Saturday, May 8, 2021


Not this year, this year I managed to do something that - for me - was a major triumph.   I managed to take a picture of a butterfly as it was resting on a tree.

Sadly I do not feel qualified/competent to say which type of butterfly it was ....I am tempted to say 'Red
Admiral' but would not bet on it.

This was in the second week of April.  The Weather Gods were tranquil - possibly soothed by the warmish weather they had created.    Anyhow all the wild flowers showed themselves in abundance. The daisies, buttercups and especially the dandelions covered almost every inch of soil.  Was I glad that I live in France, so feel no need to make dandelion wine. 

These bluebells are in a shady spot between the garden wall and the dilapidated chicken house (yes, am going to renew it) which meant that, as you can see, a path got trodden in the middle of them.   However there were many clumps in various corners of the garden, mostly in unexpected spots.  They lasted for nearly three weeks before beginning to droop.

Another burst of colour came in the woods.   The broom sprang out into flower, almost hiding its leaves.
As it is situated on a corner of the woods, I have a good view of it every evening when sitting on the terrace with (yes, of course) my evening drink - not dandelion wine.

Not to be outdone the - shall we say civilized flowers - were also ahead of themselves, especially the wisteria.  This was a mixed blessing for while it's colour is wonderful, its flowers are frail. The terrace was quickly covered in pale purple flower heads which made walking a little dangerous.   Sweeping them up would have meant a twice daily chore, so I just stopped using the steps down....

So here it is, on the corner of the trellis work, a wonderful colour but possibly not a good addition to a glass of Pouilly.....I have made a note to check whether or not the flower is edible.....somewhere upstairs I have a book (in Dutch) called 'cooking with flowers'. Must find.

Two other cultivated plants are also out-doing themselves, the ceanothus and the honey-suckle
The ceanothus was supposed to be a border plant to the vegetable garden but looks as though it wanted to join the ranks of vegetables.  The honeysuckle, however, has dutifully stayed on the fence surrounding the smaller gite...

And to my great joy, the absence of sheep, means the wild orchids are venturing back.  There are two of them that I have spotted (I am discouraged from walking in the fields because of hay potential).   One is colloquially known as the 'lazy purple', the other as  the
'early purple'...

Your guess is as good as mine....

Monday, April 19, 2021

Very Silly Oma Story


She had to go out shopping, stupid things like dishwasher tabs, tissues and loo-paper but on to better things like pink or white wine. The beer reserve was fine. But then......

Since she lived on her on in an isolated place – trees her only friends and neighbours within shouting distance – she was careful about locking up when leaving the house.

The Son-in-Law (best one EVER) had kindly put bolts on the inside of the front door because she had learned that, even if locked on the inside, it could be unlocked from the outside.

So she was careful to put the bolts on before going to bed. But, after bolting the front door, for going shopping she had to use another door that gave on to the outside, either the kitchen door in to the conservatory or the sitting room door that led to the terrace.

The kitchen door key was a bit cumbersome but it could be cleverly left in plant pot that had a plant in it. The terrace door key could be hung from the car key which already also boasted a front door key.

Shopping that day was very tiresome. It was hot, there were too many people in the bank, same story at the baker's where there was a queue of six people, four of them outside in the heat. The dry cleaner was the only satisfactory contact, very brief polite exchanges verbal and pecuniary.

Eventually, after an uneventful stop at the hardware store, she decided to go home via the dumpsters at Tamarelle where she could unload the yellow rubbish and the bottles because she would be on the right side of the road.

She also decided to do a 4km detour to the Spar shop at Mensignac for the pink wine and bread, also fresh vegetables. No way would she go into St Astier's only supermarket, which had better remain nameless, for she was somewhat agoraphobic.

The Mensignac trip was a success and she turned to go home, mentally worrying that she had done 18kms A/R to St Astier and another 8 A/R to Mensignac. Audi was flashing lights at her, demanding fuel and a service.

