It’s been another busy week here, at La Biochère, despite a last-minute cancellation for a student who was due to be with us.  Unfortunately, she was the only booking and, unsurprisingly, felt she wanted to be within a group.  To be honest, it was quite a relief for me – having picked up a nasty virus from our recent trip to the UK, Edward couldn’t help but pass it on to me.  It’s been nearly two weeks and I’m still not sleeping for the hacking cough that stubbornly won’t go away 🙁

So, even though neither of us has felt 100%, the weather has been good and having an extra week without visitors has meant we could continue with works out in the garden….

Spring hares

On Monday, Edward started by cutting out some brambles that were growing through the fence from the cow field and in to the garden.  The idea was to take it out completely but soon he saw some hares in the Fouquet field opposite. He called me down to watch them.

Soon, we were watching three hares cavorting in the lower field.  I was undecided whether to fetch my camera or just watch the spectacle… but after a few minutes, risked going inside for the equipment.  Typically, I apparently missed one of them coming up the field and into our meadow, where it took a few moments by the sundial – oh to have been able to capture that on film!!  Still, we were soon rewarded with further antics from the hares, although they didn’t venture any nearer to us, once I had my camera installed….. This isn’t the best shot ever but the three moved so quickly and were quite away off….

We noticed some wrens which were apparently nesting in the bramble that Edward had begun to cut out. It changed the plan as we didn’t want to disturb them from nesting and so the total grubbing of the bramble was changed to a trim to keep it from taking root in the lawn. Moments later, one of the wrens returned to sing it’s little head off, perched on top of Edward’s mattock…

 

Setting the groundwork

It rained on Tuesday, but we were at French lessons in the morning and spent the rest of the day shopping, so it didn’t really matter.  However, it probably helped Edward (if only a little!) to break up the ground in front of the terrace, ready for creating narrow beds, which we hope to fill with sun-loving plants, especially for the summer…

At times, it really does feel like we are working on a chain-gang, as every time we need to dig out soil, two thirds of it seems to be rocks and stones – I faired no better when I was preparing the ground around the stone seat…

The large stone here was just under the surface and was really heavy to lift!

As I started digging over the soil to break it up a little, more piles of stones appeared!  They’re becoming quite a problem because the smaller ones, especially, are difficult to use anywhere else.  At the moment, they are being dumped at the end of the big barn but we are beginning to make plans for that area too, so perhaps we shall need to find something else to do with them…..

So, in the meantime, I continued to clear stones from this latest area, with plans to plant it up with summer annuals, like cosmos and cornflowers, but first I put some matting down around the seat and in a square inside the box plants, ready to smash some more slates….

 

  

I’m quite chuffed with the results and certainly wasn’t expecting to get this done this week, not considering the big forsythia stump that was here just a few days ago!

Tree felling

Well, not quite!  While I was smashing more slates, Edward had finished breaking up the soil in front of the terrace and had moved on to the apple trees.  All of them have a significant amount of mistletoe growing in them and while it’s lovely to see, it is slowly killing the trees.  One in particular is in quite poor shape and seems to be more mistletoe than apple tree.  The plan had been to clear out the parasite during the winter, but of course we never got around to it!  So, Edward made a start on trying to sort out the worst of the four trees.  It was easier said than done – close up, they are bigger than you think and make our long ladders look small…

After taking out some of the deadwood, Edward climbed up into the tree to see if he could take out some of the infected branches – some of them are as big as trees themselves!

Gradually he managed to clear out more of the mistletoe before concentrating on the big branch that was growing straight up, which was completely covered in the stuff… for safety, he tied a rope around it, which I took hold of down below, while he made some cuts into the branch before climbing down to join me.  Together we tugged on the rope and the branch came away, falling through the tree and onto the lawn below….

I’m glad he climbed out of the tree first – the branch could easily have caught him on its way down.  It’s easier now to see where other parts need to be taken out, but I think this was enough excitement for one day!

An addition to the nursery

Last week, I took some time to do some seed sowing.  Last year, I was a little late with it all and while we had good displays of annual flowers up the bank and in other areas, it took a little while to become established.   This year, I’m hoping to be ahead of the game but it hasn’t taken me long to fill the cold frames with plugs and seed trays of seed – mostly saved from last year’s annuals 🙂  In less than a week, some of the seeds have already germinated, which is really exciting.  But then it dawned on me that I don’t yet have anywhere to put them, that will be frost-free, when they are potted up!  Thankfully, I have a clever husband, who cut some rebar into lengths, which he then bent into shape, so that I could make a large cloche down by the sand bed area.  I’ve put down some more mypex, pushed the hoops into place, then covered them with some newly purchased plastic for my new mini ‘tunnel’.  The perfect spot for all the annuals that will soon need to be potted up….


