Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Bulk purchase

I wandered into the garden this morning, and noticed a big flat-bed trailer in the field next door.   It was loaded up with white bags of something that I took to be lime.   The contents were being spread onto the field by a tractor, a bit farther away.

The farmer was next to the trailer, so I said "hi", and asked him what was in the bags (maintaining a social distance, of course).  He told me that it was in fact fertiliser for the field, made from chicken manure, and formed into pellets.  It is one of the "natural" fertilisers that he can use whilst retaining the 'organic' label for the crops.

I buy a similar product for my garden from time to time, in local agricultural supplies shop, in little buckets of about 5 litres each.  It costs me about €25 per bucket, a bit less if it's on sale.   I figured these big sacks would be quite expensive so I asked him how much they cost.  He did some mental calculation and said "About 70 - 80 euros".

I told him how much I usually pay and asked him if he wouldn't mind filling up my bucket for a payment.  He filled my little bucket and wouldn't take any money.  What a nice man.

I will have to see about bulk purchase of fertiliser.

Saturday, 4 April 2020


I have planted my potatoes.  I reckon we're probably about two weeks away from the last frosts, so they should be safe from damage, with a bit of luck.  I bought a few too many; around 100 seed potatoes in 4 different varieties.   For reference: Miss Blush, Anoe, Laurette and Linzer Delikatess.  Well, I'm sure we'll find a use for them all.

This bed where I planted most of them is where I grew the squash plants last year.  I had spread sheep manure, courtesy of Louis down the road, onto the ground, covered it all with a tarpaulin, cut some holes in the tarpaulin, and planted the squash seeds through the holes directly into the manure.  I got a good squash harvest, and now the manure has rotted well down to make an excellent soil.   I hope.

However, the best potato plants that I have at the moment are these ones on the compost heap.  They seem to be surviving the light air frosts we have been having, and maybe they will present me with the earliest crop of all.  I have no idea what variety they are, though.

Monday, 23 March 2020

New tool

I got a new tool the other day, a battery-powered impact wrench in the Ryobi One+ 18 volt range.  It's one of the newer tools, with a brushless motor.   I'm not familiar with impact wrenches, not having used one before, so using it was a new experience for me.

I had to remove and replace a blunt mower blade from the sit-on mower, which is a job for which I normally use the big adjustable spanner.  With the spanner it's difficult.  I have to brace myself against the blade to stop it turning, then heave on the wrench with most of my strength. It usually comes off OK, but it's awkward.

I tried the impact wrench.  BZZZZZZT and the blade was off, didn't take one second.  I had to smile, I was impressed.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Garden development

It's at this time that I try to put the garden into shape for the rest of the year.  I have been working on the veg patch today.

The first task is a new raised bed to add to the existing ones.  I have always found it difficult to maintain a large area of veggies, but by dividing it into well-defined smaller beds, I find I can manage things better.  It's probably psychological.

The wood for the frame needs to be protected from rot, so I paint it with two coats of a tar-based preservative paint.  This seems to have worked well on the previous installations, and I had some of the paint left over from last year.  I had to add white spirit to get it to soften up, but once I did that, there was enough for two coats.  The frame is now ready to assemble and put out.

I also bought these smaller frames in kit form when a local garden centre was shutting down.  I wouldn't normally buy anything like this - the wood is a bit feeble, and the frame usually retails at about €25, if I remember correctly.  I figure that I could knock up a better one myself for the price of the wood.   These ones were under a tenner each on sale, so I bought the remaining stock of two.   They've been in the conservatory annoying Anita all Winter, so it was time to assemble them and put them outside.

I added rough compost from the heap, and then covered it with a thinner layer of sieved compost to make a good surface for seedlings.

I will use them this year as a nursery bed for onions and leeks.   It used to be that I could plant onions in a seed tray and transplant them to their final positions once they got to about pencil thickness.  I don't know what they put in French compost, or rather what they don't, because the onions just don't grow that big in it.   So I figure to put them in a holding bed once they have germinated, and then I will plant them in their final homes a bit later.

Later on in the year I might use them as a bed for climbing beans, by putting some form of bean tent on top.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Confined to quarters

Well we might be stuck at home, but the Jasmine is filling the house with perfume.  

Well, OK, we can garden, and I'm even allowed to take a walk in the countryside around or near the house, for excercise.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020


The French for curfew is "couvre-feu" so you can see the similarity of the two languages.   We have one imposed, now, in France.

I'm glad we did our shopping in Laval yesterday, because as of mid-day today, we are supposed to shop only locally, and would probably not be able to go there.   I don't know if that means locally as in the nearest small supermarket (A Carrefour Market in Vaiges, 10 minutes by car) or the much bigger Super-U in Evron (20 minutes by car).  But either way, it's unlikely to mean Laval (40 minutes by car).

You can be excused the curfew if you are travelling for certain specific purposes such as food shopping, walking dogs, going to a medical appointment, exercising near your home but not in a group, and so on.  The documentation you need is rather quaint: you can handwrite or download and print out a document that declares "on your honour" that you are travelling for one of the permitted purposes.  You have to present it along with your ID, if stopped.

Some people see a sinister purpose behind all this, but regardless of whether they're right or not, keeping everyone separate from sources of infection, that is, other people, should stop the spread of the disease in its tracks.

Not only is travel inside France severely restricted, but certain EU borders are closed too.  I wonder what they will do about the illegal immigrants coming into Greece.

Monday, 16 March 2020


Well it's Monday 16th and many businesses in France are shut down, especially those involving getting groups of people together.  Including our gîte de groupe.

Meanwhile, life goes on, and we went to get the week's shopping today.   Many supermarkets are being raided by panic buyers, and their revenues are up.  Promocash, our supplier of food for the business is, however, experiencing a severe downturn, because no restaurants (except take-aways and the like) are buying.   They sent a text message on Sunday assuring us of their availability for professional and personal supplies, so we decided to shop there.  

I had a chat with the manager, and she explained that as a result of the downturn, she was opening the store for only only half the day from tomorrow, and putting her staff on part time working - "chomage technique".   We want the Promocash in Laval to survive; there's no other commercial "cash and carry" food provider in that town, and currently the nearest is in Le Mans, much farther away.   And by shopping there we not only help them to survive but also reduce the load on the normal supermarkets.

The shop was fairly busy, the shelves were well stocked and the trees outside were in bloom.

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