Once safely through the gates of home, she collected a shopping bag and went to the front door, pushed the handle with her elbow. It would not give. Mild panic as she was not sure which door had been her exit. Not the kitchen door it seemed, nor the sitting room door. Panic set in when she found the dining room was also locked.

She emptied her hand-bag onto the terrace table – no visible key. Two sets of car keys but no door keys. Neither of her mobile phones either, not the French one, nor the English. The mind raced with wild plans of breaking glass, wondering what the children would say, how could she explain this to her friends....

As a last hop she went to try her bedroom door which also gave onto the terrace. It had a mosquito screen and was NOT LOCKED!

Some minutes later, after a restorative glass of pink from an open bottle, she went to the front door to go to the car and unload more. It was not bolted. She had let herself panic because it was stiff, had not even thought to TRY the front door key....

Monday, March 15, 2021


A confabulation of cranes passed over La Chaise early this March, string after string of black V shapes, honking at each other. It seemed to me that they circled over our roof. Why I don't know – perhaps they were trying to locate the direction north by looking to see where the moss was on the trunks of the oaks. Or they were just arguing about it.

Apparently moss grows best on the north side of tree trunks, or so I was told during my one and only evening at a Girl Guides meeting some forty years ago. This would be helpful, apparently, if I was ever lost in a wood.But I had already read Little Red  Riding Hood..and never went to Girl Guides again.

Although I did not notice it particularly we must have experienced a very long, damp period from the beginning of September until now. There is moss on everything, even on things that are not wooden – such as some of our wrought iron garden gates. Yes, I know – lack of maintenance.

I did get rid of the ivy, anyway.

There is moss also on the leafless japonica that exploded into blossom soon after the cranes had started flying north. There is moss almost everywhere that is damp – like the terracotta tiles on roofs and walls.

On the roofs it is simply moss, nothing else, but with luck frost season is over. Only the locals* warn we must wait for the Saints de Glace to come and go before we can be sure. There are three of them, Saints Marmert, Pancrace and Servais whose days are 11, 12, 13 May! Frozen moss will crack the tiles. Hopefully a dry period – let's call it 'summer' – will dry up the moss and no harm done.

See how many friends the moss has!

But in some places the moss is not alone. On one particular tile on our garden wall it shares space with ferns and some hair like lichens. Some twigs on still naked trees are completely covered in different forms of lichens, which are, I read in some leaflets I sent for years ago, an association between fungus and alga, about 15,000 versions...try not to think about that.

Think how artistic your 'flower' arrangements can be instead.

* I had a long argument, once, with a Dordogne taxi driver as to whether I could call the local French residents les indigenes but he found that rude. Indigenes he said, were only to be found in non European continents. The people of the Dordogne were autotochtones.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

If you go down to our woods....

 This is what you might see.....

or perhaps this...

                                         maybe this....

                        and who might this be?

                                an older version of this, perhaps?

or a variant of this?

a decaying version of the same?

But this is real decay!!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Toad in the Pool, the Crocus in the Grass.

 By skilful manipulation of the pool skimmer - handle some three metres long -   I managed to save a small toad from drowning.   That is two lives saved in less than two days.  The other, a froglet, was in a skimmer with a dopey lizard which I hope revived.

But a toad in the pool is hardly surprising, the toad and frog pool is nearly dried up despite storm rains and because of the ridiculous weather we having been experiencing in the Dordogne this summer.

Below however is absurd, possibly worrying, possibly related.

This is the first autumn crocus of the year - seen on August 20th and not  usually expected before mid September.   They are emerging fast everywhere.

I do not know what the weather gods are taking but their behaviour is most erratic.   We are all hoping that they will soon settle down to more adult, reasonable behaviour pattern

After all the current crop of weather gods  started life at the millenium so are no longer teenagers. They have reached their 20's and should begin to behave. 

