Monday 31 May 2021

Boucles de La Mayenne

I can't claim to know much about bike racing.   I have watched episodes of the televised Tour de France, in particular the one that started in England.  Looks a nice place.

There was a bike race came through our village last Saturday, part of the Boucles de La Mayenne, which in turn are part of a european competition.  We went to watch, on the basis that it was a nice day, the bar would be open, and we could take a picnic.

A few of the villagers turned out, and it was an excuse for a bit of socialising.  The caravan of sponsors came through at 11h30 and the race itself at 13h30.   In between I enjoyed a beer, a sandwich, conversations with neighbours, and a short walk around the village.

Those bikers don't half shift.  Woosh and they were gone.  And they keep that up for 173km or so, that is a bit over 100 miles.  Good grief.

And here's a free pic of some flowers growing in a wall.

Saturday 29 May 2021

Chat de gouttière

The French equivalent of an alley cat is a chat de gouttière (gutter cat). This one, seen yesterday at St Pierre, seems to be enjoying his status.

To be accurate I should note that there is a special word in French for the gutter beside the road, that is un caniveau,  but I don't really see alley cats as being restricted to the edges of roofs.

Thursday 27 May 2021


The restrictions of the lockdowns, the inability to make music with other people, and the lousy weather recently all conspire to dampen spirits.  But the flowers are coming out, I made some music yesterday, and went to a meeting, just like normal.  Perhaps things are looking up.

Meanwhile here's a picture of this year's Tree Lupins, probably three plants, that have chosen not to grow in the perfectly good flower bed just behind them, but in the gravel of the courtyard.   This is their second year; next year they will be bigger and give more flowers, but they will die right after.  Their flowers are not as impressive as the colourful Russell Lupins, but they have a nice scent.   Plus here's the first Masquerade rose bud.

Sunday 23 May 2021

Wood chips with everything

A good proportion of our man-hours of garden maintenance is spent weeding the flower beds.    Experience has taught us that a good, thick covering of chippings of wood or (better) pine bark almost eliminates the need to weed for about 5 years.

I used to buy pine bark chippings in bulk from our local garden centre but they have stopped selling them, so I have resorted to wood chippings when I can get them.   I saw an ad on fessebook from a farmer not too far away who was selling them in bulk, so I ordered 15 cubic metres, to be enough for the flower bed that most needed it.  They arrived yesterday.

I had put down tarpaulins to keep the wood off the gravel, but my estimate of the space needed was too low, so the chips have overflowed somewhat.  I will need to do some tidying up after the chips are distributed.  But the main job for the next day or so is to shovel them all into a wheelbarrow and spread them out where they will be useful.

Sunday 9 May 2021

Serre volante

This greenhouse just isn't up to the Mayenne weather.   Today threatened thunderstorms, and although we never got a torrential downpour, we did get some strong winds.    These can cause to break or bend, the plastic joints holding the metal struts of the greenhouse together.   

I had been holding the cover down with big rocks but they weren't doing the job so I let the cover blow off and lie on the ground.   Better that than a knackered frame.   Meanwhile I dug over the rest of the soil in the greenhouse, getting the rocks out.  Frankly it was better to work in the open air than in the 38° heat inside.

No frosts expected tonight.  I'll finish the digging tomorrow and put the cover back on when the winds have died down.

Wednesday 5 May 2021

Tomato hats

When I started gardening, I thought that overnight frosts would start when the air temperature goes down to 0°C or below.   It wasn't long before a few dead plants proved me wrong.   Given that water freezes at 0°, I don't know why we get frosts when the overnight low hits 3°, but we do.

Something else that I learnt was that tomato plants will survive in low temperatures until frost forms on the leaves, then they've had it.  Aubergines however will start to wilt if they get down to about 6 degrees - they really don't like the cold.

I tend to be a bit to eager to start planting in Spring, so I get to the stage where the plants want to go outside, having outgrown their pots, but it is still too cold.   Under this duress, I put out a few of the larger  tomatoes plants rather early, keeping the less advanced ones indoors.    I find that hiding the plants under paper hats made from folded newspaper will usually keep the frost off, whenever the forecast is for 3° or a bit lower overnight. 

In the morning, the hats are either damp with dew, or frosted, so they're not good for keeping and I put them on the compost heap.

Tuesday 4 May 2021

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