Sunday 29 May 2022

Jubilant rose

This rose, a gift from Leo in the form of a cutting, has grown and is flowering profusely in the garden.

Saturday 28 May 2022

Keeping wood dry

We have a wood-burning stove, so we keep a stack of wood.   It's outside since we don't have a barn.   We need to keep it dry, and we have tried various systems for this; we still haven't found the ideal solution, but I'm hoping that this latest trick will work.

It's best to keep the wood off the ground so the damp doesn't rise into it.   We had a few tin roofing panels left over from a project, and we put them on the ground, with the wood on top.   This seems to work well, and the channels in the tin allow any water that gets in, to run off.

Keeping the rain off is a different problem, and we have put cheap tarpaulins on the top, but keeping them in place is a problem.   If we tie them down, it can be hard to get at the wood, and the height of the pile reduces as we take the wood off.  So we either have to keep tightening the ropes, or accept slack ropes and a floppy tarpaulin.   We can weigh the tarpaulin down with rocks, but strong winds lift the tarpaulin and flick the rocks off, and then the rain gets to the wood.

We found a guy giving away some tatty roof tin panelling that meets our needs, and we are using it as a test of a new system.   I got some stainless steel eyes that I am bolting to the tin, and will use elastic rope to hold the tarpaulins down.  I can't put the bolts on the existing tin under the wood since I need to get behind the tin to tighten the bolts, but if this system works, I'll do that in stages as the wood gets used.

Monday 23 May 2022

A new instrument

Well, not brand new, since I bought it second-hand, but new to me*.   Since my solo instrument (flute) no longer works for me, and I can "do" keyboards, I'm thinking that this might well represent a new opportunity for soloing.  At the moment I'm exploring the sounds, and playing along to some of the tracks I used to play along to with the flute.   Some work better than others.

It hangs from the player's neck by a strap, and is played with the right hand.  The left hand operates the switches, pitch control and effects.   It's a Roland Ax-Edge, a specific example of a Keytar.

*The French make a clear distinction between brand new, and new-to-me.  Neuf or neuve indicates brand new, and nouveau or nouvelle indicates new to me.   So if someone is saying "My Dad's got a new car", they will describe it as a voiture neuve if it's fresh from the showroom, and if it's a used car, they'll use nouvelle voiture.

Friday 20 May 2022

All hail!

We had a goodly hail storm chez nous this morning.   The plants have suffered a bit but will recover.  But it looks like I'll have to remake the cold frame lid with stronger material.

Monday 16 May 2022

Car boot

Bagnoles de l'Orne is a 19 century spa town, just over the border into Normandy.   We had three reasons to go there:  we needed a break from the gîte and garden - there's always something that needs doing; there is a huge car boot sale (vide greniers) there; and there was a guy, not far away, who was giving away some tatty but useful roofing tin that we could use.   So we went.

We stayed in a nice hotel with a fine kitchen, that was right by the entrance to the boot sale.   The sale itself lasts two days, and stretches 6km between Bagnoles de l'Orne and the neighbouring village of Saint Michel des Andaines, down the D386 that was closed for the weekend.  We bought a strange collection of stuff.

The road itself borders an attractive wood that surrounds an old railway track turned into a bike path.  Worth an exploration at a later date, perhaps.   Here's a photo of the loot.  The top was especially good value at 1 euro; nice soft fabric too.

It was clear that the people selling sausage inna bun were selling them as fast as they could take and deliver the orders.    (A bit like the gold rush where the people making money were selling the tools and the jeans)    Used CDs have dropped in price to somewhere between 50 cents and a euro on average.   I don't know if it's because I am learning to play one, but I noticed several accordeons for sale, but they were mostly beyond repair.

Thursday 12 May 2022


Always a pleasure to see the sprouting seedlings emerging.   These are Butternut and Uchiki Kuri squash; I am trying Honeynut for the first time this year, but they haven't come through yet.

These ones are in protective custody indoors.   I planted quite a lot outside, with very poor results.  I got about 4 plants out of maybe 15 seed stations planted.   I think that mice might have eaten them.  My cat's not doing his job.

Tuesday 10 May 2022

Peony plantation

 I only heard about the Chateau de Sourches last week, from a friend in the village.   They cultivate a "conservatoire de pivoines", that is a collection/library of peonys.   They are only about half an hour from us, and the plants are in flower now.   We went to take a look.

The chateau is quite a fine stately home, and the peonys are displayed in what I imagine would have been the moat.   This means that they get a lot of light, but are sheltered from the weather's worst effects.   On visiting, you walk around the moat floor, ending up in the basement of the château itself where there is a souvenir shop, tea room, and you can buy plants.

I liked their entrance fee structure.   The first time you visit, you pay full whack.   But if you keep your tickets, you can come a second time and pay less.   The third and subsequent visits are free.   Peonys don't all flower at the same time and the flowering period lasts a month or so.  So you can see all the plants as the season progresses, without having to cough up every time you go.  Cool.

Impossible to show here all the plants and flowers but here's a few pics to give you a taste.

At the end of the visit, we bought some books in the shop, petted the affectionate cat, and had tea and cake in the tea room.  It all just seemed very... appropriate.   I'm glad we went.

Monday 9 May 2022

I'm from the government, and I'm here to help

There was an aspect to the Macron/Le Pen televised pre-election debate that I found interesting.  Purchasing power (pouvoir d'achat) is a hot topic.  Le Pen was advocating a reduction in VAT on petrol and other things that are rapidly getting more expensive, while Macron was touting for one-off payments to individuals in need.   Macron's argument was that well-off people (like him and Le Pen, he said) don't need a VAT reduction, but poorer people do need help, so a single payment applies the help where it's most needed.   (Unstated was the fact that people know who to be grateful to, when they get a free bung)

I'm with Le Pen on this one.   Firstly, I don't like the government deciding who is "poor enough" and who is not.   Secondly, I'm sure that people who earn just a bit more than the upper qualifying limit would really appreciate a cheque too, even if they don't need it quite so much.   Thirdly, what happened to the égalité bit of the French slogan?   

What I like least, however, is that the government can, in principle, decide what you are allowed to do with the money.   There is already a "cheque energie" that goes towards winter fuel bills, and only winter fuel bills.   Now a food voucher is also being considered, and on the news tonight, we are told that the government is considering using it to "encourage" people to eat more fruit and veg.

And so it starts.

Wednesday 4 May 2022

Short walk

 Wall flower.   Oak tunnel.

Sunday 1 May 2022

Too early potatoes

I buy my seed potatoes too early every year, (I'm too impatient, and enthusiastic to get going,) and despite my best efforts at keeping them cool and dry, they always sprout.   This year I had some that had pale, pencil-thick shoots about 6 inches long.   It's been a while since I read any instructions on growing potatoes, but I recall that the standard advice is to remove all of the shoots and let the potato tuber do its thing once it is in the ground.   Well, these shoots looked good and healthy, so I didn't.

On this batch of seed potatoes, I planted the tuber as normal, at the right depth, and let the shoot stick up out of the soil and into the air, just to see what happened.   What happened is that the shoots leafed out, and have turned into the most advanced potato plants that I have.    I have even had to start earthing them up.

Now you can argue that such early growth is vulnerable to late frosts, and you'd be right.   But the frost will only kill the part that's sticking up out of the ground, whereas the usual advice kills the entire sprout.  I think my new approach is better.

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