But that is me, talking like the old lady that I am.   I look back at my early twenties and cringe.   I fear we shall be living in interesting climate times for a few years yet.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Involuntary wilding at La Chaise

Thea wildness is coming back to La Chaise!     As the Clun Forest sheep gradually leave us, so the wild plants sneak back and probably small wild life also.  There are small strange holes in the meadows. Butterflies abound but stay safely near the rampaging juniper bushes, now a dense hedge.

Off the top of my head I cannot identify this orchid - but it is trying to get through the fence!*

The ram , Boris, and and his flock of women have been taken to the high Pyrenees there to breed and prosper again.  A young ram lamb with  four one year old ewes has gone to work as lawn mowers in a local garden.   The rest, well they will be with us...

Doubtless other orchids are also exploring the space, especially in places where the sheep no longer tread. Among the early ones will be the 'early purple' obviously.   It was almost abundant under what is probably La Chaise' only ash tree, so prolific that at first I thought it was pink clover.  But then the sheep decided that the shade of an ash was good for their health.. and plonked themselves down to burp. A few hardy plants still show their heads.

This could be a scented orchid - but I could not get my head into the juniper to find out

There seems to be a curious relationship between juniper bushes, ant-hills and the various types of orchid.    I don't know whether this is unique to the soil of La Chaise or whether it is normal for the species.   What I have noticed is that as the junipers die - they are quite short lived for a wild plant - so the orchids disappear,  in the past with no little help from grazing sheep.

But recently, now the young junipers rampage alongside the fence  of the former horse fields  (where they are unlikely to get mowed or eaten) the odd orchid is poking its head through the spiky branches..

An Early Purple perhaps?

As well as the orchids the more ordinary wild flowers are gradually returning, buttercups, daisies, various forms of vetch and clover, oh, and dandelions!  We hope to see wild sage again.  Wild herbs are also slowly returning - the most conspicuous is the ground covering thyme..some of which I hope to replant near the main house.

Thyme creeping across the grass

Animal wild life has been a little slower to show itself or make itself heard. But recently we had  two kingfishers who seemed to be settled in the Black Pond in the Woods.   I hesitate to say 'a pair' or 'a couple' because they might be individuals.   (Note to self:  check up on the nature of Kingfishers.)  All I know is that they are very shy and consequently seem very rare.

Audrey, who studied them with camera over many weeks, insists they are couple which has made a nest. She expects the eggs to hatch very soon.

Recently they seem to do daily flights between the Black Pond and the Pump Lake at the bottom of the valley.   Both lakes are fully of noisy frog life, perhaps even midwife toads.   And where there are frogs - there you will find the great grey heron on its stilt like legs. Yes, I did.

Will I miss the sheep, yes - 

* possibly an epipactis of some sort

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Great Tree Question

The Great Tree Question in these highly  climate wise, sensitive, media highlighted days resolves itself into:   To Cut - or Not To Cut? 

At La Chaise we are surrounded by some 18 hectares of mixed woodland of which only five are cultivated, cleared and cossetted firs. These five also host a wild boar motel with mud bath and regular supplies of maize.  The rest get on as best they can, dying, losing branches, succumbing to rot,blight and wild weather.

This is what happened to twin millenial oaks after typhoon 'Miguel' passed through in June this year.

The most recent, most impressive woodland disaster in the Dordogne was at the turn of the millenium.   One of our greatest and probably oldes oaks was felled - but tactfully fell onto a path rather than a roof.  Its stump was more than two metres in diameter.

Now we are looking to cut the older oaks again but are very aware than many people may disapprove.
But to be realistic, a two hundred year old oak has a head that stunts the growth of any saplings, from its own acorns or  those of other species.  All of us, human, animal must make way for the young.
And sometimes the young are nurtured by the very old.

Youth being nurtured by an ancestor.

And as the small ones grow, the old left standing continue to breathe.   As the sun sets slowly in the west and the wind drops, wisps of vapour, the breath of the trees, is visible on the skyline across our valley.