Sunday 30 August 2020

Beans, beans, good for the heart

The bean plants have pretty much stopped growing, and the pods are drying on the plants.   The borlotto beans (beige with red flecks) have been very good, a row of about 3 metres giving enough for several cassoulets.   The smaller white beans were less prolific, and I like the flavour of the borlottos, so I'll just be growing borlottos next year. 

It was a mistake to plant sweet peas in amongst the beans - I thought they might usefully share the climbing supports, but they just interfered with each other.  I have harvested some sweet pea seeds for next year, but I'm not sure yet where I'll plant them.

The fennel that I planted has just run to seed.   No harvest at all.   I'll have plenty of seed for next year again, therefore, but I might just be selecting for a variety that bolts.  I'll try planting them later to see what happens.   It was also a mistake to plant strawberries around the bases of the gooseberry bushes.  It's much harder to hoe around them, and you really have to weed by hand.  And you risk hoeing or pulling up the strawberries by mistake.  I think that for strawberries, planting through a tarpaulin is the way to go.   In the mean time I have put cardboard around the gooseberries to keep the weeds down.   We buy a remarkable amount of bulky things for the gîte and they often come in cardboard packing.  Seems a useful thing to do with it.  It will let water (and nutrients) through, and, hopefully stop at least the annual weeds.   You're apparently supposed to cover it with compost.  I might try that; it looks pretty ugly right now.

Carrots are doing fine, and the parsnips will make a good harvest.   Scorzonera looks to be OK too.  The butternut squash are also doing very nicely, threatening to invade everything around them.  The tomatoes are adequate - they didn't like the hot and dry weather, so the harvest is small.  I have enough for us, but not enough to give any away.  And I don't like the flavour of the cherry tomato variety I tried this year.  I'll be back to Sweet 100 next year.   I am trying winter radish for the first time; it's one of the crops you can plant mid-year.

The potato crop was good, even allowing for the ones with hollow heart.   There are two heavy sacks in the shed.  Next year I will grow only Miss Blush, and perhaps a baking variety.   I'll see if I can keep the smaller ones as seed potatoes over winter.   The bed that had the spuds in is now empty, and the next crop according to the rotational plan will be beans.   I'm going to overwinter broad beans.   I did a small experiment this year with reasonable success so I'll plant up the whole bed this Autumn.

Wednesday 26 August 2020

Preserving fruit

 Sloe gin, cherry brandy, plum wine, plums in cognac.  There seems to be a theme here.....

Saturday 22 August 2020


Can anyone give me an idea of what this problem is with potatoes?  They look fine on the outside, and feel firm, but the middle is black and dry like fungus.    This was a first early variety that I left in the ground too long.

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Hot and dry

We've had periods of hot weather before, and we've had periods of dry.   But nothing like the two together that we have had recently.   I have been trying to keep things watered within the constraints that apply, but even some of the bigger trees are struggling.

We have had a total of about 9mm rain over the last couple of weeks, in two batches, and some more today but today's is more like drizzle, at least at the moment.

The winter-flowering honeysuckle  has lost some foliage, as has the large tree behind it.   I'm hoping they will both recover.

Tuesday 11 August 2020


I don't know where I got the original pointer to the book, but I am reading the biography of the Cambridge genius Frank Ramsey.   Early on in the book, certain differences in philosophers' reasonings were summarised as a difference of opinion as to whether the following phrase was, on the one hand meaningless, or on the other hand simply false:

"The king of France is bald"

 So.  Is it nonsense, or is it false?   Does your answer change when considering the following, and if so, with what justification?

"The Jabberwock has claws that catch" 

Thank you for your consideration.

Sunday 9 August 2020


We seem to be being adopted by this young, untamed cat.   He has staked out a territory around our house (could be something to do with the cat food Anita puts out), and visits in the morning and evening to be fed.   We think he hangs out in the area during the day too, but he's invisible against the vegetation.

Tentative name is "Stripey" to distinguish him from another cat that came around but seems to have disappeared: "Patches".

Saturday 8 August 2020

Hot and dry

We have been short of rain here for a few weeks, and the resulting drought has been compounded with very hot weather (38°C) over the last few days.  Some of the larger trees are struggling, and I have been watering them every few days in the hope of keeping them alive.

There is a well here, but the water seeps in slowly, and I can take about 1.5 cubic metres per day out of it.   That's not very much to spread around, and I use it almost exclusively on the veg patch, watering a couple of raised beds every day, taking three days to do all six.

The grass isn't growing much, in fact it's all brown except for the small areas of green around the trees that I water.

We don't yet have any watering restrictions, but I'm sure we will in time.  We have scattered thundery showers today, with some rain, but nothing like enough to wet the ground properly.

When we first arrived here in 2006, there were never any watering restrictions in Summer, but we have had them every year since about 2015 I think.

Blogger seems to be inventing all sorts of new HTML cock-ups - the picture above was put on the left-hand side of the frame instead of in the middle where it has been since I started blogging all those years ago.  I had to edit the HTML.  *sigh*  Why can't they leave this stuff alone?   And the editor is now worse than before - 2 clicks needed now where one used to work.   And I press the button marked "Publish" and I get a little pop-up box that says, in effect:  "This will cause your post to be published, please confirm".  I mean what the hell did you imagine I thought it would do?   Set fire to my PC or something?

Sunday 2 August 2020

Rebooting the economy - II

I finally gave up on my old Husqvarna ride-on mower.   With various problems too numerous to mention, I offered it for spares or repair on the Mayenne sale or swap facebook site.  It got taken away the other day by a guy who drove several hours to get here, and who was delighted by his purchase.  Good.

The replacement arrived a few days ago, a Cub Cadet mower with zero turn radius so I can get around the many trees in the garden, and it seems to be built like a brick outhouse.   The left/right forwards/backwards driving levers take a bit of getting used to, but I'm sure I'll manage it.  And it goes fast for a lawn mower so I hope I can cover the ground much more quickly.   Seems to cut well and evenly too.   It's narrower than the old one, but the width used to give me some problems in the little corners.

For those interested, here is a link to the French website, with all the details.  It's an X25 L107 that is the smallest in the range with a cut about 90cm wide.   I took it out on the weeds yesterday and am very pleased with what it does; I cut the whole area in an hour or so, running at about half throttle.  When I get more used to the steering I will be able to do it even faster.  It's a petrol engine with electric start, 679cc.  The battery/starter motor combination turns it over very easily.

Don't look at the US website since the much lower prices there will make you cry.
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