Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Weather break

The temperature peaked at 35 degrees here on Monday afternoon, and we got the thunderstorms the same
night as the weather broke.

I like thunderstorms and so I went out to enjoy the lightning and the cool, sitting on a little garden chair in the middle of the courtyard from where I took the picture of the clouds.  At ground level, the sun had set but the upper parts were still illuminated and the sheet lightning added its own fireworks, all accompanied by kettledrum thunder. The picure doesn't quite catch the purple bruise colour of the clouds, nor their rate of change in the turbulence.

We only got the edge of the storm and so I enjoyed the light rain, the wind, and feeling cool for the first time in weeks.   It looked to me that the centre must have passed over Thorigné, a small village a couple of kilometers away.  I confirmed this today as I drove past - the church roof had been holed by a direct lightning strike, the local roofer had already put a tarpaulin over it and a tractor was driving away with a trailer full of broken slates and shattered wood.

Monday, 22 July 2013


We have just got to the end of a 5-weekend stretch of having clients every weekend, and we now have a small pause of 3 weekends before the next group arrive.  We are grateful for the break.

The gîte has beds for 30 people, and the ideal number is about 25, more if there's a big contingent of children.  Our main clients are therefore family groups; people who get together to celebrate gran's (and sometimes grandad's) 50th wedding anniversary, or brothers and sisters who get together once a year for a party, etc.

It's easy to imagine that since they only stay for the weekend, that the job is part-time.  That's only true insofar as we don't rent out every weekend, but the typical rhythm is a good solid week of work per group. They typically arrive on Friday evening, for dinner, and stay until late afternoon on Sunday, or with one day extra if it is one of the many long weekend bank holidays.  We serve breakfasts and the evening meals, and lunch also if required.

So a typical weekly rhythm starts on the Friday afternoon with the preparation of the evening meal, and welcoming the new guests.  We're usually up until 10:30 or so serving and cleaning up after.  We get up to prepare breakfast around 7:00 or 7:30 the next morning, and again, we're up late that evening.  If we're not making lunch we do get a mid-day break.

The Sunday (or Monday) after they're gone, we strip the beds, take the linens to the collection point for them to be washed by Blanchisserie du Maine, empty the dustbins, lock up the gîte and jump in the pool.  We have been known to have a glass or two of wine at this point.

Monday is gîte cleaning day; by the evening the place is clean, floors mopped, bathrooms done and the place generally rendered a hostile environment for bugs and creepies of all kinds.

Tuesdays Anita plans the meals for the next group and prepares the shopping lists.  I do gardening as necessary, ususally I mow the grass; it's kind of our day off. Anita also works in the garden whenever she has time during the week.

Wednesday we make the beds and make sure that the place is in a good state to welcome the next group, doing any repairs, replacements, etc.

Thursday is shopping day when we take the Espace to Promocash and the other shops in Laval and fill up with the meal ingredients as necessary.

Friday morning I prepare the pool, making sure it is clean and healthy for the arrivals.  Friday evening they arrive.

This is a tolerable schedule if taken steadily, but after five weeks of this I am thoroughly grateful for a break.

So here's a few shots of the garden.  This wave of high temperatures has dried the soil out at the surface, but I haven't needed to water very much yet.  I am hoping that the predicted thunderstorms will do the work for me.  There isn't a huge amount of colour right now, we're between the Spring and Autumn flowers.   The best are the Canna Lillies, Gladioli and Day Lillies, plus the sundry annuals like Nasturtiums and French Marigolds.  There are even a few early Dahlias, but they will be at their best around September or October.

I have been a bit negatvie towards roses in the past, especially if they need spraying or have had the scent bred out of them   But I think I might try to find a few that have healthy foliage and smell nice, to add some colour at this time.   And if they look really good, I might be prepared to forgo the scent.

I don't know what the little white flowers are called, nor the ones that look like pink jellyfish swimming towards the surface, which is unforgivable since I grew them both from commercial packets of seed.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

A swarm of bees

A swarm of bees in May
Is worth a pile of hay.

A swarm of bees in June
Is worth a silver spoon.

A swarm of bees in July
Isn't worth a fly.

This swarm of bees arrived in my garden, just by our front door in fact, today, Sunday the 7th July.  Whoopee.  I spoke to our local bee-keeping lady and she told me that they should be gone in a couple of days or so.  Well, I hope so  - I don't really need them here when we have guests.

Update: Tuesday morning, they've gone, except for a few lost-looking ones.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Iris rhizome splitting and replanting

There's plenty of Iris in my garden - they like the limey soil and the hot Mayenne sun and so they flower profusely and spread rapidly.  They make a magnificent display when they're going strong, but after about three years or so they get overcrowded and become less vigorous.  At this point they need to be dug up, separated and replanted in fresh soil.

The time to do this is, according to the books, 6-8 weeks after they have finished flowering, so they can build up their reserves during the rest of the year for next Spring's display.  I am perhaps a bit early, but on the other hand, Spring was cold and late here, so I'm going for it.

Each original plant will have produced 10 or more offspring, and there's a limit to how many I can keep in my garden, so the result of this excercise is a large number of Iris plants that need good homes.  Unfortunately I regard them in a similar way to the kittens produced by a domestic cat - I have to find them a good home.  So there's some for Leo, some for the lady gardener who works at the music school, some for Marie down the road.  Those I can't get rid of end up in a box in the car park up the road with a notice "Free to good home".  They all seem to go in the end.

Here's what you do. The hard part is preparing the new bed, that should get at least 6 hours of sun per day, when it's not raining that is.  Here in my garden it involves pick-axeing the stones out of the ground, getting the perrennial weed roots out and adding a slow fertiliser to the soil.   When the bed is ready, dig up the clump that needs splitting, and separate the rhizomes into individual plants.  You can trim back the leaves to help with their stabilty once planted.   Then plant in your sunny location and water them when it gets too dry.   Give the spare ones away.

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