Wednesday 30 September 2020


We took the cat to the kennel on Saturday evening, and packed the car on Sunday morning, taking our time.  But we were finished quite early, so it was late morning when we arrived at Domfront.   The weather men had lied to us.  It was cold (9°) with a chill wind, and overcast.   We took a look at the impressive castle ruins, with its spectacular views over the surrounding countryside.

When a castle became disused, the local peasantry would nick the stones to build their houses and barns.  I thought the base of this tower spoke of a medieval  game of Jenga.  Who can take the last stone before the tower collapses?    And there was this cute little house incongruous in the castle grounds.  A caretaker maybe?

I picked up some conkers to plant, then we strolled around the town admiring the views, and then on to a Chinese buffet restaurant for lunch before arriving at the gîte and settling in for the afternoon.  After finishing my novel I went out for a walk to find the cycle path.

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Short break

We are just back from a short break near Domfront.  It's not very far away, perhaps an hour-and a-half's drive; just far enough to be away from things and not so far as to be a long drive.   It was only for two nights, for various reasons including the need to kennel our not altogether fully integrated new household cat for the duration.

We chose to stay in a small gîte.  The Belle Vallée  is run by a couple of Brits, Victoria and Richard, who gave us a warm welcome.   They have both the gîte and a B&B operation.  We chose the gîte since it gave more options for catering, and made social distancing easier.  Their cats are friendly too, though you have to make sure that they are not hiding in the gîte when you go out.

Their gardens are pretty, and I was impressed that their grass was green, even luxuriant, not like the scorched earth that we have at home.  The farm is on a North-facing slope which doubtless reduces the power of the sun a bit, and any rain runs down the slope into the garden.  Richard said that the garden was a quagmire in the Spring, so I guess you have to take the rough with the smooth.

We found it to be a very nice place to stay, and the little fireplace in the corner of the gîte living/dining room added extra warmth and charm.

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Work In Progress

I tend to launch into big garden projects without taking photos of how things were at the start.  The current project is no exception, but I can at least document the work in progress.

The first part of the garden taming was to eliminate the brushwood and small trees from the area near the conservatory.  The paths were getting overgrown and I was beginning to get annoyed by the tendency of the wild rose to scratch my face as I went past.   This picture shows the state of affairs now that the work is done.   The area of dirt around the Lilac in the centre-right of the picture and the bed delineated by rocks, is where the brushwood used to be.  It took just over a week to take it all out and shred it or cut it up.   Now I will be able to maintain the area with the mower; I'll plant grass seed just as soon as the ground becomes reliably moist.

The other major project involves taming the area that was recently cleared for me of brambles and nettles by Joel from up the road, using his impressive 100hp tractor and flail.   The area is clear now, but the weeds are regrowing.   Hopefully, if I mow them often enough, I won't need to call him back in to help.   But there are nasty rocks sticking up out of the ground that will wreck my mower, so the current project is to dig them all out.   I am using them to create a small dry stone wall to delineate the managed area (and to stop people wandering off the edge of the cliff alongside to the left.

The unkempt area downhill is truly wild; I doubt if anything has been done with it in living memory.  As mentioned, it's basically a cliff, so difficult to work at the best of times.   The box bushes and trees are being suffocated by wild Clematis that is also blocking the view of the valley.   Once I have the sitting area sorted, I will have to do some work to manage the view; take out some of the dead trees and cut back the Clematis.


Thursday 10 September 2020

Harvest festival

My dad used to refer to ladies' corsets as harvest festivals.  "All is safely gathered in".   It's not yet really festival time, but I know, more or less, what to expect from the veg patch for the rest of the year.

The butternut squashes are ripening nicely, there will be quite a few of them, certainly enough to last the Winter.   We prefer getting a large number of smaller ones rather than the inverse, since smaller ones will do for two people, and there's no need to store any left-over bits.

The cardboard around the gooseberry bushes looks ugly, but it's keeping the annual weeds down very well.   I'll have to see how it does in Spring, but I plan to cover it with fresh compost with added fertiliser to improve the appearance and yield.

Not many beans are left on the plants now, just a few pods to claim when I dismantle the frame.   I'm happy with the harvest, there's enough for a good few cassoulets and I have beans for planting next year too.   The onions drying out are Walla Walla, a very sweet variety.   I understand that it's not worth growing main crop onions because they are plentiful and cheap in the season, so I grow this variety, and red ones.

Next year I plan to try out the "three sisters" crop combination: sweet corn, squash and climbing beans, all in the same area.  They are supposed to grow well together.  We shall see.

Thursday 3 September 2020

The Fig Tree

Some time ago I looked at buying a fig tree, but at 50 euros I thought they were a bit dear.   So I got some cuttings from a fellow flute player and tried to grow the trees from them.   I discovered that they don't always root, and when they do, they might not survive the Winter.

For this tree, I took a cutting in the Springtime and rooted it, kept it indoors in a pot over the first Winter, then planted it out the following Spring.   I put it in what should be a sheltered position against a wall,   and covered it carefully for its first Winter outdoors, and it survived.

The figs are delicious, best eaten when fat and squishy, straight off the tree.


(I ate the ripe one at the back just after I took this photo)

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