It’s possible to buy kits like this in the local garden centres for around 25-30 Euros – ours cost less than 10 Euros 🙂

A French/English soirée

On Wednesday evening, we had been invited along to a French couple’s house to take part in a ‘conversation’ evening, whereby, we would speak French and the French participants would speak English, for mutual benefit.  We had met Roger and Charles previously, when they had popped in to see us to tell us about all the different communal events that had been arranged for this year’s calendar.  They were very friendly and keen for us to participate within the community.  They told us that they worked in Paris but had bought a property just outside of St Pierre sur Orthe, which they came to as often as possible.  So we were keen to join in and felt that conversational French would be very good for us to practice…

We were the only English people there but we met some other lovely natives, who made us feel so welcome and were very encouraging to us both.  Edward was repeatedly complimented on his good accent and ability to speak French.  Once I overcame my shyness, it was very reassuring to be told that they could understand me!  Phew!!

One of our new friends was a pâtissier and had made a crème brûlée, which was absolutely delicious!  I’d taken along some of my ‘Jammy dodgers’ – not quite in the same league but went down well just the same!

Before we knew it, we’d been there for 3 hours and it was time to head home!  Before we left, however, Roger gave us a huge slab of wild boar terrine, which he’d made himself.  It was divine and kept us going for two lunches!

It had been a lovely evening and a very ‘safe’ place to practice speaking French, which I don’t get chance to do so very often.  Looking forward to our next soiree already, which will be chez nous in May 🙂

Return visitors

On Thursday afternoon, we had arranged for our friends, Mike and Hilary to come over for a cup of tea and cake and chance to see what we have been doing since their last visit, around a year ago…  It’s hard to imagine how things were back then but we thought they’d notice a difference with all the recent outdoor activity!

We passed a very pleasant and easy afternoon with them.  Despite having travelled for about an hour to get to us, tea and cake had to wait until after we’d done a full tour of the garden!  It was lovely – Mike was right in saying that when you’ve done something that you’re happy with, it’s always nice to show someone else!  Taking people around who are clearly interested and who enjoy gardening too is always a bonus.  Talking of which, they arrived with a car-load of plants for us, which they had just taken up from their own garden – campanulas, irises, marguerites, asters, phlox, geraniums and Japanese anemones – so exciting!

It was so warm and sunny, we were able to take tea on the terrace – what better way to while away a few hours!

In the evening, I was back in my work clothes, finding homes for all my new plants – many of them found their way into the new bed around the stone seat – just as well it was all ready for them – it should make a lovely display in the summer!

Any big gaps will be nicely filled by the annuals that are currently progressing well in the cold frames…

Next job will be to tackle this bank – tonnes of stones in here and I’m unsure whether to try clearing the worst of them out or just plant in and around them.  I don’t think this has ever been dug before so it’s pretty hard and the rocks and stones are well embedded…. time for some procrastination…..

A day off

And so, by the end of Thursday, we were both pretty tired, the virus having taken its toll, somewhat and all the activities too!  We decided we needed a day off and Friday was that day!  Also, we have three new students coming to stay on Sunday, so Saturday will be spent cleaning, cooking and shopping in preparation and taking a day off is pretty important.

I’m not the best at relaxing but Edward had set up the loungers on the lower lawn and had rigged up a new awning we bought recently on the terrace – there was no excuse not to go outside and take some time out…

It was a beautiful day – completely cloudless – the best day of the week so far!

By late afternoon, the temperature on the terrace has soared into the 40s (although Edward says the thermometer is rubbish!) – I think it’s pretty accurate, given it’s on a south-facing wall in full sun 🙂

After a while, it didn’t take me that long to fall asleep in the lounger – probably after all the broken nights from coughing I needed it!  Afterwards, I took a little stroll around the garden with my camera – the late afternoon light was beautiful over the poplars in the valley…

After having dinner on the terrace, we went for a little walk up the lane and into the fields behind the house – Colin and Mouse came too…

The moon was up already…

It was fairly easy walking in the newly mown grass but in the next field, the meadow has yet to be cut and the cats had to leap to traverse it!

 

We all took a little look in the copse to see if there was any badger activity…

 

There are clear signs that the set is very active, but I think we were too early in the evening to meet them!

So, back we went, through the long grass and into the mown field…

Colin and Mouse needed a rest after all the exertion and we took in the view!

Then there was a race along the ‘race track’….

 

We stopped to say hello to the cows…

Before Colin and Mouse were dashing off again, only to flake out further along the track!

It was a lovely day off and I’m glad I didn’t get tempted to doing more work around the garden – sometimes, it’s just nice to be able to enjoy our surroundings…♥