When you’re having fun?!!

Easter Sejour

Just last week we had another three French students, two boys and a girl, come to stay with us.  The girl came from Lille, in the north, while one of the boys came from Lorraine, in the east and the other from Versailles, Paris.  We gave them the usual programme of morning English lessons, with activities in the afternoon and the evening – it was another packed week with visits to local attractions, the zoo, the lake (even the pedalos were on hire!) and at home we managed to do some printmaking and lots of baking… The week went by really quickly and it’s always really satisfying when the children enjoy themselves with us.  This time, Edward was told his lessons were ‘cool’ and we’ve had some very positive feedback from the parents – a nice end of the sejour and for the Easter weekend 🙂  We saw them all off on Saturday morning at the station at Le Mans.  After a little shopping on the way back and lunch at home, we both went for a lie down in the afternoon – totally exhausted!!!

A day off and a trip out…

And so, here we are and it’s the middle of April already….. We decided to have a ‘day off’ on Easter Sunday but we still managed to find ourselves out in the garden, doing bits and bobs – Edward mowed the lawns and had a big bonfire to burn all the mistletoe that he’d cut out of the apple tree a couple of weeks ago, while I spent the day ‘playing’ in the nursery, potting up and pricking out seedlings and potting up some rooted cuttings.

I’m really excited because some rose cuttings I took from a lovely climber I bought last year, ‘Maid of Kent’, have nearly all rooted – I have 7 plantlets now 🙂  The cold frames became more empty as I worked, then started to fill up again as more seeds were sown – this time some white-flowering runner beans that Dad sent me….. The mini tunnel is coming into its own now, as I start to grow on the annuals, which I’m hoping will give us another nice display this summer….

It wasn’t really much of a day off in the end, although I thoroughly enjoyed myself!  So when Edward suggested, on Monday morning, that we have a trip out somewhere, it seemed like a really good idea!  We decided to try out a nursery I’d discovered via Face Book.  We still haven’t found any particularly good nurseries yet, except one which is well over an hour away.  This one wasn’t much closer but it was in Normandy, just into the next department, and we thought the drive would be pleasant.  We weren’t disappointed…. the verges and hedgerows were brimming with spring flowers – cowslips, primroses, stitchwort, bluebells and orchids; while the rolling countryside was looking its best with the yellow rape flowering madly in the fields and cherry blossom running riot throughout the hedges and woodland – what a picture….

We found the nursery with ease but were a little disappointed with the lack of variety and expensive plants.  There were plenty of bedding plants, which all looked really well cared for but we baulked at the 3.50 Euro price tag!  Still, we did find some lovely clematis and herbaceous plants – we came away with a pink clematis called ‘Ooh La La’ (!) for one of the archways, some double holly hocks and some verbascums, which should make a nice show in front of the fencing along the terrace.  It’s a start! 🙂

On the way home, we stopped at Carrouges.  We’d been here before, back when we’d taken a holiday in the region some years ago.  We’d been really impressed with the château here, so thought it would be nice to visit it again.  It’s very romantic, set in beautifully managed lawns and gardens and is surrounded by a moat.  The ‘gate house’ is quite spectacular too!

Inside the walled garden by the gate house, picnic benches have been set up under the apple trees – a huge orchard has been planted here.  A few shrubs lined the walls and at the far end of the orchard were the remains of what might have been a greenhouse and beyond that, another walled garden, which looked like where there were once stock beds for the castle grounds…. Sadly, the gate was locked but it looked like ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ inside!  I managed to take a few cuttings from some of the shrubs in the orchard and hope that I might be successful with one or two – flowering current, quince, philadelphus…..

Gardening, building and coffee with friends

And now we have come to the end of another day!  We have lists for all our ‘priority’ jobs – one for me and one for Edward…. of course, stuff gets done that isn’t on the list and we are realising more and more that if we need to pop over to see friends and neighbours, we need to factor in a few hours!!!  Yesterday, Edward set off early to the DIY store in Evron to buy timber for some projects we have planned, while I started spraying off weeds, before the wind picked up too much.  On his return, we went over to see our French friends, Yves and Alene, who live a little further along from us and our nearest neighbour, Claude.  We wanted to rearrange an afternoon with them to play boules, as our last meeting had to be cancelled due to Edward having a bad cold.  We thought we’d be just a few moments to rearrange a date….. 2 hours later….!!!!  Actually, it was lovely.  We were taken for a tour around their garden and then around the farm buildings.  They once ran a dairy herd and it was fascinating to see and hear how they managed it all.  Now, several chickens and geese have the run of the yard but before they retired, cows roamed in and out twice a day to be milked.  Along the wall of one of the barns were a set of stone cages – many French properties have these.  Here, they had pigeons in one and two rabbits (male and female) in the others.  It wasn’t until I was back home that I realised these were kept for breeding rabbits for the pot!  It was quaint but not unusual here and as a visitor, it seemed quite an idyllic lifestyle, although I am under no illusion that it must have been a tough way of life really.  It was a privilege to be shown around.  Back in the house we took a coffee with them before arranging a new date for boules.  During the discussion, Edward asked how long they’d been married (40+ years) and before we knew it, we were being invited for an afternoon drive out to where they got married, in a village in the Alpes Mancelles!  Can’t wait!!!

After lunch, we agreed Edward would ‘nip’ around to Claude’s to tell him of the new arrangements for our afternoon of boules, while I carried on with garden duty…. It’s impossible to say no to a cup of coffee when offered, so we thought this the best option on this occasion…  It’s no wonder we find the time flies out here!

Despite the hours spent with our friends, we still had a productive day.  I made a start sifting the big stones out of the narrow borders in front of the terrace, which Edward had previously broken up with a pick axe….

 

 

I’m quite happy with the results so far – after sifting out the rocks and stones, I added two barrow-loads of compost from the old compost heap, to help condition the poor soil, then edged it with some of the larger stones that had been dug out.  Tomorrow I’ll carry on with the remaining borders, then, perhaps, it will be time to get back to painting the fencing and archways…

Edward was excited by the prospect of all the timber he’d bought and which ‘project’ to start first!  He felt that while he wanted to start making a gate for the entrance to the property, putting up a fence to mark the boundary between the lawn and the meadow, would be relatively quick and easy to do, but would also make quite an impact….

 

 

He wasn’t wrong – we both love the feel this new fence has brought to the garden and how it is helping to define different areas without making a complete barrier…

 

 

Next time he gets some more timber, he will buy a few more rails, so that he can continue making the same fence up towards the woodland area, just to finish it off.  It’s going to look lovely when the meadow has grown some more and the ox-eye daisies start poking through the rails 🙂

And finally, before calling it a day, Edward finished off making the new compost bins, which he’d started before the students came – They look great and will be an absolute boon for the garden in the coming weeks and months…

So, all in all, a good day’s work plus the bonus of meeting up with friends to arrange our next social gathering, which happens to be this Friday!  Better get cracking on the remaining borders and gate construction! ♥