condition

The ornamental cherries at the side of the house are at their best now

And the strawberry bed.... Well, what can I say? Anyone got any spare jam jars?!

The rest of the strawberries are tucked away behind this artichoke..and the fruits are already showing..

Well, Colin, I know you've got lots of planting planned so I won't keep you!! Enjoy your week without me nagging.....